2013 and 2014 GOLDEN HEART® Finalist

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!

http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/

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.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Promotional Points - Go home with your readers

One of my various day jobs is writing and hosting a weekly webcast for the promotional products industry called The Industry Show.  It's posted on our company website for the general public to view and also emailed to thousands of people who've signed up to get it every week.  If you'd like to see a sample, go here:

The Industry Show      

Each week, we feature new and interesting promotional products in a different category, for instance, sports-themed, pet products, watches, eco-friendly, calendars-- anything and everything that can be logoed and used to promote a company, product, cause, or event.

Guess what else they can be used for?  Book promotions.  Because I'm already spending time researching these products and often come across things that could make for economical but memorable book promotions, I thought I'd share an idea with you each Friday.

Many times, when your book has the backing of a traditional publisher, their marketing department provides you, the author, with materials such as posters for your book signings and flyers or bookmarks to give away.  Not so if you're self-pubbed or maybe you're with a traditional publisher and just looking for something extra.  You might want to invest a little bit in your own promotional items.

I noticed a really fun one recently when I attended the book talk and signing of historial romance author Sarah MacLean at Barrington Books, an independent bookstore in my town. She's also an author from Rhode Island, and after hearing of her through a newspaper article, I picked up one of her books to read (quite good), and then decided to go to her book talk to meet her and see how she handled the whole signing/reading thing.  For more on Sarah and her books, go here:

http://www.macleanspace.com/

Sarah was charming and adorable.  She made everyone feel welcome (wine! cheese! chatty Q&A!). She made easy eye contact and welcomed people individually.  She also had fun promotional products on hand.  I got one of her lovely bookmarks, of course, because I can never have too many.  She also handed out dice, imprinted with the name of her newest series (which focuses on a group of dashing men who are partners in a London casino) and a web address http://www.rulesofscoundrels.com/ that will take you right to her author home page.  Great idea!  The oversized red dice now live in my home, and whenever I see them, I think of Sarah, her books, and how nice it was to meet her.

So Sarah (or her publisher) cleverly tied in the casino theme (which will be carried through her next few books) to an inexpensive, but useful and fun item that readers can take home with them and enjoy.  So, how can you go home with your readers?  Is there a theme to your book that might be represented by some small item that could be easily packed and handed out at your next school talk or book-signing event?

Hard theme to match?  Well, most readers do love bookmarks, so let's go ahead and start with the obvious, but not be obvious about it.  Why settle for just ANY bookmarks?  What about a bookmark your readers can use, then plant, then enjoy as it blooms into a flowering plant or fragrant herb?
I found these from a company that makes all sorts of promotional items from seeded paper. This particular design features a seeded shaped paper (chooses from dozens of shapes and colors) attached to a bookmark the reader can keep using.


 With this particular double-sided bookmark, you just plant the whole thing.
Both choices are made from biodegradable eco-paper, manufactured with post-consumer materials and embedded with seeds. You send them your full color custom artwork, and they'll print it right onto the seed paper. You can  include planting instructions, and they're reportedly easy to grow.  
When the paper is planted in a pot of soil, the  paper composts away, and here's what you get:




Promotional products are usually less expensive when ordered in bulk, and must be obtained through a distributor-- not bought directly from a supplier.  Most cities and towns will have a local promotional products distributor, sometimes called a marketing or promotional consultant, but if you don't happen to know of one near you, contact me, and I'll be happy to help you find someone who can order these bookmarks or other promotional products for you. 

Next Friday, we'll move beyond bookmarks to a promotional product that might not occur to you easily, but that readers will be sure to want and use for a long time to come.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wednesday Writing- Everyone's a Weiner



I've recently discovered writing contests.  I know, not a revolutionary idea, but as a new RWA member, they're new to me, and I've started wanting to encourage every writer I know to enter contests as well.

Not just because winning one would be cool, and it definitely would (hope hope hope), but because of all the side benefits I've found.

First, there's the light-a-fire-under-your-heinie aspect.  If you've been dragging your feet on completing the dreaded synopis and all its many incarnations (1 page, 3 page, 5 page), or your query letter, or even getting that first chapter or two polished, contests give you a deadline to push for.  I'm at the point of being ready to query with my YA Contemporary Fantasy novel, but I knew I really needed to revise my synopsis and then hone it down into shorter form in case the-perfect-agent-for-my-book wanted a one or two page synopsis instead of a longer version.  The query process can be long and doesn't really offer any deadline pressure-- no agent is sitting there with a stopwatch waiting for your query to arrive in her inbox.  Seeing a great contest with a looming deadline got me off the couch--or no -- actually chained me to the couch with my laptop until I got it done and sent it in.

Then there are the judges.  If you're like me, when you see who's judging these great local RWA chapter contests, you'll be scrambling to put your entry together.  I've been reading agent and author blogs for the past couple of years now, and I recognized big deal agent and publisher names in nearly every one of the contests.  That means the people who are in a position to help you get your book published will have your pages in their hands, no slush pile wading required.

At the very least, most of the contests I've seen give the entrants detailed feedback or critiques on their writing, whether they place or not.  Brilliant!  And if you do place-- place-- not even win, it's something you can put in that author bio section to show that at least someone out there thinks your writing doesn't stink and that you are a serious author ready for the business of publishing.

But wait-- there's more!  Money!  Some, not all, offer cash prizes to the top finalists, which is nice, because the contests aren't free to enter.  The entry fees, which I've seen ranging from $15 to about $35 dollars, go to fund the great programs local RWA chapters offer their members.

Not all the contests are for Romance writing, some are for published writers, many for unpublished-as-of-yet souls such as myself.  I know there are many methods of finding out about writing contests, and I certainly haven't discovered all of them, but here's a great link to some:

Writing Contest Chart  
http://www.stephiesmith.com/contests.html

So be brave, good luck, and wish me some, too!  Maybe we'll be weiners... um... winners!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Media Moment- Getting your book (and yourself!) on tv

You have a book to promote, and local television programs have time to fill.   It's a win-win situation if you can convince the right people that you are the right person to fill some of that air time.

This whole process is going to be a lot easier for you if you live in a smaller television market area.  Obviously, it's tougher to get on in New York City or L.A. than in Topeka or Tallahassee.  Airtime is valuable, no matter where you are, and it's a good idea to consider stations in all the local markets within driving distance of you.

Here's where to find the call letters and website links for every local station in every television market city in the country. www.stationindex.com. This site lists the television stations by state (in case you'd like to target markets statewide) www.officialusa.com/stateguides/media.

Morning and noon shows are your best bets. They usually feature lighter fare, and unless you're in a very small town kind of atmosphere, a new book by a local author isn't going to make the evening or late night news.  Some stations may also have late morning or early afternoon shows that specifically look for lifestyle and entertainment type news.  Those are golden.  You can find out on each station's website which newscasts they air daily, and many will even let you watch a recorded or live streaming version of their newscasts online so you can get a feel for what kind of stories they'll feature.

Once you've identified the stations in your area, and you have their phone numbers, you're ready to get yourself booked for an interview.  Do call-- emails are too easy to ignore.  After you reach the right person and speak to them, then you can email them information about your book and yourself so they can judge whether you're a nice normal author person whose publishing info they can check out or a whackadoodle who shouldn't be allowed anywhere near their studios (stations get a lot of calls from those).

When your nice normal non-whackadoodle self calls and reaches the station's newsroom, you'll probably be speaking to someone on the assignment desk-- that's who usually answers the main newsroom phone.  At this point, you can ask if there's a specific producer you should speak to about booking an appearance on the morning/noon/lifestyle show. They might say "no" and just take your information themselves (more on that in a minute.) If the answer is yes, they'll put you through to the producer or associate producer (or their voicemail).  The mid-morning or noon producer will naturally not be there to take your call in the late afternoon or evening.  Producers of early morning news will often come in to work at around 11pm or midnight and work all night and may (or may not) answer the phone themselves overnight, so if you're a nightowl, you might get right through.

Have a loose script in mind for what you'll want to say to them- maybe a notepad in hand with your main points in case you're a little nervous. Sound friendly, professional, very polite, and like you might be a bit of fun on television.  You'll want to let them know you're from the area, have a book just published (or about to be), and to whom the book will most likely appeal.  Lucky you if your book happens to be in a hot-for-the-moment genre, for instance, if it's dystopian and you can say that fans of The Hunger Games series would love to read it.  Or if your theme might tie in with a show that airs on their station, even loosely, for instance, you have a murder-suspense novel and they air one of the many popular crime scene investigation shows.  Volunteer to send the book and whatever publicity materials you might have.  Give them your website and/or blog info so they can check you out (for whackadoodleness).

If someone doesn't seem interested, just move on to the next station. You've made it to this point, so that skin must have gotten thickened up along the way to being published.  If you're told the show is booked up for awhile, you can always volunteer that you'd be available to fill in on short notice (if you indeed can) should someone else cancel. That does happen-- all the time-- and producers are left scrambling to fill the spot of someone who's cancelled on them for whatever reason. They might just keep your name and number on hand and give you a call (and a great opportunity) when that happens.

Of course, once you've got that tv interview lined up, you actually have to do it- yikes!  What will they ask you?  What can you expect when you get there?  I'll cover that next Media Monday!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Welcome!

Welcome!  I'm so glad you're here.  I've been writing for a long time, but only decided to pursue publishing in the past couple of years.  I started off embarrassingly ignorant of the process, but thanks to some generous and informative authors' and agents' blogs, I've learned so much, and I feel confident now that I at least know how to begin to make a go of it.

Because I've been helped so much, I've been thinking of what I might be able to offer to other writers.

Before I "retired" from my career to raise two little boys and write fiction full-time, I spent thirteen years as a news anchor and reporter, moving from one side of the country to the other and back again, climbing the television market ladder.  I did the news in Mississippi, Tennessee, California, and Rhode Island.

So, I've spent years on "the other side", interviewing countless people, including many authors, fielding requests for interviews, and I have an insider's understanding of how the media works.

I thought it might be helpful to share some tips on dealing with the media, gaining publicity for your novel (or other promotable projects), and advice on preparing for media appearances and what to expect when you get there. I'll do that every Monday.

When it comes to becoming a published fiction writer, I still have a lot to learn, so I'm constantly reading and soaking up information about the craft of writing and the publishing business.  On Wednesdays, I'll feature a Writing Roundup of some of the best articles I've found for writers during the week.

I still do lots of freelance on-camera work and voiceovers for radio and tv ads, and one of my regular gigs is a weekly webcast that goes out to thousands of viewers in the promotional products industry.
If you'd like to check it out, it's called The Industry Show, and you can see it here: www.Promocorner.com.

In case you're not quite sure what promotional products are ... think pens, notebooks, magnets, calendars, and millions of other products that have a company name, logo, or message on them. 
Studies show they have a more lasting impact than other forms of advertising and their relative cost is very low.
As an author, you are expected to promote yourself and your brand.  You're your own little company, and promotional products could help you get your name out there and keep your books on the minds of readers.  I don't make any products and I don't sell them, but I spend lots of time researching the hottest new promotional products in a different category each week for my job on The Industry Show.  Each Friday, I'll share with you a cool new product I've found that could be useful to you as an author, bookseller, or publishing industry titan, whichever you may be.

So, that's my grand plan as I begin my blog, and I'm sure it will evolve over time. Thank you so much for stopping by and I'd love to hear from you!