Wednesday

My First Book Signing--a Fiasco!

My very first book signing was on a Saturday, and it almost didn't happen.  I went up the mountain to downtown Blowing Rock, where I'd scheduled with a shop lady to set up outside her little store.  Unfortunately, she being new did not know the rules that basically said I couldn't do that.  Another very nice shopkeeper told me about the rule, and yet another not-so-friendly shopkeeper emphasized the various rules I was apparently breaking right at that moment.

So...my husband helped me pack up and we got ready to drive home.  So much for my exciting first book signing.  Not to mention it was a drizzly, dismal day and looked like it was going to rain.  The weather was appropriate for my mood right then.  To top it off, the heavy humidity brought some kind of allergen with it and my asthma flared up for the first time in months.  I had used my inhaler, since I was planning to do the book signing outdoors, so by that time I was really shaky, which I do not like.

So there I was, disappointed, shaking and trying to find the library because it was my last chance at having any kind of book signing that day.  Found it, and they happened to be having an outdoor book sale that day.  Providence!  I asked some nice lady who asked some other guy if I could set up my little table near their setup and they agreed.  Things were looking better, until I drove around to the parking spot they'd saved for me and there was this tiny elderly lady sitting in a folding chair in the parking space.  I waved at her to show her that I was the one she was saving it for and she scrambled out of the way, not smiling.  I got out and started setting up when the same lady asked me, "Who are you?" in a tone that implies, "What in the world are you doing here, young lady?!"

Oh dear.  Come to find out, she was the person in charge, no one had told her about me, and seems she thought I was trying to run her over--or something unhappy like that.  Well, that wasn't a good way to start the day.  I remembered that verse in Proverbs about how a gift in the hand pacifies the king, so I brought a copy of my book over to where she was whispering about me to a friend, and I apologized for not asking her first (not like I knew I should, but oh well) and I wanted her to have a copy of my book.  Well, she said it wasn't necessary, but I said I wanted to, and finally she relented to accepting it for the library.

I set things up, then spent a few hours moving books farther under the canopy when it started sprinkling, chatting with people about my book and life overseas and such, and selling 12 copies.  Definitely less than I'd hoped for, but considering the weather, the broken rules and the unhappy lady, I was very thankful I'd sold any at all!  I got to meet some wonderful people, and 3 of the people I talked to had heard or seen something about my book before.  That was cool!

This was at a different outdoor book signing--the day of my first one, I was too busy trying to avoid disaster to take a photo!


In the end, I made some friends, sold some books, and the elderly lady turned out to be a very nice person who wished me luck and even gave me some free books for my kids.  (And I learned a lesson or two about finding just the right person to ask--which I will hopefully do ahead of time next time.)

Second book signing, here I come.  I'm excited about the possibilities, and I will try very, very hard not to offend whoever knows the rules or is in charge, or anybody else if I can help it!

Tune in next week to hear about my book signing at Chick-Fil-A that was even more of a fiasco!

Today's Guest, Marketing Expert Rob Eager! Sell Your Book Like Wildfire

I have to admit, a lot of the blogs that come to my inbox end up deleted before I ever read them. Not Rob Eager's Monday Marketing Tips. I open his posts, read them, and implement the valuable advice he gives. From his book I've learned about not just trying to sell something, but rather providing content that meets a need, that people will value and share. I'd say more, but he has given me permission to share one of his great posts today, so I'll let him speak for himself... 




Giving Valuable Interviews:

Congratulations to WildFire Marketing client, Valorie Burton, for her appearance on the Today Show last week with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. If you want to land more media interviews like Valorie, what steps can you take? Consider these five points:





1. Don't push your book.
Media producers don't care about your book. They care about audience ratings. So, provide producers with good ideas for an interview topic, rather than a plug for your book. Show how your expertise, and the message of your book, relates to current events, such as national headlines, holidays, and recent trends. For example, if you've got a new book about reducing stress, don't write a press release that promotes your book. Instead, write a press release that explains a little-known fact about stress. Then, offer yourself as an expert who can help.

2. Share interesting statistics.
Producers love interesting statistics, because they give a radio or TV host the ability to grab an audience's attention by saying, "Did you know...?" In addition, providing interesting stats helps define you as an expert and enhances your credibility. But, make sure your data relates to the average listener. For example, an appealing statistic might be "Over 110 million Americans take medication for stress-related causes each week." If you write fiction or don't have statistics available, consider using a fascinating, real-life story, such as "Boston woman has a nervous break-down while Christmas shopping."

3. Provide attention-grabbing ideas for interview topics.
Media producers appreciate authors who do some of the work for them. So, create a press release based on a clever topic that would appeal to their audience. Give the producer a mental image of what your interview would sound like. Using our previous example about stress, you could offer topics, such as "How to Beat Holiday Stress and Shopping Madness" or "Don't Let the Grinch Steal Your Christmas." Providing good topic ideas helps media producers take the guesswork out of booking you for an interview.

4. Concisely explain your expertise and value.
After you capture a media producer's attention, explain how you're expertise will enhance their program. Producers want guests who can entertain and provide good advice. So, describe how you help other people overcome similar problems mentioned in your opening statistics. Then, mention the title of your related book, and list 3 - 4 bulleted statements explaining the type of results you create for people. For instance, one of your statements might say, "Learn how to create a plan to prevent and cope with holiday stress." This information helps a media producer feel like you'll be a worthwhile guest.

5. Send a catchy press release.
Combine the previous four steps into a press release that starts with a memorable title. Just like a book gets judged by the cover, your press release will get judged by the title. So, give yourself time to come up with several creative ideas. Shoot for phrases with 7 words or less. Then, show a few title ideas to some friends, and ask which one is the easiest to remember. Also, if you email your press release to producers, use the title in the subject line. For example, you could say, "Interview Topic: Holiday Stress Busters."

Before you finish your press release, be sure to include your contact information. Then, send it via email to media producers whose programs fit your book's target audience. To grow your database, combine your media contacts with other authors you know and create a shared master list. And, don't be afraid to follow-up with a personal phone call. Remind the producer of your value to their audience, and focus on the results that you can provide.

 Rob Eager's book is excellent. I highly recommend it.


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Website: www.StartaWildFire.com
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An Agent Asks: Why Do You Write?

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference.”   Robert Frost

Today's guest is my very own agent, Diana Flegal, or Hartline Literary Agency! Not only has she gotten me 3 book contracts already, but she is warm and approachable, quick to help, and quite frankly, I like her because she isn't scary! (I don't know about you, but the idea of meeting an agent face-to-face was terribly intimidating to me, and the first one or two I met, I felt like I was going to the principal's office.) 

Here are some words of encouragement from Diana for you:

DianaFlegal 

It is important for writers to ask themselves why they are writing, to have a personal mission statement. Going against the established way of doing things can get you labeled as rebellious when in fact you're just different. In Christian circles, it can be tough to map out your own path, and walk in your unique giftings. 

I have a propensity to think outside the box and therefore am drawn to those that do so as well. As an agent, I tend to like authors that do not write to the market.  Their stories are compelling, interesting and written well. But they are different.

In a recent post discussing digital changes in the publishing industry  David Stearman wrote in response: “I’ll have to admit that I’ve been exposed to some low quality writing since the advent of the eBook. But I’ve also been exposed to some really great stuff that might not have made print in the fear (of financial loss) ridden world of traditional publishing. There’s more opportunity out there for all levels of authors now, and hopefully, as in the past, the cream will eventually rise to the top of the bucket.”

I am grateful for the small presses that have contracted and published these authors. But in todays drenched market, it is challenging for these authors to find their readers and their sales can be discouraging. We repeat our teacher and mentor Michael Hyatt’s words: "writing may be queen, but platform is king" (especially true for nonfiction authors), and our efforts intensify to up our social media stats and we find and share articles of those unknown writers who have "made it big" to encourage one another. Yet low sales numbers have many authors asking if it is time to throw in the towel.

This is when we need to remember God’s mathematics and our mission statement.

Luke 15:3-7 ESV/ So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance."

Luke 15:8-10 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

In God’s economy, it is all about the one.

And that one then often multiplies when they tell another.

Ask yourself why you are writing.  For fame? Fortune? Influence?

Or are you writing because you are a writer and that is what you have to do.

Writers write.

Writers with a smaller platform can still find their readers online. Consider blogging and offering your chapters in downloadable content in installments.  Be willing to start small. Write articles for online magazines. Is there not a magazine in your genre? Start one.

But write for that ONE. Chances are you’ll be read by many more.

Stay encouraged. Hone your skills and write on!

Diana

How to Make a One-Page

If you plan to get your work into the hands of an agent or publisher, one of the most important tools you can have is a one-page.

Say you go a writer's conference and plan to meet an agent in person. That agent will meet with several authors officially and many authors unofficially throughout the conference. They are very busy. Once they get on an airplane, they may stop long enough to start looking through their new pile of book proposals, but each proposal is over 20 pages long. A quick skim will likely tell them everything they need to know, but if you have a one-page, you give them all that important information on one piece of paper. That's an advantage, a good way to make a lasting impression.

How do you make a one-page? It's not easy, putting your whole work into a paragraph or two. However, if you can't sell your book in a paragraph or two to an agent, you won't likely be able to sell it to an audience. Agents and publishers know that. This is your first chance to let them know you have what it takes.

Here is a one-page I did for my recently contracted book, The Setup:


Start at the top with your book title, name, genre and word count.

Next, give a short synopsis of your book. Start with what you would put on the back cover of the book (your hook), but include how the story ends (agents and publishers don't need to be left with questions). If there's room, you can include the main topics covered, lessons learned, etc. Remember, this page is for what is most important; white space is better than unnecessary words. Every word on this page should help sell your book.

On the left, you'll notice I put a question (the main question that the character has to answer throughout the book). Below that is another box with my marketing experience and platform info.

On the bottom goes your bio and photo, and your contact information.

This isn't an exact formula. You can move things around, just so long as it all fits onto one page. This isn't the most professional one-page I've ever done, but it's the only one I could upload (I'm not good with technology, you know). =) I'd recommend using color, good paper and high quality printing.

When do you present your one-page? If you're e-mailing a book proposal, the one-page can be the first page after the table of contents (unless the company has a specific template for book proposals that does not include a one-page, in which case you're off the hook on this one!).

If meeting with an agent or publisher in person, I'd either put the one-page on top of your book proposal folder, or wait until the end of your allotted time and hand it to them separately. Warning: if you give something to them at the beginning of your meeting, they will likely be skimming it while listening to your pitch. If you want their focused attention, hold on to your material until the end, then present your work with the one-page at the top.

A book proposal is like an interview on paper. Your one-page is like that first impression and first handshake when you walk into the interview--it can make a big impact for good if you do it right!

Any questions? Comments? 

Tune in next week for a guest post from my agent, Diana Flegal, of Hartline Literary (she's gotten me 3 book contracts already, so I highly value her perspective!).

Subscribe to make sure you don't miss it!

Related Articles: Getting Your Work to an Agent or Publisher-What to do and how

Your Bio-Introducing Yourself to the World


Getting Your Work to an Agent or Publisher--What To Do and How

Want your book mainstream published? If so, you need to know how to get your manuscript into the hands of an agent or publisher in a way that won't get it tossed before it gets read.

If you're just starting this process or questioning whether or not to get an agent, see the video on the right under So You're Writing a Book, Part 2.

Once you decide you want an agent or publisher, you need to find some! There are 3 ways I can think of to do that:
1. Go to a writer's conference and meet some in person.
2. Google for lists of agents who accept the genre you write.
3. Order the Christian Writer's Market Guide. They have a whole section of agents and a whole section of publishers.

Next, if you're trying to get an agent or publisher to consider your book, you need to know what they're looking for. Go to that agent or publisher's website, find the "submissions" tab, and do EXACTLY what the website says they want, no more, no less.


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THE 3 THINGS YOU NEED TO PRESENT YOUR WORK

1. A great query letter. See: How to Write a Book Proposal Query
(Here is a sample of mine if that will help: Sample Query)

2. A thorough book proposal. Some publishing websites have book proposal templates you can download and use, or you can create a general one and then modify it to each publisher you send it to. (Rachelle Gardner has a great blog post on what makes up a book proposal here: How to Write a Book Proposal)

3. A one-page.This is everything they need to know on one-page. A very short synopsis of your book, marketing plan, bio, and contact information. I'll dig deep into this next week!


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HOW TO PRESENT YOUR WORK


You'll likely be introducing your work to an agent or publisher either by e-mail or in person. Here are tips for how to do each well:

For e-mail, you want to keep it concise:
1. Your e-mail is your cover/query letter. Usually you send only the query in your initial e-mail, but have the book proposal ready if they respond asking for it, so you can get it to them before they forget who you are! =)
2. When sending the proposal, send only one Word document attachment. This document will be your book proposal with your one-page included, unless the agent/publisher does not want a one-page, in which case, don't add it at all. Again, look up their submission guidelines and follow them implicitly.

IMPORTANT: Don't clutter it up with extra attachments, a bunch of photos, or anything else extra. Agents and publishers are very busy. You want them to find the information they need to make a decision about your work, not to end up tossing it because it was too hard to find the facts amid all the extras. Many, many proposals get rejected simply because the author did not bother to follow the submission instructions. It's worth taking the time to do it right.

I drew flowers and vines all over the manila envelope the first time I sent a book to a publisher. Bad idea!


If you are meeting an agent or publisher in person, you will want to do things a little differently. Again, if you can ahead of time, look up exactly what they are looking for in a submission and do that. For an in-person meeting, you may want to create a folder that includes:
1. A one-page. If a publisher leaves a conference with 20 book proposals, they may be too tired or busy to go through your whole book proposal anytime soon, but they might look over your one-page to see if they want to delve deeper. I'd recommend doing this in color.
2. Cover/Query letter
3. Book Proposal (again, follow that agent/publisher's instructions exactly)
4. If you have any marketing experience, you can include that, such as newspaper clippings, tear sheets (published pages torn from magazines), book reviews, etc.

Put everything inside the folder except your one-page. That will go on top, or can be handed to the person at the end of your time with them.

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Whether by e-mail or in person, you want to present something professional and concise. It will be a good thing later on if, whether they accept or reject this particular work, they remember you in a positive light.

Sounds overwhelming, doesn't it? It is. That book proposal is a whopper of a project. However, someone mentioned once that if you spend weeks and months writing your book, why have it rejected just because you don't want to take a few days to create a proposal that sells? Good point.

A book proposal is like an interview on paper, and your query and one-page are like your initial first impression when you walk into that interview. You may be fully qualified for the job and have a great personality, but if your clothes are wrinkled and you didn't bother to brush your hair, you're likely not going to get hired. In the same way, putting the time and effort into making a great proposal and especially a great query letter is important. It is the thing that introduces not just your work, but you as an author.

Forgot to brush my teeth! Oh well, it's all about my book, right?

Have you had any experiences meeting agents or publishers yet? Have any questions come to mind? Please post them below and hopefully I can either answer them, or maybe even create another blog post with the answer (if I know it, that is!).

Happy submitting!



NEXT WEEK: How to make a One-Page

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How to NOT look Self-Published

Okay, I'm sharing my secret with you all--for those of you who never noticed (which I hope you didn't!), my Stolen Series was self-published.  I say that with a cringe, knowing the stigma that goes with self-publishing, i.e. the assumption that, well, nobody "real" wanted to publish it so you had to do it yourself.



With the economy tightening budgets in everything including the publishing industry, things have changed, and print-on-demand publishing is becoming a big new option that actually boasts several benefits over traditional publishing.  Nonetheless it still feels just plain strange to tell people I self-published a book.  I always want to add, "But I've been published over 200 times in other places, so I really am a real writer!"

Fortunately, when people see the Stolen books and hear they were done through print-on-demand, I often hear, "Wow, this looks really good.  It doesn't look self-published."  And I inwardly think, "Hooray!"  I worked very hard to make sure it didn't have that homemade look that is a dead giveaway for self-publishing.

And now, since so many people have asked how I made it look so not self-published, I figure I might as well stick it all on here so it's all in one place.

So here goes:
HOW TO NOT LOOK SELF-PUBLISHED

1.  No flat colors on your cover.  Even if you want a main background color, find some kind of texture, however faint, to give it some depth.  I can't think of any mainstream published book that has a flat color on the cover.  The black background of my Stolen books is actually a photo of a shawl I bought in Indonesia. My husband took the photo and tweeked it on Photoshop to be lighter on the back cover and darker on the front.  On the front cover, it's barely even noticeable, which was the idea.  Most people would think it was just black, but it does not stand out as just a flat black, and that's the idea--to not have sections that stand out as "homemade."



You can't see the shawl design in this photo, but if you had the book in your hands, you'd be able to tell. =)

2.  Use quality digital photos.  Nuf said.

3.  Put a lot of time into making your back cover "hook" good (that's the 1-2 paragraphs on the back that summarize the story with just enough of the plot to tease a reader into wanting to buy/read your book--it's important!).  Sometimes writing that one paragraph to hook potential readers is harder than writing the whole book!  Write several options and have people who know nothing about your book help choose between them.

4.  Add details on the back cover.  Pull down 3-4 of your favorite books from your bookshelf and look them over for small details that you never really notice normally.  It's interesting that those details that we don't notice if they're there, we notice if they are absent.  Those are the details you want, such as:
   *author photo placement and bio
   *credit to cover design person
   *credit to cover photographer
   *price listed in US and Canadian (easy to check with an online converter)
   *usually the publisher is listed with a logo--put something in that spot, like your website, blog, anything
   *endorsements if you have any

5.  Play with color effects on your words.  With Createspace, the print-on-demand option I used, they had a downloadable template for the cover design.  My husband put it into photoshop and used it as a base, then added everything we wanted, playing especially with the effects on color for the words.  Small touches, but they made a big difference (see www.kimberlyrae.com for a close-up look at the cover).  Oh, and please don't use bubble-shaped words or rainbow-curved words or any other style that is a little too creative to be professional.  If you go to the library, you'll notice that nearly every book's font is pretty close to the same, with color and texture changes to make them unique.

6.  The boring copyright/info page.  This is probably the biggest way that even the average reader will notice you're self-published.  You know that page, about the 2nd page in, that has all that boring copyright info and Library of Congress stuff?  I doubt anybody actually reads any of it, but if your book just says your name and a copyright right date, it screams "self-published."  Again, pull down some of your favorite books and see if you can borrow any of their boring info.  I put in stuff about the version of the Bible I used, a long useless paragraph about not copying anything without permission, etc.  You can also get a library of congress number for free (google how to) and put that on there, too.

7.  Chapter image.  I think it's nice to have some little graphic at the beginning of each chapter--something that represents or accents your style of book, even just a swirly-whatever to add to your interior.  It should be the same throughout because changing it for each chapter would look odd.  Again, check the books you like.  What did they do?

8.  Fonts.  Using a special or italicized font for your Chapter headers. The first letter of the chapter being larger and a special font is another thing I noted from my favorite books and utilized in mine.  Again, it just sets you apart in little ways.

9.  The extra stuff.  Author page, thank-you-to-everybody-and-their-grandmother page, etc.  There's a fair bit of freedom on where to put those, but you'll want to check other books to see where they put things and how they expressed themselves.  I find acknowledgment pages extremely boring (unless you're one of the people thanked of course), so I put mine in the back and made it short.

10.  Lastly, don't go cheesy.  I really wanted to put some photos in from Bangladesh to show some of the scenes in my book.  It might have been a nice idea, except that NOBODY in traditional publishing would do that, so it would plop me down in the self-publishing camp for good.  Your book is a piece of professional work, so like a resume, you don't need to add in photos of your grandchildren or long lists of how you came to write the book, etc.  Readers do like personal info, but those are the kinds of things you can put in your website or your blog for the ones who want to get to know you instead of just read your writing.

Make sense?  Hopefully the above will help you put out something that people will say, "Wow, it doesn't look self-published," and you, too, can inwardly say, "Hooray!"

If you thought of some questions, please post them--
you may be asking something somebody else wants to know the answer to!