Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Marketing 101

Recently a friend, who had just published his first book, asked about marketing and promotion. We have learned a few things over the last nine plus years since our first book was published, and we’d like to share some of it with you.
  1. You must have a STRONG online presence with a dedicated website, blog, Facebook author page (we have two because one is specifically for our first book and geared toward our Japanese friends), Twitter feed, and Linked-in presence. (I have my Twitter feed linked to my LinkedIn profile, so whatever I post there goes to Twitter automatically. I am the queen of Facebook, but I confess I really don’t get Twitter.)
  2. Join Goodreads. Larry and I both have profiles. You must keep your content up-to-date. You can link your blog to your Goodreads profile, so each new post shows up there as well.
  3. Create an Amazon author profile, and make sure it is current and accurate. (I have to keep checking mine since there is another author with my same name.) Again, link your blog feed to your Amazon author page.
  4. All information posted on the above sites must be fresh to show up in searches. Update your blog at least weekly. (I didn’t post a new one this week, but that is unusual.) Write about writing, your life, your interests. This is another place, besides Facebook, where people get to know who you are. DO NOT just post excerpts from your book!
  5. Be sure to use keywords (with or without the hashtag) to make sure people searching for content can find you.
  6. Contact local bookstores, libraries, and other venues about doing book signings. (Most bookstores—if there are any left in your area—won’t shelve your books, even if you do a signing.) We have done a LOT of these without measurable return on investment, but you get name exposure. Think outside the box and look for different and unusual places to do signings. We have done a couple in art galleries with mixed results.
  7. I generally advise against hiring a publicist. However, I do recommend you ‘friend’ Penny Sanseveri on Facebook and read her content. We met her at a conference many years ago, and she is an expert on marketing. The information she posts on Facebook is free. So is her newsletter. And if you do decide to hire someone, I’d recommend Penny. She has a good reputation in the industry.
  8. Attend conferences. We have done some of our most valuable networking there and have made lifelong friends. What genre do you consider your book? Find a conference targeted specifically to the type of book you write. (I’m easily bored, so I have a hard time sticking with one genre!)
  9. Visit different locations where your book is set, and write off the expenses against your business. (We set our mysteries in Hawaii for a reason!) BUT you must write about the place, keep accurate records of your expenses, and be able to show the results of your trips in your writing. Keep in mind, both with conferences and travel, only half of your meals are deductible, and only the related expenses for the actual industry professional can be deducted.
  10. Enter contests. HOWEVER, do not pay outrageous amounts to enter! Contests need to be funded, and a small entry fee is reasonable, however, some of them charge ridiculous amounts.
  11. Get reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites. These boost your visibility.
  12. Run contests and publicize them.
  13. Assemble an email mailing list. Use it to send notification of your blog posts, new books, appearances, etc.
  14. Create a video trailer and post to YouTube. These can be done at virtually no cost using PowerPoint and MS Moviemaker, but they can attract additional interest. Be careful about using music, however. Using well-known music by famous artists can result in your video being blocked. There are sites with free music you can use.
  15. Post about your book and related events and topics on Facebook, but the caveat is this: Facebook is a CONVERSATION, so make sure you are interacting with other people and not just posting about your book! I have unfriended people whose only message is: buy my book.
  16. Offer to give a talk or lecture on your subject. Most places will also allow you to sell your book after your talk. These appearances will also establish you as an ‘expert’ on your subject.
  17. Contact local book clubs about reading your book, and offer to visit their meeting for a discussion.
  18. Get free business cards from VistaPrint. (You only pay for shipping). Be sure to include your website and contact email address. We write “Thank you” on the back and leave them with the tip whenever we eat at a restaurant. We also hand them out whenever we talk about our books with anyone. This is one of the cheapest forms of advertising.
  19. Treat your writing as a business, not a hobby. Keep accurate and complete records and report all income.

At this point in my writing career, I spend much more time promoting than I do writing. I managed to finish and publish The Memory Keeper in April. And I completed our latest romance anthology, ...And a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe this summer.
In addition, I still edit professionally. I don’t know how to do straight line editing. I have to address content as well. So these are very time-consuming.

Even with LOTS of strategic promotion, you probably won’t become rich. You may not even break even. But you will have more fun than you can imagine.

Do any of you have any other techniques you have found to be effective?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Saying I Love You

Whenever I end a conversation with close friend or loved one, I nearly always say, “I love you.” I do the same whenever we part.

Both my niece and my godchild caught onto this when they were little girls. As our conversations began to wind down, each of them tried to beat me in saying it. And often, they did.

Why am I so deliberate about telling those I care about that I love them? Because one day when I was seven years old, my father went to work in the morning and never came home. I didn’t have the chance to tell him I loved him. I learned far too early that we never know when it might be the last time we’ll see or speak to the special people in our lives.

Larry was blessed with parents who were married 67 years before his mother died, but also grandparents who were married 63 years when his grandfather died. On our wedding night, he told me his grandmother had said the thing she missed the most when his grandfather died was not saying, ‘I love you,’ each night before they went to sleep.

“I’d really like to start that tradition in our marriage,” he said. And we have. In fact, when he was doing a lot of traveling for work, he’d call each night so we could say it to each other. I found I had trouble nodding off without hearing his voice at the end of the day.

We also say the words first thing when we wake in the morning and each time we leave each other. In the mornings when we were working, Larry usually left earlier than I did, but before he got into the car, he always came back to the bedroom to kiss me good-bye. At that time, we also reminded each other that we loved each other.

One morning I heard the garage open, followed by the car pulling out and the door closing. My first thought was: I didn’t get my good-bye kiss.

About ten minutes later, the phone rang. “I just realized I never went back upstairs to kiss you good-bye.” We laughed because we and both felt something was missing in our day.

I later found out Larry’s request that we say the words before going to sleep was unusual because, although we never had a doubt that his parents adored each other, his mother once told me that his dad never said the words. Instead, she always said, “I love you, Murl.” His response was, “Me, too.” I even wrote this into my novella, “Finding Love in Paradise,” in our romance anthology, Directions of Love.

Although Larry’s father, whom I always called ‘Dad,’ didn’t seem comfortable using the words, I always kissed him and told him I loved him every time we parted. A couple of years after Larry’s mother died, he left me a voice message, which ended, “I love you, honey.” I cried when I heard it and kept the message on my machine for a year.

From that point on, he grew more comfortable saying the words to me and my sister-in-love. And his very last words to me before he died, after I kissed him and said, “I love you, Dad,” were, “I love you, too.” What a special gift.

Years ago, our young friend, John Osborne, died. Although he had many friends who cared about him, I was never sure he actually knew it. At his memorial service, many people expressed their affection for him, and I felt sad to think that perhaps he had never heard the words during his lifetime.

I don’t want my friends and family to wonder about how I felt about them. When I say, “I love you,” I mean it. And I try to say it often.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Magical Midwick Tract

Yesterday we attended the celebration of life for one of the moms of Midwick Tract in Alhambra, California, and this moniker for the place where I grew up was mentioned. It felt perfectly appropriate since we all agree we were truly blessed to have spent our childhoods there.

Built in 1912, the property was originally the Midwick Country Club with a golf course and polo grounds. Movie stars and the rich and famous frequented the place. The membership was highly selective (all white) and the membership fee was steep. In 1932, some of the equestrian events for the Olympic Games were held there.

It was selected as a set for quite a few movies, including an early version of Robin Hood and They Died With Their Boots On.
Photos from Charles Mullaly
Following a fire, which destroyed the clubhouse, the property was sold and subdivided into much-needed post-WWII housing.

My family moved into one of the first houses on Hathaway Avenue in 1948. (All the streets were named for famous golfers of the era.) Larry’s family settled on Hitchcock Drive in 1949 when phase II opened.

Because most of the owners were returning GIs with young families, we never had to look far for playmates. Nearly every house had kids—often our age. Some of those remain close friends to this day.

The 1950s was a time when all the moms (except ours) stayed at home while the dads went out to work. The entire neighborhood was more like an extended family. We didn’t need designated block parents because all the adults watched out for us. And we could never get away with anything because, by the time we returned home, our folks had already heard about any infraction and our punishment awaited us.

Since my brother and I were raised by a single mother, who had to work outside the home, several of the others on our street took on the role of our surrogate parents. We always felt safe.

During the summers, we spent our entire day at Granada Park at the edge of the tract. At a fairly young age, we either walked or rode our bicycles unaccompanied to the park where we played in the playground. Two sets of swings accommodated everyone from the little kids to adults. I remember sliding down the hot, high, metal double slide in the summer where we took sheets of waxed paper to make our rides even faster. We spun on the merry-go-round (foot-powered, of course) and played in the sand.

For twenty-five cents, we could spend all day at the swimming pool with its double diving boards. I used the lower one often, but only once jumped—with my heart in my throat—from the high one.

We rolled down the hillsides or slid on anything smooth. Cookie sheets worked pretty well, as I recall.

In the early days, a fish pond occupied the northwest corner. However, it became a hazard, so it was fenced off and later filled in.

During the summer, craft classes were offered. The lessons were free, and we only had to pay a minimal amount for the materials. How many lanyards and key chains did we all make? I remember using a manual drill to twist crepe paper into rope, which we wound around and glued to an empty bottle for a vase. And we painted countless small plaster decorations. I also learned how to do copper enameling there. I’m sure we were offered even more activities, but these are the ones I particularly remember.

I also remember reading in the shade of the large trees on the hill as a cool breeze blew.

We attended the Little League games and rooted for our favorite teams, since they were made up of all our friends. Their dads were the coaches. Larry’s dad coached his brother, Casey’s, team. (Back row, second from the right in the plaid shirt.)

On summer evenings, we played outdoors until the street lights came on and someone’s mother called them home.

On countless summer evenings we barbequed with the neighbors. I especially remember the delicious hand-cranked ice cream at the end of the meals.

And slumber parties. Many of those.

It was a different time and a different era. And oh how lucky we were to have grown up there in marvelous, mythical, magical Midwick Tract.