Monday, September 29, 2008

Ms. Viola Undercover

(Enter Ms. Viola through the back door, wearing silencers on her stilettos)

My dear Violets and Vinnies!

Your beloved Ms. Viola is back at last, but you mustn't let it get out! Can I trust you to keep this just between us ? Raise your pinkies and swear with me-- "We never saw her!"
I am absolutely being split right down my sternum! Between Sarah's people and Joe's people, I haven't had one moment's peace. I simply cannot be expected to coach them both for the debates. Of course they are both are in urgent need of my special services, but don't get me started on that. I've given their goons the slip so that I can spend some time with my people-- all you marvelously creative introverts.

Robin and Mary are finally scooching over and letting me announce our most recent contest winners. It's about time, girls! Getting MIFFED here (arched eyebrow sent their way). If you recall, Mary was on a veritable bender last week about the dehumanizing language of marketing. She suggested that we come up with a less bovinish word than "brand" or "branding". We had entries from Jen Robinson, Terry Pierce, and a new reader named Jennifer. Their entries respectively were: communicating your passion, shining, and bouquet.

And the winner is New Jennifer! Cheering in my indoor voice for you, darling!!! Please send your 4-1-1 to Mary by clicking here and she'll get your prize shipped right to you!

is a fabulous way to describe what defines you in the marketplace. It is what is uniquely you, and speaks to your passion, your individuality, your creativity. Bouquets are organic-- they can change, too, where a brand is so painfully permanent. As a replacement term, it probably won't catch on in the carniverous world of marketing, being a bit femmy and all, but I hope that it lingers in your minds. And I hope it helps you to think of your place in the market a bit differently!

Lastly, it is Monday and that means Milestone Monday! Time for us to give a zip-hip-hurrah to your lastest accomplishments! What have you done that we should know about? Your virtual cheerleading squad stands ready to start spinning cartwheels! Do tell--

Oh, for pity's sake, there goes my pager and my Blackberry! Must dash before I'm discovered!

Ms. Viola

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Finding Your Cyber-Niche

We all agree that the internet is a terrific tool for promoting connecting with readers about your book. The problem is, every other writer on the planet has had the same epiphany.

One of the things that you can do is to create a web presence that is more than just a cyber ad for you and your book by including something different and unique to you. Now, the truth is with websites, just like plots, everything’s already been done. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for you to create your own cyber-niche. It might not take the entire internet by storm, but you will slowly and steadily build a community or a group of readers with whom you connect, which to our way of thinking, is the whole point.

But how do you find or create a cyber niche? Well, by using some of the tools we’ve talked about here on SVP. Like Mary talked about in her last post, reframe the question, look for new ways to look at old things. In earlier posts we’ve talked about bringing the power and passion of your creativity to the marketing process, and this would be a great place to start.

The thing is, Cyber Niches can be based on so many different things:
Genres (mystery, humor, fantasy, poetry, historical, non fiction, magazine)
Writing Processes
The Industry
Situational (ie: Stay-at-home-moms, writers who are actual teens, etc.)
School Visits
Personal Quirks (say, introversion, for example ;-)

The list is truly endless. The question you should probably ask yourself is, what part of writing and/or the industry are you passionate about?
Or conversely, what parts are very uncomfortable with?
Which areas do obsess over?
These are probably the most fertile ground for you to find your own, unique element to bring to your presence on the web. Also ask yourself:
What sort of blogs and cyber content are you drawn to?
What can you simply not find enough of?
What are you most comfortable talking about?

If you play with these questions, I’d be willing to bet you’d have a handful of ideas for some fairly unique angles for your website or blog.

Some examples of cyber niches, some actually being used by people some I just brainstormed off the cuff as examples:

One writer features “The Call” stories on her website, tales of what authors did when they got that first call
Rejection letters
Industry rants
Blog tours
Interviews – yes there are lots of blogs with author interviews, but how about one that showcases booksellers or librarians?
New publishing deals
Six Degrees of Separation in publishing
Historical time period – the old west, say or Victorian England
Pitches that worked
Query letters that worked
A “Celebrity” round up question such as : What made you feel you’d made it as a writer?

The trick here is to have it be something you feel strongly and passionately about, something that is authentically you.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Marketing Schmarketing: Thoughts on Language for Introverts

Howdy-do from Texas,

Hope you all are doing well! Things have improved dramatically for me since I've been reconnected to the internet. Hot dog! My poor little ET heart light was waning. I was in dire need of some e-juice. Phew, got plugged back in just in the nick of time.

I've had a lot of time on my hands this past week to consider the meaning of the universe, strange Fall fashion trends, and why I still shudder at the M-Word. Here is what I've come up with. You see, the word marketing just holds no appeal for me. I can't think of a single connotation that I find alluring, sexy, or even interesting.

Stock market? Shudder. Grocery market? Must I, really? Meat market? Gee, I'll pass. Farmer's Market? Must they flaunt their Brussel Sprouts (aka tiny alien heads) at me? Book Marketing? Yick!

You see where all this is going, don't you? We need some *new* language around this, coupled with fresh, shiny images. And, they won't be the same for all of us. As we've learned over these past months together, though we belong to the same tribe, introverts are a diverse group. Some of us love to teach and speak to crowds, but run shrieking at the phone or doorbell ringing (uh, that would be me). Some of us can't imagine speaking to both our dentist and her hygienist at the same time, but can happily while away hours on the phone.

I've learned a lot doing buddy book signings with Robin, and one of the things I most admire is her "pitch"-- her ability to summarize her book into one or two sentences. She does so in a way that reaches out and embraces her potential reader. She focuses on how the book might meet their needs vs. how cool the book is. She is able to adjust her synopsis a widge each time so that it makes sense to whomever she is speaking to, be it a child, a parent, or a teacher. It feels fresh and personal each and every time. I'm reay to whip out my wallet and buy another copy by the time she's done.

At times, my pitch can sound like an apology, or perhaps as if I've never actually read the book. Truly! I have the dardest time with it. I need to tip the focus off me and my insecurities. To do that requires that I come to terms with the quality of my work. Did I write the best book I possibly could at the time? If so, and my editor liked it enough to publish it, I'm going to go with its assumed value.

In all other areas of my life, if I have something of value, I always want to share it with others. Why should it be different with my books? When I make cookies, I make enough for the greater tri-counties area. In my coaching practice, I am confident that I'm good at it, and I feel comfortable inviting people to hire me.

Here is the shift that I'm making that I challenge you to consider. If the terms marketing and promotion cause sweat to run down your inner thighs, call it something else. We know that words are beyond powerful. Change a word, change your world. So, I'm moving from marketing to connecting and from promotion to sharing. I feel skilled at both of these activities, and they both feel tied to a higher purpose than sales.

I believe in the power of children's literature to catapult a child into a new realm of being. If I'm lucky enough to be one of the voices in the field, and I believe in my work, what a waste not to share it. What a missed opportunity if I don't try to connect with others while I have the air time.

So what about you? There are many, many components to marketing. Can you isolate an area(s) of strength and expertise? What about changing the language to something that excites and motivates you? What else can you call marketing? Or promotion? Or pitching (for god's sake)? How about something less corporate than networking? And I'm not thrilled with anything that ends with 'campaign'--ideas on that?

And, please, anything more humane than branding? In fact, I hate that one so much that I'm attaching a **PRIZE** to anyone that comes up with a good replacement for that. And platforms are good for shoes, but can we find a better way to describe one's area of expertise?

Robin and I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Grab your creativity and come on over!


Mary Hershey

Thursday, September 18, 2008

SVP's Greatest Hits: A Word About Self Care for Introverts

This was one of our most popular posts ever, and since Mary is stuck in Texas without internet access, I thought it would be a good time to bring it out for a second airing so all our new readers could discover it! First posted on August 27, 2007 by Mary Hershey.

I thought you might indulge me in a a few words slightly off-topic. Not so much about promoting your work, but very important to your well-being, and as such, our collective survival as introverted creativists, writers, artists.

If you haven't yet gotten your 2008 edition of The Introvert's Guide to Self-Care & Sanity in a World at Maximum Volume, allow me to share some intel from mine. (Okay, I just made this whole book up, but someone should write it, for god's sake.)

So, we're just going to continue and pretend I got all these tips from The Introvert's Guide, okay?

Tip #1: If you work in an office with others, and have an empty chair near your desk, get rid of it! Or, stack it high with papers or projects. It discourages others from hanging around your desk too long. Introverts work better without a lot of interruptions. If you work at home and have family and friends that can't seem to respect your work time, keep a basket of unfolded laundry next to you, or maybe an errand list. When your interrupters arrive, give them work to do. They'll stop dropping buy as often. This one comes with my personal guarantee.

Tip #2: You absolutely don't have to say yes to every social invitation you get. Truly. If you do, you are begging for a melt-down, and that's just never pretty. Pick the kind of events that work best for you-- time-limited ones during the day vs. night, or maybe ones centered around an activity like bowling, movies or mud wrestling, and not just endless hours of the dreaded Small Talk.

Tip #3: If you ever end up being held hostage on an airplane next to an rabid extravert who won't stop talking, and they don't seem put off by you putting on headphones, how about trying this? Start talking non-stop to them about any senseless thing that comes to your mind. If you run out of things to say, make them listen to you read out loud long excerpts from a fascinating article from the in-flight magazine. Some extraverts are looking for introverts to charge upon-- if they mistake you for another Chatzilla, chances are they'll be pulling their little pillow out and closing their eyes soon.

Tip #4: Honor and celebrate the quiet, low volume, solitary activities that you love and need. They aren't non-activities, and they aren't a sign of your stunted social development. Sitting by yourself listening to quiet music or no music and just watching the shadows move across the walls is as valid an activity as a Dodger's Game with your entire family. It's even cheaper, easier on the environment, and kinder on your HDL, too.

Tip #5: Be or find this kind of party host: The B-E-S-T party I ever went to was given by this marvelous, madly extraverted woman. The party was spread out over several rooms at a club and included a talent show (I know! I almost fled screaming), wild dancing and a lot of talking/drinking/people talking really LOUDLY. At this point you're wondering why this was the best party I ever went to? This amazing host had set aside an Introverts Room! It was a quiet, slightly darkened room with a fireplace, snacks set out, softer music, and reading material. There were several of us that were in there. I loved it.

Thanks, Mary! Every word is just as enlightening and helpful as it was a year ago!


Monday, September 15, 2008

Getting My Rear In Gear or Theo 2 Marketing Plan

Well time is zinging right along, as it is wont to do, and I find myself rather stunned to be facing the sixty days and counting mark for the launch date of the second Theodosia book, Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris. Yikes. How did that happen??

Originally I had big, long Marketing To Do List, including creating a myspace page, facebook account, video trailer, updated website, increased Theo blogging leading up to the launch date, etc. Dear lord, just typing that makes me exhausted!

And as always, I find myself in the position of having to choose between marketing/promotional activities and writing the next damn book. This is especially true since I sold a second series and have two looming deadlines this fall. As an introvert, my personal preference for marketing activities is always writing the next book, however, I also acknowledge that a little bit more than that is required. ;-)

Luckily, when consulting our handy dandy master list I find that I already have a number of the basics in place; my website, I actively blog here at SVP, I had an updated author photo taken, I have an author bio, and I’m on my publishers “Authors Who Visit Schools” master list. Plus, I have done a few book specific things, like have an initial conversation about an overall marketing plan with my publisher, as well set a date with our local indie bookstore, Chaucers, for a booksigning/launch. I have not, however, come up with any brilliant angles for said launch or signing, but my subconscious is working furiously on it.

The answer, of course, is compromise, as is so often the case. I had to give up my pie-in-the-sky, full bore marketing plans for a more realistic approach, one that involves a more manageable to do list that will allow me to meet my writing deadlines and do a little breathing on the side.

Robin’s Modified Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris Marketing Plan

  • Video Trailer - I actually wrote the script for this on the plane ride back from SF, but have decided that instead of struggling with the steep learning curve this will require, I’m going to contact the local high school and see if there is a student who in interested in taking on this project fror either $ or class project/credit. I'll keep you posted.
  • Myspace Page – After a little prompting from my publisher, and hearing a lot of good advice on the subject I decided to go ahead and put up a myspace page, although I’ve not been able to put much time or energy into it yet.
  • Facebook page – I've decided to hold off on this and add only one new social networking commitment per book.
  • Website Update - Probably the biggest thing on my to do list is to update both my Theodosia Throckmorton and author websites, which I’ll get right on next week when the boys leave for school.
  • Increased blogging entries from "Theodosia" on website to lead into opening of Book Two
  • Have marketing conversation with publisher/publicist - done!
  • Order bookmarks and/or postcards
  • Brainstorm Launch - I'm thinking, I'm thinking!
  • Set up local events - in progress

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rerun: Pimpin'

When I was at RWA National, the word was out, group blogs were in. More and more writers were pooling their talents and resources and forming group blogs. In the near future (read: after deadlines) I plan to highlight and feature a few of those group blogs and their various, unique approaches, but for now, the rising popularity of group blogs put me in mind of this SVP post we ran almost exactly a year ago. Enjoy!

For a lot of introverts, the absolute hardest part of marketing is trying to get the gig itself, the school visit, speaking engagement, newspaper article, whatever. It’s trying to talk people into booking you that’s the really hard part. The selling of oneself.

So here’s a suggestion: Don’t sell yourself, sell your buddies. And have your buddies sell you.

It’s called a co-op, and for introverts, it can be a wonderful way to operate in the promotional world.

Now, being introverts, you may be thinking, but I’m a solitary writer, how can I form a co-op?

The truth is, there are a number of natural groupings you fall into that might work.

Do you have a critique group?
A local chapter of SCBWI?
Perhaps you could pool together with other authors that write for your publisher?
Or other clients of your agent?

Maybe you just have three or four scattered writer friends, but hey, that’s enough to start an informal co-op.

It works especially well if the different member have different strengths and comfort zones. Perhaps one of the group is very comfortable around kids and enjoys school visits. Maybe another one is really comfortable teaching writing workshops, and a third is quite internet savvy, and the fourth was an administrative assistant in a marketing department a long time ago in a land far away.

So you pool your resources and talents. When the rest of you get school visit requests that you don’t want to act on, hand them over to the member of our group who does. Or maybe one of you is a picture book writer, who’s been asked to speak at a middle school—not natural pairing, so refer the school to the tween author in your group. There’s all sorts of natural divisions of labor promotion than can be handled by a group that are too intimidating when faced all alone. Consider:

  • Posting online reviews for each others books on Amazon and B&
  • If you have a blog, make sure and blog about your co-op members new books when they come out.
  • If you’re approached for a booksigning, suggest to the store a group signing, which is more fun for the author and the store.
  • If one of the co-op has a new book, consider writing a press release for them, or taking a copy of their new book to your local librarian.

I’m sure you guys can think of other ways to do promote books you love. (Feel free to add them in the comments!)

Another way to form a group is through a secondary interest. Maybe you know a handful of other humor writers, or fantasy writers, or historical fiction authors. Consider forming a group blog where you can all participate in building a community based on that secondary interest.

And here's one of the beauties of the co-op system. If you’re in a critique group or local writers group together, or clients of the same agent or publisher, chances are there will be genuine admiration for each others work, so everything that you do to promote your fellow member will flow from a genuine place.

And it won't be about you.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

It's Time for Milestone Monday-- Get Your Thumbs UP!

Dear Friends,

Welcome to Milestone Monday!  Though in some parts of the country,  it is Tuesday already-- yikes!  We nearly put up a SINKING Violets post today.  Both Robin and I woke up with some sort of dreadful plague or vampire curse.  (Yeah, okay, I'm reading Twilight!)  She woke up with woodpecker head and I have had the spins all day.  Would someone please get me off this nasty carnival ride???  Worst of all, we even had to cancel our Girls Lunch Out together, and I've been bereft about it all day.   I don't get to see her enough as it is (me sniffling).

Spinning notwithstanding (pun alert!), I couldn't abide one more Monday passing by without calling a Milestone Monday! For our newish readers, this is a day devoted to hearing from all of YOU. We want the skinny on your latest accomplishments-- from finishing a tough synopsis/school visit/bio/chapter/draft, to a recent sale, scoring a read by your dream agent or editor, or getting the Most Seriously Promising Rejection Letter ever!   Use this forum to stand up and cheer for your fellow introverts.  Free promo!  In this biz, with accolades coming too rarely, kudos are crucial to your heart and health!

Speaking of promo OP-POR-TU-NI-TIES (a-hem), I recently did a live blog radio interview with Suzanne Lieurance at Book Bites, which is part of the National Writing for Children Center out of Kansas City, Missouri. Suzanne was great fun to work with.  She had read my new book, perused my website and blog and was completely prepared. Very professional.  In addition to doing author interviews, she hosts a regularly scheduled Promo Day for authors and illustrators to call in during the program.  It's an chance for you to announce any new books or book events you have coming up.  

If the idea of talking on the radio makes you want to crawl back into the womb, whoa there, cowgirl.  This is a great opportunity to stretch yourself a little bit.  If you feel nervous about doing it alone, hook up with a buddy or two, and you can all call in together.  Afterwards, you can post the link to your website or blog.  If any of you try it, please let us know how it goes!  If you have a new book coming out, you can visit the site that I posted above and there are instructions for how to apply to be one of Suzanne's author interviews.

Just one more thing before I turn the mike over the you Milestoney things-- in Robin's post last Thursday, she made a comment that one of our readers Becky had a question about.  Robin noted that since introverts excel at relationships and connecting, the act of networking with industry folks plays to our strengths.  Becky wondered if we could say a little bit more on this, as she hadn't heard that before.

As a generalization about Jungian type, introverts are really hardwired for connecting with others. We prefer one on one, and when we connect with someone, we tend to be more fully present and focused. We are content to stay present in that single exchange, and aren't looking for addditional input or stimulation while talking to that one person.  It makes for a stronger connection, recollection and bond.  Which serves us well in an industry where we want editors, agents, and publicity agents, etc. to remember us with fondness and admiration.   Which is not to say that an extravert can't accomplish the same thing--  Robin's point was that introverts come equipped with the right tool belt already looped around our waist.  We need to take advantage of it!

And without further ado-be-do, let's hear from you!  What's new and exciting in your corner?

Dizzily but devotedly, 

Mary Hershey

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Controlling What We Can

As writers, there is so little about our career that we have control over. Our craft, yes. Whether we sell a book, find a reader, or get good reviews, not so much. Even whether bookstores will put our book on their shelves is totally out of our hands.

Therefore, it was of great comfort to me to hear Jennifer Enderlin of St. Martin’s Press emphasize that publishing is a business of relationships, whether with your publishing house or your readers. The thing is, introverts excel at relationships and connecting, so that plays to our strengths. She also had some really good things to say about those things the writer can control, and a lot of her advice strikes me as a way to "market" yourself to your publisher as someone who is professional and worth their time and investment. The advice is also a lot of common sense and good manners.

1. Hone your craft. (Sound familiar?)

2. Don't follow trends—instead, create your own.

3. Be emotional about your work, but not about the business.

4. Don't compare yourself to other writers. Each career path is as different as the books you write.

5. Make a team out of the people in your career by building on those relationships.

6. Treat your writing like a professional.

7. Find your own writer support group.

8. Get rid of the 'us versus them' mentality. Your publisher wants you to be successful. When you look good, your editor looks good.

9. Attend to the care and feeding of readers. Make them feel a part of a community. Answer email and be accessible.