Book Promotion

Marketing Your Novel WITHOUT Social Media: Press Releases

Although I’m a HUGE proponent of social media with regard to successfully self-publishing a book — seriously, there is no other marketing tool that lets you reach so many people so affordably — in the class I’m currently teaching at Hofstra University there seems to be some (gasp!) resistance to the idea of using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. to market novels. Is social media the ONLY way to market a book? Of course not. Is it the BEST way. I say yes. However, I put together some non-social-media tools that novelists can use to boost their visibility and help increase sales. Here’s one of them: the press release.

What is a press release?
A press release is a “news story” that you write about yourself — it is written in a professional manner and in third person. The goal of a press release is, first and foremost, to gain editors’ or reporters’ attention so that your news will be placed in their publication or on their website. You do that by conveying newsworthiness, which means your press release should include the five Ws and one H:

•    Who is this news release about?
•    What has happened that is newsworthy?
•    Where did the newsworthy event take place?
•    When did this happen?
•    How is this newsworthy?
•    Why should I (or my readers) care?

How are press releases sent?
Nowadays, most press releases are sent by email, but you can also use snail mail or fax.

What is the proper press release format?
There are various acceptable formats, but all press releases should include a header, dateline, a paragraph or more of news, and contact information.

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By |2013-10-10T11:16:03-04:00October 10th, 2013|Book Promotion, Uncategorized|0 Comments

When Authors Pull an Anne Rice

Yesterday, the internet was abuzz with news that author Anne Rice posted a link on her Facebook page noting that a blogger had given her novel, Pandora, a bad review and proceeded to rip up the book (literally) for a decoupage project. For those of us who follow Rice on Facebook, she wrote her customary “Comments welcome” above this post, which she often does to promote discussion about various things — usually current events. Although she didn’t encourage anyone to, needless to say, many of Rice’s 740,000+ FB fans barged over to the blogger’s page and let her have it. And some of the comments left for this blogger were pretty hurtful.

Anytime an author interacts with a reviewer, particularly one who has given a bad review, sparks are bound to fly. I agree with the first line of this Mary Sue blog post which discusses the Anne Rice incident: “If there’s one valuable lesson a creator can learn, it’s not to engage with reviewers.” I just feel like there is nothing to be gained by confronting someone who posts a bad review. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and shouldn’t have to defend it or justify it.

The other day I got a lukewarm review for Baby Grand. Hey, it happens. But what especially bothered me about this review was that there was something written that was factually incorrect — it never happened in my book! A friend suggested, “Why don’t you just write a comment under the review and tell the reviewer what’s incorrect?” I shook my head. I told him that I find it lame when authors do that for the reasons I stated above. As I wrote on Anne Rice’s post: Better to just shrug one’s shoulders, I think, and move on.

The other day, a blogger wrote (for the life of me, I can’t remember where — I read so many blogs!) that his grandfather told him never to look strangers in the eye, particularly when you see them acting erratically. You just keep walking. The blogger said he uses his grandfather’s advice when dealing with internet commenters — who, essentially, are strangers.

I agree. When faced with a poor review, rather than pull an Anne Rice or give into the temptation of confrontation, an author’s best recourse is to steer clear and just keep walking.

By |2013-05-01T08:27:43-04:00May 1st, 2013|Book Promotion, Uncategorized|14 Comments

7 Things I Learned About Shooting a Video on the Cheap

I have been meaning to shoot a few promotional videos for Baby Grand to put up on my YouTube channel, so yesterday I took (dragged) my daughter, husband and youngest son with me to Hofstra University for a video shoot. My daughter is thinking about a career in directing and my oldest son has expressed an interest in video editing, so I figured why not encourage (take advantage) of these aspirations and get some publicity as well. Well, after an hour of frolicking in the sun on campus, I learned seven important lessons:

  1. Make sure you have a charged battery. If my husband hadn’t come along for the ride, it would have been a very (very!) short shoot. The minute my daughter, who served as camera-person, pressed record for the first take of the afternoon, the screen went black. “I had a feeling that would happen,” my husband said, pulling an extra charged battery out of his knapsack. I didn’t know if I wanted to slug him or hug him. :)
  2. Know your lines. I wanted to kick myself for not having memorized my script. There are so many things that are out of your control during a photo shoot, like the weather or the amount of people milling around if you’re in a public place. The last thing you should have had to worry about is knowing your lines. Lesson learned.
  3. Empty your memory card beforehand. Luckily, it was after an hour of shooting that my memory card screamed, “No more, please!” Otherwise, as I said in Tip #1, it would have been a very short shoot.
  4. Vary your shots. As an undergrad at Hofstra, I took a few television classes so I know a thing or two (but that’s it) about video production. So I had my daughter video me saying the same paragraph several times — while sitting on a bench, while walking, etc. This helps to make your video more interesting and dynamic when it’s put together in post-production.
  5. Have cutaways. Basically, a cutaway is a shot of something different from the main action. In my case, for example, we shot the university’s name on a sign for a few seconds and my legs walking. Cutaways are crucial to the editing process, particularly when you have talent who apparently hasn’t memorized her lines. It gives the video editor options and helps piece together different shots that wouldn’t otherwise go together so that they look cohesive.
  6. If you’re not going to pay your tech people, feed them. And if you’ve got anyone 10 years or younger there for the ride, it might behoove you to feed him BEFORE the photo shoot. It keeps the complaining to a minimum (and while you’re at it, bring a jacket for him too).
  7. Have fun. My daughter and I giggled the entire way through. “I feel like I’m in a writer horror movie!” she squealed when I asked her to walk backwards with the camera as I approached. Sure enough, we watched the playback, and it did. Perhaps an idea for my next book…
By |2013-04-22T09:51:55-04:00April 22nd, 2013|Book Promotion, Uncategorized|1 Comment

Hear Ye, Hear Ye: How to Promote an Audiobook

Okay, folks, this one is easy: If you’re already out there promoting your paperback or eBook, all you have to do is keep on doing what you’re doing and now throw your audiobook into marketing mix as well. What should you be doing? Most, if not all, of the following:

Create social media pages: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Goodreads, Google Plus — wherever it is you find you get the most mileage from your posts (remember, too much promotion can turn friends and followers off, so post wisely). You can also syndicate your content so that you can post to multiple accounts simultaneously.

Create a blog: There’s been a lot of debate lately on whether writers should bother with blogging, whether blogging is helpful as a promotional tool for writers. I started this blog in March 2010 not as a promotional tool, but as a way to help write myself out of a writer’s block and to network with other writers. (It worked.) Readers of this blog will know that I rarely use it for promotional purposes — Yes, I have my book info in the sidebar and I mention Baby Grand all the time but the blog is more informational than promotional.

Create a dialogue: Spend time reading other people’s blogs and social media posts. Not only do you learn a heck of a lot, but I’ve found that people find their way to my book simply by reading my comments or viewpoints and then clicking my gravatar.

Create a website: This is a MUST. All authors should have a “home base,” so to speak, one place where readers can go to find out everything they need to know about you and your books. Additionally, a recent blog post by Shelli Johson suggests you should have a media kit available on your website, which will make it easier for others (newspaper editors, bloggers, TV producers, etc.) to get your bio, head shot, book jacket and other info readily. Excellent advice.

Create a mailing list: Give readers and potential readers the opportunity to sign up to hear about your news. I use Constant Contact for my mailing list needs.

Create videos: Create a YouTube channel and develop promotional videos for your book. These can include man-on-the-street videos featuring the author, or Q&As or book trailers. Whatever you think will help people find you and generate interest in your work.

Well, that winds up this week’s celebration of the premiere of the Baby Grand audiobook. If you have any other promotional ideas for your books, audio or otherwise, I’d love to hear them. Have a great weekend!

By |2013-04-05T15:14:53-04:00April 5th, 2013|Book Promotion, Uncategorized|4 Comments

Why I Picked a Male Narrator for the ‘Baby Grand’ Audiobook

I always thought — and this surprised quite a few people — that the audiobook of Baby Grand should be narrated by a man — even though my protagonist, Jamie Carter, is a woman and carries a significant number of scenes. (There are a slew of main characters in Baby Grand, each of whom helms a certain number of scenes. Frankly, I still can’t figure out if I’ve written this thing in third-person limited or third-person omniscient narration, even with reading helpful blog posts like this one from Nathan Bransford. I’ll leave that to creative writing professors for now).

I remember talking with my former agent about the decision and she totally thought the novel should be read by a woman, as did my best friend and others. Yet, this was one of those decisions in which I decided to go with my gut. (My feeling has always been that if you feel strongly about something, you should go with those feelings. That has served me well in my career.)

And I felt strongly about this. Why? Still not quit sure — you know, those unexplainable gut feelings — but I came up with these three reasons:

  1. Men’s voices are scarier. At least they are to me. (Unless we’re talking Kathy Bates in Misery.) Since Baby Grand is a suspense thriller, I wanted its telling to be pretty darn creepy. And I got some pretty creepy samples sent to me too. But, keep in mind, I also needed this male voice to be able to carry those chapters in which Jamie was the narrator, so I needed a male voice to have a pleasing quality, with only a hint of creepiness. It was a tall order, but in the end Bob Thomley’s narration did the trick. Am I alone in thinking men’s voices are scarier than women’s? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that virtually all computer voices — like those of my GPS — are predominantly female. Scientific studies have shown that people generally find women’s voices more pleasing than men’s. Sorry, guys.
  2. There are more male main characters in Baby Grand than female characters. Of the nine lead characters, there are seven men: Don Bailino, Mark Nurberg, Phillip Grand, Edward Carter, Reynaldo Rodriguez, Bob Scott and Gino Cataldi (plus several minor male characters), and only two females: Jamie Carter, the “hero” of the book, and Katherine Grand. So the narrator chosen would spend the majority of their time narrating male-oriented chapters. It seemed to make more sense to go with the numbers.
  3. The profanity. The bad guys of Baby Grand like to curse. A lot. And since these four-letter-word-loving characters were guys, their dialogue seemed to sound more authentic being narrated by a guy. Truth be told, of the two or three females auditioning to read Baby Grand, only one made it to the sample round, and, after taking one look at the profanity, turned down the job. I respect her decision, but, between you and me, I thought she was a bit of a wimp. What can I say? I’m from New York.

Note: All this week, we will be celebrating the audiobook release of Baby Grand. Tomorrow: A guest post by Matthew Burns of audiobooknerds.com.

By |2013-04-03T12:45:20-04:00April 3rd, 2013|Book Promotion, Uncategorized|1 Comment

And We Have a Winner!

The random number gods have spoken, and we have a winner for yesterday’s BABY GRAND giveaway!

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Congratulations to Kathy Gunthorpe Ashdown, the second person to leave a comment — that included a birthday wish — on yesterday’s blog! Kathy has won an autographed copy of Baby Grand.

Thank you to all who participated in my birthday giveaway! I hope all of your wishes come true!

By |2013-02-12T05:48:06-05:00February 12th, 2013|Book Promotion, Events, Uncategorized|0 Comments

5 Book Club Tips

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Book club meeting in Massapequa, New York, January 18, 2013.

In promoting Baby Grand, I’ve done all kinds of appearances. Bookstores. Libraries. Assisted living communities. (Street corners.) But probably my absolute favorite thing to do is attend book club meetings. Sitting in a casual circle, talking about the book that I wrote and everyone read, and seeing up close how readers have taken ownership of the novel’s characters and how they defend them, fight for them, question them, hate them, love them. Hearing how someone was at the edge of her seat as Jamie plotted to escape from her abductors, how some were surprised by the ending, had guessed a few things, had a few questions, can’t wait for the sequel. It’s probably the closest thing to bliss with regard to being novelist that I can describe — other than that amazing feeling, when you’re actually writing, of being so swept away and in the moment that you don’t even know where the ideas you’ve just put on paper have come from.

And there are some things that authors can do to make their book club appearances even more memorable and worthwhile. Here are five:

  • Have handouts. Every book club has its own way of doing things, but many of them have a facilitator who runs the meeting. Sometimes you will be asked to serve as facilitator, as I was for the book club meeting I attended last night. As facilitator, I brought handouts for all the members that included discussion questions for Baby Grand, as well as my contact information (email, Twitter, Facebook) so that I could maintain relationships with readers. Even if you are not asked to facilitate, business cards or book marks with your contact info or perhaps information on your next book, including the publication date, can be helpful.

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By |2013-01-19T10:19:15-05:00January 19th, 2013|Book Promotion, Uncategorized|0 Comments

3 Tips for Surviving Bad Reviews

Well, it was bound to happen.

After 37 straight five-star reviews on Amazon in nearly four months of publication, and a string of four- and five-star reviews on Goodreads, Baby Grand got its first clunker. A two-star review. Basically, the dude thought that my book was boring, smelly, ugly, totally gross, and that its mother dressed it funny. (I’m paraphrasing.) No, seriously, it just wasn’t for him.

Hey, it happens. I knew my good fortune would come to an end eventually — it’s just the nature of criticism. My daughter, who was reading the review over my shoulder, asked, “Are you okay?” Surprisingly, I was. Stung, of course, but okay. My reaction reminded me of when I was in grad school and I had been getting straight As class after class — something you can certainly get used to — and a professor finally gave me a B+, breaking my streak. I remember thinking for a moment, Oh, darn. But then life went on. I thought that perhaps, being a professional writer, I’ve gotten used to rejection — editors not liking queries or articles, editors requesting changes. After all, Baby Grand was rejected some ten times last year by traditional publishing editors before I decided to self-publish and make a go of it on my own in January. Writing can be a very humbling profession.

But I think it’s just that I know, deep down, that bad reviews happen. Here are three things that I try to keep in mind when I get them:

1. Even universally beloved books –from the classics to contemporary favorites — have bad reviews. Author Ellen Meister, whose new novel Farewell, Dorothy Parker will be published in February, and I discussed this when she came out to East Hampton to appear on The Writer’s Dream recently. Pick a book, any book, that you absolutely loved. Find it on Amazon, and I guarantee you that there will be bad reviews for it. So if Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami and Stephen King can deal with it, so can you.

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By |2012-09-06T11:04:29-04:00September 6th, 2012|Book Promotion, Publishing Process|5 Comments

Kindle Nation Daily Sponsorship: Worth It?

On August 19, 2012, Baby Grand was Kindle Nation Daily’s eBook of the Day.

My goal for the sponsorship was to introduce Baby Grand to readers who have never heard of the book or of me or my blog — to connect with complete strangers who might enjoy a good thriller. And, hey, if I could make a little money too, even better.

Kindle Nation Daily is a popular promotional choice for Kindle authors (when I purchased the sponsorship back in June there were only two dates left for August). KND offers all kinds of sponsorships, including daily and weekly options, as well as packages, that run from about $30 and up, and their newsletters and websites connect with tens of thousands of readers.

The sponsorship I purchased, eBook of the Day, is priced at $159.99. A bit steep. So right off the bat, I knew there was a good chance that I might not recoup my investment since I had planned on selling Baby Grand at the promotional price of $1.99 that day, which meant that I’d need to sell about 270 books (since Amazon offers 35 percent royalties for books priced under $2.99) to break even.

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Goodbye, KDP Select

Yesterday was the last day of my three-month exclusivity agreement with Amazon’s KDP Select (Baby Grand made its debut as part of the program on May 23). For those who don’t know about the program, when you sign on to KDP Select, you agree to sell your eBook only in the Kindle format (you can continue selling your paperbacks anywhere you wish). In exchange for this agreement, you are given some marketing assistance, including several free promotional days, where you can basically give your book away, and also your book is included in the Kindle Lending Library — every time an Amazon Prime member (and there are oodles of them) “borrows” your book, Amazon pays you a royalty.

When I agreed to participate in the program, I looked at it as a limited release of my novel, much like an independent film might be first shown in New York and Los Angeles before going wide, and as a way to cultivate a following in the Kindle community while taking advantage of additional promotional help from Amazon.

Overall, I was satisfied with the results of KDP Select, particularly with a mass email intended for thriller lovers that included my book. Yippee!

But, in the end, I decided to leave the program after my first go-round. Here’s why:

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