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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How to Create a Website as a Writer (Without it Costing You Both One Arm and One Leg)

stuarthorwitzPlease welcome guest Stuart Horwitz, founder and principal of Book Architecture, a firm of independent editors based in Providence. Book Architecture’s clients have reached the best-seller list in both fiction and non-fiction and have appeared on Oprah!, The Today Show, The Tonight Show, and in the most prestigious journals in their respective fields. Stuart’s first book Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method (Penguin/Perigee) was named one of 2013’s best books about writing by The Writer magazine. His second book, Book Architecture: How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula, was released earlier this month.

I believe that all of the effort and some of the expense that writers used to put into their collateral: brochures, business cards, even client-facing offices, should now go into websites instead because we live online. It’s that simple!

Connect with Stuart on Facebook and on Twitter.

How to Create a Website as a Writer (Without it Costing You Both One Arm and One Leg)

 Your writer’s website is one of the most profound ways you can secure fans and attract soon-to-be fans. Readers can congregate to learn more about you: your related projects, your products, your influences and your personality, as well as connect with you directly. All the effort and some of the expense that writers put into their collateral for brochures, business cards, even client-facing offices, should now go into your website—because we live online. It’s that simple!

For this post, I’d like to invite in megawatt web designer, Andrew Boardman, of Manoverboard. Manoverboard is the most awesome web partner I could imagine, I just want to make sure to say that. Andrew’s looking over my shoulder as we write this, but if you take issue with a point below it’s likely my fault.

Don’t do your own design. Nobody told me to say this. I mean it. Maybe you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg but to get one of the best websites, one of the cool websites, you might have to spend an arm. I’m here to say I think it’s worth it.

Make it scannable. We’re writers, you know? We like to write long sentences, and deploy our favorite punctuation that enables us to create dense paragraphs packed with meaning. Not on the web. On the web people read in a clockwise fashion, and they skip a lot, landing on the bolded or enlarged or italicized features to see what interests them. And they look at pictures – lots of pictures. Don’t let this alarm you: assured and competent writing is very welcome. You just need to learn a different form and play by the rules. I don’t know, maybe you can pretend you’re learning a villanelle in college or something?

SEO the crap out of it. Writing a good blog post for the web without going to Google AdWords to find out what keywords are actually being searched, is like writing a short story in Syriac (insert other favorite dead language here). If you can, see what keywords are useful to your audience. My site is currently full of carefully crafted articles about writing that no search engine can find. We’re having to change all of that right now, creating proper title tags and headings that are not hopelessly obscure. [Read more…]

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False Summits–and How to Get to the Top Anyway

harrybinghamToday’s guest is Harry Bingham, the (British) author of the Fiona Griffiths crime series, which has been critically acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic. He also runs a couple of outfits, The Writers’ Workshop & Agent Hunter, that offer a variety of help and advice to new writers. Harry lives in Oxfordshire, England. He’s married and he and his wife are, this summer, expecting their second set of twins. They’re not terrified at all.

I’ve had over a dozen books published by some of the world’s biggest publishers. Some of those experiences have been wonderful, while others have been . . . not so great. I want to help other writers have the best possible experience of publication.

Connect with Harry on his blog and on Twitter.

False Summits–and How to Get to the Top Anyway

If you’ve ever hiked any distance in the mountains, you’ll know how elusive that final summit can feel. The loom of the mountain always shields your view, so your near horizon is filled with a crest which, as you approach, melts away into a new horizon, a new crest, another draining slog upwards. Never mind the actual ascent: that succession of false summits is wearying in itself. An inducement to despair.

If you know anything of what I’m talking about, you’ll also have a good sense of the life of an author. You want to write a novel? OK. That’s a tough gig, but you do what you have to do. You write away until you have a hundred thousand words of half-decent prose. Only then – whoops! – another summit looms. Gotta edit and correct and rewrite, till that half-decent prose becomes almost flawless.

Forewarned is forearmed. It’s important to realise that your job isn’t only about writing, and your job doesn’t finish once you get that book deal.

And then you have to get a literary agent. And then you have to get a publisher. And perhaps, just possibly, you win an advance large enough to mean you don’t also have to haul garbage, or wait tables, or (horrors!) do anything else which is, like, an actual job.

And that has to be it, right? Manuscript, check. Agent, check. Advance, check. Plus, in this fantasy of ours, a big publisher ready to blast you into the stratosphere. No more false summits, surely. This is, this has to be, the very top.

Grumbles in Paradise

Well, yes. In theory. Only it’s no secret that my own experiences with publishers have been somewhat mixed, and you don’t have to hang around with authors for long to realise that plenty of them feel likewise. Indeed, when Jane Friedman and I surveyed more than 800 authors to find out what they thought of the firms that published them, we got a true measure of what authors actually think. [Read more…]

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How to Plan Your Own Book Tour

Hacks for HacksWarning: 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.

They say book tours don’t sell books. In fact, they can actually cost authors a lot of money. So why bother? Well, you’re making connections with readers and building your brand and a bunch of other slick-sounding, unquantifiable marketing-speak. If you want to be a big-shot author, you need to act the part, and that means taking your show on the road. Think of a book tour as a tax-write-off-able vacation where people tell you how awesome you are every night. Plus, you have a few days away from your family and those brats of yours, so you can hear yourself think for once. For that kind of payoff, you can’t afford not to go. Here’s everything you need to know to book your own book tour.

Six Months Prior to Tour

  • Set a budget.
  • Ask your publisher about kicking in some money for—wow, that was a faster rejection than when you sent that butterfly erotica story you wrote to the New Yorker.
  • Adjust budget, start buying packs of ramen noodles.

Five Months Prior to Tour

Sure, library patrons love books. What they don’t love is paying for books. You’re far too busy for those moochers.

  • Choose cities. Do you mention any cities in particular in your book? Make sure to hit those. If you set your book in a faraway city, maybe ask your publisher one more time for—okay, still no, that’s fine.
  • Contact venues and explain to them that you’re a famous author who wants to have a reading/signing in their establishment. Tell them how many people will be there. You’re not lying when you say fifty people, you’re demonstrating the power of positive thinking. Besides, you’ll be long gone before they can do anything to you. Contact the following types of venues:
    • Bookstores. Duh.
    • Schools. Kids have disposable income, and best of all, it’s a captive audience. They literally can’t leave! Also, they’ll find your unremarkable adult achievements like owning a car and wearing a sport coat as the hallmarks of a successful author.
    • Libraries. Just kidding! Screw them. Sure, library patrons love books. What they don’t love is paying for books. You’re far too busy for those moochers.
    • Disneyland. Shot in the dark. Maybe they’ll let you in free? I dunno, worth a shot.

[Read more…]

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