Monday, July 25, 2011

Catch and Release Books at Book Crossing

Book Crossing is an amazing ocean of books circulating through the jet stream of readers around the world who log-in with the book's journey and a book's travel adventures can take on a life of their own.

I'd wanted to join Book Crossing for a long time, but I couldn't quite reconcile how an author can generate sales through participating in the site. A few years ago Penny Sanseveri mentioned that she too had released her new books into book crossing, and said it was good marketing, but I wasn't exactly sold on how sending books into book crossing worked as a marketing strategy.

I mulled it over in my mind about sending books on a journey, but what really got me to investigate the site was this blog that I've been working on with a friend where we promote free things--sidewalk art, things found in gutters, free sofas, etc.

Book Crossing seemed to be a fun site to promote. So I decided to register my two books for release.

Like a message in a bottle; maybe someone will get it and log on but maybe not.

I picked a release place, date and time--two different coffee shops in Edmonds. And after ordering coffee and taking an out-of-the-way table, I set the books free. In Tully's, the ower or "Jim" was two steps ahead of me. He left a box full of books labeled "Jim's Book Corner" with the take a book leave a book concept. Who knew, coffee houses are now becoming lending libraries for used books.

The odd part about this experience was that I felt a like a shoplifter or their as I left the coffee shops. How funny that leaving something pushes the same buttons as stealing something.

As far as a marketing strategy the only way I can see that it helping authors market their books is to shout out where you released your books, like a giveaway-- on FaceBook, Twitter, blog and newsletter. That way you promote book crossing and your book--a win-win. Otherwise you're just releasing without any idea of who might pick up the book. Which is what I did, because like many other people, I often get caught up in the details and miss the big picture. (I can always go for a second release, and that may happen soon.)

One thing about book crossing is it's an honor system. You hope a fellow bookcrosser may pick up the book, or at least someone curious enough to log on and tell a story. I didn't think much about those details--checking the time and place then sending the babies off. But do think ahead because it's your child's future. And you should probably also tell your journey as a writer on the book crossing site to go along with the book. Just a few tidbits of wisdom learned after the fact, before you log in and join the crowd.

I can't say whether this Russian roulette method of book marketing will make a ripple let alone a spalsh, but the fun thing is,I get optimistic that my book will go far. Kind of like this design blog with pets-on-furniture Mondays that I sent my dogs picture to . You have to let the book go on an act of faith, hoping that somehow it will reach the right readers and inspire them.

Here are a few reviews if you want to check them out before sending your book into the stream of book crossing readers. Even if you don't think the publicity angle won't pan out, joining book crossing is a ticket to fun.

And who knows, it may just be the perfect cup of tea to feed your soul and begin a new journey.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

From Platform to Book

"Do you need to build a platform?" asks Kelly James-Enger in an article in the August edition of The Writer.

A platform is about what you bring to the publisher, and Enger says it's as essential as writing ability when it comes to writing for a living. A platform is your ability to reach your book buying audience, your influence as an expert and all the connections you bring to a book project. Publishers want to know that you can write a book and more importantly that you can sell product, a fact that many authors gloss over or don't really think about.

The problem with building a platform is it's as much work as building a house and it doesn't stop after your book is published. Find your crowd and be an expert, but don't come off as preachy or have a money-grubbing buy this book approach. Join communities, help others by providing useful content that pays dividends and can increase over time.

If you don't like selling products, even your own, you must read 5 Steps to Building a Platform when you hate selling yourself.

The ideas is to become a well-liked expert. Here are 5 tips to the road to success:

1. Pick a venue like Facebook or twitter and start sharing information and making thoughtful comments. It's not about your or your book but contributing to the community.

2. Set yourself apart from other people with similar platforms without being competitive. Copyblogger recently had a great post about beating online-obscurity. I liked his idea of promoting other people to promote yourself and following

3. Start commenting, but leave the "that's fabulous" or "sounds delicious" comments to a minimum. It's a waste of time to leave trite comments and who really cares that you're going to make that recipe right away? Instead why not actually read through the post and make a relevant comment. And when someone comments on your blog, remember not many comments are random, most come from bloggers who also want their blog read. It's common courtesy to look at the link and check out the commenter's blog. At the very least acknowledge and answer questions raised.

4. Practice content marketing and share news items and information your readers can actually use. Food bloggers share recipes. Interior Design blogs like this one and this one do it with cool photos, enticing people with dream homes, rooms and furniture. Who doesn't want to live like that? Everyone has their content antennas on high alert with their WIIFM (what's in it for me) factor.

5. Remember the lost art of saying "Thank you." Cultivating relationships, adding value to other people's lives--that's what internet marketing is all about according to Gary Vaynerchuk in the Thank You Economy. Retweeting, saying thank you on FaceBook walls and generally personalizing the way you do business. In other words, do unto others. Social networking is a cooperative framework for building a platform, sharing information and online book selling.

Now all you have to do is put in farmer's hours to get the results you want. Now where did I put my hoe . . .

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Selling Books at Nontraditional Book Venues

One of the best things about writing a book is the journey it invites you on. New doors open, new opportunities appear, and new friends sprout up along the way.

Perfect bookstore events, where you get great attendance and sell loads of books are sometimes hard to come by, so last summer I bought Penny Sanseveri's Red Hot Internet Publicity. When I bought the book, I signed up for the newsletter 52 Ways to Sell More Books. Penny is generous with her promotional tips. One by one the tips arrived and tip #37 arrived just a few days ago. The tip was about doing book signings in unique venues and going beyond bookstores for book sales.

This tip reminded me of a similar post I wrote last year.

My writing group friends are great examples of these events.

I've done cooking demos at markets, slide presentations at local churches and this weekend, I'm participating in a Farm-to-Fork dinner at Whispering Winds Farm. Sixty people have already reserved tickets for this farm-cooked meal, a farm tour, a chance to win door prizes (which I must say are amazing) and the best part for me?

Meeting the people who grow our food in the Northwest. If you're going you'll love farmers Char and Doug Byde, Char always makes me laugh. I'll have my own table at the event, but what I'm really looking forward to besides Each step of my so called book promotion, even in this second year, takes me deeper into farms and food, my platform and the growing audience for local foods.

In tip #37 Sanseveri says think "video stores, electronic stores, grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops and even Hallmark stores." I once saw an advertised book signing at Ivars Restaruant at Mulkito Landing while I waited in line for the ferry. Who would think Ivars could host a book signing? Book publishing and promoting today--times are certainly changing.

Instead of lamenting the difficulty of successful bookstore gigs, go beyond the bookstore and let no possibility of possible promotion escape you.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Seven Elements of Story

The power of personal narrative can catapult book sales and compel people flock to your blog with each post. Just check out the comment section at Pioneer Woman or Orangette, if you don't believe me. Even Michael Pollan discussed high end organic food narratives at Whole Foods in his best selling book The Omnivore's Dilemma a few years ago.

I mentioned the power of story when I wrote about serving up stories and Phillip Margolin, a master of suspense novels and one of the most entertaining authors I've ever heard. And he's the only author I've seen who never really mentioned his recent book(sitting on display close by.) But he told the most fascinating narrative about his own journey and with such enthusiasm, I felt like I knew him. I had to get his book, and now I'm now a big fan.

The problem with story is many writing coaches stress the power of it, but few discuss it's basic elements. As a result bloggers and free lance writers often tell only half stories or anecdotes or scenes leaving readers only partially satisfied like a bad meal.

Many people suggest reading Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, but if you just want the Cliff Notes edition because you want to write a compelling blog post or a short story, here are the seven elements I learned one year from a screenwriter at Write On the Sound, a writers' conference in Edmonds, Washington.

1. Once upon a time . . .

2. And everyday . . .

3. Until one day . . .

4. And because of this . . .

5. And because of this . . .

6. Until finally . . .

7. And ever since that day . . .

This is the bare bones structure your story should have. Use it as your cheat sheet to see if you've actually told a story and let me know how it the story ends.