This one too! Capice! http://ow.ly/eKkzv
I am working at becoming a better writer – and part of my practice is to write every day. It helps me to write when I know I have a potential audience! Do others out there feel the same way? So I plan to put some random musings blog posts here as a way to practice and so that you all can hold me accountable to make sure I’m writing. Here’s the first such piece.
I’m a City Girl and I LOVE the Bus!
Given that we live in the City, my husband and I don’t drive and frequently debate the best mode of transportation to get from point A to point B. While he always suggests New Jersey Transit-commuter rail options, hands down I love the bus. Yep, the city bus.
There are so many good things about the bus. In my experience, bus drivers are friendly – and since they have to interact with virtually everyone who gets on their bus and pays their fare – this is a good thing. I’ve also been surprised at how quickly I become a regular to a bus driver who then offers a personal greeting when you get on the bus! You can’t beat that. Also, because the bus is above ground, you never lose network access. You can get Smartphone messages. Read and reply to email in real time. Have a text conversation. Makes your commute time eminently more useful! And again, as it’s above ground, you watch the City, the world go by. You have sense of how you got from point A to point B – useful when you want to retrace your steps by foot. Lastly, even in New York City, and its world class traffic, the bus is fast. There are designated bus lanes that mean while folks in their cabs tap their foot and huffily look out the window, you’re sailing smoothly by on the bus.
I also love Amtrak. I’ve traveled overseas as far as India and on a road trip to Mississippi. I travel frequently to Chicago to see my family. I’ve flown an awful lot and while sometimes flying is unavoidable (lest you have time for a 6 week boat journey), I avoid it at all costs. Plane travel is miserable! Security means you spend more time in the airport than on the plane. Flight attendants are getting crabbier and crabbier. Food at a cost, blanket and pillow rental – and you pay through the nose for this “service” – this “comfort”? Flying is hugely expensive and what do you get for that? Not much! A frustrating, protracted airport experience where a cup of coffee costs $6, a cramped flight where you have to pay for a crappy sandwich and rent a blanket, and arriving at your destination generally late. And can everyone PLEASE STAND BACK from baggage claim? We can all see our bags if everyone just took a few steps back! It kills me that people hover over the baggage carousel. It’s coming, people!
After a regrettable and frustrating journey to Florida last year with some crabby flight attendants and nothing edible on Continental, I vowed that from then on, I would travel by Amtrak anywhere 1000 miles or less. On the train you have WiFi, there is plenty of room to stretch out AND you can get up and walk around. There is a food and bar car. There is plenty of room to keep your luggage close by. And the scenery! Being above ground yet not in the air allows the beautiful American landscape to unfold by your window as you roll along in comfort. And bonus! No long lines in security, and plenty of time to get to know your seat-mate (and talk to them about what they are reading!). Plus it’s a pretty quick City Bus trip to Penn Station. Just saying.
So what is your favorite method of travel? Here’s some options:
- Driving short distances
- Road trips
- Taxis/Car Service
- City Bus
- Commuter Train
- Airplane (US)
- Airplane (international)
- Ferry (I have yet to make a real excursion on the ferry!)
Share your thoughts!
I’ve been doing PR and marketing for both authors and small companies for over a decade now. I have learned a lot from every campaign and every new venture I have taken on. When I think back to my most successful campaigns, they were the ones in which my clients were active participants in both the brainstorming stage and the execution. They were the ones that were ready to put their names and faces out there. It is impossible to raise an author’s brand recognition and boost sales of books without the author being fully ready to catapult him/herself into the spotlight.
Business here at RTC is growing. It’s a combination of doing good work and getting valued referrals and the fact that there is a higher demand for the work I do. In September 2010, Alice Jackson guest blogged for me. She started her post with this statistic:
“The need for public relations professionals is expected to increase by 24 percent, a greater increase than any other profession, until 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.”
I believed it at the time but now I am seeing it in action. I will speak specifically to the publishing industry even though this fact can be applied to just about any field in need of good representation. When I started at Penguin in 2001, there were so many campaigns on my plate. I quickly noticed the ones that garnered the best results were the ones with authors who politely spoke up—offered their ideas and wish lists – the authors who were the most engaged. While many say the industry has been in crisis for years (at least as long as I’ve been marketing books) claiming that there are more books and authors than media outlets for coverage, I no longer think that is true. What we are seeing now is actually progress. There ARE even more authors than before, but finally the avenues to promote them seem equal to the challenge. In 2001, blogs were not around. Social media was a glimmer in innovators minds. Now we have all of this and we need qualified professionals dedicated to managing all the mediums for marketing authors’ great work.
Traditionally published, indie authors, e-book authors and self-published authors are all finally on even playing field. The leg up for anyone is having a team in place to market—which is when they often come to me. Going it alone is not recommended. Until the author makes the conscious decision to self-promote, it can be overwhelming to think about. Often, authors are introverts. Creative minds that like to spend their time writing, which is generally best accomplished, you guessed it: alone. To be a good writer and a good promoter is often a dichotomy that can be hard to bridge. This is why having a marketing team or a PR specialist is so important. BUT, the best results will be achieved if the author is engaged and willing to promote him or herself. Once that decision is made, there is a very exciting period, filled with limitless possibility. But the work is really just beginning. It is my job to open opportunities for my authors but it is up to them to seize these opportunities and close the deal.
In October I went to the Novelists, Inc, conference. It was filled with mostly big house multi-published authors. Some authors had 20 or more books under their belt but were just learning about self-promotion. It was a packed 5 days of marketing knowhow. By the time my panel arrived that Saturday, the authors were overwhelmed. They had no doubt learned a lot in a very short period of time. But as I always say, it’s important to keep learning, keep your mind agile and open to new possibilities in order to have the best chance at true success.
My trip toChicagoin February was so rewarding. I hosted a happy hour with all myChicagoclients new and old and met with them one on one. What made it so great was to feel the excitement! Many of my authors are investing in self-promotion for the first time. They have lots of questions. The key to success for an author is: to learn about the service you are paying for, be engaged in the process and have patience. I believe in ROI (Return on Investment). However, the formula for book sales is different for each book. It takes trying a lot of things to get a winning combo. Sometimes I see results right away and sometimes it can take as long as a year for a campaign to bear fruit. But there is always a break if we keep our eye on the goal.
I hope you are reading this because you have entered the world of self-promotion or are thinking of doing so. It’s an exciting ride. One I love being the tour guide for. I will be hosting more happy hours and getting to know many of you this year. I can’t wait!
I would like to leave you with some homework. Before hiring a publicist, marketer or put a full marketing team in place, ask yourself the following questions.
- Are you overwhelmed on the ins and outs of social marketing, blog outreach and traditional PR? Do you see more opportunities than you have time for?
- Are you scratching your head at the 3 terms I just asked you about?
- Do you need guidance navigating this new world?
- Are you looking to garner more book sales? A bigger advance? More name recognition?
- Has your work been well received but you feel there are more readers to reach?
- Has someone told you branding is essential to success?
- Do you want to tap into the e-book market?
- Are you willing to invest in the short term for long term success?
- Are you patient?
- Are you ready for the work that will be created by an active campaign?
This blog post is dedicated to two of my best self-promoters:
1) Tina Folsom who came to me with a lot of self-promotion under her belt and takes a brainstorming session very seriously. She certainly doesn’t let the grass grow under her feet!
2) Sam Reaves who made the leap to hire me in January. Bright-eyed and bushy tailed he came to the Chicago happy hour interested in learning the ins and outs of Facebook. We couldn’t tackle it that night but now he’s on the right track!
Back in November I was in Chicago visiting family. As you know from previous blog pots, my niece Shea, is a big reader who puts even the consummate bookworms, my sister and me, to shame. I usually find her engrossed in very thick books more appropriate for a high-school-er than a third-grader!
One night after dinner, homework time arrived. Shea was working on a book report. She waltzed out of her bedroom with a book and it looked quite lean for my niece’s taste. I said, “Shea, isn’t that book a little too thin for you?” Her response, “I have to write a book report and I was limited by genre.” The book was The Mystery of Lilac Inn. Apparently more advanced mysteries are not appropriate for her 8-year old malleable mind.
“I was limited by genre.” Does that not make you laugh? First, I was shocked at the seriousness of her tone and then, knowing youth today, I was shocked that the term “genre” was in her vocabulary even though I use the word on a daily basis! Hey, maybe she’ll grow up to be a book publicist! An aunt can dream!
And it got me thinking, do we all limit ourselves by genre? Would you categorize yourself as a reader of thrillers, crime fiction, romance or literary novels only, please? If you are an author do you stick to one genre or are you able to write each new novel with fresh eyes and limitless creativity? I am always fascinated by authors that seem to be able to effortlessly straddle the genre lines. Their voice is apparent in each new novel, though the subject matter and genre may vary wildly! How do they do that?
As many of you know, I recently did a promotion for Kent Harrington, Libby Fischer Hellmann and Pascal Marco for a free Kindle Fire. Contestants were required to read one book by each author and post reviews on Amazon of each title. All three are thriller authors-yet all very unique. Some contestants couldn’t get enough and read other works by these three stars. Some of those readers I would categorize them as “thriller readers” and some more as “literary.” A few readers/contestants didn’t like the books – didn’t take to them, and I could only speculate that these folks were “limited by genre”- i.e. they’re not your average thriller reader – or at least not as open to that genre as others. I consider all three titles to be high quality pieces of work so perhaps, as Shea so eloquently put it, they were “limited by genre.”
It is important to reach the reader. And when discussing genre, authors (and publicists) must try to reach the ones that DO like their specific genre. That said, we also must spend time trying to reach new readers – those who don’t limit themselves by genre and take after Shea who is bright-eyed and bushy tailed and has an open mind to each new book, as if each is a new adventure.
What’s Shea Reading?
Since then Shea has read The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan, War Horse by Michael Morporgo (apparently the movie is not appropriate for an 8 year old but the book is) and The Horse and his Boy (Narnia) by C.S. Lewis. My sister might have the highest book expense bill in a 100 mile radius of her home. Sometimes the library doesn’t cut it.
I am a book publishing industry insider, and I survived the dawn of the e-book era. How? By staying calm! Imagine that! So many have been surrounded by chaos and panic, but not me. And I’ll tell you why. But first, please note the picture. This is my niece, Shea, reading at a recent family dinner in Illinois. She’s reading a printed book. She has not yet converted to an e-reader though she does enjoy my sister’s Nook Color. Do note, despite the huge soda in front of her—her concentration is not shattered in the middle of a family function. This shows that people are still reading and it’s a warm fuzzy feeling to see a child read with such intensity, pleasure and concentration.
Now, surviving the dawn of the e-reader: I have read it countless times: The printed book will not die. It cannot die. And despite my love of the printed book, I know that they will be on their way out – eventually – as the world becomes more and more digital. It will not happen overnight, nothing does, but the digital era is here and future generations will know the e-reader as their “go to.” They’ll “borrow” from libraries by downloading the library’s books to their e-reader. College students won’t have to buy textbooks and stand in line at their book store – they’ll simply download the necessary texts from a website. In fact, some are already doing it! The statement: “the printed book will not die” is made out of fear – that books – stories, tales, information – will somehow disappear just because the e-book era is upon us. But I disagree.
Life is all about change. My senior thesis in college was on the history of the printed book. You don’t see anyone pulling out a scroll made of parchment or deer hide on the subway, do you? But they remain in museums and historical libraries all over the world for the “bookies” among us to enjoy. Similar with ancient books and texts. Has anyone read The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks? This novel traces the ownership and origin of a book through history and reminds us that books will always be with us. Despite the change in format, one constant remains: people are still reading, still loving books, still sharing the love of reading and favorite authors with others.
As a voracious reader and lover of books, those are my thoughts. Now to speak as the publicist I am. I made a vow, perhaps a proclamation, sometime back in 2010 that I would blaze the trail on e-book promotion. I had watched the various stages unfold and felt I was a witnessing history. I told a few supporters of my company, RTC Publicity (often just referred to as “RTC”) and some authors that I’d be the one to define what e-book promotion was in the new digital era. The time has come and my faithful clients and confidants held me to it. So here I am sharing with you my journey.
I approached Foreword in 2010 to write an article on e-book promotion though it didn’t run because they felt I didn’t give enough away. It’s a competitive world out there and while everyone is panicking I am staying calm, doing my research, collaborating with phenomenal authors and publishing professionals—and keeping all my e-book proprietary knowledge under lock and key until now because I know it’s valuable. The traditional PR route and the traditional publishing route are out the window. I chose not to hang on to the past. I chose to be part of history and be a part of raising sales for my clients in this new uncertain time. In my upcoming book on the dawn of the e-book (to be available in print and e-reader versions!), I will share with you some cases studies. The beginnings of what were/are the first formal e-book marketing campaigns.
I have watched too many authors get chewed up and spit out by the traditional publishing machine. That’s two-fold. Simply put, it’s the legacy publishers being understaffed and not able to serve the promotion needs of authors. At the same time, selfishly, they aren’t advising them to go elsewhere—they aren’t letting them know there are people like me out there to help (for not a lot of money either in terms of ROI!). Beyond the big six there are countless small houses putting out truly amazing and quality work. These publishers and their barebones staff and contractors are trying innovative things and making their mark. Many authors are making their name at small houses—or even self-publishing! (Bet you didn’t think that would happen either). However, these small houses don’t have large promotional budgets, and often times are backed by investors-or looking for investors to fund their dreams. They may not have much money, but they have HEART and I am a big believer that heart and passion can take you a very long way.
One of the biggest problems with e-book promotion that I’ve been tackling is that there is a huge disconnect between when e-books come out and when promotion can happen. With e-books coming out so fast, there is not enough time to book the promotion to coincide with the pub date as we do with the printed book. Does that make any sense? In the promotional world it does not. LEAD TIME is necessary. The outlets that promote e-books do not lend themselves to that. Furthermore, there are a LOT of e-books being published and compared to outlets that review printed books; comparatively there are only a handful of e-book review sites. This is a second problem with e-book promotion but one I hope that the e-reading industry is already seeking to fix. I see many authors collectively working themselves to fix this problem.
Take it a step further. Amazon is the #8 site in the world for EVERYTHING. Think about how that affects books. Essentially we’re dealing with a monopoly. And with more neighborhood bookstores closing, people are turning Amazon. In my own home town of Hoboken (right across the Hudson!), Barnes & Noble shut down. There is no book store within walking distance of my home aside from a used bookstore that unfortunately does not meet my needs. Further, the majority of the sites that review e-books are Kindle specific. Kindle Nation Daily and Kindle Boards being the 2 biggest. So, in order to sell books, I have to go against my training of keeping all the booksellers happy and promote the Kindle edition of any given e-book. In order to purchase a promotion on these sites you need a special number: the ASIN number. Publishers do not get that number until the book drops on Amazon. So here we have the chicken and the egg theory. Book is out, we have the ASIN and NOW we can promote. Makes zero sense.
It’s making it harder and harder for authors to do things on their own with any kind of organization. It’s forcing authors to hire out. I have “ins” at these review sites. They’ll hold a spot for me without the ASIN. This, just by me giving them repeat business, gives us the opportunity to have some lead time to play with. A solution for now, but in the long term there will need to be significant realignment.
That’s all for now – but I will continue to share my adventures in the e-book era. Stay tuned! I hope all you book lovers out there will consider reading more when my book is out. And so I leave you with a quote (or it just wouldn’t be me):
“The world must be all f*cked up when men travel first class and literature goes as freight.” – Catalan bookstore owner in Macondo in 100 Years of Solitude
Let’s change that together!
It is said that a good writer must be “well read.” In order for an author to find his or her place in the industry, they must know what they like. I am an insatiable reader, as you all know. I read for work and pleasure and can often be found reading multiple books at once. I carry around a big cloth tote bag, filled with books I may be in the mood to read at any given moment and of course with many manuscripts on my Sony e-reader, always right in tow. I have the “well read” part covered.
I have a small, yet loyal (thank you!) readership here on the RTC Publicity blog. I value that tremendously but have never considered myself as a writer, per se. The blog has evolved over the years. It started with a few spontaneous postings back in mid-2009. Sometime in 2010 I became more dedicated to the blog, and began posting more regularly. In looking back, I’ve been able to see my writing mature over time—and I know it will continue to be refined, honed and matured as I continue to write – really finding my voice both in style and content. And in case you think I’m being a bit too self-aware, other close RTC supporters regularly request a sneak peak of my next piece, be it for this blog or a guest spot I have recently attained. And my loyal following, week after week, gives me feedback, usually positive. A hey “Thanks for writing this. I’ll send it along.” Best compliment you can get—that a reader found it worthy of sharing with someone else. That said, perhaps the biggest compliment I’ve ever received was when an author used my first blog post on the crisis of traditional publishing to spur discussion in a university class he was teaching. So slowly I have realized people are reading what I am writing. Maybe it’s my style, maybe it’s my content or maybe it’s simply everyone’s loyalty to me, but people are reading what I write and that is rewarding!
I am good at writing short pieces, and summarizing longer reads. I write short, punchy pieces – for my blog, for other outlets and for my work: I read novels and sum them up in one page to entice the media. It’s an acquired, unique, but a necessary skill. I never thought of engaging in “writing” much past that, even after the blog started to take off and other organizations approached me to write for them. Then I joined the International Women’s Writers Guild (IWWG) and attended their writers’ conference at Yale as a one-day commuter on June 25th after the urging of a close friend. I thought I would meet more authors, meet some of the women of IWWG, maybe do some networking for future work and call it a day. What I found was something very different. Immediately when I walked in to registration on Yale’s beautiful, world-renowned campus, I felt at home with these women – felt a part of something bigger than me. I was introduced to a few people as I researched which workshops I’d be attending and then a miraculous thing happened, simply miraculous.
I introduced myself for the first time ever as a writer: “I’m Rebecca Crowley, yes, I’m a writer.” I don’t know even where it came from, it seemed unbidden – unprompted – it just was true, and therefore came out! I felt something click on in that moment. I know this may sound “new agey” but I truly believe that life is a journey, and wherever my path may lead, this is a moment I will not so soon forget. It felt insanely freeing. A different part of my identity revealed.
Some of you already know this – I already am working on a book – a memoir on the e-book era. I’ve been sort of stuck although what I have on paper so far is pretty good. All my closest advisors have said it just has to be a memoir. It’s too soon for anyone to be an expert in the realm of e-books. So many things are being tested. HOWEVER, my experience in the e-book era is singular and unique and I have an interesting story to share of my ten years in the book industry. After attending the writers’ conference and taking a memoir writing workshop called “Shimmering Images” by Lisa Dale Norton, I realized there is a specific process to this format. Now I know and I can continue on with my work.
What I found at the IWWG conference were a lot of eager women writers without big egos genuinely looking to help each other out and genuinely dedicated to improving their own craft of writing. It’s a journey, not a destination and we must always be aware of that. There is always room for improvement. The camaraderie at this conference reminded me why I do what I do. I love authors and creative spirits—and I know it takes work. It is not easy to create a work of fine art from scratch, let alone get it published. I have tremendous respect for anyone who tries and I’ve met so many that come to me ready to take it to the next level. And for that, my friends and readers, I am grateful every day.
And I’m humbled. I’m humbled by the moment I said “I’m Rebecca Crowley, a writer.” Not quite ready to assume the “author” title but enjoying the sojourn. Furthermore, I’d have nothing to write if I have not had a chance to reflect on what I have read. Hence, the title “reader turned writer.”
I would love to hear stories of your own path. There must be a moment for everyone throughout his or her career where that switch is turned on and a new identity is formed. Please share it here, so others (and I) can be further inspired!
I was diagnosed with ulcers in February, and I know the exact day they started to form. It was the day I realized the entire way I’d been marketing my books over the past 10 years had, in the digital e-book age, had become obsolete. I remember realizing that I’d have to learn a totally new way of promoting: all online, all “soft” marketing, all very time-consuming.
Not the thing a hard-charging, results-oriented former PR person wants to hear.
Four months later, the ulcers are – thankfully –gone, and I’m feeling better about marketing, too. I went “back to school” (metaphorically) to learn the ABCs of e-book promotion. I teamed up with a couple of writers’ groups to share the load; started keeping tabs and submitting my books to new websites and blogs like Daily Cheap Reads and Kindle Nation Daily, as well as other emerging gatekeeper sites; polished my Facebook fan page; started using Twitter more; joined a couple of blogs; plus a hundred other things that, by trial and error, I’m either continuing to do or I have abandoned it.
While without a doubt surviving in the digital age requires a lot more effort and has significantly slashed my writing productivity (at least for now), there are other perks. There is no question that the Digital Age has presented authors with opportunities that used to be only a dream.
Like producing an audiobook.
I am in the midst of producing the audio of SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE, my seventh novel, and I’m having more fun than I’ve had in years—mostly because I used to be a video producer. I worked in both corporate and broadcasting jobs – in fact, my first “real” job was at KYW news radio in Philadelphia. For me audio is “theater of the mind.” You have the voices, the effects, and the words, but you get to visualize the characters – the way they look, their expressions, their body language. It’s the bridge between reading and film, and it’s a medium I’ve always cherished. There’s just nothing like closing your eyes (as long as you’re not driving) and letting your imagination wander.
So far two of my novels and four short stories have been produced on audio. However, in each case, I’ve had to wait years for them to become available.
Now, with everything digital and online, it’s possible to produce an audiobook quickly, at a reasonable cost, and still have a professional product. This is exactly what I am doing. No, I’m not voicing it myself – I’m not that crazy. But I have a friend – a published writer herself – who’s also an actress and whose voice is a writer’s dream come true. When she started reading a sample chapter, she read it exactly the way I wrote it, which is a testament to her talent. She changes her modulation, her volume, and her tone, depending on the character. And she does perfect accents.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I knew enough to realize that recording the book is in some ways the easiest part. The trick is to hook up with a distributor who can get it on the most popular audio download sites. While that market has coalesced – Audible, iTunes, and Amazon are the major distributors today – there are smaller venues that I wouldn’t know. However, a distributor does. So even before we started recording I Googled “audio distributors.”: Imagine my surprise when a familiar name popped up: the wife of a friend who used to work at Mystery Bookstore of Los Angeles (RIP).
I immediately emailed my friend.
“Is this YOUR wife?” I asked.
“It is,” he said.
“How did I not know she was into audio books?” I said.
“You never asked,” he said. “She’s been doing this for years.”
We immediately connected and I emailed her a sample MP3. At the time I thought I’d be able to record on my Mac with a Snowball mic. Unfortunately, she emailed back that the quality wasn’t professional enough. Too much “noise.”
So I called an old friend who owns a video studio near my house, worked out a reasonable rate, and we started recording. We’re over half way through. The best part is that I can bring home the tape, import it into Audacity and edit each chapter. Did I ever tell you how much I love editing? Whether I’m editing words, audio, or video, I love the process of assembling raw footage, sound, or words, and creating a compelling story. What’s more, compared to film, audio is easy. Audacity makes it simple. Essentially, it’s a word processing program for sound. It even has the same commands as Word. (It’s also free, BTW). I’m able to make cuts and splices, eliminate breaths and sibilants, extend pauses, and take out unexplained clicks and clacks. It’s a very satisfying process.
We have about three weeks left to go. Then we will do a final mix with a sound engineer who’s done audio books before. After that, I’ll email the final product to my distributor who will do her thing. With luck it will available by fall.
I waited two years for the audio to EASY INNOCENCE. It will be three years for A PICTURE OF GUILT. But SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE came out last winter. Barely eight months later, it will be available as an audio book.
There are times I love technology. This is one of those times.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Libby Fischer Hellmann is the award-winning author of the Ellie Foreman and Georgia Davis mystery series, and NICE GIRL DOES NOIR, a two volume short story collection. She also edited the highly praised crime fiction anthology CHICAGO BLUES. She has lived in the Chicago area over thirty years.
Feel free to contact Libby at firstname.lastname@example.org
See more of Libby’s work on the Outfit: