Topical Tuesday: Brand Yourself

Before you reach for the hot iron and sear your forehead, I’m talking about making your name into a brand.

Stephen King, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Tom Clancy–These are authors whose names are now recognizable brands. Anything they put their name on sells. While we might not become mega-brands over night, we can’t get started down the path with a few simple steps.

Yesterday, Allie Boniface offered some great tips on promotion. Today, I’ll add to her great suggestions while still keeping with the theme of book/author promotion on a budget.

1. Join online writers’ groups. Absolute Write is the forum in which I am most involved. But, professional organization such as RWA and SCBWI usually have boards to which you can belong. Verla Kay Blue Boards are great if you are a children’s writer. While most of the time you don’t meet these people face-to-face, you begin to feel like you “know” them. I have felt compelled to buy several books from Blue Board writers. Moreover, other writers on the site tend to want to promote their own. A lot of support was thrown behind Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange as well as all of the Jennifer Lynn Barnes book by their fellow Blue Boarders.

2. Email Signatures. Put a standard signature in your emails about your book and a link to where people can find more information. This way, you don’t give yourself the option to pick and choose who you will tell about your book. You’re emailing your college professor? Ok, well, he knows about it now. Don’t be embarrassed. People are curious and will probably take the time to check that link.

3. Blog. I have been persuaded to buy books because of author blogs. The only reason I picked up Lisa Shearin’s books was because I read her blog daily. I feel invested in what she has to say. Don’t discount the importance of a blog just because it seems like everyone is doing it.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask you friends to provide a link to your site or a blurb about your book on G-chat or on their Facebook status. Word-of-mouth is a huge component of book and author success. Widen your radius.

5. Your book can have a Facebook Page. No, faces are not required to belong to facebook. Make your book a member and then add as many people as possible as your friends. Also, on your own facebook account, how many people on facebook are friends that you actually chat with daily? Yeah, probably a minority, right? Start a group and invite everyone to belong to it. When the random person you went to middle school sees the group they are probably going to be like, Wow so-and-so wrote a book! And then you pray that random middle school person is curious enough to run out and buy it.

6. Contact your local newspaper. Most newspapers don’t have a problem with running a “Local girl pens novel” story. Send them a media package.

7. Run a contest for Amazon reviews. Lisa Shearin did this recently. Every person who posted an Amazon review was entered to win prizes on her blog. Amazon reviews matter when it comes to Amazon rankings. Remember that.

8. The Internet is your friend. Book trailers on YouTube and Google Video. Twitter. MySpace. LiveJournal. Do them all.

9. Ask for interviews. Most of the time, people are not going to come beating down your door asking for an interview. It’s ok to ask someone whose blog you like to host you for a day. What is the worst that could happen?

10. Have a cyber launch party. Avoid the costs of a real live launch party and have a cyber one. You can even wear your PJs. Places like Enduring Romance host online parties for book releases and, if you have doubts about their effectiveness, they bring in TONS of comments from readers!

11. Cheap promotional giveaways. Want to send some gear to conferences or be able to provide goodies for prizes. Consider having your book title/logo put on a few goodies. There are a ton of places you can have this done. A Cheap Giveaways you can get pens with a logo on them for $.31 a pop. At the minimum of purchase of 428 pens, that will cost you $132. Not too bad.

12. Write Great Books. That’s the most important. And Guess what? The cheapest! Though the most time consuming. Look at The Shack, a book that is currently topping the bestseller list. $300 used to promote it. But, it’s a good book and, through word-of-mouth, it spread like wildfire.

 

 For last week’s Topical Tuesday on Ideas and Execution in Book Packaging click here.

Status: Today I’m cracking down. My goal is to finish between 12-15 pages of script today. I’m working toward that July 18th deadline of getting our proposal together to submit. The query letter is almost done. I’m waiting on some artwork. I’ve been chipping away at the script. And, I just downloaded a trial version of Comic Book Creator 2 because I think I am going to do the lettering for at least the first 15 pages in order to submit. I’m debating whether or not to purchase the software, but at $50 I think it is probably worth it.

Countdown to Allie Boniface’s New Release

I’ve been super excited to share this interview with you today. Allie Boniface is stopping in to chat with us and I’m proud to say that Fumbling with Fiction is the first stop on her blog tour to promote her latest book, One Night in Memphis (Samhain 2008).

The book release is tomorrow (yay for Allie!) and in honor of that Allie has been holding a running contest. Every comment you leave on this blog post will enter you to win a free download of One Night in Memphis, plus an autographed copy of one of her other novels, or any book from her home shelf.

Welcome, Allie!

Hi, Chandler, and thanks for featuring me on Fumbling with Fiction today!  Great interview questions, so let’s get right to the answers…

 

So, this is an exciting time for you, release day for your new book is tomorrow!  Can you tell us a little bit about One Night in Memphis?

 

Sure!  One Night in Memphis falls into the genre of contemporary romance, but it’s a little different from your ordinary romance novel.  The entire book takes place over a single day and night: twenty-four hours, and twenty-four chapters. It will actually be my second published “One Night…” book; One Night in Boston released in 2007.  In both cases, I wanted to explore the possibilities of love budding overnight.  Typically, romance authors develop their characters and relationships over a period of time, months or even years.  But I think we all know people who believe in, and experience, “love at first sight” moments as well.  In One Night in Memphis, the heroine, Dakota James, breaks up with her boyfriend and then jumps on a plane from New Hampshire to Tennessee to visit her best friend and heal her heart.  She meets the hero, Ethan Meriweather, in a blues club on Beale Street…but only after she realizes that her ex-boyfriend has followed her to Memphis, and that his intentions are not only dangerous but deadly.  The rest of the novel is a pretty fast-paced cat and mouse story with some romance thrown in for good measure!

 

Sounds like a great read, especially for these steamy summer months! How, as the author, do you prepare for the release of a new book?  Any tips on marketing/promotion on a budget?

 

Well, Samhain releases its books in electronic format 10 months before the print versions come out, so ebook promotions and print promotions are somewhat different.  I tend to increase my web presence, send out newsletters and press releases, mail bookmarks to conferences, etc., around my release dates.  Either way, however, my two biggest recommendations for marketing are to develop a strong web presence and keep writing good books.  It’s very easy to spend a lot of money promoting your books, but as a new author, you have to look carefully at the cost-effectiveness of your dollars and what your return will be.  At minimum, I recommend having a website (many web designers will create one for $200 or less, or you can also build your own and pay a low hosting fee for less than $10/month).  Beyond that, get your name out there on different electronic forums.  Post on message boards that relate to your genre.  Participate in chats hosted by your publisher.  Blog.  Write articles for different ezines.  Create a MySpace or Facebook page.  Conventional wisdom says that someone must read your name seven times before they’ll remember you, so publishing something every year is one of the other best things you can do as an author to boost your name.

 

Of course, you can also take out print ads, host launch parties, donate books to contests and raffles, hold book signings and writers’ group appearances, and travel to regional and national conferences, but if you don’t have the money, don’t sweat it.  Work your way up (that’s what I’m doing!).

 

I wrote an article on Budget Promotions a few months back – here’s the link if you’re interested: http://longandshortarchives.blogspot.com/2008/01/article-promotional-tools-for-faint-of.html

 

Thanks for sharing that link and those are some great tips. Can you tell us a little about your path to publication and what is it like working with Samhain?

 

I started writing for publication around 2002, but mine was a pretty long learning curve.  I wasn’t even sure what genre I really fell into, for a while (I straddle the line between contemporary romance and women’s fiction, if you’re wondering).  I wrote 4 novels and queried all the major publishing houses and agents before I sent One Night in Boston to Samhain.  My editor picked it out of the slush pile there, and since then I’ve published 2 additional novels and a short story (which will appear in Adams Media’s anthology My Mom is My Hero in May 2009). 

 

I love working with everyone at Samhain – they’re incredibly professional and absolutely aggressive about marketing and promotions.  The owner worked at Ellora’s Cave for many years, so she has terrific publishing savvy and contacts.  My sales with Samhain have been quite respectable for a first-time author, and I’d recommend them to anyone who’s looking at small presses. 

 

I’ve heard wonderful things about Samhain and am thrilled to finally get to chat with one of their authors. Are you looking for an agent or do you feel like, at this point, it’s not necessary?

 

While I am still looking for an agent, I’ve become more knowledgeable about the publishing business in the last year and realize that having an agent is not crucial to becoming a successful author.  Obviously, if you’re looking to break into the big New York houses, it’s easier if you’re agented.  But you also have to realize that some agents submit their authors’ works to publishers who take unagented submissions – Samhain is one of them.  And those authors are paying 15% of their profits directly to their agent.  Also, snagging an agent doesn’t necessarily mean your book will go to auction and sell for six figures; I know a fellow Samhain author whose agent has been shopping her book for three years!  If I get to a point where an agent can do significantly better for me than I can do for myself, then yes, I’ll sign on. 

 

Interesting perspective for those of us who get so caught up in the agent search. On a different tangent, we know you are a writer, but, as I understand it, you are also a teacher.  What age group and what kind of books are kids interested in right now?

 

I teach Education and English to high school seniors – yes, really!  In one of my classes, my students are required to read one book every month, and then we talk about their choices.  They can choose any book they like, and what’s neat is when one book becomes a class favorite and gets passed around during the course of the year.  What kinds of books do teenagers like?  Anything that’s a good story, really.  Here are some of the class favorites from the past few years:

 

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Looking for Alaska by John Green

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini

Bleachers by John Grisham

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

 

Thanks for sharing. As a YA writer I’m always dying to know. What’s your writing schedule like?  How do you fit it into your daily life?

 

Well, I blog every morning, and I try to write every evening.  At times I might sneak in some writing at lunchtime, too, but that doesn’t always happen.  Weekends are good for solid hours of writing time…and since I’m a teacher, summer is perfect for me to get in some serious writing too!

 

It’s always good to see writers with careers succeeding in the publishing world. But, more specifically, how do you approach the writing process?  Do you outline?  Do you start with characters or a premise, etc?

 

Oh, I’m a huge outliner.  I have to have the entire plot in place before I begin a novel.  This is not to say that things don’t change; they always do – the characters take me on wild turns I’d never dreamed of!  Usually, I begin with some kind of “what if” premise, and then figure out how many conflicts I can work into the story from there.

 

I’m jealous of your outline abilities. Prior to publication, how did you deal with rejection as a writer?

 

Um…prior to publication?  I’m currently collecting rejection letters from agents that I sent my latest women’s fiction novel to. One of my Samhain colleagues also has a women’s fiction novel she can’t find a home for.  Another fellow author has queried agents every year for the last five and still hasn’t found someone to take her on.  My advice to both pre-published and published writers is to develop a really, really thick skin.  This is true when the reviews start coming, too: some people will like your book, and some won’t have anything good to say about it.  You absolutely must be tough in this industry, or I don’t think you have a chance of lasting.

 

Good to know what to expect, although I think everyone would agree that an end to rejection would be nice. On a happier note, what was it like the first time you heard your work was accepted?

 

  1. Exhilarating.
  2. Hugely relieving.

I bet! I love hearing authors’ reactions to success! It was a ton of fun hearing from you. Please come back and visit again!

 

Thanks for having me here today, Chandler – readers can find out more about One Night in Memphis by visiting this link: http://www.samhainpublishing.com/authors/allie-boniface

 

Hope you’ll join me in celebrating my release day tomorrow ~ that’s the nice thing about ebooks: they cost about as much as Starbucks latte and last a lot longer!

 

 

 

———-Samhain is the gold standard of small presses. If you’d like to know more about submitting to small publishers, check out 10 Things to Look For When Submitting to Small Presses

Writing–not just a figure of speech

A lot of people like to call themselves writers. I don’t know if it’s because of the girls, the aura of mystery and intellect, or perhaps just the license to drink at 10 am in the name of “inspiration.”

 

But here’s the thing: last time I checked, you have to actually write something to be a writer. Weird, right?

 

Anyway, a big step in accomplishing the whole writing part is goal setting. And can’t we all agree that goal setting is much more meaningful when you shout it from the modern equivalent of a mountain top–my blog?  I would say Facebook, but, let’s be serious, I’m not that brave. 

 

So here are my writing goals for the rest of 2008:

 

By the end of June-15,000 words of SCOUT first draft

Query at least 100 agents, but with any luck, sign with one before!

Complete SCOUT and revise 

Query SCOUT or turn into agent (whichever relevant at the time)–also see goal below

Simultaneously write a graphic novel script for SCOUT, work with an artist, and make a decision on which avenue to pursue

Continue to grow Fumbling with Fiction and by mid-July have at least 500 hits a day. By mid-September–1,000.

 

#1 Goal: No matter how many manuscripts I have to write or how many times I have to revise–sign with an agent. 

—-Note: Things seem to be looking promising. Everyone keep your fingers crossed and maybe hold your breath for good measure. Thanks.

 

What are your goals?

 

Status: Read Magic Lost, Trouble Found at the pool today. Good so far. I’ve really been looking forward to this book, so I think I’ve set the bar for it super high. I will say, it is great to read an author’s debut novel. Miss Snark once advised aspiring authors to read debut books because it gave a much more realistic view of the market. So, that’s something for everyone to think about. 

 

I’ll probably write a little bit tonight, so I’m looking forward to that. It’s usually slow going when first starting out, but then speeds up substantially.