Pose for the paparazzi. Autograph your books.
Write like a dream, promote like a rock star.
Fame and fortune are yours!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How self-publishers can become sought after media experts

Goal: to become the media's go-to person in your area of expertise. 

Problem: in some circles, self-published books are not viewed as credible. 

Challenge: how can self-published authors position themselves in the media as experts? 

Let's face it, publishing with established houses or university presses is still the widely accepted gold standard. This elitism means that self-published authors will have to work harder to establish themselves as experts in the media's eyes.

Positioning yourself as a media expert means that you must continuously build exposure plus credibility, and you must directly let the media know you're available to speak with authority on certain topics. It's an ongoing process and a challenge, but it's not impossible to grab the attention of interviewers, journalists, and producers.  

The mystique of the college degree
It certainly can help to have a college degree in your field. Even self-help dating books are written by authors with doctorates. But what if you're just good at meeting and flirting with guys, and you've got the stories to prove it? What if you don't have a degree? What if you're just passionate about your subject and really good at what you do?

To illustrate how self-publishers can begin to establish themselves as legitimate experts regardless of educational background, I present to you the true tale of 2 clients. Both work in education – one on the "soft" prevention and motivation side and the other on the "hard" academics side. These award winning consultants are both widely recognized for their work with young people from diverse, underserved schools and communities.

The 2 consultants couldn't be more different. One was an excellent student and went on to get his PhD. He has automatic credibility with the media and is a frequent guest on radio and tv talk shows.

The other is dyslexic and was the class clown throughout his grammar school and high school years. He does not have a higher degree – yet he is a college professor and a visiting lecturer on college campuses. His self-published books have been required reading in psychology, sociology, education, and child development courses. He's a high level, self-taught, independent scholar. He too is a frequent guest on mostly radio talk shows. 

Roger Isaacs, the author of Talking With Godhas a degree in language and literature, but that didn't stop him from independently studying ancient languages, going on archeological digs around the world, and lecturing at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. He too is a high level, self-taught, independent scholar, and his book, with its 500+ pages of thoroughly researched content, footnotes, and extensive bibliography, proves his credibility. 

Lay the groundwork for credibility
Writing a book is a good first step in establishing credibility, but a book alone is not enough. You must develop your author brand in ways that are recognized and accepted by the media. Here are some ideas.

Book quality. Make sure your self-published book is the best it can be. Is the content well written? Has it been edited and proofed? Are layout and design (internal pages, back and front covers) pleasing to the eye? Does the back cover copy make a reader want to buy the book? Your book must be good enough to stand alongside books published by the big guys. Quality is a must!

Get credentialed. Degrees are wonderful, but what if you don't have the time or inclination to go back to school? My consultant who lacked a higher degree is a certified violence and drug prevention specialist, and he's leveraged the heck out of that certification. There are ways around the lack of a degree. You'll just have to work a little harder.

Teach a class. Giving workshops and teaching at The Learning Annex and continuing education programs at colleges will help you establish credibility with the media. If people are paying money to sit at your feet, you're credible.

Lecture on college campuses. This is a great way to establish expertise (and sell books). Both of my consulting clients speak at colleges. They do general talks as well as guest lectures, which of course is more prestigious (and students have to purchase books). By the way, have you included university media in your media list?

Documentaries. If any of my writing stars know how to pitch to producers of documentaries, please let us know! Whenever I watch a documentary, I'm sold on the credibility of the expert being interviewed.  

Educate the media 
Self-published books often venture beyond mainstream thought, and that's the opportunity and challenge of promoting yourself to the media. If your book presents a truly unique idea you may have cornered the market on a topic few know about. On the other hand, few know about it so you must educate and enlighten as well as promote. Think more infomercial than ad or press release to enhance believability.

Your website. Make sure your author website is rich in information about your book and beyond. Create an archive of articles and a links list to other relevant sites. Post pictures and video so that people can see you in action doing your thing. Blog about ongoing developments in your field that were not covered in your book.

Your press kit. In addition to the typical press release and bio, make sure to include information that will help an interviewer, journalist, or producer easily understand what your topic is all about. Include an article and a list of questions that they can ask you during an interview.  

Email/fax blast to media. Send a brief statement about your book, a brief bio that focuses on why you're an expert in the field, and a direct statement to the press: "Here are the topics I am qualified to discuss." Include brief quotes from the book and most importantly, testimonials from reviewers and recognized experts in your field. As the old saying goes, you're known – and respected – by the company you keep.

The 24/7 media cycle is a blessing in disguise for self-published authors. It's a beast that must constantly be fed with news, information, and features. Lay the groundwork that establishes your credibility, and then pitch yourself with confidence.

Self-publishers, we'd like to know about your successes and challenges in establishing yourselves as media experts. Please drop a line and let us know how you're doing. Let's learn from one another!

Donna Marie

Monday, November 29, 2010

Jumpstart Monday // RETHINK writer's procrastination

How often have I berated myself over the years for lacking willpower? Too many times to count.

Well it looks like I was beating myself up for nothing. According to a Daily Beast article, researchers at Columbia University’s Neurological Institute say there may be no such thing as willpower. Instead, it's more effective to think "impulse control." I like "impulse management."

Our alleged willpower is constantly doing battle with our neurological system of reward, which wants to make us feel good. When we succumb to instant gratification we're just going with the neural flow of feeling good. If it felt good before, our neurons tell us, it will feel good again and again. How can willpower stand against that neural road well traveled? Most times it can't, which is why I gained all the damn weight back after losing 65 pounds! This inner conflict is what Paul was talking about when he said,
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a [neural] law-dominated existence? (Galatians 5:16-18, Message)
So when we procrastinate with our writing, we're simply allowing our neurons to be the master over our intentions. We're much more than instinctive animals, but if we don't manage our impulses, our neurons will go into a default mode, a.k.a. "habits."

When you're on a deadline and have mouths to feed, default mode is not going to work. Casey Schwartz writes that impulse control is the...
ability to mitigate any stimulus that sets off the brain’s reward circuitry. Unlike willpower, impulse control is not a judgment about the strength of one’s character. This is not just a politically correct revision. The concept of impulse control comes from a better understanding of the brain mechanisms that underlie self-restraint.
So today when you're pondering things you'd prefer to do over writing, realize that this is just a temporary impulse that's been wired into the circuitry of your brain. Just that raised awareness will help you make better decisions about your commitment to write today. 

Delay the impulse to do something else, and immediately gratify your desire to write!

How do you deal with writer's procrastination?

Donna Marie

To self-publish or not? That's the question!

Recently a writer asked, "Should I self-publish or should I seek a deal with an established publisher?"

That depends. You might want to go with a traditional publisher if your topic is too hot for you to handle alone. For example, if I were Valerie Plame Wilson and had just been outed by the White House as a CIA agent, I would go for lucrative book and movie deals. 

Do you have a strong marketing platform? Publishers would love you, but as John Shore wrote in The Huffington Post,

anyone who is so famous that they can sell 40,000 copies of their own book directly to their own audience needs a publisher like Willy Wonka needs a Whitman's sampler. If I could sell my own book to my own audience, why would I give any publisher full rights, forever, to that book, ninety percent of whatever I made selling that book -- and then give an agent fifteen percent of whatever was left over for me? Why? Why would I do that? Why would anyone?

There's a lot of wisdom in that line of reasoning. At the very least, if you have a strong platform and don't want to self-publish right now, then make sure you've got an agent who can negotiate the hell out of a contract. Learn from the capitalist rappers of hip hop: keep your rights, own your intellectual property, don't be a slave to the big guys, know your value. 

When I was just starting out, I didn't know what to ask for. For example, I didn't know that it was possible to receive a bonus if your book achieved New York Times best-seller status. I didn't know that royalties could be negotiated. I didn't know that foreign, movie, and digital rights could stay with me. 

Bottom line, do your homework.

Now if you're looking to build your business, ministry, nonprofit organization, or grassroots movement, self-publishing makes a lot of sense.

1. Self-publishing gives you the power to communicate your message in your own way.

2. Self-publishing can be profitable.

3. Self-publishers are passionate about their life mission. Through their books, they change lives for the better. Being rejected by a traditional publisher doesn't stop them. They turn to self-publishing to get out their message.

4. Self-publishing is like an incubator for speculative and revolutionary ideas. It allows writers to explore topics that have not been vetted by the marketplace and that traditional publishers are wary of touching. 

5. Self-publishers can take their time on a project. They're not beholden to a publisher's deadline. It took Roger Isaacs and Janice Miller, his editor/publisher, 10 years to complete Talking With God.

6. On the other hand, self-publishing allows writers to spit out projects quickly – unlike a traditional publisher's 9 to 12 month production timeframe. 

7. Further, self-publishers can turn out multiple books in quick succession. If you're a fast writer, you could literally turn out an e-book a month. Sometimes POD (print-on-demand) publishers experience bottlenecks in their production schedules. Even so, you can crank out multiple books via POD much faster than the big houses.

8. Just as bloggers monetize their blogs, self-publishers can monetize their books. You can insert ads and provide a presence for sponsors. You can use your book to market other products and services.

I just recently learned about a hybrid approach to publishing that combines self-publishing and traditional and is similar to what a book packager does. The author pays for everything – ghostwriting (if necessary), editing, proofing, cover art, layout/design. She then negotiates with a publisher to print, distribute, warehouse, and take orders. For authors with strong marketing platforms, this might be the way to go. They maintain creative control, and they retain a much higher share of the profits. 

I read somewhere that a famous mega pastor uses this approach. He produces his books in-house (transcribing sermons, rewriting, editing, etc.), and then he contracts with publishers for printing and distribution. Your dedicated editor will be hunting down such exciting case studies for future posts. 

One criticism against self-published books that I think is entirely justified is that editorial and design quality are sometimes lacking. Self-publishers, don't cut corners. You're competing against books that have been buffed and polished by full editorial and design staffs. Yours must be able to stand proudly along side them on book shelves, library stacks, and in online stores. 

We need both self-publishing and traditional publishing to keep ideas flowing in society. However you decide to approach your book project is entirely up to you. Isn't it nice to know that you now have options? If one door closes, thanks to digital publishing technologies, another opens up. 

Question to my writing stars: are you trying to decide whether to self-publish or not? Please drop a line. We'd love to hear how you're thinking through this important decision! 

Donna Marie 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Secret weapons of successful self-publishers

A hot topic on many online writing and publishing forums is whether or not to self-publish. The naysayers complain about lost money, poor quality, low sales, and the many other challenges that go with publishing your own book. 

For the past few years I've provided editing, ghostwriting, and production management services to self-publishers. We've pretty much accepted that there always will be challenges. That's just part of the process. 

However, from writing to print-on-demand to marketing, my clients and I have stocked our self-publishing arsenal with a few secret weapons to help facilitate a successful experience.

1. Invest in editorial quality control. When my clients invest in my services they know they'll receive the benefit of my 20 years of publishing and corporate experience. I work with pastors, education consultants, social service providers, educators, child advocates, and activists. Because I have strong content knowledge in these areas, I add value to their projects beyond editorial.

2. Become a shameless self-promoter. Through their ongoing public speaking engagements, my clients aggressively market and sell their books. A couple of my clients love to give away books, too, which further endears them to their audiences. Self-published books that fail usually lack a strong marketing plan and push. I've learned from my writing stars that you must be a relentless marketer. You can never rest or give up.

3. Don't skimp on services. My clients may not have the deepest pockets, but they would never skimp on services that compensate for the skills they lack. Self-publishing projects fail when authors overestimate their skill sets. There's no shame in asking for help. Because my clients know I respect their genius, vision, and mission, they don't mind me seeing their raw, unvarnished work. They enjoy brainstorming with me about ideas that may not be fully formed.

4. Publish through inexpensive online self-publishing platforms. My clients and friends have published through iUniverse.com, Lulu.com, and Selfpublishing.com. They have used traditional printers as well, but the online platforms provide A-to-Z services, including editing, proofing, layout, design, filing with the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress, securing ISBN numbers, setting up distribution through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. When you're just starting out, this is a good way to go.

5. Diversify your revenue streams. My clients don't depend on their self-publishing projects alone for income. They pastor churches and teach on college campuses. They are regulars on the lecture circuit. They produce CD's and DVD's. If they had day jobs, they wouldn't give them up. And even when the work is slow, they keep working. 

6. Give of your information, time, talents, and products. My clients are generous to a fault. They believe in "give and you will receive."

7. Self-publishing projects must offer value to people's lives. According to Publisher's Weekly, "764,448 titles were produced in 2009 by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers" while the output of traditional books slipped to 288,355. There's a reason for that. Self-publishers have identified needs that traditional publishers couldn't or wouldn't touch. My clients wouldn't continue to self-publish if they weren't meeting needs (and making money). 

Self-publishing projects fail when authors cut corners on content development, editing, design, and marketing. I'm an advocate of self-publishing and would strongly encourage anyone considering this approach to start raising money right away to ensure a quality product. I can't say how much to raise because I don't know your circumstances, but investigate the online services mentioned in this article. Get estimates from professionals in the field. Put together a budget. 

When venturing into a self-publishing project your mindset is all important. Keep the faith without going overboard. Set small, manageable goals regarding book sales. You may not sell millions, but what if you sold 2,000 or 3,000 books? Could you consider that a success? Definitely. Be inspired by the stories of big sellers, but don't lose your head, as Jody would say. Define success according to your own terms. You can do it!

Donna Marie

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Black Friday for self-publishers

Might I humbly suggest a couple of different ways to spend your Black Friday?

1. Rather than spending hundreds or thousands of dollars the day after Thanksgiving, why not use at least a significant portion of that money to invest in your self-publishing project? Use it to publish your book. Hire a good editor or ghostwriter (CelebEditor@aol.com), artist/graphic designer, or publicist. Register for a good writing class. Donate to a writer who's struggling financially this season.

2. Many stores will open at 4:00 a.m. in the morning. Rather than running out in the moonlight to spend money, why not write a few pages (a chapter would be good) for your book? At the very least, get up early, write first, then go shopping.

Donna Marie

Thank you, self-publishers

I'm a little choked up today. Thanksgiving is a good moment to reflect on the good things in life. 

The economic news has been so bad this year for middle and low-income families that you may be wondering, What's there to be thankful for? We're experiencing a recession, although some would call it a depression. Unemployment and foreclosure rates are unacceptably high. Many of us writers have no health care. A mere 2% of the population controls the resources and vast wealth of the world.

Like many of you, I've gone through my share of hard times. It may seem counter-intuitive, but still I'm thankful.

I'm thankful for my supportive family, friends, and self-publishing stars. 

I'm thankful for continuously evolving technologies that allow us to publish easily and cheaply.

I'm thankful for the self-publishing industry. 

A staggering 764,448 titles were produced in 2009 by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers, according to statistics released this morning by R.R. Bowker. The number of "nontraditional" titles dwarfed that of traditional books whose output slipped to 288,355 last year from 289,729 in 2008. Taken together, total book output rose 87% last year, to over 1 million books. Source: Publisher's Weekly

Despite haterism from various sectors, we're publishing our books our way. I love that can-do, I'll-do-it-myself spirit. 

What are you thankful for? This is not a cliche question. When you become grateful for everything that happens to you – the good and the challenging – your perspective begins to change, and you become empowered. Opportunities to prosper that have been hiding in plain sight begin to reveal themselves to you. 

Gratitude is so powerful that if we practiced saying "thank you" on a daily basis, we would be much better off.

So be thankful for everything and everybody. Happy Thanksgiving!

Donna Marie

How to fast track your author marketing platform in a reality tv world

Infamy and controversy sell today. If you're desperate to sell millions of books, here are 5 ways that will guarantee you financial success, but will you be able to sleep at night?

1. Release a sex tape. Kim Kardashian's sex tape launched an empire, and now the sisters' book, Kardashian Konfidential, is #40 on Amazon. Note: releasing a sex tape should not be confused with "sexy marketing," as I explain here.

2. Star in a "reality" tv show. Controversial roles in reality tv are rewarded by big publishers. Lauren Conrad (The Hills and Laguna Beach) has written 2 best selling novels. Love them or not, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino of the infamous Jersey Shore are going to be authors. I guess they don't mind folks laughing at them, not with them. 

3. Become a polarizing politician. Politicians are by nature lightening rods for love and hate in society. According to The Daily Beast, President Barack Obama is the top selling political leader of all time, but Sarah Palin is a contender for the title. Her current book, America By Heart, is #9 on Amazon.

4. Write about a polarizing politician, and it doesn't matter whether you're for or against. The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power by Geoffrey Dunn is ranked #30,798 by Amazon. The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin by Stephen Mansfield is #6,913.

5. Become a polarizing pundit. What do Keith Olbermann, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Howard Stern have in common? They have mastered the science of splitting the country right down the middle – and they have New York Times and Amazon best sellers to prove it.

The moral of the story
So how can self-publishers with bare bones budgets and integrity ever hope to compete in such a market? I submit that we don't even try. We need to get some perspective on this issue.

What does success mean to you? 

Could selling 2,000, 3,000, or 5,000 books be considered a successful book run? Yes, especially if selling books is just one revenue stream of many in your financial strategy.

Does success mean getting a multi-million dollar book contract even though you must sell your soul in the process? Even Barack Obama admitted that he lost his privacy and autonomy when he became president. I thought that was a heck of an admission. 

Wouldn't you prefer the freedom to write about your passions and market them in a way that allows you to maintain your integrity? I want to be able to face my family, friends, and self when it's all said and done. I long to hear God say, "Well done." 

Authors who sell millions of copies have a general market focus. On the other hand, self-publishers tend to focus on niche markets. Self-publishers who market aggressively to their niche can expect to do well. Sales into the tens and hundreds of thousands shouldn't be unusual for us.

Let's not even participate in this rat race. The beauty of self-publishing is that we create our own path on our own terms. 

Besides, what if you released a sex tape and nobody cared? All that for nothing. 

Note: Amazon rankings as of November 23, 2010, 11:15 p.m. (CST).

Donna Marie

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Published novelist forced to market like self-publisher

I met novelist Kenn Bivins at an online book marketing forum, where we talked about the challenges of marketing PIOUS (Two Harbors Press, Oct. 2010), his debut novel about forgiveness and redemption.

Although his book was published by a traditional publisher, he’s had to do the marketing himself, just like a self-published author.

Unless you’re already an established author with a strong marketing platform, you’ll probably receive only the bare minimum of marketing support from your publisher. It’s one of the things authors complain about the most. When you need the support you can’t get it. When you don’t need it, you get millions of dollars in advertising and publicity.

Although Kenn shares the same marketing challenges as self-published authors, he has one huge advantage: he’s an art director at JWT, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. He’s responsible for overseeing and executing the design and development of the firm’s interactive work.

Kenn knows how marketing works, and in the following interview he shares his insights and experiences. 

THE CELEBRITY EDITOR: What kind of marketing support have you received from your publisher?

KENN BIVINS: I'm not entirely happy with my publisher because they're a bit passive about marketing from what I can see. I'm seeing my book in a lot of places online and offline but I'm not sure, other than wide distribution, what else is being done to promote my book. I work in advertising so I have high expectations that seem to have exceeded the capabilities of my publisher.

EDITOR: Do you feel author branding has a place in your marketing or in the writing of your novels?

KB: I'm learning that it's ALL about branding myself instead of my novel. I plan on creating a body of work, and I want to draw an audience to me and not one particular book. With fiction, readers are interested in the author. If they love one book, they will pretty much read anything that author writes. I know as a reader, that's how I behave. I have to remember that as an author with my own marketing. I'm still developing my approach on author branding as I put together collateral for the festival and book signing season next year. I will need a PR person to multiply my efforts and reach. Do you know any good, affordable, and available PR people?

EDITOR: Um, we’ll talk. As you’re in advertising you have an edge on most writers when it comes to marketing know-how. What advertising principles have you applied to the marketing of your own book?

KB: Repetition is the one principle that I'm using with PIOUS. The typical human attention span responds to a concept or idea after it has been presented seven times. I have the challenge of marketing PIOUS while not appearing annoying or intrusive. This is where getting book reviews and having other people talk about PIOUS comes into play. If I can get other people to talk about PIOUS while I'm talking about PIOUS, then people will go in a book store or browse online and say, "Hey. There's that book, PIOUS. Let me see what that's all about." So by the time my second novel is released, people who have read PIOUS will recognize my name and hopefully want to read more from me.

EDITOR: Did you have a marketing platform before getting the book deal? Was a marketing platform important to your publisher?

KB: I had to present to my publisher what my marketing plan was and that included social networking, book festivals, blog proliferation, national book club penetration, and book reviews.

EDITOR: What kinds of low-cost things are you doing to promote your book online and offline?

KB: I think grassroots marketing still reigns supreme and that entails being seen. Social networking has put me in touch with a lot of people that potentially want to read my book. Also, I plan on making myself available to book clubs on a national level. 

The biggest low-cost way to promote myself has more to do with promoting others outside of myself. I believe that helping others not only gives my brand more value, it also helps me to grow on a spiritual level.

EDITOR: Can you see yourself publishing your own books in the future (since you're doing so much of the work anyway – writing, illustration, marketing)?

KB: I haven't ruled out self-publishing, but I would do it ONLY if I had help on the marketing end. I'm new to the realm of publishing, but if I'm honest, I'm also big on quality control so who knows?

For purchasing information and more, visit Kenn's website at Piousbook.com.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jumpstart Monday // TRICK writer's procrastination

As my writing stars know, I constantly battle against writer's procrastination (in which writer's block may be lurking). Sometimes I give in and go shopping, but this leads to so much pent up guilt and stress (and fear that I'll miss my deadline) that finally, in an explosion of frantic activity, I'll force myself to write. When I'm done it's such a relief, but surely, there must be a better way?

Well, yes there is. I've learned that procrastination is not always the issue. There are times when you really want to work, but you just don't feel like writing (yet). There's more to the writing process than just putting words to paper, and so I suggest you trick writer's procrastination by doing other writerly things. For example, 

1. Do research. At heart, writers are information junkies. We love to learn about new things, so research can be a lot of fun. If you're researching a topic for your current writing project – the project that's causing all the stress – then technically you're not procrastinating. You're doing necessary work that will uncover information you'll use to develop your content.

I do a lot of my research on the Internet, but novelist Greg Rucka puts me to shame. He dives deeply into the real drama of human beings. His io9 essay, "There's no substitute for getting your hands dirty when you research a story," was a revelation.

Some of the best moments I've ever written have come about because someone, somewhere, blew my preconceptions out of the water and dropped a detail in passing that took the work in an entirely new, entirely unexpected, direction.

As you research your topic and fascinating new information is revealed and synchronicities occur and creativity is sparked, it will feel as if you have no choice but to write.

2. What if you are experiencing a bit of writer's block? Write in longhand – don't type. Sometimes the act of writing in longhand jumpstarts creativity. There's something about the hand-page-pen-brain connection that has the power to trigger ideas and writing. When the ideas are coming faster than your hand can write, then start typing.

Tricking writer's procrastination is all about building an inner momentum so that you can't wait to start writing. It's a psyche job. 

If you have a hard time getting started on Monday, you might want to try these 2 tips, as well as those listed here and here.

If you have other ways to trick writer's procrastination, let me know so I can share with my other writing stars on a future Jumpstart Monday post!

Donna Marie

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How to jazz up your next book signing

My 1st signing. Boring!
In a previous post I blasted the idea of the traditional book signing. Now don't get me wrong, book signings are useful. I just don't like boring. How many times have you attended a book signing that followed this formula: read-sign-go home. That's no fun.

In his article, "40+ Ways to Make Your Next Book Signing an EVENT!!", Larry James provides an outstanding, thorough checklist for making your signing go off smoothly. 

Once the details are executed and managed, it's time to let our literary hair down and spice things up.

1. Play to the theme of your book. Whether your book is about taxes or gardening or has a spiritual theme, you can give your fans an informative good time. 

For example, I'm trying to get my mother the English teacher to write a book about gardening during an economic recession. At her book signing, she could give away packets of seeds, baggies of dirt, or autographed rocks. Dressed in her digging boots and hat, she would share information about growing food and stories about eating off the land as a child in her native Jamaica. She's a good storyteller, so I'm sure folks would have a good time.

An author who writes about technology could invite local winners of school science fairs to display their amazing projects at the signing. How cute would that be! Those kids would bring their parents and friends, who might feel like spending some cash on your book. You might even get invited to speak at a PTO/PTA meeting.

The point being, have fun with the theme of your book. As you incorporate elements of your book into your signing, you're giving your fans not just words but a multi-sensory experience of what your book is all about.

2. Provide information. In his article "No More Autograph Parties," self-publishing guru Dan Poynter says we shouldn't even be thinking "book signings" any more.  
An "autograph party" says, "Come and appreciate me (and buy a book)"; a "seminar" says, "Come on down and I will give you something free (information) that will improve your life." Always think of the benefit to the potential customer.
A client of mine never does just author signings. He always gives motivational speeches, whether there are 5 or 500 people in attendance, and he treats each person who asks for his autograph like a close friend. He's a master at connecting with folks. As a result, he's in constant demand on the lecture circuit.

3. If you must read from your book, make it entertaining. How about reading a passage to music? The music could be meditative or high energy (but not too distracting). Whatever you need the mood to be. 

Let's say that due to the venue, time constraints, budget, or any number of issues you can only do the traditional read-sign-go home type of book signing. At the very least can you have music played while your fans wait in line for your autograph? Ask the event coordinator to invite a good student musician to perform. This is a great way to involve the community in the life of your book.

Do you have a musician friend who would be willing to donate a performance? Live music would be wonderful, but even if this isn't possible, pop a CD into your boom box to set the mood, to make your signing entertaining.

4. Don't disrespect your fans by being supercilious (I think that word says it all). A famous author once gave a book signing at a book store. The line of people wanting her autograph was so long, it wrapped around the building – and she said not one word to any of them. She didn't give a speech. She didn't take questions. She didn't even do a boring reading from her book.

Only my mother the English teacher would have tolerated such bad behavior because she taught this author's books in her high school literature classes, and she really loves her writing.

Sure, you might be able to get away with disrespecting folks because of your celebrity, but after awhile the diva act gets old. And with everyone commenting on Twitter, Facebook, gossip sites, and writing their own blogs, nothing stays a secret for very long. The damage to book sales could be long-term. 

Your fans have gone out of their way to meet you and buy your book. Show your love and appreciation by giving them a show they'll remember and talk about for a long time to come.

Donna Marie

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lessons in author branding from ANTM cycle 15

What can models teach celebrity authors (you!) who are about to step into the spotlight? Judge not for they can teach us mere mortals a lot. 

In every cycle of America's Next Top Model, the models-in-training must endure a make-over. Hair is weaved, cut, and dyed. Why? It's not just about being prettier. It's about bringing out the uniqueness of each model. This is branding in action!

This week the top 4 models competed on ANTM cycle 15. As Tyra and the panel deconstructed the art and science of modeling, it struck me that these are exactly the things my writing stars should know.

The braces were worth it!
1. Practice taking pictures. With a mirror and a digital camera as her only tools, my daughter Ayanna practiced taking pics all throughout her high school years. Now she can't take a bad picture. Tyra tells her models to tilt chins up and down, turn this way and that. They have to learn the best ways to move their bodies for the cameras, and they have to learn how to play with light, shadow, and angles for the camera.

What are your best features? Do you know your best side? Well you should. Let's say you have to speak at a banquet and everyone wants to take a picture with you. Suppose you're doing a book signing and a photographer for Business Week, Essence, or Vanity Fair snaps your photo with you unaware. (It could happen.) You don't want any of your publicity photos looking like mug shots!

During one photo shoot, Tyra told the models to whisper their names as the camera clicked. The visual effect was beautiful. If you want to take a good picture, don't say "cheese" or "money." Whisper your name!

2. Nail your first impression. That old cliche is true: you may never get a 2nd chance to make a first impression. Before going on their go-sees, the models took acting lessons to learn how to project their unique personalities. Ann, the tall shy one, really struggled with this exercise. She reminded me of some writers I know. 

Sometimes you have to be more of yourself. Talk a little louder, smile brighter. Even if you have to fake it, project confidence.

Whether you're speaking before a large crowd, doing a workshop, networking, or doing a media interview, don't lose your energy. Be full of yourself. Don't let shyness or fear give folks the wrong impression about who you really are.

I believe in role playing, visualizing desired outcomes, and practicing how you look in the mirror. Practice!

3. Let competition motivate you to be the best you can be. I enjoy reading success stories about authors who are miles ahead of me. They show me things I didn't even know were possible. I may not be in their sphere yet, but with faith and perseverance I will. Folks think competition is about beating the other guy, but really, competition challenges us to fulfill our own potential.

4. Always look good. Even if you're a jeans and t-shirt type of guy or gal, make sure your clothes are always clean and neatly pressed. Make sure your hair and nails are always done (preaching to myself here). You're a celebrity author, so don't go out in public looking crazy. During "panel" on ANTM, the judges don't only look at the models' pictures. They also look at how they're presenting themselves on the runway at panel. If their clothes and hair aren't right, they're called on it. This feedback (which can be brutal) trains them to be true to their unique brand as a model.

When my books first came out, I was doing a lot of media. I've been recognized many times in the street and even in the grocery store. Not bragging. Just saying that you've got to be prepared to meet your public. You don't want folks walking away with the wrong impression of you. They may not buy your book and ultimately that's what stepping up your game is all about.  

Donna Marie

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Make a book trailer with great online tool

The jury is still out on whether or not video book trailers (same as movie trailers) are effective, but why not give it a try. It surely couldn't hurt, and if your video is entertaining enough, it could actually go viral. That would be nice!

I made the following video of SugarStrings (my daughter and nieces) with Roxio PhotoShow. From a purely objective point of view, those girls are AWESOME! This string trio performs throughout the country, and the video is a nice visual way to show a little of their history. 

Actually, musicians could use a feature that allows them to upload their own music, but for authors, the sampling of musical styles provided are varied enough to suit most needs. I plan to use Roxio PhotoShow to promote The Celebrity Editor and my forthcoming books.

You can post your video on your website, blog, or YouTube.

The SugarStrings video took about an hour or so to put together. It took that long because I had to sort through all the photos we have of the girls. For a low-tech person who has yet to figure out video recorders, this was perfect (for now).

Being the director of my first video was fun and pretty easy. You can try Roxio for free for 30 days. After that, upgrade to a premium membership (or you'll lose your work).

One day we'll do an actual music video but until then, this will help us get the word out about the fabulous SugarStrings.

By the way, to hear music the girls themselves recorded, visit SugarStrings.com. There are a couple of sample mini tracks on the site. Also, they were interviewed here (ABC/7) and here (WTTW/11)

Shameless sales pitch: Contact me at CelebEditor@aol.com if you'd like to interview SugarStrings or book them for your next book signing. Imagine reading a passage out of your book to a classical, jazz, popular, or sacred tune. Beautiful! Or the girls could entertain the long line of people waiting to get your autograph. Remember, no more boring book signings!

Donna Marie

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jay-Z book update: Gucci designed BOOK JACKET for Jay-Z

Writing stars, this is what I'm talking about. Remember the collections of Barack Obama fashions that paraded down runways during the 2008 election? Gucci has taken the concept to a whole 'nother level. 

Creative Director Frida Gianni designed a literal book jacket with a page from Jay-Z's book Decoded printed on the lining. Talk about a 3D pun!

Here's the press release:

Gucci will partner with JAY-Z on the release of his first book, Decoded - the music icon’s story of the hidden meanings behind his songs and his journey through the hip hop experience. The partnership is part of a collaboration between JAY-Z and Bing to expose every page of the book in a unique way before its official release on November 16, 2010. 

The Bing interactive experience enables people to decode the 36 songs in the book with clues leading to locations, like Gucci, that have inspired JAY-Z’s lyrics in Miami, New York, London, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Clues will be distributed on JAY-Z’s Facebook and Twitter pages, JAY-Z.com and Bing. 

On November 11th Gucci will reveal one of three hundred Decoded pages in its 5th Avenue flagship store. The page is printed on the lining of a Gucci one-of-a-kind leather bomber jacket designed by Gucci Creative Director Frida Giannini in collaboration with JAY-Z. 

Once the specially created bomber is discovered at Gucci, fans are instructed to text in a code found at the location and are encouraged to upload an image of the decoded page. Any player who locates a page online or in-person is entered into a draw to win the page they have located, signed by JAY-Z.

source: Gucci

I've never bought a CD or attended a concert of Jay-Z's. I'm not a fan, but I do recognize a good game when I see one – and this is interesting. Besides, what's the point in hating? I'd rather learn from the masters.

On my DIY budget, I'm thinking of a t-shirt with my book cover (which I own the rights to)...

Donna Marie