Would Shakespeare Tweet? #Maybe, Part 2, by Guest Blogger, Lisa Whalen

Bubba the cat hiding under a bookshelfLast month, I wrote about how my cat, Bubba, inspires me. Eighteen months after I adopted him from the Animal Humane Society, he continues overcoming fear and learning to trust despite past trauma. In fact, his playful batting of a stuffed mouse beneath a bookcase, as pictured, prompted me to overcome fear and learn to Tweet despite past (and present) introversion.

I discovered that Twitter doesn’t embody Othello’s famous line, “Chaos is come again.” It even provides benefits I hadn’t imagined. Here’s what I learned:  

  • Lurk. The same cacophony I dreaded allowed me to sit on Twitter’s banks and observe unnoticed while I figured out how its currents flowed and its rapids broke. I didn’t have to dive in unless and until I was ready. #soundandfury   #introvert


  • Make Twitter work for you. It is a tool, after all. Follow people you can learn from: writers, artists, editors, publishers. Check in on organizations that interest you, like nonprofits and hobbyist associations. #AWPW2W


  • Do you. If you don’t want to tweet, don’t. I started by thinking of Twitter as a device for professional development. Following writers and publishers exposed me to titles I could add to my reading list, writing tips I could apply, and associations I could join. Before I knew it, I was bobbing along on Twitter’s surface, making my way happily downstream.


  • Experiment. My low profile meant I didn’t have to get a tweet right the first time, as the perfectionist in me often demands. I could let go of the reserved professional I play at work. I could test out new personas and voices. Since I’m not Taylor Swift, no one would notice. And if, by random chance, someone does, well, then, I’ve accomplished what publishing industry insiders tell me I should. #TaylorSwift   #lookwhatyoumademedo


  • Accept help. Even if it’s inanimate (and grammatically incorrect). Twitter composed and offered to publish my first tweet, so I let it: “Hello Twitter! #myfirstTweet.” Silly? Yes. Unoriginal? Totally. Uninformative? Absolutely. But having someone (or somebot) launch me into the deep made releasing my grip on the shoreline easier.


  • Keep calm and carry on. The impulse to sprout feathers and squawk dire warnings faded when the sky remained intact after I composed my first tweet. Unless I land a network talk show like Ellen DeGeneres (highly unlikely) or run for political office (even less likely), nothing sky-shattering will result from what I tweet. Just like that, the pressure’s off. #chickenlittle    


  • Appreciate the benefits. Being confined to 140 characters has helped me work toward long-held goals: (1) write shorter, punchier sentences, (2) create catchier titles. Twitter’s push to rely on images also reconfigured my approach to other writing and teaching tasks.


  • Set limits. Twitter can be a time suck. It’s especially compelling when I want an excuse not to write: I’m building my platform. I’m learning how to promote my work. After 30 minutes? No. I’m procrastinating. I’ve decided I can only login when I can articulate a specific goal, such as finding and following an agent I want to query.Promote. Your writing, your causes, yourself. Everyone else is doing it; you might as well, too. Though uncomfortable at first, it gets easier. If you really squirm when typing a soliloquy, generate one tweet (or retweet) for a charitable cause to match every tweet you write for your own benefit.


  • Have fun. Once I got acclimated, I surfed bigger waves. Now I follow favorite entertainers and my celebrity crush, Stephen Colbert. Maybe one day I’ll grow brave enough to tweet @StephenAtHome. #stephencolbert  #colbertlateshow   #LSSC   #colbertnation

Take it from a reluctant social media swimmer: Come on in, the water’s fine! And if you follow me @LisaIrishWhalen, I can even show you the ropes.


Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/2430933/

Be Focused, Be Prepared, Be Committed – Steps to Take Before Hiring a Publicist

hand holding microphone with black backgroundMost prospective clients who approach me about publicity are new authors who have never worked with a publicist before. Whether self- or traditionally published, the most common question is: What would you charge for promoting my book?

My response is always the same: What is it you’re looking for? A book tour? Media coverage? Internet exposure? All of the above? And how much do you want to spend? Without knowing what it is an author wants, it’s difficult for me to put a price on how much I can do for him.

It’s also difficult to say how much publicity an author is likely to get without having read the author’s book or knowing a little about her platform.

So, for new authors who are thinking about hiring a publicist, here are my top five tips to consider before calling or sending an inquiry email to a PR expert:

1. What kind of book have you written?

With over 300,000 new titles released each year, it’s important to know where your book fits into the overall market. Is it a young adult novel, targeted for teens, or younger kids, say five- to nine-year-olds? Does your mystery fit more in the true crime or fictional detective category? Is your love story a traditional romance, or does it fit more under the women’s fiction heading? Knowing what you’ve got to sell will help you pinpoint what you have to do (and where you have to go) to sell it.

 2. Is there a market for it? If so, who and where is that market?

Once you know what you’ve written, you need to decide who would read it. Is your audience both men and women, or are only women likely to purchase it? Are there targeted niche audiences for your book? If so, where can you best reach them? Be ready to discuss with your publicist who your audience is and where you’re willing to go to find them.

3. What kind of experience/expertise/knowledge do you have that can be used to promote your book?

Having a platform is essential for both fiction and non-fiction writers, especially when promoting your book to media producers and reporters. The platform has to do with you (the author), your background, and the level of expertise or recognition you have in your subject area.

Before you hire a publicist, ask yourself the following questions: Are you a recognized expert in your field? If not, would you be willing to educate yourself and/or work to establish yourself as such? What is it about your background and experience that makes you an interesting interview for the media? Are you willing speak, write, and blog about your book/subject area? Have you taken the time to develop a social media following and, if not, would you be willing to do so (or to hire a social media expert to help you)?

4. How much are you willing to spend on publicity?

Before you hire a publicist, sit down with your spouse or significant other and decide how much you can afford for book promotion. Review items 1-3 above and decide what will give you the most exposure for your type of book and audience(s). Decide if you’re willing to travel to speak, tour, and/or sell your book, and figure out how long you’re willing to do that. Plan to create web, blog, and social media sites for your book and estimate the expenses, both time and moneywise, for those.

Finally, create a budget that factors in costs for printing and shipping copies of your book, creation of promotional items (bookmarks, posters, flyers, etc.) website development and hosting, travel, hotel, food, etc., for signing and/or media tours, booth space fees, postage, advertising, etc. Also factor in the cost of hiring a publicist or other professionals (social media, graphic reproduction, ebook formatting, legal, etc.) you might need to help with your book’s promotion.

5. How committed are you to do what your publicist recommends?

I’m always surprised at how many of my clients do the groundwork for hiring me and then, once we begin their promotional tour, panic when they achieve some level of success. As many authors realize after trying to do it themselves, it’s extremely difficult in today’s noisy and crowded publishing landscape to get attention from booksellers and the media. It can take an experienced publicist repeat contacting and hours of follow-up and pitching to get a bookseller, reporter, or producer to agree to an event or interview for a client.

But, despite their desire for exposure, there are always a few authors who balk at doing appearances or radio and television interviews once they get them, which is frustrating on many levels. It can be awkward for a publicist to go back to booksellers and the media to say that a client is passing on an event after working so hard to get them to agree to it in the first place. It’s also time-consuming to have to revisit plans and goals with authors, who say they want publicity and then waver on following through.

Yes, it can be scary to be in front of the camera for the first time or, for some, to stand up in front of a group and speak. But a good publicist can provide helpful tips for overcoming those early jitters, and most authors agree that, like any other activity, they get better at it the more they do it. And successful authors know that without that kind of outreach, they would not be able to generate the essential word-of-mouth ripple effect that comes from continued audience exposure.

It’s a shame to waste opportunities, especially if authors have done the footwork and spent the time and money to get the hard-won exposure they need to promote their books successfully. Be committed to your book’s success, and if you hire a publicist, follow through on her efforts to obtain the promotional attention you seek.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/977641/

Would Shakespeare Tweet? #Maybe, by Guest Blogger, Lisa Whalen


Bubba the cat hiding under a bookshelf“Bubba embodies my Thursday mindset,” I posted to Facebook a few weeks ago, along with this picture.

But I lied.

I should have posted, “Bubba embodies my social media mindset.” Even as I giggled at my cat’s antics—batting a toy mouse beneath the bookcase and then contorting to dig it out—I, too, wrestled with a pest: Twitter.

To Tweet, or not to Tweet, that was the question. Every time it arose, I wanted to crawl in beside Bubba and stay there. I batted at the question and then contorted to dig out the answer I desired. Twitter, it seemed to me, was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It popped into my head every time my students and I discussed Othello’s famous line: “Chaos is come again.”

Facebook caters to an introvert’s craving for a cocoon. Its privacy settings insulate against scrutiny’s glare and trolls’ vitriol. I can tuck my online community’s edges tight as a drum around my form. But Twitter throws open the blankets. It lays out a feast of introvert fears: brief exchanges with strangers, a worldwide audience, a continuous feed. Character limits. Hashtags.

So, there it was. I didn’t want to join Twitter. Then I shouldn’t. Right?


  I want to be a published author. I’d like to see the memoir I spent more than two years writing and revising on a shelf next to frothing cappuccino machines at Barnes & Noble and suggested as a “you might also like . . .” by Amazon. Then I want to write another book. And another.

A memoirist hunting publication stalks skittish prey. Everyone in the industry advises crafting a name-brand and constructing a social media platform upon which to hoist it. Then, maybe, an agent will consent to reading a few manuscript pages.

Platform? I’m no Taylor Swift. I can’t draw a fraction of the interest she generates by tweeting a single snake GIF.

I vacillated. I asked a mentor for advice. Then I channeled Bubba.

When I adopted Bubba from the Animal Humane Society, he was a literal fraidy-cat. If I lifted my hand to pet him, he flinched. If I unstuck a Post-It Note from its pad, he ducked beneath the couch. If I opened a grocery bag to collect our recyclables, he bounded upstairs to hide in my closet. But shown the patience to adjust on his own terms, Bubba evolved to become the stuffed-mouse-hunting predator I know today.

So I followed Bubba’s example. I wriggled out from under the bookcase and joined Twitter.

Stay tuned to discover what I learned next month . . .


Photo of author with Kitten on shoulderLisa Whalen has an M.A. in creative and critical writing and a Ph.D. in postsecondary and adult education. She teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at North Hennepin Community College in Minnesota. When not teaching, she spends as much time as possible with animals, especially cats, dogs, and horses. Then she writes about them. For more information—and pictures of Lisa’s favorite animals—check out her blog, Writing Unbridledor find her on Twitter @LisaIrishWhalen, Facebook (lisawhalen4hs), or her website: lisawhalen4hs.wixsite.com/lisawhalen.


Photo courtesy of Lisa Whalen

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

How to Be a Feisty Self-Promoter

man on hover board water craft flying in the airIsn’t your greatest wish to be left alone in your cave—to write out your words, the way they come to you, without noise or interruption? Then when you are done, all you would have to do is step outside your cave and drop your material on the doorstep. Then you could run back to your cave and shut the door.

Then, an agent would come along, pick up the manuscript and shout, “Brilliant!” and leave you a check just outside your cave door. Then this magic agent would get on her magic megaphone and share your masterpiece with the world, leaving you to go back to doing what you truly love: Working on the next manuscript.

We writers like to be in our caves typing or scribbling—alone. The thought of stepping out of the cave and calling out to the world, “Hey, I’m here!” can be truly daunting. When I ask writers about their take on self-promoting their material I hear questions like:

  1. Won’t I look like a self-centered narcissist?
  2. Won’t I annoy people?
  3. Shouldn’t I just keep my head down and not call attention to myself? Won’t people just find me ’cause they like my work?
  4. I have no idea how to promote; it’s not my area of expertise. Shouldn’t I leave it to the professionals?
  5. What if people say mean stuff?
  6. Won’t the publisher do all that? (No, sorry—heavy sigh)
  7. Do I really have to use social media, I mean how effective is it anyway?

Okay, I won’t lie to you.

People do get sick of humble braggers, general narcissists, and annoying self-promoters. If you are in a community of writers, you know that person. Every post, every tweet, and every pic are about them and their book. They seem to be in their own world—the one where only their book exists.

To become a Feisty Self-Promoter, your goal is to start building an authentic base of supporters, readers, and fans. People who love your voice will want more of it. So it’s perfectly fine to let them know where they can find you, or what you will be up to next! Think of feisty promoting as creating a solid and lasting relationship between you and your readers.

How to be a Feisty Self-Promoter:

  1. First of all, know it’s okay to have confidence in yourself and your material.
  2. Speak from your most authentic voice. Be yourself. Take risks. Let your real voice shine (even in posts—even in tweets.)
  3. Don’t engage the haters. Keep the tone of everything you do positive.
  4. Don’t make it all about you. Write about your readers—what they want, wish for, think about, dream about, etc.
  5. Get help from branding experts. You can spend (read: waste) a lot of time working on promotions that get no return. A few words from someone in the know can have a serious and lasting impact on your PR efforts.
  6. Mix it up, change the channel. Write about something else besides your work. Show that you are not about promoting you all the time.
  7. Tell good stories. This is a great way to promote without being annoying. Talk about your real process. Tell us the good, the bad and the ugly.
  8. Keep being visible—no matter what. Find your venues.
  9. Lift up other writers. Support your writing tribe. When someone else comes out with a book—help them out. Tell others, share posts, write a review for them, attend their launch, toot their horn.
  10. Tenacious consistency is key. Let go of quick results. Building a real platform, something solid, is well worth the time.
  11. Enjoy the process. Readers can tell if you are dragging yourself to the keyboard—or hate the promotion part. Find the parts that give you authentic joy. Then I guarantee that your efforts will resonate with passion. (And who doesn’t like passion?)

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/water-show-fly-airborn-raves-2092402/

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


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.


The Feisty Writer’s Guide to Tackling Your Fears

People on scary carnival rideWriting Task Terror Challenge

 Being the feisty coach that I am, I want to encourage you to start to tackle your writing fears.

“But how, how, how?”  you ask. “They are my fears; I can’t just conquer them. I am filled with writing anxiety. I am scared to reach out to an agent. I can’t submit to a contest, go to a networking event, or travel to a different city to pitch my story!”

 Yeah, you actually can. I’ve watched many a timid writer transform into a fierce writing lion in action. And I have a plan. It’s easy, and I know you can do it.

 Do one writing task per month that terrifies you!

 Let’s take a minute to talk about what you may be avoiding:

 Sending a query letter. Sending your 12th query letter. Making a cold call. Writing a book proposal. Pitching an agent. Signing up for a conference. Submitting to a contest. Applying for a writing job. Reaching out to a writing mentor you respect. Attending a class. Finding a writing group. Completing your book. Taking a manuscript out of the drawer and showing it to someone. (add your own here)

 Now let me break down my little plan for you in 4 easy steps:

Step one: Make a list of things that you want/need to get done in the next six months to reach a writing goal. Include the things that you really don’t want to do, or that freak you out.

Step two: Grab a calendar. Pick a day of the month (say the 15th) and make it your Writing Task Day.

Step three: On that day (for example, Oct 15th, then Nov 15th…), for six months, perform a task that you would normally shy away from.

Step four: Put it out of your mind until the next month.

Important: What matters is staying in creative motion and putting yourself out there. Don’t become attached to the outcome. I once worked with a client who had submitted her book for a year. Ready to quit, she said she would only submit one more. Well, three submissions later, she found her perfect agent. Had she quit at one more, her career would never have blossomed. Letting go of the outcome allowed her to keep moving.

 What you will notice: The first time will be the scariest.

 Then, you will find that:

Being bold is addicting!

 Why? Because you will realize that what has been holding you in its grips so tightly–telling you that you can’t do it, well, it no longer has a hold on you.  

 And the more you get out there, the more you will have successful experiences. Failures too. That’s just part of it. But the successes will happen–and they will happen because you stayed in creative motion.

 Send us an e-mail with a pic of you doing the thing that scares you the most!


Photo credit: http://nos.twnsnd.co/image/149083312733

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.


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 

5 Ways to Reframe Your Writing Goals

looking down from a very high and scary place1) Old Goal: Submit Work

New Goal: Get Rejected

We’ve all seen the contests and call for submissions. They look so attractive, with money or exposure or cache attached to them. You might think of all the other writers who are also submitting their work and freeze up. I’ll never get in, you might say. My work isn’t good enough, you might cry. Well, that may be true. So prove it. I dare you to prove that you aren’t good enough. That you’ll never get accepted. I fucking dare you to prove it so hard. Show me I’m wrong. Collect as many rejections from as many different places as possible. Get letters from agents, editors, magazines, publishers, contests, residencies, freelance jobs, and any other place that will reject you. Collect as many letters every month as you possibly can. Because the truth is, you might (and probably will) get rejected from many of them. But, just like no one can hit a home run every time, no one can strike out every time, either. Sooner or later, while I’m eating crow reading your rejection letters, you’re getting lucky and making contact with the ball. It might just be a single to get you on base, but at least you’re not still on the bench. Added bonus: you will have written more stuff, and most likely written better and better stuff, which improves the chances of getting accepted. See how you did that? You’re welcome.

But, just like no one can hit a home run every time, no one can strike out every time, either. Sooner or later, while I’m eating crow reading your rejection letters, you’re getting lucky and making contact with the ball. It might just be a single to get you on base, but at least you’re not still on the bench. Added bonus: you will have written more stuff, and most likely written better and better stuff, which improves the chances of getting accepted. See how you did that? You’re welcome.

2) Old Goal: Finish a Book/Story/Whatever

New Goal: Build a Pipeline

Stop thinking of your book as your magnum opus (that’s “big work” for anyone who doesn’t drink wine or speak Latin). Thinking of your book as something that needs to make a difference and be big and important is a sure fire way to make it crash in a fiery ball of anxiety and fear, creating a massive crater of disgust when it hits Earth. Instead, think of your book as a stepping stone. As in, once I finish this, I can start another one. Then another, and another. Then it becomes a flow of books that lead to your other books, all available to eager readers. Bam. You have a pipeline. You’re welcome.

3) Old Goal: Sell Books

New Goal: Connect With Your Tribe

Many of us are trying to make a few bucks with our blood, sweat, and tear-stained pages. But putting pressure on ourselves to be merchants might be getting in the way of connecting. So find a new frame. No one likes a salesperson. So don’t sell. Share. Give. Listen. This is what we do with friends and people we connect with. This is what your goal should be. Find readers (and other writers) that you connect with. This is a more organic relationship than selling something to someone, and it lasts longer. I can buy a car from a guy, but I won’t remember him years later. If I buy a piece of art from someone I know, you bet I’ll be back again later. It’s the difference between a transaction and a meaningful experience. It lasts. You’re welcome.

4) Old Goal: Improve Writing

New Goal: Write Crap

We all want to be better. At everything. All the time. But the truth is, improvement takes time, and perfection is an imaginary thing. So don’t work toward that. Work toward creating a giant pile of pages with stupid shit written on them. Make it big enough for a bonfire. I read a study that divided a pottery class into two groups. Group A had to make one perfect/amazing piece to get an A. Group B had to make a number of pieces that would weigh a certain amount altogether. Who made the better work? Group B, of course. They weren’t concerned with quality, so they just kept at it, practicing more and more and more, all semester long. They weren’t getting in their own way, and as a result, naturally improved. Not every piece was amazing, but Babe Ruth didn’t hit a home run every time he was at bat. You won’t either, but the more you play, the more you’ll run the bases. You’re welcome.

5) Old Goal: Write Something Important

New Goal: Scare Myself.

Nothing good is ever easy, and vice versa. Writing something important or profound isn’t easy, and making an effort to do so is often unsuccessful. Instead of trying to be important, be real. Write something that delves deep into who you are and what you believe. Write about things that are deeply personal. Write something raw. I once wrote a piece about a homophobic character. It was excruciatingly difficult since I would never say the things this character said. But, at the end of it, I had written something that mattered to me, something that exposed a certain pity for those who hate. It was terrifying to read the words I had written for this character. This, of course, was a few drafts in, and this draft captured the essence of the story more fully than the previous drafts when I hadn’t wanted to ‘go there.’ Go there. At the very least, you will have written something that is important to you. You’re welcome.

Photo credit: http://nos.twnsnd.co/image/131559787216