Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blogging Resources

Nearly every day, I'm asked for info on blogging. I've compiled my favorite links/articles/resources on blogging. Rather than sending it out multiple times a day, I'm posting it here.

Here they are in no particular order:


Friday, May 14, 2010

Lord Gaga: sometimes imitation pays off

While I was on my way to work this morning, my radio station of choice played a clip of Ellen's interview with Oklahoma singing sensation Greyson Michael Chance. Here's a link to the clip: Ellen & Greyson Michael Chance

The news/internet is all abuzz with "Lord Gaga", as he's been christened, playing off of his talented vocalization of Lady Gaga's song "Paparazzi."

I must admit that I am very impressed by this 12-yr-old boy from Edmond, Oklahoma.

But I can guarantee you that his talent isn't what put him on Ellen's radar.

Sure, if you want to look at it with general observations, you can say his talent is what got him that spot on her show, but that's like saying that Monica Lewinsky became a household name because she's pretty.

The Missing Link...and no, it's not a caveman.
You know those Geico commercials with the cavemen? "It's so easy a caveman can do it."

Well, publicity is not that simple, and the missing link between Greyson and Ellen---and between Monica and the news reporters--is nothing related to hard or easy work.

Monica Lewinsky was offered the position as the spokeswoman for a clothing line because of her connection with President Clinton and the ensuing media frenzy.

In today's example, Greyson is merely riding the coattails of Lady Gaga, who is a worldwide phenomenon right now.

Authorization Not Required
Note that both Greyson and Monica did not need permission from their "celebrity."

Greyson didn't ask Lady Gaga to endorse him. He didn't seek her approval on his songs. All he did was upload a video of him covering one of her songs. Giving credit where it is due, he listed her name as well as the title, since the song is hers, in his youtube listing. He even noted that he had no rights to the song, in effect showing that he was not endorsed by her.

And it's blown up to over 11 million views. [Greyson's "Paparazzi" Video] At 8 million views, Ellen brought him on her show and arranged for Lady Gaga to call and endorse him.

Now he's a hit, and I bet that he'll have music deals, appearances, etc. out the wazoo. Hence the new nickname: Lord Gaga.

As a Lady Gaga fan myself (yes, I am going to her concert!), I can't wait to get a cd of Lord Gaga. I love his style, love his covers, and love his original work as well. Also keep in mind that he effectively drew more attention back to Lady Gaga too. He's not using her here; he's just throwing himself into her dialogue with the listening public.

Monica....well, do I really need to explain myself here?

Be Kind, Rewind
Okay, here's my summation of my post today: always ALWAYS be looking for ways to connect you, your talent, your product to a celebrity.


That rarely if ever happens to new products.

But maybe you think that Tiger's wife should read your book. Blog about it; mention Tiger's name in your tweets; explain why she and others in her situation needs your book and how exactly he/she could benefit from it.

Find a way to imitate or respond to any celebrities in a manner that will attract their audience, which is your target audience, to you and your product.

Lead by Example
I like to do crafts, floral arrangements, cook from scratch, etc. I'm utterly and irrevocably in love with the Martha Stewart Brand.

If I wanted to promote myself and any product or service I offered, I would put together a video series and upload to youtube. Perhaps I would take something that the MS brand doesn't explain well, or something that they didn't offer directions and pictures to, and make it the focus of one video. I'd upload it to youtube, include the links to Martha's site with her info on it, and I'd link it wherever I found people looking for the info (such as blogs, forums, web pages, comments, etc.).

Then they can watch other videos I've got on my youtube channel, and then they'll visit my website, and eventually they will order my product...even if it has nothing to do with any of those videos.

Make Like a Tree and Leaf
Flowers and trees put off thousands and thousands of seeds each season. If given the right soil [market], effective sun [buzz], and enough water [momentum], the seed [product] will take root and grow into a new flower or tree [brand.]

That is the goal of every person who holds a position involving marketing. It should be an author's goal as well.

Question: Think of your life, your product, your talents, your hobbies, your dreams, etc. What figures would you identify with? What celebrity figures does your target audience follow? How can you direct attention to that figure as well as to your product?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Voir Dire the Author

Long, long ago, in a world not so different from our own, a blond high school student learned the inner workings of the court room through the great program of High School Mock Trial.

Said blond high school student and her team made it to the state championship. Though they lost, the blond received the award for best witness.

And while all of that brings back fun memories, one other lesson really took root: Voir Dire.

The Courtroom Voir Dire
According to my sister-in-law (an Assistant District Attorney, and yes her badge is very very nifty), voir dire means picking "apart a proposed expert by asking them questions to prove they are experts."

So this process is how a courtroom determines a potential witness' expertise...or destroys his/her credibility.

My brother, also an attorney, broke it down more for me (have you ever tried decoding legalese?), rather than me finding a canned answer on legal.com.

The goal of a witness in any trial is to tell what he/she knows.

An expert witness, however, must base his/her testimony on
1) sufficient facts/data that is
2) based on reliable principles/methods and
3) applies the principles/methods to the facts of the case.

Also, an expert witness must have sufficient knowledge, experience, skill, training or education.

Code for: *something that makes them credible*

The Everyday Voir Dire
Although you don't realize it, we conduct this same process every day in our professional AND personal lives.

When a police officer pulls you over, he/she doesn't take your word for who you are; you have to present your credentials (aka, drivers license and insurance).

If a police officer comes to your door, you don't let him/her in until you've seen the badge.

When you make a doctor appt/visit, you don't accept that he's a doctor just because he wears a white jacket. You look for the licensing information and education info hung on the walls. You ask around for recommendations before making the appt.

Our whole world revolves around Voir Dire. We are just too cynical to take people at face value anymore.

The Author Voir Dire
Guess what? Authors undergo the same process when readers are faced with the decision of reading/buying a book.

Readers pick up a book usually because it's been recommended to them.

BUT if they don't know about the author--or don't know about the book itself, which is the position most unknown authors' titles are in--they want to make sure their money is well-spent and that the time they invest in reading will be productive.

Author Voir Dire: Question #1
The big question an author must answer before expecting a reader to pick up his/her book is this: 

Why should you [reader] read my book?

It's always revealing when you ask an author this outright. Most of the time, the author stutters and stammers a response.

Sometimes they get huffy that you've even asked.

But this is the easy part! An author evidently wrote a book for a reason. Well, there's a natural compliment to that motivation, which is the reason that people should read the book.

All authors must be prepared for that question, as it's the first step in the Voir Dire process. 

Author Voir Dire: Question #2 
Why does your [author] opinion/voice matter?

This question is one both non-fiction and fiction writers must answer.

What benefits do your philosophy/story/presentation offer that similar products don't offer? What credentials do you offer as an author? What affirms your role as an expert, as someone to be listened to? 

Exhibit A
If you ever have the opportunity to chat with an expert in your field, do so. For me, that means chatting with successful professionals on the industry side, as well as with successful authors.

I once had the pleasure of attending a dinner with Pat Conroy. For those who don't know, he's the author of "The Great Santini", which was turned into a fabulous film, as well as many other titles.

"The Great Santini" is the story of a teenage male growing up as the son of an abusive military officer. It details his experiences as he transitions into manhood.

The majority of the dinner was spent chatting about his works. His speech that followed established his credibility on the subject matter.

He doesn't have a degree in psychology, but that doesn't mean he is not an expert on military life, education, and the effects of an abusive homelife.

He established details of his own childhood as the son of a military officer, and he vividly explained the treatment he had endured. He told stories of how his family responded to his portrayals of his family in various books (most notably THE GREAT SANTINI and MY LOSING SEASON), and even relayed his siblings' responses that indicate his portrayal of his father was more gracious than the man was in real life.

Why do people listen to Pat Conroy? After all, many of his fellow Citadel graduates disapprove of his writings concerning the school and military life.

But he has established that his view of these topics was won with blood, sweat, and tears. While it might not be endorsed by experts in those respective industries, the book resounds with the thousands who have similar experiences. [visit Pat's site at http://www.patconroy.com/]  

Exhibit B
Let's look at another example: the Oprah/James Frey controversy. (if you aren't sure to what I'm referring, click here. No one has ever questioned the skill of his writing.

Voir Dire. His "experiences" were not real, and therefore he effectively hung himself by claiming a level of expertise he could never reach. 

My Witness Testimony
As a professional in the publishing field, as well as a young professional deeply entrenched in local community, social, and political organizations, I interact with experts every day. Some of these are authors. Some aren't. Some are authors, but aren't experts.

My experience and knowledge of the industry, professional establishment, marketing protocols, and etiquette are my CV for being an expert.

As an expert, here is my testimony in this court case: I firmly believe that the reason authors become successful is due to the establishment of their expertise. In fact, to my knowledge there has never been a successful author who didn't first establish his/her credibility as an expert.

Here are some valid ways that new, unknown authors can establish their credibility. Remember: writing a book doesn't make you an expert. You write the book because you ARE the expert.

1) Adjust your mindset: many authors come to me expecting me to make them an expert. I will gladly share and promote your expertise, but you have to think you are an expert before I market you as one. I am not about to set up events and publicize for an "expert" whose actions and attitude aren't of the right caliber. As an expert, this should shine through everything you do:
                -how you dress (be professional!)
                -how you talk (take some public speaking courses, or do research online. Practice the art of conversation with family and friends, and try making a video of yourself conducting a reading or giving a lecture, then use it for personal critique. Doing this periodically is a great way to grow as a public speaker)
                -how you write (use spell check. If you have trouble with grammar, find a personal friend/family member to review your emails, letters, etc. before you hit send or stick it in the mail. If someone reads an email/letter from you that is full of errors, they will immediately discredit you as an author. Think of it as the author equivalent to the airbrushing done on cover magazine images. The final product is what matters.)
                -what you say (be sure that any claims you make are well supported with research and/or facts)
                -how you present yourself---aka, your demeanor (getting upset and being rude to a store clerk or interviewer reflects poorly on you and your book. Don't forget that many times one's impression of your book is tied to their impression of you!)

2) Freelance work: authors and yet unpublished writers (who I meet outside of the office) ask me every day what else they can be doing to market their book. If you bring me an author who is pursuing freelance work in credible outlets (that is, not just on their own blog, but in newspapers, magazines, journals, newsletters, corporate publications, etc.---anything that requires review and acceptance by an editor/manager), I can close more events and book selling opportunities. Beefing up one's curriculum vitae with a "press log" as I like to call it (that is, any writings by the author that has been published in a third-party media outlet) is invaluable.

3) Website: when you want to know about someone, you google them, right? Well, if you don't have a web page, how can they find out more about you? I suggest you visit the websites of your favorite authors. See what options they have, what supplements they offer to their books (free downloads, etc.). Use this as a portal through which you can continue contact with your readers. 

My Closing Statement
Regardless of what your long-term goals are, I encourage you embrace your credibility and establish your authority as an expert. That not only will help you find success, but it gives meaning to your projects. And that is ultimately how you make an impact on a reader's heart. 

My Challenge to You: Voir Dire yourself. Identify the weak spots in your CV, your credibility, your demeanor, your presentation, etc. I'd love to hear from you on what you discover about yourself!  

Friday, May 7, 2010

In Honor of David K. Nelson

I was about to write my post today when I received a call informing me that author David K. Nelson unexpectedly passed away this past week.

I've worked with David for about 7 months, and he was a sweetheart of a man. He was so excited about his book, TRUCKING WITH NOAH.

To say I'm shocked is an understatement.

So I'm dedicating this week's post to this sweet sweet man and his family. We will miss you, David. Your warmth, your enthusiasm, and your dreams were such a contribution--not only to my life and the Tate Publishing family, but also to the world.

David's Facebook Page

David's Facebook Page for Trucking with Noah