Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Events, Interview Tips and Finding Your Audience

It's been a whirlwind of events this month. Last Saturday (July 24th) I was at the University District Market and later that afternoon at the PNWA Conference where I joined my fellow writing group members for a panel discussion on successful writers' groups. I think our collective enthusiasm for our Wednesday writers' group inspired those who attended--questions flowed and discussion was lively.

Check out my events this coming weekend Saturday (July 31st) at the Edmonds Bookshop at 11am to 12:30 or Sunday (August 1st ) at the EastWest Bookshop in the Roosevelt District.

In connection with my upcoming EastWest Bookshop presentation, I snagged an interview from Jacques Pugh for "The Soul of Seattle," a program on AM1090. The program aired on July 25, at 12pm. And first, if you care to listen, let me warn you, this is my first radio interview without any media training, coaching or rehearsing. That would have been helpful. And though I felt prepared, I'm not sure I was really prepared. So I'd suggest, if you haven't done TV or radio appearances, media coaching will probably improve your game. But it's another investment and I haven't decided whether it's worth the cost. On a shoestring budget, I have to watch costs and have to pick and choose what I'll spend money on. For now, I'm just hoping to improve my game by focusing on the basics of how this book can move people to a more sustainable, green diet and why I wrote The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook.

The interview was slightly unnerving. The jarring part was suddenly having a microphone in front of me to talk into. It was just a slight mental freeze, a brief fleeting scary Sarah Palin moment, but it threw me off. Afterwards I remembered that I'd forgotten to use the host's name, blanked on my talking points and the reasons I wrote the book could have been more clear. But the show must go on. ( I bet Howard Dean thought that too after the scream-heard-round-the-world.) Still no matter what you think of your interview or TV appearance, you still have a book to try and sell, so dust your ego off and move forward.

Here are 5 tips for radio interviews:

1. Be an early bird. Whether you're going to the station or meeting the interviewer, get there early. Be professional.--From Timber Press authors

2. Make certain the host knows the exact title of your book but never expect that the interviewer has read your book. Know that it will be your job to help make your interviewer look good. Compliment the host when a good question is asked.--From Penny
Sansevieri in From Book to Best Seller.

3. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Go over your mission, why did you write the book; how were you inspired? Why is your book important.

4. Infuse your answers with stories, and don't forget the sound bites. People love stories, so add compelling or funny anecdotes whenever you can, rehearse them so you can recount them accurately. Rehearse your "hook" and work it in a few times.

5. Be passionate. I once asked Kathleen Flynn author of The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, about media training and she told me TV and radio personalities were so over the top, you might think they're freaks in real life. Start checking out interviews and see for yourself. Enthusiasm in life and interviews goes a long way.

Find Your Audience
Who are your book buyers? And why do they care about adding your book to their bookshelves? Answer those questions, then hone in on your audience. At the U-District Farmers' Market cooking demo last week, books were practically flying off my table. Everybody wanted to learn more recipes for using local produce and discover more about the nine farmers from this market who are featured in the Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook.

At my market demo, I made three easy recipes. It's the way I cook at home and I don't spare expenses at the market if the produce is right. It can get pricey with some ingredients, but you don't need fancy sauces or lots of herbs and spices to flavor good vegetables. Market shoppers, CSA customers and locavores who cook at home are my audience and that audience is growing.

So find your audience, be enthusiastic, smile and let them know why they'd appreciate your book. My writing group cohorts have their own audiences. Sheila Kelly, author of Treadwell Gold (2010,University of Alaska Press) has given talks in Treadwell and in Seattle and may find her pot of gold telling stories about Treadwell on cruise ships filled with travelers heading to Alaska. Who doesn't like a good riches to ruin gold story? And Kathy Gehrt, author of Discover Cooking with Lavender has learned that lavender growers all over the world love offering her beautiful book in their stores, at lavender festivals and on Web sites. Look for your niche, cultivate it and focus on that.

But don't neglect stores or events that may seem off-base because you never know what may happen or who you'll meet. That said, the Everett CostCo just picked up The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook, and while I don't think of Everett as a vegetarian mecca, the book could inspire people to move to a greener plant-based diet. And the price is drop dead cheap--less than Amazon--so for people who really need to budget and save money or those who want to buy multiple copies, this is the place to go. And if my books that I ordered for my upcoming Oregon trip don't get here in time, guess where I'm going to get a few extra copies?
At CostCoI talked to more store employees than customers, but I sold a few copies and handed out lots of postcards with tips for produce selection on the back. Turn it over and you'll remember my book. Also, I got to keep this cool poster Timber Press sent for the event. The hound dogs' expression however is priceless.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Book Events, Signs, Giveaways and Making People Smile

I often feel inundated with so many book promotion choices. My mind flits from one to the next. Which ideas are worth while and which will flop? Here are a few things I've chosen this week.

1. A big sign with the book cover is helpful to loan to the store before the event, and it may be worth the investment to get two because a new book requires lots of appearances. One place to get a sign made is Kinkos. They can scan your book cover and make an excellent quality sign, and a great sign draws attention in store windows and generates sales. Be sure to tell store employees that you want your sign back because if you don't, someone may glue things to it, or worse, toss the sign away when the event is over.

2. Offer giveaways. My friend Kathy Gehrt always brings lavender chocolate to set out on her table. I made recipe postcards with the book's image on the front, and details about the book (publisher, year, blog) on the back. I also have postcards that have the books cover image on the front and 5 tips for selecting seasonal produce on the back. In addition to postcards, I also print copies of recipes I'm making if I'm doing a demo. Or I have freshly baked hazelnut biscotti (a recipe from my book). And maybe this weekend, I'll bring some Holmquist chocolate covered hazelnuts.

3. Host a drawing or contest. Off to the side of my display is a box where people leave their name, address and contact number for a chance to win a free cookbook. If I was rich I'd give away books all day long because it's fun to make people smile and brighten their days. Maybe I'm supposed to be concerned about book sales and serious promotion, but giving books away is just plain fun. In fact, I liked it so much, I thought up a contest for my blog.

Check it out, and discover another way to snag a free copy of my book.

Don't forget to advertise your event on FaceBook, a Web site or blog. And about a week prior to the event, contact the demo coordinator at events--to verify that you'll be there. And afterwards send a written thank you note. Sending thank you cards is a lost art but if you do this, you'll be remembered more favorably and isn't that what you want when you're trying to sell books?

Go forth and sell books but don't forget to say thank you to all those who help you along the way.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Serving up Stories at Book Signings

If you want to improve your book signing event, Finn casts his vote for bringing treats like these black raspberries. Sure treats are a plus, but I say first attend author presentations, especially famous authors and look beyond the candy, cookies or wine and cheese to discover what inspires you.

Check for author readings at independent bookstores (and even some chain booksellers). It's good to observe a wide range of authors and book topics. Go early, take notes and consider what you liked best about the event. Is there a tip or idea you can borrow to make your upcoming event better?

What I like best about author readings is hearing the story behind the book. That's what I go for--an engaging author's story that tells me about the author's motivations a sort of hero's journey behind the book. This "story" is usually delivered in the first 10 to 15 minutes of a book reading or presentation. This is the time you can lose the audience, so make your story compelling.

Recently I saw best selling author Phillip Margolin who shared his journey as a writer and a lawyer. He spoke about how he had always wanted to be a writer and that he secretly sent his stories to magazine editors for years. He laughed about early "bad" stories he'd sent in, and I could practically feel his excitement when Margolin got his first book contract. He also shared conflicts with his legal firm when his books hit the best seller lists and he went on author tours for months at a time. (Is that a problem many authors dream about, or what?) Margolin never read from his book, Supreme Justice, but the crowd clearly loved his story and afterwards they bought books and peppered Margolin with questions.

Another engaging author is Molly Wizenberg. (Check out this interview with her at Culinate.) At the book signing I attended, she talked about how she had always been attracted to writing, her father's death, her wildly popular blog Orangette and finding an agent for her memoir, A Homemade Life. It didn't hurt that she also brought delicious treats from her husbands restaurant Delancy, but it was Wizenberg's story that moved the audience. So hone your story and make it as enticing as your elevator pitch for your book.

I'll be sharing farm anecdotes, recipes, farmers market tips and stories from my book on Saturday, July 10th, I'll be at Magnolia's Bookstore at 3206 W. McGraw at 11am. On Sunday July 11th from I'll be at Marlene's Market and Deli in Federal Way at 1pm. At Marlene's I'll be serving up some recipes from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook. (Check out my appearance schedule at Timber Press.)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Getting Back on Track: Reviews and Marketing Tips

Just one month after The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook (2010, Timber Press) was published, I was suddenly sidelined because of health issues I hadn't seen coming. It's a story for another blog, but it set me back with my book marketing plans.

First, I missed Food Lust, a big food event at Willie Green's Organic Farm where I'd imagined myself mingling with movers and shakers of local food publications, foodies, and farm enthusiasts. Instead, I was staring out the window in the hospital room, thinking about that great dinner and auction I'd missed.

Then, I spent weeks recovering and reading compelling books like Wisdom of the Last Farmer by David Mas Masumoto. I love inspiring stories but as reality set in, I was beginning to feel a little down about missed marketing opportunities. Then, my spirits rose again when Sheryl Wiser of Cascade Harvest Coalition wrote a great review of The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook for this month's edition of the Cascade Harvest Coalition newsletter.

A few days later The Sound Outlook, from Marlene's Market and Deli in Federal Way and Tacoma arrived and I smiled when I turned to my first 'Take 5" column about 5 super summer vegetables. The two page spread with a recipe from my book also listed my upcoming appearance at Marlene's in Federal Way on July 11 at 1pm. Just reading my column seemed proof that no matter what happens while marketing my book, the plan may slow down but it can keep percolating along.

During this downtime, I also revisited one of my favorite marketing books, From Book to Best Seller by Penny Sansevieri.

Here are five tips borrowed from Sansevieri for things you can do (even while laid-up) to add to your notebook:

1. Create postcards with your book image on the front. Put whatever you like on the back. I included a tip list for selecting the best produce. Tip sheets tend to be saved more than blank postcards. I give postcards and loan my book sign to bookstores to announce my appearances. I also pass out postcards to friends and to some farmers at the market.

2. Include marketing material with all mail and email that leaves your house or computer. (Large companies do it, why shouldn't you?) A handy tip sheet with the image of your book is one idea. Whatever you create make sure it has all the specs for your book--publisher, size, page number, plus any favorable short reviews.

3. Spy on your competitors' Web sites, google them to see what they've been up to, then copy the strategies you like. For example, one cookbook author hosted a contest cookbook giveaway for her book on well-known blogger's blog. Another hosted a tour of a peach orchard to support her dessert book, and a third cookbook author gave a cooking demo and talk at a community garden. The contest giveaway sounds most intriguing to me while I'm still recuperating.

4. Create a media kit with a book image, an author bio, fact sheet about the book, tip sheet, interview questions, reviews, and a press release. You can put the media kit on your Web site and direct media to it or send it by snail mail to announce your book.

5. Give books away. When my book was first released, I donated a number of books to PCC Farmland Trust to help raise donations. (Tom helped me deliver the signed books for the lucky winners.) Later, Kelly from Farmland Trust sent a note of thanks that said: "People are so pleased to hear they've won something." And it feels good to know I made someone else feel good by donating my book. Good feelings are contagious--try giving your own book away and see if it's true. One place to consider is Book Crossing , a unique concept that involves releasing your book (at a local cafe, coffee or bagel shop, for example) and following it's journey around the globe. Sansevieri says, "If you love your book, set it free."