Archive for the ‘Promoting’ Category


Neil Gaiman’s tools of marketing

January 23, 2010

Manuscript update: Wrote a first draft of my query letter in the wee hours of this morning before I dragged myself to bed. It’s not great, but a good start. A better version and the synopsis will be written next week.

I just finished reading through a New Yorker feature about Neil Gaiman and was struck by how adept he is at marketing.

As an as yet unpublished novelist, I’ve read numerous times about how the industry has changed in recent years and the author must take on the promotion of a book if it is to succeed. My author friend Gwen Cooper knew that when both of her two books were published, and her efforts helped her second book, Homer’s Odyssey, debut on the New York Times bestseller list. Not that the publishing houses don’t also promote the books, but nowadays, an author’s promotional work is what will propel a book above and beyond.

But, I must admit that I figured that established writers, such as Neil Gaiman — who, the New Yorker article says, got more attention than Angelina Jolie at Worldcon when they were both there promoting the movie Beowulf — didn’t need to do too much in the way of self-promotion. He’s such a prolific writer in novels, picture books, graphic novels and even screenplays, with two of his printed works adapted into movies (Coraline and Stardust) and five movies listed on IMDb as in development, including an adaptation of his Newbery Medal winning The Graveyard Book from last year. He has such a following that fans wear buttons saying “squeeee,” meaning the scream they give when they see him, according to the New Yorker article. And yet, Gaiman is still actively promoting his books beyond the usual book signing tours and readings the publishing house sets up.

For example:

  • Gaiman was one of the first writers to have a blog, which now counts about 1.4 million readers.
  • He has a Twitter feed, which he posts to a dozen times a day. And, apparently, even people in his employment, including his handy man and his assistant, tweet.
  • For The Graveyard Book, Gaiman read each of the book’s eight chapters at eight different book readings, videotaped them and posted them to his blog. According to the New Yorker, whenever sales of the book began to slide, Gaiman would tweet that the videos were available on his blog and sales of the book would quickly rise back up.

This is what the already established writers do to maintain their success. When our debut novels are published, we’ll have to do much more. So, watch what the big cats are doing, soak it in, and get ready. One day, you’ll be doing all this and more, much more.

Write On!


Book promotion tips

November 2, 2009

Here’s my fourth and last blog post with notes from the North Texas SCBWI conference. (See why I rave about conferences? If nothing else, they give you lots of fodder to write about on your blog. šŸ™‚ )

Illustrator Melonie Hope Greenberg gave a presentation on marketing with some very useful tips. Melonie has illustrated a number of picture books, and had a circuitous journey to get there, as she reinvented herself time and again.

The biggest take away I got from Melonie’s presentation is how much work it can take to promote your book and make it a success. Melonie showed her boxes of index cards filled with contacts from the media, bookstores, editors, etc. No only is she constantly promoting her books, but also herself as an illustrator to get future work.

To promote both her artwork and picture books, Melonie regularly sends postcards to contacts to keep her top of mind. And a lot of work goes into keeping her contact lists up to date, especially with people moving jobs.

One of Melonie’s best tips, in my opinion, was Google Alerts. (If you haven’t heard of these, Google allows you to set up alerts for specific keywords then will email you links to the top 20 web pages that have those keywords. The top 20 changes constantly as new pages are uploaded or old pages get more traffic, so you can keep the alert going for a while.) I had heard of using Google Alerts to keep track of reviews and other mentions of your name or book. But Melonie said she sets up Google Alerts for her book’s subject matter, and when she’s sent notices about other websites writing about that topic, she sends them a postcard about the book. For example, if she had a book about lighthouses, she would set up a Google Alert for lighthouses, and if, say, she gets an alert about a lighthouse club in Maine, she can send them a postcard about the book to spread the word.

And spreading the word is what it’s all about. Melonie showed that it can be a lot of work, but the pay-off — a successful career as an illustrator or writer — is worth it.

Write On!


Launch day for Homer’s Odyssey

August 25, 2009

Current word count: 27,525

New words written: 1,122

Words til goal:Ā 12,475 /Ā 347 words a day til the end of September

I got a lot of words done this morning, but I’m working on a tricky chapter and I’m not sure how it’s turning out. We’ll see in the revision. My full word count compared to yesterday’s doesn’t match the new words written today because yesterday I went through the first chapter to get it ready to take to my critique group for last night’s meeting, and I ended up cutting a couple paragraphs. My critique group really seemed to like the first chapter and the premise for the story, though, so that’s really exciting.

HomerOdysseyBookCoverToday is the launch day for Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper, a friend of mine who you might have read about on this blog. Homer is Gwen’s eyeless cat, who has been an inspiration to Gwen and is now an inspiration to the readers who’ve already read this book. If you didn’t catch my earlier posts on Gwen’s new book, here’s one about her cool website and another with the book trailer. I’m so excited for her. A wonderful day.

Gwen has a great story behind her publication of this book, which you can read more about in her article on Open Salon yesterday. She’ll also be on Day By Day Writer with Sept. 11, with a special tribute guest post about her experience with Homer and her other cats on Sept. 11, 2001 (they live in New York City, and the cats were trapped in her apartment) and how she brought that into Homer’s Odyssey.

Later, we’re also going to do an interview with Gwen about her road to publication with her first novel, Diary of a South Beach Party Girl, and now Homer’s Odyssey. It’s a great, inspirational story, so stay tuned.

If you like animal books, and especially cats, check out Homer’s Odyssey. The book has already gained a solid fan base, as Gwen has been giving out some earlier ARCs to cat-loving fans. Check out the great reviews on

You’ll be celebrating your launch day soon enough. And I’ll be happy to write about it. šŸ™‚

Write On!


Author website page

July 31, 2009

Current word count: 17,995

Words written today: 647

Words til goal: 22,005 / 360 words a day til the end of September

Additional writing: revised chaper 21 and figured out that chapter 22 should really be folded into 23. That’s next.

The new Author’s Website page is up, and you can see it through that link or in the nav bar.

I started this after yesterday’s post about Gwen Cooper’s new website, which looks awesome. And the new page includes her site as well as the websites of those writers who posted their site addresses in the comments. If you’d like yours included, post a comment here or on the Authors Website page and I’ll add them to the list. I’ll also add other author websites as I find them. I think it’s useful to be able to check out websites for authors.

The list has two unpublished writers, and I think it’s great to include them too.

I don’t have a website for myself as yet, although I do have one for my Sir Newton Books,, and I have a brief bio on there.

I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to set up a website for yourself before you’re published, butĀ I’m not sure where I stand on that. It can’t hurt, I don’t think.Ā But is it necessary? I’m not sure. IĀ have this blog, and I think that’s enough promotionĀ for meĀ for now.

But what do you guys think?

Write On!


Book trailer for Homer’s Odyssey

June 18, 2009

A friend of mine’s second book is debuting on Aug. 25, and Random House has issued a fun trailer.

The book, Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper,Ā is about Gwen’s cat, who has no eyes and manages to roam around as though he has no handicap at all. In the video, Gwen talks about how this adorable cat has inspired her own life. And Homer himself is shown wandering all over Gwen’s New York apartment. Awwww!

Bravo to Random House for doing this video and posting it onlne.

And kudos to Gwen for writing the books. I can’t wait to read it.

Got any fun book trailers you’d like to share?

Write On!


Retailers are an author’s friends

May 27, 2009

I know. I wasĀ AWOL last week. Sorry.

Actually, I was in Oahu promoting the Sir Newton Color Me Hawaii book. It was an impromtu trip, so I didn’t have time to set up too many events and get good marketing around them. But I did do two retailer events and spent the rest of the time visiting other retailers, both who carried the book and didn’t.

I did signings for the launch of the Sir Newton Color Me Cayman book, the first in the line, and they were successful. But this time, I wanted to do something that I thought would show off the nature of the book more — coloring activities. I made up two sheets featuring coloring pictures from the book then presented them to the kids and their (paying) parents, showing themĀ that there’s more fun, activities and information in the book. The kids got to choose which sheet they would like to color, then when they were done, I gave them the other sheet to do at home plus a sticker of the book’s host, Sir Newton. All of the kids at both sessions seemed as though they had a great time, although I have to admit, I think they liked the sticker best of all. Go figure. The main thing is that the book got some exposure — and some extra sales — and the kids and my husband and I had fun doing the sessions.

The rest of our time in Oahu, my husband and I visited retailers who are already carrying the book, telling them thanks for the support, giving them my business card and letting them know we’re available to help them in any way they might need. One store manager seemed a little resistent when we first went in, as though he was bracing himself for expected complaints. I can’t be sure if this was really case, but when I said we just wanted to come in and say hi and thank the store forĀ its support, he seemed genuinely surprised. And by the end of the conversation, he actually looked happy I had come in, which was a contrast to his first expression. I had asked if he gets a lot of authors coming in the store and he said, “Yeah, every day,” and the way he said it, he didn’t make it sound very pleasant. So my immediate thought was that he had had complaints from authors in the past. Again, I can’t be sure, but if that’s the case, it’s a shame.

The truth is that authors like us need retailers. We need them to stock our books, display them on shelves and recommend them to customers. Because without readers, we’re not authors. Sure we can be writers, but an author is someone who publishes books, and to publish books is to sell them, to have an audience that reads them. And to sell them, we need to promote them, but we also need the help of retailers.

As authors, retailers are our friends, and expressing your appreciation for their support and making yourself available to help them sell your books is good. Retailers will thank you for it. The ones I met did — every single one of them. It was worth it.

The other thing we did in Oahu (we didn’t have time to visit the other Hawaiian islands) was scout out stores that weren’t carrying our book that we thought should be. Although local residents can be entertained by our book, it’s geared toward tourists. And my husband and I found a number of tourist-styled stores that were not carrying our book. We took the book around with us, showed it, explained its benefits for their customers, and we got names that we can pass on to our distributor to close the sales.

So, get out and visit the retailers in your area. If they carry your book, tell them thanks. If they don’t, show them your book and explain why they should. Make friends with them. Retailers and authors need each other.


Author Interview: Rachel Dillon

April 10, 2009
Today on Day By Day Writer, we welcome debut author Rachel Dillon, a fellow member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Rachel is currently doing a blog tour talking about her book Through Endangered Eyes: A Poetic Journey Into the Wild, published by Windward Books.
Rachel Dillon

Rachel Dillon

Here’s her bio:

Rachel Dillon was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. She attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison and graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Art, emphasizing in Graphic Design. Outside of art, Dillon held a special interest in evolution and extinction and took several classes in paleontology, and geology. Her passion for animals grew as she learned more about endangered species.

Her book is beautiful, so check it out. Now onto the interview:

Rachel, I read thatĀ you were inĀ marketing. Did you always want to be a children’s book writer/illustrator, or is it something you stumbled on?

Stumbling is a great analogy. I hadn’t ever thought about writing a children’s book and most certainly not doing illustrations. It all just seemed to fall in place. My book combines all the things I love: children, animals, painting and writing. I went to UW-Madison, for art and graphic design. I was in marketing for many years after college.Ā  I think my goal now is to say, when someone asks what I do for a living, “I am an author and artist.”

Poetry is an amazing form of writing — one I’m terrible at, so I’m in awe of those who can write it. Did you study poetry before you wrote the poems for this book or is poetry something that comes easy to you?

I really haven’t had formal training in writing and poetry, other than college classes in English Literature. I know when I was growing up, I would express myself with poems and lyrics. As a mom, I love books with clever rhymes. I can’t stand rhymes that don’t quite sound right. There is a rhythm, a cadence, and a rhyming poem flows or it doesn’t. I wrote what sounded right to me.

book_cover_tee-squareYour book is about endangered animals. What is it about endangered animals that inspires you?

My sadness inspires me. My heart aches when I hear stories about animals and what has happened to make them endangered. There is something so innocent about animals. They are driven to survive. I also believe that everything has a purpose on Earth. Each species is unique and interesting, and when you eliminate one species, others will be affected. I know that extinction is part of nature, but I have read the rate of extinction is occuring at an unnatural rate.

Your painting style was inspired during a trip to Australia. Could you tell us more about that?

When I was 19, I took my third trip to Eastern Australia. My aunt and uncle live in a town called Ulladula, the sweetest place on the coast. We travelled south to Canberra, where I was inspired by all the Aboriginal Acrylic Dot Paintings. They were in galleries; on the sides of buses; in museums; and even on sidewalks. I loved the colors, patterns and textures. I learned more about the dot painting technique in books, although resources were slim in the U.S. I decided to try out the technique on some of my own art projects and loved it. Painting in dots is soothing and meditative and after 16 years, my technique is still evolving.

How did you go about designing the book? Were there specific things you wanted to achieve?

I wanted to create something unique, that children had never seen before. I wrote the text first and painted the animals second, so they were consistant with the poems. It is important to me that the children understand the issues that endangered animals face, as well as how each species is unique and has a job to do on the planet. The facts help to break down the poem for the child or reader, so it can make a real impact. I wanted to create something beautiful that people would want to take with them as they grew up.

I read that many of your poems were written on scraps of paper at a stoplight while you were taking your daughter to daycare. As a writer or illustrator with a day-job, it can sometimes be difficult to fit in your passion, and even more difficult to keep it going long enough to finish the work and see it through to publication. What kept you going? And in what ways did you make the time to finish Through Endangered Eyes?

I am a Taurus. šŸ˜‰ I am stubborn, and when I get an idea in my head, I do my best to see it through. I also had a lot of people that believed I could do it, and a lot who didn’t think I could — which motivated me more. Most of all, I believed that what I was creating was important for kids to read. I want to make a difference for animals, and this was one way I thought I could help.

Creating the book was my creative escape. It was time for me. I fit writing and painting in any time and place that I can. It is so easy to for me to pay attention to the needs of others and forget myself. My book and the commitment to my publisher was the motivation I needed to complete the project.

Talking about publishers, please tell us about your journey to publication after your book was finished.

It took a LONG time to get published. I started writing the book “Through Endangered Eyes” in 2002.

I submitted to 3 publishers in 2003. With 2 illustrations and all of my text for nine species + human.

My first publisher, Stemmer House, sent me a contract in 2004. After I thought I completed the book, they asked me in 2005 to take the book from 9 species, to twenty. Many drafts later, I thought I completed the book again in 2006.

My first editor, Craig Thorn sadly passed away in 2006. šŸ˜¦ I was released from my contract from Stemmer House in February 2007. After which, I submitted to 14 publishers. I lost count of rejections.

In February 2008, I got a call from Windward Publishing, and they wanted my book! I signed the contract with them that month. A new draft, with their suggested changes was sent to them in April 2008. After three more drafts, my book was completed in December of 2008 and published in January 2009.

What a rollar coaster ride, especially when I have a hard time being patient.

Wow! That must have been emotional. I understand you’re working on a second book, again about the wild kingdom. Please tell us about it.

My second book has a working title of “Through Desert Eyes.” I have chosen 21 desert species that are endangered from all over the world. I will include a couple of pages about desert ecosystems and how species are adapted to a dry environment. I want to talk to more specialists for this book and not rely as much on the internet research. I am very exciting about the paintings too. I have matured as an artist through this publishing process.

Could you tell us a bit about the types of things you’re doing to market Through Endangered Eyes?

At each reading I give away bookmarks, so if the kids are interested in the book, my Web address is on it, so their parents have a place to buy the book. For the teachers or event coordinators, I give out a notecard and a magnet with an image from the book on it. I have my blog, my Web site, business cards, a facebook page, and I always carry a box of my books in my car, ready to sell! I am building a mailing list from the checks I receive, so I can mail out postcards if I have a new painting out, or have an event coming up. I also have a large email list that I use to promote things. I send out a press release to the local papers and add to their online calendar, if I have an event coming up. For events that are unique, I will contact the local TV stations and see if I can do a morning show visit. I would love to be a part of a local NPR giveaway, during their fundraising event. So many options.

In the future, I want to add video of me reading my book, and audio of me reading the book; keep posting images from the classrooms I visit, and events I do. I want my blog and site to remain interesting so that people return for more information.

My favorite thing to do as a marketer is to do readings and visit schools. The comments and enthusiasm, makes the book all worth while!

What advice do you have for first-time writers and illustrators pursuing their dream?

1. Be patient.

2. Research. You’ll cut your rejections if you find out what the publisher wants.

3. Stay positive during editing. I have probably gone through hundreds of manuscript changes, not to mention changes to my illustrations before my final book was completed.

4. Lastly, believe in your work. If you believe what you have created is amazing, someone else will agree.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Rachel. Good luck with Through Endangered Eyes, and we look forward to seeing Through Desert Eyes on shelves soon. You can read more about Rachel on her website,, and her blog.

Write On!