Tag Archives: platform

Writing Wednesday: Five Tips for How to Promote without Selling Out

6 Nov

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One of my anxieties about going to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac this year was that people might think I was there just to hawk my recently published Beat Generation book, Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

That was not the case! Now, I’m not going to lie. Of course I wanted people to find out about the book and purchase it. Not only am I proud of the book, but more so if I were someone interested in Jack Kerouac’s literature and literary development I’d want to know about the book. Therefore, I want people to know about the book because I honestly think they’d actually want to hear about it and get value from it.

But I didn’t go to the festival to push the book on anyone. Truth be told, if I’m not into something, it’s really obvious. Sorry, Lady Gaga, I have no poker face. I would probably turn people off from buying my book, if I went somewhere just to sell it.

I’ve been to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac before I ever had a book deal, and I went again this year because I was excited about the festival. I was excited to attend the events. I was excited to catch up with friends. I was excited to reencounter a town that I’ve been reading about for years and that has come to be familiar to me. I was excited to escape the hustle and bustle of New York City for a long weekend.

At the festival, I was happy to talk about my book when anyone asked, but I didn’t shove postcards for it in people’s faces the way one author did one year I was at the festival.

I’m by no means an expert, but these are my top 5 tips on how to promote your book without selling out:

1. Believe in your product. – If you don’t think your book has worth, you shouldn’t be selling it or even giving it away for free. If you honestly believe your book is great, then it’s only natural that you’ll think others will want to hear about it too. People will hear the excitement in your voice. They’ll want to know more, and you’ll be able to tell people about the book without sounding like you’re giving a sales pitch.

2. Be genuinely interested in others. – One of the great lessons I learned while teaching a writing workshop at the Festival of Faith & Writing is that as much as people pay big bucks to learn, the time they spend actually engaging in conversation and talking about their own work and interests often feels more powerful to them. I’ve gotten to spend some time with some of the people that have “Liked” Burning Furiously Beautiful on Facebook, and it’s been so rewarding hearing their stories.

3. Don’t look at people as if they have dollar signs over their heads. – Not everyone is a potential customer. Some people may not be interested in your subject matter—gasp!—and that’s okay. They’re probably still great people. Engage them about themselves and enjoy the conversation. Maybe you’ll even become friends. It’s good to have friends with varied interests. And who knows, maybe they’ll end up being your biggest promoter simply because they have a large network and are enthusiastic about the conversation they had with you. Even if that’s not the case, there’s more value in relationships than money.

4. Enjoy the event. – If you’re just going to work the room at a festival or conference, you’re not going to have any fun and no one’s going to want to talk to you or buy your book. Don’t bother going to events that you’re not actually interested in. It’s just not worth it. Mingle with people, attend readings and tours, let your guard down.

5. Be prepared. – Don’t feel anxious about promoting your book. If it’s something people are interested in knowing more about, you should be able to talk about it in a natural way without droning on and on. If you don’t have the book on hand to sell, have postcards, flyers, or business cards to give. Nothing’s more annoying that finding out about a great book and then not remembering the name of it later on. Also, some people are prone to losing things or not remembering what the business card is for, so it’s good to also get their contact info and follow up with them.

What are your tips for promoting yourself without selling out?

You may also enjoy:

 

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Writing Wednesday: Why I’m Tweeting and Posting on Facebook

26 Sep

I have a nifty little free newsletter that you can sign up for over there on the right-hand column of this blog à.  All you have to do is type in your email address, and you’ll automatically receive notification whenever I post a new blog entry. Those who are signed up for my free newsletter find out about my blog articles first.  The second an article gets posted, subscribers get notification.

A lot of you come to my website through Facebook and Twitter, though.  I generally post on Facebook that I have a new entry up about three hours after the entry posts.  I should probably sync my Facebook and Twitter accounts through HootSuite so it posts to Twitter at the same, but I haven’t done that yet.  I don’t have any particular reason why.  I just tend to use my Twitter account a little differently and less frequently.  My Facebook account tends to be more personal.  On Twitter, I post more publishing and Beat news.

Since a lot of people prefer not to sign up for the newsletters, social media is a great way for me to keep people up to date on what I’m writing about.  But it does more than just drive traffic to individual articles I post.

According to AllTwitter, social media is “strongly correlated to Google search engine rankings.”  Check out this incredible fact:

Facebook is the highest correlated factor when it comes to search engine rankings – even higher than on-page optimization like domain name keywords and traditional off-page optimization like backlinks.

Before returning to book publishing, I used to do SEO (search engine optimization) for a company.  It’s incredible to think that social media may have even more influence on page rank than SEO.

It also says that sharing posts is one of the biggest ranking improvers.  So feel free to share my blog entries with your friends on Facebook and Twitter!

That’s my story, but it should be yours too.  I’ve spoken to many of you one-on-one about the importance of blogging and social media.  If you’re an aspiring writer, you need to build a platform, an audience of readers.  Being a good storyteller just isn’t enough these days, unfortunately.  Publishers want to know you have a built-in readership.  If you have a blog, it’s super easy to post it on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ whenever it gets updated.  And sites like Hootsuite, make it even easier to do it quickly and efficiently.  Why aren’t you using social media to build your writing career?

Writing Wednesday: Building Your Book Before You Even Begin Writing It

5 Sep

David Krell’s article “From Book to . . . Blog? Inspiration for the Aspiring Nonfiction Author,” published in Publishing Perspectives is jam-packed with great advice for nonfiction writers.  To sum it up succinctly: start garnering interest in your nonfiction book before you even publish it.

Krell offers five tips on how to build your author platform before you’ve even published books.  He advises that you can score interviews and forewords for your book as well as lectures at conferences before you’ve even finished writing your book.  This, in turn, will improve your chances of writing a well-informed book, obtaining a reputable agent, and selling your book successfully because you’ll have taken the time to build up your reputation as an authority on the subject and gotten other authorities on the subject to contribute to your book.  You should read his tips on Publishing Perspectives for more insight on how to begin building your platform and become a successful author now, even before you’ve written a book.

In relation to Krell’s advice, here are a few questions I think a nonfiction writer should start thinking about as early as possible:

Who is your target audience?

What are the sub-themes of your book?  What are the various angles you can use to market your book?  (Krell’s book is about the Brooklyn Dodgers, but his friend suggests it’s also about urban history.  One of my books is a memoir about growing up Greek American in New Jersey.  It touches on family dynamics, coming-of-age stories, New Jersey, Greece, identity, and the immigrant experience.  Another of the books I’m working on is about Jack Kerouac.  Looking at it through a broader lens, it could appeal to anyone interested in the Beat Generation, the 1940s and 1950s, travelogues, and American history.)

Who would you like to interview?  (Approach them now.)

Who would you like to write your foreword?  (Approach them now.)

Who would you like to blurb your book?  (A blurb is the endorsement on the back of a book.  Approach people now.)

What associations are there for your subject?  (Sign up for the mailing list, get to know its leaders, volunteer to help with an event or to write a guest blog entry.)

What conferences are held on your subject—or on your sub-theme?  (Begin attending, meeting people, speaking.)

What websites are about your subject or sub-theme?  (Sign up for their newsletter, leave comments on their posts, offer to guest blog.)

What books are similar to yours?  (Read them to get ideas.  Also, read the acknowledgements to find out who their agent is.  Begin following the agent’s work to see if you’re interested in signing with them.)

Are there any other questions you would add to the list?

By thinking about these questions now, you’ll have a clearer vision of where you’re headed.  You’ll also be more motivated to continue writing because you’ll have people who are already invested in your success.

Happy writing!

3 Takeaways on Blogging Advice from A Cup of Jo

22 Aug

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about social media, but when I ran across this article, “Blogging As a Career,” with A Cup of Jo’s Joanna Goddard, I knew I had to share it with you.

You’ll want to read the whole article because there’s a tenderness to it, touching on heartbreak and personality types, but here are my three takeaways:::

Follow your dreams. – As cliché as this may sound, you can’t force yourself to enjoy a career that isn’t the right fit for you (in Joanna’s case, law).  You’ll be more successful when you discover what you want and really go after it.  Following your dreams is not easy.  It requires sacrifice.  You may end up not even being able to afford to add a sliced tomato to your bagel with cream cheese.  You may have to work on your honeymoon.  But it’s worth it.

Don’t be afraid to fail. – Sometimes the things in life that feel like the most excruciating at the time, end up propelling you forward.  There is risk involved in work and love and life.

Stay true to yourself. – There are so many blogs out there.  Don’t try to copy other blogs.  Blog in your own voice.  As Joanna says, “When you write a post, imagine your mom or best friend reading it.”  To earn a living as a blogger, you need to secure advertisement; choose companies you love.

Joanna also gives advice on work-life balance, how to start a magazine career, and other insight, so check out her complete interview on her blog.

Social Media Lessons from SXSW 2012

11 Jul

Calvin Reid makes insightful remarks about the role e-technology and social media are playing in publishing in “SXSW 2012: New Publishing Models and the Rise of the Referral Economy.”  If you’re new to publishing and looking to make your mark on the industry and find readers, I’d highly encourage you to read the entire article.  To his point on “curating,” here’s some remarks of his that you might find especially helpful:

  • “Altounian said he’s targeting a demographic under the age of 40 that wants to read on an array of devices anytime they want and they don’t want to pay much, if anything, for the content they read on them. … Altounian was making the point that, at least for emerging artists, getting their content in front of readers through traditional publishers is an uphill battle that doesn’t work for everyone; that his goal is to build a list of self-branded artists (using social media tools) and by offering some free content now, and some for-pay content later when the freebie-oriented audiences for these artists reaches critical mass and wants more of their stuff.”
  • “Certainly one of the most intellectually vivid panels was Curators or the Curated, a panel examining the phenomenon of content sharing—essentially the practice of any and everyone linking to content and sending it out to followers and friends around the web—and what that means to publishers, creators and the curators themselves. … In theory curators bring attention to content and drive traffic to the original site; in practice some curators are having more impact than the publications they curate from. And its generated a debate about the practice and what it means—and of course how to monetize it.”
  • “He also rejected some of the anti-advertising curatorial comments, noting that business platforms were important and that he had worked for a Minn.-based newspaper that did away with escort ads and the loss of revenue killed the newspaper.”

What I take away from this is the following:

Writers need to start building a platform NOW—as in, even before we’ve written our book, we need to start curating content on our subject matter.  This means tweeting, forwarding, and “liking,” other writers’ posts related to our subject and also blogging, tweeting, and writing our own status updates on our subject.

Generate content and don’t be afraid to give it away for free.  It’s better to give our writing away for free in the beginning so that we can establish ourselves as authorities on that topic and/or as interesting storytellers.  Eventually, people will love you and want to buy your writing—but it might take a lot of giving your work away for free first.  Michael Hyatt is a big proponent of giving away free content.  Not only does he give away valuable information on his blog, but he also created an ebook that he gives to anyone who subscribes to his blog.  Both the blog subscription and the ebook are free.

Don’t be all holier than thou about advertising.  Solicit advertising for your blog.  I personally would suggest keeping your advertising in line with your brand—and your brand should probably be consistent with how you’d want to be thought of by your friends and parents as well.  What I mean is, I personally would rather go hungry than earn money from escort ads.  The best ads are going to be ones that relate to your subject matter.  So if I’m writing about Greek identity, ads about learning how to play the harmonica aren’t going to be controversial but they won’t be as relevant as ads about learning how to speak Greek.

Humbly consider the rights to your content.  Bloggers may quote rather heavily from anything you post—and by heavily, I mean they might use your work entirely and just give you credit via a link.  This might be a breach of your copyright, but before you get your knickers in a bunch consider if their promotion of your work might be helping you out with some free advertising.  Maybe it’s bringing new readers to your work.  …But then again, maybe it’s not.  Therefore, always be careful with what sort of content you put on your blog.  Sure, someone could pirate your whole book, but it’s more likely someone will repost a blog entry than your entire book.  With that in mind, be prepared that what you publish on your blog might end up elsewhere.

Pay attention to your e-rights.  Landing a book contract is about more than just the print rights these days.  Make sure your contract expressly states an agreement about electronic and print-on-demand editions.

It feels like writers—and artists of any sort—get a raw deal.  We have to give a lot of free content away.  Professionals in other industries don’t seem to have to do this to the same extent.  Lawyers may work an occasional pro bono case, but they’re not expected to work for free before making it big.  Doctors may do Doctors Without Borders to give back and help people, but this is a personal choice they make.  I suppose in some ways artists giving away their work—and having it stolen from them in the case of extreme curating—is an internship of sorts, but the difference is that artists are expected to intern their entire lives or at least until they hit it big.

Therefore, I’d encourage all artists to be savvy.

Yes, you might feel pressured to build your platform and give away content for free, but make sure you’re getting something in return for your investment.

Don’t let your platform overtake your writing.  Your platform is a means to an end—your book project.

Use the system.  There’s nothing wrong with giving away content for free.  There’s nothing wrong with soliciting ads.  There’s nothing wrong with social media.  Don’t let anyone or any platform rule over you.  Keep your goals in perspective and use the system to your advantage.  Find your target audience, make connections, earn money, promote your projects.

You can find me not only here on this blog, but also on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

I Heart Social Media

27 Jun

Image by Dallas Shaw

One of my favorite aspects of working in book publishing is my involvement in social media.  I absolutely love crafting Tweets!  It’s so much fun coming up with fun and unique ways to promote the books I’ve loved working on and want the world to know about.

Social media is also important to me as a writer.  Even before an author publishes a book, she must have a “platform”—she must be cultivating readers interested in her expertise and enthusiasm on a given subject.  I’m on this blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest so I can share with you my latest obsessions and ideas, give you a little sneak peek into my so-called literary life, and hopefully inspire other writers and readers to do the same.  The world’s a lot cozier when we know we’re not alone in our endeavors.

That’s why I’m also addicted to following other social media gurus.  One of my favorite is DKNY PR GIRL.

I love reading her #PR101 tips and her blog in general.  If you’re just starting out in social media, check out the social media tips she gave to Teen Vogue.

Dear readers, what social media platforms do you use?  Will you do me a favor and post them in the comments section?  I’d love to subscribe/follow/friend you! xoxo

The Shy Person’s Guide to Giving a Reading

11 May

 

I used to be shy.  I don’t mean a little shy.  I mean the type of shy that held me back from different opportunities.  It wasn’t that I lacked confidence in my abilities.  I just felt uncomfortable having attention focused on me.  Writing therefore seemed like a great career choice—except that, as I soon discovered, writing involves a fair amount of speaking.  If you’re a journalist, for example, you’re tracking people down and asking them oftentimes personal questions.  However, even if you’re a creative writer, these days it seems like you have to be a speaker as well.

It’s all part of that wonderful word we’ve come to know all too well: “platform.”  A writer needs to build their following and promote their work through readings and interviews.  If you’ve been sitting alone in a dark makeshift home office, you might relish these opportunities to speak to someone other than your pet bird.  However, many writers, even if they’re not shy, are introverts.  Which means, even they’re not shy, they’re not necessarily the type to seek out big crowds of people.  When I was at the Festival of Faith and Writing last month, so many people who approached me (not something a shy person would necessarily do) afterwards told me that they’re introverts.

I remember giving my first big oral presentation in fourth grade.  As the shyest person in the class, I was certainly not looking forward to it.  However, the day of the oral presentations came, and I was just fine.  You know who fainted?  The popular kid in class.

These days I don’t dread public speaking.  It’s not an activity that gives me great pleasure, the way some people love karaoke or acting, but I generally don’t mind public speaking.  I’ve even been encouraged by it.

Here are a couple tips for public speaking I’ve learned through trial and error:::

Get plenty of sleep 48 hours in advance.  Being tired will make you feel anxious.  Try to get a decent amount of sleep the two nights before the reading.  I say two nights because you can’t just cram in sleep.

Drink plenty of water 48 hours in advance.  Don’t drink anything too close to your reading time.  When you’re nervous, you might feel like you need to pee more often.  However, you should be hydrated because speaking loudly can make your throat parched.  Also, lay off the caffeine and alcohol.  I know a lot of writers have notoriously drank to overcome their nerves.  Jack Kerouac was one of them.  And everyone knows it.  Do you really want to be that person?  While caffeine will make you anxious and make you sound like the Micromachines man, zooming through your reading, alcohol might make you slur your speech.  Stick with water.

Dress up.  When I was in undergrad, I used to dress up whenever I had a big test.  It may sound superficial, but dressing up gave me confidence.  When you give a reading, you’ll want to dress appropriately for the occasion.  I won’t mention the specific name of the awards ceremony, but I went to a book award ceremony a while back and was dismayed at the authors’ appearances.  They looked unkempt.  Yes, I know what matters more your inner character and your talents, however if you’re receiving an award or have been selected to give a reading, you should be respectful in your attire and dress for the occasion.  Besides, there are very few opportunities when we get to dress up.  Why let Hollywood stars have all the fun??

Be prepared.  Practice your reading several times.  Type your talk up in a large enough font that you don’t have to hold the paper close to your face to read it.  It may also be helpful to write little notes or add extra spaces reminding yourself to breathe, to look up, to smile.

Be thankful.  Being selected to give a reading is not a punishment.  It’s an honor.  People are celebrating your writing talents.  They’re making time in their busy schedules to hear you.  You’re already a star in their mind.  You don’t have to change who you are and pretend to be a stand-up comedian or loudmouth if that’s not who you are.  You just have to be yourself and be gracious.

 

If you happen to be in New York City, I cordially invite you to attend my reading this Friday, May 11.  It will be a super short reading sometime between 5pm and 9:30pm, at Lang Center, 2nd Floor, 55 W. 13th Street.

Writing Wednesday: The Frugalista™ Writer Natalie P. McNeal

19 Oct

One of my summer reads was Natalie P. McNeal’s The Frugalista Files: How One Woman Got Out of Debt Without Giving up the Fabulous Life.  Now, I don’t struggle with debt, but as I just plunked down a too-big-to-say sum of money on next semester’s tuition, I can say this book touches on a sensitive issue we can all relate to: finances.

When the economy took its nosedive, Natalie had been working for years at a newspaper.  That means that not only was she facing the possibility of losing her job, but even if she remained employed at the print publication she could only wonder how long that would last in this age of digital media.

Oh, how her story hit home!  I too was working in print media (in my case, books) when the economy tanked.  And just like Natalie, I had been at my cozy, security-blanket position for years.

What I liked about Natalie’s book, therefore, wasn’t so much the get-out-of-debt plot, but the story of reexamining and refocusing one’s career in the midst of a bad economy.  By telling her own story, Natalie offered some savvy wisdom for writers:::

  • Make yourself relevant to today’s new-media world.
  • Learn video editing, even if you’re a writer, so you can add video to your blog.
  • Make friends with the online community.
  • Socialize!  Go places, meet people.  Connect IRL.
  • Build your own career, instead of just accepting the job you’re given.  (Example: Natalie asked to start a blog for the newspaper, and that blog led to her book!)
  • Connect to larger media outlets.  (Natalie blogged for The Miami Herald.)
  • Make media appearances.  (Natalie served as an expert on frugalasta™ living for larger media outlets.)
  • Write a blog to build your platform for a full-length book.

The Frugalista Files, a money memoir, is a super-quick read.  It’s not so much a how-to book as it is an encouraging and inspiring memoir.

Writing Wednesday: Michael Hyatt’s 5 Steps to Building a Platform When You Hate Selling Yourself

27 Jul

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/tap10 / via Michael Hyatt

In a recent blog post, Michael Hyatt, chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, listed the “5 Steps to Building a Platform When You Hate Selling Yourself.”  If you go to the blog post you can read the five steps, but I want to point out one line I especially liked.  In one of the steps Hyatt says that writers should share relevant news about their writing.  For example, we should share if we’re doing a reading or were recently published.  He says:

This isn’t selling; it is informing.

So true.  Self-promotion always feels like bragging, but the way I think of it is that I’d want to know if my favorite writer were doing something cool and wouldn’t think they were showing off if they informed me of their upcoming book or recent clip.

So, what would you like to inform me of?