Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas-Introvert Style: Day Twelve

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
Twelve guests a-leaving
Batteries re-charging
One well a-filling
No public speaking
Close friends connecting
Plenty time for napping
Six hours a-plotting
One emp-ty house
Four ear plugs
Three note books
Two soothing drinks
And a nice quiet place to just be…

It’s over! You’ve done it! You’ve survived another holiday season—hopefully with your sanity in tact and not feeling like a wrung out dishrag by the end. Your friends and family have feasted, the perfect presents exchanged, and just enough snatched moments here and there that you remember why the holidays are such a magical time, even when you’re not a child.

One of the times I love most is the dead zone between Christmas and New Years. When I was a kid, Dec. 26 was the saddest day of the year. Not so much any more. It seems as if life kind of stops—or at least slows down. It’s a fallow, fertile time when we’ve just capped the year with a celebration and have yet to start the new year with all its resolutions, plans, and intentions. It’s a time for dreaming, reflecting, of reviewing and savoring. If you haven’t had a chance to refill your well or recharge your batteries, grab some time now, while everyone is in this lulled state.

And in order to dream big for next year, today's winner will receive a very cool, very writerly/readerly PaperBlanks 2009 purse size dayplanner! (It's the one on the bottom with all the writing on it.) And the final winner is--Number 20! Jenn Robinson! When you get a chance, Jenn, send me an email and I'll make my final trip to the post office. :-)

Thank you all so much for participating in the Introverted Writer's Twelve Days of Christmas! It's been so much fun. And thank you all for being a part of the Shrinking Violet community. We look forward to an inspiring, well-filling, battery-charging, 2009! (With maybe a teensy dash of public speaking thrown in.)

See you all next year!

Robin and Mary

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas-Introvert Style: Day Eleven

On the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
Batteries re-charging
One well a-filling
No public speaking
Close friends connecting
Plenty time for napping
Six hours a-plotting
One emp-ty house
Four ear plugs
Three note books
Two soothing drinks
And a nice quiet place to just be…

And no, we don’t mean Duracell or Eveready! We really can’t state this one strongly enough. It’s something introverts have to be vigilant about during the best of time, but during the holidays, it is critical! Take the time to recharge your battery! Do not risk depleting your reserves! (Yes, that’s an order. Or maybe just a sternly worded warning: Whichever makes you most inclined to follow it!)

When my kids were small and I was stupid, in an effort to accommodate all the various factions of my family I (no lie) put on a Christmas Eve Dinner (14 guests) a Christmas Breakfast (only four guests) and a Christmas Dinner (12 guests). I did that for about five years and then I began getting deathly ill every Christmas. Coincidence? Clearly not. My body was stepping in and saying NO for me when I couldn’t. Don’t put yourself in that position.

And because reading is such a great way to recharge those batteries today’s winner will receive a box o’ books , including The Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, The 39 Clues: Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan, and The Case of the Left-Handed Lady by Nancy Springer. And the winner is Number 9--Yat Yee!

Email me Yat Yee and I will get those out to you!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas-Introvert Style: Day Ten

On the tenth day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
One well a-filling
No public speaking
Close friends connecting
Plenty time for napping
Six hours a-plotting
One emp-ty house
Four ear plugs
Three note books
Two soothing drinks
And a nice quiet place to just be…

Of course its critically important to keep your batteries charged (and we’ll get to that tomorrow) but you also need to remember to fill you well; give your soul the food it needs to feel nurtured and aLivE, whether it’s your writing well or simply your personal well. While battery recharging brings us back up to functional levels, filling the well builds up a richness of reserves deep within us; it nourishes our creative spirit.

Is there something that says Christmas to you that no one else really cares for? A local production of The Nutcracker? Watching Love Actually (my favorite Christmas movie EVER), a certain collection of holiday music that makes everyone else groan when you put it on? Fill your holiday well by doing the things that make your holiday feel complete and yours. Remember, this is not self-indulgence, it’s self-preservation. It’s also a way to honor the spirit of the holidays in a way that has personal significance for you.

And today's winner is Number 71--Deborah K. White. In order to assist her in filling her well, she'll receive a copy of Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, and a copy of Julia Cameron's Artist Date Book and an iTunes gift card! When you have a chance, Deborah, email me and I'll get your prize in the mail!

Here's wishing all your wells are filled to overflowing!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas-Introvert Style: Day Nine

On the ninth day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
No public speaking
Close friends connecting
Plenty time for napping
Six hours a-plotting
One emp-ty house
Four ear plugs
Three note books
Two soothing drinks
And a nice quiet place to just be…

No public speaking doesn’t really need any explanation on a blog full of introverts. However, I’m going to put out a plea for all the introverted children out there in the world and make a couple of requests. One is the whole Santa thing that Mary alluded to a few days ago. For introverted children, having to get up in Santa’s lap and TALK to this perfect stranger, usually IN FRONT OF other perfect strangers can be the 6 year old equivalent of public speaking.

And secondly, the whole "let’s everybody watch each kids open their presents one gift at a time while twenty relatives watch" thing. I understand that this comes from the desire to not have four weeks worth of shopping and eight hours worth of wrapping over with in four minutes. I get that. But I also so clearly remember how painful it was. Oh the pressure! All those eyes on me! What if I didn’t have the right expression of gratitude on my face! What if it was something I hated—could I pretend well enough to fool everyone?

Surely you’re beginning to see the similarities between some of these traditions and public speaking…

And, because no introvert wants to win anything that has to do with public speaking, today’s winner wins a signed copy of Jane Porter’s Ms Perfect! (Jane is an SVP blog reader.) And the drumroll please . . . Number 100 – Julie Layne!

You know the drill, Julie. Email me and I’ll get your book in the mail!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas-Introvert Style: Day Eight

On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
Close friends connecting
Plenty time for napping
Six hours a-plotting
One emp-ty house
Four ear plugs
Three note books
Two soothing drinks
And a nice quiet place to just be…

Because really, isn’t that one of the best parts of the holiday? Seeing those you love, snatching a great heart-to-heart or catching up in the corner while everyone else is drinking too much eggnog or playing with the kids new wii? That’s one of the myths about introverts, that we’re anti-social beings. Not so! We love to connect in a meaningful way, which is why it’s so important to conserve our social energy—so we have enough left to give to those who are truly important in our lives!

Whichever holiday you celebrate be sure to schedule in some time to connect with those you hold dear.

Our prize today is three books written by three people we hold dear, Shrinking Violet interviewees Brent Hartinger, Cecil Castelluci, and Jacqueline Woodson. And the winner is . . . Number 48! Sabrina!

Email me Sabrina so I can get those out to you!

Wishing you all lots of warm and wonderful moments with those you love...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas-Introvert Style: Day Seven

On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
Plenty time for napping
Six hours a-plotting
One emp-ty house
Four ear plugs
Three note books
Two soothing drinks
And a nice quiet place to just be…

Do I really need to explain the benefits of napping? I thought not. Whether it be a long luxurious 2 hour nap where you sleep hard enough to get bed head, or quick refreshing pick-me-up of a 20 minute cat nap, we hope you find some time in the busy days ahead to allow yourself a luxury of a nap.

One of the greatest things about being a writer is that naps refresh the subconscious and allow it to make important breakthroughs in our writing. Which leads to one of the major perks of being a writer: Writer + nap = work. (Or at least, that’s what I’ve managed to convince my family.) What’s not to love about that?

And to ensure the ultimate napping experience, today’s winner--Number 12, Kimberly Lyn!--will receive a lavender candle and bath salts. Email me Kimberly Lyn, and I will get those right out to you.

Sweet Dreams!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas-Introvert Style: Day Six

On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
Six hours a-plotting
One emp-ty house
Four ear plugs
Three note books
Two soothing drinks
And a nice quiet place to just be…

Okay, so the plotting is probably a pipe dream, especially during the busy holiday season. But don’t forget there are other kinds of plotting; plotting for a few hours solitude, plotting for a quick escape, plotting to get everyone to leave early. . .

And today’s winner is Number 60 - acpaul! And just in case acpaul is superb at this sneaking in time for yourself routine, ac will receive a copy of The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman, President of Lukeman Literary Management. And, in case that is too left-brained for you, a copy of Take Joy, by writing maven, Jane Yolen.

Email me with your snail mail address, ac, and I will get your prize out to you.

Here's hoping all your plotting is productive!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas-Introvert Style:Day Five

On the Fifth Day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
One emp-ty house!
Four ear plugs
Three note books
Two soothing drinks
And a nice quiet place to just be.

Okay, we can’t fly in and clear your house for you, but we sure wish we could! (Or, you know, you could fly in and clear ours. . .) However, we can give you something to do should you be lucky enough to find a few minutes peace and quiet.

How about a nice quiet bath and, of course, some books to read in the tub? Number 103, Mim, wins today's prize of lavender bath salts and two YA fantasy books: The Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle, and a signed copy of Here There Be Dragons by James Owen. Drop me an email Mim, and I will get those right out to you.

Wishing all of you a nice empty house, at least for a few hours!

Robin and Mary

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas-Introvert Style:Day Four

On the Fourth Day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
Four ear plugs
Three note books
Two soothing drinks
And a nice quiet place to just be.

Because honestly, ear plugs are the new black for introverts. Especially if the TV is blaring, the kids are playing too loudly, or the snow-blower is going down the street. For all of you, we wish for you Q-U-I-E-T this Christmas.

And today's number is 18! TadMack wins a box of the softest, almost non-detectable earplugs available. In fact, they're even named HEAROS. (Clearly an introvert was involved in that product development meeting!) But because earplugs don't quite have the necessary pizzazz, you also get a copy of a terrific new book I've just discovered, The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski.

Email me TadMack, and I will get your package right out to you.

Yours in quietude,

Robin and Mary

(If you're just tuning in, you can check out the details of SVP's very own version of the Twelve Days of Christmas posted here.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas-Introvert Style:Day Three

On the third day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
Three note books
Two soothing drinks
And a nice quiet place to just be.

Give yourself some time this holiday—even just fifteen minutes—to do some writing or dream or make big plans for the coming year. If your time is too frazzled to actually make progress on your manuscript, consider personal journaling or maybe even character journaling. Journaling your character's thoughts and feelings can be a great way to stay connected to your WIP without having to actually produce pages. In fact, one of my favorite writing exercises one year was this: Choose a character you’re currently working on and write his or her Christmas wish list.

This simple exercise just opened up so many layers of my character for me. So if you absolutely can't find time to write, don't despair, there are other alternatives for staying in touch with your work when life gets in the way.

And since every writer (or reader, for that matter) needs a steady supply of notebooks for jotting down that random bit of dialog that comes to them while driving, or the title of that book they want to read, today's prize is a set of three Moleskine notebooks!

And today’s winner is. . .liquidambar! Email me LA, and I will get it right out to you.

Mary and I wish all of you a holiday season filled with inspiration and a little bit of time to act on that inspiration!

(If you're just tuning in, you can check out the details of SVP's very own version of the Twelve Days of Christmas posted here.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas-Introvert Style: Day Two

On the second day of Christmas
my true love gave to me,
Two soothing drinks,
And a nice quiet place to just be

Maybe tell everyone you’re going Christmas shopping, but instead indulge in an hour alone with a warm, soothing drink as your only company. No, it's not being selfish; you will have more energy and heart to deal with all your holiday demands if you take care of yourself! Trust us on this.

And today’s winner is . . . Celise! who will have a couple of those soothing drinks on us via a Starbucks gift card. Email me Celise, and I will get it right out to you.

If you're just tuning in, you can check out the details of SVP's very own version of the Twelve Days of Christmas posted yesterday here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Introverted Writer’s Twelve Days of Christmas

Guess what, violets? We have a special Christmas treat for our dedicated readers. We are going to post every day for the next twelve days to try and give each of you a little calm during this frantic holiday season. As we introduce you to the Introverted Writer’s Twelve Days of Christmas (something we’re pretty sure most of you will identify with) we’ll also be giving away prizes! We’ll have books and soothing drinks and more books and all sorts of writerly stuff.

And here’s the good news: because we’d like to create one little spot in your holiday world where no exhausting social energy is required, you don’t even have to comment to enter! If you’ve commented in the last three months, you’re already entered!

However, if you haven’t commented before don’t despair. Just go ahead and comment during the twelve days of Christmas and you’ll be eligible. So without further ado, The Introverted Writer’s Twelve Days of Christmas:

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
A nice quiet place to just be…

Don’t forget to find a quiet spot in your day, even if it is just for five minutes, and allow yourselves to just be…still, calm, centered. At least for five minutes. A true gift to yourself.

And today’s winner* is…Barbara Shoup!

Barbara, today's prize is a copy of Clarissa Pinkola Estes' Women Who Run With the Wolves. This is one of my new favorite books that I think every writer should read; a terrific guide through the thorny thicket that is creativity and helping us learn how to dare BEing a creative person. It's also a terrific source for new internal arcs and journeys for our characters. Email me and I will get it right out to you.

Love and holiday blessings to you all! Be sure and check back tomorrow...

Robin and Mary

*I've made a list of all those who've commented since 9/1/08, in the order in which their comments appeared, then the day's winner is selected by a random number generator. However, if your comment was anonymous and there is no way for me to contact you, I did not include your name.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Writing Buddies – Where, What, and How

One intrepid blog reader wrote to ask for some follow up on our recent post regarding Writing Buddies. How, this Shrinking Violet asked, does an introvert find one? And what does one look for in a writing buddy?

We thought these were such great questions that they deserved their own blog entry.


My first suggestions would be to check out local/regional chapters of some of the national writing organizations such as Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, etc. The thing is, even if you don’t write in one of these particular genres, you can still learn an awful lot through their organizations; plotting, craft, characterization, and information about how to approach editors and agents and publishers.

Here is a link to the regional chapters of SCBWI. They don’t have regular monthly meetings, but they do have schmoozes and critiquenics and day long workshops where you will undoubtedly meet other writers, many of whom will be introverts.

RWA also has a number of local chapters, most of which have regular monthly meetings. You do have to belong to the national chapter first, which requires annual dues.

Here’s a link to MWA’s regional chapters, many of whose meetings are open to non-members, so you can try them out before committing.

Just as a note as to how valuable cross pollinating with different genres can be, I didn’t sell my first children’s book mss until after I’d belonged to both SCBWI and RWA for a number of years.

Another great meeting place can be your local adult education classes or community college classes. In fact, that’s where Mary and I met.

Or use larger conferences or day long workshops as a chance to try and meet people who might be interested in forming a critique group.

If none of those avenues bear fruit, check with your local bookstores, librarians, and community centers to see if they know of any writers’ groups that meet locally.

Of course, there is always the internet. I know a number of popular authors have yahoo groups or forums and it turns out some of their biggest fans are aspiring writers, so that can be a good point of commonality from which to start your search.

There are also tons of yahoo writing groups, the Verla Kay boards, etc. In fact, the sheer number of them are overwhelming so maybe some blog readers can help out by recommending some of their favorite online writing groups and communities?


Okay, this is probably the hardest part. You’re at a workshop or conference or even sitting in a classroom with all these other people. How in gawd’s name do you make the first move? The truth is, you’ll most likely have to create a stretch goal for yourself to meet new people.

The thing is, like a best friend, you won’t necessarily know your writing buddy at first sight. The idea is to meet enough other writers so that you have a chance to form a deeper writing relationship with someone who you find you have a lot in common or develop a mutual affinity for.

Basically (to coin a phrase) you might have to sniff a lot of flowers before you find your one true Violet.

  • Look around for people who seem friendly or open, who make eye contact with you, who smile.
  • Also keep an eye out for other introverts; they may be thrilled to have someone make the first move.
  • It might be smart to join an existing writer’s group for a short while to get a feel for the members and how they treat their writing and critiquing.
  • If there isn’t an existing writer’s group in your area, consider starting one, but maybe on a short term, temporary basis just to see how it works so you’re not committed to something that ends up not working for you.
  • With internet groups, after lurking then participating in the community for a while, you will start to get an idea of which posters you seem to have a lot in common with. When an opportunity presents itself, you can begin a conversation “off list” and see where it goes.


Lastly, what qualities does one look for in a writing buddy?

The truth is, writing buddies are an awful lot like friends; only it is a friendship that revolves around writing. In some ways, you will be more vulnerable in this relationship because you’ll be sharing your writing and goals and dreams and opening yourself to feedback, so many of the same guidelines for starting a new friendship will apply to beginning a writing buddyship.

You’ll want someone who:
  • Gets you and your writing. Understands your thematic core and creative vision for your work.
  • Who enjoys your writing as a reader.
  • Who is able to engage in a healthy give and take, always kind and sensitive but who will say the hard things (gently!) that you need to hear.
  • Someone who, over time, becomes as invested in your writing career as you are.
  • You do not need someone who writes in the exact same genre as you do, as long as you enjoy each others work.
Mary, do you have some thoughts you’d like to add?

And anyone else who has thoughts on where or how to find a writing buddy or what to look for, please feel free to add them in the comment section!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

I Wish I May I Wish I Might . . .

I know I can safely confess this here-- as a child, Santa Claus scared the bejeezus out of me. I wished to God I was Jewish. Or that my parents belonged to any other religious persuasion that didn't involve this annual torture. I dreaded going into Sears anytime in December because HE might be there. I hid in the bathroom as long as I politely could while my extraverted sibs lined right up salivating. ( I know you'll all so get this.)

1). He was extremely loud
2). His clothes were too red
3). I was supposed to sit on a stranger's lap???
4). I was always worried that the elf might try to kiss me when I wasn't looking
5). When it was my turn, all the other kids and their parents stood in line watching
6). Stood waiting.
7). Stood listening.
8). Santa wanted to know what I wanted, and there was no confidentiality like at Confession.
9). And he almost always wanted me to "SPEAK UP, Honey!"
10).Being an INFJ, albeit a young one, I had a sneaky feeling he wasn't all he was dressed up to be.

So, in case any of you have a similar dread about your wish list, Robin and I are going to make it easy for you! Starting today, we will be accepting your Holiday Wish List for Marketing & Promotion in 2009. Wow. I know!

Whatever your socio-politico-economo-spirito views about December are . . . you must agree that it is a very potent and magical time of year. The quality of quiet, light and stillness never fails to stir me. I'm in Texas for this entire month, and I'm looking forward to falling asleep tonight to a symphony of rain and thunder, with a cowdog Hank snoring next to me.

What magic are you ready to have in your life? If you weren't feeling a little shy about asking, what would you ask for?

I'll start, and let's see if we can get Robin to come on line and post hers. :-] And, we'd love to hear from you! I happen to know for a fact that at least one New York editor, publicist, and agent read our blog, and an awful lot of people in all sorts of roles in the biz, so here's your chance to put your wish out there. You just never know. . .

Mary Hershey's Marketing & Promotion Wish List for 2009
* I want Michelle Obama to start a monthly Kid's Book Pick and interview the author at the White House, which would then be aired on national television. This will translate into ginormous $ale$ and well-paid school visits. I get to go first, but then I want every single one of you featured you in the ensuing months. (If Michelle is too busy, Ellen DeGeneres could do this, too.)

* I want to interview all these people for SVP: Anne Lamott, Ann Patchett, Henry Winkler, Marion Dane Bauer, and Cynthia Rylant.

* I want the-secret-thing-that-I-just-applied-for to come through.

* I would like Random House to hire a nice eco-friendly blimp to make the rounds of major cities for a few days each month advertising my books. And if they could shower school grounds with Whopper's during recess without head or eye injury to anyone, that would be swell.

Robin LaFever's Marketing & Promotion Wish List for 2009

(a-hem. . .)

Can't wait to hear from all of you! And as always, if you want to put your wishes out there in Universe, but want some privacy, you can email me at Here's my 2009 Wish List!

Grace and peace,

Mary Hershey

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Finding One’s Tribe

Due to the recent Thanksgiving dinners and the pending requisite holiday gatherings, I find myself thinking lately a lot about tribes. It seems to me that introverts are especially susceptible to needing to find their true tribe, and feeling like a square peg in a round hole when they haven’t.

Usually around the holidays, I am struck by how the family I grew up in is definitely not my tribe. As introverts—not to mention creative types—many of us were a puzzle to our parents, if not a downright thorn in their side. Where did they go wrong, they wondered? Why were we so quiet/shy/withdrawn? And how could we even begin to explain it to them?

So while we belonged to our family in a cursory way, it was easy to never really feel like we truly belonged or that they really understood us.

Consequently, one of my personal all time favorite fairy tales was that of the ugly duckling—the child who never fits in. I treasured it’s message: to hold on until others like myself showed up.

It is so important to find a tribe of like-minded people who don’t just tolerate us or are willing to put up with our introvert-ness, but who get it. Because the truth is, if viewed through an extroverted lens, we will always come up lacking. We are not extroverts. We are not even extrovert-lite. We will never get the same rush of well-filling energy from groups of people that they do. It is too easy then, to take a shaky step on over into feeling inferior, like something is wrong with us.

Which is why learning I was an introvert, an INFJ specifically, was such a boon to me. I was supposed to be that way. It was my official type, my psychological tribe, if you will. Granted, only 2% of people are INFJs, but that didn't matter; I would just have to work harder to find other, hidden tribe members.

Who knew they'd all be violet? :-]

Monday, December 1, 2008

Attention Introverts! Please Report to Your Charging Stations

Turns out that turkeys are not the only victims of the Thanksgiving holiday-- introverts are falling by the droves.  I just imploded in an LA Borders bookstore where I was trying desperately to do some Shrinking Violets research and fill my dry-as-dust well.  But there were people there TALKING-- not only to each other, and to people on their yellulars, but some were talking to themselves.  And there was loud music and a lot of extremely loud chewing coming from the cafe.

I fled.  Which is why I can't do the truly arresting piece I was going to do on the strange similarities in the marketing trajectories for Twlight and Fancy Nancy. And how you could use that to information to infuse your next book's marketing plan with the exact same kind of rocket fuel.  Man, it was going to be a good one!  I really hate for you to miss it.

But, I am now officially Out of Order.  Spent. Only one bar showing.  After four days of family time, celebration time, alleged "down time," I am face down, doing the Dead Woman's Float.  Thanksgiving is way harder than going to work. And, I didn't even cook! I made raw Bliss Balls, and salad, for god's sake. Didn't travel that far. Still it did me in.  We really should wear Medical Alert bracelets so that when we're found unconscious, our rescuers would know what to do.  Introvert Alert:  To resuscitate, remove from all sources of talking.

So, while you are missing some brilliant advice about promoting your work, I'm calling the gang all in.  Everybody!  Back to your charging dock.  We've got to get juiced up again. In case you're too far gone for self-care, here are some ideas to get you started.

Turn OFF all your psychologically-pleasing-rectangular-devices.

Find a closet, a flashlight and a good book. 

Nap with a cat or other self-possessed animal.

Play solitaire. (Instruct the Queens, Jacks and Kings that there will be no talking!)

Ballroom dance by yourself.

Go for a walk/hike/kayak/cross-country ski/Ididerod.

Put your hoodie on backwards and pull it all the way up.

Take yourself, a good disguise, and a big, fat magazine out to lunch. 

Climb a tree that has a lot of big leaves for privacy.

Go somewhere new and get lost on purpose. Revel in it!

Sit in an empty church, synagogue, mosque, or confessional.

Take a bath with the door locked.  Bolted.  Chair jimmied under knob.

Repeat as needed.

A word of caution, friends. We are just three short weeks in front of yet another flood of holidays.  Rest up!  You've got to pace yourselves. 

Reporting live from the Comfort Inn, which is way short on comfort, but blessedly quiet--

Mary Hershey



Monday, November 24, 2008

A Hodgepodge

So, we have some contest wins to announce today! Yeay! Thank you to everyone who participated and entered. It was great fun to see what type all your blogs were!

I also think it was extremely interesting to see how many of us introverted, intuitive types' blogs were actually either extroverted and/or informational. I think it's a great lesson in learning how to present oneself, and presenting oneself on a blog is such a low risk way to try out a public persona. It would also be smart to apply this lesson to any public appearances that might come your way: you have an established professional personality on your blog--consider starting from that seed and using it to develop your "presentation personality."

And now for the important stuff. The first winner, of the "Guess Who Robin's Writing Buddy Is" contest is Becky Levine, for correctly guessing Mary. Becky, if you contact us offlist, we'll get your prize in the mail to you.

The second winner is Kim Baker, who correctly identified the dedication in Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris. Congratulations, Kim! If you too will email us with your address, we'll get that out to you.

And lastly, the winner of our "Tell Us Your Blog Type" drawing is ::drumroll please::

Feywriter! Fey, you get to choose between a signed copy of Mary's newest book, a query letter makeover, or a critique of the first 10 pages of your manuscript. Email us and let us know which prize you'd like!

Well that was fun. And now, since this is a marketing blog, I do have one marketing item I'd like to discuss today. When I was at a conference a short while back, a published author was talking about promotion, and she mentioned something I'd never heard before and I was wondering if anyone else had heard about it. This author said that her publisher, a genre, mass market publisher, awarded promo items based on how many names were on her mailing list. (Please note, I'm pulling these numbers out of my ear because I can't find the notes I took--and yes, I will clean off my desk just as soon as I meet my deadline!)

So if she had acquired 5,000 names, they'd pay for bookmarks. If she'd acquired 10,000 names, they'd print postcards for her. If she had 20,000 names, they'd create a professional movie trailer for her newest release, and so on. Have you heard of that before? Do any of your publishers play that way?

And lastly, Mary and I will be taking this Thursday off to celebrate Thanksgiving with our families. We wish every single one of you a marvelous, gratitude-filled, stuffed-to-the-gills holiday with your loved ones. We want you to know that we are infinitely grateful to each of you who spend time here at SVP, and how deeply we cherish this community of introverts.


Mary and Robin

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Myers Briggs Test--For Your BLOG!

As you know, we here at SVP are very attached to the Myers Briggs personality indicator test. So how happy was I to find a Myers Briggs test for one's BLOG! You can find it here.

From their FAQs:

How does it work?
For a long period of time, we have been training our system to recognize texts that characterize the different types. The system, typealyzer, can now by itself find features that distinguishes one type from another. When all features, words and sentences, are combined typealyzer is able to guess which type its is most likely to be written by using statistical analysis.
So of course, I had to run all the blogs I read through the typealyzer.

Oddly enough, SVP comes out as ISTP, even though Mary and I are both INFJs. However, our purpose on this blog is to give concrete, practical information so that makes sense. (Well, except for the race car and firefighter part.)

ISTP - The Mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generelly prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

My personal blog also comes out as an ISTP.

OTOH, Mary's personal blog, is typed as THE PERFORMER, which pretty much nails her (which anyone who has ever seen her house can attest to.)

ESFP - The Performers

The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

So, what's YOUR blog type? We'll enter everyone who posts their blog type in the comments in a drawing! The winner can choose between a signed copy of Mary's most awesome book, 10 LUCKY THINGS THAT HAPPENED TO ME SINCE I NEARLY GOT HIT BY LIGHTENING, OR a critique of the 1st ten pages of a mss, OR a query letter makeover. Winner's choice!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Launching Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris!

Dear Friends,

At the risk of her turning a scorching violet, please join me in congratulating Robin as Houghton Mifflin releases the second in the already-madly-successful series, with Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris. Robin's first Theo book, Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, garnered her two starred reviews, and Booklist nailed it with "A sure hit with the Harry Potter fans!" That is so the kind of thing a girl likes to hear (le swoon)! School Library Journal called Theo a "combination of Nancy Drew and Indiana Jones."   It was also a Junior Literary Guild Pick and a BookSense (now Indie Bound) Summer Pick.

From the new release's bookflap: Theodosia Throckmorton is in a fix. Allowed to attend a reception given by one of the directors of her parents' museum, she stumbles across Mr. Tetley of the British Museum—in most unusual circumstances! Since Theo has last seen him in a showdown in an ancient Egyptian tomb, his reappearance could mean only one thing: the Serpents of Chaos are back. Once again Theodosia will have to take on secret societies, evil curses, and dark magic too sinister to imagine, especially if it falls into the wrong hands. Blocked at every turn, Theodosia will have to rely on her own skill and cunning—along with a little help from the most unexpected places. 

The art is stunning. Illustrator Yoko Tanaka is a wonder. The cover screams Pick.Me.Up.Now! Which is exactly what I did when I was at LAX recently, and saw it in their bookstore. I was so excited I had to immediately take a picture of it with my yell phone, and email it to Robin. It thrilled me LOT.  She's the first airport author I've ever known.  One for my bucket list!

Robin will be doing her inaugural signing this Sunday, November 23rd from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at our local favorite Indie, Chaucer's Books in Santa Barbara. I will be signing my newish release from Wendy Lamb Books alongside her, as well as making up stuff to embarrass her with customers. She's resigned herself to it by now. :-]

Contest Alert! I will send a signed copy of Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris and a stick-on Egyptian tattoo to the first person who can tell me who Robin dedicated her book to.   If you are the winner, and you'd like this book for your local school or library, I am happy to send it to them directly.  But feel free to keep it for your private collection.  :>

Happy Launching to Theo and Robin!  Here is to a long, happy life together!  Mazel tov, girls--

Mary Hershey

P.S. In addition to the real pleasure of cheering for my writing buddy here, I'm also demonstrating one of the basic tenets of our SVP practice-- Turn Thy Spotlight Upon Others.

P.P.S.  No introverts were harmed in the making of this post-- but they did squirm a bit. =-]

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Buddying Up

Buddy Up for Safety.

It’s one of the first lessons we learn in kindergarten, or earlier; that life is safer with a buddy, there is protection in numbers.

Except, when you’re an introvert, numbers don’t feel safe, especially numbers of people. But we’re here to tell you—to encourage you—to seriously consider having a writing buddy with whom to share your writing journey. There are oh-so-many reasons, reasons above and beyond the benefits to be found in partnering up for marketing purposes.

See, as introverts, we tend to go inward and shun crowds or large groups. Many of us are not comfortable joining groups or organizations and the idea of sharing in front of a group of people is enough to make us stay home and lock the door.

But here’s the thing; even introverts—especially introverts—will need support on this writing journey. Someone to share in the ups and downs, to act as a sounding board, to bounce ideas off of, to give you a gentle nudge out of your comfort zone when it’s required.

What to Look for In a Writing Buddy:
~A fellow writer – this is essential so they will understand at a gut level just what your ups and downs will entail.
~Someone who will celebrate your success with as much enthusiasm and joy as if it were their own
~Someone who will gnash their teeth and rail at the publishing gods at your stumbling blocks and failures as if they were their own
~Someone who gets your writing, who understands your voice and themes and chosen subject matter and can help you make your work the best it can be, as opposed to a watered down version of their style.
~Someone with a generous spirit and open heart who wants you to succeed as much—if not more—than you do.
~Someone who will play midwife to your books when needed.
~Someone who will thwack you gently on the head and say, “get over it,” when needed.
~A fellow introvert or, at the very least, an extrovert who “gets’ and understands introverts needs

My personal opinion is that introverts need a writing buddy more than extroverts do. Extroverts have lots of people they enjoy being around, and just the act of being around them fills them up. But as introverts, we tend to go inward, especially when struggling, and those are the times it can be most beneficial to have a little outside support and guidance. But we all know a group is absolutely out, which is why it is so important to have that one person that quiet little soul mate with which to share our trials and tribulations—hopefully mostly tribulations.

My writing buddy and I have been together for over twelve years now, supported each other through the birth (and death) of countless books, published and unpublished. My writing journey would have been sterile indeed, without this person at my side.

In fact, in celebration of writing buddies, the first person to guess my writing buddy will win a copy of Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris! Here’s a hint: They’ve published three books, all of them middle grade fiction, they are an introvert, with a wicked funny sense of humor. This person also has a strong sense of fashion and the most meticulously groomed eyebrows on the planet.

Monday, November 10, 2008

On Fast Turtles and Friendly Introverts

Since coming out as an unabashed introvert, I've fielded a raised eyebrow or two by a few people that know me socially from writing conferences. They seem surprised by this. “But you're so friendly!" Or, “Geez, you don't seem one bit shy!" And I must admit that when I first met Robin in an Adult Ed class, she didn't seem like an introvert to me. I was guessing she was a major E. She was talkative, friendly and even raised her hand in class the very first night! I was impressed.

Some introverts can be quiet, reticent, withdrawn, and some introverts may be talkative, outgoing and the first to cut up at a party. Or, one may be all those things! Just as I feel certain that there are extroverts who enjoy solitude and silent contemplation. We can be very "bi".

Intros and extros are functional, adaptive beings. Jungian type is a preference that shows itself early on, like right-handedness or left-handedness. But, it doesn't mean that we are completely limited to one style or the other. If I broke my right hand, you can bet dollars to doughuts I'd teach my left hand how to open a diet coke and work my eyeliIner pencil. (Though I might look scary for a while, and trust you all would be too polite to mention it.)

In a social setting, I may be Miss Chatty Pants USA. And, I won't be faking! I like people and I'm curious about them. I enjoy asking questions-- I'm a writer! That said, if I wore a visible battery charge device, at a large gathering you could watch my meter go from five bars to one to “Battery Low” to “Danger! Code Blue!” Much like Cinderella, I need to be home by midnight, or I will end up on the dance floor in the fetal position sucking the toe of my glass slipper.

The true test of introversion is-- what? C'mon, everybody, now! It is in how one gathers their energy. When spent, how do you charge back up? Do you go inside of yourself, or do you look to others to plug in? And this isn't something you can easily observe in others with just casual contact. You have to get to know them.

So, can turtles ride skateboards? You bet! Now and then it feels good to get out there and stick your neck out. But, when we've sailed some rail and blown our wad, for us, at the end of the day-- it feels best to just find a quiet corner and tuck in for a spell.

Your shy and friendly friend,

Mary Hershey

Originally posted April 2007

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Marketing Equation

Einstein did it for relativity, I don't see why we can't do it for book marketing and promotion.

I attended a seminar once a long time ago in a life far removed from here, and the speaker said something that I thought was profound. He said, Algebra is life.

Now, before all you non-math people groan and click away, let me explain.

In Algebra, we balance equations and solve for the unknown, which is pretty much what we do in life. Figure out what we know, what we don’t know, and try to chart a successful course between the two so that our life balances out.

I thought it would be entertaining interesting to apply that the same equation principle to marketing. Sounds fairly simple, right?

marketing + promotion = sales (m+p=S)

Except, as any marketing department can tell you, it’s not that simple. Oftentimes

marketing + promotion ≠ sales. (m+p≠S)

You need a really great book too. So maybe this is more accurate:

(great book) (marketing +promotion) = sales (gb)(m+p)=S

If you’re lucky, your publisher will be so wildly behind your book that they will do a significant amount of marketing and promotion for it.

(great book)(marketing + promotion)3 = SALES!! (gb)(m+p)3=S

Or perhaps your book will generate a lot of buzz on its own through word of mouth. In that case, the marketing and promotional efforts have only to build on that, rather that cut a path to your book in the first place. However, the truth is, in today’s market, you probably need a little bit of everything to be successful so my guess is the correct equation is this:

(marketing + promotion) (great book)buzz= Sales (m+p)(gb)buzz=S

Bottom line: Look at the equation. Isolate the variables. Select what you can control and work on that.

Moral of the story? Publishing makes math look like a cake-walk.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Introvert Abuse and Marketing Avoidance Profile

I was having this hideously godawful nightmare the other night that I was at a coaching retreat with a bunch of people I'd never met.  There were ten of us in a fairly small room.  It was time for the first activity of the day, and I was tensing up for the proverbial "icebreaker" activity that was certain to follow.  Our retreat leaders flips a switch on her Bose and Abba's Dancing Queen blasts into the room.  "Everyone up!" she cried.  "Dance!"  I was completely horrified!   Now?  With all these people I don't know?  

And then things got much, much worse.  I realized I was AWAKE!  It wasn't a nightmare at all. . . (pausing now while you all shriek)

So I danced, because NOT dancing would only make me stand out more, and people would be looking, and some extravert would try to pull me up for a friendly twirl or two. I tried to look as if I often danced with small crowds of people in brightly lit rooms before lunch, and tried not to glare at our retreat leader, who I happen to adore. But this was S-O going on her post-retreat evaluation.  Two other introverts started easing back into my corner and we flashed each other a WTH?? eyeball text message.  

Eleven hours later the song finally ended. Gleefully charged, the extraverts were chummying up together, and the introverts were sporting near migraines.  Said retreat leader seemed very pleased that we were all "loosened up" and could get to work.  Loosened up?  Are you out of your mind, woman?  Do you know how long it will take me to decompress from your opening torture routine?

Which brings me right smack to book sales and promotion.  (Sound of Robin sighing in relief that this truly isn't all completely ran-dom!) As I sat there doodling and decompressing for the first hour of the retreat, I thought about how my aversion to dancing-on-demand just about perfectly sums up my entire Marketing Avoidance Profile (MAP).  I'm sending this right over to my publicity person at Random House.  You might want to get to work on yours.

When scheduling promotional events and activities for the above-named author, please bear in mind the following:

::: No loud music or bright lights.  Prefers a quiet Goodyear blimp with book title emblazed across.

::: Introvert to extravert ratio > 1:3 preferred.   If possible, please screen all event attendees and staff. Anyone that talks more than three minutes without stopping needs a timeout. 

::: Author unable to perform most bodily functions upon demand.  Includes smiling, dancing, speaking up or loosening up.  

::: Author unable do the any of the following while chatting with teachers, students, booksellers, or librarians:  Eat corn on the cob, spinach, sushi, fondue, use chopsticks or the latrine.

::: Crowds in small places tolerated for 60 minutes max.  Quickly prepare exits at 61 minutes and beyond.

::: No Abba.  Ever.  No kidding.

Mary Hershey
Executive Director
Writers Against Introvert Abuse

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Writing Blurbs or How To Make Your Head Explode

So my editor and I were working on the front flap copy for my upcoming new book (Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist) and we spent the day struggling with something that I realized might be relevant for SVP readers.

Whether writing catalog copy, front flap copy, or a query letter, it is vital that we learn to be able to write a short blurb-y description about our books that will hook readers (book buyers, browsing bookstore customers, editors and agents.) But it’s also one of the hardest things to write. What do you emphasize? Which essence do you choose to distill down to? How few details can you use to establish character?

One of the things my editor and I were struggling with was whether to emphasize the micro/personal struggles that emphasize character, or the larger, plot focused struggles, which felt more hook-y.

There are a few essential elements that a hook/query pitch/cover copy have to include:
Period/Mood (I don’t think you need both, but probably one.)
The Inciting Incident
The Struggle

One thing that can be helpful as you're brainstorming is to state your character’s internal goal, this can act as a great character hook in a blurb.

Another idea is to list all the elements of your book that make good hooks; what are the most evocative elements, the ones that would hook a reader?

Next, can you identify the Inciting Incident? What gets the external plot really rolling?

And then what is the conflict the protagonist struggles with throughout the bulk of the book?

If you can some up with a strong, evocative sentence (or two) for each of those four things, you will be well on your way to having a great blurb.

From some books off my shelf.

THE MAGIC THIEF by Sarah Prineas (Great book, btw).

Character and Period/Mood are combined in the first sentence: (Although actually, more of Conn’s character is revealed in the Inciting Incident sentence as well)

In a city that runs on a dwindling supply of magic, a young boy is drawn into a life of wizardry and adventure.

The Inciting Incident:

Conn should have dropped dead the day he picked Nevery's pocket and touched the wizard's locus magicalicus, a stone used to focus magic and work spells. But for some reason he did not.

The Ongoing Struggle/Conflict

Nevery finds that interesting, and he takes Conn as his apprentice on the provision that the boy find a locus stone of his own within a month. But with his wizard lessons and helping Nevery discover who—or what—is stealing the city of Wellmet's magic, time is running out for Conn to find his stone.

A second example is a much more character driven book, A DROWNED MAIDEN’S HAIR, by Newberry Medal Winner, Laura Amy Schultz (who apparently doesn't have a website as far as I can see) Is it legal to have back to back parenthesis? Not sure, but here goes....(Also a terrific book. LOVED the main character of this one.)

Note that you don’t have to have these elements in any particular order, as long as you get them all in there:

The Character – look how short and sweet that it, and yet so compelling!

Maud Flynn is “plain, clever, and bad,"

then this next bit sounds like an inciting incident, but it happens right away in the story so is actually more set up:

…so it comes as a surprise when she’s plucked from the Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans and adopted by the elderly Hawthorne sisters. Maude eagerly hopes to be pampered and cherished by the sisters, and life seems perfect—

Here's the true Inciting Incident:

...until Maud learns of the role she has to play in the high stakes “family business.”

And now they hit the reader with the Period/Mood and the Ongoing Struggle/Conflict, which is a very internally set struggle:

Set in the early twentieth century, A Drowned Maiden’s Hair takes readers into the shadowy world of spiritualism as Maud must decide just how much she is willing to do for the sake of being loved.

Anybody want to try it? Have a blurb their struggling with and want some direction? I'm game if you are. Or if you're feeling shy about it (SO unlikely on an introvert's blog!) you can email it to me.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cool Introverts in Literature: Annie Proulx

Congratulations to our reader Yat-Yee, for correctly identifying which very cool introvert author made the statement below:

"I've often thought that if you could have an unlimited library, if they would bring you any book you wanted when you asked, it would be all right to be in prison."

Annie Proulx (pronounced "Proo") is the Pullitzer Prize winning author of what have been called "vividly imagined and boldly idiosyncratic works of fiction" including Heart Songs and Other Stories (1988), Postcards (1992), The Shipping News (1993),  Acordian Crimes (1996), Close Range: Wyoming Stories (1999), That Old Ace in the Whole (2002), and Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2 (2004).  Her newest work just out is Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3.  She is widely known for her famous short story "Brokeback Mountain," which was made into an award-winning and controversial major motion picture.   She was the first woman to win the prestigious PEN/Faulkner book award, for her debut novel Postcards.  Her list of literary awards is nearly endless.

Annie Proulx, now 73, lives alone in Wyoming on 640 acres (sound of introverts sighing in envy) with a mile of riverfront, five miles outside of Saratoga. To get there you head up past Laramie through the Snowy Mountains and Medicine Bow National Forest.  She is surrounded by Black Angus cattle, limestone cliffs and yellow aspen. To do the writing that she does, she needs time and isolation.  Toward the end of a project, she works up to sixteen hours a day.  

She says that she doesn't mind that writing is a solitary pursuit, and that she likes to be alone. "The downside of the writing life is that you are a constant observer of other people's lives.  I was always the one at parties standing against the wall."  

Her first book was published when she was 53 years old (sound of older introverts sighing happily).  "For me, the story falls out of a place, its geology and climate, the flora, fauna, prevailing winds, the weather.  I am not people-centric, and I'm appalled at what human beings have done to the planet . . . "

Annie Proulx is not a major fan of the media and has worked hard to keep her world private and real. She generally refuses interviews.  Winning the Pulitzer Prize brought a great deal of attention to her door.  "It's not good for one's view of human nature, that's for sure. You begin to see, when invitations are coming from festivals and colleges to come read (for an hour for a hefty sum of money), that the institutions are head-hunting for trophy writers. Most don't particularly care about your writing or what you're trying to say. You're there as a human object, one that has won a prize. It gives you a very odd, meat-rack kind of sensation."

She next plans to spend this coming winter in a little apartment in Albuquerque doing research at the University of Mexico.  Her excitement at the prospect of that is "palpable." And she is looking forward to the change in her landscape.  

The Shrinking Violets are very pleased to induct Ms. Annie Proulx into our Coolest Introverts in Literature Hall of Fame.  Gosh, just wait 'til she hears this!   Pulitzer- Schmulitzer, we're talking SVP Hall of Fame, people!

Yat-Yee is the winner of Lynn Biederman and Michelle Baldini's debut YA novel, Unraveling.  (Which occasionally appears conjoined with my Ten Lucky Things... middle grade novel.)   Yat-Yee, if you'll email me your address I'll get this marvelous book off to you.

Later, friends--
Mary Hershey

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Marketing Strategy for Introverts You May Never Have Considered!

This genius promotional strategy is hot off the press and you heard it here first! Debut novelist, Lynn Biederman is happily signing copies of her new YA Novel Unraveling at an event the other night, when she is unable to locate her title page in the book she just picked up to autograph. Puzzled, she thumbs through the front pages but is still not finding it. She looks at the first chapter and realizes she doesn't recognize it at all!  Lynn pulls off the dust cover thinking there's been a switcheroo, but it clearly is the hardcover for her book.  Hoping to waking up from surreality soon, she finally realizes that all the inside book matter is a middle grade novel by some chick named Mary Hershey.  And it has a yard-long title . . . Ten Lucky Things That Have Happened to Me Since I Nearly Got Hit By Lighting.

I cannot claim credit for this fabulous marketing strategy for my book!  Wow.  I owe somebody in Production at XXXX Publishing Company big.  They managed to find another author who had a book being released the same exact day as mine, and that was the same exact 230 pages long.  Strong work, guys!

This totally expands my readership from the middle grade market to YA as well.  Not only that, Lynn and her co-author, Michelle Baldini have garnered a starred review from Publisher's Weekly and got a slick review from Kirkus.  They've also been nominated for Best Books Young Adults 2009.  This translates to many more readers for my book.  Best yet?  They do all the leg work on this for me.  Sweet, huh?  I just sit home and collect the royalties.  Uh, Lynn, Michelle, we will need to talk about my split. Since you are doing a lot promotion for me, I'm willing to go 40/30/30.  Not giving up those film rights, though, no sirreee!

All tongue in cheekiness aside, I do feel horrible about this-- especially since this is Lynn and Michelle's first book, and that is such a thrilling and scary time.  Editors at our shared publishing house have been put on high alert-- CODE READ.  It his hoped that there are scant few copies of the conjoined copies.  Unless Lynn and Michelle agree to the 40/30/30 royalty split above, then I hope there are several kabillion copies out there. Kidding, girls, kidding!

In an attempt to mitigate a bit of this, I am offering you a chance to win a copy of their most excellent book. And if you get a conjoined copy sent to you, Lynn and I will both sign it, and then maybe you could sell it on ebay.  I'll bid on it!  And to everyone else out there, go buy this book!  And if your budget won't allow it, go to your local bookstore and/or library and ask for a copy of this book in your loudest voice, okay?  (Yes, you can use your loud introvert voice. We get that!)

Here is what you have to do to win one.  On Monday, we will be running a new Coolest Introverts in Literature post and I will be profiling the writer that said this:  

"I've often thought that if you could have an unlimited library, if they would bring you any book you wanted when you asked, it would be all right to be in prison." 

First person to guess who said this recently wins!  No Googling until Sunday, please.  After that, if no one has guessed, Google away.

Have a stellar weekend, friends--
Mary Hershey

Monday, October 20, 2008

Following the Cyber Trail

You know you need some kind of a marketing plan or in introvert-speak, a way to cultivate your field of future readers, but how in the world do you even know where to start?

They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. They also say there are no new ideas, just re-packaged and re-envisioned one. So with this in mind, here’s a suggestion: Pick a recently published, successful book that is similar to yours in tone and genre and (most important) potential audience. Then, using the miracle that is google, follow the book’s cyber trail to try and piece together some of the places it was marketed successfully. If the book is truly similar to yours in some way, then chances are good that a number of the successful story angles, contacts, and approaches may work for your book as well.

So for example you could pay close attention to the newspaper coverage the book received, what angle did those stories take? Which newspapers seems to embrace it? What were the reporters who reviewed them or wrote the stories? Consider creating a list of newspaper contacts based on those results and play with similar-but-new-and-right-for-your-book approaches for press releases or cover letters.

Also pay attention to which blogs the book got good reviews on. High traffic reader and writer blogs are a fabulous way to get the word out about your book, and many bloggers are very open to receiving review copies. Also look for online magazines that may have written up something about the book or featured it in some way. These names should also go on your possible media contact list. (Of course, it goes without saying that you will only approach these contacts with a highly professional cover letter and media kit with the appropriate type of media pitch, whether for articles, features, or reviews.)

It used to be that you needed to pay a clipping service a goodly amount of money to keep track of all the media mentions of a product, but now in the Age of Google, most print versions have an on-line version of their publication as well, so you're just a google search away seeing what marketing paths books before yours have embarked on, where they were successful, and if there are any practical lessons you can learn from their approach.