Monday, December 11, 2006

15 Minutes of Fame: The Media Bistro Interview

Today the Media Bistro interview with Stefanie and me conducted by Rachel Kramer Bussel went live on To check it out please go to:

It's part of a series of interviews giving writers the inside scoop. Other interviews you'll find in the archives include those with Brooke Warner (Seal Press) and Julie Bennett (Ten Speed Press).

I'm not sure if it's publicly accessible, but it's a great site. It's a website of jobs, tips, and much more for "media professionals." If you're an aspiring writer, that means YOU!

Let us know what you think. Does the interview tell you what you need to know about agency requirements? What do you wish agents would tell you before you submit to them?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Case Studies in Author Self-Promotion!: the bOOb Lady

At every conference we attend, authors have the same questions: What can they do to build their platform? What can they do to reach an audience for their book? Most of all, they always ask "Isn't that all the publisher's responsibility to promote the author and the book?"

Don't shoot the messenger! More and more, publishing budgets, particularly for marketing books, are being cut or at least less generously distributed to debut authors. The key to publishing success is in your hands and no one can promote your work as well as you can. The internet is an amazing tool for self-promotion, and I am happy to shamelessly promote Jon Yang's book THE ROUGH GUIDE TO BLOGGING as a primer for people short on time who want to put a billboard for themselves up on the information highway (read: set up a blog).

A website is a fabulous way to build a readership. A few keywords in a search could bring a reader from another city to your doorstep, learning about whatever it is you consider yourself an expert on. And a beautifully-designed website with frequent content updates will keep them coming and interested until you can close your biggest 'sale' with them- the promotion of your book. Every day I receive proposals from authors who suggest that after their book is sold they will be happy to set up a website for the cause. No no no! Do that now! <-- those are the words most frequently pencilled in on proposals when they reach Stefanie and me. The successful writer waits for no publishing deal. In fact, two of our book deals were largely based on engaging and informative websites (please see Craig Michaels' and Elisabeth Squires' for more info). With these websites, the respective authors have fueled the public's understanding of them as experts on their topics (clueless grooms and clueless women, respectively).

A website is the first step! The other is to get out from behind your computer and get out and be connecting with your audience. If you're a crafter or a cook or have some other sort of how-to knowledge, be teaching workshops. There is no shortage of people out there in the world who want to learn something new -- witness the rise of the Learning Annex! A book is a logical next step (in publishers' eyes) when you've proven a demand exists for the knowledge you carry around with you. Figure out who would benefit most from what you have to say (if you said "everyone", go to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $2000, and please acquaint yourself with the concept of target marketing!). Then go to them -- where do they congregate? What do they read? How can you reach out to them? Be there and do it! Write articles that will reach your audience. Go talk to them. Perform for them.

Remember Elisabeth Squires, the lady who runs She's known as the bOOb lady and here are just a sampling of things she has done:

*set up a myspace profile for the boob lady
*set up a detailed website with frequent content updates, news, and more
*included in her website a way to sign up for her mailing list (because if you don't keep track of your audience, how will you let them know when your book is out? don't forget to do this!)
*included interactive portions of her website; creates a rapport with her readers, not to mention lots of entertainment!
*printed business cards to be passing out
*teaching workshops

And guess what? Her workshops have led to media attention, such as this article that was the most emailed-article that day.

And the hits keep coming. She just emailed me that people have been contacting her about other opportunities as a result of reading the article. Elisabeth's book won't be out for another year, but she is steadily building her name, interest in her book, and a devoted audience. Marketing needs to happen before your book is sold, before your book is published, and after.

Some will say "but that's a regional paper. I'm thinking big! I'm waiting for the NY Times!" But guess what? Guess where those big national papers get their story ideas? If you said "from scanning the stories in smaller regional papers" then you're probably my friend Janet (who writes for the Wall Street Journal), and thanks for reading! But seriously, national stories are a snowball effect. Take every opportunity to appear in local media. Continue building those media clips and eventually larger papers will take notice. And also remember that you don't need a huge national audience (although it's quite lovely and we appreciate it if you're querying us!) -- what you need is at the very least a strong and clearly targeted audience as well as a proven track record of reaching them, interesting them and maintaining a relationship with them .

So while you're making your New Year's Resolutions lists, next to wherever you've jotted "write 5 pages a day" think about spending 5 minutes a day upping your public profile. If you're a fiction writer, blog some unique short stories for your online readers or connect with audiences whose interests cross with yours (if you're writing chick lit where the main character is a female shoe designer, get in with the girls online who obsess about shoes. If you're writing a mystery about a detective whose day job is a plumber, contact plumbing unions, etc.).

There's always a new, fresh step you can take to make your writing career a success. When you can't type another word, sit back and have some fun marketing yourself. Nike ain't got nothing on ya.

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