Hudson Valley Writers Guild Marketing Panel


M.E. Kemp

M.E. Kemp

M.E.Kemp was born in 1636, Salem, MA – no, that’s not quite right.  The first baby in the family was born then.  Kemp’s ancestors settled in Oxford, MA in 1713, the founding of the town by the English after a Huguenot community evacuated following an Indian attack.  Her roots, her Grandmother’s family tales about the Civil War and her father’s love of American history influenced her to set her mysteries in the Boston area, rather than the myriad books set in medieval Britain.  American history is just as bloody and colorful, she believes.  Her detectives are two nosy Puritans, since Puritans were supposed to keep track of their neighbor’s doings.  Nosy makes a good detective. She has five books out and is at work on #6.  Check her out on her website:; or on facebook under Marilyn Rothstein.


Marketing Panel – Hudson Valley Writers Guild

A panel consisting of poet Dan Wilcox, self-publisher Barbara Traynor, mystery writer M.E.Kemp and newpaper critic/reviewer Elizabeth Floyd Mair addressed the issue of marketing in “Selling Your Words,” held at a local library.  Moderator M.E. Kemp started off by recalling her first writers conference where a mid-list publisher stressed in no uncertain terms that writers must sell their work themselves, not to depend upon the publisher.  “Shy people need not apply,” she stressed – although today’s technologies allow more marketing efforts behind a screen.

Poet Dan Wilcox said he’d had some early success by joining with two other poets in readings as “Three Guys From Albany.”  Giving readings is the main way for poets to market their work.  Wilcox arranged with the local Social Justice Center to give a series of readings by local poets once a month, with open mic to follow.  My granddaughter Betty Rothstein recently read her own translations of contemporary Russian poets, including some of her poetry in Russian and in English.  (Betty majored in Russian studies.)  Wilcox said there is a strong audience for poetry in the upstate New York area.

Barbara Traynor’s book on self-publishing has gone through two editions.  One of the ways she markets herself is to contract with newspapers for articles as she travels across the country in search of warmer weather during the winters in upstate.  Traynor plans well ahead of time for this trip for her marketing campaigns.  She gave the audience a sample of her time-lines.

M. E. Kemp stood up to reveal one of her marketing tools – a black tee with the cover of her latest book in bright colors on the front.  She suggested that writers find a special niche market for their books.  Since she writes historical mysteries set in and around the Boston area, she speaks to historical societies, book clubs and libraries with a special talk offered on the Salem Witch Trials – always a selling topic.  She is also a member of the Sisters in Crime/New England speakers bureau, as well as setting up writing conferences for the Hudson Valley Writers Guild.

Elizabeth Floyd Mair gave some practical advice on how to approach newspapers for a review.  Writers should always include a press release in their packet, making it clear with personal info who you are, a local connection to the paper and a good summary of the book in the release so the reviewer can judge whether it’s a book they might like to review.

Key speaker for the conference was Frankie Y. Bailey, Professor of Criminal Justice at the local university and author of two series of mysteries, including a new police procedural set in the future in Albany, NY.  Bailey gave a very funny anecdote about how she came up with the subject off the top of her head while speaking to her publisher. Bailey brought a pile of books on marketing but she recommended only one, the old stand-by WRITERS DIGEST.  She advised writers to find their “purple cow,” the one that stands out in the field.

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!

What’s your plan to increase sales this year? PJ Nunn

PJIt’s a New Year, after all. And the voices we listen to in the publishing world are once again speaking of change. The ebook world has plateaued but where do we go from here? Bob Mayer offers 10 predictions, but also mentions that he likes to be spontaneous, while one of his partners at Cool Gus Publishing likes to carefully plan things out with spreadsheets and calculations. My deduction? Not the same things work for everyone. We all have to be willing to pull away from the crowd and ferret out what works for us. We also need to learn to delegate – staff our weaknesses.

Unfortunately for some, from my seat as a publicist, that is still an issue. Far too many authors, whether original Indies or those who’ve transferred over from traditional publishers, just don’t know for sure what works for them. They’ve either followed the crowd without question, or they’re in some sort of time lock, quoting things that worked when they were first published by Penguin back in the 80s. Guess what?

Out of curiosity, I purchased a couple of ebooks last year with titles along the lines of How to Make $50,000 a month with Kindle (I hope that’s not a true title – I changed the names to avoid annoying anyone in particular). how-can-i-make-a-millionWhat I found was interesting. First, the two books were not much alike as far as the “how” although both spouted many, many numbers that ultimately didn’t make much sense to me. Second, they both seemed to be sincerely trying to convey helpful information. The bottom line, though, was I didn’t take away anything from either that felt like adequate advice that I could apply to my own plan to increase sales for my books. My conclusion? My “cynical self” deduced that the way they increased their ebook sales to magnanimous proportions was to write a book with that title and promote the heck out of it! How could you not buy it if it held that kind of secret??

My more “realistic self” suspects that the authors really started out to share useful information, but somehow stopped short in the area of theory before reaching practical application. I’m sure there are more authors who opt for Bob Mayer’s “spontaneous” approach, not necessarily because it’s best or even works for them, but because it’s all they know to do. I’m deeply wedged in the plotting and planning group. My background in psychology and the horrors of the statistics classes I had to pass to get my degree have the words “cause” and “effect” firmly carved in my brain. If it works, or if it doesn’t, I want to know why.

So here’s my suggestion as you start out this fresh New Year:

  • Record – Spend the next couple of weeks journaling all of your promotional activities without trying to determine cause and effect. If you post tweets, record it. If you note an upswing (or otherwise) in sales, record it. Time for drawing conclusions later.
  • Research – Also spend some time doing research. Read blogs and articles from people who know. Never take anything on the internet at face value – know something about the person writing it. There are a lot of knowledgeable professionals sharing info out there, but there are also a lot of author who talk like they know but don’t have the numbers or the experience to back it up.
  • Renew – Set aside some time to review the information you’ve gathered. Once you’ve gone over it, it’s time to make a plan for this year.

Ask yourself:

What is my ultimate goal? This should be something about the number of books you’d like to sell, not what show you’d like to be on.

What activities will best help me reach that goal? There should be several, and a variety of types. This can be a rather extensive list including reviews, website, blog, speaking engagements, print and broadcast media, convention attendance and more.

When and where should these activities take place? This will involve a calendar.

Who should I enlist to help with some of the activities? This is where you staff your weakness. Be creative, but don’t try to do too much yourself. You must have time to write! How do you decide who does what? Some authors have friends and family they can enlist. I don’t recommend pairing up with other authors for this – they’re as busy as you are (although pairing up for events can be a good idea). When it comes to sending out review copies, designing print materials or web graphics, and scheduling speaking engagements or media, it’s probably best to stick with professionals, but there are many out there with varying degrees of experience and a wide range of fees. Take time to check around and see who’s the best fit for the job at hand!

And remember, once you have a plan that feels comfortable to you, don’t micromanage! Effective book promotion is a process. Slow and steady wins the race. Too many authors go from blitz to burnout to nothing, then start over at blitz again. It’s not effective. Stick with your plan without worrying about results or checking your numbers every day. Review your sales at about the 3 month mark, then again at 6 months. In truth, the promotion you do in those early months can still be working for you a year later. I know you’ve heard it from me before, but it’s still true. Whether you build a little snowman or a huge snowman, you still build it a handful of snow at a time and it’s really hard to tell which handful made the biggest difference.

Do any of you newer authors have questions to pose here?

Or do any of you with a few books under your belt have suggestions to help us all with our planning? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

An interview with Sherria Grubbs

Sherria GrubbsSherria L. Grubbs lives in North Carolina with her husband.  She is a teacher in one of North Carolina’s public school systems.  She has been writing poetry since she was in the sixth grade as a release and to lift her spirits. She considered her writing more of a hobby than a gift until recently, when she began sharing her poems with others.  Through the encouragement of her daughter and husband, she was inspired to create a book of her poems to share with others.  It is her belief that the poems she writes comes straight from the heart!

PJ: How long have you been writing?


SG: I started writing poetry when I was about 12 years old, but at the age of 16 was when I began to write and keep my poems in a journal.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?


SG: I don’t know if I have ever reached that place.  I did begin to feel like I had something worth sharing maybe about a year or two ago.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?


SG: When I started, I didn’t have any expectations.  However, with that being said, it is more than what I expected it to be, if that makes any sense.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?


SG: My focus is really just about reaching people.  I feel like if something in my book can touch someone in some way, then it is worthy of publishing.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?


SG: I don’t know if I would do anything differently.  I think things happen the way they are supposed to, so I am not sure I would do something differently.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?


SG: This is hard and something that I am still struggling with.  Finding the time to do everything that needs to be done as it relates to my book and new material is very difficult so I just try to take one day at a time and get done what I can and somehow it all works out in the end.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?


SG: One of the most exciting things that happened to me as a writer was when a much older lady wrote me a poem to thank me for writing my book and for sharing her life story/my life story with her!

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?


SG: I think the most difficult thing for me as a writer was finding out that not all publishing companies are honest and loyal to authors.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?


SG: The most memorable thing for me while promoting my work was my book release party.  It was amazing, the turn out was amazing and ended up being standing room only.  Everyone who helped out were like angels sent from God.  They helped to make my book release party the most memorable and best event that I ever had!

PJ: With more books being released each  month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?


SG: I think my book says things that people feel but are afraid to say and because of this many people can relate to it!  My book unlike others speaks to the heart

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?


SG: Don’t give up.  If your desire is to have your work published, believe it and it will happen despite whatever obstacles may come your way.Deep Connections

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
Deep Connections: A Book Of Poetry Straight From The Heart

Where can we buy it?, and

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?


SG: I’m not sure if no one knows this but I am very transparent in my book and it truly is a book of poems that come straight from my heart!

Print, ebook, or both? By Judy Alter

TroublesigningBack before electronic books turned the publishing world upside down, status for an author of fiction was having a book published in hardcover (between the boards, as we used to say), followed in twelve to eighteen months by a trade paper edition. Today fiction authors, particularly genre fiction, are lucky to get a trade paper or mass market edition. Many small publishers proudly bill themselves as “e-book only” or “primarily an e-book publisher.”

My publisher for my Kelly O’Connell and Blue Plate mysteries tells me the house sells ten e-books for every print copy; consequently, print is low on the priority scale and sometimes doesn’t appear for months after the electronic version.

I may be old school, but I find this a marketing problem. With my first mystery, print followed closely on the heels of the e-book, and I had a huge signing at a local restaurant—sold seventy-five books. Today the gap is several months, and I barely sold twenty-five at the last signing at the same restaurant. Each book that goes out that restaurant door, with a bookmark, is not just a book sold—it’s a chance for effective word-of-mouth advertising if the reader enjoys it, talks about it, shows it to a friend. Today I have an e-book of the newest one, Murder at the Blue Plate Café, but no print, and friends and (ahem!) fans are asking when the print will come. I afraid by the time print appears it will be anticlimactic and they’ll have lost interest.

I’m all for e-books and indeed do most of my reading on an iPad, but there’s something about holding a book in your hands. Of course, I market my e-books as best I can, with guest blogs like this one, on Facebook, Twitter, my own blog, bookmarks scattered across the globe, whatever and wherever, and I’m grateful for the response I’ve gotten. But I’m uncertain how effective I am. I’d feel better with print that I could launch at a signing, show to friends and send to reviewers that I know. I don’t have time to write, follow all the myriad marketing leads we get on Sisters in Crime, and live my life. So I’m not on the various Kindle lists and I have yet to figure out Goodreads, though I make a valiant effort and do post there.

Maybe it’s all ego—authors are famous for that—and I should put ego in the closet and concentrate on business, sales figures and the like. But that’s not why I write. I write so readers will enjoy my stories.

What about you? Do you find print editions important for marketing?


With Murder at the Blue Plate Café, Judy Alter launches a new cozy mystery series, Blue Plate Café Mysteries. She is also the author of MurderBPlate_JAlter_MD(2)the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, and the forthcoming Danger Comes Home. Her fiction and nonfiction about women of the American West has won numerous awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Western Writers of America.

Now retired, she was for years the director of a small academic press. She is the mother of four and the grandmother of seven and lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her Bordoodle, Sophie. Follow her at,,,!/pages/Judy-Alter-Author/366948676705857?fref=ts, or on Twitter, where she is @judyalter.


Promotion That Has Worked for Me by Marilyn Meredith aka F. M. Meredith

Marilyn Meredith

Marilyn Meredith

My first book came out in 1982 long before most folks had computers and there was no such thing as the Internet. I had no idea that I should be promoting my book or if I had, how to go about it. The publishing company (and it was one of the biggies at the time) sent me a few complimentary books and I gave them away. I arranged my one and only book signing at a local bookstore and had a nice crowd. Being the only published author around, I received some good newspaper publicity.

Since that time, and about 34 books later, not only have things changed drastically, but I’ve learned a lot about promotion and tried just about everything anyone suggested. I started out sending flyers about new books with tear-off order blanks to all my friends and relatives. I may have sold enough books to pay for the postage.

I’ve given many, many talks at libraries—something I still like to do. When the economy took a dive, people still came to hear what I had to say, but fewer bought books. I’ve given talks at Rotary Clubs, other service and women’s organizations, fun and sometimes quite successful.

I’ve had booths at book fairs and craft fairs and done well at both. One thing I’ve learned, is that you must engage people as they are strolling past. Ask them to come take a look at your books, or in my case, I often ask if they like mysteries. Once you can start telling a bit about each of your books, they are far more likely to purchase a book than if you don’t put yourself out a little. Believe me, I’ve seen authors at book fairs sit in a chair and read and never look up even when someone is perusing their book.

I’ve had book launches in all sorts of interesting places: art galleries, our local inn, a new-age recreation center, my home, and several at a used bookstore.

Of course, now we have the computer and the Internet and there are all sorts of places that we can promote our books for free. I love Facebook for many reasons. It is a great place to promote books, make new friends, keep up with the old ones and find out what is going on with my family. I’ve promoted books that have just come out, new posts on my own blog, and my stops on blog tours.

That brings me to one of my favorite promotions, blog tours. I’ve paid blog companies to arrange them for me but finally realized I could do tours myself and find more logical blogs to visit. It is a lot of work from beginning to end if you do it right. You need to contact the blogs you want to visit, find out what they’d like you to write (you want to have something different on every post), arrange the schedule, take the time to write the posts and send everything along that is needed: the post, a .jpg of your cover, one of you, a blurb about the book, your bio, and links. You need to remind the host the day before the post is to appear and you have to promote the post when it does. It’s important to visit the blog and respond to everyone who comments. There are glitches, but that’s a whole other subject.

Do blog tours result in sales? Yes, though not huge sales I’ve read about from other authors—but I love doing them. I usually offer a prize to get people to follow along. I never give away the book I’m promoting, because I’m hoping for sales, but I do give away earlier books in a series. But the most popular prize is always having the winners name used for a character in the next book.

In fact, I love blogging. Why? I think mainly because I’m a writer and I love to write. What do I write about? All sorts of things: my books, what I’m doing, my family, book reviews, movies, and I love hosting other authors.

I do Tweet, but not the way some people do. I use Twitter to promote new blog posts, my blog tours and my appearances. I don’t have enough time for more because I’m writing two books a year.

DAngerousImpulses,NewCoverThe latest, Dangerous Impulses written as F. M. Meredith. An attractive new-hire captivates Officer Gordon Butler, Officer Felix Zachary’s wife is befuddled by her new baby, Ryan and Barbara Strickland receive unsettling news, while the bloody murder of a mother and her son and an unidentified drug that sickens teenaged partiers jolts the Rocky Bluff P.D.

Yes! We Need Beta Readers by Kate Gallison

Kate Gallison You’ve worked through the last thrilling climax. You’ve typed, “THE END.” You’ve put your opus away for a couple of weeks and thought about something else. You’ve pulled it out again, read it through, shouted, “OMG, this really sucks,” fixed all the problems you noticed, and pronounced it cured. Perfected. Ready for prime time.

Now what?

Do you give in to your itch to fire it off to your agent? Or, having no agent, to fire off queries to a list of prospective agents, promising them a completed manuscript? Or, scorning the traditional publishing route, offer it to your eager public as an e-book, with no further tweaking?

No. Ten out of ten successful writers advise against this. You must give it to at least one friend or acquaintance, three would be better, people who normally read, and best of all who read in your genre. Otherwise you risk going out the door with literary spinach on your teeth.

What are they supposed to tell you about your book, other than that it’s great, riveting and compelling, absolutely the best thing they’ve read all year? (They are, after all, your friends. Otherwise you’d have to pay them to read it.)

First of all, your beta reader is not for doing line-editing or correcting your grammar and spelling. If you can’t spell or parse an English sentence by this time, you should probably take up the accordion. What you want to ask your beta readers to do is make note of any egregious howlers they may notice and any questions that arise in their minds about your book. Perhaps you have placed Seattle on the shores of Lake Michigan. Perhaps you have changed the heroine’s hair and eye color between Chapter Three and Chapter Four.  Perhaps some parts seem to lack energy, are in fact stupefyingly boring. Perhaps you have left gaping plot holes.

We get very close to our work, sometimes so close that it’s hard for us to see obvious things. We change things, too, as we go along, and we don’t always readjust the other things that are affected by our changes. Some of us have verbal tics that need pointing out. I once read an otherwise excellent suspense novel in which the author wrote, “He nodded,” and “She nodded,” something like five thousand and seventy-two times in the course of the book. By the hundredth instance I began to be irritated. When at last the writer said, “It was his turn to nod,” I cried, “No! No, it isn’t! Everybody stop nodding, already!” Unfortunately I wasn’t a beta reader. The EdgeofRuinCover 300x453thing was already in print.

Luckily I had beta readers for THE EDGE OF RUIN who pointed out to me that they could see no reason why the murderer committed the second murder. I was able to fix that before it went out. Plot holes are my personal weakness. If you know what yours are, you can get your beta readers to watch out for them. Then, when your book goes out the door, it will be the very best it can be.

Kate Gallison