Category Archives: Promotional Tips

In Winnipeg, Three Cheers for the Book Marketing Wizards at McNally Robinson

“Books launched at McNally Robinson often catapult to our local best-sellers list.” – statement from the McNally Robinson Booksellers website

In a few short months, I’ve fallen in love with McNally Robinson Booksellers, an indie bookstore located in Grant Park Mall, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  Call it a long distance friendship, an admiration for a company that understands the value of customer service.

Guest readers Brenda Hasiuk, Brenda Sciberras, and Carmelo Militano with Tarnished Trophies author Debbie Okun Hill at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg.

Guest readers Brenda Hasiuk, Brenda Sciberras, and Carmelo Militano with Tarnished Trophies author Debbie Okun Hill during a recent launch celebration at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg.

Perhaps all indie bookstores have this same charm. The Book Keeper in Sarnia, Ontario certainly works close with its local literary community and the owner Susan Chamberlain often brings in authors from out-of-town. You expect this with smaller centres but I was pleased that the “Friendly Manitoba” license plate slogan extended to this McNally Robinson retail store located in a major Canadian city with a population of over 700,000* people.

The best part of launching a book in your hometown is seeing friends and family you haven’t seen in a long time.

The best part of launching a book in your hometown is seeing friends and family you haven’t seen in a long time.

I shouldn’t have been surprised but I had forgotten how warm and rich in spirit this community could be. Yes, I was heading home to my prairie roots where my grandparents sowed potatoes for a living and where I first penned editorials for a high school newspaper. What happened to some of those familiar faces in my yearbook, my university friends who continued on when I took some time off, my college classmates and colleagues I worked with in the public relations field?

Like the Red River, memories of smiling friends and relatives flowed through my mind. Many of us still corresponded. Would any of them be interested in a combined reunion/launch/celebration of my first poetry book? When I asked their opinions, the name ‘McNally’ kept rolling off their tongues.

Familiar faces...

Familiar faces…

I hadn’t considered working with a large bookstore. At first my thoughts circled around a local library or a church hall because many Canadian bookstores don’t carry poetry collections from unknown poets. Selling a poetry book with a sport theme is rather challenging like trying to place a basketball in a hoop when your eyes are glued closed. Not all athletes like poetry. Not all poets like sports. Not everyone wants to wander into arenas to discuss competition, bullying, ageing, and even suicide.

John Toews, Event Coordinator, McNally Robinson Booksellers received an honourary membership from the League of Canadian Poets during a joint conference with The Writers Union of Canada in late May 2015. Congratulations! Photo by Okun Hill

John Toews, Event Coordinator, McNally Robinson Booksellers received an honourary membership from the League of Canadian Poets during a joint conference with The Writers Union of Canada in late May 2015. Congratulations! Photo by Okun Hill

However, McNally’s on-line marketing material razzle-dazzled me and the rest is history.  Bravo to McNally Robinson’s event coordinator John Toews and his book marketing wizards who did an amazing job. This is what impressed me and this is why I would recommend McNally’s to others. Feel free to use the guidelines for evaluating launch options in other parts of the country.

McNally’s has a Winnipeg event coordinator who coordinates almost everything. Talk about placing your trust into someone else’s hands. John Toews was friendly, patient, efficient, organized and a great listener. He made you feel like your event was special even though McNally is host to one or two book launches or events a day.

They are experienced. If you don’t believe me, see how many events they plan in a week, in a month, in a year.

They know the Winnipeg market! When the event coordinator heard I had moved away from Manitoba, he strongly suggested that I find some local writers to read with. This was one of the best suggestions I’d receive. Not only did I meet several local writers in the process but I was equally impressed by the local publisher Turnstone Press as well as Manitoba poet Carmelo Militano who accepted this outsider/stranger and made me feel welcome in this literary community.

Check out these Manitoba authors and their books Morning After You, Boy Lost in Wild,  and Magpie Days.

Check out these Manitoba authors and their books Morning After You, Boy Lost in Wild, and Magpie Days.

They started marketing the event immediately! As soon as the launch date was booked, information was posted on McNally’s calendar of events.

They are strong social media users. McNally has a large following with over 2900 likes on Facebook and 6300 followers on Twitter. What a great way to communicate with readers. For those who prefer newsletters, they also have an extensive mailing list.

They submit promotional material to the media. They have updated contact lists that would take days to prepare if you had to do it yourself.

They create posters and book displays. Imagine seeing your event notice posted prominently on their bulletin boards and stacks of your books displayed to customers as soon as they walked into the store.

McNally Robinson Booksellers are experts in organizing book signings and readings.

McNally Robinson Booksellers are experts in organizing book signings and readings.

They offer catering on location through their in-store restaurant Prairie Ink Restaurant. A variety of food and refreshments are available as an optional feature for your event.

They are honest! When I sought advice for food and refreshments, they told me my order was too large. They were right. The portions were generous. Even after downsizing my order, I still had many leftovers which my family enjoyed for days afterwards.

They share some of the expenses. Not all services are free, but the cost of a basic plan for the author is minimal ($25) and is good value for all the work that they do.

Kristian Enright, author of sonar (Turnstone Press, 2012) was emcee.

Kristian Enright, author of sonar (Turnstone Press, 2012) was emcee for the May 25 event.

Extra help is provided free during the event. Not only do they supply the chairs, mic, podium, signing table, posters, but someone can also be assigned to emcee the event.

They pay attention to little details. For example, they provide water for the guest readers and use their company name on the podium as well as logos displayed in a prominent location near the readers.

They are team players. They are problem-solvers and work well with numerous personalities.

They deliver results! What a nice surprise to not only see family and friends at the event but also strangers in the audience. For me, the smiling faces made it all worth it. McNally’s and my publisher Black Moss Press must have also been happy. For the week of May 31, 2015 my sport-themed poetry book Tarnished Trophies was ranked fifth in the Paperback Fiction category of McNally’s Winnipeg Bestsellers list.  Imagine a poetry book listed in the fiction category!!

Three weeks ago, the Winnipeg launch of Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014) was held Monday, May 25 at McNally Robinson Bookseller, Grant Park, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. For the week of May 31, the book was ranked fifth in the Paperback Fiction category of McNally’s Winnipeg Bestsellers list.

The Winnipeg launch of Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014) was held Monday, May 25 at McNally Robinson Booksellers, Grant Park Mall, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. For the week of May 31, the book was ranked fifth in the Paperback Fiction category of McNally’s Winnipeg Bestsellers list.

Special thanks to McNally Robinson Booksellers and everyone in the audience and behind the scenes who made this Winnipeg launch a highlight of my Manitoba visit! Special thanks to guest readers Brenda H., Brenda S. and Carmelo! Also thank you to my cousin T. G. Holmes who captured so many memories with his cameras. Some of these photos have been displayed on this blog. Others will be shared privately with the guests.

Finally, because I love to play with words:

If Dorothy (from the Wizard of Oz) played hockey with the Winnipeg Jets, she might have clacked her red skates together and cheered, “There’s no place like home ice”. If she played baseball with the Winnipeg Goldeyes, she might have shouted, “There’s no rush like a home run.”  Hmmmm, sometimes it just feels good to be back home in Manitoba.

Back home in Manitoba.

Back home in Manitoba.

Additional information about the photographer T. G. (Todd) Holmes can be found here.

Additional information about the May 25 readers (Brenda Hasiuk, Debbie Okun Hill, Carmelo Militano, and Brenda Sciberras ) and their work and publishers can be found here.                      

Information about booking an event at McNally Robinson Booksellers can be found here.

McNally Robinson Booksellers, Grant Park hosts literary events and launches on a regular basis. See here.

*Population stats prepared by The City of Winnipeg and retrieved from here.

The Finish Line – The End of a Book Tour

She hears the hoof prints, she teeters on the edge/this is a race, a line she refuses to cross –Debbie Okun Hill from the poem “The Finish Line” – Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press)

Merry-go-round at West Edmonton Mall, Canada

Merry-go-round at West Edmonton Mall, Canada

An author’s life is like a merry-go-round! I wouldn’t call it glamorous but it can be exciting! You grab onto the book tour reins and hope you don’t get too dizzy and fall off the saddle. When I started this literary journey, all I wanted to do was to explore the creative world through the comforts of my home. However, the reality is that once your book is published, you are often thrust outside your comfort zone and into the business field where, if you are not careful, you can lose sight of who you are or where you are going. Below are some lessons I learned along the way:

1) Everyone has a unique voice that deserves to be heard. We are all special in our own way. Be kind to each other.

On the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour to Vancouver. Special thanks to the League of Canadian Poets and the Canada Council for the Arts and it's Poetry Reading Tour.

On the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour to Vancouver. Special thanks to the League of Canadian Poets, the Canada Council for the Arts and it’s Canada Reading Tour program.

2) It is impossible to please everyone. Even the best writers have a critic. If someone doesn’t like you or your work, listen to what they have to say and then move on. You will eventually learn who you can turn to for support.

3) It is impossible to do everything. Budget your time and focus on your most important tasks first.

4) Roll with the flow. Perfection is unrealistic. We are not robots but human beings who can and do make mistakes.

5) Take time to make new friends. We learn from each other.

6) Hold onto your true friends. They will always be there for you.

7) Take time to breath.

8) Continue to find time to read and write.

9) Be yourself.

As my book tour draws to a close, you may find me hibernating behind my computer. But first, there are a number of blog posts I still wish to share….people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had. Thank you for your patience in advance. It’s been a crazy month.

Book Tours – Are You Ready?

“Breathing/so darn difficult, slow motion/craving oxygen, another bottle/quick, so much confusion/like sucking air through straws” – Debbie Okun Hill*

Roll out the suitcases. The spring 2015 book tour season has arrived. For some poetic bookworms, the thought of planning a tour produces adverse reactions similar to climbing Mount Everest. Breathing is so darn difficult!

STOP HERE! Organizing a book tour can be a steep learning curve!

STOP HERE! Organizing a book tour can be a steep learning curve! P.S. This is not Mount Everest but a mountain range in western Canada.

Not everyone likes an adventure, no matter how small. However, if you are a published author, you will need to decide whether a book tour should be part of your marketing plan. A tour can help create awareness of your book and reach markets that you normally wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise. Keep in mind, travelling is time consuming. Planning and promotions also cut into your reading and writing time. Your friends and family may question your absence at normal gatherings.

Below are some tips I have learned on my journey! I do not profess to be an expert. Other authors may have other views based on their experiences. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section at the end of this article. Let’s call it an exchange of ideas!

Plan Ahead: Start planning your tour as soon as your manuscript is accepted by a publisher. Your release date can change so don’t carve anything into your day timer until the books are in your hands. However, you can create a list of contacts and map out a rough route. Get a feel for the deadlines and what various reading groups may be looking for. 

Put your plan in writing: What do you wish to accomplish? Is your goal to sell books or to create awareness of you as an author? This will help you to stay focused.

Nail down your audience: Who will buy your book and where can you find them? Are they writers or are they readers and book buyers? How can you reach them? Think outside the box. Local library book discussion groups are often overlooked. Some writers have found success at festivals, arts shows, church gatherings, and local service groups.  Much of it depends on the type of book you have written.

Create a list of possible locations: Book tours can be local, provincial, national or international in scope. If you are a first time author, start small in your hometown or place of residence then expand outwards as you become more experienced.

Decide on a budget: Unless you are a well-known author or are a member of a professional writing organization (ie: League of Canadian Poets or Writers’ Union of Canada) it is unlikely that your publisher will have a travel budget for you.

Seek out funding sources: Both the League of Canadian Poets and the Writers’ Union of Canada has funding available for reading fees and travel. Check out their websites for additional information. Applications must be submitted well in advance. Thus, the need to be organized and to plan ahead. Another option: start your own slush fund by saving your nickels, cutting out daily expenses such as coffee at the local shop or scaling back your cell phone charges.

All Aboard! Consider travelling with a group! Photo courtesy: The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour website.

All Aboard! Consider travelling with a group! Photo courtesy: The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour website.

Treat your tour as a vacation: The cost of travel will often outweigh the revenue generated from book sales and royalties. If you consider your travels as a vacation, then your expectations are more realistic and your disappointments are lower.

Treat your tour as a business: This may contradict the above tip but like with all businesses, you still need to keep tabs on your budget. Also, be professional and courteous to your host or anyone else who helps you. This is not the time to burn bridges. 

Lighten the load: Work with various literary groups. For poets, there are numerous reading series and organizations who welcome readers to their events. Sometimes all it takes is quick e-mail expressing your interest. Some writers insist on a traditional snail-mailed letter, followed by a phone call. Experiment to determine what works best for you. Also, consider networking at open mic events. Most literary events will have a regular audience as well as a marketing plan in place.

Find a travelling buddy: Find a compatible travelling friend to share travel and accommodation expenses with you. For example, a writing friend organizes duel readings so that his writer-wife may also be featured at the same venue and time. Make sure you travel well together or the trip will be frustrating for both individuals.

Tour as a group: Watch for opportunities to travel with other writers. Often there are group discounts for rooms, flights, trains, buses. You will have to share the limelight with others, but in doing so you will gain valuable friendships that can last a long time.

Be flexible: Travelling can be challenging and sometimes flights get cancelled or readers become ill. Consider the weather-related problems associated with travelling during winter months, especially in Canada. A sense of humour is helpful. If possible have a back-up plan.

Expect the unexpected. Have a sense of humour and roll with it.

Expect the unexpected. Have a sense of humour and roll with it.

Remember to promote the tour: Even though your publisher and/or reading host may advertise the event, be prepared to do some of your own promotions via traditional local media and your own social media networks.  Where possible coordinate your efforts so everyone is aware of what is going on. Use of attractive graphics and photos will draw the reader’s eye to your message.

Learn from your mistakes: Mistakes happen. Learn to deal positively with those set-backs. Some venues will generate more sales or a larger audience than others. Discover what works for you. When you fall, get up and move forward.

Learn to Say No: Know your limitations: financially and emotionally. Determine what works for you.

Have fun: Planning a book tour is time-consuming but it can also be fun. Enjoy the journey. Should you decide to pick up the challenge and climb Mount Everest, remember: “Crampons on boots/one step in front of the other*….”  Let’s go….

Announcing my Spring 2015 book tour here.

Draw attention to your book tour with promotional graphics!

Draw attention to your book tour with promotional graphics!

See my 2014 travels here.

*from the poem “Reaching the Summit”, Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014) Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2014 Debbie Okun Hill.

Poetry Contests: Is It Poetic Gambling?

A poet’s husband once won a trip for two to St. Lucia. I call that luck! For me, buying a lottery ticket is like throwing cash into a burning roulette wheel. It’s a waste of money unless you want to support a good cause like the Canadian Cancer Society or need a stocking stuffer or a compact gift for a friend or relative who enjoys playing bingo or a scratch version of crossword.

Let’s face it, how many of us are going to win a million dollars or a dream home during our life? What would a poet even do with that kind of cash?  Buy some exotic groceries? Quit his or her day job? Purchase more poetry books and new matching bookshelves for the office? You know I’m teasing here. A retreat might be nice, perhaps some sabbatical or retirement travelling to inspire the next book? Poets just aren’t that lucky or at least I’ve never met a poet or anyone who has taken home a sack of gold coins.

Entering poetry contests can be fun. Here the ghost of Dr. William Henry Drummond appears during a contest winners reading in Cobalt, Ontario last spring 2014.

Entering poetry contests can be fun. Here the ghost of Dr. William Henry Drummond appears during a contest winners’ reading in Cobalt, Ontario last spring 2014.

I will, however, gamble or (in softer terms) take a chance with poetry contests. Below are a dozen reasons why I believe entering literary competitions can be beneficial for a writer. Keep in mind, there are also drawbacks and some writers may have varying opinions based on his/her own experiences and viewpoints. I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

  1. Contests provide a deadline. Some writers work better under pressure. Deadlines can motivate some poets into action. It helps me focus.
  2. Contests encourage writers to dig deep into their files for old poems to tweak or word snippets to expand and nurture. Recycling is good for the environment.
  3. Contests nudge writers to explore new themes or poetic forms. Some will jump start new poems. For example, some contests like The Binnacle’s Annual International Ultra-Short Competition seeks poems with 16 lines or less. (Deadline March 15, 2015.) The Betty Drevniok Award 2015 organized by Haiku Canada seeks work based on the three-line haiku format. (Deadline February 25, 2015.) Earlier this month, The Malahat Review was accepting submissions of a single poem or a cycle of poems that was between 10 to 20 pages long for its 2015 Long Poem Prize.

    The Dr. William Henry Drummond Contest is an annual contest held in conjunction with the Spring Pulse Poetry Festival in Cobalt, Ontario. Contest submissions for this year must be postmarked by February 27, 2015

    The Dr. William Henry Drummond Contest is an annual contest held in conjunction with the Spring Pulse Poetry Festival in Cobalt, Ontario. Contest submissions for this year must be postmarked by February 27, 2015

  4. Contests can introduce you to organizations and magazines that you are not familiar with. HINT: It’s vital to research an organization and magazine to not only ensure the contest is legitimate but to get a feel for what that particular market might be looking for. For example, if you are a Canadian poet, seek out professional national organizations like the Canadian Authors Association, The League of Canadian Poets and the Writers Union of Canada or provincial organizations like The Ontario Poetry Society. Check out what contests these members are submitting to. For example, The Dr. William Henry Drummond Poetry Contest was established as part of the annual Spring Pulse Poetry Festival held in Cobalt, Ontario. (Deadline: February 27, 2015.) Also consider contests organized by established magazines affiliated with universities.
  5. Contest fees help support literary organizations and magazines that might not be able to survive otherwise. HINT: Set an annual budget. Be firm with the total amount of fees you wish to spend spent and establish the number of contests you have time for. Make sure the contest isn’t a scam. It should be affiliated with a well-known organization and/or has a reputable judge. Remember some contests like those organized by The Binnacle and Haiku Canada are free so they fit well into a poet’s budget.

    The Binnacle Annual International Ultra-Short Competition is a free contest that seeks poems with 16 lines or less. This year’s deadline is March 15, 2015.

    The Binnacle Annual International Ultra-Short Competition is a free contest that seeks poems with 16 lines or less. This year’s deadline is March 15, 2015.

  6. Some contest fees include the subscription of a literary magazine. This provides valuable market research and reading material. HINT: If you are planning to purchase a subscription, why not spend a few extra dollars and enter the magazine’s annual contest?
  7. Contests can introduce you to judges and established writers who you are unfamiliar with. HINT: It’s beneficial to study a judge’s work prior to entering any contest.

    The Crooked Ledge of Another Day: An Anthology of the Bizarre spotlights the results of Ascent Aspirations Publishing’s 2014 poetry and flash fiction contest.

    The Crooked Ledge of Another Day: An Anthology of the Bizarre spotlights the results of Ascent Aspirations Publishing’s 2014 poetry and flash fiction contest.

  8. Contests can introduce you to names of past winners. HINT: One way to improve your writing is to read what other poets are writing and if possible read winning poems to determine what makes them unique or award-winning.
  9. Contests teach us about sportsmanship. Not all poems entered into a contest will win a prize. That’s the reality of both contests and general submissions. Poets like writers must develop a tough skin. Just because a work is rejected does not mean it is a poorly written poem. What one judge may dislike, another judge may treasure. The key is to keep submitting. If the work is rejected take a closer look at the poem. Should it be rewritten? Should it be work shopped with other poets? Or does it belong in a different market? Treat this as a learning exercise then move on. Even the best writers receive rejections but they continue to submit their work.
  10. Surprise, surprise. Sometimes, a poet’s submission does win a prize. If you never enter a contest, you may never experience that unexpected joy of accomplishment. Each year, a Canadian and an International writer will win the $65,000 Griffin Prize for Poetry, “the world’s largest prize for a first edition single collection of poetry written in, or translated into English, from any country in the world.” The publicity surrounding this Prize has also been known to increase book sales. However, even smaller prizes can draw a publisher’s or reader’s attention to a poet’s work.
  11. Contests can reward contributions with the publication of a poem even if the work is not awarded a top prize. For example the Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association will publish not only the top winning poems from their annual contest but will include honourable mentions and judge’s selections work in their Saving Bannister anthology. Ascent Aspirations Publishing also has an annual anthology where top prize winners are published with other selected work.

    The Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association organizes a provincial contest for Ontario residents. Their 29th Saving Bannister poetry anthology was launched last autumn 2014. Submission guidelines for their 30th poetry contest will be announced soon.

    The Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association organizes a provincial contest for Ontario residents. Their 29th Saving Bannister poetry anthology was launched last autumn 2014. Deadline for the 30th poetry contest is May 31, 2015. Submission guidelines will be posted soon.

  12. Finally, entering a contest is just plain fun. For example, every April, the literary magazine Contemporary Verse 2 hosts the CV2 Two Day Poem Contest. Registered participants receive 10 words at midnight Friday and then the new poem using those 10 words must be finished and submitted two days later. It’s a great activity for National Poetry month.

Poetry Contests: Should we even call it gambling? Absolutely not!

What are your reasons for entering or not entering a contest? Feel free to leave a comment or share this posting with your literary community.

Being Your Own Publicist – Book Promotion is a Full-time Job

         The literary race is on and I’m starting to feel like one of my poetic sports characters trapped inside my Tarnished Trophies book. There’s little time to sit on a soccer field and pick “word” dandelions. You need to step out of your comfort zone and be on tour. No time to snuggle on the couch and read a book for fun. You have no free moment. You need to attend readings, present workshops, socialize and network. Who has time to plant phrases onto a page and watch them flourish into a poetic book bouquet? You need to explore blogging then expand your followers on other social media venues.          .

Spotted in Thunder Bay, Ontario: Book launch and reading posters featuring Northwestern Ontario writers.  Well-designed digital and traditional posters can work together to help publicize an upcoming event.

Spotted in Thunder Bay, Ontario: Book launch and reading posters featuring Northwestern Ontario writers. Well-designed digital and traditional print posters can work together to help publicize an upcoming event.

           That dreaded stopwatch is ticking. Will your book be ranked in the Top 10? The Top 100? Will anyone read it? Does anyone care?

            If your goal is to write a bestseller, the odds are against you. Not only must the product, your book, be well written, but you must be prepared to spend not hours but months promoting your work. I read that producing a book is 5 percent of the labour but promoting it is 95 percent. In fact, promotional work should begin long before the book is published. Often it’s a smart idea to draft a promotional strategy before you write the manuscript. During those first three months after publication, promotional activity is definitely a full-time job.

             Part of the reason is that you have a limited window of time to prove yourself especially if you are a first-time author. Bookstores will usually display your literary masterpiece for about three months before they decide to keep it on the shelf or return it to the distributor. That is if you are lucky to have a distributor and if a bookstore decides to stock your prized volume

           The competition is fierce with new and more seasoned writers ready to snatch the reader’s dollars and push for your space on the virtual or local bookstore shelf.

            If you are a Canadian poet, did you know that at this moment there are 5,912 poetry books listed on Amazon.ca? That number includes 579 poetry anthologies and 5,596 Canadian poetry books.

            Chapters.indigo.ca showed results for 101,448 poetry books of which 4000 were Canadian and 128 had a sports theme. The competition for fiction and non-fiction work is much higher.

            Many writers dream of writing a book and seeing it published. However, how many of those writers dream of promoting their work? Based on informal data gleamed from my writing friends, only a handful are comfortable with promotional work. Most introverted writers dread publicity, see it as bragging and so they shy away from it. But why write a book, if you’re not willing to share it?

            If you are self-published and do nothing to promote your work, you may end up with boxes of unsold books in your closet. What are you going to do with them? I’ve heard several horror stories from novice writers who self-published their books without considering the market or target audience. It proved to be a financial blunder.

            If you are working with a traditional publisher, you may also have that added pressure to sell-sell-sell or your next manuscript may be rejected. If you thought securing a publisher is tough, consider how difficult it would be to attract a publisher when your first book flops. There are many hungry authors waving manuscripts on the sidelines.

            So, what are you waiting for? Confused about where to start?

Brainstorming at the Waverley Library in Thunder Bay: Every media kit should include a question and answer sheet, approximately 2 pages long but no more than 4 pages. What questions do you think the media would ask an author during an interview?

Brainstorming at the Waverley Library in Thunder Bay: Every media kit should include a question and answer sheet, approximately 2 pages long but no more than 4 pages. What questions do you think the media would ask an author during an interview?

            There’s an abundance of free information to sift through on the internet. Some authors opt to hire an experienced publicist but that can be exorbitant. Much knowledge can be derived from books.

            Did you know on Amazon.ca, there is a staggering 14,421 results for “How to Write a Book” compared with 980 results for “How to Promote a Book”? Does this mean that that there are more people interested in buying literature on writing versus promoting? If that is the case, learning all the promotional trade secrets could work to your advantage.

            Even if you’re an experienced publicist, you must keep an open mind to changing marketing trends. Thanks to NOWW (Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop), I was asked to make a presentation on “Being Your Own Publicist” at the Waverley Library in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. It forced me to examine my current promotional strategies and to realize why some strategies were no longer working. The key has always been to set some promotional goals and to determine what makes your work unique. However the methods, for attracting a targeted audience, are always evolving especially with the rapid changes with social media.

            You never know where your promotions will lead you until you try. For a fleeting second last week, Amazon.ca ranked my Tarnished Trophies as #53 in the poetry books. I had to pinch myself until I noticed that the ranking was based on a one hour interval. Some authors use this sales surge on a slow business day to boast their rankings. Is this ethical or a marketing ploy?

            For me, a book’s success doesn’t always hinge on where it ranks on a bestsellers list. These lists usually record stats for a specific period of time: sometimes a month, a week, a day or even less. The stats don’t record the cumulative sales over a lifetime. In fact, bulk sales and books sold at readings or to libraries are not factored into the total. Does the public know this?

            So relax and take all your promotions in stride. Enjoy the journey and the people you meet along the way. Often those experiences are more rewarding than striving to be number one.

        Coming soon to this blog: more literary highlights from Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Toronto, Sarnia, London and St. Catharine’s.

 

Make book promotion fun! Explore your creative side. Iron-on an image of your book cover on t-shirts, sweat shirts, canvas bags or hats. To keep costs down, special iron-on paper may be purchased from a local stationery or craft store. A dollar store may also carry inexpensive display frames or stands that can be used at book fairs and/or readings.

Make book promotion fun! Explore your creative side. Iron-on an image of your book cover on t-shirts, sweat shirts, canvas bags or hats. To keep costs down, special iron-on paper may be purchased from a local stationery or craft store. A dollar store may also carry inexpensive display frames or stands that can be used at book fairs and/or readings.

Why Bother with a Media Release?

Call me a dinosaur! When I first started working in public relations, one of my first tasks was to write a media release. I would compose the draft release using an electric typewriter, and then a secretary would re-type it into a final format, photocopy it onto 100 sheets of business letterhead, and then stuff the releases into envelopes with a stamp for snail-mailing. The year Canada Post went on strike, my boss and I spent the day travelling through the city to hand deliver each and every release.

Today, news can be facebooked and twittered, blogged and text messaged. Some might even want to pick up the phone and call. I still prefer the old-fashioned media release in e-mail format! These are my reasons:

Sample Media Release Page 1 of 2 2014-06-04 2329311. You control the content and you have one (sometimes two pages) to tell your story the way you would prefer it to be told. (The media have the right to re-work the information to suit their needs but some media outlets may use the release the same way as it is presented. So why not write it your way and take your chances?)

2. You can ensure that all names, dates, titles, etc. are accurate. (Reporters are human. It is easier to write a story if the information is written down and has already been double checked for spelling, etc.)

3. It helps the reporter. (Anything you can do to save time for the reporter is greatly appreciated. Most reporters work on a tight deadline. Make their job easier by providing them with as much detail as you think they may need. They will still ask questions, but it makes their life easier.)

Sample Media Release Page 2 of 2 2014-06-04 2331194. It helps those media outlets with limited staff. (It is difficult to produce a product with limited human resources. If the release is perfectly written, some outlets will use it as filler instead of out-of-town stories or other material that may require additional time to compile.)

 

5. It serves as an advertisement for the publisher. (The publisher’s logo should be prominent.)

Above is a sample of a two-page media release that was recently distributed! Feel free to use it as a guideline for your own book tour and/or reading. Please note there should be a margin around the edge of the media release. My scanner chopped it off.

Oh…by the way….I have a new book out…and I’m going on tour….A media release gives the author some credibility, allows him/her to move forward in a more positive light. For the introverted, shy writer, the release places most of the bragging in the publisher’s hands.

bmplogo

MEDIA RELEASE

Lambton County Poet Embarks on First Book Tour

Sarnia, Ontario – June 3, 2014 – Award-winning Lambton County poet Debbie Okun Hill travels to Toronto this weekend as part of a whirlwind schedule to showcase Tarnished Trophies, her first full collection of poetry by a trade publisher. As a new full member of the League of Canadian Poets, she will read with other professional poets, Friday afternoon during the League’s 48th Annual Poetry Festival and Conference.

Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press 2014)

Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press 2014)

Published by nationally renowned literary publisher Black Moss Press, Okun Hill’s 88-page book poetically explores the light and shadow of the sports world. According to John B. Lee, the Poet Laureate of the city of Brantford “these poems are not without humour…and the bittersweet is not too sweet, not too bitter.” Sarnia author Norma West Linder adds “the judicial use of original metaphor makes this collection a rewarding experience for the reader.”
Okun Hill’s book tour began in mid-May when she participated in The Ontario Poetry Society’s Springtime Poetry Soiree in Cobourg. Last weekend she was in Cobalt for the Spring Pulse Poetry Festival. Readings in Stratford, Ottawa, Camlachie, and London have also been confirmed with additional readings planned for Hamilton, North Bay, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg and possibly the east and west coasts.
In Sarnia, her book will be launched with two Italian-Canadian anthologies as part of the

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Lambton County Poet Embarks on Tour (…Continued from page 1)
Books and Biscotti literary/cultural event to be held Sunday, June 22. More details will be released soon by the Dante Club in conjunction with the Italo-Canadian Cultural Club/Laziali di Sarnia and Association of Italian-Canadian Writers. This October, Okun Hill will also be one of four spotlight readers featured in Sarnia’s Bluewater Reading series.
“All my life I’ve wanted to write a novel,” said Okun Hill, a former journalist and communication specialist “however, when I started writing short stories my mentors kept insisting I was a poet.” She finally listened and after 11 years of refining her craft and being involved with the Lambton County writing scene as a co-host of Sarnia’s Spoken Word event and later as an Executive Member of the Ontario Poetry Society, a provincial grassroots poetry organization, her dreams of having a book published by a traditional publisher were realized.
It took 3 ½ years to see her sports manuscript (most of it written between 2006 and 2011) in book format. She worked with both a professional editor and designer from Windsor. The cover features the work of Toronto artist Olena Kassian.
As part of Black Moss Press’s First Line Poetry Series, Tarnished Trophies will be distributed in Canada and the U.S. by Fitzhenry & Whiteside and on-line with Amazon.ca. In Sarnia the books are already available at The Book Keeper and may be borrowed through the Lambton County Library.
Since it was founded in 1969, Black Moss Press has built a national reputation for its contribution to Canadian literature. Black Moss has published more than 400 first editions and introduced more than 100 new authors to the Canadian literary scene.
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A book synopsis, short review, bio and photos available upon request.