The Holiday Gift Guide for Feisty Writers

Do you ever wonder what to give your favorite feisty writer? It’s that time of year, and some of our awesome contributors have made gift suggestions any scribe is sure to love:

Marni’s Writer Gift Ideas:

the cover of Novel & Short Story Writers Market1. Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market 2018 is the only resource you need to get your short stories, novellas, and novels published. This edition of NSSWM features hundreds of updated listings for book publishers, literary agents, fiction publications, contests, and more, and each listing includes contact information, submission guidelines, and other essential tips.

Inside Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, you’ll find valuable tips for:

  • How to take your readers on a roller-coaster ride by mastering the art of the unexpected
  • Weaving foreshadowing and echoing into your story
  • Discovering the DNA—dialogue, narrative, and action—dwelling inside all memorable characters
  • Gaining insight from best-selling and award-winning authors, including Steve Berry, Liane Moriarty, Junot Díaz, and more

Why I love it:  I love this gift because it answers the age old question, “But where should I send my work?”  This is the gift that keeps your work from ending up in a shoe box.  Buy one for yourself while you’re at it.  Truly worth it.

https://www.writersdigestshop.com/novel-and-short-story-writers-market-2018

2. Inspirational Book

Book Cover for Juicy Pens Thirsty PaperWrite and share what’s in your heart! Let SARK show you how. Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper is your non-judgmental witness, resoundingly supportive friend, and practical guide to the craft of writing and storytelling. For anyone who knows that a writer lives within them but doesn’t know how or where to start; for writers who need new ways to work past their blocks and be reinspired; for anyone who loves SARK’s wise words and art, Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper will help start the ink flowing and keep it going.

 

 

 

 

Why I love it:  Well, truth be told, I love every book by Sark.  She is the queen of giving you permission to loosen up, to play, to love the messy, juicy and joyful process that writing can be.  If you become a fan here are a few more: Eat Mangoes Naked, Succulent Wild Woman and Inspiration Sandwich

3. The Editor’s Tote by Dooney and Bourke

For those who want luxurious toting of their notebooks, papers and laptops…

The Editor's Tote by Dooney & BourkeThe Editor’s Tote by Dooney and Bourke

H 7.5″ x W 4.5″ x L 8.75″ One inside zip pocket. Two inside pockets. Cell phone pocket. Inside key hook. Buckle closure. Handle drop length 4.5″. Detachable strap. Strap drop length 13.5″. Lined.

https://www.dooney.com/pebble-editors-travel-tote-BSHTL0326.html?dwvar_BSHTL0326_color=2LCAPATN#q=editors+&start=1&cgid=dooney-bags-style-tote

 

 

Why I love it:  Well if you know me, you know I can be greatly cheered up with purses and totes.  I don’t know why but when I carry around my notebooks in this it makes me happy.  If you have a writer in your life who is equally delighted by pretty containers with straps, this is a lovely gift.  And guess what, it is ON SALE for the next 4 days!

4. Bonus Gift – Just for Fun

fun wall clock for writers

The Writer’s Clock at Café Press

Why I Love it:  It only allows you an hour to panic, then back to writing.

http://www.cafepress.com/+writers_clock_wall_clock,1160095998

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa’s Writer Gift Idea:

book cover for The Anatomy of Story

 

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby

 

This is the most comprehensive and practical how-to book for narrative writing that I’ve ever come across. It explores story from conception through execution, delving into character development, world building, thematic through line, plot, and scene construction. Truby’s concepts build upon one another, helping the writer understand their story from many different perspectives and thus giving them the tools to weave an intricate and cohesive web that will satisfy readers. And the best part is, this isn’t just for fiction writers—it’s useful to anyone who incorporates narrative into their writing, be it journalism, memoir, or non-fiction. While this book could be mulled over from time to time as ideas develop, it also includes a workbook format where the writer can do the work as they progress through each chapter. The writer(s) in your life will be forever indebted to you for this gift and—let’s be honest—there’s no shame in treating yourself to this one too!

https://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Story-Becoming-Master-Storyteller/dp/0865479933

Karen’s Writer Gift Idea:

an index card that says the gift of 5 hours for writing

 

The gift of time to write.

That’s all I want in this crazy season. My shelves are full of books on how to write, I have very nice bags to carry 10 copies of my latest, a laptop, pens, three spare unfilled composition books. There’s one thing missing…

 

 

Paula’s Writer Gift Idea:

book cover for Big Magic

 

Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear 

Here’s why I recommend it:

Big Magic grants authors and artists permission to create free of fear (or maybe in concert with it). I especially liked the early sections on the distinction between being a genius and having genius pour through you (the latter reflects the true nature of the artist) and how ideas can get sidetracked and, if they’re set aside too long, lost (been there myself recently). But, Gilbert argues, even if these ideas go away from you, they often appear elsewhere, pursued by others in a concept known as multiple discovery.

Fascinating and liberating, this book celebrates the joy of creating and gifts all authors and artistic types with the knowledge that it’s okay to just do the work, no matter the experience level or eventual outcome. Highly recommended, not just for authors, but for all who yearn to be creative explorers.

Marijke’s Writer Gift Ideas:

an open moleskine journal with drawings and writing in it1. Moleskin Journals

https://www.amazon.com/Moleskine-Cahier-Journal-Large-Ruled/dp/8883704983/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1512416238&sr=8-3&keywords=moleskin+journals+set+of+3

I’ve tried a LOT of journals and finally settled on the plain moleskin journals.  They are the perfect size to carry with me.  I have taken them on all my retreats and now have a collection, one for each retreat I’ve been to.  These are marvelous to mine for content later.

 

2. Watercolor pencils

water color pencils

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000J6EVZK/ref=twister_B076PK1CZC?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

These are so fun for adding pictures to my journals.  I find that it helps me relax and pay attention to my surroundings when I add a little color to my journal notes

 

 

 

 

 

3. The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language by Natalie Goldberg.

book cover for The True Secret of Writing

 

https://www.amazon.com/True-Secret-Writing-Connecting-Language-ebook/dp/B008J4RQD8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1512417133&sr=8-1&keywords=the+true+secret+of+writing

This book captures what I think are essential components of my own writing practice, which Natalie distills as this: Sit. Write. Walk. It encourages us to dig a little deeper to “mine the rich awareness in your life, and to ground and empower yourself.”

 

 

 

 

Danielle’s Writer Gift Ideas:

  1. Out of print clothing

old t-shirt

https://www.outofprintclothing.com/

I wear a lot of t-shirts. They are part of my personality and feature anything from interesting designs, to bands that I love. Lately I’ve started to add both bookstore and book t-shirts to my collection. This site has a whole host of book-themed gifts, whether it be a t-shirt with Frederick the Mouse or a scarf with Edgar Allen Poe-ka dots.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Book darts

book darts

https://www.amazon.com/Book-Darts-Bronze-Line-Markers/dp/B0030J1J30/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1512428855&sr=8-2&keywords=book+darts

I choose to read physical books simply because I spend most of my days and nights in front of a screen. I have also attempted to curb my book spending, so I’ve also been borrowing a lot of books from the library. Book darts are the absolutely perfect way to mark specific passages in books. If you’re reading a book you borrowed for the library for book club, you can “dart” your way though it and remove them all prior to returning the book. Book darts are thin, neat looking, and removable. I’ve already blown through two tins. So worth it.

3. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art book cover

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/War-Art-Through-Creative-Battles/dp/1936891026/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1512428569&sr=1-1&keywords=the+war+of+art

The War of Art is my writing bible. Pressfield tackles one of the greatest nemesis of writers around the world – resistance. When I’m wrestling with the demons of resistance I reread the final paragraph of this book (which is marked with a book dart in case you were wondering) “Creative work is not a selfish act or a need for attention. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us all you’ve got.”

 

 

Lisa’s Writer Gift Ideas:

  1. 1. Book Map

book map

https://laughingsquid.com/street-maps-of-book-and-tv-show-titles-by-dorothy-collective/

These are fun, beautiful pieces of artwork featuring landmarks from literature in a single city map. Fun to stare at during those brainstorming sessions! They also have TV and movie maps, for those who don’t just love books…

 

 

 

 

 

2. Storymatic:

picture of storymatic game

https://thestorymatic.com/collections/frontpage/products/the-storymatic-classic

Literally a box of writing prompts. These have gotten me out of many a writer’s block jam, and there is a booklet of fun group games, too!

 

 

 

 

3. Dragon:

dragon software box

https://www.amazon.com/Dragon-NaturallySpeaking-Home-13-0-English/dp/B00LX4BZAQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&qid=1481404642&sr=8-1&keywords=speech+to+text+software&linkCode=sl1&tag=bookfox-20&linkId=989cb992faf4df717d127e4fe36aecd5

This is a software program for taking dictation, which is the fastest way to get words on the page, whether they are notes, prose, blogs, or whatever pops into your brain. It also learns to recognize words and spellings you use often, including proper names. Think of all the brilliance you’ll be able to get out when the words move as quickly as your imagination! (Note: this is the PC version. They have it for Mac as well, but it’s more expensive for some reason.)

Writing with Intention: How Understanding Why You Write Can Help You Sell

a neon question mark in a graffiti-filled tunnelI recently spoke with a potential client who has written a nonfiction guide to help parents recognize the signs of late speech development in their children. Besides being articulate and able to clearly describe the book’s content and its audience, this author was particularly succinct about what she was looking for in the way of publicity. “I want to reach as many parents, teachers, and pediatric health professionals as I can about how to recognize the signs of speech and language development issues in children,” she said. “I also would like to cast as wide a net as possible via the media, so that parents and pediatric associations know about the information in my book and how it can help them.”

This particular client’s clarity about her goals is similar to having a corporate mission statement, which many companies use to provide vision and direction to their employees. When a company has a clearly written mission statement, employees can use it to tune in to upper management’s expectations and determine how they fit with the corporate mission. They can more easily grasp the company’s purpose and who its customers are, as well as develop a better sense of how to serve those customers.

Likewise, having a clear sense of the purpose your book serves and what you’d like to do with it can be very helpful to you (and the marketing professionals you might hire) when it’s time to promote your work.

In New Age circles, pundits call this sense of clarity and direction working with intention. When we work with intention, i.e., when we’re clear about why we’ve written something and understand its value to others, not only does the work flow more easily, but we are much more likely to be able to correctly describe and promote it.

The intention behind a written work can take many forms. Some authors intend to write books that are instructive or informational. Others write to entertain.

Some write because they feel compelled to do so, or because a certain storyline keeps playing over and over in their heads and they want to capture it in written form.

Some write to heal, as is often the case with memoir. Those who keep diaries or journals may do so as a means of knowing themselves better.

Many authors write because they love language or because they like playing with ideas. Others use writing as a way to develop a community connection, through meetings with other writers and the readers of their work.

Some write to document family history for future generations, while others do it purely for pleasure, as a way to pass blocks of time.

But no matter what the reason, it helps to know why you’re writing, so that when the writing is done—be it a novel, a short story, a nonfiction guidebook, a memoir, or a collection of poems—you’ll better understand it’s purpose and intended audience. This understanding makes it easier to pinpoint what you need to explain that purpose and reach your audience which, in turn, will help you make decisions about how you’re going to promote your work.

So, before beginning your marketing efforts, ask yourself, “Why did I create this piece?  What is its purpose? Who is my book written for, and how will it help those who read it?” Write down your answers; they’ll help you understand your original intention and determine what you need to do now to sell it.

 

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

Top 25 Ways to Promote Your Book This Fall

Orange and Red leaves of Fall Foliage

It’s that time of year when the kids are heading back to school and the rest of us are making plans to get out and enjoy the last warm days of summer.

With the change in season and return from vacations (hopefully tanned and rested!), it’s time to get serious about promoting your book again. Whether you’re a first-time author or a seasoned pro, there’s still a lot to do in the way of footwork to ensure that readers know about and remain aware of your book.

 

Here are a few tips for getting back out there and promoting your book this fall:

  1. Speak at conferences and special events
  2. Sign up for book fairs, street fairs, and fall festivals
  3. Submit your book to traditional and online book reviewers
  4. Contact your local library to schedule an appearance
  5. Submit your book to award programs
  6. Apply for artist residencies and fellowships
  7. Contact blog sites related to your book and set up a blog tour
  8. Attend a writers conference near you
  9. Join a book promotion group (Can’t find one? Start one yourself!)
  10. Contact local schools about speaking
  11. Start a blog, guest blog on other sites, or beef up your own blog
  12. Write articles about your subject matter
  13. Update your website
  14. Use social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) to update fans about your book
  15. Upgrade your promotional giveaways
  16. Set up consignments at local stores and check up on those who have your book on display
  17. Create an FAQ or Q&A sheet
  18. Get new testimonials from recent readers
  19. Contact a book club and offer to speak
  20. Wear a t-shirt with your book cover on it to the gym, grocery store, bank, etc.
  21. Make business cards with your book cover on them and leave them everywhere
  22. Create a car magnet sign highlighting your book and where to order it
  23. Donate your book to charity auctions
  24. Write a press release about something recent that’s happened with you and your book and post it on the free wire service websites
  25. Volunteer your time for a worthy cause (a great way to help others and let them know about you and your book at the same time!)

You get the idea… there are lots of opportunities out there and lots of ways to make yourself known. Happy promoting, and happy fall!

Photo Credit: negativespace.co/autumn-fall-path-forest

What Makes a Good Memoir?

a book with a landscape popping out of it.As a publicist, I’m sent books of all genres by authors interested in my services, but lately, I seem to be on the receiving end of a lot of memoirs. I’ve also spoken to a higher-than-usual number of memoir writers, who either telephone or approach me with questions at writer’s conferences. The bulk of these conversations has to do with why their memoirs aren’t selling and what the authors can do to make them better.

My first suggestion for all memoir writers is to take a look at their market and identify the different types of people who would want to read their book. This is tricky, for while many memoir writers have done a good job of detailing certain aspects of their personal history, a number of them have not thought about who might be interested in reading what they’ve written.

A lot of memoirs I’ve seen recently are nothing more than personal recountings of an individual’s experiences—some of which are, indeed, memorable. But I’ve found that a great number of memoirs contain information that might only be interesting to the author. In this category, I include stories about having a child out of wedlock, rescue missions by health care workers, struggles with family members over an elderly relative’s care, vacations or trips abroad, collections of stories that the author told his/her children while they were growing up, or collections of a family member’s letters from World War II. Although engaging and, occasionally, entertaining, books with these topics typically focus on material or experiences that a number of us have already encountered in our own lives. And, thus, because we readers are familiar with the situations ourselves, stories like these don’t always make interesting reading.

So, what makes a compelling memoir? To become a bestseller, a memoir must have a strong storyline. That means that there is a beginning, middle, and end to the events recounted in the book. Examples of breakout memoirs with clear timelines are Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa, where the author, Danish baroness, Karin von Blixen-Finecke, describes the political and emotional barriers she faced while trying to build a coffee farm in Kenya. Before Night Falls, by Reinaldo Arenas, the rebellious and flamboyant Cuban poet and playwright, also falls into this category. He describes both his early years as a homosexual artist under the Castro regime, including his imprisonments and escapes, and his last days as an exile in the United States.

Successful memoirs also have compelling or distinct characters in them. Just like fiction, a good memoir will introduce the reader to individuals who are memorable and, sometimes, highly unusual. Examples include Augusten Burrough’s mother, Deidre, and her unorthodox psychiatrist, Dr. Finch, in Running with Scissors, or the sadistic mother in A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer.

Often, as in fiction, the individuals in a memoir will be sympathetic, so that readers strongly identify with them. This is particularly true of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, who begins her book by depicting herself in a heap on the bathroom floor, devastated by a recent divorce, or Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking, who lost her husband to a sudden heart attack and shares the aftermath with the reader in a way that is heart-wrenchingly honest.

Another reason for the success of these two memoirs is the fact that they both tell love stories. In Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert begins the memoir with the loss of love (after a failed marriage) and then ends it with the start of a new relationship with the man who would eventually become her next husband. Likewise, Didion recounts the significant moments of her marriage to her husband, John Gregory Dunne, as she describes her attempts to grapple with her grief at his passing. These two books are skillfully written, with clear, strong voices and brave directness, and both authors draw painful moments with great tenderness.

People in successful memoirs often face situations with high stakes consequences and experience an emotional trajectory, or arc, whereby the individuals are changed somehow at the end of the book. Many memoirs have to do with the author or a parental figure teetering on the brink of alcoholism (Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller), destitution (Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt), poverty and spousal abuse (All Over but the Shoutin’, by Rick Bragg), drug addiction (A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey), cultural adversity (Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver-Relin), and life-threatening adventure (Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer). What makes these books stand out above others is that in all of these stories, the authors or their loved ones faced extreme circumstances—incarceration, kidnapping, starvation, emotional abandonment, and, sometimes, imminent death—and somehow survived.

In addition to the victim/survival type memoir, there are celebrity memoirs, where the author recounts his own story as a celebrity or his experiences living or working with one (examples include Here’s the Story by The Brady Bunch star, Maureen McCormick, or Everything about Me is Fake and I’m Perfect by supermodel Janice Dickenson). There are also tell-all or insider memoirs, where the individual describes events in an environment that most of us would never have a chance to experience. Many of these are political in tone, such as John Dean’s Blind Ambition, the anti-Nixon tome published in 1976, or George Stephanopoulos’s All Too Human, which described intimate details about the first family during the Clinton administration.

The message here is that unless your memoir is something like the ones I’ve mentioned in this post, you might have a tough time selling it. That doesn’t mean that authors shouldn’t write memoirs—on the contrary, writing a memoir can be a wonderfully revealing and cathartic experience for the author and of great significance to family members and friends. But, to reach further audiences, memoirs that don’t involve a celebrity connection or insider information must have a definable storyline, remarkable characters, high stakes, and a great love story—or some combination, thereof—in order to experience breakout success.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/book-writer-read-landscape-paper-1014197/

Hitting the Wall

a gas station in the darkIn addition to being a book publicist, I’m also a business instructor at a local community college, an author, a blogger, a volunteer, a participant in a number of community and writing groups, and a wife and mother.

While I enjoy doing all of that, at my age (I reached the magic number 60 this year) I often find that sometimes, inexplicably, I hit the proverbial wall. Hard. No energy, no ideas, nothing.

This concept was driven home for me recently when I was headed back to my house late at night after teaching a college class and noticed that my car was almost out of gas. I drive a new Honda Accord and had never driven it before with the gas indicator lit, so I wasn’t sure how many miles were left before it ran out. I wasn’t near any gas stations and had no idea how much further the car would go. My two options were to stop and call my husband to come and bring me a can of gas or to wing it and trust that there was enough left in the tank to bring me home.

Sometimes we find ourselves in similar situations with our energy levels. We over-commit ourselves and pile so much on our plates that eventually, if we’re not careful, we can find ourselves suddenly drained of initiative, sitting on the couch for hours, staring at the wall.

But here’s the thing—it’s okay to hit the wall sometimes. There are instances in our lives where we just plain do too much, especially those of us who are writers in addition to being committed to our clients and employers, our families, our social and online communities, and our friends. Eventually, we find ourselves physically exhausted, psychologically drained, and out of gas emotionally.

And sometimes, this can be a good thing. Our bodies and minds are telling us, “Hey, time to take a break.” It’s as if the universe is forcing us into a cosmic time-out so that we can rest, rejuvenate, and get ourselves back out there doing all the wonderful things we do, including writing.

Something else I learned from that evening of driving my new car home on empty is that even when we may feel as if we’re out of gas, we often have enough in reserve to make it through whatever we’re facing. As it happened that night, I made it, maybe barely, and maybe with just fumes to spare. But I took a chance and soldered on and was able to get home.

So the lesson is this: Even when it appears that we have nothing left to give, we can get through it. the key is not to panic, to realize that our bodies and minds are giving us a much-needed reminder about self-care, and to trust that our emotional reserves will be there to see us through.

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/search/gas?photo=o8IfF0RUTTs

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Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her by email at paula@paulamargulies.com, view her website at www.paulamargulies.com, contact her on Twitter at @PaulaMargulies, or say hello on Facebook at Paula Margulies Communications.

How to Develop a Brand Strategy in Five Simple Steps

Shining person in the center of a dark forest

Authors often ask me what is meant by the terms “platform” and “brand.” Simply put, your platform is all about you—the specific and unique experience, background, and expertise you bring to the table, in addition to the wonderful book you’ve written. And your brand is whatever images, words, and other media you use to make that platform clear to your readers.

The concept of platform is important when selling a book because it’s what the media, especially radio and TV folks, are most interested in when it comes time to set up promotional appearances. I once had a radio producer in New York tell me, “Paula, I don’t give a damn about this author’s book; I want to know about his background and experience. If he doesn’t interest me, his book never will.” This may sound a bit harsh, but it’s all too true in the world of publicity. If you want premium exposure for your book through traditional radio and TV, you are going to be the story.

And it should be a good one. Media producers expect authors to be knowledgeable or experienced in their subject matter, whether the book is nonfiction or fiction. If you have a compelling personal history, expertise in the industry you’ve written about, or an interesting angle to bring to the interview, then you’re more likely to get a yes nod from a producer trying to fill a radio or TV time slot.

Reporters and producers look for individuals who are unique, compelling, and entertaining as interview subjects. If you’re a celebrity or have notoriety in your field, the path will be easier. But if not, you’ve got to develop a platform and branding that will intrigue members of the media in order to maximize exposure for your work.

So, how do you go about building your platform? One way is to create a compelling brand that conveys to readers exactly what your platform is when they read, see, or hear it. I suggest that authors follow these five simple steps to determine their brand identity:

  1. First, pretend you are a reader of the kind of books you write. What kind of person reads books like yours? What does that reader look for when s/he buys a book similar to yours? How will s/he find it? Where will s/he go to buy it?
  2. Next, think about what makes your books unique or different from other authors who write books like yours. Do you have an unusual perspective on a topic? Do you specialize in a certain region for your settings, a certain type of character for your fictional hero, a certain kind of specialty or emphasis that appears as either the main content or theme in your writing? Tie this in with the reader you envisioned in step 1. What will s/he find compelling about what you’ve written? How does it satisfy his/her expectations and/or needs?
  3. Now (and this is the fun part), close your eyes and concentrate on at least four (there may be more) words that signify your particular brand. Think about what your reader is looking for, as well as what is unique about you as an author.

If you find you’re having trouble doing this, try instead to come up with at least four words that a reader might put into a search engine when he goes online to find books like yours.

For example, if you are a cookbook author who specializes in easy-to-make vegan crockpot recipes, your keywords might be “cooking,” “recipes,” “easy,” “vegan,” “crockpot.” You may add more words to expand your list: “delicious,” “healthy,” “vegetarian,” “food,” etc. You may have a particular part of your background that you want to highlight (“restauranteur” or “trained chef,” for example), so include those words too. Anything that is specific to you and your books can be considered an element of your brand.

  1. Once you have your keywords, write them down. Now use those words in every statement you write when describing yourself as an author. Include them in your bio, your website “About” page, your author description on Amazon, etc. You’ll also want to include them in any writing you do about your book, so be sure and use them in press releases Q&As, guest posts on author websites, etc. The more you use these words that define your brand, the more they will become part of your author identity, which will help shape your platform and make you stand out.
  1. Finally, do the same exercise for images that reflect your brand. What items come to mind when you think about visually representing your writing? What colors go best with the content and themes of the words you’ve chosen? If you have trouble doing this, take a look at books from other authors that are similar or in the same genre/category as yours. Once you’ve honed in on the right imagery, work those colors, images, and themes into your book covers, your website, your business cards and handouts, etc.

Follow these simple steps, and you will be on your way to defining the words, images, and colors that will send a clear message about your brand, and your platform, to your readers.

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/collections/154874/strategy

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Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her at paula@paulamargulies.com, or visit her at www.paulamargulies.com, on Twitter at @PaulaMargulies, or on Facebook at Paula Margulies Communications.

 

Walking the Tightrope: Where Do Authors Draw the Line in Expressing Political Views?

small house balanced on the edge of a buildingI’ve always recommended that authors refrain from discussing religion and politics in their social media and branding. In today’s fiercely competitive book market, aligning ourselves one way or another on political or religious issues can lead to lower sales, mainly because if a percentage of the reading population disagrees with our views, they most likely won’t follow us on social media or purchase our products.

 But the election of President Trump last November has changed the political landscape in drastic ways. Where before, stating political views could negatively impact sales, we now find ourselves with a growing majority who are outraged at the current administration’s policies and its handling of diplomacy. That outrage has sparked ongoing protests worldwide, where millions of people have risen up to declare their dissent and willingness to resist the current political climate in Washington.

 Also new is the growing power the resistance movement has found in ignoring Trump’s brand. When major retail leaders dropped Ivanka Trump’s clothing and shoe lines from their stores this week, those who do not support Trump stepped up their support of the retailers, and sales soared.

 Where before the Trump presidency it was judicious to maintain distance and equanimity concerning politics, the climate has changed to such a degree that we’re now finding that taking actions some view as political (as with the retailers who dumped Ivanka’s brand) can benefit sales. Those retailers who dropped the line claimed they did so because the line wasn’t selling. It was risky to drop a contentious and outspoken president’s daughter’s brand–these retailers must have known that the president, who seems to have little control over his responses to adverse situations, would react publicly (which he did by tweeting his dismay at what he considered to be unfair treatment of his daughter). But the stance by these retailers paid off in ways that many did not expect–sales lowered initially and then skyrocketed when anti-Trump Americans decided to show the retailers support for their decision by buying at those stores.

 So, given that being political can now influence sales, what does this mean for authors? And how do we in the publicity business advise our clients now that there’s a new normal for how consumers react when sellers share their views? How do those who feel strongly about the current administration express their views without driving off potential customers? And is it even a problem to lose those customers who don’t agree with our politics?

 These questions have surfaced strongly on social media, where friends, family, colleagues, and customers converge, and the new politics have created increasing divides among them. Many of us have watched as followers on social media threaten to unfollow us if we state our views, whatever they may be, too loudly or frequently. Many have drawn hard lines to followers regarding opinions–agree or be gone, they seem to say.

 As authors, when we lose followers, we lose business. Those who choose to follow our blogs and support our brand do so because we offer them something–information, entertainment, connectedness, or all three. If readers no longer follow us on social media, will they still buy our books? My sense is no–as this administration continues to divide America with its policies, I believe that we’ll see a corresponding division in sales. Those who agree with us and our views will support us and buy our books; those who don’t will boycott our offers and ignore future releases.

 For some authors, this tradeoff is worth it. Those who feel strongly about expressing their political views may feel that protecting our country and its democracy from what they see as an attempt to upend our basic freedoms is more important than offending those potential or current readers who don’t agree that the new administration is a threat to those rights.

 For me, it’s a difficult situation–supporting others who share my views is important, but so is maintaining distance from political rhetoric. There is also a professionalism component to all of this– if I indulge myself in rants about my political leanings, how am I serving those who read my blog posts and buy my books? Do they come there to hear my politics? Yes and no. For some, finding out that we’re on the same page politically is a good thing–my sense is that they will become stronger supporters of me and my work because we think alike. For others, the insertion of politics (and this goes for religion, too) into my branding as an author and publicist could be seen as self-serving or offensive–and those who disagree with me will not follow or buy.

 Given this new political paradigm where politics have become such an overwhelming factor in our lives, I would suggest that it’s up to individual authors whether to be political in their branding. As retailers like Nordstrom and TJ Maxx discovered, political action can have benefits. But there is also the reality that once you’ve identified your brand as leaning one way or another, you can never go back–existing and new customers will see which way you lean, and they will subsequently decide whether to support or shun you and your products based on those leanings.

 In the end, we are in a strange new world where politics and consumerism are colliding more than ever. As an author, being political may serve your social activism, but it most likely will also have an effect on your book sales. Still, many authors maintain that their brand is a reflection of who they are as individuals and being true to that sense of self is crucial given what’s at stake in our country’s politics. In today’s political climate, being true to ourselves and our political beliefs may be worth more to us than growing our book sales and, for now, that just might be okay.

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Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her by email at paula@paulamargulies.com, view her website at www.paulamargulies.com, contact her on Twitter at @PaulaMargulies, or say hello on Facebook at Paula Margulies Communications.

 Photo credit: unsplash.com/photo=ob-hsLNxYPc 

Rising Above the Noise: What Authors Can Do to Make Themselves and Their Work Stand Out

Girl on snowy field jumping in the airIt’s a tough world for most authors. With so many books out there for readers to choose from, how can authors make themselves and their books stand out?

If you’re an author who feels stymied by a lack of exposure, here are a few suggestions to get you thinking about ways to rise above the crowd.

Share Your Enthusiasm

Passion is infectious–when someone deeply cares about something and is openly passionate about it, others can’t help but notice. In all your communications, whether it be a press release, a blog post, a Facebook post, a tweet, a comment on Goodreads to thank a reader, a panel appearance, or an individual speaking engagement–don’t be afraid to let your enthusiasm and passion for your book and its contents shine through. Let your energy channel through your voice–use strong verbs and bold adjectives in your writing, so that your readers feel the passion when they read your words. If you’re speaking, be excited, honest, and authentic–engage your audience by asking questions and answering with as much enthusiasm as you can muster. Your audience will feel your passion and respond in kind by buying your books, writing reviews, and acting as brand ambassadors for you when they help spread those all-important word-of-mouth endorsements of you and your book.

Jump on Opportunities

A former client called me this morning excited about a glowing review she recently received in the Los Angeles Times book section. She asked me how we could keep the momentum going, so we noodled on some possibilities together. The point is that getting good press isn’t the be-all and end-all for an author. You can and should use any media exposure you receive to your advantage: contact booksellers who may have passed before you got the coverage and ask them to shelve and promote your book, schedule a book tour with those bookstores, secure keynote and panel opportunities at conferences, contact other media who might be more interested in you now that there is some buzz about your book. The possibilities are endless– what’s important is that you use your current success to engender more of it.

Be Open

Vulnerability sells, especially in the blogosphere. Those authors wanting to connect with readers will find the most success if they’re willing to be honest about themselves, their flaws, and their failures. It’s not our natural inclination to present ourselves as weak or as having made mistakes–these types of admissions make us feel vulnerable, and we worry that we won’t be respected or liked, because of our peccadillos. But the most popular bloggers out there are so because they’re willing to bare all. We see their flaws and realize that we’re the same way. It’s almost like looking into a mirror–most of us feel safe when we see ourselves in others. We identify with the author’s pain, and when that happens, the connection is powerful.

Leave No Stone Unturned

The more exposure you have to readers out there, the more it’s likely that they will know you. If you sit at home in your office and pile up reasons why you can’t (or won’t) do certain marketing activities for your book, then the opportunities for exposure will be fewer. Marketing follows the law of averages–the more you do to tell others about your book, the more likely it is that you’ll get responses. For that reason, I urge authors to do everything they can to get the word out about their books. This includes activities such as participating in blog tours, scheduling book signings, meet-and-greets, and speaking engagements, writing a blog and posting regularly, writing articles for print and online publications, offering to guest post on others’ blogs, becoming a featured member of a blog, being active on social media, keeping books on hand in their cars, at work, or anywhere they may need them, handing out bookmarks to friends and business acquaintances, soliciting reviews from online reviewers, friends, colleagues, joining writing groups and meetups, attending and speaking at conferences, etc. The possibilities are endless and varied, and authors should take advantage of all of them to maximize exposure.

Tap the Media When Newsworthy

If you find that something in your book or your own life is a popular topic in the current news cycle, jump on the opportunity to introduce yourself to local and national media. Consider how your book or your platform would fit with a current news topic and create a press release and a Q&A around it. Share your idea with producers and editors and be ready to send them back up material–your press release, a headshot, the book cover art, and your Q&A. Timeliness is the key–the news cycles can be short, so be diligent in reading and listening to news outlets so you can take advantage of any opportunities that may appear.

Explore Ideas with Others

Don’t try to go it alone. There are lots of writers out there, and while having so many other authors vying for readership sounds like competition, it can actually be a good thing. Most other authors face the same issues you do, and for that reason, many are a fertile gold mine of resources. Time to plum that mother lode! Read blogs and articles by the experts and those authors whose stars are on the rise. Set up meetings with fellow authors to discuss marketing ideas and share opportunities. Work together on joint events. Or create your own events. Again, the possibilities are limitless, and the more you exchange ideas with others, the more you’ll discover some golden nuggets worth exploring.

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Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her by email at paula@paulamargulies.com, view her website at www.paulamargulies.com, contact her on Twitter at @PaulaMargulies, or say hello on Facebook at Paula Margulies Communications.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/Eax7a3sVHAw

Not For Everyone: How to Identify Your Specific Target Audience

B&W Photo Old Cars in ParadeI once had a potential client tell me that his book–a coffee-table nonfiction guide focused on an obscure group of collectible items–was a book that would be read by everyone.

I asked him, “Why would anyone who isn’t interested in collecting these items pick it up?”

He had no answer for that, and for good reason: not everyone is interested in collectibles.

Likewise, not everyone will be interested in one author’s romantic historical, or another author’s YA fantasy, or another author’s memoir about growing up in Italy during WWII, or another author’s nonfiction book on leadership skills. Yes, there will be readers of each of those genres, but not all readers are interested in all books.

Most authors are passionate about their work, which is probably the reason that so many believe that their books are going to be sought-after and read by a lot of people. But this just isn’t the case. There is usually a very specific (and very narrow) group of people who will actually want to read the book you’ve written. And, believe it or not, this is a good thing. Why? Because having a specific target–a niche market, if you will–for your work allows you to zero in on those readers. The more specific the group is, the more it becomes definable, and the more easily authors can begin to target and reach their readers.

So How Do You Identify Your Target Audience?

One of the best ways to identify potential readers who would specifically like your book is to take a look in the mirror. Are you a reader of the type of book you’ve written? If so, especially if you’re passionate about and/or an expert on the topic, chances are your own personal description is a good reflection of the type of person who would buy and/or read your book.

But what if you’ve written a book for someone who isn’t like you? Then it’s up to you to identify your readers according to their personal makeup (demographics) and their interests and activities (psychographics).

In either case, the best way to identify your audience is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are the readers of my book most likely to be male or female? Or would both genders like it?
  • How old are they?
  • How educated are they?
  • What are they approximately willing to pay for a book?
  • If they’re children who can’t buy books themselves, who would be buying books for them?
  • Are they likely to be a regional audience or worldwide?
  • What are their hobbies and interests?
  • What television shows do they watch?
  • What radio stations do they listen to?
  • What internet sites do they visit?
  • Are they library readers or book buyers?
  • And so on. The more you can define your readers, the more likely you’ll know where to find them, and where to spend your time and money promoting your work.

Even after you’ve identified your target audience, that doesn’t mean that all of those within your target group will buy. Some readers only read books by certain authors, while others only buy books in a series. Some buy from only one source, while others will look for certain specific types of books in the genre you’ve written. So, managing your expectations realistically becomes an important part of selling to your target audience. Most likely, you will be able to reach a certain percentage of your audience, and a certain percentage within that group will actually buy the book.

Even so, knowing who your audience is will help you decide where to promote the book. If your target audience is young and active online, then having an interactive website, an active blog, and promoting on social media sites may be the focus of your publicity efforts. A blog tour or articles and posts on targeted online sites may be the best way to reach this particular group.

If you write genre fiction, you’re lucky—there are often specific blog sites, library reading groups, conferences, etc., where your genre readers cluster. Seek out those venues, both online and in person, to introduce yourself to readers and let them know about your books.

Nonfiction authors will often find that there are specific outlets for their work depending on the topic they’ve written about. Self-help authors will often find readers in workshops, college classes, therapy groups, meetups, and other places where readers go to learn about the topics. Those venues provide good opportunities to meet with readers based on their interests. Sometimes, nonfiction topics lend themselves to presentations at professional organizations or conferences on the topic. There are also online opportunities to write articles and posts for online publications and blogs that allow guest posts. And an author’s own blog is a powerful tool to both develop a platform and market to readers who seek information on a particular nonfiction topic.

Photo Credit: nos.twnsnd.co/image/149750899946

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Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her by email at paula@paulamargulies.com, at her website at www.paulamargulies.com, on Twitter at @PaulaMargulies, or on Facebook at Paula Margulies Communications

Book Promotion – Make It a Labor of Love

butterfly-june2

When I told my husband I wanted to put a butterfly garden in our backyard last summer, he looked at me with his typical patient expression and said, “Sure, why not?”

Please realize that, at the time, neither of us knew jack about butterflies or what to plant in this type of garden. But when we finally removed a large strip of overgrown mock orange shrubs in our yard last year, we knew it was time to do our part for the planet and provide a safe space where threatened insects like monarch butterflies and bees could roam free of pesticides and predators.

We tilled the soil, read up on nectaring and host plants that butterflies like, listened to the experts at a local butterfly farm, planted, and then waited and watched as our first group of caterpillars emerged.

We learned a few things during that first summer: that monarch caterpillars will eat our milkweed plants to the ground, that most caterpillars don’t make it to the chrysalis stage, that even those that do make it are sometimes attacked by predators like tachinid flies, wasps, and lizards, and that when a single caterpillar makes it to the chrysalis stage, it’s something of a miracle.

Our first summer, we had a few butterflies visit our garden. None of our caterpillars survived.

But we didn’t give up. Instead, we lovingly tended our garden through the winter, nurturing the existing plants, replacing those that were too damaged or thinned out, getting additional advice from the experts at the butterfly farm, and adding new plants to make the garden more inviting to butterflies.

This summer, in our second year of butterfly gardening, we’ve had multiple butterflies visit the garden daily. Caterpillars have appeared on a regular basis, eating their way through our milkweed and fennel plants, and a few of them have already successfully transformed into beautiful butterflies.

If I’ve learned anything while putting this garden together, it’s that it doesn’t take a lot of initial knowledge to try something new. And with a little research, effort, patience, guidance, and love, we can be successful in our endeavors.

I like to remind my publicity clients, especially those who lament that they know nothing about promotion, that these same gardening values – research, effort, patience, guidance,  and, yes, love – can help them to be successful in their book marketing efforts. Initially, the first attempt at promoting may include a learning curve, where the response may not be great, readers may not come in droves, reviews may be thin or grudging, and sales may be slow to non-existent.

But the next time you promote a book, you’ve learned some things about yourself, your writing, and what works and what doesn’t when you promote. You make adjustments, adding new material, asking experts (like publicists!) for advice, considering new avenues for marketing, and learning more about the process.

And then, the next time you do it, everything changes – that first group of readers and reviewers remembers you and buys your new book, reviews start to come in a little quicker, speaking appearances are easier to book, bloggers offer you spots on their pages, opportunities for marketing begin to broaden, and promotion and publicity gets easier. If you are dedicated and take what you’ve learned to heart, the results can be astonishing.

Like creating a butterfly garden, promoting a book is a labor of love. The first time around may be disappointing. But when authors are willing to put in the hard work and be open to learning, to making adjustments, and to loving the process, the groundwork set during the first effort pays off.  With research, energy, patience, good guidance and a whole lot of love, your book publicity efforts will thrive.

double-trouble

Photo credit: Paula Margulies

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Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her by email at paula@paulamargulies.com, at her website at www.paulamargulies.com, on Twitter at @PaulaMargulies, or on Facebook at Paula Margulies Communications