On the Road: Face-to-Face in a Virtual World by Jenny Milchman

Jenny_Milchman_WebWhen my second novel came out in April, I set out with my family on a 4 month/20,000 mile journey.


Maybe I should back up a bit. Like, all the way to our home in New Jersey.


Today a writer can feel like she needs to be everywhere at once. And I do mean everywhere—the internet gives us the power to be not just in everyone’s living room, but in their purses and back pockets on tablets and cell phones. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Pinterest…where’s a writer to go?


I’d like to shine a light on a place that’s getting a little less emphasis these days. Perhaps because it’s only one place, or at least one place at a time. I’m talking about real time, live, physical sights (not websites) where writers connect with readers face-to-face.


Last year my first novel came out after a thirteen year struggle to publication. Since the only thing harder than breaking in as a debut is building a CoverOfSnowlong-lasting career as a writer, both my husband and I knew that we would have to give this thing our all. So we did the only logical thing. We rented out our house, traded in two cars for an SUV that could handle Denver in February, and withdrew our kids from first and third grades.


OK, maybe it wasn’t so logical. But once we’d done all of that, we then hit the road, car-schooling the kids, husband working from the front seat, while I visited nearly 500 bookstores, libraries, schools, and book clubs. All told, we covered seven months and 35,000 miles.


The question I get asked most often is whether it was worth it.


It’s a difficult question to answer because it comes down to what worth it means in terms of launching a writing career. Did we sell a lot of books at every stop? No, definitely not. But we knew from the outset that this was going to be less about selling books, and more about building relationships.


Booksellers receive hundreds or thousands of Advance Reading Copies. They can’t possibly read them all. By going to the bookstore, I added to the work my publisher’s reps were doing of putting a book by an unknown author on the radar. 60-70% of the reading public browse in bookstores. That’s a lot of potential fans. And no matter how an event went, I would hear from booksellers weeks and even months later about a copy they had just hand sold to a person they knew would enjoy it.


The other question I hear is, “But what if I don’t have 7 months? Or 7 weeks for that matter?” My answer to that is: Don’t worry. The power of the face-to-face can be mined in 7 days. Or in a weekend. What I love about doing events is that it’s additive, and you can start with one.


jenny at book signingPlan an event at your local bookstore, which won’t even require missing a day of work. Take a weekend road trip, making it a working vacation. Draw a radius around your hometown, and identify bookstores within it. If setting up the events seems difficult, consider working with an independent publicity firm. In this way I was able to get booked at some places that had established attendee lists, allowing me that rare author experience of walking into a crowded room.


You can also move beyond bookstores when planning events. Libraries, book clubs, and schools are all fairly ready options. But you can get more creative than that. Perhaps you write historical novels? Research genealogical societies that might like to host you. Or maybe you write cozies? Craft shops, cooking classes, and rescue clinics are all possible places to encounter potential readers. A little advance preparation can shine a light on both your work and a local business or charitable organization.


There is a power to meeting your readers face-to-face. I found that as much as I enjoy communing with people virtually, another sort of connection grows when that relationship is lifted to real time. I met people on the road whom I now consider friends. I can’t wait to meet them next time.


That’s right, I did say next time. Because with my second novel about to come out, we are set to hit the road all over again. And I hope to see you RuinFalls_Websomewhere along the way!


Jenny Milchman’s journey to publication took thirteen years, after which she hit the road for seven months with her family on what Shelf Awareness called “the world’s longest book tour”. Her debut novel, Cover of Snow, was chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick, reviewed in the New York Times and San Francisco Journal of Books, won the Mary Higgins Clark award, and is nominated for a Barry. Jenny is also the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and chair of International Thriller Writers’ Debut Authors Program. Jenny’s second novel, Ruin Falls, just came out and she and her family are back on the road. http://www.jennymilchman.com/ 



Book promotion on ice! by Alina Adams


 by Alina Adams


My five Figure Skating Mystery novels were originally released as paperback originals by Berkley Prime Crime between 2003 and 2007. (The first one, “Murder on Ice,” was actually based on the 2002 Olympic Pairs judging scandal, only this time the judge accused of fixing the vote ended up a little… dead.)

A few years later, I got my rights back and re-released each title as an enhanced e-book, featuring video by The Ice Theatre of NY as part of the story. (Why merely read about skating, when you can actually watch it, too! http://pgpclassicsoaps.blogspot.com/2012/10/ask-not-what-you-can-do-for-nook-hd.html)

Then, in 2014, just in time for the Sochi Games, I bundled all of the books into “The Figure Skating Mystery Series (5 Books in 1) (http://www.amazon.com/Figure-Skating-Mystery-Series-Books-ebook/dp/B00HUZ41FI/ref=zg_bs_159911011_16).”

Now all that was left was to promote it.

I knew that the upcoming Winter Olympic gave me an optimal, once every four years news window (yes, the National, European and World Championships happen every year – but people only care during the Olympics), and I did pitch myself as a figure skating expert to several print publications as well as radio outlets (even if they all managed to make mistakes in their profiles, but, hey, I turned that to my promotional advantage, too http://pgpclassicsoaps.blogspot.com/2014/02/test-your-skating-knowledge-and-win.html! Seriously, I have no shame.)

I also did some out of the box thinking.  To promote “The Figure Skating Mystery Series (5 Books in 1),” I partnered with Dick Button, announcers2-time Olympic Men’s Gold Medallist, and the voice of figure skating on ABC-TV for several decades. (I had worked as a Figure Skating researcher alongside Dick in the mid-1990s.  Before I had children and thus was free to jet all around the world.)

To promote his own book, “Push Dick’s Button” (http://www.amazon.com/Push-Dicks-Button-Conversation-Century-ebook/dp/B00HG1QLYU/ref=zg_bs_159911011_1), Dick did live Twitter commentary of the Men’s and Ladies’ Short and Long Programs from Sochi. I produced the coverage for him.  And, during the commercial breaks, I promoted my skating book series alongside his.

There is nothing that Dick Button doesn’t know about figure skating. (He remembered that Peggy Fleming’s 1968 Olympic dress was chartreuse, because the Games were being held in Grenoble, where the Chartreuse Mountains are. Also the liqueurs. The man is 84 years old!  He’s amazing!  You’ll never hear a negative word about him from me!)  And Dick Button has a great many fans all over the world, some of who joined Twitter specifically to read his no-holds-barred commentary.  And it was to these dedicated skating fans that I was able to introduce my book series.  If that’s not niche marketing, then I don’t know what is!

So how did my out of the box promotion ultimately work out?

Well, I sold three times as many books during the month of February on Amazon and B&N than I had in January.  And I made Amazon’s Ice Skating & Figure Skating Best-Sellers list for most of that time.  The highest I ever got, though, was #3.  The #1 spot was perennially occupied by… Dick Button.

Of course, I got even more good marketing news when the result of the Ladies’ event was contested and debated after a Russian dark horse upset the pre-competition favorite for the gold medal.  Just like I wrote about in “Murder on Ice”….twelve years ago.

I posted an excerpt from the book at my own blog (http://pgpclassicsoaps.blogspot.com/2014/02/when-it-comes-to-figure-skating.html) with my (pretty reality based) guess about what was going on backstage after the results were handed down, and how the media plays a part in all sports “controversies.”

Looking for a sneak peek? Listen in on this conversation between my heroine, Bex Levy, a researcher for the 24/7 Sports Network, and Francis and Diana Howarth, Olympic Champion announcers more than happy to fan the flames of discontent….


Bex changed tacks, addressing Francis and Diana. “So let me get this straight. Just so I can put it down in the research notes for Sunday. You two claim that Erin lost last night because the panel was stacked against her.”

“Well, actually the panel wasn’t stacked against her. It was five to four, pro-West. She should have won, if only the Russians hadn’t gotten to the Italian judge and made her change her vote,” Diana patiently explained.

“So you’re saying that if the Italian judge voted with the West like she was supposed to, Erin Simpson would have won, no matter how she skated?”

“Erin Simpson skated beautifully last night. No mistakes. No falls.”

“But you’re saying that it doesn’t matter. That how the two women skated is irrelevant. You make it sound like all victory is dependent on the panel. That it’s preordained.”

“The results were certainly preordained last night. The Soviet bloc wanted Xenia to win, and win she did, even with that mediocre performance.”

“But, doesn’t that mean that all the times Erin beat Xenia at the Grand Prix this season, she only won because the panel was stacked in her favor?”

Diana and Francis looked at each other.

“Hmm,” Francis said, “I never thought of it that way.”

“And does that mean that when you two won your Olympic gold medal, it was only because the panel was stacked in your favor?”

“What an interesting point you’ve made, Bex,” Diana said.

And stood up to leave.

With Francis by her side, she was barely to the door, when Mark, the lucky cameramen assigned to shoot the ladies’ practice for the exhibition, burst into the room, breathing heavily. He’d run all the way from the arena to the hotel, lugging his heavy camera on his back, and now he could barely get the words out between his gasps.

“Did you hear?” he demanded. “Silvana Potenza! She’s dead! Murdered!”

Alina Adams is the NYT best-selling author of soap opera tie-ins, figure skating mysteries and romance novels. Visit her website at FSMysteryOmnibusCoverhttp://www.AlinaAdams.com

What NOT to expect from book publicity by PJ Nunn

PJOne of the things I come across most consistently in my day-to-day work with authors is unrealistic expectations. Sometimes it’s experienced authors who just don’t realize how much the publishing industry has changed in the last several years; other times, it’s newer authors who believe the myths and hope for the best. Still, unrealistic expectations can be a source of heartache and certainly can make it hard to set and achieve realistic goals for promotion that increases sales. Beware!

Let’s talk about a few problem areas:

  1. National media is a long shot. When you look at the big picture, there are a very few spots available and a huge number of potential guests want them. Journalists who do the guest scheduling are known for saying things like, “We don’t do fiction,” and while that’s obviously not entirely true, it should be a clue. Producers aren’t looking for ways to sell your book, they’re looking for ways to engage their audiences and attract advertisers to keep them in production. Even if I can find a segment idea to pitch them about why you will be the perfect guest for their program, I still have to have clips and references from other shows you’ve been on to convince them that you’re a seasoned professional and won’t leave them looking like an idiot. Most authors who are insistent about national media seem to want to bypass those things and rarely have significant clips, experience or program hooks for me to use. I’m not saying it can’t be done, it can and I’ve done it. I’m just saying it’s a long shot so wisdom says to make it part of your publicity plan if you like, but don’t put all your eggs in that basket.
  2. Overnight success isn’t likely. Ours is a “microwave” society. We want instant gratification and have set out to discover ways to shorten the process, whether it’s cooking a baked potato or developing name recognition and demand for a brand. I get quite a few requests for media tours that take place over one and two week periods and reviews that are complete in a matter of weeks. What I seem to have trouble communicating is that I can make those things happen, with some effort, but they won’t accomplish what many authors hope they will and that’s to make them a household name in a few weeks. It just doesn’t work that way. Effective, long-lasting book promotion takes time, consistency, and effort. Whatever it may look like from the outside, slow and steady wins the race.
  3. Social media is all you need these days. Wouldn’t that be great? Internet World Statistics published in 2012 show that the North American population makes up 11.4% of world internet users. Mind-boggling, right? Those of us who immersed ourselves in this new technology as soon as it became available find it hard to believe, but the numbers are pretty consistent and probably quite accurate. That translates into approximately 274 million North American internet users in 2012 so obviously authors who restrict their promotional efforts to internet users still have a large target market to work with. BUT it also means there’s a large target market they won’t reach if they don’t seek promotional opportunities offline. To get the best return on investment, it’s important to devise a well-rounded plan that targets several different areas for maximum effect.
  4. A publicist makes all the difference. I wish it was that easy. A publicist can make it easier by staffing your weakness, but even the best publicist can’t get it done if the book and the author are not suited for the pitch. Yes, I have some contacts who will book any author I call them about if I press the issue, but I don’t work like that and it wouldn’t accomplish much for you if I did. A publicist, an author and a publisher joined together can make a great team and a team can accomplish a lot more than a single author who also needs time to keep writing. There are many benefits to hiring a publicist, but please don’t think you can hire a publicist then go back to writing and forget promotion. A publicist alone won’t take you where you want to go.

I believe the potential for authors is HUGE in 2014. Opportunities abound and I hope you have a plan to take advantage of them. There’s no better time than the present! So adjust your expectations and get started (if you haven’t already). If you need another member of your team, or if you just have questions, feel free to contact me at BreakThrough Promotions. Onward we go!

10 Reasons Why You Might Need a Publicist

Why you might need a publicist:

  1. Because it always sounds better when someone else – especially a professional – brags about you and your work
  2. Because key people within the industry probably know him or her and they don’t know you – yet
  3. Because things aren’t always what they seem and a good publicist keeps abreast of inside industry info
  4. Because in this biz there will be a lot more rejections than acceptances and a publicist can field those for you
  5. Because a good publicist will think of ways to market your book that you never thought of
  6. Because life is too short and your book is too important to wonder what could have been
  7. Because he/she can help you know the difference between a great idea and a scam
  8. Because a good publicist can help you learn why some things work and some things don’t so you don’t waste time on repeat mistakes
  9. Because a good publicist can help you step outside of your comfort zone and explore new, productive possibilities
  10. Because it will give you a lot more time to do what you do best – write!

If this is you, check out our services at BreakThrough Promotions!

What would you add to the list?