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5 Crazy Ways to Get Attention

January 7, 2012

Does all this publicity seeking go a bit too far? Decide for yourself.

1. Get your twitter name tattooed on the arm of an Olympic athelete. (Source: @PublicityHound and mediabistro.)

2. Print your book on a shower curtain! Another work of staggering genius from Dave Eggers. You can buy it here.

3. Harness the insect world.  Witness the publisher who tied little red tags to hundreds of flies and then released them in the halls of the Frankfurt Book Fair. The tags were printed with the publisher’s booth number. Do watch the video here. (Hmmm. Which lucky publicists had the job of tying the tags to all those flies?)

4. Write your book in public. Here authors go to work in the bookstore windows of London and Portland. You can follow them (Isabel Losada and Bart King) on Twitter. (And thank you, Mr. King, for writing that marvelous tome, The Big Book of Boy Stuff—a big favorite in our house and a great gift for any tween boy.)

5. Pay an actor to appear in public with your book. Author Jennifer Belle does exactly that.

Crazy, all right. Crazy like a fox.

Does Branding Matter for Authors?

December 29, 2011

In a world where corporations have become people, it’s hardly suprising that writers are urged to turn themselves into brands.

But don’t let the idea of branding worry you. It’s a concept that can help your thinking about how to present your work to the world.

Branding is, simply put, establishing a clear, consistent, recognizable look, voice, and value for your products. For authors, branding is embodied in your content (your voice, the value your work offers a reader) and in your book’s presentation (your book cover, the online product pages where your book is sold, your website, your publicity and marketing materials.)

Another way to think about it: Your brand is your identity, what you (and your books) are known for.

Here’s an example of clear branding that offers a model example for authors.

Quirky launches two new products every week—see the example pictured above—and is based on principles of social product development. In a nutshell, as an individual you can submit an idea for a new product, you can buy their products, and you can comment on products in development and therefore earn influence points (which translates into cash if and when the product is brought to market.) Quirky’s product packaging and marketing materials are simple and distinctive, with a consistent use of color palette and fonts. Their pricing: affordable. Their products: ergonomic and attractive. Their publicity and marketing operation: impressive.

I came across Quirky through a TV segment on New York One talking about a holiday pop-up store. Then Quirky popped up again, this time on the Sundance channel in a reality series about successful inventors. The Quirky series explores the creative urge driving these entrepreneurs as well as the collaborative process behind their eventual success. The program is also available on itunes.

Everything Quirky does creates a virtuous circle connecting product, sales, and marketing—that’s good branding. Buy a product from their site, and you’re invited to submit a product idea. Browse their products in the pop-up store, and you’ll come across handy computer terminals inviting you to submit a product idea. Get the product home, open it and find a product brochure that includes a coupon for one free idea submission at the Quirky site. It also shares info about the influencers who get to cash in on the revenue for the product you’ve just bought.

So what can authors learn from Quirky’s branding?

1)      Good, attractive, consistent design is important to catch and hold the reader’s eye. So if you are self-publishing, invest in good quality, professional looking, and consistent design across your books and marketing materials. That means choosing an appropriate and limited number of font styles and a unifying palette.

2)      The story behind the book and what compelled you to write it is an appealing hook to a customer. Tell it on your web site, blog, “about the author” page inside your book, and on the etailer product pages for your book.

3)      Build customer engagement to bring him/her back for more. Invite the reader to sign up for your email newsletter or your blog (and include those links in your book and ebook.) Embed a sample of another of your books at the end of your current book along with a link to purchase.

4)      Crowdsourcing elements of your book’s development and production brings other big brains into your process. You can crowdsource design for your book cover, its interior design, web design, your head shot, copyediting and proofreading, even your content, like this example—a crowdsourced book about facebook marketing.

Crowdsourcing makes elements of the production process accessible to self published authors, but even if you have a book publisher behind you, it can be a helpful tool. Through his publisher, hyper-bestselling author Rick Warren certainly has access to any designers his publisher can commission. Yet he worked with the design community at 99Designs to run a contest for the cover design for his book, The Hope You Need. And here are examples of design briefs for book covers at Design Crowd.

Branding doesn’t have to be complicated—in fact, good branding should be simple in order to get noticed. But like most things that are worthwhile, it takes a little time to think through and get right. Apart from making your book the best it can be, there’s perhaps nothing more important than establishing the clear look and feel for your book in a very crowded marketplace to help you and your work stand out.

I leave you with an inspiring video about what branding means. Will your brand say “read me” to your audience?

Free ebook about book publishing and marketing

December 27, 2011

A quick post here to alert you to a free-for-a-short-time-only ebook by J.A. Konrath on Amazon. (But even at the regular price of $2.99 it’s a steal.)

The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing (Everything a Writer Needs to Know) offers thousands of tips about writing, publishing, and marketing from Konrath’s blog. The info is all gleaned from Konrath’s experience as a hard working published author. (His horror fiction is published under the pen name Jack Kilborn.)

Do take advantage of this author’s generosity in sharing his advice. It’s solid and sound and good.

What Jackie Collins can teach you

December 13, 2011

One of the challenging things for many writers is learning to talk about themselves, to show off without coming off like a braggadocio.

Finding it hard to promote yourself? Think of your book as a product or service that will delight/entertain/enthrall readers. You are simply a mouthpiece to help get that product into readers’ hands. (It’s not you talking. It’s your avatar!)

Writers have told me that by thinking of themselves in a more distanced way from their work, they find it easier to give interviews about their books. Of course there are other writers who have no issue with the fine art of self-promotion and if you count yourself among them, then this post probably isn’t for you and more power to you. (Do, please, come by again another day.)

Places you can’t avoid talking about yourself: in your author bio, Twitter profile, Q&A for your press materials, and the”About” page on your blog. If you feel ambivalent about writing about yourself, then that sentiment will, of course, come through in the text.

Start by shedding all that modesty. Think of yourself as a stranger you’ve just met—such an interesting and attractive person!  Take notes about your past: What are the most compelling thoughts/actions/experiences you’ve had? Take time with your bio. It will take tweaking to get it right. (Oh gosh: take a look at Jeopardy to see how not to approach an author bio. I’m always cringing at the embarrassing or silly stories some of the contestants choose to tell about themselves. Am I alone in that? I find it a very worrying part of the show.)

Here are some excellent and useful posts on the importance of a compelling bio and how to build a better Twitter bio.

And here are some examples of how focussing on creating a great bio can increase your exposure. Sea Change author Jeremy Page wrote a bio that appears on blogher.com. The appeal of his warm and approachable self, as revealed in his bio, prompted the site’s editor to run it as he wrote it. (I love the line about his three small boys launching themselves at him like variously shaped missiles.)

And of course, sometimes less is more, as Jackie Collins’ Twitter profile proves. It reads thus: @jackiejcollins Hollywood, CA Kick-ass writer! This is a lady who has no problem talking about herself. Learn from a master!

Why spelling matters

December 6, 2011

As part of my day job, I get pitched business ideas by email all the time. And while it should be an obvious comment to those who want my attention, it is not: Please spell my name correctly. (Oooh. I just got my schoolmarm on, didn’t I?)

Similarly, when you’re pitching the media about your book, make sure you not only understand and have read the media you are pitching, but have also spelled the recipient’s name accurately.

A reviewer called me to task when my book, Publicize Your Book, was first published, saying that telling people to spell correctly is an obvious statement. Wrongo.  So many among us just don’t get this right. Even the New York Times cops to it, 460 times in the first ten months of this year. And the blog Terribly Write documents it with a roster of misspelled names on Yahoo!

I had a terrific professor in college, Robin Winks, who taught a course called The Writing of History (and you’ll see an image of his marvelous book, The Historian as Detective, above.) There were lots of great takeaways from that class, which I still think about whenever I doublecheck the spelling of someone’s name. Professor Winks often reminded us in Very Firm Tones that we must spell names correctly in order to avoid offending those we are writing about and to be responsible historians. So often I think I’ve got a name right only to find I haven’t. So do take time to doublecheck. Or else your otherwise beautifully crafted pitch letter simply won’t get read.

And lest anyone is still wondering, “Hey what’s the big deal with spelling a name wrong?”, check out the hugely funny and indignant posts on this site. If you’ve ever misspelled someone’s name, you won’t again after reading it. Or on a deeply somber note,  read the Huffington Post piece about the 9/11 victim whose name was misspelled on the memorial. Misspelled as in etched into stone. Not good.

OK… I’m getting down from the spelling soapbox now. But do please tell me if you find any spelling errors on my blog. I shall be most grateful.

Should you create a book trailer?

December 3, 2011

A book trailer might be a mini commercial for a book or more editorially oriented, like a short piece of programming. Should you spend your time and money creating one?

It’s important to remember that, as an author, you’re part of the media business. You are competing for attention with artists from all fields—music, film, gaming to name just a few. Your book trailer needs to stand on its own merit as persuasive and engaging. Don’t sweat it if you think this is beyond your reach. Videos are not for everyone and your book’s success does not depend on having created one. But if you have a touch of the showman or showwoman in you, along with a filmic message that has the potential to go viral, then by all means put all that to good use.

Here is an example of an effective editorial book trailer for Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, one that capitalizes on the author’s storytelling skills as well as on her very interesting story:

Here are two more that are more commercially oriented, from novelists Douglas Clegg and Brad Meltzer for Inner Circle (below.)

You may rightly say these are big time books and authors and you don’t have the resources they did. But you don’t have to spend a lot of money to create a video. Here’s a good example—not from an author. (And we should always be looking for inspiration from our colleagues in other fields.) Kevjumba (Kevin Wu) created a series of home-spun videos about his college and home life that are utterly engaging and which he is now parlaying into a media career. Here’s one:

The takeaway: With pointed humor, this lighthearted little video exposes cultural and racial stereotypes. (Take a look at the rest of his video library—the ones with his dad are a hoot—and you’ll see that all his videos are inexpensively produced.) What works is Wu’s ability to tell stories with verve and humor. He’s had 5.2 million views for the above video alone.

Before you commit to creating a book trailer, have a plan for what you’ll do with it. You can post it to your website or blog, post it to YouTube, get your publisher to post it on your book’s product page on Amazon or bn.com, and upload it to Goodreads and other social reading sites. Those are good possibilities to start with. And do your research. Study book trailers from other authors to see which ones catch your attention and which leave your bored or indifferent.

If you want to explore videos further and need some professional assistance, here are two video production companies to look into: Turn Here and Circle of Seven.

Again, a book trailer is not going to make or break your book. Rather it comprises just part of a robust campaign around your book to get the word out to as many of your potential readers as possible.

Which are your favorite author videos? Have you bought a book after having seen one?

Two important blog posts you should read

November 30, 2011

The first is Seth Godin’s announcement that he’s ending The Domino Project, his publishing imprint powered by Amazon, and it’s replete with terrific advice for authors. Godin’s blog is always a fertile source of ideas about marketing so you just might want to add it to your favorites.

The takeaway for authors? Building your tribe, your followers, your email list, the group of people who want to hear from you—whatever you want to call them—is the best investment of time, if not money, you’ll make in forging your writing career (apart from writing your book, that is.)

The second is a post on Kindle Review about the shift in control over the publishing business away from publishers towards retailers and why this shift potentially diminishes the value of the book.

The takeaway for authors: While getting published today is relatively easy (you can self publish your books instantly as ebooks) discovery remains a tremendous challenge. How will readers find your great work among all the undifferentiated stuff out there? That’s the ongoing issue, not only for authors, but for every publisher, product and brand in the market today. You’re in good company.

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