Ooh! Ooh! Pick Me!

“We shouldn’t be surprised when someone chooses to publish their photos, their words, their art or their opinions. We should be surprised when they don’t.”
~ Seth Godin
And more than ever, people are publishing via the medium of blogging. Blogs are trendy. They’re a platform. A sweet way to be part of the cool kids club. I’ve recently joined the blogosphere myself, but with so many out there, what’s a girl to do to get noticed?
Content is King
Who really cares that you cleaned out your refrigerator last night? Possibly your mother, but even that’s a stretch. Offer something of value. Give your readers a nugget that’s so lip-smacking tasty, they’re forced to return for another bite. Possible nuggets: how-to advice; writing opportunities; market trends; give-aways.
It’s a Blog, Not a Novel
KISS! Seriously. People don’t have time to read thousands of words at a sitting. Make your point and shut up. If it’s intriguing enough, further elaboration and conversation will ensue in the reader comments section.
Eye Candy
You’ve got about 3 seconds to capture the eyeballs. Make your blog easy to read. Don’t clog it up with too many gadgets. Use a typeface that’s clear and large enough to decipher.
The Golden Rule
Visit other’s blogs and they’ll visit yours. Bonus…their readers will migrate to your site as well if you leave pithy comments.
URL Sharing
Don’t worry. You won’t catch some deadly virus nor is any detox involved. This simply means getting your blog address out there. Put it in your e-mail signature line. Update your social networks with a short check-me-out kind of message, including your URL. Put your blog on your business cards.

These are just a few simple tips. If you’re greedy for more, the next level of maximizing your visibility is SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Google it. You’ll find a ton of info.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get noticed!
You can connect with Michelle daily at her own blog: Writer Off the Leash. Or if a longer read is more your style, check out her latest release, UNDERCURRENT, a timeless tale of honor and sacrifice.

In honor of my birthday: 22 Marketing Tips for Novelists


Today I turn 22-22. To celebrate, I’d like to offer you a gift, one tip for every two years of my life. Enjoy!

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  1.  Databases=love. Creating an email database is one of the best things you can do. Mine has steadily grown over the past four years, thankfully. Be sure you offer something cool to the folks who sign up. I give a missing chapter of Thin Places to my new subscribers. See how I do it on my site. It’s on the upper right hand corner below the top bar & says Free Ebooklet.
  2. Car magnets to embarrass your spouse & kids and increase sales. I’m not sure how well these work in terms of sales, but they’re cheap and easy and they can’t hurt. Try Vista Print for some nearly free options.
  3. Book sending parties. When I wrote my first novel, Watching the Tree Limbs, I decided to send the book to various TV shows and hosts–about 75 or so. This overwhelmed me until a friend suggested we have a book sending party. It was a lot of fun and together we sent out everything in an hour.
  4. Hug a book club. On your website, share that you’d be willing to talk or skype with clubs reading your book. Also offer to travel to local groups.
  5. Mingling with a purpose (but not in a multi-level way) If writing or books come up in a conversation, feel free to share your experience, your books, etc. But be cautious that you don’t become a multi-level book monster where every sentence starts with, “In my book…”
  6. The power of little cards. Send physical thank you notes to everyone who has had a hand in your novel at the publishing house. Write notes to local bookstores you frequent. A handwritten note is rare these days and will leave a lasting impression.
  7. Business cards. Get an eye-catching business card. Here’s an example of mine (yes, they are round.) The absolute best price I’ve found for full color cards (even round ones!) is at Got Print. You get 1000 cards, color both sides, for $25. Really. If you can afford it, have a designer design your cards. My designer? Tekeme Studios.
  8. Blog giveaways that work. Instead of just posting about your book and asking folks to enter, it’s better to up the incentives. Give each reader several ways to enter (like you on facebook, tweet about the promo, send an email, blog about it, etc.) To see how this has worked in real life click on this giveaway I did on marydemuth.com. It generated lots of buzz and I gained new email subscribers to my ezine and new blog readers as a result.
  9. Would you help me? Sometimes simply asking friends to help you promote your book is enough to start some buzz. I’ve asked friends (not too often, but once in a blue moon), to read the book, offer a review, or tell someone about the book they think it could bless. It’s always better when someone else promotes you. It hearkens back to one of my favorite scriptures. “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2, ESV).
  10. Content they can use. Think of ways you can take the elements of your story and create a helpful article you can give away on your website. For instance, in my book Life in Defiance, I could create an article about how to know if you’re in an abusive marriage (the subject of the book.) Another idea is to take your expertise in fiction and create a super article. Or utilize your passion about fiction to write an article. Here’s an example of one of my best-trafficked posts, 10 Reasons Why Christians Should Read Fiction.
  11. A website that doesn’t sing. This is an easy one. DO NOT have music on your website or blog. It scares people. Music is personal too. You don’t want to turn someone off because of your taste in music.
  12. Bookmarks. These are fairly cheap to produce and you can stick them in your car, purse (if you’re a girl), or briefcase. Pass ’em out. Give them to bookstores, libraries, etc.
  13. Your BFFs the booksellers. They are the gatekeepers who physically sell your books. Befriend them. Bless them. Seek to serve them.
  14. Throw a bash. One of the best “booksignings” I did was a release party at a local independent bookstore. Instead of it simply becoming an event where I awkwardly signed books, I taught how to get published. And then we ate cake that looked like my book cover. (Here’s a picture of the book cover cake.)
  15. Taglines. If you’re longing for a tagline, here’s the process I went through to get “turning trials to triumph.” I had a marketing friend help me. I emailed the people on my email distribution list and asked, “What do you think is my One Thing.” This helped clarify who I was and what kind of value I gave the reader. Note: Be sure the tagline isn’t about you, but about what you bring of value to your reader. Sometimes it helps to finish this sentence: “I help readers ________.”
  16. Social networks. Choose one and be great at it.
  17. Speak to sell. Give your books away before you speak. Hand out little slips of paper that also offer a sign up for your newsletter. Collect them, then give several books away, describing each as you do so. When it comes time to sell books at the end of the event, folks will already be familiar with your books. (Side benefit: those who received free books will come to your table to get their book signed, which then keeps you occupied. There’s nothing more embarrassing than twiddling your fingers at your book table.)
  18. A blog that humans read. Search engine optimization may sound scary, but it’s not too scary once you understand it. It’s simply a way to structure and create your blog posts that bring actual traffic to your site. This month I’m trying out Scribe SEO. It connects to your blogging platform, then trains you to create content that search engines find. In a week of trying it, my new visitor traffic has increased 51%.
  19. Get a professional headshot. Believe it or not, this has a lot to do with marketing. Do not use a family picture, then cut your poor family out. Do not take the picture yourself (also known as a My Space photo). Hire someone to take your picture. I do understand this can be cost prohibitive. Scroll back to my picture at the top of this post. My 18-year-old daughter took this shot. She’s got a great eye, and my camera does a great job. I paid nothing for it. And she did a wonderful job. (Check out local photography students, perhaps?)
  20. Create community around your book. When I wrote Daisy Chain (and the entire Defiance, Texas trilogy), I dealt quite a bit with family secrets. What evolved was a blog about family secrets where folks could share their secrets anonymously. I created community. Recently, a reporter for ABC news contacted me because of the site. What resulted was this article on ABCnews.com about Oprah’s secret sister where they quoted me as an expert, a huge boon!
  21. John Grisham’s trick. You could always sell books out of your trunk.
  22. The Sovereignty factor: Prayer. Ultimately whether your book is wildly successful or it reaches a smaller, stealthier audience depends on God’s sovereignty. Don’t overwork or obsess over trying to sell books. Pray. Let the results rest in God’s hands. Emulate the old, old Keith Green song lyrics: “Just keep doing your best. Pray that it’s blessed. And He’ll take care of the rest.”

I hope these twenty two things helped you today. Let’s end with your expert advice. What one marketing thing have you done that’s been successful?

A Goodbye Post ~ Kathy Carlton Willis

I’m finding myself saying “goodbye” a lot lately, and frankly it’s not a word that excites me! In fact, it outright drains me to say it, much like Fonzie couldn’t say the phrase, “I was wrong.” Goodbye just doesn’t roll off my lips well. Probably because of that biblical principle: out of the mouth come the things of the heart. My heart doesn’t adjust well to letting something or someone go, so that discomfort is reflected in my goodbyes.
My series of farewells this year includes: seeing several close friends move away, putting our Libby cat to sleep, having my beloved assistant resign to be a stay-at-home mom, and just this week, saying goodbye to the congregation where my husband pastored, so that we can move into the new chapter God has for us.
And now I add to the list my time as a guest-blogger with Novel Journey coming to an end. The moderators of the site graciously invited me to write tips about literary promotion as a six-month guest blogger. I can’t believe this is my last column.
What wise words would I leave for you? Just like Randy Pausch left The Last Lecture, I want my last words to count. I think the most important of all lessons when it comes to publicity is knowing how to promote the message God has given you without promoting yourself.
It goes against the grain of Christ-followers who have freshly learned to live sacrificial lives through the face of humility to promote ourselves. It’s almost as if we just figured out how to deny self and now we are asked to promote self. It just doesn’t add up.
May I introduce a new perspective—one that will help you as you tiptoe through the promotional landmines? Anything that God leads you to do, you are called to do with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. You are to do heartily (with GUSTO), as if working for the Lord and not to please others (Colossians 3:23).

God works alongside of us as we write. Our words aren’t inspired the way the Bible was inspired; but as we allow God to guide our pens (or our keyboards), we produce God-led text. Do you think He wants us to sit on that text and not get the word out about it? No way. Not any more than He wants us to put the kibosh on the gospel message. Words have the power to change people. Words have the potential of empowering and equipping and educating and entertaining. Others won’t know about our articles and books if we don’t promote those projects, and they won’t know about our ability to deliver the spoken word at events if we don’t get the word out about them.
When thinking of what our approach should be to promoting the work we are called to do, I’m reminded of the children’s song lyrics that say: “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…hide it under a bushel, NO! I’m gonna let it shine.”
To Practically Promote Your Message, Make Sure You:

  1. Provide “value-added” material for the audience. What’s in it for them? Every piece of promotional literature should give readers something extra.
  2. Elevate good words you read by others—even if they are your competitors. Not flattery, but true praise.
  3. Only say in print what you would dare say in person. If you wouldn’t stand around at a party bragging about your latest project ad nauseum, then avoid doing so in an e-blast.
  4. Relay how jazzed you are with the blessings of this project—giving God the glory for the open doors.
  5. Have pure motives. When the heart is right, the words can’t go wrong.
  6. Ask for God to lead the way and for Him to put His hand of blessing on it according to His good purposes—not according to YOUR agenda.
  7. Look for opportunities to spread the word about the project rather than waiting for them to happen to you.

Let someone else promote YOU. You simply promote the message and the GOD of the message. That’s the balance.
Kathy has moved to a new town where she doesn’t know a single soul. Her husband Russ is joining her firm fulltime, and they are setting up new services to offer clients. They’ll no longer be drawing a church paycheck or live in a church parsonage. In other words, there are no sure things—they’ve moved deeper into faith territory. As they pioneer this new adventure, Kathy would love to hear from you—especially if something she’s written here at Novel Journey over the past six months spoke to you personally. You may contact her at: WillisWay@aol.com.

BIO: Kathy Carlton Willis, of the same named communications firm. Kathy shines the light as writer, publicist, coach, editor, speaker, and more. She’s built a network of industry connections and is affiliated with Advanced Writers and Speakers Association as well CLASSeminars. Her columns and book reviews have appeared online and in print. She served as grammar guru for three publications—red ink is her friend! Kathy is a contributing author for The Reason We Speak, It Happened By Design: A Series of God-Incidence Stories, and Groovy Chicks’ Road Trip to Peace. She has a background in newspaper journalism as copyeditor and feature writer. She is editor and writer for The Christian Pulse devotions. Check out her professional blog at http://kcwcomm.blogspot.com and her Website at http://www.kathycarltonwillis.com/. KCWC offers a wide range of services at every price-point, with several new services added just this month.

Inhouse or Independent PR~Kathy Carlton Willis

What Is a Publicist?
A publicist is a professional who has both the know-how and the network in place to help bring your name to the public. In the literary world, a publicist is key to the marketing plan, to help create a consumer craving for a book title, or any book written by a specific author.

A literary publicist will promote the book title directly to consumers by identifying and making book information available to the niche-markets with an interest in the storyline or subject matter of the book. The publicist will also network with media by pitching specific interview angles the author can provide—setting up the writer as an expert on certain subjects.

In-House Publicist

Every publishing house has a publicist or publicity team under the umbrella of their marketing department. Their biggest goal is to make sure the book sells well, so they will invest their biggest promotional dollars and time on the book titles they predict will be big sellers. This means either the subject matter is unique and marketable or the author has some sort of celebrity status. But even first-time unknown writers will garner some sort of attention from their publishing house’s publicity staff. It’s up to the author to find out what the plan and timeline is for their title.

Some publishing houses will print ARCS (Advance Review Copies or Advance Reader Copies) as part of their publicity strategy. Marketing and PR staff will send the ARCS to reviewers who require advance review time (normally 4-5 months prior to release date). These reviewers are heavy-hitters. Garnering the attention of Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal or Romantic Times is a big bolster in the launch of any book.

Independent Publicist:

Sometimes publishing houses hire outside PR firms to manage specific book campaigns, or entire lines of books. Other times, they pay half toward an outside campaign, and the author matches that. The third option is for the author to pay all of the expense from their advance, believing that publicity and marketing is what will make or break the overall sales for the book. Independent publicists also assist with author branding for the career of the author, not just this one book campaign.

Most PR and communications firms offer a wide array of services for authors (and other public figures). They will come alongside of you at any stage in the writing game. They can help expand your platform, branding and name recognition. Need some help making sure your website is selling you in the best possible light? Ask your publicist. Some will even edit your manuscripts and write your book proposals, query letters and marketing plans.
After the book contract, your publicist will customize a plan for promoting you and your titles to create buzz in a way that makes the campaign go viral. This can be through traditional publicity campaigns through media, internet and social networking campaigns, and more.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a dozen times, “I’m so glad I didn’t have to navigate this book promotion jungle on my own. Thanks for holding my hand through the process.”

Why Hire a Publicist?

–A publicist has the media contacts and relationships needed to secure interviews/ reviews.

–A publicist knows how to pitch your book to the media and how each journalist prefers to be contacted.
–Most writers do not have the time to devote to a publicity campaign. It is a full-time job.
–When an author is pitching his own book, it is sometimes viewed as being too self-promotional. A publicist is seen as a third party and most journalists are more receptive to discussing a book with a publicist rather than the author.
-When media, retailers and consumers hear an author has a publicist, they seem to see the author as having more “clout.” It legitimizes the expert-status of the author and elevates them to a higher professional standing. An author with a publicity team has “peeps.” It’s that whole “I’ll have my people contact your people” approach.
So, whether you are blessed with a Johnny-on-the-spot in-house publicity team or an independent publicist or publicity firm, rest assured—they’ve got you covered!