Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fugal Promotion Tips

My guest this week is Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award winning novelist and author of the The HowToDoItFrugally Series for authors. Today I'm asking her questions about her book The Frugal Book Promoter.

Welcome Carolyn, first I have to tell you how much I love your subtitle HOW TO DO WHAT YOUR PUBLISHER WON’T and using the word “Frugal” for your series was brilliant. (I also love your unforgettable last name.)

Ahhh, subtitles. That alone is a subject I love. Many have noticed that they are getting longer. That's because readers find books these days by using keywords. So savvy authors will try to work more keywords into their titles and subtitles so that they are found more often on, say, Amazon's search engine. Also, a good subtitle that shows benefits and maybe even tells people (scares them a little bit?) what they will miss if they don't read the book.

Thus, if I were writing The Frugal Book Promoter today, I might lengthen that subtitle a tad--and spice it up a bit. The next in that series is The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success.  When I'm speaking, writers tend to laugh at the "humiliation" part.  But they laugh because they know its true.

Maybe that is a place to start. How does the author know what a publisher will do for them?

Well, first they read the publisher's Web site. If they have an agent, they ask them. That's the agent's job. An agent should negotiate for more. And they ask the publisher questions before they sign the contract.  But after all that, an author shouldn't expect much until their name has an Ann LaMott or John Grisham ring to it.

Is it in the contract?

Sometimes and sometimes not. Things can change quickly at publishing companies and contracts can be misleading. It's best to have an attorney specializing in publishing look the contract over. But better insurance is to learn how to do publicity yourself. Because it's an almost 100% chance that you will have to do it--at least in part. You can be a better partner for a house publicist should you be so lucky to be assigned one.

How does an author avoid duplications and misunderstandings?

After years of consulting with authors, I think this is almost an impossible expectation. New authors tend to have stars in their eyes and therefore miss or misinterpret the details. That's why I tell authors to learn as much as they can by reading and taking classes and getting outside help when possible. And, by the way, choose those sources carefully, too. There’s lots of misinformation going around the Web.

The best antidote for avoiding trouble going into a new venture is trying to see the publisher's side of any situation. Money is tight. The publishing industry changes daily. If you have a traditional publisher, they are the ones taking all the monetary risks and deserve to make a profit. Yes, they do. (-: 

One more question. You tell fiction authors to think like a non-fiction author to find ways to promote. Can you give me an example?

Look at the different themes in your book.  There are angles there you can exploit when you’re talking to editors. My first book, THIS IS THE PLACE is sort of romantic (a romance Web site will like it) but it is also set in Salt Lake City, the site where the winter games were played in 2002 and, though that’s a reach, I found sports desks and feature editors open to it as Olympics © fervor grew and even as it waned because they were desperate for material as the zeal for the games wound down.

And One more question. I’ve seen lists telling new authors what to do. You know, get a website, join loops, blog, twitter, print bookmarks, etc. etc. How does a fiction author with a small online publisher know what is working?

I use Google's Analytics feature and But here's the danger. Marketing campaigns are about a whole lot more than statistics. Success can't even be measured in sales because you are building a writing career, not selling books. And because marketing is an entity, not one small part. And with the Web working so interactively, it's important not to give up on something because you don't think you see any results. Everything is not cut and dried. Perserverance and motivation (meaning choosing the promotion you enjoy) are key. Repetition, too.

That's a great way to look at promotion. Thanks for sharing so much with my readers. 

I hope your readers will subscribe to my newsletter. It's interactive so there are opportunities to get exposure and to help others. And it's full of tips and articles to help write and promote better. Send me an e-mail with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line to  
Or go to and look for a subscription box near the top of the home page.

Another help for your readers is the Resources for Writers pages at Find great lists of contests, media release disseminators, article banks, helpful books to read and on and on.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Promote Your Book with Social Media

My guest this week is Dana Lynn Smith,
author of The Savvy Book Marketer Guides. Welcome Back Dana!

Dana is here to talk about social media marketing and her book, “The Savvy Book Marketer's Guide to Successful Social Marketing.” Social marketing is a very effective way to meet and develop relationships with potential readers as well as other authors and experts. Everyone tells authors they need to take advantage of social marketing opportunities, but it can be confusing and overwhelming. Fiction writers, especially, need guidance.

First, tell me about The Savvy Book Marketer's Guide to Successful Social Marketing.
The book covers a number of different social marketing activities, including networking on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads; using social bookmarking and news sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon; blogging and participating in forums; sharing media on sites like YouTube; and posting content on expert sites such as Squidoo. Online networking is very popular now and about half of the book is devoted to networking. There’s an action plan at the end of each chapter.
I invite your readers to download the first chapter, “Introduction to Social Marketing.”

Social marketing can be time consuming. How can you avoid using too much of your writing time on it?
It’s important to develop a social marketing plan first, so you have a clear strategy. Then set aside a specific amount of time each day for social marketing and stick to it. And don’t do your networking first thing in the morning. It’s easy to get sucked into networking sites and spend way too much time there.

When should a new author begin working on social marketing?
Yesterday! It takes a long time to develop networks and relationships and build an online reputation. Aspiring authors should begin building their contacts and reputation as soon as they start writing a book. If you haven’t already embraced social marketing, get started today.

Should you use your book cover or your photo as your online networking image?
Networking is about building relationships. In general you should use your own photo and you should use the same photo consistently. You don’t have to have a professional photo shoot, but make sure your photo is a good quality headshot.

Keep in mind that on Facebook, you are required set up your Profile in your own name (rather than a product or fictional character name) and the profile photo really should be of you. People want to be friends with a person, not a book. But it’s okay to put up your book cover image temporarily, for instance during your book launch. If you create a Facebook Fan Page for your book, you could use your book cover as the image. For Facebook Groups, I recommend an image that matches the purpose of the group.
On Twitter most people use their own photo, but it’s not uncommon to see book covers, logos or other images. I think it’s more important to choose a Twitter user name that reflects your author status or expertise. Unless you are really well known, I advise a topical name such as BookMarketer (my user name) or RomanceWriter5.

You can have multiple accounts on Twitter, so a novelist might create a Twitter account in her own name and also create an account for her book or one of the characters in the book.

I'd like your opinion about people that keep their profiles private on Facebook. When I’m sending friend invitations, I sometimes have trouble telling by the name if it’s the person I’m looking for, and it’s hard to know anything about people who send me friend invitations. I understand security, but how do you balance that with promotion?

Many people set the privacy settings on Facebook so that only their friends can view their profile. This makes it difficult for people who don’t know them personally to invite them as a friend or decide whether to accept their friend invitation. If you’re using Facebook for business, you should set your privacy settings so that everyone can see your profile, and you should refrain from putting very personal information on your profile.

It’s a challenge to maintain a mixed personal and business profile on Facebook. You don’t necessarily want business colleagues or potential customers to see your personal details and conversations with personal friends and family. Facebook’s rules prohibit multiple profiles. One solution is to use two different networks (MySpace for friends/family and Facebook for business, or Facebook for friends/family and LinkedIn for business). Another is to reserve your Facebook Profile for personal friends/family and use a Facebook Page for business. Or just don’t put personal data on your profile.

A related issue is that the vast majority of Facebook users send blank friend requests, with no introductory message letting the other person know who they are and why they want to be friends. If you receive a blank friend request from someone who won’t allow you to see their profile, you can send them a message politely inquiring why they are inviting you to join their circle of friends. There’s a Send Message button on the page where your friend requests appear. Or you can accept the friend request and then remove that person from your friends if something in their profile makes you uncomfortable.

When you send a friend invitation, always include a personal message of introduction. If you’re unsure whether you’ve got the right person, you can ask in your introductory message: Are you the Jane Smith who’s a romance author?

Facebook was originally designed for social networking, but it can also be a powerful professional networking tool if you keep your business objectives in mind and take advantage of Facebook’s business-oriented features.

What other advice can you offer to fiction authors?
You may need to think creatively to apply some of the tactics that work well for nonfiction authors, but I definitely encourage you to use online networking, blogging and other social marketing tactics.
For example, there are a number of social sites for readers, such as Goodreads, that are a great fit for novelists. I wrote an article on that topic.

And remember that online networking isn’t just about meeting potential customers. The contacts you make with other authors, reviewers, bloggers, and publishing professionals can be very valuable.

You've convinced me. I definitely need your book. So Dana, what’s next for you?
My newest book, Texas Book Marketing Handbook has just been published and I’m offering a $10 introductory discount through the end of August. This book has contact information for Texas bookstores, libraries and media, as well as marketing tips. I’m also working on several new resources to help authors promote their books.

Thanks, Dana, for visiting WordShaping!

Dana Lynn Smith has a degree in marketing and 15 years of publishing experience. Her blog is packed with marketing tips for authors. You’ll get a copy of her Top Book Marketing Tips ebook when you sign up for her free ezine.

For more information about the Savvy Book Marketer Guides visit

Don’t forget to download your free chapter
from The Savvy Book Marketer’s Guide to
Successful Social Marketing

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Do I Write as an Excuse to Research?

This week's it's time to interview me!
What a great excuse to display the beautiful new cover for my romance, Flying Free, coming out next month from
Treble Heart Books.

So Amber, as a novelist and recovering librarian, how do you research your books?

Thanks, Amber, I'm glad you asked that question.

Once upon a time, when I was a young librarian, I believed everything could be found in books. Now it's tempting to believe everything is available online.

When I started writing Romancing Rebecca, I knew this paranormal was going to be funny and set in Sedona. What could be funnier than a woman who falls for two men in the same body? So, I created my hero as a channeler who has a problem with welcome and unwelcome entities taking over his body. Actually, the plot is kind of ordinary by Sedona standards where shop clerks miss work because they’re out on Bell Rock waiting for an alien space ship.

I’d been around a lot of psychics and spiritual types, but when asked if I had seen someone channel, I had to answer “No.” I did some Internet research, then headed to the Sedona Public Library to select a variety of books from their shelves on channeling, from the popular Seth books to some how-to-do-it guides. I sampled, read, and listened to audiotapes to obtain a feel for the channeler’s language.

The books and tapes were helpful, but I still felt I was writing from second hand knowledge. The Well Red Coyote, my favorite Sedona bookstore, has local author workshops. When Summer Bacon, a slight blond channeler, went into a deep trance and turned into a believable fat old man who died in 1922, I was impressed.

I signed up for her channeling workshop and watched Summer go into two more trances and heard her discuss how she became a channeler. Finally I purchased her book, This School Called Planet Earth, and a DVD entitled, “The Incredible 10 Year Anniversary Open Session.” The DVD was the best. I could replay ten historical entities entering her body in a short period and watch the physical changes. I felt like I was there and after seeing her go into trances I was certain the video wasn’t a fake. I was ready to write Romancing Rebecca.

This week as I finished checking the galley for my new novel Flying Free I listed some of the research topics I pursued writing this book.

Of course I used books and websites but also maps, air charts, and my personal favorite, field trips. Here's a sampling: Montezuma Castle, Monument Valley, flying lessons, hand massage, experimental airplanes, Ninety Nines, Bisbee AZ, airplane crash investigations, saging, meditation, Native American pottery, brownie recipes, fear of flying, spiritual centers, moviemaking, CAM corders, County property records, rodeos, animal cruelty, advertising agencies, Arizona artifact laws, Alaska, Alaskan Malamutes, and father daughter relations.

Maybe I do write as an excuse to research a wide variety of topics.

Thanks, Amber, for taking time from your busy schedule to visit WordShaping. Good Luck with your new release. I'm looking forward to reading Flying Free, again.

You're welcome, Amber, it was fun! And don't forget to visit our website.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Authors Behaving Badly - A Bookseller Tells All Part 2

Kris Neri, award-winning author, writing instructor, and bookseller offers more advice to authors from her multi-pronged perspective.

Welcome Back Kris! How about sharing some more tips that will help an author work with a bookseller.

First, don't tell people where they can buy your books cheaper online.
Don't treat a bookstore like it's a free swap meet.

A surprising number of authors have discovered that they can make more money selling their own copies of their books direct to the store's customers. We learned that the hard way, when an author seized a moment alone with a customer to sell her own copy of her book for cash, rather than the ones we had stocked.

e're still surprised by how many need a reality check.

A bookstore has fixed overhead expenses and also invests a considerable sum into every store event. Naturally we all hope for good sales during the event, but when it doesn't happen, that doesn't justify the author trying to pick a few bucks from the bookseller's pocket. All that guarantees is that you'll never get another signing at that store, and that your books will be shipped back immediately, robbing you of the sales of those signed copies might have garnered after the event. Well…you get the idea. Authors should display the same level of courtesy to booksellers that they show in every other area of their lives. And if they aren't polite and considerate — they should learn how to do be.

Please understand that most of the authors who visit our store are great! They're considerate, fun and they see booksellers as their partners in the book-selling process. But the numbers of rude, thoughtless authors are higher than I would have imagined.
Wouldn't you think that, if they aren't naturally courteous, they'd be more practical? It's hard to get published, hard to stay published. Why sabotage the efforts of the people who stand between you and your readers? Some days I think it would just be easier to sell "Authors Behaving Badly" videos on late night TV.

How do bookstores order books?

Large bookstores with staff assigned to ordering will often order directly from publishers, but usually that’s means placing large orders from the major presses, to maximize their discounts. In small stores like ours, in which the owners have to do all the ordering, most books are obtained from wholesalers.

We get the majority of our books from Ingram and Baker & Taylor, as well as a couple of regional distributors of regional books. We avoid ordering books directly from small presses and other sources for a variety of reasons. The discounts they offer might not meet our breakeven point or they might have punitive minimums. They also might not take returns, or might require the bookstore to keep the books for a very long time (sometimes as long as a year) before accepting returns. But it’s also a matter of time and energy.

For instance, we have twelve author appearances in a given month, it’s more efficient if we can get the books we’ll need for that event from one or two sources, rather than twelve. Getting them from our usual wholesalers means we write our usual two checks per month to those wholesalers, instead of twelve individual checks. When we have to order from so many different sources, there’s a chance that some will fall through the cracks. We’ve also learned from experience that some small presses either don’t answer calls or emails, or, despite assurances, they don’t send the books until weeks after an event. Sometimes they’ve promised to send them with the authors, but when the authors arrive, they don’t have them because their own publisher never sent any stock to them.

And since all bookstores order more books for event than they think they’ll need, so they don’t sell out, ordering from the same wholesalers means only returning one-to-two boxes of books, rather than having to pack up and ship twelve different boxes, which involves greater expense. I can tell you in our store, we’re more likely to give those excess books more time
on the shelves if we get them from our usual wholesalers than if we order them directly from publishers because we know we can return them to our wholesalers at any time. With small presses especially, we need to return them at the time the bill is due, usually in 30 days. We’ve learned from experience that we simply won’t get the promises refunds if we pay first, and then return books.
If a book is not available through the major national wholesalers, or from a reliable press we’re used to dealing with, there’s a good chance that we’ll ask that author to provide the books herself, at the standard discount, or we simply will refuse to host that event.

Signings require an outlet of time and money, and there’s a lot that has to be done on the part of the store to make the an event successful. If publishers make it too hard for stores to get books for events, stores have no choice but to refuse those authors. Wise small press authors take things into their own hands and make their own stock available, and not rely so heavily on their publishers.

Thanks Kris for more great information authors need to know so they don't end up in your "Authors Behaving Badly" video.

Kris Neri is the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Award-nominated author of the Tracy Eaton mystery series, REVENGE OF THE GYPSY QUEEN and DEM BONES' REVENGE, and the forthcoming REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE; a standalone thriller, NEVER SAY DIE, and a short story collection, THE ROSE IN THE SNOW: TALES OF MISCHIEF AND MAYHEM.

In fall ’09, Kris Neri's first book in a new supernatural series will be published, HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE. Kris has published sixty short stories, including two Derringer Award winners. She teaches writing online for the Writers' Program of the UCLA Extension School. Kris Neri is co-owner of The Well Red Coyote. bookstore in Sedona, Arizona.

And for those near Sedona
Don't miss the
Sedona Book Festival
October 2-3

in the parking lot of The Well Red Coyote Bookstore