Saturday, August 22, 2020

Marketing Plans: Part 2

 

This is the second part of the series on how well I used my 2015 marketing plan.

 

Publish press Releases, etc.

a.     Galva News

b.    Dispatch & RI Argus

c.     Galesburg and other IL area papers

 

Those of us who are of the pre-internet era should be familiar with how press releases were once written by hand, typed up, mimeographed, folded, stuffed into hand-addressed envelopes, stamped, and then mailed out to news editors. A snail’s pace would adequately describe the labor-intensive process. Unless, of course, one could organize a crew of helpers.

My writing career began with writing press releases for the Bishop Hill Arts Council. I had been asked if I could help out and was given some old clippings and told to do a rewrite with the current event information. It was fun to see something I wrote be published. I used those new-found skills for my craft business, my children’s 4-H Club, the Galva Arts Council, and for any time something needed to be promoted.

 

Galva News

My relationship with the Galva News started soon after those first press releases. Doug Boock, managing editor at the time, started giving me assignments as a correspondent. He was my first editor and I learned a lot. I got the front page for the press release for my book. (Okay, it was below the fold, along with GHS homecoming and a Hog Days parade photo. Above the fold was a piece on citywide garage sales, the Bishop Hill Old Settlers reunion, and a bad dog photo. But still….) Doug added a nice introduction to the standard copy I’d sent out to my list of regional newspapers.

I need to take a side trip here and explain how difficult it was, and still is, to write about myself and my work. When I write about other writers/authors I can find the message or the salient point that makes a good review positive and possible. But when it comes to me and mine … I draw a blank. Still, I needed a press release and for this occasion I forced myself into a stranger’s shoes and went for it. The result was better than my usual. I used variations on that copy for my back-cover blurb and other promotional needs. I got a lot of mileage out of that effort.

 

Dispatch & RI Argus, Galesburg, and other IL area papers

Now back to 2016 where I had discovered the wonders of sending newsy items by email, thus avoiding all the labor and expense of stuffing envelopes. I still had to give the editors, who are always conscious of print space, plenty of lead time for editing. I had about a dozen contacts, largely on the Illinois side of the river, on my list and most did something with my press release.

 

(In case you ever wondered how all those awkward sentences made it into print—editors cut from the bottom to make things fit into the available space. So always get your important information mentioned early in whatever promotional item you’re writing about. Just to be safe.)

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Prepare to Succeed

 

Do keep good records of all your book sales both retail and wholesale.

Office supply stores and similar areas of big box stores will have a selection of carbonless pads of receipt forms to choose from.

 

Retail sales

I have one type of two-part-form receipt pad for retail sales. I use it at book signings, speaking events, or any time I have a sale. Note: Always have books on hand in your vehicle.

Info you will need: date; location of event; name of customer & address/email, if possible; price; type of sale—cash, check, or credit. Location is important because sales tax will vary by city and state. You are responsible for collecting sales tax. I also use these receipt forms for gift, review copies, and donations; any information needed for inventory control.

 

Wholesale sales

The larger invoice pad is for wholesale book placement in bookstores, gift shops, or anywhere you can work an agreeable percentage deal with the owner/buyer. I have 3-part form pictured. That’s from my days in the craft program in Bishop Hill. A 2-part form should work well and be less expensive. Wholesale customers are responsible for sales tax.

 

Publisher sales

Publishers will have their own events and sales. They will have their own inventory and be responsible for sales tax. Do show up to sign & date your book. Think about a catchy phase to add. Have your quick-drying gel pens ready.

 

Do make up your own one-page inventory forms. Most of your regular wholesale customers will have their own, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for the one that doesn’t. Plus, you’ll need something, a spreadsheet perhaps, to track overall sales.

 

The suitcase

I knew about having a to-go box of books for the car before I went to my first panel discussion, but I was totally amazed when the other authors started rolling in with their to-go suitcases. Basically, it’s your bookshop on wheels. Pack everything you might possibly need to set up a table or booth: cash/change, credit card reader, tape, scissors, price labels, tablecloth, book stands, business cards, promotional anything—collect it all then take it with you. Yes, these days it includes masks.

 

Do whatever it takes to be prepared to succeed.  





Sunday, August 16, 2020

Research Tidbits

 

I’ve heard of writerly advice that basically says, “Put some weather in your story.” If that is something you would like to do, and you wish to be totally accurate I have a solution: Weather Underground. There are other weather web sites that allow for searches for historical information, but

https://www.wunderground.com/history/daily/KMLI/date/2008-8-9

is where I go first.

 

The search results I’ve shown above are for one of my scenes. It is easy to enter date and location information for one’s specific needs. I think it’s a valuable tool no matter how you use it.

 

Go to:

https://www.wunderground.com/

Find Historical Weather under the “More” heading at the top of the home page.

 

Sunny days. Rainy days. Sunrise or sunset. It’s a way to add another dimension to your writing.

 

Or go to:

https://www.timeanddate.com/

I’ve used this one for Moonrise/Moonset times and Moon phases. The site has an easy to navigate home page.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Marketing Plans: Part 1

 

This is the first part of the series on how well I used my 2015 marketing plan.

 

1.    Make personal Appearances

a.     MWC events

b.    Bishop Hill events

c.     Libraries where possible

d.    Bookstores (Barnes & Noble, local, etc.)

 

MWC & Bishop Hill Events

My book, Clouds Over Bishop Hill, was uploaded to CreateSpace around noon on Aug. 26, 2016. CreateSpace was a print on demand publishing platform that has since merged with Kindle Direct Publishing, KDP. My publisher, MWC Press, ordered 200 copies that arrived in time for our planned book launch events that began with Bishop Hill’s Ag Days celebration in late September.

I really lucked out with my book launch events, I had three.

The first one came as a surprise and an honor. I was invited into the very museum that is shown in silhouette on the cover of Clouds Over Bishop Hill. It went very well even though a few people straggled in after I’d started my reading. Not that it mattered since I’d started with the first chapter. I learned later it is best to read the more action-packed passages. Yes, Bishop Hill can be exciting.

The second book launch event was held a week later and was hosted by dear friends at the Feathered Nest gift shop. It was well attended.

The third was held at the Midwest Writing Center when their office was still located in the Bucktown Center for the Arts in Davenport. I was still reading that first chapter and explaining how I came up with my composite characters. An important lesson I learned that day was not to be apologetic, to stand up for my work.

I made it part of my schedule to return to Bishop Hill for every major festival. I would set up my table display of books, business cards, brochures, bookmarks, and newspaper clippings at the Colony Store, the Steeple Building, and the Colony Blacksmith Shop for the rest of 2016, all of 2017, and some of 2018.

 

Libraries

Early on I made it a point to offer Clouds Over Bishop Hill for placement in regional libraries. Even though my work was fiction, by setting my action in and around Bishop Hill, by using the general outline of its history, I was trying to capture it as another one of my characters. That I believed gave the book added value. I also wanted to reach readers who, for whatever reason, weren’t able to purchase books.

My best attended library event was a Read Local at the Bettendorf Public Library. I still felt new to the Quad Cities and hadn’t expected much of a turnout. I made up flyers that had the book cover and excepts from reviews along with location, date, and logos of the sponsors (MWC & BPL). At that time, I attended three book clubs in Davenport and a grief support group in Moline. They all got flyers. I handed out flyers to my main critique group, Writer’s Studio. I did an old-fashioned mailing to people living in my neighborhood using stamps commemorating the upcoming solar eclipse. I was included in the BPL’s color brochure for Read Local and in other library announcements. On my night I got a few people from each group I’d reached out to. So, instead of getting the usual dozen or so for an average reading we had to keep adding chairs. We ran out of books to sell. It was great!

I did a library reading in Monmouth and one in Kewanee for a genealogical society. I made plans to contact libraries within a 60-mile radius of the Quad Cities but didn’t follow through with the campaign. Traveling costs had become a deterrent by that time.

 

Bookstores

I approached the Barnes & Noble at North Park Mall, Davenport, about selling my book. I was prepared for failure and was totally astonished when the person I was talking to ordered four copies online. I think I had to promise to be responsible for any unsold books. I soon had my book on their shelf. However, that pleasantness didn’t last long. Landing a reading proved to be very difficult to set up. I managed to be included as one of five MWC authors. As far as I could tell there was little in-store promotion. It turned into one of those shows where vendors were buying from each other. I did get paid for the last book I left on consignment with B&N. They have been restructuring, so, I would go back to B&N again to see what I could arrange for my next book, but I would make sure I knew the exact terms of the deal.

I never tried the Book Rack or the Brewed Book, Davenport bookstores, with the first book. I was trying to be loyal to B&N. I would definitely approach them with the new book. The same with River Lights in Dubuque. Anything within a reasonable driving range is fair game. There is an old adage: The second book helps to sell the first. It will be tested.


Read Local at the Bettendorf Public Library.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Marketing Plan 2015

 

The following is the Marketing Plan I created when I was scheduled to pitch my first book to MWC Press at the David R. Collins Writers Conference at the end of June 2015. It was one of the requirements asked for by the review committee. I thought it was an excellent excuse to actually think of such things, you know, make a plan, as opposed to finishing the manuscript edits and waiting for its overall brilliance to be discovered. It would have been a long wait.

 

I sat at my keyboard and typed in whatever came to mind, like free associating with a goal: READERS. Some of this list was based on my prior experience with having a craft business in Bishop Hill and going to Arts Council meetings.  Some ideas came from attending conferences and workshops through the Midwest Writing Center. Some came from going to Writer’s Studio meetings along other critique groups. Listening to and reading about what other writers/authors have done always has value.

 

I will be going to go over this list and noting what worked, what didn’t, and what I skipped. All this will be prep work for coming up with a new list for promoting my next book; as you know, times have changed.

 

1.    Make personal Appearances

a.     MWC events

b.    Bishop Hill events

c.     Libraries where possible

d.    Bookstores (Barnes & Noble, local, etc.)

2.    Publish press Releases, etc.

a.     Galva News

b.    Dispatch & RI Argus

c.     Galesburg and other IL area papers

3.    Network with Joe Taylor of the QC Convention & Visitors Bureau

4.    Consign books in Bishop Hill Shops & advertise on BH web sites

5.    Blogger

a.     Create an author/book page

6.    Facebook

a.     Create an author page

b.    Use the list of towns mentioned in the novel

7.    Goodreads

a.     Create an author page

8.    Twitter

a.     Create an author page

9.    Focus on reaching Swedish readers w/eBooks

a.     Use Kindle Direct

b.    Dream of a Swedish book tour

10.Merchandise

a.     Design an OK T-shirt

11.Contests

a.     Meatball recipes

b.    Decorating T-shirts

12.Free Stuff

a.     Books for reviews & contest winners

b.    Printable bookmark w/map & other info

c.     A virtual signature page for eBook sales

d.    Christina’s meatballs

e.    Coupons for discounts for books & other stuff

13.Mailing Lists

a.     Look for a current Bishop Hill mailing list

14.Bishop Hill tie-ins

a.     Brochures, handouts, and merchandise

15.Buy Amazon Ad words

16.Enter contests

17.Check out what other authors have done

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Father’s Day 2020


This Father’s Day has been tainted by the Coronavirus Pandemic … just not in the way you might think. So far, everyone in the immediate family is fine with wearing masks, social distancing, and staying close to home. The snag I experienced happened when I added “Father’s Day card” to the shopping list and didn’t go myself to make the selection for my son. Last year I sent him an “almost” Father’s Day card, so I thought I could trust my better half to make the purchase. Normally he’s good at card shopping, thoughtful and creative.

With Covid-19 in the daily news all our shopping trips have been be-masked with a quickened pace. No more pawing through tomatoes and bananas, no comparison shopping for pasta sauces. It’s been grab-and-go for the most part. Unfortunately, this practice resulted in a Father’s Day card that seemed to be more suited for my son to give to my husband than vice versa. I was left with a conundrum: How can I fix this? I can’t waste an otherwise perfectly good card.

Time to be a writer.

The gist of the card was the Titanic going down with a lone voice balloon saying, “Give me more duct tape. I think I can fix this.” Or words to that affect. At the bottom of the card was, “If only Dad had been there….” Or words to that affect. Inside the card was a reference to the Dad who could fix anything, especially when given an adequate supply of duct tape. Or words to that affect.

Two problems: first, “If Dad had been there” didn’t fit the family dynamics on this occasion; second, I have a wonderful son, don’t get me wrong, he is quite accomplished in his own way, but he’s not a Mr. Fixit type. He’s still young and I have hope, but this card didn’t seem the right fit at all.

Days passed and inspiration failed to visit me with a solution. Then it happened, and I had to give myself the metaphorical head slap while moaning a pathetic, “Doh!” It took that long to remember that my son, while in high school, did indeed go through a phase of constructing wallets made from duct tape. I even went out of my way to purchase different colors of duct tape when I found them. Finally, I used that bit of family history as a plot device in the book I’m working on. How could I forget something so important!

Apparently, it was far too easy for me to misplace the duct tape episode, AND the fact he saw the Titanic movie, like, FOUR times. I’m blaming it all on pandemic brain fog.

As a writer I made one tiny little edit, I masked out “Dad” and wrote in my son’s first name, and presto, it was good to go. His first Father’s Day card was saved. My husband’s card-buying reputation was intact. Sadly, however, my reputation has suffered.



Note: “I still struggle with using effect and affect. If I didn’t use ‘affect’ correctly here, I’m sorry. I’m going to blame that on my psychology degree,” she said, while sitting at her computer with a flat affect on her face.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

On the Hunt for the Right Words


Writing during a pandemic has been difficult for me. I get these cheery emails with writing prompts and seldom open them. Why? Because I don’t want to be uplifted, sidetracked—no, more distractions are not welcome at this point. I have a self-imposed deadline coming up. I must have an ending for my novel. The going has been tough enough as it is. So, sorry guys, I know you all mean well.

I do have something for my ending blocked out. It’s a fine workable ending with the potential to neatly tie up all the loose ends from plot and subplots. But I’m sorry to say my characters aren’t talking to me yet, not giving me the dialog I need.

Plus, everything is taking too much time. For instance, it took two weeks of subconscious stewing over the name of a new festival to come up with an answer that makes sense, that works on more than one level. I spent much of that time walking and thinking and waiting for inspiration. Of course, I’ll have to patch up the text when I do the next full edit, but I needed something solid to begin with.

This second Bishop Hill mystery contains quite a few stories: legends, second-hand accounts, and outright lies. I needed to find a way to draw them all together and I’m hoping the name of the festival that I came up with will do the trick.

The business with using Bishop Hill stories isn’t new. I had some in the first book. I’ve expanded on the theme for the second. My stories could never hold a candle to those of The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow. (I listened to the audio book.) I must rely on my own interpretations of life in a small town—with a few fictionalized nudges of course. One must remember that conflict makes things interesting. One person thinking to themselves is fine; drag in the differing POV of another person and the dramatic happens. That’s why I’m going to call my gathering of historians, artists, and vendors the Bishop Hill Treasure Hunter’s Invitational … for now at least.