Wednesday, November 4, 2020

It's Been a Crazy Year

 Like many of you, I've been hanging on as best I can during 2020. After a bout with Covid-19 in March and April, a four-month home remodel, and now this election, it's been pretty nuts. But, I've survived all of it (so far, knock on wood) and am now back to working with clients and feeling pretty healthy. 

 For those of you who are interested in help with your book publicity, please be aware that although I am working with clients again, I have cut back considerably on the number of people I take on for the remainder of 2020. And with the holidays approaching this month and next, it's best to consider contacting me in either late December or at the beginning of 2021, when most of my contacts will have their calendars open. 

If you have questions or want me to consider your work for a 2021 timeframe, feel free to get in touch at And hang in there with what's left of this crazy year. 2020 may have more monkey business in store for all of us but, for now, all systems are go.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Feed Your Soul

I’ve had a number of well-meaning friends come up to me recently and ask me about my writing. When’s the next book coming out, they ask. Are you writing? How far are you along?

I give them the same answer I always give when asked about my writing: I’m working on a couple of projects right now, and I’ll let you know as soon as the books are finished.

The assumption by many non-writers (and some authors themselves) is that once an author produces a book, or two (or four, in my case), the writer will continue to produce books at the same pace. While this concept might be true for many writers, not all of us follow the same path. For some authors (and I include myself in this category), writing is a soul-filling (and sometimes soul-draining) process, but it’s not the only creative occupation that fulfills us.

I’ve dedicated over ten years of my life to writing books. I also, at the same time, helped raise two kids, worked two jobs, and supported my family and friends when they needed me. The writing was a lot of work, and it required a lot of time away from my husband and children. I didn’t mind the sacrifice then because, at that time in my life, the writing fed my soul in an important way.

But since the release of my last book in 2016, my family situation has changed. My children graduated from college and are now living and working on their own. And my husband and I have found ourselves at the age where we need to make decisions about retirement, our long-term life and healthcare goals, and how we’re going to do some of the travel that we’ve always had on our bucket lists.

I’ve also discovered in recent years that I yearned to explore some new ways to feed my soul. In the past three years, I’ve learned to bake my own bread, spent time exploring glass painting, and my husband Dan and I created a successful monarch butterfly sanctuary in our yard. I’ve reconnected with old friends and family members, and Dan and I have started to do some serious travel to other countries.

I’m also still working part-time, teaching college business classes and doing some work for publicity clients.

Does all of this non-writing activity mean I’ll never write again? Of course not – I have a memoir outlined and have begun the sequel to one of my earlier novels, Favorite Daughter. But is writing the primary activity filling my soul right now? No. And that doesn’t mean the end of my writing career; it just means that I will write again when my soul calls for it.

I know there are some career writers out there who scoff at the notion that writing is only for those who do it every day without fail for years on end. But for many of us, writing is only one of many ways that we find creative expression. It fills a special part of our lives, but it may not be the only occupation that does that. And that’s okay with me, and my soul, for now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

I Wish I’d Called You Sooner: Don’t Wait to Get Advice on Marketing a Book

It’s inevitable – I hang up the phone after receiving a call from another prospective client, and the last words I hear before we sign off are: “I wish I’d spoken with you sooner.”

I hear this same lament over and over again, mainly because a good number of the authors who call (and oftentimes it’s their first call to any publicist) didn’t complete some of the crucial steps that must take place before they release their books.

In many cases, it’s too late for me to help them – the authors have already done one or more of the following:

• waited over a year before trying to get publicity for a book already released
• didn’t develop a social media platform
• didn’t have their covers professionally designed
• didn’t have their books professionally edited
• signed publishing contracts without reading them
• allowed publishers to only issue their books in hard cover
• released their books late in the year
• didn’t workshop their manuscripts before publishing
• wrote a book in a genre that is overcrowded or difficult to sell
• wrote a book that doesn’t have a newsworthy angle or point of view.

When I mention that these situations that might make it difficult for me to help market their books, I inevitably receive the following arguments:

• but I didn’t know that a book should be marketed within the first 6-8 months after release
• but I’m computer-phobic and don’t know how to use social media
• but I’m a good artist, and my friends and family like my book covers
• but I was an English major and don’t need an editor –or– my publisher is going to edit my book (even though the publisher is most likely not a professional editor)
• but the publisher told me that s/he would do ________ (so I didn’t read the contract)
• but the publisher said that s/he would issue the book in soft cover after I sold an (unknown) amount of hard covers
• but I didn’t know that releasing a book in late winter would make it difficult to promote because of the holidays and/or that most venues will be already booked for the year
• but my cancer survival/parental issues/adoption story or memoir doesn’t have to be unique – everyone I know likes it
• but the fact that I wrote the book makes it newsworthy.

In many of these cases, the authors don’t like what I have to say and try to convince me that somehow I’m wrong about these important steps. Some of them try to tell me that because a few reviewers liked the book, they feel they can somehow bypass the rules. And some of them don’t listen at all – instead, they call to tell me how important their books are and, thus, whatever I have to say doesn’t really matter to them.

In the end, every author has the right to do whatever s/he wants with his or her book. But if authors (especially new authors) want to be successful at selling their books, they have to be willing to educate themselves about the selling process. And they must realize that marketing is different from what they learned (or, in many cases, didn’t take the time to learn) about creating a successful book.

What I end up suggesting to those who call me with these issues is the following:

• educate yourself about the book industry: know the statistics and requirements for your genre and be realistic about where your book might stand if your genre is difficult to sell
• educate yourself about the promotion process: take classes, attend workshops, go to conferences, read books on marketing, and talk with other authors who have successfully published and sold their books
• don’t wait to hire a publicist: make contact (preferably by email) at least 4-6 months before the book is released
• don’t be afraid of social media – learn how to set up and manage at least one or two sites (I recommend Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads) and place your blog posts on all of them, including your website (get help from a social media consultant if you truly find this process too daunting)
• plan to promote your book during the first 6-8 months immediately after the book is released
• don’t ever release a book that hasn’t been edited by a paid professional
• don’t ever design your own book cover
• don’t sign a publishing contract without reading it word-for-word and, if anything is unclear, discussing it with a publishing attorney
• don’t let a publisher talk you into only releasing your book in hard cover – hard covers are too expensive for readers and booksellers won’t stock them. Insist on softcover and ebook versions, or pass on the opportunity
• don’t release a book at the end of the year (any time after October is too late); instead, plan to release in either January or February, so you have the entire spring and summer to schedule events, make appearances, and promote
• don’t assume because you received one or two positive reviews that selling the book will be easy
• don’t assume that because you have an interest in your content/story that others will feel the same way you do.

Finally, my ultimate advice to all authors is to write the best book you possibly can. For most, this means workshopping the manuscript with a writing group and taking the feedback that is given to heart. I see too many books that should never have been published, not only because they have been improperly produced, but because the writing level is not where it should be to compete in today’s crowded market. Educate yourself about the promotion process as early as possible, and make sure your book is truly ready to be released into the world.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

2018 Appearances for Paula Margulies and The Tao of Book Publicity

Looking forward to meeting you at one of the following conferences/events!

San Diego Writers and Editors Guild
Monday, January 27, 2018
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Health Services Complex
3851 Rosecrans Street
San Diego, CA 92110

Southern California Writers Conference
Friday, February 14, 2018
10:40 a.m. - 12:10 p.m.
Crowne Plaza Hanalei, San Diego

Publishers & Writers of San Diego
Saturday, July 28, 2018
10:00 a.m - 12:00 p.m.
Carlsbad City Library
1775 Dove Lane
Carlsbad, CA 92011

34th Annual Central Coast Writers Conference
Friday, September 27, 2018 - Sunday, September 29, 2018
1:00 - 2:00 p.m. Friday: The Tao of Book Publicity: Promotion Strategies that Work
4:45 - 5:45 p.m. Friday: Marketing Stream and Opportunities (Panel)
9:00 - 11:00 a.m. Saturday: How to Create a Successful Virtual Book Tour
3:15 - 4:15 p.m. Saturday: New Marketing Tricks and New Avenues (Panel)
Cuesta College
San Luis Obispo, CA

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Uncommon Word: Surprising Our Readers with Extraordinary Language

In the library the other day, I came across a copy of Michael Wolff’s tell-all book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House and, even though I’m pressed for time to read lately, I decided to check it out. The book turns out to be a great dish on the chaotic and cringe-worthy first year of the current administration, but what surprised me most about it is was the language Wolff uses. Scattered across the pages are words I am embarrassed to admit I don’t know: words like samizdat, revanchism, myrmidons, quant, and hortatory.

To be truthful, I wasn’t expecting this level of vocabulary in what I thought would be a People type of read. To be clear, the book is quite good; it provides a fascinating first-hand look at the temperament of the current president and the political machinations of the people he chooses to work for him. But I have had to keep my phone handy while reading this book, just so I can look up some of the unfamiliar words I’m encountering as I go along.

This process of looking up new vocabulary words brings back some of the best memories of my childhood. I was one of those kids who loved to read and enjoyed diving into books above my recommended reading level. I delighted in learning new words, and discovered, as an interesting by-product, that doing so taught me to be a better writer, as well as a reader. But at some point in my life, I lost this drive to discover new vocabulary words. I replaced it with a desire to acquire more content in what I was reading. Now I’m wondering if it was a good idea to lose interest in growing my vocabulary.

While many of us enjoy discovering new words in the books we’re reading, most of us who write don’t have the same feeling about pushing the vocabulary envelope. It’s a tough job just to get the words on the page on some days and forcing ourselves to write with more complex language is sometimes not a priority. But I have to admit that when I read books that are written with an elevated vocabulary, I find that I’m more likely to remember them as the books I love the most.

My appreciation for heightened language is ironic considering that in the college business classes I teach, I urge students to write with short, simple words. Some of the rationale behind this pedagogy is that when writing for business, the primary goal is to be clear. But when it comes to writing fiction and nonfiction books, the goal is a little different. In those cases, we are telling stories. Our purpose, for the most part, is to inform and entertain. And I would argue that in those cases, the type of words we use matter more.

Finding just the right word to describe a character or situation might take the writer a little more time, but the end result can be captivating and memorable, and can make our stories soar. I know some will argue that forcing readers to stop and look up words might take them out of the stories we write. There is some truth to that. But reading Wolff’s work has reminded me that in addition to developing a good storyline and creating memorable characters,  I also need to up my game when it comes to the language I use in my writing. I believe I owe it to my characters, my stories, and most of all, to my readers, especially if I want them to remember my books as the ones they love the most.

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

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!