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Entries in Promotion (57)

Thursday
May202010

Have Book Tours Gone The Way of The Dinosaur?

Question of the day: I was wondering if you have any input on where you go on book tours? 

On the surface, I know that this question isn't big enough to merit a huge blog entry, but I wanted to pull it out and answer it anyway, because it demonstrates the changing nature of our industry.

So, to answer this question, yes, I do have input on where I go. In fact, I only go places where I have connections and/or can pull some folks in. Because there is just no point in flying all over the place and doing a reading/signing for five people. Super-big authors (in fame, not girth) are indeed sent to all corners of the country but even the folks who have had good but not huge success mostly stay home.

Why? 

Because with the internet and blogs and twitter and Facebook, there simply isn't the same need anymore to schlep every which way, and there are much more efficient ways to target and reach your audience. I'm spending a week on the road and that only takes me to a few cities. What could I accomplish from the comfort of my home office in that time (and with that money spent?). SO MUCH. Which isn't to say that there's not something worthwhile about going to bookstores, meeting readers face to face and signing. Of course there is, it's just that there are some really good, viable, cost-effective alternatives now that help you reach an even bigger audience than in-person appearances can.

All of this aside, it's certainly a lot of fun to head to stores and read and sign and shake hands and catch up with old friends. (Well, it's fun if, in fact, people show up.) But that be-all-end-all question of the past: "are you going on a book tour," just doesn't merit the same weight anymore. A week on the road is plenty for me. For the rest of the time, I'll be parked here, chatting with all of you who don't live in those cities.

So what do you guys think? Do you turn out for authors you like when they come to your cities? Or would you be just as happy communicating with them online?

Monday
May032010

The Outside Publicist

One of the questions that I get asked most often - and that is most often discussed between authors - is whether or not one should hire an outside publicist, which, for those not quite there yet, means someone other than the assigned-to-you publicist within your publishing house. I was thinking about this subject recently, and with the release of The One That I Want just a month away (eep!), I thought it might be a good time to open up the subject for debate/discussion.

I have opted not to hire someone for my past two books, but as always, as the publication date nears, there is second-guessing, and I think that truly, there is no clear answer to whether or not an outside publicist is worthwhile in a broader sense, though in specific cases, yes, it is. For me, with Time of My Life (and with The One That I Want, as I'm with the same publisher at Random House), I truly, truly, 100% believed that my publicist was doing everything she could in her power to garner me press. She was (and is) a pro, and I'd only heard the greatest of raves for her. Knowing this, I thought, "Well, she's pitching the hell out of outlets, I really don't know that anyone else can do it better than her, and the outside publicist would also be covering much the same territory as she had anyway." I instead budgeted for some ad space: my marketing manager at RH targeted some prime websites, and they put together some ads for me (in addition to what they were doing on their own), and I paid for something that I KNEW would happen: namely that my ad would get out in front of our targeted demographic, which is all you can ask for.

The risk of a publicist is that it's an unknown quantity: a few will work for you on a paid-per-mention basis, but most don't. So...like...you could get ALL the press in the world...or you could get very little. So many factors come into play with PR and reviews and mentions that it's very hard to assess which side of the line you and your book will come down on. NOW, that said, there are some WONDERFUL publicists out there who will think outside the box for you, who will drum up fabulous contests, connect you with all sorts of online outlets you'd never think of and that perhaps your in-house publicist would never think of. Especially with the internet these days and with print reviews falling by the wayside: there are some really great ways to spread the word, and I've seen some of these publicists do just that. (Two who come to mind whom I have a lot of respect for and whom I'd recommend if you're in the market: Crystal Patriarche and Jocelyn Kelley.) PLEASE don't think that I'm slighting them. In fact, if you don't feel like you're going to get the attention you need at your house, then an outside publicist is probably a great way to go (if you have the money) because someone will be focusing exclusively on YOU. In-house reps usually juggle a variety of campaigns, and the truth is, if you're not a big book or not a book that's generating a decent amount of buzz, you might fall through the cracks. (ETA: The wonderful writer mama - and publicity guru, Christina Katz, just pointed out on Twitter that she recommends hiring one for your first book. I think that's an important distinction as your first book may be your most important, in terms of your buzz and sales.)

One of the tricky aspects - and I think least talked about aspects of publicity - is that, regardless of how much press you get (within reason), a lot of your book's success is out of your hands. Namely, a lot of it comes down to print run. Huh? How's that? Well, your initial print run is decided before your book ever comes out - based on how many orders bookstores/book buyers place. And the honest truth is that if your print run isn't high - and if readers thus don't see the book in front of them at the store or don't have easy access to it - all the press in the world won't skyrocket you to the bestseller list. I know of what I speak: my first book had a decent though not huge print run. It got a good deal of press for a debut, albeit not People or EW (which can really boost interest), but a slew of national women's mags and some good buzz. But without a huge print run, it didn't matter. Sales were fine, not incredible, and so it went. Even with the help of an outside publicist, little could be done because, well, there weren't huge quantities of the book to buy. And I've heard this echoed from many, many other author friends: print run is king. If your publisher is printing 50k copies of your hardcover, People is going to be more interested, which is going to spread the word more easily, which is going to translate into sales. So from the start, you're already way ahead of the game.

Does that make sense? I hope so. Is it fair? Probably not but it's (more or less) the way things shake down. But back to hiring a publicist. Even if you're not hitting the best-seller list, buzz can be a great thing, which is what these reps can do for you - if it's done well. (The two examples cited above do it very well. Some do it less well, and that's where I start to worry about the money being spent.) Look, I think authors want to feel like they've done everything they can in their capacity to ensure the success of their book. So if you have the money and find a publicist who has unique, creative ways to create campaigns for you - AND you keep you expectations in check as to if the world can be set on fire - then I sincerely say go for it. As I said, I've seen some really great PR campaigns from some reps I know personally, and I'm impressed with them - these are women I'd hire if I didn't so completely believe in my RH team. They're acting as your advocates, really fighting on your behalf, and when so much feels out of your hands in the book launch process, that alone might be priceless. Your current sales dictate the advance (and buzz) of your next book, so selling extra copies might be worth your bottom line - it all depends on your advance, your budget, and how much attention you're getting in-house. I think there's no blanket right way or wrong way to do it.

So...whew, after all that - please weigh in: outside publicist, why or why not? Have you ever hired one? How did it work out?

Tuesday
Apr062010

Navigating the Digital Age

Question of the day: I'm hoping to sell my manuscript in the next few months, and I was wondering, now that the writing process is mostly over, what I should be doing to build my platform: blogging? Tweeting? Do I need a FB fan page?

The is a wise question in the new digital age, and the truth is, that the possibilities for self-promotion online are both endless (which is good) and exhausting (which isn't). As ad budgets from publishing houses dwindle down to about zero, authors are increasingly asked  (and expected) to handle a lot of their promotion on their own, and to that end, I'd say that all of the above - in your question - are beneficial. That said, they're only beneficial if you use them wisely, if not, they're just a literal waste of your time.

What I mean by that is that, for example, blogging can be, of course, a wonderful way to build your platform. I think that my blog has been invaluable in doing this. That said, there are soooooo many bloggers out there that unless you have something unique to offer or a different slant on things, I don't think that you can either ask or expect someone to read what it is that you have to say. Maybe they will, but more likely, your traffic will dwindle, and you really won't be writing for more than a small subset of people - which, if selling your book is the ultimate goal - really isn't worthwhile. So yes, blog, definitely, if you think you can carve out your own little niche. If not, to be honest, blogging takes up a lot of time, and I just think you'll be spinning your tires.

Tweeting is miraculous. I'll admit that I was a twitter-doubter when it first started, and that obviously, I've come a long way since then. I really believe that there is no easier or better way to reach new readers and new audiences than via Twitter (other than word-of-mouth, but we're talking about digital promotion), but again, you have to have something to say. No one wants to follow someone who is dull as paint (is paint dull? I might have just made that up), and so you need to find your own spin on it. I tweet about a blend of pop culture and writing subjects - I don't think people strictly want to hear about the industry over there from me, and I tend to get the most feedback on universally-appealing subjects. So that's what people can expect from me, and I tend to stick with it. Of course, when I have something to promote, I certainly do, but I think that all-promotion, all-the-time on Twitter is a mistake, and likely to get you unfollowed.

Facebook fan pages probably aren't worth it for you at this point pre-sale and pre-publication. Maybe closer to your publication date, but for now, it's probably just one more request that will go into your friends' inboxes and be ignored. I use mine to connect with readers whom I don't know personally, which works well for me. My FB profile is private, but then I get to go on the fan page and chat with readers which is a nice balance and line - for me, certainly not everyone does it this way - between personal and professional. Some writers, like Rebecca Skloot, have really leveraged their FB fan pages into commodoties. I haven't, but that's not to say that it's not worthwhile in the end.

So those are my thoughts. Overall, I'd say find the medium that allows you to inject your personal flair into it. And don't forget to get working on manuscript #2! 

Anyone want to chime in on which platform-builders have worked best for them?

Thursday
Mar182010

Book Trailers

So today I'm turning the tables and asking you guys a question! I'm going over all of my marketing ideas/crap for The One That I Want and can't ignore the fact that book trailers have become a to-do since my last book. And the thing is...I just don't get them. Am I missing something? I can understand, sure, why they're a catching little way to grab momentary attention, but in order to grab said attention, don't people have to already have heard of your book in the first place? (I.e, yes, a book trailer is great to post on your website, but people have to come to your website to see it, and if they're coming to your website, it's because they already know about your book. See what I'm saying?) Or is it that the book trailer might just push them over the edge to make a purchase, akin to a movie trailer that you've heard about but seeing it makes you ready to head to the theater?

I would love, love, love for you guys to share whether or not you think book trailers are effective and/or worth it, and if they are, how an author can best use them. I really don't get the concept, but maybe I'm just old school. And, so you don't feel like you're just altruistically helping me out, I invite you to post links to your own trailers so we can get a taste for what works (and you get a little promotion). Anyone willing to chime in?

Tuesday
Dec082009

Understanding Co-op

So you've probably heard the phrase co-op here on the blog before, and if you're new to the industry, wondered just what the heck I'm talking about: a pc health-store where everyone pitches in? A preschool where the parents work in shifts?

Nope, I'm talking about the space at the front of the store that publishers pay for.  Kristy Kiernan tweeted this Fast Company article about co-op last night that I wanted to pass along to you - it's a very good explanation of what it is and why it's important, and while I don't share the author's relative dislike of BN, I think it's a great behind-the-scenes explanation. Co-op is arguably THE MOST important element a book's success, so it's always good to understand the machinations behind it.

Read the article here. 

 

Monday
Oct262009

The Thin Line Between Love and Hate (of Facebook)

Question of the day: I was wondering how you deal with social media sites like Facebook. I'm trying to establish a platform for myself and am wondering if I should have two FB profiles - one for personal, one for professional - or if that's overkill. But I like to keep these factions separate, and I don't know how to go about doing that.

This is a GREAT question and one that I see discussed often on writer's forums: Facebook is the greatest way to get back in touch with old friends, catch up with current ones and swap stores about, well, just about everything, but that doesn't mean that you want your work colleagues having access to all of this info. Not because you don't like them - of course! - but because, well, it seems wise to keep certain parts of your life separate.

I don't know if I have the best answer because how I deal with this great divide is sort of murky, but I'll try. I, too, had similar questions as you do, back before Time of My Life launched. I was getting a lot of friend requests from people I didn't know, so I asked my marketing manager at my publisher how to deal with it. I figured the best thing to do would be what you suggest in your question - set up two profiles - but she instead recommended setting up a Fan page, saying that most people would friend BOTH profiles anyway. So I did. And when I thought about it, this sort of made sense. I mean, to be honest, if I had a strictly-business profile, I'm not sure how often I'd update it or even check in on it. What I love about Facebook is that it's an amazing way for me to keep up with my friends - I'm so busy these days that it's sort of a catch-all, where I can log on, see what people are up to, then log off and go about my day. I likely wouldn't bother taking the time to do this on my professional page because again, FOR ME, Facebook is a friendship/personal space...and I don't use it to connect with people I don't know, even if they had friended my professional page.

So now I have a Fan page (which sounds ridiculously narcissistic, but it's their title, not mine), and I DO use it to post professional updates and keep in touch with readers. Do some of them still friend me? Sure. But I really, really try to stick to my rule that Facebook is for people with whom I have at least one real conversation in my life - we didn't have to be best friends in high school, but I should be able to pick your name out of a line-up as someone I know. I don't use it for networking, and I really don't use it for promotion - except to let my friends know if something exciting is happening....It's weird. I hate it (not Facebook, the weirdness). I always feel sooooooo badly if I feel like I have to draw that line and keep it personal BUT, here's the thing: I put up a lot of pictures of my kids, a lot of silly ridiculous status updates, etc, and to be honest, if I don't know who is really reading/seeing this stuff, I would start to monitor/edit what I write/post...and that goes against what I enjoy most about Facebook.

I don't know. It's a tricky thing. I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND why people friend folks who they don't know. Totally. But - as you intimated in your question - some people like to keep things separate, and I guess I'm one of those people. I also feel like there are enough places online that you can find me and network - and maybe I'd suggest this for you as well - Twitter, my blog, Linked In, my website, etc - where I AM happy to engage with you, that if I want this small sliver to myself, well, then I'm going to take it. 

So...that's how I deal with it. I know other writers struggle with this as well - anyone care to chime in on how you deal?

Friday
Oct232009

For Your Listening Pleasure

Because, I know, you're all sitting around dying to hear me chat on the radio...

For your Friday pleasure, I'm posting a fun interview I did last week - all about Time of My Life, marriage, personal responsibility, ex-boyfriends...:) As I said, fun stuff.

Check it out here!

Thursday
Sep242009

High Flyin'

Okay, so by now, I'm sure that you're sick of my interviews, but they keep a-comin', so I'm going to keep a-postin' 'em. (That is waaaaay too many apostrophes for one post, no?) Anyhoo, today I'm over at Gadling.com talking with the wonderful Heather Poole about the inspiration behind the book and lots of other fun things, like where I like to travel, how I cope with my fear of flying, and what I like to pack in my carry-on.

Here's one reason why I love this interview - it really demonstrates how and why authors need to market themselves online. I actually "met" Heather at some point on Twitter. I can't remember how - I think she followed me, and I checked out her tweets a couple of times and found them interesting, and thus followed her back. She's a flight attendant - careerwise, we don't have that much in common - but via the power of Twitter, I learned that she has kids the same age as I do, that we share the same sense of humor, and that she's actually a damn good writer and has a huge following on her travel blog, Gossip Galley. Who knew? Not me. I thought I was just following her because I'm scared of flying and her tweets (in all seriousness) somehow reassure me about stepping onto a tin can with wings. So now, thanks to Twitter, not only have we become friendly, and not only did she pick up my book because of this, but it turns out that she's interviewing me for her blog.

It's connections like these (and yesterday's with Debra Schubert) that make online social networking invaluable. If you're not tweeting yet, what are you waiting for? :)

In the meantime, don't forget to head over to Gadling.com and check out my interview!

Monday
Sep212009

If I Knew Then What I Know Now...

Question of the day: Looking back, what helped your books become so popular? 

Ha ha! Well, first of all, let's be clear (and the reason behind my giggling): there are a lot of writers out there whose books are far more popular than mine and for whom I hold the utmost respect/reverence. I just wanted to say that up front because there are still a lot of milestones that I'd like to clear, sales-wise! But thank you very much for the compliment! Truly. It feels impossible to answer this question without coming off like an egomaniac, so again, PLEASE know that I'm just answering the question - NOT buying into the "popular" adjective being used above.

So, with that disclaimer out of the way - to answer your question - a few things helped, I think. Well, one - which is probably something you can't control all that much - is that the book (Time of My Life) seemed to resonate with the collective consciousness of where we are as a society today. What I mean by that is that Time of My Life came out right when things really started to implode economically in our country, and people were looking for an escape. You saw this in box office receipts, you saw with with television ratings and you saw it with book sales. Downers didn't go anywhere - fun escapism did. So that was one thing, and obviously, I had no control over that. For two - I think (and some people will disagree with this, and that's totally cool) that Time of My Life tapped into what a lot of women feel but don't often say. (This previous statement sounds totally narcissistic - I don't mean it THAT WAY AT ALL. Read on to see what I mean! I promise!) Sort of like when you go on an anonymous message boards, and think, "Aha, someone out there feels like I do!" I tried to write as honest a book as I knew possible, even if it meant that people would judge me (and my marriage and my life) because of it. That's the risk you take - that people will look at your picture on the back cover and think that everything inside the pages is autobiographical - but I wanted to write that book - the one that gave voice to what a lot of us can't (and don't) say out loud...what if I'd made different choices? And it seems to have paid off. So, I think, in that sense, this one IS under an author's control: be as emotionally truthful as possible in your writing, whatever your subject. 

Another thing that helped me, I think, is that I've made myself pretty accessible to readers, not just because it helps with book sales but because I truly enjoy it. I love twittering with people I don't know, replying to emails here on the blog, posting things to my Facebook fan page. Writing is a solitary life, which very much suits my personality, but that doesn't mean that you don't want to have connections with the world out there. And when authors connect with readers, I dunno, I think they sort of root for you - are more likely to pick up your book or spread the word about it...sort of like how we find certain actors more appealing when we know that they're accessible/nice/easy-going/could be our friend. (I'm not equating myself with a celebrity, btw! Just trying to explain why I think this has helped.)

And yet another factor was that I surrounded myself with people whom I trusted inherently. I've mentioned here before that book publishing is a TEAM effort, and after my debut, my agent and I sat down, collected our thoughts, and tried to map out our career-long strategy. This meant changing publishers, turning down a few so-so advances, ditching a book that I was half-way through but totally uninspired by. I trusted my agent to guide me, and she trusted me by asking what imprints I'd like to work with, which editors were my dream. We landed at one of those, and the wise and smart people at Shaye Areheart/Crown were certainly a BIG factor in Time of My Life's success.

Finally, I got lucky. Yup, really. My book happened to get picked from many, many good books to be featured on The Today Show and in People Magazine in the same week. That this happened was fortuitous...it propelled the book onto the Times list, and from there, buzz kept going. Never in a million years could I have controlled that factor, which is what makes one aspect of this industry so random. 

The bottom line: write the best book you can, market yourself in a way that your readers will respond to, and then, hope for the best. I really think that's all you can do. Readers - agree/disagree? Any other tips for success?

Tuesday
Aug042009

Today's the Day! The Top 10 Reasons You Should Buy Time of My Life.

Okay, um, you know, just in case you haven't heard, I have a paperback coming out today! I know, I know, I've been subtle about it. But here's the thing - in all seriousness - as I've said here before, the first two weeks of a book's sales can make or break its success, so I would be tremendously indebted if each and every one of you bought a copy, if not for you, then for someone you love. Your sister/mom/wife/girlfriend/babysitter/kid's teacher/manicurist/hairdresser/dog walker...any one of them will do.

You can find it here at Amazon, and of course, at Barnes and Noble, Borders, your local Indie, as well as at Target, where it will be featured on double end-caps as one of their breakout books from August to October!

If you're still unsure about shelling out some dinero, here are my top 10 reasons you should:

10) People, Redbook, Cosmo, Hallmark, Family Circle, The Boston Globe, Booklist and Publishers Weekly all agree: it's a must-read.

9) So does The Today Show, which named it as one of the top 10 reads for Fall. (I know, I was impressed too.)

8) As you follow Jillian's journey into her past, into getting answers on the road not taken, you'll likely feel less badly when your spouse occasionally drives you crazy (it happens) and you wonder "what if" too.

7) When the movie comes out (yuppers, it's going to be a MOVIE!), you'll enjoy having the debate over which was better, the movie or the book, which will surely be a head-scratcher, since they're both going to be awesome.

6) All of your friends will have read it, and it's always embarrassing to be at a cocktail party when you're on the tail end of a trend, nodding and uh-huh-ing and pretending to look intelligent. Just read the book: you will look intelligent.

5) If you're at said cocktail party, I give you full permission to overstate our relationship and claim that you're dear, dear friends with a best-selling novelist, which is sure to boost your coolness factor among friends and neighbors. (But this permission is only granted if you buy the book.)

4) I've never met an obstacle I didn't want to hurdle, and even though everyone says that publishing is dead, there's no better way to prove them wrong than go out and plunk down a few bucks on a book that will provide hours of entertainment.

3) Speaking of bucks, what, really, is ten bucks? Two lattes? 3/4 of a movie ticket? The price of your lunch today? Half an hour of dog walking? It's nothing you can't live without, but this story will linger long after that latte is gone.

2) If you really hate it, I promise that I'll see and thoroughly digest your terrible review on Amazon or Goodreads. So you'll have your vengence. :)

1) And the number one reason that you should rush out and buy Time of My Life is because it would make me really, really, really happy. You know that here at Ask Allison, I fully believe in paying it forward - that's the whole purpose of this blog - so I hope you'll do me a solid and pay it forward for me today! :) But do know that whether or not you buy a copy, I'll still be here to answer your questions and hopefully demystify the publishing process for you, and in all seriousness, I truly appreciate all the support you guys have offered along my path to the bestseller list. Thank you, thank you! And if you do pick up a copy, I sure hope you enjoy it and let me know!