Monday, July 28, 2008

A Cornucopia of Odds and Ends

…because let’s face it, there are just a dearth of opportunities to use that word enough to justify it taking up all that room in the dictionary. (Actually, you can blame Nathan Bransford for that since he had a post about favorite and least favorite words and cornucopia was my favorite word ever when I was eleven.)

First of all, Joelle asked a follow up question for our publicist in the comments: I'd be interested to know how valuable Kathy feels it is for an author to hire and outside publicist. Especially a debut author.

Kathy Dunn's answer: I would recommend having an honest conversation with your editor and in-house publicist to see what kind of promotion they will be doing for your book and their timeline, and if you find yourself wanting additional things that your publicist may not be able to achieve given their schedules, then you may want to explore a freelance publicist.

* * *
In an attempt to practice what I preach, I am cross-pollinating this summer (sounds a little inappropriate, doesn't it?) and will be attending the RWA National Conference in San Francisco this week instead of my usual SCBWI National Conference in LA. If any of you are there and recognize my nametag, do say hi! (I know, who am I kidding? We’re introverts, fer gawd’s sake!) And don’t worry, I’ll be taking lots of notes because those romance writers are marketing geniuses!

* * *

Also, we have a great opportunity we’d like to offer to our blog readers. Do you have some bit of advice or experience that you think the Shrinking Violets and Vinnies might like hearing about? Or perhaps you’ve spent a lot of time and effort mastering a new marketing skill or approach? Or found a way to make some onerous marketing task more pleasant? We would love to give you a turn at the SVP microphone so you can share what you’ve learned/know/experienced with our readers. In case your introverted little self need some gentle persuading…

1. It would be a great way to practice blogging without having to commit to your own blog.
2. It would be a public service to your fellow introverts.
3. And, of course, the extra exposure never hurt anyone—especially an author.

If you think you’d be interested, please email us! We know we have some very smart, savvy readers of this blog and we’d love to give you a chance to share what you know! Plus, with Mary and I having deadlines popping up right and left, we could use a few pinch hitters in our back pocket. (How’s that for mixing metaphors?)

That’s all for this week, my dears. I’ll be back next week with tons of new marketing advice, tips, and ideas to share with you!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Conference Survival Tips

Here are a list of Shrinking Violet conference survival tips. Please feel free to add your own tips in the comments. Us introverts can never have too many tricks up our sleeves where crowds are concerned!

  1. Give yourself time to get oriented in the hotel and understand where your room is, the meeting rooms, the elevators, and the bar dining room are. There’s nothing worse than wandering lost among throngs of people talking very loudly.

  2. Plan some down time into your conference schedule. Yes, you’ll be tempted to squeeze everything in, but then you run the risk of short-circuiting. Pick a couple of workshops or luncheons and plan on spending that time alone in your room doing some recharging; yoga, a nap, deep breathing. It’s astonishing how much even an hours break can refresh you so you’re ready for the rest of the day. Yes, you will miss something, but your focus will be much sharper for the events you do attend.

  3. Consider going offsite for lunch one day, again, just to step away from the crowd.

  4. Stay hydrated. The fuzzy-headed disoriented feeling from being dehydrated is not something you need to deal with on top of the crowds. Hotel air can be really drying.

  5. Stay fueled up. Pack protein bars or nuts or some kind of snack that will help keep your blood sugar on an even keel.

  6. Try to get your normal number of hours sleep. You’re drawing on enormous energy reserves, just being in a crowd like this. Honor the toll that takes on your body.

  7. Pick an aisle seat if at all possible. That way you only have people on one side of you.

  8. Consider treating the entire experience as a conference AND retreat. Pick mornings or afternoons to attend workshops, then give yourself permission to use the other time to retire to your room and apply what you’ve learned immediately, while it’s still fresh in your mind.

Originally posted June 2007

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thumbs Poised for Milestone Monday

It’s been three months since we’ve done a Milestone Monday, so I’m calling one here and now. HERE. NOW. If you’re newish on the block, Milestone Monday is a day devoted to celebrating your minor/major/noteworthy creative successes. We really want to hear from you. Yeah, you, shrinking down in your seat right now. :-)

Finish a gnarly chapter? Maybe you recently got an honest-to-goodness original signature on your latest rejection letter! Or, you might have finally rustled up the courage to talk to someone about your work. Did you sell an article, or a book? Maybe you got inspired by Robin’s last post about conferences and made the decision to go to one!

Whatever it is, we want to give you a big thumbs up! No fuss, no muss, and you can sit quietly at your screen and blush all you want.

As introverts, we have a tendency to downplay the power of community. I know I like to delude myself that I am a self-reinforcing model. (Kind of like a self-cleaning oven, but without the impenetrable locking feature.) Which is why I was NOT looking forward to participating in “Integrity Day” yesterday which I was required to attend on account of this Energize your Life coaching group I belong to. Starting at 9:00 a.m. yesterday, I had to dial in to a conference call for ten minutes at the top of every hour for five hours.

Hold on, it gets worse. Not only did I have to call in, I had to report my progress on a life de-cluttering project to a bunch of people I've never met. And, listen to their reports on how they were doing. Did I mention this was Saturday morning, a sacred time I like to reserve for the exclusive company of a brick-sized scone and a skinny latte? If Option B to the call-ins would have been five consecutive mammograms-- truly, I would have been torn. Hmm, mammogram or conference call with required sharing? The dilemma!

So, you might imagine my bolt from the blue when I discovered how mobilizing it was having a cheering section behind me all morning. Moi? Yeah, I know! In five hours, I accomplished more on my project than I ever could have left to my own devices. Better still, even after the calls were over, I worked four more hours non-stop.

So I’m just saying. Sharing can be good. And catalystic. We’d love to hear from you. And, for god's sake, it’s free publicity to boot. There’s that, too.

Engerized and uncluttered,

Mary Hershey

P.S. Speaking of milestones, our Shrinking Violets visit meter turned over to 25,000 visits this past weekend. Wow. And, those are visits by introverts, which are the data equivalent of 4.77 extravert visits, according to some super scientific research I conducted. Or made up. It's one of those, but I forget which one.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Conference Survival Guide: Strategizing

School’s out, the days are longer, and kids are running rampant everywhere. A sure indication that it’s summer, and summer means Conference Season.

The majority of, but not all, writers’ conferences are held during the summer months. Certainly the national ones are. So here at SVP, with summer comes the need for an Introvert’s Conference Survival Strategy and Tips. Because as someone once said, writer’s conferences are hundreds of writers getting together and pretending they’re extroverts.

All that pretending and socializing depletes our energy meters way fast. If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves running on empty by the end of the first day of a four day conference.

But the thing is, conferences are wonderful opportunities to learn from the masters in our field, hear what publishers and editors are looking for, and they can be a prime chance to “interview” agents before we sign on the dotted line and hand over our business to them.

Not to mention how wonderfully satisfying it can be to be in an entire hotel of people who speak a writer’s language; who don’t think you’re crazy when you talk about hearing voices in your head, or who know what the acronyms SCBWI, POV, BIC actually mean. It can be a time to meet other writers, possibly forming new friendships or having wonderfully crunchy discussions over writing craft. So even for the most reluctant introvert, they are not to be missed.

They should, however, be strategized. And part of the strategizing begins before you ever set foot at the conference. First you need to choose which one you plan to attend. Every summer I am torn between going to the Annual SCBWI Conference or the RWA National Conference. I know I cannot do both. They are usually too close together, maybe two weeks apart, and it takes me at least a week to recover from the first one.

Somewhere in there, either before or after you decide which one to attend, you have to decide what your goal is for this year’s conference experience. Are you wanting to immerse yourself in craft? Try to get a feel for different editorial styles and preferences? Find a new online support or critique group? Begin an agent search? Once you know what you’re hoping to get out of the conference, it should be easier to decide which to attend.

The next step is to prioritize your Must See speakers and workshops for the conference. Even though I have been going to conferences for eleven years and have been published for the last four of those, it’s the craft part of the conference that gets my juices running. That is the part of the conference that is the most inspirational to me and that has the greatest takeaway value. That doesn’t mean a person can’t do all of it, but it does mean that it’s very, very smart to prioritize your goals.

I usually accomplish this by pouring over the conference schedules of speakers and workshops. Circle the workshops that you simply MUST see, the workshops and speakers who made you excited about the conference in the first place.

My next pre-conference tip will probably be somewhat controversial. If the conference offers pitching sessions or mss critiques, seriously consider NOT participating in them. Especially the pitching session. The few times I had a pitching or critique session scheduled, I was so nervous it completely consumed the focus of my conference experience. I spent the first half worrying about it and the last half disappointed that I hadn’t been offered a contract on the spot. (A secret dream of nearly all of those who are new to that experience.) So I have chosen to excuse myself from that part of the conference because it just winds me up way too tight and saps my already limited energy.

See if you can find another introvert for a roommate. To me, that is even more important than if the roommate snores. I can always put in earplugs, but it’s hard to turn off someone else’s social energy on demand. A fellow introvert will understand.

So once you know which conference to attend, who you’ll be attending it with, and what you’re hoping to gain from it, it’s time to look for ways to survive it. Next Thursday, I’ll discuss those Survival Tips for the actual conference itself. Be sure and check back then!

(Original post by Robin June 2007)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Marketing Task Recap

Phew! Well, Mary's baby is launched! And what a successful launch it was, too! I bet if you bribed Mary with chocolate chip cookies, she'd even tell you just how successful it was. Of course, it's only the beginning of the 'launch period' for her new book, but it's off to a good start.

We thought that it might be helpful to post a checklist of all the marketing tasks we've refered to over the last few months in one place, so you wouldn't have to hunt and peck to produce a To Do List of your own.

9-12 Months Out

Open a marketing dialogue with your publisher
Purchase domain name, if you haven’t already
Begin website development
Take our Comfort Level Inventory
Begin blogging if you think that may be of interest to you
Begin developing Relationship with local Indie booksellers
Reach out and build relationships with online forums or listservs
Introduce yourself to your local children’s librarian

7-8 Months Out

Create Marketing Plan with publisher’s input and divvy up the To Do List
Consider creating a marketing co-op or pairing up with a marketing buddy
Brainstorm possible magazine articles that tie in to your books subject matter
Continue working on website – goal is to have it up 3 months before pub date
Put words out to friends who are teachers or librarians that you’d be willing to do a few ‘practice’ school visits gratis

5-6 Months Out

Get author photo taken
Create a wardrobe of author bios (50, 100, and 300 words in length)
Keep an eye out for upcoming literary festivals in your area that you can participate in
Begin planning book launch

4 Months Out

Put together author brochure for school visits or general info – can mirror what your website says about you
Coordinate with your publisher to set up booksignings, if they think this is a good way to go

2-3 Months Out

Website goes live
Post excerpt on website
When cover art is final, order postcards, bookmarks, and other print materials
Begin putting together a press kit with photo, bios, picture of book cover, press releases, FAQ’s, and an “interview”
Consider setting up a blog tour
Consider making a video book trailer, or having one made

6 Weeks Out

Mail invitations for launch
Finalize any details for appearances, signings, etc.
Host contests and other interactive activities on your website

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Making the Most of the Sometime Dreaded Book Signing

Dear Friends,

As a follow-up to Robin's post last week where she talked about our upcoming signing, I wanted to let you know that we've gotten a very enthusiastic response from people calling the bookstore and buying our books as a donation for Girls, Inc.  For friends and family that live out of town and can't come to our event, or maybe aren't interested in owning a children's book themselves, they seem happy to have a chance to support us, an independent bookstore and some under-served girls. So file that away in your Tips for a Successful Book Signing folder.  ~(:-] ) How might you connect your signing (or other event) to some greater good, beyond book sales for you?  

In addition to way looking forward to spending the afternoon with Robin at the bookstore, we will have plenty of books to sign for Girls, Inc.  And busyness begets busyness as we've discovered.  An author signing a big stack of books draws more customers over to the table than one sitting alone looking frightened/desperate/embarrassed/bored/catatonic.  Robin doesn't know this part yet, and please don't tell her for god's sake, but we'll be assembling book gift bags at the signing. So, we'll have fun, stay busy, and be making a difference in the lives of some girls that will be getting a cool gift.

I'm going to post the number of our indie bookstore here if you'd like to participate, which you can do through 5:00 pm this coming Sunday, July 13th. We've had some Violets do so already. Thank you so much!! Chaucer's Books phone number is 805.682.6787. Tell them that you want to buy a $35.00 gift certificate for the Mary Hershey signing for Girls, Inc. This allows each girl to get a personally autographed copy of my book and Robin's book.

Lastly, for the duration of the summer, Robin and I will be posting a new entry once per week, instead of twice weekly. The new post will be on Monday. On Thursdays, we will be featuring a previous post from our archives. We have a wonderful wealth of new readers that have joined us, and we look forward to their input on our previous posts. Starting in September, we'll resume our twice weekly Monday/Thursday new postings.

We hope you'll each find some ways to treat yourself a little bit of extra breathing room during the summer months! Give yourself some time to read (the brain candy kind), to try something new, to fully inhale (and exhale), to live in present time.  Dig down and retrieve that blissful summer feeling that you had as a kid, lie down and roll around in it. 

  :o]      "-]
Mary & Robin

Monday, July 7, 2008

An Interview with a Real Live Publicist: Random House's Kathy Dunn

It is an exceptional privilege to have Kathy Dunn, Random House Publicist, with us today. Kathy has worked at Random House Children’s Books for over twelve years (is that like a record??), working with both introverted and extroverted authors. She describes herself as a combination of the two. She resides in Southampton, NY with her husband and two sons.

We asked Kathy what authors can do to help her more effectively do her job. And, realistically speaking, what can one single, introverted author do to help promote their book?

So, I’m going to dim the house lights and let Kathy take it away!

* * * * * * * * * 

Get to know your local community.

Research area newspapers, magazines and media outlets that you can alert your publicist to as he or she is actively pitching your book. You know your hometown better than anyone else does, right?  Also, if your state has any specific book awards that your publicist may not know about, definitely let them know that as well.

Introduce yourself to the librarians at your local schools.

Librarians are obviously wonderful supporters of all books, and have access to tons of your target readers! Make a few calls and introduce yourself. Offer to come in for a free school event to discuss your book. (I know this might be hard if you are a Shrinking Violet, but at least make the phone call, right?) Kids see tons of other kids at extracurricular activities, and if they liked your book, they may tell their friends about it. Same goes for teachers and librarians!

Introduce yourself to the local bookstores.

Again, just make a call, or stop in and introduce yourself. It’s nice for people to be able to put a face to the name that they see on a book jacket.

Do online research.

These days, there are tons of blogs, sites, etc, many of which welcome new books by authors, interview, etc. Since pretty much all kids are online these days, what better way to get to them then the web? Many authors have even arranged their own “Blog Tours” by contacting websites and seeing if they would be interested in mentioning their books or doing interviews.

Remember your book’s publication date.

Try not to schedule any appearances, etc, before your book’s official on-sale date.  It is sometimes hard to early release a book to a specific location, as it gives them an unfair advantage over the other places where books are sold. Policies on this may vary from house to house, but it is something to definitely be mindful of.

Loop your publicist in on anything you might arrange on your own.

Sometimes authors will be contacted directly from a school, library, etc.  If you decide to handle the calls on your own, be sure to let your publicist know that you have arranged an appearance, etc.  In terms of the media, I recommend letting your publicist field any requests, and be the only person pitching to various outlets. It can be awkward for authors to pitch their own books.

* * * * * * * * * 

Thanks, Kathy!  This is great info for all of us, published and pre-published.  If any of you have some questions you'd like to ask Kathy, those that would benefit the greater good, fire away.  I can put them all together and schedule a follow-up with Kathy. And, I will report back lickedy split.

Wish me luck, everyone!  My new book hits the streets tomorrow!!  (Gulp.) Thanks for all the excellent ideas/questions you've shared during our pre-launch planning.


Thursday, July 3, 2008


You may be thinking that with all the excitement of National Indie Bookseller’s Month and our recent interviews, we’ve forgotten about the upcoming launch of Mary’s TEN LUCKY THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED TO ME SINCE I NEARLY GOT HIT BY LIGHTNING. We want to assure you that we haven’t.

In fact, the count down continues and Mary has spent the last month finalizing promotional plans and busily planning her book launch.

One of the challenges she’s been dealing with is how to make a third book launch new and different and not the same ol’, same ol’. Being Mary, she’s come up with a doozy of an idea.

One of the things Mary is passionate about is getting books in the hands of the kids who need them. So for this third book launch, she has invited her friends and family to purchase a gift card (by phone if that’s easier) from our local independent bookstore, Chaucer’s, and then in turn designate that it be used to buy a copy of our books (yes we're doing a buddy signing!) to be donated to Girls, Inc. so that a girl that might not otherwise have a chance to read or own the books might do so. She’ll still be having a book signing/launch, and yes we’re hoping to have some live foot traffic/attendees, but the focus will be on contributing books to these deserving girls.

My hat's off to Mary as this is such a great way to think outside the box when planning an event. Combine your passions, turn the focus away from yourself, and add a healthy dose of karmic marketing and voila! Something new and different!