Joanna Campbell Slan has moved, searching new blog...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tracking the Successes and the Not-So-Much Encounters

Patricia Terrell is better known as p.m. terrell, author of Taking the Mystery Out of Promoting Your Mystery. I was lucky enough to chat with her the other day--and we have a meeting upcoming--so I'll be sharing some of the great ideas I learn.

But after looking at my schedule, here's one that immediately comes to mind--tracking your responses.

Patricia keeps a file where she "debriefs" herself after an event. This shouldn't have come as a surprise to me, because that's what savvy motivational speakers do. In fact, one of the absolute best in the business, Jeannie Robertson would note which stories she told and how they went over. If she learned a new line to add, she'd make note of that as well.

And when I did something like this after Love Is Murder, I saw that by stepping away and out of the fray and examining what worked and what didn't, I really forced myself to be honest, to evaluate with care and to make "mid-course" adjustments.

You see, an author can be a nimble unit of one, or a bull in a china shop. I hope that if I pause, reflect, and make note, I can use a technique NASA calls "downmoding." When a mission isn't going as planned, the powers that be at NASA pause and decide what's important, what can be salvaged and what objective should simply be dropped.

As I panicked over my huge "to do" list today, my husband asked, "And what happens if you don't get all that done?"

I thought a minute. The answer was, "Nothing. I might disappoint a couple of people, but it's no biggie." And he nodded and said, "Exactly."

So bring it on. I'll be chugged Emergen C and Airborne, and trying to have a whopping good time. Which reminds me of another tidbit of wisdom. I recall hearing that during the filming of Nine to Five, that "old" movie with Dolly Parton, Lilly Tomlin and others, that Dolly never, ever complained about anything. One of the younger actresses remarked on this, and Dolly said, "Before I was famous, I promised myself that if I'm ever lucky enough to make a movie or be somewhere, that I'd always just be so grateful and never complain." Now, that's not probably EXACTLY what she said, but I bet it was something pretty close.

So here's to being grateful, to making adjustments, and to debriefing AFTER the event so that I can spiral up instead of plummeting down.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Upcoming Appearances

(as of August 27, 2008)

Monday, September 1
Release date for Paper, Scissors, Death

Thursday, September 11
Booksigning and presentation: Blast that (Writer’s) Block
7 p.m. CST
St. Louis Park Library
3240 Library Lane
Minneapolis MN 55426
Phone: 952-847-6125

Friday and Saturday, September 12 & 13
1-2 p.m. CST
ScrapFest 2008
Archivers in Mall of America
60 East Broadway
Bloomington MN 55425

Thursday, September 18
4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. CST
At “The U” (the bookstore on the campus of UMSL)
UMSL University Bookstore
One University Blvd.
St. Louis MO 63121
Phone: 314-516-5763

Saturday, September 20
Champagne & chocolate book launch party
6 p.m. CST
Main Street Books
307 S. Main
St. Charles MO 63301
Phone: 636-949-0105

Sunday, September 21
Online chat
7 p.m. EST

Saturday, September 27
Booksigning and Craft Demo
Noon and 2:30 p.m. CST
The Mystery Company
233 Second Ave. SW
Carmel IN 46032
Phone: 317-705-9711

Thursday and Friday, October 2 & 3
8:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. CST
Missouri Library Association
Millenium Hotel
200 S. 4th Street
St. Louis MO 63102
Venue phone: 314-241-9500

Tuesday, October 7
7 p.m. CST
Left Bank Books
399 N. Euclid Ave.
St. Louis MO 63108
Phone: 314-367-6731

Wednesday, October 8
Panel discussion and booksigning
McClay Branch Library
2760 McClay Road
St. Charles MO 63303
Phone: 636-441-7577

Saturday, October 11
Panel moderator and presentation plus booksigning
The Big Read
Mark Twain Circle and Topton Way
Clayton MO 63105
Phone: 314-863-0178

Thursday, October 13
6 p.m. CST
Program and booksigning
Kathryn Linneman Branch Library
2323 Elm St.
St. Charles MO 63301
Phone: 636-723-0232

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, October 17-19
Keynote speech and booksigning
Kingsport (TN) Times Women’s Expo
Marriott Meadowview Resort and Convention Center
1901 Meadowview Parkway
Kingsport TN 37660
Venue phone: 423-578-6632

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, October 24-26
Panel discussion and booksigning
Magna cum Murder
Horizon Convention Center
401 S. High Street
Muncie IN 47305
Venue phone: 888-288-8860

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, October 31 thru Nov. 2
Great Manhattan (KS) Mystery Conclave
Panel discussion and booksigning
Holiday Inn at the Campus
17th & Anderson Avenues
Manhattan KS 66502
Venue phone: 785-539-7531

Friday, November 7
Panel discussion and booksigning
1 p.m. CST
Jewish Book Festival
2 Millstone Campus Dr.
St. Louis MO 63146
Venue phone: 314-432-5700

Saturday, November 8
Craft demonstration and booksigning
Read Between the Lynes
129 Van Buren Street
Woodstock IL 60098-3249

Tour information updated frequently at

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Seven Days Without Showering--Don't Try This at Home

"I can go seven days without showering and I won't stink at all," said the woman standing next to me inside the gas station outside of Clarksville, Tennessee. She was addressing her comments to the young girl behind the cash register. "That's one advantage of being Native American."

Now I don't know about you, but I love learning new factoids, especially when they are so totally unexpected. So I paid for my bottle of Starbucks Frappacino, my blueberry donut, and asked her, "Really? Why is it that Native Americans are different?"

With one hand, she flipped back the curly black hair that spilled over her shoulder. The color, I noted, was blue-black. A deeper black than I've ever seen. She grinned at me, "Something about our glands. We have the fewest, you know. Fewer than whites, Asians, and African Americans."

"Is it true that Native American men don't have beards? Don't have any facial hair?" I leaned against the counter. The clerk had taken my money, given me change, and now she seemed curious as well. It was midnight, and we were the only three people in the convenience store/gas station. My husband was outside refilling the car for the third time. We were on our last leg of the drive from Florida to Missouri, a trip which took us 18 hours.

Maybe if I hadn't been locked up in a car on Highway 24 for the better part of a day, I wouldn't have been so chatty. On the other hand, this was good stuff. The kind of scoop you add to a book to give it veracity. It was also the sort of conversation you probably couldn't have tried in a formal setting. No sir. It needed the right ambiance: flickering flourescent lights, the sound of cars on the highway whizzing by, and a stacking tray of No-Doz.

"Yes, that's true. None on their chests either." The speaker cocked her head. "Well, my brother does get one or two little hairs right here," and she pointed to a spot between her breasts, "but his wife plucks them out."

"Joanna?" My husband stuck his head in the door. No telling how long he'd been listening. "Um, ladies? I need to grab my wife and get going." And then to me he gestured, "Come on. Time to hit the road."

Rats. And I had all sorts of other questions to ask.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Marketing Lessons from Girl Scouting

Remember Girl Scouts? Thinking back on it, I believe that Juliette Gordon Lowe was actually creating a marketing organization, designed to promote the idea of good self-esteem to young women. She was a remarkable woman, and obviously a smart (Girl Scout) cookie.

Let's rethink some of the precepts:

1. Make new friends but keep the old. Okay, you never know what you'll learn from a pal. I just received an email from Jess Lourey telling me that my pre-release book Paper, Scissors, Death is beating out some releases on Amazon. I didn't know that! I don't know how to surface that info, but Jess does. That's just one tiny example of how friends can help us with this gnarled world of promotion. Secondly, she noted I didn't have my book tour on my website. Gosh, I hadn't thought of that! Now I'll hop right on it! (The tour info is on the Midnight Ink site and on But that's not enough.)

2. Do a good turn daily. Each day when my google alerts pull up scrapbooking posts, I try to email at least one of the blogs and pass along an honest compliment. Will that help me? Who knows? I just know I feel good afterwards, and maybe I'm spreading a little goodwill. Of course, I sign the posts with "Joanna Campbell Slan, author of Paper, Scissors, Death: A Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-and-Craft Mystery."

3. Be prepared. I try to bring bookmarks and business cards (with my book cover) with me wherever I go. In fact, I had this great idea: I'm going to ask my local branch of the public library if I can slip a bookmark inside other craft cozies. I bet they'll say "yes," because they want to keep books pristine and recommend them. This will do both. Slipping them inside is smarter than putting them on the counter.

4. Help other people every day, especially those at home. Well, that's an easy one to overlook, isn't it? My sisters Jane and Margaret would both willingly help me, if they knew how. So it came as a surprise to all of us when I started asking questions: Do you know any mystery readers? Have any friends in book clubs? Turns out that Margaret's school has a book club. I gave her an excerpt booklet and bookmarks to give the to organizer. Jane is an online whiz, so I've asked her to help me when I get my Facebook site going.

5. Don't be afraid to ask for help. I remember something I learned years ago when I was getting my minor in psychology. When you ask a person to do a favor for you, if they didn't like you before, they will after they are asked. You see, we can't hold two competing ideas comfortably. So, the "favor granter "will decide to like the "favor asker " or feel unsettled. I'm telling myself to buck up. To ask people for help when I think they can. A "no" never hurt anyone. I can take it! Especially when the "yes" answers feel so good.

And I plan to wear a lot of green, highlighted by a great big Brownie smile.

PS Like these? I'll be posting the first in a list of ideas I've used to promote Paper, Scissors, Death on the Midnight Ink blog on August 21.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Go Tell It on the Mountain

You remember this song, right? I'm not trying to be disrespectful to anyone's religion, but I think this song title could well be adapted to our work as promoters of our books.

I think it's my job to tell anyone and everyone who meanders across my path about my books, because you never know when you are going to meet a new (potential) fan.

Let me give you a few examples:

1. I was talking with the account rep at National City Bank about transferring some money from one account to another. She said, "While we're waiting for this to go through, is there anything else I could do for you today?" And I said, "Sure! You could take a look at my new mystery on Amazon." Well, wouldn't you know it, she LOVES mysteries and scrapbooking, and she copied down my book title and told me she'd tell all her friends.

2. We said "Hi" to the nice lady in the villa two doors down from us here on Kiawah Island. She told us she was shocked because none of the renters here usually say hello, and she's a very lonely resident. "I've joined local bookclubs to get to know people," she said. And so I followed up with, "What kind of books do you read?" Then I told her about my book, and later I delivered a customized bookmark. Her daughter was visiting when I dropped off the bookmark, and my neighbor had already told her all about my book.

3. I found out that one of my doctors has a holiday boutique in her office each November. I asked if they would have an opening for me to come sell my books--and they were thrilled.

4. I talked to my sister who's a teacher about how important it is to promote my books. We changed the subject, and then, Meg said, "You know, they have a bookclub at school. I didn't even think about it, but there's no reason they couldn't read YOUR book."

5. I talked to Sonja who exercises right next to me at Jazzercise. She told me there's a book club in her association, and she's getting me the contact information.

6. At a party, I handed one of my business cards (with my cover on it) to Vickie Newton, a local news anchor for KMOV. She's planning to interview me as soon as the book comes out.

You don't have to be obnoxious. You do have to be strategic. And the conversation can't just be about you and your book...

But here's my thinking: I personally LOVE books. I really love knowing authors. And if someone shared information about his or her book with me, I'd be happy to hear the good news. As long as the person was respectful and not pushy. I'm always looking for that next new favorite author.

And I trust that there's a universe of other people who feel the same.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Promoting Your Book to Organizations

Motivational speakers often promote their books to businesses. They offer to personalize their books or individually sign them, and then to appear at a business meeting for free. There's no reason fiction authors can't do the same.

For example, my husband hosts a meeting of the St. Louis Area Music Teachers Association every year. This year, I suggested he purchase a copy of my book for each of the teachers who'll be in attendance. I'll appear at the event and personally sign them.

The sales? At least 60 books.

Maybe more, because I'll be on hand to sell additional copies to the attendees. And I'll create a flyer to go to each attendee with the dates/times/locations of local signings. Plus details on where to order (through my local independent bookseller) more personalized copies.

Okay, you're thinking, but Joanna that's YOUR husband. That wouldn't work for me!

Nonsense. I'm working on a similar event with a local realtor. She wants to buy copies for her business associates and host a signing party for me. At the signing party, she'll invite her customers to meet an area author (me!) and enjoy some light refreshments.

What's really super about this event's right in my backyard, it has no cost to me, and it will increase my local sales which may bump up my regional numbers.

Here's the key: It never hurts to offer--and I mean OFFER--your book and your presence to a business owner. They are always on the look out for a new, exciting and personal gift to give their best clients. Why not a copy of your book?

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Lesson of the Starfish

I found a starfish on the beach today.

I admire starfishes. Their power to regenerate impresses me. And most of all, I admire that even if they are missing a limb, they go on.

I think there's a lesson there. It's all too easy to give up. To throw in the beachtowel and say, "Things are going wrong. I want to cut my losses. It's time to quit."

But I wonder how often we quit right before we become successful. I imagine it's more often than not.

Sometimes I Goof and When I Do...


I did something really stupid. And my excuse? I was tired and I wasn't thinking.

I sent out an invitation in my ezine. I told people that if they would email me, I'd send them the six new journaling boxes I had created.

That was cool, and fun, and I had 22 responses by the time we hit the road for vacation. I also had my husband help me load "everything" I needed on my memory stick. Everything, that is, except the journaling boxes.

So today is Sunday, and it's after 11 p.m., and I open my email and what do I find? 46 new requests for my journaling boxes, which is MONDO-cool's the catch: I don't have the file!

So here are my options:

1. Ask everyone to wait until I return home.

2. Make a new set of journaling boxes, take it to Office Depot (I looked up the closest one in google) and have them scan it and send it to me to send along.

3. Beg some of the early recipients to send me a copy of the file I sent them.

I decided to roll with #3 for now. Let's see what happens!

Here's the scoop: In this increasingly technical age, we can do just about anything. BUT...when you're tired and not thinking straight all that technical gooble-de-gook can't help you. It's good old fashioned rest that matters, not the strength of your hard drive or how much memory your computer has.

But here's another scoop: I'm only human and sometimes I goof up. Usually when I do, it's a biggie!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Visit to A.C. Moore

We spent the night last night in Columbia, SC, and as we drove to our motel which was on Columbiana, we passed an A.C. Moore store.

Wow. Was that bashert (Hebrew for "fated" or "meant to be") or what?

So this morning my son's girlfriend Emily and I went there to do a little vacation shopping while the guys, my son Michael and husband David, gassed up and got coffee for us all.

I loved the store. What a super, super selection they had of clear stamps, paper package, and lots and lots of lovely embellishments. What I really wanted to buy was some of the new laser paper, but our SUV was packed pretty tightly, and I thought it would get wrinkled. Instead, I stocked up on colored pens, a clear stamp from the Hannah Montana collection (wanted to use the guitar on a page for my son), another clear stamp of birdies (so hot right now), a ColorBox set of inks, and some several packages of black brads to use when I customize my bookmarks.

I hope to get Emily started scrapbooking. She said she's always wanted to, and her sister does, but she hadn't caught the bug.

I have to say that traveling with my son's girlfriend is like HEAVEN for me. Usually I'm the lone female, and it's fine because I love my own company, but having a young lady with me is making this especially fun.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Road Trip

Tomorrow we'll hop in the car and try to get out of the house by 6 a.m. Yipppeeee!!! It's a road trip.

Are there any other two words so glorious in our language? I remember being little and getting up before dawn. My mom would pack the car the night before, using pillowcases for suitcases. She'd level out the well between the front seats and the back, then toss a blanket over the whole area. It became our playpen because back then, cars didn't have seatbelts and no one worried about being thrown from the vehicle.

I loved how the headlights would reveal the road as we drove. The way the streaks of pastel sherbet colors lit up the sky heralding the sun. The possibilities...

Road trip! Road trip! Road trip! Away we go!