About Lucille Zimmerman

Lucille published a book about self-care with Abingdon Press. She and her husband are celebrating 27 years of marriage and are experiencing the "empty nest." She has a private counseling practice in Littleton, Colorado and teaches psychology courses at Colorado Christian University. On a typical day you will find her walking her dog Chipotle, reading, writing, and seeing clients. She loves good coffee, belly-laughter, fly-fishing, and Honey Nut Cheerios. www.LucilleZimmerman.com Twitter: LucilleZ

The Shocking Marketing Surprises I Learned After My Book’s Release

A little more than a year ago my first book was published.

In the years before it was released, I made a persistent effort to build my platform.

For instance, nine or ten years ago, I started building a social media platform, first on Facebook, and then on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Instagram.

For about six or seven years, I have been consistently blogging. I have been grateful to be featured as a guest blogger on many sites. Still, I did not fully understand the extent of marketing I would be doing once my book released.

The not knowing was painful at times.

Hopefully this post will give you some of the information I wish I had known ahead of time.

Here are the five biggest marketing surprises, good and bad, I learned after my book released.

wow big sale1. You won’t just market for a month or two, or three, or six.

I didn’t realize I would be expected to market for years. In fact, I think as long as you have a book being sold, you don’t ever get to stop.

2. Most of the time you won’t have any idea how well your book is selling.

I assumed publishers would send reports every month or every six months. That didn’t happen. At least not for me. I guess it’s difficult to determine the exact number of sales, partly because bookstores may order a few dozen copies but then send them back at a later date. I did receive a statement 12 or 13 months after my book released but it’s still not an accurate representation. By the time a statement is compiled and mailed out, more books likely sold. Without knowing how book sales are going, you have to market anyway.

3. You will market 101 ways and you won’t have any idea which marketing ideas will be most beneficial.

You’ll do contests, hold signings, and have book launch parties. You’ll do giveaways and attend conferences. You’ll have write-ups in college alumni newsletters, you’ll give hundreds of books away to potential endorsers and media types. You’ll speak to groups, and give radio and TV interviews, all the while hoping for sales.

amaz1

Here are two of my biggest marketing surprises:

*My pastor gave a sermon on Mother’s Day and mentioned my book. I sold about a 100 books. People rushed into the foyer after church to buy multiple copies for aunts, grandmas, sisters, girlfriends, and moms.

*Ann Voskamp mentioned my book on her list of links one Saturday morning. My book sky-rocketed on Amazon. It was fun to watch the numbers for a day.

Amaz

4. Your publisher is likely to give you books in order to help you market.

When I signed my contract, my agent negotiated a certain number of free books I would receive in addition to my advance. However, I have been surprised with the generosity of my publisher. Several times I’ve headed to conferences and my publisher has given me books to give to the attendees. Also, Goodreads has a program where authors can participate in giveaways within the first six months of a book’s release. My publisher alloted quite a few books for these giveaways.

5. The things that make you the most happy won’t be the sales but the people you touch.

It sounds cliche, but it’s true. I am humbled each time someone sends a thankful email or posts a review on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes and Noble. This week I received a letter from someone who said my book encouraged her to go back to school to earn a graduate degree in Christian counseling.

If you’ve marketed a book, what surprised you the most after it released?

What Olympians Can Teach Us about Getting Published

Recently I read an article about the cost of becoming an Olympic athlete. It mentioned that former U.S. speed skater Eric Flaim, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, estimated that his decade-long training amounted to at least $250,000.

“. . . Like many Olympians, Flaim describes plenty of tough times, when he and his parents faced having to pay for big-ticket items (say, a pair of custom-molded boots for $1,500) or ongoing expenses (private coaching could run up to five grand annually.) To make ends meet, Flaim often worked in gyms, cleaning lockers after patrons departed. Even with a medal around his neck – he won his first at the 1988 winter games in Calgary — life didn’t become particularly easy. Flaim says in his best years as an athlete, he might have earned $75,000 from prizes, honorarium, and sponsorships. ‘It was not million-dollar money,’ he adds.

But at least he made money. Athletes who aren’t seen as strong medal contenders are less likely to receive significant support from their sponsors, let alone their sport’s governing board. And if they’re competing in a less-heralded sport, the problems are compounded . . .

. . . for another Olympian, Rick Hawn, a U.S. judo competitor at the 2004 Olympics in Athens who also tried out for the 2008 games, it all added up to a significant tab during his Olympic career. ‘My parents nearly went bankrupt. They put whatever they could into me and I’m the oldest of six kids.’”

iStock_000001330542XSmallIt takes a very special blend of character traits to become an Olympian. The cost in time, energy, and money rarely makes a return on the investment, so Olympians must have skill, drive, persistence, and a belief that getting to the Olympics is its own reward.

Becoming a published author is a lot like that. Many people have the desire to be published. But it takes more than desire. Over dinner the other night my husband and I talked about the people we know who want to publish a book, but probably never will, because they don’t have the special blend of character traits.

  • The first person we thought of has written many books but has failed to get published. That’s because she doesn’t want to learn the rules. She doesn’t want to attend writers groups or conferences to understand how the industry works so she sits at home writing, hoping someone will come along to publish her work. In order to get a book published you have to know the basics: how to query an agent and how to create a proposal. I spent six months working on the proposal for my book, and it was about 80 pages in length. In your proposal, you have to be able to show editors and agents that you know the competition. You have to describe your platform, and you have to lay out your marketing strategy. Your learn how to do this by investing in conferences, writers groups, and reading books. 
  • The second person we thought about is brilliant. He has wisdom that could really help people. But he doesn’t discipline himself to write. He spends all week at a job and relaxes on the weekend. I don’t blame him. But to get published, you have to discipline yourself to write when you’d rather be relaxing.
  • The third person wants to be published but he doesn’t have the persistence. He has a great idea, writes about it for a few weeks, and then gives up. And since most authors don’t make money at this gig, there has to be a reason bigger than money that would make you spend years trying to get published. Can you envision devoting five to ten years researching and writing about a particular topic?

All writers must have skill, and they must have an important message told in a fresh way.  They must learn and follow the rules of publishing, and they will probably have to persist for years. Lastly, they must believe that getting published—not getting rich—is its own reward.

What other traits do you think are necessary for becoming published? 

Why Asking For Help Is Not A Sign Of Weakness

“Strong people ask for help.” As a counselor, I often teach my clients this mantra.

Person under crumpled pile of papers with hand holding a help siSo when I found myself discouraged last week, I sent an email to another WordServe author, asking for help.

An hour later we were talking on the phone. She reaffirmed how much she liked my book, she told me she would commit to praying, and she gave me a handful of marketing ideas.

That short phone call changed my day in three ways.

  1. I got an emotional release. I even cried a little.
  2. I got encouragement.
  3. I got inspired with new marketing ideas. In fact, I spent six hours the next day working on marketing ideas.

Most authors, by their nature, are Type A personalities. We are self-motivated, hard working, and perfectionist. As we seek to promote our books, it makes sense that we would try to put the best light on ourselves. But have you ever noticed how lonely driven perfectionists really are? If you’ve ever spent time watching Brene Brown’s TED talks, you understand that it’s our vulnerability and imperfections that draw others to us.

All authors need to ask for help. Here’s why:

When you ask for help usually you’ll likely find ways to reciprocate. Authors don’t know all the same people or have the same ideas. During my phone call I was able to connect my author friend with some influential people who will help expand her books’ reach.

Almost everyone loves to help. I think it’s part of the way God wired us. Think about it: if someone trips and falls, we instinctively rush towards the person in order to help. I’m pretty sure the only ones who don’t feel that pull are people who lack the ability to have empathy (sociopaths).

When people help others, they’ll be reminded of their own success. As my friend was giving me marketing ideas, it affirmed all the hard work she had done. She was able to share her success stories and tell me how proud her publisher was. Reliving your successes feels good.

Accepting help can feel like a reward for all the times you helped someone. At all times I am in the process of reading and reviewing two to five books for other authors. I know how hard I work to promote my author friends; it’s nice to be on the other side once in a while.

Asking for help can build bonds. Before last week’s phone call, I only knew the other author by name. Just one more person person from Facebook. But now, I feel like we’ve become friends.

It is actually quite arrogant to think we can help others and yet have no need to accept it in return. Is there something you’re struggling with? Why not take a risk and ask someone for help.

Can you think of a time when someone helped you on your book-publishing journey? 

Why You Should Stop Marketing Your Book

Years ago, I heard a professional speaker tell about a dream she had: She had always wanted to go to Australia. She mentioned the dream in one of her speaking engagements and a couple approached her afterwards.

We’re from Australia. You can go stay in our home, free, for three months while we are traveling.

Immediately the speaker backpedaled. She had thoughts like, “I can’t do that. I can’t afford to miss work. My career would dry up. People would forget about me.”

Night Sydney Opera House with Harbour BridgeBut it was too great an opportunity to pass up. She flew to Australia, enjoyed herself tremendously, and when she returned her business boomed.

Why?

Everyone wanted to know what her trip had been like. Even better, she came back refreshed and motivated to pour herself into her business.

All authors should take time off from marketing their books. Here’s why:

Sometimes Less Is More  – Some of my favorite bloggers are those I rarely hear from. I don’t get tired of their voices because I don’t hear them every day. All of a sudden I’ll see a link to one of their blogs and I’ll think, “Oh, there you are. I’ve missed you.” Once in a while I get sick of my own selfcare mantra and I’m sure others do as well.

We Need New perspectives And Experiences – The brain loves novelty. It lights up at new experiences. That’s why you can visit an ordinary town and everything about it is fun and interesting. As I write this I’m finishing up a long week of clients, social media, and wedding details (my daughter gets married in September). I’m taking next week off to go to Breckenridge with my husband who has a work conference, and after that I’m flying to Nashville for a relaxing weekend with other creative people. Yes, I’ll miss time with clients, and yes, there is a financial cost, but I know the benefit will be greater.

Even God Took Time Off – Author Wayne Muller says, “In the book of Exodus we read, ‘In six days God made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day God rested, and was refreshed.’ Here, the word ‘refreshed,’ vaiynafesh, literally means, and God exhaled. The creation of the world was like the life-quickening inhale; the Sabbath is the exhale…without the Sabbath exhale, the life-giving inhale is impossible.” Inhale plus exhale equals life. If God needed refreshment, don’t you think we do, too?

When was the last time you blocked off your calendar for pure enjoyment and no book marketing? 

Being a Published Author Won’t Make Me Happy (And How I know That)

As I finished grad school, I began writing about my experience. I wrote about what I wished I had known earlier in life. I wrote about psychological tools that heal people. In summary, I wrote about pain and what healed that pain. One day, while sitting in a coffee shop, I decided I was going to write a book about all this. So let’s see, it only took eight years to figure out how to find an agent, query an idea, write a proposal, change my idea, change my agent, and finally write the book once it sold. And only eight years of full time engagement in social media, blogging, and marketing. Only eight years of researching and learning through writing and speaker events. That in addition to my real job as a Licensed Professional Counselor and part time professor at a local university.

Getting a book published is difficult.

20130314-_MG_7882So the idea of seeing boxes of books on my front doorstep feels both surreal and monumental. It’s a huge accomplishment that I will celebrate with a party, in a red barn, with twinkly lights. There will be music, friends, food, and revelry. But I know that a published book won’t bring me happiness.

A few days ago I was talking to a friend who has authored over 40 books. I told her I knew that having a published book would not make me happy. She seemed surprised and wanted to know how I knew that ahead of time. I told her I thought it was because I had done so much research on the topic of happiness. I understand what poor judges people are at knowing what will bring them happiness and what won’t.

Striving authors need to know that a published book won’t make them happy. Here’s why:

  • People have a happiness set point. Fifty percent of happiness is genetic, ten percent is based on life circumstances, and forty percent is within our power to effect. For instance, Americans will put themselves in debt for decades thinking a dream home, boat, or car will make them happy. But the new wears off within a few days because of an effect called hedonic adaptation. Most people don’t understand that the lotto winer and the paralyzed person will bounce back to their prior happiness level within a few months of their changed life condition.
  • The joy is in the journey. I’ll never forget what my friend Zeke Pipher said when his book released. In essence, “Whether this book sells or not, it won’t define my worth, happiness, or success.” He went on to describe his faith and his relationship with his wife and children, saying those were the reasons for his joy. Zeke should know. His mom wrote an international best-seller. She soon found that the harried pace of traveling and speaking made her miserable. There’s an interesting research study that found when people were randomly beeped, and told to write down what they were doing and how happy they were, folks were happiest while in the creative state of “flow.” Flow is when you are fully absorbed in an activity, so much so that you lose sense of time. Numerous studies have shown that it is the striving, not the achieving, that makes us happy, especially when our goals are realistic, flexible, valued by the culture, authentic, non-materialistic, and not negatively impacting other parts of our lives.
  • The more we attain, the more we want, and this negates our increased happiness. Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky in her newly released book, The Myths of Happiness, explains that aspirations are misleading. We attain more, so we want more, and the wanting makes us feel bad. Crazy huh? She concludes that we shouldn’t expect less but that we should simply not allow our desires to continue escalating to the point where we end up feeling entitled and convinced that we would only be happy if we got more and more of this or that.
  • Relying on external rather than internal validation makes us unhappy. Some people think they will be happy based on other people’s opinions of their success. But, when we ask ourselves the question, “How good (successful, smart, prosperous, ethical) am I?” the people who rely on an internal rather than external objective standard are happier. There will always be someone wealthier, more attractive, thinner, more popular, and more talented. Therefore, relying on other people’s opinions rather than our own is a recipe for misery. In short, goals which cause growth, make us feel competent, and connect us to others are the ones that make us happy. Goals that make us strive to be rich, famous, popular, or powerful make us unhappy. (I wrote more about this over here at Michael Hyatt’s blog.)

*I orignially wrote this post just before my book released in March 2013. It’s true, having a published book has not made me any happier than I already was. I feel a sense of achievement and gratitude, but I’m glad I knew it wouldn’t make me any happier than I already was.

Think about the last big milestone you achieved.

How long did the happiness last?

A Book Marketing Retreat

On Wednesdays, the authors here at the WSWC blog write about book marketing.

As I prepared to write this post, I thought about the marketing I do every day. I wondered if those activities are unique to me, or if they are common to fellow authors.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a WordServe Water Cooler retreat where we could combine our strengths in an effort to multiply our knowledge? When I close my eyes, I imagine all of us coming together in one place.

We’re in a retreat center, far from distractions, but close enough to nature where we could take breaks in a hot tub, forest, or dining room. I guess what’s coming to my mind is The Hideaway near Monument, between Colorado Springs and Denver. (In my former life, I was a Creative Memories Unit Leader and we had many scrapbooking retreats here.)

So play along, in your mind’s eye: Pull up an Adirondack chair, grab a cool glass of raspberry tea and a lemon scone, and dream with me.

A Stock Photo of Two Red Adirondeack Chairs

At our retreat, each person would be responsible for giving a short talk about the ordinary tasks they do to market their books. Just because an activity is mundane to me doesn’t mean other authors are aware of it, or understand how and why to do it. For example, today I learned Instagram wasn’t just a photo enhancing app. It’s a social media site too. If every author shared their regular activities, we would all benefit.

For instance, each day I check my Google Reader (*Google Reader is ending June 30th, so I’ve switched to Feedly). I have about 60 blogs I subscribe to which feature material related to my brand of selfcare. Feedly compiles all my unread posts in one place. When I have time, I skim the posts. Ninety percent of the time they aren’t worth noting, but occasionally I land on a gem. I email myself the link (because usually I’m downstairs in my pajamas looking from my iPad). I post these on my Facebook and Twitter pages later.

*As an aside, it’s important to be giving your audience material other than you own.

Here are the other daily marketing activities I do:

  • I take a glance at my Google analytics just to see which of my blog posts are getting read and where my hits are coming from.
  • I do a quick search on Twitter under “#selfcare.” I try to re-tweet some of those posts, for the benefit of my followers and as a way to attract new followers.
  • I scroll through my Facebook page and share any posts I think would be helpful to my friends and fans.

Then at our WordServe author retreat, each person would share some of the less ordinary marketing activities they do. These don’t have to be remarkable. Instead, these are the activities you do from time to time, or even once, that might spur the imaginations of the other authors.

For instance:

  • I might post an article or photo to my Pinterest boards. I have boards about my self, my favorite books, counseling, videos, etc.
  • I queried IdeaMensch to do a feature story about me. A year later they let me do a guest blog post and a book giveaway.
  • I did two giveaways on Goodreads. This was a fabulous way to get thousands of readers to at least look at my book and put it on their reading list, while they registered to win a copy. (*In order to take part in the giveaways, your book has to be within six months of its release date and it has to be a paperback.)
  • I submitted blog posts to Michael Hyatt’s blog, which has hundreds of thousands of readers. He let me write a guest post two different times.
  • I volunteered to be a special marketing contributor for The Dr Phil show. Though my own book and brand are a priority, it won’t hurt to have this experience and attention.

If every author shared the regular and irregular activities they do to market their books, we would reap huge benefits.

So, let’s pretend we’re curled up someplace cozy. Whether or not you are a WordServe author, would you share some of your best marketing ideas? 

The Surprising Thing About Book Influencers

My first book is almost a reality. In fact, a box could show up on my doorstep any day.

This stage of the process is humbling because I have to rely on busy people to read and help promote my book. At this point, I reminded myself that I’m not only working to promote myself, but I’m also working for the publisher who put so much faith into my project. That makes it a little easier to do the asking.

Two weeks ago, my publisher’s marketing gal, Cat, asked me make a list of all the media people and influencers who would read and promote my book. Media people? I only know the PR guy at Focus on the Family and a baseball sports announcer.

iStock_000013189752XSmall

Cat said media and influencers can be anyone who has a large audience. That means bloggers, authors, and speakers.  With that being the case, it turns out I know a lot of influencer and media peeps.  So, I collected names and addresses and passed them on to my publisher. Now hard copies are on the way to their doorsteps, too.

So what have I learned that I can share with you? Authors shouldn’t just ask for help from friends. They should ask for help from strangers, and big-time famous people.

Why?

You will be amazed at who says yes (and who says no). When I put out the word, I had some interesting responses: Some of my friends said they were too busy but if I passed along a copy, they’d try to get to it. Another friend hasn’t responded at all. Conversely, famous people I never thought I’d hear back from said, “Sure, I’d be honored.” Others went above and beyond: “You bet, and why don’t you let me put your book in a giveaway at my retreat and I’ll write a special feature about you” or “Hey, I’ll mention you at this event.”

Even strangers can have a powerful impact on your sales. I read a few articles that said if you can find top reviewers from Amazon to read and review your book, it can boost your sales. Finding someone within the top 500 is considered a coup. So yesterday I sent out four inquiries to reviewers who are interested in my genre. Two top-50 reviewers responded, “Sure, send the book.”

Feel free to read the articles about Amazon Top Reviewers here:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/syltguides/fullview/RNCWTLEMV71VM

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/09/16/get-amazon-book-reviews/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/16/amazon-top-customer-reviewers_n_878262.html

http://www.amarketingexpert.com/easy-tips-for-getting-more-amazon-reviews-now/

I guess the moral of the story is reach out to everyone, pray for the best, and don’t get hurt or upset when people say no. Lots of people will come out to support you.

If you’re a published author, how did you find people to promote your book?