Book Marketing and Mother's Day

You may have heard that tying your book to a holiday can be a useful promotion strategy. Of course, that's easy if your book is obviously relates to the holiday you have in mind like 101 Christmas Stories, but what if the relationship isn't that clear? The short answer-get creative. For starters, look at your target audience and figure out what kind of reasons they might have to buy your book beyond the desire to read it themselves.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, a fellow author and friend, is currently using this kind of strategy around Mother's Day for a book called She Wore Emerald Then: Reflections on Motherhood. The extra creative angle is that she and co-author Magdelena Ball are promoting the book as a substitute for Mother's Day cards. The book has thoughtful, reflective poems about moms, but they aren't super-sugary like those you find in most cards at the store. They are also offering it in paperback, as well as digital format so that people can even email a copy to Mom if that's everyone's preference.

Have you ever thought to use a book as a substitute for giving a card? I know I hadn't until I read Carolyn's press release about it, but I think it's a great idea for the right kind of book. Even if this idea won't work for your topic, hopefully you can see how the sky really is the limit when it comes to connecting your readers to your work.

BTW, if you want to get Carolyn's book for your Mom, there's still time to order if you get right on it. Visit Amazon or contact Carolyn about the digital version at hojonews@aol.com.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Don't Expect Your Local Bookstore to Do Anything For You as an Author

You read that right-don't expect your local bookstore to do anything for you as an author.
Surprised I would say something like that? At first glance, maybe, but think about the key word for a moment-expect.

While you can take the term expect in a couple different ways, what I mean is even though local bookstores can be easier to work with than say a B & N or Borders, you should never "expect" the owner/manager to help you.

You can ask, suggest, hope for (and potentially beg) them to help you, but never approach the situation assuming because you are both local, they owe you special treatment in some way. In truth, you need them to sell books and they need you to a point to help promote their store. Your relationship needs to be mutually beneficial as much as possible, and it's up to you as the one proposing you work together to make sure that happens.

Whether you're preparing to contact your local store for the first time, you have a long-time relationship to nurture, or you think you need to do some repair work, there's a great example of how to do the right thing at the Shelftalker Blog this week (which also inspired this post).

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Does it Fit in the Front?

Last time, I talked about the fact that you need to determine where your book fits as far as the category or area of a shelf in a store. When I asked, "Where does your book fit"? a few of you might have thought "on that nice table right up front!" And I'm sure most of us would love to be right by the cash register or proudly displayed on the table by the door.

While it would be nice if everyone's book really could get a shot at that kind of placement, there's only so much of that kind of space available at any given store. So how do you make your book a good fit there? What many authors do not realize is that much of the time, you make it fit by paying to make it fit.

That's right, those spaces are for sale and it's a perfectly normal promotional strategy. One common term for this is "pay for placement". For example, a publisher might buy a space in a big seasonal display, or the end cap of a shelf or other high traffic area. Obviously, big traditional publishing houses have an advantage here as pay for placement is not cheap they usually have more funds to pull off both buying the space and the PR campaign to make the books sell (otherwise they can lose their shirts if they don't).

Is it going to be tough for a small or micro-publisher to get a book into one of these spaces? As far as the big chains go, yes. Does that mean if you aren't published with a big press you should give up entirely on getting good attention in a store? Not necessarily.

What it does mean though is that you need to be realistic. Don't expect your first novel that you independently published to be on that front table at B & N. However, you still have other options. Instead of being upset over what you may not be able to do, put your energy into what you can.
Check out smaller stores, and seriously consider non-bookstores where your book is a good match with the rest of the store's products (think book featuring train travel in a hobby shop). That valuable piece of shelf-real estate might just be hiding in plain sight after all.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Where Does Your Book Fit?

At some point during your book writing process, you need to answer the question, "where will my book fit?" This means which section or shelf does it go in at a store, or what category will it fit in an online situation like Amazon or B&N.com?

If you intend to do any retail business at all, you must have a precise answer to this question. If you feel your topic/story is very unique, there's nothing like it, this is not a good thing. If a retailer doesn't know how to categorize it, they'll likely pass as they aren't going to create a new section for one book.

Now it is true that there are times when a book may combine genres/topics. If you're in that situation, you'll need to check and see if such combinations are currently found stores/on retailer websites. If not, if you plan to sell via established outlets etc, you'll need to pick the topic/genre you feel will help the book sell best.

If you mainly plan to sell on your own site, the issue is not as critical. However, you'll still need to make sure potential readers understand where the book fits within the topics/genre's they're already familiar with. Saying something like "you've never read anything like this" will only garner so much interest. If you can't quite pin down your category yet, keep writing, keep working at it until you can. This is one of those times where getting it "sorta close" probably won't be close enough.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


What Can Authors Learn From Susan Boyle?

If you've read or watched the headlines of almost any media outlet this week, you've heard about Susan Boyle, the previously unknown singer with a golden voice who's competing on a TV talent show. If by chance you don't know the details, in a nutshell, this ordinary woman with an ordinary life, walks out on stage for the competition and literally makes people cry. Even Simon Cowell, known for making people cry in other ways with his critiques, was wowed by her voice.

So what does this have to do with authors? I think we can learn two solid lessons here:

1. The show that Susan appears on and many like it are filled with "good" talent. Many good performers move on through the competition and get some breaks later. However, in this time of media overload, what it takes to be noticed, really noticed is being stand-out, stupendous, or amazing. Your takeaway here is simple- is your book, your writing, good or amazing? Based on that answer, what are you expecting when you send it out to agents or offer it for sale?

2. Even though the hoopla has gone on for several days now, this just hit me this morning: what about all of those with "good" talent? Prior to Susan's appearance, I'm sure many were thinking they did a great job when they had their turn. Some may have believed they could place or win the competition. With one performance, the whole game changed without warning. Thoughts of "Oh, I've got this" probably changed to something more like, "Oh, #@!**".

I'm sure this happens pretty regularly in traditional publishing too. An agent or editor has many good, and maybe even a few great titles to consider. Yours may be near the top of the list and a contract almost ready to be offered, but then "Amazing" blows in like a hurricane and everyone's attention shifts and stays there for quite some time.

Should your work still be published, will it be published? Potentially, but which title do you think will get the first or most resources? Obviously, "Amazing" and there's really nothing you can do about that. Your job at that point is to be professional, graciously wish the best for "Amazing" and start looking for your next opportunity to shine. That's the unmistakeable sign of a winner.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Should You Self-Publish? The Conversation Continues

Thanks again to those who've commented on my post from earlier this week-What is Self-Publishing?" We've got a great conversation going here.

The discussion is a perfect example of why I wrote my book Publishing Possibilities. I believe and build my business around the point that every author and every project is different. This means the way to determine the "right or best" publishing option has to be an individual decision. The only totally wrong choice is something that is a pure scam, that will do harm to someone's business etc.

For example, there are people who will insist until they are blue in the face that authors should never choose fee-based/pay to publish , yet Jaxpop is happy. Might he be happier with another option? Maybe, maybe not, but the point is right now his choice suits his purpose. I don't think anyone should tell him that's wrong.

There are others who say traditional is the only "real way" yet Michael is happy with his decision to go independent self-published. Is he any more right or wrong than Jaxpop or someone who goes traditional? Again, there is right and wrong for him, for his project. If it wouldn't work for someone else, that doesn't need to be in the equation, or if it is, it's a smaller part than his own goals, needs etc.

Now, I'm not saying don't seek the advice of people who have more experience or more knowledge than you do. That's an important part of the process if you are just learning. However, decision by consensus (again except in the area of scams, really poor businesses) is not what you should aim for. Something like 5 out of 7 people liked such and such option, so I'm going with that one, does not do justice to your unique circumstances.

Seek solid advice, and definitely put it in as one part of your decision process, but always remember there's a lot more to the equation.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


What is Self-Publishing?

This is definitely one of the most common questions I see, especially from writers who are just getting into the publishing part. Sometimes the question comes directly to me, other times I see it on a forum, or it comes up in conversation.

The thing is, a lot of people don't know this term is one of the most confusing in publishing today. There are two different definitions, there's no standard agreement on which definition to use even from expert to expert is some cases and the inexperienced author is often left bewildered. One of the reasons I wrote my book is to help clarify this term as I believe it is also the source for a lot of bad experiences and disappointment.

If you are considering this route, or maybe just investigating your options, here is a short answer to get you started:

1. The original meaning refers to an author who sets up his own publishing company in order to publish his own books. This means he sets up a legal entity and hires out, or does all of the necessary tasks himself that a traditional publisher would normally do. Sometimes this is now called "independent self-publishing" but some people also just say "self-publishing".

2. The most common meaning today refers to being published by a fee-based/POD/pay-to-publish company. Examples of this are iUniverse, Booklocker, and Outskirts Press among dozens of others. If you plug the term into a search engine, you'll likely find such services in the majority of the top answers.

Many people argue that using these companies is not "self" publishing because the author is not the publisher of record in most of these cases etc. Others say it is because the author is not waiting for the approval of someone else to be published, has more control over the product, so the term "self" is appropriate. I'm sure that debate will continue for a long time to come.

What is self-publishing? It seems like such a small question, but I hope you can see how important the answer truly is to you as an author. If you plan to "self-publish, which one of these routes are you going to follow/are you on now? Are you sure?

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


More Help If You're Hoping to be Traditionally Published

The other day, I wrote about a contest where you the author get to act as agent for a short time. I think many lessons will be learned through that one, both about the process and the real people involved on both sides.

Today's resource keeps the focus at the beginning of the publishing process and helps you with book proposals. You'll not only learn what they are, how they should be done and get examples to work with, you also have the chance to get your critiqued for free. Though I'm not sure how long that last part will last as I'm guessing the person offering this will get quite swamped, but who knows. I'd suggest if you're interested and have something ready to go that you should not procrastinate.

Find all the details at Alan Rinzler's blog

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Wanna be an Agent?

When it comes to agents, you've all seen comments like:
Agents take FOREVER to respond, all they have to do is read a few pages and make a decision, how hard can it be? Why did they turn my work down? It's AWESOME (and my neighbor thinks so too), that agent wouldn't know a sure thing if it bit him. I could certainly make better choices than those books, and the list goes on.

Merited? On occasion, but probably not as often as we as writers would like to believe.

Well, if you've ever said anything like this or thought it, here's your chance. You can be an agent. Seriously, you can see what it's like through what I think is an absolutely awesome idea for a contest.

Agent Nathan Bransford is holding a contest where anyone who'd like to can be a part of the query and acceptance process. You'll read actual query letters and pick those books you think are worth representing. When all is said and done, he'll let everyone know whose picks matched the real choices of titles that actually were published and crown you Superstar Agent.

Sound like fun? Sound like hard work, a little intimidating? I'm pretty sure that's the point. It's not as easy as it looks I'm sure. If you're game you can find the details here.

If you do or don't think it's a good idea, if you participate, would love to hear your thoughts or how it goes.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Now You Really Know

Publishing terminology can be maddening, mystifying and lots of other words that involve frustration.
To make us all feel better, even if just for a little while, here are some "helpful" definitions you might want to keep in mind as you navigate along your publishing journey.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Wordsmiths and their Words

Usually, when I find something I like or believe will be helpful, I share the link with you. This time I've included it below in it's full form as it is a Note on Facebook and if you aren't friends with the writer you wouldn't be able to see it. It's an entry in an exercise called Slice of Life, a challenge to write a short piece about your life each day for a month.

We're writers, we work with words, but how often do we stop to think about how simple yet very complicated our tools are? That's what Vinnie Sorce did with his words through his slice of life for today. What are you doing with your words?

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett

Take it away Vinnie-






Words are interesting. Those particular words were used in the Facebook scrabble game I’m currently playing with Sharon.

It’s amazing how they can be strung together to form thoughts and dreams or tell of terrible tragedies.

They can be written or spoken, they can change lives in a heartbeat.

They can be reassuring and comforting or they can be hurtful and full of pain.

They can be in hundreds of different languages and dialects.

And yet somehow, with all that at our disposal, we still have trouble communicating.

Imagine that.