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Writing for Your “Inner Circle” – And Skip the Book Marketing

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How to Get Published and Skip Book Marketing  Getting a book published is a big job, but the biggest part of it isn’t the writing or even the publishing; it’s the book marketing. For many authors, book marketing is a … Continue reading

8 “Starter”Book Marketing Tools

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GUEST BLOG:

“The First 8 Things to Do to Start Marketing Your Book”

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by Catherine Auman, LMFT, Author of Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth, Publisher – Green Tara Press, www.greentarapress.com

8 “Starter” Books Marketing Ideas

You didn’t know that becoming an author meant becoming a marketer, did you? That’s okay; neither did I. The fact is, you’ll need to become actively involved in the marketing of your book because if you don’t, no one but a few friends and family will buy it. Then again, even they might not.

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Really, it can be fun. Here are 8 BRIGHT IDEAS you can get started on before publication:

1) First, gather the items you’ll need to market your book:

  • Author photos/headshots – professionally done, please
  • Author bios of varying lengths – 100 words, 200 words
  • Book synopsis, about 100 words, written to entice readers
  • A jpg of your cover
  • Your elevator speech – a 30-second verbal summary of your book for use at cocktail and other parties when someone asks you, “What’s your book about?”
  • If you don’t have a website, get one. If you do have one, redesign it to promote your books as well as yourself.

2)  Create an Amazon Author Profile. This establishes you as a legitimate author. You can link your website, blog, videos, the promotional tools above and the ones you will develop in the future. Go to authorcentral.amazon.com and it will walk you through the steps.

3)  Create a Facebook Page for your book. Invite all your friends to Like (or Love). Start posting the items above and anything you can think of to create buzz. People prefer it if you try to educate, enlighten, or amuse them rather than just sell.

4)  Create a Goodreads Author Profile. Goodreads is where the avid readers hang out. Go to the Goodreads Author Program tutorial which will teach you how. Later you will be sponsoring book giveaways as promotions.

5)  Go to Vistaprint.com and make some inexpensive postcards using the jpg of the cover of your book. You can use these in any number of ways: send out by snail mail, leave at coffee houses, tack up on bulletin boards, and many uses you will come up with as you go along. I always keep some in my bag – you never know who might want one.

6)  Start identifying people and places to ask for book reviews. You will want to get as many as possible, and you’ll be able to use the reviews later for further marketing.

7)  Identify local stores that are likely to sell your book – not just bookstores, but gift stores and specialty shops.

8)   Schedule and plan your Book Release Party. Congratulations! You’re a published author.

© 2016 Catherine Aumancatherine auman book cover sept 2015 guest blog

(c) The Therapist Writer Blog by Sylvia Cary, LMFT, author of The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published. Timberlake PressTimberlakePress.com.

 

My Valentine to the Adirondack Chair

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Love Song to the Adirondack Chair

It’s VALENTINE’S DAY. Roses are nice. Chocolates are yummy. But what really makes my heart sing is the sight of an Adirondack chair.  Wood only, never plastic. They come in all colors, although white is my favorite — memories of Cape Cod summers as a kid and rolling green lawns with white Adirondack chairs plopped down in the middle of them. While I don’t happen to own a rolling green lawn at the moment, if I did, it would most certainly feature a couple of Adirondack chairs facing out towards the world.

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Two Rustic Adirondak Chairs in Vermont with Special Meaning

About a year before my sister Evie died of ovarian cancer, while she was in remission, we took a road trip to Vermont and stayed in a charming Bed and Breakfast run by friends of hers. Oftentimes during the day, we would sit out on the back porch in these two rustic Adirondack chairs (see below) and talk. And we would look out at the serenity of this view. That experience, that view, those talks, and those Adirondack chairs are precious to me still.

Copy of Chair & Peaceful View (1a)

A Chair “Stars” on a Book Cover

When I returned to California and wrote my book called “The Therapist Writer,” I wanted to use the Vermont photo (above) where my sister and I had sat and had our last lengthy sister-to-sister talk together. Unfortunately, my book cover designer said my photo didn’t have enough “pixels” to look sharp on a book cover, so she went searching for a replacement. I now had very specific requirements: “I want a photo of a single Adirondack chair, under a tree, facing away towards a lovely scene. I want a writer to be able to picture themselves sitting in the Adirondack chair, contemplating nature and coming up with a great idea for a book.” This is what my graphic designer came up with after she had to buy a photo first and crop it way down in order to focus on the chair and tree:

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The Therapist Writer by Sylvia Cary, LMFT

You Can’t Please Everybody

I loved my created-to-order book cover, but a therapist colleague of my said, “Oh, no, that’s all wrong. That’s bad ‘feng shui.’ You can’t have just one chair facing away. You have to have two chairs facing forward towards the readers, in communication with each other and with the reader!” I said no, this chair is for solo contemplation to allow the creative mind to pop out a book idea without distraction. I’m sure the writers among you will understand. Besides, I also find Adirondack chairs to be beautiful from the back.

Since my book turned out to be divided into four sections, I included a drawing in between each section — of guess what? an Adirondack chair:

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Another Loss and a Pair of Lavender Adirondack Chairs

In January 2014, on the first anniversary of the death of my husband of 28 years, Lance Wolstrup, I felt the need to get out of LA and find a quiet place to go for the weekend. I discovered the charming Lavender Inn in Ojai. From my window, I looked down into the garden and saw a pair of Adirondack  chairs in a soft lavender color.

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Oh, how Lance would have loved to have his morning coffee sitting in one of those chairs and read his computer magazines. So I took my morning coffee and pastry, and a notebook and mechanical pencil (favorite writing tool) and sat in one of the lavender chairs and tried a daring new writing experiment — turning an historical screenplay written years ago into a novel and, more daring still, using the first person which forces you into feelings. Had Lance been there I’d have asked his opinion, as I always did. This time I was on my own. And I’m still working on that novel!

Over the last few years I’ve given a lot of workshops on the subject of writing and publishing, especially self-publishing, and I’ve also led writing groups. A while back I marketing a small writing group using a photo of colorful Adirondack chairs that made my heart swell, it was so beautiful. I got it from morguefile.com (write that down; free photos to use for book covers and marketing).

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The photo caused one woman to email me to say that the picture alone was enough for her to sign up for the writing group. Another Adirondack chair lover for sure!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

* The History of the Adirondack Chair —The first Adirondack Chair was invented in 1903 by Thomas Lee in Westport, New York, a small town on Lake Champlain at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains. He wanted to be able to enjoy the view and not have to keep standing up. Using his family members as “test sitters,” he settled on a chair constructed from eleven pieces of wood cut from one single plank. It was a low-slung, spacious design with a high back and extra-wide armrests for that all-important summer beverage. The chair was originally called the “Westport Plank Chair.” Modern Adirondack chair manufacturers have at times created chairs that closely resemble these early creations, with modifications designed to increase comfort and durability. — from Wikipedia and other Internet sources

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s Too Nichy”^

Sylvia Cary to Get an IRWIN AWARD from the Book Publicists of Southern California Sylvia Cary, psychotherapist and author of 5 books, is to get an award for "Best Niche Campaign" for her book, "The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published" (Timberlake Press) The IRWIN Award, named for the Book Publicists of Southern California founder, Irwin Zucker, was introduced in 1995 as a way to formally and publicly recognize BPSC members who conduct the best book sales/ promotion campaigns. The Honorees present will share with the BPSC audience the steps they took that led to the success of their book promotion campaigns. The event takes place at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City on Thursday Oct. 15th. Contact at: sylvia@sylviacary.com OR visit newly tweaked and updated website, www.sylviacary.com.

Sylvia Cary, LMFT, received an IRWIN AWARD from the Book Publicists of Southern California (BPSC)  for “Best Niche Campaign” for her book, The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published (Timberlake Press). The award is named for the group’s founder, Irwin Zucker, and was introduced in 1995 as a way to formally and publicly recognize BPSC members who conduct the best book promotion campaigns. Each honoree shared with the audience the steps they took that led to the success of their book promotion campaign. (See video clip of Sylvia’s acceptance remarks below.) The event took place October 15th, 2015, at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, California, http://www.sylviacary.com.

Nailing Your Niche*

Definition of niche:  A French word meaning “a situation or activity suited to a person’s interests, ability, or nature.” 

“Nail your niche and own it.”   — Dan Poynter

In the old days of publishing, before digital, before the Internet, before Amazon, before Google, and before Kindle, big publishers didn’t want to touch books on small topics because most didn’t sell . Publishing them just didn’t pay off. Authors of books in niche areas were more likely to find homes with academic or university presses or with little publishers with no money for publicity or marketing.  The readers of these books often had to find out about them through obscure newsletters, specialty bookstores, or by word-of-mouth from other folks interested in the same subjects.

I went that route myself “back in the day” when I was researching my book called Jolted Sober: Getting to the Moment of Clarity in the Recovery of Addiction. I became a long-distance member of the Alister Hardy Research Centre in the U.K. (Oxford) in order to receive their snail-mailed newsletter which contained information of interest to me for my book. They were studying spontaneous healings and religious experiences. My book contained numerous stories about sudden “Aha!” moments of clarity in the addiction recovery. What they were researching was right up my alley. Today, niche publications like this one are easy to find. In fact, I Googled the Centre to see if it still exists — and it does, but with a new name. Now it’s the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre.

What all this means for you is that, as an author, you no longer have to be afraid that your topic or specialty is too narrowly focused (i.e. “too nichy”)  to write about. There are people out there looking for what you have to say. And while it’s unlikely that you’ll get a contract with a mainstream publisher where “No Niches Need Apply,” you may be accepted by a small press or you can self-publish on Amazon’s CreateSpace for free. You’ll find some buyers. Or they’ll find you. And they’ll be thrilled.

Tofu Takes Off

Here’s one of my favorite stories about writing a book for a niche market: For many years I’ve been running a free drop-in writers group at a bookstore in Woodland Hills, California. It is sponsored by the Independent Writers of Southern California (iwosc.org). One of our regular members, Lisa, told us how years earlier she’d accidentally stumbled upon an idea for a niche book while waiting in the check-out line at a local market. In her shopping cart she had a couple of packages of tofu. “How do you cook that stuff?” the woman behind her in line asked her. “Tofu is so tasteless.” Because Lisa really knows her tofu, she answered, “”It picks up the flavor of what you cook it in.” The woman was intrigued: “I didn’t know that.”  Lisa shared a few recipes with her; the woman was delighted.

This little conversation triggered an “Aha!” moment in Lisa’s brain. She went home and put together a cookbook on tofu, which included family cooking stories and, on each page, she placed a thought-provoking quote. She had copies made and sold them to friends, family and neighbors. She got requests for more. She had additional copies printed, this time bound with a plastic spiral. She took some of these to a local health food store. They bought a few, sold them, and ordered more. Then they ordered even more. By the end of the year the health food store had sold a total of 250 of Lisa’s tofu cookbook.

The following year, Lisa branched out to other health food stores and even a few pharmacies and it was the same story. They bought books, sold out, and ordered more. Next, Lisa bought her own spiral machine and printed copies at home for less money, and started doing a little local advertising. This resulted in a total of 5,000 cookbook sales, a decent number–  even if it had been a traditionally published book. But it was a lot of work! Had self-publishing on Amazon’s CreateSpace been available at the time Lisa started this project, who knows how many sales she’d have made as the result of people typing “cooking tofu” into their search engines!

Weightier Subjects

While it may still be possible to put everything that’s known about cooking tofu inside a single book, the body of knowledge in other fields is too vast for that. If you are, say,  a mental health professional and want to write a book on your specialty, you are probably going to have to “niche it down” so it’s not too broad and so it doesn’t repeat what’s already been done. In other words, you can’t just write “about alcoholism.” However, a book on alcoholism and the elderly is another story. By “niching it down,” you’ll be appealing to a few specific audiences, such as physicians, mental health professionals working with this population, and family members.  Try to think of another audience or two.

Here are just some of the subjects therapists have picked as specialties. Any one of them could be developed into a book:  Abuse, addiction, adoption, aging, anger management, ADHD, animal assisted therapy, anxiety, art therapy, Aspergers, autism, biofeedback, bipolar disorder, children/adolescents/teens, Christian counseling, cognitive behavioral, couples, creativity, depression, divorce and custody, eating disorders,  employee assistance (EAP), gay / lesbian/transgender issues, HIV/AIDS, Jungian analysis, Gestalt, grief recovery, learning disabilities, life coaching, meditation, mental illness, men’s issues, metaphysics, military culture, neuroscience, online counseling, parenting, phobias, play therapy, postpartum, private practice marketing, psychoanalysis, relationships, religious counseling, retirement counseling, rockstar therapy (yes, really!), short-term therapy, sex therapy, singles, sleep disorders, special needs – and hundreds more!

Start thinking about how you might give your special topic that special twist to make it different and unique. That’s how you get literary agents interested in representing you, publishers interesting in publishing you, and readers interested in buying you, whether it’s a traditionally or self-published book. Readers don’t care. They just want the information. The trick is to jump on a niche when it is still fairly new so, as the late publishing guru Dan Poynter said, you “own” it.

Finding a Home for The Therapist Writer

When I first came up with the idea for The Therapist Writer, I wrote a standard book proposal and started sending it out to literary agents. I kept getting back the same response: “It’s too nichy.” The agents didn’t think  there were enough mental health professionals who wanted to write who’d be interested in buying a book on the subject.  In fact, well-known literary agent Michael Larsen from San Francisco even phoned me to tell me this, and added that if I’d expand the focus from therapists to include other professions, he might consider it. That was tempting, but it wasn’t the book I wanted to write or felt capable of writing. I know my “tribe,” my fellow mental health professionals, very well, but I don’t know about other professional “tribes,” so I didn’t think I’d sound like I knew what I was talking about. I said no.

The Therapist Writer by Sylvia Cary, LMFT

The Therapist Writer by Sylvia Cary, LMFT

That’s when I realized I didn’t have a clue how big my market was. How many mental health professionals are there are in this country, anyhow, and how many of them want to write a book? I consulted the Occupational Outlook Handbook and came up with 750,000 mental health professionals, so I figured that if I could sell The Therapist Writer to just 1% of these therapists, that would end up being 7,500 books.  I also realized that while this figure might make me happy, it wouldn’t make me rich, and it wouldn’t impress a mainstream publisher.

I gave up on the idea of traditional publishing and self-published through Lightning Source (after first becoming a publisher — their rule at the time), and once the paper version was up on Amazon, I published it as a Kindle E-book.

Doc, What’s Your Line?

The conversation with agent Larsen made me really clear on the fact that I didn’t want to give up my niche audience (mental health professionals who want to write) and write for all writers. There were already plenty of books on writing and publishing for the general public. I also felt it was a plus that I was a licensed psychotherapist because I had chapters in the book on special issues that therapist-writers face, such as the important issue of patient confidentiality: How can a therapist write about a client’s case without getting sued? I talk in the book about “the art of disguise” in writing about others, which means a lot more than just changing names.

I now understood that by “niching down” my book I was probably limiting my readership and profits, but that’s just one of the many decisions an author must make. I also knew that when I started marketing my book, I’d have a chance to point out the benefits in the book for all writers, not just therapist writers. One big marketing shift I had to make was to treat therapist-writers as therapists, not writers. Most therapists don’t want to be writers, which is why they haven’t bought books on writing, and why they know less about the writing business than the average bear. They just want to keep on being therapists who have written a book. My book, I point out in my marketing, understands this and works with it so the therapists can reach their publishing goals in spite of their discomfort. The therapists who do want to be writers (and there are some!) already act like writers, and have read books and know about publishing trends. They are ripe and ready to press on.

The majority of the time, in marketing to therapists, I stress therapy careers, not writing careers. I  list the perks for therapists in being “the author of ” a book. It means instant credibility; being seen as an “expert in the field.” They might even become the “go-to” shrink for colleagues to refer to for specific psychological issues, like one therapist I know whose self-published book on his personal bipolar struggle has made him the therapist that other therapists think of as a referral resource. When I’d speak at therapy-related events and meetings, I’d take the same approach. I’d  talk to the audience as “therapists,” not “writers,”  and stress the career perks of getting published.

Becoming Niche Savvy

It’s important to know why your niche audience wants your book. For my niche audience, my book is business, not pleasure. Some therapists want to publish in order to have a carton of books in the trunk of their car to sell when they give talks or give workshops, or to have on hand for clients, clients’ families, and colleagues. Nothing more. They hate marketing.

I learned how to market The Therapist Writer (and I’m still learning) and how deal with a niche audience on the job, mostly by correcting mistakes —  such as starting out with no idea of the size, or whereabouts, of my audience! Next time out, I’ll know.

I didn’t get rich or famous marketing my book, but I learned a bunch and I got this award for my efforts. Cool experience. And the award  is pretty, isn’t it?

The IRWIN Award for "Best Niche Campaign"

The IRWIN Award for “Best Niche Campaign”

Below, FYI, is a video clip of my award acceptance remarks:

 

*Copyright 2015  Sylvia Cary, LMFT.  Portions of this blog post are taken from the chapter on “Nailing Your Niche” in The Therapist Writer.

15 Ways to Let the World Know Your Book Exists?*

My Favorite Bookshelf which contains my 5 books, books I've published through my publishing company, and book that I've edited for others -- each one with a separate and specialized marketing challenge.   Photo: Sylvia Cary

My Favorite Bookshelf  contains books I’ve published through my publishing company, books I’ve edited, books I’ve written and had published, and books I’ve read or used to find critical information about the business of books. Each book here no doubt presented the author or publisher with huge marketing challenges.    Photo: Sylvia Cary

The Challenges

* Have you had a book published and don’t know how to market it?

* Have you been surprised to learn that today even traditional publishers expect authors to market their own books?

*Have you finally realized that nobody is going to buy your book if they’ve never heard of it?

The Overwhelm

I know lots of authors. I grew up amongst authors. I know authors who have been published every which way, from traditional to indie to Ebooks. And for most of them, unless they’re seasoned, it has come as a shock to realize that finally getting to hold their published book in their hands isn’t the end of the story. Next comes the hard part — book marketing. That’s when the overwhelm sets in. Even if you’ve been lucky enough to have a major publisher and an assigned publicist (a rare luxury these days), marketing is still a chore.  One of the hardest working writers I know is a woman who was published by a big publishing house and did the full (often exhausting) book tour throughout the US and Canada. So there’s no escaping the reality of marketing. As Former President Bill Clinton is said to have commented about his first book: “I didn’t sell it because I didn’t promote it.” So you gotta promote your tail off.

To market, to market, to market.

Book marketing can be overwhelming. Even though my own book, The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published, contains forty-five pages of mostly DIY marketing ideas from A-Z, when I was faced with actually doing the things I wrote about, I didn’t know where to start.  Soon after the book came out, I’d been widowed. I’d grieved. I’d moved. I’d adopted a needy and difficult feral kitten. And whenever I reminded myself that I “should” be marketing my book, I’d freeze. Where to begin?

When it comes right down to it, there are entirely too many things you can do to market a book!  Well-known book marketer, Penny Sansevieri, author of Red Hot Internet Publicity, recently wrote a guest post on an agent’s blog called “50 Thing Under $50 Bucks to Promote Your Book.”  Then there’s the huge book called 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, edited by John Kremer. Yikes. That book always reminds me of why I like small food markets: Fewer choices.

Focus, focus

I knew I needed to zero in, so I decided to focus on only 15 ways to market a book — and that’s it.  And, since they say the best way to learn is to teach, I scheduled a workshop for next (as of this writing) Saturday Oct. 26th called DIY Yourself Book Marketing: 15 Ways to Let the World Know Your Book Exists. During this workshop I shall attempt to teach authors and wanna-be authors how to market their books. Ha! What the planning of this workshop has forced me to do is to concentrate on 15 marketing technique and put blinders on for the rest. I’ll get to them, or some of them, another day.

The Top 15

If I were to go into each of my 15 top book marketing methods in detail, this blog post would scroll down to the floor. So I’ll list them and then you should Google them and determine which book, blog, article,  website, or YouTube video gives you the best information. For example, my top pick in this list of 15 is Amazon.com because it’s the largest online bookseller, because it’s global, and because it offers authors a wide range of great marketing opportunities. Consider buying Penny Sansevieri’s Ebook, How to Sell Your Book by the Truckload on Amazon.com. Do this kind of research for each item on this list. It shouldn’t be that overwhelming if you keep in mind that it’s just 15 — not 1001. So here are my picks:

1) Amazon; 2) Blogging; 3) Bookstores; 4) Contests; 5) Elevator pitch; 6) Handouts; 7) Emailings; 8) Traditional Media; 9) Networking; 10) Press Releases; 11) Reviews; 12) Social Media; 13) Speaking 14) Videos; 15) Website.

You’ve Got to Start Somewhere with Something

Obviously, each item on my Top 15 list has sub-categories, and I know I’ve left things out, but you’ve got to start somewhere in order to get unstuck or unfrozen when it comes to book marketing. By keeping your focus on 15 instead of hundreds, you’ll see how one action can be used for multiple purposes (like your 30-second elevator pitch which you’ll end up using in many ways.)

Let me give/show you an example. Under #14, “Video,” videotape any talk or presentation you make, or set up an “interview” situation, and email it (or use Dropbox if the file is big) to a video editor and have them cut up your video into 3 or 4 short segments (under two minutes) and post the clip on Amazon, your website, your blog,  your email newsletter, or put it up on YouTube, perhaps on your own  channel. It sounds complex, but a good video editor can do it in a jiffy.

The clip below is one of five from a TV interview on I did on “Book Beat” about my book. It was swiftly edited, complete with titles and music, by L.A. area video editor,  Mallory Jackson (Jackson.Mallory@yahoo.com). But of course these days where a talent lives often doesn’t matter since most things can be done by email. I’ve edited books for people I’ve never met.  Here’s the clip:

*Workshop for Locals

If you live in the LA area and you want more details on these Top 15 marketing tools, you can sign up for my workshop on Saturday Oct. 26th, 9:30 am to 12:30 pm in Sherman Oaks, only $60.00.  Sigh up at: http://www.therapistwriter.eventbrite.com.

(c) 2013 by Sylvia Cary, LMFT

Video editor Mallory Jackson

“Don’t Go There”

Grief is a Scary Place to Go

GRIEF IS A SCARY PLACE TO GO

October. Bright colors. Halloween approaching. Very soon my grandkids will be going trick-or-treating in their cute costumes.  There will be funny-faced pumpkins on neighborhood doorsteps. I’ll trot along behind and take pictures. Halloween is very photogenic. There may even be a fall nip in the air so when I get home I’ll be able to “turn on” my store-bought fireplace (it has real-looking flames and real heat). I’ll enjoy that after so many hot Los Angeles days.

Anniversary Reactions

Yes, so many heartwarming memories associated with the month of October. And since this blog is primarily about writing, I was going to talk about my upcoming October workshop on “DIY Book Marketing.” I thought I’d give some pointers and tips on the subject for the many “indie” published authors out there who are facing the huge task of trying to sell their book.

Just not today. I just can’t write about marketing today. My good thoughts about October are being crowded out by sad thoughts, “anniversary reactions,”  memories related to the events that happened just a year ago which led up to the death of my lovely husband, Lance.  Those memories hurt.  But trying to write about “book marketing” when I’m thinking of something else hurts more.

October 8th (tomorrow, as I write this) would have been Lance’s 71st birthday. What a wonderful time we had one year ago on his 70th birthday when we threw him a huge surprise party at his favorite Italian restaurant, Maggiano’s in Woodland Hills, California.  His cousin Jorgen flew in from Denmark (where Lance was born) as a surprise.  And it was! In the restaurant, we all  sat at one  long table (tables pushed together) — family and friends, talking and laughing,  popping up and down to chat with those too far down the line to hear above the din.

Enjoying Lance's birthday party. Here, my daughter and son-in-law shake hands over the heads of my grand-children, with Lance (striped shirt) in the background across from his cousin and 11-year-old grandneice from Denmark.

Enjoying Lance’s 70th birthday party. Above, my daughter and son-in-law shake hands over the heads of their children (Lily and Lyle), with Lance in the background (right) across from his cousin, Jorgen, Danish flags stuck in a glass between them.

Towards the end of the dinner, Lance stood up. Forks clinked against glasses to get people to quiet down. He gave a touching speech. He has no idea he was sick.

Soccer Game Tickets 037My daughter, Claudia, gave Lance soccer tickets to a Galaxy game (the card was made by my granddaughter, Lily). That soccer game turned out to be  our “last date” together before Lance was diagnosed.

Turkey Day and “D” (Diagnosis) Day

After Lance’s birthday there was Thanksgiving.  It was great. My daughter Claudia and husband Roy hosted it because I was recovering from a back mishap. I wrote about it in my 2012 blog: “Mishmash: What I Love About Thanksgiving.”  After the meal, we all stood by the fireplace to take our annual Christmas photo. Lance, though “tired,” still didn’t know he was sick.

In early December, Lance did feel sick. He took to his bed and missed a week of work. Lance never missed work. When it turned out not to be the flu, he was treated at home for “pneumonia,” and when he didn’t get better he was admitted to the hospital where he got the bad news:  Stage 4  lung cancer.  Not fixable. Maybe six months left with “targeted chemo.”  He was sent home with oxygen and a boatload of equipment to await more tests and then get a pet scan to see where the cancer might have spread. The night before the pet scan, this man who’d always has such a strong heart , had a massive heart walking to the bathroom. It felled him. The paramedics took him back to the hospital. Eighteen hours in Emergency, then up to the ICU.

In ICU all the holidays ran together:  Christmas Eve. Christmas. Our 28th Wedding Anniversary. New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Day 2013.  Somewhere in there came strokes. It was increasingly difficult to communicate with him or make sense of what he was saying. And then on January 2nd, 2013, he died.

Stalker Grief

Grief is sneaky.  A month ago I was at Crown Books in Woodland Hills where I run a monthly drop-in writing group. It’s next door to the restaurant where we had that wonderful birthday party for Lance. I walked into the restaurant just to use the Ladies’ Room because the one in the bookstore was on the blink. I didn’t even think of the party. It wasn’t until I was on my way out and found myself in the area where the party had taken place that it hit me — POW! A sock in the gut. The tables were now empty, pushed apart. I looked at the empty tables and saw a brief “vision” — a fantasy re-enactment of the whole party. I rushed out.

Doing a Drive-By

Then there was the day I drove past the townhouse complex where Lance and I lived for 23 of our 28 years of marriage.The landscape was so achingly familiar.  On impulse I made a right turn into the side street, a turn I’d probably made a thousand times. Next I turned left into the alley, then another left into the driveway. I drove past all the garage doors and slowed down when I got to the one that used to be “our” garage door.

For a brief moment, like something out of a time-travel movie, I felt I could push the button on my visor and the garage door would open and I’d see all our familiar things, my filing cabinets, Lance’s computer stuff, our books. I could park the car, open the downstairs door and walk up the stairs — and right back into my old life. I’d find Lance at his computer, as usual, and the cat curled up nearby.

I just wanted to go home.

Grief involves wanting to go back, rewind, undo, and go home again.

Grief pushes you to try to go back, rewind the movie, undo, and go home again.

“Stop Going There!”

By the time I got to the end of the townhouse complex driveway, I was in tears. I pulled over and called my daughter so I could cry some more. Afterwards I called a friend, “Why did I do that?” I blurted out.  “Then stoppit. Don’t go there!” she told me. “It’s not true that time heals. Time just teaches you to stop going there.”  I didn’t tell her other things I did, like listening to Lance’s last two cheery messages to me on my cell phone, one calling me from Fry’s computer store, the other from home after the Galaxy had won a  soccer game. He was happy: “See you when you get home!” I saved those messages. When I got a new cell phone, I had them transferred over.  I still have them.

And sometimes I go there.

Danish flags brought to Lance by his Danish cousin for the birthday celebration

Danish flags brought to Lance by his cousin for the birthday celebration

As the onslaught of anniversaries hits me over the next three months, I know it will be hard not to “go there.” After the anniversary of Lance’s birthday tomorrow, there’s  going to be Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve (that’s when we used to celebrate Christmas — the Danish way), Christmas Day, our would-be 29th wedding anniversary on December 29th, New Year’s Eve (in 2012 I’d spent it at Lance’s bedside as he endured 100% oxygen being force-fed into his lungs just to keep him alive), then New Year’s Day (with goodbye visits from family and friends), and then the next day, Jan 2nd, 2013, the day that Lance died.

I’ve told people I don’t even want to be in L.A. for that anniversary, but where would I go? You can “go there” even when you’re someplace else.

Pictures

I have dozens of pictures of Lance in my little apartment — another easy way to keep going there and remembering back. Probably I should put some away. But for now they will stay where they are. I can only go so fast. If I’m still doing drive-bys five years from now, that’s a whole different story. Then stop me.

Anyway, of all my many pictures of Lance and me together, this is a favorite:

Dinner together at the same favorite restaurant . This was our 27th wedding anniversary the year before. The 28th was spent in the hospital. I love this picture of Lance. It's so -- "Lance."

Dinner together at the same restaurant  where we had Lance’s birthday bash. This was, I think, our 27th wedding anniversary on December 29th, 2011. Our 28th, on December 29th, 2012, was spent in the hospital. I do love this picture of Lance. It shows this warmth, kindness and love. It’s so — “Lance.”  It’s so what I miss.

(c) Sylvia Cary, LMFT.   Photo credits: Sylvia Cary, wwwMorguefile.com and the waiter at Maggiano’s Restaurant in Woodland Hills, California

Getting off the Train in Van Nuys

British Steam Train Image courtesy of "Susie B." at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

British Steam Train
Image courtesy of “Susie B.” at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Getting Off the Train in Van Nuys

I’ve traveled across the U.S. and parts of Europe by train a number of times, and when the train pulls into a station in some small town, I always like to imagine what it would be like to get off, find a job, a place to live, meet new friends and have a whole new life.

In some ways, that’s exactly what I’ve be doing since my last blog post in January after my husband of twenty-eight years, Lance, suddenly died – only I got off the “train” in Van Nuys, California, just a few miles from the townhouse I used to live in in Woodland Hills. Van Nuys feels so far away. It might as well be somewhere in the middle of America. New building, new neighbors, new grocery stores, new streets, new Starbucks, new noises, new cooking smells at dinner time.

When Lance died a mere three weeks after a stage four lung cancer diagnosis, followed by a major heart attack and strokes, my life was up-ended. We’d planned to move into a new house at the end of December; I’d planned on starting book promotion for my new book, The Therapist Writer, which was finally finished and up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kindle. Then he died.

There’s a lot of work to do when someone dies, plus on top of that I also had to move, which is also a lot of work.  I tried to squeeze townhouse worth of stuff collected over the twenty-three years we were there into a tiny one-bedroom apartment. I ended up putting furniture, books and crockery out in the hallway of my building with a sign: “Free! I Can’t Fit It All In!” — and it all disappeared. Poof!  The apartment building is next to the San Diego Freeway, which sounds ghastly, but the freeway sound wall protects me from all but a soft hum of traffic, and all I can see out my window and patio is trees. I can’t even see the sound wall.  It’s actually serene and cozy here and my cat likes it.

My Cat, Diamond, Enjoys Bird and Squirrel Watching in the Woods that Hide the San Diego Freeway

My Cat, Diamond, Enjoys Bird and Squirrel Watching in the Woods that Hide the San Diego Freeway

As a new widow (so strange to be using that word), I occasionally have strange thoughts, such as, “I’ve been out a long time so I probably should be getting home or Lance will worry.” It takes a second to remember there is no Lance and there is no “home.” Van Nuys is my home now.  I had an errand in my old neighborhood the other day and I drove by “our” townhouse. It was garbage day and somebody else’s garbage was out where my garbage used to be.  Somebody else lives there now.

Today when something happens in my life, good  or bad (I won a writing contest; I had a spat with a friend; I am confused about how to fill out Lance’s taxes) my impulse is to reach for my phone to “call Lance at the office” — until I remember he’s not at the office. He’s dead. I want to let it ring anyhow, just in case…

At other times I have tortured myself by listening to the always-cheerful messages Lance used to leave on my cell phone when I was out somewhere.  It makes me want to reach into the phone and pull him out — alive.  I also do a strange thing with calendar dates:  When I read about an event that took place on a certain date, I figure out if that was before Lance died or after he died. If it was before he died, I feel as though I might be able to stop time and keep him alive: “Wait right there, Lance, don’t go anywhere, I’m on the way!”

I stopped eating and I lost weight and I lost my heart for my work. I didn’t care about my writing, or my blog, or promoting my new book.  I read a quote from former President Bill Clinton about his first book: “I didn’t sell it because I didn’t promote it.”  Clinton and I now have something in common. I’m not selling many books, either, and for same reason. I’m not promoting it. It shows you that you can be one of the most high profile people in the world, or a widow from Van Nuys who writes, but if you don’t promote your work you won’t sell anything. I knew this; I just have to start acting on it.

But now, after four months of living in Van Nuys, my new upside-down world, I’m starting to put my toe in the water and get back to eating, writing (I started a novel, my first), book promotion — and this blog. I accepted some speaking gigs (although I wanted to stay home under the covers), and I won that contest I mentioned above — the 2013 Beverly Hills Book Award in the writing and publishing category. That was nice. Slowly I’m going back to some of the organizations I belong to, both as a psychotherapist and as a writer/publisher.

My next blogs will be on the subjects of writing, publishing and book promotion – which is why I started the blog in the first place.  I’m giving a speech soon in Sacramento on “Marketing Your Book Like Mad A-Z,” which is the subject of the last two chapters of my book, so I’m hoping that  will kick-start me into promoting my own book as well as help you promote yours! Yes, that, too, is a lot of work.

But it’s nice to realize that in this new world of writing, publishing and the Internet, authors can promote their books from anywhere in the world – even from Van Nuys.

(c) Sylvia Cary, TheTherapistWriter.WordPress.com

“Indie” Energized

When Writers Are Unleashed, You Can Feel the Energy in the Room -- Google Images

“When Writers Are Unleashed…”   Photo: Google Images

Last week I went to two Los Angeles writing events. Two very different kinds of writing events. The first was a panel of literary agents and managers, some of whom had snarky things to say about self-publishing: “Self-publishing produces so much dreck”… “You still can’t sell a book to a mainstream publisher without an agent”…”People in New York think people in LA don’t read”…”Before you self-publish, have you even thought about how you’re going to promote it?”…”99 percent of self-published books end up selling one hundred copies,” and, “A self-published book will never re-sell to a real publisher unless it has three zeroes after it.”

Ouch! Bummer. I left with my shoulders drooping.

I was in that other world once, the traditional publishing world (back when my first books were published), but for the past three years, self-publishing has been my life. I started my own publishing company in 2010, published and marketed a friend’s memoir, am completing the last chapter of my own book called The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published (I’m a licensed psychotherapist), and I plan on “indie” publishing it within weeks. I love self-publishing. But it is a very different world indeed.

It’s not that the agent folks on the panel were wrong. They made valid points. But they weren’t inspiring. They were disheartening. They were just another set of book industry gatekeepers explaining to the great unwashed how the rules of the ivory towers work, translated as “only one percent of writers today have a chance of breaking through the first gate and having their work read by one of the agents on that panel.”

Ah, if only this panel of agents had been able to Skype the second writing event I attended that week, the monthly drop-in writers group that I run at a local Barnes & Noble. No drooping shoulders there. Instead, there were fifteen excited, highly energized writers, many of them older, some traditionally published in the past, a few still trying that route, talking eagerly and with hope about their future projects, their creativity suddenly released anew — all thanks to the Internet, the digital revolution and the self publishing phenomenon.

One group member, an actor as well as a writer, picked up his Kindle and read from the first of his self-published family fiction trilogy. Meanwhile, he passed around copies of his newly designed book covers, done by a graphic artist friend. When he finished reading, we applauded — right there in Barnes & Noble. (Remember when you had to be quiet in bookstores?) Then a woman read one of her hilarious senior romance short stories. She is turning one into a screenplay and is contemplating self-published others as a collection.

A fellow psychotherapist, new to the writing group, told us she was there because she realized that after many years of working in her specialty, she is now considered an “expert” with a lot to say, so she wants to write a book. We brainstormed fresh angles on her topic which has already been written about a lot. Then there was the retired vet, a group regular, who has written 19 novels and finally dared (with much prodding from the rest of us) to upload one of them to Smashwords. He sold three copies the first day — his first ever sales. More applause.

And you ask, “Have these writers even thought about how they are going to market these books?” Are you kidding! They are laser focused on marketing. Take, for example, the woman who wrote a tofu cookbook which also includes a family story and inspirational quotes. She spiral bound copies (buying her own spiral machine) and sold 5000 copies to various health food stores, pharmacies and about twenty other kinds of stores. How’s that for “three zeroes” after the number, Mr. Agent Man?

And as for exhibiting creative “outside the box” marketing ideas, look again at the above-mentioned senior romance writer who has done a series of readings in lingerie shops?  Or the retired teacher and poet who recently gave a talk on his writings and was approached later by a man in the audience who exclaimed, “Gee, I wish my father did stuff like that.”

Towards the end of the meeting, a shy woman reached into her purse and pulled out a  copy of her children’s mystery book. As she passed it around the group, she told us: “The cover of the sequel is in the same style, just a different color. And here’s the bookmark that goes with it,” she added. She looked wonderfully happy. When our meeting time was up, we all stood up — but people kept on talking, getting referrals from each other for editors, proof-readers, book cover designers, and suggestions for clever marketing approaches.  As we were finally dispersing, a woman ran up: “I saw your sign. I couldn’t help eavesdropping. I’ll be here next time! I wish you met every week!”

Now, which meeting would you attend for a little zap of inspiration?

Copyright (c) Sylvia Cary, LMFT

A Panel of One: Dan Poynter Updates Writers on Latest Publishing Changes & Opportunities

Self-Publishing Guru, Dan Poynter, Updates a Southern California Writers Group on the Latest Publishing Industry Changes -- Photo: Sylvia Cary

Whether you’re a therapist writer or any other kind of writer, you know it’s important to  keep up with what’s going on in the ever-changing publishing industry.  Since we can’t all be at every writing-related event in our area, I thought I’d share some things I learned at the latest meeting of IWOSC (Independent Writers of Southern California) in my own area.

Now usually on the last Monday night of the month, IWOSC presents a panel of four to six experts on topics related to writing and publishing, but this time things were different. This time it was a panel of only one — that one being Dan Poynter, a man who probably knows more about the publishing game than anyone else on earth. He flies 6000 miles a week, speaking to book-writing hopefuls and conversing with publishing experts in every nook and cranny of the globe. He spends 40% of his time in the air, at airports, and in other countries. It’s no wonder that whenever he opens his mouth to speak about publishing, writers listen.

Poynter opened his talk with a catchy little definition of self-publishing that you might want to put up on your fridge to inspire you:  “Self-publishing, when you’re doing it right, is when your passion center meets your profit center.”

But publishing wasn’t originally Dan Poynter’s primary passion. Sky-diving was his first love. One day in 1972 somebody took him for his first sky dive “and I was hooked,” he says. If he hadn’t been taken on that jaunt, he never would have known how much he liked it — and he might never have ended up in the publishing field. Today, he advises parents to “do something new every weekend with your kids; open them up to different kinds of experiences and eventually they’ll find something they want to pursue.”

After Poynter got into sky-diving (including a  jump into the north pole), he realized that there were no parachute manuals. He wrote one, became a publisher, published it and sold it through parachute schools, parachute shops, parachute catalogs, and parachute magazines — but not through bookstores. Even back then he realized, “Sell to your own tribe. You have to go where your audience hangs out.” Marketing a book was harder in those days.  “Today, because of the Internet and search engines, we can find our customers and our customers can find us.”

In 1973, Poynter discovered hang gliding. He fell in love again. And again, when he realized that there were no manuals on the subject, he spent four months researching it and came out with the first book on hang gliding. The book took off. “It was the right book at the right time, just when everybody was crazy about hang gliding and there were articles on it in every magazine.” He marketed this book the same way he’d marketed his parachuting book — he sold them in hang gliding stores, hang gliding schools, hang gliding magazines and hang gliding catalogs. “Your book has to be the first one,” he says. “If you have the second book you’re out of luck.” Initially, when he left copies in stores on consignment, management was skeptical. Then, when the books sold out, he started to get calls for more: “You have to show them there’s a market.”  Also, thanks to his naïveté at the time, he sent a copy of his hang-gliding book to the Library Journal and asked them to review it.  He had no idea that getting a book reviewed in the Library Journal is a feat the equivalent of parachuting into the North Pole. But the Library Journal actually did review the book and as a result of that review he sold copies to 1200 libraries.

By 1974 Poynter had earned enough money to move back to California from a colder clime (he’d come to hate cold) to a big house on a hill in Santa Barbara. He has since authored over one hundred additional books.

Publishing is changing so fast it’s hard to keep up. The large publishers are downsizing, the traditional brick and mortar stores are going out of business, readers have fallen in love with ebooks, “and we’ve been losing three independent bookstores a week for the last twenty years.” Publishing industry professionals who are still resisting all these changes are, in Poynter’s words,  “in denial,” And the changes are having a huge impact on every facet of book publishing — literary agents,  distributors, book printers, book reviewers — just about everyone that the industry touches. Even the area of “foreign rights” is changing. Someday, authors will have their books translated into other languages on their own and sell them on Amazon or on their own Web sites. “Tolerate books stores, but don’t pursue them,” Poynter says. “Bookstores are lousy places to sell books. New York publishing still thinks it’s all about bookstores, but they’re wrong. The winners are going to be authors and small publishers who go with the flow and adapt to what’s inevitable and embrace the changes. In the past, everyone followed the Big Six publishing conglomerates. Now, the Big Six are following us!”

Poynter predicts that the abandonment of the “New York” publishers and gatekeepers will continue, and magazines (and along with them book review space) will continue to disappear. “1989 was the peak year for the magazine industry. Magazines were thick with ads. Now they’re getting skinnier and skinnier. Look at Newsweek. It’s losing millions. Most newspapers will disappear in five years. The only four likely to survive are the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. Most book reviews will be done online by book bloggers.”

While these changes are opening up all kinds of exciting opportunities for writers, Poynter warns that writers also need to be wary of scammers. “Avoid Vanity presses. Do your due diligence. And if you are about to do business with a company, first go online and type in Google + the name of the company + scam (or rip-off) and see what comes up.

Poynter ended his presentation with a reminder: “87% of people don’t like their job. One million people call in sick every day. But we, as authors and publishers, are respected and have a passion for what we do. There will be a growing need for entertainment (fiction) and information (non-fiction)…” – and that means work we love! So for the hundreds of  writers, publishers and guests sitting in the audience listening to this most impressive “panel of one,” the future is looking pretty good.

Tips on How to Prepare for a “Gemütlich” Book Signing

Book Soup on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood - All Book Soup Photos by Sylvia Cary, LMFT

Are you a traditionally published celebrity author planning a book-signing in a mega bookstore?  I described just such an event in my last post — “How to (Almost) Get Thrown Out of Barnes & Noble.”  It was about  attending the Regis Philbin signing for his new book, How I Got This Way (HarperCollins, Ent.)  If you’re an author in this kind of scenario, you’re probably not going to need my tips. Chances are you’ll get all the necessary prep work  done for you — by your publisher, by your publicist, by your “people” and by the book store itself. They’ll even make sure copies of your book are in stock.

The rest of us, however, the smaller potatoes, have to do most of the footwork for book-signings on our own, including getting the gigs — which will usually be in small, independent bookstores.

Before I continue, a little backstory. When I became my own “indie” publishing company (Timberlake Press), I published Charlie & Me, a memoir by Harriett Bronson, first wife of the late actor Charles Bronson. Her book tells of their 16-year marriage, high-profile divorce, and her life post divorce as the “Ex Mrs. Famous” who reinvents herself as a radio talk show host.

"Charlie & Me" by Harriett Bronson. The cover is Harriett and Charles Bronson's 1949 wedding photo.

On January 6th, just weeks after the Regis Philbin book signing, Harriett and I had our own little book-signing at Book Soup on Sunset in West Hollywood.  It’s a gemütlich (one of my favorite words) little place — warm, cozy, congenial, pleasant, and full of interesting things. Book Soup is how I’d like my living room to look.  Such bookstores are gems and, sadly, too many are disappearing. Hopefully, this one will stick around for a long time.

This was our first book-signing for Charlie & Me (unless you count the one we did at an old-folks home where three people showed up in wheelchairs and fell asleep). The signing went well.  I talked a little about publishing, made a plea to support small bookstores, and introduced Harriett. Harriett spoke about her book and admitted that even though she’d been a radio talk show host, speaking in front of real human beings terrified her. When it was all over she had a moment of clarity:  Some of her fear about public speaking had gone away.  It had been a “growth” experience for her, which often happens to “indie” authors doing book-signings for the first time.  It stretches them and makes them stronger. It’s a gift.

So for all you therapist writers and other new authors out there planning to brave your own DIY book-signings, here are a few tips to make things easier:

  • While you’re still writing your book, attend at least ten different kinds of book-signings, from mega stores to gemütlich shops to specialty stores. Note what you like and don’t like. If you can afford it, buy a book. Remember, support the bookstore. They are precious!
  • When your book is published (or before), return to these same bookstores and inquire if you can do a book-signing there. You’ll feel more comfortable approaching them since you’ve already been there and bought a book. Some may actually say yes!
  • If a bookstore says yes, immediately order your books — at least 25-40 of them. Find out what financial arrangements the bookstore requires. Some may want 40% to 50% of sales. The author will be stuck with what doesn’t sell, so go right out and arrange for another book-signing since you’ve already got the books!  Consider doing signings in other venues — libraries, stores, organizations.
  • Visit the bookstore in advance, see the book-signing area, take some pictures, ask if you’ll have a table or a lectern, find out if they have a microphone. If they don’t, bring your own – or prepare to shout.

Harriett Bronson Signs "Charlie & Me"

  • Start publicizing your book-signing. Don’t ask people to come to a “book signing.” That makes them feel pressured to buy your book. Instead, offer them a little presentation, a mini-lecture or mini-class, a Q & A and refreshments. After our Book Soup event, people hung around the refreshment area and talked, which turned out to be the most fun part of the evening.
  • Get a poster made for the book store window. A printer can enlarge one of your flyers to 16 x 20 inches and mount it on cardboard or Styrofoam so it won’t bend over.  Ours was in the Book Soup window for over a week. There’s heavy pedestrian traffic in that spot — i.e.,  good marketing.
  • Find out what publicity the store does for author events. Many have a newsletter, a website and an email list and heavily advertise upcoming book-signings. Appreciate that this means thousands of eyes will see information about your book, which is really valuable publicity. In addition, send out an announcement to your own personal email list. If you’re a therapist and you’ve written a book in your field, you probably have contacts that are already interested in your topic.  Other people you know may show up just to support you. Harriett’s dental hygienist popped in just to say hello and buy a book on her way home from work — which reminds me of the story of a now-famous mystery writer who says that nobody showed up for her first book-signing until the very end of the evening when a woman arrived and asked if she could have a cookie.
  • People love handouts (as well as cookies!). Give them something to take home with them. We printed 100 “one-sheets” (an overview of the book) plus 100 bookmarks which had the book cover on one side and the author’s picture on the other — along with “blurbs,” snippets of reviews, plus contact and purchase information. The bookstore let us leave some bookmarks behind to keep by the register for customers to pick up. (The staff at Book Soup was the best.)

    Harriett Bronson with Irwin Zucker, President of Promotion in Motion and Founder and President Emeritus of the Book Publicists of Southern California

  • Again, unless you’re a major celeb like Regis Philbin, don’t expect a big fuss, big lines or big sales. It’s not going to happen. You’ll learn from each signing how to do it better and how to sell more books in the future.
  • When it’s all over, thank everybody and help clean up. We had plastic water bottles to gather up, crumbs from goodies, scrunched up napkins and small plastic cups with wine left in them sitting on top of books — so be very careful not to spill on the merchandise.
  • Finally, write a thank you note. Keep the relationship friendly. You may publish a second book and want to go back there.

Copyright (c) Sylvia Cary