Tag Archives: Publicity

National Library Week! Libraries Transform

Have you visited your library lately? There is no time like the present: it’s National Library Week!

NatlLibWkWhen I teach a publicity class, I often advise students to go visit their local libraries, to become familiar with how they operate, to get to know the librarians. Who is in charge of events or distributing flyers or hanging posters? How far ahead do they book events? Do they have a newsletter or blog?

But many authors I talk to see libraries as a loss leader. They think that people who take books out of the library are taking money away from them. They should buy the book instead, right?

Well, that would be lovely, in a perfect world. But how many people can afford to buy every book they read? And especially how many voracious readers can simply store all the books they read? I for one cannot.

It’s true. Someone who takes a book out of the library may be doing that in lieu of buying it. But have you considered that they also may be doing that rather than not reading it at all? I can’t tell you how many books I have checked out at the library, only to hunt them down and purchase them later. In fact, it has gotten to the point where in my book-choked house I only buy those books that I know I will like – and often this means that I have checked them out of the library first, or checked out previous books by that author and will buy the later titles.

So think of the library as a way of introducing your books to a new audience. And consider all the riches that your library has to offer. Many libraries have book clubs, run extensive programming, and will buy multiple copies of a popular title – especially of local authors. Where else besides a bookstore can you go where you are sure to find readers of all ages, simply browsing? People go to libraries for all kinds of reasons: job hunting, homework, events, story hour, or simply to read a magazine or newspaper. And they tend to spend time there.

So introduce yourself, if you haven’t already. Want to really get to know your library? Volunteer a couple of hours a week, or even just a few hours a month. I got to know my library staff by volunteering for two hours every other Friday morning. I pulled requests and shelved outgoing requests. Completely menial and requiring no training at all, but it got me into the stacks and the back room, and I know everyone who works the circulation desk now. Some of my favorite people are librarians.

And when planning events, certainly consider your library. In our fair state, there is a legislative action that provides for money for library programming, called the Legacy Amendment. We are so lucky to have it. This provides money that must be used for programming, so libraries are looking for ways to spend it. An author approaching a library with a well-thought out program will likely be able to be paid anywhere from $100 to $250 for an appearance. Many other library systems have money for programming, and it can’t hurt to ask.

When considering programming, think about your audience and what the library wants to offer its patrons. Look at what other types of programs they offer. If it’s for children, have an activity for them to do. If it is adult fiction, provide some visual aids – a slideshow at the very least, but you would sure be a hit if you could wear a costume, have music, or a little show and tell. For nonfiction, depending on what type, you might do something fun or run it more like a workshop or class.

When planning out your events, don’t forget your library!

Author Bios

Recently I’ve been doing some work for a literary organization which will feature 29 readings over seven weeks, with several authors at each reading. Imagine my delight when getting materials ready for the media when I found that many of the bios in the document I was handed were full of formatting, way too long, and had embedded links.

AllAboutMe

People, people. Okay, I know, if you are sending a bio to someone you might think, well, they can just customize for their use. One person said to me “Why can’t you just right click and delete the links?” But that’s not the point. The point is, I was going through many bios, and I had to go through all these pieces separately, carefully, and it was more time-consuming than it needed to be. And this is not my first rodeo.

When you are providing an author bio, or if you are writing one for your Facebook page or website, here are a few tips I recommend:

Keep it brief. You can have a long version, and this might be appropriate for your website, but know that media will often go there for a bio if they need one, and they would be more appreciative of a short bio. You could provide both. Cook up both versions, as it’s better to have them and not need them, than… you know. Oh, and a one or two-liner for those article bylines is helpful, too.

Focus on your writing. Don’t go into your hobbies, unless they are relevant. Don’t talk about your career as an accountant. Very little said in a bio is going to impress anyone. Take this opportunity to connect.

Make it interesting. Okay, I know I said ease up on the hobbies. But what I hate to see is a two-line bio that says you live in Eastern Shropshire with your dogs and cats. That’s just not very personable, is it? I understand the need for privacy, but also think of those clamoring fans. Give them a little bit of personal insight. Here is an example from mystery novelist Julie Kramer:

“Julie grew up along the Minnesota-Iowa state line, fourth generation of a family who raised cattle and farmed corn for 130 years. Her favorite childhood days were spent waiting for the bookmobile to bring her another Phyllis A. Whitney novel. An avid reader, she tired of fictional TV reporters always being portrayed as obnoxious secondary characters who could be killed off whenever the plot started dragging, so her series features reporter Riley Spartz as heroine.”

You could use just one of these items in a short bio. This is paragraph three of a four paragraph bio on her website. But see how it gives you something to hang on to? A reporter could cull from here what they need. It gives you an idea of her family’s farming background (which sometimes plays in the books), a nice little childhood tidbit, showing her as an avid reader, and then the reason why she picked a TV reporter as her heroine (aside from the fact that she was a TV reporter and producer in her work). The rest of the bio is about the books (which could really go elsewhere, since they are already on her website) and her TV career. So it is complete and brief.

Think about the audience for which the bio will be displayed. Think about what that audience might want to know. Think about whether or not it will be read aloud. A lot of website addresses will be kind of awkward read aloud. Test it out loud to make sure it all flows well. But if it is for a website (such as for a bookstore where you will be appearing), do send a link to your own website. Just don’t embed it in the text. You may actually need several versions of your bio.

And finally, when submitting your bio to a specific person, whether it’s for a publication or an event, submit a clean copy. Keep it bereft of formatting. They will likely be copying it into a different program, so all the formatting will be stripped out as they do that anyway. I am pasting this into WordPress, which, even though I use the little Word icon, will strip out any formatting, including bolding and italics (you may still want to italicize book titles for clarity, as they will then have your document for reference when they do the final typesetting). But embedded links are the worst. As I said last week on Facebook, showing the links to all your books and awards will not impress an editor when they have to spend time stripping it all out.

I have seen I bet you hundreds of author bios in my career. I like the ones that give me an idea of the person, why they do their work, and where they come from. I don’t care much about college degrees or what kind of flowers you grow (unless you are an award-winning gardener writing a series about a gardening sleuth). I do care why you write, how you came to write what you do, and what your purpose is in doing so.

Here’s a really good checklist on how to write an author bio. I agree with all of this, so I’m not going to just parrot it here. Note that you will need a headshot, too, and there is a link in this article to an article about that (I know, sending you down the rabbit hole, aren’t I?). I especially agree with tip #10 here: yes, steal. Beg, borrow and look at all else. Great excuse for a field trip to your local indie bookseller, or hey, even a big box store if that’s all ya got.

V is for Virtual Tour

Many of you might have heard of a blog tour. These are also known as Virtual Tours, which is the term I prefer, because the sites visited might not all be blogs. So why would you do one, how do you do one, and what is involved in a virtual tour?

I love love love this idea. A Virtual Tour includes one of my favorite methods of publicity: article writing. In article writing, the article is not really about the book, per se, but about some element of its subject and there is usually some tendril that connects it to a bigger meaning. The publicity part is usually contained in the bio segment, a few tiny lines at the end of the article, where it says “Author Mary’s forthcoming book is xx.” The Tour part involves having the author featured on as many websites as possible during a given period of time. Typically this is the month during which your book is launched. But you can do these fairly effectively at any time during your book’s lifespan.

The Virtual Tour consists partly of content that you write yourself, and then offer to appropriate outlets, and partly of reviews that the site owners do when you send them a review copy. It is not a quick thing. Good Virtual Tours are planned months in advance. You need to be mindful of the editorial calendars and typical content of any site you approach, and you need to allow those who are doing reviews time to do the work necessary.

The most comprehensive and perhaps successful Virtual Tour I have ever seen was done by Mary Sharratt for the release of her novel Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. She hired an agency to set up the tour, which ran from Oct 14 to Nov 15 (for a publication date of Oct 15). (Note that the tour linked to here was done for the release of the paperback edition.)

There were a good amount of book blogs (sometimes two a day), most of which only needed to have a review copy sent to them. (But again, this needed to be done months ahead of time, for the busy fall publishing season.) These placements included interviews, giveaways and contests. Because the company that organized the tour specialized in historical fiction, they had a waiting slate of blogs to pitch Mary’s book to. This is half the work of any virtual tour – finding your targets.

But Mary also wrote for many other sites that at first glance had nothing to do with books, but everything to do with her subject matter. By a lucky chance of fortuitous timing, Illuminations was originally released in the same month that Hildegard was named a Doctor of the Church, and right around the time that she was elevated to sainthood. (Actually, luck had little to do with it – Mary knew what was going on with her subject and communicated this to her publisher, and I think the pub date was moved to coincide with these other happy events.)

For the initial release, Mary wrote articles on feminist websites, she wrote opinion pieces, she wrote articles about Hildegard’s music, her botany work, and her relevance to our world today. Sometimes this was done in concert with an independent book review, and sometimes it was done on a website that was not a book blog. She had an article placed nearly every day of her launch month. The beauty of this is that the article would then reach people who were perhaps more interested in the subject matter, so more motivated to read the book.

When I asked her about this tour, she said that she had hired an agency to coordinate all the posts, but the link on her website only points to the book review sites included on the paperback release tour. So I can’t give you a link that lists all of the other sites on which she wrote wonderful articles for the initial launch (she has redone her website since then). However, as you can see from the one I’ve linked to, this went on for over a year after the paperback edition was released – though certainly not at the pace at which she did it right around the initial publication date.

If you find a website or online magazine that has a particular affinity for your subject matter, you might be able to arrange a regular appearance there, as Mary has done with Feminism and Religion. Search for her other articles on that site, and you will see what I mean. They are timely and relevant, and give new life to the extensive research that Mary did for Illuminations. You may even be able to use material that didn’t make it into the book.

In order to organize a Virtual Tour, it is first necessary to find your markets. You should be open-minded about what you can write about, but certainly make sure that there is a tie-in to the site’s main topic. (Make a list of the different areas you can write about, and sub-lists of what you focus on in articles in each area.) You will need to determine who to query, and operate as if this were a regular magazine query process. Writer’s Market can be helpful for topic-specific sites, and for contact information. You can usually find an email in the Contact Us section, or if all else fails, look under the advertising section. Spend some time looking around the site, and make your query specific.

For book bloggers, you will need to familiarize yourself with the blog. Make sure your book is a good fit. Don’t pitch to bloggers on social media, and don’t pitch something clearly not appropriate (like a mystery novel to a historical fiction blog). Support your work by sharing each post on your own social media. Offer giveaways if you can, or original content. This can be a Q&A, an excerpt, or some other piece that you write based on the book (like a character interview, etc).

A Virtual Tour allows you to access an audience that you otherwise would not have. It is ostensibly free – that is, except for the time involved, which is substantial. There are many agencies which can set up Blog Tours for you, but a complete Virtual Tour will take something more. Do your homework on this one.

T is for Twitter

I loves me some Twitter. It’s true. Twitter is somehow more personal than Facebook, more accessible than Tumblr, more purposeful than Pinterest. It is also a great literary community.

Twitter

I call Twitter the Great Equalizer. It is a place where I am in contact with writers that I would never know on a personal level otherwise, including Erika Robuck, Greer Macallister, Erika Dreifus, and many others. I am being followed by the esteemed Robert Gray from Shelf Awareness (a newsletter for booksellers), and once, just once, I received a personal tweet back from none other than Neil Gaiman, when I commented on his tweet with a question. He answered me.

In fact, it was Neil Gaiman and his wife Amanda Palmer who both kind of convinced me that Twitter was the place to be. After all, if they are spending time on it, it had to be worthwhile, right? Amanda espouses the benefits of Twitter in interviews. I’ve heard her talk about the time she needed a nettie pot in Amsterdam or some such place, and tweeted it out and someone met her at a coffee shop with it. Now that’s community, right?

I’ve been on Twitter since 2009 and I have more than 750 followers. I follow more than that – I follow more people very day. It started slowly, but has really ramped up over the past year. I’ve found that there is more going on in that universe than meets the eye. There are chats, there are challenges, there are regular features. Today, in fact, there is a 24 Hour Read-a-thon going on, which I heard about on Twitter but which is also taking place on Tumblr and Instagram. The social media outlets are where you go to cheer each other on, and to be cheered on in turn. I’m taking part – at least on some level.

The chats are great. The first one that I became aware of was LitChat – held in the afternoon, usually an interview with a published author, typically focused on some aspect of their work. But hey, open to everyone. You can ask questions, get great advice, and find other people to follow. Just use the hashtag #LitChat. (Hashtags allow you to see any conversation associated with that hashtag – just click on it and you have the whole conversation. Also used for other purposes.)

There is also #BinderChat, which has to do with topics of interest to women, #K8Chat, run by Kate Tilton, which may cover many different topics, and chats associated with different movements, challenges and so on. The Challenge I am doing right now has chats every Thursday (#atozchat), where we come together and the moderator poses questions, but which sometimes digresses into discussions of what we’re drinking (the evening chat) or what we’re working on. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to get to know other Challenge participants. All a chat means is that certain people interested in the same thing have a time where they have agreed to meet on Twitter.

My favorite Twitter story is how I met a woman who lives about 2 hours west of me, out on the prairie. We found we had some things in common, so we decided to meet for lunch, and to visit a bookstore that was about halfway between us. We had so much fun. Then she asked me if I wanted to come out to her neck of the woods to see the Saint John Bible. I love the Saint John Bible. So of course I said yes. What I didn’t really grasp was that we would be taken by the project manager, into the vault, and be allowed to see the actual pages, and touch them. Yes. He even gave us magnifying glasses to see some of the details in the illuminations (the scales on the dragonfly’s wing, the hairs on the butterfly). We spent two hours in that vault. I had tears in my eyes at the end. It was overwhelming.

So when you find people that you are in tune with, it’s a lovely thing. And Twitter is a great place to find people like that. Be generous with your RTs and your Favorites. If you really like something, tell the person who tweeted it. If someone mentions you in an article, and tags you, give it a RT.

Read someone’s bio and take a look at a few of their tweets before you follow them, though. I won’t follow someone who doesn’t have an original thought, or someone who only posts photos, or only says “Thank you for the follow!” to everyone. But I am following a guy who posts tiny little poems, and nothing else. They are lovely.

For a writer, Twitter is indeed the great equalizer. Most publications now include a Twitter handle either for the publication as a whole, or the specific section that might interest you. Follow book editors, follow authors of articles you like. Follow literary magazines, follow reading initiatives. Follow libraries and associated organizations. Follow the guy who posts amazing photos of medieval manuscripts (Erik Kwakkel). Search out whatever specifically interests you. When someone makes an interesting point in a chat, check out their bio and a few tweets in the pop-up, and if you like what you see, follow them.

Twitter works best if you have a smart phone and use the app. I use it on my desktop also, but it’s quicker on the phone. I have probably spent far too much time scrolling through my Twitter feed in the last few months (since I got a new phone), but you don’t have to do that. It’s great for events and causes and crowd-funding campaigns. I have more stories of lovely things that have happened because of Twitter. But hey, don’t break the Cardinal Rule: no selling on Twitter. Not in your bio, not in your ‘Thank you for the follow’ messages, not at all.

You can find an article called Twitter Basics on the website here that explains some of the nuts and bolts. Go on, tweet your little heart out!

O is for Online

Online is a big word. But what does it mean for a writer? It means ‘online presence.’ What is your online presence? Have you ever tried searching on your name? Hit Google and type it in. You might be surprised. If you have an uncommon name, you might get some interesting results.

Using A Computer For Browsing Internet And Checking Email

More to the point, how can you build, maintain and grow an online presence? What can you do to ensure that this appears the way you want it to? That is a trickier question. We’ll start with the basics.

If you are not on a social media platform, then by all means, pick one. Just start somewhere. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter. I have only met one author in all my years in publishing who really didn’t need to be on social media. She was 80 years old and had published a book of her mother’s letters. It was more than a personal family project, but not her own work. She needed something online, so she created a website, and was good with email, so that was all I could ask of her. I cannot imagine her zipping along on Facebook. It just wasn’t going to happen.

You’ve already seen my Early Early Early mantra. If you are knee-deep into your book already, it’s not too late. But start as soon as you can. It may take years for you to truly get where you want to be with your online presence. It can be done quicker, though, if you focus and work on it.

The first thing you should do is to synchronize your presence. Make sure that you are appearing as you want to appear wherever you are mentioned. Be mindful about your brand. This may involve some thought, it may involve a designer creating a logo, it may involve a discussion with someone who can help you focus your goals.

Once you get a concrete idea of who you are and what you are trying to do online, you need to cultivate that presence. Be aware of how others perceive you. It takes some work, but then so do most things worth doing. When you speak to someone online, remember that you are speaking to them as that online presence. If this is simply your personal self, so be it. But if you are trying to cultivate an image of being upbeat, offering helpful advice, and coaching people, then it wouldn’t do, for instance, to complain about your neighbor, office mate or traffic all the time. Find somewhere else for that outlet.

This is not to say you should be phony. I know, it’s complicated. Your online presence should not be artifice. But it should be on purpose. I know one author who does an excellent job of engaging with her fans, but she doesn’t mention the names of her family members. And when her father died a couple of years ago, she simply stated that and said she was taking some time off social media (this was all happening on her Author page). This allowed her fans to express their condolences, but not to be enmeshed in her personal grief. This is one of the biggest arguments in favor of having an Author page on Facebook. So that you can keep the personal personal.

I do know some people who simply mix it all together. They would have to be gregarious, extroverted people in order to do this, and that does not describe most authors I know. If those who are naturally private do not separate their personas, it only causes them to be wary of social media and stilts their engagement. An online presence that cultivates the professional aspect of what they are doing will serve to allow engagement on that level, which is better than none at all.

You can engage on social media without giving away all your secrets. You just have to do it on purpose. Draw up some rules, if that will help. What will you not mention? What areas are off limits? Kids’ names? Names of their schools? The name of the town where you live?

On the other hand, if you want to just go all out and be yourself on social media, you can do that too. It’s all about your comfort level and what you are trying to do accomplish. The bottom line is, the more you engage, generally the more your online presence will grow.

Your online presence is about more than social media, though. It includes your website, your blog, and any profiles you may have on any other websites. It includes posts that you leave on other people’s blogs, it includes guest blogs, and it includes information about you on the websites of any organizations you may be involved in. I am a member of several organizations that include member information on their websites, including the Minnesota Book Publishers Roundtable and the National Book Critics Circle. I also have bios on websites for which I’ve done a guest blog, where I’ve taught a class, or where I’ve participated in a reading.

All of this makes up your online presence. If you want to ramp this up, the first thing to do is to sit down and think about what you are trying to do overall. If you can pinpoint that, you will be on your way to a cohesive, professional image that will project your mission to the world.

One last thing: Know that being active online may lead to some conversations you may not want to have. You may find that not everyone online is a nice person. Someone who continually makes nasty comments or who tries to pick fights is called a troll. Be aware of the trolls. Above all, don’t engage them. Just ignore them. They are the schoolyard bullies of the internet.

N is for Newspapers

If you think about having a review published, very often what comes to mind is your book being reviewed in your local newspaper. Oh, of course it’s always nice to be a different city’s newspaper, or to perhaps have something in the New Yorker or the big trade pubs like Publishers Weekly or Library Journal. But the newspaper – that’s where the people you know will see your book discussed in print.

Newspapers

There are other reasons for having your book reviewed in newspapers. I don’t think I have to convince you of this. It sometimes happens that bigger newspapers pick up the reviews of smaller ones. Often a review with accompanying event information will lead to bigger crowds at your events.

As you may suspect, newspapers are inundated with books to review. Laurie Hertzel, the Books Editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, is very transparent about her work. She posts photos of the stacks of books that await her whenever she comes back from vacation. She has posted videos of the trek she takes to the book room, where shelves full of books await her. Her standing policy is that she won’t review self-published books, because she has to draw the line somewhere.

When I send books to Laurie, I often will try to entice her coverage with news of events, and certainly news of what else the author is doing. If the book is a real stand-out in its genre, if it has some mitigating factor that might separate it from the hordes, or especially if there is any tie to current events or real news, I will let her know. Laurie gets about a shopping cart full of books every day, and I have to make it as easy as I can for her.

Still, it is not often that she reviews a book I send to her. There are just so many others. I have worked with her on finding other reporters to cover it, sometimes: a memoir by an acclaimed actress and singer was covered by the Theater reporter; a novel that featured baseball was sent to a sports columnist. It’s important for me to know who else does what so that I can take a stab at wooing someone else, and offer their readers something different.

Over the years working with Laurie I have picked up various hints and tidbits. It helped me to know when working with a small publisher that Laurie sorted her books by month of publication. I tried hard to convince this publisher that yes, they really did need to set a launch date, and have a firm publishing month. Maybe the beauty of working with a small publisher is that things can happen more quickly, but the basic tenets of working with the media still apply. Let them know when they can expect your book to hit the street.

In general, newspapers need to have review copies 2 to 3 months ahead of time. I realize that this can be difficult for some people, and that this idea of having the book ready to go, and waiting, is one reason why many people choose to self-publish. But if those same people also want to see their book reviewed in general media, they need to have the patience to produce the advance reading copies (ARCs) and get them out ahead of the launch date.

Send a list of events that have been set up, particularly if this is your local paper. But even if it’s not, that list will let the paper know that there is at least a modicum of demand for hearing you speak about the book, and that there are places willing to have you do so. Of course, highlight anything local.

I always include a press kit. This will include a short press release, which is not just a synopsis of the book but a little information about the author and what they are doing. I also typically include a bio of the author, and a short synopsis of the book. Sometimes, I will include another bit that is created specifically for the book, such as a character interview or a fun list or something. But never, no, never will I include glitter, or anything else that takes up bulk or is messy. When I was a book review editor, I received packets of cocoa (nice thought, that) and assorted other items. But they never swayed me.

Laurie recently had the misfortune of moving offices with the Star Tribune. Apparently to avoid confusion, a rabid publicist sent a review copy to her house via FedEx (that’s just creepy). When Laurie finally tracked down the publicist, she was told that she just thought the ‘super’ would sign for it. Folks, we don’t have supers, not in Minnesota. So Laurie had to go to the FedEx office after work and sign for the package. Do you think this endeared that publicist to her? It would have been far better if she had just sent the book through normal channels. Moral of this story: don’t make the books editor work harder to get hold of your book.

My experience of five years as a book review editor and the short stint I worked on a newspaper (during which I worked for the Arts editor and did interviews and reviews) taught me that the work must speak for itself. Like all the journal editors said during my recent AWP experience: send your best work. And for newspapers, send it early.

M is for Media Lists

If you want to contact the media, you must first create a media list. Now, this does not mean to get a list of all the newspapers in your area, or all the major newspapers in the country, and add all the highest-rated talk shows. We’re talking about your own personal media list.

Your media list is directly related to the content of your book. If you have written nonfiction, it is going to be directly related to the topic, with some general interest contacts thrown in. If you have written fiction, you have to really think about who your audience is. And don’t say, “Everyone.” No book is for everyone. Think about comparative titles. Who reads those?

TCLive

I like to say start local, then work your way out. You might make a list of all the local publications that you think might be interested (notice that I did not say “That you want to be featured in”). It’s all about what’s appropriate for their audience. It should be fairly easy to find the list of publications, but if you can’t find a complete list online, take a look at newsstands. Look at the masthead and find out where the publication is published. Look at newspapers (daily and weekly), magazines, and other periodicals that come out in your area.

I like to go to the library and take a browse through their magazines (again with the libraries). Most libraries have many subscriptions. They also keep backcopies. In my library these are back on a shelf in the corner. I take a stack of back copies and look to see what’s been covered that relates to my current topic. I look at mastheads, and sometimes read the editor’s letter. If there have been any shake-ups, it’s often noted there. I will often find other magazines that were not on my radar in this way, too.

Then look at broadcast media. Television and radio generally like to feature local people. This will vary by the size of the market. Larger markets are harder to get coverage in. They have all the big names coming to them so it’s harder for the little guy to get noticed. Look at the websites and get contact information for someone who may be called Producer, Talent Booker, Programming Coordinator or a similar title. There may be several producers so you’ll just have to take a shot. Sometimes the show will mention a producer’s name. I love it when they do this; then that’s the name I use.

If you’ve not been interviewed by the media before, start small. If you want to prepare well, maybe take a media training class or find someone who can coach you. I have done no interviews on radio or television, but I have taken a two-day media training class, and had a two-day class on how to do presentations, as well as a few sessions on how to do live presentations in front of an audience. So if you’re nervous, you’re not alone. Start where you are most comfortable, and work your way along.

In a former life, I had access to some great software that helped me make these lists. It was called Vocus, and now it is called Cision. This is fairly expensive, though, and I actually found that many times my contact list was updated before theirs was. So I don’t make that investment any more. However, if you are going to be doing a lot of speaking around the country, you may find that this investment makes sense for you.

It is important to be familiar with the media you are approaching, at least somewhat. If you are jetting all over, this might not be possible. But if you are starting local, the best thing you can do is to watch and listen to the programs, get a copy of the publication, and get to know what’s going on with them. I follow a lot of media on Twitter, and I know a few editors personally. They are actually some of my favorite people.

I also take any opportunity to meet and greet media folks. An organization I belong to had a Meet the Editor event a couple of years ago. It was great. They invited editors in from a lot of different publications – mostly magazines – and we attendees were able to just introduce ourselves and talk about what they need and what we do. These were people that I would not have met in any other way. If you belong to an organization for which this makes sense, see if they will consider having something like that.

Most editors, producers, and hosts are looking for great content all the time. You could be helpful to them. But they are not going to listen to what you have to say if you deluge them with emails or phone calls, or if you immediately send them great hulking files and demand an immediate response. These folks are human too and they would like nothing more than to showcase the best you’ve got.

Build your list carefully. Tend to it like a flower garden. It will grow and bloom and reward you for your effort.

G is for Guest Blogging

All right, so maybe you have a blog. I would guess that if you are reading this as part of the A to Z Challenge, you are already blogging and finding your audience. But consider another way to reach out to different audience. That’s right, guest blogging.

For many years, I didn’t have a blog at all. In fact, I was resistant to the idea (much as I am now resistant to creating a Google+ profile). I figured I had enough to do, and any writing I did should be either for my clients, or as part of my own personal creative writing. And I didn’t think blogging fit into that.

So for about the past five years, I have been using guest blogging as one of my primary outreach tools. This meant that I didn’t have to maintain my own blog, there was no schedule involved, and there was no pressure to come up with content every week. I blogged for someone else, and then shared the heck out of the link. I had several active social media profiles, so that was all in place to get the word out. I got exposure to my host bloggers’ audiences, likely people who would not have heard of me otherwise. And they got exposed to my followers.

Why then, you might ask, am I now blogging? Well, to tell you the truth, I just felt like I had a lot of information to share. I wanted to lay it out in a comprehensive manner. The Publishing Bones website allows me to do that. I have different sections for articles of different topics, and will soon add multimedia capabilities. But the blog was part of the theme package. It was there, and anyway I wanted a place where I could share timely information: maybe industry news or news about clients. Maybe have some of those fun special features I’d been seeing (I do have one, called Freakin’ Friday, but I have only used it once). I wanted the blog to be more business, but it seemed to swerve over into the personal part of what I was doing pretty fast. And that’s okay.

So the blog, which I call The Bones, is part of the fabric of Publishing Bones. And I decided to do the A to Z Challenge to get myself in gear. I figured if I could write 26 posts in one month, I’d be on a roll and it would continue. Plus I thought I would get to meet all kinds of other bloggers, which is proving true.

Which brings me back to guest blogging. Once you have a blog, you can still continue to guest blog on other sites. In fact, it makes even more sense. I just did a guest post on the site of Molly Greene last week. It was a phenomenal experience, and the response has been really encouraging. She was very happy with the content, and I think the traffic and her readers’ responses have been worthwhile for her. By the way, I met her through Twitter, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Guest blogging when you already have a blog is a win-win situation. You get the other blog’s traffic, and they get yours. Usually this is done in tandem – bloggers swap entries. But not always. I think if you already have a blog, though, and you guest blog on someone else’s blog, you should definitely let your readers know. It’s a great way to build community and get to know other bloggers. Try it!

E is for Early

My main mantra for book publicity is that it is never too early. It is never too early to start activities necessary to publicize your book. I know, sounds crazy, right? But there are things you can do – really valuable things – to publicize your book way before you have even written it.

Getting Up Early For Work

Okay, granted, these things won’t be literally publicizing that book. But they will help to establish you as a writer, to get acquainted with people, and to gather around you a community that will support your work. And luckily, most of this is free. What it will require, however, is time.

I’ve already talked about conferences. Those, unfortunately, are not free, and are not in the realm of things that most people can do because “someday.” But you could still make up a dreamlist of conferences that you would like to attend “someday,” and find out from others which ones they found most helpful, most worth their time and effort. Keep in mind, though, that these things can change over time – different organizers, different objectives. So don’t spend a ton of time on this unless you can go in the near future. Do consider this an investment, and try to budget the funds and time to attend one.

Then there is of course the ginormous world online. You can certainly set up any social media profiles long before you are ready to publish. You can get to know industry folks, make contacts in your genre, follow bloggers. Get tips, learn about the publishing industry, find out what people are looking for. The better they know you before you publish, the more likely they are to listen to you when you are ready. But honestly, don’t align yourself with people just in case they come in handy someday. That will show through rather quickly. Social media is about building community, and whatever your role, you should be a supportive part of that community.

Once you are ready to transition from writer to author, you will have to do a little extra work, such as setting up an Author page on Facebook, maybe, or revamping your bios, or setting up a website. And, of course, write the book. But if the community is there, you will have a giant headstart on momentum.

You can do a lot in the real world, too. If you have an active literary scene in your local community, time to plug into that. I am very lucky, because, well, I live in perhaps the most active, most supportive, most talented literary scene outside of New York City. But hear me, people, this can be a double-edged sword. I am a very small fish in a very big pond. We have National Book Award winners. We have Pushcart Prize-winners, Walt Whitman Award-winners. Heck, we even have the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. We’re lousy with fantastic writers, in all areas and genres.

And somehow, I have managed to meet a lot of great folks, and they have taken me in, and now, I feel like it is my community. It didn’t take very long, either. I did, however, come armed with a bit of a weapon – I started writing an online column in which I did profiles, reviews, and interviews with people in my state. That gave me a foot in the door, to ask for the interview, to ask for the review copy. Occasionally, I still do this, if something interests me enough, and I have time.

This worked really well in the literary world, but it would likely work as well in just about any industry or community that you want to write about. If art is your thing, and you can write and aren’t afraid to ask for the interview, try it. It would work well in the business world, or for any cause that you feel strongly about. It would work well in endurance athletics, in bicycling, in child development. You just have to be genuine about your interest and have a focus for your piece. Don’t be afraid to approach people; people love to talk about what they love. Call it research.

Another way that you can get to know folks is through plain old showing up. Attend events, meet the owner of the local bookstore, get to know your librarians. This has the added bonus of gaining you a foothold if you want to approach these places about your own events in the future. Present yourself as a writer, and people will identify you as one. Don’t say, “I want to be a writer.” Just write, and make yourself one.

So in short, you can start putting yourself out there as early as you want. You don’t have to have a finished book. You don’t even have to be working on one. If you know that you want to do this, you can get started today.

I cover a whole timeline of activities for those who are further along in their journey in this article recently posted on the blog of the fabulous Molly Greene. Check it out, leave a comment here (or there) if you have a question!