Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Sun is Finally Shining, and Other Musings from an Oklahoman ready for Summer

Part of publishing is networking. I recall one "UGLY BETTY" episode where Betty is part of an elite group of young professionals being mentored by professionals in the magazine publishing business.

One whole episode (really, the only episode I've ever seen) was devoted to the group's study on networking, and how VITAL it is to one's success in any branch of the publishing industry.

It's sooooo true....it's not what you know, but who you know.

In line with that theme, I wanted to show my authors some things about the industry they might not be aware of, simply because they are new to the industry and probably aren't well-connected.

We know what we are doing!
I'm constantly amazed by first time authors who think they know more about marketing a book than I do, simply because they read an article online, or attended a two-hour class on how to make their book a bestseller (usually with a nice price tag too...yes, that's sarcasm).

The strategies we adopt for marketing are cutting edge. What seems like it would work (like sending a book to Oprah with a great pitch letter) really doesn't work. Those are amateur efforts that everyone makes. It's not so simple as sending a really great query or being placed on a prominent bookshelf.


What does work is garnering the attention of local media, building a demand, and sharpening your skills on air.

Let an Expert Weigh In
Here's an eye-opening statement from Marsha Friedman, CEO of EMSI Incorporated:  "When you are assigned a marketing rep or hire a publicist, recognize that part of what you are paying for is their expertise.  Most companies (or authors) would never quibble with their accounting firm, and they'd never argue legal opinions with their attorneys, so why do they find it so easy to dispute the expertise of their PR firm (marketing rep)? It's just counterproductive and it ends up wasting valuable time and money."

Marsha's firm is a PR consultant for Top Six publishers (such as HarperCollins and Simon Schuster), Tate Publishing, and various bestselling authors (a partial client list is available at her site). I share that to indicate that a) she knows what she's doing, and b) Tate knows what it's doing.

Everyone is out to make a buck! 
Believe me---I hate this one! I'm cynical enough to expect it, but I still dislike that we live in this culture.

We hear from authors daily who have been taken advantage of by marketing firms, publishers, etc. Some of these authors come to us as a last resort and are astonished at what we offer.

Some of our authors---usually those with unrealistic expectations from the get go---might pursue other options and ALWAYS come back to Tate thankful for what we did/have done/are doing for them.

These authors learned the hard way that Tate really offers one of the most solid marketing plans available to authors in this industry.

It's not just authors who tell us this. Other PR firms, bookstores, distributors, best-selling authors, book festivals, etc. like to commend what we do. We really offer the whole enchilada.

I share this all of this for one reason: to prove that people will promise the world to get your money. They will hype up their services and distort reality. Industry professionals are blown away by how Tate's plan goes above and beyond industry standards for authors. (don't just take my word for it....check out what a bestselling author has to say: NYT Bestseller Weighs In)

So beware of anyone who claims they can make you a bestseller. They are appealing to your ego, playing with your emotions in order to get your business.

Popular
I love Oklahoma native Kristen Chenowith and adore her version of "Popular" (from "WICKED"). Believe it or not, there is truth in this word.
Did you ever run for class office in high school? 

I did. 

I was a drama nerd, the type who liked to stay after school conjugating sentences on the chalkboard as my English teacher graded papers. I was on newspaper staff and wrote a weekly column that I'm convinced no one read. 

I ran every year for an office, and not once was I elected. In retrospect, I'm glad I wasn't weighed down with those responsibilities.

But the fact never changed: it was all a popularity contest.

On "MODERN FAMILY" (one of my new favorite shoes), one character summed it up by saying: "In high school, everyone spends their time trying to fit in. But once they are in the real world, they all try to stand out." 

What is popular one day might not be popular the next day. The market is constantly shifting, and the only ones who can influence the future of the market are the ones in control of the market.

But even they fail sometimes.

The truth is, no one can control what book becomes a bestseller. That is entirely up to the market: to readers. Both "THE SHACK" and "TWILIGHT" weren't predicted to be bestsellers...they were turned down numerously for publication.

Now see where they are. "THE SHACK" has been a bestseller for both religious and secular audiences, and "TWILIGHT" has lit the world on fire with a vampire frenzy. 

"You're Gonna be Popular"
Today, I'm your Galinda and you are my Elphaba (Wicked, the Musical). I'm going to help you set your sights on the road to popularity. 

Read this excerpt from the lyrics:
Celebrated heads of state,
Or specially great communicators!
Did they have brains or knowledge?
Don't make me laugh!

They were POPULAR!
Please!
It's all about popular.
It's not about aptitude,
It's the way you're viewed,
So it's very shrewd to be,
Very very popular

As Galinda so aptly points out, popularity comes through one thing: connections.

My authors often hear me say that one of two things sell a book: either a connection with the book or a connection with the author.

Most initial sales begin with author connections. As those spread, people start to connect with the book. This is what puts a high royalty check in an author's bank account.

The Connection Price Tag
You can't buy connections. You can only find them through blood, sweat and tears. Okay, that's over-exaggerating, but you really do have to work toward building relationships with readers, other authors, media contacts, and leaders within your niche.

Ask anyone who is popular and they will tell you: it's hard work being popular! 

So be sure that you recognize when someone is being straight with you. Anyone who promises you an easy way to success is trying to take advantage of you. We believe this in the financial realm---we all know that the email from a Nigerian prince is bogus, and those paid programming advertisements for business opportunities promising thousands and thousands of dollars in income is just a scam. 

So why don't writers believe this in the publishing realm?

The Truth will Never Deceive You
That's one thing about Tate Publishing that I love. From the moment you see our website to the first royalty you receive, our "pitch"stays the same.

We don't promise the moon. We don't promise the unpromisable, such as bookstore shelf space, huge royalties, national book tours, etc.

Even our website outlines what we promise, just as our contracts, production guides, and marketing guides do.

We do promise: 
a) to provide for an unknown author's book the opportunity to enter the dialogue of literature and, hopefully, develop a readership.
b) to provide top-of-the-line editing (as a book award judge, let me assure you....our editing team is one of the best out there!), design, and layout--each step carefully executed in pursuit of attracting and maintaining a reader's focus.
c) to implement a cutting edge marketing strategy for our books, a strategy that is further personalized to each book's unique market, a strategy applauded by the professionals in the industry.
d) to provide assistance in developing a niche readership.
e) to never EVER stop promoting our books, unless an author indicates the desire to pull back on marketing.
f) to provide to every author a personal connection, someone to work with hand-in-hand for the life of the book.
g) that each and every staff member will give each and every author he/she works with 110%. 

Spend any time with Taters (that's what we call ourselves) and you'll see that making authors' dreams come true is a passion for us. I honestly get up every morning excited to serve and market my authors. 

[Maybe this is a reason why Tate Publishing has repeatedly been nominated to the best places to work in Oklahoma]

Well, enough of my schpeal for today. I was out sick yesterday and have a lot to catch up on. But I wanted to be sure and share my heart with you all today before I got lost in "responding to media queries" land!

Question: If you have a product to sell (book, craft, WHATEVER), how do you plan to share your product with the world? Are your expectations realistic? What connections are you pursuing?

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" (by Daft Punk )

One of my most favorite songs is "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" by Daft Punk. Kanye West recently did a remix that is okay, but I like the original better.

Here's a youtube with some choreography to the song by fellow listeners: daft hands The original video accompanies an Anime film clip where aliens become humanized rock stars.

Weird, I know.

I think I really like this song because of the lyrics.  Here they are:
Work It
Make It
Do It
Makes Us
Harder
Better
Faster
Stronger
More Than
Hour
Our
Never
Ever
After
Work is
Over
[x2]

Work It Harder Make It Better
Do It Faster, Makes Us stronger
More Than Ever Hour After
Our Work Is Never Over 


I think this is a great attitude to have, regardless of what you are applying it to. You know the saying...."perfect practice makes perfect." The more work you invest, the better your end result will be.

I see authors every day who have forgotten this principle. I see so many would-be writers who sit around hoping for their project to take off, for Oprah to highlight them on her show or add their books to her book club, for Rachel Ray to have them on as guests, for First Lady Obama to endorse the books, etc.

Perhaps I'm a cynical, but I stand by my conviction that until someone puts away hope and instead relies on faith and hard work, that person will never see the results wanted.

Hope and Faith are two different things. I may hope that Prince William would stride into this office, confess his neverending love for me, and whisk me off to London to be his princess.

But do I have faith that will happen? Of course not.

Have you ever heard the story of the man awaiting rescue during a flood? He hears the weather person advise everyone to evacuate. He hunkers down in his house watching everyone drive away to safety.

"God will save me!" he says, shaking his head in concern by the lack of faith he sees in his neighbors.

The rains start to puddle up and soon he's knee deep, then chest deep. He darts up the stairs to the second floor. When the water starts seeping onto the second floor, he climbs onto the roof.

Soon someone in a boat comes by, instructing him to get into the boat promising safety.

"God will save me!" he says, shaking his head in concern by the lack of faith he sees in this random boater.

The water starts to fill up the gutter, splattering onto the roof. A helicopter flies by, throwing down a ladder and life vest for him.

"God will save me!" he says, shaking his head in concern by the lack of faith he sees in this helicopter pilot. Days later, the coast guard finds his body, his hands still clutching his Bible.

Was the man right to wait for God to save him? I guess you can argue that he was allowing God's will to unfold.

But the God I know encourages us to be proactive, not passive. He works in numerous ways, and perhaps God is who sent that weather person, those neighbors, the boat and the helicopter. Perhaps that was God's will, and the man's choice to stay put is what killed him.

I guess we'll never know until we get to heaven.

But I do know this: God wouldn't bring you all the way to this spot (being a published author) and divine for you to sit by, passively letting what happens happen.

It goes against everything he wants us to do. He wants us to "go out into the world and spread the gospel." If you are a Christian and have a message to share, isn't that your personal witness?

I find it interesting that the disciples and missionaries who follow in their footsteps did not idly sit by and wait for the unsaved to come to them. (Can you see the disciples sitting quietly at a table in the marketplace, expecting people to come to the table in interest of what the disciple might have to share?)

The missionary's first objective is to find the people who need to hear their message.

How similar the missionary's life is to the author. Any time you have something new to introduce to people, centuries' worth of experience shows us that NICHE MARKETING---that is, going to those who need to hear the message---is what builds a following, a readership.

I love that Jesus taught this concept to us himself. He had to seek out his disciples. Once he had established his niche and reached out to the people in that niche, they started to spread a word of mouth buzz, and soon the masses were reaching out for him.

In order to be successful at anything, you must follow that same concept.

I'm not ADD, I promise. The song fits in here perfectly.

To market your product, you must do the following:

Reach out HARDER to those in need for your project....

Love BETTER those who respond to your project...

Follow up FASTER with those who consider your project...

and watch your product grow STRONGER in sales.

It's as simple as that. Now, if I could only get the hand motions down in order to make my own daft hands video....

QUESTION: What have you been doing with the message you feel led to share? Are you sitting back, waiting for people to come to you? Or are you seeking them out? What has been most successful for you so far?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Underpriced Latte, Renee Zellweger's Book Savvy, and How Kevin Coster Ruined a Generation

For some of you, this email will seem familiar. I've sent variances of this to many authors as we brainstorm the best strategy for their books.

An opening fact: over 8,000 books release a week.

In my earlier posts (and future ones) I've written on niche marketing, which is the future of the book industry.

However, bookstores still play an important role, as there are still readers out there who, like me, must have the feel and smell of books in order to survive.

The Underpriced Latte

I would be remiss if I did not input my personal view: today's bookstore is essentially a germ-free library. Think about it. Go sit in a bookstore for a few hours and just people watch.... Talk about an underpriced latte...you spend $3 on coffee in exchange for access to pristine copies of all bestselling books and magazines.

But I digress. Back to marketing.

When you approach bookstore marketing, it is vital to beat out the competition.

Your average bookstore stocks less than 10% of the titles available to them. And that's not considering all the titles out there that aren't available through distribution.

Bookstores are overloaded. Even the online book retailers have trouble keeping up with the volume of titles.

Ergo the importance of having a relationship with a buyer for a store, as well as with the mainstream distributors.

Due to our relationships with such entities (which are carefully cultivated, I promise you), we are able to offer our authors many advantages they would not receive elsewhere.

Bookstore buyers look for certain genres at different times during the year. Our department heads are always keeping an eye on our catalog looking for titles that meet those requested genres. We regularly submit for the buyers' consideration.

But because of our relationships with the buyers, we are able to submit more than just the specific titles they are looking for. For some stores (like Barnes and Noble), this means that all of our titles are available to all of their stores.

For other stores (such as Mardels or Family Christian Stores), we submit the titles we feel might interest them, that way all eligible titles have a chance!

Renee Zellweger's Book Savvy

Did you ever see the movie DOWN WITH LOVE with Renee Zellweger? If you haven't, here's a brief recap: her book gets placement in the big stores, but still no one knows about the book. So she and her publicist put together a strategy that, along with hard work, creates a demand. Pretty soon, no one can keep the book in stock (which is a good problem to have).

This really is a great example of how the industry works.

The BEST thing anyone can do for bookstore marketing is to create a demand for the book. A bookstore manager only wants to stock a book he or she knows will sell.

Which is why the Espresso Book Machine is a brilliant invention, but that's another topic.

If a manager does not know that a book will sell, what reason does he/she have to spend his/her time and store resources on ordering a book, unloading it, stocking it, monitoring it, etc. if there is a good chance she/he will have to spend more time and store resources on pulling it from the shelf and sending it back to the distributor?

The manager---who is responsible for the sales report that store turns in to corporate at the end of the month---wants to spend her time and store resources on a book that will sell and give them room to stock another book that will sell.

How Kevin Costner Ruined a Generation
"If you build it, they will come!"

I bet you one underpriced latte that the moment your eyes saw those words, you pictured the little girl on the bleachers, Kevin Costner's baseball quest, and the line of cars as long as the eyes can see. I can still recall the first time I saw FIELD OF DREAMS.

An entire generation has been built around the two messages that movie conveys:
a) Hope is a strategy for success.
b) Supply drives demand.

This is why every writer legitimately thinks he/she will be a bestseller. Why every inventor thinks he/she is the next Thomas Edison. Why every waiter in Hollywood thinks he/she is the next Sandra Bullock. I'm entirely convinced that this is the reason our generation has so many disappointed and unhappy souls. We feel entitled to success. We have forgotten that success comes at a great price: hard work.

There are two things all successful people have in common. They know that:
a) Hope is not a strategy for success.
b) Demand drives supply

I'll expound on this more in a later post.

Back to the Bookstore.

Bookstore Success = demand = strategy + hard work.

In today's society of entitlement-driven publicists and success-driven executives, most publishers only invest the strategy and hard work on titles that already have a demand.

Tate doesn't. We work on strategy + hard work for the entire life of a book by:
a) developing a niche strategy for your book
b) implementing that niche strategy, facilitating the word of mouth buzz
c) putting a voice to that demand through media opportunities to highlight and promote events
d) working with the stores to fulfill demand through events and stocking

That said, bookstore success is quickly moving out as the best way to sell a book. With today's technology, bookstores can print a title themselves in less than 5 minutes, making every title available to the world. This will negate the great demand for shelf space....but it doesn't negate the fact that people must know about the book if they want to buy it.

But we'll save that for another day.



Question: Have you seen this self-important attitude of entitlement in the business world? If you have, what have you seen as the result of an attitude of entitlement? Does success really come that easily for those who operate with this attitude?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wounded Animals

I don't know how it works for everyone else, but when God has a lesson he wants me to learn, I see the same principle play out day after day after day until I inform him that I got his message. Then I have to deal with the message and implement it in my own life.

In the last few episodes of BIG LOVE (one of my favorite HBO shows...), Sissy Spacek played a powerful woman with a vindictive agenda. The main character challenged her, and we saw her strike out against those who got in her way. We also saw her alone at night with tears as she regretted the woman she had become.

Two weeks ago I observed an altercation between a hurting teenage heart and a hurting mother's heart.

Last week I found myself in a situation where I caused dear friends pain due to my self-absorbed behavior.

And yesterday, my sweet baby Tycoon somehow opened a decades-old painted shut window and spent the afternoon in the backyard...we came home to a bloodied mess and a somewhat severe puncture wound. We rushed to the vet yesterday upon finding him, and the wound has been treated and should be healing soon.

A blurry photo of the cleaned wound is posted here...snapped just before the blood came gushing out again.

However, as of 7:35 am this morning, it hasn't stopped bleeding.

"Okay, God, I get it!"

Wounds don't stop bleeding until they start to heal. If we delay the healing process, we are setting ourselves up for a constant stream of blood and tears.

What on earth does this have to do with me? you might be asking.

The majority of people in our society are one small wound away from losing it. We are all damaged. It's what happens when everyone acts selfishly, forgetting about the other souls out there impacted by our actions.

I recently had a sweet conversation with a bookstore manager. She started the conversation very upset. As we chatted, we got to know one another and she was able to see more than the disappointment an author's behavior had caused.

This really pointed out to me how our sometimes selfish behaviors in business can hurt people in ways we don't usually see. I hope you feel some emotional tug on your heart because we've all been there.

How can we keep from turning into Sissy Spacek's character, leaving wounds everywhere we go?

1) Drop the pretense. Be yourself! No one appreciates someone who can't be genuine.

2) Genuinely care about others. When you are in an exchange with someone, whether verbal or written, keep in mind that you are not the most important thing to them. [shocker! I know!] Once we can get past our own feelings of self-importance, we can see what others really need. The best contacts usually come from a chance encounter where one individual gave someone else a truly compassionate and caring ear. When you genuinely care, you make someone feel special. They know if you are being genuine or if you are just "playing the game." Guess what? It matters to them. If you care about them, they will eventually care about you too.

3) Don't get sidetracked. It's easy to be sidetracked, taking on additional causes and challenges. Learn to say no to the things that you cannot give 100% to. You burn less bridges if you are upfront and honest than if you try to juggle it all and end up dropping the ball. Believe me, I've been there and done that. It's embarrassing, hurts your reputation, and really drives your guilt-o-meter up a few notches.

4) Keep your tone in check. One small "ahem" or roll of the eyes can instantly put someone on edge. Anyone who has watched a teenager and a parent fight knows that once someone is on the defensive, all hope for reconciliation is lost. You might want to wring someone's neck, but the only effect that will have is personal gratification. When you walk away, the issue will be left unresolved AND the person incapable of fixing it. This is a great wound extender too....if someone is healing, don't tear open the wound again.

I'd like to challenge you today to apply these same principles and concepts to your business. Regardless of why you are reading my blog, you are looking for ways to improve your professional and personal relationships.

Wounds are no one's friend, and relationships truly can exist without them.

Question: How do YOU keep wounds from occurring?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Short but Sweet!

Hope you are having a great day!

I work very hard every day to make sure each author I work with is getting the best from me.

In that attitude, I sent out a quarterly "update" to my authors, hoping to motivate some, inspire others, and build a better working relationship with all.

Let me say...I've never seen so much response from my authors! Most is good, a few are not, but for many I work with we FINALLY have a reasonable dialogue about their respective books.

The past few days I have been engrossed in responses, initiating new marketing efforts, explaining the industry, etc. I suspect I will be just as engrossed for the next few days, so please excuse my short post!

I leave you with this great article to read. Sure, it's about business, but it's applicable to EVERYONE. Look around you....observe what successful authors are doing, what successful artists are doing, etc. Then find your OWN way to make it work.

Don't be like the employee who defended her mediocrity. It's not going to get you anywhere!

Oh, here's the link: how to find that elusive success...

Blessings to all! It's in the 70s today, but we are supposed to get another snow blizzard tomorrow...pray that we don't! I'm sick of snow.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Words with Friends, and Other Signs of the Times

Yesterday late afternoon, my husband and I had the rare chance to be in the same place at the same time without anything urgent to do.

For a couple as busy as we are, that's a feat in and of itself.

We settled comfortably on the couches in the living room, looking forward to quality time together. Evening found us sitting in those exact same spots.

Were we having dazzling conversation, plotting to take over the world, or pursuing some other relationship-building enterprise?

No.

We were playing Words with Friends on our iPhones. Top it off, we were playing each other.

This went on for hours, till we finally had a late dinner with friends.

So why on earth am I sharing this with you?

It's an illustration of the fact that the majority of individuals these days are spending their personal time online in some capacity, interacting with technology.

Jumping gears real quick, but you'll see why later...stay with me...

As a child, I spent hours upon hours in the school library. When I got a car and a checking account, I would camp out at the local Barnes and Noble until it closed (which was just about the same time as my curfew). College years found me poring over books in the library, huddled in a corner with a few cups of coffee and a hungry stare as I consumed whatever literature I could get my hands on.

Then came graduation, working, paying my own bills (which meant a sharp decrease in book buying), and spending all my time networking for my career.

Now that things have settled a bit for me and I occasionally have time to seek out something, I still only head to the bookstore if I have a "date" with my best friend. We load up with all the decorating books (I'm in love with the French Country style and am trying to implement it in my home), claim a table, and flip through the picture books taking notes on things we like. A few hours later, we get up, grab a magazine or discounted cookbook, and check out.

For a literature hound like myself (I'd probably fall in the "target audience" for about 99% of my authors), in no way do I look for literature at the bookstore.

My oh-so-long list of books to read/buy [seriously, I have one. It's an ever evolving list in my iPhone Notes application] comes from one thing, and one thing only: recommendations. Most of these are recommendations I find online. Perhaps someone tweets about a book, or a blog mentions it. My mother might email me info on a book she read, or one of my fellow volunteers mentions it while we sort and stuff bags for a charity.

In other words, today's reader doesn't look for reading material. Not anymore. Now, it is the book's responsibility to look for the reader, to connect with the reader, to give the reader a reason to spend his/her time on the book.

Moments ago, I got off the phone with one of my authors who had an event last week at an independent Christian bookstore. The publicity for this multi-author event was tremendous: tv spots, radio interviews, articles and features in the newspaper.

The author sold less than a handful of books.

The author got it, after that. Expecting prospective readers to pick a title out of a long list of other enticing products is not the way to find success and build a readership, at least not until the general public is in demand for the title or the author.

Wow, this is a long post, but let me get to the core of my message today: we have to bombard the prospective reader in their own habitat and circle of influence if we want to gain their loyalty, readership, sale, and recommendation.

Let's revisit how my husband and I spent our evening yesterday: playing on our iPhones and having dinner with friends. Other nights this month will showcase us attending fundraising events, hair appointments, volunteering, attending organizational meetings, playing golf (not me, but the hubby sure does!), spending time in restaurants with friends, attending church and Sunday School events, working out (at the gym or yoga studio), shopping at the market or another locally owned store, or staying at home trying to get stuff done (or, more likely, spending time and effort on the internet).

For the majority of books I have read, edited, represented, judged, or interacted with, I would recommend in a heartbeat that the author first investigate where to find his/her target audience. Once you know where they are, you can make sure that your product (doesn't have to be a book, really...this applies to ANY item you market) stands out.

Boiling it down: if you are going to spend your time and effort trying to build a name for yourself, do it the smart way. Connect with local venues and find your online presence through social media. Make yourself and your book invaluable to your prospective reader.

Who knows....one day a married couple might spend their evening sitting on the couch interacting with your book in a new way via today's technology.

QUESTION: How do you spend your personal time? If someone were to get your attention and convince you that you need to read a book, how would he/she do that?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Writing Career Treatment

Welcome back to the Author Emergency Room.

This post is a follow up to my Expectation Triage post last week (Expectation Triage).

Once you have identified the problem and are resolved to treating, healing, and succeeding in spite of it, you are ready for treatment.

Let's look at this from a writer's standpoint.

I meet people EVERY DAY outside of work who have a story to tell, a book to write. My advice always is to put pen to paper.

They respond with, "Oh, I will someday when I have the time."

Well, you make time for what is important to you. If writing is important, you will give it the time it needs....or you are a writer in hiding (remember that story about Jonah and the whale??).

Let's say you've written the great american novel or the last self-help book anyone will ever need. A publisher accepts it. It's gone through editing and layout, and you have the finished copy in your hands.

At this point, I often hear, "I really don't care about the sales, I just want to help change people's lives." Or I hear, "Get yourself ready for this ride! We'll be on Oprah and the NYT bestseller list, and be sure to send Obama a copy!"

[insert wry smile and a funny shake of the head from me]

Sure! I'd love to see you there. But we have to "put pen to paper", so to speak, and build the career of the book and author.

"Oh, but that's what you are here for," they say.

Yes, it is the responsibility of your marketing team to help you find and even create opportunities. But much like your editor, we can only advise you. This is not our work, and no matter how much we work on it, our names will never be on the cover.

The author's is, though. And the author is the one that readers, booksellers, organizations, businesses, venues, reviewers, etc. need to see. In a society that has become so overloaded that everything boils down to personal connections, the author's involvement is CRITICAL to a book's (and writing career's) success.

Follow me....

I threw a baby shower this weekend. Two gifts stood out to me. One was a group of bibs, burping cloths, etc that had been handmade by a young executive who did baby crafts on the side.

The other gift came in a zebra-printed box with hot pink ribbons and flowers. A "bling box" as the creator called it. The items inside were too precious. Personalized with the baby's name, thing after thing was pulled out to everyone's amazement. I'd buy a "bling box" with similar items for my pets, for every baby shower I ever attend, and even for birthdays, etc. The stuff inside was simply toooo cute. Especially if she packaged it all together and sold different themed bling boxes.

Now, the second gift (the "bling box") was definitely the most marketable of the two. I tried to encourage the creator of the "bling box" to make these things available, whether to a local boutique or even online. All she did was offer excuses about how she doesn't have time for that and already has a job, but it's what she REALLY wants to do.

The other gift, however, was designed by a busy mom with a job. And guess what? She has an etsy shop. So she's making money on these things, slowly building up her savings and her clientele to support her once she does this full time.

Which do you think will be more successful?

I share that because as I was chatting with the "bling box" maker, she kept offering excuses about how she can't do it but that she wants to. Once she has time, of course, she will do this full time, she said.

And it made me think of authors! It can be so easy to stay in "dream land" and say that you'll achieve all your dreams...once you have time.

But you have to make time NOW to do what is important, to build your foundation so you can stand confidently on it.

Here is a GREAT article that really illustrates what unfolded before my eyes this weekend. Go Ahead, Start That Side Business will change your perception of what is possible in your life.

Question: What dreams are you holding back on as you wait for "the right time"? What can you do NOW to start the ball rolling, and build your foundation so you can step out into your dream in confidence?

Friday, March 12, 2010

How Can We DIB?

Good morning! Short post today; we've got a DIB (Do It Better!) conference within our department.

In addition to our weekly brainstorming sessions, we like to gather the troops (quarterly, if possible) to evaluate what we are doing. We look at what works, what doesn't, what changes are happening "out there" (that is, out of our control, such as the industry), what changes are happening internally, and how we can do more for our authors.

This isn't just something for us to do, though. EVERYONE should be having a DIB session...for their professional life, personal life, and social life.

I'd like to challenge you to really evaluate the direction you've taken this first quarter of 2010.

Question: What can you change in order to "Do It Better"? What results do you think you'll see?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Expectation Triage

One day in the recent past, I got a phonecall from an author. Her book had not yet released (meaning, not yet available to the public).

She was calling to ask why her first royalty check hadn’t arrived. Her mortgage was due the next week, and she had planned to use a portion of her first royalty check for the mortgage.

???? surprised? So was I! [note: if you aren’t surprised, you need to do some reading: http://www.genreality.net/the-reality-of-a-times-bestseller]

Let’s rewind to 1989.

Meryl Streep (possibly the most perfect person in the world…if you could combine her, Martha Stewart, Kelly Ripa, and Karen Walker from “Will and Grace”, you’d have my ideal model, but that’s personal….) and Roseanne Barr were in the movie “She-Devil.”

I remember watching this movie, eagerly snacking on my popcorn. The manuscripts I had already started working on, and the little handmade books about tea parties and bumblebees from my childhood, were in the back of my mind.

I learned two things I accepted as truth and implemented in my life:
1) you should NEVER allow facial hair and/or moles a place in your life (which probably explains my mild obsession with tweezing my eyebrows…)
and
2) authors live in big mansions, have indoor swimming pools, and are lavishly beautiful

So imagine my shock when I graduated with my writing degree ready to claim my mansion and maid. And life insurance. And health insurance. And dental, optical, etc.

Yah, no. It doesn’t work that way.

In case you’ve missed my point here, let me be brutally honest: Following the old strategy of marketing books, most authors will not be able to support themselves with their royalties and advances.

Think back to your college writing professors. The majority of them are not there out of the goodness of their hearts; they are there for the stable paycheck the university gives them.

If you are an author and are anything like me—obsessed with literature, the arts, and creating a voice that transcends generations—then I’m sending you a heart hug and a box of tissues. I’ve been there.

Consider this your expectation triage. We’ve assessed the extent of your wounds. For most of us, they are deep, reaching down into the concept upon which we’ve built our lives.

My next few posts will facilitate your treatment and care, much like an emergency room.

It’ll sting. Cleaning out a wound usually does.

It’s gonna hurt. Changing the purpose of something usually does.

It’ll be new. Any transformation usually is.

But the outlook on this side of treatment is much more fulfilling than the original diagnosis of naivety. You’ll see. [smiley face]

Question: What has led to an outlook change in any area your life, how painful was the transformation, and detail the benefits you’ve received?

Monday, March 8, 2010

So I Wrote This Book....Now What?

Congratulations! You finished writing a book. Some of you reading this have already gone through the publication process; some of you haven't. Either way, these are what I believe to be the most important steps you can take now that will serve you well long term.

1) Smile. Pat yourself on the back…you’ve come a long way…and there is still a long road ahead.

2) Take a deep breath. Treat yourself to a day at the spa, or some other favorite indulgence you have. Believe me, you need the emotional boost.

3) Start blogging or posting to your website on a regular basis (I have a list of great resources if you need it!).

4) Create a google alert for different topics/themes of your book so you are notified of the news in relation to those items.

5) When possible, work current events--both local and national--into your posts.

6) Research and create a list of blogs/bloggers who touch on similar themes as you do, or whose audience is similar to the audience for your book. Put together an email list and request book reviews (bcc everyone) in exchange for reviewing their blog on your own blog.

7) Network, network, network. There are tons of resources out there, and multiple approaches you can follow.

There is no magic formula. No one has mastered the formula. Each book, each creation is different, and requires a different approach.

My personal marketing goal when I approach a book is this: build a readership. That is what drives every decision I make. I ask, "Will this give the book/author the chance to expand readership?"

Sometimes the decision might look unconnected...but I promise: it all adds up in the end.

On my weekly "to do" list, I have the following: "Every phone call, step, email, conversation, act, post--EVERYTHING I DO TODAY--should be in pursuit of one of these goals", and I then list my top three goals.

Question: How would you finish this sentence? "Every phone call, step, email, conversation, act, post--EVERYTHING I DO TODAY--should be in pursuit of...."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Tate Marketing Rep

Really not trying to monopolize the “conversation” here, but I think in order for you to understand some of my future posts, you need to understand where I’m coming from.

I’m just like everyone else: the laundry is piling up at home, dinner doesn’t cook itself, my husband’s golf shoes scratch our hardwood floors, and my little boys like to track in mud and everything else that should stay outside.

But between the hours of 8 am and 4 pm (CST), I’ve got one thing on my mind:

Partnership

This focus is carried out in six major arenas:
1)      Company Tasks: various meetings, conferences, etc. within our offices facilitate our day-to-day operations
2)      Customer Service Tasks: as the main contact for my authors, I field questions from how to attach a document to tracking an order to placing an order to making changes to existing, published text---and everything in between.
3)      Author Tasks: mainly research, communication, and doing everything I can to connect with each author personally. This usually requires research on my part to be prepared for representing an author. And this can change from day to day….think about how much YOU change each day. J
4)      Marketing Tasks: keeping track of events, setting up events, sending out press, responding to press, finding press outlets and opportunities, coordinating my team to offer 100% for everything we touch, etc.
5)      Industry Tasks: staying ahead of the ball on publishing, marketing, and social media trends.
6)      Personal Tasks: doing what I can to go above and beyond.

On top of those daily tasks, add the awareness of my goals for this year:
1)      Listen more, talk less: that’s pretty self-explanatory, right?
2)      Branding: assist my authors with branding themselves and building their reputations as experts (Remember: you aren’t an expert because you wrote a book….no, you write a book because you are an expert!)
3)      Big Ideas: look for the big ideas in everyday actions

As most of you know (or can tell from our staff page on our website), we have a HUGE marketing team. The reason we do this is to allow each staff member to do what they do best. For us reps, that means that we’ve mastered each step our team executes, plus taken it to a new level.

For a very bare bones example, I’ve spent time preparing review copy packages to ship before. At the time, it was well within my best capabilities and time usage.

But now, my authors—and my boss!—would much rather me on the phone with a media lead, setting up an event, reviewing marketing material, or brainstorming rather than sticking a stamp on a package.

That doesn’t mean the review copy isn’t important; it just means that someone else is better positioned to complete that task at that time. I’ll save that concept for a later post, but I encourage you to think about it.

I’m held accountable just like every other staff member at our company. Our leadership very wisely installed many checks and balances in our operating system and protocol. This is done to ensure that no one goes unnoticed….that no one is slipping through the cracks…that no one feels alone.

Let’s face it. The publishing industry is a big, bad world out there. I’m not alone….my authors aren’t alone…our company is not alone. It all cycles back to my main focus:

Partnership.

Question: How do your daily tasks enrich your life, meet your focus, and help you achieve your long-term goals?