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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Promoting Myself at Love Is Murder

Attending a conference is fun, but it's also expensive. There are travel costs, registration fees, food, lodging and time away from writing.

So...the question is, "How do I maximize my presence? How do I promote myself and my book, Paper, Scissors, Death?"

My mystery won't debut until September. Still, it seems silly to "waste" this opportunity even though I don't have a book in hand. After all, I know that I make a note of books I want to read and I might not buy them for months! Surely other people have the same habits. And, I remember from my days in advertising that it takes many exposures for people to form an impression. But those exposures can't be spaced too far apart. Waiting until my book hits the shelves means all those exposures would come AFTER the book is out. And those 6 weeks afterwards are critical because that's when sell-through happens. It makes sense to start now...if I can do it economically.

Here are all the promotional activities I've undertaken for my visit to Love Is Murder on Dark and Stormy Nights. I won't be able to tell right away which of these have been valuable. Maybe when my book comes out, I'll be more sure of what worked and what didn't.

1. Interviews--I offered to interview the headliners for LIM. This has given me the chance to ask questions of the best and brightest: Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child, Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath. Plus, the interviews were shared in the LIM newsletter, and I can now post them in the resource section of my website. My aim: To be on the radar screen of some of the nation's best authors. You never know whom you'll click with. Or who will bring you the next big opportunity.

2. Business cards--I was told to wait, but that's silly. How do you follow up a meeting without information? I had the cards printed with my book cover on the front. (A tip from Elaine Viets.) The ISBN is on everything. As my pal Angie Fox said, "It's like the Social Security number for your book." Should I get a tattoo? Nah.

3. Proposal for a presentation--My unique ability is my background as a professional speaker. So I offered to do a presentation on speaking before groups. The LIM people thought this was a worthwhile idea, and now it's scheduled.

4. Appearances--I was fortunate enough to be assigned as moderator on one panel and participant on another.

5. Panel descriptions--How do people choose which panel to attend? I tried to write my descriptions in such a way that they were full of promise...promise that I knew I could deliver. I want to brand myself as offering tremendous value while having fun.

When Romance Leads to…

A romantic encounter can make a character more real, more vulnerable and more deadly. They can move a plot along or stop it in its tracks. We’ll share our favorite racy scenes and discuss what makes a romantic climax, uh, climactic! The useful takeaway? Our list of helpful ideas for writing romantic encounters. Plus, lots of chocolate hugs and kisses to get you in the mood.

How to be a Better Panelist

Or presenter. Or guest speaker. Do your knees knock when you speak in public? Are you scared you will make a fool of yourself? Would you rather die than appear before a group? We can help. (With the speaking part. The dying on the platform stuff is up to you.) Public appearances are an important promotional tool for authors. We’ll share proven ideas used by the top professional speakers. These ideas will make your presence memorable, enjoyable and profitable. Don’t miss the handout: Top Tips for Presenters

6. Handouts--This is a key. But the handouts can NOT be self-serving. So the handout for the "Writers Dish on Writers" compiles a list of debut authors including me. I figure those in the audience are looking to expand their TBR list. For "How to Be a Better Panelist. Or Presenter. Or Guest Speaker." I created a list of tips. Some are on the handout, but the list was so extensive, the majorityare going on my website under "Resources." They should be up by Monday. For "When Romance Leads to..." I compiled some of the best thoughts from those who do a cracker-jack job of writing romantic scenes, and I added Internet and traditional book resources. Of course, on all the handouts, I share my details.

7. Recipe Cards and Homemade Cookies--Hokey, I know. But every time I've seen them offered, people snatch them up. On the front is a recipe, on the back is info about my book and a contest (see next), and my book cover is in color on the cards.

8. Pre-Order Contest--Vicki Erwin of Main Street Books was kind enough to agree to take pre-sales. ( 636-949-0105 ) She'll keep a list of all the pre-ordered books. From those, I'll draw one purchaser's name to be included as a character in book #2.

9. Bookmarks--Pretty standard stuff, except that I'm customizing each one with a scrapbooking embellishment. I did a trial run of these and discovered people oooohhhhed and aaaaahhhed over them.

10. Prizes--As a motivational speaker, I was always pleasantly surprised by how excited audiences got when they won something. So I had customized bags of M & Ms made up. The colors are the same as my book cover. They say "Get Kiki" on one side, and "PSD 2008" on the other.

11. A Small TBR Album--I've also noticed that folks seem really astonished that I actually do scrapbook. So I've made the most adorable TBR album to show off. It reinforces my niche and brands me.

Okay, that's it so far. Now I'm staring out the window at the snow storm and crossing my fingers that after all this work, I can actually fly into Chicago!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Unexpected Delights

Life is full of unexpected delights. Last week I was in California, by way of Dallas, visiting colleges with my son and attending a business meeting with my husband. Along the way, I had some experiences that will keep me smiling for months to come.

College Visits for Michael

The colleges we visited were SMU (Southern Methodist University) and USC (University of Southern California). The folks at SMU were incredibly welcoming. The admissions director had read through Michael’s application and told him he was a “great candidate.” (Isn't that nice?) At USC, Michael was able to interview with an admissions director. Our goal was to get him “on their radar.” Frankly, I was overwhelmed by USC’s size. But I’m keeping my mouth shut. This is such an important decision, and I want Michael to make it without hearing my concerns. What may seem overwhelming to me might be perfectly comfortable for him.Michael wants to be a civil engineer, and he wants to attend college in a warm climate. I don’t blame him. The cold is hard for me in every way. In fact, I always feel poor when I’m cold, perhaps because when I grew up we had a coal furnace. That gaping maw in the basement had to be fed, and coal was a precious resource. We woke up each morning cold, and I’ll never, ever forget that. No matter how much my life has changed, cold still strikes a chord with me at a deep, emotional level.

Steinway Dealers Meeting

After our college visits, we went to the Balboa Bay Club for the annual Steinway Piano Dealers meeting. It’s always wonderful to connect with old friends—dealers, representatives, and artists. Steinway does it right. Everything is always first-class. We’ve known the new President of Steinway Americas Ron Losby for literally decades now—and Steinway couldn’t have chosen a finer man as a leader. It was also fun to see the Steinway owners Kyle Kirkland and Dana Messina. Dana’s wife gave birth to their second child, a daughter, this week and Dana was obviously a thrilled parent.

At the annual dinner, Steinway always has a guest Steinway artist as entertainment. One year it was Roger Williams, the greatest selling pianist of all time, another it was Randy Newman. This year we sat at a table with legendary artist Leonard Pennario, and Roger Williams dropped by to say that Leonard was the reason he’d become a pianist. How cool is that? By the way, Roger Williams is a real charmer.

Introducing Joja Wendt

This year, Steinway introduced us to Joja Wendt. He was extraordinary—young, amazing and personable. He reminded us all of Victor Borge. I was especially taken by his piece Asterius feat Dieter Falk. In fact, I loved it so much, I’ve downloaded it on my IPod. You have to imagine how fast his fingers moved as he played. You can hear it for yourself at:

A lovely independent bookstore

I also found time to take a long walk over to Balboa Island. There I found Martha’s Bookstore on 308 ½ Marine Avenue, Balboa Island ( and chatted with their manager Carol Crecelius. Carol loves mysteries, especially cozies. For any of you authors out there, make a note of her name—she’s a great contact.So…while my trip was hectic, it proved delightful. I hope you’ll check out Joja and Martha’s Bookstore. They’re a couple of real gems I uncovered on my travels.

I'll be at Love Is Murder

I'll be at Love Is Murder on Dark and Stormy Nights in Chicago, Friday February 1 through Sunday February 3.

On Friday, I'll be hosting a session called "How to be a Better Panelist." Here's the description:

How to be a better panelist. Or presenter. Or guest speaker. Do your knees knock when you speak in public? Are you scared you will make a fool of yourself? Would you rather die than appear before a group? We can help. (With the speaking part. The dying on the platform stuff is up to you.) Public appearances are an important promotional tool for authors. We’ll share proven ideas used by the top professional speakers. These ideas will make your presence memorable, enjoyable and profitable. Don’t miss the handout: Top Tips for Presenters.

Please stop by and say, "Hi!" (I'm bringing cookies!)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Some People are Just Plain STUPID

Monday is Martin Luther King's Birthday. It's also special for another reason: It's the day we brought home our rescue dog, Rafferty.

Two years ago, I told my husband I wanted another dog to keep our prissy Miss Victoria company. Of course, David said, "No," and later relented. "But it has to be a Bichon," he said. "I don't want fur all over the house."

My son and I checked out the local humane society. There we saw a three-legged dog. "A three-legged dog would be soooo pimping," said Mike. But that particular three-legged dog did not play well with others, so he wasn't an option. "Think about it, Mom," said Mike. "Who wants a three-legged dog? Nobody. So we have to give a three-legged dog a home."

Okay, our new family member had to be a Bichon, had to have three-legs, and he had to be young. We'd just lost our dear pet of 15 years. We couldn't go through that again.

My husband smirked. I'm sure he was thinking, "Right. Good luck finding a three-legged, young, Bichon."

But I had the power of the Internet at my disposal. I discovered Small Paws, an animal rescue agency. They had 119 dogs who needed homes. All of them were at least part-Bichon. Many were full-blooded. And there he was...Rafferty.

So that's how Raffi came to live with us. In the weeks that followed between finding him on the list and having our application approved, I worried that someone else would take him. But I needn't have been concerned.

"You're the only one who asked about him. He'd been on the list for months," said the volunteer.

I wondered why.

"Most people who want Bichons, want them to show off. Because they're pretty. I guess a three-legged dog doesn't fit their definition of pretty," said the volunteer.

Well, here's what I think. Those people are just plain STUPID. Rafferty is beautiful. And I love him. He's a wonderful, wonderful guy.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Nerves...How to Control Them When You Speak

Because I once made my living as a motivational speaker, people often assume I don’t get nervous when I speak. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, every professional speaker I’ve met—and I’ve met a lot of the big names in the field—gets a touch of anxiety before stepping up to the microphone.

And yet, they do it. They get right up there and speak.

How do professionals control their nerves? What do THEY know that you don’t?

First of all, they know they are prepared. They have practiced their presentations hundreds or thousands of time. Out loud. That’s the key; they’ve harnessed the power of muscle memory. Muscle memory is why you can hop on a bicycle after years out of the saddle and ride off into the sunset. Muscle memory kicks in whether or not your “thinking” brain is engaged.

Second, they understand that a little nervous energy is a good thing. Better to be excited and energized than lethargic and boring. As one of my friends once said, “Sure I get butterflies. The trick is to make the butterflies fly in formation.”

Third, they’re prepared for the things that inevitably go wrong. They have fun comebacks for when the microphone squeals. “Must be microphone mating season!” Or when they forget what to say next. “Okay, any mind readers out there? What was I going to say? Any ideas? Me neither!” Or even, gulp, hecklers. “Did my ex-husband send you?”

Fourth, they know that NO ONE expects the speaker to be perfect. In fact, people don’t like perfect speakers. They like speakers who care about the audience, not speakers who are overly concerned about making a mistake. One corporate trainer I knew regularly dumped a cup of coffee on himself the first day of his week long training sessions. Why? He wanted the group to know he wasn’t perfect, and he wanted them to relax. He did that by making the first mistake.

Next month I’ll share with you tips for getting an audience to like you BEFORE you ever say a word.

Meantime, if you are coming to Love Is Murder, I’m presenting “How to be a Better Panelist…Or Presenter …. Or Guest Speaker.” The handout and tip sheet should be useful. Stop in and say, “Hi!” I’d love to meet you.

And if you need help before then, check out my textbook Using Stories and Humor: Grab Your Audience ISBN: 0-205-26893-5. It’s recommended by Toastmasters International.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

News from My Little Corner of the World

Sometimes, life just isn't fair. And the most talented among us get overlooked. For example, my good friend Tony Hooper emailed me last week with this lament:
Dear Joanna,
Walter Bargen narrowly edged me out to become Missouri's first Poet Laureate. I probably should have steered away from controversy in my poems, one of which began:

I think that I shall never see
A state so fair as Missouri,
I love her highways, streets, and roads;
Some have potholes, some are closed.

Next time I'll send something from my nature series, like:

The doe stood boldly on my lawn,
Munching hostas with her fawn.
Two shots ripped the still of dawn
Now the bastards both are gone.
Were it not for your encouragement, I don't know how I'd carry on writing.

I share his pain.Last Monday the "powers that be" closed down a five-mile stretch of the main East-West corridor in our city for two years. Eeeek!!! What a mess. And the deer? No exaggeration, we have 100 deer per square mile in the suburb where Tony and I live. At any given time, a dozen of them are in my yard eating the lawn, flowers, shrubs, and trees. This photo is one I took of two babies sporting their winter coats. When I first saw them last Spring, they were--seriously--knee-high. I thought they were stray dogs! Unfortunately, the deer have no natural predators. Each week there's a new carcass at the side of the road. One municipality decided to "airlift" the animals and take them to a new location. They died of terror. Truly, I believe the herd should be culled. It's not fair to them. There's not enough to eat, they get hit and maimed by cars, and their interbreeding is causing birth defects like the buck we saw two years ago with the misformed leg. Yes, they also drive us homeowners nuts.

Tony's wife trains guide dogs, and Suzanne has to keep dosing them for parasites because the pooches eat so much deer poo. Our lawn and flowers get torn up on a regular basis. My husband wants a tee-shirt that says, "Kill Bambi" on the front. And yet...and yet...we all rush to the windows to watch the parade as the herd wanders through the yard. The sight of the little ones causes my heart to soar. As does the sight of their white flags bouncing into the woods behind the house. So...Tony isn't poet laureate, and the deer still roam freely. Life doesn't lend itself to neat packages tied up with ribbons. Sigh. That's the news from my corner of the world.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Best of British Scrapbooking 2007

Since 2004, I’ve been judging The Best of British Scrapbooking, a contest I started in the UK to spotlight new talent. When I began the contest, people wondered if there was really enough talent – and enough scrapbookers – in the UK to support a competition. As the days ticked down closer to the contest deadline, I worried a bit. But I shouldn’t have. There was a huge stack of entries, and my judges and I worked all day to make our selections.

Two of those judges Mary Anne Walters and Shimelle Laine went on to work as Design Team Members for ScrapBook inspirations, a UK magazine. And ScrapBook inspirations went on to host the contest, announcing it, collecting the entries, coming up with the prizes, showcasing the winners.

But I’m still the judge. And choosing a few winners was really hard because the field was so terrific. My “Overall Winner” was Klara Wilson. Her “Reaching 18” page was phenomenal. She put her heart and soul into the layout. I also loved her Grandma Olga page. The use of flowers, patterned paper and stitching was so unusual. There was an economy of words, and yet…she told us a lot about her grandmother.

Over the next months, I’ll share more of the winners’ work. Prepare to be knocked out. I always am!