Wednesday

Publicist Brian Feinblum Explains The ARC Process

Julia's Child is 61 days from publication. (But who's counting?) I've come to the conclusion that this is the most confusing part of the publicity process for authors, because things are starting to happen, but the author may not always be able to see or understand them. Independent publicist Brian Feinblum of Planned Television Arts in New York stops by Blurb is a Verb to help us sort out just what happens during this part of the process.

Brian Feinblum: When you are 90-100 days away from publication you send out advance review copies (called ARCs or galleys) to dozens of key book reviewers at targeted magazines, book trades (such as Publishers Weekly or Library Journal) and daily newspapers, assuming you are seeking reviews for your book.  you will already have created your press kit materials, your web site, and your pitch letters.

Sarah: But… wait! ARCs are scarce, and I thought newspapers didn’t need quite as much time.

Brian Feinblum: Here’s the key with print media: there are actually two types of outreach to be done. To get book reviews, authors must send their advance review copy (not the finished book) at least three months before publication, whether it is mags, newspapers or publishing trades.  To garner non-book review coverage, such as an interview with a features editor, authors should begin to contact print media beginning 30-40 days prior to the book’s publication, to discern interest in receiving a copy of the finished book. You can also contact newspapers, newswires and niche publications within the first few months of the book’s publication.

Sarah: Okay, that’s very helpful. What comes next?

Brian Feinblum: When you are 60 days away you are looking to build relationships and connections that you hope to exploit once the book is out. For instance, you should research bloggers that you hope to query about reviewing your book. You should put media lists together and begin contacting the news media, such as radio shows, seeking to schedule interviews for the first month of publication.

On the social media front, you should blog more often, tweet more often, and seek out connections on Facebook or Google + or Linked In. you should work on your book trailer or video for You Tube – but only if it’s exceptionally good or catchy. You should look to guest-blog at other people’s sites.

If you are in need of a PR firm, you should make a decision prior to launching your book, so you can  begin to strategize and plan ahead.

Sarah: Thank you, Brian!

Brian Feinblum has been in publishing and PR for twenty years. He is Chief Marketing Officer at Planned Television Arts. You can follow him @theprexpert and find him on his blog.         

Friday

Review: The Frugal Book Promoter

I knew I was in strong hands even before I'd opened the mailer containing The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Affixed to the mailing envelope was a very large address label which contained tiny thumbnail images of several of Howard-Johnson's books. As the clever label showcase suggests, The Frugal Book Promoter's author is very thorough.

Weighing in at 416 pages, the book is meant to be a broad survey of twenty-first century book promotion opportunities, covering both fiction and non-fiction. The ideal reader is a motivated author who has already learned a bit about the subject, who could yet benefit from a good primer. For example, if you've read enough to know that you may need a "media release" and "media kit," this is the book which will tell you precisely how--and why--to write one. The tone of the book is that of a knowledgeable aunt who has been around the block frequently enough to have thought the journey through. Dozens of promotion ideas covered: retail opportunities, conferences, media interviews, awards.

The first part of The Frugal Book Promoter helps an author frame her thinking around what book promotion can and cannot accomplish. I particularly enjoyed the short chapter about whether or not to hire a publicist, and also the chapter on being interviewed, and how to be a good radio/TV guest. Because the book tackles so many subjects at once, however, every chapter is short. This book is the #101 survey course, and I sometimes found myself wanting to know more advanced details before I was swept on to the next topic.

If you'd like to peruse the universe of book promotion ideas, this book is for you.

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Frugal Book Promoter when I expressed the desire to review it. You can find more about Ms. Howard-Johnson at www.howtodoitfrugally.com. The book is $17.95 in paperback on Amazon or $9.95 as an e-book.

Tuesday

In Which I Learn the Importance of Catalog Copy

I'll admit it. I was a little bit skeptical when my publisher put "Two Page Catalog Spread!" on my publicity and marketing plan. That line looked like filler to me, the way I pad my own "to do" lists with things I can easily cross off. (1. Make "to do" list. Check!)

Then I volunteered to run the book stall at an upcoming elementary school fair. Let me tell you, I have brand new respect for catalog copy, book cover art, and the people who are able to look at these mere crumbs of information and make an informed decision. I spent many hours of my week staring at a publisher's catalog, trying to guess which unfamiliar books my kids' schoolmates' parents would want to buy. I can only hope I made good choices.

And OH MY GOD every aphorism you've ever been told about how your book will be perceived by others is true. Here's what I (think I) learned:

  • Catalog Copy Counts. It's a pity that when it finally comes time for an author to review her catalog copy, she's read her own book so many times that she can no longer objectively tell you what the book is about. (Or is that just me?) Because it really is true that your bookseller may give herself 8 seconds to determine whether or not your book will be interesting to her customers. So make sure your catalog copy does not start like this: "TITLE is a heartwarming tale of friendship, change, and personal growth." A description which tells me how the book is supposed to make me feel, without telling me what the book is about, is a waste. I got a quick case of eye glaze in the face of these oh-so-general descriptors. Lead with the premise, and do it quick. Once I feel "grounded" in your story, I'll be more open to hearing about how beautiful the writing is, or how touching I'll find the outcome.
  • They Might Have to Judge a Book By Its Cover. In my ordering this week, I found myself heavily biased by covers. If they looked the least bit cartoonish or clunky or homemade, my eye jumped to one of the book's neighbors instead. If that sounds harsh, remember how little information a bookseller has when ordering your book. Many authors don't have a lot of pull when it comes to cover selection, and publishers are pretty darn good at getting it right. But if you ever have the nagging feeling that the tone of your cover does not match the tone of your book, speak up. 
  • More is More. That two page spread I discounted? It's a dream come true. The publisher does it to make sure booksellers see that "hey, this book is new!" But the effect is substantial. Catalogs are, by their very definition, crammed with books. Extra real estate--whether it be a quarter page instead of a tiny column, or two pages instead of one, only increases the odds that the glazed eyeballs responsible for reading the catalog will get an extra nanosecond to focus on your book.  During my week of catalog shopping, every new book at the front of the booklet got double and triple looks from me, simply because there was more material there to look see--a longer description, an excerpt, an author bio.
Studying catalogs to make book buying decisions was harder than I thought it would be, but also a heck of a lot of fun. I could get used to this.

Sunday

Swimming Backwards: Author Cori Howard's Peculiar Publication Journey


Cori Howard’s book, Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, began its life at a traditional publisher, with an editor and a publicist. Just like you read about. But a funny thing happened on the way to the bookseller that forced Cori to learn a lot about DIY publishing in a hurry.
—Sarah P.

Last spring, I got a phone call from my agent. It wasn't the kind of phone call writers get every day. In fact, what had happened to my book was so unusual, so unprecedented, that no one knew what to do. My publisher, H.B. Fenn and Company (formerly Key Porter) had gone bankrupt, leaving 125 employees out of work, the publishing world slack jawed and many, many writers wondering what that meant for them and their books. The bankruptcy was so unusual it even made news in the US, a country that doesn't normally pay attention to what’s happening in the world of Canadian publishing – despite the rise in numbers of Canadian authors winning the world's top literary awards. South of the border, publishers, agents and writers wondered if the H.B. Fenn bankruptcy was the first death-knell for an industry in massive transition. Turns out, it wasn't. Yet.

What it meant for a large number of writers though was stress. Some writers had their books taken over by other publishers. Some writers – who had yet to complete their manuscripts – lost the rights to publication entirely. My book, Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth about Motherhood – an anthology that was published in 2007 – became mine again. That's why my agent was calling. The rights to my book, she said, were reverting to me. What that really meant was: I was on my own. I had to buy back as many printed, paperback books as I could afford, pay for them to be shipped from a Toronto warehouse to Vancouver and figure out how to sell them on my own.

At some point, I was so exasperated and confused, I thought I would just let the book die and mourn its passing. But there was this part of me that believed books should last forever. That they go on to live in libraries and bookstores and now, online as e-books and I wanted for my baby the same future that others books would have. A bankruptcy shouldn't kill that dream, right?

So, I went online and researched and read and got more and more confused. How would I go from traditional publishing to self-publishing? I read the rules for posting a book as an E-book and decided it was all way too much. I hired iuniverse to do it for me. It was a compromise. It was expensive, and they are not book people. In fact, when I told their sales people the story, they were more confused than I was. They had never, once, turned a traditionally-published book into one that was self-published. I can't tell you how many times I had to tell them the whole story. "But ma'am," they would say, "you already have printed copies of the book?"

"Yes, I do," I would respond, patiently and slightly irritated. "I have 700 copies in my basement. Would you like one?"

But – the silver lining: Between Interruptions is now finally available as an E-book. It's cheap. It's accessible. And the big challenge now is accepting that I am my own publicity department, whether I like it or not. I am not out to make a million in royalties. I am out to ensure my baby survives, that the heartfelt, poignant stories of transformation, of becoming mothers, aren't lost. The essays in that book have meant a lot to many readers over the years. I know because since it was published, I’ve received thousands of emails and those emails encouraged me to start The Momoir Project, where I teach other moms how to write their own stories and publish them, just like the stories in the anthology.

Sarah: So… how will those 700 copies go out and greet the world?

I have a growing list of writing students who are also mothers through my online education website, The Momoir Project. They are my best buyers and they also spread the word. I sell the book through The Momoir Project's website because I use the anthology as part of the curriculum for my Writing for Moms online classes. But that's not enough. I do as much guest blogging as I can. I am going to sign up for a book blog tour to promote the book. And I'm hoping to convince some big mom bloggers to write about the book or excerpt it - there are some provocative stories - to bring it to more people's attention.

Of course, I'm eager to see how this self-publishing experiment turns out. I’m looking at e-book blog tours and spending too many hours each day learning about an industry that hasn’t even really formed yet. We’re at a new frontier and like any new frontier – it’s both exciting and nerve-wracking.

Sarah: When the book was published originally, were there actions that the publisher's publicist did for you which you now have to do yourself? Does it feel different, when talking about your book to readers, to not have that publisher standing between you and the public?

When the book was originally published, the publisher's publicist helped get the book mentioned and reviewed in tons of Canadian publications and websites.They did nothing to promote the book in the US, where it counts. I dropped the ball myself, believing that eventually they would do something but that never happened. Even when I had a publisher, most of the publicity efforts were mine. That's always the way it's been in the Canadian industry - unless you are Margaret Atwood. So really, on the publicity front, it's not much different. It's just so lonely and overwhelming when you know you're doing it all by yourself, and when the online publishing world is changing so fast and there are always new blogs and new places to get your books reviewed. It's hard to keep up when you have other work to do. This could easily be a full time job. It’s both exciting and nerve-wracking.

Wish me luck!

Sarah: I hear you about the full time job, and I wish you the best of luck!

Cori Howard can be found at The Momoir Project and @writingmomoirs.

Tuesday

Class of 2K12: The Best "Launch Buddy" Idea Ever

I've heard how useful it is to have launch buddiesother authors in your genre with similar publication dates. Not only is it nice to have a little support, it gives an author someone other than herself to celebrate and tweet about.

I've never seen the concept done quite so well as this: a few weeks ago someone gave me a totebag with the titles of more than a dozen soon-to-be-published YA and MG books, and I was introduced to the Class of 2K12. Author Caroline Starr Rose, whose novel May B. debuts this January, agreed to tell Blurb is a Verb all about the Class of 2K12 concept. Thank you, Caroline!





By Caroline Starr Rose

2k12 is a group of twenty middle grade and young adult novelists working in concert to promote our books and reading. The Classes began in 2007, the brainchild of author Greg Fishbone, who figured a group of writers could spread the word about their books more effectively than the traditional route of going it alone.

All sorts of authors have been involved over the years. Here’s a glimpse of a few you might know:

Newbery winner Rebecca Stead (2007)

New York Times best-selling author Jay Asher (2007)

William C. Morris Award winner for a Young Adult Debut Elizabeth C. Bunce (2008)

Cbyils YA Fiction winner and Silver Award Parents’ Choice winner Swati Avasthi (2010)


How does membership work?

In order to be considered for the Classes, books must be an authors’ middle grade or young adult debut, and book publishers must be listed in The Children’s Writers’ and Illustrators’ Market Guide (CWIM). Members pay $275 to join and commit to group promotional work that ranges from guest posts for blogs, website design, swag creation and distribution, group mailings, reaching out to local booksellers, librarians, and teachers (the BLTs), and all around general talking up of each others’ books.

While most authors sign up initially for the promotional push, in many respects its importance becomes secondary. The relationships formed trump everything else. Having a group of like-minded friends navigating the road to publication together is tremendously helpful. This is the place we turn when worried about edits, excited about covers, unsure about option novels, or upset with reviews.

Our titles this year span a variety of genres — contemporary, historical, paranormal, verse, action and adventure, and steampunk — and we’ve got all sorts of surprises in store:

1           book basket giveaways to start and end our debut year
2           monthly giveaways of two 2k12 titles
3           giving back events — open to newsletter readers only — for school libraries and public libraries
4           book drop

Check out our predecessors’ sites,

and be sure to visit our links to find out about 2k12 books, authors, and events:

our newsletter (Click to sign up -- simply write ADD ME in the comment line)