Monday, September 26, 2016

Demi Stevens: A 6 Step Guide to Creating a Book Fair

Readers’ & Writers’ Field of Dreams
A 6-Step Guide to Creating a Book Fair

As a blogger and writer, you’ve probably asked yourself:
“Does anyone really want to read my stuff?”

While I’m not as gloomy on the prospect as Steven Pressfield’s Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t (hysterical and crammed with great advice, btw), we must realize no one will ever want to read our stuff until they know it exists.

Building name recognition and an author brand unassisted is like trying to assemble a giant Lego set without instructions. Our work needs to be recommended – that shiny badge of social proof that comes from having glowing Amazon and Goodreads reviews – by someone who doesn’t share a family resemblance.

To help my author friends build their brands, I created York Book Expo, where a hundred authors and thousands of readers will join us Saturday, October 15. While you might not be ready to launch something quite this big, you can still use this 6-Step Guide to help create a great multi-author event and massive buzz.

1)      Unleash the power of a “headliner”
Celebrity always attracts (and it almost always enjoys being placed in the spotlight). Use a bigger-name author to bring a crowd to your event. Ask around your writer’s group, libraries and bookstores to find out who’s “trendy and hot,” and then reach out.




2)      Snag a good date and venue
No day is immune to conflict, but don’t schedule your event at the same time as your local team’s game, or in conflict with festivals or concerts your ideal readers are likely to attend. During the week, try 10am for a children’s book event, afternoons for older readers (who sometimes don’t drive after dark), and 7-9pm for other markets. On Saturdays, use 10am-noon, 1-3pm, or 2-4pm, but if you’re creating something longer, remember to plan access to food and drink (and bathrooms!). On Sundays, afternoons work best. Above all, make sure there’s sufficient parking.

3)      Get your author friends on board
Invite other writers to share the spotlight (and hopefully the publicity load!). You can reach out through social media, writers’ group, and often libraries and bookstores. These authors will want to know if there’s a cost involved (does the venue charge a flat fee, or take a percentage of sales?), how much space will they have, will a table and chairs be provided, and is there electricity and/or wi-fi (for laptop displays and credit card processing).


While your first event will probably be smaller than York Book Expo, feel free to download the info sheets and registration forms and modify them for your own use. Make sure you get up-to-date contact info for all your vendors, including author websites/social media, to make online advertisement and posting a breeze.

4)      Tell people about your event
Use multiple channels to spread the news. Start with social media posts – tagging vendors to reach their fans too – and include images. Try Facebook Live videos for quick interviews and book readings! People will need to hear about your event 7+ times before they’ll decide to attend. Send a Save-the-Date card early, then post daily 2-3 weeks prior to your event. Encourage all authors to re-share these posts. If you feature a different author or book in each post, it will keep them from getting boring, and entice readers in your combined network that your event is absolutely worth attending.
Next, create a flyer with all the event details (author names/pics, date, time, location). Hang them throughout your community – grocery stores, post offices, nail salons, banks, churches… even Starbucks and Panera have community bulletin boards. Make sure the text is large enough to read from a distance, and stick to just 1 or 2 fonts. For this year’s York Book Expo, we created colorful bookmarks that say, “Bring this to the event for 5 free raffle entries.”

Finally, issue a press release to newspapers, and local radio and TV stations. Include the names of all the authors, where they live, the event date/time/venue, and any story “hook” that might convince them to cover your event. (Are any of the authors related? Raising funds for a charity? Have a timely theme to their books?)

Here’s an example of a short-and-to-the-point Press Release:

September 29, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
York, PA – What do you get when you cross a secret bank account worth millions, a lawyer who hates to practice law, and a Golden Retriever? Answer: A recipe for a comical book series by New York Times best-selling author David Rosenfelt.
York Book Expo will be held Saturday, October 17, 2015, from 1-5pm at Memorial Hall East at York Expo Center. Organized by Year of the Book publishing, and sponsored by Shipley Energy, the event will spotlight the books and art of 100 local and regional authors and illustrators in addition to book sales and signing with Rosenfelt. Book enthusiasts can browse titles from romance to hard-core sci-fi/fantasy to thrillers, mysteries and children’s books. 

5)      Welcome your authors and customers
Make sure all your authors know where and when to report for set-up, and whether they need to bring tables, chairs, tablecloths, book stands, $$ change $$, a bag lunch, etc.

If there are multiple entrances to your venue, mark the main doors with a flyer, yard sign, or balloons. Greet customers and ask what kind of books they like to read. Make a connection to other authors, too, and remember to smile and be friendly! Check out this lesson from Laura Rudacille to make your next author event a success, including snagging customer email addresses so you can stay in touch.
Remember to leave your venue clean and clear so you get invited back for future book signings.

6)      Thank the people who’ve helped you, and ask for feedback
In this digital age, receiving a handwritten thank you is the equivalent of gold. If someone helped you design or hang flyers all over town, thank them. If your reporter wrote a glowing article, thank them. If your headline author invited their huge fan list and did a great job for you, thank them doubly! And then ask everyone personally if they noticed ways the event could be improved next time so you can put on better and better events – and ultimately help grow your author brand and sell more books!

Enjoyed this article? For even more swag and insider scoop, mention this blog and get $25 off to attend the pre-Expo Writers Conference on Friday, October 14th in York, PA, and have dinner with Demi and the other instructors. Details here: http://yotbpress.com/writers and discount available by email or over the phone to: demi@yotbpress.com or (717) 781-4972. Or join us Saturday, October 15th from 11am-4pm for the main event – details at http://yorkbookexpo.org


About Demi Stevens

Founder and CEO of Year of the Book press, Demi Stevens turns writing dreams into successfully
published books. She has personally assisted in the production of 150+ titles by more than 100 authors, ranging from children’s picture books to sizzling romance, award-winning mysteries, and bestselling business books. A self-acknowledged book slut, Demi loves quilting, crocheting, roller skating and travel. She is a classically trained flutist and author of two children’s picture books. To start your book project, contact her at demi@yotbpress.com.

Have you ever helped organize a book event or participated in one? Do you live close enough to York, PA to participate in the conference or attend the book fair? What kind of swag do you like to pick up at book fairs? Have you read any of Maria V. Snyder's books?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Blogging Etiquette for Writers and Authors

If you are writing, you fall into one of two categories - you’re either a writer who hopes to be published one day or you are an author with one or more books already published. In both cases, you are trying to establish and further your platform. You’re trying to build appeal to readers and network with other authors.

At this point, it’s all about behaving properly and with integrity. It’s your reputation you’re building. A good reputation takes time to build and mere seconds to destroy. A minor misstep will probably be overlooked or at worst ding you for a moment. But many social blunders over time will reduce your platform to rubble. A big mistake will destroy you completely. The last thing you want is the Author Behaving Badly label.

In the blogging world, there are unwritten rules you need to know and follow. A large percentage applies to all who blog. Call them rules, guidelines, or just really good suggestions, they will place you in a favorable light.

The basic rules:

Commenting -
  • Remember you are a guest. You have entered the home of another blogger. You wouldn’t walk into someone’s house and immediately begin criticizing the decorations or the homeowner. Be respectful. It’s all right to disagree, just use some tact. Stay on topic. Respond to what that person has written. (Which means you have to actually read it.) This is not the place to respond to a comment on your blog or go off on a tirade about something else or toot your own horn.
  • Don’t turn you comment into blog post. A thoughtful, detailed comment is good. You start requiring several paragraphs to respond, then your comment would be better suited as a blog post or a direct email to the blog host.
  • No personal attacks. Again, it’s all right to disagree, gently and with tact. But don’t attack the host or those leaving comments. Don’t get into a hot debate. If the blogger has asked for a debate and opposing opinions, then engage in a respectful manner. Offer persuasion not argument, solutions not problems. But don’t condemn or ridicule.
  • Don’t hog comments. Don’t jump in with your own agenda and leave long comments. Don’t keep coming back just to reply to comments left by others. This is not your blog, not your house. Let the blog host reply and stick to your own comment thread.

Posting -
  • Be respectful of others’ time. People are busy. Impatient. They want you to get to the point and quickly. Two thousand words just because you like to hear yourself talk will not endear you to others.
  • In general, stick with a theme. What’s your blog about? Your personal life? Writing? Inspiration? Information? Are certain days devoted to certain topics? For the most part, stay within your personal guidelines. People are creatures of habit and like to know what to expect.
  • Be consistent. Pick your day(s) and time and stick with it. Sometimes you have to skip or post at a different time, but if every time is different, you’ll lose the readership that comes from establishing a pattern.
  • Respond to comments. Interact with those who took the time to leave a comment. Show you are involved. And visit those who visit you.

Those are some of the basics. There are also rules more specific to writers and authors:

Don’t be a commercial -
Unless your books have sold millions and your royalty checks are also in the seven figure category, don’t toot your horn all the time. People aren’t coming to your site JUST to see what you are doing and when your next book will be out and what your sales figures are for the month. Yes, share your accomplishments. But share other things 90% of the time. Otherwise you’ll come off as self-centered and out of touch with reality - and your blog nothing but a billboard.

Do onto others -
Just like the Golden Rule. Treat others as you want to be treated and show respect and consideration. What we dish out will come back to us, whether positive or negative. This business is tough enough. Sabotaging it with our own negativity is just plain dumb.
  • Support - don’t be stingy with supporting and helping other writers and authors. We can’t do this alone. We need the support of family, friends, readers, and our fellow authors. The greatest giver will receive the greatest support and without even asking.
  • Reviews - be mindful of book reviews you post online. There are several camps on this subject. Rather than settle in one, I’ll offer this word of advice: what goes around comes around. You are not just a reader anymore. You are a writer or an author with published books. Not only do you understand the struggle, but you also know that bashing other books is a sure way to invite others to bash yours. Don’t lie in reviews, but don’t set out to destroy an author. Again, use tact. And if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.
  • Comments - when it comes time for our cover reveals, release announcements, guest posts, and personal posts of insecurity, we want positive feedback. We don’t need critics. Most of the time, by the time our books hit the blogging world, they are set - cover art complete, book formatted, synopsis written, blurbs finalized, etc. We can’t change things. And often it’s up to the publisher, not us. Keep that in mind when commenting on cover art, new releases, new authors, a guest post, etc. No one cares about or wants to hear your negative comment. Being critical just invites the same treatment when your next book comes out. Build up with your comments, don’t tear down.

Negative comments? We got them! Below are some recent and genuine blog comments. (Name removed to protect the guilty.)

In response to a video about an author who is a veteran and lost his limbs:
Veteran LOL, more like foreign invader and aggressive terrorist

In response to cover reveals and release announcements:
can't say I like that cover, doesn't look professionally done to me
a nice cover with very badly positioned lettering
highly inappropriate cover

In response to a moving book about counseling veterans and the military:
American warriors LOL, more like American terrorists and invaders

Don’t be a troll online! There are enough of them already. This is your career as a writer. Aim to be the most respected, genuine, gracious, giving, and admired writer. And how do you accomplish that? Through your words...

Monday, September 12, 2016

Making a Series Bible Using Excel by Heidi Hormel

Excel at Tracking with a Book Bible
See what I did there? Made a pun about Excel, which really does need some puns. This accounting spreadsheet program (or its open-source versions) can be used for more than numbers, including a nifty Book Bible, so called because it is a place to keep track of … well, everything (that you want to keep track of).

What to track
I use my Book Bible to keep track of:
·         Character names
·         Physical descriptions
·         Relatives
·         Ticks/traits
·         Back story
·         GMC
·         Music (they like or that reminds you of them)
·         Setting details (which can be its own sheet—which I’ll explain below)
o   Locations
o   Life events (at those locations)
o   Research
The list could really be endless and that can be a problem. You might want to think like a reader to decide on which details to include. I know eye color, for example, makes readers a little crazy if it changes from book to book (unless they’re an alien or something).

I also try to copy and paste verbatim good “nut” graph descriptions into my spreadsheet. These are ones that capture hero/heroine, setting, etc. in just a sentence or a few words. I can then re-use a version of it to describe the character in future books.

If you’re writing a mystery or a story with a longer arc, you may need to include plot points, red herrings, or other non-character details in the Bible.

The bolts & nuts
Whether you use the “real” Excel or an open source spreadsheet program, the basics are the same..
The basics:
·         Open a new Excel document*
·         Save it as whatever your series name is.
·         Rename the tabs at the bottom of the document (which in Excel is called a workbook) from Sheet 1, Sheet 2, etc., to a book title and/or a setting for a book (I write small town romance so setting is really, really important).
*I’ve included a jpeg of one of my books and a filled out Excel sheet. I know visuals are always helpful. (Disclaimer: I do not use this program to its fullest)

When I gave this presentation at my local writers group, another writer/editor suggested that characters be listed down the left-hand column and the items you want to track along the top, including in which books the character appears.

The point of the Bible is to have all of your details in one place so that you don’t need to re-read books to confirm parentage, age, or favorite song.

I also have created calendars through an Excel template to keep track of a pregnancy in a book as well as birthdays and characters’ ages over the time span of the series.

The bottom line is that a Bible will not write the book or fix every mistake, but it will make life easier when you’re on book six of series and you need to know the shape of the scar on your hero’s cheek when he showed up in book one.

A former innkeeper and radio talk show host, Heidi Hormel has always been a writer. She spent years as a small-town newspaper reporter and as a PR flunky before settling happily into penning romances with a wink and a wiggle. Her Angel Crossing, Arizona series for Harlequin Western Romance include cowboys, cowgirls, llamas, and kilts (not necessarily in that order). Her latest books are THE KENTUCKY COWBOY’S BABY and THE BULL RIDER’S REDEMPTION. Visit her online: HeidiHormel.net; Facebook, Heidi Hormel, Author; Twitter, @HeidiHormel; and follow her on Goodreads, Heidi Hormel.

Thanks, Heidi, for sharing. So how about it IWSGers, do you use a series bible? Do you use Excel for keeping everything straight? What other kinds of things do you keep track of in your bibles?