Tag Archive for Indie authors

Live Reports this Week from NY BookExpo

Live tweets start 5/28

Live tweets start 5/28

BookExpo America, billed as the largest book industry event in North America, takes place next week at the Javits Center in New York City. Authors, publishers and industry experts from 23 different nations will be attending, including yours truly. I hope you’ll follow my live tweets starting Wednesday, May 28 as I report on tips, trends and insights designed to help my fellow writers. The plan is to live tweet from conference sessions and then follow up here with longer blog posts. Please follow me on Twitter as @wordsprof


To follow Steve’s “Back Story” blog, click here.



9 Tips To Help You Shine at an Outdoor Book Fair

Get a leg up by knowing the lay of the land

Get a leg up by knowing the lay of the land

Dozens of small steps precede an author’s appearance at an outdoor book festival. A lot also happens during the presentation, and there are factors to consider once the applause ends.

Here are some tips gleaned (or reinforced) from a recent outing at one of the best venues around, the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, MD.

Before the event:

Do some reconnaissance: You’ll feel more comfortable if you visit the venue beforehand and learn, for instance: the seating arrangement, size of the stage, whether you’ll need a mic, and if you have the option to move when speaking. Are you on concrete or grass? What’s the best angle for photos?

Make it easy: Of course you’re going to let everyone know where and when. Go the extra mile and use social media to provide a map and alert folks to potential traffic issues. You want everyone seated before you begin. Consider raffling off a book to help drive attendance.

Conquer stage fright: Relax by making new friends with people as they arrive. As you make light conversation, you’ll stop obsessing about your presentation. This will also add to the number of friendly faces you can find in the audience as you’re speaking.

During the reading:

Be the wizard: Reading is great, but audiences want to know what’s going on behind the curtain. Be open and candid. Reveal a bit of yourself and your writing process without dragging it out too much.

Maintain contact: The danger in reading your wondrous prose aloud is losing eye contact with your audience for too long. Read several words ahead as you get toward the end of paragraphs so you can look up frequently as you speak.

Smile: Another obvious one that is too often overlooked. Smiles beget smiles. The crowd wants to see that you’re passionate, confident and approachable. A smile helps convey your self-assuredness. Actress Diane Lane once said, “I think that anybody who smiles automatically looks better.”

After You’re Done:

Make mom proud: Don’t forget to thank not only those who turned out, but all those festival volunteers as well. Don’t forget the person who introduced you, plus your own team. Writing may be a solitary job, but working a festival requires help. Also make sure to stick around after you’re done presenting and answer questions from those who may be too shy to speak up in a crowd.

Be the booth: Festivalgoers are bombarded with information from the moment they walk through the gate. Create a poster that sums up your book in one or two sentences, plus a small sign with a special festival price. That leaves you free to chat or answer questions. With a smile, of course.

Be a good neighbor: It’s easy to think of those in nearby booths as the competition. Don’t. Be friendly, share best practices, and offer help if you see a need. Being sociable pays dividends, both with your fellow authors and with those who wander up to see what you’re selling.

What else has worked for you at outdoor festivals?

Follow Steve’s “Back Story” blog by clicking here.

8 Author Resolutions for 2014

Make this the year you nail it

Make this the year you nail it

Say goodbye to 2013 and get ready to reboot. Just one question: Will you be ready when new opportunities present themselves in 2014? Some suggested New Year’s Resolutions for my fellow writers:

1 – Update your website and social media properties. Maybe you’ve won an award or changed jobs. Maybe that idea you had for a Tumblr site didn’t work out and you haven’t updated it in months. Do some housecleaning. You can’t expect visitors to be engaged if you’re not even paying attention.

2 – Make your bio a story worth reading. The only people who want to read resumes are prospective employers. Readers like stories. You’ve got one, plus the ability to tell it in an imaginative way. Creativity shouldn’t end when you finish writing your novel.

3 – Commit to more personal appearances. Efficient as social media is, a handshake trumps a cyber-shake. Get out there and meet real readers. Look them in the eye. Tell them face-to-face why you’re so passionate. That doesn’t mean neglect your social media arsenal; it means find a balance between being social online and being social in person.

4 – Become a more engaging speaker. If you write like Steinbeck and speak like an insurance salesman, there’s work to do. Three quick tips: First, practice aloud, preferably in front of real people, or at least a mirror. Second, understand your crowd before you walk on stage. (What do they care about? How much do they know about your subject?) Third, anticipate likely questions, practice your answers, and try to weave in some relatable stories.

5 – Improve your pitch. No one has much time, what with the demands of the job, the house, the kids and the car. If someone gives you five minutes to explain your story, make sure to nail it. And (I can’t say this enough) be enthusiastic every time you make your pitch. Excitement is contagious. If you don’t have any, you can’t infect anyone else.

6 – Distance yourself from the reviews. Some, hopefully most, will be great, but some will be lousy. Live with it. There’s no way to please everyone, and remember you never wanted that when you first started out. Otherwise you would have begun by conducting a focus group instead of a prologue. And for heaven’s sake, don’t get in an online argument with someone who pans your book.

7 – Keep writing (and reading). There’s no finish line for writers. When you finish a short story, a novel or any piece of writing, take a break, but after a time, begin something else. Sometimes the work is great; other times it’s slow and painful. The only constant is that to continue improving, you have to keep writing. And reading. Reading helps, especially when the stuff you read makes you think.

8 – Pay it forward. Wherever you are as a writer, there are plenty in front and plenty behind. Tip your hat to the ones ahead and help the ones behind whenever and however you can. It pays healthy dividends.

Good luck, all, and please share the resolutions you’ve made for 2014.

To follow Steve’s Back Story blog, please click here.

5 Ways Authors Can Pump Up the Volume

Neighborhood "libraries:" another way to meet readers

Neighborhood “libraries:” another way to meet readers

The lure of social media is powerful, particularly for artists, authors and other creative types who’d rather produce than promote.

Technology has made it possible to talk, influence, monitor and interact without leaving the comfort (and security) of your cozy home office. How efficient.

Here’s what’s missing: eye contact, handshakes (including an occasional high five or fist bump), body language, plus the opportunity to explain your work face to face, with the genuine passion that forges bonds far stronger than those generated by a like on Facebook or a follow on Twitter.


And please click here to follow Steve’s Back Story blog.

Pinteresting Recipe: Travel, Photos and Books

Bootlicker in good hands

Bootlicker in good hands

If 80 percent of Pinterest users are women and women buy most of the books, authors need to be on Pinterest.

Problem is, authors traffic in words and Pinterest is all about photos.

Here’s one way to create a compelling board:

When you, a friend, or a relative are headed abroad, take or send your novel. You’d be amazed at the opportunities that come up to snag a photo of your book beside a famous landmark or in the hands of a colorful local citizen.

During a recent trip to Thailand, we visited a museum where two women in gleaming gold traditional outfits were posted outside. I asked one to pose with the book and she gladly complied. Could she read it? Does it matter?

Authors these days need to make a smooth transition from creative writing to creative marketing. Send your book on a trip and capture some photos you can use to reach prospective readers on Pinterest.

You might make some international friends in the process. Oh, and here’s the actual board: Travels with Bella and Bootlicker.



(To subscribe to Steve’s Back Story blog, please click the green or orange icon on the blog homepage.)

Interview Tips from the Self-Publishing Trenches

Interviews come in lots of flavors these days. Traditional print, radio and TV are still around, but you might also find yourself on an Internet

Interviews 101: Be positive, upbeat & courteous

Interviews 101: Be positive, upbeat & courteous

radio show, or being interviewed by Skype, or part of a teleconference. Some book bloggers like to ask questions over the phone; others prefer to email their questions.

No matter the medium, your core messages should remain intact. You must be able to explain your book, why you wrote it, and the big takeaways in a few short, engaging sentences.

At the same time, you should tailor your answers to suit your audience. While some crowds are most interested in plot, others want to know more about your writing process. When do you write? What do you do when you feel blocked?

A few tips to help you get organized:

– Interview the interviewer. Ask who reads the blog, watches on TV or listens to the show.

– Mine the comments. Most blogs and shows welcome comments. See which interviews drew the most interaction for clues about what interests the audience.

– Try for a second date. That is, your goal is a long-term relationship, so don’t treat the interview as a one-night stand. Make sure to talk about what’s on their mind as well as your top interests.

– Anticipate and be proactive. Especially when it comes to bloggers, be ready with materials they’re likely to want, like: photos, a well-written bio, links to trailers and social media pages, and press releases.

There’s more. Always be courteous and prompt. Watch your tone and body language. Don’t be dismissive. Learn to pivot. If you get a negative question, use a phrase like, That’s interesting, but what’s really important to me is … and get back to something you’d rather discuss. Don’t forget that you’re speaking through the interviewer to reach your real audience.

Last, always be positive and enthusiastic. You’ve probably talked about your book a thousand times. It may be getting hard to sound excited. You may even be getting bored with yourself. If that comes through in an interview, you’re sunk. Stay focused. Stay up. The cliché is true; the next interviewer hasn’t met you before, and you won’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

What else have you learned on the interview trail?

(To subscribe to Steve’s Back Story blog, please click the green or orange link on the blog homepage).









First Rule of Book Fairs: Read the Body Language

Sometimes it's best to let your work speak for itself.

Sometimes it’s best to let your work speak for itself.

When someone approaches your booth at a book fair, do you?

Read the cues, enjoy the sales.

Read the cues, enjoy the sales.

A: Greet them and back off.

B: Load them up with book cards, candy or other tchotchkes (defined by Urban Dictionary as “something a burglar wouldn’t steal.”)

C: Quickly engage them in conversation that leads to a sales pitch.

Okay, it’s a trick question, in that the smart strategy is to observe a moment of silence and quickly assess body language. Some browsers want to read your signs and posters. Some want to test the heft of your book. And some want to shake your hand, look in your eyes, and hear the pitch right away.

Your visitors will come in all sizes, so it’s silly to think you can tailor one approach that fits all. A few observations:

Dial It Back, Pal: I once saw an author post himself in front of a booth and nearly accost every person who walked by. “May I give you a bookmark?” he’d say like Forrest Gump. If the kind person accepted, he took it as a green light to pitch his book. Other nearby authors at this book fair wanted to vote him off the island.

Takeaway: Leave the hard sell to those who peddle mattresses and used cars. Readers expect and deserve a more thoughtful approach.

Opposite Bookends: At a recent book fair, I found myself between a woman with a wondrous way of turning new friends into new readers, and the most subdued author I’ve ever seen in public. This guy had good stuff on his table, but he sat behind his table for hours, rarely smiled, and didn’t say a word unless someone spoke to him first.

Takeaway: Think about the negative cues you may be sending to thousands of potential readers who can stop and talk or keep walking. Show some energy.

Time and Space: A guy stopped by my booth. No smile, no hello. He picked up my book, looked over the cover and read the back. I stayed quiet. He thumbed through the pages, looked at me, and then back at the book. “Anything I can tell you about the story?” I offered after a couple of minutes. He said no, reached for his money, and gave me a warm handshake before walking off.

Takeaway: As much as you may want to share the story of your story, sometimes people want to be left alone. Give them their time and space.

Anyone else have a booth story to share? Oh, and here are some pix from a recent festival.

To follow Steve’s Back Story blog, please click the green or orange icon on the blog homepage.

Free Webinar: How Authors Can Use Pinterest

If women love Pinterest and also buy the most books, where should authors be?

If women love Pinterest and also buy the most books, where should authors be?

If you’ve written a novel, you’ve already told plenty about yourself. But social media sites provide authors the chance to reveal a lot more. How far should you go? How far is too far? Should you post pictures of your kids and dog on Pinterest?

This is one of the topics I’ll be discussing in a free, fun webinar on how authors can use Pinterest on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at 7:30 p.m.

Please sign up and drop by: bit.ly/MLzN1P

(To subscribe to my blog, please click the green or orange icon on the blog homepage).

Paddling Hard in the Indie Ocean – 2012 Lessons Learned

Trevor Optimized

Sharing a laugh with Trevor Dennison at Scranton library.

During the wild year about to fade into history, I learned:

– The art and romance of literary speed dating;

– That “message” may be more potent as a verb than a noun;

– To understand the angles that help or hurt in photos, and to aim for the former.

I launched a second novel, a prequel to Bella titled, Bootlicker, and learned:

– Unveiling your book at a trade show in a region of the country where your story takes place makes good sense;

– Even bookstore owners have limited attention spans. That puts it on you to pitch fast and effectively, to stand out or step away.

– No one cares if you have one official launch party or half a dozen. Target different audiences and party your pages off.

I commissioned a trailer for the second book and learned:

– To turn a novel into a script, imagine pitching your story to a commuter whose train has just pulled into sight (You’ve got about 30 seconds);

– Backstage photos from the shoot make a great Pinterest board;

– Everyone’s making a trailer. Go the extra mile and make a little art.

Jeffrey Madison plots the Bootlicker storyboard.

Jeffrey Madison plots the Bootlicker storyboard.

I used my website and at least five social media sites, but learned:

– A handshake seals the bond between author and reader better than anything that currently exists in cyberspace;

– Online followers are terrific, but people you meet in person become advocates, and possibly surrogates;

– When wine appears at book clubs, questions get pointed. What would YOU do if a woman like Bella grabbed you under the table?

I did dozens of interviews and learned:

– Making assumptions, like perhaps the interviewer read your book, is a mistake;

– Back to back to back interviews are challenging, but your enthusiasm and belief in your work must come through loud and clear every time;

– Interviews and reviews are different animals. An interview should be a conversation. Don’t drag out answers and hog the time.

In analyzing nearly 70 reviews of my two novels, I learned:

– Great reviews don’t translate to great sales, at least not right away;

– A great review can send you soaring; a lousy one can send you into a funk. Resist both extremes, and never argue with a reviewer.

– If someone says she loved your book, say thanks, (insert person’s name). Then quickly ask her to please post a few lines on Goodreads and Amazon. (So easy to forget!)

With Natasha Barrett on Let's Talk Live!

With Natasha Barrett on Let’s Talk Live!

There’s more, of course. This year I experimented with tools like Viddy, Storify and Wordle. I revamped my website, adding new illustrated excerpts and a Skype book club option. I jumped on a free Vocus trial and fired out a press release that got some attention. As my first novel, Bella, was winning a couple of awards, I also hosted several webinars for the Author Learning Center. I took a road trip to South Carolina and learned the value of leaving time to follow an impulse.

The water is rough and crowded here in the Indie Ocean, but that’s the way I like it, and can’t wait for the New Year.

How about you and any lessons you learned in 2012?

(To subscribe to my blog, please click the green or orange icon on the blog homepage.)




NBC4’s Goff Says Engage Your Audience, Own Your Brand

“Be the CEO of your own career,” Goff told students.

Engaging content, the strategic use of social media, and constant vigilance aimed at building a unique brand are the recipe for success for communicators in today’s on-demand digital society, Washington broadcast journalist Angie Goff told students Thursday at American University.

“Own your brand,” Goff said. “Be the CEO of your own career.”

Goff has branded herself as a “multi-media journalist” for NBC4 Washington, where she anchors on the weekend and reports during the week. She is known for using social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to enhance her stories, and is now working more with Pinterest and Google+.

Technology has changed expectations, she said, meaning that consumers are always “looking for an excuse to change the channel.” Moving ahead – for everyone from authors to engineers – requires sound knowledge of communications basics, a working knowledge of the latest tools, and the determination to turn a job into a career.

Thanks to NBC4’s Angie Goff for AU visit.

(To subscribe, please click the orange or green icon on the blog homepage.)