Publicity 101 for Authors: Put Your Best Foot Forward

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a Type A personality. You won’t find me out holiday shopping after Thanksgiving. I get this done before Thanksgiving. And, in November, I start to plan my publicity schedule for the following year.

Two new events– among the regular ones that I normally schedule– are poetry events. One is a haiku workshop at the Women’s Exchange in Winnetka, IL, (Chicago metro area). It will be held, Tuesday, March 13, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Also, I will be exhibiting my haiku/art  from Saturday, April 21 through June at the Arlington Green Executive Center in Arlington Heights, IL. You’ll hear more about these first-time events as the date gets near, and about my regular events, too.

Further, I’ll be spending 2018 organizing the format of my seventh book– this one, a poetry book, with something for all poetry buffs. It will be published in 2019. (I won’t reveal its details now.) And, of course, I’ll be busy “writing for money” with my usual editing and publicity projects–something I hope to be doing for the next couple decades.

My best advice to any serious author who wants and needs publicity is to always plan months in advance for important events.  Many venues, such as libraries, plan their schedules about four months in advance, so it’s best to contact many places five or six months in advance with proposals.

It’s important to graciously accept a chance to speak. As a writer, I am not picky, and I make it a rule  to try to accept all invitations, as each one often leads to something bigger. This attitude is just good PR. If you truly believe in yourself and your book, share yourself and your book with others.

Don’t under any circumstances act like a Prima Donna and be difficult to work with. I remember long ago, in the mid-90s, I hosted a radio poetry program on public broadcasting. It amazed me how some poets acted as if they were celebrities who needed to be accommodated at all costs.

One poet told me emphatically that she didn’t want to discuss certain things on my show.  She never bothered to ask me what I wanted to discuss. What a pain! As someone who has sought publicity for my own books for nearly thirty years, I am experienced and polite enough  not to dictate what I want to discuss.  I do what is needed by the host, unless I feel inexperienced to discuss a certain area. If so, I say so.

My point is, exercise “good business and social skills” in dealing with prospective interviewers or book reviewers. Why would anyone invite you back for more or recommend you to others if you are difficult to work with?

I always make myself available and cheerfully accept an invitation, asking the host or reviewer or interviewer how I can help them to help me produce a good program or good review. Do they want me to provide some interview questions that they can use? A lot of interviewers do.

On my radio program, I  interviewed a poet who tried to match wits with me, and even told me I didn’t know what I was talking about. How rude to go on someone’s show and try to embarrass her. Needless to say, I have shunned her ever since. And this rude and gauche person even tried to befriend me on Facebook twenty years later! Of course, I didn’t respond. (I have come to learn that she deals with everyone she comes in contact with in much the same manner.)

Keep in mind that you are not a unique author. No one is unique. You can joke about being unique in a lighthearted way with friends, if you wish, but make sure everyone can tell you are joking.

Still another anecdote: On my radio program, one poet contacted me who didn’t realize it was his responsibility to provide me with a copy of his book. He told me I could “go to the bookstore and look at the book”! Goodness, not only was this very  impolite and unprofessional, but wouldn’t one want you to have a copy of one’s book so he could be interviewed and asked relevant and intelligent questions? This is the type of behavior that gives some authors a bad name. It doesn’t even pass the test of common sense.

Anytime you approach someone you want something from, doesn’t it make sense to bend over backwards to accommodate them? When you first contact them about reviewing your book or appearing on their show, tell them that you are mailing off a copy of your book. They should be extended that courtesy.

(Actually, be sure to ask them if they review books, if they are editors. Sometimes, editors who formerly reviewed books, have stopped doing it, because it is running into too much time for them, or they can no longer find reviewers to review them.)

If you keep the above points in mind, you should be on your way to getting invited and getting referred to others for publicity purposes.

Now, during the book-buying season, see if you can’t scare up some last minute appearances. I often tell prospects that if one of their author-guests gets sick at the last minute, I can fill in and speak or be interviewed on a show. This works, too.

Good luck!

Copyright 2017 by Charlotte Digregorio.

 

 

 

About Charlotte Digregorio

I publish books. I have marketed and/or published 55 titles. These books are sold in 46 countries to bookstores, libraries, universities, professional organizations, government agencies, and book clubs. In 2018, I was honored by the Governor of Illinois for my thirty-eight years of accomplishments in the literary arts, and my work to promote and advance the field by educating adults and students alike. I am the author of seven books including: Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All; Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Homes; You Can Be A Columnist; Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features; Your Original Personal Ad; and my latest, Ripples of Air: Poems of Healing. The first four books have been adopted as supplemental texts at universities throughout the U.S., Canada, India, Pakistan, and Catalonia. They are sold in 43 countries, and are displayed in major metropolitan cultural centers. These books have been reviewed, recommended, and praised by hundreds of critics, librarians, and professors worldwide. I am also the author of a poetry collection: "Shadows of Seasons: Selected Haiku and Senryu by Charlotte Digregorio." Two of my books have been Featured Selections of Writer's Digest Book Club. I am regularly interviewed by major print, radio, and television organizations throughout the U.S. I regularly sign books at libraries, chain bookstores, and university bookstores, and do poetry readings at art centers, cafes, tea houses, and galleries. I was recently nominated for two Pushcart Prizes in poetry. I have won fifty-nine poetry awards, writing fourteen poetic forms. My poetry has been translated into eight languages. I do illustrated solo poetry exhibits 365 days a year in libraries, galleries, corporate buildings, hospitals, convention centers, and other venues. My individual poems have been displayed at supermarkets, apparel and wine shops, banks, botanic gardens, restaurants, and on public transit. I have been nominated and listed in "The International Authors and Writers Who's Who" in Cambridge, England and in the "Who's Who In Writers, Editors & Poets U.S./Canada." I hosted my own radio program, "Poetry Beat," on public broadcasting. My poetry has been featured on several library web sites including those of Shreve Memorial Library in Louisiana and Cornell University's Mann Library. My background includes positions as a feature editor and columnist at daily newspapers and as a magazine editor. I have been a public relations director for a non-profit organization. I am self-employed as a public relations/marketing consultant, having served a total of 118 clients in 23 states for the past several decades . In other professional areas, I have been on university faculties, teaching French, Italian, and Writing. I regularly give lectures and workshops on publishing, journalism, publicity, poetry, and creativity to business and professional groups, and at writer's conferences, universities, literary festivals, non-profit organizations, and libraries. I have been a writer-in-residence at universities. There have been about 400 articles written about me in the media. I have served on the Boards of writers and publishers organizations. My positions have included Board Secretary of the Northwest Association of Book Publishers. I served for five years as Midwest Regional Coordinator of The Haiku Society of America, and for two years as its Second Vice President.
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8 Responses to Publicity 101 for Authors: Put Your Best Foot Forward

  1. Hi Charlotte,
    Very good advice! My take away is to be humble and kind and to do unto others…If you follow the golden rule you will never go the wrong way…Thank you for all that you do for all writers, your generosity with your time and information is a thing that is rare and precious. I think you must have gotten the “common sense” gift when God was handing them out! Merry Christmas,

    Susan

  2. Paul Beech says:

    Hi Charlotte,

    Thank you for a very enjoyable read with many useful pointers.

    I can’t help thinking back to my social housing days. I always enjoyed management courses but could well understand why many of my colleagues grumbled. We’d always return to a huge backlog of work. And worse, the management techniques we’d been taught, so fine in theory, inspiring even, simply didn’t work in the real world of a busy housing office with homeless families queuing, irate tenants raging, and top brass demanding statistics by midday.

    The world of literature is rather different, thank goodness! I find long-range planning essential but possible only to a limited extent as we never know what opportunities lie around the corner – invitations to read at events or submit to anthologies, etc. I have two key projects plus a couple of important events lined up for 2018 but will have to fit a lot of other things in around them as I go, employing all the time management skills I acquired back in the day.

    Good luck with all your endeavours.

    My very best,

    Paul

    • Paul, you’re right. In order to be a good writer, it pays to bring in skills you developed at other jobs. We writers come from diverse backgrounds, and wear many hats. I don’t regret any of my prior professions, as they prepared me in many ways to write effectively in giving me necessary experiences to draw from.

  3. haikutec says:

    I feel fortunate that before I became a regular poet, and then a professional one, I had done a lot of different jobs which meant I had to get my hands dirty. Even when I was managerial I was never too proud to clean the toilets too. All of that goes into being a poet, including shows and poet-in-residence.

    I’ve witnessed back in the past some poets not respecting small retail businesses. When I was haiku poet-in-residence at a “just off the” city centre café I worked very hard the whole year designing a program of events. But I also helped with journalistic writing so that the venue appeared in the business and food sections of newspapers and magazines. I even got the venue into The Lonely Planet Guide to Great Britain as the only haiku café in the U.K. Basically all of my experience in catering, as well as writing, and customer service, front of house, and other skills made sure that the venue benefited.

    Yes, planning ahead is vital. I’ve just had my first physical booking for 2018, for October! 🙂 That came out of a wedding reception, just chatting. So it always pays to have a business card, even if the person doesn’t get back for six months or more. It was a large format card from MOO as I find standard cards get lost or tucked away.

    Politeness, professionalism, and not getting in the way of the venue’s business, whatever business. When I was filmed in the London Review bookshop in London I requested that the film company buy half a dozen books as we had taken over their poetry section for some considerable time. Also my catering and hospitality skills came in handy when I was filmed at other venues because I used humour. That was vital, as we filmed so many takes, not because of mistakes, it just the practice to do a lot of entering and leaving establishments.

    All very strong points Charlotte, and a great posting. We must remember as poets, and just like any kind of customer, that we are still part of the world. Shops, radio stations, restaurants, etc… still have to make a living, and we must remember staff need jobs and income, and work very hard. We are like guests in someone’s home, and should be polite and good company. Of course a radio presenter should have a copy of your book if that is what you are promoting, just for good manners even. Even good radio presenters benefit from a print out, after all, they can look down at the sheet while composing a question.

    Haiku and tanka poets should be popular as we won’t hog over 30 minutes on a five minute open mic slot, gosh that’s another set of horror stories. But the same for radio, we can read, slowly of course, half a dozen poems, that takes less than 30 seconds to read. As I will be physically doing more events next year, as I normally work from home on online courses, I will certainly re-read Charlotte’s post more than once.

    warm regards,
    Alan

    • Thanks, Alan, for your valuable input. More writers should have your experience out in the job world, in order to present themselves in a favorable light. As you say, good manners go a long way. Some writers are inexperienced at dealing with real life situations, or are just plain full of themselves. Tactless writers alienate the very people who are in the position to help them.

      • haikutec says:

        Yes, very true! Sometimes it’s the other way around of course. A warm friendly and award-winning poet was messed around by a famous bookstore in the U.K. True, it’s daft having a single day only for poetry in the bookstore calendar, but then there are constant promotions on one thing or another. So even a single day to help shift a few extra copies of poetry books must be good? National Poetry Day in the U.K. might be just one day, but poetry sales can only be good if a retail outlet is stocking a certain amount of stock relating to poetry.

        Well, after hearing they were messing her around (and she’s polite and professional to a point) I said I would come down to help set up. I decided to go in a suit! I do have extensive retail experience from just about every type and size of shop or store. I was polite too. After I helped, as it was a big display she was doing, just with her husband, and despite being a small branch, they forgot to tell her where the elevator was! She has a serious chronic illness though she is very active and reasonably strong. That all done, and sorting something out on the street window, it all ticked along nicely.

        I left after a couple of hours, and got to hear back that they loved her! The store staff. Because they got extra business and by people buying a lot of books, both poetry and otherwise. Me and her husband had been going out of the store gifting people with flyers and balloons, which also helped. I just don’t understand some stores, and they have heavy competition by another couple of big book based stores. They would have had a fairly quiet slow day with not good returns had it not been for the poet, who was unpaid, as she’s part of the NPD organisation, as a volunteer.

        So alas it does work both ways. Like the evening at a haiku launch I did warn another bookstore it would be busy, and did they want an extra pair of hands. They said no, but I knew it would be best to come back (I was also looking after the parents of the editors etc…) and true enough they were swamped and struggling! It’s still the biggest book launch they ever had, and they have had big names regarding novelists, celebrities, poets etc… I actually had to move the editors upstairs as you couldn’t move downstairs. So that brought in my security and hospitality skills in a different way. The independent shop also sold a lot of other books, not just poetry, and really made a lot of money. I paid the wine and snacks, so everyone did well, and it was worth staying open late, as most Indies have to do to compete against the big shops.

        Well organised professional poets (and other writers) can actually add significantly to a day’s takings, and money is money, it pays for staff wages, tax, lighting, heating etc… 🙂

        Alan

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