Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hornet's Nest Marketing and Plans Gone Awry

Mary Kay from the Edmonds Bookshop showed me this perfect wasp nest (on Dayton Street) when I bought a card with beautiful photo of hornets' nest.

"The nests are so amazing," Mary Kay said. "That picture [on the card] was taken by a seven-year old boy." She told me the boy's grandmother had a card making business and when she added the boy's photo to her card line, Mary Kay placed the young boy's card next to The Girl Who Kicked Over the Hornet's Nest. It was in the storefront window and when the boy saw the window display, he wanted his picture taken near his card and the book.

Maybe we'd all secretly love a little celebrity to rub off on us. Perhaps that's what I was thinking when I spotted my book next to Alice Water's book and snapped a photo. If an alien popped in what would he make about our fascination with celebrity? It dawned on me that I'm just a little too impressed by celebrity, too. Who me? Hop on the celebrity bandwagon? Okay, maybe if the celebrity is Alice Waters.

Expectations versus reality:
What happens when events go awry? Recently, I signed up to sell books with Whidbey Island Writes' Association (WIWA). I'd imagined myself mingling with other authors, strolling the market and meeting farmers. I cheerfully packed my chair, sign and books and took the ferry to Whidbey Island.

I pulled into the Coupeville farmers' market long before it opened and looked for the WIWA table. I found a table that said Whidbey Island Writers' but they told me they were the Whidbey Island Writers' Group and I wasn't part of the group. Finally the kind market manager pointed out a space between a blue and a white tent.

I walked to the space and stood there for a moment, hoping someone would show up. One of the vendors next to me said, "It looks like you've lost something." I told him my group hadn't shown up and I had a chair but no table. "Take this one," my neighbor said, handing me a small folding table. I set up the table, then got the sheet I use for my kitchen assistant.

This is the bare bones table I set up. I met plenty of fun market shoppers and talked to a number of great farmers. I learned about Rockwell beans (reportedly a native Whidbey Island bean) and growing quinoa. I discovered a 112 year-old farm and learned that Whidbey Islanders didn't even get ripe tomatoes this summer.

What I'm saying is events may not always be up to expectations and there may be a number of explanations. Chill out, enjoy the sunny day, strolling the market and meeting other authors. That part of of my visualization was true.

Someday I hope to climb off the "D" list, but for now, I'll settle for a few laughs after-the-fact with things like this tossed-together table at the market. It's one step above a lemonade stand. My expectations weren't even on the same ladder as reality that day. Three cheers for a sunny dayand some really good fresh green beans.

Friday, August 20, 2010

What Can You Do in 15 Minutes?

Whether I'm invoicing books, calling libraries or bookstores, or sending queries and writing articles, life can feel like a series of distractions. The car broke down, the dog threw up, the phone rings constantly--my production rate slows to a crawl. I wondered why I wasn't more productive.

Then I read this post from Lifehacker about using a daily log of what you've done to keep focused. The post made me recall Six-Figure Freelancing by Kelly James-Enger and I thought about how productive she was because she kept track of her time in 15 minute intervals and she perservered with every task.

So I started logging in every 15 minutes. It didn't matter what I was doing, I simply looked up and recorded it. Ah those phone conversations with my sister, the snacks that call my name, and the dogs that need walking--when I write down what I've done, I can see what I did do. And revisiting my lists, helps me become more focused. Past, present, future--my mind also springs to what I need to do when I write what I'm doing, so I have a goal list, too.

One of my short term goals is to take care of all the details for an upcoming event, so yesterday I sent a blog post to Village Books for their blog (not sure when they'll put it up but check it out). Then I talked to Nan Macy at the store about my book events on September 1st. I'll be at the farmers' market at 2pm and at Village Books at 7pm. Before we hung up, Nan asked if I could send personal invitations to farmers from my book for the event, so I added that to my ever growing list of things to do. (I never thought about any of these things I decided to become an author.)

Each event builds recognition and I noticed I got a mention in the Bellingham Herald for this event. The bonus for doing book events is more publicity. (I think that's why my friend Kathy Gehrt seems to get so much publicity--she's a nonstop event author with energy to spare.) I just hope the weather is this nice when I'm at this beautiful farmers' market on the village green.
I also have an event this weekend at the Coupeville farmers' market where I'll be signing copies of The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook tomorrow. I've never been to this market and haven't been to Coupeville in years so I'm excited to go. I spent the morning baking some lemon-lavender biscotti to share at the market. The farmers' market route is by far the most delicious of all book tours.

One really exciting thing about this book tour is the journey it has taken me on while promoting it and I can't knock the tips for better productivity I've picked up along the way.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Vacation Marketing Inspires Seeds for New Stories

I'd been looking forward to revisiting Oregon farmers' markets and farms ever since The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook came out in May. So, last week, I packed my bags and drove south to Corvallis, Oregon for a book marketing vacation.

Time away from the usual routine is always fun because you never know what you may find. First, I stopped at St. Helens Bookshop in Saint Helens where I told the store worker about my book and dropped off some of my book postcards. When I got to Corvallis, I stopped at The First Alternative Co-op, The Book Bin and Grass Roots Bookstore before stopping at Gathering Together Farm Store and then visiting the Corvallis farmers' market.

I set up a book event at Grass Roots Bookstore so I'll be back at Grass Roots on October 16 at 3pm. It's the same day as my cooking demo scheduled for The Portland Farmers' Market, so I'll be rushing from one event to another, with no time to shop at either Saturday market. It's a tough choice to give up market strolling and picture taking and come home with nothing but tired feet from standing and a cramped hand from book signing. Don't get me wrong, I love to sell books and schmooze, just not on the best market day of the week.

Know the value your book adds to peoples' lives. Focus on benefits it imparts to readers whether you are selling the book to bookstores, co-ops or reading groups.

My book connects people over local foods. People get to know the otherwise annomyous grower. The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook is perfect in towns and cities where my farmer profiles feature familiar community faces and names. In Corvallis those farms include--Denison Farms, Gathering Together Farm, Grateful Harvest and Wilt Farms.

Think about where your book is simply perfect. Go there and connect with booksellers.

Farther south, at the Medford farmers' market I bought an irresistible sweet treat from Pennington Farms -- a rhubarb-raspberry turnover. Bright, blond and tan, Cathy Pennington mentioned that she'd contacted Bellewood Acres (another farm in my book) and Dorie Belisle shared how they had painted the word Apples on top of their barn. Oregon farmers connecting with Washington farmers is an aspect of my book that I hadn't considered. I'm thrilled that my book is bridging these Northwest food communities.

Look for new and interesting insights about your book. Use new insights and stories to enhance book signing events or blogs.

Another Rogue Vally farmer, Suzy Fry from the Fry Family Farm, shared how she'd met JoanE from Rent's Due Ranch in Stanwood. (Rent's Due is the other farm in the farm profile with the Fry Family Farm in The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook.) I also stopped by Whistling Duck Farm and said hello to Mary Allionis before stopping at Dunbar Farms and sampling a cookie made with Dunbar Farms freshly ground wheat. The flour intrigued me since I'd spend many hours baking with Nash's flour and discovered a new love for organic wheat.

Dunbar Farms isn't in my book, but after talking about growing and grinding wheat and learning about the Rogue Valley Farm-to-School program Corinne said, "You ought to come out and see the farm; see where the kids plant vegetables; and we even have a kitchen where they learn to cook what they grow." I didn't need any more urging, I headed out to the farm where I talked to 4th generation farmer David Mostue and I learned about this farm's long history, growing beans and grains on the farm and the story of the ever increasing vineyards in Rogue Valley. Then I talked to Corinne about the Farm-to-School learning program.

Marketing took a back seat to learning about a new farm. But this unplanned element of impulsiveness and striking up new friendships is my idea of a fun vacation.

Don't take book marketing so seriously that you miss inspiration for new writing projects.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Local Media and Cookie Marketing

Yesterday at the Edmonds Bookshop lots of folks stopped by my book signing event to buy a copy of The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook, listen to stories about local farmers and just say hi. I was surprised when many people said they read about this event in the Edmonds Beacon, the weekly newspaper in Edmonds. A few people mentioned they'd heard my radio interview with Jaques Pugh on Soul of Seattle last Sunday. Don't overlook the power of local media to help create buzz about your book. People I hadn't seen for over a decade showed up to reconnect and find out about my book.

Mary Kay (the owner of Edmonds Bookshop) and I shared some recipes from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook--my favorite Hazelnut Biscotti, Cherry -Apple Oatmeal cookies and carrot hummus, which was a hit with everyone who sampled it. Who doesn't like a free sample? And many people were surprised by the idea of adding carrots to this great dip.

I often bring cookies to events. I call it cookie marketing. It's actually a tip I learned a long time ago from Barbara Winters who taught a fabulous class at Discover U and wrote a book. called Making A Living Without a Job.

Going to different events all the time makes book marketing more fun; so mix it up when you plan your book tour. You never can tell who will show up. Today I'll be at EastWest Bookshop from 1 to 2:30pm, and I'll talk about Northwest grown foods, farmers in Oregon and Washington, and food trends. I'll also give tips for market shopping you won't hear anywhere else and of course we'll sample recipes. I'll also be serving Wade Bennett's famous Rockridge Orchards apple cider, which is always a big hit at the market. Stop by and enjoy some cookies made with Northwest grown ingredients and sip some cider. This is also the last weekend to enter my free cookbook drawing.