Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Spreading the Word

Promotion. A HUGE part of whether a book is successful or not. But there are so many options (endless ways you can spend your hard-earned money), what's a poor author to do?

Having tried lots of different things with my ten books, I've come to some conclusions about what does and doesn't work, what's worth the money, and what's not.

The first thing new authors need to realize is that it's going to cost money to promote your book. Oh, yes it is. There's no way around that unless you just hawk it to your relatives and be happy with your 75 total sales.

I recommend setting aside a minimum of $3,000 (hopefully this can come from your advance) as your promo fund. From this stash, I've found the most productive expenditures include good quality bookmarks sporting your cover, website and other titles (I use Printrunner online for beautiful, two-sided, glossy, full-color, relatively inexpensive bookmarks). These end up costing about a dime a piece and are your best way of advertising - hand them out liberally and offer them as "free gifts" at public events. People tend to keep them if they're good quality and will always have a reminder at their fingertips of your website and other books they might like to read. 

A full color brochure is also a must (again, Printrunner) if you're a speaker. I have print and online versions to fill all my advertising needs.

Book trailers are nice but have become somewhat mundane with everybody doing them, so my answer toward uniqueness has been to film a dozen 2-Minute Stress Busters to accompany the release of Too Blessed to be Stressed, which are posted on my website. Frequent reminders are posted on Twitter and Facebook, and go out in my quarterly e-newsletters.

Social media and e-communication are crucial these days. My e-newsletter contact list recently topped 3,000, largely due to a Kindle giveaway sweepstakes and blog tour organized by LitFuse, a publicity company I hired to handle my Too Blessed to be Stressed campaign. They've been outstanding in getting word of my new book out in cyberworld (tons of great reviews have racked up through the blog tour) and over 1,800 registered for the Kindle sweepstakes. It was engineered in a way to harvest all those e-dresses for my contact list. Brilliant!

These efforts have translated into 1,260 new visits to my FaceBook author page, and over 1,400 "likes" just since last month.

And even more exciting, Too Blessed to be Stressed hit #3 on the Amazon Bestseller List in the women/spirituality category. Way cool, don't you think?

A word of caution here: carefully check out the track record of the publicity company you're contemplating. I didn't with my previous book and the company I paid more than twice as much for (compared to LitFuse) did half as much and that not nearly as well. I felt like I had absolutely no control - like a victim instead of a client - and helplessly watched my precious money flush down the toilet.

LitFuse, on the other hand, came highly recommended by a writer buddy and offered a pick-and-choose services list from which I had total control of what my dollars would be used for. I opted for them to create and send out my press release to their extensive list of media contacts (from which numerous interview requests arrived), organize the 80-site blog tour which occurred over a 3-week time span, and advertise and run the Facebook Party.

These proved to be highly productive with minimal effort on my part.

One other promotional comment I just can't pass up: many new authors have idealized the traditional bookstore signing as the epitome of effective promotion. I've got news for you: it just ain't so. After dozens in multiple states over the last 5 years, I've concluded that it's not at all worth my time and energy to do a signing unless I'm in a location where I have a good sized fan base who I feel reasonably sure will turn out. It's totally embarrassing to have 6 people visit your book table, which is entirely possible if you're depending on store traffic alone.

During one signing, the only people who spoke to me were those asking where the restroom was.

At least I knew the right answer. But they looked at me kind of funny when I chased after them waving my book in one hand and a fistful of bookmarks in the other.

Hey, hungry authors do what they have to do.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

How not to lose your head

I could tell Ralph just wasn't getting it.

Ralph - not his real name - had been interviewing me on live Christian radio for the previous 25 minutes about my new book, Too Blessed to be Stressed. Ralph was broadcasting from a station in the northeast and I've got to give him points for taking on the daunting task of a man interviewing a female author about a woman's book.

My publicist had sent him a copy of Too Blessed, but my first clue that he hadn't read my book was when he kept popping out questions like, "But what about men?" or "Don't you think men get stressed too?" when I'd relate some tidbit making a point about women's stress issues.

This was a women's book, for pity's sake. 

Then came the coup de grace.

With five minutes left of the interview, I could practically hear Ralph flipping pages, searching frantically for a final question to end with a bang. With relief in his voice to have finally hit upon a topic with which he felt comfortable, he said, "Oh, look - I see you've written a chapter about Martin Luther. Go ahead now and tell us about 'Luther's Legacy.'"


How on earth was I to tell this guy that Luther was a monkey. No, really. A ringtail capuchin monkey. And the chapter entitled "Luther's Legacy" was about little hairy Luther's human owner's unconditional love for him despite his propensity for creating constant trouble for himself. Not unlike the unconditional love our heavenly father shows toward us.

Oh, man. I shot up a rhino-in-the-road prayer for help. How was I going to get out of this one without a car wreck?

A half-dozen ways to handle the situation flashed through my head during the momentary gap of silence that followed. But as you know, silence on live radio is a BIG problem. So I decided to go with my first impulse to simply laugh about it.

"Ha-ha!" (what I hoped was a pleasant and not desperate laugh.) "Well, Ralph, there were no theses or nails involved with this Luther. He was, in fact, a monkey."

Thankfully, although Ralph was silent at first, he eventually saw the humor in the situation as I imparted some of Luther's crazy exploits and we ended on a light, companionable note.

Vehicle swirved. Wreck avoided. Thanks, Lord.

Media interviews can be hairy, for sure. Although part of the package sent to the newspaper reporter, radio host or TV interviewer contains "suggested questions" that you've compiled (and studied ahead of time and conveniently know the answers to!), it's been my experience that they're rarely ever covered. I don't know if interviewers resist being told what to ask and prefer to wing it, but I can only remember a few times when we actually got past the first suggested question before the interviewer ventured into uncharted territory.

Even when they haven't read the book, which is the majority of the time.

A good interviewer can fake it well, having previously acquainted themselves with the fast-read stuff: the foreword, back cover copy, endorsements and table of contents to get the gist of the material. They might even thumb through a random chapter or two and highlight a few points that struck them.

But they're depending on you, the author, to grab whatever ball they toss out and run with it, adding your own interesting and preferably humorous tidbits and sound bites. And the shorter the interview, the sharper and deeper the sound bites need to be.

That's why, particularly for radio interviews conducted by telephone, most authors surround themselves with cheat sheets from which they can draw clever and pertinent zingers to redirect most any question to. We may not have the answer to the specific question the host asks, but we have a good answer to some question and if we skillfully redirect our answer to our prepared response, the listener is satisfied, the host is happy, and we end up looking like we halfway know what we're talking about.

The key is to compile easily accessible main points from your book and keep referring back to those when off-the-wall questions throw you for a loop.

I finally wised up with Too Blessed to be Stressed (after fumbling inanely through my last 3 books searching for info I couldn't seem to locate during interviews). I tabbed and labeled key points. Now I can flip right to whatever it is I'm looking for, no muss, no fuss. And no embarrassing air silences which I have to end by saying, "Well, golly, I can't seem to find it, but I think I said ..."

So what about you? I'd love to hear your stories. How do you get out of hairy situations without making a monkey out of yourself?


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Break a leg!

Barbie Turns 50
Someone sent me this cartoon and I almost busted a gut. I hope I'm not breaking some copyright laws by sharing it with you.

Speaking of busting things, a lady walked up to me last week at a writer's meeting and spurted out, "You're Debora Coty.You broke my leg."

"I broke your ... um, excuse me?" I looked down and sure enough there was a walking boot at the end of a long-leg cast sticking out the bottom of her shorts. Gulp. I'd never seen her before in my life.

"Well, you didn't really break my leg, " she clarified, "but I broke my leg because of you."

Now at this point I wasn't sure if I was dealing with a stalker, a lawsuit, a nutcase, or a wacky sense of humor.

"Yep," she continued, "It was your book, actually. Someone gave me a copy of Grit for the Oyster last Tuesday night and Wednesday morning when I woke up, that was all I could think about ... getting downstairs and starting that book I'd heard so much about. So I flew down the stairs and kind of missed the last step."

Wow. Can't say I've ever been accused of bodily injury with words before.

Thankfully, she didn't hold it against me and turned out to be a kindred spirit. A delightfully wacky sense of humor, after all. After the shock wore off, I loved it.

Now when I'm getting ready to go on stage for a speaking gig and someone says, "Break a leg," I can truthfully say, "I already have."