Thursday, October 15, 2015

This is my new book ad for now, which I am using for my social media accounts.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Tours of Duty for Authors

Tours of Duty – sounds like something awful, harsh and challenging. A tour of duty in Afghanistan no doubt is not something pleasant or refreshing for most people. I suspect that a book tour, for some people, can feel like a horrible experience. However, a piece of your marketing strategy should include some kind of book tour. 

For many indies and self published authors, just getting an event in a bookstore is a tour of duty in and of itself. There are lots of reasons why a store can just say…nah…sorry, this big publisher over here is giving us this money to put on an event for this well known author instead. Like I said in the previous post, you need to make it easy for the bookstore to want you to put on your book event at their store. 

When you know the release of your book, usually months in advance…and if you’re self published, you can determine this yourself…start contacting the booksellers and trying to set up a tour for yourself. If all you can financially manage is a book tour of your area, then do that. For example, in my area, there are several independent bookstores. If I scheduled an event at each one, a couple of weeks a part, I could expand my audience considerably. If you can go further, then try to schedule several outside of your area. 

I live in North Carolina. We have a long state, from the mountains to the sea. For someone like me, I could try to schedule a couple of local events, then expand over to Charlotte, then the Smokies, then back local, then go to the beach, then local again, then the Appalachians, and really spread my tour out in order to better engage other areas of my state. It would take awhile, maybe even a year, but it is a way to get yourself out there.

The timing should be well in advance. Start booking your events at least three months from release. Ask the bookseller what days work best for them for attendance. They know their own store and their own customers better than you do. 

Start with your local bookstore. They should be your first book event, if not your release event. Ask them who takes care of promotional materials – you or them. Ask them for the media list. Work with them on providing what you can, like food and favors, bookmarks, and business cards. Many booksellers will give a percentage off your book during the event in order to help promote the event itself. They will send out the event information to their lists, their subscribers, and their own website. Offer to do a Facebook invitation two weeks ahead of time to see how many you can get to confirm. You can do a giveaway promotion for the event on your website.

Set up your event schedule. If you are doing a reading, select passages that are meaningful and make the attendees want to read your book. If you are doing a Q&A session, be prepared for the Frequently Asked Questions: the process of writing, inspirations for characters or places, when you knew you wanted to be a writer. You can put together a power point presentation or show a book trailer. Present your book in the best way you can. 

If you are doing just a signing, then have some food available and ask for a set up during a busy time.
Offer to sign the stock of your book at the bookstore. People like to buy a book that has been signed by the author. 

You can try to be a part of a panel event at a bookstore, which is more than one author. If you know other authors, have a joint event. 

I know this is common sense, but if you really want to know how a book event works and what one looks like at your local bookstore, then go to one or more. Remember…there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Revisiting the 80s Classic - The Breakfast Club

So I watched the Breakfast Club the other night. Classic John Hughes 80s film with Brat Pack members Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson. I know I must’ve seen it 50 times during the course of my life. It came out in 1985.

The first thought I had observing the film, after having gone to high school myself as a freshman in the fall of 1985, was that the school library was pretty incredible. Even by today’s standards. Other than the fact that it wasn’t covered in computer technology and full of wifi, it was two stories, open air, full of books and beautiful large sculptures, everything labeled nicely, and looked like a nice private university library in an upscale area of the country. It had special side rooms for language labs and music. There was one scene where Anthony Michael Hall, while high, was tossing vinyl records about the room. (Please note that vinyl is making a comeback.)

A few observations of 1985 and 2015:

If a high school principal talked to students today like Principal Vernon did to the students in that movie….he or she would be sued, forced to resign, shamed on social media, tarred and feathered, paraded around town with his or her head on a stick, followed and pursued by several news vans…and then the principal’s family would be forced out of town and in hiding. Then there would be a reality show about their new life in the Alaskan wilderness.

Anthony Michael Hall’s character, named Brian, was suspended for bring a flair gun to school. He admitted that he was suicidal after having failed a shop class project. Today, he would not just have a Saturday suspension. Instead, he would be expelled, arrested and brought up on terrorism charges. The flair gun would be considered a Weapon of Mass Destruction. “Brian Johnson” would be on a terror watch list, and he would no longer be able to fly on a plane. His first grade classmates would be interviewed by Inside Edition about “that time when Brian cried and wanted to hit Little Johnny in the face because Little Johnny was saying mean things to him on the playground” and how his parents should have gotten him psychological help at that time and have him diagnosed with a multi-worded and lettered psychosis. The signs were there at age 6.

When Molly Ringwald’s character Claire walked into the (locked) storage closet that Judd Nelson’s character was (locked) in (see above about the consequences for Principal Vernon LOCKING a student in closet) … Claire wouldn’t have just simply kissed him if it had been 2015. Do I really need to continue?

Emilio Estevez’s character Andrew is a popular school athlete. While Judd Nelson’s character, John Bender….the stereotypical stoner loser bad boy from the abusive home, is making fun of Claire (because he really likes her and she is a popular prissy girl….), Andrew tells him to leave her alone, threatens to kick his ass, and stands up for Claire. He defends her honor. And she is grateful for that display of chivalry. Today? Andrew would walk away because he wouldn’t want to get involved. Andrew or Claire would go tell an adult that John Bender was verbally assaulting Claire in the library. Then he would be brought up on bullying charges, expelled for the year, sent to an alternative school, and brought into a Sheriff’s office for an interview just in case he also planned on stalking or sexually assaulting Claire.  

Principal Vernon brags to John Bender about his $31,000 a year salary. Seriously.

Carl the Janitor. Seriously.

Andrew and the weirdo Allison (played by Ally Sheedy) go get Cokes from a Coke machine. In the school. Today? Andrew and Allison would go to a vending machine inside the school and only be able to get organic vegan orange juice made from free range gluten free toxin adverse genetically engineered pineapple pomegranates. And it would only take credit cards. And the kids wouldn’t have their credit cards because they would’ve forgotten them somewhere and need to call their parents to cancel them.

The students sitting in the library sat at their seats. When the Principal wasn’t around, they talked to each other. With words. They opened their mouths and spoke. Granted, John Bender was a jerk and said mean things to everyone, but they talked to each other. No texting. No Snapchats. No phones. No earbuds. No technology. Also, they brought their own lunch. Claire had sushi! The government didn’t show up and give everyone lunch. Even for John Bender, who did not have any food with him and who probably would qualify by today’s standards for Free and Reduced Lunch...which is apparently any kid regardless of income. John Bender had to either not eat lunch at all or steal someone else’s lunch or ask to share. Allison had pixie sticks in her lunch and she poured the sugar all over her bread. Then she took Captain Crunch and put the cereal pieces onto her sandwich. Today? The Police would come into the school and take Allison’s pixie sticks and Captain Crunch because that’s just too much sugar. They might even take away her bread if it isn’t Multigrain.

Claire and Allison, the only girls in the movie, were fully clothed. Their legs were covered. Both of their skirts were long. The only time anyone could have seen cleavage is when Claire was doing her lipstick trick, but we didn’t see anything…not really. I liked Claire’s boots. Glad boots are back.

The stashing of weed in a ziplock bag doesn’t appear to have changed in 30 years. I think they still do that today.

Anyway, these were just some of my observations of this classic movie. Some things are indeed timeless…and some things are not.  





Monday, October 5, 2015

Indiependents Day - What I Learned About the Publishing Industry - Post 3

As I stated in my first post in this series, getting to know your local independent bookseller is very important in your efforts as an author. It is imperative that you establish real human connections in trying to promote you, your work, your writing as a whole...and lastly, your book. Why go through all the trouble of writing a book, trying to get it published, then publishing it in one way or another…and then just sit there hoping that it sells? Hope is a nice thing to hold on to…especially during the trials of life…but as a bookselling tactic? Well, like I’ve told my daughters…hoping for things (or wishing for things) ultimately is a waste of your time. For most of us, if we want something to happen, we need to DO something about it. 

So what can you do? Like me, you might be introverted and prefer your solitude. You might not feel really comfortable walking up to strangers and talking to them. I’m okay if I’m with an extroverted person. But alone? It is very difficult for me to just walk up to someone and start talking. Well, I – and you - need to get over it. 

Get to know your bookseller. Go to  their events. Know the owners. Introduce yourself. Buy books from their store. Do some research on the store – its history, its customers. Know what kinds of sections they have inside and where your book would fit in. My book could fit in a few subgenres. Look to see if they have a section for local authors. Some booksellers have consignment programs for self published authors – take advantage of those opportunities. 

On your website or blog, when listing places people can buy your book, list your bookseller first. “Available at xxxxx Bookseller.” Give their store a shout out on social media. Direct local readers to their store. If your bookseller is carrying your book, the chances are the owner or employees liked it. They want you to be successful because then they will also be successful.

If you have an event at your local bookseller, three things that work are food, music and alcohol. Events are expensive for booksellers, so you have to do all you can to make it a successful event for them (and therefore for you). Big publishers give independent booksellers funds to put on an event for their authors. Small publishers and self publishers do not have that luxury. If you are going to bother to have an event, do it well and do it right. Control what you can control. Put together your own press kit and have it available through your website. Ask the bookstore for their media contacts and find out if they handle the media or if they want you to do it. Along with your book, provide copy from your book, images, your website, a book trailer….all prepackaged for advertising. Make everything as easy for your bookstore as you can.

Other ways to get your book in front of readers is through local book clubs, churches, community centers, town events, and libraries. Use your local newspaper or news outlets. Make your message loud and clear “I am local” “Support your local authors” “Support your local bookstores”

If you can afford a publicist, then make use of those services. A publicist can help you maneuver through the marketing quagmire, and oftentimes booksellers prefer to work with a publicist rather than an author. 

I wrote a book. That in and of itself puts me and my writing out there into the fray of life and in front of the eyes and hearts of readers. That puts me and my work into a long line of judgment. Some people will like my book and others will not. Erica Jong said something along the lines of once you finish something, you can be judged. Being judged comes in lots of ways as an author…good and bad and mediocre reviews about your book, if you do an interview and people don’t like your voice, if you participate in a Q&A session and people don’t like your answers, if people don’t like your characters – characters who have, in many cases, become YOUR friends; if people think your writing sucks, if people start making assumptions about you based upon your book’s fictional narrative, if people think you’re fat in your outfit at a book event… There are lots of ways in which you will be judged. Of course, some people will like your writing and your voice and your answers and your characters and your outfit. Your book might help someone or move someone or motivate someone to better their lives or seek help for a problem. Like in real life, none of us know the real impact we make on others. No author ever knows the real impact their work has made on others.

You finished something that matters and you put it out there. You put your heart and soul and tears and hours of doubt and elation and frustration and pain and joy and pride into your work. Lots of people never have the courage to do that, so pat yourself on the back and don’t let hoping for things get in the way of doing things. Get to know your booksellers!