Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kathy Gehrt on the Magic of Lavender and the Opportunities of Self Publishing

I first met Kathy Gehrt in Roberta Cruger's writing group in 2005. The group met every Tuesday evening in the old Carnigie Library in Ballard, Washington. Kathy was writing about lavender then and she brought in essays and recipes to share each week. Eventually she decided to go with self publishing. After she went through the process of getting photos and putting her cookbook together, she published it last year. It's been amazing watching her connect with lavender growers and I've learned a lot with my front row seat watching Kathy's niche market book grow and blossom.

I've wanted to learn some of Kathy's secrets for some time. It's my pleasure to share them with you.

1. How did you decide to write about lavender?
I'd been searching for a topic, when my friend suggested lavender. At first I thought it was a crazy idea. The next day, "Sunset Magazine" grabbed my attention. The cover featured lavender--tips for growing along with recipes such as berry crisp with lavender. I was intrigued. The more I learned about lavender, the more convinced I became and I eventually wanted to write a book on the topic.

2. Why did you choose to self publish? What are the benefits and challenges of self-publishing?
I choose to self publish for two reasons:
  • Content control: I wanted to select the recipes, the format, the photography and the design.
  • Business/financial: I believed in my book concept completely and I was willing to invest in it, and I wanted to reap the rewards.

The benefits include editorial control and timing.

The challenges include the financial investment, plus lots of decisions and hard work.

3. Since your book has been out for a year now, what keeps you motivated?
  • Connecting with people who enjoy good food, vivid fresh flavor and healthy eating keeps me excited about sharing my recipes.
  • Meeting lavender growers throughout the world. This past weekend I demonstrated "Latin Lavender Salsa" and "Lavender-Infused Fruit Saute" at Willakenzie Lavender, Helvetia Lavender and Barn Owl Nursery--fantastic farms in western Oregon.
4. What has been your biggest surprise about the book?
How quickly my book Discover Cooking with Lavender found its following. Foodies, lavender lovers, farmers' market shoppers, wineries and spas seem to love my book. I've also been surprised by how much fun I've had meeting people who enjoy fresh and flavorful food. I also learned that self publishing is easier than I'd imagined.

5. Can you give me five tips for marketing your book in a niche market?
  • Identify your potential readers. Be specific regarding gender, age, interests and values.
  • Find out where they shop what they read and topics they follow.
  • Reach out to shops, online stores and publications that serve your readers. Find out if you can do a demonstration and if they want to carry your book.
  • Establish and maintain a dialogue or conversation with your readers using Facebook, Twitter, your blog and newsletter.
  • Promote your book and look for opportunities to tell readers about what they will discover by reading your book.

Kathy is persuing the art of story telling these days. You can read her engaging stories about lavender growers on her blog.

If you want more about lavender, check out lavender musings on my other blog.

This a blueberry-lavender cooler from Kathy's book--a treasure that will make you fall in love with lavender for all the right reasons.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Veggie Queen on the Challenges and Rewards of Ebooks and Online Marketing

Jill Nussinow (aka The Veggie Queen) is one of the first people I virtually met on Facebook . I've followed Jill's healthy plant-based lifestyle and quenched my thirst with all the helpful information she finds and shares on Facebook and Twitter. Jill is simply amazing. She's a freelance writer and cookbook author of these two books:
  • The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment
  • The New Fast Food: The Veggie Queen Cooks Whole Food Meals in Less than 30 Minutes (currently available as an ebook dowload).
Jill also stars in the DVD Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look: Delicious Dishes in Minutes. Jill has been a culinary educator and Registered Dietitian for the past 25 years. Her website is http://www.theveggiequeen.com.

I'm always amazed at how often Jill finds and shares useful news stories and when her book The New Fast Food was recently released, I knew Jill would be a whiz at online marketing.

Here is my recent interview with Jill about ebooks and online marketing.

1. Why did you choose to do an ebook over traditional publishing?

The ebook was part of a traditional publishing deal where I would get to sell the ebook prior to the print version release. It was a way for me to make more money.

What I have discovered is that a PDFD download book is an easy way to deliver a book. It's almost an automated process and once the book is written, I had very little that I had to do. Also, if you find there are any mistakes or typos they are easily spotted.

2. How long did it take you to write this book? How did you fit it into your busy schedule?

It took a number of months. It's really hard to say because I develop the recipes for years as I go along so the actual writing of the book goes rather quickly. I am constantly developing new recipes so I can continue writing books, but I mostly do recipe development so that I can have more fun at my cooking classes.

There is no way to fit writing your book into a schedule but if you want a book somehow you make the time. I said no to things when I could and curtailed my involvement with other groups for awhile to free up time. I also let my husband know that he might see less of me for a few months.

3. What is the biggest challenge of an ebook?

I don't have a physical product to sell when I am teaching. I think that I am going to remedy that by putting the PDF on a thumb drive (a computer memory stick) and sell it that way. I plan to bundle with with my first book which is also now available in PDF downloadable format.

Also it seems hard to market an ebook. And if you want to sell the ebook for various ebook readers, you need to have the "book" formatted differently for each type of reader.

4. What is the biggest surprise about your book?

How easy it is to sell with the help of other people. I can add on to the ebook anytime I want. Currently I offer a bonus ebook of recipes from other cookbook authors and bloggers. The process happens so easily and I think that I get more emails and comments from those who purchase the ebook. Maybe it's a friendlier format.

5. What are your five best tips for online marketing?
  • First is perseverance.
  • Second, play with various ways to market your book through your own social media, blog and newsletter. Always work on building your list and growing your platform.
  • Be public about what you are doing. Tell people that you are selling a book. Don't be obnoxious but let them know. Put it in your email signature, mention it any time that you can.
  • Be strategic about how you market. I have Google Alerts for my name, pressure cooker, pressure cooking and The Veggie Queen. I review what I get back to see what's happening with the topics that matter to me. I like to spend at least a few minutes each day mining for ideas online. When I'm very busy, I don't always get to it, but I make it a goal.
  • Collaborate and network with the people with whom you feel most aligned. I post on other blogs when appropriate. I reach out to people on Facebook and Twitter and engage in conversations via email.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What Seeds and Intersections Taught me About Intriguing Blog Posts

I bought this bean seed from Peace Seedlings at the Corvallis farmers market last summer. This was the first year that I'd planted beans from seeds, not plant starts, and I thought about Jack and the Beanstalk as I poked seeds into soil. That was a week ago.

I wasn't thinking about blogs at the time.

On a sunny day this weekend, the plant burst from the soil and sprouted leaves. Soil and water intersected with sun and seed at just the right time and the bean sprang forth.

But what do bean seeds have to do with blog posts?

Finding Intersections

After I planted the bean seeds, I read the Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics can Teach Us about Innovation by Frans Johansson. Though the book isn't new, I hadn't read it before and I became fascinated with the concepts of brainstorming and linking unalike concepts. I became a little obsessed about looking for quirky connections, like beans and blogs, in posts of popular longtime bloggers.

I found the most intriguing intersection posts were linked to celebrity. These bloggers linked in amazing ways. Check out these posts:

This isn't a shortcut to great content and consistent message, but wrapping your content around a current odd ball news topics, even the current celebrity meltdowns, can bring your post into the present moment. Current newsworthy mentions--whether books, singers, movies or politicians--makes readers smile and encourages them to return to your posts.

Clever titles and good content, can grow your platform and online presence like bean seeds sprouting in the sun.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Five new things I learned about blogs and blogging

Just when I think I've read my fill about blogging, Copyblogger comes out with a fantastic post about Facebook marketing with all these crazy links that can consume an entire morning or day if you get really obsessed and aren't watching the clock.

Before you know it, your day is shot and when someone asks what you've been doing all you muster up is your next move to promote your blog, which was supposed to support your book but now consumes your interest like a bad boy boyfriend.

Yesterday I decided my approach needed to be more organized, so I got a notebook (the old-fashioned kind that requires a pen) and like a workout geek with a clipboard at the fitness center, I'm keeping a detailed record all the things I'm doing to help promote my book. How many blogs do I read and leave comments on? What sites am I participating in? What works and what doesn't to promote my blog and get my platform out there.

Here are five blogging tips I picked up:

1. Steal from your competition. "Good Poets borrow, great poets steal." I stole that from a post in Lifehacker, one of the blogs I read every week. Turns out nothing is original, but if you can't think of an original post, it's not the end of the world. Thats where finding links comes in.

I followed links on the Lifehacker post and found this blog which is a fun picture post with gems of ideas like "you're only as good as the stuff you surround yourself with." And this one, "Your job is to collect ideas, and the best way to collect them is read." Read the weather, the signs on the road, the faces of strangers and the more you read the more you'll surround yourself with choices for posts. The secret is do good work and put it where your audience can see it.

2. Develop an elevator pitch for your blog. I first heard about this concept in a class taught by Penny Sansevieri an amazing book marketer who started her career marketing her own books and is considered by many people the expert on socal media. You blog represents your platform and your goal is to get your message to readers in a conscise way. "People don't buy a book, they buy a brand," says Sanseveieri. Understand your brand and you know what your blog and your platform will look like.

3. Pay attention to colors, photos and overall visual appeal. Sometimes we don't notice things that are right in front of us and color is something that people subconsciously connect with. I've been experimenting with color in my blog lately but just this moring I found this cool blog called color lovers that has famous paintings and the color combinations out to the side. Now that I see those combinations, I think I'll tweak the colors in my blog again.

4. Connect topical news stories and celebrity. You may think how you can possibly connect with celebrity stores, but try thinking outside the lines for connections. I laughed out loud when I read this post awhile back from Copyblogger and if you can't connect to celebrity and the news is too depressing, a good bad dog post will can be just as intriguing

5. Engage in social media and sharing sites to take your blog from obscurity to a higher level. Check out this post by Jim Raffel about the power of social media. And Penny Sansivieri, author of Hot Internet Publicity has amazing tips on participating in social media. But remember you aren't trying to reach everyone as copyblogger noted in this post about how Buddha solved his marketing problem.

Here's a bonus tip I found before I go: If you want to be persuassive and influential make your blog enchanting like Guy Kawasaki. I found this podcast on Copyblogger and when Guy talked about likability and trust in marketing and how marketing isn't a zero sum game, I decided to order a copy of his new book, Enchantment: the Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions.

I've decided Tuesdays are posting days for this blog.
Mondays and Fridays are special topics for Food Connections, and Sunday, well that's up in the air what I'll post. In between I'll work on article pitches and articles. In the meantime check out this event in July and this one coming up in September. I'm thrilled about both of them.