Thursday, March 11, 2010

PR Options for the Shy Author





I'm absolutely thrilled to introduce today's guest blogger: Marcia James
Marcia James writes hot, humorous romances and finaled in eleven RWA contests before selling her first comic romantic suspense, At Her Command. Her short story, "Rescue Me", appeared in Tails of Love, a Berkley benefit anthology, and her latest story, Love Unleashed, was released in February 2010. In her eclectic career, she has shot submarine training videos, organized celebrity-filled nonprofit events and had her wedding covered by People Magazine. An advertising copywriter and marketing consultant, Marcia presents online and in-person author promotion workshops.


by Marcia James

There's never been more pressure on authors to shoulder the burden of promotion, and no one can possibly take advantage of every available PR opportunity. Even a small amount of daily or weekly promotion cuts into valuable writing time. That's why authors must decide carefully which PR options are right for them based on specific variables, such as:

* Budget
* Time constraints
* Author knowledge & skills
* Book distribution & format

* Book genre/subgenre & niche market elements
* Author personality

With so many promotional opportunities, why not choose those that go well with your personality? If you're an introvert, don't add stress to your life by attempting to do PR better suited to extroverts, such as: presenting workshops, doing book readings, participating on conference panels, holding single-author booksignings, power-schmoozing at conventions, being interviewed on broadcast media, doing live chats, etc.

Instead, introverted authors might try some of these PR options:

* Participating on a reader forum/message board, informally posting on topics as time allows.

Many shy writers find it easier to converse with readers online. If you join a publisher's reader email loop -- or a reader forum, such as the ones on the RT Book Reviews' Web site -- you'll have the chance to chat up people in a non-scary situation.

* Participating on writers' email lists, sharing craft and business information as time allows.

Fellow writers are also readers, and you can develop a following by participating on writing email loops, such as those of Romance Writers of America (RWA) chapters. Sharing your knowledge and commiserating on your author-friends' ups-and-downs is an easy form of networking.

* Cross-promoting with other authors as time allows.

You can promote other authors -- and they can promote you -- in a number of ways: linking to each other's Web sites, guest-blogging on each other's blogs (Thanks, Rebecca!), giving quotes to use in articles or workshops, etc. One way I cross-promote is through my James Gang interviews . Each month I interview an author or publishing insider with some form of "James" in his/her name. The interviewees promote the interviews to their readers, writing loops, and friends, and I promote the interviews to mine.

Another example of my cross-promotion efforts is my April 5th - 18th "
Guilt-Free Author Promotion" online workshop. I approached PR-savvy authors and publishing insiders and asked if they would like to write a "guest lecture" for the workshop. Over a dozen did, and I include their bios and latest release information with the lectures, as well as promoting them in all workshop announcements.

* Co-promoting with other authors to create a multi-author Web site, blog or MySpace page -- all of which would require a regular commitment of time.

Joining with other authors to share the cost and time of promotion is a great idea. One way to do that is to create a multi-author site or blog. For example, I'm part of the
Ohio Romance Authors MySpace page. Simpler forms of co-promotion include sharing the cost of a joint print ad or joint promotional materials, such as brochures.

* Writing articles on the craft and business of publishing for chapter newsletters, RWA's Romance Writers Report, RT Book Reviews, online e-zines, etc. -- which you can do as time allows.

If you enjoy working alone, you can write articles, which will promote your pen name and should include a brief bio with your Web site URL at the bottom. I wrote a series of author promotion articles for the RWA Kiss of Death chapter newsletter, and I now have those articles on my
Web site . In addition, you can look for elements with your book(s) that lend themselves to niche marketing. For example, if your book has a quilting heroine, you could write an article for a quilting magazine and mention your book.

* Building and maintaining your Web site and social media sites (e.g. Facebook), if you're technologically skilled and have the time to do it.

An author's Web site is the most important tool in his/her personal "PR Toolbox". If you can design and maintain a site -- including social media sites -- that's a great skill to have. And if you have the knowledge and talent to design bookmarks, banners, postcards, brochures, excerpt booklets, etc., you have a leg up on many other authors. Consider whether a skill you have from your day job or past experiences could translate into a helpful promotional skill.

* Sending PR materials to conferences, bookstores and readers' groups and press releases to the media, as time allows.

Once you have logoed/branded PR materials, you can make sure they get into the goody bags at RWA conferences, etc. You can also write press releases and mail out press kits, if you're willing to be interviewed. (Some online publications/blogs will interview you by email, so it's not as stress-producing as a live interview).

* Paying a romance author PR site, like AuthorIsland or Writerspace, to handle your newsletter mailings, contests, and other promotion, which frees up your time to write.

Not every author promotion site costs an arm and a leg. Many have an à la carte menu of services, as well as different plans, such as promotion for one month, six months, or a year. This option will affect your budget but free up your time.

That's just a sampling of PR options for the shy writer. Those wanting to step outside of their comfort zones can try opportunities that attract extroverts, such as the power-schmoozing I love. But give yourself a break and don't make promotion even more of a pain than it can be. The next time you're faced with intimidating promotional choices, analyze which ones you'd enjoy the most and don't feel guilty about those you avoid. Match your personality to your PR push.

The best way to do that is to learn what PR options are available. I offer my free 280+ page WORD file on author promotion to any writer who requests it. Just email me through the “Contact Me” page on my Web site (
http://www.marciajames.net/), and I'll attach the file to my response.

I'd love to hear about your PR challenges, triumphs, questions, and helpful hints. I'm giving away a free e-book version of my comic romantic suspense, At Her Command, to a randomly chosen commenter on this guest blog. Thanks again, Rebecca, for hosting me on your blog!




Marcia is giving away a copy of her first book AT HER COMMAND (in ebook format) to a randomly chosen commenter. Good luck!

38 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for being here, Marcia! Very helpful information.

    I highly suggest all my readers take your promotion class. See link in the post.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Marcia,
    Thank you for posting such great information. I found it very interesting and helpful.

    Regards

    Margaret

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you, Rebecca, for hosting me and recommending my April PR workshop! I love discussing author promotion and look forward to reading the comments on my guest-blog.
    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi, Margaret! Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. I realize I'm in the minority because I love doing promotion, but it's so much easier to market yourself, if you choose something you enjoy. I particularly enjoy doing co-promotion and cross-promotion with other authors. Writing is such a solitary job, so it's fun to get together with friends to promote ourselves.
    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Marcia,

    What great advice. I think the best advice is to co-promo - especially with signings. Why go it alone? You can have support right next to you. Great ideas!

    Dawn Chartier
    www.dawnchartier.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dawn -- I think one of the most effective forms of co-promotion is a multi-author blog. You can share the cost of the blog and only have to blog maybe once a month or once a week. Plus, your co-promoting authors introduce their readers to you and vice versa.
    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. As usual, Becky, you've found another wonderful guest. Great information here, Marcia. I love the promo that I can do "as time allows". Sometimes I can schedule hours upon hours for some really good promo-focused stuff, other times I have to be much more careful. The things I can do (like group blogging or some of your other co-promoting suggestions) in the comfort of my own home are the best. Congrats on the Feb release!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi, Susan! {{waving across town}} Thanks for stopping by! I agree with you about the PR options that allow you do to do them "as time allows". We have enough stress in our lives, so why add a ton of regular deadlines to our schedule? For example, in February, I did a 7-blog tour to promote my new release, since February is Heart Health month and LOVE UNLEASHED raised money for the Am. Heart Assn. This month, however, I'm only doing one guest-blog. I think it's better for our writing if we don't overbook our lives.
    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Enjoyed your post, Marcia, especially the part about not feeling guilty but to choose the PR that suits. Great advice. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks, Bev! I definitely think we have enough pressure in our lives. Why feel guilty because we don't take advantage of every PR option out there? Over the last couple of years, worrying about promotion has risen to the top of many authors' stress lists. And stress is one of the largest contributors to writer's block. I try to make promotion a fun game -- a way to fit social interaction into my writing schedule.
    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great information. Thanks for sharing. All advice and input is definitely welcome.

    Cathy

    ReplyDelete
  12. Lots of great ideas and advice! I'm shopping a story right now and periodically I freeze, thinking, oh no, what if it sells and I have to do all the promo! Yikes!

    Sounds like there are lots of ways to handle the promo that fits everyone's personality and style

    Cathy

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have to say, promo is my least favorite aspect of this business. I always remember what my mom and grandma said growing up: "It's not nice to talk about yourself. That's bragging." Hard habit to break, I guess.

    :)Becky

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi, Cathy (Catherine Anne)! Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words! My middle name is Anne, and I just don't understand those people who leave the "e" off of "Anne". ;-D

    Have a great day!
    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi, Cathy (CP)! "Break a leg" on selling your story! You know, it will be super-hectic after you make that sale, so it's good to do several things before getting "The Call":

    1. Choose your pen name, Google it to see if it's already in use or too similar to another author's, and lock in the domain name for your Web site. (I chose my pen name in 2001, and back then there were only two other romance authors that I could find with similar names: Stephanie James & Eloisa James. Now there are so many "James" authors, that I interview a different one on my Web site each month.)

    2. Determine your author brand -- This is something you need to give a lot of thought to, and there are entire workshops by brand specialists like author Jenn Stark on this subject. My April PR online workshop also covers branding and can definitely get you started on that job.

    3. Design your Web site - at least on paper. If you don't want to go to the expense of putting up a Web site right now, at least research other authors' sites and decide what type of look, graphics, colors, pages, etc you want for your site. Also make note of those sites you don't like. If you hire a Web designer after you sell, s/he will need to know your Web site likes & dislikes.

    4. Consider getting your pen name out there even before you sell -- In the publishing community, you should go by your pen name at meetings, conferences, email loops, etc. Also, you can do things (you're comfortable with), such as presenting workshops, writing articles, etc., to gain name recognition.

    At the risk of sounding immodest, I recommend my online PR workshops because they present an overview of the promotion options available and hlep aspiring and published authors choose the best for themselves. And knowledge is strength.

    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi, Becky! I understand about being turned off by BSP (Blatant Self Promotion). It's a fine line between being arrogant and pushy in your marketing and being assertive and informative. Because publishers do so little promotion for authors these days, we have to get past "good girl" tendencies to be modest and find a way to promote ourselves that we're comfortable with.

    Here's an example: In my last workshop, all the participants shared information about their writing, author brand, achievements, etc, which was great. One participant decided he would "harvest" the email addresses of the people in the class and start sending them all his author newsletter. I had to stop him, because that was entirely inappropriate. And signing people up for a newsletter without their permission would have done much more harm to this man's potential readership than getting his newsletter would have helped his readership.

    I think most people can tell where the line is between classy and uncouth. ;-)

    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Marcia, Thanks for your tips. I find I'm spending too much time on promotion, leaving too little time for working on my WIP. I'll check your website to see if the info is there for your April PR workshop. I need your help!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I love, love, love the picture of the dog.

    Put any cover in it's mouth and I'd feel that I would have to have it.

    Thanks for the great promo tips, I'm copying them out.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi, Caroline! Promotion is a real time drain, so picking the best options for you helps save time for actual writing. ;-) Yes, on the Schedule page of my Web site is information on my April and my August author promotion workshops. I try to do several online workshops a year. I'll also be on two panels at the April Romantic Times Book Reviews convention here in Columbus, OH. I'm an extrovert, in case you can't tell! ;-D

    Best wishes on your promotion!
    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hi, Donna! I appreciate the kind words about my dog mascot, Smokey. ;-) I had a vision for a Chinese crested hairless dog logo and hired a local caricaturist to create him. (I got the artist to sign a release form on the artwork so I could use the dog drawing any way I wanted. I keep that release form in my safe deposit box.)

    I have a "crestie" dog in each of my stories. He's become my personal "Hitchcock", like the director who always appeared in at least one scene of each of his movies.
    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Great post, Marcia!

    You mentioned readers groups. First, I didn't know RT had a readers group. Wait--these are the forums, right? They do seem fun, but I've not participated or posted. Are there others you'd recommend? Would RomCom be considered a readers group?

    I've heard people talking about GoodReads. Would you recommend that one?

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hi, Laurie! There are different types of readers groups and forums. Amazon, RT, and other places have forums or message boards with different themes -- like romance, mystery, paranormal, etc -- while author promotion sites (like Writerspace) often have email loops where readers can chat with each other about books, etc. I don't know about RomCom, but since that's supported by Borders, I imagine it, too, has a readers loop.

    There are also Yahoogroups that target readers of specific types of books. You can go to www.yahoogroups.com, I believe, and search for groups that match your interests and your books.

    Most publishers have reader loops. I had to get off the Ellora's Cave readers loop because sometimes I was getting over a 1,000 emails a day, which even when I switched to email digests was still overwhelming. But if you like chatting with readers it's a GREAT way to build a readership.

    As for GoodReads, I'm signed up for it, but I've never done anything with that. It looks like a good way to network with other book lovers, but since I'm technologically challenged, I don't do a lot of promotion through social media sites. I'm on MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn, but that's about it. I'd love to try Twitter some day.

    My PR WORD file has a list of social media sites. I've added some social media site tips to the file, but really it would take an entire online workshop to get people up to speed on how to effectively use certain social media sites. That's why I have a guest lecturer handle that topic in my online PR workshops. ;-)

    Happy promoting!
    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  23. This is a great posting with excellent suggestions for the introverted "shy" authors. I'm going to share this link at my own Workshop group the Erotic Romance Workshop at Yahoo. I am sure they will find the content of this blog truly helpful and informative.

    Collette Thomas
    http://www.newsletterofcollettethomas.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hi Marcia, I found your post very informative and fun. I took one of your PR workshops last year and it did wonders for me. Keep up the fantastic work.
    Thanks Becky for hosting Marcia, today. best wishes to you all.
    Cheers, Debby Lee

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thanks for the valuable info, Marcia. I'm starting to look for ways to increase my name recognition and you gave me some useful ideas.


    Connie Gillam

    ReplyDelete
  26. Great advise for us shy people! Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi, Collette! Thanks you so much for your kind words and for passing along the link to my guest-blog! I think Rebecca has come up with a wonderful premise for a blog. I'm so happy to be hosted by Once Written, Twice Shy.
    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hi, Debby Lee!! {{waving from Ohio}} It's so nice of you to stop by, and I REALLY appreciate the testimonial about my last PR workshop! You were at the head of the class. ;-)

    Have a great day!
    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hi, Connie! Best wishes on getting your pen name out there! In an article I have on my Web site -- "Promoting Yourself Before 'The Call'" (http://www.marciajames.net/articles.html), I asked other authors for suggestions on things to do before an author sells. The article might give you some additional promotion ideas.

    Have a great day!
    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi, Mary! Thanks for stopping by my guest-blog. Best wishes on your promoting!
    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  31. I found this article extremely helpful. I have a number of books out and have been published for six years, but I still balk at anything where I have to do small talk and mingling. I've always focused on what I like to do, which is online, and no kidding -- speaking in public. I'm okay at a lectern or podium and having all eyes on me is fine. Just don't ask me to walk around and meet strangers. I will sweat blood! lol So glad you posted this. I feel like it's "okay" to be me.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hi, Kayelle! Thanks for stopping by! I've never heard of a person who didn't mind public speaking but was stressed out by in-person networking. I'm an extrovert who is energized by crowds and meeting new people, but I still get a little nervous when I do public speaking. I admire your ability to get up and speak. ;-)

    It's definitely fine to use your strengths in promotion and avoid those PR opportunities that make you physically ill. Who needs that type of stress? One of my favorite things to do is to send out press releases to try to hook media interest in whatever it is I'm promoting -- whether it's my books or my local RWA chapter's conference. I think of it as a chess game I'm playing with the media contacts. What angle can I use to hook their interest and stand out from all of the other press releases and press kits they get? When I get media coverage due to a press release, it's like hitting 4 aces on Bonus video poker. ;-)

    I also look for nontradional ways to get my pen name in the paper. For example, my local paper has a weekly column where they interview people about their favorite restaurants. I was featured on that. I also won a contest for best caption for a one-panel cartoon that is syndicated around the country. And I've written pro-romance-novel letters to the editor of our newspaper that have been printed. So there are lots of ways to get one's pen name out there. ;-)

    By the way, one of the best things to do while in-person networking is to realize there are lots of people at functions who are wishing with all of their heart that someone would talk to them. Instead fo trying to join already formed groups, you can walk up to someone who is alone and introduce yourself. Chances are you'll be doing that person a kind favor, and you'll be (figuratively) greeted with open arms.

    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  33. Lots of good tips. I am printing this off. I'm the introvert promotion person. Did the book signing and almost had a heart attack. Curious, since I did perform for 27 years, but I never had to talk to anyone, just perform.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hi, PL! Thanks for stopping by my guest-blog!

    Booksignings can be stressful, especially if you think the main goal is to sell a ton of books. I look at booksignings as a way to meet booksellers who can handsell my current and future releases.

    Plus, I give out a 100 or so of my promotional keychains to customers in the store. I stand near the booksigning table, greet customers, introduce myself and let them know I'm signing in the store (vs. just quietly sitting behind the table waiting for someone to approach). Yes, that's an extroverted thing to do, but if you sign with a group of authors, you can mingle more with them along with the customers -- a less scary situation.

    Another plus of a booksigning is often booksellers will let you sign some of their stock of your books, which means they are less likely to strip those books or return them.

    Shy authors who don't want to do booksignings can just go into bookstores and ask the manager if they can sign their stock. That way, you have no interaction with the customers. ;-)

    Best wishes on your promoting!
    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  35. BLOG COMMENT CONTEST WINNER: P.L. Parker!

    Congratulations, P.L., I drew your name from all of those who left comments on my guest-blog, and you won a download of my comic romantic suspense, AT HER COMMAND. I'll email you privately to see which format you would like the e-book in.

    Thank you again, Rebecca, for hosting me on your blog! I always love to talk about promotion.
    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  36. Thank you, Marcia. It was my pleasure to host you.

    ReplyDelete
  37. These are fabulous suggestions, even for extreme extroverts. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thanks, Vicky! If you're an extrovert, I have a lot more suggestions in my April online workshop. ;-) How's that for BSP (blatant self-promotion).

    -- Marcia ;-)

    ReplyDelete