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During the course of my promotional year for my book, Any Color but Beige, (I’m nearly three quarters of the way through now), I’ve been invited to speak to a lot of book clubs. And of all of my promotional activities, apart from my book launch, this has been the most fun.

Media interviews are sometimes nerve racking. Public speaking can be a bit impersonal because of the distance between me and my audience. Book signings can be a little intimidating; you sit front and center in a bookstore waiting for your reading public to arrive and snap up your book.

Book Signing at the Twig in San Antonio

But participating in a book club discussion is like having a night out with a whole new set of (café) girlfriends. And because they don’t know me I’m always surprised by the type of comments, questions and suggestions.

 Comments

Like the night I arrived early and introduced myself to the hostess, who was warm, friendly and very welcoming and who said, “You know, I thought you’d be taller.”

I had to laugh. Actually she’s not the first person to say that. In business situations, where I’m meeting someone for the first time after just talking to them on the phone, the “tall comment” is a common reaction. My tall sister, Beth, likes to tease me with, “you must sound tall on the phone.”

How does one sound tall, I wondered? And, how else do I sound?

Well I found the answer to that one just a few days ago on a recent business trip to South Africa. The new client I was meeting for the first time said to me, “I knew you’d be a redhead, and I knew you’d be wearing something bright and warm like red.”

She was right on both accounts. She had even remarked to her boss that this is what she had expected Cat Larose to look like. It’s no wonder he had a bit of a startled expression on his face when we met; it was like he already knew me.

As for me, I’m terrible when it comes to predicting what someone will look like from the sound of their voice. Or what they do by the way  people carry themselves – in this digitally connected world I find people “show better” digitally than in real life where you can’t edit your attitude with a keystroke

My dentist’s receptionist surprised me one day as she assigned me a very “professional” attitude. After ten years of biannual appointments and polite banter,  I finally mentioned what I do for a living during my last visit. She stared at me wide-eyed. And then she said, “You know, I always thought you were a doctor!” I love these kinds of comments because they make me laugh – at myself. And it’s so important not to take yourself or life so seriously all the time.

Many of comments about the book make me laugh too, but all are very gratifying. I’d like to share some of them here with you.

I really enjoyed the humour of the book and the positivism it radiates… An Eat Pray Love meets Sex and the City, with the shopping replaced by color, and Mr. Big by a plane ticket

It made me reflect on my own life, my own writing, and where I’m coming from. You have the power to connect with your readers, you can touch people…even change the life of your readers…that is something really special.

I marked many pages and underlined things to re-read over and over and over. My favorite lines so far are:

• It’s easier to let go of something you don’t want to keep.
• It’s about how you feel and not about how someone else makes you feel.
• The only man worth crying over was a dead one. That’s a real loss. Anything else is a blessing.
• I want to be deliberate in your life.

I love the way you write and I enjoyed hearing your voice as I read it. It was a fast read because I just didn’t want to put it down and on the flip side, I didn’t want it to end. Thanks for sharing your adventures and hilarious experiences with all of us. It was so much fun to read a happy book. I’m really proud of you for having the courage, gumption and commitment to share your life.

At my hometown book club gathering with Freya (left) and Kathy (right).

 Questions

The most common question I get when people do read about my life is, “Are you going to write a screenplay, and who would play you?”

You now know the answer to the first question, and that answer is yes. It’s time to try something new. The answer to the second question is not so easy and so I throw it back at my readers. Who do you think could capture the essence of Cat?

Suggestions

Book club readers have told me they’d like to see a second book involving lots of travel and of course a little romance. All I can say to that is if my recent travel schedule is any indication: Germany, Holland, France and South Africa – I’m well on my way to collecting lots more new travel stories. As for the romance, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Just add water

Lots of things arrive late: spring, the mail, airplanes, babies and, yes, even me on occasion.

And so here we are well past daffodil season and lilacs are in bloom. Welcome to May and welcome back to the Café Girl Chronicles. I rejoin you refreshed, re-energized and with a renewed approach to my writing.

I haven’t exactly been idle. During the past several weeks I have been working on an outline for a screenplay for Any Color but Beige – a little at a time. Piano (slowly) piano (slowly) as my Italian friends like to say. And I can do this because the only deadline I have to meet is my own.

It’s not a bad thing to let your brain lie fallow for a while. Treat it like a garden. Turn the soil every so often. Add new thoughts, philosophies and concepts as fertilizer. Prepare it well and harvest the ideas that come.

In my case, I’ve planted a few seeds that are already bursting through this fertile soil of my mind like unruly wildflowers in a meadow. To be a good writer you also have to be a constant gardener. Sometimes friends tend your garden for you by showering you with little drops of encouragement, just enough to get you started. And so it is with me.

Ever since I arrived in South Africa a week ago, my friend Julie has been watering the garden daily, checking for signs of life. This is the same Julie who precipitated the idea that I could write a book. (See Chapter 25 in the book). So it’s only fitting that I sit at her dining room table overlooking her verdantly wild and natural South African garden bathed in sunlight and start writing again.

photo: © istockphoto.com/manley099

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Spring is coming and I’ve decided to take a little break.    I’ll be back in April with the Daffodils.  photo: © istockphoto.com/marilyna

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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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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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