A friend is taking a series of high-priced classes to empower her. The classes teach her to build up a business and get people to sign up for her products. She tells me that fellow students have varied businesses. Some are life coaches and some are doing woo-woo stuff (my friend’s description). Some are selling technical skills and others are artists.

The teacher is great, I hear. Some million dollar figures are tossed around to describe her business and her home. My friend is trying to pull all this training and information together so she can start making money. The tech stuff – the social media posting and mailing lists, etc.-– is hard, but other than that, it’s just hustle. And my friend, a native New Yorker, knows how to hustle.

“I’d be dead,” I tell her. “I hate hustling.”

“I know. I can tell.” She admits she’s not crazy about hustling herself, but that’s what she’s gotta do. Hustle. Make those calls and get those people, those speaking gigs, those sales.

Know why I hate hustling? Because the core principle of hustling is manipulating another human being to enrich yourself, whether it’s good for her or not.

How is that right?

I hate being hustled; that’s probably why I loathe the idea of being the hustler. When someone hustles you, or pushes you, or manipulates you, you become a mark. Not a partner, not a fellow human being. Just a mark, to be used for their enrichment.  And the best hustlers, sadly, are the ones that look at you warmly, use your name, and treat you like you’re special.

That system sucks. We need a better one.

Just got comment cards back from my last talk on Baby Boomer Holiday Trivia (with pictures):

“Outstanding presentation in every way.”
“Wonderfully nostalgic!”
“Excellent & fun talk”

So nice to hear!

I gave a slide show (Power Point) presentation with pictures of aluminum Christmas trees, Shiny Brite ornaments, the Hollywood Santa Claus Lane Parade, Gene Autry’s album covers and Rudolph’s creator, Robert May, the original Chipmunks (not that cute), Slinky creator and family, Ginny, Barbie and the Bild Lili doll, and more. And I have stories–funny, sad, and true stories–about all of those things.

So if you’re in the Southern California area and need a speaker, drop me an email via the contact page and we can talk!


This is what I heard on the radio two hours ago, on the news station:

Now that it’s spring, it’s time to honor yourself with that new kitchen you’ve always wanted.

Um . . . in what weird universe does that make sense?

What does a kitchen remodel have to do with spring or with personal honor? Why would a copywriter (I assume it was written by an ad copywriter) think that would catch people’s attention and make them listen?

Well, it did catch my attention, but not in any fashion that would compel me to call this contractor and hire ’em.

Honor myself, buying your service? Just another trope that has crept into our commercial dialogue, along with “You deserve . . . [insert name of overpriced product, weight loss clinic, or attorney here].”

And if one more person responds to a query with, “That’s a great question!” instead of an answer, I’m liable to slap them. Well, not really, because usually the people who say that are sweet. But I’d really prefer the answer, please; I don’t need validation.

Am I just getting old and crotchety?

I’d say “writer’s tip o’ the week,” but I know myself too well.

The Tip: When dear, supportive, well-meaning friends and fellow writers tell you that you must enter this or that contest, you must because your book is so perfect and sure to win: Don’t. Especially if there’s a fee involved.

(And I have nothing against fair and reasonable fees, as long as they’re returned in the form of winnings and allow the contest to take place.)

But remember Hugh Howey’s advice in the previous post? Adjusting the order of the three sentences, it was this:  I didn’t waste time promoting my works until they were already selling. I kept writing. This was the best thing I ever did.

837127_question_markEntering contests falls into the promoting category. Many writers will enter. The more prestigious the contest, the more entries. You don’t know the agenda of the contest-runners. You don’t know the tastes of the judges. Unless you have a fortune to tap into for these fees, save your money and avoid the worry.

Keep writing instead.  After all, if you win, you’ll have to figure out a way to incorporate a badge or blurb onto your cover. What a pain!

Marketing is not for wimps or the lazy.

I’m a bit of both. I’m so screwed.

The Almighty Mailing List

I’ve read (and, admittedly, skimmed and half-read—lazy, remember?) a few books and several articles on marketing. They all agree that a mailing list is vital. That’s how you reach your customers. An author’s best marketing tool (other than a dynamite book) is her/his mailing list. Period.

mailing-list-iconBut how do you build that list? One book recommends pop-up ads on your website that can’t be ignored. Actually, more than one recommends that although they describe the process differently: generate giveaways, great incentives, videos, etc., so that people will want more and will join your mailing list–which pretty much implies the pop-up.

But there are a few steps before having and sending to a mailing list.

The first step is, of course, to create your mailing list on a service like MailChimp. MailChimp is free, up to 2,000 subscribers. So start that account and put your mother and best friend and your gmail address on it. You’ve got 1,997 spaces left before you have to pay, yippee!

What’s the second step?

Where do all those other names come from?

Remember, anyone who gets an email from you through MailChimp (or another service) can opt out. They can unsubscribe and will do so if you waste their time, so entering a bunch of names at random is probably not worth the effort.

How do you pack that list with people who actually want what you’re offering—i.e., your audience?miracle

That’s the fuzzy part. Like this cartoon.

Why don’t these marketing gurus tell you that part?

Well, there are a few reasons.

Everyone’s audience is different and will be found in different places.

The person who wrote a marketing book for authors has found his/her audience–you–but unless you’re also writing a marketing book for authors, your audience is hiding somewhere else.

And if you are writing a marketing book for authors, why are you reading this?

What did you write? A memoir or a zombie romance? Readers of those books are all over the place. Your job to figure out how to lure them to your website and make them want to sign up for more of what you’ve got to give, and only you can do that.

You must figure out where to reach your potential readers. It’s not obvious or easy. For example, when I managed to get the Historical Novel Society to review my book, I thought I had it made! Where else would readers of historical novels go, but to there?  The review was wonderful, exceeding my fondest hopes. But when it appeared, sales did not jump–not even a little.

trapWhat to do? Well, one idea is to take to social media. And that’s a suggestion, not a guarantee of anything. However, many of your readers will be on Twitter and Facebook, so it makes sense to connect with them there.

Think of social media–Facebook, your blog, Tweets, Pinterest, the works—as play. Fill your accounts with posts and pictures of fun things that your target audience would love. 1970s trivia for the memoir, for example. Photographs. Mini-reviews of books in the same genre. Share and Link to clever articles or merchandise on the topic. Follow everyone who follows you, and follow everyone posting on anything peripheral to your topic.

downloadYour website is your keystone. Use the other media accounts to entice readers there on occasion, so they can enjoy your blog post about mood rings or mid-century zombie films and be willing to sign up for more via the pop-up.

Why else don’t those marketing books tell you how to find your audience?

I’m gonna throw out two guesses here.

First, because the panorama of social media sites is constantly changing–just like the self-publishing industry—advice is going to be old by the time it’s tested. The tech-savvy (Hugh Howey comes to mind) have an enormous advantage, but luck plays a part too. Rather than rely on what worked a couple of years ago, you may be better off to poke around on your own. Try Googling “book marketing tips for Indies” to start with, just to get ideas.

The second guess is this: You will learn a lot—about yourself, your audience and about marketing–when you figure it out yourself.

character-buildingYou can’t have everything handed to you. You have to do some of the work, because it builds character.

Did I really write that? Even my Irish grandmother could not say such a phrase without sputtering with laughter.

Look, the marketing books tell you what the end product should be: a mailing list that you can use to reach your fans. They tell you how to use it. They tell you how important it is.

But where those addresses on the list come from is up to you. That’s the part you have to figure out, for the big reason above: each book is different and finding the audience is going to be different.

But in finding that audience, painstaking though it may be, you will connect with what works for you, and there is a lot of value in that.

urlshortIf you are tweeting and posting on Facebook about your book, you probably include a link to Amazon so that people can buy said book. Right? And maybe you even used something like tinyurl or bit.ly to shorten that link.

But–has this ever  happened? You check the link a few weeks down the line, and it doesn’t work. Maybe it takes you to someone else’s site or book, or maybe it goes nowhere. Bad enough that you stumble on that little flaw–but what about your potential customers who wanted to see  your book? How long ago did the link stop working? How many sales did you lose?

One friend, believing her bit.ly or tiny links to be secure, had them printed on her business cards.  Within a week, folks told her the links did work.

I don’t know why this happens. Whatever muse looks over Indie writers must have spurned a techno-nerd satyr, and this is his revenge. Just guessing.

urlgoogleWhat to do about it? Well, I have been assured that Google has the answer. Google came out with  a url shortener years ago, and Google’s is the shortener that my latest advice tells me to use.

For the record, my Boomer Book of Christmas Memories is for sale at Amazon, and the link is http://goo.gl/eHlwXv

Death Speaker: A Novel of Ancient Gaul can be found on Amazon by following this link: http://goo.gl/gtV7VQ

I’ll come back here in a month and test those urls again.  If they don’t work I’ll bitch and moan because that’s what we do when we stumble over a tiny glitch in the amazing technological resources that are offered up for our use for free.


Press-Release-IconSome writers come from a PR background. Such writers are fond of saying things like “I could write a press release in my sleep!”–which may explain why most press releases make dull reading.

(In this case, PR means Public Relations even though it could conceivably stand for Press Release. Why use an acronym that could be interpreted as two different things in the same industry? Dunno, ask a PR person.)

For the rest of us, though, press releases are a mysterious form of communications that people used to pay a lot of money for. In Ye Olden Tymes, those seeking publicity went to a PR firm or expert, who composed a press release and sent it to a mailing list of thousands–thousands!–of eagerly receptive media moguls. Or so they would have you believe.

new_way_media_center_press_room_icon_press_release_px208x150_enToday, there are as many folks telling you that hiring PR firms to send PRs “is a waste of money” as there are supporters and PR firms trying to drum up business and get paid to write more PRs. Yes, I do expect you to follow that sentence, but admittedly this PR stuff can be confusing.

Fortunately my amazing book designer did a webinar last year that Explained It All to me.

As far as books and writers are concerned, a well-crafted press release is simply an article in disguise. You are sending a harried editor an article that s/he doesn’t have to write. All they have to do is pretend to edit it, cut a paragraph or two* to fit their needs, and run with it.

Step by step, here is how you should write a press release about your own book or signing event. Here, PR stands for press release.

  1. First, it’s 2015, almost. The PR will be emailed, so get the email address of the editor of your local paper or magazine.
  2. Subject: Do NOT use “Press Release” as a subject. Ever. (Yes, people do this. Ask any harried editor.) Use instead a practical phrase like “Author John Doe to Sign Books” or “New Thriller from Local Author”
  3. Start your PR with Dear –. The editor is human. Use their first name; it sounds friendly.
  4. Explain briefly that you are sending the editor information about your book signing/new release, that you hope will be deemed newsworthy. Then skip a line.
  5. Suggest a headline in bold font.
  6. Write about your event exactly as you’d like it to appear in the newspaper.
  7. Since you don’t know how much space the editor might have for your piece, pack the first two paragraphs full of information. Then relax and include some fluff, including a quote or two from yourself or a reviewer. The editor can cut these as needed.
  8. I like to end the article with **** because I’ve been told this is what professional journalists do–or used to do. At any rate, it clearly marks the end of the article part of your email. Now you go back to addressing the editor in a conversational form.
  9. Finish in a friendly way, sign your name, and include your email address, phone number, a link to your website, a link to the book on Amazon, and whatever other information the editor might need.
  10. Spell check, attach a jpg of the book cover, and send.

It may not be exactly the way a PR professional would send it, but it gets the job done.

*cut a paragraph or two: One trick I’ve learned with articles is to always insert a paragraph or two that can be cut without affecting the rest of the article. That way, the editor feels that s/he has done their job, but your great ending remains intact.


100_9157On Thursday, November 13, I’ll team up with two other writers to sign and sell books at Golden Cove Center in Palos Verdes–right where Hawthorne meets PV Drive South. The event will include a reading and drawing lesson from Beth Whittenbury, author, and Janelle Carbajal, illustrator, of the story Just Love Him, I Guess. That’s at 3-4:30 PM.

Then on Saturday, November 15, we’ll be back at the same location, sans Janelle, to sign books from 2-4 PM. Here is the flyer with the address: Kids flyer. It’s at the Postal Center, a bit hidden.

Beth will also have her legal books. I’ll be armed with The Boomer Book of Christmas Memories and Death Speaker, a novel of Ancient Gaul.

Jean Shrive will sign her YA novel, The Einstein Solution, a story based on her memories of her Princeton, NJ childhood during World War II, when she lived down the street from Albert Einstein.

But wait, there’s more!  I’m also speaking at the Torrance Library, 3301 Torrance Blvd. in Torrance, CA (my home town), on November 22 at 2 PM. The talk will include a Power Point slide show of Baby Boomer holiday trivia: aluminum trees, songs from the 1950s, and toys like Barbie, GI Joe, and Slinky. Plus a door prize! Flyer: Boomer Family Christmas

Beth and I also have smaller, private events scheduled, like a big December 3rd Gift Fair and Peninsula High School, and an Artsy Party in Palos Verdes on December 14th. If you want details on any of these, let me know through the contact page.

I know that those of you with the PR Gene will roll your eyes, but I am excited!

Advertising sign on wooden postThe trouble with reading a good book about using Amazon (or Twitter or Facebook) is that by the time you’ve finished the book the platform has changed.

Amazon now has something called Themes or Browse Categories. They show up on the left whenever you start looking for fiction books. Go ahead, try it. Go to Amazon and type in “Thrillers” or “Historical Romance.” By the time I post this they may be appearing next to non-fiction books as well.

I’m told these categories on the left reflect what people are searching for in books. So the savvy marketer will use some of those phrases as Keywords for their books.

That bit of advice–and much more–came from Penny Sansivieri, the Author Marketing Expert. She appeared on a panel one night and  I went.

(Digression:  I love living in Los Angeles where every week I can find a free-or nearly-free talk that improves me as an author and marketer!  And I don’t keep these events to myself; you can find them all on the WritersCalendarLA.com. )

Moving on:

Book_JeffWalkerBeth and I are now using Launch: An Internet Millionaire’s Secret Formula To Sell Almost Anything Online, Build A Business You Love, And Live The Life Of Your Dreamsby Jeff Walker as our playbook.

It’s all about the preparation. Launch tells you how to build up a mailing list, send out enticing emails with offers that make people WANT to be on your mailing list, how to engage with potential customers–basically how to structure a product launch. The work is all in the buildup, and the launch itself (along with wildly successful sales, right?) comes at the very end.

If that interests you, we strongly suggest you get the print book so you can flip back and forth and stick post it papers all over. Beth says the videos are great and round out the information; I’m a week or two behind her so I haven’t viewed them yet.

Christmas Coffee and Book.1200.1618However, I have managed to get one of my books into a gift basket, sold with coffee by a wonderful Amazon store, Aloha Island Coffee.

And that was a lot easier than trying to read about Amazon algorithms or follow the steps for a product launch. How did I do it?

I go to a couple of writers’ group meetings regularly. One of the managers of Aloha Island Coffee also goes. She’s a very nice person, and we got to talking. That’s all.

Reminds me of the time writer John Vorhaus talked to another group, a few years ago, and mentioned that he once found himself talking to a previously unknown in-law at a family party. Turns out the in-law had recording equipment and wanted to get into recording and selling books.

John pursued the idea with this newfound relative, and now many of his mysteries (The Albuquerque Turkey) and nonfiction books (Decide to Play Great Poker: A Strategy Guide to No-limit Texas Hold Em) are audiobooks–which would not have happened otherwise.

The Lesson: For all our studying, sometimes the best marketing ideas just show up. All we have to do is talk to someone and make a connection.

THUMBNAIL_IMAGEWelcome to the Great Marketing Push of 2014. A few friends and I are going to try out the marketing strategies outlined in several books, and report on the results. Writer Beth Whittenbury (author of Just Love Him, I Guess, which I love) is also blogging about her progress, and you can follow her here.

This week, we are focusing on Amazon, but I want to say a few words about Goodreads first, because I just finished a giveaway there.

goodreadsI’ve heard that people need to see a product 3-5 times before it sinks in. Goodreads provides a couple of great ways to get your book in front of readers until it sticks:

A Book Giveaway

This is my favorite, because it’s almost free. You set up a giveaway through your author dashboard: look under the Explore tab for Giveaways. You set the dates and the number of books to offer. At the end of the contest, your only expense is the actual books you sign, and the $2 or $3 in postage.

A Paid Promotion

For as little as $90 (which is billed to a credit card at the beginning) you set up ads, and pay each time someone clicks on the ad to see more information about your book. You decide how big the ad is (a bigger ad costs a bit more per click), and you can create several ads. One might appear whenever someone searches for a certain genre; another might appear whenever someone searches for certain authors. For example, if you’ve written an epic fantasy you might select Fantasy as a genre, then do another ad that will appear whenever someone searches for Tolkien or George R.R. Martin. The promotion lasts as long as there’s money left.

attachmentMy Results

A giveaway for Death Speaker: A Novel of Ancient Gaul ran a year ago, and I think I’ll do another giveaway now. I cannot know how many people bought the book, but I do know that at least 300 saw it. Currently, 120 people have Death Speaker on their to-read list.

I also ran a promotion for Death Speaker, but I can’t say that I saw any spike in sales over the many months that it ran. I’m assured that it’s fairly normal for a promotion to go on for months. A lot of people click through during the first couple of weeks, then interest dies down.

I just wrapped up a giveaway for The Boomer Book of Christmas Memories; 500 people entered it. 215 have it on their to-read list.

On to Amazon!

I’m using two books: Lets Get Visible, by David Gaughran and Why Does My Book Not Sell, by Rayne Hall. So far, I’m pretty much in the theory section of Gaughran’s section on Amazon, rather than the practicum. I have learned that sales ranks are based solely on sales, and Top Rated lists are based on reviews/stars–but you have to meet a minimum number of reviews to qualify.

I also learned that corporate publishers get to put their books in more categories than indies (5 v. 2), which clears up a mystery I’ve wondered about. Gaughram advises studying categories and switching them judiciously to take advantage of openings. I would definitely need some practice there.

Hall’s book does not have a section on Amazon, per se, so I can’t compare. I did flip to the chapter on book reviews and read that I should ask my Beta readers for reviews, and using social media to offer a free book to anyone who will post a review. And don’t buy or trade reviews, which is good advice. Don’t get fake reviews, and don’t respond to reviews. Both books advise putting a page at the end of your ebook/book asking readers to leave reviews, pretty please, but I was hoping for a little more advice.

Maybe I should go read over Beth’s shoulder.