Pub Rants

Category: promotion

Knowledge Dissemination As A Tool of Promotion–Guest Blogger Sherry Thomas

STATUS: Meetings and more meetings. Chut really enjoyed Riverside Park this evening.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU’RE ON THE ONLY WOMAN by David Pack

Bad Agent. I was supposed to post this entry on Wednesday which was Sherry’s actual release day for NOT QUITE A HUSBAND. Bad Agent.

“Sherry Thomas is the most powerfully original historical romance author writing today.”
—Lisa Kleypas, New York Times bestselling author

But today’s entry is so worth waiting for. Not to mention, I get to share Sherry’s hilarious book trailer. I completely share Sherry’s sense of humor so I’m going to apologize beforehand if this doesn’t tickle your funny bone. I spit coffee when I watched it for the first time. Understated to say the least…

Now, without further ado, named one of PW’s top five authors of 2008, Sherry Thomas. Happy Release Day!

When it comes to promotion, Agent Kristin is my model. Make no mistake, this blog is a promotion tool, for her agency and for her clients. But the lovely thing about this blog is that it is not just a promotion tool, it is also a knowledge dissemination tool. When you read this blog, you get the insider’s look, you get to see publishing as it happens.

I wanted to do that. But compared to Kristin, I had a significant drawback. I didn’t have any specific useful knowledge. What to do? Well, knowledge can be acquired. But what knowledge to acquire? I made a decision: I would learn about those things that interest me as an author and hope that what interest me would also interest a good number of other people.

For example, I was curious as to how genre books, particularly romance, get into public libraries–because I’m a devoted patron of my local public library and because if my books didn’t make it to the library branch right next to my house, I wanted to know why! I pitched it as an article idea to the editor of Romance Writers Report (RWR), Romance Writers of America’s monthly newsletter. She said go ahead, and I did.

I contacted blogger Super Librarian (http://super_librarian.blogspot.com), an online reviewer who is, in non-virtual life, the adult fiction buyer for the Orange County Public Library. I contacted the fiction selector for my local public library system. I contacted John Charles, reference librarian and fiction selector at Scottsdale Public Library who also conducts romance reader advisory workshops at state and national library association conferences. I read the material Mr. Charles kindly sent me. I did my homework.

The result? The lead article in the August 2008 issue of the RWR—and a pretty good one if I do say so myself. Plus, now I know pretty well the whole process on how books get into libraries.

My next area of significant interest is foreign rights sales. Kristin and Whitney, her foreign rights sub-agents, do a bang-on job of it. But how exactly does a sale happen? Well, I know how it happened for me in one instance. Kris Alice Hohls, the publisher of LoveLetter, a German monthly devoted to romance novels, had read an ARC of my debut novel and loved it. She spread that love to the editor at CORA Verlag, where my book was on submission, and voila, the rest was much happy dancing on the way to the bank.

So, who is Kris Alice Hohls? How did LoveLetter come about? How does a young woman decide one day to create a magazine for an underserved market? There is nothing to do but interview her.

The interview would appear in the June 2009 issue of the RWR. A couple of weeks ago, Kris Alice Hohls emailed me and asked if I would be interested in doing a panel at next year’s RWA National with her, my German editor, and Agent Kristin, to discuss how foreign rights sales really go down.

Oh, would I? You bet. Because I have been hoping to get hold of a foreign editor for a long time–along with Whitney–so I could write a proper nuts-and-bolts article on the art and science of foreign rights sales. That article would appear in the RWR when my next book comes out.

Why the RWR always, you ask? Well, because the RWR goes out to 10,000 subscribers and I get a half-page ad space in exchange for giving them an article they can use. Not to mention the rights to the articles remain with me. For example, on May 19 the article on how romances get into libraries is getting a reprinting at DearAuthor.com, one of the premier romance blogs on the net.

And when I have a book out next time, that nuts-and-bolts article on foreign rights sales just might make an appearance on this blog. Further promotion through knowledge dissemination. Maybe I’ll learn to live with promotion after all.

Holy Display Batman!

STATUS: Did some meetings today but don’t have the brain power to write up for tonight’s blog. Stay tuned tomorrow though. I’m going to shoot for the morning.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? Nothing at the moment.

20 days and counting down to the release of DON’T JUDGE A GIRL BY HER COVER. Would you say this bookstore is enthusiastic?

All I can say is that I wish every store in America would follow this example! Huge grin here.

Get Vamped! Get A Street Team!

STATUS: TGIF! It’s supposed to be a lousy weekend in Denver. Rain both days. Guess who will probably get a lot of reading done?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART by Bonnie Tyler

Happy Release Day Lucienne!

I imagine that most writers believe that because Lucienne is also an agent, she probably got special treatment when she went out on submission. But actually, that’s not true. If the editors knew who she was, then I’m sure they kept that in mind while reading but most of the editors were in the children’s realm—a market Lucienne doesn’t do a whole lot of repping in. So her being an agent didn’t necessarily carry extra weight.

And even with that, the work had to live up to its promise, and the editors had to love it as a novel to take it on.

In looking back on my submission notes, we had quite a few editors who wanted the angsty vampire romance—not something fun, campy, and totally different than anything out there already.

All the editors loved Lucienne’s voice. One editor felt it was similar to something she already had on her list but she went back and forth on it as she really loved that voice. Another editor thought they had too many vampire books on their list (can’t argue with that!).

Now it’s the lead title for Flux’s spring list. It’s debuting today. It’s gotten a good Kirkus review. Excellent sell in. It’s being featured as part of Barnes & Noble’s book club.

And Lucienne has a great promo tip for you. I’d like to welcome guest blogger and fellow agent, Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency.

I can haz minions?


I don’t know, something about starting my own street team has me talking in LOLcat and wanting to laugh maniacally, like a cartoon villain. I’ve been feverishly working on my evil villain laugh, actually. Taking a page from
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog.

But I’m not here today to talk to you about my minions. Or, not exactly. I’m here to talk about promotion. You know how they always say that two heads are better than one? Well, twenty is ten times better than two. And one hundred…well, you get the point. It’s a truism in the publishing field that word of mouth is the biggest seller of books. Ads and reviews are all well and good, but nothing works as well as recommendations from friends. Hence the idea of the street team… providing advance copies of your book (and maybe other freebies like t-shirts, bookmarks, mugs, whathaveyou) to a group representing your target audience with the understanding that if they like your work they’ll spread the word, go forth and kvell—blog, put up reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders.com, Twitter, go tell it on the mountain. I don’t know if Mari Mancusi was the first author to come up with the idea, but I do know that I first heard of it through an article she’d written. Brilliant! I thought. I let my young adult authors know about it, because it seemed especially suited to the young adult field. I filed it away in my own mind.

You see, at the time, Gina, my heroine from Vamped, was not even a twinkle in my eye. In fact, when she first started talking in my head (yes, that’s how it happens), she was a snarky fashionista who, after clawing her own way out of the grave, discovers that true horror is a lack of reflection. No way to do her hair and make-up; eternity without tanning options. She decides that her first order of business is to turn her own stylist. The story didn’t have an actual plot. It was more of a vignette, really, a slice of unlife. I thought I’d have done with her and be able to walk away. But as it turned out, Gina was more resourceful and stronger than I knew. A short story wasn’t enough for her (or my readers, who wanted more). Oh, no, she had to have a novel. Then a series. Next thing you know, she’ll be taking over the silver screen (oh please, please, please).

Anyway, that part of me that is Gina – because, let’s face it, there’s a little of us in all of our characters – is crowing “I can haz minions!” My street team is fabulous. I put out a call on my blog for teens and twenty-somethings, directed them toward the section on my website where there’s an excerpt posted to see if they thought they’d like it, and recruited. The first ten to respond would got T-shirts and a signed copy of Vamped, the next twenty-five were offered signed bookplates. I got a great response. I’m actually pretty humbled by the amazing energy, enthusiasm and creativity of my team. They’re heads and shoulders above Victor Frankenstein’s iconic Igor. They’re people that make me go “wow” and “I’m not worthy” on a regular basis. I actually want to succeed as much for them—so they can brag about how they were part of it all, that they were there before I was someone—as for myself.

In short, having a street team can be incredibly rewarding, hopefully for all parties. It’s certainly the most fun I’ve had promoting my book. It makes me feel like I’m not in this alone and gives me the comfort that there are folks other than me enthusiastic about my new release. Writing is too often a lonely endeavor.

Power Of Twitter

STATUS: I’ve got under 200 emails in my inbox! Yes, this is worth celebrating. I haven’t seen a number this low in weeks.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CHIQUITA by ABBA

Talk about eye-popping. Lisa Shearin just forwarded an email that Felicia Day had sent her regarding Felicia’s twittering yesterday of THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS.

According to Felicia, over 10,000 people clicked on her twitter link to the Amazon.com page for DEMONS.

Of course she can’t track who then purchased but if even just 1% did an actual buy, that would be a solid 100 copies in one day.

I’m thinking all my clients need a celebrity fan! Hello.

But seriously, look at the mechanisms Lisa put in place that allowed people to reach out to her. She knew about Felicia’s blog via Google Alerts and then she followed up on it. If you’ve got a book being published this year, make sure your website is up and ready by the time galleys go out. Make sure there is a way for fans to contact you. If you’re doing a social networking site, make sure that’s ready. Be sure to track your reviews as you never know who might be talking about you! Sure it can be a lot of work tracking this stuff but it just might pay off in nice dividends!

Tweet This! Guest Blog Lisa Shearin

STATUS: Ah, disaster day. I spent about four hours straight on the phone this morning. Didn’t even get a chance to glance at my notes for more news of London but I will. Stay tuned.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SHE IS by The Fray

Happy Release day Lisa! A series that started quite humbly and is now edging close to 100,000 copies in print. And they said a fantasy series featuring an elf wouldn’t fly. Harrumph!

All hail the promo power of Twitter by Lisa Shearin

Twitter is addictive. It’s all too easy for me to be Tweeting when I should be writing. However, Twitter can also be an incredibly effective way to reach thousands of potential readers. Now, I personally can’t reach that many people with Twitter (as of last night, I only had 216 followers, but I’m proud of each and every one of them). However, I have a fan who has over 460,000 followers on Twitter—actress Felicia Day.

You may know Felicia from Joss Whedon’s Internet musical hit Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog, or from the web series The Guild, which she created, writes and stars in. Or from TV shows such as House, Strong Medicine, and Monk. She had a recurring role as “Vi” in the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and can be soon seen in Dollhouse, My Boys and in a four-episode arc on the new ABC Family sitcom Roommates—and more.

Felicia’s a busy lady. She’s also a voracious reader who loves fantasy. And fortunately for me, she’s crazy about my Raine Benares fantasy adventure series. “This series is like chocolate to me,” Felicia wrote in one blog review of my books. “I just can’t get enough of it. This is a girl-power fantasy with fighting and magic and sexy hunk elves and goblins galore.”

I met Felicia through her blog. Like many authors, I have Google Alerts set up for my books. So when Felicia reviewed my first book (MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND) Google let me know. I popped over to Felicia’s site and read the review. She raved about the book, but . . . uh, not so much about the cover. I have to tell you, it was the most hilarious take on my cover that I’d ever read. (Felicia’s an incredibly gifted comedic writer.) I couldn’t resist it; I just had to jump in and post a comment. Felicia and I have been email buddies ever since. I’ve sent her signed copies of my books, and she sent me a fabulous signed photo of her that’s on my office wall, plus she’s always spreading the word about my books.

With today’s release of my third Raine Benares adventure, THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS, Felicia graciously offered to post a review on her blog. I asked if she would tout my book on Twitter as well (http://twitter.com/feliciaday) and she said she’d be glad to. Felicia’s website and blog get an insane number of hits every day. And with over 460,000 people following her every Tweet . . . well, I can’t wait to see what happens. : )

I know what will happen! They’ll find Raine just as irresistible (I hope!)

Do You Indiebound?

STATUS: Going to bed early. I’ve got to kick this cold.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I”LL BE AROUND by Joan Osborne

Because writers are quite comfortable with online book sites such as Amazon, often times it doesn’t occur to them to include independent bookstores in the links they provide on their Buy My Book website page.

If you’ve got a book about to be published and a website to promote said book and you as the author, the first think your publicist is going to ask you to do is to link fair on your author website. Include Amazon, BN, Borders but don’t forget the Indies.

Not sure how? Click here.

Haven’t got an indie link? Might be time to update the old website.

Haven’t ever heard of Indiebound (formerly Booksense)? Can’t hurt to learn a little more.

When You Really Mean That The Work Is Not Right For You

STATUS: Still basking in the glow of yesterday’s news. Of course I’m now all anxious. We’ll we stay on the list? We’ll we move up? What’s going to happen? Luckily Jamie is very mellow guy. Takes it all in stride and lets me do all the worrying for him.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HONKY CAT by Elton John

I had a funny thing happen to me not so very long ago. An editor, whom I know well, sent me a finished copy of a soon-to-be-released novel that was on her list that she was obviously very excited about.

When editors do that, they are hoping that the agent or person who the novel is being sent to will talk about it. We call that a big mouth list.

So I cracked open the spine to give it a look as I did not recognize the title. Then I started reading and I recognized it immediately. I had seen the novel in manuscript form and had passed on it. I remembered it well too because the concept was great and I recalled reading the sample pages more than once, having Sara reread them again, and having both of us come to the conclusion that we just didn’t like it.

So we passed with regret.

So now I’m reading the finished novel in all its glory and I can’t help wondering if the editor worked a lot with the author—whether I would like it now. So I read a good 60 pages of it.

I still didn’t like it; I’d still pass on it.

I was so not the right agent for that book even though the book is doing well. (I think it even hit the NYT list briefly). No regrets.

So sometimes when we agents say that a project isn’t right for us, we really mean it. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t be right for somebody else. In this case, I’m sure the agent who took it on is delighted to have done so and ecstatic at the book’s performance.

Me—I wouldn’t have read past page 60.

On Tour

STATUS: Late night for me! Just got back from having dinner with Jamie Ford and his wife. Their plane was a little delayed getting in to Denver. Everything is all set for the event and signing tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WATERMARK by Enya

Considering it’s so late and I’m not sure I’m capable of writing a coherent blog entry (and no, I didn’t have that much wine!), I figured I’d pop you over to Jamie’s blog where he has been talking about being on book tour—13 cities in five weeks.

His blog almost puts you there—except that you don’t have to wait in line or have odd moments with security.

My favorite shot is the Costco warehouse in Seattle. Where’s a soundtrack when you need it?

When An Imprint Goes Bye-Bye

STATUS: For this week, I’ve been ignoring non-urgent emails to make sure I finished up some contract and royalty issues. Today I dug into the 225 that were awaiting my aattention. I’m down to 175. Guess I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I’VE GOT YOU UNDER BY SKIN by Dinah Washington

Yesterday I mentioned that Bowen Press was closed down but not what happens to all the books that were that list. Basically, the answer is not much—in the literal sense and in an ironic way!

Literal Way
Books are sold to a publisher. Imprint might be listed in the contract but publisher still reserves the right to change how a book is published so if the imprint goes bye-bye, the publisher still owns the right to publish the book. In this case, any book sold to Bowen Press is still a book sold to HarperCollins and nothing much is really happening. The books will still be published by HC.

But in a whole other way, everything is happening. Books on this list get moved to other existing imprints. The books get assigned to other editors. The books could be cancelled (although I haven’t heard any stories in this case—yet). And this leads me to the irony part.

In the Ironic Way
Nothing much will be happening for these orphaned books because when the agent originally sold the project, one of the pros in choosing Bowen was to have the title on the launch list. There are lots of big pushes for a launch. It can be a huge benefit.

Well, that just went away.

Instead of the excited publisher, Brenda, who bought the book, we now have an editor who just got assigned a title or titles to his/her already crowded list. Hum… how much attention will that title get? [note: agents can be instrumental in getting a book assigned to a specific editor but this isn’t always possible.]

There was probably a marketing person and publicist assigned to this imprint. Now it goes into the general HC pool.

Now if one of the titles was planned to be big, chances are good the publisher will still do the big push as the momentum started months ago for titles about to be released and stuff is already in play. Those titles will more than likely be fine.

For the other titles? They might be missing out on some love which is where the agent steps in and starts raising some ruckus to find out what will be done for their orphaned project. But we aren’t miracle workers, we can raise a fuss but that doesn’t mean the publisher will respond.

Squeaky wheel gets the grease though. If we are noisy enough, they might step up and do some stuff just to shut us up.

This is also where I, as an agent, would encourage an author to step up on the promo plan. The author should have been working on this before this moment in time so if they have, this is a good opportunity to make sure the new publicist etc. has the promo plan in hand that the author can discuss with him/her and get some positive attention. [Publicists are more inclined to help those who are willing to help themselves.]

And if they haven’t, guess what the author needs to be doing pronto!

Let’s Talk Co-Op

STATUS: I’m blogging before 7 p.m. Makes me feel like I’m ahead of the game today!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU’VE MADE ME SO VERY HAPPY by Blood, Sweat, & Tears

I probably shouldn’t make an assumption as I start this blog entry that readers know what Co-Op means. Given that, I’ll start with what it means in publishing. When we say co-op, we are using this as a short-hand term for referring to a process of publishers paying booksellers for the privilege of having certain titles prominently displayed on front tables, endcaps, or shelves when a book is initially released.

Otherwise, the book is unpacked and placed on the regular shelf—and if you’re really lucky, maybe placed there face out. Usually it’s just the spine that is showing.

Now as you can imagine co-op placement doesn’t occur for every title; it can’t. Too many books are published on any given day which means booksellers can only accept X number of titles for co-op placement depending on the size of the store. And it goes without saying that publishers only have so much money to pay for co-oping as well.

In general, publishers reserve co-op for their big authors and/or lead titles on any given launch list.

But even as I’m writing this and you are nodding your head, you are probably realizing that bestselling titles tend to be prominently displayed for months on end—even years sometimes. Surely the publisher hasn’t paid for the privilege for all that time?

And you would be right. There is an interesting balance dance between bookstores/sales outlets and publishers. Initially, if a title or author is new, a publisher has to pay to get that prime real estate. However, when a title/author has proving him/her/itself, then the balance tips in favor of the publisher as they then no longer have to pay for that prime location. It becomes in the seller’s best interest to have that title prominently displayed because it’s a money maker for them as buyers will be looking for that author or title. And hopefully they’ll buy other titles too on their way to the cash register.

And then there are programs such as Borders Original Voices. If a title gets picked for this program (and the Borders buyer does the picking—publishers cannot pay for this privilege), then a title or author is going to get the full support and backing of this outlet in all kinds of really positive ways—prime location just being one of them. Now publishers do send out hundreds of ARCs for a shot at the possibility but other than that, they have no say in what will be chosen.

It’s a wonderful thing to be picked for this as you can imagine.