Write it down


Trends in business practices come and go: mentoring, office dress codes, structure-less offices vs. cubicle farms, but one thing that should never change is writing  notes for appropriate occasions.

Have you thanked your literary agent, book editor or someone else who helped your career recently? The ease with which you pen a simple note may stick in his mind when he hears someone is looking for a ghost writer or has a special project in mind.

A thank-you note doesn’t have to be long or flowery, but should include some heartfelt words. If you have some trouble tackling these personal notes, try making a list of the words you hope to include, those which support your point, and write a succinct sentence around each. Practice a line or two before setting your pen to stationery (yes, stationery — you should have some for this purpose).

This resource agrees that handwritten notes are a necessary business skill — but be careful of falling into the the “template” trap. Be sure to use your own words or your sincerity will fall flat.

Have you considered a personalized approach to your marketing pitches?

Handwritten notes have great power because they’re rare these days. People pay attention to personalized messages and remember them. They’ll remember you for writing it as well. Isn’t that your objective, whether writing a thank-you for the experience an internship has provided or to praise a particular employee for going above and beyond?


We often include handwritten postscripts to marketing letters — yes, that says letters because email has become too easy to delete without reading. Our response to letters with notes attached is much higher than a similar message sent via email. These hand-written addenda to a type-written pages will point out something specific to the group we’re soliciting, whether it’s a portion of the program that’s pertinent to their geographic area or a “shout out” to an acquaintance in the organization.

Now, sharpen your pen and get to work.




Save this: Publishing, explained


Short and to the point: this blog post is an excellent soup-to-nuts explanation of so much you’ll encounter in publishing.

25 Secrets of Publishing Revealed

Read it, bookmark it, and re-read it. Because someday the “dry heaving in an alley” part may be of consolation, and the Hollywood movie money happens to come in handy, as rare as it may be.

I’ll save you some time — and put you to work!


This New Yorker article about publishing phenom John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) was tweeted as a way for authors to build audience, but let me save you some time: unless you’re an incurable hipster with your finger on the zeitgeist of emo teens (shorts and argyle socks? Puh-leeze…) it’s not worth the EIGHT pages throughout which the writer drools about Green. The guy has really just been himself, yet gone viral for his quirky, nerd-centric personality that includes many video blogs (vlogs, for those in the know).

Do you have time for all of that, or do you just want to sell books?

Rather than trying to create years of witty, silly vlog postings with your siblings, these steps may help:

1) this post is a GREAT resource, really a checklist, for authors marketing their own work.. because if you don’t it won’t sell. And it doesn’t have to be strictly self-published, trust me, even those with contracts from major publishers have to push their own books

2) Make sure your info is out there, including your Amazon Author page with bio, links to your website (don’t have one? contact me!) and more, then follow instructions on this blog post to get your work publicized by Amazon in other countries

3) consider some of the steps taken by this author to exploit his online presence and boost sales via Amazon, which included a give-away (requires some conversion to a compatible ebook format)

4) here’s a pretty comprehensive list of “to do” for marketing, but I’d focus on #7 (build your email list) and #22 (blog strategically) because both are directed at building audience and, well, we all have to get some sleep sometime!

5) here’s an out-of-the-box idea: consider what Brian Koppelman does on Vine, which he calls 6-second screenwriting lessons. Can you adapt your message to a series of simple, self-created messages that will build audience? I mean, Koppelman’s directives are so straightforward that you find yourself watching one after another, as if you’re getting your secret agent mission for the day (even for those who aren’t aspiring screenwriters). Vine is simple and easy to upload to (for everyone with an iPhone). Add a link to your website or book on your Vine profile and get going. Promote through social media. Because everyone has 6 seconds.

4) personal experience and this source will tell you that building email lists is of vital importance. For example, I’m promoting a book very similar to The Fault in Our Stars, but it’s nonfiction, called Derek’s Gift. Yes, it’s a true story of a teen boy diagnosed with cancer and his girlfriend, who battles cancer after he dies. It’s heart wrenching, particularly reading Derek’s actual diary entry of his last year of life, his senior year of high school. I’ve posted that on Wattpad we’ve reached out to Derek’s friends, teachers and school administrators to get the book into the hands of students — because the coauthor is a teacher who uses Derek’s diary and supplemental information to reach teens navigating the choppy waters of young adulthood: the highs and lows of love and loss. We use the author’s email list to send out updates, sell the book at personal appearances and are networking with grief and bereavement specialists.

So unless you can get a high profile New Yorker writer to gush about you in her own repressed emo-girl way, we all have some work to do!

BookLife: a step forward for indie authors


Let’s not get into the semantics of what constitutes a “legitimate” book. We all know the current atmosphere for traditional publishing is tough: are they only making deals with celebrities who write children’s books, or with already-established authors? It certainly seems that if your name isn’t Rowling, your pitch to an agent isn’t going to be opened.

Then there’s the absolute explosion in indie-published books. I love the democratization of the process, but at the same time, so many good ones seem to be disappearing into the black hole of anonymity. How do you grow an audience without traditional reviews? Everyone who writes a book wants reviews from outlets like newspapers, but it’s tougher than you know. Newspapers have been shedding writers and losing editorial space for decades. So which books get the attention? Yes, those celebrity children’s books and others of their ilk.

Things are turning around, slowly. Kirkus offers paid reviews for indie books, and I know at least one author who thought the $425 was well worth it for the legitimacy it conveys (as well as the small bump in attention). And now Publishers Weekly has rolled out Book Life, an outlet for indie reviews that’s attached to a well-known industry publication. It also appears to be a way for them to make money off aspiring writers with a catalog of publishing services, but I can’t criticize that, because it appears they demystify the process with easy-to-understand steps for publishing and marketing.

These new outlets are great, but none will take the 4-letter-word “WORK” out of the process. Even the well-established author I work for busts his ass every week to self-promote. So don’t think for a minute that a “legitimate” review is a ticket to stardom of any sort.

Your checklist:

1) keep writing

2) post to your blog, Facebook page and LinkedIn

3) write articles for other publications based on your publishing experience, research, etc

4) make a list of media contacts and call a few every week (yes, CALL.. email is dead!)

5) collect emails and establish a regular newsletter

Choose your words carefully


Ever since my kids used the word “epic” to describe superlative events in their lives, I’ve paid attention to how people show emphasis. Now those same kids undercut their statements of wonder and awe with words like “sick” and “ill” to show backhanded emphasis (particularly effective in surfer/boarder/stoner monotone).

It’s challenging to stay on top of the linguistic zeitgeist, even when you’re plugged in all day.

language is as vast and quickly-evolving as our understanding of the solar system. Embigbangenate yours today!

language is as vast and quickly-evolving as our understanding of the solar system. Embigbangenate yours today!

I’m no linguist, just a writer and language hobbyist. When marketing I occasionally worry that dated phraseology unhelpfully underscores a long-gone era of reference: “fresh” is no longer fresh, you know, and if you’re not on top of the word or phrase of the day, it will show. “Edgy” is now dull, but do we have to delve into street slang to show we’re hip–er, what’s the current translation? And exactly how old is that intern screening incoming pitches?

Since I saw the word “embigbangenate” on a Facebook post about the solar system, I’ve been fascinated by how quickly our vocabulary changes and humbled by those who are on the cutting edge. It makes me wonder about novelists and the choices they make about everything that goes into a story, not just what technology to reference in their books (telephones? Computers? When will “bluetooth” be forgotten?) but the language choices that may put a decent story on the “uninformed” list. It’s not enough to write a good plot and description anymore is it?

(I wouldn’t suggest anyone use the word that caught my attention today, pinsploded, unless they want to forever be nailed to this moment in 2014 when Ohio housewives used a rainy day to update Pinterest with epic fervor.)

It must be the apex of cool to birth a whole new word and witness its journey around the world. I launched one yesterday, the word “bibliovore” that my family used to describe my daughters’ incredible appetites for reading. Scholastic “favorited” my Tweet about it; I guess now I can just sit back and wait for the royalties to roll in?

Sometimes I wonder what our grandparents said before there was an Internet to virally share new vocabulary. From what I remember in college that generation borrowed from foreign languages spoken by immigrants and music lyrics to pepper their daily speech. Pity the poor shlub whose parents couldn’t afford a phonograph.


Goodreads: so many opportunities, so little time


This spring has been full of challenges as my primary client published 3 new books (and republished one), and another client anticipates publication of his first novel just days from now. Where will I get the most bang for my publicity buck?

A true story very similar to The Fault in Our Stars.

A true story very similar to The Fault in Our Stars.

an imaginative telling of society adrift as a result of climate change

an imaginative telling of society adrift as a result of climate change

I will admit looking into Goodreads as a publicity resource on several occasions, but usually my ADD kicks in and I go after easier hits like newspaper articles instead. But consider this — with 20 million users (last year’s number) the potential is staggering. For the same reason, it’s intimidating. You hear that being too promotional could get you in trouble… and the process for proper usage can’t really be achieved in one hit. We all need a map to find this goldmine of readers, and here are a few directions:

This article helps you get established as a Goodreads contributor if you aren’t already, and tells how to get involved in groups. It suggests introducing yourself as an author and joining this group at a minimum.

This is Goodread’s own road map to getting an author page.

This author suggests doing give-aways on Goodreads to get people interested (every eyeball is important in this business!).

This slideshow provides a ton of data about the possibilities in marketing to Goodreads users: imagine 5,500 people interested in your book before it’s published? Wow! But note some of the data relies on investing in ads, which few part-time authors can afford (I haven’t looked at the cost of ads or sponsoring the newsletter, which is noted on one slide).

the power of including Goodreads in your book marketing plan

the power of including Goodreads in your book marketing plan

Well, I guess I have convinced myself that it’s time to buckle down and really give Goodreads some time and TLC. After all, I enjoy contributing and I love a challenge.

Why not Wattpad?


I’ve been intrigued by Wattpad for a few months.Yes, it’s been around long enough to gain millions of users and plan to go global … I’ve never claimed to be an early adapter!

It’s a (free) huge platform based in Toronto and has mainly younger readers (18-30). It’s also a very hot property, having just received $45 million in some sort of venture capital funding.


I love the idea of readers taking control of the market by finding stories they want — from authors who’d never get published by traditional means — and basically just consuming vast quantities of literature without a middleman deciding what’s “good” or “worthy.” So I’m considering it as an option for my clients, both established and first-time authors, to get their stories out there.

This article is a good “explainer”

This includes a few bulleted strategies for gaining an audience via wattpad: http://www.authorems.com/2012/wattpad-for-marketing/

Here’s a blog post that talks about ways established/traditional authors can cross-over to its digital platform and link to a site to buy finished books. It’s free, so worth trying in my opinion.

Wattpad is also a favorite of other well known authors in similar sci fi/fantasy genres like Margaret Attwood, although many people say it’s teen girls who make up the majority of readers.

The author quoted in this article talks strategies, like only posting complete books, posting the whole thing then taking some chapters out when it gains momentum (driving people to buy the book) and saying up front that it’s a first in a series.