Agent Monday: Making the Most of Book Festivals (even if you don’t sell gobs of books)

Eliza Bing jktHappy Agent Monday, and happy September everyone!  Fall, for me, is a time of new beginnings. New books to read. New books to pitch to editors. New things to write… If you are writer, you may soon be staring down at a terrifying new thing: THE BOOK SIGNING. Well, fear not. Today I have some words of advice and encouragement for you from my wonderful and talented author, Carmella Van Vleet. Her most recent titles include the middle grade novel ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER (Holiday House, 2014), which features the hilarious and endearing Eliza (who also happens to be coping with ADHD); and the picture book TO THE STARS! co-authored with astronaut Kathy Sullivan (Charlesbridge, 2016).  Take it away, Carmella!

Making the Most of Book Festivals – Even If You Don’t Sell Gobs of Books!
guest post by Carmella Van Vleet

When I walked in the door, exhausted from spending the day at a local book festival, the first thing out of my husband’s mouth was, “So, how many books did you sell?”
I’m proud to report I resisted the urge to unleash some inner-ninja on him. I knew he was doing his best to be supportive, but it’s a loaded question. Those of us who attend book signings and festivals know that it’s not always about the number of books we sell.
For the record, I sold and signed around nine books that day. I’ve had better days in terms of sales and I’ve had worse. But despite the lower sales, I had a great time and was glad I participated in the event. Why? (I mean other than the fact I spent the day sampling the candy I’d set out to lure readers to my table.) Simple: I focused on all the other successes of the day.

Here are the cool things that happened that didn’t include actual book sales:

I got to meet another writer from the Class of 2k14 (a group of 20 debut YA and MG writers who’ve banned together online to support and help promote each other). This was a first for me.

I spent the day chatting with several writers sitting nearby me. We shared advice and tips for other book festivals, school visits, and promotional materials.

I handed my card to a librarian who was interested in me doing an author visit at her school.

I got to participate in two well-attended panels about writing for children. Not only did I get a chance to do one of my favorite things in the whole world – talk shop – I met an editor who asked me if I would be interested in writing for their new biography series for middle grade readers.

While doing the second panel, I also got to connect with an illustrator I heard speak a while back. Something she’d said in her workshop resonated with me and it ended up being a key puzzle piece that allowed my picture book to finally fall into place. It was such a gift to be able to tell this other writer she helped me and my book sold and is now scheduled for release in 2016.

I was able to help a fellow writer who was struggling with the close-but-no-cigar stage of her career. (I told her the old adage is true – just when things seems darkest and most hopeless is usually when your “Yes” is just around the corner.) And I got to rave about Marie to another writer who queried her.

At lunch, I spent a few minutes hanging out with an author whose writing I deeply admire – and totally experienced the “getting to sit at the cool kids table” thing.

Something really funny happened to me at the festival, too. This boy around ten years old walked up to my table. When he noticed my cover, he pointed and said, “I read the first two pages of that book.” (I was pretty sure he didn’t realize he was speaking to the author.) “Oh yeah?” I asked, all excited. “Did you like it? What did you think?” The boy shrugged. “Eh. It was okay.” His mother turned red and promptly began apologizing. But I waved her off; I thought it was hysterical. I thanked the boy for his honesty and offered him a candy bar.

So, in other words, I got a good story about humility to tell!

You never know what you’re going to encounter when you attend book festivals. They aren’t always going to be rainbows and glitter, long lines and adoring fans. But if you keep yourself open – and remember there’s more to these things than just selling books – you’ll never have a bad day.

My tips for book festivals

* Get to know your book neighbors. Listen to their pitch and give them yours. When they step away for a break or lunch, help cover their table and talk up their books to readers walking by. They’ll do the same for you.
* Standing up at your table is a great way to increase your visibility during crowded times.
* Bring your own water and snack in case you can’t get away or there’s not a nearby volunteer. You’ll need them to keep up your energy.
* Have readers spell out their names and write them on slips of paper before you sign a book. This will help cut down on inscription mistakes.
* Always give a reader more. For example, I have a collection of rubber stamps I like to use after my signature. (Each stamp corresponds to a specific title. For instance, I have an old fashion key stamp that I use in my Ben Franklin book.) Another writer I know personally attaches “Autographed Copy” stickers to her books after signing. An illustrator friend sketches a kid-friendly doodle. These little touches make the book extra special.
* If you’re comfortable talking to groups, volunteer to participate in panels and other activities; the people who plan book festivals really appreciate this and will remember your name when it comes time for the next event.
* Don’t be afraid to connect with people even if you don’t think it’ll mean a sale. Compliment someone on their cool shirt or ask what kinds of books they read. Always be genuine but never pushy.

 

Carmella Van VleetCarmella Van Vleet is a former teacher and the author of numerous hands-on science and history books. Her debut MG novel, ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER (Holiday House) is a Junior Library Guild Selection  about a girl with ADHD who takes up taekwondo. Carmella is looking forward to the release of her first picture book, TO THE STARS! THE STORY OF ASTRONAUT KATHY SULLIVAN, which she co-authored with Dr. Sullivan (Charlesbridge, 2016). For more information, please visit www.CarmellaVanVleet.com

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Agent Monday: Yes, We Google You

Happy Monday, all.  Recently I’ve been at a few conferences where I’ve spoken with writers about author marketing, or rather, marketing for writers BEFORE you are even published. From my point of view as an Associate Literary Agent, yes, it’s important that all writers  have a positive presence online even before querying agents. Why? Because, yes, we agents do Google you.

The question you should be asking yourself is this: What will the agents find? So do a little experiment right now. Go to Google, type in your name between quotes (“firstname lastname”), and press that search button. What comes up?

Is it nothing at all? Hm. That makes me wonder where ya been and what ya been doing. And, it also makes me wonder if you’ll be able to handle promotion of your own work if you do get a book deal. In case you haven’t noticed (and since you haven’t been online much, maybe you have missed it!), writers are now expected to help out quite a lot with promotion. That means reaching readers. Being found by folks trying to learn more. And so forth.

Does your Google search yield too much? Have you been all over the Internet badmouthing other writers, other books (and by extension their editors), other agents? Do you wax poetic about your dream agent, even though it isn’t me?… Just sayin!  In short, do you have an online image that will actually hurt your image as an author in my eyes? Be honest with yourself and see if your presence is professional and in keeping with what you want agents to know about you. And remember, the Internet is forever. Conduct yourself accordingly.

These days Google searches have also been revealing that a manuscript sent to me is already self-published and on sale, yet the writer was not upfront with me and failed to reveal this.  Not cool.

Sometimes, though, I do find the writer online in a way that adds to their image in my eyes. I’ll see that they have their own website in their author name (always easy to find by future readers…bonus points!), and that the website is clean, easy to navigate and personable. The site will have a nice author photo, a feel for what this writer does, perhaps some blogging about their field or reviews of books that they enjoy, and the tone of the page is in keeping with the author’s overall image I’d hope to find in relation to the work he or she is subbing to me. Having a website needn’t be a costly and intimidating thing. You buy your domain in your name, and then you can easily set things up. You don’t have to spend big bucks to set up a zippy-do site, instead you can use a free site to create and maintain your web page yourself, and have your domain redirect people to that location. That’s what I do. The page you are reading now is a free WordPress page and it does everything I need it to, plus I can update it easily at any time. Works for me!

More bonus points for the writer who has a twitter account with a decent picture (not that boiled egg thing) and a brief bio plus link back to their website.  Cool, too, if the author is following the people in her sphere. Like people who review her sort of book, associations who have links to her subjects, etc. And a facebook page that isn’t too too personal (posts like what my toes look like should be set to private so not everyone searching can see it) but that isn’t all spammy and look at me! I write stuff! I’m amazing!

In short, a demonstration that you have a clue when it comes to presenting yourself well and in dealing with the public in a positive way will be a positive for you.

And if you’re not sure how to do that, Google some people you admire and see what they are up to online. Look at other folks on Twitter and Facebook. Who do you enjoy reading stuff from and who do you roll your eyes at?

Now I encourage you to again Google your name and look over what pops up, keeping all of this stuff in mind. It’s your image — your online business card — so make sure it’s what you want to hand over to me and other agents when we virtually meet.

*Agent Monday is a weekly post. To catch all of these, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s Site Here” in the upper left column.

Writer Wednesday: About those Book Signings…

I have a book signing coming up this Saturday at the beyond wonderful indie bookstore Farley’s Bookshop in New Hope, PA.  It’s from 1-4 p.m. Stop by if you can!  I haven’t really done too many book signings this year, so this got me thinking about all those book signings I have done in the past.

I used to have several a month, sometimes even a few a week.  I kept my book signing stuff together in one spot in my office, ready to grab and go. A bag of book plates, pens, fliers, signs, and candy to give away (usually chocolate kisses).  But now I feel almost rusty.  Since it has been a while, well, needless to say the chocolates are all gone.  My fliers are used up or just out of date, missing the most recent reviews.  And is that sign seriously turning yellow?

Jeesh.

The last huge book signing I did was back at another beloved indie, Doylestown Bookshop. That was for the launch of DRAWN way back in January.  Since then, my books have been for sale at various events where I’ve put in appearances. At these, I’d sign a copy of  a novel if someone approached me with one.  But I haven’t really done one of those “sit at a table for a few hours and smile” thingees for DRAWN.

Book launches are a blast to do. It’s the first time your book hits the stands, and all your friends and family rally with readers to show up and celebrate and eat cake. At these the author feels an outpouring of love and appreciation.  There’s constant conversation. And, as I mentioned, there’s cake. Many books are sold.  You head home feeling awesome.

But other signings, well…

I’ve recently talked to a number of new writers all fired up for their very first signing.  It’s such a landmark, and such a thrill.  I never want to bring them down, but I wish there was some tactful way to prepare the new author for that second signing. Or that third and fourth.  Not every signing will sell 100 copies like you did on launch night. If I could somehow make them lower their expectation and view every signing as a success even if not a single book was sold, it might spare them from that sinking feeling of misery.  Same feeling you got as a kid when teams were picking sides and the captains argued over who would get stuck with you. Blech.

I’ve been at signings where not one person showed up. I’ve been at signings where someone came up and asked, “Do you people sell rubber bands?”  I told them I didn’t work there, and I was the author.  “Oh, really?  You wrote these?”  So, fine. Lesson learned. I started wearing a tag that said: Marie Lamba, AUTHOR.  And I made a giant poster with the book cover, and my picture.  And at the next signing someone walked up to me and asked, “Do you guys sell magazines?”

I’ve had people come and talk to me forever about my book, about writing, and then not buy the book.  I’ve had people not stop or talk to me at all, which is far worse.  I’ve been scheduled to give a talk, and showed up to a space with seating for 100, and only the bookstore person and my daughter came.  I gave a talk at an urban Barnes and Noble, and the audience was made up of a sleeping homeless guy, and a woman who sat in that space every day just to knit. No clapping that day.

But you know what?  It’s a total crap shoot.  I’ve had talks that I thought would surely be a disaster, and when I got there, the room was so packed they had to drag in extra seating.  And I sold a ton of books afterwards.  I’ve done signings where people flocked to the table, eager to buy. I’ve been at signings where old high school friends showed up and brought their kids.  I’ve been at bookstores where fans of my books came and acted like I was a rock star!

You never know. So you lower your expectations to none, and smile.  Book signings can definitely keep you humble. You’ve got to remember that not everyone is a reader. That people are busy. That times are tough. That reading is a subjective thing, so not everyone will be interested in what you write about. That some people feel they can’t walk over to talk to you, because if they don’t then buy your book it’ll be weird.

So how can every book signing be a success? Well, I always use a signing as a newsworthy moment. An appropriate time to tell the area about my books through press releases and feature stories that I send out to press, and through announcements on social media.  That’s a win.  Someone could read about your book and buy it at a later time. At signings, I always enjoy interacting with the bookstore staff and supporting what they do.  I work hard to make the event fun (bringing munchies for the booksellers, too), and I’m building relationships with these fellow book lovers. The bookstore also always has me sign the remaining stock, so that even if the signing felt like a bust, the books will probably be prominently displayed and sold.

And then there is the experience of meeting people…something we isolated authors don’t get to do on a daily basis.  We can yak about books and writing, and share our book info with others.

So, if I could speak directly to those new authors out there, I would like to tell them to not count the success of a signing by the number of copies sold. To check egos at the door, but haul along your sense of humor.

And you may want to find out ahead of time if the bookstore sells rubber bands!

Wish me luck on Saturday…

Why Writers Win III: Four Things Writers Can Do RIGHT NOW!

If you’ve been following this blog, then you know I believe the Age of the Author is upon us. Are you taking advantage of all the positive changes? In this post I’ll delineate four things I believe all writers should do right now to advance their writing careers and benefit from the current publishing revolution…

This is the last post in my 3-part series on WHY WRITERS WIN.  In this series, which is taken from a talk I gave at the Write Stuff Conference, I look at the current industry changes through both my author and my associate agent (at Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency) spectacles, and I like much of what I see.

In my first post, I talked about the publishing revolution and the scary changes it is stirring up for writers, plus the many positive opportunities these changes are bringing to us creative folk. My second post delved into the great opportunities that self-publishing is presenting to us authors, as well as the many terrific changes big publishers are now making to improve their relationships and partnerships with authors.

So here are four things you should do to make this YOUR Age of the Author.

1. Get writing!

Simply put: write the best book you can, and work your butt off to learn your craft and perfect your writing.  Sounds simple, but it is the most complex of the four recommendations.  Don’t lose sight of this goal. No matter what changes are afoot, this is still the most important thing for you to focus on in your career.

2. Get smart

Plug into what’s really going on now.  You’ll discover even more opportunities, ways to take advantage of trends and avoid career missteps as this revolution rolls along.  To do this, you simply must attend writers conferences and workshops, and connect with fellow writers and editors and agents to learn from their experiences. I got my first book deal with Random House for my novel What I Meant… by making contact with editors and agents entirely through conferences.  You can see how I used these conferences to make it all happen by checking out my article Why Conferences: Or How I Got My Agent and Editor.

Also, please DO consider subscribing to Publishersmarketplace.com.  You can share the subscription with other writers, you can subscribe for only a month or two at a time, whatever works for you.  It’s a phenomenal resource.  There’s a free daily newsletter you can get without a subscription, but it’s nothing compared to the site. Thinking about writing a novel about serfs during the end of the dark ages? Before you dip your toe into years of research and toil, type in some key words into Publishersmarketplace and you’ll quickly know all the major books on your topic that have come out in the past 10 years, you’ll know what overlapping books have recently been purchased but not yet come out on the same subject, and you’ll be able to craft your novel to be unique.  You’ll also know all the publishers, editors and agents who dealt with those books…perfect info for submissions.  So why aren’t you subscribing to this again???

Another way to stay plugged in is to subscribe to the relevant free newsletters that publishersweekly.com emails out.  I always get their general PWDaily newsletter along with their Children’s Bookshelf newsletter, but there are others related to religious books, cook books and comics.  Subscribe to whatever you want here.

Also, you simply must join and participate in writing organizations relevant to what you write in order to make important connections and learn! Organizations like The Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America, etc. not only focus on an area that interests you, but also offer phenomenal local conferences, workshops and meetings bringing editors and agents and writers together in an accessible environment.  They also have wonderful online communities where you can ask questions, and share your concerns with others in the know. Search for the organizations that encompass your writing interests, and dig deeper to find your fit.

I know, I know.  It all sounds like SO MUCH WORK AND TIME.  But you will actually be saving time in the long run.  You can use all the info you glean to focus your queries, to write books that are best placed for your market, and to move yourself ahead in your career while becoming part of a supportive community.  I’d like you to take on the challenge to get plugged in to your business side, and I’d like you to look back five years from now…even one year from now…and see a huge difference in your knowledge and your connections!

Finally, if you are looking for an agent, find one who is right for YOU, and who will keep abreast on all the shifts in the business, in rights, and in the best options for your future career.  You want an agent that will represent your CAREER, not just your book.  In these shifting times, you need someone with vision, who will also have eyes wide open to all the opportunities the changing publishing landscape presents.

3. Get Found!

Yeah, this is about all that online “stuff.” At the minimum, you should buy a domain in your name (not in your book’s name…titles get changed…you’ll write more than one book…etc.), and set up a webpage that will represent you.  I have a paid domain, but this website is free (wordpress.com) and I easily handle all the layout and content myself.  No dominatrix webmistress required, and I have complete control, which means I can update whenever I like.

Make creating your website a priority. Think of it as your virtual business card.  Yes, you need one even if you haven’t published yet.  Here’s what it can include: 1. What sort of writing you do.  2. Your bio and author pic. 3. Brief excerpt of your work (very brief). 4. Later on you can add links to buy your works, and appropriate listings of appearances, etc. 5. Book trailers, videos/vlogs are all fun and cheap to do if right for you and your work.  So, with your virtual business card (a.k.a. your website) in place, you can link back to it in posts elsewhere, in your email signature line, etc.

You also want to create a facebook page, and point it back to your website, plus a Twitter account that has a profile which points back to your website, and a LinkedIn page that…oh, you get the idea.  And go to goodreads.com to create a profile as a reader.  If you’ve pubbed a book, then get that author account, and use it!

Not sure any of this is worth your time?  I’m crossing my arms and sending you my most severe scowl right now (which, considering I’m only 5’2″, isn’t all that intimidating, but still…)  Google your name in quotes right now and see what comes up.  Now Google “Marie Lamba” and check out what pops up.  Much of what you’ll see stems from me taking the above steps to “get found.”  And when I get submissions from authors and I’m interested in them, guess what I do?  Yup. I Google em.  Wouldn’t you love for what pops up to be something positive and professional?

I know, I KNOW!  Oh the TIME involved in this.  Time that should be SPENT WRITING.  But it is a business too.  Think of all this as free advertising.  Think of just how many thousands of dollars you would have had to spend on ads just 20 years ago to reach even a fraction of the people who you could with all this new cool FREE stuff.  And once you set it all up, you can just spend 15 minutes per day checking in and updating if needed, or commenting.  But remember that whatever you put out there is getting found by a future reader, or editor, or agent, and act accordingly.

4. Get Read

Take advantage of digital and self publishing options to boost your readership for existing and to-be-released novels, and boost your success as a writer! I touched on this a little bit in the second post in this series. I must remind you of two important caveats. Caveat 1: only put out your very best work that is as good as anything that a big NYC publisher would print. Caveat 2: be aware of pre-existing contracts and rights that you are involved in, and keep your editor and agent in the loop.

So…how can self-publishing (let’s call it by its hipper name “indie publishing”) be used as a career building/reader building tool?

Well, you can, of course, release a book yourself to begin to build your fan base.  This can work well with genre writing, especially with a series.  You can write short stories related to your book, and release these in ebook free or cheap, with a link to your full novel (which will, of course, be at a higher price). You can offer through your website extras like downloadable outtakes from your novel. If you have a niche market, you can indie publish your title and reach the right folk.

So, with the groundswell of change going on, indie publishing is now a cool way to reach readers, which is kinda the reason why we write in the first place. BUT don’t indie-publish a book expecting to get an agent to then take it on and sell it to a big publisher. You need huge sales to do this (we’re talking in the 10,000 range), and you still need to make the agent and then a publisher fall in love with that book.  Your rights on that book will be muddied. HOWEVER, say you have an indie pubbed novel that is praised and doing fairly well.  Then you approach an agent with a different novel.  Well, it can show you have been well-received and have already begun building an audience.  I see that as a definite plus.

Determined to go 100% traditional publishing? Cool.  But why not have a few related short stories on hand in reserve to help with your traditional book’s promotion? Or some other extras you can offer online as bonus material.  Very cool, right?  Big publishers are already seeing the wisdom of this, doing stuff like offering 99 cent prequels, 99 cent short stories with a 45 page preview of a related book included…and they are doing these in advance of print releases.  It’s advertising, baby.

So open your mind to the possibilities…possibilities to reach readers that we never had before. In the olden days, a print ARC (advance reader copy) cost big bucks to print and mail to advance readers in order to generate buzz.  Today? Ebooks cost next to nothing.  One FLUX author Linda Joy Singleton gave away close to 70,000 ebooks of a first novel in a series of 5.  The rest of her series sold HUGE since so many readers were invested in finding out what happened next.

What can we writers learn from this? Would a free novella ebook be the right way to build your audience?  Every author/book is different, but it is worth considering the options. Options that are now at our fingertips.

Yup, boundaries between traditional and indie, between writer and reader are blurring all around us.  I see it as a good thing.  I want my authors to succeed, to be read.  Today there are more ways to publish, to promote…more opportunities to reach readers and communicate with fans, too.  Now we can each create books that will come alive for readers, and never ever die.

In wrapping up this 3-part WHY WRITERS WIN series, I want you to fully understand what all of this means.  This means you as a writer will never again have to have a brilliant manuscript sitting on your bookshelf never to be seen by readers. People who say that the reason a book isn’t accepted by big publishers is because it isn’t good enough are not 100% correct.  Many books are passed over because of the marketplace, because of past sales figures, because they are too niche for a big press, etc. etc. etc. Some of these rejected books are actually fabulous.

Now you have many tools to shape your career. Now you can promote your writing for next to nothing. Now you can write what you LOVE and know that readers will get a chance to see it.  So take these four steps.  And CELEBRATE folks, for THE AGE OF THE AUTHOR is here.

Happy writing,
Marie 

Blog Tour Tips!: On Planning Your Journey

Running a blog tour to promote a new novel is an amazing way to connect with a wider audience, to get a concentrated bunch of reviews, and to get your name out there!  If you are a subscriber to my blog, you know that I ran my very first blog tour to help launch my new novel Drawn.  It was a great experience, and I’m kicking myself for not doing this sort of thing sooner.

So why didn’t I do a blog tour sooner?  Well, truthfully this is a fairly new thing in the world of book promotion…something that wasn’t around when I was a Book Promotion Manager for a publisher years ago, or even when my first novel What I Meant… came out through Random House.  It felt mysterious, plus I knew authors who paid a ton of money to do a tour where they appeared on just 5 or 6 sites.  Surely I must be missing something here… Surely I didn’t understand the nuances of setting up and running such a tour…

So, of course, I decided to go for it on my own!  On The Drawn Blog Ghost Tour I made 22 stops in 5 weeks.  On tour I did 10 guest posts, 10 interviews, 4 giveaways, and got 9 reviews.  Was it a lot of work? Not more than writing a novel. Was it worth it? Oh yeah. Did I make any missteps? Absolutely.

And so, dear author, here are Marie Lamba’s Blog Tour Tips, which I humbly offer to you in the hopes that you can run your own blog tour, and kick some promo butt of your own…

MAKE CONTACT:

Make up a list of the best book blog review sites for your genre, the authors you have relationships with who can feature you, and send out a request for tour stops on writing-related sites you belong to.  Then start emailing and planning!

And expect decent results… When I was contacting book bloggers this summer about reviewing my YA novel OVER MY HEAD I got spotty results.  Many didn’t respond, others responded but weren’t interested (indie pubbed, right?), and still others DID take it on, giving it a nice review, BUT many of those reviews were slow in coming, some as much as 6 months later.  BUT when I contacted reviewers about a DRAWN blog tour, the response was dramatically different.

MOST bloggers that I got in touch with got back to me immediately (knowing that a deadline was involved), and signed on for the tour! Something about the word “tour” makes them respond very positively. The bloggers were eager to take a spot (I gave them a 2 month lead time) on my month-long tour. As I’ve mentioned, I planned for a mix of  reviews, interviews, guest blogs from me, and a bunch  combined this with book giveaways. I took about a day’s total time to contact everyone and to set up my calendar.

BE ORGANIZED

I kept a folder with a chart so I could track who needed what, what the deadlines were, what the blog stop dates were, and this list included all contact names and emails.

Send out ebook ARC’s and cover images immediately to the ones who want to do reviews.  Also turn around any interview questions  sent to you quickly (I did this within 24 hours of receiving)  just to stay on top of things. And record all actions in your blog chart (you’ll go nuts otherwise wondering what is and isn’t done).

The biggest challenge? Of course those guest posts. You think you’ll have enough to write about but then you find you have to dig deep to do them all and make them high quality.  Be careful you don’t over commit on that part.

I worked hard to make sure no two stops were the same. Original interviews or guest posts on every stop, so if someone were following the entire tour, they’d be rewarded with new stuff. No cut and paste answers! I also tried to create guest posts that would fit with a particular blogger’s audience.  Like a post about ghosts for Jonathan Maberry’s paranormal crowd, or one about medievel romance in history for The Elliot Review, which is run by a librarian, that sort of thing.  The idea is for you to meet that audience on its own terms and make it interesting.  Trying not to repeat yourself can be a challenge!

You can check out my tour stops to get a feel for the sort of varied posts, etc. I did by clicking here.

With each stop, make sure they have a cover image, an author image, and that each interview or post includes your bio and book blurb.

BE NICE!

The most important components involve keeping the good vibe going.  Be courteous to your blog stops.  Thank them.  Buzz them well so they benefit from traffic too.  I created a page on my website dedicated to the tour, with links updated…and also I created blog tour graphics and widgets that every stop can use and sent them that.  I blogged each week about the week’s tour stops, and send out daily updates on my FB and twitter, which were retweeted a bunch. There was a lot to do, but it was all good stuff.  Now here, for you, are…

SOME LESSONS LEARNED

1. DOUBLE CHECK: I ran into some nearly missed tour dates. Why? I sent the material well in advance of the date, and assumed it was received.  Yes, assume. Ass-u-me.  I learned to ask for confirmation that material was sent…and if I didn’t hear back, to email the blogger.  And two days before each post, I learned to “check in” with the blogger just to make sure things were on track and to ask if anything were needed.  People have busy lives, stuff happens, and so a friendly nudge can really help.  *Also, I recommend you don’t have inter-related blog stops where people have to gather clues or anything interconnected like that.  That way if one post doesn’t happen, the world will surely go on.

2. INCLUDE LINKS:  Put the link to your book sales page in whatever you send to folks.  I’d assumed they’d naturally link to the purchase spot and admittedly felt a little obnoxious about typing it into any post I’d sent, but some sites won’t automatically do links for you. Lesson learned!

3. INCLUDE SEARCHABLE MATERIAL:  This is a lesson I learned too late. In your guest posts for the tour, etc., be sure to mention within your post those huge popular authors/books most like your own title…And/or an “if you enjoy (fabulous popular title or author), then you will like (your book)…”  That’s the sort of searchable material you want to have so that folks will find you online.

4. GIVE THE TOUR A LANDING PAGE on your website, which shows ALL the stops and links to those stops. Set this up before the tour starts, so you can send the bloggers on the tour the link to this page, along with your widgets. Update that page as final details trickle in, such as the actual title/subject of your guest post, and on the day of, replace the general blog link with the actual post’s link so future readers will find you there.

5. CREATE A WIDGET that is simple and legible even as a small button (include your book cover), and then put it up on your own website in a post so that other folks can “grab” it and use it on their pages.  I made 3…one banner sized, one half-banner sized, and one button sized.

6.  BUILD EXCITEMENT: Once a week, do a post on your website highlighting that week’s stops to build excitement. To give you an idea of how I tried to keep the energy and interest up, you can read an example of one of these posts here.

7.  BUZZ IT: Take advantage of what’s popping up each day by buzzing it on your facebook and twitter pages… If there’s a particular theme to your post, highlight that…if you’ve gotten a great review, paraphrase it on your FB and in Tweets…  Make those great reviews go the extra mile by either asking the blogger if they will kindly put their review on goodreads/amazon… or if it’s a hot review, put it on your Barnes&Noble.com and Amazon pages under editorial reviews.  I was able to add a bunch to these sites, plus some of my tour bloggers posted on Goodreads…and one beautiful 5 star review was posted as a comment on DRAWN‘s Amazon page.

8.  HIGHLIGHT ON-GOING STUFF: If you have on-going giveaways going on, then continue to buzz them on your FB and twitter so that people will be reminded there is still time to enter.

9. COMMENT! Visit your tour stops to comment back where appropriate to folks who put in replies. The personal touch really makes a difference.

10. DON’T BE A SHMO: Try to somehow balance your tweets and posts with other news and other people’s news so you won’t be a steady stream of book P.R…. I found this to be a little tough because with jam-packed weeks of booktouring there is SO much news coming at me each day…all different, but all about my book!   I made an effort to retweet others in between, and to now and then put up a post on my blog page that wasn’t tour related.  You don’t want to weary people with your news…  Twitter is nice because you can vary your hashtags (#) to reach different people, but also put keywords within your tweet.

11. SAY THANK YOU!  After each stop, take a moment to send a personal note of thanks to your tour stop host. They have used their valuable time to help you, and you want them to know that this matters to you.
Hosting a blog tour is a phenomenal way to build up a quick stable of reviews and buzz about your book.  And you can use these reviews as a stepping stone to even more blogger reviews.  For example, I made a point of contacting bloggers who listed TwilightMoms.com as one of their favorite blogs they follow, and asked if they’d review DRAWN.  Of course I included the rave review from TwilightMoms, and guess what? Those bloggers were eager to give my book a look!

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So is it work? Some. Is it worth it? YES!  You want more readers to find your book, don’t you? Can YOU do this?  You can.

SO GO FOR IT and start mapping out your own book tour.

Marie

On the Radio!

Me? Not!

When I was a teen I’d dreamed of this moment. The moment I’d be on the radio with people actually listening…

Well, okay, the dream was a bit different, and it went like this: I was just some ordinary kid hidden away in some ordinary suburban basement belting out songs I was listening to on my record player (yes, vinyl records…).  But wait! Someone walking by hears me. Thinks, yes, this is the unusual voice everyone’s been looking for. That someone, of course, is a famous producer, and I, of course, am discovered.

Dream come true?

Well, maybe not. But I WAS on the radio last night, and, lucky for you, I wasn’t singing. And I was contacted by a producer. That happened on Tuesday. See? My Magic 8 Ball was right all along.

Here’s what happened. Over at the Liars Club blog I had done a post about the Collingswood Book Festival in NJ (which is tomorrow, and is free…come visit!), and NPR radio station WHYY was interested in talking about the fest and the panel my group the Liars Club was doing there on the revolutionary changes in today’s publishing.

So, presto! By Wednesday I was on a train into Philly to do the interview.  Then sitting at the WHYY studios across from the very kind Newsworks Tonight host Dave Heller, who did not make me feel in the least bit nervous.  And, I’m happy to report, I did not knock over that overly full styrofoam cup of water they’d set out in front of me.  (I’m convinced they put it there as a test of some sort. I immediately slid the cup far far away from me, averting certain radio disaster, short-circuited wires, shooting flames, things like that.)

We talked about what it’s like to get published these days, about the growth of independent publishing, about the Liars Club, about how I write and why I do what I do. I also chatted a little about my books, including a bit about my newest upcoming novel DRAWN.

It was such a fun experience, and last night the show aired, and THAT’S when I got nervous. Seriously nervous. What if I’d misspoke? What if I sounded like a tool? Well, you can judge for yourself, and let me know what you think.

*To listen to the interview, just click here.

Thanks for having me, Newsworks Tonight. And thanks (from everyone) for not asking me to sing.

How Authors can “Join Forces”: my article in Writer’s Digest!

Interested in working with other authors to get some publicity for your books?  On newsstands right now, in the January issue of Writer’s Digest magazine, you’ll find my article “Joining Forces,” which covers this very same subject. What a coincidence!

The piece highlights the Liars Club, an innovative author’s collective I’m so proud to be a part of.  We’re made up of 13 authors (who basically lie for a living), and together we do special events, signings, workshops, and good deeds, including helping out charities, championing independent bookstores, and speaking up for libraries in need. Plus we really help each other out.

Any group of writers can band together to make more of a splash in the world. So check out the piece if you’re interested. You’ll see how we do it, find some useful guidelines, and also find some links to other groups of authors who also run interesting marketing collectives.