Tag Archives: ” “indie” publishing

Book Marketing Independently

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Happy 4th of July from LA! — Photo Credit Kevin H. on Visual Hunt

Happy INDEPENDENCE DAY, a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, as well as the anniversary of when I started this blog on July 4th, 2011– before I had “indie” (i.e. self-) published my book, The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published. I recently updated the book for 2018 so if you’re interested, please note that on Amazon the updated cover has a little blue triangle in the upper right-hand corner that says, “25 Book Marketing Ideas A-Z.”

To share both this day of independence along with the anniversary of my blog, I’m going to give you some book marketing ideas, one for each letter in I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-C-E   D-A-Y.  I know that leaves out a lot of letters. Guess you’ll just have to check out the book on Amazon or Kindle to find out what they are!

Now, let’s go, starting with I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-C-E   

I is for Instagram — a photo and video-sharing site owned by Facebook which now has over 800 million users. Posts can be public or shared with specified others. People with services or products (like books) to sell are finding ways to do it here. Always do your homework and read all about it first. The same goes for all marketing tips.

N is for Networking – joining and attending groups, lectures, workshops, and seminars, where you’ll meet other indie authors involved in book marketing, can be energizing and inspiring and a much faster way to get new ideas and learn more about all things DIY.

D is for Discoverability – This has become an important term in the book-marketing field. How can anyone buy your book if they don’t know it exists? You have to find ways you can do-it-yourself that get you noticed. There is so much online and on YouTube about book marketing that it’s quite overwhelming. Just look!

E is for Elevator Pitch – Memorize a 10 or 15-second pitch about your book, what it’s about and how it helps and benefits the reader — just in case anybody asks you what you’re up to.  Search online for “elevator pitch” for plenty of good tips.

P is for Pinterest – Another “hot” social media site. Users can search, upload,, sort, and manage images—known as “pins”—and then save them on their “boards.” Think of a topic and there’s a Pinterest board about it! With a “business account” (also free) users can  promote their products (such as books). One cool thing is you can link a pin about your book to your Amazon book page, website, blog, or to an article. It’s your virtual storefront. You can use a program like Canva.com to create perfect pins.

E is for E-mail List – If you haven’t started an email list already, start one now. Collect emails of people who are potential book buyers. When you publish a book, one of the first things to do is send out a “book launch” letter to your email list — so you need a list! Give people an easy way to opt out or unsubscribe.

N is for Newsletter – Sending out a book-related newsletter used to be a hassle and a big expense. Now it’s all done electronically. You can use email programs such as Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, or MadMimi. Most are free for up to 1000 to 2000 email names. If your email list is small, it will cost you only your time.

D is for DIY – The more you do-it-yourself, the less book marketing will cost you. Publicists are still out there willing to charge you, but save your money to pay hired hands for the things you can’t do or don’t want to do, and do the rest yourself.

E is for Email Signature – Create a little “ad” for yourself at the bottom of every email you send out (try “stationery” section). You can hyperlink your urls to your Amazon website, blog, or website. This isn’t in-you-face advertising. It’s subtle. People can click on your links – or not.

N is for Newspapers – Even though many newspapers have folded (meaning there’s less space for traditional book reviews), there are many  newspapers left and some are hungry for content. Think of all the “throw-away” papers just in your area. Search online for “newspapers” and you’ll get sites like: 50states.com/news; onlinenewspapers.com; thepaperboy.com, and more.

C is for Contests – Lots of contests out there to enter, but first make sure they aren’t scams. Go to the blog of janefriedman.com for her list of recommended and “safe” contests. If you win, place, or show in a legit contest, that makes you “an award-winning” author. Good for book marketing!

E is for Ezines – Ezines are online magazine. Today, most regular magazines have an online counterpart and it’s usually easier to have an article you write accepted there than it is in their paper version. Ezines have thousands of readers so it’s a good way to get the word out about your book. Some even pay a little. Try directoryofezines.com or ezinesearch.com.

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You Go Girl! Market That Book! Photo credit: Visual Hunt

Now for D-A-Y:

D is for Description – Your book description is one of the most important things you’ll write. You’ll use it on your Amazon book page and in your launch letter, and in so many other marketing pieces. Write a short, medium, and long description to have on hand. Embed keywords and phrases and include benefits to readers and potential audiences.

A is for Amazon – Amazon is not only an online bookseller and publisher (CreateSpace and Kindle), it is a world unto itself when it comes to helping you market your book. It offers many marketing features – keywords, customer reviews, the Author Central page, their “look inside the book” feature, foreign sites, and so much more.

Y is for YouTube – YouTube is a candy store. You can find videos about everything on this list and you can make videos about your book to upload to YouTube, even have your own channel. Videos can be nichy, specific, and detailed. You could even make a short video on how you got the idea for your book — and people would watch it!

Okay, Independence fans, that’s it for now. Get to your independent book marketing. There’s more hints, tips and ideas where these came from. Later.

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Off you go to book market independently! Photo Credit: Virtual Hunt

© The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published by Sylvia Cary, LMFT, Timberlake Press – recently updated for 2018.

 

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Happy Birthday Dear Dan Poynter

"Hot" Publishing Panel sponsored by Publicity Association of Los Angeles (PALA). Left to right, Dan Poynter, "publishing guru; __, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author, and Robin Quinn, book-doctor and moderator for the evening.

THE BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING panel on Sept. 17, 2014, at the Culver City Veterans Memorial Auditorium, sponsored by the Publishers Association of Los Angeles (PALA). Panelists (left to right): DAN POYNTER, self-publishing pioneer and author of The Self-Publishing Manual (and dozens of other books); CONSTANCE ANDERSON, Director of Pacific Coast Regional, a small business development center (with classes on such things as how to write business plans); CAROLYN HOWARD JOHNSON, author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of books to help authors; and Moderator, ROBIN QUINN, book-editor and coach. (NOTE: This blog post will focus just on what Dan Poynter said. After all, it was his birthday!     — photo: Sylvia Cary

“Global Dan”

It may not surprise you to learn that on September 17th, 2014, Dan Poynter, self-publishing movement pioneer and author, spent his 76th birthday in a room full of writers and wanna-be writers talking about–guess what?–publishing. “I haven’t retired,” he said. “I’ve never met an author who was retired.”

After we all sang “Happy Birthday Dear Dan” and shared some homemade fudge, we quieted down and leaned forward so as not to miss a single word of what this man had to say. We all know that Dan Poynter knows stuff.  When a man travels 6000 miles a week to different places around the globe in order to share with people about publishing, and then he listens to what they say back, he obviously has his ear to the ground and it’s smart to pay attention.

Learn to Love Amazon was Poynter's message for the evening. "There's a book published every five minutes, which is 3500 a day, 3.4 million a year and most are on Amazon. So be there, too!

Learn to Love Amazon was Poynter’s message for the evening. “There’s a book published every five minutes, mostly on Amazon. So be there, too!

“Amazon is Your Friend”

Dan Poynter usually has a specific theme when he talks, and on this particular night his topic was Amazon.com, the world’s largest online book-seller. He addressed himself to the fact that Amazon is constantly being maligned by segments of the book-industry world, especially bookstores and publishers, which Poynter seems to find irritating.  “Publishing hasn’t changed the way they do business since 1947, so they should stop complaining and start marketing.” He points out that readers are now reading books on their iPhones, yet back before Border’s went belly-up, one brick and mortar store in California was paying$32,000-a-month rent. “You have to sell a lot of books to pay that.” Dan said. “Don’t expect the book business to change anytime soon,” he added. “It’s really too late for most of them to catch up.”

While traditional publishing was taking pot-shots at self-publishing and Amazon, Amazon started giving customers what they actually want. (What a concept!) He recommends a book called The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone (2014) because it tells you all about what Amazon can do for you, the self-published author. (Or how you can buy a toaster).

Product Details

“Amazon Does More for Authors”

Poynter listed just some of the things that Amazon does for authors:

  •  Amazon leveled the playing field so everybody can play. Anybody can publish their book for FREE.
  • Amazon makes it easy for self-publishers to market their books, including their own “page” where they can put photos, videos, links to blogs, and more.
  • Amazon lets you have real people review your book and tell you want readers really want and don’t want. (And buyers actually read these reviews before buying).
  • Since bloggers are the new book reviewers, Google for bloggers in your area to write reviews. Type in “your subject + book bloggers.”

Poynter’s Conclusions

  • Thanks to Amazon, you can now be in charge of your writing career
  • Learn the rules
  • Don’t put out shoddy work –it hurts all self-published authors
  • Support our industry–buy books as gifts
  • Amazon is the only dog in the fight
  • Amazon is a fact of life
  • Keep buying Amazon stock!

Dan Poynter has three free newsletter you can sign up for — one on publishing, one of marketing, and one on speaking. Go to http://www.parapub.com and sign up on the top left side of the front page.

The Joy of Swimming Upstream

This sign in the window caught my eye, so I went inside...

This sign in the window caught my eye, so I went inside…

I began writing this blog three years ago on the 4th of July, 2011. My first post was called “Celebrating Writer Independence.”  Basically, that has been the theme ever since. My husband was still alive then and on the big night of July 4th, he stood behind me as I sat at my computer, his hands supportively on my shoulders, and with the fireworks literally going off outside, he asked, “Well, are you ready?” “I’m ready,” I said and with my heart pounding as I clicked the “Publish” button — and my blog was born!

“I’m a blogger!” I shouted. It was exciting!

What a country!

I’ve been fully immersed in “indie” ever since. I became a publishing company; I “indie” published my own book, The Therapist Writer, as well as the books of two other authors, and I’m about to publish two more. I’ve been reading about “indie,” talking “indie,” teaching “indie,” and breathing “indie” ever since.  I run a writer’s group and all we do is talk about indie publishing and mourn the closing of bookstores all around us. We meet at CROWN Books in Woodland Hills, California, and it’s our third bookstore.  The others we once met at have blown away.

So, imagine my delight one day as I was walking along Sherman Way in nearby Canoga Park and glanced into a store window — and found myself eye-level with the above sign: “I Refuse to Participate in a Recession.” It was then that I realized that I was looking into a bookstore. Not an old dusty bookstore that was on the verge of going the way of the others, but a new-ish looking bookstore, neat and tidy and bright blue with two cozy arm chairs right up front.  And I could see a man behind a counter — reading a book.

Next Chapter Books in Canoga Park, California

Next Chapter Books in Canoga Park, California

“This I gotta see,” I said to myself, and I marched in.  I just had to find out the story behind that sign.

Boyd T. Davis, the very independent owner of Next Chapter Books in Canoga Park, California

Boyd T. Davis, the very independent owner of Next Chapter Books. He sells “Quality Used Books” — mystery, fiction, music, photography, children’s books, theater, Vietnam, the Civil War, and his favorites, military and aviation.

Here’s the Story

After thirty-eight years in the corporate world, Boyd Davis told me, “I realized I was in a financial position to do what I wanted, so I opened a bookshop in Woodland Hills. Then I needed more space so I moved here.”  That’s it. That’s the story. While other men his age in a similar financial position may be out there golfing, traveling, or going on cruises, Davis is in his shop, reading.

“How do you start a bookshop?” I asked.  I’d never really thought about it before. After all, if you’re a Barnes & Noble or Costco they probably send you books from a distributor, but how do you start off when you’re on your own?

“At first I contributed my own personal collection of books, and then I bought some from library sales, and I also had book scouts hunting for books. Then people started bringing in books.” While Davis doesn’t ordinarily take books on consignment, he is open to talking to local authors about carrying their books on a case-by-case basis. (Crown Books in Woodland Hills also takes kindly to local authors who may display their books and set their own prices.)

You're looking at somewhere between 25,000 and 40,000 books: "I never actually individually counted them," Boyd said.

Boyd Davis estimates that he has somewhere between 25,000 and 40,000 books: “I never actually set out to individually count them.”

A section of the children's section

(Above) A section of the children’s section.

And his favorite section, military and aviation

The owner’s favorite section — military and aviation

What’s the “Next Chapter” in Publishing?

It’s hard to say what’s on the horizon in the publishing industry. Will more publishers tank? Will “indie” publishing fill the gap? Will more bookstores bite the dust? Are we all swimming upstream? Possibly, but those of us who are “into indie” don’t care. Being in charge of the game is what’s fun!

In fact, the day before the July 4th holiday I drove past Next Chapter Books and glanced inside. Boyd Davis was in one of the big, cozy armchairs — reading.

(Next Chapter Books is located at 21616 Sherman Way, Canoga Park, CA 91303. The website is http://www.nextchapterbooks.com. Phone: (818) 704-5864; info@nextchapterbooks.com)

(c) 2014 Sylvia Cary, LMFT

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

Finishing a Book is So Nice and Relaxing

My Favorite Pin-Up Cat, Diamond, Hanging Out Enjoying the July 4th Holiday — Photo Sylvia Cary

My favorite day is always the day I finish a big project. I’ve been working on my book called The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published for two years, which is a year longer than I thought it would take, and it’s finally finished. Yay! It should be available as soon as it is professionally proofed and printed, then it will go up online and the mad marketing begins!  Today, the 4th of July, is also the first anniversary of starting this blog. Exactly a year ago I wrote about “writer independence” and I’m still writing about writer independence because it’s still my favorite topic. I love the excitement I see in the many self- and indie published authors I know. They’re crazy about the feeling of being in charge of their own creative projects.

I could go on, but not today. Today, while my husband is visiting with his adult sons, I’m just hanging out with Diamond and cleaning out desk drawers, a treat I allow myself as a reward for finishing something.

But we live near a park and soon the official July 4th fireworks will start, so Diamond will most likely jump up and run under the bed. I’ll need to comfort her until the big noise is over, perhaps even give her a little talk about cat independence.

Happy 4th to all.

“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

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

How to (Almost) Get Thrown Out of Barnes & Noble

Regis Philbin with Harriett Bronson at His Barnes & Noble Book Signing Event in Glendale for His New Book "How I Got This Way"

They say experience is the best teacher, right? So recently my friend Harriett Bronson and I decided to attend the Regis Philbin book signing event at Barnes & Noble in Glendale for his new book How I Got This Way. Harriett is a former talk radio host and the author of the memoir Charlie & Me about her 16-year marriage to the late Hollywood actor, Charles Bronson. We figured the experience of seeing what a major celebrity book-signing felt like would help Harriett prepare for her own book-signing event (on a smaller scale, of course) coming up on Friday January 6th at 7 pm at Book Soup on Sunset in Hollywood.  Y’all come down!

First a little back-story: Harriett and I have been friends since the mid-80s when we met on a writing project. She and Bronson were already divorced by this time. She was working on her memoir, and over the years I tried to help her shop it to New York agents and publishers but they weren’t interested, feeling that Bronson, even though still alive, wasn’t popular enough anymore to warrant such a book. We shelved the project. When Bronson died in 2003, we tried again. No luck. Then, when the whole Internet/digital/self-publishing revolution burst forth on the publishing scene, we jumped on the bandwagon. I became a publishing company (Timberlake Press) and published Harriett’s book, Charlie & Me, in early 2011.  This “indie” book publishing experience has been quite an adventure for both of us–scary and exciting at the same time.

Harriett Bronson and I (Taking the Photo) Wait Patiently for the Crowds at Barnes & Noble to Thin Out So She Can Say Hi to Regis, Get Her Book Signed and Get a Facebook Photo!

One more detail: Harriett has known Regis Philbin since the ’70s. She even pays tribute to him in her book: “He’s the first person to utter the words ‘talk radio‘ to me. I’d never heard of talk radio. Regis suggested I check it out. I did. I loved it. And I ended up being a talk radio host for 9 years–all thanks to Regis. He has been a friend ever since and even plugged my book on his TV show causing Amazon sales to spike for a day! I wanted to attend his book-signing to say hi and thank him in person for plugging my book.” As Harriett’s publisher, my agenda was to take mental notes on book-signings and get a good photo of Harriett and Regis together for Harriett’s Charlie & Me  Facebook page.

So how hard could this plan be? We figured we’d just zip over Barnes and Noble, pop in, wave hi to Regis, soak up some “famous author vibes” at a cellular level, snap a couple of digital pictures — and then dash out for lunch. Half an hour tops, wouldn’t you think?

Well, Lesson #1: Everything takes longer and is harder than you think. Why haven’t I learned this by now?  As celebrities go, Regis is huge and he drew a huge crowd.  You can’t just pop in and say hi to a huge celebrity doing a book signing even if you do know him. Lesson #2: Don’t arrive on time. Like the airport, arrive an hour early. The line was already around the block and up two long escalators and down a long hall. The hired  Security Guards, who came off like Secret Service, were everywhere. You’d have thought a presidential candidate was signing. And there was another line at the register just to buy the book. We stood in that line first and Harriett got her little orange wrist-band (“This is a wristband event” it stated on the B&N website) proving she’d bought the book. Lesson #3: Buy the book in advance so you can skip this line.

Halfway up the second escalator, Harriett, still recovering from a broken toe, was experiencing some pain. Lesson #4: Wear comfortable shoes. I got out of the line and went over to a Security Guard, explained about Harriett’s physical discomfort, and asked if we could jump ahead to where there were seats. The Security Guard kept repeating the same phrase: “I’m sorry, Ma’am, you’ll have to step back in line.” I repeated my request, hoping he’d offer some kind of solution. He hit REPLAY again: “Sorry, Ma’am, you’ll have to step back in line.”

Another Security Guard joined in. Then a third: “We’re sorry, Ma’am, you’ll have to step back in line.” I pointed to Harriett, explained that she was in some discomfort and couldn’t stand in a line for another hour or two–of course hoping they’d volunteer to let us jump ahead. No such luck. Instead, we got the same answer, “I’m sorry, Ma’am, you’ll have to get back in line — ” then it came — “or we’ll have to have you removed from the store.”  I was incredulous. “You’d actually have us thrown out of Barnes & Noble?”  One of the Security Guards repeated the threat in case I didn’t get it the first time: “If you don’t step back in line, we’ll have Security remove you from the premises.”  I could just picture it — being dragged out liked members of Occupy Barnes & Noble.

I walked back over to Harriett and we had a little parley:  Should we dare play the “Regis is a friend of mine” card? — but we quickly ruled that out when someone else tried it and got slapped down: “Four hundred people here say they’re friends of Regis. Please step back in the line.” These boys play rough!  So instead we decided to throw ourselves out of Barnes & Noble, go eat lunch somewhere nice and come back later when the crowd had thinned out (which looked as it might be dinnertime) and the “soup nazies” (as we were now calling them) were completely worn out and much less vigilant from dealing with other “out of line” characters just like us.

So we picked a restaurant across the walkway from Barnes and Noble and sat at an outside table. The place was nearly empty. (Everybody must have been at the book-signing!) We had a perfect view of the book store and could see the people as they walked by the window on the third floor with their books for Regis to sign.

After a leisurely salad, we looked up into the Barnes & Noble window again and saw that the crowd had started to thin out. We paid and went back into the store, up the two escalators, past the Security Guards (who were glaring at us — “Watch those two!”) until we finally got near the throne room. Then we were there — facing the signing table.

When Regis saw Harriett he said “Harriett!” and stood up and came over to her and gave her a hug. (We so hoped the Security Guards were all watching!) Harriett re-introduced Regis to me (I’d been on his show once decades ago pushing my first book), they had a brief chat, and when Regis saw my camera he put his arm around Harriett and flashed a big Regis smile so I could get my photo of them together — and then guess what? My digital camera froze: “Memory card full.” I knew I’d have to delete a picture in order to make room for a new photo, but what photo should I delete? “Take the picture!” Harriett was saying to me between clenched teeth. I started reviewing photos I could delete. “Hurry up, Sylvia!” Regis was saying, his smile fading. He was exhausted from hours of signing. His hand probably hurt. His “people” were pulling at him. “Hurry up!” By now I was so rattled I couldn’t remember how my camera worked. Finally, I deleted something — blindly — I don’t even want to know what I picked. Then Snap/Flash! I got the Facebook picture. “Whew!” I said in a loud voice. When a nice B&N staffer offered to use my camera to take another picture of Regis and Harriet and me, I said no. I couldn’t go through that photo deleting thing again. Lesson #5: Follow this advice I got from my daughter, Jessica, a collector of soap star autographs:  “Always make sure you have a working pen and film in your camera. Celebrities don’t like to wait.”

By the time Harriett and I left Barnes & Noble we were exhausted. “It’ll be just our luck,” I said to Harriett as we headed for the parking garage. “We’ll become famous authors but they’ll never let us in Barnes & Noble again.”

Now, more than a week later, and fully recovered, we’re starting to make plans for Harriett’s  Book Soup signing on Friday night January 6, 2012 at 7 pm, 8818 Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood.  We promise you, no long lines, no “soup nazies,” just come and listen to Harriett talk about being “Mrs. Famous” by being married to Charlie Bronson, find out what he was “really like,” look at photos from the Bronson family album, have some refreshments, ask questions about Harriett’s book, or her radio career, or about the adventure of “indie” publishing, and all that good stuff. It’ll be fun. 310.659.3110. Free parking behind the store via Nellas St.  It’ll be an experience!