Monday, August 2, 2010

THINKING OUTSIDE THE HEART-SHAPED BOX (Part One)


My guest is romance author, Marcia James. She holds an Interdisciplinary Masters degree in Communications and Creative Writing from American University in Washington, D.C. 

Marcia is involved in several charities and participated in a March of Dimes Celebrity downhill ski race in Big Bear, CA (Her team captain was Olympic gold medal pole vaulter, Bob Seagren.) She also spent an evening as the media escort for Tom Selleck during a U.S.O. event. (Held at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center, it was a televised, celebrity-filled Bob Hope birthday special.)

By vocation she is a freelance video scriptwriter and advertising copywriter. In addition to developing marketing and promotional materials.

Marcia also offers a two week online workshop on author promotion that offers lessons on topics, such as niche marketing, author branding, and co-promotion/cross-promotion. Marcia's next workshop is August 15 - 28 and will include guest lectures from the following PR-savvy authors and publishing insiders: Melissa Alvarez, Dianne Castell, Carol Ann Erhardt, Karen Harper, Susan Gee Heino, Kathy Kulig, Donna MacMeans, Michael Matthew, Janice Maynard, Karen McCullough, Beth Morrow, Patricia Sargeant, Kay Stockham, and DeNita Tuttle. For more information on this workshop, please visit: http://neorwa.com/index.php/Workshops/Workshops


It is pleasure to have promotion savvy, Marcia, here Over Coffee to talk a bit about hidden promotion ideas for authors. She will be visiting today and again on Wednesday.


Even a small amount of daily or weekly self-promotion cuts into an author's writing time. That's why you have to decide carefully which PR options are right for you and your books. The romance-reading community is huge and voracious, but finite. If you can spot elements in your books that lend themselves to niche promoting, you can win new readers and help grow the romance market.



This is what I call "Thinking Outside of the Heart-shaped Box". Look at the different elements in the book you're promoting to see which groups might be interested in it. For example, since my books have Chinese Crested hairless dogs in them, I joined an international message board about “crestie dogs” to chat with people who not only are great subject matter experts when I need detailed information on cresties, but are also interested in buying books that feature the breed.


Here are some "niche promotable" book elements:



1. Hero and heroine's vocations – What are your protagonists' professions? If your heroine is special events coordinator, there is a professional association for people in that field. If your hero is a veterinarian, you can look into marketing to the veterinarians’ professional association.

2. Hero and heroine's avocations – What are your protagonists' hobbies? You might have a character who collects vintage cars, and there are many groups of vintage car owners. Your hero or heroine might knit or quilt (okay, your Beta hero might do these things!), and there are knitting and quilting groups online and maybe even in your community.


3. Hero and heroine's sports/physical activities – Do your protagonists play softball or volleyball, fish, jog, hike, canoe, etc? There are groups devoted to all sorts of sports.

4. Hero and heroine's charitable activities – Do your protagonists volunteer for Big Sisters, Special Olympics, homeless shelters, or animal rescue? Is your hero or heroine dealing with a medical challenge, such as cancer, or a physical disability? Charities -- and the people who support them -- love to know when their causes are mentioned in a fiction book.

5. Four-legged characters (not counting shape-shifters!) – There are many, many organizations for those who love animals. And there might be marketing opportunities at a Humane Society fundraiser (you could donate a themed basket with a signed copy of your book) or a pet adoption fair.

6. The timeframe and location of your novel – If you write historical novels, there are groups interested in many historical eras. For example, there are Renaissance Fairs and Civil War reenactments that might offer a chance to promote your work. If you set your books in a certain city, state, or country (and maybe feature events specific to that location), there might be events that offer marketing opportunities, such as a state bicentennial celebration, the Kentucky Derby, a Scottish festival, an art fair, a jazz festival, or a Taste of the Town.

7. Paranormal, science fiction (s/f), or fantasy elements – Quite a few romance authors in these subgenres promote their books at s/f or fantasy cons. There are also groups who are into vampire lore, shape-shifters, and dragons.

8. Elements that would appeal to specific fans – For example, do you have an Elvis impersonator in your book? Is your heroine's younger sister a Jonas Brothers' fan? Does your hero love film noir or NASCAR? There are groups for all of these.

On Wednesday, August 4th, I'll talk about niche marketing resources and other PR tips.
  • Until then, I'd love to hear about your book elements and creative ways you can promote with them!

A randomly chosen commenter will win a free e-book, my comic romantic suspense, At Her Command.



Marcia James’ short story, Love Unleashed, was part of All Romance eBooks’ American Heart Association fundraiser in February 2010. Marcia offers her 300-page file of author promotion options free to any writer who requests it. Just email her through the “Contact Me” page on her Web site: http://www.marciajames.net./

Marcia James, when she isn’t penning romantic comedies with elements of mystery and suspense, is a freelance video scriptwriter and advertising copywriter. In addition to developing marketing and promotional materials, she writes romance articles for her local weekly newspaper. After years of dealing with such sexy topics as how to safely install traffic lights, Marcia is enjoying “researching” and plotting steamy love scenes for her romance novels with her husband and hero of many years.

In her spare time, Marcia enjoys volunteering for non-profit organizations. One of the benefits is networking with celebrities. Thanks to her involvement with good causes, Marcia asked the guests at her 1989 wedding to donate to charity vs. buying gifts. Word of the “non-profit wedding reception" reached People Magazine which covered event. (Her wedding was also featured in The Washington Post and Brides Magazine.)

25 comments:

Tonya Kappes said...

Hi Marcia!!! I'm glad to see you here having coffee. Marcia has to best hand cuffs and my four boys always fight over them after I see Marcia. BUT at the Lori Foster event, Marcia was sooo nice and gave me four pairs to take home. LOVE MARCIA!!

Plus my heroine carries and uses a mini keychain flashlight during her sleuthing nights and WHEN my book get pubbed, I'm going to buy those in bulk! So fun!

Marcia James said...

Hi, Tonya! Glad you and your family like my thumbcuff keychains. ;-) I like your idea of using a mini keychain flashlight as a PR giveaway. Female readers in particular like miniature items. It sounds like your flashlight idea works well with the book you mentioned, but you can save money by buying PR materials in even larger quantities if you pick an item that you can use to promote your brand (vs. one book).

I'm not suggesting including a flashlight in each of your books' plots, but maybe you can choose a tagline that works with the PR giveaway -- tying the giveaway to your brand. E.g., "Light up your nights with Tonya Kappes' romances." ;-)

I look forward to reading your book when it comes out! Have a great day!
-- Marcia ;-)

Marcia James said...

Hi, Sia! Just wanted to say a quick thank-you for hosting me on your blog today and Wednesday! I love talking about self-promotion.
-- Marcia ;-)

Mason Canyon said...

Sia, you've introduced me to another great 'new to me' author. Thanks.

Marcia, these are great tips. Just goes to show that a book doesn't necessarily fall under one genre. It can be a romance, but has mystery and intrigue, plus a lovable 6 pound cat (or dog) and then there is a little something for different people. BTW, love the cover of your book.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Marcia James said...

Hi, Mason! Thanks for your kind words. ;-) The LOVE UNLEASHED cover is my favorite of my covers. I just found out I'll have a Holiday novella out in December from Liquid Silver, and I look forward to seeing what their art department comes up with for that.

Have a great day!
-- Marcia ;-)

Dana Fredsti said...

I love innovative promotional ideas and your post certainly offers a lot of food for thought! Looking at it that way, the opportunities seem relatively endless..

Marcia James said...

Hi, Dana! There are definitely an incredible number of PR opportunities out there. One of the first things I go over in my self-promotion workshops is a way to narrow down one's best PR options based on such things as your personality and skill set and your book's elements, as well as your time and cost constraints.

I think we authors have enough pressure on us; we shouldn't feel guilty for not taking advantage of every promotional opportunity out there.

Happy promoting!
-- Marcia ;-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

You make some good points Marcia. Promotion/marketing is always looking for opportunities. As authors, creating name recognition and building a readership is paramount. Readership needs to be broadbased to support the product--your books. Most advertisers look to create a need or a want for a product and very creatively. Authors can do the same.

I like your point in the comment to Dana. "...narrow down one's best PR options based on such things as your personality and skill set and your book's elements, as well as your time and cost constraints."

Each person has their strengths and they need to learn what they are and how to use them. What works for one author may not work for another.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Marcia -

Love that cover for Love Unleashed.

Not sure there are many occupational communities for Dukes and Lords (grin). Maybe I can find one for wanton women - that's a community I'd like to join (ha-ha!).

Seriously, promotion is becoming ever more important to an author as the brick and mortar bookstores decrease. I enjoy face-to-face promotion (as opposed to "in your face" promotion (he-he) - but that certainly limits my audience. To me, doing the promotion is harder than writing the book! And certainly as time-consuming.

Marcia James said...

Hi, Sia! I think many authors groan when they think about PR because to them promotion equates to doing things they don't enjoy. For example, most shy writers don't like presenting workshops or power-schmoozing. So authors can get rid of some of that "PR dread" by choosing options that mesh with their personalities.

-- Marcia ;-)

Marcia James said...

Hi, Donna! {{waving from across town}} It's true that your book elements determine what niche marketing opportunities are open to you. But you can look deeper into your books vs. just the fact that you have Dukes and Lords in your Regency romances.

For example, if you had an organ grinder in your book, there's a British Organ Grinders Association. Or if your heroine's family ate off Wedgwood, there's a Wedgwood Society of Great Britian. (Those aren't good examples since I understand that Regencies are harder to sell in England.) But it shows that there are niche markets for almost everything. There are probably societies of people who like to learn the dances and cards games that were popular in the Regency era. ;-)

Promotion can definitely take up a lot of time. That's why it's good to go in with other authors (like you do) to cross- and co-promote.

Glad you made it back from the RWA conference!
-- Marcia ;-)

Sheila Deeth said...

Thanks, and perfect timing. My first eBook's just come out. So... hero's vocation, interests... sci fi, history, time travel... working on it.

Marcia James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marcia James said...

Hi, Sheila! Congratulations on the release of your first book! (I had to repost this comment because the formatting got messed up.) I hope your e-book sells really well. ;-)

At the risk of sounding immodest, I really think authors at all stages of their careers can use the information in my online workshops. In addition to my own lessons, I have lectures by 14 other authors and PR-savvy people. Those who take the course end up with a PR Primer, if they print out the lessons. Plus we always have a great time. ;-)

Happy promoting and nich marketing!
-- Marcia ;-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hey Sheila, good to see you and congrats on the book!

Marcia, I'm not one of those shy writers. I enjoy doing workshops and seminars. Did them for many years. But public speaking is hard for many, not just the shy. But I do believe meeting the fans and RWA and other types of booksignings are a good way to get past the jitters. Or join in on a small segment of a seminar, know your material. It helps difuse the nerves because you're not carrying the whole workshop.

Your workshop sounds fun and you have some great lecturers. :-)

Marcia James said...

Sia -- Being on a panel vs. doing a workshop by oneself is definitely easier. ;-) I'm an extrovert, but I still don't enjoy public speaking. I think shy writers can still get the PR bonus of doing a workshop by doing an ONLINE workshop; that way, it's not really public speaking. Or they can choose different PR options altogether.

-- Marcia ;-)

Kat Sheridan said...

Love the promotion ideas! I write historicals and always wondered what kinds of promotions might work. You have me thinking in new directions!

Marcia James said...

Hi, Kat! Thanks for the kind words. ;-) Contemporaries might lend themselves to niche marketing a little more than historicals, but there are still lots of PR things for historical authors to try.

Best wishes on your promotion!
-- Marcia ;-)

Stephen Tremp said...

I recently did a Blog Radiointerview for 90 minutes. This whipped me into shape as I really needed to know my stuff inside and out. I'm also lining up book signings, events, and interviews for the re-release of Breakthrough.

Stephen Tremp

Marcia James said...

Hi, Stephen! You are very brave to do a 90-minute interview! I've done a 30-minute radio interview and a number of print ones, and it does make you polish your answers and learn them. ;-)

It sounds like being "on" in public doesn't intimidate you, so you've picked some PR options that work for you but might not be suited for everyone. "Break a leg" on your upcoming promotional challenges! Best wishes for lots of sales!

-- Marcia ;-)

HollyJacobs said...

Marcia, Love the cover! Great promo suggestions.

Marcia James said...

Hi, Holly! Thanks for stopping by!
-- Marcia ;-)

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Marcia,
These are great suggestions. Thanks for posting.
Hi Sia,
Thanks for hosting Marcia.

Cheers~

Marcia James said...

Thanks, Nancy! Sia is posting the second half of my niche marketing guest-blog tomorrow.
-- Marcia ;-)

Marcia James said...

The winner of my e-book, AT HER COMMAND is...

Sherilynwinrose!

If you email me at Marcia@MarciaJames.net, I'll attach the e-book to the reply.

Thanks again to everyone who stopped by my guest-blog, and a special thanks to Sia for hosting me!
-- Marcia ;-)