Saturday, March 14, 2009

Goodbye...Auf Wiedersehen

Well this will be my last post as a Novel Girl. In the last few months my writing schedule has become insanely hectic and I find myself with barely enough time for my family, let alone blogging. It is for this reason that we have all agreed that it is time for me to move on. Though it has been great to be a part of this online community of writers, I simply can't give it the time and attention is deserves. So I wish everyone the best in their creative and non-creative pursuits. Good luck and best wishes.


Friday, March 13, 2009

"Hello, My Name is..."

I hate sticky name tags.

Hate 'em.

You know - those ones that crazy-smiling, over-enthusiastic, organizer-ladies slap on the lapel of your jacket at "functions" just so that everyone can gaze down at your left boob in an attempt to figure out who the hell you are and whether it's worth their while to talk to you?

They either fall off, leaving you to wander the reception hall in obscurity, or they stick too well and, after you've left the party, they leave an unpleasant residue - which people still stare at, while at the same time deriving no useful information about you whatsoever.

Hate 'em. But even I have to admit that, applied correctly, they serve a purpose. And - in situations where they are used - they're almost always a vital necessity.

Well... self-promotion is a little like those sticky tags. So the key, it seems to me, is to make the dang things work somehow. How to be "sticky" but not "unpleasantly residual", as it were. How to invite interaction, disseminate information, and - at the same time - avoid gawkery and awkwardness.

To belabor the metaphor, and for the purposes of this post, let us consider the interwebs - and think of its many many many facets as the glue-backing on your tag. How many layers of adhesive do you need to make your name stick? Without getting annoying and gummy?

A website? A blog? Myspace? Facebook? Forums? Twitter? A whole whack of other stuff I don't understand and can't wrap my head around?

If you're nowhere, no one's going to find you.
If you're everywhere, you run the risk of becoming background noise.

As for my sticky tag, I've applied these adhesives:

A website - this is, for any author these days hoping to sell books to someone other than immediate family, a must. It's not even the adhesive, it's the fabric of the tag, itself.

A blog - This is really your first layer of glue. The place where your fans and the people you want to be your fans can find you and find out about you. Be warned though - it's a tricky sticky bit: you have to pay attention or the glue starts to weaken (mine was, admittedly, down to Elmer's White-strength while I was writing and revising bk2 and now I'm going to have to work to get it back up to Epoxy-strength! Anyone reading this now - go to my blog! Follow my blog! I'll wait!......... Okay! Back now? Awesome!! Hmm... I wonder if that'll work...) Right. So - tricky. Because the blog is one place where the unpleasant residue can really make its mark. Be careful what you say. Be mindful of how you present yourself. Of how you want potential readers to see you. The internets are forever.

And of course it goes without saying, there is this place, THE NOVEL GIRLS group blog. Sticky, pleasant, and ever-so-slightly lavender-scented!

Myspace - for me, this bit of adhesive is essential, because my audience for the WONDROUS STRANGE series is Young Adult. And Myspace is the Starbucks across the street from the Highschool. Plus, I've met an astounding number of really cool young people (and one or two creepy old guys who get de-friended right quick!) over there.

Facebook - another essential, and one which - again due to bk2 I let come a little unglued. Time once more for regular pastings - er - postings.

Forums - I belong to or frequent a select few regularly and they're terrific for networking and building friendships. Nice and sticky (apply blogging caveats as required). My favorite forum? HardcoreNerdity without a doubt. I also like Backspace (which is a membership site) and Absolute Write (which is not).

Twitter - I have heard it's like Crazee Glue. And, while I have yet to open the cap on that tube, I think there will come a day. I'm willing to entertain thoughts/suggestions on this one (couched in sticky-tag metaphor or not!)

A whole whack of other stuff I don't understand and can't wrap my head around - again... open to suggestions from those who have found sticky-mileage.

But you know what's even more important than the name tag? YOU. Once people have gotten past the initial introductions and the furtive boob-glancing, once they know WHO you are, they need to know WHAT you are. So smile. Be brilliant. Be funny. Don't hog the conversation. Have something interesting to say. Give out your contact information (where appropriate! remember the creepy old guys on myspace!). Do the circuit. Don't stand in the corner with the potted fig. Be friendly. Be helpful. Be the life of the party and - most important - HAVE FUN DOING IT.

Then, if your name tag accidentally falls off, there are people who will remember you and return it to you. And you will thank them because - somewhere along the line - you actually became fond the gummy little nuisance.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Author Promo 101?

If I’m being totally honest, promoting myself as an author has been one of the scariest parts of the publishing process for me. I’m much, much more comfortable sitting in front of the computer in my sweat pants with my cup of coffee, engrossed in creating my little fictional world, than I am, back here in the real one, where I know in order for people to read what I write, I actually have to promote myself.

Flash back to a year ago, just after I’d sold my book. I knew I’d have to promote myself, but I had no idea what to do or where to start – a terrifying thought in itself. Ok, making an author website seemed obvious, so I decided to start there. I did a little research online, checked out a lot of different authors' websites to see what I wanted, and in the process, came across some interesting articles on promotion. One thing I read said it was important to get your website set up right away, so that your publisher could include the site on your book jacket (Jacket copy is written and finalized months and months before the book actually comes out.). This realization (and the subsequent rush to get my website in order) was the beginning of Author Promo 101 for me – my oddly uneven and sometimes confusing self-taught course.

As I got my website together, I continued to check out other authors’ sites. I noticed a lot of other authors blogged and were on MySpace. Okay, laugh, if you want, but at first, I had no idea what MySpace even really was. I had this vague idea that it was some social site where teens hung out. But I figured since other authors were there, I should be, too, so I started an account. It took me a few months to actually figure out how and get the courage to friend people, and by then, according to my younger and much cooler sister, everyone had left MySpace for Facebook. So I started a Facebook account, too (which promptly became an addiction). And then a few months later I found Goodreads and started an account there as well.

Then there was the blogging – something it seemed every author did. So I started a blog last summer. But it took me a while to get around to writing the first post. Writing a blog post terrified me – though I knew no one was probably going to read it (and really, no one did at first), it was scary to know that whatever I wrote was being put out there into the universe, er, blogosphere for anyone’s consumption. But then The Novel Girls got together, and soon I was blogging every week, something that very quickly got me over my blogging fear.

Just when I got the hang of blogging, I received a box of advanced review copies of The September Sisters in the mail. And I realized I had no idea what to do with them! I figured I should be using them to help me promote, but how the heck was I supposed to do that? Eventually, some of the people I’d friended on MySpace started e-mailing me and asking me for ARCs. But at first, I wasn’t even sure who to send them out to, until I had a conversation with my agent and she mentioned something about book bloggers. Oh, I thought, feeling like a complete idiot, there are book bloggers?!

Yes, actually, there are. I’ve cyber-met a lot of them over the past few months. And they are awesome!! I sent out review copies to a bunch of them, and in the past two months I’ve also done a lot of interviews, guest posts, and contests with them as well (You can find links to all of them on my blog). The super talented Compulsive Reader even made a book trailer for The September Sisters, just because she’s really nice and she wanted to! (You can watch it here).

But now The September Sisters is out, my first unofficial “blog tour” is winding down, I’m a seasoned blogger and social networker, and this weekend, I have my very first in-person author appearance, when I’ll be speaking and signing books at The Tucson Festival of Books. (If you’re in Tucson, please, stop by and say hello!).

I know that soon it will be time start this process all over again for my second my book, The Life of Glass, which will be out next winter. It’s a prospect that feels much less daunting and much less scary the second time around. Dare I say, I may even be looking forward to it?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It's part of the package!

Self promotion. It's topics like this that make me stop and realize that sometimes I'm a walking paradox. On one hand I am quite the extravert . . . parties, meetings, speaking - I'm all about it. No problem at all. But when it comes to anything that might possibly come across as "hey, look at me, look at me!!" I run amuck. Sooooooo, when it comes to the release of my novel, Whistlin' Dixie In A Nor'easter, this September, I'm going to have to push all of the potential worries of boastfulness aside and concentrate on my innate ability to engage in conversation and enjoy the company of my potential audience. Afterall, I am proud of my book and I hope others can find as much enjoyment reading it as I have had writing it.

Promoting as an author is an essential part of the package!

And here's my new cover design. Maureen suggested I show everyone since I just got it last Thursday and I'm super excited about it!

I've still got a long six months until the pub date, which is toward the end of September. It was to be released in July but the brilliant marketing folks at Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press, decided to wait until the fall to take advantage of the peek season in Vermont. Since the book is set there, makes sense, right? First step in promotion.

As for what I am going to do to promote my novel, I've been thinking about it for years. I look forward to introducing myself to all of the bookstore personnel in my area, and I'm considering dropping off a pre-party favor. Not sure what it is going to be yet, but something that keeps my cover in their memory. Of course, like Maureen, I’ll offer to sign all of the books in stock and try to make an appointment with their marketing person in hopes of setting up a signing, or two, or three!

Also like Maureen, I want to throw the biggest party of my life. Some of my friends have already generously offered to host it, and I can think of nothing else but what I will wear. I'm going to take elements from the story and incorporate them into the party, such as serving peach dacquiris! Because, if nothing else, I’ve worked sooooooo hard for this moment and I am going to enjoy it!

It goes without saying, in this age of the World Wide Web, and “blogging” that I plan on a presence there also. I’m almost ready to upload my website, and I love my Wednesday blog with my new girlfriends here at The Novel Girls. I will also get in my car every weekend and hopefully set up signings at bookstores around the south. I’d love to attend conferences, and speak about the pursuit of dreams at any school that will have me.

Of course, all of this takes time and money. And in this economy . . . well, I refuse to give in to the fear. We, as authors, have put our heart and souls into the realization of our dreams and no stinking bad economy is going to take it from us.

There’s my Scarlett adage for the day. What's yours?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I've often heard publishing professionals say that as soon as the ink is dry on an author's contract, the promoting begins. And I get that, I really do. It's my job to sell my book. And really, who better?

But let me just be clear about how I feel about it:


OK, so now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk specifics. I'm still in the middle of figuring out exactly what my promo plans will entail, but I can give a few ideas of things I know I'll do.

1. Book Launch Party. Books? Good! Drinks? Good! Food? Good! This is an event I've always dreamed about. Me, dressed in some fabulous outfit, holding an elegant drink, mingling and sharing witty conversation with people who are buying my book up by the dozens.

Yes. Dreaming.

The reality is I'll probably spill something on myself within the first five minutes. And it'll probably be something like an entire glass of red wine. I'll talk too much, probably say inappropriate things and laugh too loudly. Sound like fun? Good! Because you're all invited! Time and location TBA!

2. Drop-in Book Signings My publicist told me that for official signings, book stores like to have at least 25 people there. Doesn't seem like a lot, right? Well, think about it. Random town in the middle of Indiana. You know no one. Which is exactly the amount of people who will come to your signings.

That's why I'm planning on doing a road trip, Maureen Author Style. The husband and the toddler will be dragged to every major bookstore in the Chicagoland and surrounding areas to pop in and offer to sign stock. Signed books sell faster and are less likely to be thrown in the bottom of the Discount Books 4 U bin. Or so I'm hoping.

I figure, if nothing else, I can threaten to unleash my kid on the store to see how quickly he can shred the co-op books and endcap displays. That threat might be quite effective.

3. Website and Blog In addition to blogging with my fab Novel Girls, I also have my own website and blog, where I post author news, talk about my latest books and discuss my love for '80s movies and Corey Feldman. Come and stop by! I occasionally post hilarious photos of my kid, to amuse and delight my readers. Which will probably force him into therapy as soon as he's able to say, "mercenary."

There's a bunch of other stuff I'm planning on doing like contests, giveaways and conferences, but those aren't totally firmed up yet, so I'm not going to bore everyone with the details of stuff I "might" do. But I'm not going to lie, it's tough to figure out what works and what doesn't.

If nothing else, I'll just stand outside stores wearing a homemade sandwich board advertising my book while ringing a bell. Works for the Salvation Army, right?

Monday, March 9, 2009

The, PROMOTING...of a New Author

I knew before I ever sold that I'd have to promote my books. In author-land, this fact is pretty much nailed into our heads while we're writing, trying to find an agent, and waiting to hear if we've sold our book(s). Promotion isn't scary, but trying to figure out what works, what doesn't, what results are worth the time and money can be a little overwhelming.

The thing is, what works for one author very well might not be successful for another author. After all, we're all individuals with varying amounts of resources (both cash and time). In addition, what one author is comfortable with might completely freak out another. So, one of the first things I did after learning about my sale was to create a "possible promo list."

When I wrote this list, I literally wrote every single thing that came to me. Even things I knew I might not be able to afford and those that were outside my comfort zone. Then, when I had the opportunity to speak with the amazing marketing manager at Dorchester (Erin Galloway), she gave me a few other ideas.

What I ended up going with were things that 1) I could afford, 2) didn't eat up too much time, and 3) I knew I'd be able to accomplish. Which meant, for me, having a professionally designed web site, blog, and book trailer; guest blogging wherever anyone wanted me; this blog here; purchasing ad space on certain online romance fiction web sites; running contests; and connecting with local booksellers.

I'd have liked to do more, but as a mother of four, a full-time freelance/copywriter, and writing my next contracted book, both free time and available money were at a premium. That being said, I'm happy with what I have done, and I hope to do more--to learn more--with each successive book. I have no idea if anything I've done has helped, but I figure it didn't hurt. And honestly, that's sort of how I look at promotion: do what you can with your time/money, but focus on writing that next book.

So, those are my 2 cents, but I'd love to hear what readers respond to. Do you read interviews with authors on other blogs? Do you pay attention to things like book trailers, advertising, excerpts, etc. What about contests? Sure, winning something is great--but does it propel you to actually buy the author's book? Basically, for a brand-new author (even if just to you), what convinces you to get them a shot? I'm sure I"m not the only Novel Girl who'd like to know. :)

Speaking of contests...I'm running a new one at my personal blog all month. Two actually! If you read A Taste of Magic, just make a positive comment on my Tracy Madison blog sometime in the month of March for a chance to win a $25 Borders Gift Card. And, if you subscribe to my newsletter by the end of March, you'll automatically be entered to win SIX Dorchester Love Spell books.

Will these contests help promote my books? I don't know, but hey--it can't hurt! :)