All About the Authors

Helping edit, publish, and market your book.

Category: publicity

Saying Yes to Yourself

By Caitlin Hamilton Summie

We all have demands on our time that make it hard to fit in our creative writing: jobs, possibly parenthood, possibly caring for parents, school work, yard work, cleaning. The list goes on. Indeed, it can go on forever, pushing one’s writing down to the end of the list.

Being busy nowadays seems like a virtue. Being busy also makes you feel there is a good reason you are not writing—there are so many other To Dos that are so much more important.

But are they?

As I have grown older, I’ve learned the power of the word “no.” No, I am not available for that committee, though thanks so much for thinking of me. No, thank you, I can’t come for that event, but I sure appreciate the invitation.

And a perennially tough one for me: no, my house is not going to be perfectly clean. (If you ever visit, don’t look too closely!)

But saying no more often didn’t quite get me to finding my “yes” – to more writing time — like I thought it would.

This isn’t to say that I wasn’t writing. I was. On a lunch hour. Late at night. Weekends. I believed that pursuing my writing at all felt like I was saying “yes” to myself.

But I wasn’t, not really.

I discovered my “yes” only recently, as I scanned a long morning To Do list. I had myself and my writing at the very bottom of the list, when and if time allowed. And suddenly, I saw it: I was willing to carve out time to write and to send stories off, or edit one of my pieces, or this or that when everything else was done. But I didn’t ever prioritize my writing.

No, I felt myself say, staring at the list. I erased myself from the bottom and penciled myself in at the top.

Yes, I thought, I will do something for myself first today. It might be only from 8-8:15 a.m. But I am going to do it. Some days, I am going to prioritize my writing career.

And I am.

Caitlin Hamilton Summie and her new book, To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts, published by Fomite Press, will be featured at the Women’s National Book Association Charlotte’s 8th Annual “BIBLIOFEAST” Book & Author Dinner on Monday, Oct. 16. Caitlin lives in Knoxville, TN and is also a book industry marketing and publicity consultant. Tickets are available at http://wnba-charlotte.org/wnba/calendar/bibliofeast-tickets/ (credit card) or at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road, 704-525-9239 (cash or check).

9 steps to success with your radio, print or TV interview

Think you’re ready for your radio, print or TV interview? It might look easy but taking the time to prepare will make all the difference in your comfort level and success. Here are 9 key steps to success:

  1. Prepare

One of the first steps in a marketing program is preparing a media kit. If you have one, you’ve probably created a sample question-and-answer sheet to add to your media kit. These Qs and As will give you a great starting point for your media interview. Make sure to go over the information and send this to the reporter or host.

  1. Research

Just like with writing, research is a critical. Read, watch, and listen to interviews with the media outlet or outlets you are most interested in or which are on target for your book. Become familiar with the interview format, the types of questions usually asked, and the length of time for responses. Your responses need to be succinct and on-point. Also, find out whether the interview is live or pre-recorded. That gives you more flexibility in the length of your answers. If the interview will be published via print or online, you might ask for a list of questions that you can respond to. This gives you more time to prepare your answers.

If it’s a broadcast Interview, practice in front of a mirror or webcam or with a friend. Remember to relax and pause for a deep breath if you need more time to respond.

  1. Help your host

Sometimes, short answers are better because they allow the host to ask another question, take another phone call, or go to a commercial. But, other times, the host will ask an open-ended question that allow
s you the flexibility to expound on your answer. You’ll judge the pacing when you research the show you’re being interviewed on, and by asking the host in advance.

  1. Express yourself

Readers appreciate a relaxed, authentic approach and want to know your story. And, on a radio program, listeners will “hear it” if you stand and mossmiling-phone-operatort importantly — smile. Try to match the host’s energy. Your passion – or lack of it — will really come across to the audience.

  1. Find a quiet spot for your interview

Most interviews will be arranged in advance. If it’s handled over the phone, be sure that you arrange to take t
he call in a quiet place where you won’t be distracted or interrupted. Also, practice your interviews in this space. You’re the expert and the radio host will usually attempt to make you comfortable and at ease.

Take your time and have your talking points in front of you. Make sure to answer questions in a way that presents you and your book in the most positive and interesting way.

  1. Practice makes perfect

With practice, you’ll relax during interviews and put yourself and your book in the best light. Think carefully before responding to questions, and answer with your practiced responses but avoid sounding canned.  The audience will pick up on rote answers so just be natural.

If you feel yourself becoming shaken and nervous, take a deep breath. It’s perfectly fine to tell the host or reporter that you don’t know the answer to the question if you don’t. Just respond that you’ll be happy to find out and get back with them. This gives you another reason to be on the show again!

  1. Be honest and avoid hyperbole

It’s easy to get nervous and misstate information about your book. Be cautious about this because your audience will know if you’re exaggerating or hyping your book. The host and audience appreciates real, in-depth information about you and your book. That’s why you’re on the show. And, if you make a mistake, don’t sweat. Everyone makes mistakes and you’ll improve with experience.

  1. Don’t depend on the host to make the plug

Make sure to mention your book title and where listeners can get a copy of your book such as your website, local bookstores, etc. and ask them to follow you on social media. Also make sure to talk about an upcoming book signing or author talk.

  1. Follow up after the interview

Everyone appreciates a thank-you as a follow-up to the interview via phone or e-mail. This is also a great opportunity to assure that the reporter, editor, or producer who interviewed you has all the information they need to complete their segment. If you have a publicist, this is usually SOP – standard operating practice.

Get social in just 30 minutes a day!

Tina Siadak - Wedding Shower 5-3-16 010All of us are working on so many things every day that it’s hard to carve out time to connect with our friends and followers through social media. Let’s face it, some people enjoy social media more than others, and some are just better at it. But, for those of us hard pressed for extra time, what if it’s possible to build our online conversations in just 30 minutes a day?

That’s right, begin each weekday (or whatever time works best for you) with a 30-minute social media program. You’ll find that your social network will build quickly over time and hopefully, using it will be more fun.

Use the channels that are most familiar to you and your fans. And, those that fit your demographic e.g. women ages 25-55.  For example, if Facebook is a good tool in reaching your fans – one that you use frequently — this is a good place to start. I use Facebook, Twitter, blogs and email marketing. If there are others that work well with your book topic such as Pinterest, use those in lieu of these or in addition to your preferred social media.

Here’s a look at a five-day social media plan using just 30 minutes a day:

Monday

  • Brainstorm ideas for Facebook and Twitter posts that your fans and readers will find interesting and that relate to you and your book. Remember that you want to start conversations that others will respond to. Next, draft a few. (10 minutes)
  • Begin writing a brief blog post (300-500 words) about one of the ideas you came up with (10 minutes)
  • Connect/follow with those who have connected with you on Facebook and Twitter and search out new connections. Also, build the trending topics/hashtags into your posts so that they reach larger networks. (10 minutes)

Tuesday

  • Finish your blog post and post it if you haven’t already. Definitely use a picture if you have one or can find one without copyright issues. Make sure that you include a link to the post on your social media posts to gain greater readership. (10 minutes)
  • Respond to comments from readers (5 minutes)
  • Draft an email newsletter in Constant Contact or Mail Chimp with good information about your book topic that augments the information you’ve posted on your blog and that’s meaningful to your reader community. For example, if your book is about hiking in North Carolina, include a meeting of a hiking group or a newly discovered trail. (15 minutes)

Wednesday

  • Connect/follow with those who have connected with you on Facebook and Twitter and search out new connections; build the trending topics/hashtags into your posts so that they are reach larger networks. (10 minutes)
  • Respond to any comments on your blog (5 minutes)
  • Go through your Facebook and Twitter feed to respond to those in your network – be interested in them and they’ll be interested in you! Add new posts of your own. (15 minutes)

Thursday

  • Finish and send your email newsletter and then send out social media posts with a link to the sign-up page on your blog or website. (10 minutes)
  • Connect/follow with those who have connected with you on Facebook and Twitter and search out new connections; build the trending topics/hashtags into your posts so that they are reach larger networks. (10 minutes)
  • Go through your Facebook and Twitter feed to respond to those in your network. (10 minutes)

Friday

  • Respond to anyone who’s commented on your blog post or Enewsletter. If they express interest in your book, let them know the publish date or if already published, where they can get your book. Pre-orders prior to publication rock! (10 minutes)
  • Connect/follow with those who have connected with you on Facebook and Twitter and search out new connections; build the trending topics/hashtags into your posts so that they are reach larger networks (10 minutes)
  • Add new fans to your mailing list or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database so that you can send them announcements about exciting upcoming events or happenings. (10 minutes)

Are you ready to give it a try at least for two weeks? If you get in the social media habit, I think you’ll be amazed at the results. Just remember to check your messages, especially on FaceBook. Your connections and conversations will grow exponentially but you have to keep them going. Bon chance!

 

It’s your party! 5 Tips for a Great Book Event

Burkhalter 1Here’s the awesome part! It’s time to tell everyone about your book. Hopefully, you’ve already launched your website or blog and built relationships via social media. So, the buzz has begun. Now, you can begin planning your book signing event or events. Your first step is securing your location/s. Then, begin planning for each event.

Follow these five tips for a great book event:

  1. Once you secure your location, work with the bookstore or other retailer. Speak to the person handling the event for the store and find out what she or he will do to promote the event. Most bookstores look to their authors to bring in traffic for the event so coordinate your own efforts with those of the bookstore.
  1. Then, create buzz for your book(s) with press releases that dovetail with social media including Facebook, Twitter posts and LinkedIn as well as email marketing via a newsletter or Call-to-Action marketing piece letting the media and your fans know about the event. You might offer a sample chapter and author information to your local newspaper, magazine and radio station and ask for an interview before your book signing. Your community papers and local radio stations are the best media sources for getting the word out.Burkhalter 5
  1. Develop collateral materials and giveaways including postcards, posters and bookmarks. Send postcards to friends and family with a handwritten note before the event and keep them handy on your table. Several posters displayed in the store as well as one at your table are great point-of-display items that will create interest. Also, ask nearby retailers if they’ll display your information, too. Contact special interest groups like the local Chamber, arts society, your book community, or any other group relating to your book’s topic.
  1. Practice your presentation and/or reading. This helps you be more comfortable in front of a crowd especially when you’re not following a structured speech. Many authors are more relaxed when they speak less formally but it’s always a good idea to have at least an outline of what you’d like to talk about. And, if you’re doing a reading, make sure that you practice reading the excerpt aloud on your own. Most authors talk for about 20 to 30 minutes and then open up for questions from the audience. Have a few of your own handy to get the conversation started.Burkhalter 4
  2. Have a friend on hand to help. When your table gets mobbed by readers as you hope it will, a friend can hand out bookmarks and giveaways, replenish your books, ask customers to join the email list, make announcements, and take pictures of the event. You’ll want to post these on social media as soon as the event is over with a short write-up about the event. Also, send it out to the same media contacts who may run a photo or two with a caption.

There are so many great ways to promote yourself and make the most of the event.  Have fun and do as much as you can to make it successful.  You can always add special touches like food, wine and a designer cake to make the event a celebration.  After all, it’s your party!

8 Tips to Win a Fiction Writing Contest

winning-trophyIf you’re a writer, chances are you’ve wondered whether or not you should enter a writing contest. There are lots of good reasons you should: the confidence boost if you place, the practice of submitting your work, and the awards and/or publication information you can add to your writing résumé, which boosts your credibility with potential readers, agents, and publishers.

 

For the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of being an early reader for the Women’s National Book Association’s annual fiction writing contest. While many of the entries are good, there are some that stand out. What makes these entries different? I’ve compiled a list of things the best fiction entries have in common.

  1. The writers follow the submission guidelines. If the contest has a word limit, stick to it. If there’s a theme, include it in your story. And be sure your story fits the criteria—don’t send your science fiction piece to a historical fiction contest.
  2. The copy is clean. Most entries are going to have a typo or two. That’s understandable. But the more errors I see, the more likely I am to stop reading.
  3. What’s in a name? Winning entries have intriguing titles. Every word counts in a short story, including your title. Good titles make me want to read immediately. Reading a title like “Excerpt from ________,” on the other hand, sounds like a snoozefest. Even if the entry is an excerpt, give it a standalone title.
  4. The beginning is strong. I know you hear that your lead must grab the reader’s attention right away. And you’re probably sick of hearing this tidbit, but it’s true. A short story follows a traditional story arc, but everything’s compressed. You’ve got to pull the reader in immediately.
  5. There’s an ending, not a cliffhanger. This is a biggie for me. Endings are tough, I know. Ocliffften short stories leave readers with an open-ended interpretation. The writer wants the reader to ponder what happened. But open-ended conclusions are not the same thing as cliffhangers. A cliffhanger is a great way to end a chapter, not a short piece of fiction. Readers want closure.
  6. The main character is vivid. By vivid, I don’t mean that the writers spend many words describing what the character looks like. I mean this character is hit with conflict and responds. Everything about him is believable from his dialogue to his actions.
  7. There’s something unique about the plot. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that a third of the entries I read for this last contest centered on someone having an affair. Another third focused on death. If you’re going to write about such a common theme, you better tackle it in a new way. To prove that this is possible, my favorite entry (the one I hope wins the whole shebang) fell into the affair category. But by golly, the author put a spin on it like I’ve never seen.
  8. The story made me feel something. The best entries made me laugh out loud, filled me with disdain, or left me sniffling. If you can make a reader connect emotionally, you’ve got something worth pursuing.

It’s a brave move to enter a writing contest. Make sure you’re competitive. Good luck!

 

 

6 Steps to beginning your book marketing campaign

couple reading booksBeginning your book marketing campaign can be daunting. The key is to begin well in advance of your book’s publication, know your goals and expectations, and make productive and sustainable choices about the publicity for your book and your identity as a writer. Here is a list of six steps that will (hopefully) clarify the process:

1.  Let your fans know about your book

The first step is letting your fans and potential readers know about your book. But it’s often confusing and overwhelming to begin a marketing and publicity program. There are so many choices available today including traditional media as well as online social media resources. Begin with those most familiar to you and your fans. For example, if Facebook is a good tool in reaching your fans – one that you use frequently — this is a good place to start.

2.  Determine your goals and expectations

Your path to book sales also depends in large part on your expectations and personal goals. Your book publicist is a resource and guide through all the myriad media outlets, but you are critical to your book’s success.  Is your goal to sell a certain number of books? Or, is it to gain recognition of a cause that’s near and dear to your heart?

3. Start well in advance

Learn as much as you can about publicity and marketing well in advance of your book’s publication date. Talk with your publisher’s publicist or marketing manager for guidance. Once you’ve determined your goals and expectations, and thoughtfully plotted a three- or six-month strategy, you can decide whether working with a publicist makes sense for you.

4.  Advantages of working with a publicist

One of the advantages of working with a publicist is that he or she can offer you needed exposure to media. Your publicist has the expertise to develop a list of media and bookstores that are best for you—saving time and energy. Publicists will also make the media calls for you. Although it’s necessary to make an investment in publicity, in the long run it’s much less expensive than traditional advertising and more credible. It also saves you time so you can do what you enjoy and do best—write.

5.  Make productive and sustainable marketing choices

As an author, remember that you’re in it for the long haul. Develop a campaign that reflects your values, is comfortable for you to implement, and that is sustainable over time. If you create a website or blog, make sure that you post to it regularly and that you include information that’s interesting to your readers apart from your book. Do this with your social media as well. The goal for all your online and traditional media is communication, and developing a following is all about being interesting. Thoughtful, funny and informational posts will go a long way in building loyalty.

6.  Decide if a publicist is right for you

When you interview potential publicists, ask them if they will regularly update you on their progress and provide you with information such as media lists, a schedule of media outreach, follow-up results, and any other outreach they may do for you. An experienced book publicist can be a valuable, effective partner who will offer education and direction, and can increase your book’s visibility in a very crowded, noisy field.

Photo credit: Copyright Erin Kelly at https://www.flickr.com/photos/ekelly89/7030239035.

 

7 Things about Book Marketing You Want To Know

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Build demand with consistent messages or “viral marketing”

Hey, is it catching? You certainly hope so! As an author, you want to get the message out to as many people as possible about you and your book. Viral marketing is contagious and describes marketing on the Internet. You goal is to entice people to share your information with their friends, who then share with their friends, and so on. It spreads like a virus if your message is creative and on point.

Be accessible

Authors who are available for comment for news stories in print, radio or television, are sought out by reporters who cover their topic, industry or expertise. Guest columns on social media are another great way to keep yourself and your book in the news. Media and website owners will seek you out – and keep seeking you out — if you’re accessible.  Self-promotion builds if you make it a point to be available, are on-time for the interview, if you’re well-spoken (or written), and keep your promises.

This publicity is free and frees you up to do what you like best – writing. An effective first step is letting media know your availability and including your contact information on all correspondence. Then, stay in touch, especially is there’s a newsworthy event that relates to you and your book. When someone cancels at the last minute, you might be next in line for an interview.

Keep showing up

Why should you keep showing up even if it seems like you’re making little headway? Because it takes five, seven – or even 10 impressions before media and fans begin recognizing you and your book. It used to be the “rule of three” impressions to make an effect in advertising and marketing but now there are so many ways to send your message and so much noise (static from everyone else sending messages) that it’s better to just keep sending them so that you’ll be heard. A caveat is not to annoy reporters by contacting them too frequently. Just remain persistent and helpful. And, remember, double check your contacts to make sure your message is going to the right person or people.

Make them care

Creating empathy with your audience connects you and your book in the same way you’d connect with a friend. Today, relationship marketing pulls at the heart and core beliefs of your followers. Everyone wants to be understood so your mission is to connect on a deeper level than just telling them the facts. What about you and your book is important to your audience? At a book event that I attended this weekend, I was able to hear the story behind many books directly from the authors and all of them were connecting through the heart. For example, Jo Anne Normile, author of memoir Saving Baby, discussed her passion for horse rescue and how it’s transformed her life. And, beyond the passion for horses that I’m sure many people share, a portion of the proceeds from each book sale provides funding for the Saving Baby Equine Charity. You want your reader and fans to believe that you’re talking directly to him or her – and you are.

Find or target your audience

As an author, chances are that you defined your “target” audience before you even began writing your book. This market is the right group to target for your marketing messages. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that everyone is your audience. Age group alone segments book audiences e.g. Young Adult literature, and gender is key. Envision your target and speak to them. In fact, if you haven’t done it yet, write down a detailed description of your reader. Geography is also a good way to segment your audience. Is your book classified as Southern fiction? Or, is it set in the northeast along the coast? All these factors further define your target audience and give you a starting point for marketing.

Next, you’ll want to brainstorm what best matches your audience’s beliefs, opinions, attitudes or intentions. “Every day brings something good!” is the central message within Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall, now deceased.  Although Carol chronicled her battle with cancer, the overriding message is that life is uplifting if you open your heart. Her friendship with a gardener from Kenya had to do with much more than gardening and is an inspiration for readers looking for this message about life and living.

Write effective marketing pieces

Writing effective marketing pieces is entirely different than writing a book and for some it’s a daunting task. The best marketing pieces are short and catchy. Whatever you’re writing – press releases, letters, website content or an email blast – remember to focus on your reader. First, write a headline that’s succinct, to the point, and interesting. A rule of thumb for email messages is no more than six words in the subject line. I sometimes use more if needed to get the message across. If it’s a press release about an event such as a book launch, I usually include the day and time to express urgency. Next, connect with your readers on a deeper level than just the facts. Telling them some of your story is a great way of connecting. Write copy that talks to your readers directly and include a call to action. This is a direct communication to come to your book launch, buy your book, find out more, subscribe to your newsletter, etc.

Follow-up

Follow-up – or the lack of follow-up – can sink your marketing campaign. All of us struggle with what feels like a sales call. I generally wait until I’m relaxed and have a “smile in my voice” before picking up the phone to follow-up with media or other contacts. If you follow up consistently, with a genuine desire to build an ongoing relationship, people will be receptive. A good guide is to set up a simple list of contacts and make notes regarding date of contact and comments. Then, mark dates to follow-up with them. You’ll build relationships that will be win-win.

Be a PR Superhero!

Why We Love Press Releases (And You Should, Too!)

supergirl - pr superheroWriting a great press release or pitch is essential to telling potential readers about your book. Not only is the job of the press release to announce a book launch, event or other newsworthy event, it’s to gain interest.

That’s the fun but also the challenging part.

Writing for journalists is very different than writing a book. Your mission is to grab attention and get to the point immediately. Journalists are flooded with potential stories or pitches on a daily basis but if you grab their attention and get to the point….and if you’ve done your research and hit the right reporter at the right time…you may just get that news story or radio interview.

In this week’s All About the Authors video installment, I talk about seven ways writers will gain attention and interest with a well-crafted press release. Are you ready to pen a super-charged pitch and gain publicity for yourself and your book?

Here are the seven steps to writing a great press release that hooks reporters who will want to know more:

  1. Create an attention-grabbing headline
  2. Get to the point and stay laser focused
  3. Proofread for perfection
  4. Include quotes often
  5. Keep it short. No longer that two pages – one is better
  6. Include your contact information
  7. Offer access to more information

Before you begin writing, remember that nobody cares. Journalists are very busy and are pitched by many, many people every day who all believe that they have that must-tell story. Use this adage to force yourself to step into the reporter’s shoes. What makes your story interesting? Why should this publication or station and next, this particular reporter, care? Find the angle that will interest him and help him reach his story goals.

Next, follow-up to make sure he received your release and ask if there are any questions. Find out if he would like a copy of your book and in what format. Only send your book when the reporter asks for it.

When working with a young adult author several years ago, I announced the newest book in her teen suspense series to reporters in Northeast Florida because that’s where she lived and worked. It helped that she was published by an imprint of Penguin Group Inc. and that she was a school teacher. The community interest angle intrigued a columnist at The Florida Times-Union who wrote an excellent story in his weekly column, “One of Us”. What makes your story interesting?

Finally, remember the long game when promoting your book. You may not deliver the one-two punch with the first swing but if you practice, pitch and persevere, you’re sure to land a winner (and possibly, save the world).