Saturday, November 29, 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014

How to Query a Book Publicist

When I first started offering publicity services for authors (many years ago), the winter months were often a slow time for me workwise. Now, with so many authors self-publishing, I receive more queries in the fall and winter than at any other time of year.

To help authors get the best response with their queries, I’ve listed some general tips on the best way to approach a publicist.

Do a little self-analysis first.

Before you decide to contact a publicist, take a few moments to consider whether your book and your own personal platform are ready for the kind of promotional work that a publicist will do for you.

Has your book been professionally edited? Has the cover been professionally designed? Do you have a website and social media sites? Have you thought about who your readers are and where you can best reach them? What kind of platform do you have? If you don’t have a platform, are you in the process of creating one?

Know what you’re looking for in the way of promotion and what you can afford.

If you have a platform and a book that has been professionally edited and is ready for distribution, your next step is to think about what kind of publicity you’re interested in pursuing. Some authors want to take their books on tour, others want media exposure, and some prefer online marketing. There is no right or wrong way for any author to promote, but those willing to do the most work to expose their books to their target audiences will make the most headway. If your budget is tight, that’s fine – know how much you’d like to spend, and then think about what you’d like to do within that budget framework.

Query only when your work is ready.

Even though I state on my website that I only work with authors whose books have been professionally edited, I still receive copies of books with typos, incorrect grammar, and significant writing flaws. The same goes for book covers – many of the samples sent to me have covers that have not been professionally designed. Please be sure your book is ready for publication before you send it to me for review.

Put your best foot forward.

The email message you send or the telephone call you make to a publicist is often the first indication of what it will be like to work with you. I receive many email messages where the author requests info about pricing or types of promotion, but offers no information about his book or the type promotion he’s interested in.

Oftentimes, these email messages demand information with no introduction. Messages like: “Hi Paula, Can you send me your prices on publicity?” are not likely to receive a positive response. If you truly want my help, then help me know more by telling me a little about what kind of books you write, what kind of background you have as an author, and what you’re looking for in the way of promotion.

Don’t send queries via Twitter and Facebook.

I’m surprised at how many authors will ask questions via social media, especially Twitter, about services and fees. Since we're only allowed 140 characters in a Twitter response, it’s difficult to answer questions in any kind of detail this way. If you’re serious about querying a publicist about publicity work, and/or if you have questions about the process, it’s probably best to email that person directly (you can reach me at

What I like to see in a query:

1. The title and a brief description of the book.
2. A brief summary of your background and experience as it relates to the book’s contents.
3. A brief statement of what you’re looking for in the way of publicity.
4. A sentence indicating whether the book will be traditionally or self-published and expected publication date.
5. If self-published, a sentence indicating whether the book has been professionally edited and designed/formatted and who has done that work for you.
6. For a book that is already published, a link to its Amazon page, website, or other retail site, so I can easily access that info.
7. Your full name and contact information, including email address and telephone number in case I would like to reach you by phone.

And here’s what not to include in your query:

1. Don’t attach a full manuscript. I may not represent the type of book you’ve written and even if I do, I generally don’t print out books sent to me by email.
2. Don’t tell me how much your friends and family loved the book or that others have deemed it a potential bestseller.
3. Don’t include pages of testimonials or blurbs from others about the book. A simple description or brief list of who has offered to blurb the book will suffice.
4. Don’t try to negotiate some type of commission structure for payment; most publicists charge a monthly retainer or an hourly rate for their services and do not work on commission. It’s best to wait until the publicist agrees to take you on before discussing payment options.

The majority of book publicists have websites with information about the types of services they provide, and specific advice as to what they’d like you to include when you send a query. It’s best to check the website first and follow the individual publicist’s requirements as you put your query together.

Finally, be patient with us if we don’t get back to you right away – sometimes we’re on deadline for current clients, traveling, or busy with other issues, so it can take a few days to respond.

As always, if you have any questions about what I’ve listed here, or about the query process in general, feel free to contact me at Happy querying!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Locating Your Tribe: Where to Find Readers for Your Books

First, a happy Labor Day to all of the hardworking readers and authors out there who got to enjoy a much needed day of rest (I know I sure needed one!).

I just returned home from a three-day weekend at the Barona Indian Reservation, where I sold copies of my books Favorite Daughter, Part One; Face Value: Collected Stories; and Coyote Heart. Before I discuss the powwow, please know that I am not Native American by heritage. I discovered the world of powwows when I wrote my first novel, Coyote Heart, which is a contemporary love story about a married woman who falls in love with a man from the Pala Indian Reservation here in San Diego.

When I was promoting the first edition of Coyote Heart (which was agented and traditionally published by a small press back in 2009), I discovered that there was a core group of readers here in San Diego County who were interested in Native American fiction. I learned this fact by getting out and doing book signings at local bookstores and libraries (there were still a lot of bookstores around at that time, so I was lucky to be able to do a four–state signing tour with the book).

After realizing that readers enjoyed the regional and/or native elements of Coyote Heart, I decided to see what it would be like to be a vendor at a number of local Native American gatherings (remember, I just had the one book, Coyote Heart, to sell) and rented booth space at powwows at San Luis Rey, Pala, Barona, Pechanga, Balboa Park, and Sycuan the summer after the book was released. As a result, I was able to meet a number of powwow attendees (both tribal members and local readers) who liked that Coyote Heart was about the Indian tribes here in San Diego (this was especially true of the Luiseno and Cupa readers who were familiar with the Pala Reservation). I sold a lot of copies of Coyote Heart that first summer, and then attended a string of powwows during the following summer, where I ran into many of my former readers who wanted to know when I would have another book out.

Much happened after those first powwow appearances – I hired a publishing attorney and got the rights back to Coyote Heart, which I rewrote as a second edition. I self-published the new edition of Coyote Heart, along with a collection of short stories I had written during 2001 – 2007, called Face Value: Collected Stories. I published both books in January, 2014, and then completed the final draft of part one of my historical novel about Pocahontas, Favorite Daughter.

I published Favorite Daughter, Part One in July of this year, which was, unfortunately, past the registration dates for a number of summer powwows held here in San Diego. But even though it was late in the game, I signed up for the Barona powwow, which took place this past weekend, and sold all three of my books there.

It was unusually hot and windy all three days, and the long hours of setting up, selling books, and then tearing down the booth every evening was tiring. But what a treat it was smell the scent of sage again, to view the gorgeous regalia and intricate footwork of the swirling fancy dancers, and listen to the hypnotic and soothing drumming and singing. Best of all, I ran into a number of my former powwow readers, who expressed great delight at seeing me there and who were happy to know that I had written some new books that they could buy.

I sold a lot of books this weekend (surprisingly, my first book, Coyote Heart, was still popular – it outsold the new book, Favorite Daughter). And what I learned was that once you’ve developed a core group of readers, they will stay with you, even if it takes years to produce another book.

So, my answer those who ask “How do I find readers?” is that in addition to all the promotional work you do online, you might also want to get out there where readers of the type of books you write congregate – whether it be at fantasy conventions, medieval fairs, children’s plays, young adult library events, mystery theater gatherings, professional meetings, historical reenactments, street festivals, or even regular book signings – and talk to them. Ask them what they like to read and listen to their answers. Tell them about your book and offer to sign copies for themselves and their friends and families. Most of all, treat them as members of a very special family – your tribe, if you will. They will buy from you, they will remember you, and, most important of all, they will be there when you’re ready to tell them about your newest publishing adventure.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What Your First Conversation with a Publicist Might Look Like

For those who've never spoken with a publicist and wonder what the initial conversation might be like, I've compiled the list below of the items we typically discuss when authors contact me about their books (note: these will vary depending on the type of book and the individual needs of the author). I always ask for a copy of the book to read first, so we usually won’t have this conversation until after I’ve finished reading.

1) Editing and Cover Art
I'm a stickler for books that have been professionally edited, and even though I specify that on my website, I'm often sent books that contain typos and grammatical mistakes or suffer from general writing problems. These are often easy fixes in the hands of professional editors, but many authors choose to skip this step in the publishing process. More often than not, authors will swear that their books have been edited (by multiple people, as one author recently claimed). But in most cases, authors assume that having a few beta readers (i.e., friends and relatives) review the book is enough to fix any editing errors the book might contain. Sadly, these are books I usually have to turn down, mainly because I cannot send them to reviewers, booksellers, bloggers, news editors, or reporters - the grammatical or typographical errors would not get past these folks, whose business is correct writing.

Similarly, the cover art is so crucial to selling indie books these days, that I will usually urge the client to consider a re-do if the cover seems overly homespun or inappropriate for its audience. If either the cover or the editing seems lacking, I'll discuss options for getting those issues taken care of before moving forward with publicity for the book.

2) Platform
I like to find out as much as I can about potential clients, so if the client's book is ready for publication, we’ll usually discuss platform first, including education, work experience, publications, awards, teaching experience, celebrity status, or anything else that can help me know how to best position the author and his book to the media, reviewers, booksellers, readers, etc. We’ll also discuss personal branding strategies and any other marketing efforts that an author has made that might be relevant to the selling of the book.

3) Genre/Audience
I also like to discuss genre, if relevant, and possible target audiences for the book, including different types of readers, tangential or secondary audiences, and content or themes that might be newsworthy or resonate with different groups.

4) Outreach/Appearances
We’ll discuss what areas are possible options for promoting the book, including book launches, outreach to bloggers and blog tours, personal appearances (bookstores/libraries/professional venues, etc.), conference appearances, university and corporate speaking engagements, general media, and targeted media, including written articles, social media, web and blog sites, etc.

5) Social Media
I like to go over the various social media outlets out there and discuss which might be best for authors to target so that they have a social media presence to tap into once the book is released. For those who are new to social media, I usually recommend working on building a presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads as soon as possible, and also suggest that they consider developing relationships with readers via regular blog posts on their websites and blogs.

6) Beta Readers/Giveaways
It’s important to think about generating reviews both before a book launches and immediately afterward, so I’ll usually recommend reaching out to beta readers and using the giveaway features offered on sites like Goodreads and those who host blog tours.

7) Contests and Reviews
Entering contests and submitting the book to review sites is an important part of publicity, because winning awards and receiving reviews are good reasons to issue press releases once a book is launched. There is also some initial PR to consider, such as creating a general press release to be used for media and blogger queries, and getting that release up on the newswires. I’ll usually discuss how this might affect the book’s release date, along with the timing for certain PR activities (including pre-release activities, such as getting the press release written, getting a Q&A sheet formatted, gathering book cover and author photos, etc.).

8) Publicity Budget
I usually discuss my fees and what the potential client has in mind for a budget, along with items like initial deposits, how invoicing works, the duration of the publicity campaign, and what to expect for the amount of work the client is interested in having me do for his book.

9) Other Items to Include in Budget
I usually suggest that in addition to all the options listed above, authors should also be sure to budget for the following:
- cover design
- professional editing
- formatting (mobi/ebook files and pdf/print files)
- uploading to distribution sites like Amazon, Createspace, Smashwords, Draft to Digital, etc. (for those not familiar with the process or those who prefer to have someone else do it)
- printed copies of the book (for giveaways, contests, reviewers, book signings, appearances, etc.)
- promotional giveaway tools (bookmarks, posters, etc. – Vista Print is an inexpensive way to go for these items)
- postage (for mailing print copies to reviewers, giveaway recipients, contests, etc.)
- travel (if appearances are part of the author’s promotional plans)

11) Schedule
I also recommend deciding on a publicity budget and then prioritizing what the client would like me to do. If he wants a book tour, I’ll suggest making a list of dates, times, cities, etc., so I know where/when to focus those efforts. Also, I’ll ask clients to list any times when they will not be available for interviews, travel, and/or email communication.

12) Photos, Bio, and Book Cover Art
When we’re ready to get started, I’ll ask for jpgs of the author’s headshot (hopefully shot by a professional photographer) and the book front cover art, along with any biographical info the author can provide. Also, if he has any other descriptive text he can share (back cover copy with book description, blurbs, etc.), those are helpful for me to have on file.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

As the Publishing Industry Changes, So Does the Way We Promote Books

As a PR professional who’s been working in the book publicity business for a number of years, I’ve watched the industry go through some major changes. And as the industry has changed, so has the way we market books.

But what's different now? Well, for one thing, authors who self-publish their work must hire professionals, particularly cover designers, editors, and formatting specialists, to help ensure that what they put out is a quality product. Some authors choose to perform these tasks themselves, but doing so is risky. Unless they’re experts in all these arenas (which is rare), the end product may be viewed by readers as low quality, and sales may suffer.

Even our concept of platform has changed. Where in the past, platform was dictated by the size of the audience an author could bring to his work based on celebrity status, experience, or expertise, now it is heavily influenced by the number of books an author has published and the size of his online presence.

Authors are finding that certain genres, including erotica and fantasy, seem to have an easier time finding an audience, while others, like traditional and literary fiction, sometimes struggle. Manipulating pricing is crucial, as authors lower and raise price points to help move online sales rankings, and new methods of packaging books, including bundling and box sets, have become commonplace. Authors are learning that they must continue to write new books in order to be known, and consumer familiarity with technology is opening the door to concepts like interactive books, apps, and online access for readers.

As the industry has changed, so have the channels for distribution. Brick and mortar stores have been replaced by online brokers, making the Internet the primary book sales and event channel. Authors are replacing book signings with blog tours and partnering with other authors online to bundle their work and cross-promote.

Finding readers has become one of the biggest challenges, as the sheer numbers of authors, along with the noise that readers face, makes it difficult for authors to create an audience. Many authors have found themselves relying less on traditional media and more on social media and word-of-mouth promotion, as access to readers becomes more relationship-oriented.

If the industry is changing, does that mean that the way we promote books has changed, as well? Absolutely. As authors create more books, they realize that being able to build their own brand, connect with readers, and get the word out about their work is all-important, and sometimes more difficult, than ever.

And what are publicists doing now for their authors given the industry changes? Well, in my own practice, I’m seeing changes in the services I offer authors. In addition to writing press releases and getting them on the newswires, I’m helping my clients find bloggers who are willing to feature their books in the form of interviews or reviews on their blog sites. I’m doing a lot of work with online media outlets to create buzz and helping with branding and identity by pinpointing what is unique about an author’s work. I’m also helping my clients to reach their target audiences by identifying niche markets and working to create exposure opportunities, including submitting written articles to targeted print and online publications, booking presentations, and setting up appearances at select venues and events.

For some of my clients, especially those who feel that exposure via traditional media is less important, I’m working to help them to reach out to readers via review sites, blog sites, social media, and online reader sites. Even so, I still feel it’s important for authors to connect with their readers in as many ways as possible, and that includes face-to-face meetings at book signings, launch events, private readings, presentations, and other author appearances.

The bottom line is that even though the publishing environment has changed, there are now more promotional options than ever for authors who wish to connect with readers. And the more of these options that authors are willing to explore, the more likely it is that they will be successful in finding an audience for their work.

What are you doing to get the word out about your book?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Farewell to This Semester’s Grossmont College Students

My daughter, as many of you know, is a college softball player at Sacramento State. As a softball mom of many years, I can testify that there is nothing more entertaining than the girls' cheers during the games. I won’t repeat all of them (many involve singing and rhythmic hand-clapping, along with a few amusing nicknames), but there is one cheer, in particular, that has always struck me as interesting. It’s the one where a player calls out to another player, “I see you, (Other Player’s Name here).” The girls do this whether the player has done something meaningful or not; it appears to be a term of endearment, as well as encouragement, and has always struck me as being particularly powerful.

At first, I wasn’t sure what this cheer meant. Does it mean that the player calling out is watching all the great plays the other player performs? Or is it an acknowledgement of the other player’s value on the team, a way of stating recognition – in other words, if I say “I see you,” it means that I am acknowledging that you are important and that you are worthy of being here.

I’ve thought about this cheer as I’ve been getting ready to turn in grades for the classes I teach. As some of you know, in addition to working as a publicist, I also teach business and marketing classes at Grossmont College, one of the many local community colleges here in San Diego. I enjoy teaching for a number of reasons – it forces me to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the world of PR and business, it allows me to give back by sharing with others what I’ve learned over the years, and it gets me out of the office a couple of afternoons a week, which is good for someone whose main job requires many hours of keeping her butt in the chair.

But one of the best aspects of college teaching is the awesome students I meet. This year’s batch is no exception. I taught two classes this semester – a Marketing class and an Introduction to Business course. Although I had a few students who decided to take both courses (gluttons for punishment, some might say), the two classes couldn’t have been more different.

My Marketing students were a boisterous, outgoing, and expressive lot. A few of them were downright opinionated, but in a good way – they had thoughts about the government, the world of business, and the education system in general (as well as their experience at Grossmont College in particular), and they enjoyed sharing those views, quite frequently. A few expressed observations about my teaching style (one fellow thought I gave too many reminders about assignments, tests, etc.), while others stayed after class to share struggles they were experiencing with their families, significant others, or the jobs they held. No matter what they chose to disclose, I enjoyed talking with them; their perspectives have enriched my own in ways they can’t imagine.

My Intro to Business students were different – quiet, thoughtful, and in some cases, analytical. Many of them were first-year students in college, and a few of them were trying to manage their own businesses while they took classes at Grossmont. These students had a softer, gentler approach to life than their Marketing colleagues. Many of the Intro to Business students rarely made a sound, and a good number of them spoke up in class only when called upon or when forced to interact in groups.

I love both types of students – the boisterous go-getters, who demand attention and repay those who give it to them with witty observations, humor, and a general joie de vivre that is a pleasure to be around, and the quiet ones, who defer to their peers in class, but always answer questions thoughtfully and with great insight when asked. Both of these classes were pleasures to teach this semester, and I will miss all of these students more than they will know.

So, to this semester’s Marketing students, I say bon voyage, and thank you for an entertaining and lively semester. I won’t forget you.

And to my Intro to Business students, I say thank you for teaching me that not all of the learners in this world are outgoing speakers. Some prefer to sit quietly and listen, and that is a great skill that many of us will never master. I see you, Business students.

Friday, February 7, 2014

6 Great Video Resources to Help You Market Your Books

In addition to my work as a book publicist, I also teach classes on business communications, marketing, and publicity at some of our local community colleges here in San Diego.

One of the best resources I've found for helping students understand marketing and publicity concepts is video. I show a lot of videos in my classes because a) there are so many good ones out there with great information, b) they're interesting and fun to watch c) my students love them (also, I think they give the students a break from hearing me speak in class).

Here are six of my favorite videos on marketing and promotion. The speakers in these videos offer strategies and tips that are good not only for students and business owners, but also for authors who are looking for ideas on how to promote themselves and their books.

1) 22 Brilliant Social Media Marketing Tips by Ryan Moore
This is a great overview of ways to use social media to sell products and ideas. I like the way Ryan presents his concepts in an easy and memorable format. An example of a great tip from this video: Give people what they want, by providing a simple answer to a simple question. Brilliant!

2) Ask Jay: 10 Tips Every Marketer Should Know by Jay Adelson and Nigel Dessau
I love entrepreneur Jay Adelson's video series on how to start a business, and I use many of his videos in both my Marketing and Intro to Business classes. Jay's advice is honest and useful, mainly because it's based on his own experience as a successful start-up business owner. In this video, Jay brings in his company's marketing guru, Nigel Dessau, to share advice on how to market products and services. My favorite tip from Nigel: Don't do it all at once. (One caveat: there are sponsor ads in Jay's videos, so be prepared to either sit through them or move your cursor forward when they appear.)

3) The Power of Words by Andrea Gardner
I use this poignant and moving video/fable in my Business Communications classes to illustrate how much more powerful our messages are when we use words that touch human emotions.

4) How Do You Get Free Publicity for Your Business? by Kiyla Fennell
I like the straightforward and accurate information business expert Kiyla Fennell shares in this six step video. The ideas she lists (like defining what you're an expert on and using customer testimonials), are simple, but effective.

5) Selling Your Idea, Not Just Your Product by Aaron Ross
This short video provides some good food for thought for authors. Customers (in an author's case, readers) want to learn from us, so Aaron asks us to focus on defining and sharing the ideas we're selling, rather than the product itself.

6) How to Create a Brand & Find Your Voice by Marie Forleo
Viewers love Marie's high-energy and entertaining videos on how to market and sell just about anything. In this video, she provides four strategies on how to be original in your promotional message, including challenging yourself to state one idea five different ways and telling your own stories.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What I've Learned about Being a Hybrid Author

He who would do great things should not attempt them all alone. ~ Native American Proverb, Seneca

Yes, I’m both a book publicist and an author. And back in 2005, when I was lucky enough to be represented by an agent and, later, have my first novel, Coyote Heart, accepted by a small press, I was overjoyed.

My first years of being traditionally published were good ones. I traveled to four different states promoting the book at bookstores, libraries, festivals, fairs, writing conferences (where I spoke, on occasion) and, since the book had a Native American theme, at local pow-wows and regional gatherings.

After a few years, since I was busy with my book publicity business and college teaching (along with helping both of my kids with applications, recruiting, and move-ins at their respective colleges), I left more of the marketing to the publisher and focused on writing my second novel, Favorite Daughter (part one of which will be released later this year).

Flash forward nine years later, and the publishing world had shifted its focus. Many brick-and-mortar bookstores closed their doors, the publishing giants capitulated and stuck their toes in the ebook waters, and a number of authors, including me, decided that being traditionally published was no longer the only way to go.

In 2013, I hired an attorney and was able to obtain the rights back to my first novel. And I decided to self-publish a collection of short stories that I had written many years ago.

But that isn’t the end of the story - once I decided to self-publish my short story collection, Face Value: Collected Stories (and the second edition of Coyote Heart), I was faced with the decisions all self-published authors encounter.

Here’s what I’ve learned as a hybrid author:

1. If you’re self-publishing, it’s worth every penny to hire professionals to do your editing, formatting, cover design, and (for first-timers) uploading.
When I began the process of putting Coyote Heart out after regaining the publishing rights, the first task was having a professional editor scrub it so I could reissue it as a true second edition. In addition to giving it an overall grammatical proof, the editor I hired, Carol Newman Cronin, deleted entire paragraphs and whittled sentences down to their tightest form. I also hired cover designer Troy O’Brien, who (bless his soul) was infinitely patient with me and sent numerous proof copies, along with making uncountable tweaks and design changes, until the cover layout was just right. And my formatter, author and artist Bridget Chicoine, spent many days designing section marker motifs, adjusting spacing, and making improvements to the layout until we had a final version we could both be proud of. I purchased ISBNs and asked Devin Whipple and Moana Evans to help me upload the books to Amazon, Barnes & Noble Nook, and other sites.

And, yes, I could have done all of this myself. But I view the people I hired – my editor, my cover designer, my formatter, my uploading gurus – as experts in their fields. I relied on them to guide me in making decisions in all of these areas and deferred to their judgments when I wasn’t sure which decision was best. And I feel blessed to have had their expertise and guidance to rely on.

2. There are a lot of distribution options for self-published authors. If you’re not sure where to place your book, let the experts guide you.
Deciding where to place the book online involved a lot of decisions I didn’t have to make as a traditionally published author. In its first iteration, Coyote Heart was marketed primarily as a print publication and distributed through Ingram and Lightning Source. I was able to help my traditional publisher by putting together a marketing plan for the small press department at Barnes & Noble, so we could get distribution through its stores, and I also helped him to eventually distribute the book in ebook format.

But after regaining rights to the book, I had to decide if the second edition would go the same route. After examining the different options offered by Createspace and Lightning Source, I decided to go with Createspace. Similarly, I had to decide where to place the ebook versions of the novel. There are many options and choosing which to go with was, at first, a little daunting. Luckily, Moana and Devin were both there to guide me through that process, helping me to place the book with the right online sources (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, draft2digital, etc.), to get it to my target audience.

3. Every author has a different reason for writing a book and should market accordingly.
Deciding who my readers were and how to list the book were important decisions. The publisher for the first edition of Coyote Heart had relied on me to do the majority of the marketing, so I was able to learn quite a bit about where to place it and who its likely readers would be. I also discovered where it sold well, where it was least likely to sell, and where I might consider other options for it, which has helped me to make decisions about how to promote this second edition.

But unlike many other authors, my goal as a writer is not to sell so many books that I can quit my day job. I like my day job. My writing goals are to create stories that others will (hopefully) find interesting and beautiful and to improve my craft as I continue to write. I enjoy the learning process, as well as the writing process (and now, the process of self-publishing), but the primary purpose behind my writing will always be to simply create and explore, as I see fit.

4. The best way to sell a book is to write a good book.
Enough said.

5. And an even better way to sell a book is to write more books.
Readers who like books by certain authors want more of them, and the sheer volume of self-published books out there has turned selling books into something of a numbers game. So, the more the merrier – I plan to keep writing and continue to learn and grow as an author. But how and when I do it is up to me. This is one of the many perks of being self-published: the only pressure to produce is what you place on yourself – you can crank out a book a week, if that’s your style, or spend years dabbling with different story ideas. It’s up to you (which goes back to point #3 – how much you produce depends on your reasons for writing). And that part I really, really like.

Links: Coyote Heart, Face Value: Collected Stories

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Book Promotion and the Spirit of Giving

Your work is to discover your world and then, with all your heart, give yourself to it.
- Buddha

As a publicist and an author who is in the process of publishing three books of my own this year, I understand the dilemma writers face when it comes to finding the time and energy to promote their work. Marketing and promotion can be especially difficult for authors because many of us (and, yes, I include myself here) don’t feel comfortable blowing our own horns. The act of writing is oftentimes a very personal and private one, which can make promoting the resulting work something of an anomaly – we spend months, and even years, alone, focused on the act of creating, and then we have to switch gears and become megaphones for the words we’ve produced.

For many writers, that switch can be jarring. I field calls from authors every day who want to get their books noticed, but have trouble facing the idea of being center stage. Many authors chose to forgo promotion altogether, oftentimes because of time commitments and costs, but also because it’s difficult to be suddenly focused on themselves (which an author platform requires) in a public way.
I try to help authors adjust to the idea of being more public with their work through my book publicity services, but also through guiding them to accept that the only way their books will be read is if readers know about them. Authors understand this concept, but it isn’t always an easy idea to embrace, especially for those who are introverted or truly shy.

One suggestion I have for clients who resist being in the public eye is to consider the process of promoting as more of an experience of giving, rather than one of blatant self-promotion. If we authors can view promotional activities as opportunities to share our ideas, our beliefs, and our writing, then we are no longer self-promoting; we’re giving, in the truest sense of the word.

This ability to give can be difficult for some – in our culture, giving is often not easy. Many of us see ourselves as wanting or not having enough and, therefore, not in a position to give to others. But I believe that we always have something to offer others, and authors are especially blessed with much to share. We have our words, our books, our thoughts, our experiences as writers, and even our experiences as promoters, to provide to the world. And having so much to share is an indication of how lucky we are to not only write, but to give back to others -- in the form of stories and nonfiction writing -- our sense of what it means to experience life.

And the funny thing is that the more we give, the more we seem to have. There is something magical in the act of giving; true generosity can bring about great feelings of openness, along with the satisfaction that comes from witnessing the resulting happiness others feel as recipients of our gifts. And the more we share, the more others – readers – know about us, which benefits us in ways that are monetary, yes, but also personally fulfilling.

So, I recommend to any writer out there who cringes at the thought of doing book signings and blog tours, giving media interviews, or pursuing relationships via social networking, to think about it in a different way. If we approach the process of publicity as one where we are sharing our thoughts, our books, and, yes, ourselves, with others, we do so in the spirit of giving. And when we willingly share with others, we often find that the true benefactors of our generosity are ourselves.