Thursday, December 8, 2011

Five Things I learned from Steve Job

I've been staying up nights reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Issacson. Okay I know that's a lame excuse for not posting, but I'd wanted to read this biography ever since I caught wind of it before Jobs died.

Why? I had a MacBook and loved the way it was so user friendly compared to my former Thinkpad and Dell laptops. In fact, I liked it so much I got an Ipad, then eventually an Iphone.

And last summer when Copyblogger Brian Clark did an interview with former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki, I became more intrigued with Steve Jobs--who nearly 70 percent of visitors on the Time Magazine website said deserved to be the person of the year. And in spite of Jobs saying "Americans don't read," his biography racked up 379,000 sales at Amazon the first week it was released, and was the best selling book in 2011. How's that for book sales?

I couldn't wait to get a copy of this book and learn his secrets.

I'd heard he was brash and egotistical, but when you hear someone is a visionary, it sets you up to expect a typical "hero's journey," with the big transformation in the end. Don't look for that in this book. In fact, many people interviewed for this book thought Jobs brash, insensitive, prone to temper tantrums and some said he even took other peoples' ideas and passed them off as his ideas. So like many reviewers, at first I couldn't get past the fact that Jobs didn't seem likable. I obsessed about it, even looked online and there I found some people did like him, even thought he was kind.

What impressed me was Steve Jobs set out to change the world and he did pushing "both design and engineering to the edge," developing brand new products, not just better examples of existing products. I mean what did we have before the Ipod, the Walkman? Seriously compare the two.

As this Huffington Post article puts it, this biography takes off the "rose colored glasses" for an honest look at "one of the greatest minds" of our generation.

Here are five things I learned from the Steve Jobs biography:

1. Get inspired about your book, article or project, go with your gut feeling. One person found Jobs fascinating because "whatever he was interested in he would generally carry to an irrational extreme."

2. Be passionate, fall in love with what you do. If you aren't passionate, mediocrity the result. Take a look at books and products and see if you can discern which were produced with passion. Two farmers from Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, Oregon come to mind when I think about passion and quality. The two words naturally flow together.

3. It's okay to obsess about details and seek perfection, follow your path, don't listen to critics, believe in your project with all your heart.

4. Ask for what you want, speak boldly with confidence, don't be creepy but don't accept "no." I was amazed to learn how Jobs' courted artists for put Itunes together, Jobs' audacity in approaching people and asking for exactly what he wanted amazed me.

5. Surround yourself with talented people. Brainstorm frequently. I found this theme throughout the book from his collaboration with Steve Wozniak in his garage, to Pixar, to Apple. When I read that Toy Story wouldn't have happened without Jobs, I wanted to see the movie again.

It was tough to reading at times; I sometimes cringed when Jobs was so brutally honest with everyone, even the nurses in his hospital room. But I wondered isn't there a place deep down inside where many of us have wanted to be brutally honest? Mostly we can't, we're too polite, constrained by society. Not Steve Jobs. Still, I wouldn't exactly call him a hero, but he was a visionary.

At his Stanford commencement speech, he told three stories about his life. (Remember the power of story.) This quote, played often in the news this past year is one of my favorites:

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You're already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

Get inspired, roll up your sleeves and get busy with the work you love.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reflections and Thanks

This is my book at the Gathering Together Farm store. It's so cool to see my book on sale at this farm stand that I had written about. This farm store is one of the many things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving. And the book itself was life changing because my food world expanded with each farm I visited and included in the book.

Thanksgiving is a time for reflection and giving thanks and even though Abe Lincoln helped weave the sentimental myth of Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal on Thanksgiving, I'd like to list eight things I'm grateful for when it comes to my book:

1. My publishers who took a chance on me and do an amazing job of getting my book out there.

2. My writing group--Kathy Gehrt, Sharon Morris, Elsie Hulsizer, Jan Schwert, Wendy Hinman, and Sheila Kelly--for listening to and critiquing my writing every week. We're a dedicated group, each with our own projects, and we come together on a weekly basis to share our writing. We also share marketing tips and media leads. Check out this great article Wendy shared recently about book marketing budgets.

3. My cute assistant who poses for my food blog every week and my husband Tom for putting up with all the food photos and my soup-of-the-week project. Oh my cute assistant should be listed first since he's really the one who runs this dog and pony show.

4. The farmers I met who opened their farms, barns and homes to me for the profiles in my book. I don't think I'd know half as many farmers if I hadn't written The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook. And I'm still meeting more farmers. Recently at an event at the North Cascades Institute, I visited Anne Schwartz of Blue Heron Farm, a certified organic farm that's been in the Skagit Valley for decades.

5. The great people who invited me to amazing events like the Sourdough Speaker Series at the North Cascades Institute. These events are really well organized and it was great to return to the North Cascades National Park.

6. My neighborhood farmers' market. And kudos to:
7. This place I call home, and the opportunity to write about the challenges and rewards of the farmers who grow our food.

8. The many opportunities and rewards that sprang unexpectedly from the book.

9. All the bloggers, cooks and food writers I've connected with since the book was out, here are just a few:
10. The abundant food options that make this place I call home special.

Where ever you are this holiday, remember to count your blessings, wet noses and all.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Selling: Persistence and the Personal Touch Wins Sales

When she isn't sailing, Elsie Hulsizer is in my Wednesday writers' group. On her last trip, she discovered that shoe leather marketing pays off and authors can do a lot to get the word out about their books.

I was happy when Elsie offered to write a guest blog. I hope you enjoy it. I'll return next week to resume my Tuesday posting schedule.

Personal Touch Sells Books

By Guest Blogger, Elsie Hulsizer

When my second book, Glaciers, Bears and Totems: Sailing in Search of the Real Southeast Alaska (Harbour Publishing, 2010) was published, I had visions of it being prominently displayed in bookstores throughout Southeast Alaska. I’d given the publisher a list of magazines, newspapers and bookstores to target in Southeast Alaska and the publisher had issued press releases, sent out review copies of the book, advertised on the web, included the book in their catalog, and promoted it to distributors. And of course, I had my own website and blog promoting the book. I assumed the bookstores would clamor for it. The attractive cover of Glaciers, Bears and Totems would appeal to the impulse buyer and all those cruise ship passengers wandering in and out of the stores were an obvious market.

The summer after Glaciers, Bears and Totems was published, my husband Steve and I sailed to Southeast Alaska. We planned to visit the bookstores, but I expected just to be encouraging an existing market.

I came away from our summer trip with three important lessons on selling books;

Lesson 1: Publicity doesn’t equal selling. Old fashioned salesmanship is still needed.
I came down to earth with a crash in Ketchikan, the first Alaskan town on the way north. I made my way to a downtown bookstore we had visited regularly on previous trips and eagerly scanned the Alaska shelves looking for Glaciers, Bears and Totems. No joy. Perhaps they had sold all their copies. I went up to the checkout stand with my bookmark and asked the saleswoman at the counter if they carried it.

“This certainly looks like something we would want to carry,” she told me. “But I’ve never seen it and we don’t have it in our computer. Why don’t you come back when the bookstore owner is in?”

I was dismayed. If this bookstore, whose owner knew me and carried my first book, didn’t have it, what were the chances others would carry it?

I returned two days later with a copy of Glaciers, Bears and Totems to show the owner. She promptly went online and ordered several copies.

“I think I saw a mockup of it at last year’s booksellers’ conference,” she told me. “But I was busy and forgot about it.”

With a couple of exceptions that’s how our visits to Southeast Alaska bookstores went. The owners or buyers would say they hadn’t heard about Glaciers, Bears and Totems but immediately ask how to order it and how soon they could get it.

Lesson 2. Nothing sells a book like putting it in a reader’s hands.
Since we didn’t find Glaciers, Bears and Totems on the bookstore shelves, we went into high gear to sell it ourselves. I placed signs in the window on both sides of our boat so passerbys on the docks would see it. I ordered more copies from the distributor to keep onboard, and we showed the book not only to bookstores but to boaters and other people we met. I was surprised how easy it was to sell. In the middle of a conversation, Steve would say, “My wife wrote a book about Southeast Alaska.” I’d bring out Glaciers, Bears and Totems and hand it to them and they’d buy it. Sometimes they didn’t even open it, but bought it on the strength of seeing the cover.

Once we were in a restaurant in Sitka with a box of books I had just picked up from the Post Office when I sold one copy each to the two couples at the next table. They were so pleased with the book and to be meeting a real author that they insisted on taking pictures of all of us together with the book. When we went to pay our bill, I learned one of the men had paid for our lunch.

Lesson 3. Pushiness pays as does repeated exposure to the book.
At one point I thought Steve was getting too carried away with selling. Walking by a large powerboat at the marina in Sitka one day, Steve pointed to a woman washing the boat’s deck and said loudly, “This woman looks like she needs to buy one of your books.” I was so embarrassed that I looked around for a place to hide. So imagine my surprise when I heard,
“Are you Elsie? I was just wishing I had bought your book. I heard you talk in Anacortes and didn’t buy it then.”

Our experience in Southeast Alaska was a good reminder that even in this digital age, selling books requires old-fashioned salesmanship.

Read more about Elsie Hulsizer and her books at her website.
Photo: A sign in the window of our boat advertising my books to passersby.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How to Keep the Buzz Going Long After the Book is Out

The idea and content from this post come from my friend Kathy Gehrt, a savvy book author and excellent marketer. Check out her book Discover Cooking with Lavender, visit her website and read her blog posts to learn more about this amazing purple flower.

Here are her tips for following up on published article or interviews that can generate publicity for your book.

1. Comment on the article or story online.

2. Post a link on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and other social media networks.

3. Stimulate a dialogue with people in your community about something in the article.

4. Write a blog about the interview.

5. Provide new information about the topic.

6. Email the article to people in your community who might be interested in it.

And if I may add this one:
7. Offer to post a guest blog about the topic or article.

Here's to smooth marketing and keeping the buzz alive, until next time dear writers and authors.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tips for Presentations: Make an Event Checklist

One of my goals this year is to cut wasteful spending (sound familiar?), and those cuts include book promotion. I don't do many "free" events like I did last year for my book, where I end up spending big bucks on hotels or drive all day to get there. I have a set price for a fairly simple demo event that's under 100 miles away and if I'm really interested in the venue. If the the event is under 10 miles away, I'll do it free of charge, with the requirement that I sell my own books.

Recently I agreed to do an event at the Slow Roots Food and Music Festival and I had agreed to do the event before going over details. It's a learning experience, I know, and in the early days that followed, I ferreted out details from the hosts. As I requested items, including a fee, my friend Kathy Gehrt suggested writing a post on an event checklist.

So here's one of those useful tip posts to help navigate the waters of event ambiguity.

Here are five tips for your event checklist:

1. Ask a lot of questions
  • Who (is your contact? Get email, phone, best time for contact?)
  • What (lecture, talk, demo, class, how long, what is the line-up?)
  • Where (how far, parking, unloading, general set-up--inside, outside)
  • When (when are the biggest crowds most likely? check calendar, write it down)
  • How (many other presenters?)
2. Check the organization's web page. Try and imagine that you are at the event. Make a list of things the presenter needs to do to meet your needs. For example--at the Slow Roots Festival I need a two burner set-up, a handwashing station and an assistant.

3. Mention fees long before the event; have a handy list of what you charge.

4. Know the things that are most important for your event.
  • Projector
  • Stove, burners, kitchen equipment, assistants
  • Props and books for show and tell presentation
  • Parking arrangements at the event, unloading, prep time and place
5. Make a list of what you need early on. That way, if you need additional items from the hosts, you can ask well before the event and you can be more relaxed the day of the event because you took the time to get organized early.

The less ambiguity and murky details you can clear away before the event, the smoother your presentation will go.

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 . . .