Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Low Cost Book Publicity

by Bill Johnson       

As the office manager for a writers group with over 1,750 members, I'm often asked by newly published or self-published authors, what do I do to promote my book in my local area?

First, it's easier to get an announcement about a talk into a local newspaper than a lone author doing a book signing. Many authors have some lifetime experience they can speak about at a local library. And some libraries also allow book sales for a nominal commission.

If you can't arrange a talk through a library, local community colleges often rent rooms on weekends for a small fee, and such locations generally offer easy parking and access.

Using a space at either a library or school also lends some status to your talk.

If these spaces aren't available to you, many communities have arts organizations, some that meet in publicly subsidized spaces. They can also be a resource for renting a room to hold a talk.

Retirement communities also will host speakers (or performers in general).

My most dependable resource for getting the word out about these kinds of events has been a local alternative weekly (most major cities have one). These weeklies generally have a bulletin board in their print editions that anyone can put notices in for .95+ cents a word. (Online bulletin boards are vastly cheaper, but you get what you pay for).

If you have an event, always keep fliers about it in your car. Bookmarks and post cards are also good resources that you can distribute; Avery provides templates for creating them. There are online services that will print small quantities of inexpensive business cards that can include the cover of your book and info about an event.

If you are near a community college, see if they have a continuing education program that offers non-credit classes. Such programs are frequently open to instructors with new class ideas. Teaching a workshop at a community college will help raise your newsworthy standing.

If you are determined to do a book signing at a book store, I suggest you set up a signing with at least three other authors who write in a similar genre. I've known authors who banded together to set up a signing at a table in a mall during a literary-themed time (like a national poetry month).

I advise new authors to think long and hard about putting down money for table space at another author's book fair, unless money is not an issue. If you choose to be involved in a book fair, look for one that is part of a larger event that generates foot traffic.

If you do want to do a book release party, contact a local book store and see if they can accommodate you. Many book stores are set up to handle authors giving short presentations. This is where a well-designed media kit can make a great first impression.

Prlog offers a free service for sending out PR announcements. I've never had great success with these kind of announcements for local author events getting picked up for distribution, however. Some of these services send announcements to link farms that are set up to automatically post every announcement received, so don't be fooled by promises of wide distribution if you'll just sign up for a service that costs hundreds of dollars.

If you can't get a response from a major newspaper in your area, contact someone at your local neighborhood paper. I've known a number of authors who have been interviewed and featured in smaller, community papers.

Does your town have a local public access radio station called Golden Hours? See if you can get interviewed about your book.

Whatever kind of event you set up, NEVER depend on anyone else (including book stores, loved ones, friends, or fellow authors) to send out your event/meeting/workshop PR. Always do it yourself to be sure it gets out. And if you send out notices to local papers or magazines, make the effort to read their submission guidelines. A third of the PR notices I receive are deleted because the authors didn't bother to find out my guidelines, like someone sending me a website link and telling me I can go there and write an announcement for them.

Ask your extended family if anyone has any media contacts or would be willing to do a book review and post it online. In general, the more relevant links you have on the web, the higher your search engine rating (some search engines discount links posted on link farms).

Authors Den now offers contacts for people who do inexpensive book reviews.

Writing a book is a creative process, but marketing a book requires a different kind of mental focus, determination and planning. But if you put yourself out there in the world, you'll come across avenues to promote your book you never knew existed.


To read some of my longer reviews of popular movies, visit my website or check out my writing workbook, A Story is a Promise, available on Amazon Kindle. Or, find me on Google+ and tell me what you think.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Writing the Emotionally Resonant Character, by Rosanne Parry

Rosanne ParryOne of the pleasures of great fiction comes when a character you love takes an action that you didn't foresee and yet is so right for the character that it feels inevitable. You find yourself saying, "Of course! That's so like her!" The flip side of the experience is the character whose action so surprises you that you scratch your head and flip to the cover just to make sure you're still reading the same book. That's emotional resonance at work (or not at work in the second example.) Character interviews and charts listing personal appearance and habits are an excellent beginning, but how do you move into the realm of what makes a character internally consistent and emotionally true? To get at the deeper character, a writer has to ask herself deeper questions. Here are two to get you started.
What is the virtue that my character's family or friends or community values most highly? What is the worst sin this character could commit in his social circle?

For example, soldiers don't leave men behind. They will risk everything to bring the body of a fallen soldier home. This has been true since Hector and Achilles were fighting at the gates of Troy. The worst shame and guilt that a soldier suffers is from a failure to protect his men, even in death.

This question gets at the heart of what motivates your character's choices, and gives you a basis for escalating the conflict in your story. The more you put a character at odds with his personal moral compass, the more tension you will have in your scenes. It also protects you from unintentionally making a character choose something that is inconsistent with his values. For example a good soldier may well leave bodies on the field in retreat, but he would never do so without exhausting every option and suffering remorse. Having your character's core virtue or sin firmly in mind helps keep that character consistent and emotionally resonant.


Author Bio: Rosanne Parry

If you are interested in exploring these ideas further, please consider taking Rosanne Parry's conference workshop Character and the Seven Deadly Sins. Rosanne is the award-winning author of Heart of a Shepherd and two other novels. She has taught workshops at Fishtrap, SCBWI, NCTE and numerous schools and book festivals across the country. She lives in Portland.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Authors Road Interviews Phil Caputo

Philip Caputo

Writer #18


For most of us of a “certain age,” the Vietnam War had a radical impact on our lives. For Philip Caputo, the impact was felt in many different ways, one of which resulted in a long and successful writing career becoming the focal point for his first published book, A Rumor of War.

On a cool day near the Mexican border in Arizona, we met with Philip and had the pleasure of hearing many of his stories about his writing career. It's a career that began with his publication of two poems while he served with the first Marine Corps battalion sent to Vietnam. After he returned to the U.S. he began working as a journalist, then as a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune assigned to Moscow during the height of the Cold War. He also wrote on a team of reporters awarded a Pulitzer Prize for their expose of Chicago voter corruption, covered the fall of Saigon, reported from the front line of numerous wars around the world, and wrote stories on some of the earth's most amazing animals. His adventures have been the inspiration for more than a dozen fiction and nonfiction books, and articles for National Geographic, Esquire, and many other major publications.

We’re certain you’ll enjoy the time we spent with Philip, a gifted storyteller and a writer with much to share.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Jessica Morrell Hosts Summer in Words (Oregon Coast)

Writers of all levels can be inspired from some of the best in their field at the 5th annual Summer in Words Writing Conference.

Dates: June 15-17, 2012 in Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Theme: Refinement, Resonance & Renewal.

Keynote speaker: best-selling author Chelsea Cain.

Her Heartsick series is now in development with FX Network.

Other instructors: Sage Cohen, Jessica Glenn, Jessica Morrell, Naseem Rakha, Bruce Holland Rogers Discount room rate at the Hallmark Inn is available through 5/17.

Enjoy an intimate conference experience overlooking Haystack Rock. SIW provides aspiring and established writers the opportunity to hone their writing skills, hear inspiring advice, and network with fellow writers.

Cost for all three days is $265.00; single day pricing is also available. For information contact conference coordinator Jessica Morrell at 503 287-2150 or

Registrations can be mailed to Summer in Words, P.O. Box 820141, Portland, OR 97282-1141 or