Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Real Costs of Self-Publishing a Book

If you missed PBS Mediashift's piece on the costs of professional quality self-publishing, it's a real eye-opener. Read it here: http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2013/05/the-real-costs-of-self-publishing-book. Go on. I'll wait.

So what did you think? I am sure the high end prices were a little frightening, but notice that there are lower end prices, too. If you think you can't afford an editor, don't go without. Consider paying a student a lower rate. It allows him or her to get experience, and at the same time you get affordable editing assistance. You have to understand in this case that you are not getting a highly experienced editor, though, so keep expectations appropriate for what you're paying for.

The same goes for cover art and marketing services. Don't go without these things, either, especially the cover art. A bad cover will lose sales, hands down. Pay lot of money for years of experience, or smaller amounts for those new in the field. (Or a hybrid, such as my basic versus premium services).

The main takeaway for me is that while self-publishing may be easy to do, it's not necessarily easy to do right. Tell me about your book. Did you hire an editor and an artist? Any regrets?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Schedule Fall 2013 Publicity Work Now

Just a brief note to say that I have a little room left for an August release, but not much space left until November after that. So if you have a book coming out in August, contact me right away, and don't wait long for late fall books, either. It is always best to give at least a few months' notice.

You can use my Contact page, or you can email me from here.


Monday, May 20, 2013

The Power of Default Choices: Psychology, Influence, and Bank of America

This is another originally posted on elsewords.com. This is a favourite of mine, combining some of my consumer interests and media literacy interests.

Update: It looks like reports like the one I discuss below have led to another solution. Some cursory info here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/31/foreclosure-review_n_2389431.html.

I was browsing my beloved Consumerist the other day when I came across this piece: Bank Of America Provided Cheat Sheet To ‘Independent’Foreclosure Reviewers. (It references the original investigative work of ProPublica into the matter, which can be read here: http://www.propublica.org/article/cheat-sheet-bofa-supplied-default-answers-for-independent-claimsreviewers) ProPublica discovered that Bank of America (BoA) was providing default, filled-in answers for the review process of the Independent Foreclosure Review agents working on behalf of the U.S. government. Bank of America and its hired, independent investigators at Promontory denied any wrongdoing and will not review prior decisions, saying that the investigators always had the power to override default answers. I believe that this decision on their part is not only incorrect, but unethical, and I also believe that BoA knew precisely what they were doing and intended to use this default choice method to influence the investigators.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Jinx Interviews His Own Publicist

A new client, Jinx von Strange, interviewed me today on his blog. I hope you'll go take a look. It isn't very often that I get interviewed, after all!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Product Placement

Until recently I thought of product placement as the corporate sponsorship only of movies and television. In the past I, like many, railed against it as the destroyer of all things creative and I never would have seen product placement in books. It made me want to watch only the indiest of indie films. It made me want to make fun of people who wore corporate logos. During this time I didn't have a television (of course I didn't) so avoiding this kind of advertising wasn't all that difficult.

Eventually my views grew more nuanced, especially as I ended up marrying someone with a TV and I grew to like a few shows. I started using a DVR and downloaded a bit more, too. This meant I saw fewer ads. Advertisers needed to find a way to get their messages in front of people; because (let's face it) they aren't going to go away. Placements are something that will continue to increase in frequency because of the way our viewing habits have changed. While I still don't like it, I understand that there's more to it than a simple sellout. There is the advertising issue I already mentioned, and - as distasteful as it is - it has become a standard part of raising funds in Hollywood for both television and movies.

Anyway, my uneasy truce with product placement carried on for a few years until I spotted some product placement in a book. "No," I thought, "It can't be. Not in a book." As luck would have it, I was dead wrong.

Comic Books: Marketing Leads to Creative Storytelling

Today I offer this delightfully informative blog post by Kendall Whitehouse (Wharton School's tech and media blogger) about transmedia and how it relates to marketing and publicity for comic books.

Transmedia: this is a term I've only seen around for a few years, and I haven't been to any panels or done in-depth research yet; however, it's a concept that appeals to me on multiple levels. Anything that crosses platforms has the potential to feel more real and more interesting. Whitehouse's blog post is what's finally inspired me to gain better understanding of the concepts of transmedia.

It's interesting to note that CZP's campaigns for Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies (NVPFZ) and Rasputin's Bastards both enter this realm. (As a reminder, I was at one time affiliated with ChiZine Publications and so almost certainly hold bias on this topic!) James Marshall, author of NVPFZ, has a blog that's mentioned in the novel by Guy Boy Man - the protagonist - and is also an actual website which is in part "authored" by Guy Boy Man. There are also NVPFZ twitter events, blog interviews and more - crossing media in fun and interesting ways. (And don't forget the Zombie Acceptance Test! The ZAT tells you whether you're cut out to be a zombie or zombie food.)

I particularly enjoy the Rasputin's Bastards website, WhatIsCity512.com. Take a look through the video elements, the CSIS files and the articles. There's a Facebook page that you can follow, too. There are more interesting things coming for Rasputin's Bastards in the future, though you'll just have to wait and see. By the way, one of my personal favourite things that was done for this campaign was the teaser trailer, which can be found here.

I'm starting on a project soon that has me revisiting these transmedia ideas. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.

(Originally posted at http://www.elsewords.com and slightly edited to bring it up to date.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

More Book Publicity Info: Rates, Advice, and Services

I started a new Facebook page recently for Beverly Bambury Publicity, and I've been using it to share advice, information about my clients' books and appearances, and information about what my fees are to do it. You can follow the page by clicking like, or I'll occasionally do round-up posts of the useful advice and info here on the blog. This is one of those posts.

These Facebook items were inspired by questions from clients and potential clients, so if you have any questions at all about publicity or marketing for your book (including comics) feel free to ask me here in the comments or via email and I'll put together an answer for you that will hopefully be both useful and easy to understand. Here are the first three (slightly edited for this different format):
  • Think you can't afford a publicist? This has been the most frequently asked question I've had so far and I think it's well worth answering honestly and directly.

    So... how much does it cost? The short answer is "it depends on your situation and your needs", but I know you want something concrete, so here it is:

    As of this writing basic, à la carte book publicity fees start as low as $80 and premium publicist service fees start with flat-rate packages priced as low as $200. Note that these prices may increase over time.
  • I was recently asked, "What about book trailers?" This is a tough one. They are expensive to produce and difficult to get right. But, when they are right they can be a fantastic tool in the publicity arsenal, if only in that they give you something to share beyond text.

    On the other hand, there is no evidence that book trailers are a lot of help sales-wise. Trailers seem to be a gamble: if it goes viral--even somewhat--then it's worth more than you could have spent on it. Unfortunately, no one can guarantee a video will go viral.

    So is it worth the expense? The jury is still out on this one. The main advice I can give is this: if you can get it done tastefully, with professional quality, and with an interesting hook, go for it. If not, it may be best to wait to do a book trailer.
  • Another common question is "Just what is it you do?" My specialty is media contact/blog tour. This service uses my professional research background to find out which media outlets and bloggers have the best fit for you and your work in subject matter and theme interest, as well as site traffic and likely influence.

    I then craft personalized correspondence to each contact and then (depending on which service you've chosen) I will field all your replies and handle appearance scheduling on your behalf. I can even provide deadline and topic reminders if you have Q&A or guest blogs scheduled. (It has also been noted that I can provide a shoulder to cry on or a partner for enthusiastic swearing sessions!)

    Other services include, but are not limited to: social media advice and coaching, press kit creation, press releases where applicable, and blurb solicitation (with ample lead time).

    Have a question about whether or not I can handle your request? Just send me a message and we'll discuss it. If it isn't something I can do, I'll help you find someone who can.
Keep asking those questions and I'll answer them as best I can, and if you have tips to share with other authors share them below.

(Originally published on my personal blog, http://www.elsewords.com)

Monday, May 13, 2013

5 Steps to a Quality Blog Tour


I recently had a correspondence with an author that asked about my publicity services. When we determined that the fit wasn't quite right, she asked me for a few tips on running a blog tour for her book's publicity. I agreed to share some tips and after giving it some thought, I distilled my best practices into these five tips for running a better blog tour for your book, comic, or web series. Or CD. Or many other creative enterprises, for that matter.

Step One: Quality Means Research
The most important thing to take away from this article is that--if you're doing it right--preparation for a blog tour is time-consuming work. So if you only have limited time, it's far better for you to contact five or ten quality targets than it is to send 100 ill-fitting queries.


Indeed, sending out queries scatter-shot is ineffective and a waste of your time. It is likely it will even make you look bad. For example, if you send a romance blogger your military fantasy or a kids' book blog your erotica, you're going to get a reputation as someone who can't read directions and doesn't care about anyone else's time or effort. 

So, ask yourself which bloggers are going to like your book or film, and then only contact those bloggers/media outlets.

Once you think you've found a blog or newspaper or magazine that seems to be a good fit, take the time to read a few of their reviews to get an idea of what they say about books, or the kinds of guest posts they host. Then you must read the "about", "policies", and "contact" pages (or anything similarly named) that outlines, usually quite specifically: 
  • What he or she likes to read
  • His or her name
  • Whether he or she accepts the kind of book you're offering (some don't accept ebooks, some only accept ebooks, that kind of thing)
  • Most importantly, whether he or she is even accepting queries and review copies at all--or even accepts guest blog requests. Some don't. 
You will make no friends among book bloggers if you go against stated policies and preferences. And you want them to like you... right?

Logistics Note: I also advise making a note of your findings about the blogger or publication's tastes and preferences in what ever way works best for you. I use a Google Drive spreadsheet because I like the ability to easily edit from whichever device I am using at the moment, but if Excel, Open Office, or paper work better for you, then use them. Whatever you do, do it consistently and clearly so you stay organized.

Step Two: Send Good Queries
Now you've got your targets and you know what they like, write each person a personalized and very brief email. Here are some components of a good query letter:
  • The subject line should contain the book/work's name, author/creator's name, and date of release. If you have space, you can also add "Blog Tour Query", but be mindful of a ridiculously long subject line.
  • Address it to the blogger by name.
  • The body should be polite, humble, and brief. The reader gets to decide whether your book is the best thing ever, not you, and not even your publisher.
  • Did I mention brief? Bloggers and columnists and entertainment editors get a lot of email. If you ramble, you've lost them. Use a clear and active voice, and don't use ten words where you can use two. 
  • In the opening paragraph mention something that confirms you read their guidelines and preferences (and make sure you are actually following them).
  • Give a brief (there's that word again) synopsis of your book or project. You can just include the cover copy if you like. Make sure you say it is the cover copy if you do this though, since you want to generally avoid a sales type voice and cover copy can verge into that territory pretty easily.
  • It's OK to include a personal touch. Is the blogger from your hometown? Did you both like the same book? Do you have a favourite track on the CD or a favourite episode of the web series? It is OK to say why, but again--brevity. Don't spend more than a sentence on this.
  • It is best to ask for what you want. If you are hoping for a review, say so. If you are hoping for a guest blog, say that, too; but, be polite and considerate. If the blogger isn't interested, though, then leave it at that. Never ask "why not?" or ask for exceptions.
I also suggest that when sending these queries you not follow up too much. I often don't follow up at all when it is a completely cold contact at a larger publication, since I know how busy they are and that they didn't ask for me to contact them. If it is someone I know or to whom I was directly introduced by a mutual acquaintance, I will follow up on the initial query at that point. If you do follow up, stick to the same general rules above about brevity and manners. Don't email a third time unless specifically asked to do so.

The entire blog tour process is a delicate balance of research, copy writing  and interpersonal skills. Never discount those interpersonal skills in this process.

Step Three: Writing, Proofreading, Editing
Once you have a reply and you decide on a mutually beneficial posting date with the blogger, then you can answer your interview questions or compose your blog post. Make sure the content you are writing is interesting. Don't just talk about your book, find a topic and give it a little effort. If you just write "buy my book, buy my book, buy my book" the audience will get bored with you. It's great to tie it into the topic once or twice, but the topic at hand should carry the blog post. 

When you finish writing, have a trusted reader look it over and offer suggestions. If you don't have someone who can help with proofreading and editing, save the file and walk away for a while. When you return with fresh eyes you are more likely to catch errors or unclear ideas. This writing deserves your effort. These blogs or media outlets are giving you publicity and you aren't paying for it. Respect what they're doing for you.

Be sure to include anything that will be helpful. Do they usually post websites, excerpts, and social media links and an author photo? Include those. Always include a very brief biography for use in the blog post. Here is some helpful information about composing a biography from Rachelle Gardner.

Step Four: Deadlines
Typically you'll want to get your blog post or interview to the blogger/publication two to three full days before the posting date. So, for example, if you have a posting date of June 1st, then you should have your copy turned in by May 29th. Confirm with each outlet what their preferences are. Some want the post a full week in advance. 

This is where the keeping careful notes I mentioned in Step One comes in handy. Be sure you have your due dates on a calendar or in some other format that will help you remember and stick to them. Again, I like to use electronic tools, because I can set up alerts at varying intervals to make sure I don't forget a commitment. 

If for some reason you will be late, email your contact immediately. As I said in Step Three, respect what they're doing for you, and respect their time and their editorial schedules.

Step Five: Manners and Consideration at All Times
Don't forget all the things I have shared with you about deadlines, respecting the outlet/blogger, politeness, humility (i.e. not using a sales voice and being realistic). I also like what Chuck Wendig said about this topic. His was in reference to asking for blurbs, but all of these things apply here. What you put out in the world becomes your brand. Make sure you manage your brand like the professional you are.

Questions? Leave them in the comments, or if you prefer to ask privately, contact me
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My inaugural blog post is cross-posted from my personal blog, elsewords.com. While you're here, have a look around, and thank you for your interest.