The ability to interact directly and immediately with your readers is perhaps the greatest benefit you have today over authors in the past. Are you taking full advantage of this privilege?
As authors navigate the long and often confusing publishing process (not to mention the selling cycle!), many lose sight of the end goal of it all—that is, sharing your book and great ideas with others. Below are some gentle reminders of ways you can reach out to and connect with your important, invaluable readership.
GoodReads is a book cataloguing site, on which avid readers can list the books they are currently reading, have read, and intend to read with ratings. Authors have the opportunity to create a profile page with a bio and photo, share their favorite books, create quizzes, post videos, publicize upcoming events, share book excerpts, and more. The site has more than 2.8 million users, so if you’re not yet set up on GoodReads, may we gently suggest that you migrate over there right now.
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: social media is essential to making a lasting connection with your readership. Hopefully you’re already set up with a Twitter profile and Facebook fan page. As Amanda Nelson wrote on BookRiot: “At a time when the methods by which an author sells a book are in serious flux, Twitter may become (or perhaps it already is) a serious sales tool.” When you show readers your true value to them by providing great information (via news, blogs, information, jokes, etc.), followers will easily turn into repeat customers.
Taking the time to set up a fully equipped Amazon Author Page is one of the most important steps you can take for your book. Author Pages are a great opportunity to provide customers with a more in-depth view of your platform; you can provide a biography, video, blog feed, events, and more. To learn more about the benefits of an Author Page, check out our blog post here. @Author may also be a great tool; the forum allows readers to highlight certain passages within their Kindle books and ask the author questions about their books. The feature is still in beta mode, so only Amazon-selected authors are currently participating, but the site does plan on opening @Author to the world at large sometime soon.
Paying close attention to certain small website features can also be an unexpected (and easy!) way to foster great communication with your fans. Aside from having a blog, consider adding an events page to your website as well. Also be sure to include your contact information on your site (including links to your social media profiles) and get rid of the lousy contact form, which doesn’t exactly feel like the warmest greeting. The Write Network also suggests setting up an auto-responder to emails. Fans will feel like they’re being heard and will know what to expect in terms of response time, making them feel like the valuable customers they truly are.
You can also add a few features to your actual printed book that will increase communicability with your readers. Consider adding your email address or social media profiles to the front or back pages of your book (and making them link-enabled for e-readers). Reading group questions are also a great idea and one feature you could incorporate into your social media strategy as well (set up a hashtag chat where readers can weigh in on the book, and you can too).
Aside from the potential financial benefits of connecting more deeply with your customers, you might garner some valuable insight into your writing and recommendations for future works from your readers as well. Just last week author Steven Saylor wrote about how a reader’s comment influenced his upcoming book, The Seven Wonders.
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Publisher, distributor, publicist, agent, marketing team, editor . . . The list of titles in the publishing world could go on for half a page. It may seem like there’s a small army of people working on your book, and many authors become understandably bewildered by the number of job titles involved. It can consequently be difficult to discern who does what tasks for your book.
Have you ever found yourself wondering what the difference between your marketing team and your publicity team is, and what roles they play in relation to your book? You’re not alone. One of the most commonly confused and misunderstood aspects is the distinction between a publisher’s marketing duties and a publicist’s.
The truth is that the duties of a marketing team and of a publicity team do often overlap. But, in essence, your publicity team is trying to get you and your book media and public appearances, while your marketing team is focused on making your book visible to your target audience via ad space, online efforts, etc.
A book publicist is going to be the one writing press releases day and night, soliciting media, scheduling your book tour, and creating promotional materials. Meanwhile, your marketer will be buying relevant ads for your book, optimizing your Amazon account, distributing your book trailer, spearheading your online marketing campaign, and more.
Agent Steve Laube points out that marketing is “all about creating multiple impressions,” while publicity is “all about meeting the author.” He warns authors against confusing the terminology, and getting angry at marketers for not doing things like setting up media interviews or organizing speaking engagements—things that aren’t in their core business.
Oftentimes, publicity will feel “more real” to the author since its results (ie: television and radio appearances) are higher profile while marketing is more behind the scenes but equally important.
As you move forward with your marketing efforts, be sure to ask the people you work with what, exactly, they do. Your book’s success is going to be inclusive; it will depend on you and your publisher, and all of the employees therein. Knowing what they’re expected to do will not only make you more empowered as an author, it will also allow you to harness your team effectively to make the best publishing experience—and book—possible.
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Once you transition from having a manuscript to holding an actual book, your job as an independent author switches from writer to promoter. Even if you or your publisher has hired a professional publicist for your title, making the public aware that your book exists should be your top priority (if you care about sales, that is). One part of a successful publicity campaign is having reviews for your book, and even as an independent author there are many ways to secure some solid, unbiased reviews.
First of all, make sure you have plenty of copies of your book on hand (as well as a nice budget for postage!). Traditional means of getting reviewed, like simply submitting to magazines and newspapers, are dwindling. Therefore, the Internet should definitely be your first resource for finding review outlets. On Dan Poynter’s ParaPublishing.com, for instance, you can find a detailed guide to getting book reviews.
This guide offers invaluable information on where and when to submit for reviews.
When you find an outlet that will review your book, pay close attention to its submission guidelines, as they can vary depending on the reviewer. If you don’t submit in exactly the way their website directs, your submission will likely end up in the trash.
You should also have a simple cover letter that you can tailor to each publication to which you are submitting. Keep in mind that these publications receive thousands of submissions a year and simply cannot review everything that comes to them (although some will offer the option for you to pay to get a guaranteed review), so they will not read a long letter. Pertinent information to include is
- a sentence or two about the content of the book
- the name of your publisher
- the book’s page count
- the book’s publication date
- your email address and phone number
Keep timelines in mind, too. You must submit to larger-scale publications (such as monthly magazines) six months prior to your publication date; to trade publications, newspapers, and weekly magazines three to four months prior to your publication date; and to online outlets and blogs one month prior to your publication date.
Another great source for reviews is Amazon.com. Look up other books that are similar to yours, scroll through the reviews that have been posted, and email the reviewers that have put up competent and complimentary reviews. Clicking on reviewers’ Amazon usernames will direct you to their profiles, where you can often find a way to contact them. Add a line to your form letter stating why you think a particular reviewer would enjoy your book based on their preferences, and clarify that if they do want to look at your book, it will be theirs to keep as a thank you.
While you’re online, don’t forget to look up blogs! They are fantastic outlets that grow daily in both readership and content, and you can find them through keyword searches and writers’ organizations. On Technorati.com you can search millions of blogs by category and see their “authority,” which tells you about a site’s standing and influence in the blogosphere, based on its linking activity and other factors. At Alexa.com, you can see detailed information about each blog’s traffic levels, which helps you easily decide which blogs to prioritize in order to maximize your book’s exposure. Bloggers almost always list their email addresses on their sites, so whip out that cover letter and send it over.
If you have your heart set on having your book reviewed in a newspaper or magazine, look up the publication online and find a contact email. Send a personalized email version of your form letter (again, emphasize why your title is relevant or interesting to them in particular), and ask to whom you can send a free copy of your book. A helpful resource for newspaper and magazine contacts can be found at John Kremer’s website. However, these outlets are becoming harder to break into, so balance your outreach here with the aforementioned online sources.
As you can see, the process of securing reviews can be both daunting and time-consuming. There is no guarantee that reviews will be positive, so don’t spend too much time or resources on submissions unless you have complete faith in your product (of course you do not ever have to use a negative review).
Why go through the whole process of submitting your book to reviewers at all?
Having reviews that you can post on your website and marketing materials adds a level of credibility to your title, and even a negative review is still exposure. Most importantly, reviews are crucial to your distribution efforts; libraries, for instance, rely heavily on reviews when deciding which titles to carry. Reviews can literally make or break a book’s chances of surviving in the market, so if you want your book to have shelf presence, start submitting!
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The author headshot is an imperative part of your career as an author. Not only will it be featured onyour book jacket, but your publicist will also want to make use of the photo for press releases and other marketing events. You’ve spent months (or years!) on the content in the book; now it’s time to package it up.
There is a plethora of different headshot styles floating around the shelves at Barnes & Noble. From seriously bohemian black and white shots to overly made-up portraits, it can definitely be daunting to decide which direction to go with your own headshots. That being said, the easiest rule to follow is: keep it simple.
No matter your genre, a clean, professionally done headshot is the perfect addition to your book cover or marketing package. Look up local photographers online, browse their portfolios, and pick one with obvious experience in headshot photography. Even if you are unsure of how to approach the session, an experienced photographer will be able to steer you in the right direction as far as posing and expressions go. The photographer will also be able to recommend a makeup artist who can ensure that your makeup looks natural and perfectly applied on camera. I’m talking to you, too, men; a shiny forehead or age-spotted nose can be easily fixed with some expertly applied concealer and powder. That being said, remember again to keep it simple. You want to look like you in your photo (you on your best day, of course). Bright lipstick can photograph as garish, and even a slight over-application of eye shadow will come across as raccoon eyes. Err on the side of “less is more”; if you need any touch-ups, the photographer can easily do that to your final prints.
As far as clothing goes, plain colors (rather than prints) in a business casual style are the way to go, but beware of anything too bright. If you’re thinking hot pink, choose a cool raspberry instead; you want your face, not your blouse, to be the center of attention. Take at least three changes of clothing; you’ll be surprised how different a color can look in a photograph. Women, feel free to add a little jewelry, just stick with smaller pieces that won’t look dated in five years. Also, make sure that you are against a plain, neutral background. Grays and taupes make for soothing, unobtrusive backdrops that go easily with any color (including black) that you may be wearing, and that’s why they remain the most commonly used backdrops by photographers.
The most important thing to remember is that this photograph is about you. Not your makeup, clothes, or accessories. Relax and be yourself at the session, and don’t be afraid to ask the photographer for advice! There will be hundreds of photos to choose from, so you are guaranteed to find a few that you love. Feel free to send over your favorites to your publicist for help in making the final decision, too, as he or she can give you an informed decision as to which photo is best suited to your needs.
So there you have it! Be yourself, keep it simple, and don’t be afraid to ask the professionals for advice. Investing in your headshot is an investment in your career as an author, and having a photo that reflects you and your professionalism speaks volumes for your credibility.
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Whether you are publishing with a traditional house, an independent publisher, or self-publishing, the bulk of book marketing responsibility is on you as the author. Many authors are choosing to hire a book publicist to help connect with readers and potential audience members.
Before you hire a publicist, it is important to ask a few basic questions to help you determine if he or she is legitimate, effective, and has the background and strengths that you are looking for:
Payment & Fees
- Do you charge a monthly retainer or is payment based on bookings?
- How much is the retainer?
- How long do most of your campaigns last?
- What type of publicity do you book most: radio, TV, online (blogs, etc) or print?
- Can you describe the involvement required from me?
- Can you describe the extent of online initiatives? The balance between online and traditional media?
- Who will be involved in my campaign?
- How far in advance of publication do you start working?
- What kind of results are reasonable to expect?
- What results do you consider particularly successful?
Former Clients and Books
- How many national bookings have you gotten in the past 6 months? Which ones? For what book?
- Will you send me a sample schedule for a client with a book similar to mine?
- May I speak with some authors you've represented?
Every author may not need to ask every question, and some authors may want to go into more detail about what they are specifically interested in. But these represent some of the most important items to know before you hire your publicist.
Visit Galleycat to see a great list of book marketing experts and publicists to follow on Twitter.
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This week Jonathan Fields of the Huffington Post posted an e-mail exchange he had with a publicist from a major house who was pitching a new self-help book. The publicist not only sent the same cookie-cutter release twice, but then engaged in an argument with Fields—the person he wants to be on his side—about why his outdated methods work for everyone else. Fields uses this almost unbelievable exchange as the starting point for an insightful commentary on book publicity as it should be today. You may have heard the basics of how publicity has changed already (broadcasting to old media doesn't work anymore, social media requires joining the conversation, etc), but the post is a graphic demonstration of what we hear all the time.
Fields, who wrote and promoted his own book, Career Renegade, also points out a truth that held for both himself and 4-Hour Workweek author Timothy Ferriss: mentions on top-notch blogs and other social media can do a lot more for book sales than advertising in national newspapers and magazines or even appearing on national television.
As further evidence of the power of conversation, some great points are made in the comments section of Fields's post, so check that out as well. HuffPost blogger Lisa Earle McLeod chimes in with a piece of wisdom we've given you already: it's critical for authors to understand how media and publicity work today. Depending on your publisher and/or publicist to do it all for you is a sure formula for weak sales.
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A few weeks ago, we posted five tips to help you be in top form for TV appearances. Here, courtesy once again of Marsha Friedman, are ten more tips to help you capitalize on valuable air-time when you appear as a TV guest.
1) Use “Tips” as part of your segment! If your topic offers helpful advice then tips are a great way to communicate your message. Television producers want to provide their viewers with useful content presented in a manner that is easy to understand. Develop five tips that solve a problem your topic addresses. Are you a fitness guru with a unique formulation for fat loss? Then offer five fat burning tips! Does your book offer advice about how to live a happier life? Then come up with 5 ways to live happier today!
2) If you’re pitching local TV, find the local angle. Local network affiliates are extremely valuable, so a great method to grab the producer's interest is to find the local tie-in for your topic. If you are a real estate guru, before going on air do your homework and find out what the real estate market is like in that city. Have you written a book about the American economy? Be prepared to talk about the economic climate in that particular city. By highlighting a local angle, your interview will resonate more with the host and the viewers.
3) Don't be monotone. It doesn't work. The alteration of pitch and tone in your voice will keep your audience interested. Stay animated. It's not only what you say, but how you say it that counts!
4) Prepare for personal questions. The job of a producer is to do research for the host about you and your topic, in preparation of your interview. If simple web research unearths two previous bankruptcies and you are promoting a CD series on how to make millions . . . be prepared! Often the best comeback is a real and even comical answer. It will not only endear you to the audience but can deflect the tone of an antagonistic interviewer.
5) Don't overload your interview with statistics. Use stats and numbers wisely. For example, if you have written a book about natural methods of preventing diabetes, the fact that 20.8 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes is important. But if you also mention that 85,000 diabetics have their feet amputated and 12 million people will go blind from it, these statistics will create more of an emotional impact on the host and viewers.
6 ) Double-check your contact information. Before you go on-air, make sure your website is up, your toll free phone number is working and you have a list of the retail outlets where your book can be purchased. Why? If you share the incorrect contact information during your interview, you defeat the whole purpose of your appearance. Also, if you give a great interview and viewers can’t find your book, the TV station will get overloaded with calls from viewers asking for information—and reflects poorly on you as a guest.
7) Record and critique your interviews. Watch your interview numerous times and observe the different elements of your performance. How well did you answer the questions? Did your clothes send the right message? What did your body language say about you? Did you seem natural or rehearsed? Did you remember all of your sound bites? Did you interrupt the host? Identify the points you felt were weak and do whatever you can to strengthen them before your next interview.
8) Look good / feel good. Sleep and good nutrition are obviously important to our daily mental and physical well being; it makes us look better, feel better, and think clearly. But these health points are even more important when you factor in the stress of an important media interview. So try to get a good night’s sleep—and a healthy breakfast before your interview. Don't overdose on the caffeine either! You want to be at the top of your game for your TV appearance.
9) Be gracious on and off the air. Remember to thank the host for the interview while you're still on-air. Make sure to thank the producer as well. It’s also a good practice to send a brief thank you note to the host and the producer. It’s good manners and presents you as a consummate professional. It can also increase your chances of being remembered in the future, when they need to interview an expert on your topic.
10) Prepare for the pre-interview. When it comes to national TV, you may be asked for a “pre-interview”. Don’t take this lightly. Be prepared with your message; be energetic, informative and appropriately entertaining. The interview isn’t completely secured until you pass this test!
Marsha Friedman has been a leading authority on publicity for authors for nearly two decades as CEO of Event Management Services, Inc (EMSI). If you would like to receive her free e-book, How to Be a Great Talk Radio Guest, visit emsincorporated.com.
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Ever watch morning TV and think, "Hey, I can do that!" Well the truth is that if you have a book, product, or service to promote to consumers, there is absolutely no reason why you can't appear as a guest on TV!
But what does it take to be a good guest? Here are five simple tips to get you started and help you capitalize on the valuable airtime at your disposal:
1) Don't overdo the makeup, ladies and gentlemen. Yes, both women and men are repeat offenders in this category. There's no need to go to the station with a full face of make-up. You'll find most producers are prepared to give you a quick once-over when you arrive so that you look good for the cameras. Shallow as it may sound, it's hard for viewers to take you seriously if they're too busy zeroing in on a face that's overly made-up.
2) Check your props. As TV is all about visuals (no matter what your topic is) it's likely you'll have some kind of props for your interview. Take stock of them before the interview to make sure they're in good shape with all parts intact. For example, if you're conducting a "how-to" demonstration, ensure your equipment and tools are clean and at the ready. If you'll be using the station's stove for a cooking segment, make sure it works. If your prop is your book, hold it on your lap with an un-tattered front cover facing the audience.
3) Stay seated! When your interview draws to a close and it appears that the camera has stopped focusing on you, don't stand up and take off your microphone! It's the job of the floor manager to remove the mic for you and give you the all-clear to leave. By leaving prematurely, you could run the risk of ruining a perfectly good camera shot and coming off as an unprofessional guest.
4) Speak in a conversational manner. When people get nervous about being on camera, they tend to speak too fast and sometimes tense up—which can be very distracting for the audience. To relieve the nervous tension, you first need to get comfortable. Look around and get familiar with the studio and set. Introduce yourself to the host, producer, and camera crew. Locate where you'll be seated during the interview. Then, when the interview starts, you'll feel less like you're in a strange environment. You'll look more at ease and feel like the ultimate pro!
5) No arguing! Unless you are on a show that thrives on arguing, being combative on a show is not suggested. Your goal as a guest is to win over the audience; something that can be tricky if a question makes you feel angry or combative. If you've been ambushed with a nasty question, remain dignified and answer calmly. Losing your temper won't boost your credibility; plus, it makes you look defensive, which is definitely not the best position to be in when trying to promote your message.
So there you have it! A good solid start in making the most of your time on the air!
Marsha Friedman has been a leading authority on publicity for authors for nearly two decades as CEO of Event Management Services, Inc (EMSI). If you would like to receive her free e-book, How to Be a Great Talk Radio Guest, visit emsincorporated.com.
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There isn't much to say about YouTube that hasn't already been said, but it would be careless to exclude this mammoth of social media from our series. And "mammoth" is no exaggeration: YouTube is big, hairy, and, er, tusk-wielding. Well, at least it's the first of those three, unless we were to explore some extended metaphor. Get this: YouTube has the eighth largest audience on the Internet, pulling in 55 million unique visitors each month, according to Nielsen/Net Ratings. Read: YouTube's no fad. Google doesn't pay $1.65 billion for fads. And fads don't hold this much book marketing and publicity potential.
So, what exactly does YouTube---or at least the technology it employs---mean for book publishing?
Well, duh, book trailers for one. (But that's not all. More later.) In an interview with Publishers Weekly blogger Barbara Vey, Sheila Clover English, CEO of book trailer producer Circle of Seven Production, said she "expect[s] to see book video become a main element in most authors' marketing campaigns." Whether trailers become the "main" element remains to be seen, but there's little doubt that online marketing and publicity efforts---including YouTube and other social media---will become standard in book launches.
This year Simon & Schuster partnered with the New York Film Academy to create the "Reel Reads Book Sizzle Contest," in which 400 students were invited to create a three minute trailer for one of S&S's titles. The contest itself hasn't much to do with YouTube, but another S&S project does: BookVideosTV. BookVideosTV is a channel on YouTube that exhibits book marketing and publicity possibilities other than book trailers. It features author profiles and even some behind-the-scene looks at the book in the developmental stage. It's like VH1's "Behind the Music," but twice as sordid! (No, not really. Not at all.)
So, bottom line, YouTube can be way more than just trailers for books. Even Oprah and Harpo Studios announced this month the launch of the "Oprah on YouTube" channel. Neither the press release nor Oprah's welcome video mentioned Oprah's Book Club specifically, but who knows? Perhaps the juggernaut that is Oprah's Book Club will eventually find a second home on YouTube.
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It's a cliché of a cliché to talk about how bogus the maxim "don't judge a book by its cover" is. But for literal-minded book marketers, there could be no worse advice. Strong packaging equals strong sales--and that goes for authors, too. Looking foolish on TV or sounding foolish in the paper or on the radio is a quick and easy way to have people lose interest in your writing. In addition to your physical appearance, you need to monitor how your message comes across in the media; reporters may cut quotes (sometimes altering the entire meaning of your statements) to find a hook. Here are some tips on how to play the media game and make your interviews work for you.
Dress the Part: Newspapers have a tendency to start an article with a description of their interview subject, and--if the reporter is the gossip-mongering type--your fashion faux pas will not go unnoticed. You may be critiqued from head to toe, right down to your socks. Speaking of socks, people will notice if you wear white ones with a black suit, or decide to go without them entirely. But don't feel bad if the reporter describes your wardrobe malfunction in great detail: surely there was little of substance to deride you about. DO wear solid-color clothing; plaids, stripes, and white tees don't show up well on camera. Dress as simply as possible. If you draw attention to what you are wearing, the viewer will be distracted from your message.
Don't Let Them Smell Your Fear: This is more for the viewer's comfort than for your own. DON'T sit in a swivel chair. It may tempt you to rock side to side, making you look nervous and the viewer feel nauseous. Also, DON'T stare at the camera; the photographer will position you beforehand, and you should listen to the professionals. Maintain eye contact with the reporter throughout the interview. Even slight glances out of the corner of your eye will be picked up by the camera and make you appear cautious or uncertain.
Lose the Lingo: We all know you're an expert; that's why you wrote a book on the topic. But DON'T use jargon. You don't want your 15 minute interview to turn into regurgitation from Webster's. Try to keep your speech on an eighth grade level. Not only will the reporter fully understand you, but you will also reach the widest possible audience.
Speak in Sound Bites: DO answer in complete sentences. This seems elementary, but the question will be edited out of the interview so it's best to reword it into your response for clarity. If you're a victim of stuttering, take a pause and repeat the entire thought again so the reporter has a solid sound bite. Speaking in sound bites will discourage editors from altering your words.
Make Them Love You: The idea is to sell yourself. If you are generally liked, people will be drawn to your book. By relaxing and allowing the conversation to flow, you'll charm the audience. The reporter is going to answer the who, what, when, where, and why. It is your responsibility to make the interview worthwhile for the viewer. DON'T make something up just to be interesting, but if you have a story about why you wrote the book or how you developed the characters, it will engage the viewers.
Get to the Point: Be very straightforward. Lengthy answers get cut down because viewers, especially in the age if Tivo, have very short attention spans, and they don't want to hear you rattle on for two minutes about nothing in particular. The air-able quote may have an entirely different meaning than what you intended, so keep things short and sweet. Know in advance how long the interview will last, and when it starts to wrap up, be sure you've touched on all the points you wanted to make. Also, remember to clearly state your Web site and purchase information for your book at the end of the interview.