Sunday, February 12, 2017

Walking the Tightrope: Where Do Authors Draw the Line in Expressing Political Views?



 I’ve always recommended that authors refrain from discussing religion and politics in their social media and branding. It has been my strong belief that in today’s fiercely competitive book market, aligning ourselves one way or another on political or religious issues can lead to lower sales, mainly because if a percentage of the reading population disagrees with our views, they most likely won’t follow us on social media and may decline to purchase our products.

But the election of President Trump last November has changed the political landscape in drastic ways. Where before, stating political views could have consequences on sales, we now find ourselves with a growing majority who are outraged at the current administration’s policies and its handling of diplomacy. That outrage has sparked ongoing protests worldwide, where millions of people have risen up to declare their dissent and willingness to resist the current political climate in Washington.

Also new is the growing power the resistance movement has found in ignoring Trump’s brand. When major retail leaders dropped Ivanka Trump’s clothing and shoe lines from their stores this week, those who do not support Trump stepped up their support of the retailers, and sales soared.

Where before the Trump presidency it was judicious to maintain distance and equanimity with regard to politics, the climate has changed to such a degree that we’re now finding that taking actions some view as political (as was the case with the retailers who dumped Ivanka's brand) can actually be beneficial to sales. Those retailers who dropped the line claimed they did so because the line wasn't selling. It was risky to drop a contentious and outspoken president’s daughter’s brand – these retailers must have known that the president, who seems to have little control over his responses to adverse situations, would react publicly (which he did by tweeting his dismay at what he considered to be unfair treatment of his daughter). But the stance by these retailers paid off in ways that many did not expect – sales lowered initially and then skyrocketed when anti-Trump Americans decided to show the retailers support for their decision by buying at those stores.

So, given that being political can now influence sales, what does this mean for authors? And how do we in the publicity business advise our clients now that there’s a new normal for how consumers react when sellers share their views? How do those who feel strongly about the current administration express their views without driving off potential customers? And is it even a problem any more to lose those customers who don’t agree with our politics?

These questions have surfaced strongly on social media, where friends, family, colleagues, and customers converge and the new politics have created increasing divides among them. Many of us have watched as followers on social media threaten to unfollow us if we state our views, whatever they may be, too loudly or frequently. Many have drawn hard lines to followers regarding opinions – agree or be gone, they seem to say.

As authors, when we lose followers, we lose business. Those who chose to follow our blogs and support our brand do so because we offer them something – information, entertainment, connectedness, or all three. If readers no longer follow us on social media, will they still buy our books? My sense is no – as this administration continues to divide America’s with its policies, I believe that we’ll see a corresponding division in sales. Those who agree with us and our views will support us and buy our books; those that don’t will boycott our offers and/or ignore future releases.

For some authors, this trade-off is worth it. Those that feel strongly about expressing their political views may feel that protecting our country and its democracy from what they see as an attempt to upend our basic freedoms is more important than offending those potential or current readers who don’t agree that the new administration is a threat to those rights.

For me, it’s a difficult situation – wanting to support others who share my views is strong, but so is maintaining distance from political rhetoric. There a professionalism component to all of this – if I indulge myself in rants about my political leanings, how am I serving those who read my blog posts and buy my books? Do they come there to hear my politics? Yes and no. For some, finding out that we’re on the same page politically is a good thing – my sense is that they will become stronger supporters of me and my work because we think alike. For others, the insertion of politics (and this goes for religion, too) into my branding as an author and publicist could be seen as self-serving or offensive – and those who disagree with me will not follow or buy.

Given this new political paradigm where politics have become such an overwhelming factor in our lives, I would suggest that it’s up to individual authors now as to whether they decide to be political in their branding. As retailers like Nordstrom and TJ Maxx discovered, political action can have benefits. But there is also the reality that once you’ve identified your brand as leaning one way or another, you can never go back – existing and new customers can see which way you lean, and they will subsequently decide whether to support or shun you and your products based on those leanings.

In the end, we are in a strange new world where politics and consumerism are colliding more than ever. As an author, being political may serve your social activism, but it most likely will also have an effect on your book sales. Still, many authors maintain that their brand is a reflection of who they are as individuals and being true to that sense of self is crucial given what’s at stake in our country’s politics. In today’s political climate, being true to ourselves and our political beliefs may be worth more to us than growing our book sales and, for now, that just might be okay.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Booksellers Who Rock Our World, Part 2: Book Carnival – Orange, California



Welcome to Part 2 of a series that recognizes booksellers who have been especially helpful to my author clients as they seek to promote their books. In this series, I focus on those booksellers who are always ready to help both independent and traditionally published authors by offering signing events and meet-and-greets, promoting authors to their local communities, carrying the authors' books in their stores, and operating as advocates, advisors, and cheerleaders as authors seek to find reading audiences for their work.

The booksellers that appear in here are the best of the best, my go-to resources for events, promotion, guidance, and support for my author clients.

The bookstore featured in Part 2 of this series is Orange County’s Book Carnival, which is a genre store specializing in mystery, romantic suspense, and related fiction.  I chose this store to be part of the series because it has been a long-time favorite of my Southern California clients for author appearances.

What makes this store special are the paired book signings that the store owner, Anne Saller, creates for authors. To help ensure that signings are well-attended, Anne uses her extensive knowledge of the market, and her connections with both traditionally published and indie authors, to create combined signing events. Anne tries to match up authors who are compatible in genre, or who have some element in their platforms/backgrounds that complement each other. Oftentimes, she will combine a lesser-known author with a best-selling author, to help bring an audience to the event. At her signings, both authors benefit from the joint marketing and the camaraderie they share, and events are usually packed with patrons excited to see both authors.

Anne Saller, Book Carnival
Anne works hard to promote events at her store and to ensure that authors and attendees are comfortable and have a good time while they’re there. She is fierce about promoting the store events. both in the local community and to her customer base, and is always willing to order books, create displays, and handle event logistics for her authors. She is one of the best resources for Southern California authors today, and her store is a true treasure.

As part of the series, each bookseller has agreed to answer three questions about the store. Here's what Anne has to say about Book Carnival:

How did your store come into being?
I purchased Book Carnival in August 2010; it has been in existence since 1981, and I shopped there for a good 20+ years. My dream during my 'corporate' years was to retire and own a bookstore. The day that came true was a very happy day, indeed!

What is special about your store?
Book Carnival is a niche store - we specialize in mysteries, romantic suspense, and author events. We are delighted to have many well-known authors who return year after year, but we’re also thrilled when we find a new author and series that makes us sit up and take notice. Established authors are so generous; they are always willing to do joint events with one or two less well-known authors, who we know are going to go on to do great things. It's a special, giving community, and I'm thrilled to be a small part of it.

What words of advice do you have for authors who would like to have their books featured in your store (or bookstores in general)?
Well, generally, the book needs to be a mystery, thriller or romantic suspense novel. The author should send us an email message with a synopsis, or drop a copy of the book in the mail. Authors should also plan to speak with their fellow authors who have been here before, so they can learn more about what to expect. We receive a number of books sent to us by authors interested in events, so we often face a deluge of mail. I try to read them all but, happily, our authors are patient with us - there are just so many hours in the day!

Book Carnival           
348 S. Tustin Street   
Orange, CA 92866
714-538-3210
http://www.annesbookcarnival.com

Many thanks to Anne for participating in this series and for always being there for authors – Book Carnival is definitely one of the best bookstores for author signing events in Southern California!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Booksellers Who Rock Our World, Part 1: Mysterious Galaxy San Diego



Welcome to Part 1 of a series that recognizes booksellers who have been especially helpful to my author clients as they seek to promote their books. In this series, I focus on those booksellers who are always ready to help both independent and traditionally published authors by offering signing events and meet-and-greets, promoting authors to their local communities, carrying the authors' books in their stores, and operating as advocates, advisors, and cheerleaders as authors seek to find reading audiences for their work.

The booksellers that appear here are the best of the best, my go-to resources for events, promotion, guidance, and support for my author clients.

The first bookseller featured in this series is San Diego's Mysterious Galaxy, which is a genre store specializing in science fiction, mystery, fantasy, and horror.  I chose this store to kick-off the series because it has been a long-time favorite of my San Diego and Southern California clients. Tucked away behind a See's Candy shop in Clairemont Mesa, Mysterious Galaxy has been a welcome fixture to book buyers and book writers alike.

What makes this store special is its undying support for indie authors and its spring, fall and winter local author events. At these events, Mysterious Galaxy assembles a large (20+) group of authors, who appear for an entire afternoon to promote their work to readers. Each author is allowed 10 to 15 minutes to talk about his/her book, and then the authors can stay to mingle, sell, and sign copies of their books for customers afterward.

Mysterious Galaxy supplies food, along with beer and wine, at these events, so the atmosphere feels more like a festive party and less like a standard bookselling talk. The store allows the authors to drop off copies of the books two weeks prior to each event and keeps them for up to a month afterward; in many cases, the books are sold before the events even begin. The best part? The authors have a chance to meet online prior to the events, so that by the time the day arrives, everyone seems to know everyone else, and the atmosphere is warm and supportive. These local author events provide a great forum for authors to meet other writers and pitch their books to a reading audience, and they're one of the many reasons Mysterious Galaxy is a beloved fixture on the bookstore scene in San Diego.

Maryelizabeth Yturralde
As part of the series, each bookseller has agreed to answer three questions about the store. Here's what the store's co-owner, Maryelizabeth Yturralde, has to say about Mysterious Galaxy:

How did your store come into being?
The short version: Mysterious Galaxy's "big book bang" came in the early 1990's, when my partners and I felt there was a strong Southern California readership for the kinds of books we are passionate about: books about "Martians, murder, magic, and mayhem," to quote our tag line. We opened our doors in May 1993, and even after approximately 1104 "New Book Tuesdays," we are still thrilled each week when we unbox new arrivals and put them on our shelves (metaphorically, in the case of our ebooks, but still...).

What is special about your store?
While Mysterious Galaxy is a specialty store with a focus on genre fiction, I think what's really special about us is our staff. Our booksellers are passionate and enthused about the curated selection we carry and about helping connect books and readers in both Southern California and the Galaxy's greater genre community.

What words of advice do you have for authors who would like to have their books featured in your store (or bookstores in general)?
Be aware of two things:
1) Booksellers are enthusiastic about community and sharing the magic of books -- but they are also in the business of bookselling, and they need to ensure that inventory is available to them at standard trade terms that make sense for their customer base/readers.
and
2) Visible inclusivity is critical. If an author's internet presence only directs readers to Amazon for purchase options for the author's books, it can have a dampening effect on other booksellers' enthusiasm for promoting the authors' works. In addition to Amazon, authors should be sure to link to an independent bookstore for sales, so that they offer customers a choice for not only what they buy, but where they buy.

Mysterious Galaxy
5943 Balboa Avenue #100
San Diego, CA 92111
858-268-4747
mgbooks@mystgalaxy.com

http://www.mystgalaxy.com

Many thanks to Maryelizabeth and the rest of the crew at Mysterious Galaxy for participating in this series and for always being there for authors - this store is definitely a favorite here in San Diego!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What’s New in Book Promotion? 5 Innovative Ideas from Successful Authors

Note: This article first appeared in Write! Publish! Sell! Volume 1, Issue11, August 2016 - A Free Newsletter/E-zine for Writers

When Write!Publish!Sell! publisher Joan West asked me to write an article on new ideas for book promotion, I figured she was looking for more than the typical book tours and media interviews that we publicists usually put together for our clients. While traditional publicity is important and necessary, there is always room for creativity and invention as authors look for new ways to reach their readers.

Here are a few ideas I’ve come across in recent months from authors who are successfully discovering new methods to help promote their books:

1) Thunderclap campaigns

Thunderclap is a free online social media tool (sometimes referred to as a “crowdspeaking platform”) that allows individuals to share the same message at the same time, in one timed blast, spreading an idea through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Many authors are using Thunderclap as a way to announce new releases, asking their friends and followers to help spread the word by creating a social media message that Thunderclap will then announce through access to the participants’ social media sites on a chosen date.


Does it work? One of my clients, Pamela Fagan Hutchins recently used Thunderclap to announce the release of her newest book, Hell to Pay, in her What Doesn’t’ Kill You romantic mystery series. Pamela asked 250 supporters to participate in her Thunderclap promotion and ended up surpassing that goal by enlisting 357 participants (thus, she achieved 143% participation). Her social media reach on announcement day was 472, 533 people. That’s a lot of potential readers who have now heard about her book!

You can learn more about Thunderclap here: https://www.thunderclap.it/?locale=en and more about Pamela Fagan Hutchins and her books here: http://pamelafaganhutchins.com/

2) Book resumes 

Author Michele Giacomini recently described how she was creating a one-sheet book resume as a sales tool for use in promoting her book Looking for B.O.B. to managers at local shops and Big Box stores. Her book resume includes general information on the book, 5-starred reviews, and other content that helps position the book as an item that might interest the stores’ customers.

You can read more about Michele and her book here: https://omgmissomg.blogspot.com/ and her book resume idea here: http://booksbywomen.org/five-unique-ways-to-market-your-first-book/#comments

3) YouTube video series
One of the best ways to market books is to develop relationships with readers. Author Teymour Shahabi did that by developing a series of YouTube videos on a channel that he calls PageWing (www.youtube.com/PageWing). What makes PageWing remarkable is that Teymour started the series simply as a way of examining his own writing process. He sent his first link to family and friends, and then watched as subsequent video postings began to go viral. The nice thing about this series is that it gives Teymour a platform, where readers get to know him and learn more about him and his upcoming book, while they also learn about writing from the content that he shares on the videos.


If you’re the kind of author who prefers speaking to writing when it comes to book promotion, a YouTube video series like Teymour’s may be a great option.


You can learn more about Teymour and his video series here: http://publishingperspectives.com/2015/08/ready-for-your-close-up-what-youtube-can-do-for-writers/#.V3Gnx6KMn


4) Specialty and/or themed events
Author Allison Gilbert recently posted online about how she’s created a unique type of event she

calls The Passed and Present Memory Bash Book Tour. Her tour is actually a series of parties she’s throwing for her readers across the country, with stops in cities like New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Phoenix, Minneapolis, and Atlanta. At these interactive events, readers participate in meaningful activities from Passed and Present, even lifting their glasses in memory of their loved ones (Allison provides glasses and wine for the toast, too!). Since Gilbert is a nonfiction author who writes about loss and creative ways to keep the memory of loved ones alive, these events are a perfect tie-in with her books and their content.
 

You can learn more about Allison and her Memory Bash Book Tour here: http://allisongilbert.com

5) Easy author access
Ever finish a great book and think to yourself, I would love to send a note to the author, only to find there isn’t any way to do so? In a recent SheWrites post, author Maria Murnane points out that by not including contact information at the end of their books, authors are missing out on a wonderful opportunity to connect with readers. Maria suggests including the first chapter of your next book (or a brief note about something you have in the works), some personalized info in your acknowledgements (rather than just a list of names), and a website or email address, so that readers who’d like to reach you can easily do so.

You can read more about Maria and her books here: www.mariamurnane.com


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Book Promotion – How to Make It a Labor of Love



When I told my husband I wanted to put a butterfly garden in our backyard last summer, he looked at me with his typical patient expression and said, “Sure, why not?”

Please realize that, at the time, neither of us knew jack about butterflies or what to plant in this type of garden. But when we finally removed a large strip of over-grown mock orange shrubs from our yard last year, we knew it was time to do our part for the planet and provide a safe space where threatened insects like monarch butterflies and bees could roam free of pesticides and predators.

We tilled the soil, read up on nectaring and host plants that butterflies like, listened to the experts at a local butterfly farm, planted, and then waited and watched as our first group of caterpillars emerged.

We learned a few things during that first summer: that monarch caterpillars will eat our milkweed plants to the ground, that most caterpillars don’t make it to the chrysalis stage, that even those that do make it are sometimes attached by predators like tachinid flies, wasps, and lizards, and that when a single caterpillar makes it to the chrysalis stage, it’s something of a miracle.

Our first summer, we had a few butterflies visit our garden. None of our caterpillars survived.

But we didn’t give up. Instead we lovingly tended our garden through the winter, nurturing the existing plants, replacing those that were too damaged or thinned out, getting additional advice from the experts at the butterfly farm, and adding new plants to make the garden more inviting to butterflies.

This summer, in our second year of butterfly gardening, we’ve had multiple butterflies visit the garden daily. Caterpillars have appeared on a regular basis, eating their way through our milkweed and fennel plants, and a few of them have already successfully transformed into beautiful butterflies.

If I’ve learned anything while putting this garden together, it’s that it doesn’t take a lot of initial knowledge to try something new. And with a little research, effort, patience, guidance, and love, we can be successful in our endeavors.

I like to remind my publicity clients, especially those who lament that they know nothing about promotion, that these same gardening values – research, effort, patience, guidance,  and, yes, love – can help them to be successful in their book marketing efforts. Initially, the first attempt at promoting may include a learning curve, where the response may not be great, readers may not come in droves, reviews may be thin or grudging, and sales may be slow to non-existent. 

But the next time you promote a book, you’ve learned some things about yourself, your writing, and what works and what doesn’t when you promote. You make adjustments, adding new material, asking experts (like publicists!) for advice, considering new avenues for marketing, and learning more about the process.

And then, the next time you do it, everything changes – that first group of readers and reviewers remembers you and buys your new book, reviews start to come in a little quicker, speaking appearances are easier to book, bloggers offer you spots on their pages, opportunities for marketing begin to broaden, and promotion and publicity gets easier. If you are dedicated and take what you’ve learned to heart, the results can be astonishing.

Like creating a butterfly garden, promoting a book is a labor of love. The first time around may be disappointing. But when authors are willing to put in the hard work and be open to learning, to making adjustments, and to loving the process, the groundwork set during the first effort pays off.  With research, energy, patience, good guidance and a whole lot of love, your book publicity efforts will thrive.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Tao of Book Publicity: A Beginner's Guide to Book Promotion

I've been busy the past few months putting together a book for authors called The Tao of Book Publicity: A Beginner's Guide to Book Promotion.  

In The Tao of Book Publicity, I outline the basics of book promotion and explain how the business of publicizing a book works. Designed for beginning authors but also useful for those with some experience in book publishing, The Tao of Book Publicity provides information on the importance of writing a good book and the need for developing a platform, as well as how-to explanations for developing publicity material, including front and back cover text, press releases, Q&As, media and blog tour queries, and newsletter and media lists. 

The Tao of Book Publicity also covers social media, book pricing and sales, book tours and media interviews, and author websites. In addition to explaining how book publicity works, this valuable handbook explores practical topics such as publicity costs, timing, and considerations when hiring a publicist. 

Simple, straightforward, and informative, The Tao of Book Publicity includes expert advice on all aspects of book promotion and is a go-to reference guide for beginning and experienced authors alike.

You can purchase a copy by clicking on the title here: The Tao of Book Publicity.

I hope you find it useful, and will share your thoughts about it on Goodreads and Amazon.com. Happy reading!