Monday, May 31, 2010

Ready, Set...Launch! Using hard-copy promotion to your advantage

As soon as you’ve signed a contract, or if you’re self-published, as soon as you’ve established a publication date, it’s time to get serious about promotion. On May 23, 2010, I discussed electronic promotion and this week we’ll talk about hard-copy promotion.

Hard-copy Promotion

Business Cards: Business cards provide a professional image and are a valuable marketing tool. Have plenty of them printed and always have them with you. At a minimum, a business card should have name, address, phone number, e-mail address and website URL. Some writers have their book’s cover art on their cards; other writers have several writing interests and want to present a wider image.

Bookmarks: Have a stack of bookmarks handy at personal appearances. Slip a bookmark into books as you sell them, or hand them out as incentives. I’ve found that bookmarks measuring 1 ½ x 7 inches a practical size and allows 6 bookmarks across a page. Card stock of 110-pound weight is perfect for making a substantial bookmark. Include cover image, author’s name, a short synopsis, a reviewers blurb, where the book is available, the ISBN, and author’s website. Bookmarks can be printed on your own color printer. For sharp looking bookmarks, cut them with a paper cutter.

Postcards: Postcards involve a little more expense, but they are well worth it. I’ve had many book orders because of this promotional tool. By shopping on-line and designing the postcards myself, the cost was a little over $50 for 500 cards.

I saved and studied many book announcement postcards that I’ve received over the years to decide which features I liked and wanted to incorporate. On the picture side of the postcard is the book’s cover image. On the left of the reverse side is the book’s title and author, a synopsis, and a reviewer’s blurb. Include the ISBN, price, ordering information for personalized copies and where else the book is available, such as a favorite bookstore, the publisher, or

Again, start assembling address lists early–don’t wait until you have the book in hand. I printed out address labels for the postcards and, once the book was available, sent them to about 400 people and have used the rest of them at events. Recently, I ordered another 500.

Press Release: Press Releases are used for media business contacts such as newspapers, professional reviewers (such as Midwest Book Review). A press release should be one full-page and include date of release, contact information, and a title that includes the purpose of the release. As an example, I’ll use my release: AS THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF MOUNT ST. HELENS’ DRAMATIC ERUPTION APPROACHES, AUTHOR MARY E. TRIMBLE RELEASES HER TIMELY NOVEL, TENDERFOOT. The release continues with a one-paragraph synopsis, a reviewers blurb, a short bio, where the book is available, ISBN and price. Also included in my Press Release is the book’s cover image and an author image.

Save the Press Release file in PDF format so that it can be either e-mailed to media contacts or printed.

Posters: Posters are good event marketing tools and serve to validate a writer’s achievement. When I appear at fairs or speaking engagements, I have a poster at my table, along with my books. Usually, my poster is in a clear plastic stand-up 8 x 10 inch picture holder, though I’ve also had posters enlarged and made a stand for them.

It’s handy to have generic posters made, but for special events, it’s also a good idea to use the basic poster and add the date and time of the event. Title your posters; for example, “Coming Soon,” “Just Released,” “Meet the Author.” When you are scheduled for a presentation, booksigning, etc., deliver two or three posters well ahead of time so the host location can promote your appearance.

For poster art, my picture appears with a solid background, a barn, leaving space beside me to over-lay the book cover image. This half-page picture (5 ½ x 8 inch), can be seen from a distance. Under the picture is the book’s title, author, and a short reviewer’s blurb.

Marketing and promotion take time and involve a little expense. But, after writing the book, the next step is selling it and aids such as those I’ve mentioned will build momentum and will help launch your book into the hands of readers.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ready, Set...Launch! Using the Internet to promote your work

Books don’t launch themselves–they need a big push. Most writers don’t have the luxury of having a big publishing house behind them to handle promotion. Except for really big names, most writers need to do most of their publicity. As soon as you’ve signed a contract with a publisher, it’s time to turn your attention toward promotion. Don’t wait until your book is published before creating your promotion–you’ll want to hit the ground running once you have your book in hand.

As a writer, your book is your product, but you are the brand. Success in selling involves promoting both the brand and the product.

It’s a good idea to start on promotion long before you have the book’s cover art. You’ll definitely want to include the cover image, so just leave a space for it and start working on text and layout.


As soon as your book has been professionally edited, find at least two well-known writers to review your book. Reviews are vital for publicity and promotion in a competitive market. Don’t expect a full-length review, but rather a blurb, a 50 to 100 word description, such as you see on the back cover of books. You can use these blurbs in much of your promotional material. Most reviewers will give you permission to tailor their comments to suit your needs. Blurbs are valuable.

Also seek reviews from established review organizations, such as Midwest Book Review. In the early stages, however, all you can offer them are unbound galleys. Later, when you have your book, definitely seek reviews that will appear in publications.

Internet Promotion

E-Mail Signature: One of the simplest forms of self-promotion is an e-mail signature. On most e-mail programs, it can be set to append to every outgoing e-mail message. With many programs, you can have a selection of signatures, depending on the nature of your message. Keep it simple, and keep it short. Ideally, an e-mail signature should not be more than three lines, four at the most. An example might be: List your name, your latest book, publishers website, your website.

Website: Today, people turn to the Internet to learn details of persons or items of interest. A website should answers questions and supply information about you and your product. For several years, I had a webmaster and he was very good. But the day came when I needed to make quick changes or additions and it was more hassle to go through a middle man than maintain it myself. There are several good website building programs on the Internet that make creating a website quick and easy, and many are free. I used Microsoft Office Live ( and have had many favorable comments. I can dash in and out in minutes to make a quick change, such as changing “Coming Soon” to “Just Released!.”

It’s important to have your own domain–mine is Website building programs assist you in creating your own domain. Keep your website simple, easy to navigate, and give it a name that makes sense. One resource to check domain availability is

Blog: I did not jump on the blog wagon until a couple of years ago. Once I took the plunge, I was delighted to find I could talk about many issues–it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. Sometimes I discuss writing, sometimes my involvement with the American Red Cross. I review books, interview people–whatever strikes my fancy. Setting up a blog is very easy, most often free, and there are a variety of blog-creation sites on-line to assist you every step of the way. I use and have been very satisfied. My blog appears on my blog host, but it is also set up to automatically appear on my website.

E-mail Announcement: Start building groups of contacts to whom you’ll send an e-mail announcement when your book is released. I found it more efficient to create separate e-mail sub-groups in my address book. For easy access, I began each group with the name “Book Promo,” then added the specific group name. You’ll be surprised how many people you know–your writing associates, prior customers, your spouse’s work contacts, family, friends, etc.

Because e-mail programs and browsers display messages differently, make the entire announcement a .jpg file image. Further, at the top I had a statement “Having trouble viewing this e-mail? Click here.” and linked this directly to my website where a similar announcement exists. In your e-mail announcement, include the cover image, a two-paragraph synopsis, a review blurb, ISBN and price, where the book can be purchased, and an invitation to visit your website for autographed or personalized copies.

When e-mailing the announcement, send it “Blind Copy” for recipients’ privacy and so that people don’t have to wade through a long list of names to get to the message.

Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, etc. might be excellent means of promotion, but at this point I’m not convinced the time spent is worth the gain. I personally need to study this further and would love to hear your input in the Comments section.

Next time I’ll discuss hard-copy promotion–something tangible to give to prospective customers.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Book Review: A Checklist: Making a Family Plan for Emergencies by Nancy Overton

A Checklist: Making a Family Plan for Emergencies by Nancy Overton covers every possible aspect of preparedness. Its step-by-step approach makes preparing for disasters less overwhelming.

The book’s convenient 3½ X 8½-inch size allows the reader to slip it into a pocket or purse to take to the store for reference. You can set the book down and its spiral binding allows the book to lay flat and open.

The book’s format is a series of check-off items sorted under the appropriate possible disaster such as fire, earthquake, flood, hurricane, tornado. It delves into home safety features for utilities, safe water, adequate non-perishable food, personal comfort, sanitation, first aid supplies, etc.

Overton emphasizes that adequate preparedness won’t happen overnight–it’s a goal to work toward. Further, she suggests that people can help make preparedness more affordable by going in with neighbors and shopping in bulk for emergency food items. She suggests scouring garage sales and second-hand stores for items like tents and tools.

According to A Checklist, collecting items is only the beginning. Emergency items must be organized and accessible in the home, car and workplace. Lists should be made so that in an emergency supplies can be gathered quickly in the event the family needs to evacuate the home.

Besides purchased goods, other preparations are essential such as copies of important documents to use for personal identification, proof of ownership for car and home, copies of driver’s licenses and insurance.

Other important items are lists for children with family and out-of-area contact information; and lists for parents with the same contact information, plus attorney, insurance companies, etc.

By following the essential steps Overton suggests, you will increase your family’s self-reliance, be more knowledgeable about what you need to do in an emergency, feel confident about being prepared and know your family is safer because of your preparedness.

A Checklist: Making a Family Plan for Emergencies by Nancy Overton is available at and the author’s website,

Monday, May 3, 2010

Don’t Wait for the Big One: Prepare Now

May is the 30th anniversary of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. For many, it’s notable as one of those events that you can remember just where you were when it occurred, whether or not you were affected. What lessons did we learn from this catastrophic event that took 57 lives, reduced hundreds of square miles to wasteland and caused over a billion dollars in damage? What could we do differently knowing what we know today to prepare for disaster?

Although most of us don’t live in the shadow of a mountain ready to erupt, we can still learn from this disaster. The obvious, of course, is to heed warnings about tempting fate. Scientists and local authorities repeatedly warned people to stay clear of the mountain, but still many people lost their lives as the result of the eruption. Some were scientists, some were people who had business there, primarily loggers and media people, but many were people curious about the activity, people who didn’t want to miss out, who lost their lives to satisfy their curiosity.

What lessons can we take from all of this? That major disasters happen. In our area, one of the most likely is earthquake. Haiti is a tragic example of total unreadiness. Their inability to cope was unfortunate, but understandable. Haiti had little infrastructure and was already an extremely poor country. Unbelievable suffering occurred before the world could get organized to help. Most Haitians were simply unable to help themselves. Hopefully, we’re better prepared.

A more realistic example for comparison to our situation is Chile when, in February 2010 they experienced a magnitude 8.8 earthquake. Chile is considered to be more the equivalent to the United States in terms of geological similarities, infrastructure and preparedness. Between the earthquake and subsequent tsunamis, at least 500,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, with an estimated death toll close to 500.

One of the newscasts we saw on the sixth day after the Chilean earthquake showed a large extended family living in a home not damaged by the earthquake, but who did not have enough food and water. Roads leading to their home were severely damaged and they couldn’t get to a store. In any event, many stores were closed. The lesson? Keep enough food and water on hand to last six or more days.

Because of lack of electricity, communication was seriously impacted. Chilean citizens grieved about relatives and friends in the hardest-hit areas. This always takes time, but often lines of emergency communication can be restored. Another lesson: Be prepared to listen for ways to communicate with loved ones. The American Red Cross offers their “Safe and Well” system as soon as communications can be set up.

In coastal areas, tsunamis were expected as a result of the Chilean earthquake. Lesson: Have in mind a place to retreat to higher ground. Discuss with your family where you would meet in the likely event you’re not together when you need to move quickly.

Chaos will always be a part of a disaster. Lesson: You can reduce your personal feelings of helplessness by being prepared.

Prepare a personal “Go-Kit” for every member of your family for your home, work and car. Inquire with your children’s school district to learn what emergency preparations they have made. Many school districts have made preparedness a priority.

The top eleven items that should be in your go-kits:

Flashlight with spare batteries (or hand-crank)
Duct Tape
Large Garbage Bags
Radio with spare batteries (or hand-crank)
First Aid Kit
Identification Papers
Personal Items (medication, eyeglasses, hearing aid)

Keep in mind that without electricity, ATM's will not be available; your credit cards and checks won't work either. During an emergency, banks and stores might be closed. If stores are open and electricity is off, much of their equipment will be inoperable. Have on hand a supply of cash in small denominations so that you can purchase necessary goods.

Many kinds of disaster can strike: earthquake, flood, terrorism, tsunami, even an erupting volcano. Assembling emergency supplies will give you confidence and peace of mind should disaster strike. If you need to evacuate your home, or be confined to home, you will have the basic supplies you need. Act now to protect your family.