Sunday, April 25, 2010

I “hired” 43 marketing experts!

As many of you know, I am a professor at George Brown College. I teach communications in the Faculty of Hospitality & Tourism. Another building on the same campus is home to the Faculty of Business. I popped by there several weeks ago and had a great chat with Tom Arhontoudis. Tom is the Coordinator for the Marketing Diploma Program. We talked at length about publishing and marketing in general and about Blood and Groom in particular. It was decided that creating marketing plans for Blood and Groom would be the final project for his Marketing students this semester.

I visited the class twice to give background and product info. The students asked a lot of very good questions. They wanted info on what I had done and what I planned to do. They asked particulars about the book and my target audience. Their assignment was two-fold: one, a written report (marketing plan) and two, a presentation.

On Wednesday April 21st, I saw all the presentations (I think there were twelve). WOW! Some of the stuff these guys came up with blew me away! Naturally, some ideas were better than others, a few ideas were good but don’t suit my purposes for the time being (maybe later...), some ideas were too expensive but may be doable down the road.

Keep in mind who these students are: They are all in the fourth semester of a three year Marketing program. I’d say most of the students are between 19 and 25 years of age. They are all pretty tech savvy; they’re up to date on various social media; in many ways, they themselves are my target market; and at a minimum, they represented a lot of word-of-mouth potential.

Some of the ideas were similar to things I’ve already done, although perhaps they offered a twist on it. They had suggestions for blogs that have thousands of daily hits from people in my target market demographic. They suggested creating an app for iPhone. They gave me many great suggestions for web redesign. Plus there were ideas for contests and cross-marekting and events.  And - not surprisingly - they offered several suggestions for Twitter and Facebook, etc.

Some of the coolest ideas were the ones that may seem a little bit out there... but what the hell, anything’s worth a try! Here are some of the highlights from the presentations:

There is a sidewalk artist, Dave Johnston, who does huge sidewalk ‘murals’ outside the Eaton Centre (mall). It might be worthwhile to talk to him about drawing the Blood and Groom cover. It could sure create a buzz.
Dave Johnston

They gave me ideas about “flash mobs”. A “flash mob” (or crowd) is hard to describe if you don’t know what it is. Wikipedia gives a good explanation here: Flash Mob

I had never heard before of Hippopost, but they do direct mailing and it’s free! They snail mail postcards for you – no cost – but the back of each postcard contains an advertisement. Hippo Post

Many of the students suggested doing some surveys to collect more solid info about who my Facebook fans/readers/buyers are. Many of the presentations suggested using Survey Monkey to create a questionnaire. This service is also free. Free Survey

Finally, Tamal, a student with a creative streak, made a new book trailer. I think it’s pretty cool. Have a look here: Very cool book trailer for Blood and Groom CHECK IT OUT!!!

I am glad I spoke to Tom about getting his Marketing students to work on Blood and Groom as their final project. Now that I’m finished teaching for a while, I will have time to start implementing some of these fantastic ideas.

Thanks to Tom A and the Wednesday afternoon Marketing group. You ROCK!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Pick-Up Artist, A Mantra, and I See Dead People

One thing about book events is that you meet lots of people.  This is generally a good thing... except when it's not...

Anybody can wander into a store or a library.  When you're trying to sell books and build an audience, you've got to chat with people.  I have had some neat conversations with aspiring writers, bookworms, poets and mystery fans.  All good, all cool, some more than others.

And then you get the weirdos and time bandits.

Time bandist are easier.  They yak your ears off for 20 minutes and have no intention of buying the book.  Hopefully, though, they will tell  friends or relatives about meeting you and those people will buy the book.  Hopefully...

Okay, so that's the easy part of things... and then...

This weekend, I did three store events.  At the first store event, a well spoken, seemingly friendly man started chatting to me about writing and kept yammering away for a good long while.  It soon became clear that writing was of little interest to him.  He was trying to pick me up!  He wandered off for a while, then came back, feigned interest in my book, asked me to go for a drink, etc. etc. etc.  Wandered away, came back, suggested wine afte rthe signing... Um... no thanks... I don't use book signings as a clever way to meet men.  YIKES!

Then there was this lady who politely talked books with me for a few minutes.  She seemed kind of cool and New Age or Hippie, and seemed genuinely interested in my book, until... She asked if I am spiritual, if I meditate, and whether I have a mantra or not.  I said no.  So she gave me my very own mantra.  It's Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu - sung at a rather high and steady note for about a minute and a half.  I think it means good fortune or go away or  please buy my book or something.  Dunno.

Then there was the lady today who said she is a medium for dead or missing children.  She consulted/communed with/contacted the cover of my book and told me the second book would do much better than the first one.   Uh, okay, thanks, have a nice day...

So, that was my weekend.  Book sales are steady, very encouraging.  Blood and Groom is in a SECOND PRINT RUN!!!  So, I'll contnue to do store and library events and will meet all kinds of people.  Perhaps some of them will be inspirations for future characters!!!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Book Signing... OMG!!!! What should I wear?!?!?!

So, I am still trudging along with book signings at the big box book stores almost every Saturday and Sunday.  It's fun and busy and I'm learning as I go.  There's one thing I hadn't given much thought to, though, until this morning: What should I wear?

Most of my book events of late have been squeezed in between work/school/social functions or commitments, so I've left home in the mornings dressed to suit all two or three appointments/engagements throughout the day.

Today was an easy day, however.  I had nothing "piggy-backed" on to today's book signing, and as I got ready to go, I found myself befuddled as to what to wear...

Should I look "authorish"?  I think that means something halfway between professorial and librarian.  Or perhaps "authorish" means Boho chic...  For a guy, I picture a tweedy blazer with leather patches on the elbows.

But what should women wear to signings?  The tone of my book is fast and funny, sassy and sexy, so a serious look or a suit doesn't seem to fit.  It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to dress like one of the characters in the book, but that would possibly only be effective with people who have read the book...?

Another thing I wonder about is hair and make-up.  Today I skipped the paint-by-number face and had the hair in a ponytail.  That's very natural and very "me", but I wonder if readers expect an author to look a certain way?

The only thing I am sure of as I go along is that I have greater success if I stand next to the signing table and say hello as people walk by.  They're more likely to chat (and buy!) than if I am seated behind a desk (I guess it seems I'm more approachable this way...).  So, because I stand for most of the time I'm at a signing, I have learned that comfy shoes are essential!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What I Learned At Tonight's Book Event

I did an event tonight with two other authors: Caro Soles and Rick Blechta.  This was my first multi-author event and I was lucky to be paired with two established writers.

Caro Soles has written and edited a number of mysteries, such as A Tangled Boy, Drag Queen in the Court of Death, Blood on the Holly; plus fantasy and other works.

Rick Blechta is the author of several mysteries, including The Lark Ascending, Cemetery of the Nameless, and A Case of You

So, these two know the ropes about events and readings and signings.  I learned a thing or two from a couple of seasoned pros.

1.  When it comes to reading from your own book, you can read any part; you need not begin at page one.

2.  Unless you're good at doing voices, select a passge that doesn't contain a lot of dialogue.

3.  If doing events with other authors, don't be shy about shamelessly promoting them - give them a shout out... it's pay itself back :)

4.  It may be worthwhile to get someone to read with you (i.e. if the passage has a lot of dialogue).

5.  Not all bookstores are created equally.  Authors will tell you - based on their own experiences - which stores do more to promote you and to publicize the event.

6.  When doing a reading, don't be afraid to skip parts.  Some words, sentences or paragraphs sound fine when you read silently, when it's just in your head, but don't work as well with a live audience.

So, there you go.  The bottom line - if you're a new author - is BE A SPONGE!  Soak up all the tidbits and advice established authors offer.  You never know what's going to work, but it's sure nice learning from those with experience.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Signings and Wannabe Writers

I have been doing a number of signings and library events over the last while.  They've all gone pretty well.  It's fun to meet folks, and to talk about the book.  People have generally been interested, enthusiastic, supportive and all around really good. 

However, I have to let loose with a minor ketch...

At almost every event, there is an aspiring writer who has lots of questions.  Now, I am more than happy to share my experiences and to give whatever bits of advice I have, but...

I remember reading a great book on writing ,publishing and editing called:

78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published
and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might
- By Pat Walsh

It was a great book and I learned a lot from it.  In it, he (I assume Pat is a he) describes a meeting with a wannabe writer - a friend of a friend situation.  He agreed to meet with the aspiring author.  Turns out, the person only had ideas for a book, but had not actually written anything.

Now, I get it! 

Some girl at the signing I did this weekend monopolized my time for a good 20 minutes.  I am not an expert on how to write or how to get published, but she decided to pick my brain.  (I'm not sure there's much there to pick, but that's another story...)

I was a bit irked - I was in the store to sell books, after all (sold 15, so I guess that's okay).  I am still trying to build a reputation, develop an audience and all that.  I am happy to share my own experiences, but of course every situation and story is different.  Anyhow, this girl kept pushing and badgering me and seemed angry that I wouldn't tell her THE SECRET to getting published.  

Finally, I asked her about her writing.  Turned out (drum roll please) that she had not written anything yet, she just had an idea for a book. 

Now I totally get the Pat Walsh anecdote.

And - I have to say this even if it is cranky - I think it was kind of schmucky of her to gab with me for so long and then not to even buy my book.  Kind of rude, IMO.