Branding

Getting Our Books Into the Hands of Readers

Guest blog by Debby Mayne

Debby Mayne with her agent, Tamela Hancock Murray

Our guest today is Debby Mayne, an accomplished novelist with over 30 books and novellas published since 2000! She has also publshed over 400 short stories and a slew of devotions for women. She has also worked as managing editor of a national health magazine, product information writer for HSN, a creative writing instructor for Long Ridge Writers Group, and a copy editor and proofreader for several book publishers. For many years she has judged the Writers Digest Annual Competition, Short-Short Contest, and Self-Published Book Competition.

You can visit her web site at www.debbymayne.com.

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Before I sold my first novel, I dreamed that once I wrote a book good enough to publish, an editor would call me immediately, tell me how brilliant my book was, offer to buy it, and maybe request a few revisions that’d I’d joyfully do (after I deposited my humongous advance that would cover hiring a publicist and purchasing a big house on the water). Then the publisher would print the book, and the marketing team would make sure it was available for people to purchase. I envisioned full window displays of my book at my favorite stores with people lining up to buy them…and of course I was sitting at a table signing my books as quickly as possible to keep the crowd moving.

I know, but remember this was a dream.

Eventually, an editor did call and say she loved my story, but I needed to address a few issues—and we talked for almost an hour before she sent pages of revisions. Oh, and she offered a humbling advance that didn’t stretch far enough to cover promotion or much more than my next mortgage payment. Of course I was happy to accept the offer, but my perspective changed.

I’ve made bookstores and libraries my second home since I could read, but the first time I walked into a bookstore as a published author, I saw everything differently. Every row in the fiction section had hundreds (thousands?) of books that were all written by capable authors who wanted the same thing I did. It quickly became evident that I needed to finish what I started. I wrote the book for people to read, and now it was up to me to make sure that happened.

I’m fortunate that the publishers I work with have expert marketing teams who know how to get the product out there, so I don’t have to worry about the lack of availability. As a former newspaper public relations rep, I understand the value of publicity. I don’t have a problem talking to people, and I have a pretty good idea how to get word out to the masses. However, I don’t have a corporate size budget, so I have to decide what will work best for each book as it comes out.

Over the past twelve years as a published writer, I’ve watched successful authors, adopted some of their promotional ideas, and come up with a few of my own. Here are some of the things authors can do to promote their books:

  1. Have a web presence. Most published authors I know have a website, a blog, and participate in blog tours to generate interest in their books.
  2. Get social. Participate in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and don’t always make it about yourself. Sometimes others like to know you care what’s going on in their lives as well.
  3. Let people know what’s coming. I like to send postcards to all the people on my mailing list so they’ll receive them a week or two before my book is due to release. Some authors send them earlier, but I don’t want to do the mailing too soon and risk people forgetting about the book.
  4. Partner with booksellers. I let all the booksellers in my area know when I’m about to have a new release. Sometimes I do a signing, but other times I just provide bookmarks and offer to sign stock when it comes in. If they’re allowed to accept review books (and most are), I offer one of my author copies to the bookseller.
  5. Talk to people. I’m an avid reader, so I spend hours and hours perusing the shelves for something new to read. If someone else is in the same row, I try to find a way to strike up a conversation. Sometimes I comment on a book they’re examining, or I might ask what types of books they like and recommend something by an author I know. I might even ask them for a recommendation. At some point, I try to find a way to let them know I’m an author. If the store has any of my books in stock, I point them out if it’s not too awkward. If you’re shy, you may have a difficult time approaching strangers, but I recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and giving it a try. Once you realize most readers are open to your suggestions, you might find it enjoyable.
  6. Look for interview opportunities. Contact your radio and TV stations, newspapers, and regional magazines. Let them know you’re available for interviews. If you’re doing a special event, ask if they might consider covering it.
  7. Target your market. Some of my most recent releases have been regional, so I do everything I can to get my books into the hands of people from those areas. After I received author copies of Love Finds You in Treasure Island, Florida, I drove down to this beautiful little beach town. I hand-delivered a copy of the book and a stack of postcards to the mayor, the city communications director, and the owners of two restaurants I mentioned in the book. Since this was a Christian romance, I stopped by a couple of churches and gave copies to people in the offices. Another book, Sweet Baklava, was set in the Greek community of Tarpon Springs. In addition to bringing copies of the book to several of the places I mentioned in the story, I brought some samples of baklava. I like to leave a few postcards to anyone who is willing to read my book to make it easier for them to get the word out to their friends.
  8. Keep a book handy and be generous. I try to keep at least one or two of my older books in my car so I can offer them to people who might enjoy them. Most people like free stuff, and this gives me an opportunity to share something with new friends who will hopefully become fans. I try to make room in my carryon luggage for a few books, just in case I meet someone who forgot to bring their own reading material. Before I leave a hotel, I leave a generous tip beside a signed copy of my latest book.
  9. Join the club. Or at least offer to be a guest speaker at reading groups and book clubs in your area. Have a list of discussion questions on your website so members can print and have them available. Bring door prizes that can be one of your older books or something symbolic from the current book.
  10. Benefit others. Offer some sort of charity tie-in and give to others. Use your story as a tool to teach readers what you’re passionate about, and then give a portion of your earnings to that charity. Even if you choose not to tell people about your donation, your passion for the cause will come through in the story, and you may actually have a positive impact on someone else’s life.

My strategy varies with each book I write. I think the key is coming up with a marketing plan that is doable and gets the attention of the target audience. Figure out how much money and time you have to commit to promoting your books and make a list of what you need to do.

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Debby’s latest novel came out on July 1st in a digital first release from B&H Publishing as part of the Bloomfield series. Click the cover below and get your copy today for only $2.99!

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Who Am I? – About the Author

The author biography section in a book proposal seems to be one of the least anxiety-provoking sections, yet I often see areas that could be improved. Here are a few ideas on how to make your author bio section the best it can be.

Include a portrait

When I was an intern on Capitol Hill, one of my duties was to open the mail. On one occasion, we received a resume that included a portrait, which was not the common practice at that time. The portrait wasn’t large, and if you looked like this man, you would put your picture on everything, too. But the office manager said, “I would never hire him. He’s an egomaniac.” Now, maybe my office manager was jealous. (And no, I don’t think he’s reading this). But I thought including a picture was a great idea. On proposals, Steve Laube recommends including a portrait in the author bio. And no, no one will think you are an egomaniac. I have put together many proposals under our banner, and I can tell you that including the visual is helpful. We like portraits that are about the size of a postage stamp.

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The Keys to a Great Book Proposal

“I think book proposals are one of the most difficult things to write, second only to obituaries.”

When I received this email from one of my authors, Sherry Gore, (and yes, I have permission to quote her), I could relate. I’ve never written obituaries, even though writing one’s own is a popular goal-setting exercise. But I have written and read many book proposals so I know they aren’t easy to write. Sometimes they aren’t easy to read. So how can you make your book proposals easy to read? When my assistant and I are scanning proposals, here are the key points we first notice:

1) Format: Is the overall look of the proposal easy on the eye? A poorly-formatted proposal won’t be rejected if we are wowed by the content, but proposals with a pleasing appearance make a great impression.

2) Title: Tell us immediately what we are viewing: Fiction/nonfiction? Series/standalone? Genre? Historical/contemporary?

3) Hook: What is the spirit of your book?  Fried Green Tomatoes meets Star Trek? Or A Systematic Approach to Spiritual Spring Cleaning?

4) Back Cover Blurb: In two or three short paragraphs, make me want to buy your book. Take the time to make this sparkle, because great back cover copy will help sell me on your book, then the editor, then the pub board, then marketing, then your readers.

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7 Ways Agents Measure Social Media

Guest Blog by Thomas Umstattd

In the old days all you had to do was tell an agent or publisher “I’m on Facebook, Twitter and I have a blog” and they would be impressed with your online presence. Now publishers are getting more sophisticated in measuring your online presence. They are realizing that not all blogs are the same and that the size of your Twitter following does not directly correlate to influence.

This post goes over 7 ways agents and publishers will measure your social platform in 2012. You may also want to check out 7 Things Agents & Publishers Look for in Author Websites (2012 Edition).

1. Number of Facebook Likes

What is it?

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Fresh Formulas

Some have a hard time appreciating the talent involved in writing genre fiction. By genre fiction, I mean novels that fall into a defined category such as contemporary romance, historical romance, romantic suspense, or cozy mystery. Many of these novels are published by mass market publishers (like Harlequin) and fit in lines they have formed for the sole purpose of selling the genre.

These are distinguished from Trade fiction where there isn’t necessarily a specific line that has been formed to sell a genre, although there are exceptions to that “rule” like the “Love Finds You” series from Summerside Press. In publisher’s lingo “trade” means a 5 1/2″ by 8 1/2″ trim size and is probably between 80,000 and 100,000 words in length. “Genre” or “category” fiction can mean the 4″ by 6″ trim size (also known as mass market) and between 50,000 words and 70,000 words.

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Your Brand is Not a Limitation

It is All About Expectations

What if you bought a recording from a music group expecting their usual collection of ballads, only to hear guitar anthems? Or what if you picked up a book with a pink cover that promised a love story but ended up reading a novel where hapless and nameless victims suffered gunshot wounds on every page? You’d be disappointed, right? I would be. You don’t want to disappoint readers, so branding has become a consistent topic.

Your Best Friend

Some writers find the concept of branding to be limiting. When they think of branding the TV show “Rawhide”  and Cattle comes to mind.  And despite the awesomeness of such a theme song, they want to keep their options open.

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Book Trailers: Vital or Wasteful?

Book trailers, if done well, can be a cool component to the marketing of your project. If done poorly or if done cheaply they do very little to impress a potential reader.

Most authors love to see their work done this way. In some ways if feels like the story has made it to the “big screen.”

But does it sell books? When was the last time you clicked and then bought because of the trailer?

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