Friday, August 5, 2016

Panels Anyone? - Leveraging panels to build buzz and spread knowledge

Ok, ok... we know that many authors are introverted and prefer the safe and quiet spaces of your writing hovels to speaking in front of an audience. However, speaking at conferences is one of the best ways to build buzz about your books and author persona. Keep in mind: no one ever said you had to speak in front of an audience ALONE. Try participating in a panel.

There are two types of panels at conferences:


  1. Author panels tend to be focused on specific genres or market segments. A group of authors come together to talk about what they write and their latest releases in front of an audience. Young adult (YA), erotic romance, mystery, etc. are all examples of a common trait among authors on a panel.
  2. Subject matter expert panels can be composed of authors, industry experts, or a mix of both types of speakers. Writing steampunk, mixed martial arts fighting, FBI procedures, New Orleans traditions, getting published, are all topics that could be covered in a subject matter expert panel. It is the subject that unifies the speakers on the panel.

How do I get on an author panel?


  1. Create a panel: Writing conferences need presenters....otherwise it's just a string of parties. Most conferences put out a call for training presentation and panel proposals about a year before the date of the event. Check out the conference websites for information on how to submit a proposal. BUT FIRST round up a group of authors or subject matter experts who are willing to attend the conference (and pay all of the associated registration / conference fees).
  2. Make it known that you are open to being on a panel: How will people know you are interested in being part of a panel if you don't tell them? Tell your author friends, writing organizations, local clubs, social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) followers, anyone who will listen that you are interested in speaking at conferences in a panel format.

Let's rewind to do a slightly deeper dive on creating a panel....

We've all been to great panel discussion sessions that have provided wonderful insights into a genre or specific topic. We've all also been to terrible panels where one person 'knew everything' and hogged the microphone postulating about how wonderful they are.

There is definitely an art to coordinating a panel. Here are some things to consider:
  • The personalities and professionalism of the people you approach are key. How will this person react if they disagree with another panelist? Will they be gracious and kind enough to share the stage and pass the microphone? Remember, your audience will be full of readers. You'll want to make sure that you and the panelists make a good impression and NOT spend the entire session bickering.
  • Three to five folks on the panel (including yourself) is plenty. Go too much beyond five people and it will be hard to get through the introductions, let alone have a conversation with the audience. Have less than three folks and it will feel more like a Johnny Carson styled interview. The more people you have on the panel, the less time each person will have to speak. Plus, the more people you have on the panel the more cross-marketing and promotions should occur.
  • Prepare your questions for the panel ahead of time. As the panel coordinator, you are the one who sets the tone and keeps things moving. Don't rely on the audience to provide all the questions. Prepare some questions before the day of the panel and (even better) share them with the panelists so that they can have their answers at least somewhat ready.
  • Ask the panelists to promote the panel! Everyone involved should be spreading the word about this awesome panel they'll be on at an equally awesome conference. Who knows, you each may find new readers through cross-pollination. 
  • Keep things moving! There is nothing worse than a boring panel. As the panel coordinator, you also take on the role of moderator. Which means you have to be willing to keep the discussion moving. Often audience members (readers) and some panelists (there's always one) try to take a dive down the rabbit hole and do a deep dive on some random topic that only a tiny portion of the wider audience is interested in hearing. A simple "let's continue this discussion after the panel" will suffice to move on to the next question or topic.
  • Bring your books...or at least your latest book. Have your book standing up on the table as a silent 'buy me' beacon. A tabletop plate stand or display easel is a great way to showcase your book and its cover. Remember, many people are visual and they will remember your cover better than your name.
  • Handout business cards and bookmarks. Your goal is sell more books...so create a way for people to walk away with some means of finding your books after the panel.
Participating in an author or subject matter expert panel allows you to take the stage and share the spotlight. Yes, you will still need to talk and interact with your audience, but the burden of filling the presentation time won't be a solo effort.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Conferences and Conventions - What to do and How to Work Them

Often at conferences we see many examples of authors behaving badly. So in honor of our conference excursions, here are some Do's, Don'ts, and Be Sure To Go tips for attending conferences:

Industry Focused Conferences
An industry conference focuses on the business and craft side of the publishing industry. Only aspiring authors, published authors, editors, agents, and other industry professionals are permitted to attend.

  • DO put your best foot forward and wear professional attire that is comfortable for long days. It is better to err on the side of being too conservative than show up at an event in clothing that is too casual. You also don't want the distraction of pinched toes, rolled elastic, or scratchy fabrics. Look Good and Feel Good to present your best professional self.
  • DON'T sit in a corner or huddle with only people you already know. You are paying money to attend a conference - and publishing professionals are investing their time to meet you and learn about your projects. Try to break out of your shell and network with new people - how else are you going grow your network? If you're an introvert, stand tall beside an extrovert author friend to smile, listen and learn! 
  • BE SURE TO GO to the bar...yeah, yeah, twist your arm. All sorts of folks hang out in the hotel bar during conferences. Grab a soda, or beverage of your choice, and take a stroll around the room. Morgan typically wears steampunk jewelry - it's a great conversation starter. Therese has chatted with many agents and editors in the smoking areas but don't hang out there unless you are a smoker and understand the etiquette of that social sphere.

Reader Focused Conference
At reader focused conferences you should be fully in your author persona, but still be professional. Many of the folks who attend industry conferences also attend the reader events. Overall, the atmosphere is much more casual. Reader conferences tend to have more of a party atmosphere.

  • DO have fun with your author persona. Wear your persona specific attire and engage your audience.
  • DO take the time to reach out to bloggers. One author friend made formal appointments with bloggers who specialized in her genre before the conference. She even had little thank you gifts for them.
  • DON'T forget that you are still a professional. Do you really want to be remembered as the author who got sloppy drunk and sang "Free Bird" at the top of your lungs? No, no, triple no!
  • BE SURE TO GO to the lobby. If you have to get your word count done for the day, write in the lobby. Yes, it may be hard for you to get your words on the page, but you never know who you are going to meet. Morgan bumped into two key editors form St. Martin's Press while looking for coffee. And of course, there is always the bar....but, see the DON'T note above.  :D

Overall Essentials:

  • DO have business cards. (See our posts here, here, and here on business card content.)
  • DO have your pitch ready. And we mean both your pitch for new projects and the answer to the question "So, what do you write?".
  • DO have some books and free reads to give to readers IN YOUR AUDIENCE.
  • DON'T canvas or blanket the conference with your fliers and bookmarks...(Canvasing would be exercising the shotgun method.) Many of these items end up in the trash. Be selective on who you give your promotional materials to, know and find your audience. A promo piece handed to me personally by an engaging author will get read. The HUGE pile of promo materials in the conference bag often don't make it to the second day of the conference before hitting the recycling bin - this is because it is information overload. Our primary message here at AM101 is not to spend cash on what goes in the trash!
  • BE SURE TO GO to a variety of events or sessions and HAVE FUN! People will want to approach the person having fun. If you would rather be somewhere else, save your time and money and go there. <harsh, we know...but so true>

How To Work A Conference

What do we mean when we say "work" a conference?

There are two kinds of people who go to conferences and conventions:
1) People who are there to ATTEND the conference (attendees).
2) People who are there to WORK the conference (workers).

Each of these types of conference / convention goers is there for specific reasons. The attendee's primary objective is to learn and be entertained. The worker's primary objective is to network and make a sale. Both types are there to make connections. It is what they choose to do with these connections that differentiates an attendee from a worker.

How do you "work" a conference?


1) Choose your conferences wisely
There are loads of conferences and conventions that you can attend throughout the year. There are national, regional, and local shows that cover all aspects of the craft of writing and publishing industry. No matter how much buzz is associated with any given show, take the time to do some research before you sign up. Find out who typically attends. Is an editor from one of your target publishers going to be there? How about your top three agents? Will your favorite author be signing books or speaking on panels? Are there panels or classes that will help you with research or otherwise further your career?
 
2) Set Goals
Now that you've selected the conference(s) you want to attend, set some goals. The first time you go to a conference go primarily as an attendee. Make having fun your primary goal while you discover all the things a given show has to offer. At future shows, maybe set a goal to talk with at least five readers and two bloggers. Or maybe your goal is to pitch your latest manuscript to at least three of your target publishers in attendance.

3) Leave Room for Serendipity
It is easy to 'over' schedule your time. Running from panel to panel or meeting to meeting constantly can leave you exhausted. Allow time for sitting, observing, and random conversation. Everyone at the conference is a potential reader, until you know if they are or aren't in your audience. Some of the people attending will become great contacts for your writing career. You never know who you are going to sit next to or bump into.

4) Be Prepared
Have your pitch for your latest book practiced and polished. Have a quick answer ready for the question: "So, what do you write?"Mentally prepare yourself for the social interactions at the conference. Be in your author persona. Have your business cards and promotional materials ready to give to business contacts and members of your audience. If you are signing books at a book sale or fair, confirm that your books have been ordered and find out how much table space will be available for your book signing set up.

Attending conferences and conventions can be both fun and rewarding. Take the time to plan and prepare to squeeze every ounce of opportunity out of the experience.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Working with Professional Photographers

Morgan Says: As those of you who follow this blog know, earlier this year I was quite busy working on promotional activities for my local chapter of Romance Writers of America (RWA)  Portland, Oregon based Rose City Romance Writers (RCRW). Work for the February 2016 event began in October 2015.

Once I started working on the project, I quickly realized that as a chapter we were lacking professional pictures that could be used for chapter marketing and promotions. Thanks to our president, Gina Fluharty, we were able to book a professional photo shoot with Mark Montoya of Montoya Photography.

Twigs Bistro (Tigard, OR) allowed us to use their main dining area, for FREE, provided we mention them in our promotions. We also had to be in and out of there before they opened for lunch. The photo shoot presented some interesting challenges for our photographer:
  1. there were more than ten people in the picture
  2. we were seated in a large space
  3. we were wearing different colors and each had different skin tones
  4. combine #3 with a low light environment and lighting the shot became incredibly difficult
In the end, Mark Montoya overcame all of these obstacles brilliantly and produced a FABULOUS set of pictures all the participants were able to use.



During the shoot, it was easy for me to know which of the participants were familiar with a professional photo shoot and which ones were total novices. Don't get me wrong, everything went well....but things could've gone a little smoother with a few minor adjustments by the participants.

In light of this experience, here are....


Tips For Working With Professional Photographers

  1. Be ON TIME - time is most definitely money in this instance. Plus the clock was ticking on our shoot due to the restaurant's need to open on time and finish their preparations / lunch set up. Running late only decreases the amount of time in front of the camera. More time allows for more creativity.
  2. Show up with a CLEAN face or MORE makeup than you normally wear - makeup is a topic that should be discussed ahead of time with the photographer and / or the shoot coordinator. Some photo shoots include a make up artist and this person should dictate ahead of time what preparations you need completed before you sit in their chair. (For example, some make up artists want you to show up wearing your favorite foundation. Others say they want a clean face / blank slate.) For our session, we had to do our own make up. In this case, wear more than you would normally apply. Everyday makeup / lightly applied make up tends to wash out in pictures. And, yes, this applies to men, too. Don't look like a clown...but do add some color.
  3. Wear clothing that fits your PERSONA - for author portraits, give some thought to how you want to represent yourself and your books! I'm wearing an orange sweater and fun jewelry in the picture below. :D
  4. Pay attention to the photographer and FOLLOW THEIR INSTRUCTIONS - you are at photo shoot not a social hour. Again, time is money, so pay attention to what the photographer needs and asks of you. If she says jump, your response should be 'how high?' - now is not the time to be on your cellphone or cracking jokes. For our photo shoot, Mark gave us each a special little light that we tucked into our books. Some folks got a blue light, others got lights with an orange tint, and some just got a plain white light. When a dear friend gave her light to someone else without first asking the photographer, I asked her to take it back. I know she was just trying to be helpful, but that light was for her by the photographer and may have been all wrong for a different person.
  5. Fully understand the OWNERSHIP and USE of your picture - this aspect of the photo shoot should be agreed upon before picture day. Some photographers retain ownership of the image and dictate how the picture can be used without penalty. Other photographers give you full ownership and free use. Regardless of who pays for the pictures, ownership can still reside with the creator (photographer). Make sure you have an understanding of the image ownership that is clearly stated in writing.
  6. Pick a photographer who produces IMAGES YOU LIKE - check out their work before you book the shoot and pay your money. Make sure that their artistry aligns with your persona, images, and emotions you want to convey.
  7. HAVE FUN! - if you have an idea for a shot, mention it - but also be fully open to the recommendations and directions from the photographer. They are the only ones that can see the image through the lens and you are paying for their skill set. Still have some fun and let your personality shine through.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Continuity Through Images

Therese Says:  I've been working on a strategic plan for my Therese Patrick, Author business. I only have one published novel, and this one nonfiction book, but I do have projects that are in the pre-publication stage. This means I plan to have a brand that will become familiar to readers wherever they may find me when I'm promoting future books. It's a looking into the future exercise. 
This is my current business card and it has my novel cover on the reverse side, plus a space where I can autograph it. Most of you are probably cringing at the yellow font and how it disappears on the background. I didn’t realize this until the actual cards arrived as the digital version looked great. So I will be redoing my business cards someday and that’s one reason why I’m playing with branding now.

The first step is choosing the main image and a tagline that represents the flavor and genre of the stories.

https://terripatrick.wordpress.com/books/
Here’s the table sign I have created to hang on a table or wall where I could be meeting readers at book events. It’s the image of a lake taken from an open cockpit bi-wing airplane and has talking points: It’s a Starduster II experimental single engine aircraft, that is Pine Hollow lake in eastern Oregon, those are the Cascade mountains in the background, and I took this picture from the front seat of my husband’s airplane.

This is the same lake represented in my not-so-great business card so the continuity of my marketing collateral is still consistent.

This image works for me because all of my current stories are set near a large body of water like the Columbia River and though this is an inland lake it can represent a large river or coastal bay. The wind-in-your-hair feeling with dynamic scenery will be present in every book as well whether in aircraft, or on boats or motorcycles, and someday on horseback.

My current tagline is Romantic Adventures to Cherish, “contemporary romance novelist” is inferred and the image works for the second word. So why did I pick “to cherish” as the final flavor of the type of stories I present? Because they are light family saga type stories, fast and fun reads that have a feel-good flavor. My intent is that a reader cherish the story and set it on their Keeper Shelf to reread. I’m happy to say that many readers have told me they enjoyed it and are waiting to see stories of some other characters I introduced.

https://terripatrick.wordpress.com/
Okay, now I have my primary image so I put it on my blog, which is still my primary website. With only one novel to promote today it's acceptable to retain my online presence as I've been blogging since 2009 and it is engaging to readers.

I’m currently only posting about once a month and you can see the site title is the same as my business cards. This WordPress theme is no longer supported but they can give me a CSS code to change the title to red when I am ready. Long time readers of this blog will probably notice it is different but not be sure what has changed. It has been updated and enhanced, not revamped.

I don’t have any plans to change my Facebook cover photo or profile at this time because the flavor does match my primary image of water adventures though kayaks are less wind-in-your hair than an open cockpit airplane. Our Jack Russell terrier is in the kayak cockpit with me on Jackson Lake and those are the Grand Tetons.




My Google+ profile is similar

Did you notice that I am pretty solid with blue? As in the blue half of the AM101 color scheme on this site?

Now we come to the primary reason why I'm strategically planning for a future brand. There are a lot of circular links to my original website and a memoir I wrote that is almost ready for prime time publication.

It is a family story and does have a similar “to cherish” and fun flavor. There is one vignette that does include boating on a lake and there are other adventures so, for now, I made that very basic site align with my other profiles.

http://www.theresepatrick.com/
Therese is the name on my birth certificate so I use it for my nonfiction projects.

Terri represents my whimsical side who creates astrological charts for my fictional characters.

The red color has replaced the yellow because when I was designing my table sign I wanted the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water represented. Also, the red roses on the wheelchair wheel is a graphic created by a friend to represent my parents romance and paintings by my mother.

Once I felt my table sign was good, I printed out a copy and showed it to people for their input and approvals. Then I went to a print shop and had it enlarged to 11x17 size. The clarity was good but maybe not for any larger, so I had it laminated and ready for more public events.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Event Promotions: What I Learned... (A Case Study)

Morgan Says: As Therese mentioned in last month's post, I've been pretty darn busy with promotions, lately. I am officially the VP of Communications for Rose City Romance Writers (RCRW), the Portland chapter of Romance Writers of America. I take this role very seriously. As you all should know by now, I LOVE marketing and at it's most basic level marketing is communications and communications is promotions.

In February 2016, RCRW conducted an event named wRomance: a weekend of writing and love. wRomance included two half-day learning sessions Saturday, a cocktail hour reader event Saturday evening, and a Sunday afternoon showing on the documentary 'Love Between the Covers.' Sounds simple, right?

Wrong.

Here's what made this event a touch more complicated to promote:


  • It took place in February: which meant that early promotion of the event ran into fall holiday communications. It was hard to get attention for the event in the midst of our audience's holiday preparations. Plus, if we waited too late, then our messaging would be lost among the Valentine's Day promotions.
  • We had to court TWO different audiences: The morning Saturday event was Geoff Symon's 'Forensics for Fiction' class followed by an afternoon session of Damon Suede's 'Half-Day Brand Plan.' Both sessions targeted author / writer attendees. Where as the evening cocktail hour and Sunday movie showing targeted readers / general public. Yes, there was some overlap between the two audiences (writers are readers / general public), BUT there was still a need for two versions of audience specific messaging. {Basically, I had two campaigns to run instead of just one.}
  • We decided to branch outside of our usual circles to reach a broader audience: We reached out to the local arts community. Under the #RespectRomance, we hit social media with content. Our VP of Programs, Anne Tenino, scored an editorial article with Huffington Post. And I produced sponsored content for Portland Monthly's 'On the Town' blog. In the end, we now have a database of more than sixty local cultural organizations, libraries, booksellers, and media outlets for future communications, but it was HARD work to build that list.

Here's what I learned:

  1. Start planning your promotions EARLY - this event was in February 2016, but we started planning it in late September 2015. The team at 'Love Between the Covers' made my promo life super easy by having a superb media and promotional kit chock full of high resolution images, author quotes, a press releases template, and sample email template. They even sent us post cards with room for personalized event stickers and movie posters for the venue theater. With help from my VP of Programs, we created similar promotional materials (fliers) for the writing day and combined event. Along the way, we realized that we needed some professional photography work for the articles. Planning so far ahead gave us plenty of time to plan a photo shoot. The pictures produced are now the headers for our RCRW's Facebook and Twitter pages. Starting early also allowed us to plan and tweak event specific webpages for the RCRW website.
    Quote Block provided by the 'Love Between the Covers' media kit.
    Professional #RespectRomance Photo Shoot
  2. PICTURES garner more clicks than just words on social media - Speaking of pictures, combining pictures with a link garnered wwwaaaaayyyyy more clicks, likes, shares, and reTweets than text alone. I did my own version of A/B testing by posting the same text with and without a picture on both Twitter & Facebook. On both social media outlets, the post with the pictures had more interactions and thus helped us to more easily spread the word about our events.
    Facebook Post Stats: this post reached 998 people...not too shabby for a local event!
  3. The MAGIC of 'Please Share' - Notice in the picture above the post starts with 'Please Share.' And guess what - people shared!! The posts that included those two simple words were shared far more than the ones that didn't explicitly ask to be reTweeted or shared.
  4. If your audience is on Facebook, creating a FACEBOOK EVENT will work wonders - I created a Facebook Event on both the RCRW Facebook page and my personal Facebook page. Through the event, I invited local friends to the movie showing. As you can see in the image below, by allowing friends to share this event, 290 people were invited. Notice that only 29 people responded...this is normal if not high - a 10% response rate is great. Trust me when I say that more than 29 people came to the event. Many were on this invite and simply didn't respond. Again, normal behavior - which just goes to show you that you can't always trust RSVP counts!
    Facebook Event Stats from my personal page invite.
  5. Don't be afraid to ASK FOR HELP! - Prior to this event, I'd never worked with Press Releases. My buddy, Anne Tenino - VP of Programs, had worked with press releases in her past life as an event coordinator. It was great to have her take the lead on this part of the project and I learned a ton from her along the way! Don't be afraid to ask your friends, family, and readers to help you with event promotions. In fact, getting help is a GREAT way to help spread the word about your event and build buzz. I was incredibly happy to be part of an event committee for this project. We worked as a team on all aspects of this event. The team allowed me to focus on promotions while others worked on the venue, website, and day-of coordination.

Was the event a success?

Yes, it was a resounding success! But let me back up for a minute...during the planning phase, we discussed how we were going to measure success. Initially our thought was to measure only ticket sales for each event.Yes, sales is one way of measuring success...however, we learned that there were several other areas that made this event a resounding success:
  • We increased visibility for our local chapter, RWA, and the romance industry via our community outreach activities and online media articles / placements - which lead to new members.
  • We solidified relationships with our favorite local bookseller and review site owner - which lead to increased good will with both parties.
  • We had FUN! Let's just say that when you mix romance authors with readers, a well stocked no-host bar, and a life-sized cardboard cutout of Fabio, all manner of shenanigans ensue! - which strengthened the friendships among chapter members and all the new friends that we made along the way.
Me folding up Fabio for safe storage.

Know you audience and start planning early for your events to be successful.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Welcome to 2016



We have a list of topics to share this year but didn't start in January because Morgan has been spearheading a tight publicity campaign for an event on February 20th, sponsored by our local RWA chapter. If you are a writer and local to the Portland, Oregon area, this is an event to consider attending.

The workshops are presented by Geoff Symon (FBI Forensics Investigator) and Damon Suede (Multi-Published Author & Marketing Guru), including an evening Cocktail Reception with them and numerous local authors. There will be gifts and prizes and books and snacks and fun! For more information visit:

Rose City Romance Writers Events


A screening of "Love Between the Covers" is scheduled for the next day, Sunday February 21st in Hillsboro, OR.  The first 100 attendees will receive goody bags and free books!

Morgan has discovered all types of tips and tricks regarding publicity campaigns, which is really at the 501 level for Author Marketing, and why publicists are different from marketers. However, she wants to share what she's learned with our readers but needs to wait until she'd finished doing the work! So watch for that post.

One part of Morgan's community outreach and promotions for this event is in the Portland Monthly Magazine - On The Town section.

At the other end of the Author Marketing spectrum, Therese (me!) has been working on getting my debut novel discovered by romance readers. I was an author sponsor for the Winter Wonderland Contest at Night Owl Reviews. During the six weeks of the contest almost twenty thousand dedicated readers saw my book cover and read the blurb for Checkmate First Mate. This translated into a boost in my sales numbers at Amazon. I also did two local book signings and completed the process to be accepted into the RWA PAN Organization. This means I and my novel were listed in the February issue of the Romance Writers Report. 

As we've stated before, marketing and promotions are separate activities and sometimes there is a flurry of work that happens all at once - and we've been in the flurry. This wRomance: a weekend of writing and love will be my first big event as a published author with books and prizes for my readers and I am thrilled!!!

Publicity and promotions are a different venue that have a greater chance for success when they incorporate the marketing at the 101 level prior to jumping into the 501 shark tank.

Friday, November 20, 2015

We're On Holiday Hiatus!



We'll be back in January with new and fabulous content. In the mean time, check out our Notable Posts Page and feel free to explore our recent two-part series with Gerry Walker.