Friday, March 8, 2013

The 6 Outrageous Mistakes Authors Make (Part 2)

The 6 Outrageous Mistakes Authors Make

When Writing Press Releases (Part 2)
Guest Blogger, friend, and colleague Sandra Wendel

Now where were we? Oh, yes, the importance of a grabber headline and the mistakes authors make in writing press releases:

Mistake #1: Thinking that your book coming out is headline news. It’s not. Fix: Give your book’s press release a reason to be read. 

The fact that you wrote a book is not news. But surely your book has a “wow” factor. Use it to hook reporters with a knock-their-socks-off headline that grabs them.

Common boring example many authors choose (Marilyn didn't submit this headline, but it's an effective example of what not to do):  
Marilyn Coffey Releases 40th Anniversary Edition of Her Novel

Instead, set the hook and yank with this headline we actually used:  
Taboo Novel Shocked America 40 Years Ago

Real-life current example from a traditional publisher who should know better:
From the Authors of Barefoot Running Comes the Essential Guide to the Life-Changing Benefits of Barefoot Walking

My rewrite (but nobody asked me):
What’s the One Simple and Free Physical Activity Everybody Can Do
to Change Their Lives?

Maybe the people in New York publishing think launching a book is news. They’re still stuck in that tired traditional publishing model. You don’t have to be. Why? Because your book is competing with millions of ebooks and tree books for eyeballs. Your goal: Get a time-pressed lifestyle/health journalist or book reviewer working on a big city daily newspaper to scroll through a lengthy email of headlines and first lines to linger and perhaps stop—and OMG click—the link to read your grabber headline.

Give ’em a reason to request a copy. Or risk becoming noise in their crowded Inbox.

Mistake #2: Making reviewers jump through hoops to get a copy of your book. 

Your “wow” headline got the attention of a writer/reviewer/blogger. Now what? Offer them (a) a media review copy of the book by overnight delivery; (b) a virtual copy of the book immediately; (c) multiple ways to reach you via email, phone, web link to the book’s website; (d) all of the above. Right answer is (d).
Here’s an insider secret: journalists are busy and sometimes lazy. Make it easy for them to click for results. [P.S.: Make sure you are available to answer your phone and emails immediately if not sooner. Send a thank you note for any coverage you get.]

Only mail books with your press release right off the bat to the crème de la crème of media where you’re assured of a review, and that might be only five to ten sources that don’t include the Oprah Book Club.

Mistake #3: Saving the good stuff for the end of the release. Fix: Hit ’em with your best stuff first. 

Don’t wait until the end of the press release to mention that your book contains never-before-seen photos or that you’re the last living relative of Al Capone. That’s your lead. Lead with it. Inside secret #2: Journalists may not read to the end. They live in a reverse pyramid world.

Mistake #4: Looking sloppy. Fix: Proofread. 

And proofread again. If your press release is jumbled and contains typos and poor grammar, surely your book does too (or so the thinking goes).

Mistake #5: Thinking the entire world is interested in your new book. Fix: Hit your best prospects. 

The entire world isn’t interested in your new book. But niche journalists and their niche readers will be. Include on your email hit list the big time reporters/reviewers/publications in your genre, with their emails and names spelled correctly. Other often-overlooked sources for publicity include your alumni magazine; your hometown media (and make sure you include a personal note telling them your connection); church bulletins; social club newsletters; membership organizations you belong to; affinity groups; bloggers on the topic; and anybody who helped you write your book.

Hit your followers on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn with hot links to your book’s webpage. Make them your little army of marketers to “share” your news on social media with a personal note (“I went to high school with this guy.” “Her kids go to our daycare too.”) These are the followers you have been cultivating all those months and years it took you to write your book.

Mistake #6: Using the wrong press release service with the wrong email list. Fix: Send a Hail Mary with a competent press release service and updated lists. 

Yes, look into a press release service that (a) hits the media in the genre you’re dabbling in (lifestyle writers at major U.S. daily newspapers for your self-help book and fantasy bloggers for your Harry Potter–like novel), and (b) select a service with coverage you can afford.
Tuesdays are still supposedly the best days to send press releases. But nobody really knows. If the Dow tanks, that day is a bad day to send press releases. Avoid weekends and Monday mornings and Fridays before a holiday.

It’s an old wives’ tale that releases shouldn't be longer than a page. So how long is a page these days? Say what you need to say, say it well, and stop. Include pertinent information about your book (title, author, about the author, ISBN, number of pages, price, formats, a 50-word blurb, book’s website URL optimized and hot, color cover and color author photo, and tell where to buy the book).
Sandra Wendel is a book editor. (

Marketing - Day 7 - Best advice of the day

Not everything is right for your book.
Don't do everything, only do what will make a difference.
Don't market to everybody, it's too expensive.
Don't try to make your book available everywhere books are found. You want to be everywhere your buyers are instead. 
Don't spend every dime on printing (save some for marketing). 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

6 Outrageous Mistakes Authors Make - Part 1

When Writing Press Releases (Part 1)
Guest Blogger, friend, and colleague Sandra Wendel

Let me convey my best advice in a few words: Who cares if you wrote a book? You may stop reading now if you’re pressed for time and just wanted the Cliffs Notes on this blog post.

Yes, you wrote a book. Yes, you want publicity. Yes, you need to get the word out about your book and sell a million copies (or realistically at least a few hundred, but you hope for a few thousand). But how?
That’s where perfectly terrific writers who have written a magnificent manuscript that has been expertly designed and independently published turn into do-it-yourselfers with two left thumbs (unless, of course, they have two left hands through the miracle of medical transplantation, which would be a real news angle for a press release on a book on that subject).

In other words, many authors (and their publishers) can’t seem to expertly execute the press release part of their marketing strategy. In many cases, the press release becomes an afterthought to which they give little thought.

Not a good idea.

Yes, you need a press release. Yes, you will want to alert certain media outlets that you wrote a book. But nobody cares you wrote a book, and unless you feel like wasting time and effort (and probably precious marketing bucks), stop the presses right now until you read here how to craft a press release that delivers (articles, readers, reviews = sales).

By “delivers,” I mean turning your press release into a key cog in your marketing machine that turns into book sales. It’s one thing to pump out a press release telling the world about your wonderful new thriller, memoir, or self-help book, but I ask again, “Who cares?” Other than your family and maybe a few desperately loyal friends, nobody cares.

What journalists and bloggers care about is a hook, an angle, and a reason to give your “news” some space in their newspaper or on their website or a mention in their book review blog. Book bloggers are the new book reviewers, by the way, and you need to find them and give them a reason to pay attention to you.
Just because you wrote a book is not news. Please read that sentence again. It’s brutally true.

So what makes a busy, tired, overworked, underappreciated journalist or blogger or book reviewer on a tight deadline stop and take notice of your press release?

Oh, I have used up my allotment of words for today's blog, so you’ll have to read the next installment for the six outrageous mistakes authors make in writing their press releases.

Gotcha, didn’t I? Never underestimate the power of a powerful news hook and headline.

Guest blogger: Sandra Wendel is a book editor who has written scads of press releases and made plenty of blunders along the way. (

Part 2 tomorrow...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Marketing - Day 5 - Learn a New Marketing Language

In 1960, Jerome E. McCarthy came up with a revolutionary way to break up the elements of marketing -- the Four P's. He said that if you can establish these four things as you introduce and maintain the marketing of something, you'll be successful:  Product, Price, Placement, Promotion. Marketing classes repeat the Four Ps over and over and over -- I did it myself a week ago...

After I presented my class last Saturday, I began to ask myself "Do the Four Ps still play today?"  I think in the 20th Century marketplace with a product-oriented philosophy where you had to pound your message over a prospect's head over and over, yes.  In the real world of today, not so much. The 21st Century marketplace has given the consumer power -- power to demand quality, value, a great product experience, ease of purchase and acquisition. 

Let's get microscopic and look at today's consumer:

Is the Product still important?  Today, I believe that the Experience the customer has with your product is the only message prospective buyers care about.  You can talk all you want about the product itself, but prospective consumers are going to focus on what it does for them. Period.  

Is the Price still important?  If you look purely at Price as a critical piece of marketing, you are looking at it only from one direction. I believe Value is more important -- and that is a two-way transaction. Does your customer believe that they gained something that is commensurate with the price you are charging?  On the other hand, does the amount it costs to make the product leave you with enough of a margin when you set your price?  Consider the middlemen too.  Do they bring value to your customer by getting the product where it is supposed to be without charging so much that it is impossible to make a profit?

Is Placement still important? Not so much anymore. Why?  Because you have to be Everywhere your customer might be looking.  Does that mean Everywhere Everywhere?  No. It means you have to be where your buyer is when they want to take out the $20 to buy your book.  Study the habits of your consumer and make sure your book is available in the places that make sense -- and that doesn't mean bookstores only. People buy books in all sorts of places -- retail stores, online, through groups and associations, at events, directly from you. 

Is Promotion still important? Seth Godin has recoined this element as building a "Tribe." David Ogilvy calls it product Evangelism. Promotion in its purest description is an offer, delivered creatively, delivered often enough to catch the attention of the buyer, with enough of an offer to persuade the buyer to purchase. Today, it's more important to Engage your customer in an emotional experience that delivers greater value than another company's experience delivers. 

Let your consumer be part of your marketing. Bring them into the pages of your story. Make your book easy to find and buy. Bring them value for their money. See, marketing is easy.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Marketing - Day 4 - Think Engagement

What do you want your consumer to DO?  Is buying your book the end of the transaction for you, the author/publisher?  If you are like most of our authors, you want your reader to actually do something, change something, learn something, tell someone, be happier, be better, be inspired, or be entertained. 

We look to the back of the book for an opportunity to engage our customers. We add things that the reader might want to know, do or purchase as a result of loving whatever book we are talking about:
  • About the author - Do you invite your readers to engage in conversations with you about characters, ideas and content?
  • How to buy more - Perhaps your reader would like to purchase a case for her employees. Make it easy for her by providing information in the back of your book.
  • Speaker Information - If you are a speaker or presenter, put information in the back of your book that will enable a reader to find you easily to hire you for an event.
  • Bibliography or Suggested Reading - Do you provide ideas for additional reading? 
  • Facebook Page or Blog - Engage your readers by allowing them a forum to discuss your book with you and other readers.
  • Design philosophy - Does your book have special features, fonts, design elements that have special significance?  Many readers look in the book to find why something is the way it is.  
  • Index - Indexes come in many forms. Does your book detail people and places? Customize it for that purpose.
  • Glossary - Glossaries help the reader understand the terminology within your book
  • Discussion Questions -Book clubs, schools and other groups appreciate discussions questions to get them started.  Having discussion questions in the back of your book is something to advertise on the outside of your book and in your marketing materials.
When you get your reader involved with you, your book, and other readers, it helps you spread the word about your book and you. Engage your reader in conversation and help them do what you set out to do when you wrote your book in the first place.  

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Marketing - Day 3 - Think Commitment

In our publishing classes each quarter, I discuss the commitments a buyer makes versus the commitments a reader makes to you (the author). It's an important distinction because so many of you are choosing to publish your own work, and the behavior of book consumers is the same as it has always been no matter what formats you choose to offer: People buy books for themselves to read. People buy books to give to other people.

While I hear many authors ask virtually anyone in their path to "buy my book;" what most don't recognize, is that there is a much bigger commitment at work. Take a few moments to consider what you are really asking of your consumers; and remember that your buyer and your reader may or may not be the same person.

The commitment from the buyer is simple: You sell me a book, I'll commit $20 for it, and you deliver it to me in any form I want.  Done and done.

The commitment from the reader is complicated:  I'll commit the time to read it and think about what you say. I may also commit a portion of my self to actually making a change you recommend, or furthering an idea you suggest. In some cases, I may even change my life. You tell me I'll be either entertained, informed or educated and I'll commit the time to see if you deliver.  

Make certain that your book does deliver what you promise in your marketing, and be thankful for the valuable commitment your customer has made to you.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Marketing - Day 2 - Describe Your Book

You'll need to provide descriptions of your book for various purposes. You'll need it for your back cover, your sell sheet, descriptions for your wholesaler, book sellers, catalog listings, press materials, and your verbal explanation of your book (we'll handle your elevator speech later).

Here's the different types of descriptions we write for each and every book (because experience tells us that these lengths are most frequently requested):

  Length    Common Usage (but many other uses present themselves)
  30 words - For those occasions when someone asks for 1 or 2 sentences about your book
  50 words - Very common length for catalogs and newspapers announcing your book
  75 words - Common for wholesalers and bookstores
100 words - Newsletter announcements, short descriptions for websites and bloggers
150 words - Pretty common length for back cover copy, but not set in stone
300 words - Longer descriptions when a website leads a buyer to "read more"

Craft this copy carefully. Every word is relevant and all of these words should provide separate and powerful tools for online searches. Google the keywords that you are considering for your copy to see what results come up. Remember that this copy is not the place to be vague or to use "puffery" like "the best book" or "the only book." Tell the reader exactly what they will get from reading your book, what your book brings to the table that other books don't provide, and don't play games with the buyer. Appreciate the moment the person has taken to read about your book by providing meticulously-written copy that illustrates your promise.

File a master file with all of these descriptions at the ready. Make sure if you change a relevant word that you change the word in all of your descriptions for consistency.

Save each description you send with it's own file name. For example, Your_book_030213_Amazon_100

Friday, March 1, 2013

How to Market Your Book - Day 1 - What is Success?

It's the first day of March, the beginning of Small Press Month. Take a vow with me to make marketing your book a priority this month. Do something every day.

TODAY:  Write down what YOUR definition of success is in publishing.

It's not the same for everyone. Really examine what you are trying to achieve.

Hint:  It is probably not all about selling books!

If you are willing to share, let us know what your definition of success is.  Thanks!