Friday, May 23, 2014

Conference & Conventions: To Do & What NOT To Do - Any Questions?

This month, we attended the RT Booklovers Convention (RT) in New Orleans, LA. RT is a reader focused event sponsored by RT Book Reviews. This event is designed to celebrate romance readers and writers, and as a result agents, editors, and a vast swath of professionals in the publishing industry attend this event. Why? Because READERS, especially avid readers, do not limit themselves to one section of the bookstore. This is a unique event where the decision makers in publishing can have direct contact with customers who buy books To Read - not as part of a corporate revenue stream.

RT is a great venue for us, as marketing mavens, to connect with our core audiences. We chatted with traditional, independent, self, and e-pub authors at all stages of their careers. These are our friends, our tribe, our peeps, the people we created that first AM101 workshop to help. We also chatted with other author advocates who appreciate the simplicity and timelessness of our core message. We selectively passed out autographed books, our graphic cards, and business cards.

We also got to see good (and bad) marketing at work in real time. As novelists, we had an opportunity to talk with readers, bloggers, booksellers, agents, editors, and reviewers. Specifically as novelists, we were engaging with avid readers - we're talking readers who were willing to plunk down a nice chunk of change to hang out with their favorite authors! Plus,in general, RT attendees are savvy. They can tell you exactly what they enjoy reading and why. {And it doesn't hurt that we got to be total fan girls with our own favorite authors - Morgan met Charlaine Harris while exiting an elevator at RT two years ago.}

Often at conferences we see many examples of authors behaving badly. So in honor of our recent conference excursion, 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 met Megan Mulry in the lobby during a reader event. She also 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 (see our post on Nikki Duncan). 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>
If you’re doing a reading, bring a personal copy of your book. Do not take a new book from the bookstore’s stock, crease the pages, and read from it during your talk! 
Hand people your book. This is an old bookseller’s technique. If people are holding a copy of the book in their hands, they are much more likely to buy it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Google Plus: Media that is Social

Therese Says: I am pretty sure Google+ is going to be my favorite social media platform because I'm into Media that is also Social. My account and activity evolved slowly this past year but when I click on the Terri+ link now I am accessing a dynamic and global news feed of interesting to me topics. I also see likes and links from people in my circles and chosen communities without extra effort or clicks. 
Google+ isn’t a one-trick-pony and I am only dabbling in its potentials because that’s all I need or want to do right now. Most posts are truncated with a “read more” link that always works. Links to external media and other platforms feel seamless. This means that Google+ has the technology and flexibility to streamline my online time and is a bonus of fun for my personal interests too!

Google created its Search Engine (the SE of SEO) as a tool for accessibility into a massive information warehouse that has been evolving for decades. Years ago I professionally had tons of fun trying out new techno tools and software specifically to break them, or at lease blow holes in the processes. That’s why I avoid most social media platforms. I started dabbling in Google+ in 2012 mainly because I’d been actively blogging for three years and suddenly all the (RSS) reader-feeds were shutting down. (See our post on Google Reader and read the comments.)

In the beginning, Google+ felt like a ghost town but then I joined two communities, “Kayaking” and “Needful Books” as these are two primary passions, and I connected with people who shared links and my journey began. Then I learned how to separate my personal and professional contacts into circles. From there I began to "Follow Pages" and recently decided to "Explore" by typing in anything of interest and quickly having new pages to view and more refined choices.

What Google+ does: It gives the user an organized and dynamic option of connecting and creating media content that is relevant for the user (you) of anything that is accessible through Google. That’s huge, so take small steps. Small steps is difficult for me because I am prone to bursts of enthusiasm. 

My first job after high school was at a large city newspaper (The Cleveland Press). I had a mild allergy to newsprint ink but still loved turning the pages and having all kinds of things to read in a format that spread across an entire table. Google+ is now my newspaper that fills my computer screen with color pictures and posts from around the globe that I’ve chosen to follow.

What do I read through Terri+? Articles and images from; The Huffington Post, BBC, Wired, National Geographic, The Seattle Aquarium, 10,000,000 Artists & Art lovers, Positive Inspirational Quotes, SEOwise, NASA, Etsy, Pinterest, Linked In, TED, and more from my personal connections and communities. That may seem like a lot but it's slick and easy, especially on my tablet. 

This means Google+ is really in the Green spectrum and seems to play well with many other social media tools/platforms. Hyperlinks can be embedded in posts and comments without issues.

How to make Google+ work for you may take some time and evolve as you explore. You can join and interact with communities, or only follow posts on public pages. Your choices of topics to join or follow are: every major/minor league sport team, brand of auto, celebrity, cooking style, nature and animal interest, photography, birds, sunsets, cats of all size and breed, digital art, coffee, gaming, and tons more. This aligns with our advice to go where you want to be (as the hyper-realized you as your Author Persona who doesn't whine or air dirty laundry) - and have fun. It's really easy to share and create engaging content - the "O"-optimization in SEO. 

There are lots of Google+ reader and reviewer communities, and those themed to specific movies; book or TV series, and more, each with hundreds or thousands of members. The number of members is listed on the icon for that community. Read their guidelines and follow them!

The + button is a "like" and people in your circles will see that you "liked" that post. However, if you want to Share a post you can choose options regarding sharing it privately, or to only certain Circles of contacts, or to a community, or Publicly. 

Circles are a great way to segregate connections. But that segregation is only regarding what you post. You see everything they post on your Home without extra effort and those posts don't get shuffled.

You may already have a Google profile so all you have to do is enhance it with what you want to make public. Create a profile page that represents your Author persona and branding (genre novelist) as on your website and other social media sites. You can make it identical or different like your author photo is the same on all your novels but the book covers are representative of the story.

For more information, here's some WebPro thoughts on why Google+ and Facebook are not Coke and Pepsi type products.

Like any Social Media, there is no guarantee or magic button to direct sales. But for an online tool with dynamic connectivity potential, Google+ seems to offer the most broadband, and personal control, for an online experience for the user.

Engage the customers, but don’t be pushy! Don’t sit at your table like a lump and wait for people to come ask about your book. Say hello! Tell them you’re in the store signing your books. Then, if they don’t make eye contact, or they act uninterested, leave them alone

Friday, May 9, 2014

Linked In: Keep it Professional, Please...

Morgan Says:  Recently, Therese and I were chatting about social media platforms. (Yes, believe it or not, we often chat about such things.) As a rule, we purposely avoid advocating one software package or social media platform over another. Especially since the technology changes so quickly and platform owners can kill a favorite feature at anytime. (See our post on Google Reader and read the comments.) During our conversation, we realized that there are some benefits to using specific platforms for specific purposes and goals. So, today, I'd like to spend some time discussing Linked In.

Never heard of Linked In? 

Linked In is a professional networking site where people in different industries gather to share information. The key word in that last sentence is professional. On our newly minted Social Media Content Spectrum, Linked In content should be closer to the "Pious Grandmother" end of the spectrum. In other words, if you wouldn't want your average grandmother to read it, don't post it on Linked In. (Though your pious grandmother may actually enjoy fluffy pink kittens, don't post kittens either - leave them for Twitter and Facebook.)

Corporate professionals are the super users of this site and I am one of them. I use Linked In all the time in my day job to research companies and utilize my network of contacts to find new customers and learn about new markets / industries. It also helps me to reconnect with former co-workers; find long lost undergraduate and graduate school classmates for networking; and learn about organizational changes at some of my key client accounts.

Because I use Linked In for my day job, rarely do I accept links from my author friends. Why? Well, I don't necessarily want my contact who is the vice president at a major electrical equipment company seeing a post on "Five Tips for Writing Erotic Love Scenes" in my Linked In feed. Now, if writing is your 'day job', post away, but don't get upset when your friends who have different day jobs don't link to you.

In addition, many agents, editors, and service providers <think - website designers, graphic artists, costume makers, etc.> utilize Linked In to find like minded professionals. (There's that word, again, 'professional.') There are groups for writers, self-published authors, etc. that allow members to freely exchange industry information.

In our current economy, Linked In has also become one of the few 'go to' places for recruiters. I've lost count of how many recruiters have contacted me about jobs across the country and around the globe because of my resume content posted on Linked In. I've also had members see my title and ask if I have any job openings.

In short, Linked In should be used for the business side of your writing career to make professional connections and exchange industry information. It is NOT the site to use to connect with readers or promote your book (unless you write non-fiction business strategy books - but even then, advertisements and promotions are frowned upon).

Put your professionalism on display on Linked In.

Don’t undercut or bypass the store. Want to piss off a bookstore owner? Hand out bookmarks that say “available at Amazon.” Tell people they can get your other books at the store down the street. Tell customers to call you direct for more copies instead of coming back to the store. Even worse, sell books out of your trunk right after the signing. The store has worked hard to put this event together, spent money on promotion, and showed their faith in you by providing space in the store. Return the favor and send them business.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Words Are All You Have by Jessica Page Morrell

Therese & Morgan Say: We’ve said it before and now we’ll say it again: writing a GREAT STORY the best marketing you could ever do. So, we asked one of our favorite editors and writing coaches to write a blog post on this topic. Thank you Jessica Page Morrell for sharing your expertise and wisdom!

Jessica Page Morrell Says: 

As you know this is a blog about marketing, written by writers for writers. Most of us have been following the changes underway in the publishing industry and noticed that they’re happening at hurricane speed. In the new publishing world writers are required to handle more tasks that once were done by publishing firms, need an online presence, and ways to reach readers outside of traditional events. It’s a lot to juggle.

So yes, writers and authors to-be: learn all you can about marketing and create an author presence as you learn your craft.  

But some things remain the same. A writer needs to approach his career with heart, integrity, and professionalism.

First comes being a writer with standards of excellence.   

I’m talking about a real writer: someone who writes books worth reading. Books that make a difference. Not a blogger who scratches out a few skinty ‘columns’ of oft regurgitated  or trite matter, or  tweets; not someone who writes a 20-page manifesto, self publishes and calls himself an author; not someone who mostly yammers in 24-point typeface to fill a page. A real writer doesn’t buy into the shortcuts, scams, write-a-book-in-a-weekend quackery or other outlandish propositions. A real writer has nailed the basics—active voice, figurative language, character development, the underpinnings holding together scenes and stories.

A writer is a craftsman, or craftsperson if the male form irks you. Not an artiste, maybe not even the most intelligent person in the room. Now, if you point out the omnivorous reader and word nerd in the room, a person of diligence, in love with language and its heady powers, well then this person could become a real writer. He or she is aware that words, formed from 26 simple symbols, are the humblest and mightiest of tools. Because when you think of it, it’s the most potent magic imaginable that the same symbols create millions of stories, not to mention speeches and articles and amendments and sermons. It’s one of our greatest mysteries: how humankind connects life with language.

To avoid getting lost in the poetry of writing, yes, the writing life is full of tripwires. Sometimes it seems like getting the words right, the story told in the proper order and proportion, will drain you of everything you’ve got. You worry that you’re not saying something new, that your voice isn’t vivid enough, your characters freshly minted.

Just keep going. One sentence in front of the other. Your career is about searching out perfect words, about understanding who and why your story people do what they do. Keep going deeper. Write from a place that is centered and thoughtful. Writers who strike literary poses need not apply. Write when you feel savage or weepy. Write stories that haunt us—now we’re talking.  Or write stories that when the reader sets your book down, she feels a bit disoriented because her ordinary world is seen through new eyes. Because a story should feel like home. Writing is home. Keep writing and bring your craft up to fighting weight.

Write something to feed the collective hunger.

Each manuscript lives or dies in its opening sentences. Each word must be polished, precise, and weighted with meaning. Editors and agents are word people. They will assess your level of craft within the first paragraph, so keep the delivery polished, vivid and exceptional. Write to take readers on an emotional journey and introduce us to people we’ll always remember.

Readers want to occasionally pause to marvel at language or an apt metaphor. So take risks with word use and voice. As you captivate the reader, they’ll leave an ordinary world and concerns and enter a new world. We all hope to be transported by the magic of storytelling.  As readers travel through your words they want to emerge changed by the experience.

Readers also want stories that make them see or understand things in a new way. We especially want to find a viewpoint that would have never occurred to us. The most recent book that did this for me was John Green’s The Fault is in Our Stars which is told by Hazel Grace, a sixteen-year-old with terminal cancer. I just cannot forget her. Most writing is about a question, a problem, a riddle. Make sure that answers, truth, and meaning emerge as your story unfolds. Help readers feel emotions in a world that is sometimes numbing and overwhelming; believe in a time when belief sometimes seems difficult.

Jessica Page Morrell understands both sides of the editorial desk–as an editor and author. She is the author of the upcoming No Ordinary Days: The Seasons, Cycles, and Elements of the Writing Life; Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us, A (sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected; Bullies, Bastards & Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys in Fiction; The Writer’s I Ching:Wisdom for the Creative Life; Voices from the Street; Between the Lines: master the subtle elements of fiction; and Writing Out the Storm. Morrell works as a developmental editor where she has learned how to quickly size up a story’s merits, as a writing coach, and was formerly the Writing Expert at She hosts a web site at and she’s been writing a monthly column about topics related to writing since 1998 which currently appears in The Willamette Writer, writes a newsletter, and has contributed articles to newspapers and The Writer and Writer’s Digest magazines. She also contributes to anthologies and is the founder and coordinator of three writing conferences. She lives in Portland, Oregon where she is surrounded by writers.

Be prepared! Bring a spare pen in case you run out of ink. Bring a little notepad where people can write down the spellings of their names. If the store doesn’t have a coffee shop or tea bar, bring your bottle of water or thermos of hot drink (save the booze for after the book signing, please).Speaking of pens, bring one that dries quickly. Especially if your book is printed on glossy paper, you don’t want to close the cover and have the signature smear or transfer to the previous page. If the paper is thinner, make sure your pen doesn’t bleed through.