Review Requests: results and tips

Happy Halloween!

It's been almost a full two weeks since I started sending out review requests and while I still have a few trickling in, I don't think the numbers are going to change dramatically. So, here's a breakdown of how it turned out.

Total reviews requested: 148
Total reviews accepted: 51
Positive response rate: 34%

Books have been sent to all 51 reviewers, which is exciting and also makes me want to hurl. I'm sure it will surprise no one that I have all the bloggers listed in a color coded spreadsheet that has become my blog tour talisman. If anything happened to it, I'd be in serious trouble. I have everyone I emailed, all their responses (color coded by the type of post they will put up for the tour along with the dates of our interactions), a calendar listing who is posting on each day (with corresponding color coding), and a sheet for all the tour bloggers who are also taking part in the cover reveal.

Yes, it is a giant, monstrous, beautiful beast and probably serious overkill. It's also what I know I need to keep my sanity in what is about to be the most stressful month of my life so far. Some authors would be fine with a word doc that lists all the bloggers and their dates, or even just an email record of everything. And if that's you, that's great.

Honestly, I wish that was enough for me. But my brain is just not wired that way. I don't know how your brain is wired. So I can tell you how I do things and remind you that I'm slightly OCD when it comes to logistics. You should find a system that works for you and then use it, whatever it is. Cool beans? Cool beans.

Now about those numbers. I knew I would need to send out way more requests than I would need/want. From my experience, authors should expect around a 10% acceptance rate. Needless to say, I was blown away with my results. I think I got such a high response rate due to the extra work I put into my list.

No bloggers were contacted that were closed to requests, not accepting my genre, not taking on self-pub, didn't review YA, wouldn't accept eBooks, etc. I also made it a point to connect with each blogger. The payoff on that extra work was made evident by the really lovely response emails I got. So many reviewers responded with thanks for the extra touch. And one response was so joyfully sweet it made me tear up. Seriously, I made my husband read it.

So was it a lot of work, yes, but totally worth it.

Here are a few tips for connecting with reviewers in your request.

1. Use a real name. This seems obvious, but is often skipped. Some reviewers don't have an about me page or make it obvious what their name is. That said, out of all the reviewers I checked out (over 300 of them), there were only two where I absolutely couldn't find a name and both of them purposefully go by an alias. If the name isn't in the bio, check out post signatures, comment replies, and links to other social media sites such as Goodreads.

2. Read the bio. Yes, the bio that talks about the reviewer, their love of books and how/why they started the blog. Not only is this just courteous, but you never know what you'll find out. Maybe you share a favorite book, or had similar childhood aspirations. Find some common ground there and then mention it in your request.

3. Recent reviews. Afterall, how will you know if you will be a good match for their taste and style if you don't read their reviews. This gives you another place to find commonality. Did you love or hate the same book? Are you anxiously awaiting the same hot release? Do you share a book boyfriend? These are all little tidbits that show you care and deepen your reasoning that this review will enjoy your book.

4. Take a minute to appreciate their blog. Let me tell you that there are some reviewers out there with absolutely gorgeous blogs. Seriously some of these would put a lot of author websites to shame. Feel free to show a blogger some love when it comes to their site. Do they have an amazing theme? A stellar header? A catchy title? Like anyone else in this world, reviewers would love a compliment, but only if it's sincere.

5. Personal connection. The writing world may seem huge when you first dip a toe into the waters, but it's actually pretty small. I was surprised when I sat down to make my list of bloggers how many I had a connection to in one way or another. Look for commonalities such as belonging to the same groups, or see if you participated in any of the same blog tours. I got to cheat as an agent and draw commonalities with reviewers who had reviewed my clients' work. Find those connections, because now is the time to use them.

With that I'm signing off for the weekend, but I will be back on Monday with the cover reveal, yeah! Rest assured I will be working like a fiend on more marketing efforts, so stay tuned. And for those of you participating in NaNoWrimo this year, may the words be ever on your paper! :)

Author Endorsements

I'd like to make a public admission: I hate asking other people for anything.

I know, I've talked about this on here before. Where it's okay to reach out to others, and the worst that can happen is they say no, and yada yada.

But here's the thing. I have super tough skin. In fact, I'm almost looking forward to my first 1-star review so I can wear it like a membership badge. I'm not at all concerned about feeling the pain of rejection if authors turn me down.

My reluctance comes from not wanting to be a pain in the arse. I realize just how busy authors are. There are no free minutes. At least not for any of the authors I know.

But I also know these truths:
1. Authors are generally nice people.
2. If someone asked me for a blurb, I'd be honored, and would accept if it worked in my schedule.
3. Authors are still readers. Not just because they like it, but because they need to stay up to date with the market, too.

Armed with these truths, I have set forth to solicit author blurbs. The good news is this has been a friendly blog for authors for quite a while. I did a quick scan of my archives and came up with a pretty nice list of authors I have featured right here.

Not all of them are a good match, and I think this is important for authors to recognize. Yes, there is something to be said for having a line from someone who has "author of X" after their name. It gives you instant credibility thanks to their status as an author. However, if none of the authors you quote are writing for your audience, these are not going to be the most helpful to you.

So, I'm not asking for blurbs from anyone I don't feel has an overlapping market with mine. We might not write in the exact same space, but I'm only asking for blurbs from authors whose audience is similar to my own.

But, there's no need to waste a good connection. For the authors who don't match my audience, I'm checking out their platforms to see if there is a way we can continue working together.

I'm also going to reach out to a handful of authors who I have not featured here, but that I know better than a casual hi on the internet (gulp). This makes me nervous, as some of these folks are big names. If they can't do it, I won't be hurt or offended, but if they can...Let's just say you will absolutely hear about it. :)

Now, a word on blurbs. For this first book, there won't be any mention of these blurbs on the actual book. Maybe if I adjust the ebook backmatter at some point I will add them in, but for now they won't be there. So what am I going to do with them? For now, these will go on my Amazon listing.

Did you know there is a place on Amazon for editorial reviews. This is where people add the nice things said by place like Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly. But I don't have those, because they cost money if you self-publish and I don't feel like that's a good use of my limited funds. But you can put anything you want there. So that's where I'll put author blurbs.

Like reviews, this is just one more piece of social validation that hopefully convinces readers that my book is worth their hard earned cash and time.

I don't like cover reveals, but I'm doing one anyway

I understand why authors do a cover reveal. Honestly, even though I hated being in charge of my own cover, I'm so excited with the finished product. And the feedback I've gotten from bloggers has been great.

But as a reader, cover reveals are a bit anti-climactic. We get to see the cover, and they are often beautiful and enticing and make me want to read the book, but then...nothing. Because that's all I get, just the cover. When what I really want is words.

So, I'm going to do something a little different because that's how I roll. I'm going to do a cover reveal (mostly because not doing one feels like a slap in the face to my amazing cover designer), but at the same time, I'll be releasing the first chapter. That's right, the whole first chapter.*

I'm hoping readers will see the pretty cover, get sucked in by the words and then pre-order the book. In that order. Or not, who knows right now.

But what this means is that I am going to do an awesome Cover/First Chapter reveal on November 3rd. That would be Monday. Yeah! I already have some generous bloggers signed up and ready to go, but I'm happy to have anyone participate that is interested. If you'd like to get in on the cover reveal action (and get to see all the pretty before anyone else), just fill out this quick form or shoot me an email.

Now sit back and count the days until you can feast your eyes on the beauty that is my cover. Or, you know, just stay tuned for tomorrow's post.

*Of course, if you are a newsletter subscriber you already got to read the first chapter. Because subscribers are awesome and awesome people get everything early. Don't you want to subscribe so you don't miss out on the next fun treat I send to awesome subscribers? Sure you do!

Trying to do all the things

So here's a random Tuesday post for you with a bit of in your face honesty.

Self-publishing is hard, dudes. Like seriously hard. As in, there is a reason that people go the traditional route and hand over complete control of their baby to professionals who are strangers to them.
This is not really a one-person job. Publishers have many departments for a reason. There are a lot of jobs to do. But I don't have a team (not entirely true if you count my support team who is awesome). An assistant would be lovely, but those cost money and I'm so anal-retentive about all this, I'd probably spend more time deciding what to farm out than I would save from having an assistant.

What I could use is an intuitive robot. If you've got a lead on the intuitive robot market, I am definitely interested.

In the interest of honesty and sharing, here's what's on my plate right now:
- Drafting emails to bloggers who are closed to new books, but are open to spotlights, guest posts, etc.

- Creating the Google docs home base that will hold all the blog tour resources both for the participating bloggers and my sanity.
- Figuring out how Wattpad works without accidentally posting something.
- Trying to decide how soon I need to upload info to Amazon so it doesn't pre-empt my cover reveal while making sure I have a good lead for pre-sales.
- Getting a head start on the guest posts I've committed to so I don't get behind (December is not that far away).
- Making a contact list for local media and trying to remember who has told me they know who.
- Writing multiple press releases.
- Planning next newsletter copy

I'm sure I'm forgetting something (which is stressing me out more). Plus, all of this is on top of keeping up with my clients and agenting duties, and all my personal life business (like homeschooling my kiddos and making sure we all eat).

The truth is, I don't have to do any of this. I could (quite easily) upload the whole business tomorrow and be done with it all. And if I didn't care at all about getting this book into the hands of readers, that's what I'd do. But I do care, and so I will march down that to-do list and get it all done.

And I'll be happy about it. I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and she asked how the book launch was going. I said a few things before she stopped me.

"You are a smiley person, you do it a lot, but that smile right there, the one you get when you talk about your book. That tells me just how passionate you are about this. And if you put even a part of that passion into your work, I know you'll be a success."

It's true. I might complain about how much there is to be done (soooo much), but I'm honestly having the time of my life. This is so much fun. And when I think of all the readers who will be able to read my words in just over a makes my heart sing. I could melt an Icy Frozen Ana right now.

So, I'm going to try to keep things positive here. And that may lead some of you to think that this whole self-publishing business is a walk in the park. I don't want to dissuade anyone, but I also want to be completely honest. This is not easy. But if you love it, it's totally worth it.

Also, a note about timing. I really wanted all of my marketing updates to be real time so you guys could get a good sense of when I am doing things and how long they take. I now realize that would be completely unattainable. And that makes me sad, because I realize that timing is an important aspect of marketing. So, when all of this is said and done, I'll do a recap post that has the actual time frame for all of my marketing efforts. That way I keep my sanity and you get all the info you really need. Everybody wins!

Marketing Plan priority one: Reviews

It is my personal opinion that outside of word of mouth marketing (which none of us have any control over), reviews are the number one way authors can promote their book.
If you don't believe me, let's run a little hypothetical here. Say you are exposed to some sort of marketing effort for a new book that blows you away. Seriously, as soon as you see it, you think, I need to read that. So naturally you hope over to Amazon (they are the undeniable big guys in book buying) to order a copy. Since the book released last week, you know there won't be any problem getting it. But before you one-click your new beauty, you take a peek at the reviews and see there are only a small handful. Half of them sound as if they were written buy the authors mom, aunt and best friend. Now how do you feel about this must read?

If you're like most readers, you're not quite as gung-ho as you were before you saw the lack of social confirmation that this is a book you want to read. Because that's what reviews are, social confirmation that you are making a wise investment of your money and time. Without them, you're book looks a bit on the pathetic side. While a book that has tons of reviews, even if a fair chunk are less than stellar, will feel like a safer bet. In fact, some marketing experts suggest that the presence of some negative reviews gives more credence to the positive ones (in essence, the reader knows the reviews didn't all come from the authors friends list).

So that's where I'm focusing my initial marketing efforts. The good news is this isn't my first time organizing a blog tour. The bad news is no matter how many times you've done it, it is still a tedious and extensive process.

Of course, I could take the lazy approach and send every blogger with an email address a copy/pasted review request and hope for the best. But that's not how I do things. For one, I think bloggers deserve more respect than that. And second, I know that my result won't be very good unless I do it the right way.

So what is the right way? Here we go.

First, I start with a massive list of bloggers. I got them from bloggers I researched in the past, bloggers I follow online, and bloggers who reviewed books that I feel are good matches to my own.

From there, the real work begins. Over the course of one really long weekend I visited each and every blog on my list. I looked to make sure of several things:
1. Are they open to new review requests?
2. Do they take self-published books?
3. Do they like to read my genre?
4. Do they regularly post reviews for books in my genre?
5. Are they a good match for me AND (really important) why?
Here we go

If a blog passed this screening they got entered into a secondary spreadsheet with all their critical contact info AND why they are a match for me.

You might see a trend here. It was really important to me to make sure that I was only reaching out to bloggers who would enjoy my book. Not every blog/blogger will be a good match for each book/author. This is a good thing as it means there is great variety within the book blogging community. But it also means you can't just blanket request everyone with an email address.

When I send my request, I'll use this 'why' to personalize each and every one. You heard me right. Each review request is personalized directly to the blogger I am contacting. This shows the bloggers that I am familiar with their sites and that I respect them and their time. And really, this is what most bloggers are looking for. Respect.

This post is already getting long so I'll talk a bit about how I personalized my requests on another post. But I figured I'd leave you with some stats to get an idea of what I'm working with.

Initial list: 322 blogs
Paired down list: 155 blogs
Time to pair: One very long weekend
Review requests sent: 146 (I had a few with broken emails or that closed in the few weeks since researching them)
Time to send: Three days (day one: 46, day two: 37, day three: 63)

Also, if you want a step-by-step breakdown, I'm following my own advice from the DIY Blog Tour handbook. If you haven't done so yet, go subscribe to my newsletter and you'll get your own free copy.

Self-Printed questions with Catherine, Caffeinated

First things first, I'm over at Unicorn Bell today to talk a little bit more about knowing when a publisher is right for you. So after you read today's post, be a dear and go check that out. :)

I am so excited today to share with all of you this amazing book written by a super, duper nice author. Catherine Ryan Howard, writes travel memoirs which is about as different from what I write as you can get. BUT...she also has this other book called Self-Printed: The Sane Person's Guide to Self-Publishing.
One of my very smart friends told me about this book a year ago when I was first considering self-publishing. And let me tell you, it is amazing. I have the second edition, in print, with dog ears and highlights and little sticky notes all over it. Catherine dishes out realistic advice on how to go from finished manuscript to book in hand, along with some really great ideas about how to get that book to readers. And she does it all without bashing on traditional publishing the way that some guides like this do. She has a wonderful sense of humor that shines through in this easy to read book that walks you step-by-step through the process.

I'm fairly certain I would have quit when it came to formatting my book if it wasn't for this guide. I'm so excited for the new version. It is loaded up on my Kindle and I plan to start reading it just as soon as I finish this post.

Now, because Catherine is an all-around swell person, she decided that to promote the new edition she would answer questions about self-publishing all over the internet. Today, she will have mini Q&As at over 100 blogs! Now that's a creative way to market your book.

I had the pleasure of asking Catherine about Amazon's new pre-sale feature. Here's what she had to say.

Me: Amazon recently announced they are giving all self-publishers the ability to offer pre-sale orders. However, some authors feel this can hurt their results since they will have sales spread across the pre-sale period instead of all at once (theoretically, on release day) which could give them a big jump in the all important lists.
Do you feel offering pre-sale orders is worth it for an indie author and what is the best way for them to leverage this new tool?

Catherine: I just did pre-ordering with Self-Printed, and while I wasn't too bothered about the sales spread vs. a single day jump - honestly I think unless you've got big numbers, that's not going to make a huge or lasting difference - I did find one major pro and one major con:

PRO: A deadline! Instead of dragging my heels a week or two past the release date I'd announced like I normally do, I HAD to get the final version of my book up there 10 days before the release day I'd promised Amazon OR ELSE. (Or else...? Well, who knows. But you do lose your access to pre-ordering for a year.) 

CON: Once you upload the final version and that 10 day period begins, your book is in lock down. You can't upload a new version. During my 10 day period, I discovered a big change in the US tax situation - and I had no opportunity to update that before the pre-order purchasers got sent their book. Now Amazon wants me to list the "specific locations" of the changes and wait 4 weeks for them to decide whether or not they'll push the update to customers' Kindles. This is a major headache. 

So, I'd say if you have a really good reason to pre-order - like you'll have big promotion going on before release - then take advantage. But it's caused me more headaches than it's brought sales ranks peaks, to be honest. Be warned...

Catherine Ryan Howard is a writer, self-publisher and caffeine enthusiast from Cork, Ireland. SELF-PRINTED: THE SANE PERSON'S GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING (3rd edition) is out now in paperback and e-book and available from Amazon. Follow the #selfprintedsplash on Twitter today (Friday 24th) and/or visit for chance to win an amazing prize that will get your self-publishing adventure started! 

Be sure to check out the list of all Catherine's blog stops today to get a ton more advice on self-publishing and marketing.

Why an agent decides to self-publish

On Monday I shared the exciting news that I am releasing my debut novel, Rite of Rejection, on December 4th. Woohoo! Since that might be confusing, I set aside this whole blog post to talk about how I came to this decision. I'm also going to stay on top of the comments all week to answer any questions that I might accidentally leave out. I'm ready to lay my cards out on the table

This story actually starts almost two years ago. Because we all know books aren't born in a day. In Spring of 2013 I queried my YA Dystopian novel. I already knew going in that Dystopian was on its way out the door and I had an uphill path to walk. But I really believed in this manuscript. I had several other manuscripts under my belt, but this one just felt different. 

So I queried and much to my surprise I got a really great request rate. Unfortunately, that's where the good news ended. While every agent I queried had really lovely things to say about my book, they all eventually turned it down, citing the current market. I understood. After all, the market they spoke about is the same one I work with daily. Editors were filled up and, honestly, a little sick of dystopian books.

I trudged on for several more months before I gave up the ghost. In November 2013 I decided to self-publish. I loved the book too much to let it sit on a shelf and the feedback I got convinced me the book had a shot. I got my ducks in a row with editors, cover artists and a proofreader. If I was going to do this, I wanted it to be as professional as humanly possible. I also wanted to be professional in my work situation.

That's when I called up Marisa Corvisiero, my boss, to let her know about my decision. Since I had decided to publish under my own name, I didn't want it to be a surprise to her. Marisa was wonderfully supportive and even offered to read the book to give me an additional set of editing eyes.

Marisa read the book and then promptly broke her own "don't represent co-workers" rule and offered to sign me and submit my book. So, surprise, I have an agent, the talented Marisa Corvisiero. While I was delighted to have another professional see what I saw in the book, I didn't get my hopes up. After all, editors were still not showing interest in new dystopian projects. However, Marisa is amazing and got a lot of interest in the book. And in the end, we got an offer.

I can see you scratching your head from here, but stay with me. Of course, I was delighted that someone believed in my book. There really is something to be said for that sense of validation. I did a lot of research and took my time to consider all my options. In the end, spoiler alert, I decided to turn down the offer. While they are a wonderful house that has put out some great books, I didn't feel they could offer me what I really needed.

Before, you jump to any conclusions about value from publishers, keep this in mind. First, I had already paid for and received professional editing, proofreading and cover design. Second, while we were waiting to hear from publishers I figured out how to format my book for ebook and print (I learned from a talented lady you'll hear from on Friday). Third, I have an extensive background in marketing and have had an active role in several authors' marketing plans. Not everyone has the same experience I do or has the funds to pay for professional services. I still believe in traditional publishing and what it has to offer authors. Okay, I'll step down from the soap box now.

All of this took place in the past month which has been a complete whirlwind. Between this, my theatre production which goes into the final run starting tomorrow and an overly elaborate Dr. Who birthday party for my oldest daughter, I'm pretty much running on coffee and excitement. But I really am excited. I've already kicked off my marketing efforts, and starting next week I'll be sharing more of the nitty gritty details of what I have planned.

This post is already long enough, so I'll close by, once again, saying thank you. Seriously, you guys are amazing. :)

Now this is the story all about how...

My life got flipped-turned upside down.

No, I am not the new Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Though I do feel a bit like a princess. 

I'm finally ready to share the exciting news I hinted at last week. Ready?

I'm self-publishing my debut YA novel on December 4th! I'm Goodreads official and everything.

So I realize that many of you might be thinking 'Wait, isn't she an agent? Why is she self-publishing?' And those are great questions. I'm going to talk about my very weird path to publication and how I decided to go it on my own on Wednesday. I tried to include it all here, but it was too much info to include with this post and I didn't want to leave anything out and leave you with questions.

For today, I want to talk about WAM, that's right, What About Me, or really, you. Because I personally think this is going to be awesome (and not just because it's my book). 

Here's the deal. We all read the guest posts from authors that talk about how they market and get the word out about their book. But you can't really do justice to an entire marketing plan in a single post. But what if an author shared all their action steps and results in real time so you could follow along and get the full picture of what works, what doesn't work, and what might be crazy enough to work someday? Wouldn't that be cool?

Yeah, I think so, too. In fact, I've gone so far as to stalk research authors during their releases to see what they are doing. So that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to share every step I take, what I do, how I do it, and (when it's possible) how it worked. You guys will get to see the good, bad and the ugly all right here.

And here's where it gets even better. Do you have a marketing idea, or a platform, or program you've always wondered about, but didn't want to risk trying it? Hey, there. Let me know, and when it's feasible, I'll incorporate it into my marketing plan and tell you all about it. And if it's not something I can do (or believe is right for my book), I'll talk about why.

The idea is to be an open book and give you guys a backstage pass to my marketing efforts. To my knowledge, I've never seen an author do this before so I'm really excited about it.

So, for now, send me any ideas of marketing efforts you'd like to see me implement. And feel free to check out my Goodreads listing. I've also updated the Author tab on the blog to include all the book info. The cover is still a place holder until I figure out how and when to do the reveal. And when I do figure it out, you'll be the first to know.

And while we're on the subject of first to know, you guys are not actually the first to know about this. All my newsletter subscribers are. In fact, anytime I have big news or secret info, the awesome people who get my newsletter will always hear about it first. Including, opportunities to get an early review copy. So if you aren't signed up for my newsletter, do it now. You'll also get a free copy of my DIY Blog Tour handbook, so it's a win-win-win.

Finally, let me say thank you. The well-wishes I've already received have been so lovely. I can't wait to share my book with the world, but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun without all of you there to share it with me. You guys rock my face off, red lipstick and all.

Gorilla Snot: Because words matter

A few weeks ago I mentioned this product in one of my videos:

In case that's too hard to read, it says gorilla snot gel. Yep, it does. And in case you think this is a product typo, here's another one.

Yep, it got worse. That is a picture of a gorilla with snot coming out of its nose. Before you ask, yes, this is a real product, and yes, you can buy it in US.

Now, to be fair, there is a lot of truth in advertising here. If you open up the container of gorilla snot, that's exactly what it looks like. A big tub of snot.

Had this particular jar of hair product not been in the dollar bin and was I not such a penny pincher, I would never have picked it up. Why? Because there is nothing even remotely tempting about a product that openly compares itself to animal boogers.

I have to guess there is a reason this product (which works pretty well, actually) was in the dollar bin, while similar products are selling off the shelves at ten times the price. And that reason would be the words used to describe it.

Words matter.

How you talk about yourself.
How you talk about your books.
What you title your books.

For a prime example of this check out the twitter meme #badmoviedescriptions. Here's one of my favorites.


The point is that words matter. If you refer to your book in general terms or don't talk about it with gusto, then don't be surprised if readers aren't lining up to read it. Don't talk about yourself as a hack or a part-time writer or anything other than the professional that you are (or that you're aiming for). Give your book a title that draws readers in. Don't call your hair gel Gorilla Snot.

Get your show face on

I've probably mentioned it a time or two (or hundred) that I am currently in a local theatre production. Very small time, but super fun for me. I took a hiatus from the stage when my girls were born so this is my first production in over seven years. Much like riding a bike, I was a bit rusty at first, but have gotten back into the swing of things. And not a moment too soon, since we open this weekend.

Monday night was our first night in full make-up. And I forgot what a pain that can be. Because I love you, here are a few shots of me from the stage.
In case you don't recognize me with all that make-up, I'm the one at the bottom looking all sultry and such. On the right, I'm trying very hard not to laugh while screeching a song.

As you can see, I've got the make-up piled on. This is huge pain in the rear to put on and take off. I don't wear make-up on a daily basis. None. At all. So any make-up is a change. False lashes and ruby red lips are a game changer.

But I wear the make up for the stage, because I have to. Without it, my face would be a washed out mess and no one in the audience would be able to make out my facial expressions with all the bright lights. If I want people to see me, I have to go big.

And here's the marketing correlation you've been waiting for.

I get that not everyone has a personality that's larger than life. Writers tend to be an introverted group. And for the most part, that's okay. You don't need to change who you are to be an author. You certainly don't want to be fake with your readers.

But there are times when you are going to need to put on the false lashes and red lipstick...metaphorically. 

If you want to be noticed, you need to make yourself noticeable. 

That may sound obvious, but so many authors don't get it. Next time you go to a group signing, take notice of the authors who tend to have the most traffic at their table. I'll bet you, it's the ones who are standing up, or even standing in front of their table. They are often the ones with candy or swag, who are willing to strike up a conversation with a stranger about anything. These are often the authors who have sign-up lists or contests that draw readers into their area. They are putting themselves out there.

In short, these are the authors wearing red lipstick. 

Next time you have an opportunity to get in front of your readers, think of ways that you can make yourself more noticeable. Step away from the table and engage. And if it makes it easier, wear your red lipstick.

Agency Lessons: You aren't fill-in-the-blank

I wish I had a dollar for everytime I heard, "But (insert famous dead author) did it and look at how successful they were". I would use those dollars to buy a pair of earplugs that would prevent me from ever hearing that phrase again.

Here's the deal. Lots of authors of yore got away with tactics that today would be considered big no-nos. When people see this they generally assume one of two things.

1. These famous dead authors were nothing more than hacks who must have bought their way to fame,
2. The professionals of today have no idea what they are talking about.

The correct answer, which is almost never assumed, is neither of these.

Yes, you will find plenty of "red flags" in the classics that if submitted today would get the big heave ho. The reason is because times change.

Just like the fashion, reading preferences evolve over time. Women of the 1800s who wore high collared dresses were not emotionless prudes anymore than the women of today who wear booty shorts are harlots. Women from both time periods are dressing to the fashion of the day.

You can't write a novel as if it was 1814 and expect to be successful.

More is demanded of you as an author because readers have higher standards. Not that the readers of 100 years ago were willing to read trash. But they didn't have nearly the selection we have today. Keep in mind that for a long time, reading fiction was considered a useless way for a woman to addle her brain. 

And we don't even have to go back 100 years. Literature expands at such an increasing pace that it's not hard to go back even a decade or so to find books that wouldn't meet today's standards. That doesn't mean those books are bad or that today's publishing professionals are wrong.

It means, life moves on. People change, fashion changes, books change. 

By all means, study the classics. Learn from the first masters of fiction. Be inspired by their willingness to cross new boundaries. 

But understand that your work has to sell in today's marketplace.

*Side note: I am going to keep the intern position open until the end of this week before I start narrowing down my candidates. Thank you to everyone who has helped to spread the word.

Simple Marketing Action items

Before I kick off today's post, I want to draw your attention back to yesterday in case you missed it. I am looking for an intern. Also, just to keep you in the know, my amazing colleague, Saritza Hernandez is also looking for a new intern. She represents a lot of erotica and GLBT works, so if that floats your boat, you should check out her posting.

Now, on to the show. Last week I posted on how to create a daily marketing habit. Then I realized that some of you might think I'm crazy for suggesting that you market your book every day. And that would sound crazy if you are thinking in big, bold strokes. So today I want to share ten simple marketing action items that you can incorporate into your new marketing habit. They won't feel so grand, but they can make a new difference.

1. Contact 5 new reviewers
It doesn't matter how many reviewers you've already sent your book to, there are still more. Pick a focus for the day and target your reviews there. You can pick librarians, non-book review sites, or just some members of your target audience you haven't reached out to yet. You could do this single task every day and never run out of people to contact. My rule is, you can never have enough online reviews.
2. Send your press release to three new media outlets
There might not be as many media outlets as there are book reviewers, but there are still a ton of them. You should make a list for print (newspapers/magazines), radio and TV. Start local and then move out slowly to national markets. Don't sell yourself short before you even ask.
3. Call 5 radio stations
You should absolutely send a press release to radio stations, but keep in mind that they depend a lot more on the author than a newspaper. If you can't be articulate, you are a risk on a radio show. By calling, you give the station manager a chance to hear you speak which can give you a leg up when it comes time to booking their next guest.
4. Send your one sheet to 5 libraries
Almost every town in America has a library. Don't stop until you've emailed them all. Make sure your one sheet has all the information a library needs to make a purchase or you'll be wasting your time.
5. Share a picture/quote on social media
Go easy one day and just share a quote from your book or an image that has significance to the story or your characters. Not all your marketing action items have to be big sweeping gestures.
6. Share a quality review on social media
You want to avoid re-tweeting and re-posting every good review you get. That said, if you get a review that really touches you, share it. But don't just post a link. Connect with your readers and share with them why this review meant so much.
7. Host a Goodreads giveaway
Goodreads giveaways aren't just for your launch. You can do this anytime. If you can swing it, try to make your giveaway international. You'll get a lot more exposure and our friends across the pond will be extremely grateful.
8. Hold a flash contest
Want something quick and fun to do? Hold a flash contest for your fans. Make it fun by asking them to share an image that they connect with your story. Or ask participants to write a short 50 word fan fiction scene. Anything will work here so long as it's quick, easy, fun and helps spread the word about your book. 
9. Write a bonus scene and share with your followers
I love when writers post bonus content. This can be a scene from an alternate POV, a scene that didn't make it into the book, or even a scene that happens "off stage" in your book. This takes a bit more time and effort, but your fans will really appreciate it.
10. Submit a conference class/panel
There are all kinds of conferences, festivals and events that look for authors to come speak. This is a great way to get in front of your readers and maybe find a few new ones. Pick a festival close to home to cut down on cost and pick a topic that will speak to your readers.

* Bonus tip: Engage with your audience
Marketing doesn't have to always include your book. There's a lot to be said for being there. Answer questions, join a conversation, share things your readers will be interested in. Make your name one they will be glad to see pop up in their social media feed.

There are so many little marketing steps you can take every day to keep your book in the public eye. Some will take more effort than others, but all of them together can make a huge difference in keeping your book out of oblivion. 

With a little help from my friends

Oh my word, y'all. My blog schedule has gone to hell in a hand basket and it ain't pretty.
I mentioned previously that I lost all my semi-good sense and I'm in a theatre production. We are down to one week until we open and I'm basically spending all my time on the stage. It's a burden that the extroverted among us carry for others.

For proof, here is a photo of me looking ridiculous and tired. And no, I'm not a natural blond.
Because I have no sense of self-preservation, I am also throwing a joint birthday party for my daughter and her BFF this weekend. And I'm crazy. It's Dr. Who themed (which is awesome), but I've spent a ridiculous amount of time lately making clay sonic screwdrivers and felt fezzes (because fezzes are cool).
All of this to say that I haven't been taking care of the blog and that makes me sad. I love our little community here. And I take what I do seriously. I am both honored and humbled that so many of you find my advice helpful, and sometimes even inspiring. And that's why I've come to a decision.

I need help.

I am not superwoman. I cannot do it all. I have to be able to delegate and parse out tasks that I can, so I don't have to sacrifice the parts of my life that are important. Like you guys.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm taking on an intern. Yeah!

Here's what it looks like:
The internship is unpaid for six months, and I cannot make any promises in regard to advancement within the agency. However, if the intern is a student, I am happy to file the appropriate paperwork needed for course credit if your college allows for it. I will also gladly write letters of recommendation (where it's appropriate) for interns looking to get into other areas of publishing. While the intern will be under my direction, they may work on tasks with other agents.

I am mostly looking for someone who can assist me with queries, manuscript evaluation and working on the back end of marketing projects with my clients. But publishing is unpredictable, so I'm sure there will be other fun projects to work on as well. An ideal intern will have experience beta reading and/or editing, though formal training is not needed, and a high level of organization. A borderline obsession with spreadsheets would be helpful.

If this is you, or someone you know, please send a resume (as a word attachment) to Sarah(at)CorvisieroAgency(dot)com and use "intern" in the subject line. I don't have a deadline for this, but I'd like to get someone in place by the end of the month, so don't dally. I would really appreciate it if you guys could help spread the word for me.

Thank you so much for being patient with me. I promise there will be a new marketing related post up on Friday. Until then, Allons-y and Geronimo!

*Update* Apparently I am more sleep deprived than I realized and I left out some crucial info. So first, the intern position is completely virtual. You can be anywhere and do this. Second, I am looking at around 10 hours/week of commitment. Sometimes it will be less and other times might need a bit more, but I am flexible. And third, this is not a 9-5. The work that needs to be done can be completed at 3pm or 3am, or whenever it fits in your schedule. If you think of other questions I didn't answer, please ask in the comments.

Agency Lessons: Hiding your genre

I did not fall off the publishing cart yesterday.

If you follow the trends in publishing, then you know that right now there are a couple of genres that are pretty much DOA when it comes to publishing houses. In YA,  those are Paranormal and Dystopian. Next year they will be something else, and the year after that something else again. Just like fashion, genres go through cycles. So just like high-waisted pants and crazy print leggings, someday these genres will make a come-back. But until then, not so much.

So here's what I'm seeing. Queries from authors who simply call their manuscripts speculative fiction. This might make you feel better, it isn't going to improve your chances of getting a request.

These genres have tell-tale markers that most agents (and readers, for that matter) can spot from a mile away. You aren't going to be able to hide your out of style genre and trying to is a waste of everyone's time.

Here's the deal. I get it. I love a great Dystopian or paranormal. I completely understand the draw to write a story like this. Seriously, these are some of my favorite books. And maybe you started writing that Dystopian five years ago when the genre was still gaining ground. But, I can't sell them right now and most agents agree with me here.

So rather than spin your wheels querying a project that isn't going to get any traction, focus instead on what you can control. Writing a new story. Querying takes time, effort, and an emotional toll on a writer. I'm not saying you can't do it, but think carefully about how your time, effort and creative energy might be better spent.

You can always self-publish, an endeavor I support when an author goes in with the right information and realistic expectations. You can shelve that novel, work on getting an agent with another manuscript and then talk about options later. 

But don't try to tell me that your paranormal romance is an urban fantasy and then talk about how the MC falls in love with a forbidden angel.  Don't pitch me your SciFi and then talk about the Utopian society being destroyed by a power hungry dictator. Just don't. You aren't fooling anyone.

Side Bar: Do you hate me? I am so sorry that I missed the post on Friday and failed to upload a Hey, Sarah video on Saturday. The musical I told you all I'm in opens in less than 2 weeks (yeah), so my time is even more crunched than usual. I promise to make it up to you with something super exciting that I've been working on behind the scenes. It's still hush-hush at the moment, but I hope to be able to tell you all about it next week. Until then, thanks for being patient with me.

Five Steps to a Marketing Habit

I'm a firm believer that marketing is a habit that all authors should develop. It should be a part of your daily routine. Yes, I said daily. Every day, you should make it your goal to do at least one thing to get your book in front of your target readers.

But habits are hard, both to break and to develop. Confession time: I have been a lifetime nail biter. Seriously, I can't remember a single time during my childhood or adult life when I didn't bite my nails. Until two months ago. I decided enough was enough. I wanted to break the habit, and I did.

So here are my strategies to break a habit that you can use to create a habit of daily marketing. But be warned, once you get going it will be hard to stop. And all that marketing just might lead to success.

1. Fake it 'till you make it
When I finally decided to get serious about the nail biting, the first thing I did was slap on a set of DIY acrylic nails. Let me tell you, they looked awful. But they did the job. My fingers didn't look like stubs and I wasn't able to bite the nails because they were covered up.

Marketing on a regular basis probably won't come naturally. In fact, it might feel wrong at first, especially if you generally avoid it like the plague. So until you have your habit firmly built, you'll need to fake it. That means being strict with yourself. You will need more guidelines that stop you from slipping. Hard one. Rules like, I will get my marketing task done for the day before I am allowed on any social media networks. It's mean, I know, but you can't afford to give yourself any wiggle room in these early days. I also recommend creating a weekly task list. Assign a different marketing task (such as send 5 review requests, send 5 press releases, contact the school/library about a workshop) for each day of the week. Once you have your habit in place, you can be a little more forgiving.

2. Find a buddy
Lucky for me, I have a close friend who is also a lifelong nail biter. She acts as an accountability partner. I see her several times a week and know that she will look at my nails, because I asked her to. And I do the same for her. Knowing that I have someone that is going to hold me to the fire keeps me from slipping.

Marketing isn't fun (at least to normal people; I'm weird). It's all too easy to wave off a missed day that can then quickly turn into a missed week, and then a month lost with no marketing out there to bring your books to readers. Find another author who also wants to improve their marketing efforts and agree to hold each other accountable. Agree on how often you will check in with each other. You might even set a friendly bet on who can go the longest without missing a day. Loser buys the first round at your next writing conference.

3. Keep your tools handy
A ragged nail edge is kryptonite to the nail biter. It drives me batty and I have to fix it. That's why I make sure that I always have a file handy. And not just, I can get to it, but right there handy. I keep a file on my nightstand, my end table, in the bathroom and one in my purse in case I'm out.

You never know when you are going to run across an opportunity to do a little spontaneous marketing. If you have business cards, books marks, trading cards or other swag, keep them with you. If you carry a purse, try to leave some room to have these on hand. One of my author friends never leaves home without several of her books in the trunk of her car. She figures it's worth the cost to hand out a free book to someone who shows interest in her work, since that reader might then buy her other books. And she's right.

I'm going to assume you have a smart phone. Make sure you have all your social media accounts on there. You never know when you'll meet a fan or if the world around you inspires an idea. I also keep an old fashioned mini-notebook and pen in my purse. I jot down notes whenever the moment strikes. Keep you tools close so you can use them when you need to.

4. Reward yourself
Now that I've been bite free for two months, I've started rewarding myself with fun new nail polish colors. I've also been playing around with Jamberry nail wraps and I'm planning on treating myself to a real manicure for my birthday in November. Knowing I have treats to look forward to keeps me on track.

Set mini goals for your marketing plan along with pre-selected rewards so you know exactly what you are working toward. Make it a whole week with a marketing effort everyday? How about drinks with your best friends. Make it a month? Go ahead and get that signed, limited edition hard cover you've been eyeing.

5. Cut yourself some slack
I haven't slipped yet, but I don't suffer any delusion that I will never bite another nail. That's unrealistic.

Know that you will probably go through periods where you don't market. Maybe you have a horrible week, or a great week on vacation. Life happens. No need to make excuses. Don't beat yourself up. Offer yourself grace, and then make a plan for getting back on the wagon. Slips aren't the end of the world unless you let them derail you completely.

Once you get into the habit of promoting your book daily, you'll be surprised how easily it becomes a natural part of your daily activities. No matter who your publisher is, it's up to you to keep your book in front of readers. Simple daily tasks can add up easily and make a big difference when it comes to sales. Try it for a month and see if you can become addicted to marketing.