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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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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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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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Okay, I thought I had a Chapter ready for New Year’s Day. But yesterday my editor returned my draft with so many comments and questions that it may take me another day or two to sort it all out.  There’s nothing like all those little red marks to keep a girl humble.

Notes to self:  Do not try and back into your story.  Don’t rush – these deadlines are self-imposed. Send thank you note to Mel. A good editor is worth her weight in gold.

Stay tuned.  It’s only a temporary delay.

Books, blog, writing, rewrites

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In every writer’s life there are two stumbling blocks to overcome. On second thought, make them stone walls to surmount: writer’s bloc and writer’s resistance. Writer’s bloc, as I learned from a Robert McKee Story seminar, occurs when you run out of ideas. Writer’s resistance is a lack of dedication to your craft. Lately, I’ve been suffering from both.

“How is that possible?” you may ask. “She’s been posting content consistently all through December.”

Well, I have a confession to make. I’ve been coasting. Yes, that’s right. For my December postings, I’ve mined content already created for my WOW blog tour back in October and November. Regular readers of just “The Chronicles” may not have noticed this, but crossover readers between it and the WOW tour found at least one familiar post.

This strategy gave me a much-need rest, but now I’ve run out of content just as I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing every night. Of course this would happen just when my blog took a significant uptick in readership and e-mail subscriptions – for which I am amazed and incredibly grateful. In fact, all of this new interest, new subscriptions, increase in comments and “likes” has given me a new sense of purpose. I am now accountable to a new and growing invisible group of friends who drop by the Café regularly to catch up on the latest happenings.

Realizing that I might find it tough sledding in December I also promised my readers a chapter (one with a surprise ending) of my second book by the end of December. Many of you have also been kind enough to ask me about a sequel, and both things have motivated me to sit down and write.

I’m happy to report that although it doesn’t quite have the surprise ending I had in mind, I do have a chapter ready for you to read. It’s a Destination Chapter. Those of you who are familiar with the structure of my book Any Color but Beige will recognize that this chapter picks up the story where my first book leaves off. Where we go from here remains a mystery.

I’m superstitious so I decided to post it the first day of 2012 rather than the last day of 2011: a new chapter equals a renewed sense of purpose.

I’d also like to wish all of you a very Happy New Year. Whatever your projects are this year, may they bring you the satisfaction and joy of doing something you love.

Back Behind the Computer

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The Color Purple

photos: ©iStockphoto.com/photodjo

Color has a profound psychological impact on our lives. It’s used every day to stimulate our senses, excite us, calm us and, yes, induce us to buy products. Each color family has its own set of characteristics that trigger certain responses in us. With that in mind we should tread carefully when adding color to our space, especially our writing space.

There are trend colors, those colors du jour that we fall “in like” with. Be careful here because this relationship is a bit like infatuation. Color fatigue sets in quickly with trend colors. And before your know it, it’s time to move on to something else.

Then there are colors that last a lifetime – those are your favorite colors, the colors your intuition chooses. These are the colors that you feel close to and comfortable with. These are the colors that already appear in your closet and in the most comfortable rooms of your house.

When it comes to choosing color for any room, keep in mind that you don’t have to have an all red or all green room. Sometimes a dash of color is just enough to stimulate your creativity or get you in writing mode.

What follows is my take as a color marketer on color and how it can affect us as writers. Keep in mind that if you’re seriously engaged in the writing process, you’re focused and so you don’t see any color – it’s actually the absence of color, i.e. black type on a white page.

Red is a very stimulating color; it is the color of heat, passion and warning. It’s used a lot in fast food restaurants to move people in and out quickly.  Use a dash of red to jump start your project.

Purple is a mystical color. It promotes healing and meditation. Leonardo da Vinci said that the color purple can increase meditative powers tenfold.  A purple room is good for contemplating plot and structure.

Blue is a very relaxing and calming color. If you’ve put yourself under the pressure of deadlines, then blue is the color for you.

Green is Mother Nature’s favorite color. And just look how creative she is.

Yellow is a high-energy color that stimulates the mental process of thinking and activates memory. If you’re writing a memoir a little yellow will go a long way.

Orange is a color you either love or hate. It’s also a high-energy color and encourages socialization. It might be a good color to use in a room where writers convene to discuss their work.

Whatever color you choose for your writing room it should be a color that enhances and promotes your personal well-being – as you feel it. Color like everything else in a room should disappear after a while as you engross yourself in your story. At that point your story’s own color will jump off of the page.

©iStockphoto.com/RuslanDashinsky

Pick a Color, Any Color

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