The World’s Longest Book Tour

jennymilchmanToday please welcome return guest Jenny Milchman.” Jenny’s new novel, As Night Falls, will be released tomorrow. She is also the author of Cover of Snow, which won the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and Ruin Falls, an Indie Next Pick and a Top Ten of 2014 by Suspense Magazine. She is Vice President of Author Programming for International Thriller Writers, teaches for New York Writers Workshop, and is the founder and organizer of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, which is celebrated annually in all fifty states. Jenny lives with her family in New York’s Hudson River Valley.

In 2013, Shelf Awareness dubbed my book tour “the world’s longest.” Of the first two years I was a published author, eleven months were spent on the road, visiting bookstores, libraries, book clubs, schools. Now I’d like to help other writers add this kind of richness to their careers by getting out there face-to-face in an increasingly virtual world–oh, and you don’t have to rent out your house, trade in two cars for an SUV that can handle Denver in February, or “car-school” your children to do it.

** Special for Writer Unboxed Readers! Today is the last day of a giveaway for anyone who pre-orders Jenny’s forthcoming thriller, As Night Falls. You’ll be eligible to win a Writer’s Wish List, or give one away to an emerging writer in your life. Click HERE for details.

Connect with Jenny on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

The World’s Longest Book Tour  

Or, Why I Rented Out My House, Traded in Two Cars for an SUV That Could Handle Denver in February, and Hit the Road With My Husband and Kids

When Therese graciously agreed to let me appear on WU, she asked two questions about my book touring. (I’ve spent 11 of the past 24 months on the road, putting 70,000 miles on the above mentioned SUV. Now with my third novel set to release, we are heading out again.)

Therese wanted to know whether I do it all myself. And, how I manage not to lose my mind.

Well, assuming she’s right about the not losing my mind part—and some would say that’s a reach—I do have some ideas as to how to keep a hold of your sanity on tour. But it might be better to talk first about why I do this, and whether a scaled down version could work for you. [Read more…]

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How to Blurb Someone’s Book

Hacks for Hacks

Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

Your career is taking off–someone asked you to blurb their book! Yes, you! No, I can’t believe it either! I mean, out of all the authors available who have better sales and a bigger following and…well anyway, they picked you, so nice job.

This is a big opportunity. Blurbing a book lets you seize a chunk of someone else’s life’s work and make it all about you. Furthermore, if people are asking you for an endorsement, you’re now a tastemaker, subtly steering the zeitgeist toward works of true literary quality. The resemblance of said works to your own books is purely coincidental.

Like any important endeavor, there’s the distinct possibility you might screw it up, thereby trashing not only your own career, but that of a fellow author whose only crime was believing in you. Not sure what to do next? Aren’t you lucky you have me to tell you!

Blurbing a book you haven’t read would be unthinkable, even though it would be impossible to prove, and you’d face no consequences whatsoever. Oh yes, you’ll definitely read every word.

Step 1: Agree to Blurb Every Book You Possibly Can

Remember when you were desperately begging every author you’d ever met to say just one nice thing about your novel? Just one?! Don’t make other writers go through that. You can be sure that if someone’s asking you for a blurb, they’ve already been turned down by half the RWA. When you come across an author who’s so, shall we say, highly motivated, you can ask for a few perks. I don’t mean anything fancy, just get the author to promise that your blurb will appear before any other author’s on the jacket. You’re doing them a favor, after all, so it wouldn’t kill them to work with you a little, amirite? No need to be pushy, but don’t be bashful either; with the right combination of charm and passive aggression, they’ll let you pick the font and weigh in on the cover design.

Step 2: Read the Book

Now that the author has agreed to your demands, it’s time to read the book. This is of utmost importance, because who would ever blurb a book they haven’t read? It’s unthinkable, even though such a thing would be impossible to prove, and even if it wasn’t, the offender would face no consequences whatsoever. Oh yes, you’ll definitely read every word.

[Read more…]

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Trade Shows, Authors, and Expectations

Image: Provided by Frankfurt Buchmesse, photographer Bernd Hartung
Image: Provided by Frankfurt Buchmesse (coming 14-18 October 2015), photographer Bernd Hartung

What If We’re Asking Too Much of Our Book Fairs?

Jael McHenry
Jael McHenry

When our good colleague Jael McHenry wrote What You Would Have Learned at BEA earlier this month, she did a fine job of listing some of the common views and assumptions among many writers about the industry’s major trade shows. Excerpting here:

If you’re an aspiring author, there’s pretty much no reason to go…If you’ve ever needed a physical representation of what it’s like to be a reader, this is it — rows and rows, tables and tables, yards and yards (that feel like miles) of books…Publishers place their bets. You can preview half of next year’s bestseller lists by looking at the BEA posters and displays.

I’m going to cordially disagree with McHenry on all this.

Most easily: What writer worth her or his pixels doesn’t need a good representation of what it’s like to be a reader?

In the UK, in 2012, there were more books published than there were in the 18th century, the 19th century, and the first half of the 20th century combined. –Samira Ahmed, BBC Radio 4’s Front Row

Let’s put some background into place, and then I will argue the following:

  1. It is important for an aspiring author to see a trade show (if it can be done without too much expense and inconvenience) because our commercialized world of arts and letters is encapsulated at these massive transactional events.
  2. There is a chance for our trade shows to shift their own author-responsive focus from an admirable but perhaps less practical focus on independent writers to something that serves the needs of traditional authors (who come to the shows already) in terms of marketing skills that indies wield more frequently.

Now, let’s look at these events for some background.

BEA proper was followed this year by a two-day BookCon that drew a total 18,000 fans of books (readers!) to the Javits Center. Image: Porter Anderson
BEA proper was followed this year by a two-day BookCon that drew a total 18,000 fans of books (readers!) to the Javits Center. Image: Porter Anderson

Trading in Trade Shows

There are three major trade shows for Western publishing:

Provocations graphic by Liam Walsh
Provocations graphic by Liam Walsh

I know these operations well. Porter Anderson Media is a Media Partner with LBF and I enjoy my contact with that staff annually. At BEA, I programmed the show’s Author Hub last year, and this year I was program director for the International Digital Publishing Forum’s (IDPF) Digital Book Conference that opened the trade show. At Frankfurt, I’m very pleased to program special events in the Business Club facility. (If you’ll be in Frankfurt this year, do ask me about the Business Club, it’s terrific.)

Each of these three big shows is quite distinctive in its approach to independent authors.

  • About three years ago, London Book Fair, under Jacks Thomas’ direction, led the way in creating activities for independent authors at London Book Fair. Its AuthorLounge, originally programmed by Authoright, was the first of these majors to lay on a complex, busy round of panels and programs for authors. Now called Author HQ, the program is still up and running, quite robust. It stands as primarily a lecture- and meeting-area, busily programmed. It made the move with the rest of the trade show to the Olympia London facility this past April.

I walk the convention floor for impromptu meetings, greeting and bumping into publishing buddies. I snag catalogs of interest and the occasional galley giveaway. I stop at booth signings by our clients. It’s all about face-to-face connections. Nothing will ever completely replace that. — Donald Maass

  • At BookExpo in New York, Reed Exhibitions’ Steve Rosato followed up, working diligently to produce Author Hub. This year called Author Marketplace, the offering for independent authors was again a chance to have a table of  your own for the life of the show (five days this year — it included BookCon) as a place for meetings, a base of operation, and a showcase area of your own on the trade-show floor. The proposition is quite different at BEA from what it is at LBF. At LBF, the author arrives and sees panels and presentations about various aspects of craft and business, all for the price of admission to the floor, about £30 or $47.50. At BEA, the author who wants a place in Author Marketplace pays, and quite substantially, for the table: $1,720, which included a BEA Author Autographing Session. There has been a one-day self-publishing conference at BEA, as well, called uPublishU.
  • Frankfurt’s approach, under the good work of Juergen Boos, Holger Volland, Thomas Minkus and many others, so far has been primarily conference-oriented (this year, the good Michelle Turnbach is working on it), with a line of events for German-speaking authors and, last year, an afternoon’s half-day conference for English-speaking authors put together by Authoright — I assisted in programming and moderating some of that English-language afternoon, which had a fine turnout. There was also a good series of sessions on the Saturday developed by our friends Edward Nawotka, Hannah Johnson and others at Publishing Perspectives’ stage. Plans for this coming October are still in the works.

Each of these major trade shows has, in recent years, tried to accommodate at least some of the interests and needs of independent authors.

I’m stressing independent authors because traditionally published authors, a whole lot of them, have always been at these shows. At BEA alone, more than 600 traditionally published authors were engaged in various activities this year — autographing, speaking, answering questions.

From left, BEA's Steve Rosato, LBF's Jacks Thomas, FBM's Juergen Boos
From left, BEA’s Steve Rosato, LBF’s Jacks Thomas, FBM’s Juergen Boos

To what purpose? The publishing trade show is an event designed to have publishers advertise their upcoming releases to booksellers and influencers. Like buyers at major outlets, the mom and pop who own that bookshop you loved as a kid in Minnetonka might fly to New York and roam the huge floor at BEA in order to get copies of upcoming books they might order for the bookshop back home. So will the operators of major book clubs and other outfits that move large numbers of books, influence their sales, blog about their excitement. And the industry wants them to see the upcoming wares.

Those influential people like meeting authors, getting their autographs. This is the core mission of the trade show: get the traditionalist publishers and the traditionalist booksellers / book-mongers / book-talkers /  book mavens (to use our friend Bethanne Patrick’s moniker) to come together. Oh, yes, and press people, too: it can be useful to have someone who writes in the press about books to meet an author, grab a copy, get the background, right? Most fundamentally, booksellers are ordering books for their stores. Publishers are taking orders. Business is at hand.

BEA’s categories for attendance include:

  • Bookstores;
  • Retailers;
  • Librarians;
  • Educators;
  • American Bookseller Association members;
  • Digital service providers;
  • Literary and rights agents;
  • Authors;
  • Publishing (house) personnel;
  • Non-editorial media members (cable TV programmers, for example);
  • Publishing consultants (my Porter Anderson Media is such a company);
  • Book-related non-profits;
  • Film and television people;
  • Book club operators;
  • “Friends, family and children” approved to accompany accredited attendees.

A much wider net than you might have imagined, right?

As McHenry put it, “Publishers place their bets. You can preview half of next year’s bestseller lists by looking at the BEA posters and displays.”

That’s exactly the idea and the purpose of the trade show.

[Read more…]

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Mythbuster: Why Contacts Won’t Bring Your Book Media Coverage

cloud of words or tags related to myth and reality on a  digital tablet
cloud of words or tags related to myth and reality on a digital tablet

If you’re thinking of hiring a publicist, one of the first questions you’re likely to ask is:

“Do you have good contacts?”

Authors ask me this every day. While it would be easy for me to say, “Of course!” (and to add with a glint in my eye, “if you just sign on this dotted line,you’ll see…”) it would be misleading.  Not because I don’t have contacts.  Rather, because the very notion that contacts will lead to media placements is a great big myth it’s time to dispel.

Think about it.  Our press corps is immense. Far beyond book reviewers, there are bloggers and producers and editors and staff writers covering every topic under the sun from food and travel to fashion, psychology, money, health and gardening — even adhesives.  Seriously.  My Vocus media database boasts an archive of 1.6 million media contacts and growing.

Like most PR pros, my work, too, spans a wide range of topics.  I’ve promoted everything from business books to crime novels and literary fiction.  While publicizing Alden Jones’ dazzling travel memoir The Blind Masseuse, I reached out to reporters covering travel and specific Latin American countries.  For Lisa Borders’ literary novel The Fifty First State set in southern New Jersey, I was in touch with — you’ve got it — the South Jersey press.  (Yes, there is such a thing.)  While working on Ashley Warner’s rape memoir The Year After I dug up names of reporters who focus on women’s health.  I also figured out who happened to be producing news about the college campus sexual assault stories that were making headlines at the time. The list goes on and on.

Can anybody possibly know all these contacts?  Absolutely not. That’s what databases are for.  Besides, the media is notorious for high turnover.  A great contact who’s here today could very well be gone the next.

Instead, what a good publicist knows is how to find the news angle in any given book or project.  Because the single most important factor in garnering coverage is the story itself.  Reporters, reviewers, bloggers, producers and news editors are all looking for specific types of news stories presented in fairly specific ways.  Mining those stories from each given book and each author’s personal history [Read more…]

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There’s a Fine Line Between (Online) Love and Hate

liz&lisaToday’s guests are Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke, authors of Your Perfect Life and, released this month, The Status of All Things. They have been best friends for more than twenty-five years. Liz lives in San Diego with her two children. Lisa, a former talk show producer, lives in Chicago with her husband, daughter and two bonus children.

We’re passionate about the topic of not overexposing yourself online because as authors we run the risk of doing it every day! Plus, our forthcoming novel The Status of All Things delves into the issue of being obsessed with social media.

Connect with Liz and Lisa on their blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

There’s a Fine Line Between (Online) Love and Hate

We’re not going to lie. Our road to publishing was hard fought and well-documented, and because of that, we have a lot of people rooting for us. And those same people love that we painstakingly chronicle our journey in posts, pics and emojis. They like, they comment, they share until their fingers fall off.

Until they don’t.

There’s a very fine line between announcing and bragging. Between keeping people in the loop and annoying them. Between trying to get your book off the ground and begging your Facebook friends to buy it. Believe us when we say, we get it. We understand how hard it is to launch a novel. But we’d like to believe it can be done without pissing off our third cousin once removed that we met one time at a family reunion.

Not oversaturating your Facebook feeds has been on our minds as we launch our second book, [Read more…]

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