Write it down

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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?

note-card

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.

 

 

 

Choose your words carefully

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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

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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?

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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.

wattpad

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”
http://contently.com/strategist/2014/02/25/wattpad-romances-brands-with-fanfiction-marketing-opportunities/

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.
http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2014/01/31/wattpad/

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.

http://www.lindsayburoker.com/book-marketing/can-posting-stories-on-wattpad-help-you-sell-books/

Don’t waste your time — or their’s

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Rejection: you have to embrace it if you’re going to last as a writer. Or, you can get better at avoiding it.

I find it so interesting that writers — often very sensitive, exacting people who invest their whole beings in each submission — are rejected routinely as part of their careers. Does anyone reject the work of Joe the mechanic or Tony the baker who turns out dozens of pizzas a day?

effective emails are as important as good prose

effective emails are as important as good prose

Today this essay about rejections (by an editor) popped up on my screen. My kneejerk response was to pick it apart for the writer’s insensitivity and sarcastic tone.

…we accept under one-third of one percent of submissions that come in. Given those numbers, rejection letters are necessary, and they are, unfortunately, unexceptional. In fifteen years in publishing, I have probably written more than two thousand rejection letters.

Then I realized that we writers have to accept rejections as a part of doing business, or avoid it by writing better proposals and better emails.

Your book proposal or published book may be a gem but if you can’t get anyone to review it your audience will never know what they’re missing.

This professor says:

You have 1.54 seconds, based on your email subject line alone, to convince the target consumer to open your email, according to Lon Safko, author of The Social Media Bible. That’s less than two seconds to convince your potential customer to read your sales message! It probably took you longer to read that last sentence.

Assuming that your fabulous headline convinces the consumer to click the email open, you then have less than 5 seconds to lead your consumer from that initial click to the action you want them to perform.

Your target’s decision about whether to respond favorably to your email marketing campaign happens in 5 seconds – start to finish.

They key, she says, is immediately stating the stakes, what she calls “What’s In It for Me.”

If you send dozens of emails without getting a response perhaps you need to revamp your approach. Try cutting the message down to a few actionable sentences.

And always, always study the publishers and review outlets you’re approaching to make sure they’re a match for your subject matter. It will save you a lot of time and frustration (see rejection section above) if you’ve honed in on those most likely to be interested in your topic.

Even if you create the algorithm that will churn out guaranteed best-selling books (as described in this scientific study) they’re only as good as your pitch to publishers and bookstores.

If you’re not JK Rowling, there’s work to be done

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If your book received “withering reviews” that included an assessment like, “so willfully banal, so depressingly clichéd” you’d never sell any copies, right?

Unfortunately, writers with gold-plated names like JK Rowling can overcome such a New York Times review (it was of one of her post-Harry Potter novels, “The Casual Vacancy”). According to this article it still sold more than 1.3 million copies and was the No. 1 best-selling hardcover fiction book of 2012.

Later, Rowling published “The Cuckoo’s Calling” under a male pen name (Robert Galbraith) and the book sold only modestly until she was unveiled as the true author. It had done about $50,000 in sales, prompting the NYTimes writer to comment:

What’s clear is that without the aura of celebrity, “The Cuckoos’ Calling” would have been just another work of debut crime fiction. Its author might have gotten a modest TV deal, and maybe another book contract, while working another job to make ends meet.

So, unless your name is JR Rowling and your readers aren’t looking too closely at the cover, there’s a lot of work to be done to get book sales rolling.

bookshelf will your book stand out from the others?

The behind-the-scenes work to create a platform prior to publishing your book is almost as much work as the writing itself.

This is a great, step-by-step guide to  publicity and marketing, including working with related blogs two months before publication and planning a “cover reveal.” Interestingly, it says little about sending out advance copies for reviews.

And if you’re querying agents, your online presence is important, according to this survey. So think about showcasing your expertise in your subject matter or providing evidence of an audience (yes, prior to publishing). It’s all about your platform, which is well-described in this blog post.

Market your work visually with Pintrest and Tumblr

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Medium is a new website for sharing thoughts, akin to a TED talk without the video. This week they’re trumpeting the fact that author Walter Isaacson solicited feedback for an unfinished book on the site. It goes without saying that he has garnered a wider audience for that book already. Brilliant.

Oy vey, what’s a part-time writer to do? Keeping up with all of the newest portals to publicity is so time-consuming!

Yet if you carve out a little time each week to read up on Galleycat and your Twitter feed, you may be able to pick out one or two to pursue (yes, this is on top of blogging, feeding the cats, paying the bills, etc., etc.).

In fact, I was checking out Medium and found a great post about a two-month-old Tumblr blog, GoBookYourself.co that has exploded into the stratosphere. Like many new online vehicles, it’s image-based, yet is about books. Check it out: the concept is so simple. I’m still working on getting my client’s books in there.

the tumblr blog GoBookYourself.co is a visual way to make book recommendations

the tumblr blog GoBookYourself.co is a visual way to make book recommendations

Speaking of visual marketing methods, we know Pintrest is very popular — but were you aware that it’s second only to Facebook for driving click-throughs? And more than that, just hours ago data was released that shows 1/3 of women are on Pintrest. Of course you  know that women lead in book purchases. That’s simple math.

Of course big companies like Lowe’s have Pintrest boards. When they want to sell grills they post recipes and photos of shish-kabobs. Take a peek at ways they use the site and try to think of how you can expand your repertoire:

If you create a character who enjoys a good wine, why not pin images of wine, beautiful artistic labels and grapes on the vine with references to your character (“Sukey Jones would never drink before dinner, unless it was a light Reisling.”) and a link back to the site where your book is sold.This article has already expanded my knowledge of Pintrest exponentially. I’ve pinned images of my client’s Coast Guard rescue books and labeled them as Gifts for Men/Gifts for Sailors and Boaters and Inspirational People but I really haven’t spent a lot of time on the site. That’s going to change with this new knowledge.