Wait a moment while I fetch my soap box.
I have just had an inspiring morning with the journalists who attend my monthly Journalists’ Support Group meetings. One of the group shared how she had been doing a number of reviews on new and interesting books and mentioning them on her blog. As all good bloggers do, she has then been tweeting about these books. As all good authors do, they have been retweeting her kind mentions. Some of them have also contacted my journalist directly and thanked her for her kindness.
Of course it does.
The fact is that one of the best ways to grow your network of the nice, kind people (such as bloggers) who write about your books for free is to take the simple step of saying thank you. Saying thank you will show the nice, kind people (such as bloggers) that you are nice and kind too. And so a relationship starts to form between authors and bloggers.
The next thing that happens is that the nice, kind blogger is likely to write about your book A SECOND time.
You see …. you do business with people you like. And one way to make someone like you is to say thank you.
Authors need bloggers
If you are an author you NEED all the publicity and reviews you can get. One of the best ways to get this coverage is to make friends with bloggers, journalists and so on.
Authors need to ensure that they spot every single mention your book receives. The easiest way to ensure you don’t miss any (and thus don’t miss the chance to thank the writer and start to build that all-important relationship) is to set up a Google Alert for the title of your book and another for your name. As soon as you spot you have been mentioned zoom on over there and say thanks.
Simple, isn’t it?
You see, the harsh reality is that IF (God forbid) you do forget to thank that nice, kind blogger, then that nice, kind blogger may do one of the following:
And you would not want that to happen, now would you?
OK, rant over. I shall now put my soapbox away.
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of working with Karen Greve Young, who wanted me to help her turn the draft of a shared memoir, written with her mother, Vicki, while she was ill with ovarian cancer, into a published book. This book appealed to me because it is about so many things: mothers and daughters; the art of letter-writing; sustaining a relationship despite Karen’s moves abroad; that proceeds from the book go to charity; that ovarian cancer is a silent killer and awareness about this illness needs to be increased.
Today, Karen is having the launch party for Love You So Much: a shared memoir, which was published just two weeks ago. Today would have been Vicki’s 66th birthday.
Karen Greve Young is the co-author of “Cancer is Canada”, a report published in April by Charity Intelligence Canada. A graduate of Harvard University and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, she is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, Canada. She misses her mother every single day.
Victoria Zacheis Greve was a life-long volunteer in Virginia and Washington, DC and a Certified Public Accountant focused on non-profit clients. She was the first in her family to go to university, earning a BS from the University of Delaware and a Masters in Taxation from George Washington University. She was married for 36 years to her university sweetheart and had two children. She died of ovarian cancer in 2004.
Tell me about your book. What is it about? Can you describe it in just a few sentences?
Our book is a shared story of the four and a half years of my mother’s ovarian cancer journey. In it, we share our own perspectives as mother and daughter, patient and family member, as life takes leads to different countries and different life stages.
Why did you write it?
After my mother finished her career and her full-time role as mother of the bride at my wedding, she needed something to focus on besides her cancer. One sleepless night, I came up with the utterly crazy idea that we could write a book together about her cancer experience. She loved the idea of a shared project that could help other patients and families…and off we wrote.
What qualifies you to write this book?
Countless people write about their life experience – for many different reasons. In our case, neither of us felt that our experience during my mother’s cancer was unique or worthy of being the topic of a book. But together, our shared experience provides a unique window into life with cancer from the patient’s and family’s perspective told alongside each other.
Why do you think your book needed to be written? What will it do for other people? How will it help? Did you have any competition?
Cancer impacted my mother and me differently, as it does patients and family members in all families. We hope our story will help others coping with similar circumstances to bridge misunderstandings and find mutual acceptance – while realizing that there will be hard times to work through. Although we have seen stories in which a surviving family member includes emails from a lost loved one, we aren’t aware of any stories where the patient and daughter/mother/father/son embark on sharing their story together. This was very much a shared project from the outset, and still is even now that my mother has been gone for more than seven years.
Who do you think will read your book? What made you think that there was a market for it?
This is a book written by women – ordinary women – to which millions of women and men will relate. Cancer is the number one cause of death from disease globally and nearly every person has been impacted either as a patient or loved one. We found through our own journey that sometimes others’ stories were helpful in understanding what we were going through. We hope this will help others in the same way.
This book also goes beyond cancer – it is the story of the loving but complicated relationship of a mother and daughter, both with strong personalities. It goes through the daughter’s early career, wedding and fertility challenges and the mother’s reluctant retirement and transition to having married children. It happens to include September 11 and the Washington DC sniper crisis, as we lived through both tragedies.
It does not matter how good a book is, or how good your writing is if no one knows about it. What steps have you taken or do you plan to take to promote your book? Are you a speaker or trainer? Do you have a blog? A website? A newsletter? Do you use Facebook, Twitter or other social media tools? What about press releases and sending out review copies and free articles? Have you had any other ideas? Which methods do you think work best and can you give me any examples?
I have done substantial public speaking on cancer and charity topics. We are notifying ovarian and general cancer organizations about our book and also sharing it with the wider media. We have a website (ovariancancermemoir.com).
I am now based in Canada and recently co-authored a report on Cancer in Canada: Framing the Crisis and Previewing the Opportunity for Donors that received substantial press coverage; I have reached out personally to those press contacts, including Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail and Libby Znaimer of Zoomer Media.
What was your biggest challenge regarding the writing of your book? How have you overcome that?
The loss of my mother. Continuing to work on our book after she was gone was excruciating – it still is. I am planning a launch party on August 19th – the day she would have turned 66 years old – and I want to call her to discuss flowers and lighting. Instead I turn to my Aunt Cyndi or one of my many friends who have helped to fill the gaping hole my mother’s death left in my life.
Now you have written this book, what do you hope its publication will do for you? How has completing it made you feel about yourself?
More than anything, relieved that I have fulfilled my promise to my mom and myself that our story would be shared with others. I hope it is well received and that others appreciate the bravery, style and grace my mother showed throughout her cancer journey. Mostly, I am happy to have the book complete as a glimpse for my children and my nephews of the vivacious woman who was their GG.
You have a huge launch planned for your book. A book launch is always a great way to kick off the publicity for a new book and is also a chance for celebration. Tell us a bit about yours.
It will be a backyard (weather permitting), catered cocktail party at my home in the Kingsway neighbourhood of Toronto. My brother, father and aunt are coming from Virginia for the event, which is very much a celebration of our shared triumph with the book and also of my mother’s birthday. We’ll have an understated teal colour theme, as the teal ribbon represents ovarian cancer – this will be visible from the outset as guests are greeted with fragrant and delicious Hpnotiq champagne cocktails. I plan to read a very brief excerpt of our book and introduce my family/our main characters to friends. Books will be available for sale and signing, but above all it is a celebration!
If you were to give advice to someone else who is thinking about writing a book, what would be your number one tip?
Really and truly consider why you are doing it and whether you enjoy writing. I am not a natural writer and found myself honing my powers of procrastination in anticipation of writing the book. If it’s a book that is meaningful to you, it will come and it will be worth it. For me, I am thrilled to have Love You So Much, A Shared Memoir as my first, last and only book.
JP: Tell me about your book. What is it about? Can you describe it in just a few sentences? To show that a book has focus it is vital that it can be described briefly and succinctly.
JH: From Barcelona Vol. 1 is what I describe as “city-lit,” which is basically fiction centered on a particular city. Rather than devote a full length novel, I thought it would be more entertaining to write ten short stories of different genres from crime to horror to literary and historical fiction, giving readers a more varied view of the place.
JP: Why did you write it?
JH: Mostly to work on my craft and to see if I could be published.
JP: Why do you think your book needed to be written? What will your book do for other people?
JH: There just seemed to be a market for fiction centered on a city. A good example is Shadow of the Wind by Zafrón. You say, Barcelona, and people immediately cite that book. I just wanted to show different sides of the city beyond mysterious book sellers.
JP: Who do you think will read your book? What made you think that there was a market for it? If your book has been out for a while, what proof do you have that you were right?
JH: I think anyone interested in Barcelona or Spain will like it. Each story offers a different view of the city, peeling back the curtain so to speak. This has been reflected in the mostly positive reviews from the critics and readers both on Amazon and in the press.
JP: It does not matter how good a book is, or how good your writing is if no one knows about it. What steps have you taken or do you plan to take to promote your book? Are you a speaker or trainer? Do you have a blog? A website? A newsletter? Do you use Facebook, Twitter or other social media tools? What about press releases and sending out review copies and free articles? Have you had any other ideas? Which methods do you think work best and can you give me any examples?
JH: I have to admit I’m terrible at self-promotion. When the book first came out I did some press, but unfortunately the book’s release coincided with my move from Spain to Holland, so everything kind of got put on hold while my family and I got settled into out new home. Then being the writer I am, I decided to write a novel because I prefer my head to the real world.
That said. I did maintain the blog frombarcelona.com which proved a valuable tool and now started one on life in Alkmaar, hollandfromholland.com. I have a Facebook page but don’t understand Twitter.
JP: How did you publish your book? Did you find an agent, a publisher or did you publish it yourself? Please describe your process and tell us how you found the experience.
JH: I got in touch with a small publisher of guide books, Native Spain, and pitched them the book proposal. They liked the samples I’d sent and we went from there.
JP: Self-belief can be a big problem for writers. How did you manage to stay confident in your ability and remember that you were good enough to write your book? How did you cope with the days when you thought you could not do it and that it was rubbish?
JH: Self-belief is still something I struggle with. I write because it keeps me sane more than for the fame or glory. It’s a craft that I’m still learning. So I always want to do one more revision because I’m never happy. This can be a problem if I’m the last person to see and edit it. But in order to keep doing it, I have to learn to live with an imperfect product and make some money.
JP: It’s easy to procrastinate, to blame writers’ block and to put off finishing your project. How did you keep yourself motivated? And how long did it take you to write it? What was your routine?
JH: Honestly writer’s block has never been a problem for me. If anything I tend to suffer from hypergraphia, which is the overwhelming urge to write. But when it comes to the marketing or that end of it, that’s a different story. Usually I decide to write another book, hoping it’ll lead to bigger and better things.
JP: What was your biggest challenge regarding the writing of your book? How have you overcome that?
JH: I think the biggest challenge is not letting the book I’m writing at the time consume me. I have a vocal wife who reminds me of my responsibilities to her and our daughter.
JP: If you were to give advice to someone else who is thinking about writing a book, what would be your number one tip?
JH: Don’t give up your day job and keep at it.
Last month I had a vivid dream.
I dreamed I had travelled abroad (again) to run a workshop (again) that had been arranged for me by someone I hardly knew (again). As usual, I had asked the kind organizer to source me enough students to recover my expenses plus my usual fee.
Duly, students arrived in the training room. Doing a quick calculation I realized there were not enough people to meet my financial target. My mood dropped like a stone but I painted on a smile, got to my feet and began to teach because it is what I love to do.
Suddenly, the room began to fill with people. Swarms of them. Hundreds. Dollar signs swam before my eyes as they all sat on the floor. The room expanded to become a vast white building with a swimming pool area sunk into the floor. The water had been drained from the pool and the venue had become my arena!
I had to shout to be heard over the noise of the new students. I had to stand on a box on the poolside and scream. Yet, while the small number of real students strained to listen attentively, the others chatted among themselves. Some even turned on the radio. I was furious! How dare they?
Then it hit me.
There was no point in shouting. The people who wanted to listen, would do so anyway. I needed to speak to the people who were really interested in my message and not waste my energy yelling at deaf ears. The louder I screamed did not make any difference, it just exhausted me.
So, I stepped down into the bottom of the drained swimming pool and sat cross-legged on the white-tiled floor. I spoke at a normal volume and it happened – the ones who wanted to listen, still could, while the others, who were simply not interested drifted away.
When I awoke I realized I had received a very clear message.
Remember the movie Field of Dreams, when Kevin Kostner said ‘build it and they will come’?
Well, I have spent years ‘building’ it, marketing like crazy, racing all over the world, promoting, writing, blogging, speaking … and actually, if I just stopped for a moment and took a look, I’d realize they are ‘coming’. The people who want to ‘hear’ are listening. I don’t need to try so darned hard any more. If I choose to greedily aim for a bigger market it dilutes my message.
Remember, back in January, when I wrote about picking a word for the year and how my word was brave? I think that for me, the bravest thing I need to do is to stop shouting from the rooftops. In a way it has become my security blanket. It takes courage for me to dare to slow down. But I need to be mindful of the fact that in reality, new clients contact me every single day. Every week, new authors submit their book ideas and complete strangers book my Fire Away sessions.
Now, I don’t want you for one minute to think that I am suggesting you all stop doing all those things I have urged you to do – the blogging three times a week, the setting up a Facebook page, the articles, the book reviews and everything. No, I am not suggesting that you stop, or even that you slow down. What I am suggesting is that you stop for a moment and consider the effects of all your hard work. If your dreams are beginning to come true and your goals are being realized, then maybe you could allow yourself to slow down a bit, to stop shouting and to just enjoy the fruits of your labours?
It is the summer after all. Many of you may be tempted to sit in the garden for a while, or to take a day off and head for the beach. If you believe that you have done enough building for a while, then don’t you deserve it?
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