Stefanie Hartman In The Press

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How to give a great event

Posted on 05 Oct 2011 | Author Stefanie | Comments No comments | Tags

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Here is the next of the installments I found on book tours, from a company that is closing their doors soon, so I thought I would pass it on to you!  I do really enjoy being at a great event.  In this article Kevin will give you some tips and pay attention to how to jazz up your event and create a unique and engaging experience for the attendee.

Here’s some of my Golden Rules for speakers:

  1. Make eye contact with audience and keep your focus on them.  You want them to connect with you not “watch” you.
  2. Make sure you have good posture and your stance is strong.  Feet should be almost shoulder width apart.
  3. Get excited about what you are speaking about.  Energy is contagious.
  4. Adjust your volume and tone throughout the presentation to keep them awake.
  5. Remember it is all about them – not you, so relax and have fun.
  6. Get them involved and participating.  Take the pressure and work off of you by getting your audience involved.  Both parties will have more fun.
  7. Remember mistakes are learning experiences.
  8. Don’t try to rush trough a ton of points.  It is better if you teach less but more clearly and more interactive way.  And if you forget a few things – don’t stress about it as no-one will know.
  9. Record the event to sell later, to put snippets on your website, or just to watch yourself and to improve your performance.
  10. Record video testimonials from students during break.
  11. Speak with power and compassion.
  12. Pass out freebies or goodies.

There is an exercise at the bottom for you of this article for you.   Enjoy.

All the best,
Stefanie

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How to Give a Great Event

Last time, we discussed the logistics and bigger questions of setting out on your book tour. We called it “the fun part” of our series and probably jumped the gun. Planning your own book tour may indeed bring you joy (particularly if you  the sort who enjoys the challenge of say, finding an hotel vacancy during Thanksgiving weekend), but most likely, you feel like planning is the responsible, adult part of anything (including book tours) you must trudge through before getting to the fun.

Fair enough. Trudge you have. Now we’re at the fun.

You’ve mapped out a block of time you’re going to spend promoting your book. You’ve got a handful of events of varying colors and shapes on your calendar. Wowee. On that date in the not-so-distant future, a group of people will be gathered to hear you, the author, talk about your book.

Neat huh? And unless you’re hammier than Little Richard, kinda scary. You already wrote the book. Now you gotta sing and dance about it too?

Today we’re going to talk about doubling down on the “neat” and minimizing the scary. We’ll do that by looking at the lifecycle of the typical book event and how to push yours it towards awesome at each step.

Ready? Let’s go on tour.

Step 1: Getting People There.

Few of us are The Reverend Billy Graham where the promise of us talking draws a screaming crowd. So you’ll have to do a little hustle to get folks to show up at your book event. And while I encourage any writer with a tour date coming up to list it in community calendars, local newspapers, on BookTour etc. the truth is it won’t matter all that much. Because unless you live on an ice floe, your event is competing against every other choice a possible attendee has for that evening—going to the movies, dining out or just staying at home with a book. Given those options “Look honey! A writer I’ve never heard of reading from a book I’ve never heard of,” rarely wins out.

It’s wise then to plan events that have their own marketing muscle or a built in audience. A bookstore with a strong events program will have an active mailing list and a crowd that shows up just because they trust the store’s taste. Find out which ones those are by attending a few events on off-nights (Monday, in January or when it’s raining) and see how many show up. I also encourage writers to plan non-bookstore events at places that both match the readership of their book and are also where those potential readers already spend their time. Workplaces, conferences, interest group meetings, houses of worship. Put simpler, if you’ve written a novel about beekeepers, should you be holding events at just a bookstore or a bookstore and the local apiarist society?

You’ll still be expected to bring your own crowd. And that means asking friends and family with a firm but sparing hand to help you “fill the room” and buy books. It will only help if the venue has its own crowd already.

Step 2: What should your event look like?

The standard book event goes like this:

  • Author is introduced
  • Author says a few words about their book then reads a few passages.
  • Author answers questions and autographs newly purchased copies.

It’s an old formula but a serviceable one. It just isn’t that exciting for the people who came to see you.

What can you do to jazz up your event? Go back to what sets your book apart from others like it. Then use those differences to create a memorable evening for your audience. Any book about food is remiss not having food at their events. Same with any book about music, movies or any feature which most people enjoy on its face. A travel book event should have photos and slides. Poetry should be read aloud or performed dramatically. An event for a biography should have juicy gossip about its subject and perhaps costumes or giveaways.

The common thread here is playing to the essential uniqueness of the book by creating a unique experience. What makes your book special and how can you make that the backbone of a special evening? Fundamentally, that’s why audience is there. They can find out about your book’s existence in a hundred different ways, most without leaving the house. By asking them to leave the house you are promising them something more than information. You are promising them an evening out.

Step 3: Iron clad rules for a good event.

Every successful book event abides by the following rules.

  • Be brief: Assume anyone who comes to your event leads a busy active life. You are asking for an hour of it, which is asking a lot. You show the most respect for your audience by keeping your event short, sweet and leaving them wanting to know more about your book. 30 minutes is ideal, 60 is the absolute maximum. Beyond an hour and your audience just switched from thinking about your book to dinner, money left in their parking meter, the uncomfortable chair they are sitting in. You make whoever invited you angry because a restless audience means fewer book sales. Worse of all, you come across as arrogant and rude, as if nothing in the life of your audience could be more important than hearing about your book.

Asking for your reader’s time is a sacred covenant. Treat it with the utmost respect.

  • Be clear: You are the evening’s entertainment and nobody leaves home to listen to mumble. Speak and read how you would like to be spoken to, with clarity, conviction and pizzazz. Make eye contact. Every passage you read should have a beginning, middle and end. State at the top of the event what the structure of the evening will be and stick to it. Address every question asked with respect and thoughtfulness.
  • Be willing: Everyone hosting or attending your event is doing you a favor. The answer to anything they ask short of organ donation is “yes.” Yes, you can show up a bit early, yes you will sign autographs afterward, yes someone can have their picture taken with you, and yes you will chat with staff. You do it and say thank you. Each one of these seeming inconveniences is an expression of their deepening interest in you and your book. And each one increases the chances of them inviting you back, recommending your book to someone else or telling their colleagues what a nice person you are.

Anyone who arranges book events has a tough job. If you make it harder, they will hold it against you and your book. Make it a pleasure and it will pay off for a long time after you’ve gone home.

  • Be grateful. Book promotion, even touring is hard, tiring work. You will feel crabby and uncomfortable. You will say to yourself at least once a day “this isn’t why I became an author.” And invariably when someone at one of your events asked “How is your tour going?” you may feel the need to vent a little. About how tired you are, about how awkward promotion feels and about how you can’t wait to “get back to your writing.”

Don’t. There are few bigger turnoffs to an audience than an author complaining about being an author. For many sitting there, you are living their dream. For nearly all, going on a book tour seems impossibly glamorous. Complaining about it makes you look like a spoiled brat. No one wants to support the literary efforts of a spoiled brat.

  • Be quick on your feet. It’s hard not to get flustered at poorly-attended event. Or one where the staff did a half-rate job. Again, you may be tempted to complain to someone, or at least mutter to the three people who came about the injustice of it all.

Again, don’t. You’ll make whoever came uncomfortable. Instead, see it as an opportunity. Sit down with your small crowd and chat it up. Ask them about why they came, what they like to read. Be the interesting, thoughtful, warm person you are. If they are came, offer to buy them a drink at the nearby bar.

Step 4: Remember why you do this at all.

Fundamentally, every book event is about forming deep connections and relationships between you, your book and its advocates. Ideally the event is both an hour well-spent and an appetizer-sized bite of your book and its wonders. Moreover an event is the living manifestation what you want for your book and its readers—reflecting exactly the type of energy put into it. If you and your events embody these emotions—communalism, warmth, possibility, fun—your new readers will feel the same towards you and your book.

Homework: Imagine then write down what your most successful event will look like.

BookTour.com  launched a ten-part series on Book Promotion called “Everything you Wanted to Know about Book Promotion but were Afraid to Ask” written by CEO Kevin Smokler. Kevin has been advising authors and publishers on marketing and promotion for nearly a decade and has written and lectured on the topic throughout North America.

Popularity: 1% [?]

Your Book Tour and How to Plan it

Posted on 29 Sep 2011 | Author Stefanie | Comments No comments | Tags

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Here is the eighth great installment I found on book tours, so I thought I would pass it on to you guys!  This is a good post from Kevin, he has a sense of humor about book tours from the glamorous to unglamorous things that can happen on tour.  Take this one with a grain of salt as many people don’t do book tours anymore, with all the social media launch opportunities available including setting up a proper book launch strategy.  But if you can do one, that’s great.  He basically says here that what is really important  is to match the kind of event that is right for you and your book, and which venue you are going after.  There is an exercise at the bottom for you.  Enjoy.

All the best,
Stefanie
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Your Book Tour and How to Plan it.

Last time we talked about how to give a great interview. That was probably the first time in our series that book promotion has sounded not just practical but glamorous, maybe even fun. Of course it’s important to describe your book in a smooth, clean sentence, or get your friends excited about the promotion process. But these are functions and not sexy ones. The sexy part of doing all this, we dream, is the unexpected interest, the strangers saying “I love your work,” the out-of-the-blue calls saying “could you be at the studio tomorrow afternoon?”

The sexy part of book promotion is going on a book tour.

What do you see when you hear the words “book tour?” A tastefully lit room with walls of regal brown? A packed house leaning in to your every crafted sentence? Answering questions about your  “process” while a helpful assistant reminds you of the line of autograph seekers vanishing like a horizon out the back door? Must not keep the people waiting, your smile assures her. They’ve already preordered your next book.

I’ve got that fantasy, too. We can both have it for only one Pulitzer Prize or a time machine back to the autumn of 1965.

For now let’s assume we have neither. What does this book tour look like? I had one a few years ago. A baby threw up on me. An earthquake struck while I was naked and shaving in a Palm Springs hotel room. I took about 650 trips to the airport and forgot where I was at least four times. Nobody showed up for some of my events and it felt awful. At few others, hundreds of people showed up without me asking. On those days, I felt like I could lift mountains.

My book tour was wild, exhilarating lunacy that left me grateful, exhausted, delighted and sad, all piled up between dinner and breakfast. And I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

I was also lucky. I had a publicist who valued events, five years of national public speaking experience on my résumé and relationships at venues throughout North America. Many stars will have to line up for me to be that lucky again.

Plan your book tour like it’s the only one you’ll ever have, because a) it might be, and b) these days, planning it is mostly your responsibility. Few publishers pay to send authors out on tour anymore. So if you think doing events, in your hometown or far, far away, is an important part of being a published author (in most cases, it is), your book tour will consist of a series of engagements starring your book and arranged, from the ground up, by you.

Next time we’re going to talk about how to be the star of your events. This time, we’re staying with how to set events up.

Wait, hold on. Should I?

You don’t throw a birthday party for a sofa, so let us not waste time on a mismatch. Are you or your book are right for events as a promotional tool and, if so, what kind of events? If you’re terrified to speak in front of a crowd or if your book wouldn’t benefit from such a thing, perhaps this isn’t the right approach. You can teach yourself how to speak publicly, and you probably should. No one is going to do it for your book but you. But if the book plain isn’t “event-right,” it’s mowing the lawn with a screwdriver. Wrong tool, wrong purpose.

Novels, poetry, humor and how-to books are great for event-style promotion. Biography, history, novelty titles, not so much. Rule of thumb: If your book is boring to an audience when read aloud, find some other way.

Let’s say your book is “event-right.” What then?

Kevin’s Four-step Mini Guide to Planning Your Book Tour:

1)   What kind? What kind of event is right for you and your book? Decide this by what plays to your strengths, but accept a few cold realities. Author-at-microphone-awkwardly-reading is not a big draw anywhere but a community with little competing entertainment. There aren’t too many of those. So what can you do to liven up a presentation of your book and make your event an experience instead of (let’s be real) a polite but ill-disguised sales pitch.Is your main character a basketball coach? If so, can you set up a hoop and have a free-throw contest in the bookstore? If your memoir is about growing up on an apple orchard, I’d like fruit bushels and cider tastings at your event, if you don’t mind. The baseball murder mystery we featured a few segments ago should probably have Gaylord Perry memorabilia scattered about or craft a “how to host a baseball murder” dinner in conjunction with a local civic organization.  Big question here: What kind of event can you structure around your book that makes for a special evening, rather than an “I guess this is better than watching TV” evening, for your readers?

2)  How far? Now that you know what kind of events fit your book, you need to decide how far afield you can go with them.

Start close to home. Venues nearby will be predisposed to aid a local author and easier to work in partnership with. If you’d like to do multiple events in your area, roll them out at least a week apart and vary the event type and venue. Doing six events at six competing bookstores all within twenty miles of each other risks overexposure and is not fair to the small businesses taking a risk on you.

If you’d like to travel, make sure first you have the time and resources to do so. If you’ve assembled your team and put your house in order, you should be able to do at least a few. But don’t start flying about at random. Where do you have large concentrations of friends and family that will show up? Where have you worked previously or gone to school? What organizations—civic, religious, professional—do you have relationships with that you could call on? Where are they located?

If friends/family or an organization would like to throw an event for/with you, make sure they’ve got books on hand to sell. I advise partnering with a local bookstore (independent shops will do this much more willingly than chains), as that store then has good feelings toward you and your book and will speak well of it to their customers long after you’ve gone home.

3)  Event Venue? If you are trying to secure an event at a bookstore or other venue you don’t have an existing relationship with, you’ll have to pitch them in much the same way we discussed in our pitch segment. If your publisher is throwing some marketing muscle behind your book, they’ll do this part for you. More than likely, you’ll have to do at least some of it yourself.

In a pitch, your target venue wants to know three things:

a)  Is your book “their kind of book”? Stores and venues have customer bases to which they direct their programming. A store next to a retirement village will not be game to feature you and your graphic novel about death metal bands. Use common sense and do your research using BookTour’s database to find out what venues host what sorts of authors before you even consider pitching.

b)  Will your event both bring in customers and sell books? If #a is a yes but you’re still an unknown author, I’d get promises from 10-15 friends that they will show up and buy books. Include that promise in your pitch. Otherwise, you’re asking a small business to put staff time, resources and their reputation into an unknown commodity. If they’ve read your book and love it, great, you’ll hear from them. If not, plan to bring your own crowd.

c) Can it fit into our calendar? Most venues book out weeks if not months in advance. If it’s Tuesday and you’re asking for a slot on Friday, you seem like an amateur and worth the risk Be sure to take a venue’s needs into account before you start pushing your own.

A pitch, then, is two to three paragraphs requesting an event, describing the type of event you plan to do, your book, and how it fits into the mission of the venue. As we’ve said before, be professional, succinct and informative.

4)  For Whom? At this stage, if someone wants you for an event six months from now, you say yes unless the request is outrageous or expensive. Same if they want you tomorrow. You’re on the promotion trail right now, and any interest is good interest, potential energy waiting to become kinetic. Promoting from a dead stop is painful and demoralizing. And this is supposed to be the fun part.

Exercise: Plan to be doing this for six months. Here in the early days, start booking events using these simple lenses: What Kind? How Far? For Whom?

BookTour.com launched a ten-part series on Book Promotion called “Everything you Wanted to Know about Book Promotion but were Afraid to Ask” written by CEO Kevin Smokler. Kevin has been advising authors and publishers on marketing and promotion for nearly a decade and has written and lectured on the topic throughout North America.

Popularity: 3% [?]

Giving a Great Interview

Posted on 26 Sep 2011 | Author Stefanie | Comments 1 comment | Tags

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Here is the seventh great installment I found on book tours, from a company that is closing their doors soon, so I thought I would pass it on to you guys! Kevin gives 5 great tips for giving a great interview and another resource for you to pick up is a complimentary report I wrote on How to Get Booked as a Guest on TV and Radio http://stefaniehartman.com/freereport.html  Enjoy.

All the best,
Stefanie
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Giving a Great Interview

We’re in the promotion part of our series and with any luck, your book will attract the interest of someone who’d like to interview you. That person may appear on national television, radio or in a prestigious magazine (hooray!), but it’s just as significant if they work for a local paper, an interested blog or run their own podcast show. All book promotion must begin somewhere, and small media can often be stepping stones to greater attention.

So how do you give a good interview when the opportunity arises? And by “good interview” I mean one that succeeds in three ways: 1) a strong representation of what your book is about and why a potential reader would be interested in reading it, 2) compelling programming or coverage for the person interviewing you, and 3) evidence that your book is gaining momentum in the marketplace. A successful interview can have two of three. It cannot have less than that.

All participants in an interview have clear motives. The author wants to get notice for their book and the interviewer wants to create a compelling experience for their audience. The audience wants that compelling experience and to find out about good books. Despite that built-in self interest, every successful interview (meaning successful for everyone involved) is a conversation with give and take at its core. If an interviewer is only out to titillate their audience, you get shock journalism and shrill talk radio. If an author will not budge from answering each question with “as I said in my book,” that author is a parrot, not a creator, and readers don’t buy books by parrots. If an interview seems so private and insular that the audience feels left out, they will ignore the book being discussed because the interviewer and author are doing the same to them.

In each case, somebody loses. Somebody losing is usually bad for your book. Do not be the accomplice to any of them.

What are your responsibilities, then, as the author? Let’s look at them within the framework of a successful interview.

1. Do your homework. A good interview quickly speeds past the built-in artificiality of the situation and becomes about conversation. For this to happen, you want as few surprises as possible. So between when the interview is scheduled and when it happens, get everything cleared up and leave nothing to chance. How long will the interview run? Will it be live or taped? Research old interviews by that journalist. Are they friendly and chatty or aggressive and demanding? The more ready you are, the more the interview will be about your book instead of what you didn’t know about the person and media outlet interviewing you.

On the day off your interview, clear as much time as you’ll feel comfortable with on either end. You NEVER want to arrive late to an interview (it’s says you don’t respect the interviewer’s time) and you don’t want to cut a great conversation short because you have to pick your kids up at school.

2. Answer short. Stay on point. All interviews have their natural limitations: Article length, airtime, life’s other obligations. Which means that no matter how engaging the conversation is, your primary job as the author to answer the questions quickly and accurately. We’ve discussed it before in our series, but rambling answers that don’t hang together make you the author look like a cluttered, disorganized thinker. And sadly, it makes potential readers think the same of your book—and they haven’t even picked it up yet.

If you have trouble answering questions succinctly, practice. Have a friend or family member ask you mock questions and time your answers. Aim for twenty to thirty seconds, one minute at the absolute most. You can expound a bit more if the interview is for a print or online publication or is recorded instead of live. In those situations, the interviewer can edit your answers to a reasonable length. For a live interview, if you don’t answer succinctly, the interviewer will simply cut you off. Then you simultaneously look like a motormouth and haven’t said much of anything.

“Short” does not mean incomplete or shifty. Answer the question you are asked. But answering in a manner that is both true to your book and compelling to the audience is an art that requires practice. Make sure, before you are asked to be interviewed, you know what and can repeat what a great interview sounds like.

(Sidenote: Listening to the NPR show Fresh Air is great practice. The actual conversation on Fresh Air can be several hours, but is edited down to sixty minutes for air. Host Terry Gross and her producers are so skilled at crafting great interviews that authors almost always answer in compelling little chunks of speech without sounding rehearsed or parroty. Practice answering like this.)

3. Maintain your dignity. Sadly, you may have an interviewer who is rude, pushy, or simply out to make you look stupid for entertainment’s sake. The worst thing you can do in this situation is play their game. Getting flustered or outraged, saying, “How dare you?”  is exactly what an offensive question is after. And by giving in to the obnoxious person asking it, you’re no longer an author with a book worth reading. You are a chump who has taken the bait.

No author ever lost points by maintaining their composure and dignity. “I’m afraid I don’t agree” works in almost every uncomfortable situation “I’ve already answered that question. Let’s move on,” does, too. But don’t be a stiff. If the interviewer is playing around, teasing, or clearly bears no hostility, it’s best to play along and demonstrate you have a sense of humor.

All of this can be determined by doing your homework (see point #1).

4. No interview too small. Unless your first four interviews are The Today Show, Charlie Rose, The Colbert Report and The New York Times, you cannot afford to turn an interview down because it seems too “small time” for you and your book. Book promotion is all about momentum and persistence, and the bathtub will not fill up if you don’t keep the water running. So if Nameless Podcast.com wants to interview you and it’s thirty minutes of your time on the phone on Tuesday morning, say yes. An author eager to talk about their book will almost always get more readers than an author snotty about with whom they will talk about their book.

One exception: If a media outlet seems to be asking for something outrageous (“Dear author, “Can you guest write a 3,000 word essay for my blog that fifteen people read?”), say no, politely, and renegotiate (“I’d be happy to be interviewed, guest post a 500 word essay, etc.”)

5. Always follow-up. After your interview is complete, email the interview and whomever approached you initially and thank them for the opportunity to speak with them. A handwritten note is even better, if you’ve got the time and nice stationary. It’s also fine to ask when your interview will run and important to make mention of it on your website and social media platforms. Whoever interviewed you will appreciate the traffic you send their way. Also, interviewers are journalists on deadline with space to fill. If they know you a) are a good interview and b) are a pleasant person to work with, they will very likely call on you again when a story of theirs merits it.

It is tempting but usually not ok to ask to see a transcript of the interview before it runs. Many media outlets have a policy against such things (the argument is that it leads to pre-publication censorship, which I do not dispute), and the ones that don’t will almost always reserve the right to not make changes you request. The social contract you enter into when being interviewed states that what you say is “on the record” unless you say otherwise.

Remember, the interviewer has a job to do, too. If you allow them to participate with you in a compelling conversation, it creates a compelling experience for the audience. This, in turn, heightens interest in the minds of your potential readers.

An old advertising adage says: “Nothing reveals a bad product faster than a good ad” I’d add “Nothing kills a good book faster than a boring conversation about it.” In a good conversation, like a good read, everybody wins.

Exercise: Listen to NPR’s Fresh Air www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air and practice how you would answer Terry Gross’s questions about your book.

BookTour.com  launched a ten-part series on Book Promotion called “Everything you Wanted to Know about Book Promotion but were Afraid to Ask” written by CEO Kevin Smokler. Kevin has been advising authors and publishers on marketing and promotion for nearly a decade and has written and lectured on the topic throughout North America.

Popularity: 2% [?]

Writing the Perfect Pitch

Posted on 22 Sep 2011 | Author Stefanie | Comments 1 comment | Tags

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Here is the sixth great installment I found on book tours, from a company that is closing their doors soon, so I thought I would pass it on to you guys! When I put up the first installment there was some great comments including that it could be harder to write how you introduce your book than writing the book itself.

In this installment Kevin breaks down the pitch for you, I like that he includes a sample of a pitch and breaks it down for you. There is an exercise at the bottom for you and when doing this list remember the tip for media I mentioned in the fourth installment.   Enjoy.

All the best,
Stefanie
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Writing the Perfect Pitch

Last week, we went over how you the author will want to feel and act on the day your book is published. Which means that the theoretical part of “How do I promote my book?” is over. Your book has been born. It’s time to take it out into the world and show it around.

The remainder of our series will focus on how to do that. Coming up, we’ll look at how best to use technology and social media, how to give a great interview and how to hold a great book event.

We’ll start today with writing a great pitch.

What is a pitch?

A pitch is a written, formalized way of informing someone you probably don’t know about your book in the hopes of attracting their interest and further action. A pitch to a newspaper/journalist/radio producer is, “This is my book. Perhaps you’d be interested in covering it?” A pitch to a venue (bookstore, library) is, “This is my book. Perhaps you’d be interested in having me, the author, come give a talk?” If your book promotion process is akin to throwing a party, the pitch is the invitation.

But it’s a little more complicated than that. You’re sending out an invitation to someone you’ve never met before who probably has other invitations just like yours. Their space/time/availability for your book, or anyone’s, is, by nature, scarce and limited. That’s why every author wants it.

Knowing that, you need your pitch to do three things: 1) present your book in a compelling manner, 2) demonstrate how your book is both compelling and useful to whomever you’re pitching, and 3) not waste their time.

Whom to pitch:

Last week we talked about beginning your promotional efforts with people you know, then moving outward to small and local media. The same holds true when coming up with a pitch list. Focus first on low fruit and trees that are close by. Our PressFinder tool is a great way to find contact information for members of the media based in your area.

Sample pitch:

Here’s a sample email pitch I’ve cooked up. I’ve borrowed the sample summary from the first installment in our series. I’ve called myself “Jack Mulligan” for reasons I don’t understand.
__________________________________________
To: “Helen Joseph” (Helen.Joseph@mysite.com)
From: “Jack Mulligan” (jmulligan@mysitel.com)
Subject: Pitch regarding your “Mariners Maniacs” series. A novel about Gaylord Perry.
Dear Ms. Joseph,

My name is Jack Mulligan and I’m a novelist based here in Seattle. I’ve been following your series on KUOW Radio about Mariners baseball fans, and thought my debut novel, Ghosts of Gaylord Perry, might be of interest to you.

Ghosts of Gaylord Perry is a mystery novel about a detective named Sally Ann framed for murder when her dog Woof Woof finds the body of her boyfriend, a Seattle Mariners shortstop and the nephew of Mariner Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, on her front lawn. As Sally attempts to clear her name through an investigation of her own, evidence mounts that the perpetrator might have been the victim’s uncle, the Mariners’ greatest pitcher, who happened to be in town giving a lecture on the art of spitball the weekend of the murder.

I self-published my novel last month. Much of my research came out of my volunteer work as historian of the Seattle Mariners Fan Club. I’ve been writing articles on baseball and baseball history for a variety of small publications since 1995.

I heard on your last broadcast that your Mariners Series will be continuing until December. I’ve enclosed a copy of Ghosts of Gaylord Perry for your enjoyment and in the hopes that you may find it useful for your series.

Keep up the great work.

Best,
Jack Mulligan
_________________

Anatomy of a pitch:

Let’s break this pitch down and see why it works.

First, it is short. Three paragraphs, two hundred words, and gets right to the point. Ms. Joseph is no doubt a busy journalist and there are an awful lot of Seattle Mariners fans (not to mention authors) who would like her attention. Wasting her time will move us right to the back of the line and probably out the door. Which is why the subject line contains the word “Pitch,” what the pitch is for (“Mariners Maniacs series”) and what is being pitched (“novel about Gaylord Perry”). Ms. Joseph knows exactly what this email contains before she even opens it.

(Side note: Most pitches come through email these days. Pitching via written note or fax, unless specifically requested, makes you look like a fuddy duddy).

Now let’s look a piece at a time

My name is Jack Mulligan and I’m a novelist based here in Seattle. I’ve been following your series on KUOW Radio about Mariners baseball fans, and thought my debut novel, Ghosts of Gaylord Perry, might be of interest to you.

First paragraphs are all about who you are and why you are contacting them. Think of it like ringing someone’s doorbell. Get to why you are standing there immediately. Beginning with “My name is” is nice because it speaks of honesty and directness. And since you’re pitching a book, better mention that early on, too, and don’t forget the title.

The most important line here, though, is “following your series on KUOW.” A successful pitch is always tailored to the specific needs of whom you are pitching. Saying, “I listen to KUOW. Your radio station should cover my book” says, 1) I couldn’t be bothered to do the research and find out where my book belongs in your radio programming, and 2) because I’m not being specific, I sound dishonest when I say, “I listen to KUOW.”

Avoid seeming dishonest and lazy. Read/listen/watch whomever you are pitching. See what kinds of books they cover and how. Then craft your pitch to their needs.

Ghosts of Gaylord Perry is a mystery novel, etc…

Refer back to Part I of our series and how to describe your book in a single sentence. Every line should drive the plot forward yet leave a bit to the imagination. Avoid the temptation to over-explain. I know you think everything in your book is gold. It very well may be, but excessive details say to the Helen Josephs of the world that you can’t keep your thoughts straight and therefore probably aren’t worth paying attention to as an author either.

I self-published my novel last month. Much of my research came out of my volunteer work as historian of the Seattle Mariners Fan Club. I’ve been writing articles on baseball and baseball history for a variety of small publications since 1995.

Most likely, neither media nor venues will want to feature a book that’s more than a year old. Explaining how long it’s been in the marketplace is just you 1) being helpful and 2) saying its publication is topical and therefore relevant. Stating your qualifications in a line or two clarifies that you’re versed in what your book contains and Ms. Joseph won’t waste her time featuring a novel about the Mariners from someone who doesn’t know anything about the Mariners.

I heard on your last broadcast that your Mariners Series will be continuing until December. I’ve enclosed a copy of Ghosts of Gaylord Perry for your enjoyment and in the hopes that you may find it useful for your series.

Say what you want, say it quickly, show how it’s useful to them, then leave it alone. Don’t beg. Don’t brownnose. Be a courteous, polished professional. Because, should they say yes, you’d like them to cover your book in the same way, right?

Is a pitch a press release?

A press release is a cousin of the pitch. It makes a more general announcement about the arrival of a book meant to fit a variety of media outlets instead of one specifically.

Press releases for books are usually only effective when the book is written by a well-known person whose actions are newsworthy. For our purposes, a few targeted watering attempts will bear more flowers than seeding the clouds for downpour.

What if I have a publicist?

Let them do the pitching. Here’s why.  That publicist is a paid professional. Their job is to develop ongoing relationships with members of the media, relationships meant to benefit the books they represent, like yours. As the author, you and your work are the beneficiary of their experience.

Let them do their job. Going behind your publicist’s back and contacting members of the media is like dining at a restaurant then walking into the kitchen to make your own dessert. Why have a publicist if you’re just going to do their work for them?

Publicist are paid professionals for a reason. Let them do their job. Work with them, not around them.

Different for venues:

The formula for pitching a venue to do an event follows many of the same rules but not all. You want to research what kind of events that venue hosts, any openings in their upcoming calendar and suggest what your program will be. Again, tailor these to the needs of the venue. Don’t suggest an hour’s worth of reading if the venue only schedules authors for twenty-minute blocks.

How is it different? A venue has both time and space to fill. A media outlet just has space. So if a venue puts on an ill-planned, poorly organized event, it not only costs them money (because they had to be open, have the lights on and pay employees during the event) but may cost them future customers (who come to the lousy event and vow never to return). If a media outlet covers a book that a reader doesn’t end up liking, the reader will probably blame the author more than they will blame the media who covered the author.

All of which means, it is absolutely imperative that you do not only do thorough research on the venue itself but tailor your event to what that venue typically features in a visiting author.

We’ll be talking more about planning the perfect event later in our series but for now…

Exercise: Put together a list of six to ten members of the local media or nearby venues you think would be good matches for your book. Use PressFinder www.booktour.com/pressfinder/search for suggestions. Then create a sample pitch letter.

BookTour.com launched a ten-part series on Book Promotion called “Everything you Wanted to Know about Book Promotion but were Afraid to Ask” written by CEO Kevin Smokler. Kevin has been advising authors and publishers on marketing and promotion for nearly a decade and has written and lectured on the topic throughout North America.

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Getting ready for your book or product promotion

Posted on 13 Sep 2011 | Author Stefanie | Comments 1 comment | Tags

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Here is the third great installment I found on book tours, from a company that is closing their doors soon, so I thought I would pass it on to you guys! 

Sometimes there are so many pieces involved in promotions and you want to have every detail perfect that you end up not ever getting your campaign going.  It’s really important to know the pieces involved, but to also remember that what’s more important than being ‘perfect’ is to JUST DO IT!  In this article Kevin describes some of the things you can think about before your book promotion.  Enjoy.

All the best,
Stefanie

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Book Promotion: Getting Your House in Order

So far in our series, we’ve discussed how best to describe your book in an airtight sentence and who your first group of readers will be. This week, we’re going to pull back a bit.

Imagine that you’re in the weeks and months right before your book is published. What’s the best way to get ready for the big day? How much time will it take and what needs doing? All of these questions are part of the answer to the one that keeps authors awake at night when they have a new book on the horizon.

How ready would you like to feel?

When entertaining guests, we clean the house and stock the icebox. Before a trip, we pack a suitcase and notify the neighbors. We do this because the best antidote for fear of the unexpected is readiness. Just as you won’t be a good host if you don’t plan for your guest’s arrival, you’ll be a lousy spokesperson for your book if you don’t get ready before its due date. Put more simply…

In order to best promote your book, make sure your own house is in order.

Anyone who has thrown a party knows that readiness does not mean scurrying about when the doorbell rings. Preparing to promote one’s book requires time and effort in advance of the publication day. The normal amount of prep time needed for book promotion is 3-6 months. For what? You might cry with surprise. I’m about to tell you. And before you think I’m being excessive, think of how long it took you to write your book. Do you want to skimp on your efforts now, right before it’s time for your book to find its readers?

How do you get ready? I break it down into three parts: 1) your calendar 2) your team 3) your online presence

Your Calendar: Clear it.

A diligent and thoughtful promotion effort takes three to six months of preparation and at least that much once the book is published. So to give your book both a fighting chance, we’re talking about a year. Sometimes it’s more. A lot less and your book will suffer.

We both know life won’t stop because you’ve got a book coming. So while it’d be unreasonable for me to say “clear a year on your calendar,” it’s also smart not to actively court major life changes during this crucial time.

That may sound like an obvious warning, but after a decade in publishing, I’m still amazed by how often authors decide that the weeks and months leading up to their book’s publication are exactly the right time to get married, have a baby, buy a house, change jobs, schedule major surgery, join the circus, etc.

Now is not the time for any of those things. Promoting your book, if done properly, will be at least a part-time job—more, if all goes well. And you want to be available for more interviews, more events, more everything should your book start to find its readers.

Promoting your book will be plenty hard. Don’t let your schedule stand in the way of your success.

Your Team: Talk to it.

We may write alone, but most do not live that way. Even though book promotion requires substantial time and energy, our families, friends, and coworkers will not vanish and let us devote ourselves fully to it.

But they can help, and will, if you ask. Three to six months before pub date is the time to start communicating with the key players in your life. Let your job know that you might need to take some days off or start socking away vacation time. Enlist your spouse and family to help out and reward them afterward with the vacation you will have to postpone now. (I once worked with an author who had scheduled a three-week no-Internet-access vacation for the week after her publication day. Guess how well her book sold?) As we discussed last week, your friends are your best allies. Now is the time to start prepping them for what lies ahead. And what lies ahead for you may be travel, late night events, extra hours at your laptop, and radio interviews at 5 AM.

And that’s if you’re promoting well.

Most importantly, if you are working with a publisher and/or a publicist, three to six months is the time to open lines of communication. A short, thoughtful email (four to six lines) to your editor saying you’d like to be introduced to your publicist is perfectly appropriate. If you won’t have a publicist, that same email is meant to clarify with your publisher who has what marketing responsibilities. Are they handling pitching reviewers and mailing galleys, or are you? Who is scheduling events? The answers vary but they will never be “sit still, we’ll take care of it.” You will be working. Now is the time to get clear on what and how much.

A word here about manners. Your publisher and/or publicist is a skilled professional with a demanding job. Yours is likely not the only book they are handling. Now is the time to state that you trust their judgment and are ready to be a hard working member of the team. “Put me to work!” your communication should convey. This is not the time for demands, blurted expectations, or “I won’t dos.” Rudeness or rigidity will sour your publisher on you and your book. And do you really want to do that to your book before it’s even been published?

Your Online Presence: Build it.

You will need an author website. A website takes time and money. Three to six months before pub date is a good time to start.

An ideal author’s website will be professionally designed (that means by someone who designs websites for a living, not your niece between homework and band practice) and will cost between $500-$1000. The domain name should be yourname.com or yournamewriter.com if you have a common name. Remember, the Internet is a big, unruly place. You want it to be as easy as possible for you and your book to be found.

A quality author website will contain pages for your biography, your book, news/events/happenings related to your promotional efforts, and a contact page with your email and that of your publicist. That’s all you need. With writers’ websites, less is often more. Music, animation, or a lot of fancy graphics are a distracting waste and come off as desperate. Your website should focus on conveying the most useful information to a prospective reader as quickly as possible

To find a good website designer, visit the websites of authors you respect who have new books coming out. A clear, simple, dignified website was designed by someone good. Their email will be at the bottom of the page. Contact two or three designers and see how you get along. A good designer will answer your questions promptly and with patience and clarity. A lousy designer will be short, thoughtless, tardy, or will not listen. Don’t give them your money, no matter how pretty talented they seem.

Should you set up a blog? A Facebook page? A Twitter account?

Can you maintain it? A blog is a continuously updated set of short writings. A Twitter account is a continuous stream of 140 characters updated several times a day. Do these sound like tasks you’d be willing to maintain for the duration of the promotion process? Because a poorly maintained blog/Twitter/Facebook page is worse than none at all.

We’ll be discussing which technologies to use on the marketing trail in a future segment. For now, three to six months is the time to start learning about these basic social media tools. Ask a friend or another author who uses them well to walk you through. Or just do a Google search on “How do I use Twitter to promote my book?” These are called “social media” for a reason.  How to use them is not a state secret.

Exercise: It’s three to six months before your book is going to be published. Begin clearing your calendar, assembling your team, and researching your website and social media tools. Then tell us in the comment section how it’s going.

BookTour.com launched a ten-part series on Book Promotion called “Everything you Wanted to Know about Book Promotion but were Afraid to Ask” written by CEO Kevin Smokler. Kevin has been advising authors and publishers on marketing and promotion for nearly a decade and has written and lectured on the topic throughout North America.

Popularity: 4% [?]

It’s who you know for your book promotion

Posted on 08 Sep 2011 | Author Stefanie | Comments 3 comments | Tags

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Here is the second great installment I found on book tours, from a company that is closing their doors soon, so I thought I would pass it on to you guys!

There was a study by Microsoft on their IM service and it proved that we really are closer to people than we realize. In this article Kevin talks about asking people for help. I agree with him especially if you make people feel included in the excitement and they begin to have a vested interest in your book doing well, After all this is an exciting time. Ask all your friends, family, neighbors for a favor. Don’t forget you do the exercise at the end. Enjoy.

All the best,
Stefanie

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Book Promotion: It’s Who You Know

In our last segment, we talked about how you, the author, must develop an airtight answer to the first question anyone you meet on the book promotion trail will ask you:

“Tell me about your book.”

In this segment, we’re going to discuss whom will be doing the asking. If book promotion is an act of matchmaking your book to the right readers, today’s segment is about how to find those “right readers.” The answer, you’ll see, is a lot closer to home than you think.

Everyone knows somebody. And by “somebody” I don’t mean Oprah or John Stewart or the Bestseller Fairy. I mean the circles of humanity we all have in our lives. Those circles are the first 75-100 readers of your book. They have the potential to be much greater if you ask them to be then work with them to make it happen

As an author who spends much of their time at the keyboard or in their imagination, it may not seem like your world is teeming with allies. But it is. Try this.

Make a list of:

  • Your friends and family members, the ones who will say “I’ll buy that” when you tell them you’ve got a book.
  • Your colleagues at work. Same criteria.
  • Anyone you are friendly with via your kids. Again, same criteria.
  • Friendly faces through hobbies and community work—at the ski club, dance class, church, neighborhood association.
  • Old friends from childhood, high school, or college.
  • Anyone you talk with regularly via social media (Facebook, Twitter or the like).

Unless you’re a hermit or just not very nice (I’m afraid I can’t help you there), you’ve probably got a good list of several dozen names. These names are where you begin.

Let’s take another look at that list and ask these questions.

  • Who on this list works for or knows someone well at the local media (newspaper, TV, radio)?
  • Who leads a social group (book group, synagogue committee, monthly dinner with friends) or professional association that would like to have an author as the meeting’s entertainment?
  • Who on this list has a blog, an active and well-read Twitter feed, runs an email mailing list, or has more than 300 friends on Facebook?
  • Who is a natural-born host who would love to throw you a book party?
  • Who knows someone in another part of the country whom would do any of these things for you as well?

Separate out that smaller list. Three months before your book becomes available, get in touch. Thank them for their support, their friendship. Tell them you’ve spend a goodly part of the last year or two writing this book and it means the world to you. It would mean the world all over again if you could enlist their help in matchmaking your book with the right readers via one of the means described above—if they could talk about/recommend your book in a way that’s comfortable to them.

You’re not asking List A to spam or make nuisances of themselves on behalf of your book. You’re asking to speak with sincerity and an open heart about the creative project of someone they like—you. Handled with honesty and grace, no one will hold it against them.

Those who don’t make the cut should get a separate email after the book comes out asking them to buy it. Because it would mean the world to you. And remember what we learned in the last segment about talking about your book. Succinct, precise, but leave a little to the imagination

Book promotion is a block party. If you’re lucky, the party is thrown by someone else (the New York Times, your well-paid publicist, Oprah) and you just show up. You don’t even have to bring potato salad. But that’s simply not the case for most writers, and everyone knows that. Which is why most publishers, publicists, booksellers and members of the media will be most impressed by the effort you put in yourself, by your willingness to bring what you have to the party, or to throw it yourself.

I know perhaps you are shy and it’s no fun to ask for favors. This is the time to get over it. If you can’t ask the people closest to you to invest in your book, how do you expect complete strangers to invest their time and money in reading it?

Why do this? Because effort breeds effort and work begets work. You want readers. You have to begin with the most obvious candidates. Starting there means a) at least you have someone interested in your book, and b) the more excited you can get those readers (who know you and are predisposed to support your efforts) about being part of the block party that is the promotion of your book, the more likely they’ll be to invite others.

An author friend of ours once spoke to 175 book clubs over a year’s worth of promotion for his second novel. Why, I asked, when he had a wife, two young children and a day job as a professor, not to mention writing a third book, to return to?

“I wanted to be the one responsible for my book’s success or failure. I figured as long as I kept the water running, the bathtub would eventually fill up. If it didn’t, it wasn’t anyone’s fault but mine.”

Exercise:  Make a list of everyone in your life who wishes you and your writing career well. Separate that list into two groups:

  • Group A, those that know someone, head up a group or would be willing to help in a larger way; and
  • Group B, those you just want to buy the book.

BookTour.com launched a ten-part series on Book Promotion called “Everything you Wanted to Know about Book Promotion but were Afraid to Ask” written by CEO Kevin Smokler. Kevin has been advising authors and publishers on marketing and promotion for nearly a decade and has written and lectured on the topic throughout North America.

Popularity: 4% [?]

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