marketing


by Andreé Robinson-Neal

christinefandersonChristine F. Anderson is the force behind CFA Publishing and Media; of her many talents, she is a skilled marketer. After shopping her own manuscript, she gained deep insight into the process of bringing a book from idea to manuscript to bookshelf/ebook seller. She took some time away from her work to share insights on the value of marketing with FFC.

What is your relationship with writing?  How long have you been writing? What have you had published?

I have been writing since my earliest memory, including writing haiku in the third grade. I was alway one to journal, write letters, and keep meticulous notes in school. I wrote and self-published my memoir, Forever Different, in 2013.

What was your experience like getting published?

I had several contracts from various publishers, all who required an astronomical retainer for marketing services. With more investigation I realized that what they wanted was for me to do a lot of the work before submission, so I decided that since I didn’t have the type of money they were requiring I would try self-publishing.

What made you start your own publishing company?

I started Christine F. Anderson Publishing & Media in order to give authors who have a story to tell fair representation when it came to publishing and publicity and marketing.

Talk a bit about your marketing background; how did you decide to focus that experience toward the world of publishing?

I obtained my MBA (Masters, Business Administration) in Marketing from New York University’s Stern School Of Business in 1991 and felt that in order for a book to be well-represented it had to have a considerable amount of marketing.

Let’s face it: this is a saturated market, particularly since the advent of self-publishing opportunities. I utilize various methods, including  social media outlets, and have developed a plan that works for my authors.

Why is the marketing aspect so important for new authors? How does it differ in the small press or self-publishing market as compared to the larger market?

Since we are on content overload when it comes to the publication of books, it is important for new writers and those who are looking to work with a small press or to self-publish to develop their own unique brand. I encourage all my authors to be different. Dare to be different!

What marketing skill or advice do you believe is most important to new writers?

The most important marketing skill I can suggest to a new author is to start by doing the research: who is the audience of your book? Start by knowing that and the rest of the marketing process tends to go smoothly.

What have you seen as one of the biggest obstacles for new writers wishing to get their work to market? How do you see yourself helping them overcome this obstacle?

I think the biggest obstacle facing writers is the lack of guidance; the key is to publish good work and I feel that accepting mentoring and guidance is vital to success. I would like to think that my authors can learn from my experiences since I am a writer, I self-published, and already made all the mistakes!

In your experience, in what areas do traditional marketing strategies fall short for new and existing authors?

I think the old adage of “build it and they will come” is nonexistent in the pro-publish market; taking an ad out and waiting for sales just won’t cut it. In this era, communication and contact are key and if you are not accessible and don’t stay in tune to current demand, you are dead in the water. Thank the good Lord for the dawn of social media, because it gives us access to that market demand in ways we never had in the past. It has helped answer a lot of the prayers of marketing executives.

What one piece of advice would you give to writers looking to publish?

I would tell them to write from the heart and to tell their story with the intention to inspire others!

____________

Christine F. Anderson obtained her MBA in Marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business in 1991. She has a long successful corporate career working for such companies as Citicorp and MGM Grand, Inc. She became an independent author in 2013 and while working on self-publishing her memoir, Forever Different, discovered a void in affordable book publishing and couldn’t find a publisher that provided a pro-active and  aggressive publicity and marketing strategy, so she decided to launch Christine F. Anderson Publishing & Media. It is Christine’s desire to give a voice to fellow authors’ works and guide them through the difficult world of publishing and promotion and assist them in achieving the greatest level of success with a fair business model. Her motto is “Tell your story to inspire others.”

 

jimharrington2by Jim Harrington

It’s impossible to throw a rock into the Internet and not have it bounced off an article explaining why an author needs a platform.

Here’s an example from Why a Writing Platform is a Must: 13 Ways to Build Yours by Pearl Luke:

 Having a writing platform means that you have an audience, and that you have some vehicle in place to reach that audience when you have books to sell. This platform is as important to those not yet published as it is to established writers.

Before an agent or publisher considers signing you, he or she will do a Google search on your name to see how often it comes up. Publishers can’t afford to do all your promotion for you. They want some assurance that you will be able to help create a buzz about your book. They want you to help sell your books.

According to Chuck Sambuchino in his Create Your Writer Platform, the most common building blocks of a platform include the following (list truncated, emphasis mine):

  • A website and/or blog with a large readership
  • An e-newsletter and/or mailing list with a large number of subscribers/recipients
  • Article/column writing (or correspondent involvement) for the media—preferably for larger outlets and outlets within the writer’s specialty
  • Guest contributions to successful websites, blogs, and periodicals
  • An impressive social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, and the like)
  • Membership in organizations that support the successes of their own

And then I read this by Jane Friedman in a post at Writer Unboxed.

 As far as trends go, the idea of building a platform has been around for at least five or six years now, if not longer. Unfortunately, as time has passed, I’m not sure the discussions surrounding platform—or the common wisdom that gets spread—is any better than it was in 2007, and social media as both marketing tool and creative tool has greatly complicated matters.

I’ll make a bold statement right here that I don’t think I’ve made before.

If you’re a totally new, unpublished writer who is focused on fiction, memoir, poetry, or any type of narrative-driven work, forget you ever heard the word platform. I think it’s causing more damage than good. It’s causing writers to do things that they dislike (even hate), and that are unnatural for them at an early stage of their careers. They’re confused, for good reason, and platform building grows into a raging distraction from the work at hand—the writing.

Here’s another article by Ms. Friedman on author platform.

So is this woman crazy? Is she attempting to undermine writers? I don’t believe so. Think about it. The number of writers who publish the first book they write is infinitesimal. Many write three or four before an agent or publisher thinks it’s worth publishing. It takes time to write this much, time that for many fiction writers is scarce. Most, even some who have a number of publications, have full-time jobs and/or families demanding their attention.

For the writer, building a platform means participating in writing groups, posting on a personal website or blog, updating a Facebook status, tweeting, going to conferences, and so on. None of these activities help in getting the book finished. If anything, they detract from it.

The first job of any author, and the effort that should consume the most time, is finishing the book. Am I suggesting you move to a cabin in Vermont for three years and eat berries and rabbit stew? Of course not, but be selective in what you do. A writing group is a must. Someone else needs to read your work to help find the weak spots. Attending a conference once a year is a good way to meet authors and publishers interested in your chosen genre. Joining a professional association does the same. On the other hand, a personal blog that hasn’t been updated in two years because the author is too busy (or has lost interest) doesn’t do anything to promote you or your work. In fact, it may have the opposite effect. At the point that your outside activities detract from the work of writing your book, you’ve gone too far.

But I plan to self-publish, you say. Okay, at some point you’ll need to ramp up your social media activities. However, you still have to finish the book.

Chuck Wendig, in DROP THE PEN, GRAB A HAMMER: BUILDING THE WRITER’S PLATFORM, puts things into perspective when he says:

 Here’s the thing: a writer without a platform can still get published if he has a kick-ass book, but a writer with a great platform isn’t likely to get published if his book is better off being dragged out behind the barn and shot in the head.

What do you think? I’d especially like to see comments from any publishers or agents who read this. For a new author looking for their first publication, is an author platform important? And for you writers who believe it is, remember that one of the suggested ways to build your audience is to write guest posts for your favorite blog. *wink* *wink*

_________________________

Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. His stories have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Liquid Imagination, Ink Sweat and Tears,  Near to the Knuckle, Flashes in the Dark, and others. He serves as the Interim Managing Editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles. Jim’s Six Questions For . . . blog provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read more of his stories at http://jpharrington.blogspot.com.

by Bonnie ZoBell

Welcome to Part Two of From Printed Page to Moving Picture – Looking into Book Trailers

In the first part of this series, I shared my journey of making a book trailer with John Ray Gutierrez at Big Burrito Media for my book, The Whack-Job Girls.  The second trailer maker who came highly recommended to me and who is a wonderful talent is Kim McDougall. She’s the founder of McDougall Previews, her trailer-making company, and of Blazing Trailers, a free site where anyone with a book trailer to post can get a great promo page, regardless of who made it. I already knew and was impressed with Kim’s fiction, but then was referred to her for her trailer-making prowess by Mary Akers, who wrote a book with Andrew Bienkowski about Bienkowski’s harrowing experience as a child, banned with his family from Poland to Siberia. Mary is very pleased with Kim’s powerful video for The Greatest Gift. Three of her and Andrew’s mainstream publishers used it as part of their promotions: Simon & Schuster UK, Allen & Unwin (Australia), and The Experiment (US).

Kim, who is also a fiber artist and photographer, and writes children’s and YA fiction under her married name, Kim Chatel, has been creating book video previews since 2008, and her unique designs and competitive prices have allowed her preview business to soar. With over 300 trailers under her belt, she continues to create fun, stylized promos.

For less than the price of a glossy magazine ad, a book trailer can reach a global audience… Your book trailer is your ebook’s best friend. When more and more people are browsing for books online, the trailer is a natural tool to help readers connect with your book and take it off the virtual shelf.

I spent some time on the Blazing Trailers website admiring Kim’s amazing work. Some of my favorites were the Xujun Eberlein video Apologies Forthcoming for her collection. It’s remarkable to see the trailer capture the beautiful language in the fiction and meld it with the haunting music and the great drawings. The video Gauntlet Runner based on S. Thomas Bailey’s fiction-historical action novel, makes great use of the wilderness and wildlife, present during the almost impassable Ohio Valley being fought over in May 1754. For the video of Tricia Dower’s literary fiction collection, Silent Girl, Kim has found just the right images, graphic arts, photography, glass breaking, baby’s feet, with absolutely no talking (which makes these trailers less expensive).

Kim says she likes to make trailers “fun, scary, sexy, intelligent, mysterious . . . whatever best reflects the book.” Above all, she wants them to be “interesting and memorable. In the end, a trailer is an advertisement. Its purpose is to name-brand an author and a book.”

Why does she think book trailers are important? “We live in a multi-media world. YouTube is now the biggest broadcaster in the world, and more people get their news and entertainment from the internet than ever before. For less than the price of a glossy magazine ad, a book trailer can reach a global audience. Finally, your book trailer is your ebook’s best friend. When more and more people are browsing for books online, the trailer is a natural tool to help readers connect with your book and take it off the virtual shelf.”

Asked what problems she sees in other book trailers that she tries to avoid, Kim says, “My two biggest pet-peeves about trailers are, 1) static images that don’t fill the screen, and 2) trailers that use too much text and tell too much story. Online screens are small. I try to use all the space I have by making images pan or zoom to fill the tiny screen. The sad truth is that you have 10 seconds to get a viewer’s attention on YouTube, and you need to renew his attention every 20 seconds or his itchy finger will click on ‘next video.’

“I get bored easily,” Kim continues. “So I always try to do something different. I’m constantly learning new software, finding new sources for royalty-free media and honing my techniques. Even with all that, I still keep my prices some of the lowest in the industry because I’m a starving author, too, and I know how hard it is to find inexpensive and effective book marketing tools.”

You can preview Kim’s production rates here.

You can find hard-working and serious artists out there who will make you a good book trailer at a reasonable price. These two should be at the top of your list.

______________________Bonnie ZoBell

Bonnie ZoBell’s fiction chapbook The Whack-Job Girls with Monkey Puzzle Press was released in March 2013 and her short story collection WHAT HAPPENED HERE is forthcoming with Press 53 in spring 2014. She’s received an NEA fellowship for her fiction, teaches at San Diego Mesa College, and is Associate Editor of The Northville Review. For more information, visit www.bonniezobell.com.

Bonnie ZoBell

by Bonnie ZoBell

If you don’t care about book trailers or think they’re a cheap commercialization of literature, read no further. I, on the other hand, want to do everything I can to help my new chapbook get read, so I did have someone create one for The Whack-Job Girls, which I’ll talk about below in terms of how it got made.

There are those who say it’s not that hard to make trailers, and we should all make our own. For an excellent article on making your own book trailer, read Mark Budman’s An Insider’s Look at Book Trailers, which appeared a few months ago in Flash Fiction Chronicles. My problem is that my teaching job consumes me, and I don’t have enough time to write as it is. I know nothing about filmmaking and would have to learn the basics of creating a video as well as figure out what I’d be capable of doing.

So I did a lot of research. Though most of the news was disheartening, I did come up with two stellar book-trailer makers who are very reasonably priced. For the most part, I found, individuals who make book trailers can cost in the range of $1,500 to $2,000, which was out of my league. The big companies can charge up to $5,000 or more. This made the two creative and more modestly-priced people I found even more appealing. A lot of who you choose and how much it costs depend on differing moods, approaches, sensibilities, what kind of book you’re trying to promote, and whether you want actors in it, music, talking, and a number of other features.

John Ray Gutierrez at Big Burrito Media is who I ended up working with mainly because the craziness of his other trailers seemed like a great match for the whackiness of my chapbook. He was referred to me by another writer, Talia Carner, for whom he’s made at least three book videos to go with different works, the most recent of which is the stunning Jerusalem Maiden, definitely not crazy but thoroughly dramatic and beautifully done for her book by the same name. When I saw Talia’s video I was so impressed I immediately went to the Big Burrito Media website and began looking through his other work. What showed me how whacky John Ray could be and appealed the most for The Whack-Job Girls were The Death of Bunny Munro Trailer, based on the book by Nick Cave. Love those devil horns! Love the neighborhood horror! And I was completely drawn to the loopiness of Strangers with Candy’s Sedaris Explains Jerri Block. Yes, she’s the younger sister of David.

I emailed and then called John Ray, who lives in Morgan Hill, California.  He has worked as an actor and producer for at least ten years, worked for HBO, and created a cable access show “The GenX Show,” which led to an indie film career. He’s now working on getting a children’s animation series produced, The Dust Bunnies, which focuses on empowering young children with language and mindful wellness. Finally, he’s directing a horror short, Stray Bullet, an introduction to a cinema monster called Cuckoo Charlie, the cannibal clown. The character was created by a buddy of his who wants to break into the horror circuit.

The first thing John Ray told me was that he wanted to read my book to see if it was something he’d want to do and so he could think about a script. This impressed me that he cared about what he worked on and wasn’t just trying to get money however he could.

“I need to read the whole book to get the feel for the book trailer,” says John Ray. “If a producer doesn’t, how the heck are you going to do a good job? Its mind boggling that lots of book trailer companies have a one size fits all formula. How is that possible? Each book trailer is unique and beautiful. It is a reflection of the artist. But it seems production companies just see a book trailer as an advertisement.”

I sent The Whack-Job Girls to him along with a few unformed ideas about what I’d like to see. Less than a week later, he sent back a script, which I loved, so I hired him right away. We talked about money (more on that later), agreed on a time frame for production, and then he set to work.

Every book trailer or project I do is art. It is a huge responsibility to move word to visual. If not done right it looks horrible.

A book trailer is an extension of the author. It isn’t just an advertisement.”

But he included me, too, which I liked. Even though I didn’t feel I could make a trailer myself, I like being involved when it comes to my own book. What he wanted me to do was find people who would say some of the lines he’d chosen from my chapbook and say them with verve. He only wanted shots of their mouths while they spoke. But I don’t have a video camera, I told him, and I don’t think I can afford to buy one just for this. He suggested I use my iPhone, which is exactly what I did. Who knew my iPhone had a way to make videos in it? (Okay, you knew it, but I didn’t.)

We talked about how my “actors” should deliver various lines, and I went to work. I sent him 5-10 takes on the short speaking parts in the video. Some parts weren’t used. Some had to be redone with his coaching instructions on the acting. It turned out to be a lot of fun for the people who participated.

In the meantime, John Ray sent me clips of music from up-and-coming musicians who want their art to be heard by a wider audience, so there weren’t problems about not having enough money to pay for the use. Fortunately, John Ray and I immediately agreed about what sound went the best with the trailer and was the right mood for what was happening in the book. He began sending me different clips of scenes he’d made for the trailer and showed how it went with the music. I loved it! One of my favorites is the ocean washing over the scene of a couple in their living room.

The price did not go up. It stayed at exactly what he said it would be. You can get a book trailer from John Ray Gutierrez at Big Burrito Media for $400, depending on how many bells and whistles you want.

“In extreme cases I have also bartered,” John Ray says. “I stay within the budget of authors. I know how tough it is to do your craft without financial help. I love to work and this is not hard for me. It’s something I love to do. I put my heart and soul in the book trailer. It is not just another project. The work I do is the legacy I want to leave behind. Every book trailer or project I do is art. It is a huge responsibility to move word to visual. If not done right it looks horrible. A book trailer is an extension of the author. It isn’t just an advertisement.”

He smoothed it all out until he was satisfied with the end results, and I’ve had so much fun posting the trailer. I really do think it gives a sense of the book and helps viewers understand what it will be about. John Ray was an absolute pleasure to work with. I can’t recommend him highly enough.  And now, without further ado, my book trailer for The Whack-Job Girls…

  Come back for the August edition of Part Two!

 ________________________

 Bonnie ZoBell’s fiction chapbook The Whack-Job Girls with Monkey Puzzle Press was released in March 2013 and her short story collection WHAT HAPPENED HERE is forthcoming with Press 53 in spring 2014. She’s received an NEA fellowship for her fiction, teaches at San Diego Mesa College, and is Associate Editor of The Northville Review. For more information, visit www.bonniezobell.com.

 

 by Tara Lazar

Have you heard of the Japanese writer who published an entire novel on a mobile phone? No, this isn’t a joke. There’s no punchline. It really happened—a novel delivered in short text bursts eventually made it to paper and topped the best-seller’s list.

Technology has made us comfortable with the short-short form of communication. Emails rarely contain salutations. We don’t leave voicemails anymore (that’s too time consuming). Our children don’t telephone their friends, they text. According to Scarborough, Social media has grown 238% between 2009 and 2013.  And for years now, picture book editors have asked writers for shorter and shorter manuscripts, citing that busy parents want something succinct to read at bedtime.

So I think the timing is ripe for children’s flash fiction to take off.

New writers hoping to break into the children’s market can do so with flash fiction, either by submitting to an online magazine like Shortbread Stories, or by self-publishing a collection of flash in digital format for Kindles, nooks and other e-readers. Even starting your own online magazine is easy with free blog platforms like WordPress.

Established writers can use flash fiction as a way to enhance fan loyalty. Between larger projects, authors can offer free flash fiction to keep readers engaged. Or they can supplement an existing book with short pieces designed to take readers deeper into a beloved character’s world. The flashes can be posted on a blog or Facebook fan page, delivered via email subscription, Tweeted or texted. Maybe new apps will appear so writers can easily publish flash to devices like the iPod and iPad. And even the old-fashioned postal mail is a venue for flash—Abe’s Peanut delivers kids’ micro-fiction in the form of four illustrated postcards a month.

Right now I use the site Storybird.com to write short pieces, which I link to from my website so readers can sample my style, as my debut book THE MONSTORE isn’t out yet. I plan to keep writing Storybirds and offering them up for free, to attract a new audience as well as entertain the existing one.

This generation of children has grown up immersed in technology. They come hard-wired for it. My 6-yr-old figured out how to navigate the iPad before I did. So if they are comfortable with all things digital, we should deliver quality stories in the format most fitting for their devices. Flash fiction fits the bill.

 ___________________________

Tara Lazar loves composing witty bios that make her sound interesting, but often fails. Her debut picture book THE MONSTORE releases with Simon & Schuster on June 4, 2013. Her flash fiction has appeared in Abe’s Peanut, flashquake, Boston Literary Magazine, Six Sentences and Six-Word Memoirs. Get writing tips, book reviews and fun kidlit news at taralazar.com.

 

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