What Actors and Authors Have in Common

Writing is a Personal JourneyI was watching Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show when it struck me. Jimmy greeted the actor with a cheek-to-cheek kiss, before ushering her to the comfy studio couch so they could share a cup and a chat.

After some banter about a recent encounter they’d had at the party of a mutual friend, they discussed some morsels about their personal lives, focusing on commonalities they shared. Then they got to the real reason for the staged visit.

Fallon gushed, as he introduced the new movie title. “Gosh, it’s so, so good. I just love it. I mean when you… Oops. I almost spoiled it, but it’s just that good.”

Listen So Others SpeakThe actor giggled. “Thanks, Jimmy. I was honored to play this role, I know I’m supposed to say I love it too, but I really mean it. This is probably my favorite project so far. I only hope the people who watch it are touched as much as I was making the film.” She raised her hands in the global prayer pose symbolizing humility.

As I watched their interchange, I reflected on other shows I’d seen her on, and her other movies. It seemed every year she was cast in a new release, some blockbusters, some with a cooler audience embrace. That’s when it hit me — how similar a successful author’s experience is to that of an actor.

My third published book just released, and as I promote it, pursue the next big project, while juggling my personal life in the process, I realize the importance of strategic planning. I wish I had the resources, connections, and energy of a Hollywood public relations machine behind me, but even without, I can learn from their methods.

7 Common Factors Between Actors and Authors:

  • Getting Through What You Can't Get OverThe actors are the face of the movie, so no matter what anyone else does behind the scenes, it is the actor who must make public appearances and visit shows on the interview circuit. An actor’s passionate voice, joined with an intriguing movie trailer, is what drives audiences to theaters and streaming sites. For authors, it’s no different. We are the face of our books. Our passionate voice about our message, mingled with intrigue about our book’s content, is what drives readers to want to know more.
  • Each actor brings their own distinct personality to promotion. Some outgoing and bubbly, some serious and reflective. Both work, they will simply attract those of similar taste. Be who you are as an author, and allow natural attraction to draw people.
  • A fresh movie release shifts the actor’s focus to a new message. As authors, I think hearing the branding mantra sometimes makes us sound stale and boring — think broken record. Personally, I believe it’s not only acceptable, but interesting, if we moderately mix up our messages, while staying true to who we are.
  • Getting Through What You Can't Get Over EndorsementA good actor hunts for new scripts and contracts — sometimes preparing for years before they can make a movie they are excited about. Successful authors should do no less. Keep your ears open for hot topics, and drop ideas, research information, quotes, and more for future books into a program like Scrivener — Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over started this way.
  • Most actors would prefer to spend more time on their craft than on marketing, and many authors feel the same. However, actors and authors both know that without solid marketing, we won’t get the opportunity to do another new project.
  • No matter how many shows an actor guests on, if the movie is lousy, sales will spiral. The same is true of our books. We can’t get around it. Good content is, and always will be, the marketing king.
  • Actors cannot produce inspiring art alone. They require support people like agents, fellow actors, experts in PR, producers, directors, etc. Authors also need a group like this to expand their message reach.

The more I reflect on what it takes to release a successful movie, the more I see the connection to releasing successful books. The Hollywood model has worked for decades, which tells me that as much as things are changing, some things stay the same.

What commonalities between actors and authors do you see that I failed to mention?

 

 

 

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? 

Ten Sources to Spur Promotion Ideas

Promoting Artists

Concert Promoters Get Creative

Authors are expected to do much of their own marketing. Been there, heard that — you can keep the tee-shirt.

So what’s a writer with little or no marketing experience to do? Research.

And get started early. Though my first book is almost a year from publication, I’m working on a Promotion Plan now. Naturally a strategic thinker, I’m thinking ahead. (If you haven’t yet sold a project, this is prime brainstorming season.)

In a previous job, I worked sales and marketing for a clothing manufacturer, where my biggest account was Nike. They are marketing masters.

A minimum of eighteen months out, they plan the launch for any new apparel line. Nike knows the investment in time and energy pays back with interest. They study competitors. Survey customers. Review totally unrelated products. And sometimes, try things that fail.

But in the thinking stage, they don’t toss any crazy idea.

As a new author, I don’t have a mega-marketing budget like Nike. But their basic principles work with two hundred dollars like they do with two million. If you’d like to peek at some of their aggressive 2013 marketing strategies, click here.

Taking what I learned from past experience, here are ten sources I’m using to brainstorm a unique Book Promotion Plan:

1. Read creative thinking books. Some of my current faves are: The $100 Startup, The Four-Hour Work Week, The Power of Full Engagement, The Well-Fed Writer, Red Hot Internet Publicity, The Wealthy FreelancerPlatform, and Shameless Self-Promotion and Networking for Christian Creatives.

 

2. Hunt for colorful partnering alternatives in the everyday. Look around you with fresh eyes. Is there a marketing marriage in the making?

 

Spur Book Promotion Ideas

Creative Ideas Under Your Nose

3. Study other author websites for promotional ideas. In the following examples, it’s the concept, not necessarily the content, that interests me:

4. Observe projects, organizations, or businesses of different styles, to spark unique promotional ideas. i.e. Concerts, chambers of commerce, beauty salons, amusement parks, hardware stores, talent shows, and more, are marketing fodder.

 

Promotional Ideas at Salons

Observe what Different Businesses Do

5. Create a line of products to complement the book’s message. Brand image magnifies with diversity — and promotional products spread your message further.

 

6. Target different personality types, genders, ages, and regions to reach a wider audience. Never discount a potential demographic in the brainstorming phase.

 

7. Ask for ideas. Get your brave on. Ask the checkout person, waitress, plumber, even employees of places you visit on vacation. They may offer fresh perspectives. But don’t fail to tap into your professional networks as well.

 

Adventure Sports Spur Creativity

Riding Dolphins Promotes Adventure

8. Help others with pure motives. I believe we get what we honestly give.

 

9. Stay true to the title. I use this as an editing tool, but it works well with brand marketing also.

 

10. Consult the Master Platform-Builder. God constructs the sturdiest and sometimes strangest ways to display our messages. Trust Him to know the end in your beginning.

What spurs your book promotion ideas?

Who is My Reader?

Marketing Your Debut Novel Part III

I’ve been doing a series on marketing your debut novel. You can find Part I and Part II by clicking the links.

Briefly, Part I focused on growing your tribe/social media and Part II was about the comparable books section of your book proposal.

In this installment, I’m going to continue on the pre-contract phase of the writer’s life by focusing on another troublesome aspect of the book proposal–the AUDIENCE SECTION. (Cue your choice of scary music.) This section goes before the overall marketing plan that you will design to help the publisher get the word out about your book.

A publisher wants to see that you know who your potential reader is. Are you savvy enough to figure it out? This audience section will help your publisher know how to market your book and how to best reach the reader you’ve identified.

For instance, a novice book proposal writer would say something like: “Proof will be loved by ALL people ages 18-102.”

Really? Everyone? That’s not very discerning. You may not understand your potential readers very well and this will be troubling for the publisher.

EVERYONE is not going to like your book. That’s just fact. And you will waste time trying to market the book to everyone. Did you know the largest group of Christian fiction buyers is women, mostly between the ages of 30-50? In fact, this morsel of truth may translate to the general fiction market as well which are those books published by the ABA. You can watch this fascinating interview with CJ Lyons and Lee Child as they discuss that women purchase most books.

So, when you’re working on this section of your book proposal, think hard about who will be attracted to buying your book. Are they men or women? College educated? What age are they? What do they watch on TV? How popular are those TV shows?

What follows in quotes is my audience section in the book proposal for Proof. For those of you who are not aware, Proof is a medical thriller/police procedural. Equal parts of both. Some romance but not 50/50 romance like a true romantic suspense novel should be.

“Those likely to buy Proof are career men and women age 25-45 who are fans of medical/police procedural television shows and novels. ER ran for 15 seasons and during its first ten years was consistently a top ten show. House, currently in its seventh season, averages 10 million viewers. The DNA mystery in Proof will attract people who watch CSI, as well. CSI has three television shows in its franchise.

Suspense novels with a heavy medical edge do well in fiction markets. Mainstream writers like Robin Cook, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Palmer, and Kathy Reichs consistently hit the New York Times bestseller list. Furthermore, Lethal Harvest by Cutrer and Glahn was a Christy Award finalist. Candace Calvert’s Critical Care was a 2010 Carol Award Finalist. Proof will appeal to these readers.”

What’s been interesting in hindsight is that Library Journal suggested my novel to those who were fans of Robin Cook. Several reviews have specifically mentioned the show CSI as well as Law and Order SVU and Grey’s Anatomy. I carefully marketed the book to those I thought it would appeal to, and ultimately they are indeed the ones who’ve loved the book.

What do you think? Have you tried to write an audience section of a book proposal? How easy or hard was it? What advice helped you write this section?

Creating a Book Trailer

A few years ago, there was a lot of talk in writing circles about creating a book trailer to help promote your book. Do you make it yourself or hire a professional? How much time and knowledge is required? Is it worth the marketing dollars spent? I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you what I did and why . . . and then try to explain if it has been worth it.

 
Once I decided to spend marketing dollars on a book trailer, I began studying what other authors had done. I spent hours viewing different book trailers and noted which ones I liked and why, as well as what I didn’t care for in others. I also made note of who created the trailer. Let me tell you, there are a lot of lovely trailers out there. And a few of them were created by individuals using iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. 
Image
 
I’d read enough online to know that it would take a great deal of time to make a trailer myself. However, I did have the option of hiring a friend who had been playing with home movies for several years and was interested in doing more. And yes, I’d been warned not to go the cheaper route, but after much thought and study, I decided to work with my friend and create a trailer together. Because neither of us had done anything like this before, there was a major learning curve involved, but it also proved to be a great opportunity for expanding our knowledge.
  
One of the first things you want to do is envision what you want for a trailer. There are a lot of trailers out there that simply scroll over the book cover while someone tells a brief blurb of the story. There are also those with still shots, those that have been filmed, or a combination of both. There are those that use scrolling words and those that have a speaker. 
  
Before you tackle this project, brainstorm your ideas. I knew I wanted my secondary character from my debut book, Snow Melts in Spring, to tell the story about his son and the veterinarian who was like a daughter to him. I also had an idea of the music–something heart stirring yet almost forlorn–that reminded me of a horse running across the prairie.
  
I also wanted a combination of scrolled words mixed in with the speaker’s words, fade-out pictures as well as film. And then came the actual writing of the script–which surprisingly, came to me very quickly.
 

We filmed part of the trailer ourselves, but there are places online to find free music and pictures. However, most of those places didn’t have exactly what we were looking for so we opted to pay a minimal fee to get just the right effect we were looking for.

 
Free music:
 
Music for a fee (and the place we went for our music):
 
Free photos:
 
Royalty free photos (where we went for pictures):
 
The making of the trailer proved to be more of a challenge, mostly because my friend and I were inexperienced. We had many trial runs, a couple where we had to start over from scratch. But the end effect turned out quite beautiful and I am very pleased with it. You may view it on my website or on Youtube.  
 
Now for the ultimate question–was the marketing dollars worth it in the end? I cannot in all honesty say that it has been that effective. Before my book came out, I had a few opportunities to show the trailer to two test audiences and that may have prompted a few people to order my book. Since then, most of the feedback I’ve received online has been from people who have read my book and then visited my website afterwards to view the trailer. And they have loved the trailer.
 
I think this is the answer you’ll hear from most authors. We simply have no way to track book trailers to sales. Am I satisfied? — Yes, I am. I have a beginning trailer for my book series for readers to watch and hopefully prompt them to read the series.
 
Will I make a trailer for all my books? No. I didn’t make one for Seeds of Summer, nor am I planning one for Blades of Autumn. However, I think I would consider creating a trailer for the first in any series I write. 
 
If you don’t have the desire to take on the challenge of creating a trailer yourself, here is a list of professionals who create book trailers:
 
 
Oh, and once you have a book trailer, do your research and take the time to upload your trailer onto your website and/or blog as well as the many different sites available to help promote it, such as: Amazon.com, Youtube.com, Tangle.com and Christianbookvideos.com.