2013 and 2014 GOLDEN HEART® Finalist

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Author/blogger Brenda Drake is running a clever and exciting challenge this month on her blog Brenda Drake Writes . The PITCH LIVE! video pitch contest/blogfest offers authors the chance to pitch their Adult, New Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade Fiction manuscripts to agents.

The idea is to talk about your book just as you would if you ran into an agent at a conference, except this time you get to record it, so you have as many chances as you need to get it just right and edit if necessary.

Check out Brenda's blog for tips on making your own video pitch and to sign up for PITCH LIVE! The deadline to register is October 15. Thanks for watching my pitch, and good luck on yours!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Moonlight Magnolias and Magic

There she is... the Maggie Medallion.

I'm still recovering from the weekend's GRW Moonlight and Magnolias conference in Atlanta, and no, I did not overindulge. It's more of a delirious-joy-hangover situation.

First of all, it was an amazing conference with around forty workshops so good I wished I could clone myself and attend two at once. In case you're wondering, Julia Quinn is adorable. Next, I don't think I've ever met a nicer, more welcoming group of women. I can report that Southern hospitality is alive and well in Georgia. I made many new writer friends and benefitted from the advice and help of several of the established authors in the group. And it keeps getting better...

I got a chance to pitch again. Several chances actually, and it went ever so much better than my first pitching experience a few months ago. For the gory details on that,  go here... if you dare.

This time I was more prepared and received three requests for my full manuscript. I was ready to call it the perfect weekend at that, but wait-- there's more.

I WON A MAGGIE!  My paranormal romance Hidden Deep placed first in the unpublished YA category. It was announced at the awards banquet Saturday night. I cringe a little bit when I think of my effusive response on stage after receiving my award and hope everyone understands that it was only because I WON A MAGGIE!

Mine was the last category to be announced, and I ran out the door almost immediately afterward to visit with my lifelong best friend, whom I rarely get to see, and who'd been patiently waiting in her car for me outside the conference center for an hour at that point. But I want to say again to everyone associated with putting on this wonderful conference: thank you for everything. I'll be back! And, did anyone happen to find a glass slipper?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Never Giving Up

photo by d.drenth

I recently attended the Ozarks Romance Writers 25th annual writing conference, and multi-published awesome author Rob Thurman was there, participating in an agent-author panel and leading critique groups.

She talked about her own road to publication, which I found really inspiring. Robyn had completed her first manuscript and knew she wanted a literary agent. So she sent her query letter to every agent in the book. Literally.

She queried hundreds of agents and then editors at all the publishing houses. Nobody was interested. I think most writers would quit after that many no’s. But Robyn didn’t quit. She just changed the name of her book, changed her own name so no one would realize she was re-sending the same manuscript. And she re-sent the same manuscript. To everyone. Every publisher, every agent. And one said yes.

Now she has a great relationship with her agent and is a best-selling author with three book series published and a new novel about to be released (I got the read the excerpt of All-Seeing Eye, and it’s great). That first well-traveled, much-rejected book? It became the first in a SEVEN part series. Robyn’s story gives me courage to believe in my book and never give up. Hope it does the same for you. Keep writing and good luck!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How Long Before the Gong?

I’ve been telling you about a lot of firsts lately: first pitch meeting, first critique group-- all part of my first writing conference-- the Ozarks Romance Writers. Toward the end of the day, they put on a Query Letter Gong show. What a great idea! I missed Chuck Woolery, with his cheesy grin and mini-fro, but it was loads of fun and extremely helpful.

Here’s how it worked: anonymous query letters were put up on a projector screen for all to see while a speaker read them aloud and the two agents and one editor in attendance listened and read with gongs at the ready. Actually, they were tambourines (gongs were hard to come by in the Springfield area) The idea is that the experts would hit the gong/tambourine at the point in the query where they would normally stop reading. They were pretty kind. They only gonged a couple of  the letters. They did talk about the shortcomings of ALL the letters and what could be done to improve them.

Did I submit my own query? Yes I did. Did they put it up on the screen first? Of course they did. Was my heart pounding out of my chest as it was being read? Why yes, it was.

They never did shake the tambourine at it, but the expert panelists did analyze my letter, and I took notes as fast as I could with that little heart problem. My sister attended the conference with me and she took notes too, just in case that heart-out-of-the-chest-thing impeded my note-taking ability. What they all seemed to agree on was this: it was a solid query letter, but too long. Which is great.

I knew I needed to cut something out of it, but I had no idea which part to cut. So here’s the awesome thing- the agents specifically pointed out the unnecessary paragraph-- for me and the rest of the conference to see. Yay! I think writing query letters is so hard, and this really helped me. One of the agents also suggested using more suspenseful language to clearly indicate the suspense in the novel. So... they mentioned what was good about it and pointed out what needed work. What more could I ask?

As painful as it is to write query letters, and as much as I wish I could skip that step on the road to publication, I can see why they’re an effective tool for agents; those little one-page letters really did give me a clear feeling about whether I’d like to read each book.

Thank you to the members of Ozarks Romance Writers for your warm welcome and a great conference. Thank you to everyone who talked to me there and shared their experiences and expertise. And special thanks to Cecily White, who chaired the conference and whose debut novel Angel Academy is coming next year from Entangled Publishing. Her generosity and hospitality blew me away, and I can NOT wait to buy and read her first published book! Thanks to you for reading about it. Next time I'll share an interesting story that best-selling author Rob Thurman told me about Never Giving Up.  Until then...  keep writing and good luck!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Conference Critique Groups- Must Do or Don't?

I talked Monday about my first pitch meetings last week at my first ever writing conference. It was a weekend of firsts-- I was also lucky to participate in a small group critique session with four other YA authors and multi-published awesome author Rob Thurman.

Each of us read aloud five pages of a manuscript we’d brought with us while the others followed along on (and marked up) their copies. Then Robyn gave us her take on the strong and weak points of the writing that she saw, and the others in the group weighed in. I basically kept my mouth shut because it was my first critique group, and I assumed I didn’t know what I was doing. I have to say everyone was pretty good- maybe that’s common at conferences. You only get people there who basically know what they’re doing? Not sure. First time.

Robyn is the kind of person who says exactly what she thinks-- not rudely, but honestly and without much sugar-coating. It was really interesting to listen to her critiques of the others. I agreed with almost every point she made (except for love triangles- she doesn’t like them- I do). I volunteered to go last (chicken) and it was a little bit nerve-wrecking, but I knew that it was for my own good. I was shocked to hear Robyn say afterward that she really liked my excerpt (loved it, actually) and had nothing negative to say except that the guy in the scene seemed so ideal that she couldn’t see why the main (female) character wasn’t jumping at the chance to be with him. Not bad. We were almost out of time, so maybe she would have been more critical with more time to elaborate (next time I’ll be braver and volunteer earlier. Or not.).

The others handed me their copies of my excerpt with their suggestions marked, and I had a chance to read them later. There were some really supportive comments and some suggested changes and word substitutions which I was thrilled to consider. I feel bad now that I didn’t really do the same on their excerpts. As the lame rookie in the group I really hesitated to tell anyone they should do anything differently. Next time I will, because I’ve learned that it really helps. If you’re like me, you look for mainly support from your closest family and friends, but from other writers, critiques are really valuable. Especially writers in your own genre. It’s that other set of informed eyes, catching things you’ve missed because you’re so close to the subject.

There was a lot to like about the Ozarks Romance Writers 25th annual conference. Some really good authors/speakers addressing different aspect of the craft and the business: Jennifer Brown, Leigh Michaels, Steven Law. The two agents in attendance, Cori Deyoe and Lucienne Diver spoke about the agent-author relationship and took questions from attendees. There was a nice lunch, awesome swag bags, and…. get ready for it… a Query Letter Gong Show. Ever wanted to know what will make an agent or editor stop reading your query letter? I’ll tell you about that next time. Until then, keep writing, and good luck!

Monday, July 2, 2012

First Writing Conference- Pitch Meetings

photo by tomi tapio

I attended my first Writers' conference this weekend in Springfield, Missouri, organized by the Ozarks Romance Authors. I might not have considered traveling from Rhode Island for the conference, but a member called to let me know I was a finalist in their writing contest in the YA division, and she invited me personally to attend. That meant a lot to me. My sister also lives in a nearby town, so I was in!

I remember a time not too long ago, when the whole idea of attending a writing conference terrified me. I knew they were a good idea for any writer serious about making it a career, and I certainly am, but I was worried that I'd be too lost-- wandering around not knowing what to do or say. I was especially afraid of pitching to agents.

Now I can say that I never have to do that for the first time ever again. Like most things we fear in life, it wasn't as bad as I expected. Well, I was pretty bad-- at least at the first pitch meeting. I was scheduled to meet with both agents who attended, thanks to an awesome new author friend, Cecily White, the conference chairperson.

I anchored the news on television for 12 years, so you might not think I'd be nervous speaking across a table in a small room to just one woman. I was. When I first started reporting on tv, I was so keyed-up I had to throw up before going on the air live. Every time. I once threw up in front of the governor of Mississippi one minute before a live interview. Breath mint anyone?

No, I didn't literally throw up everywhere during my first pitch meeting, but figuratively, I kind of did. I found myself talking on and on about things I hadn't even meant to mention and forgetting entirely about important things I should have said about my book. I've read in agent blogs that pitch meetings are not the end of the world-- a single one will not make or break your career as an author, and most agents end up requesting pages no matter how much you fall apart. But still, when you're talking about your own little creation, that you want so much to someday reach your target audience and perhaps even make money in the process, the nerves are there.

I lived through it, and she did indeed ask to see my first 30 pages, but I know I did a poor job of selling it to her, and I didn't perceive a lot of enthusiasm on her part. Thank goodness I had another pitch session an hour later. Even with just one under my belt, it was so much easier.  This time when I entered the room, the agent smiled at me, I smiled at her, and we proceeded to have a semi-normal conversation. I was able to talk about the most important parts of my book, my hook, what sets the story apart from everything else out there. She asked questions, nodded and smiled, laughed at the appropriate places. She asked questions for which I actually had good answers. When our time was up, she said  the book sounded really interesting and she'd love to see the first fifty pages and synopsis. I'll be sending that to her this week. I know it may not lead to an agent-client relationship with her-- she has to not only love my ideas, but also my writing, and she has to feel that mine is a book she can sell. But based on our meeting ( I really liked her personally) and what I know of her from the agent-author panel I watched later in the day, I think we'd work well together, and I feel hopeful.

It was a long day. A GOOD long day and there's so much more to talk about. In my next post, I'll tell you about the YA group critique session (my first of course) I took part in. It was led by an awesome multi-published author who says exactly what she thinks. In the meantime, keep writing- and good luck!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Conflicting Critiques

Photo by ndrwfgg

So, I’ve heard back from five of eight RWA writing contests that I've entered in the past few months. I’m a finalist in three of them!  It's exciting. Almost as exciting is getting back the judges' score sheets and critiques. Some of the comments were so good, they made me want to run to my laptop and write 23/7 (must leave an hour for sleeping and eating!)

But not all of them. There were also the “what’s not working for me” comments, and I take each and every one of them seriously. I’ve pulled out my MS and checked it against these remarks, looking for the truth in them. Could making this suggested word subsitution or shortening this segment make my book better?

I entered a lot of contests because I’d never done it before, and I wanted to give myself the best chance at being a finalist or placing in one. I'm thrilled with the results so far. But honestly, the more critique sheets I get back on what is generally the same material, the more confusing it is.

Judges all have their own opinions. Even in the same contest, one judge gave me 100 out of 100 points plus three bonus points and said amazingly flattering things about my writing and my story, while another judge gave my submission a 79 out of 100 and filled my pages with detailed analysis and suggestions for improvement. In that case, a third discrepancy judge was brought in because there was a difference of more than 20 points in my scores. That judge gave me a 98. Does that mean I should lean in favor of the higher-scoring judges? I’d love to do that. But I still worry about the things that the 79 judge pointed out.

In the other two contests where I’m a finalist, there was no such wide range in scoring, but there was still a big difference in the critiques. One judge rarely made a mark on my pages and wrote that she couldn’t wait until I was published so she could read the rest. Another spent considerable time and effort marking and commenting throughout the pages.

Even in the two contests where I didn’t make the final cut, the score sheets and critiques were filled with compliments and pointers for making changes. And they don’t all agree. Even on the same passages.

So, what to do? I can’t just take the good and assume my MS is perfect, ignoring the criticisms, any more than I can decide that it all sucks and the positive remarks must be all wrong.

I have to find some middle ground. I printed all the critiques and compared, looking for any areas that tripped up every judge (or several). I realized that my submissions to all the contests contained some formatting errors thanks to my older software program and glitches that occurred when saving my files to the particular format requested by the contest administrators. That helped me make the decision to spring for Office, so I won’t be handicapped when submitting my MS to agents. After that, it’s a matter of deciding what works for me. If I read a judge’s critique and feel that she “got” my book, I'll follow her suggestions and make some changes.

In others, where maybe just one judge had a problem with something where others didn’t or where some especially liked that passage, I’m leaving it as-is. Ultimately, I have to trust myself and put it out there.

And when it comes to "putting it out there" for agents to consider, these contests have given me new insight; it truly is a subjective thing. I can see now what it might be like for agents receiving query letters and opening pages. Some of them will read my work and think-- “Not bad. Needs some changes.” Some will not find it appealing and pass. Some might get it, like it, but not love it. And hopefully, at least one will feel as my top-scoring judges did and say “I can’t wait to read the rest of the story.”

How do you handle conflicting critiques? I'd love to hear from you. Good luck and keep writing!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wednesday Writing Roundup

Our top story today... sorry, my news roots are showing.  But I do want to start the writing links roundup with a site every writer should at least visit.  Author Brenda Novak has so many goodies here for writers, readers, and just about anyone else that it's almost hard to get away from her charity auction site once you get there.  I won two of the auctions last year and was able to get amazing critiques from two of the top agents in the business. 

Check out what's up for bids this year:  http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/ 

More goodness from author Janice Hardy in her helpful series on becoming a more productive writer:

The Other Side of the Story: Forge Ahead: Ways to be a More Productive Writer, Part 4

This is good info for those of us in the query phase:  http://www.roniloren.com/blog/2012/5/23/what-will-make-an-agent-gong-your-pages.html

This is just brilliant and simplifies what a critique partner is and is NOT : http://www.yahighway.com/2012/03/strictly-objective-critique-partner.html 

Good info here from the DFW writers conference:


Monday, May 21, 2012

Why Writing Contests = Spinach

Photo by Tracie Broom- The Yum Diary
So, I did a post a few weeks ago about all the benefits of entering writing contests (Check it Out Here) even before you win, or even if you never do.  I had just sent off my first few entries ever, after completing and revising the heck out of my Young Adult novel.  It's so scary to put your work (and heart) out there for others to judge, but it's also important to do so, and I've found there's nothing better than a contest entry deadline to light a fire under your fanny and force you to complete and/or perfect that dreaded synopsis. 

That's just the entering part of the equation. Now comes the results phase, and so far, I'm loving it!  I haven't heard back yet from a few of the RWA contests I entered -- it's too early-- but I have heard from three. And I'm a finalist in TWO of them!  I just found out about one of them today.  **dances around the kitchen-- again**

I can't say every second of the process is pleasant. Along with the notifications, the contest administrators sent me the judges' scoring sheets, complete with comments about what did and didn't work for them. Guess which part I enjoyed more? 

Right.  The positive remarks are delicious-- chocolate chip cookies dipped in Cool Whip delicious.  My favorite ones are where they wrote "this is definitely a book I'd read"! 

The comments about what needs improvement are nutritious-- the written equivalent of spinach. I don't love it, but I eat it.  My body needs it, and my writing needs honest feedback from people who know what they're talking about.  And you know what?  After you get over the initial bitter taste (doesn't take long), you actually start to love the spinach comments, too, because who wouldn't want to know exactly what to do to fix their manuscript's faults and make it perfect before sending it out to agents?

No, I'm not being paid by RWA local chapters to promote their writing contests, but I do want to be paid to write eventually.  I'm a true believer that writing contests are a big step toward that dream. Try some-- you might like the way they taste. Good luck and keep writing!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Media Moment- Larger Than Life

photo by sky#walker

The most common advice you hear about giving an interview is to "Be yourself."  Sounds easy enough- you are yourself, so how could you ever not "be yourself?"

But if you've ever actually done a television interview, you know that it is indeed possible.  In fact, I've known professional broadcasters who struggled with this after doing live tv everyday for months, even years (including myself).  I've seen some co-workers, politicians, and interview guests who in the newsroom were funny, engaging, big personalities, but as soon as they got in front of the camera their "real selves" disappeared, and they became flavorless, carboard cutout versions of themselves.  I think some of it's nerves. Some is probably a desire to appear "professional".

You want viewers and potential readers to see the best version of yourself, which is always the most authentic version.  So how can you "be yourself" on tv? 

 One of the best approaches is NOT to try to memorize what you're going to say beforehand. This doesn't work well for tv reporters, and it's not going to work for you.  I'm not saying that you shouldn't think about the main points you want to get across before your interview. Definitely do that.   But don't try to memorize word for word what you're going to say- that only invites nerves and the memory blackouts that come with them.  Be confident that you know your stuff-- no one knows more about your book and about yourself. If you're trying to regurgitate a memorized speech, your tone of voice and your face will be stiff and uncomfortable instead of relaxed and open and capable of expressing a personality that viewers (and potential readers) can get attached to.

I know this because I've lived it. When I first started in television at 21 years old, I was anxious to project a professional-grown-up-newslady image.  I memorized every word of my live shots and managed to get them all out again on the air in the correct order. But I cringe when I look back at my archive tapes of those early days. Not only was my personal style somewhat... um... lacking (check it out) but the girl on camera only vaguely resembled the "real life" person that my co-workers, friends, and family knew. It's uncomfortable to watch for me and no doubt viewers felt the same. A couple of years and many, many hours of live tv later I moved on to my next job and took Cardboard Amy right along with me. I was admittedly better, but still trying to be "on tv" instead of being myself.

Then I learned a really helpful exercise that changed my entire approach as a news anchor. I worked with a consultant/coach in a room with a chair, a table, and a video camera.  I was given a script, and the consultant first asked me to read it on camera the way I'd normally read a script on the air. I did my best professional news delivery. Then he asked me to read it again as if I were reading to a roomful of pre-schoolers. I did, adding a more enthusiastic sing-song tone of voice and more facial expression.  Finally he asked me to read it WAY over the top, like I'd never dare to do it during a real newscast. I really went for it, making it larger than life, lots of vocal inflection, lots of facial expression. I felt ridiculous, but hey, it was just us, and no one else would ever see me making a fool of myself like that.

Afterward, we watched the videotape together. It was very obvious which one had been the "best read", the one that I (and any other viewer) would find most engaging on tv. Guess which one it was?
Yep. The one where I had felt like I was reading like a crazy person.  It felt so big, but it looked perfectly normal and so much better than I'd ever read a news script on tv. From then on I remembered that it's better to be a little larger than life, and when you feel like you're really out there, that's when you begin to reach viewers. It did a lot to help me get out of the cage of being "on tv" and to a place where I could "be myself" on the air.

This is something you can practice at home before a tv interview. Set up a video camera and have a friend "interview" you. If you need a list of questions you'll likely be asked, check this post: What They'll Ask-- What to Say

Do it a couple of times. First, the way you think it "should" be done. Then, a little larger than life. You'll probably find that your second try comes out looking a little more like the real you. Good luck, and keep writing!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wednesday Writing Roundup

I have to start today with a big Woo Hoo!  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've recently entered a few writing contests for the first time, and even before the first word was judged, I got so much benefit from the fire-under-my-heinie aspect of contest participation.

But this is even better:  I'm a finalist!  I know, it's not winning (yet!), and maybe I never will win one, but it's just so cool to receive that little bit of validation that (a) I'm not completely wasting my time day after day, and (b) I'm on the right track toward my goal of having my novel published.

If you're published already, you're sagely nodding and giving me an indulgent grin, and if you're like me and trying to get an agent and see that first book published... give contests a try! 

Ok... now to some really helpful writing articles I've found this week.  Hope they help you, too!

You can't write a great query unless you can answer this: What Is A Plot Catalyst?

Ooooh good one! 3 Chapter Critique from Janice Hardy

Why It's Important To Understand the News Cycle from the always-funny Speech Writer Guy

How to Keep Writing When ... Um... "It" Hits the Fan

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Media Moment- A Horror Story and a Happy Ending

Oh no! What did I say?
I started my career as a news anchor and reporter three weeks after graduation, making twelve thousand dollars a year. How glamorous!   Because I didn't want to spend my entire life living in a one room apartment eating mac n cheese for every meal, I moved every few years, making my way up the TV news career ladder to bigger television markets where the pay got better, the studios and equipment got fancier, and the work got more and more challenging.  (Also along the way... my hair and makeup dramatically improved.   :)

Whenever I left a job and started a new one, I usually found myself giving an interview about it to a local newspaper, magazine, radio station or cable show.  So if you're on the verge of doing publicity for your book, I feel your pain.  I completely understand any trepidation you may feel about interviews.  When I was the "interview-ee" I knew it was a necessary part of the job-- and I found it terrifying.  You're never really quite sure what they're going to ask you or what angle the "interviewer" is going to take.  For instance, I once had a morning DJ ask me live on the air how many men I'd seen naked.  Okay...

Keep It Positive

No matter WHAT they might ask you, your job is to keep it positive.  You're there to make people aware of your book (or other project).  You have a main message you want to get across-- most likely it's what your book's about and the audience to whom it's targeted.  The more interesting you make it sound, the more likely readers and listeners and viewers are to buy your book.  And it certainly won't hurt your sales if the audience finds you likable.  That happens when you keep it positive.  No matter what.  You're not angry or flustered by silly DJ's and questions about nudity-- you're on a mission to promote your book, and nothing can stop you!

You might wonder why on earth I'd even bother to point this out, thinking "Of course I'm not going to go in there and gripe about my lousy day or the publishing industry or how I don't really like my book cover or how long it took to get an agent or criticize other authors or my genre."  Because you don't intend to say any of those negative things, and good for you.  But you might anyway.

It Can Happen

It happened to me.  Early in my career, when I was 24 years old and leaving my second anchoring job in Tennessee for a new one in California, I was asked by the local newspaper to do an interview.  The reporter was a guy I'd seen around town frequently on the job and also at social events such as outdoor concerts, etc.  I believed him to be a friend.  He proved he was not.

During the phone interview, he asked questions about my new job, how I felt about leaving my current station -- all the usual stuff.  I told him honestly that I loved the station and my co-workers there and had been very happy.  He apparently wasn't satisfied.  He kept coming around again and again to questions about the state the of news business. He asked me things like "What should be changed?"  "What's wrong with tv news?".  Knowing I was far from the expert on these topics, and being happy as a clam with the news business, I kept replying that basically I didn't know the answers to those questions or really have anything to say about them.  He kept at it.

Because I was young, eager to please, and had been trained my whole life in Southern politeness, I didn't cut him off and hang up.  I wish I had.  He kept pushing and finally asked something to the effect of: If you HAD to change any one thing about news coverage in general, what would it be?  I finally replied that if I HAD to pick one thing, I guessed it would be that we could do more in-depth stories on issues that we usually didn't have time for, because of all the regular news coverage we were doing.  I think I called it "issue reporting".

Well, he finally had the answer he was looking for, and here's what he did with it: made me look like an ungrateful, know-it-all complainer.  That one little half-hearted answer that he bullied out of me was the focus of his whole story, though we had spoken for about 30-40 minutes on the phone.  He even took a sentence I'd spoken at the beginning of the interview and pasted it together with a sentence I'd said at the end, to make it look like it was all one thought.  I was horrified, devastated, and ashamed to even show my face to my co-workers in the newsroom the next day.  And yes, they looked at me like the back-stabber they believed me to be.  I still shudder when I think about it.

Yes, that was a horror story, and yes, it can happen, but don't let it stop you from doing interviews. Let it prepare you.  They're not all like that-- I had many good experiences.  Any interview is a great chance to get free publicity, and you should by all means seek them out and do them-- just be prepared.  Know the message you want to get across and be in control of it.  Be intentionally  positive.  Don't give an interviewer the chance that I gave that newspaper "friend" of mine to twist your words.

Don't Go There

If an interviewer tries to turn your interview in a negative direction, just don't go there.  You can even respond to an asinine question with something like: "I really have no idea, but let me tell you what I'm excited about...."  and take it off in your own direction. 

You often see professional athletes do this to perfection when they're invited to criticize a teammate about an on-field mistake.  They'll respond to the negative question with something positive like, "We're all professionals trying our best out here, and I'm just glad to be part of the team."  Bland, but effective at shutting down the potential negative flow of the interview.  When an interviewer senses that you can't be led in a negative direction and you're simply not going to "go there", they'll usually back off.

I've always regretted that I was too naive to understand what was happening to me during that long- ago interview, or how to prevent it.  But I sure learned-- the hard way.  Now you don't have to. :)  Good luck, and keep writing!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Promotional Points- Pink Power!

What's more effective than using a promotional product like chocolate or bookmarks or custom microfiber cloths to promote your books?  Using LOTS of promotional products together!

I recently attended a book-signing in Rhode Island for new author Jackie Hennessey and her humorous gift book for moms,  How to Spread Sanity On A Cracker.

 Jackie has a PR background, and it shows.  She's self-pubbed, and that makes it even more valuable that she understands how to present an attractive, professional image and a pulled-together promotional campaign.

Jackie used social media to spread the word beforehand, and when people arrived, they saw a colorful, cohesive presentation that drew them in.  It was attractive, coordinated, and just plain looked like fun. Here's a look at her setup:

At Barrington Books in Barrington, RI

Obviously, Jackie's a big fan of pink, and the color matches the content of her vibrant, fun, mommy-commiseration-and-recipe-filled book.  She used several different promotional products to set the scene: a table cover that matched her book's cover art, bookmarks that did the same, a poster, and custom-imprinted mints that readers could take home with them and continue to enjoy after the event was over. 

She also added attractive extras like color-coordinated floral arrangements on the table, a looping video playing on a tabletop tablet, pretty foil-wrapped chocolates (always a good idea!)  and even brought along some chips and cheese dips made from recipes found in the book.

Jackie (with her biggest fans) and her setup in another location

It all makes for a fun scene and shows Jackie in the best light.  She presents herself as "the real deal", and let's not kid ourselves, if people don't like the packaging, they're not buying the package. That's why publishers work so hard to make sure book covers present an alluring, intriguing image. Right? Promotional products customized to your book take that one step further, surrounding your public appearances (and you!)  in that image as well.

How can you apply a little Pink Power (or blue, or red, or zombie-greenish-gray) to your book promotions?  Good luck and keep writing.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Wednesday Writing- Worth-it Webinars

By Olga.Belobaba                                       

After finishing the first draft of my first complete novel (which shall never see the light of day) three years ago, I started researching the publishing process to find the answer to "what comes next?" 

At the time, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series was still (or back?) at the top of the bestseller lists.  I'd seen in an interview that she'd mentioned writing query letters and sending them to agents, so I went to her website to find out more.  There, I read that she'd learned about the submissions process from author Janet Evanovich's website, so that's where I went next.  That eventually led me to the prolific and incredibly helpful blog of literary agent Kristin Nelson, Pub Rants.  It contains a feast of information on just about every aspect of the process, and after devouring that, I started clicking the links she had listed on the side of her page, leading me deeper and deeper into the world of author, agent, and editor blogs.

It's amazing to see how generous the literary community is, and thanks to that, I've grown so much in  my understanding of the publishing business and in my knowledge of the craft of writing.  I've also written (and revised and revised and revised!) another book.  This one may actually be worth something.

I learned that the first step toward becoming a traditionally published author is writing a good query letter, and it's not easy.  In fact, in spite of the countless blog posts and articles I've read on the subject and all the incarnations my own query letter has gone through, I still don't think I had quite grasped it until recently. 

I must be an auditory learner, because what finally got through to me was taking part in a webinar on the topic, given by Sara Megibow, another successful agent with the Nelson Literary Agency.  Natural, good-natured, and plain-spoken, Sara explained exactly what matters in a query, what agents do and don't want to see, and she read and evaluated letters sent in by participants in the real-time webinar (I found the archived version later, unfortunately, and settled for watching it after the fact).   She also answered emailed questions from participants, and the end result for me was the proverbial lightbulb switching on.

The webinar was presented by Writers Digest, and because I'm nothing if not thorough, I signed up for another one, this one given by agent Kathleen Ortiz of  Nancy Coffey Literary.  She was fun to listen to, has a great personality, and was also really helpful.  Though both webinars contained some information I'd read before, some of it was new, and all of it was enhanced by actually hearing the agents share their perspectives. 

I would have paid the live webinar fee of $89 if I'd had the chance (it included some feedback on each query from the agent), but because I found them later in their archived form, I paid $29 for each, which seems like nothing compared to the value of the help I received.  I'm not saving anything if I'm spending my writing time toiling in confusion on my query, making mistakes that will take my letter (and my manuscript) out of consideration and send it to the trash bin of an agent's email file.

Writers Digest offers a new webinar each Thursday on some aspect of writing and publishing, all presented by people who know what they're talking about: agents, editors, authors.  Maybe one will give you that "aha" moment you've been needing, too.  Good luck and keep writing!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Media Moment- What to Wear, and OH the HAIR!

Does my hair look okay?

I spent 13 years in the news business as an anchor/reporter, steadily moving up the TV market ladder. During that time, I interviewed two presidents, several governors, many lawmakers, actors, musicians, and brilliant people in so many fields.  I even picked up an award or two along the way.  But do you know what I got more comments on than anything else?  Yup. My hair.   

The History of the News Anchor Helmet  by Amy Carlisle DeLuca
First job: Early 90's anchor look-- Perm? Check. Giant NFL shoulder pads? Check. What's with the choppy, short bangs?
Do NOT try this at home.

Second job: Lord help me-- what was I thinking? I'm going to hope this was something close to the popular hairstyle at the time, but I have no excuse for the Day-Glo lipstick. Just... no.

Third job: Ok, a little better. We've lost the bad bangs, but unfortunately have now progressed to the "triangle head"

Fourth job: Yaay! Ding dong, the perm is gone. A little "coiffed", though. LOTS of hairspray, folks.

5th job: And she's discovered the straight iron.
6th and final news job: Toned way, way down.
Today: Freelance hair.  Note the proliferation of "natural" highlighting that "naturally" occurs with age!

I think viewers care so much about anchors' hair, because when they see you in a box that encompasses only your head and shoulders, your hair is just so noticeable.  The comments ranged over the years from "It's so cute- where do you get it done?" to "Tell that anchorwoman to do something with that mess."  (I started working on that thick-skin thing long before I began writing fiction)

You may be wondering how your own "look" is going to hold up on television, and first let me say it's not a beauty contest and it's not a fashion show.  You're there to talk about your book (or other project) and that's the main thing to prepare for.  (Here are some tips on What To Expect and What They'll Ask You during your TV interview)

But, that being said, you do want to make the best impression possible, and television is a visual medium.  People will notice what you look like-- part of the deal that comes along with that great free publicity you're getting.  And you're a professional writer, so you want to look... professional.  We may do our actual writing in our fleece pj's and fuzzy Angry Birds slippers, but no one else has to know that.  So, there are a few things to keep in mind when selecting your wardrobe and doing your hair and makeup (ladies, talking to you here-- the guys are lucky on the last two points!)

When it comes to wardrobe, you want to keep it simple and non-distracting.  If you wear a pair of long, swingy earrings, the viewer is going to focus on those and think thoughts like "wonder where she got those?" or "boy, those are some big earrings- I wonder if they're heavy" or just watch them dangling the whole time, wondering what they're going to do next, instead of listening to your fabulous pitch about your fabulous book.

  • Solid color clothing is best.  Some small patterns, like stripes, can look weird on camera.  Large patterns are probably ok, but you don't want anything too distracting. You're not there to sell clothes- you want them to remember your book. (Unless your book is about fashion, and then, by all means, be fashionable)
  • If you wear something sheer, remember it's probably going to get even more sheer under the lights on the set.
  • You may be sitting on a seperate "interview set" featuring couches or chairs where your entire body will show in some of the shots.  If you love your legs and you're fine with remembering to keep them crossed or together so no one gets a peep show, then feel free to go with a skirt.  Otherwise-- choose pants.
  • On that kind of set, your shoes will show, so keep that in mind when choosing them.
  • Guys- you may want to wear a jacket, so that you'll have an easy place to clip on your lavalier microphone. If you wear just a shirt tucked in, it will likely have to be untucked so the mic can be threaded up through it then brought out at your collar to be clipped on.  Then you won't be able to tuck it back in completely, because the mic cord will be in the way.  And any kind of gut will look even guttier on tv. ( I think I just invented a French word)
  • Ladies- you may want to avoid dresses. The mic cord will have to go up under your dress and be brought out at your neckline-- awkward process, especially with crew members and anchors and the meteorologist as your audience. Some kind of a jacket or cardigan hides all that, or if you wear a blouse that doesn't tuck in, you're fine.
You do sometimes see guests on television with a mic cord clearly visible, draped over their shoulder or running down the front of their bodies, but it's distracting.  You don't want people looking at your mic cord and thinking about that. You want them thinking about what you're saying- about your book.

Whatever you decide to wear, try it on first and have someone film you or take your picture from the front and in profile as you're sitting down.  I actually forgot to do this recently when taping an interview for a freelance shoot, and when I watched the show as it aired online, I was horrified to see that I looked about 8 months pregnant. Which I am not. 

During your interview segment, the show's director will take two or three camera shots from different angles, and it's nice to know what the viewers will be seeing, and whether you need to re-think that outfit or adjust anything before you do it for real.  Sometimes when we sit, a button-down shirt or blouse or blazer gaps, or pleated pants puff up in a rather unflattering way.  You don't want to watch the recording of your interview later on and say, "Oh my god- what is that hanging out?!"

I'll go ahead and answer the age-old question right now:  Yes, the camera really does add 10 pounds.  I know-- I've groaned over it many times myself (and I weigh about ten pounds more these days than I did when I was on tv everyday!).  But we're not there to be supermodels, are we?  We're there to tell everyone who our book is for and why they're going to love it.  So, we'll suck it up (and suck it in), dress well, and go get that valuable free publicity!

A note about hair-- check that in your pre-interview video or photograph as well, so you can see if you like the way it looks from the side.  You don't really want it to hang and obscure the entire side of your face, when your audience may be viewing you in profile much of the time.  Smooth down any really bad fly-aways, because the bright studio lights love to catch those and highlight them and the HD cameras won't miss a thing.  One thing that really works is misting your finished hairstyle with an aerosol spray and then lightly running your palms over the outer layer to calm down the fly-aways.

Make-up:  Unless you're appearing on a nationally-televised big budget talk show, you are your own makeup artist (and hairstylist)!  Very few local television markets provide hair and makeup help to even their own on-air talent.  The anchors do it themselves, and here are a few tricks of the trade:
  • You do want to wear some.  Even if you look naturally beautiful in your everyday life without it, bright lights and HD cameras are not forgiving.  You'll look more put-together, professional, awake, and alive with some foundation, blush, lipstick and eye makeup on.
  • Guys-- you are exempt from this.  My husband is a news anchor in Providence, Rhode Island, and yes, he wears makeup.  But he's had a few years of practice at it, and I think for someone who hasn't... it might hurt more than it helps, so just skip it.
  • Ladies-- back to you-- avoid makeup that shimmers or sparkles in any way, unless you're promoting a memoir of your years as a stripper.  Shimmery makeup can get weird on tv and looks cheap, not classy, as you want to look.
  • Mascara is a big YES, as it will open up your eyes and make them look more alert and awake.
  • Eyeshadow should stay in neutral territory-- browns, beige, taupe, maybe gray, but definitely not blue or green or any sort of pastel. Eyeliner, too-- keep it black, brown, or gray (not my favorite).  You just never know what the lights and cameras will do to other colors, which may look lovely at home and work, but turn out looking clown-ish on tv.
  • Lipstick colors that look good include red and or rose-toned pinks.  Nothing too dark, unless you're purposely going for kind of an edgy, alternative look, and not too light-- many nude tones can really wash out on tv and make you look lip-less.  Really bright shades should be avoided, too, as they'll only get brighter on tv.
  • LIPSTICK TIP: After you apply it, put one finger between your lips (you'll look like you're sucking your finger) and pull it out of your mouth to get off any extra lipstick that may otherwise end up on your teeth.
  • Powder is your friend if you don't want to look shiny.  I like loose powder much better than pressed. You might want to bring a mirror along and give yourself a last-minute touchup with a powder brush a few minutes before going on set, if needed.
Okay, so you're wearing your classic, solid-colored clothing, halfway-decent shoes, simple jewelry, non-shimmery make-up, and smoothed your fly-aways-- you've checked it all out on video or in a photo at home beforehand-- you're ready!

None of this has to be expensive, by the way. You can get some perfectly acceptable professional-looking wardrobe pieces at Marshall's or Target. If you'd like any specific suggestions on makeup types and brands or hair products (I've tried A LOT) just let me know.  I'd love to help.  Good luck and keep writing!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Promotional Points- How Chocolate Can Sell Books

Part of my job as host of  The Industry Show is attending the major promotional products tradeshows.  There, I work with our videographer filming and hosting videos with suppliers at their booths, which they can then use on their websites, post on YouTube, or email to their customers.

I've learned a lot about the promotional products industry at these "shows", as they're called.  But I've also learned something about human nature, and it is this: 

Chocolate Draws a Crowd.

There are quite a few promotional suppliers who specialize in food gifts or custom-labeled food products, including chocolate, and naturally, these suppliers bring a huge supply of samples to give away. They are never lonely.

But I've noticed many other suppliers putting out bowls of individually wrapped chocolates somewhere near the front of their booth displays, even if they're selling umbrellas or customized jewelry, or sports pennants and noisemakers.  Why?  They want TRAFFIC in their booths... and... Chocolate Draws a Crowd. 

So why not use that fact-of-life in promoting your books?  Custom chocolates are small, lightweight, easy to transport, inexpensive, and .... they're chocolate.  What's not to like?

Here are a couple of possibilities: 

Belgian chocolate squares with Custom Imprinted Wrappers:

Imagine having these imprinted to look just like your book jacket.  Cover image on the front, your website info and perhaps your other titles on the back. They come in varieties like milk, chocolate, mint, dark, raspberry, milk caramel, toffee and smores.  Yummy!

Or... check out these chocolate coins:

Available in milk, dark, or mint, these foil covered chocolate coins
can be embossed with your book title and even an image from your cover.

So, would you like to draw a crowd at your next book-signing?  I might as
well ask if people like chocolate.  A little chocolate-flavored lure certainly
 couldn't hurt, and most people will feel like they should at least speak to you
 or pick up your book and check out the cover while they're enjoying the free
 treat.  At the very least, meeting you will leave them with a sweet taste in their
mouths.  Have a great weekend and keep writing!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wednesday Writing Roundup

Everything I've learned about the writing business, I learned from blogs.  Well, that and a few really amazing writing books and some blood and sweat and tears.  But I've been learning so much from the generous authors and agents and editors and bloggers who share their expertise on the craft of writing and the inner workings of the publishing business. 

Here are some links to wonderful helpful articles I've read this week:

Testing your opening scene  http://www.roniloren.com/blog/2012/4/23/testing-your-opening-scene-5-steps-atozchallenge.html

This is awesome Plotting made easy- the complications worksheet  http://ht.ly/afgjB

Prep work    http://blog.janicehardy.com/2012/04/prep-work-ways-to-be-more-productive.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+janicehardy%2FPUtE+%28The+Other+Side+of+the+Story%29

What readers want from your author website  http://www.authormedia.com/2009/06/18/what-readers-want-from-your-author-website/

Your author photo  http://www.worldliterarycafe.com/content/author-pr-101-your-author-photo

I hope these might help you, too.  Keep writing!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Media Moment- What They'll Ask- What to Say

The good news-- you've scored a tv interview with one or more stations in your area (if you haven't yet, check out this article Getting yourself and your book on TV ).   The bad news-- now you actually have to do it!  No, actually, it’s not bad news at all-- it’s free publicity, a chance to connect with your current (and future!) readers, and it's going to be great.  By the time you get there, you’ll be totally ready.

So, let’s get you ready!  You may be wondering what the news anchor is going to ask you during the interview.  In fact, when you booked it, you might have even asked for a list of questions, and they most likely declined to give you one, assuring you that they won’t ask anything that you don’t know the answer to.  And that's true, because the questions will be all about you and your book-- you're the world's top expert on both subjects! (For more on what to expect when you arrive at the studio, check out this post What to expect from your TV interview ).

But you’d probably rather know the exact questions the interviewer will ask, wouldn’t you?   Well, I can't tell you exactly, positively, absolutely for sure what those questions will be, but as a former news anchor and reporter who's conducted countless live and taped interviews, I can give you a pretty good idea of the questions you’re most likely to be asked.  There are also some things you'll want to be sure to say... whether you're asked about them or not.

First... here are some specific questions to prepare for:

  • What is your book about?  Answer:  This is query letter, book blurb material here- you don't have time to tell the whole story obviously, and you don't want to give a synposis, just the main idea, the hook, a tease to get viewers interested.
  • Why did you choose to write about (your topic)?  What inspired you?
  • Is it based on your own experiences?  Are there characters in the book from your own life?
  • Related question: Where do you get your story ideas?
  • Is it your first book? (If not, feel free to get in a quick plug for your other books)
  • How long have you been writing/when did you know you wanted to be a writer?
  • What was it like trying to get published?  Did it come easily to you?  Did you struggle for years?
  • What’s your life like now that you’re a published author?  Different?  Do you write full time or still have a “day job”?
  • Any more books in the series or new books on the way?
  • Where can people find your book?  (dream question!)

This is a local TV interview, so they're going to want to appeal to viewers with a question or two about your ties to the local area-- Did you grow up around here?  If not, how long have you been here? Did you use any local settings in the book?

If it’s a hot genre like YA, they may ask something along the lines of “Why do you think the genre is so hot right now? Why do you think these books also resonate with adults, like Twilight and Hunger Games? Or why do you write in your genre?  These are golden opportunities to talk about your target audience and why your book will appeal to them.

That will probably cover it. Interviews typically last between two and five minutes, and no doubt it will fly by for you.  Because you may be a little nervous, and because time is so short, plan ahead: there are a few things you need to make sure you get across, whether you're asked specifically about them or not.

 One of them is the NAME OF YOUR BOOK.  Bring your book with you, show that pretty cover, and work the title into your conversation as often as possible. Mention your website a couple times as well (hopefully it's yourname.com, or something along those lines.)  You want to give people a way to find out more about you and your books when that (short) live interview is over.

This is not the time to be shy or modest when talking about yourself.  Most of us, unless we’re completely obnoxious (and we're not, right?), don’t love talking about ourselves, but this is one of those situations where it’s perfectly acceptable to do so, in fact it's expected and absolutely necessary!  And think about it-- you wrote a book!  That's cool!  That's something many, many people wish they could do.  You love your book and other people will too.  You just need to tell them that!  I'm not saying it's time to brag (don't), but for at least these few minutes, the interviewer and the viewers want to hear about you and your writing, so plan ahead, think about the main things you DO want to say about yourself, maybe a quick amusing story about what led you to the writing life, etc., and be prepared.

More preparation pointers:

  • Write down a few “talking points” on an index card to remind yourself of those most important items you want to mention, so that no matter how short the interview or what you’re asked, you get that info in there. Some suggestions: NAME OF YOUR BOOK, hook, target audience and how it will appeal to them, where they can get your book 
  • SMILE-- as much as you can.  People are attracted to people who smile.  They find them interesting and likable, and are much more likely to want to hear what they have to say.
  • Practice the interview ahead of time with a friend, family member or significant other.  It may feel silly, but I promise you-- this will really help.  Even better-- record it on video if possible and watch yourself.  That will tell you so much about what you do and don't want to say and do when it comes time for the real deal.

You may be nervous- that's completely normal.  I've interviewed brain surgeons and major politicians who were literally shaking and sweating through the whole thing.  That's ok.  Just plan ahead a little, practice, and you'll get through it.  You might even enjoy it.  It's worth doing-- it's basically free advertising-- make the most of it!  The shaking doesn't really show on tv, by the way. :)

One more thing:  while you’re watching that practice video of yourself, you might think-- Oh no! Look at me-- I’m so not ready for prime time!  It’s not a fashion show or a beauty contest, but it IS in your best interest to present yourself as well as you possibly can. Next Media Monday, I’ll share some professional tv hair, makeup, and clothing tips.  See you then!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Promotional Points-- Custom Microfiber Cloths

In the course of researching promotional products each week, I always come across one or two that seem ideal for authors and booksellers.  I'm looking for items that are small, easy to transport, that could express the design or theme of a book, and that readers will appreciate, use, and keep. 

This week's product is a printed microfiber cloth.  They're really easy to pack for a book signing (or a tour!), whether you're flying or driving, they're lightweight and have many uses.  You've probably bought one or two of these or received one with a new pair of sunglasses.  But did you know you can get them from a promotional products supplier, printed in full color to look just like your book's cover? Or maybe with a list of all your published titles, or maybe a photo on one side and a blurb from your book jacket on the other? You can have one printed with a QR code that will take their smart phone right to your author website or book order page online.

Microfiber Cloths are perfect for cleaning those reading glasses, Kindle or Nook screens, iPods, iPads, Smart Phones, computer and TV screens, DVD's, and more! Everyone needs one, and you can be the one to provide it.  And... they can look like anything you want them to.

Here are some examples.

Promotional products like these cannot be bought directly from a supplier, but may be ordered through a distributor, also called a promotional or marketing consultant. They're pretty easy to find, but if you're having trouble locating one, contact me, and I'll be happy to put you in touch with someone. As I've mentioned before, I don't make promotional products and I don't sell them, I only report on them each week for my "day job" as writer and host of the Industry Show.

You can expect to pay around $1 or $2 dollars for each microfiber cloth when you buy in bulk, plus an initial setup charge.  Not as low-cost as a bookmark, but more memorable. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday Writing-- Help Others, Help Yourself

It's been said that we're our own worst critics. Well, I'm certainly not my best critic, and I proved that when I began trying to get my first MS published.  No, I didn't send out the first draft without revisions. I actually spent a few months revising until I thought I had it perfect.  Thought.  Thankfully, I sent out only five rather ineffective query letters that got no requests for partials.  Because my MS wasn't ready-- not even close. Truth is, it's hard to know that when it's just you, or even a few well-meaning non-writer friends telling you that your MS is as good as it can be, as good as it needs to be to be published.

If you're lucky, you have great crit partners who can and will point out what's good and what's not working.  If you're really lucky, you'll also get the best kind of advice -- that is, advice from the people who know exactly what it takes to grab the attention of literary agents and eventually readers.  Who are these people?  Well, authors who've already made it out of query purgatory, and agents who day in and day out, see hundreds of queries and sample pages.

Sure, you're saying, that would be super-duper, but if I don't already have a friend who's published or an agent, how can I possibly persuade these founts of knowledge to read my work and point me in the right direction? 

Answer: Brenda Novak's Annual Auction for the Cure of Diabetes  This is an unbelievable opportunity for authors, and it begins soon.
Brenda with her son, Thad
Brenda and her son, her inspiration for the auction.

I participated last year and accidentally won two of the auctions.  I was hoping to win an agent critique of my query letter, synposis, and first three chapters. There were many of those critique packages offered, and I stalked several of them, focusing on agents who were actively aquiring Young Adult novels.  I never thought I'd end up with the high bid on two of them, but I'm so glad I did.  It wasn't cheap, but it was invaluable (and it's a tax-deductible charitable donation, if that helps).

I followed the instructions I was given after winning, and, full of hope, shipped off my critique submission to agent Laura Bradford first.  She promised to get back to me quickly and she did.  Naturally, I hoped she'd contact me and say something along the lines of "it's amazing, don't change and thing, and by the way, I'd love to represent you".  That did not happen.  We had a twenty or thirty minute phone conversation and she sent a detailed written critique. 

I'm not going to lie and say it didn't hurt.  But... it was that good day-after-a-tough-cardio-class kind of pain.  Well, at first it was just painful pain, but after I'd put away my notes from the phone conversation and the critique for a few weeks, I was able to take them out again and really start benefitting.  Ms. Bradford was extremely polite, and extremely direct about where my MS wasn't working.  I never doubted for a minute that she was absolutely correct.  I'm a new author-- she spends every day evaluating the effectiveness and marketability of writing.  I started revising based on her notes, and a couple months later, sent my package off to agent Naomi Hackenberg of the Elaine English Literary Agency for the second critique I won.

According to her evaluation, I still didn't have it all perfect, but soooo much better.  Ms. Hackenberg had many good things to say about my writing, and also more constructive criticism for me.  Very encouraging, very helpful.  Having access to these two knowledgable people on the other side of the process put me forward perhaps years in the writing-for-publication process. Without it, I don't know how long I would have languished with my mistake-riddled MS, thinking it was fine.  And because they were who they were, I listened and learned from them.

This year's auction begins May 1st.  There are some great items for readers and, especially of interest to many of us, for writers.  At last check, there are 59 author critiques up for bidding and 38 agent evaluations, plus editor evaluations, networking opportunites, and so much more. Check it out for yourself!


By bidding you can help find a cure for diabetes and help yourself in the process. I guarantee it can't hurt!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Media Moment- What to expect from your TV interview

Because authors are expected to handle a lot of our own publicity and marketing (and the more we can do, the better it is for us) I'm taking what I've learned from my 13 year career as a news anchor/reporter and offering a few posts that might help those who haven't had much experience with local media.  Last week, we looked at booking interviews for yourself with local market television stations, and today I thought I'd focus on what to expect once you've gotten yourself into it! 

First... it's not going to be as bad as you think it will.  Really.  Everyone there wants you to do well, and will do whatever they can to help you.  You'll likely be told to arrive at the station around 30 to 40 minutes before you actually go on.  Some of this is the old hurry-up-and-wait thing-- they want to make sure you're actually THERE when it's time for your segment to go on.  And some of it is that live television is a fluid thing-- stories are dropped, breaking news happens and stories are added-- things happen, and the time you expected to go on will probably not be exact.  Another good reason to arrive early is so you'll have a chance to relax and perhaps chat with the anchor who's going to interview you or the producer in charge of the newscast, who'll give you a few specifics about what's going to happen.

In general, here's what's going to happen when you arrive at the station.  You'll be taken to either the newsroom or a "green room", where you'll wait for your segment and watch the show live on a monitor, giving you plenty of time to get nervous.

Don't.  You know your subject matter--(1) your book (2) yourself.  No one knows these two subjects better, in fact.  So, the interviewer isn't going to ask you anything you don't already know. Well, they probably won't do that.  But if they do, that's not your problem.  You are only responsible for knowing about your book and yourself. If they, for instance, ask you something like "How many books sold in your genre nationwide this year?",  which would be very stupid, but could somewhere-in-the-realm-of- possibilities happen, then don't worry about it.  Again- not your problem.  Just smile, admit, "I really have no idea" and then add something like, "But I do know that YA suspense (or whatever) is gaining popularity" or something like that, and then something about your own book, like who your target audience is.  I'll do a longer post next week on the questions you're most likely to be asked during a tv interview and how to prepare for them. For now, remember-- you know everything there is to know about your own book.

And... they'll almost certainly ask you about yourself. So be prepared and not embarassed to talk about yourself.  Again, in my next post I'll have a list of questions your interviewer is most likely to ask you about yourself personally and as a writer.

When it's time for your segment, someone will take you into the studio-- it will probably be during a commercial break, but if it's not, you'll be cautioned to stay quiet and not walk in front of any cameras (otherwise you might make an unscheduled cameo appearance!)  You'll be seated on the set and "miked up".  You'll have to wear a lavalier microphone for the interview, which will clip onto your clothing. For that reason, it's best to wear a top that buttons up the front or has a v-neck, or even better, some kind of blazer or jacket.  In a later post, I'll detail the best wardrobe choices for your interview and give some tv hair and makeup tips.

You'l probably be surprised when you see the TV studio-- most are smaller than they appear from your living room.  The cameras are likely to seem quite large and close to the set, and they'll have teleprompters (large screens in front of them with words on them that are not for you). It's all a whole lot less glamorous-looking than the finished product that goes out to viewers.

 If you're on a separate "interview set" from the news desk, the anchor is likely to join you there just a minute or two before you go on live. If you're on the newsdesk, off to the side, then you'll already be seated next to the anchor who's going to interview you.  There will usually be two cameras pointed in your direction, sometimes three, so the director can take various shots during the interview keep the picture moving for viewers.  You won't have to worry about cameras, though.  You'll look at and talk to the anchor, just as you would anyone during a normal conversation.  Have your book in your hand, so you can gesture to it as you mention it by name, which you should, as often as it seems natural to do so during the interview.

A camera operator will give the anchor a verbal or visual countdown moments before you go on live, and then a signal to let her/him know you're on.  Then the anchor will introduce you and begin the conversation.  Again-- they want you to do well and feel and look comfortable-- it's much better tv that way, and no one is going to "grill" you or try to trip you up. 

The segment will last anywhere from two to five minutes, usually no longer than that.  That's enough time for a couple questions about you and two or three about your book.  You'll want to keep your answers concise, but not limited to "yes" or "no", even in the unlikely event the interviewer asks you a "yes" or "no" question.  For instance, if they did happen to ask "Did you always want to be a writer?"  you start with "yes" or "no" and then elaborate with some kind of little story. 

SMILE as much as you possibly can (unless your book is about something really serious, where smiling would be inappropriate).   Even then, take advantage of the introduction and wrap up times to smile.  People like people who smile.  When watching television, I'll catch myself smiling with someone who's smiling on tv.  You do want viewers (and potential readers) to like you.

The whole thing will go much faster than you ever thought it would, and make sure someone's recording it for you, because you probably won't remember what you said when it's over.  Then you can go home and smile with yourself  (or cringe-- no, no, think positive!) while watching the playback.

For a tv interview to be an effective marketing tool for you, there are certain things you should make sure you work into your interview.  So what should you say?  And what exactly are they going to ask you?  Next Monday, I'll give you a list of the most likely questions you can expect, and suggest some ways to prepare.