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In previous posts I have often drawn parallels between self-publishing and gambling or games of chance. Some gambles pay off better than others do. Take my most recent attempt at a Valentine’s Day public relations blitz. Strategically speaking, I thought my approach was fresh and the timing was perfect. But the media had other ideas when it came to Valentine’s Day features.

In fact, a quick Google search across the Internet seemed to yield surprisingly little that was new or fresh on the subject. Do we suffer from Valentine’s Day Fatigue I wonder? When did we exchange red for green and become so jaded in our attitude to love and romance.

Since I don’t use a clipping service, I conducted my own Google search on Any Color but Beige and found sparse “pick up” by the media. I think that this is an accurate reflection of media interest because no one called requesting further information or an interview. But I wasn’t ready to fold my cards that early.

I made several strategic follow-up phone calls to certain major media. This strategy produced some positive results: these editors requested copies of the book. Perseverance is the key. And that’s important to keep in mind when you’re out there pounding the pavement trying to generate interest.

What follows is list of the coverage Any Color but Beige received during Valentine’s Day week.

Newspapers (online)

The Focus Daily News in south suburban Dallas picked up the release in its entirety. So did The Milwaukee Community Journal and The Moscow Villager. Those three new communities now know about my book.

Radio

Here in Montreal, I was featured on 92.5 The Beat’s “The Brain Candy Podcast” with Shaun McMahon. It was my first time doing an interview at a radio station and it was fun and exciting, made even more so because of Shaun’s enthusiasm.

Book Signing

I was counting on a pre-Valentine’s Day upswing in sales. Chapters Bookstore had me positioned front and center next to a free coffee giveaway at Starbucks. It couldn’t have been more perfect except for the freezing weather that kept store traffic to a minimum. Given the conditions, I sold more than I thought.

What’s next?

I am going to play one last hand and contact the media once more to follow up on the books I sent out. And then I’m going to roll the dice on a cross-promotional sales strategy in March, one that links my book with colorful consumer products like paint, nail polish and hair care products.

Why do I do it you wonder? Spend all this time and money over and above my day job on a long shot of a book. On one hand I believe you make your own luck but on the other hand it’s perseverance that always pays off.

Meet the Author

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Don’t kid yourself. If you thought writing the book was difficult, wait until you have to package it, market it, promote it and sell it.

The writing process by comparison is easy: all you have to do is show up at your desk every day and commit to putting pen to paper. It’s a solitary process that requires patience and discipline, and the only person you can count on or who will let you down — is you.

This is not the case when it comes time to launch your work into the world. There are all sorts of gatekeepers to get by when you start generating awareness and driving sales of your book. And it’s your job to entice, convince, cajole and excite the various publics who can make or break your book sales. Oh yes, and you have to be persistent – one attempt, two attempts, three attempts are not enough. When you’ve exhausted all of the angles (and yourself) – that’s when you can stop.

So here’s how you get started …

First, there is your immediate reading public: your blog readers. They are your first and best resource for word of mouth referrals. I’ve had blog readers surprise me by ordering my book Any Color but Beige and requesting it from their local library. Most libraries will order a book on request. And what I’ve learned is that larger library systems will not only order one book but at least eight copies. This has been my experience with the Baltimore and Cuyahoga County, Ohio library systems. Canadian Libraries will pay royalties based on the number of times the book is borrowed. My thanks to Tamara, BethAnn and Adena respectively.

Second, and a bit more elusive, are the media. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, your pitch has to be both compelling and timely. And sending out a press release is only one-half of the equation – you’re only as good as your follow-up. What you have to do is call each media person personally and ask if they’re interested in receiving a copy of the book or conducting an interview. The media has to do more with less these days so make yourself accessible. The easier you make their job the better your chance at getting coverage.

Third, approach your local bookstores and speak to the promotions managers. Be sure and give them plenty of time to schedule your event. Remember that you’re not the only local author. And if the store is not interested don’t take it personally. I’ve approached three stores in Montreal; one said no outright, that the book wasn’t right for their customers. The second said they only work with established authors. The third store, Chapters on St. Catherine, not only said yes but have been promoting the event in store. I’ve spoken to several staff members pre-event, and their excitement and their pleasure in meeting me was very gratifying. I made sure to pinch myself as I left the store.

Fourth, family and friends are also good resources for book promotions and sales. My mother, Little Lou, carries a copy of the book with her everywhere she goes, whether it’s to the hairdresser’s or bingo – she’s my best supporter. My father, thank god, has stopped short of taking his copy to wakes. But the racetrack is still fair game. If you’ve read the book you already know about my colorful childhood.

Friends have also been big supporters. They’ve organized “Girls’ Nights In,” combining friendship and commerce in an enjoyable and light-hearted environment.

Other friends have used Any Color but Beige as an opportunity to revive regular book club get-togethers that may have lapsed because other commitments have taken over. In fact, I will be the guest of honor at one such book club in Cleveland Heights at the end of the month. In keeping with the spirit of the book, the potluck will be French themed – but of course! I’d like to thank Kathy H,  Freya and the girls for this wonderful opportunity.

Finally, from all of this word of mouth I have somehow found myself as a quasi-expert in the world of self-publishing. I don’t have all of the answers but I’m happy to share what I know – what I’d do again and what I’d do differently the next time. As a result, I’ve been invited to speak to writers’ groups and conferences, and the reaction of the audiences has been rewarding.

In the end, after all of the hard work, effort – and even the occasional let down – I’ve reached an important conclusion that keeps me going: not all rewards are monetary.

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DATELINE MONTREAL —  Whether happily anticipating, secretly dreading, generally indifferent or completely opposed to Valentine’s Day, its annual celebration inevitably prompts personal reflections of love and happiness. That is why author Cat Larose suggests Valentine’s Day may be the perfect time to give yourself a little love.

In her memoir Any Color but Beige: Living Life in Color, Cat dives into the international dating pool searching for the new love of her life. But she quickly learns loving herself first is the key to developing meaningful romantic relationships. For Cat, being happy started when she committed to infusing her life with bold and beautiful colors – a loving gift she suggests all women give themselves this Valentine’s Day.

“Year after year, women approach Valentine’s Day with so many hopes and expectations from others. Instead, start the day with a deliberate show of self-affection. Give yourself a colorful gift to renew your confidence and confirm your values,” suggests Cat. “After all, you cannot truly love anyone else until you love yourself.”

Cat offers a few simple suggestions, “Send yourself a dozen red roses, indulge in a blushing bottle of pink champagne, find inspiration in a romance or love story like Any Color but Beige or perform a random act of love purely to see someone smile–it’s the colorful thing to do. Appreciate yourself first and you will find you can appreciate love more.”

It may seem simple, but Cat’s philosophy – living life in color – has guided her international search for Mr. Right. Living life in color has anchored her ability to love herself and be truly happy – whether she is in a relationship or not.

Catherine “Cat” Larose is an international color-marketing expert who travels the world selling color. She is the author of Any Color but Beige: Living Life in Color, voice behind the successful Café Girl Chronicles blog is and currently writing her second book.

Any Color but Beige: Living Life in Color is a bright, funny, genuine account of one woman’s search for love and happiness in the deep end of the dating pool.

Synopsis:  A successful career took Cat to some of the world’s most beautiful cities. But she still felt something was missing – ironically, it was color. While in Paris watching a sunset, Cat – in a moment of clarity – caught a glimpse of her sepia-toned future. She realized given the current circumstances, she could not make her marriage successful or her life happy. Undeterred by the daunting prospect of starting over in her mid-40s, Cat began transforming her life one color at a time. After years of living a beige existence, Cat embarked on an adventure to add little color to her own life.

Any Color but Beige is available in paperback (ISBN 978-1-77067-489-9), hardcover (ISBN 978-1-77067-488-2) and e-book (ISBN 978-1-77067-490-5) through Amazon and other  online bookstores as well as your local bookstore. Readers who purchase the book can order a free set of color palettes via Cat’s blog – The Café Girl Chronicles.  For a story preview, view the book trailer.

photo: © istockphoto.com/PeskeyMonkey

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This Valentine’s Day Fall in Love with Yourself

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I launched my book, Any Color but Beige, with a solid public relations program last September. The combination of my modest budget and previous professional experience enabled me leverage this into some good coverage that included two TV interviews, print and digital coverage in several newspapers, blogs and e-zines, and a couple of speaking engagements. I also learned that, although several of the media were interested in the book, they felt no sense of urgency to write about it. The reason: memoir is a genre they call “evergreen.”

Evergreen is both a good and a bad label. It’s good because the media can make use of (promote) your book at any time. It’s bad because they could put your book on a pile underneath copies of more current evergreen books. So when it comes to generating lots of coverage for your book, your story has to be two things: topical and urgent.

With that in mind, I have decided to make a second attempt at a PR program – this time promoting the book as a life story, love story and an international dating story – just in time for Valentine’s Day. Of course, this time I will put a slightly different spin on it.

This year, author Cat Larose suggests sending yourself a dozen red roses or a bottle of pink champagne on Valentine’s Day. It’s the colorful thing to do, says Larose. After all, you cannot truly love anyone else until you love yourself.

I’m hoping that relationship and lifestyle editors and program directors in search of a fresh angle for Valentine’s Day will seize upon the story and feature it on or around the big day. In conjunction with that, I have secured a “Meet the Author Sell and Sign at Chapters on St. Catherine Street in Montreal on Saturday, February 11th at 2:00.

It will be interesting to see if this new spin generates some additional media coverage and results in sales.

Timing, as they say, is everything. Let’s see if that’s true.

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As part of my 2011 book promotion / marketing efforts, I participated in WOW!’s Blog Tour. For those of you who are new to The Chronicles, WOW! stands for Women on Writing and it offers genre-specific blog tours to authors via its extensive blogger network.

The tour took place in November / December 2011 and included guest posts on participating blogs, interviews, one podcast and a book giveaway contest. It offered one free copy of Any Color but Beige to individual readers and an opportunity for one lucky book club to win ten copies of the book. All international winners received an eBook or Kindle format of the book. To be eligible, the blogs required readers to tweet about the book and that increased my exposure in cyberspace.

Here’s what I liked about the tour:

It was well organized. Participating blogs posted topics well enough in advance of the tour, so I could prepare just the right posts to help promote the book.

It gave me a list of topics to write about. Sometimes writing about a particular subject is a lot easier than coming up with a topic on your own.

Once the guest posts were published, I could use them on my own blog. This bought me some much needed time off in the month of December.

Some blogs reviewed the books. It was good to get different viewpoints from people who knew nothing about me, my blog or my story. Objective reviews help a writer see things in a different light. Or consider things they wouldn’t have previously thought of.

The tour was international and that was perfect because it’s in keeping with who I am and what I do. I was a guest on blogs in Estonia and Finland. And some of the contest winners were as far away as Australia and Malaysia. The winning book club was from Madrid, Spain. I will be participating in the Madrid book club discussion via Skype in the spring.

The one drawback to the tour was that the tour could not provide any real quantitative data analysis. However, my own analytical conclusion is that my fourth quarter 2011 blog views were up a whopping 60%. How much of that is attributable to the blog tour I can’t say for sure. I can say that, post for post, the only thing I have done differently between 2010 and 2011 is take part in the tour.

The bigger question is did it lead to an increase in book sales? And here I would have to say I don’t know. I have no basis of comparison because sales are similar across the three months since the book’s release in September.

Were the dollars I spent worth it? I would say yes they were. I consider the dollars spent an investment in the Café Girl brand and my ongoing stories.

photo: © istockphoto.com/scanrail

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Anyone who has ever stared down a blank page and blinked first knows how devastating writer’s block can be. I’ve read several articles

on the causes of it, but the best reason I’ve heard to date is actually the simplest to cure – the cause of writer’s block is a lack of fresh ideas, and the best source of new ideas that I know of is travel.

My favorite place to stay in Trieste

You don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth either to be inspired. A jaunt across town to a new neighborhood is just as inspiring as jetting off to Japan, and a lot more economical for those of us on a budget.

Let’s take a look at all of the potential ways local and long distance travel can inspire us.

First and foremost, it’s all about the place. First impressions can be quite powerful when you’re visiting a place for the very first time. For frequent travelers like me, who have been so many places, the challenge is to see a familiar place with fresh eyes. Armed with a seek-and-you-shall-find attitude, I’m always amazed at how many new things I can discover.

The most fascinating thing to write about is people and the cast of characters that make up the place you’re visiting. You can write about their physical appearances, perhaps so very different from your own. You can capture their mannerisms and customs, or you can dig a little deeper and find the commonalities. One of my favorite things to do is recreate conversations with the colloquialisms of unconstrained everyday conversation. It makes us feel like we’re eavesdropping.

Another thing you can do is take us on a tour of some of your favorite places and tell us why they’re your favorites. For example I’m a WWII history buff, and on almost every visit I make to London, I always go to the British War Museum. I become a time traveler. I can feel the sense of urgency, the life and death struggle of nations as the fate of democracy hangs in the balance.

Why not make up stories about your favorite places. I’m often fascinated as I walk the winding back streets and alleyways of old cities like Venice or Barcelona for example. I try to imagine the everyday life of the inhabitants of these ancient dwellings. What happens behind closed shutters, on bougainvillea-covered balconies or in local shops? I look at the laundry hanging on the balconies and try to guess, from the articles of clothing, who lives in that household. What they do for a living?

If it’s a gondolier, does he sing because he is happy? Is it a bank president having an affair with his secretary behind his wife’s back? Or is he madly in love with his wife and rushes home each night to plant a kiss on the back of her neck? Are the children bored with their over stimulated digital lives? Do they still play outdoors? Is a woman sick and dying behind shuttered window? Does she still have a burden of regret weighing heavily on her soul, pinning her to this earth like an insect in one of those shadow boxes. What was the regret and what could she have done differently?

Local culture, cuisine and customs also yield a rich harvest of stories, observations and ideas. Engage all your senses: taste, touch, hear, see and smell what the place and its people have to offer. Participate. Go out of your comfort zone and learn something new, something indigenous to the place. Mush a dog sled in Alaska, dance Flamenco in Barcelona or dive the Great Barrier Reef. Or be a tourist in your own city.

And, finally, never leave the house or hotel without a notepad and pen because Inspiration can strike at any time, curing your writer’s block in an instant.

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As promised here’s the first chapter of my next book. It’s the follow up to my first book:  Any Color but Beige:  Living Life in Color.

I’ve created a separate tab at the top of the Home Page.  To read it all you have to do is click on the tab that says New Book / New Chapter.

Happy Reading!

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