Tag Archives: promotion

5 tips to building an author platform—without being an author

authorz-platform.jpgIn our experience, there are two words that strike the most fear into the heart of any aspiring author: AUTHOR PLATFORM. [Cue creepy organ music.] Our clients know they need to sell themselves when they sell their book. They know that it’s not just their craft being evaluated by an agent or publisher, but their personal story, credentials, and potential reach to the book’s target market. All of this is rolled up into an individual writer’s author platform, and it must be highlighted persuasively in the proposal and query letter. After all, it’s a job application: When you think about it, every writer is applying for the job of author at that particular house. You have to show why you’re worth their investment.

“But I’ve never been published before!” our clients moan. “How can I build my author platform when I’m not even an author yet?”

Good question. We’ll tell you how. (And by the way, whether you have a glimmer of a book idea or a polished draft, the time to start bulking up your author platform is now.)

  1. Begin offering your services. If you have a kids book, offer to read it at schools, libraries, or kids bookstores. Could you do a demo at a cooking store, or offer to help party-plan a high-profile charity event? Could you get on a local radio show or panel during a discussion that your book might pertain to? Does your expertise lend itself to a conference, charity organization, or event, where you could speak and get publicity in return? All this shows you are making a name for yourself on your topic. (If you have great ideas of things you could do, but haven’t yet, include those in your proposal, too.)
  1. Start a blog. If it makes sense for your book, start an on-point and well-crafted blog, and start subscribing and commenting on other, more high-profile blogs on the same subject. You don’t need a giant audience here. A simple, nicely written blog and/or author website shows you’re committed to your topic and showcases your writing. (Because trust us, the first thing an agent or publisher will do is Google you.
  1. Tweet. Especially for nonfiction writers, start following folks in your field or subject area, and they’ll follow you back. And try to tweet, respond, and retweet a couple of times a day.
  1. Reach out to the writing community. Jump into the writer’s community, both where you live and online. Not only will you find your tribe, but those same people can be really supportive when it comes time to promote your book.
  1. Be a media whore. Yep, we said it. Get your name out there, any way you can. Who is covering a subject that you can speak to? (Ideally this is also your books’ subject, but not necessarily.) When you’re positioning yourself as an author, it’s no time to be shy. Contact local radio stations and print media to offer yourself as an expert. Register for HARO (Help a Reporter Out), where reporters contact experts on a wide variety subjects. A few minutes of your time could mean you’re quoted in a national publication and will come up in searches on that topic.

Now, once you start making inroads, use that info for your book proposal or query letter. It’s a huge selling point of your book these days. Incorporate all of this into a compelling picture of you as an author, someone who can both deliver the goods and be comfortable telling their story to the media.

(photo: authorblogchallenge.wordpress.com)

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New Author Success Story: Joe Guppy

lo res JG smileYESIn 1979, 23-year-old Joe Guppy was struggling with a bad breakup and existential angst, but a few stomach pills drove him into paranoid psychosis… and straight into a mental ward. He shares his story in My Fluorescent God, a raw, often comic memoir that’s a powerful spiritual and psychological adventure. He’ll be reading from this newly published memoir at Elliott Bay Book Company at 7pm on September 13.

But first, we caught up with the Seattle native, an award-winning writer and performer turned psychotherapist turned author, who shared with us his struggles and successes on the road to publication, as well as some sage advice for aspiring authors.

Tell us about your path to publication.
lo res lMFGcover 3I had had a lot of experience in journalism and writing for theater and television, but I had never written memoir before and knew nothing about the publishing business. My Fluorescent God was a “from the ground up” project. I was lucky to have deep archives for the project, all the medical records from my time in the mental hospital, my own and my mother’s thirty-year-old journals, even a taped interview from 1979 with my psychiatrist and some fellow patients. But I not only had to write the memoir, but also learn how to write a memoir. When it came time to seek a publisher, Jen & Kerry’s class showed me how to get a book proposal together. I started out with the traditional route, discovered Query Tracker, and collected plenty of agent rejections. I ended up landing with a local independent Seattle publisher, Booktrope. It’s definitely not self-publishing but I have had to do more work on the publishing side than a mainstream author. The trade-off is I’ve had a lot more control. As a control freak, I like that. I am very pleased with the quality of the finished product.

Why were you inspired to write this book?
This 1979 journey through delusional psychosis was the most traumatic and most meaningful event of my young adulthood. As a writer, I had known from the moment I recovered that I wanted to write about it someday. I didn’t know it would take me thirty years to get to the project or that the experience of writing it would be so personal and profound.

What professional services did you seek out in the process?
My cover designer had designed the Joe and Nancy Guppy annual comedic Christmas cards for years. I didn’t know if he’d be right for this more serious subject matter, but he nailed it on his first attempt. I love the cover. I’ve worked with two different editors, a couple years apart. The first editor, who had written her own terrific memoir, functioned more as a teacher. By the time I got the second editor, Seattle’s own Karin Snelson, I was able to collaborate head to head. We got into some wonderful and intense literary struggles, which resulted in the book being the lean, crisp, page-turner it turned out to be. Jen & Kerry started me on my road to publishing. The book proposal, and the ability to think in marketing terms—which came out of their class—was crucial.

What surprised you during the publishing process?
The amount of detail work in book design. Page headers, table of contents, placement of graphics, font choice. It’s seemingly never-ending. I’ll never look at books the same way again.

What’s been the best moment/aspect about getting published?
The reaction from readers. The most common comment is that the narrative draws the reader deep into the mind and the experience of a mentally ill person. And people often add that, while my story is fairly extreme, all humans have been there to some degree, and we all fear falling into that place of insanity. Above all, I want to engender more empathy and understanding for mental illness. No one should be dismissed or ignored as “crazy.”

What one piece of advice would you offer to burgeoning authors?
You need to be a bulldog. A bulldog with wings.

What’s next for you?
My wife Nancy and I have a project going, a comedic look at long-term marriage. Right now, I’m too swamped in marketing My Fluorescent God to think much about that.

 •••

Look for interviews with Joe later this month on KUOW-FM, on the Seattle Channel’s Seattle Voices with Eric Liu, and on KING-TV’s New Day Northwest. He’ll be speaking at the “Psychology for the Other” conference at Seattle University the weekend of November 7th. Read more about Joe and Nancy in this Seattle Magazine article.

Find out more about Joe, My Fluorescent God, and upcoming events at joeguppywriter.com and joeguppy.com.

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New Author Success Story: Judith Gille, The View from Casa Chepito

JudithWe are pleased as punch that in 2013, several Business of Books clients realized their dreams of getting their books finished—and published! To celebrate those accomplishments, we’re launching a series of success stories. We’ll profile these first-time authors, tell you about their projects, and share the ups and downs they experienced on their path to publication. We hope you’ll find inspiration and motivation in their stories. (In 2014, we’d like to profile you and your book! Let us know how we can help you get the job done.)

Our first profile is Judith Gille, who recently published The View from Casa Chepitos. This memoir, set in Mexico, puts a human face on the immigration debate and explores issues faced by women of all cultures and ages. The elevator pitch? Think Eat, Pray, Love on Mexican Time. It’s a formula that’s resonated with readers, garnering Judith gratifying reviews and a #9 spot on the Elliott Bay Books’ best-seller list, as well as the Grand Prize in Writer’s Digest’s Self-Published e-Book Awards. You can meet Judith in person at her reading this Sunday, January 12, at 5:30pm at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park.

Here’s what Judith has to say about the process and her book.

Casa Cover jpg imgTell us about your path to publication and the reasons behind it.
I wrote a lot when I was younger. I had essays and articles appear in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News, the Florida Sun-Sentinel, in magazines, online literary journals and anthologies. But after I started City People’s [the beloved Seattle mercantile and garden stores] and having kids, I no longer found time to write. But the urge to express myself through words was always there. Then, in 2006, I attended a reading by Tony Cohan (On Mexican Time and Mexican Days) in San Miguel. Afterwards I asked if he ever taught classes and he told me about Book Passage’s Travel Writer’s Conference in Corte Madera, CA. I signed up for the conference. I met a bunch of travel editors there, and was soon writing articles about Mexico. I came to realize that writing longer narratives was more interesting than how-to travel pieces for a newspaper industry that was on life support. So I began writing sketches about the people who live on callejón de Chepito, the Mexican alleyway where I live part-time.

Why were you inspired to write this book?
I’ve heard a number of writers say that they experienced an “Aha!” moment that prompted them to write their books. It was like that for me, too. On a train trip into Mexico’s Copper Canyon, I contracted salmonella poisoning and became extremely ill. One night, in a semi-hallucinatory, feverish state, it suddenly dawned on me that the essays I’d been writing about my neighbors on the alley were meant to be a book. I just needed to learn how to write it…

What professional services did you seek out in the process?
Originally I’d hoped to publish the book through a traditional publisher. I honed my first 50 pages, worked hard on my book proposal and hired Jen and Kerry (who did a terrific job) to edit it. I then submitted it to a dozen agents. I got lots of positive feedback about the themes, the quality of the writing, and the story, but they were uniformly dismayed that I didn’t have a well-developed platform. Without it, they said it would be a hard sell to a publishing house.  I decided to form my own small press and publish the book independently. Self-publishing, at least in part, has gotten a bad rap because many books are not well-edited or designed and the product values are poor. I was determined to create a top-quality product that readers and book buyers would have a hard time distinguishing from a more traditionally published book.

What surprised you during the publishing process?
My husband was in the printing and publishing industry for 20-some years, so there wasn’t much that surprised us about the process. We decided to produce the book through Lightning Source and ordered 1,500 copies (which they had to print twice because during the first run, the press operator fell asleep and the books were all misaligned). The challenging part, however, has been distribution. Currently the books are only in a dozen bookstores in Western Washington and San Miguel de Allende, but they’re selling so fast that I need to restock the stores frequently. Bookstores don’t always pay attention to whether your book has sold down or is out of stock, so you have to keep track yourself. Ideally, we hope to partner with a larger distributor or publishing house for fulfillment.

What’s been the best moment or aspect about getting published?
The overwhelmingly positive response to the book has been astonishing. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get an email or a hit on FB, or someone comes into the store to tell me how much they loved it. In only five weeks, it jumped to the #9 spot on Elliott Bay’s best-seller list.

I’ve been surprised by how many readers tell me they couldn’t put it down, or who read it in one or two days (it’s 310 pages, for god’s sake!), or how sad they were when it ended. A few people even said they immediately started reading it all over again! I’m just so grateful that the story resonates with readers and that people are rooting for Lupe and Juan’s success in life because achieving a fair immigration policy toward migrant workers is so important right now.

What one piece of advice would you offer to burgeoning authors?
Be a stickler for quality. Write the best book you possibly can, then find a good editor to help you fine tune it. Hire an experienced book designer (unless you have those skills yourself), insist that the printer does a top-notch job. If you want to pitch to an agent or publisher, use Jen and Kerry to help you produce a professional pitch and book proposal. And as Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up.” The best advice I can offer is to be persistent. Even when it seemed hopeless, and the horrible nagging voice in my head kept telling me that my story sucked and nobody would want to read it, I kept plugging away because I believed in the importance of my story.

What’s next for you?
I’m currently visiting with a lot of women’s book groups and before the evening ends, I inevitably get asked when my next book is coming out and what it’s about. I’ve got at least two more books I want to write. The first follows the story of a young Mexican woman named Vicky. It continues with life on callejón de Chepito, but deals with the changing role of women in Mexico, and Mexico’s burgeoning feminist movement. The second book is a novel that takes place in a remote part of Lake Huron and is based on a true story that my grandmother was fond of recounting, about a young woman who was ostensibly kidnapped by a hermit.

Any upcoming book events?
My next reading is on Sunday, January 12th at 5:30pm at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Seattle photographer Lesley Burvill-Holmes will be joining me to show her lovely photographs of sunny San Miguel de Miguel and my neighbors from callejón de Chepito.

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9 Tips for a Successful Author Event

426181_10152171755160072_1622044668_nWhile you might be in the process of writing your book and haven’t gotten to the stage of publishing, let alone promoting, it, it’s important to think creatively about bookstore events and author readings from the get-go. (We thought this was a great take on the challenges of author readings.) Fresh off the promotion merry-go-round for Things I Want to Punch in the Face (Prospect Park Books), Jen shares some tips that ensured that her events were well-attended and more fun than a bag of kittens.

  1. Make it inclusive. We went to an event by YA author Kevin Emerson. To kick off The Lost Code, the first book in his rad dystopian camp trilogy, he created a camp theme for the evening, reading actual letters he wrote from camp as a kid and inviting other writers to share their letters from camp. Jen did something similar, asking her friends to write their own Punch in the Face rant to share—with feeling—at the author reading, and played a game with three contestants from each audience. These Punch Parties were a blast for everyone involved and felt like an open mic night or literary salon. What’s not to like? And as an added bonus, involving others in your event ensures that you won’t get dry mouth or performance anxiety from being the only one talking.
  2. Get in on group events. Much like tip 1, seeking out opportunities for author panels or roundtable discussions is a surefire way to have a successful event. Jen participated in an author lunch, acting as MC and introducing four other respected authors, including the magnificent Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler). She also read a Punch in the Face-themed essay during a Lit Crawl around Seattle, part of a Funny Ladies evening with three other hilarious writers. With a group event, its success doesn’t lie solely on your shoulders. In addition to you, several other participants will be promoting the event, inviting their friends, and working to draw a big crowd.
  3. Help your venue help you. Don’t assume that bookstore and venues are as together as you when it comes to promotion and social media. After all, you know your book and your vision for the event better than anyone. Jen ran around town, delivering foam core signs in advance of each Punch Party and brainstormed with the event coordinators about the various details of the event—including AV needs, chairs, window displays, snacks, number of copies to have on hand, etc. She sent promotional tweets and blog posts for the stores to use to advertise the event. If you can be prepared and thorough, the venue will thank you—and ask you back.
  4. Timing is everything. Think about the best time for optimal attendance. Is there an artwalk one night a month in your neighborhood? If so, coordinate your event for the same evening and have wine or snacks on hand to draw people in. Jen planned her Punch Parties for weekend evenings so attendees could kick off the night at the event and then go out on the town afterwards. A Friday night event at a strip mall bookstore, however, wasn’t as big of a draw. In retrospect, that was totally understandable.
  5. Make attendees feel part of cool kids’ club. Kevin Emerson had people list their camp nickname on a nametag for his Lost Code event. Jen had stickers that said “Things I Want to Punch in the Face” with lines under it so attendees could wear their beefs loud and proud on the lapel. These were a huge hit. While nametags may not be the right tone for your book, think about how you can involve your audience and make them feel part of the event.
  6. Don’t be proud. In addition to promoting the events with the bookstore, Jen handed out postcards to coworkers, friends, and random people on the street. She sent sincere Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail appeals to her friends, asking them to help spread the word, that the success of the blog-turned-book was entirely due to word of mouth by her supporters. Humility, appreciation, and shared success go a long way.
  7. Post in local media. Jen used social media, of course, listing events on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In, and asking people to repost or retweet the information. But she went a step further. While bookstores and your publisher generally send event listings to local papers, magazines, and websites, you can do this yourself to ensure placement. She also reached out to reporters and writers she knew and told them about the events; this paid off with more than one mention in print and online.
  8. Seek out target-rich environments (i.e. industry events). Yes, you want to get books into the hands of readers. But that means getting them into the eager mitts of booksellers first. Work with your publisher (or if self-publishing, set aside marketing funds) to attend regional trade shows and conferences. During the course of her promotional tour, Jen signed books for booksellers and librarians at BookExpo America, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association nightcapper, and the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association author feast and trade show. Win over these people and they will handsell your book in their stores.
  9. Think outside the box (or bookstore). Finally, think beyond the bookstore. When Kerry promoted her book, Good Drinks for Bad Days, she did a cocktail demo at a local kitchen goods store during a neighborhood “Moms’ Night Out” event. The turnout was huge. In addition to numerous Punch Parties at local bookstores and even a gastropub (hey, it had a stage and a mic, not to mention a special drink for the event), Jen joined in two shopping events at a high-end boutique in Seattle. The store bought copies and gave them to customers as a gift with purchase during these events. Win-win. Think about the kind of stores or events that bring out customers willing to drop some cash, hopefully on your book!

Find out more information on marketing your book during our all-day intensive workshop, 30 Days to a Winning Book Proposal, on Feb. 9!

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Build Your Author Platform & Marketing Plan with Our New Webinar

As working authors, both of us know the increasing importance of a strong author platform and creative marketing plan. When we were publishing executives, we sat in lengthy acquisitions meetings and debated the merits of proposal submissions. Even then, questions arose with nearly every proposal about the author and the marketability of the book.

  • Who is this person?
  • Why is he/she an expert on this subject?
  • Is the author going to be able to sell books?
  • Does he/she have any public speaking experience?
  • How are we going to get the word out about this title?

The questions, like the meetings, went on longer than they should. But they were valid and they still are. In today’s volatile, evolving marketplace, it’s critical that you know how to sell yourself and your book—both to the publisher and to the end reader. In our webinar, Sell Your Book—And Yourself!, we help you build your author bio from the ground up, taking into account the obvious and unexpected details of your professional and personal life. We share our secrets on how to build a compelling and robust platform, starting immediately. And we open your mind to brainstorming all the ways that you can market, publicize, and promote your book, no matter its genre. Register now for this $79 webinar and start strengthening your publishing position, right this minute.

(photo: busygourmand.com)

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