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Posts Tagged ‘self-promotion’

Writers aren’t circus bears!

In art, behavior, blogging, books, business, culture, entertainment, journalism, life, Media, work on February 23, 2013 at 12:32 am
Canada Reads 2013

Canada Reads 2013 (Photo credit: gorbould)

Here’s a thoughtful recent essay from Canada’s National Post:

There is a clause on page five of my book contract that states, “The Author must make herself available to the media to promote the work.”…Not only does literary life seem to require a new kind of written personal transparency, the obligations that follow publication seem to have become increasingly more invasive.

How is “available” defined when we can reveal our private lives in real time via a variety of different digital outlets? When accessing almost any author with immediate, unfiltered comment and criticism is a click away? How much does the media, and the public, want, need or even deserve?

As writers feel more and more pressure to be 24/7, real-time public figures, we need to consider those who are disclosure-averse, who prefer to hide away and let their work stand as they have constructed it.

Writing is a solitary act, while publishing is a shared one, and skill at being a likable public figure who gives great readings and interviews is in no way a quality of producing quality literature.

It’s certainly not news that the Internet is not exactly a bastion of thoughtful dialogue and critique — it’s a vile, abusive place that no amount of “haters gonna hate” can ease the blow of. The result of putting oneself “out there” is commonly getting badly beat up, shattering your confidence in yourself and your work…

Exposure can be a terrifying and exhausting process, the demand for the author to step well out into the fray constant…

Being good at self-exposure and promotion doesn’t make you a better writer, it makes you a more popular one.

This resonated deeply for me.

As you read this, I’m at an assisted-living facility about 10 minutes’ drive from my home, doing another public event for my retail memoir, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail.”

I’m not being paid for it, which I sometimes am, (usually $50 to $250 for a small, local event.) A local indie bookseller will be there with a box of my books and a credit card machine. (If I sell them, they don’t count for royalties, i.e. lowering the initial advance payment with every sale, albeit a tiny fraction of the cover price the publisher actually pays the author.)

It’s showtime, folks!

This, my second book, came out April 2011 in hardcover, July 2012 in paperback, but  — like many authors — I’m still out there selling it to the public and press when possible. If it doesn’t keep selling, it will disappear from bookstores, go out of print and die. Staying silent and invisible seems unwise.

Before almost every event I have no idea, really, how many people will show up, or in what mood, or with what level of interest in me or my topic. Someone in the crowd might get nasty. I might fill the room — and not sell a single book. (My book discusses low-wage labor, and both times this has happened was after addressing library audiences in two very wealthy towns, Scarsdale, NY and Westport, CT.)

Frankly, it’s stressful.

The last event I did was in January at a local library on a bitterly cold night. I was suffering terrible bronchitis, my barking cough frequent and loud. To my delight, a friend came, as did a woman who had heard me months earlier, and she brought two friends. One man blurted “I love your book! I stayed up til 1:30 last night reading it.” Which was, of course, all lovely.

Then I asked one audience member, working retail, what she sells: “Clothing, to women your size.”

Holy shit. That hurt! I smiled my usual bland, friendly, I-didn’t-feel-a-thing smile. But her impertinent and bizarrely personal remark still hurts, weeks later.

Writers are hungry to be read, to communicate our ideas and passions, but we’re not schooled or trained — nor eager for, or desirous of, sustained public attention and unsolicited, often anonymous, commentary.

We do this public song-and-dance because we have to, because we’re proud of and love our books and want them to be read as widely as possible. But many writers are ambivalent about, even resentful of, the misleading and false sense of intimacy our public appearances create with audiences.

You don’t know us.

You just know what we wrote. 

When doing public and press events, no matter how stung or annoyed you feel, you have to react quickly and calmly, as I did on live radio with 2 million listeners on The Diane Rehm Show.

And I won’t rant here about the public, permanent and often anonymous “reviews” on amazon, some so vicious they’ve left me shaking: “Bitter, pretentious and lazy, lazy, lazy” wrote one.

Many writers are desperate to be published, and would kill for the chance to garner lots of media and/or public attention. For their work, yes, of course!

But you personally ? To have your looks, personality, clothing, diction, mannerisms and family discussed (and quite possibly dissed) by curious strangers?

Maybe not so much.

If you’re interested in writing-as-process, here’s a two-part interview I gave recently to fellow writer Nancy Christie, whose many questions were intelligent and thought-provoking.

Your Book Is Out! Ten Tips For Promoting It

In behavior, books, business, work on July 5, 2011 at 11:30 am
Rollercoaster

Strap in and hang on! It's a wild ride ahead...Image by peve.de via Flickr

My second book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” was published April 14, 2011 in the U.S. and April 19 in Canada.

It’s been full-on ever since!

I’ve done:

Radio interviews with shows in: D.C. (four, three of them national), St. Louis, Irvine, CA, Portland, Ore.; Vancouver, Winnipeg, New York, Chicago, Buffalo.

One TV show, a half-hour in Toronto on BNN with a retail analyst and professor of retail management.

Print interviews, including the Financial Times, New York Times and Associated Press and Marie-Claire to the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and Canadian Press.

I’ve also spoken at six events in a month, with engagements lined up through October.


If you’re about to publish a book, these tips will help you through the fun, wearying, non-stop job of telling everyone about it:

Carry your book and/or its postcard everywhere. (And business cards.)

I mean everywhere. I’ve handed them out while airborne, while standing in line to check my baggage at an airport, at the hair salon, at my local framing shop…I missed the opportunity of a lifetime recently when I bumped into Anderson Cooper at a Toronto television station — and had nothing to hand him. Most people are delighted to meet an author. Having something tangible to refer to will help them remember to buy the book.

Stay well-groomed and dressed.

Many writers work alone at home, often in sloppy and comfy clothes. Once you’re out and in the public eye, you’re on! People who’ve never met an author are often thrilled to do so; in their eyes, (true!) your ability to get a book published is a huge achievement. Look and dress the part! Keep your hair cut (and color) in top shape, mani and pedi fresh,  so that surprise invitations to speak or do a media interview won’t panic you.

Splurge on a few new, confidence-building outfits. I spent a heart-stopping amount on some terrific clothes, and made sure they fit and were accessorized before the book was out.

When I received a surprise invitation to address the sales staff of Marie-Claire, a women’s fashion magazine, (while I was on the road with no time to go home from Toronto), I was fine, thanks to my new go-to gear. I felt totally comfortable in a room full of very chic listeners.

Ignore reviews.

OK, you won’t, but try.

Like me, “Malled”, has a strong voice and unvarnished opinions — and outspoken women, especially in the U.S., can really piss people off.

It’s already got 45 reviews on amazon, many  of them positive. But many of the negative ones attack me personally, calling me everything from princess to racist. It’s stressful to be name-called, and really annoying to know you just can’t reply. Unless a review is truly libelous or defamatory, it’s not worth it.

Book-sellers are your new best friends!

Visit as many bookstores as possible and autograph any copies of your book they have on hand.

If they have the time or interest, tell them a little about you or how the book came to be. If you’ve done, or are about to do, any local media coverage that might bring shoppers into their store, let them know so they can be sure to have copies on hand.

Say thank-you. Be gracious. They’re our ambassadors!

Stay rested, exercised, hydrated and well-fed.

Every event is a performance that demands focus, and emotional and intellectual energy to do well. Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol. Keep a full cup of cool water at hand every time you speak.

Take some media or speech training to prepare.

I discovered a great coach on LinkedIn, a young woman named Christine Clapp, who prepped me for NPR’s popular Diane Rehm show — I would be on-air, before two million listeners, for an hour. She taught me some vocal and physical exercises to do before every interview or event and reviewed, and critiqued, the video of a keynote I gave last year at a retail conference. My confidence has improved immeasurably as a result.

It’s a roller-coaster.

Strap in and hang on! It’s a wild ride.

You’ll experience lovely highs: your book party, publication date, good reviews, positive media attention — and some tough lows: negative, even nasty reviews, people who just don’t get your point, events with an audience of one, events where no one buys the book, radio show call-in hecklers.

Enjoy the experience, but don’t take it to heart.

Stay on-message.

I did a Chicago radio show that had promised me four to eight minutes…and barely gave me one. Good thing I named the book’s full title in my first sentence! Decide the three key things you want to share with your audience and repeat them in every media interview.

Keep a cheat sheet handy.

I have a one-sheet, in 18-point type, of my major talking points. It’s easy to forget or get caught up in the moment, certainly on live radio.

While I was on the Diane Rehm show, a male caller sneered: “Why should I buy this book? What value does it have beyond being….entertainment?” I had my talking points beside the mike, made them, and got emails from listeners praising my poise.

Enjoy it all!

It’s easy to freak out — sales are too low, too slow, audiences too small or silent. Authors who have published, as I have both times, with a commercial house, face their very high expectations of fast, steady sales.

With 1,500 books published every day, we all face challenges getting ours noticed.

But…

It’s a thrill to see your book in the store, to get to know book-sellers and hear their thoughts, to know that total strangers all over the place are reading and loving it; to read the Google alerts letting you know that libraries are buying it; watching your little map at amazon’s Author Central tell you how many people bought it where — 47 in Chicago! 45 in Phoenix!

Bonus tip:

Always being your A-game, as you never know who’s in your audience or who they know.

Two recent examples: I went to lunch recently with my softball buddies of eight years, all old friends. Some new guy was there, 73. I said hi and introduced myself — he’s a producer for a major network TV news show and now wants a copy of the book. Yesterday I spoke at a local library event and the author sitting beside me is a freelance producer for CNN.

Even events that feel like a wash — like one where I drove 40 minutes each way, sold no books and did not get paid — had in its audience a friendly and helpful local journo who hooked me up for a great event, some serious library sales and three great ideas for events in her area — complete with names and contact numbers.

Now….what’s your next book about?

C-C-C-C-Confidence!

In behavior, books, business, journalism, life, Media, Money, women, work on May 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm
Skyhammer & Airlift Mini-Con  Power Core Combi...

That's what I'm talking about!!Image by Rodimuspower via Flickr

Can we get anything done without it?

Yet, and yet and yet, I have entire days I think I just can’t: make that call, send that email, ask that favor, knock on that door or send that resume.

People have told me for decades how confident I appear, and the operative word might be appear, for there are too many days I feel like some medieval warrior girding her loins before even picking up the phone or sending out an email.

As someone with no steady income, salary or pension down the line, I’m in lioness mode: I eat only what I catch and kill. That means having to hustle for clients every day, whether reaching out to former or current ones or finding and cultivating new ones.

Either way, it means a lot of people contact and no guarantee of the outcome.

Which, if I fail, means — I’m broke!

No pressure.

I can blame my reticence on a few things:

– I’ve been canned from a few jobs, which has permanently dented my sense of likability, no matter how businesslike a layoff can be

– I was badly bullied in high school for three years by a small gang of boys

– I spent ages 5 to 30 in Canada, a country that has no tolerance for self-promotion or boasting then moved to the U.S., a place with a population 10 times larger, competing with some mighty sharp elbows. Time to man up!

– I faced a tough crowd in my own family, people who often found much to criticize and little to praise

But without a cheery demeanor and the conviction you have something worthwhile to offer, it’s tough to get out there and ask for what you want, whether a job referral, grant recommendation or help with a new project.

I had recently reached out to two people, one an old friend who didn’t call back for weeks and one a new contact whose initial voicemail sounded fairly frosty. So it was with a heavy heart I called both of them back.

Both were delighted to hear from me. Both had lost my phone number and wanted to hear my ideas.

If I hadn’t had the confidence to reach out again, I would have lost out on some cool opportunities.

Do you ever feel lily-livered?

How do you get past it?

Promoting Your New Book: What It Really Takes

In blogging, books, business, journalism, Media, work on April 21, 2011 at 12:48 pm

My second non-fiction book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” (Portfolio) was published April 14. Yay!

But as every author knows — and every would-be author must learn — I’ve been working on promoting it long before the manuscript was finished and accepted for publication, in September 2010.

Today, (for which I’m grateful), it’s two radio interviews — Phoenix and D.C. — and a New York Times interview. Yesterday it was the Brian Lehrer Show and Tuesday was an hour of live radio with the legendary Diane Rehm, who has two million listeners.

(All of these are archived on their websites.)

Sleep? Sleep?

Here are some of the many things I’ve been doing to help get the word out, from local attention and events in my little town of 10,000 north of New York City to reviews and blog posts about it in Australia, Ireland, Canada and Holland:

Registered the domain name malledthebook.com and hired my longtime web designer to create a website for the book. He updates its press and media page almost daily with new audio, reviews and clips.

Created a Facebook page. Please visit and like it!

Signed up at HARO, a three-times-daily website heavily used by 5,000 reporters worldwide seeking sources/experts to interview and quote. (This works only for non-fiction writers, but well worth it. I snagged a Wall Street Journal blogger this way.)

Began blogging in July 2009 for True/Slant, a website (later bought by Forbes,) with a final monthly audience of 10,000 visitors and 239 subscribers

Began blogging at opensalon.com in September 2010

Began blogging here at wordpress in August 2010

Reached out to every single person I interviewed for the book to let them know the book’s publication date, asking them to tweet, blog and mention it on all their social networks and tell their family, friends and colleagues

I visit LinkedIn once a week to answer as many questions as possible, using my book title as my professional signature

I tweet about retail, the subject of my book

I started targeting colleges, universities and community colleges, locally and elsewhere, that teach retailing to see if I might give a guest lecture and sell books; three have said yes, so far

I reached out to the Canadian consulate in New York, (I’m Canadian), and asked them to mention the book in their newsletter and on their website and to create an event for me

I did the same with the University of Toronto, my alma mater; I’m speaking there May 28 at 10:00 a.m. Come visit!

I contacted local businesses and asked some of of them to keep a stack of my book’s postcard on their desks and counters

A local coffee shop — which has more than 2,000 Facebook friends — is letting me do a reading there

A local reading non-profit group where I volunteered is holding an event for me in their space and inviting their friends and fellow volunteers

I contacted a local indie film center to see if we could schedule a film night linked to my book’s themes of shopping, low-wage labor or working retail

I attended the two-day 15,000 person National Retail Federation annual conference in Manhattan and took two people to help me walk the entire floor for two days to hand out postcards and gather potential contacts for speaking, consulting, writing and book sales

I did a brief video for NRF while there extolling retail as a possible career

I collected contact information at the conference from several professors of retailing who might use the book as a text or have me guest lecture or speak

I contacted a Canadian retail blogger attending NRF who did a long video interview with me which will go up on YouTube and who blogged about me twice

I met another high-profile retail blogger for coffee, (while in her Canadian city on family business)

I asked my publisher to give me 5,000 postcards with the book’s cover on one side, a great blurb on the other, and a description of the book and my contact information on the back; I use them instead of a business card now, have used them for book party invitations and hand them to anyone who might find it useful

I’ve written — without pay — several guest blog posts at sites with far more readers than I have, like the Guide to Literary Agents (they approached me) and the Harvard Business Review blog (ditto)

I read dozens of blogs every single day to find sites and posts where I can leave a useful comment

I called a local language school teaching foreign students — who all shop like crazy in Manhattan! — and asked if I could come and talk; they said yes

I called a local independent bookstore and asked if I could do an event there; yes

I reached out to an editor I know at a regional magazine and they did a Q & A with me

I wrote, for pay, an essay for my alumni magazine about working retail

I contacted a local freelancer who profiled me for a local monthly newspaper

I contacted a local radio talk show host who is giving me an hour of air-time

And that’s not even the half of it…

So far, I’ve lined up more than 14 speaking events, several well-paid, like the closing keynote for the retailcustomerexperience conference this summer. I’m always looking for more!

What sorts of things have you done to successfully promote your book(s)?

Any great blogs or websites we should know about?

I’ll give a copy of my book to the person who offers the best suggestion!


Toot! Toot! Tooting Your Own Horn

In behavior, blogging, business, culture, education, journalism, life, Media, men, Money, photography, women, work on April 8, 2011 at 11:22 am
Luis Arrieta - Tango aDeus

Every performer, by definition, seeks the spotlight. What about the rest of us? Image by Vivadança Festival Internacional Ano 5 via Flickr

If you work for yourself — and even when you work for someone else — you have to do it.

Do you dread it as much as I do?

The world of social media has made it much easier to spread the word, globally, about how fabulous!!!!! you are but sometimes, truly, I wish everyone would just button it!

I visit LinkedIn almost every day and I enjoy seeing what my contacts are up to. I loatheloatheloathe one woman who “updates” there every 13 seconds with work tips to make sure we do not waste even a single hour forgetting who she is. I know, I know, I can’t email her and say “Enough! Stop! You are boring and overbearing and horrible.”

But I’d sure like to.

With my new book out April 14, I have to toot long, loud, clearly, daily and — pardon the appalling biz-speak — across multiple platforms.Why? Because, in the U.S. where I live, 1,500 books are published every single bloody day!

Frankly, I’d rather organize the linen closet, but I did that last week. Or polish my shoes. Or go to a movie. Or make soup.

Yammering on about how amazing I am makes me feel a little ill. But if I don’t stake my claim, every single one of my loud-mouthed competitors will.

And guess who will sell more books? And get a bigger advance on the next book as a result? Not the shy, quiet girl in the corner.

I grew up in Canada, a nation — like the Aussies, Japanese and Swedes, to name a few with similar cultural values — that hates self-promoters and punishes them with the worst possible paddle. They ignore you!

I’ve lived near New York City for 22 years. You want pushy? Babe, we got pushy!

It’s been sadly instructive to watch the relative “Who gives a s–t? my book has been getting in Canada and the fantastic enthusiasm it’s been getting here. Which, and this is basic, is now fodder for more horn-tooting!

In Australia, it’s called tall poppy syndrome, where the highest flower, swaying happily in the summer sun, gets its gorgeous little head lopped off for — being the most visible. In Japan, they hammer down the tallest nail.

Don’t boast! Don’t gloat! Don’t tell people you’ve done some terrific work and people are liking it!

Yeah, be invisible.

There’s a strategy.

How do you reconcile the career-boosting need to tell others about your skills and work accomplishments and being (blessedly and attractively) modest about them?

What Defines An On-Line Community?

In behavior, blogging, culture, life, Media, women on January 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm
"The Social Gathering" a North Side ...

Image by Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest via Flickr

Because I’m forever interested in the notion of “community”, I sought a definition and found a bunch of them:

  • a group of people living in a particular local area; “the team is drawn from all parts of the community”
  • common ownership; “they shared a community of possessions
  • a group of nations having common interests; “they hoped to join the NATO community”
  • agreement as to goals; “the preachers and the bootleggers found they had a community of interests”
  • residential district: a district where people live; occupied primarily by private residences
  • (ecology) a group of interdependent organisms inhabiting the same region and interacting with each other
    wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

I think the final definition here is the only one that applies to those who create and try to sustain community on the web.

And the challenge of simply interacting with people you do not know, have never met, may never meet and who may be creating utterly false identities is…who are you dealing with?

For me, a community worth being part of involves a significant level of trust: that is your real name, and photo, and these are your credentials or experiences. This may mark me as naive, or old-fashioned, someone unable to appreciate the wit and irony that so delight and amuse many others in this medium.

But I’m fine with that.

I’m a female Popeye — I yam what I yam.

I want to talk to, and listen to, and interact with, and trust (else why would I really listen to you or heed you?) real people.

How about you?

The Introvert’s Nightmare — Promoting Your New Book

In behavior, business, culture, design, education, entertainment, Fashion, journalism, life, Media, Money, women, work on January 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm
Seated man reading a book

Solitude? It doesn't sell books!Image by National Media Museum via Flickr

Here’s a great piece by a writer friend in Psychology Today:

Writing seems a perfect career for introverts, since it entails many hours alone in a quiet room. That’s the fun part of the job. Easy, even. But once your book is published, the real work starts: Getting people to buy it.

The days of publishers spending big bucks on book promotion are long gone. Today, after you manage to sell the book to a publisher, you then have to sell it to readers. So people who have chosen the solitary life of the writer are forced not just to step into the spotlight, but to chase it down. Heck, you have to get your own spotlight, point it at yourself, and holler “LOOK AT ME!”

Ick.

But an author’s gotta do what an author’s gotta do. What’s it like? Here, from four introverted writers, is a mix of advice and fear and loathing.

Today is a day for me to sit still. I spent the last two days, from 9:00 to 6:30, traversing the enormous Javits Center, Manhattan’s conference center, attending the annual National Retail Federation Big Show.

There were 15,000 people attending and thousands of exhibitors, most of them people selling their products and services (from security cameras to signage to software) to retailers. As I stood in line to buy my coffee, Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store, a huge celebrity in this world, walked right past me.

But who should I address? What should I say?

One of the people I interviewed for my new book is the CEO of a software company who invited me to be the keynote speaker at his users’ conference — with major players in attendance like Kohls, Home Depot, Old Navy. Being a keynote speaker, while a fantastic honor, was scary enough, and I even did it while on crutches.

Scary or not, for my new retail book to take off — “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” (Portfolio, April 14, 2011) — I need to do much, much more of this sort of self-promotion, meeting senior executives with decades of experience.

No one could possibly work the Big Show alone, so two friends — bubbly, outgoing blonds my age — also worked the room handing out postcards for the book. I paid one of them for her time, $180 out of my own pocket for her labor and energy.

It’s not easy!

Approaching total strangers hour after hour after hour to explain why I/my book are fabulous requires a sort of psychic stamina few people possess.

Barb and Hannah did a great job and I’ve made some terrific new contacts for speaking engagements and book sales.

The whole thing is a little terrifying to someone who — today — is writing this wearing a T-shirt and sweats, no make-up, uncombed hair, face unwashed.

Writers do most of our work alone at home, interacting with sources by phone or email because so many of them live very far away; even if they’re an hour away, we often can’t afford the two hours’ wasted time traveling to and from their location. (Now that gas is already $3.35 a gallon here as well.)

So the HeyhowareyaGreattomeetyou! of determined, ongoing book marketing and promotion can be a real a shock to the system. Most writers are fairly private people, attached to a computer and printer for months, if not years, interacting for their book primarily with three key players — your agent, editor and publicist.

All of whom are on your side.

Then — boom! — you’re shot out of the editorial cannon and into public view, criticism, questioning and judgment. Fellow journalists whip out their notepads and cameras and it’s my turn to be listened to and quoted. Gulp.

I now carry hairspray and a mirror. (I normally often forget to carry a hairbrush, let alone my cellphone.)

I was interviewed for two videos yesterday and, totally by chance, by a reporter from Women’s Wear Daily as I sat in a hallway.

Here we go…

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