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!

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An Interview with Liz Schulte

MeLiz Schulte is a fairly new acquaintance of mine, and I love what I see! I love her website, her tenacity and her sense of humor (let’s face it, all of us mystery buffs can be a little weird). I hope you enjoy “meeting” her here today and will rush right out and buy one of her books!

PJ: How long have you been writing?

LS: I have been officially writing novels since 2006, but my first book wasn’t published until 2010. However, I used to write short stories in junior high and high school.

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

LS: I felt successful as a writer when complete strangers began to find me on social networks and tell me how much they loved my books. That always brightens a cloudy day.

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

LS: I don’t know that I really had any expectations when I started. I mostly took writing up again because my mother kept telling me I should write a book. Finally, I had a really good idea and just tried it. I had no idea where it would go, if anywhere, or what it would be like once I got there. I have recently become a full time writer. It is a little different than I thought it would be. I thought I would be swimming in extra time, but I seem to be just as busy as I was before.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

LS: My writing income has exceeded my expectations, no doubt. I never really believed I would be able to make a living just doing what I love. I am very fortunate to be in that position now. I know a lot of great authors who also have to have day jobs.

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

LS: My focus is always on my next book. I want each book I put out to show my growth as an author and to engage the readers.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

 LS: I published my first book three years after I wrote it.

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

LS: Yes! I would have self-published it and not waited so long.

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?

LSTime management is definitely the hardest part of being a writer. Being a writer is like having three separate jobs. You have to write the book (job 1), edit the book (job 2), and then you have to market the book (job 3). I don’t know that there is a perfect formula for handling this. Writing is always my top priority so I set word count goals for myself every day and once I meet those, I will work on the other two jobs as needed.

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

LS: It is pretty hard to choose only one thing. I think being named as one of Apple iBooks Breakout Authors in the UK was pretty exciting.

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

LS: I honestly can’t think of anything. There are always disappointments in life and careers, but I never let them get me down or stay with me. When I have a setback, I push forward to better the next time.

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

LS: I went to a writing conference in Florida. A fan of mine who lived in Minnesota wasn’t able to come, but her parents were vacationing there so they came by to meet me and get pictures for their daughter. I thought that was pretty great.

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

LS: I think it is the same things that set books apart before. You need an eye-catching cover and a great jacket copy.

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

LS: Don’t get discouraged and keep trying. The market is evolving and always changing. If you can’t find a publisher that works for you, then there is always self-publishing. If you want it bad enough, you can take control of your career and make it happen.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

LS: It is pretty easy for an area of promotion to become over-saturated. So I think the most challenging part of promotion is constantly finding new avenues to meet and engage readers.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

Dark Corner (The Ella Reynolds Series)- 2011

Liz - Easybakecoven (2)Secrets (The Guardian Trilogy Book 1)- 2011

Choices (The Guardian Trilogy Book 2)- 2012

Consequences (The Guardian Trilogy Book 3)- 2012theninthfloor2 (1)

Dark Passing (The Ella Reynolds Series)- 2012

Easy Bake Coven (Book 1)- 2013

Hungry, Hungry, Hoodoo (Book 2)- 2013

The Ninth Floor– 2013

PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

The ninth floor of St. Michael’s Hospital was shut off to the public, staff, and administrators in 1984. The doors were welded and chained shut, the stop was removed from the elevators, and the no one talked about what happened there—ever.

Ryan Sterling knew her life was going to change forever the day she found out her aunt needed a transplant, and she agreed to return to a home she never wanted to see again. Spending the vast majority of her time in St. Michael’s hospital, she soon notices peculiarities: her aunt’s roommate rants about evil, the nurses whisper about hauntings, and no one will tell her why the ninth floor is locked. Ryan thinks all the rumors are ridiculous until two nurses die right after she speaks with them about the floor in question.

Ryan never wanted to go home again, now she may never leave.

Where can we buy it?

Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and Sony.

Thanks for visiting with us Liz! I hope you’ve found some new readers here and I know I’m looking forward to seeing what your next books will be!

Flying into the Clouds Without a Compass by Nancy Means Wright

NANCY MEANS WRIGHT COLORFLYING INTO THE CLOUDS WITHOUT A COMPASS  (by Nancy Means Wright)

Since 1996 when my first mystery novel came out from St. Martin’s Press, I’ve been with traditional publishers. Patti Nunn was my security blanket through her wonderful BreakThrough Promotions, sending out flyers and getting me on radio gigs (I loved curling up in a chair and chatting about books).  I marketed a number of adult mysteries  this way, and two middle grade novels, which won an Agatha Award and Agatha nomination. I was content to make my advance each time and to remain a midlist author.

Then midlist writers became a thing of the past, and hundreds of new writers appeared, selling or giving away their books online. I suddenly wanted to be part of all this, and in control! So I turned my backlist into e-books, and an in-progress adult mystery, Broken Strings, into a partially self-published book.  I say ‘partially,’ because I panicked at the thought of doing everything from manuscript conversion, to e-and-print book.

Cruising the web one day, I discovered Great Minds Think Aloud Publishing. I envisioned folks shouting out their books in subways, groceries, and coffeehouses! I discovered that publisher Kitty Bullard would convert my manuscript into an e-book with frequent chances to offer it free. She included artwork, a blog tour, and a print book through Create Space. She didn’t offer any editing, but she put me in touch with a professional free-lance editor who charged a reasonable rate

My sleuth is a failed actress named Fay, who is shocked to find a puppeteer friend dead of poisoned yew. She’s an offbeat character from my St. Martin’s series, who will carry on the troupe and track down the villains. I gave her three lively foster kids, a kooky psychic friend, and a shy but attractive male neighbor to help with the puppets. The editor liked the book, which I call a “dark cozy,” and held me hostage until I “got it right.”

The finished novel looked great, but had none of my usual reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, who only deal with traditional publishers. I tried to buy a PW review (for $140), but, for some reason, the online application process kept rejecting me. (Did it know I wasn’t wholly self-published?). I found a few review sources through a Step-by-Step self-publishing list, and spent hours writing blogs and answering questionnaires.

A Vermont bookstore invited me to do a book launch, and I asked my Very Merry Theatre son to direct A Tale of Two Lovers—my one act riff on the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, which figures in my book. Working a marionette is truly an art, so my puppeteer spouse taught the six players only the basics. But the date the bookstore gave us turned out to be the eve of an eighth-grade graduation for three of the actors. They thought they could act and graduate the same day, but their parents disagreed!  So we’ve had to reschedule the event until fall.

And now I must expand the play into an hour-long production, my son insists, with song lyrics and parts for fifteen players.  And more string, rod, and hand puppets to create, of course.

Oh dear. It seems the novel I thought would take less marketing time has ballooned into a major flight!  I only hope I don’t end like Amelia Earhart who tried to BROKEN_STRINGs_Tradecircumnavigate the globe, but finally sank into the Pacific Ocean.

But a writer has to take risks, right? So here we go: sailing into the clouds… And hoping for a happy landing!

Nancy Means Wright has published 18 books, including 6 contemporary mysteries from St Martin’s Press and two historical novels featuring 18th-century Mary Wollstonecraft (Perseverance Press).  Her two most recent books are the mystery Broken Strings (GMTA publishing) and Walking into the Wild, an historical novel for tweens (LLDreamspell).  Her children’s mysteries have received an Agatha Award and Agatha nomination. Nancy lives in Middlebury with her spouse and two Maine Coon cats.

(www.nancymeanswright.com).

An interview with Kathryn Primm, DVM

2010-09-07 20.15.52 Kathryn Primm has dreamed of being a veterinarian since the age of five. She grew up in Chattanooga, graduating from Girls Preparatory School and accepting an academic scholarship from Mississippi State University where she completed a degree in Biological Sciences as well as her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine.

Applebrook Animal Hospital is a dream come true for her and she will laugh and say that it is built of her “blood, sweat and tears.”

As a pet owner of two cats and Dora, a rescued Great Dane, Dr. Primm knows the challenges of keeping fur-friends happy and healthy. Helping pets and people is her passion and her mission, loving the job is an extra bonus!

PJ: How long have you been writing?

KP: Probably two years, but I have always been a storyteller at heart.

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

KP: I do not think I have reached that point yet.

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

No, I was unprepared for all the revisions, but the promotion has been very much more fun than I thought!

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

KP: Haha, I have only just begun but I have a “day job” without which I would not write at all! I find it amusing that the public thinks that. We all accept that artists are starving for their craft,  but somehow writers are making the “big bucks”.

PJ: Wouldn’t you love to prove them right? Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

KP: Now my focus is more about marketing. Since I have published this book and I think it is worth sharing, I want to be sure that people know about it,

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

KP: I am self published, but hired an editor who was wonderful and insisted that we not push publication until we agreed it was ready, so we did several months of revision. From the first word of the first story, it was around 18 months.

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

KP: I would plan better now that I know more about publication. I would make sure that I submitted my manuscript to the appropriate reviewers pre publication.

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?

KP: I have a LOT of energy and I am very excited about Tennessee Tails.  I am going to do everything I can and just run on the excitement for fuel! My job as a veterinarian keeps me focused and I have learned a lot about multitasking in it.

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

I am an avid reader, so the first time I saw my book for sale next to all the other books on an online retailer, it really hit me. I felt so excited and overwhelmed. I remember wanting to shout from the rooftops and I took a picture of the listing.

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

KP: Somehow I guess I thought that people would automatically know about my book and want to read it. I have a love affair with books and animals and since my book combines them, I guess I thought everyone would just know about it instantly. I never realized how much work and patience were involved in getting the word out.

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

KP: Good : When I was asked to speak at the vet school, I was pretty excited. I remember being a student in the very room I will speak.

Bad: When I first contacted potential publicists, the very first one instantly replied to my inquiry that she did NOT handle books that had already been published. It made me feel very small.

PJ: Isn’t that interesting? I haven’t heard that one before. With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

KP: The stories do not have “fluff” to make them better. They are entertaining, touching and honest and I tried hard to make it an easy read that reaches any animal lover’s heart.

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

KP: Always follow your dreams. Never give up and believe in yourself.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

KP: I think that I am the most important tool in promotion. If I am not willing to put forth effort, the promotion will fail.

PJ: I must admit, your enthusiasm is quite contagious! What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

KP: Patience has been the biggest challenge for me in the whole process. Everything moves slower than I would like.

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

KP: Sadly we do not.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:TT cover

Just the one, Tennessee Tails

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

Stories about pets and the people whose lives are made better because of their relationships. Just like people, pets have their own tales to tell if we watch and listen. There is always something that we can learn from each other.

Where can we buy it?

Amazon. Kindle http://tinyurl.com/tennesseetails

Barnes and Noble. com  http://tinyurl.com/qehzowd

and I have copies in my animal hospital where many of the stories took place.

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

These stories are so close to my heart, I even had a hard time changing the names to protect privacy. I wanted to relay them faithfully as I remember them. I guess you could say that “literary license” was a hard concept for someone as completely guileless as I am! Since I am still the owner and primary vet at Applebrook Animal Hospital, my work is always “to be continued.”

I am, admittedly, a pet lover. Dogs and cats especially. But even if you’re not a pet lover, I bet you know someone who’d love this book!

Does Promotion Work for Small Press Authors?

PJ Nunn

I get asked similar questions quite a bit and the topic came up yet again today so I thought I’d take a minute or two and share my thoughts with you here.

If you’re reading this, you already know how competitive it is out there. Getting attention for a single title – whether print or ebook – is like trying to identify a particular grain of sand on an endless beach. Some days it really feels hopeless. How can a little-known, small press or self-published author successfully promote his or her book to the point that there’s a visible increase in sales?

I wish I had an easy answer. If anyone tells you there is one, don’t believe them. First of all, understand that while writers and those within the book industry seem inordinately aware of who the publisher is of any title, readers can rarely tell you who published the book they just read. In fact, in working with broadcast media, they rarely ask me about the publisher. Truth is, they just don’t seem to care. Stores care. Libraries care. Newspapers care. There are ways around that.

So, while there is a negative stereotype against self-published books and small presses within the industry (gasp! Not everyone feels that way, but some do), it doesn’t preclude successful promotion efforts. It can, however, make it seem impossible to have a chance at getting your book on many or any store shelves. There are ways around that, too. And, since these days, nobody’s book is in every store, you have a good chance of getting yours in some stores if you really want that. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

If you’ve heard you’re at a disadvantage because your publisher can’t afford to do much marketing, guess what? NO publisher these days can afford to do much marketing. I work with several large publishers in addition to the small press and self-published authors I represent. In the last five years I’ve seen many in-house publicists laid off while those that remained took on twice and even three times the client load they once had. For the same pay. Yikes! Every one I work with tries really hard to get good attention for their authors, but one person can only do so much, even when I often talk to them still in the office at 6 or 7 pm “just finishing up one more project”.

That said, when books from small presses, or any presses, fail to achieve much recognition these days, it’s usually more a problem of too little promotion or too intense in a short time. Slow and steady is what wins the race these days. Repeat, consistent exposure. Too much too soon can make it feel like you’re getting somewhere, but six weeks after the blitz, will anyone remember you? Have you ever heard a short author interview on the radio during drive time on the way to work and swerved off the highway in search of a bookstore to buy the book you just heard about? I know I haven’t.  But I have tucked the name away in my mind if it sounded interesting, then promptly forgot about it later. UNTIL a few weeks down the road maybe I heard it again on another program. Or saw a review of it in the paper. Or maybe just happened to catch a tweet about it online. If the name keeps popping up, sooner or later I’ll pay attention. And so will somebody else.

Because it’s unlikely that anyone will rush out and buy your book the very first time they see your name or title, it’s hard to gauge the success of a campaign. But in the 14 years I’ve been doing this, it’s invariably the ones who just keep going who ultimately build a following and see sales increase. Granted it doesn’t come overnight or without effort, but if you do it right and keep doing it, it will pay off. The question then is how bad do you want it and how much is it worth?

That can be hard to calculate because it’s almost impossible to judge which promotional effort affected which sales. Still, if you’re diligent, you can estimate your cost and approximately how many books you need to sell to cover it. The main problem is you can still be reaping sales for months after the fact. I suggest that you take time to figure out what you make on the sale of each book so you can determine what your sales goals are for a twelve month period. Or until you estimate your next book will come out. Once you’ve determined a realistic sales goal, make sure your promo budget stays beneath that figure. That way you can plan a campaign that won’t put undue financial strain on you, but will still assist you in getting the job done.

At one time, a few years back, the average lifetime sales of a self-published or small press title was 200 – 500 copies. That’s all. IF the book is trade paper and sells for $14.95, and IF you make a 15% royalty ($2.24 per copy) and IF you sell 500 copies, you’ll gross a whopping $1,120. If your only real promotional expense is postage you’ll turn a profit, but most have a few more expenses than that, even without hiring someone like me. So how can you make that work? Obviously you have to sell quite a few more books. Selling 1500 instead of 500 raises your gross to $3,360. Double that at 3000 and so on. Those are reasonable goals. Of course we’d all love to break that 100,000 mark but it might be best to aim a little lower the first time. Like someone once said, if you aim for heaven and fall a little short, you’ll still have reached the sky!

Once you have that budget established, you can map out a campaign to fit. I always promote the author more than any one title, but I do focus on the latest title, unless there’s a special audience that might be more interested in a previous book for some reason. The goal is to make your name familiar so that ultimately when a reader hears you have a new book out they’ll want to read it, whatever its title is. I’ve found a lot of authors would rather focus entirely on the book and don’t like to feel they’re promoting themselves. And other authors, who don’t mind promoting themselves, sometimes come across as conceited and abrasive. There’s a fine line and it’s important for you to learn how to put yourself out there gracefully. In order to accomplish that, we’d want to target several different markets in a variety of venues. Establish yourself as an expert and a professional so that media hosts want to talk to you, journalists want to interview you and store personnel want to get to know you. Most of all, readers will want to read your book!

Back to books not being in stores – that’s the way of the future at this point. There are so many more books being released each month, and so many fewer stores that it’s difficult to get books on the shelves unless you’re touring. Even then it can be a challenge, because so many stores don’t do signing events anymore and it’s so expensive to travel, but it’s doable. The more reasonable goal for most is to make sure they know about your books and know how to order them. That’s one way radio interviews can be of help.

If at all possible, we contact independent stores in the area when we schedule you for a radio interview and ask them to order in a few copies, then make sure you mention on the air that the book is available at such and such a store. Most stores (particularly independent stores) are happy to get the free mention on the radio, and often they’ll continue to carry your books long after. That’s just one way. It can seem endless thinking you have to do that one store at a time, but book promotion is nothing if not a snowball effect. One event builds on another then another and after a while, you’ve created a good trail. It doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t come quick, but it will come as long as the book is good.

Only one thing is truly a guarantee – if you don’t promote it, you won’t sell many. So stop thinking about reasons why promotion won’t work for you, and start finding ways that it can!