Four Lessons From the Speaking Circuit

Behind the back copy

For 20 years now I’ve dragged a suitcase of books from speaking event to speaking event, telling stories, signing books, listening to people in line innocently yammering on while someone else is waiting impatiently to get an autograph.

I’ve spoken from the Statehouse in Boston to a rain-tattered canopy outside a firehall while firefighters let children blast the siren, from hotel ballrooms with nearly 500 people to three people in an assisted-living home, two of whom seemed comatose by the time I’d finished my intro.

Here, then, are four bits of advice about using your speaking engagements to sell books, 19 of which I’ve written, a few of which have actually sold:

Go where you’re wanted.

I’ve spent far too much of my life trying to convince people that they should believe in me and far too little time appreciating those who do. In the last few years, though, I’ve wised up.

Push on the doors, sure. Push hard. But if they don’t open, stop pushing and go find another door that might. Don’t let your pride get in the way. It’s far more fun doing a small-time gig where people appreciate your being there than beating your head on the door of some larger or more prestigious organization or event that never will.

Partner with one person who believes in you in the community where you’re going to speak.

It was a blustery, rainy Friday night, and I had a speaking gig “up river” in a small community. I honestly wondered if anyone other than the woman who’d organized the talk would come.

After the event, I walked out to my car with more than $500 in book sales, a stomach full of homemade pie and an evening of memories with a bunch of warm, wonderful people.

Why? Because that one woman was an “influencer,” someone people along the river respected. An organizer, someone who can bring an event together. An ally, someone who believed in me.

Someone like that can do more to help your event be a success than hundreds of tweets.

Take time to get to know the place where you’re speaking or the organization you’re speaking to.

Whether you’re selling books afterward or not, this is simply the right thing to do. Why do concert crowds go nuts when some well-known performer mentions something about their town? Because people take pride in where they live and appreciate it when others do, too.

It shows respect. It shows you care. It shows that you’re not just “mailing it in.”

In one of my books, 52 Little Lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life, I devote a chapter to a simple remark that one of the heavenly angels says to Clarence Odbody before the “Angel Second Class” is sent to earth to help a desperate George Bailey: “If you’re going to help a man, you want to know something about him, don’t you?”

Take the time to know something about your audience. Don’t just do a couple of Google searches. Talk to your host. Make a few calls. Do some reporting.

Finally, be interesting.

Never have people had so many options with which to spend their time, so many excuses for not leaving their home.

So, if they’re giving up an evening for you, forget the “first, do no harm” edict inaccurately linked to the Hippocratic Oath. (By me in one book!) No, first, do not put people to sleep. Say something that people haven’t heard before. Or say it in a way they haven’t heard before. Tell jokes. Dispense information. Inspire life-changing action.

But, above all, be interesting. I recently went to an author’s event just to see what other writers do. The guy spent the entire evening reading from his book.

Yawn.

That’s the reader’s job. As writers, we should spend our time offering audiences insight that our books do not. Our stories might be the impetus that draws people to our events, but give them something more than a rehash of our book or books.

Besides, if you’re interesting, people are more apt to believe your books will be, too. And there’s no better way to be asked back.

I’m Hooked on LinkedIn

hooked onAfter three years of experimenting with social media networking, I’m finally closing in on what works best for my marketing needs at this time.

But before I share with you what I’ve discovered, I need to make some qualifications of phrases in that first sentence.

  1. ‘Experimenting’ – I’ve had no formal training in using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or Pinterest. Instead, I’ve read countless books and blog posts about using them, taken online webinars and asked others what they do. I’ve tried some ideas (mostly the ones I understood how to do) and rejected others (the ones I had no idea how to do). My experimenting has truly been all over the net, kind of like sampling all the flavors in an ice cream shop – a small bite at a time.
  2. ‘Works best’ – I define this as ‘what I can successfully manage, given limited time and ability because I am not a social media guru, nor do I aspire to become one.
  3. ‘Marketing needs’ – For me, this is publicity and audience building. I don’t sell books myself; I focus on branding myself to create the desire in my audience to go to vendors. Ultimately, I want my audience to become my sales team to sell my books to others, since there are a lot more of them than there is of me!
  4. ‘At this time’ – Marketing needs change over time, as do the ways different media platforms function. I dread every announcement that a social site has made ‘changes,’ because it means I have to learn/relearn how to use it.

All that said, I have found MY most successful audience builder to be LinkedIn. That’s because I focus there on connecting with others who work professionally in the fields in which I write: dogs, birds, health and wellness.

Yes, you read that right – my Birder Murder Mysteries and girl-meets-dog memoir appeal to three audiences, yet they overlap because my overarching brand is about getting outside to get healthier and happier. My contacts are working professionals at state parks, dog or bird-related businesses, wellness advocates, animal rescue groups, and ecotourism, to name a few. My strategy is to strengthen my social relationships with those contacts by engaging in conversations with them individually and collectively, which is what LinkedIn shines at. I see my contacts as distribution points – when I engage them meaningfully, they share my brand/message/content with their own networks. And LinkedIn makes it easy for me to find people who already care about my topic(s) with their group listings and recommendations.

My marketing strategy will continue to evolve, as healthy marketing strategies do, and I know that my experimentation with other networks is far from over. For now, though, LinkedIn is the backbone of my social networking strategy since it yields me the most new contacts, opportunities to market, and book sales numbers of all the platforms.

Which social media platform is working hardest for you? How do you measure that?

Five Possible Reasons Why I Didn’t Endorse Your Novel

This title could also be used for a few other things. Why I didn’t influence for your novel. Why I didn’t review your novel. I’m going to go from the most important reason to the least.

Writing1I think it’s helpful to give actual reasons for this. When I first started in publishing, I felt sad and perhaps a little rejected when someone didn’t review my work or fulfill a promise they made. Now that I have 1 1/2 feet in the publishing industry (I’m one of those authors still working a “real” job on the side) I have a lot more insight into why people may opt out of my request.

#1: Time. This is definitely the number one influencer on whether or not I do any of the things listed above. It’s a reality for most authors that they are working a “real” job to support their family. It is an expectation of publishers that you build a platform, build a social media presence, and market your novel. That’s a learning curve for most so our “extra time” is spent working on learning, doing and perfecting these things. Reading for fun and helping other author’s promote their work falls to the bottom of the time consumption list. In reality, if an author did take the time to do any of these things for you, they gave up something else to do it. Be grateful . . . always.

#2: I didn’t like it. Reading is art and art is subjective. I’ve read novels by people I really liked but I didn’t love their work. If I’m good friends with them, I’ll probably provide an explanation. We as writers need to learn to emotionally separate what we put on the page from a personal attack against our person. Just because I didn’t like your book doesn’t mean I don’t like you. Also, this doesn’t hold true for all the author’s work. A good friend of mine chose not to endorse the first book of my trilogy. She kindly reviewed the subsequent books and gave glowing endorsements. If I don’t say anything to you, it’s likely because I think you can’t take criticism in a healthy way and I don’t want to deal with the fall out.

#3: The book went against my platform. This is different than #2. There are some books I’ve liked, but I couldn’t support because of the platform I’ve built– which is medical accuracy in fiction. My blog, Redwood’s Medical Edge, deals with how to write medically accurate novels. If your book has something entirely medically inaccurate, even if I love the story, I can’t endorse it. It would make me look foolish. It would be like a pro-life person endorsing a pro-choice book. In this instance, it doesn’t mean I won’t review it or even influence for it but I’ll generally comment on the medical details falling short in those cases.

#4: You sent me the book without asking. This drops you to the bottom of the list pretty quickly. If I get a book in the mail and didn’t accept a request to review it, I’ll likely not get to it. Often, it’s not something I would read anyway and I’m very picky about what I read because my “fun” reading time has been drastically cut short.

#5: The first five pages didn’t engage me.  There are plenty of books I start that are good in the beginning but leave me feeling ambivalent in the end but I do end up finishing them. However, if you don’t grab me in the first five pages, I don’t have time to get through the rest. I was recently asked to review a book that was published by a smaller press and the novel was edited (because the author credits two editors in the front of the novel) but the novel was difficult to read. Meandering, no conflict, no idea where the story was headed.

If you’re a published author (indie or traditional)– what are some reasons you’ve chosen not to read, review, influence or endorse a book?

Marketing Book #3 in a Series – Part Three

Three months into this marketing plan, I’ve been able to avoid a nervous breakdown, work on the edits for The Aleppo Code, and Kregel Publications is about to launch its spring marketing for the fall releases. Now is the time to pick up the pace.

SocialMediaI’m still working the basic plan:

Social Media:

  • Twitter – Daily
  • Facebook Page Posts – Daily
  • Blog Posts – Weekly
  • LinkedIn – Change Profile Monthly

Newsletter – Send out at least one Newsletter each month:

(One of my goals for the newsletter as we get closer to the launch is to use contests or other vehicles to tie the three books together as THE JERUSALEM PROPHECIES series … accelerate the idea of people thinking of them as a series.)

 

March – Contest: Guess two of the main scene locations used in The Aleppo Code. Some of the scenes in the first two books were The Collector’s Club and the Humanities and Social Science Library on Bryant Park, NYC; The Western Wall and Zechariah’s Tomb, Jerusalem; St. Anthony’s Monastery, Egypt; Cairn T, Loughcrew, County Meath, Ireland.

April/May – Tie in with Kregel Back List promotions.

June – Contest: What is The Most Powerful Weapon the world has ever seen?

July/August – Unveil the cover of The Aleppo Code.Aleppo Code Cover

September – Promote the coming E-Book promotion from Kregel.

October – Launch date for The Aleppo Code – create some tie in to ‘Midnight Madness’ … at midnight of launch day, the first 12 people who send me an email get a free autographed copy of The Aleppo Code.

Tasks For Me to Tackle:

  • Keep my website and Facebook Author page active and current.
  • Schedule out-of-town speaking engagements for May through December, particularly in those areas where I show higher readership; (This one is a reach, but it’s worth a try.)
  • Engage services of a marketing consultant to increase my standing and visibility as an ‘expert’ speaker on events in the Middle East.
  • In the summer, begin purchasing advertising on Facebook (Goodreads? Other outlets?) and discuss with Kregel and marketing consultant how to get the most impact and best results from these ads.
  • As the launch date gets closer, recreate some of the Guerilla Marketing that I did in New York City prior to the launch of The Sacred Cipher … plaster subways and Metro North trains with The Aleppo Code postcards … when the books show up, visit every B&N in New York City area, hand out post cards, autograph the in-store books, talk to store staff about placement.
  • In September/October schedule local speaking engagements/book signings including local libraries, churches, etc.
  • Arrange in advance for on-line interviews and any other interaction I can have with bloggers, reviewers, podcast producers, etc.
  • Tasks For Kregel to Tackle:
  • Continue to actively market the new series title – THE JERUSALEM PROPHECIES – in all possible outlets.
  • A place we stumbled during the launch of The Brotherhood Conspiracy is that the reviewers on the blog tour were different than the ones used for The Sacred Cipher. Many of the early reviews started “I wish I had known this was a sequel …” For that reason, setting up an effective blog tour for The Aleppo Code is critical.

(One of the great commitments Kregel has agreed to is to strengthen the blog tour for the Aleppo Code. Under consideration is a blog tour that provides all three books for the reviewers, so they can follow the story arc of the series.)

 

  • Implement a Back-List promotion to drive people to book stores.
    • Create E-Book promotion for both The Sacred Cipher and The Brotherhood Conspiracy prior to the launch of The Aleppo Code.

I’ve learned a few things from creating this marketing plan and then trying to implement it. One, this marketing stuff takes a real commitment – and a lot of time. Two, it’s worth it. And, three, the work doesn’t end once the book is launched. Great … when do I get some sleep?

Have you ever developed a marketing strategy like this? What was the most successful thing you did?

Marketing Book #3 in a Series – Part Two

How to Breathe Life Into A Back-List

MarketingI’ve never been much at the marketing side of this writing business … and I was born in the wrong generation to be adept at social media.

But I knew I had to do something out of my comfort zone. My first book, The Sacred Cipher, is still going strong after five years. Sales for its sequel, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, are disappointing. With the third and last book of the series, The Aleppo Code, due for an October launch, I needed to get to work.

So I proposed a year-long marketing plan to my publisher, Kregel Publications, and asked for their support and participation. This is what I proposed for the first three months:

The Marketing Plan – December thru February:

  • Social Media:
    • Twitter – Daily
    • Facebook Page Posts – Daily
    • Blog Posts – Weekly
    • LinkedIn – Change Profile Monthly
  • Newsletter – Send out at least one Newsletter each month (I currently have over 1,000 active email addresses in my mailing list and cull it after every mailing). A regular newsletter proved to be very valuable in creating buzz for the first book:
    • December – Announce the name of the series – THE JERUSALEM PROPHECIES series; Promote the October launch of the third installment; create a giveaway offer for Conspiracy and promote it in Facebook posts and on website.
    • January – Run a contest – What will be the section titles for The Aleppo Code?
      • Put all contests up on my website and on my Facebook Page – blog post and Tweet about them;
    • February – Additional clues for the section titles contest; Promote Kregel’s month-long Book Giveaway promotion on Goodreads.com.

What Was I Willing to Do?

  • Tasks for me to tackle:
    • Look for ways to expand my marketing reach – Connect with other CBA thriller writers to cross-promote … Follow 10 journalists on Twitter … Follow 10 thriller writers on Facebook – friend them and follow them (all in progress).
    • Begin sending personal messages to my 500-plus Facebook “Friends”.
      • Ask them to “Like” my Facebook Author page and be a follower on Twitter.
      • Write 50 posts per month for 10 months leading up to Aleppo Code launch.
      • Get them all done at least 30 days prior to Aleppo launch, if possible.

Authors on Facebook

(As of January 27, I have written personal Facebook messages to 186 of my 507 Facebook “friends”, asking them to click on the link and “Like” my Facebook Author page. My “Likes” have increased from 134 to 209, up 71 in the last week – 545% from the previous week )

 

What Was I Asking Kregel to Do?

  • Tasks for Kregel to tackle:
    • There is no obvious link connecting the first two books into a series. I asked a lot from Kregel to help create that linkage.
      • Redesign the E-Book covers to add THE JERUSALEM PROPHECIES to the cover … or add a tag line under my name on the cover, “Author of …”
      • Create “Back Ads” in each book promoting the others … or add thumbnails of the book covers to the bottom of the back cover.

(A lot of these requests were not practical. The marketing staff at Kregel explained that it would be too confusing to make changes to the covers of the E-Books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble but not be able to make any changes to the printed books already in circulation. But they did agree to create Back Ads (pages inside the books promoting the other books in the series) in The Aleppo Code and – if it goes to another printing – in The Sacred Cipher. – Terry)

 

  • I also asked Kregel to implement an E-Book promotion in February for both The Sacred Cipher and The Brotherhood Conspiracy. During an E-Book promotion in January of 2014, Cipher hit #2 and Brotherhood hit #6 in all E-Book sales on Amazon for that week. Wow! Let’s do it again.

(The entire E-Book promotion I asked for in February has been moved back to coincide with the launch of The Aleppo Code. The marketing staff at Kregel explained that there is a law of diminishing returns with E-Book promotions. They did one a year ago for both books and believe postponing the E-Book promotion until the fall will benefit all three books.)

February 6th: Accelerating the Pace Down the Stretch.

Marketing Book #3 in a Series – Part One

When I saw the marketing plan that Terry Brennan had put together for book #3 in his series, I knew others had to give it a long look. This plan has some remarkable forethought to it. It’s aggressive, thorough and … I think it’s going to work to help create awareness of his new book, as well as move copies of his previous book. If you’re a traditional or independently published author who has or will have a trilogy, keep this post handy.

–Greg Johnson, President, WordServe Literary

When a Series Didn’t Start That Way

Sacred Cipher CoverI’ve been fortunate and blessed to have two novels published and a third one on the way. The Sacred Cipher, published in 2009, has done well. It appears the book may soon go to a third printing and today, five years later, people are still picking it up – and posting their reviews on Amazon. The sequel, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, was released in 2013. It got a great review in Publisher’s Weekly and better reviews on Amazon than Cipher. But sales have lagged.

One reason is that I was very ill at the time of Brotherhood’s launch (I’m fine now, thanks). Another is that neither I, nor Kregel Publishing, knew this would be a three-novel series. It just started out as one book. So it wasn’t marketed as a series and Brotherhood hasn’t benefited from the “pull” that Sacred Cipher generated.

Since I have a personal stake in the success of these books, and a lot of years invested in them, I want to do everything I possibly can to promote the increased sales of The Sacred Cipher and The Brotherhood Conspiracy, particularly in anticipation of the launch of The Aleppo Code in October – the third and last book of the series.

 

How Do I Connect These Books?

Brotherhood ConspiracyI created for myself an aggressive one-year marketing plan starting in December, 2014. The plan includes a month-by-month listing of what I will do to help accelerate the sales of the first two books, including a commitment to create a consistent social media presence, to produce a monthly newsletter (I have over 1,000 active email addresses in my mailing list) and to personally undertake a series of other marketing initiatives over the next year.

I included in that plan some requests for Kregel to join in this marketing effort. The team at Kregel has been wonderful to work with over the past several years and I deeply appreciate all they have done to support and promote my books. It’s been a great partnership and, because of that relationship, I believed it was acceptable to include some requests for additional support from Kregel.

Essentially, the requests of Kregel fell into two buckets:

  1. What can we do to link the books together as a series to create some momentum and expectation in the short-term for The Aleppo Code launch next fall?
  2. And what additional promotional effort is realistic for Kregel to invest in marketing the first two books over the next twelve months?

There’s No Harm in Asking!

I was thrilled when Kregel responded to this marketing plan, and my requests, with four major initiatives they were willing to undertake:

  1. The Jerusalem Prophecies series title has been added to the ONIX data feed that Kregel provides to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. for the book’s online pages and will be used in all promotions.
  2. Kregel will create an E-Book promotion for both The Sacred Cipher and The Brotherhood Conspiracy just prior to the launch of The Aleppo Code.
  3. Kregel will implement a blog-tour for The Aleppo Code launch – but they are also considering a blog tour that provides all three books for the reviewers, so they can follow the story arc of the series.
  4. Kregel will also run a “back-list” sales special for the first two books during the October launch.

I’m told this is an unusual step for a publisher to take to invest promotional resources into back-list titles. Bless them that they did. Now it’s up to me to implement and fulfill the elements of the marketing plan.

Yikes!

February 4th: What the first three months of the plan look like.

WordServe News: January 2015

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

Daniel Allen released his second book, Summoned, with IVP Books. 9780830836871_p0_v2_s260x420

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Jim Burns and Doug Fields released the workbook companion to their book Getting9780781412186_p0_v1_s260x420 Ready for Marriage with David C. Cook publishers.

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Michelle Griep released a regency novel with Barbour Books, Brentwood’s Ward. 9781630586799_p0_v1_s260x420

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kate Hurley released her debut nonfiction with Harvest House Publishers, Cupid Is a 9780736962261_p0_v2_s260x420Procrastinator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What We’re Celebrating!!

Deb Coty’s Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate won an Illumination Book Award: Shining a Light On Exemplary Christian Books!