3 S.R. Johannes: October 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Round-Up (thoughts and marketing posts)

NYC Conference! Who's in?

Raise your hand if you are going to NYC SCBWI Conference. Me too! (hopefully:) Libba Bray is the keynote speaker - that alone is worth the cold, the money, and the taxi rides. Don't you think? OK so maybe you could buy all her books for much cheaper (evidently especially if you go to the devil stores of Walmart or Target) or watch her vlog for free.

But to see her in person and maybe steal/borrow/suck up some of her writing brilliance: priceless.

Mediocre Mom to the rescue! Halloween Drama Solved!

My daughter's costume was lost in mail this week. Talk about devastation! Try telling a 5 year old "I'm sorry but you may not be able to be Cheetah Cat Girl" Then I got "the look" - you know the one with a big puffed out lip and alligator tears clinging to the ledge of her eyelids. Broke my heart.

As if I dont' feel guilty enough, to drive the stake further into my heart - she mutters: "It's OK mom. I don't have to be Cheetah Cat Girl. I guess I can just go as a regular old Cat." (So sweet right?)

But just KILL me why don't yah!

So what did I do?

No!!! I did not make one! That would make me a Super Mom. I'm just Mediocre Mom. Not to mention, I am soooooo not crafty!

Besides, if I was so super - I WOULD NOT HAVE WAITED UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. I would have bought it months ago and had it dry-cleaned and pressed.

My solution? I paid 50$ on overnight shipping for a 30$ cat costume. And lucky for me - it arrived today. Can't wait to see her face and the obvious words that will follow: You're the best mom in the world!

And she will be the best Cheetah Cat Girl - wrinkles and all.

PS: An update - after all that - the other one just came too - GRRRRRR! Anyone need a Cheetah costume, unfortunately its too small for me :)

Marketing Round Up

Here are some "spooktacular" marketing posts for the week. Happy Halloween!

Author Websites- What not to blog - You start blog and wonder what to write about. Here's are some tips on what NOT to do!

What's next in book promotion? - A man using airports as a book tour. All times are based on flight schedules! :)

Book Promotion Humor - A recent (and very funny) New Yorker piece by Ellis Weiner (wait don't laugh yet!) on book promotion has zoomed around the web.

15 places to start a group online - There's another aspect you can use to promote your book and your identity as an author. Instead of looking only for existing social hangouts, why not create one?

The Katy Challenge - My first school visit presentation was speaking to a group of 300 school kids—one of my biggest crowds ever. Here's the surprising thing: it was a piece of cake!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I heart Teen TV - let me count the ways!

I am obviously a teen at heart. (Maybe in my maturity level too.)

Somehow I always fall in love the CW or Fox shows.


Good question: I will tell you my top 5 reasons (besides #1 these are in no particular order :):

1. Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder - Honestly do I have to say any more? All I can say is "Yes please!" OK so who cares if they are dead, who cares if they have fangs, and who cares if they have anger management issues - I say "the more to love them with". (Oh wait, all that stuff is pretend, right?)

2. Vampire Diaries - This shows takes a good bite out of my Thursday nights and I love it! Obviously, a natural follow-up to #1. The show is awesome and follows the amazing books of LJ Smith )who BTW was wayyyyyyy before Stephanie Meyer. Like in the 90s before. This shows manages to get me to have 2 heart stops, 2 jumps, and 1 squeal - in each episode! Yes the jumping out of the trees and popping up in mirrors is probably predictable - but hey call me slow.

3. Glee - This show makes me happy! Why? because I see my life as a musical anyway - really! (check out the post I did on my life's soundtrack). Every time Lea Michele (AKA Rachel) sings - chills run down my spin and goose bumps form on my arms. The inappropriateness of the Principal, Coach Sue, and others crack me up. Yes I love inappropriate humor (as long as it is not about me!:) Mr Shu is a cutie pie, the music rocks, but most of all, Jane Lynch (Coach Sue) is hilarious.

Jane - you had me at Best in Show!!!

4. Dollhouse - All I can say is Echo is a bada$$! I love her guts and the concept is so cool. I mean - a illegal and underground group of people who have their personalities wiped clean so they can get any new personas. Plus they all have eternal amnesia - what a world! How cool is that! Wish I'd thought of it! Oh yeah, and Joss Whelon (who wrote Buffy) - can't wait to see your episode on Glee!!! Maybe Coach Sue and Mr Shu can have a rocking fight scene.

5. CW and Fox Reality shows - Give me Top model, Runway, American Idol, or So You Think You Can Dance any day. I love seeing regular people make it. OK OK so maybe it's staged, but I'll take a fake "making it" over no "making it" any day. Makes me think everyone has a shot in this business if you keep pushing for it.

It gives me hope and I love the see the underdog win.

PS maybe tomorrow I will list my next 5! Yes, that's right, the teen list goes on. Maybe Ill even start a feature called Teen Tuesday where I will list another teen thing I love.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Publisher's Sales Department (Eric from Pimp My Novel)

Hi Eric. Thanks for joining us. Before you give us some inside scoop into the Sales Department, tell us more about you and what you do.

I grew up in the northeast and have always felt at home there, so moving to New York City after college made sense for me even before I considered a career in book publishing. I've worked in both marketing and sales in the industry over the past few years, with my most recent stint in sales being with one of the larger accounts. My primary role is to assist two of the reps in their day-to-day jobs of selling a selection of our overall list to our assigned account.

Can you tell us the difference between publicity and marketing?

As for publicity versus marketing--the main difference is that publicity is coverage you don't pay for (e.g. a spot on Good Morning America, a New York Times book review), whereas marketing is coverage you do pay for (such as full-page ads in the New York Times, some forms of co-op advertising, &c).

Being in Sales, can you give us some insight as to your typical day?

I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post a few weeks ago about my typical day,but in brief: I spend a typical day doing administrative work (replying to e-mail inquiries, sending mailings to the accounts, copying and filing expense reports, and so on), tracking sales data from the accounts, reviewing bestseller list information, checking and updating co-op information, and building a sales kit (a packet of information detailing all major aspects of a book) for each title the reps plan to sell on their next sales calls.

Before the book is acquired, what is sales role in the acquisitions process? What makes or breaks (from a sales/marketing) the acquisition of a book that book editors love?

Sales generally comes into the picture after acquisition, since the profit-and-loss statement helps separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff (sales-wise, anyway) without our direct input. (For more on the P&L, see my recent series. Sales will generally see the book at informational meetings after acquisition, at which point numbers will start to firm up a little more.

Does sales/marketing Google authors to evaluate their online presence or platform?

Sometimes. This is pure speculation, but I imagine editorial does this more in the early stages than sales or marketing would. Certainly I or my bosses have been known to Google authors of books that have already been acquired and are going to be sold in soon in order to gather more information or to use their on-line platforms as selling points (e.g. "This author has a blog with tens of thousands of followers," "the author website gets X number of hits per month"). Sales calls move pretty quickly and there may not be time to bring these points up, but they may be good ammunition if you're trying to get a buyer to increase his/her buy.

What goes into creating a concept for a book cover? Does the author/illustrator have input?

This is something the art department handles, and I'm afraid I don't know too much about it. From what I've seen, the author doesn't have a huge amount of influence over the cover, although there are exceptions (the author is a major celebrity, the author is an artist who insists on doing his/her own cover art, &c). The author sees the cover before publication, though, and I don't think I've seen a book go on-sale with a cover the author absolutely hated.

During marketing process of a book, how can an author work best with the sales and marketing department?

Authors rarely work directly with sales or marketing, since their relationship with the publishing house is generally mediated through their agent and editor. However, I have gotten the opportunity to meet/work with a few well-known authors, usually accompanying them around to local stores to sign stock, helping coordinate their appearances at conventions like Comic-Con or BEA, and so on. The best way an author can work with sales is to let their agent and editor know they're willing to do whatever it takes to sell themselves and their book, and if the editor and agent have an idea that involves getting the author together with some of the sales folk, they'll make it happen.

What would you say are the 3 things authors can influence the most in the book marketing process? What is out of their hands?

I think the three most important things an author can influence during the book marketing process are: 1.) Writing a great, salable book; 2.) Keeping up their on-line presence (author website, Facebook, Twitter, and so on) in order to maintain interest in them and their work and garner a loyal fan base; and 3.) Bring any positive reviews, media attention, &c they may receive to their agent's attention. Chances are their agent and publishing house will already be aware of these things, but it never hurts to double check. As an author, you can't afford any missed marketing opportunities.

That said, pretty much everything else (advertisement, promotional placement, &c) is out of the author's hands. That's what the marketing and sales teams are for, and the author needs to trust that those industry professionals know what they're doing.

What else can you share with us about your role in publishing and how authors can best utilize this role in their marketing?

Since I could go on for days about this, I'm going to take the opportunity to sell myself a bit and direct all you folks to my blog: http://pimpmynovel.blogspot.com/.

For more tips on what you can do, see my blog post on the subject.

Thanks for coming today, Eric!

Thanks Shelli.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Life lessons to a younger me

Dear younger Shelli,

I'm here to tell you that life turns out better than you ever expected. And I have a few pieces of advice that will make your life a lot easier.

Here are a few tips:
  1. Remember the business class you took over creative writing....big mistake. Dangling modifiers will mean more to you than ROIs.
  2. The typing class that you slacked off in...trust me... typing from Home Row is critical to your future. Remember two words - The Claw!
  3. All beautiful kids who are mean to you in high school...tell them not to be so cocky. Our 20th reunion will reveal all.
  4. When you get in trouble for your messy handwriting...it doesn't matter. Computers take over and you'll never have to "write freehand" again.
  5. The cute guy you start dating in college. Dump him! He will break your heart. Oh yeah, and he loses all his hair too.
  6. The soap opera you skip class for because you're afraid you might miss an episode? Let me just tell you that Days of our Lives is still on and you wont miss a thing. Bo and Hope are still together and Stefano is still crazy.
  7. For all the times you have to decide between cheering and chorus? Don't worry, a show called "Glee" makes singing and dancing cool again.
  8. The reason you love to read so much....is because one day you will be a writer. Keep reading!
  9. Write down everything and keep all your journals. Some day they will be considered priceless "research".
  10. It's not so bad taking your drivers exam in a 1984 van. When you move to the city, parallel parking will be a breeze!
  11. Don't get too excited about mastering Atari and flipping PacMan or Space Invaders. It gets much harder on Xbox.
  12. Your parents love you and mean well...and most of the time - they are right. Except when they tell you to go for the money.
  13. Your little brother won't always annoy you. Someday you'll forgive each other for the countless wedgies and be the best of friends.
  14. Friends will come and go. Don't worry, the ones you need will be the ones you keep. The ones you lose end up being crazy anyway.
  15. All those fashion faux pas you make - macrame tops, parachute pants, and Indian moccasins? They will probably all come back in style in some form anyway. (oh yeah and someday, thick glasses will be cool!)
  16. Whatever you do - do NOT perm your naturally curly hair or spray Sun-In at the beach, you will pay dearly.
  17. All I can say is - blue eye shadow and pink lipstick are not your best colors!
  18. All the mistakes you make don't matter in the long run. Including getting kicked off the cheerleading squad and a D in Trigonometry.
  19. All those times you worry about your weight. Let it go. You haven't seen yourself pregnant yet.
  20. Don't worry...you will get a first kiss, you will marry, and you will live happily ever after.
Love always,

Your wiser self!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Five/Marketing Round Up (10/23)

Here are my favs for the week:

The Buzz you have to do yourself
- Sharing the panel with a professional publicist illuminated the fact that "Creating a buzz" about your book means two different things.

Social networking sites are like real estate - The cost of “investing” in “premium” social networking land is basically the time it takes to sign up, so this is what I tell authors to do: Even if you don’t plan on using a social networking technology, claim your little piece of it.

Simple checklist for getting known - A few things you can do to get known, build a platform, and get readers.

Book launches - Your time, energy and money are precious commodities; how and where you spend them largely determines the fate of your work’s success.

Be careful with the Block button! - You never know who they know. But do you care?

Have a good weekend! :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Realm of Joy

My cyberfriend, Realm Love Joy, is a beautifully talented artist!

I'm not talking "oh yeah you draw good."

I'm talking "bad ass, effing, amazing art." The kind you stand in front of and gasp because you can find no words to describe the awesomeness.

Anyway, Realm asked me for an interview and of course I said YES! Because guess what? She draws the main characters of her interviewees! How awesome is that!

So here is Gabriella (Gabby) from On the Bright Side.

Isn't it beautiful?

Go check out Realm's work and my interview :)

Thanks Realm! You are awesome!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yo! New Website is up and rockin'!

Hey guys!

I hit 300 followers today (What???!!!!) and 40,000 hits on blog this week (in just 11 months!) - whoaaaa doggie!! I cannot believe! Thanks so much to everyone for this!!!!

Come see my new website! Just launched today - took longer than I thought!

Thanks to hubby for spending so much time finishing it for me!!!!! (Love you babe!)


Let me know what you think.

Note: For some reason the arrows are not working today - grrrrr! you can drag the white flower next to the scroll box to see lower! (*raises fists to heavens and yells "technology sometimes i curse thee!"

On a hilariously funny note- check this video out about getting an agent - it had me cracking up! (If you want to see the rest of it - go to the YouTube page)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Michael Stearns (Upstart Crow Literary)

Hi Michael! Thanks so much for taking time away from your new agency to visit us. First, tell me a little about yourself.

I sort of talked my way into my first publishing job when I was just out of college. An assistant in the children’s books division at Harcourt in San Diego went off on maternity leave, and they needed someone for six weeks. I had no editorial experience—I was a film school graduate who had, at the time, been painting houses for under-the-table money with a crew of illegals. I figured, “Children’s books? Easy!” and wrote a cocky letter that assumed I would be hired. To my eternal surprise, I was hired, despite the letter. I learned very quickly how difficult it can be to publish good children’s books. They kept me around, and eventually I worked my way up and into various director positions there and at Harper Collins before going into the agenting side of things about eighteen months ago. And ten weeks ago, I launched my own agency, Upstart Crow Literary, and we (myself, Chris Richman, Danielle Chiotti, and Ted Malawer) are off to a grand start.

Does your agency have a website/blog?

We have a website and embedded within it, a blog, and both launched at the same time—roughly the end of the first week in August. I do the small work of editing the site when necessary (rewriting copy, such as the landing page letter and the copy in the ticker box), and for bigger overhauls, I have a crackerjack designer I work with, Symon Chow, who has a real genius for creating beautiful things. Right now he is overhauling our author page, because with the addition of Ted and Danielle’s clients, our author list has more than doubled.

My intention is for us to post something to the blog every day—sometimes silly, other times heady, but usually book-and-writing-oriented—because I feel it’s important to be part of an ongoing dialogue with people in the field. Not just would-be clients, but our clients and other writer friends who share a passion for good books and writing. It’s fun.

In your opinion , what are the top 3 things every author should and must do to promote their book?

Having a website is pretty much standard and the least you can do. If someone is interested in you or your work, they will go to the web, and better if you can control the story of what they read there. Building a site isn’t hard at all, but if that isn’t your bag, you can probably find someone to do it for you. As for blogs, they are a fine idea if you remain true to the blog. It can be hard to post everyday, but if your content is not to grow stale, daily posting is pretty necessary, else the blog becomes a bit of a graveyard, something people find in a search and blow the dust off of before moving off and never coming back. Probably the best thing I’ve seen in recent years are the ways groups of debut authors have banded together to promote together the publications of their books. One new author is only of passing interest, but a clutch of them together? Well, that is the sort of thing that might fill a bookstore for a signing. Or be attractive to groups who are looking for speakers.

What things do Publishers expect in terms of Marketing?What does the average author receive or is it different, depending on the book?

The marketing provided by the publisher varies depending upon many factors—the perceived “size” of the book; the response of accounts to the book (many “big” books became less so when booksellers hated the finished product); the author’s track record; the possibility that a book may hook into some zeitgeisty movement or moment or holiday season or what-have-you. There’s a bitterly funny piece in this week’s New Yorker mocking how very feeble some publishing marketing campaigns are, but really, it’s not nearly that bad.

There is a base of support that every book gets. Review copies sent to all the major journals and magazines and television and radio stations who care about books. This is done pro forma, boxes loaded up and sent away. I can only imagine what the offices of these places look like during high season. For some books that inspire special passions, the publicist will call and pitch the title specifically. But getting that kind of dedicated publicity push is rare, because it is time-consuming and expensive. When a book seems to be gaining momentum (starred reviews, impassioned pitches from readers, whatever), publishers often will chase that book with more promotion, to try and get something bigger to happen.

We saw that happen this spring and summer with Rebecca Stead’s amazing When You Reach Me, which is the definition of a grassroots campaign. That book hit the bestseller lists, and it did it because people loved it. Not because there were commercials or subway ads or previews at movie theaters or book trailers or any such folderol. It was about love. The editor and many people in the house sent out galleys with personal letters, or pushed them on readers personally, and readers really responded. And word of mouth carried it up the lists.

Anymore these days, that’s the surest way to market effectively: Do what you can to create positive word-of-mouth. Can you get galleys to big-mouth reviewers and bloggers? Can you get people to talk about your book? What can you do to get people to read and discuss your book?

What things do you expect an author to do on their own?

A website, but more importantly, to be available, and to have extra content available, and to make yourself a presence on the web and thereby in the world. Michael Grant reads and responds to every review a kid posts of GONE on Goodreads, even if just to click that he read and liked it. That matters. Those readers feel connected—even a tiny bit—to the author, and that will help future books in the series and in generating that word-of-mouth.

I also like authors who have “extras” on their sites, like the director’s supplements on special edition DVDs. I love seeing those scenes that got cut or revised for whatever reason. Yes, it may destroy the fictive dream of the book. But if it is something that someone somewhere may link to, it helps keep your book in a possible reader’s mind.

Corey Doctorow gave away Little Brother online for those who were interested in reading it for free. That is kind of awesome. He wrote something to the effect that his worry isn’t internet piracy of his books, his worry is not being noticed at all. It’s a noisy world out there, and having your audience hear of your book and become interested in reading it is the big challenge.

When evaluating whether to take on an author or book, do you ever google them to see if they already have a web presence or platform?

Do I Google new authors? Sure. Am I looking for the oft-bandied-about-but-never-adequately-defined-buzzword “platform”? God, no. I wouldn’t know a platform if I saw it. Unless you have some renown in another field that will get you coverage and attention “off the book page”—you are a famous chef, say, or a star of The Hills, or the President’s go-to person on education, or whatever)—I am skeptical of self-created platforms. People ask me about this at conferences—”Should I have my platform finished?” “Would you like to know my platform?” But most days, the only platforms that concern me are the ones I can dance on.

Seriously, in web searches I look to see what I can learn about the author—crazy as a soup sandwich? (as Harlan Ellison might say); secret author of porn?; star of her own reality television series? It’s all part of the research to see who I am dealing with. As for “platforms,” If the core audience for your platform is 500 people who read your blog, that’s great but hardly something that will sell a books. If your core audience is, however, five million, then that’s something else entirely.

Be engaged, certainly. But don’t mistake the cart for the horse.

I’m interested in books first and foremost.

Thanks for joining us today!

Thanks Shelli!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Release and Surrender

Last week, I had a minor panic attack about the whole publishing business.

As I get closer to sending "my baby" out into the big world of publishing, the reality hits me.

This is it! This is where the rubber meets the road (I sound like my dad!). This is where everything I've done the last few years, the sacrifices I have made, the ones my family have made comes down to this moment in time.

The prospect of getting published someday suddenly freaks me out!

For the past 5 years, I've dreamed of writing a kick-butt book, getting an agent, going out on submission. I've dreamed of agents fighting over me, editors wanting my book. Authors wishing to blurb. I even dreamed of going to auction. Dreamed of finally making some money off my writing.

I've dreamed of becoming a published author.

It was nothing but hope that got me to where I am today.

Now, there is no going back. No do-over's. No more room for dreaming.

My dream either "will or will not" become my true reality. How that happens remains to be seen.

But the reality is - sometimes it does and then sometimes it doesn't. You never know.

This business is finicky and no matter how great your writing is or your idea, sometimes your dream flies and sometimes it floats around, sometimes it hits the dirt.

That is the reality.

My problem? Reality is not an option for me. Never has been. I dream big. And I dont' give up those dreams for a dumb thing called "reality".

I've resorted to doing Bikram Yoga to get the weight off my chest. The heavy one that makes me feel as if I cannot breathe. The one that comes from excitement mixed with anxiety mixed with fear.

This has happened to me throughout my journey. I got this same way when I was looking for an agent. I got to a point where I could not sleep, could not stop checking my statcounter or email, could not write. And I could not breath.

I got so attached to the outcome. I eventually said out loud one day, "It doesn't matter what happens. I will write no matter what anyway. I need to just let go of my attachment to the result and enjoy the journey."

Because you know what? The journey is fun...if you let go of stressing about the end result. There is no end result. There are just milestones.

Well let me tell you that "feeling" doesn't go away after you finish a book or even get an agent. That feeling is a shapeshifter and it somehow comes back to you in a different form. It comes back in disguise. And it took me a while to realize it.

My friend asked me the other day - "So writing makes you so anxious, why do it?"

I said, "It doesn't make me anxious until I think about the publishing side of it."

She simply said, "Then don't think about that."

And it dawned on me. She's right. Why am I hanging on so tightly to being published. As if it ends there?

I have to let that go. I have to have faith and enjoy the process. Because - let me tell you - so far the process itself has been fun. Hard. But FUN. As long as I release my focus on an end result or unrealistic expectations - I am so happy and calm.

Yesterday, with a friend ) I pull a Tarot card from my Angel deck someone gave me when I got an agent (for my angel book).

(I dont live by these things, but I do think it's fun to believe in that stuff - dreams, tarot cards, numerology, astrology readings, signs from the universe ect. You name it. Anything that can possibly give me any additional insight into my future or path, is welcome. please don't unfollow me for this!!! :)

Guess what card I got (out of like 100 cards).

Release and Surrender.

Here is what it said:

"Open your arms and release the challenges that you've held so tightly within your hands. Open your hands, arms, mind and heart to assistance. You have been trying to control a situation in your life. You must emotionally let go and have faith that a higher power can do a better job. Surrendering does not mean you are giving up, it just assures you of happiness and a better outcome. Don't worry about how your question will be answered. Release the need for control and trust all will work out."

It's so true. We hold on so tightly to outcomes that we freak ourselves out along the way.

I let go during the writing process and wrote a godo book. I let go during the agent process and and got an amazing agent. I let go during my revisions process and my book evolved.

Now, I am going to do it again.

I am letting go of expectations, fame, fortune, and my tight attachment to outcomes and results. I am going back to enjoying the process.

Because the truth is - when I focus on the writing and how I feel when I am doing it. My heart is full and I am elated. The minute I take myself out of the journey to try and see, predict or guess what the future holds or where I will be, I feel as if a weight drops from the sky and lands on my chest.

So today, I release and surrender.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Friday Five/Marketing Round Up (10/16)

First things first

Bryan over at Random Thoughts gave me a Literary Blogger award last month (sorry I'm so late Bryan!).

I'm going to change the rules up a bit since I just gave out an award. Instead of listing out 7 more boring things about myself and awarding to 7 bloggers, I'm going to award award this to the 7 books I've read recently that you have to go check out! It just so happens that they are also all bloggers :) (lucky for me!)

1. Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (this was a hot angel book - with a few vampires - before angels were hot!)

2. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (A great book about the afterlife)

3. I'd tell you I love you but then I have to kill you by Ally Carter (I am just now reading this series. It's a fun girl spy book!)

4. Peonies in Love by Lisa See (older book but awesome! I just reread it! It is haunting to say the least.)

5. The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan (Scary!)

6. Lipstick Apology - by Jennifer Jabaley (funny and touching)

7. Hush Hush by Becca Fitzgerald (am just reading this but I'm going to put it on my list because so far it is good and Becca is another blogger buddy of mine! :)

Marketing Favs

Article to all publishers and Agents
- get out there and promote your author's books!

What I learned.... my bloggie buddy, Kristin Tubb, recaps everything she learned about the book process (including marketing) over her first year of publication!

Book Marketing Event - To sign up for the 21st Century Book Marketing Event at the beautiful Catamaran Resort in San Diego.

How to promote your books - As the Director of Marketing and Promotion at Sheaf House Publishers, effective marketing is a balance between the old techniques that still work and new relational marketing using technology.

Twitter Lists are live - Twitter appears to be in the midst of rolling out its new LIST feature that allows users to create a list of people that others can follow with one-click.

Don't put your eggs in one network - Greg tells us that it’s important to have different ways to communicate with your network, particularly key members of it.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Let's makeup!

The last few months have been slammed with edits and kids back in school (yada yada yada!)

I have some belated Pay it Forwards to do.

Lemonade Award

Diane over at Writer Roller Coasters nominated me for a very cute award, known as the Lemonade Award. Yay for turning lemons into lemonade, one of life's sweetest recipes! You have to award it to 10 recipients - I only did 5.

Here are my recipients:

Susan Mills over at Walk in my shoes who somehow finds a shoe for every writing analogy possible.

Heidi Willis at Some Mad Hope for holding onto hers.

Bj Andersen at Hope Springs Eternal for her Book Trailer Tuesdays

Christina Farley at Chocolate for Inspiration because I love hearing about her adventures in Korea

Holly Cupala at Brimstone Soup because she is a great contributor to readergirlz which BTW is having teen read week next week.

I know my ABCs

I love these meme's. And they're a great opportunity to learn a bit more about each other. Karen over at Novels During Naptime tagged me. (great name right? its how I wrote my first book!) Go check out her blog if you haven't already because (a) she's a mom! (yay mommy writers!) and (b) she's a self proclaimed sassy pants. (not to mention she won an award of her picture book at MidSouth!)

So....here goes:

Available or in a relationship? Relationship

Best Friend? my hubby

Cake or Pie? Cake (Cheesecake factory's Dulce cheesecake to be exact!)

Drink of choice? extra dirty martini (if it is supposed to be non-alcoholic - oops - then it would be sweet tea)

Essential item for every day use? an IV of Coffee (Its definitely not a shower!)

Favorite color? Black (oh crap that's not a color ) then bluish green.

Google? always, everyday, all day. It is my life (pathetic huh?)

Hometown? Born in St Louis - show me state!

Indulgences? right now? candy corn. Normally? Pomegranate dark chocolate

January or February? Jan - its a brand new year!

Kids and their names? Princess (5.5) (also known as baby girl, pooter pie, or Noodle bug) and prince (2.5) (also known as Buddy or tootle bug)

Life is incomplete without…? my family

Marriage date? nov 2002

Number of siblings? 1 younger brother

Oranges or apples? neither - grapes (am I a rebel or what?)

Phobias and fears? dying and leaving my kids behind

Quote for the day? Trust your gut, no matter what anyone tells you.

Reason to smile? I love y life and my kids are hilarious

Season? Fall

T (there was no t) so I am going to do my own. TV show - Glee!!!!!

Unknown fact about me? I have a green belt in Tae Kwon Do. (You scared yet?)

Vegetable you hate? its a toss up between asparagus and beets (YUK!)

Worst habit? too many to pick one. playing with my hair which only leads to more frizz, interrupting (my brain is too fast) or constantly rubbing my eyes (i wear contacts)

X-rays you’ve had? you name it - Ive had it. seriously - everything but my lungs has been scanned in some way.

Your fave food? La paz Mexican cheese dip (its got 8 cheeses in it people!)

Zodiac? Virgo and proud of it!

I'm going to tag.....Little Ms J (cuz her's have got to be funnier than mine!)

If someone else gave me something or tagged me - please let me know again. I think there were a couple others but I cant find them :(

Thanks for the tags and awards!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Holly Root (Waxman Agency)

Hi Holly, thanks for stopping by. Before I pick your brain about marketing, tell us a little about yourself.

Sure, Shelli. Thanks for having me. I started out in publishing in my hometown of Nashville, TN. I worked for a Christian publisher in the children's division before moving to NY and hopping the fence to the world of agenting. My first job in New York was as an agent trainee at the William Morris Agency, and then I moved to Trident Media Group. I came to Waxman Agency in the spring of 2007 where I am currently representing authors of both fiction (young adult/middle grade, commercial women's fiction, romance and mystery) and nonfiction (self-help/relationships, lifestyle, soft business, and narrative).

At Waxman, we have both an agency site and an agency blog. I do a lot of the blog management--but if you have a question for any of Team Waxman to tackle, please do pass it on! I also twitter and really enjoy connecting with authors there (I don't auto-follow back but I do check out my @repliers. And if none of that made a lick of sense to you, I promise Twitter does get easier!).

I think I'm following you in every sphere possible :) In your opinion , what are the top 3 things every author should and must do to promote their book?

In general, I think you have to be human and remember others are too. 2. Work your connections. 3. Have an author web site that is clean, professional, and updated regularly.

1. Social networking and the internet have opened up a huge opportunity for authors to spread the word about their work. But they've also introduced new and exciting ways to shoot yourself in the foot. Approach all interactions with thoughtful humility and remember that the people on the other end are not just book-buying-bots. Making a real connection on a human level will make your friends or followers or readers that much more excited to see your book soar. Don't we all love it when nice guys finish first?

2. Along those lines your connections are your base. If you're asking people to go out on a limb with you (whether it's an event, a promotion, or just plonking down cash for your book), they're much more likely to do that if they already feel some sort of vaguely positive emotion toward you. I'd rather you focus on relationship-building with your local booksellers or doing a self-funded friends & family "tour" than spend your time composing a package to send to Oprah. An extreme example, but in many cases those "big" efforts result in authors trying to do things a publisher is better set up to do, or that aren't useful expenditures of time. Think about the markets of people you know would love your book (hopefully because you yourself are part of that group), but that are perhaps too niche for a publisher to focus on. You can reach those people. All the social networking sites are tools you can use to get to your people. And people want to be part of your success--if you give back and remember connections aren't just one-way.

3. No dancing kitten .gifs would be my preference, much though I love kittens. Err on the side of simple and readable when in doubt. Have some humanizing details (it's all about connection) and make sure it's easy to click-to-buy your book! I don't think this site has to be up before your book sells to a publisher, either, though it's fine if it is.

Oh good, I don't have any dancing kittens! How important is technology to an author’s marketing plan?

It's fabulous if you have a tech aspect to your platform. But if it's not proven, it just won't be very persuasive to a publisher, and if you present it like it's impressive and it isn't, then you risk looking small-time. If you tout your blog with its audience of 150 readers...those numbers won't be compelling to a publisher--they're more of a nice start. Saying "I will get 1500 Twitter followers" is nice but how do we know that 1) you can do it and 2) it sells books? I'd focus more on conveying that you are part of a community that will support a work like yours, whether it's YA authors who have offered to let you do a blog tour (a promo idea I love) or the Jane Austen websociety you co-chair with its 30,000 subscribers. Also focus on existing things, rather than hypotheticals: ie, you write for the Huffington Post and they'll link your books next to your columns, rather than you will start a blog and get lots of hits somehow.

Most of all you want to demonstrate that you are reasonably tech-savvy and willing to work on it. I'd rather you show me that (say, by joining in the conversation on Twitter or by having a blog, even if it's basic and not yet about your published-ness) than tell it to me. I definitely swing by to see what people's online presence is like; it's often a good cue as to whether we're likely to be a fit. I know editors who do the same.

Do you feel it is beneficial for authors to team up and promote books as a group? Why?

I am a big fan of this, although you do have to choose the team wisely. The best case scenario is, you've got a group of authors who are enough alike that readers of one would probably like the others, but different enough that you get a range of points of view. It shares the time commitment of promotional work and I think, with multiple voices in the conversation, it's less likely to turn into a me-fest. Two of my clients blog together with four other debut authors at The Novel Girls and I love their Topics of the Week, and the different takes each one has on the subject at hand.

I think you can also do things in a group setting that are less about promotion, per se--for instance, Living Your Five is run by four YA authors, but it's about something so much bigger than "buy our books"--they're out to make a difference, and bringing together their readers & fans to do so. The power of the group at its best!

What things do Publishers expect in terms of Marketing? What does the average author receive or is it different, depending on the book?

Publicists are the busiest people in the business, and the least appreciated to boot. So having an author who's out there spreading the word, especially an author who expresses gratitude for the efforts of the house, is a recipe for happy publisher. (I would advise against any dispatches that start "You aren't doing jack for my book so I'm doing it myself." Strongly advise against.)

I don't think publishers "expect" anything from authors, per se. But they also know that an author who is smart about promotion and publicity can make a big difference between a book that does just OK and a book that quietly outperforms expectations. Publishers necessarily have to focus on the wide angle, whether that's just flat-out getting the book in stores, or securing co-op, or a special push for libraries. A savvy author can go for the close-up, the local and affinity based efforts, and I find houses generally very supportive of those sorts of efforts.

But when you're preparing for your own plans and figuring out what you need from your house, be thoughtful about how much work that "tiny favor" or six you're asking for creates on the other end of things for your editor or publicist. Your agent should be able to give you a sense of whether what you've got in mind is something the house might want to share in, or best handled on your own.

Finally, as an agent, what (if any) things do you expect an author to do in terms of marketing?

I want my authors to be out there connecting with readers and potential readers, whether via blog or twitter or even in real life, or best yet, all three. Different approaches are right for different kinds of personalities and books. I expect authors to ask questions if they're unsure of what to do next, and to conduct themselves professionally even when frustrated. Beyond that, I want authors to play to their strengths, because you can always tell when someone has a blog only because someone told them that to move copies you have to have a blog (exchange "blog" for whatever other promo tool suits). No two authors' promotional efforts will look exactly the same, and that's a good thing.

Thanks Holly for the great advice!

Thanks Shelli!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Friday Five/Marketing Round Up

First, check out my marketing on one of my favorite blogs, A Walk in My Shoes. She relates every writing post to a pair of shoes and we all know how much we love shoes!

Here are my fav marketing posts for the week:

Promoting with Virtual Tours - In the process of promoting, what became clear to these authors is that the people they thought would be most interested in our book could best be reached through social networking.

Why won't publisher's blog?
Can it be that there are still book publishers out there who don't see the relationship between blogging and book promotion?

Brilliant thoughts on Marketing from Elizabeth Law (Egmont)
- As Vice President and Publisher of Egmont Books, she was certainly in a position to give us a wealth of information on the industry.

Press release mistake #1
- Answers the critical question: ”How do I research and use keywords in my press releases so the search engines can find them and bring targeted traffic to the release, and then, to my website?”

Can retweeting help you write a better blog?
Tweeting isn’t just a tool for techies any more. It had become mainstream and a great way to reach my audience.

Have a great weekend and holiday on Monday!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Monday, October 05, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Christina Katz, author of Get Known Before the Book Deal

Christina, Thank you so much for joining us today. I know you have some great advice on marketing. First, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal (Writer’s Digest Books). She started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on “Good Morning America.” Christina teaches e-courses on platform development and writing nonfiction for publication. Her students are published in national magazines and land agents and book deals. Christina has been encouraging reluctant platform builders via her e-zines for five years, has written hundreds of articles for national, regional, and online publications, and is a monthly columnist for the Willamette Writer. A popular speaker at writing conferences, writing programs, libraries, and bookstores, she hosts the Northwest Author Series in Wilsonville, Oregon. She is also the author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writer’s Digest Books).

I know you talk about this in your book, but can you explain in simple terms, what exactly is a platform?

Long story short: Your platform communicates your expertise to others, and it works all the time so you don’t have to. Your platform includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership. If others already recognize your expertise on a given topic or for a specific audience or both, then that is your platform.

A platform-strong writer is a writer with influence. Get Known explains in plain English, without buzzwords, how any writer can stand out from the crowd of other writers and get the book deal. The book clears an easy-to-follow path through a formerly confusing forest of ideas so any writer can do the necessary platform development they need to do.

Why do you think platform development is so important for writers today?

Learning about and working on a solid platform plan gives writers an edge. Agents and editors have known this for years and have been looking for platform-strong writers and getting them book deals. But from the writer’s point-of-view, there has not been enough information on platform development to help unprepared writers put their best platform forward.

Now suddenly, there is a flood of information on platform, not all necessarily comprehensive, useful or well organized for folks who don’t have a platform yet. Writers promote themselves in a gradual, grounded manner without feeling like they are selling out. I do it, I teach other writers to do it, I write about it on an ongoing basis, and I encourage all writers to heed the trend. And hopefully, I communicate how in a practical, step-by-step manner that can serve any writer. Because ultimately, before you actively begin promoting yourself, platform development is an inside job requiring concentration, thoughtfulness and a consideration of personal values.

Why do you think a book on platform development is needed?

Writers often underestimate how important platform is and they often don’t leverage the platform they already have enough. At every conference I presented, I took polls and found that about 50 percent of attendees expressed a desire for a clearer understanding of platform. Some were completely in the dark about it, even though they were attending a conference in hopes of landing a book deal. Since book deals are granted based largely on the impressiveness of a writer’s platform, I noticed a communication gap that needed to be addressed.

My intention was that Get Known would be the book every writer would want to read before attending a writer’s conference, and that it would increase any writer’s chances of landing a book deal whether they pitched in-person or by query. As I wrote the book, I saw online how this type of information was being offered as “insider secrets” at outrageous prices. No one should have to pay thousands of dollars for the information they can find in my book for the price of a paperback! Seriously. You can even ask your library to order it and read it for free.

What is the key idea behind Get Known Before the Book Deal?

Getting known doesn’t take a lot of money, but it does take an in-depth understanding of platform, and then the investment of time, skills and consistent effort to build one. Marketing experience and technological expertise are also not necessary. I show how to avoid the biggest time and money-waster, which is not understanding who your platform is for and why – and hopefully save writers from the confusion and inertia that can result from either information overload or not taking the big picture into account before they jump into writing for traditional publication.

Often writers with weak platforms are over-confident that they can impress agents and editors, while others with decent platforms are under-confident or aren’t stressing their platform-strength enough. Writers have to wear so many hats these days, we can use all the help we can get. Platform development is a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Anyone can do it, but most don’t or won’t because they either don’t understand what is being asked for, or they haven’t overcome their own resistance to the idea. Get Known offers a concrete plan that can help any writer make gains in the rapidly changing and increasingly competitive publishing landscape.

Can you explain more about the structure of the book?

Writer Mama was written in small, easy-to-digest chunks so busy moms could stick it in a diaper bag and read it in the nooks and crannies of the day. To make platform evolution easy to comprehend, I had to dial the concepts back to the beginning and talk about what it’s like to try and find your place in the world as an author way before you’ve signed a contract, even before you’ve written a book proposal. No one had done that before in a book for writers. I felt writers needed a context in which to chart a course towards platform development that would not be completely overwhelming.

Introducing platform concepts to writers gives them the key information they need to succeed at pitching an agent either via query or in-person, making this a good book for a writer to read before writing a book proposal.

Get Known has three sections: section one is mostly stories and cautionary tales, section two has a lot of to-do lists any writer should be able to use, and section three is how to articulate your platform clearly and concisely so you won’t waste a single minute wondering if you are on the right track.

I have the book and it is definitely easy to read and really starts writers at the beginning of the process. At the front of Get Known, you discuss four phases of the authoring process. What are they?

First comes the platform development and building phase. Second comes the book proposal development phase (or if you are writing fiction, the book-writing phase). Third, comes the actual writing of the book (for fiction writers this is likely the re-writing of the book). And finally, once the book is published, comes the book marketing and promoting phase.

Many first-time authors scramble once they get a book deal if they haven’t done a thorough job on the platform development phase. Writers who already have a platform have influence with a fan base, and they can leverage that influence no matter what kind of book they write. Writing a book is a lot easier if you are not struggling to find readers for the book at the same time. Again, agents and editors have known this for a long time.

What are some common platform mistakes writers seem to make?

Here are a few:

  • They don’t spend time clarifying who they are to others.
  • They don’t zoom in specifically on what they offer.
  • They confuse socializing with platform development.
  • They think about themselves too much and their audience not enough.
  • They don’t precisely articulate all they offer so others get it immediately.
  • They don’t create a plan before they jump online.
  • They undervalue the platform they already have.
  • They are overconfident and think they have a solid platform when they have only made a beginning.
  • They become exhausted from trying to figure out platform as they go.
  • They pay for “insider secrets” instead of trusting their own instincts.
  • They blog like crazy for six months and then look at their bank accounts and abandon the process as going nowhere.

I’ll stop there. Suffice it to say that many writers promise publishers they have the ability to make readers seek out and purchase their book. But when it comes time to demonstrate this ability, they can’t deliver.

My mission is to empower writers to be 100 percent responsible for their writing career success and stop looking to others to do their promotional work for them. Get Known shows writers of every stripe how to become the writer who can not only land a book deal, but also influence future readers to plunk down ten or twenty bucks to purchase their book. It all starts with a little preparation and planning. The rest unfolds from there.

What three things can writers do today to stare building their platforms?

Don't start building your platform until you have clarity and focus. Otherwise you will likely just waste your precious time spinning your wheels. Or worse, fritter away your time with online distractions (and trust me, there are plenty!).

But once you know what your expertise is and what you are doing with it and for whom, then consider these three steps:

1. Start an e-mail list: Who are the people who like to hear about your writing success? Why not start a list in your address book with them and keep adding to it as time goes by. You can start by sending out simple regular announcements of good things that happen—just be sure to get permission. One way to get permission is to send an announcement about your work out to everyone you know and tell them that they can unsubscribe if they don’t want to be receive future messages from you on the topic. I strongly recommend that all writers read Permission Marketing by Seth Godin.

2. Create a simple website: Although social networking is fun, a proper writer’s website is not a Facebook or a Myspace page; it’s not even a blog. So save the detailed descriptions of your quirks and faves for the social networking you will do after you’ve built yourself a solid website to publicize your genuine writing credentials (creds) across the ethers while you are sleeping. And if you don’t have any genuine writing creds yet, getting some is an important first step. The step-by-step instructions are in Get Known.

3. Blog when it makes sense: Blogging can be great for writers assuming three things: 1) You have ample material to draw on and time to blog regularly. 2) You take the time to determine your appropriate audience, topic and your specific slant (or take) on your topic for your specific audience. 3) You don’t plan on starting a blog, blogging like mad for six weeks, and then disappearing from the face of the blogosphere without a trace. Preparation can prevent this common pitfall from happening to you.Don’t forget that platform development and building takes time. Once you are ready to get started, just do a little every day and you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish over time.

Thanks Christina for joining us!

Thanks Shelli!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Friday Five/Marketing Round Up (10/2)


I know a few of you have given me awards this past month and I SOOOOOOOOOO appreciate it. I have not had a chance to pass them on but I plan to once my book is turned in.

In addition, I have been tagged a couple of times and plan to follow through on that as well.

I also want to apologize for not visiting your blogs as must as I usually do - my time has been spent on finishing this book to go out on submission to editors. I promise to catch up! Thanks for understanding :)

Marketing Round Up

Here are my favs for the week:

Social networking questions -Editor Andrew Karre at Caralrhoda/Lerner Books has been talking about social networking in several places. Get his take!

So you want to be a speaker? Most of us are asked to speak on panels. Here are some tips on how to be a great speaker.

Self promotion - Some authors disdain it, some rejoice in it, while others have a love-hate relationship with it. It's all in the attitude.

Discuss board for book promoters - whether you are a reader, writer or in the business of promoting, this forum may interest you.

AME newsletter - AME does a great weekly newsletter with marketing advice.

Content does not market itself - One of the common misconceptions that some new bloggers start out with is that in order to find readers for their blog all they’ll have to do is regularly write quality content.

10 Golden rules for Social Media - Greg Pincus offers 10 Golden Rules for people or businesses (in publishing or otherwise) who want to engage with communities or individuals on social media.

Have a great weekend!