Sunday, May 30, 2010

"A List" Oprah Authors and the Rest of Us

It isn't hard to feel inadequate, especially when you aren't an "A list" Oprah author with a big established following. People don't show up to an event, journalists or editors don't get back to you, no one responds to your posts on social networks, stores drag their feet about getting your book on the shelves--sometimes there seems no end of mental set backs in book marketing.

How do you get people to notice your book without being cheesy in today's world where many people now have the attention span of house flies?

At a writers' conference last year, a participant asked one of the presenters, Brenda Gurung, what to do about the "dreaded bookstore appearances when few people or no one shows."

A bookstore signing is about the people who do show up, she'd answered. People come to the events to get something out of it for themselves, so find out what the participants expect. Greet them individually, shake hands, and connect with them. Address their questions and try to deliver a presentation geared for them. (Of all the presenters at this conference, I remember Brenda vividly because she shook my hand and seemed truly interested in my expectations.)

I once posed a similar question a few years ago to Kathleen Flinn author of The Sharper Your Knife the Less Your Cry and she told me to keep in mind the bookstore is your customer. When no one shows, use this "opportunity" to talk about your book to bookstore employees. She confessed she'd even had it happen to her at a big name bookstore. (And if you brought snacks for your presentation, it's always good to leave the leftovers for booksellers to enjoy.)

My best advice when marketing a book and doing events is to be humble, grateful and no matter how many people attend your event always remember to say "Thank you" to the store employees and people who did attend.

A publicity expert once mentioned how often authors forget those two important words when marketing books. A hand written thank you note is always appreciated. Remember these are the people selling your book.

One final note is to be enthusiastic about your book no matter how many people show up. Genuine enthusiasm can't be faked, isn't a temporary response and it can be contagious. Keep your eye on the big picture. Perpetually enthusiastic people know they have a great weapon against those inadequate nagging feelings that pop up when few or no one shows for an event.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Cheers and Jeers: Unexpected Book Reviews

One of the requirements I added into my book contract was a free book for farmers who shared their farm's story. After I wrote profiles, I checked with the farmers who were free to correct errors and help me get their farm right. What a time-consuming process, but it was worth it to have profiles reflect the farms. When the Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook was available last month, I mailed free copies to farmers.

One response to my book was a beautiful card from Carol and Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, Oregon. The Boutards sell their produce at the Hillsdale farmers' market.

The handwritten card really moved me. Here is a little of what Carol wrote:

"Thank you, thank you for sending us a copy of your magnificent book. We are honored to be included in such fine company of growers. I loved reading other farmers' stories--all different, but sharing the optimism and vitality that seems to be the usual for the lucky few of us who get to grow food for a living."

Every word of this card said she "got" what I set out to do. I was totally delighted and hadn't anticipated that farmers would also enjoy reading about each other. Carol's card put me on top of the world--for a few hours.

The same day I was stressed about a well-known cookbook author not being able to donate a book for my very cool cookbook basket donation to Food Lust--the annual dinner and auction event to support Cascade Harvest Coalition. A friend suggested a few FaceBook "friends", so I logged on and asked these "friends" if they had any signed cookbooks around Seattle that I could purchase for my basket donation. Time was tight; I needed to get the basket in, so I stopped at University Bookstore where they had a number of signed cookbooks to choose from. I got a great signed book for my basket.

(I digress but here, but note this hint to authors: sign copies of books and keep track of the bookstores they are in because you never know when someone may need a signed book.) So I found a lovely book to purchase and add to my basket.

Later, I checked FaceBook one of my "friends" replied that she didn't have any signed books, but she added a curious comment at the end of her reply that went something like this:

"FYI farmer Susan Snow was not happy to be included in your book and is offended that you didn't consult with her."

I stared at the sentence for awhile dumbfounded, then typed: "Who is Susan Snow? And what makes her think she's in my book? Maybe she's has her books confused."

Turns out Susan Snow is the wife of a farmer whose farm is mentioned because of what they grow and mostly in recipe headers, such as I buy (BLANK's product) at this market. Nothing more than that. Susan Snow had not read my book but had heard that she was mentioned in the book and called this writer to tell her how offended she was that I hadn't consulted her for my essay about their farm. The writer told me Susan was very panicked about this essay.

"Susan takes her business very seriously," the writer wrote. Really? Who doesn't take their business seriously? I don't mean to be flip but what happened to fact-checking before the panic? I apologized for any offense, but I couldn't help feeling irritated about how childish it seemed, so I said nothing more.

What should my response be? Should I offer to send her a book and if Susan Snow finds her name anywhere I'll take her to lunch?

All this makes me wonder why we as adults are really not any different than children on the playground participating in the "he said gossip" game. By the time the story gets back to the author the entire book can be a changed animal.

I was suddenly glad I hadn't written a memoir. Big or small, count your blessings in life.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Seven Laws of Book Marketing

"You must go to writing conferences," Theo Nestor our former writing group facilitator told us. "It's the contacts you make that are so important," she added. So that's what I did. And at the Washington State Whidbey Island Writers' Conference in 2008, I met Lake Boggan a book publicist for Timber Press.

I was pitching another book idea when Lake spotted Local Vegetarian Cooking in my hands and asked about this book. After I showed her the book, she asked if she could pass on a copy to a publishing company (Timber Press in Portland).

Before I left the brief interview, Lake handed me a paper with marketing tips and I hung onto it, thinking it would be useful someday. Well someday is here, and I thought I'd share my version of Lake's "Seven Sacraments of Book Marketing" since her tips have been an inspiration for me.

1. Ask to see your materials. This includes any materials that are created in-house about your and your book. Ask to see these before the book is published and make copies for your files.

2. Provide your publicist with a list of contacts in your field of expertise. Indicate which of these contacts does media related work. List contacts who write reviews, articles, blogs, newsletters or speaks on the radio, Internet or television. Contact people in advance and mention the publisher will send review copies. When a copy has been sent follow up with an email or call. Media are more inclined to listen to an author rather than a publicist or publisher.

3.Ask for your publicist's review copy of media listings for your book. Don't expect to receive it because media contacts belong to the publisher. Your constant requests will serve as motivation to focus more time on your book--the squeaky wheel syndrome.

4. Ask for a copy of your marketing plan. If no official marketing plan is used prepare to discuss a plan of action the publisher or publicist will use and what is the time-line for marketing you and your book?

5. Carry a copy of your published book with you at all times. It is your Bible, the word of you. Know that promoting your book is a way of life and you are not a one-night-stand. Keep pumping your platform with fresh blood even when your book is no longer new. Don't let people forget you.

6. Come to favorable terms with the Internet. Get a Website, learn to blog and link research related Websites and articles. Respond to email in a timely manner. Consider FaceBook, My Space and Twitter; build a community and keep your work alive.

7. Become a media junkie; tuning into a daily dose of CNN, NPR and all related media should be part of your new life as a author. The goal is to know when you can respond as an expert.

Okay, I haven't done everything on this list, but book marketing is a work in progress and new opportunities seem to appear every week.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Donate to a Cause

"If I have one great idea, it is that connecting people might save the world," Mary Pipher wrote in Writing to Change the World.

One way to get the word out about your book is to find a cause you're passionate about and donate books, part of your profits, or time. Most nonfiction books can find a cause in theme of their books and giving not only feels good, it can also be a venue for news stories about your book and passions.

My own passion happens to be farmland protection. Twenty-five years ago I donated to a new organization called Farm Aid and today no matter what new calamity hits our world, I still dip into my wallet for various organizations that support family farms.

Local Vegetarian Cooking donated profits to PCC Farmland Trust. And I've contributed to American Farmland Trust for over a decade. A few years ago I noticed that Barbara Kingsolver offered part of the profits from Animal Vegetable, Miracle to American Farmland Trust. By supporting a cause, you also help build your platform. When The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook was released, I bought twenty books that will be given to PCC Farmland Trust to help raise money for donations. It's a win-win strategy.

If you contribute to PCC Farmland Trust before May 31, you're officially entered in the lottery to get a free signed copy of The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook.

Right now I'm putting together a "cook-local" cookbook basket for Food Lust, an annual auction on June 5 at Willie Green's Organic Farm. put on by Cascade Harvest Coalition. Other contributors to this basket include: Kathy Gehrt (Discover Cooking with Lavender), Devra Gartenstein (Local Bounty), Braiden Rex-Johnson (The Pike Place Market Cookbook), and Kathy Casey (Sips and Apps). I'm also adding some ingredients from the market such as honey, vinegar and wine for your local cooking adventures, should you be the lucky winner of this auction lot. If you attend Food Lust you'll have an opportunity to bid on this great "cook local" basket.

"Find your place on the planet, dig in and take responsibility from there. " Gary Snyder

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Blog All About It

I started a blog to help support my book last spring. I just jumped in and signed up for a blog on blogger and then checked out books on blogging. (Note you should probably do this in the reverse order, don't be so anxious to begin.) Next I started reading blogs as much as I could and one day day I discovered a significant number of my writing hours were getting sucked away as I trolled the Web for food blogs, and I soon became hooked on more than a few blogs myself.
  • Hit the library and check out all the books about blogging that you can find.
  • Take your time, give your topic some time to gel before you jump into the blogging world.
A blog can enhance your platform and it can be fun writing practice, but once you get followers don't change the topic on your blog and expect them to automatically follow you. It's irritating when you read a blog and the blogger changes topic or even quits blogging a few months down the line.

Read other blogs and think about what attracts and repels you. Check out this or this one and read the comments. What do these readers connect with? I love good pictures and simplicity. For me, get to the point. And I like a story, but I want one that's compelling. Think "Once upon a time . . . " Some blogs are disjointed and head down the road like drunk drivers. Clean up your writing before you hit "publish post." Blog readers spend and average of 90 seconds scanning the post, so make that 90 seconds count. Use bullets, numbers and bold titles.
  • Make your blog compelling and the text easy to read. Keep the topic of your book in mind. No one cares what you had for lunch.
I hate ads that flip across the screen as I try to read a post, or reading some blow hard blogger's account of some movie they just saw that has no real point for the topic at hand. Remember your blog readers. And if you haven't started blogging because you think someone won't read your blog for free, why would they pay $25.00 to read your book?
  • Make the information on your blog useful; don't fill your blog with excess clutter and too many ads could make you look like a money grubber.
I broke down and ordered Problogger: Secrets for Bloging Your Way to A Six-Figure Income, not because my goal it to make money blogging but this book contains so much useful information about blogging. Probloblogger also has a Website for all kinds of helpful tips about blogging, in face I just found a post on there today that I should have read last year when I just started blogging. Check it out. Then link your blog to FaceBook or bookstores.

  • Link your blog to Amazon author pages and when anyone wants to see a sample of your writing they can do it for free.

Remember when you blog to support the blogging community by reading and making comments on other blogs. Your comments can lead people back to your blog. You can also guest blog.

  • Guest blog on another person's blog or write a blog for a bookstore or volunteer to blog for an organization. I'll be writing on a blog at this bookstore this summer. The only thing that might prevent me from writing on a company's blog is if they don't fit with my platform.
  • Keep focused on your platform on any blog.
  • Make friends with other bloggers.
When you become friends with other bloggers and they like your book, it's another way to get the word out about your book. (One link at a time is still moving forward.) Anyway, I love this funky Seattle behind-the-scenes at the market blog and she wrote a really nice review of my book. Another blogger friend writes about lavender and who doesn't love lavender? She listed my book in a gift guide for Mother's Day.

  • Don't rant on anyone unless it's yourself and link, link, link to other bloggers and Websites. And if you mention bookstores or other authors let them know.
  • Whatever you do have fun, and remember it's only a blog.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Shoe Leather Marketing

I took my first book Local Vegetarian Cooking (2004, LOC Press) to every place I could think of--yoga studios, tea shops, and even doctors' offices. Many locally-owned bookstores eagerly bought my book.

These independent booksellers are like small-scale sustainable farmers and when they support your book, it's good to return the support by purchasing books there. Lots of people in Edmonds buy books at the Edmonds Bookshop. I'll be at Edmonds Bookshop, serving up recipe samples and talking about local farms on July 31.
I loved that PCC Markets carried my first book. Many people interested in local farms and farming congregate there, and part of the profits of my book were donated to PCC Farmland Trust. Every time I delivered books, I talked to the people who worked there. I taught cooking classes at a number of the stores and I got to know the HABA buyers by name.

This past weekend when I phoned the Issaquah store and spoke to someone I'd known years ago from the Kirkland store. He remembered me and thanked me for telling him about my new book. I can't say enough about knowing the people who sell my book, I'm grateful to all of them.
Another place that surprised me with the sales of my first cookbook was Bastry Health Clinic. They have a wonderful gift store on Stone Way. I love the way this clinic is so supportive of local producers. I hope my friend Kathy Gehrt contacts them soon because she's got a perfect gift book.
I've been doing a lot this reconnecting. I'm calling it "shoe leather marketing," what a concept actually talking to people selling my book. Past experience tells me it's good to look for places off the beaten path of most published cookbooks. So for the life of your book, make friends with the people selling it.

It's not sexy or Oprah, but it works. So definitely try some shoe leather marketing and give an elevator pitch to booksellers on the virtues of your book in person.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Little Help From My (Writing Group) Friends

Five years ago I took a course called "Jumpstart Your Writing" at Discover U taught by Roberta Cruger and shortly after that, she invited me to join her Tuesday night nonfiction writing group.

"Just bring something to read," she'd told me. And that's our Wednesday writers' group started. A few months later, Roberta left and Theo Nestor took over the lead and we changed times to Wednesday afternoon. We met above Carnegie's in Ballard and it was mostly dark and cold. We used plug in lamps and sometimes when the heat was out, we wore overcoats to keep warm.

Theo was finishing her memoir How to Sleep Alone in a King Sized Bed and pressed for more time, she had to leave the group. I think a few of us were in shock. We were leaderless, but right away travel-writer and world traveler Sharon Morris, lavender expert Kathy Gehrt and I went looking for a place where we could all meet. We were all committed to the group by that time.

Then, Sheila Kelly (third from left) offered her home in Ballard as a meeting place. When Sheila was gone, we met at Kathy's house.

Now we've been doing it for so long, here's the routine:
  • Every week we each bring from one to seven pages of writing to read.
  • Critiques and suggestions fill most of our three hours.
  • The rest of the time we swap information about books, Websites, author readings, classes and writing conferences. Suggestions are often offered when one of us is looking for a place to submit a story or article.

This year, four of us have published books: Discover Cooking With Lavender by Kathy Gehrt, Treadwell Gold by Sheila Kelly, The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook Debra Daniels-Zeller, and Elsie Hulsizer's second book detailing her sailing adventures in Alaska will be released in the fall.

Wendy Hinman (above 3rd from left) is working on her memoir about 7 years of sailing with her husband Garth. Sharon Morris (currently visiting family and friends in Israel) is working on a book about her socialist grandparents in Everett around 1900 and Jan Schwert (currently traveling in Eastern Europe) writes articles about connecting with people wherever she travels.

Joining a writing group has been instrumental in changing my writing. These women writer friends are committed writers and serious editors. And these days we're sharing marketing tips like crazy.

The synergy of a writing group can propel writers forward in amazing ways. And the best part? We're all there to support each writer's successes.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Buddy System

The first time I felt the synergy of the buddy system was years ago when I enlisted a personal trainer who trained clients in groups of four. She paired people together and each person made a commitment to meet their "buddy" to workout on a regular basis. I lost weight, toned up and actually reached my fitness goals much sooner than I'd expected.

Meeting up with another person at the gym made me more responsible to my fitness goals. Alone, I might have said, "I don't really feel like working out today," or "I didn't get enough sleep," and all those lame excuses I'd heard myself mumble too many times before.

I got on a committed fitness track, but the most important thing I discovered about the "buddy system" was that magical things happen when you help other people reach their goals. You feel less stress when the spotlight isn't on you all the time. And focusing on someone else's star enables you to take your own a little less seriously. The world has enough blow hards tooting their own horns. When you have a buddy, you have a confidante, someone to trade ideas with, share marketing strategies and contacts. You can commiserate over disappointments and celebrate successes.

Writing group friend and fellow cookbook author, Kathy Gehrt, and I have both published books this year. And this spring we got the opportunity to link our marketing ideas, media, online and bookstore contacts. Kathy and I are both into grass roots marketing--meeting bookstore owners, doing local cooking events, joining groups and social networking sites like FaceBook. And when we're feeling overwhelmed or uncertain we can pick up the phone and share that, too.

Recently I attended Kathy's talk at a bookstore and I wrote about her "Cooking with Herbs"event at a nursery. Marketing a book and doing these events by yourself can sometimes seem as lonely as writing the book, but when you have a book marketing buddy, the book marketing maze is a little more fun.

If you have a book coming out, find yourself a buddy to work with and start swapping ideas. If you've done this before let me know, I'd love to find out how it worked for other authors.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Book Marketing 101: Thinking Outside the Bookstore

I'm learning a lot from my writing group friend Kathy Gehrt as she brings her cookbook to market and lets people know that her book Discover Cooking with Lavender has finally arrived. Kathy's daughters run a PR firm and she's enlisted their team of marketers. These hard-working young women been doing an amazing job and it's been delicious fun attending Kathy's events--first at this bookstore and yesterday at Sky Nursery.

Check out Kathy's Sky Nursery event at my other blog.

One thing I've learned is this: bookstores aren't the only place to visit when you've got a new book to sell. And if you want your book to stand apart from other books on a crowded shelf, it's worth it to investigate other places where the shelves aren't completely packed with other books.

Here is a list of places to sell your book beyond bookstores. (A good part of this list was taken from one that was compiled by Lake Boggan, a great book marketer, who passed my first cookbook Local Vegetarian Cooking to Timber Press who helped me revise and update it.
  • Catalogues
  • Gift and specialty stores
  • Supermarkets
  • Museums
  • Yacht clubs
  • Libraries
  • Book clubs
  • Gardening stores
  • Speaking engagements
  • Seminars
  • Writing workshops
  • Author Web sites and blogs
  • Television
  • Fundraising (for every book sold $5 goes to . . .)
  • Bulk (mass merchandise stores like Costco and Target)
  • Friends and family
  • Corporate sales
  • Professional societies
  • Classroom
  • Farm stores
  • Tourist venues
One word of advice, Lake Boggan also offered was to take my book everywhere I go, and to be gracious by sending thank you notes to the people who host book selling events.

Feel free to add any other suggestions to my list.