Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tips On Promotion For American Title V

Following on from Mai’s excellent advice yesterday, other members of Title Magic have come up with the best advice we have for this year’s American Title V contestants on how we promoted ourselves and what worked best. Different tactics seem to have worked for each of us, so the contacts you currently have, your personality and what you’re comfortable doing, and the area in which you live will all influence your choice of promotion.


Well, what really worked for me was contacting my local library. The community coordinator helped me send fliers to all the libraries in Utah. I also distributed those fliers to bookstores and western wear shops (since I was using the whole Wanted Poster idea). I also printed homemade business cards that I could hand out to people wherever I went. I think doing the web page didn't help much but it is something I will need in the future. Oh, and sending out the press releases was almost a total waste of time. I sent out about 40 and only got two bites that ended up going nowhere. My dad and step mom took out an ad in their local paper that got me a lot of votes but my family name is very well known in Moab.I do think what helped the most was interviews on blogs--that drove people to my website and hopefully to vote.


I was very conscious of the fact that I sold my first book after the contest began, so I was very careful not to be obnoxious about promo efforts. Other than e-mailing family and friends and posting to my various e-mail loops each time a new round started, I really only did two other things:

1. During the first round, I did a blog tour. I guest blogged on a different person's/group's blog every day during the two-week voting period.

2. I ordered special business cards from VistaPrint that said, "I NEED YOUR VOTE! To get my book published," then my name, American Title Contest finalist with Out of Sight, Online voting at" and then the dates for each voting period. Several of my friends took batches of these cards and handed them out to potential voters."


My contribution to this would be what I picked up from the contest - the desirability of having a track record of success in other contests, so that your name is known, plus an excellent supporters' network, to keep you in the race until the momentum from readers of RT fully kicks in. I didn't have either, which I was well aware of before the thing even started, but it was still a wonderful experience and one I would not have missed.


Everything I know about self-promotion, I learned from American Title IV. And, like just about everything else I've ever had to learn, I got more out of the many mistakes I made than the few things I managed to get right. Most of it boils down to these things: Don't freak out. (Well, every finalist is allowed a little freak out at first. But keep it to a couple of hours, tops.) Get yourself a posse to help get out the vote. In my case, word of mouth/keyboard was MUCH more effective than offline media. Don't be shy! Talk in loops and message boards. Comment on blogs. Contribute. Not just to say,"Hey, vote for me!" But to meet people. Make friends. And make sure to tap into all of your sources - not just the obvious ones. It didn't occur to me that it might be a good idea to put something on the Tennessee Library Association loop until after I was eliminated. (I mean, I work in a Tennessee library. Duh, right?) I made a lot of mistakes. But I feel that ATIV gave me an opportunity to make those mistakes without having to worry about sales, earning out my advance, etc. And, when I do make my first novel sale, I'll be much more prepared than I would have been without the American Title experience.


What do you do now? You've just won a coveted position as one of the American Title V finalists. Yay! How do you round up those all-important votes? Okay, you spread the word like a were-mad thing loosed beneath the full moon. But then, *boohoo* you're eliminated in the first round. Like me. Why? Well, perhaps, you don't have major networks of voting support, like I didn't. Or, perhaps, your cherished manuscript just doesn't have that special appeal needed to win. Who knows why? What you do have as an American Title finalist, is an all-important entry card with publishers, especially with small print and e-publishers. Use that card. If you have other manuscripts to offer a publisher, whether you only want that NY contract or prefer the current e-opportunities. Now is the prime season to get that writer's foot in the door, and keep it stuck there.Using myself as an example, `cause that's all I've got. I had submitted to an e-publisher who advertises in Romantic Times magazine and announced they were open for submissions prior to my finalist status. Siren publishing offered me a contract. From there everything snowballed, granted in slow motion, yet the avalanche continues. Because I kept submitting the manuscripts I did have (yep, there were rejections), I now have two current e-novel releases. And three other manuscripts under contract. And I am crazed-busier than a bee in a blooming clover field. Moral of the American Title story. Use every opportunity there is as a finalist to make your dreams come true as a published author, regardless of when your entry is eliminated. If you go all the way, winning the contract from Dorchester Publishing, that's just yummy-huge creamy-sweet icing on the cake of your career as an author.
All Shades of Blue Paradise ~ available at Siren Publishing. Red Lioness Tamed ~ available at Liquid Silver Books. When a Good Angel Falls ~ coming from Siren-BookStrand Publishing late 2008. Tangerine Carnal Dreams ~ coming from Aspen Mountain Press. Pleasures of Blue Lotus Oil ~ coming from Siren Publishing.


I have so little to add...I basically considered every avenue where I have contacts and then emailed and/or sent flyers. I couldn't, however, contact people having to do with my work so that severely limited me! My church, my neighborhood, my sisters and their co-workers, their co-worker’s friends and family, my daughter's swim team, local libraries and bookstores, and, of course, my local writing chapter. I would also state that I have joined more writing groups because of this contest. I learned more about networking than I actually networked at the time!
I would also ditto Savanna's comments about moving quickly and sending queries--while I haven't had the call, I have gotten some nibbles where no one nibbled before--interest in my writing, keep those minds on track, people:)


Finally, let me tell you what worked best for me. :)

Obviously, I emailed all my writing loops and writing friends with the news I was a finalist. During the years I’ve been writing I’ve made a reasonable number of contacts, but I was certain that alone would not be enough to get me far. Primarily, I looked outside the writing community for my votes. Lucky for me, I have a whiz of a salesman for a husband and he runs his own business. During each voting period he promoted me to everyone he met. We also mailed or emailed all our customers and asked them to vote for me in the final two rounds. The rest of my family also promoted me to their friends and business contacts. I think each round the number of people who knew about my involvement in the contest grew. Friends told friends who told friends! Unlike Anitra, I found sending out press releases useful. Two local newspapers ran articles on me and I was interviewed on the local BBC radio station. These contacts will now be useful to me in promoting The Magic Knot when it’s published by Dorchester next February.

And my top tip: have a gorgeous half-naked man pictured on your promo material. (I am not joking!)

Good luck to everyone entering American Title V. This final year of the contest should prove the most interesting yet with the mix of genres. We’re looking forward to reading the finalists entries and casting our votes!


Evonne Wareham said...

Something that's just occured to me that we should maybe have mentioned - the number of votes cast is always kept a closely guarded secret by Romantic Times - the finalists have no idea whether there were two votes or two thousand between them - so our advice on what works and what doesn't is based on guess work to some extent!!

Helen Scott Taylor said...

You're right Evonne, because a certain percentage of the votes must come from Romantic Times readers who have no allegience to any entrant and will simply vote for the entry they prefer. Moral of the story: make sure your entry in each round is the best it can be!

Mai Christy Thao said...

Wow, you guys are all phenomenal! Now I'm bummed out because I could have done more, dang it! =)

Excellent post, Helen. And what wonderful tips. I'm keeping all this in the toolbox for later use. You guys rock!

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

I think this really shows that what works for one may not work for another. Like the press releases--they just didn't pan out for me but they worked for Helen. So I think you should try anything and everything; you never really know what will work. But the whole thing was a total blast and I met so many great people throughout the entire contest. I would do it all again in a heartbeat! :)

Savanna Kougar said...

Wowza, what you learn! Thanks, everyone, since the advice can be carried over to 'hopefully' a career as an author. And should assist the American Title V finalists.
Now, I'm even definitely more glad I didn't fully know what I was up against. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, or, at least, it keeps you going despite the odds.
Hey, I know I got ONE vote. 'Cause I voted for myself. Who knows? Maybe my entry was the lowest vote getter ever?
I can laugh now, which I'm

Mel Hiers said...

This was a really cool post! I enjoyed finding out what some of your strategies were and learning even more. :-)

Anitra, the press release thing didn't work for me either. I thought Trish and I might have gotten a little bit of media attention seeing as though we both live in Nashville suburbs, but it didn't happen. Well, at least not on my end. Trish, did you get any local media bites? (And I don't think you could be obnoxious if you tried.)

Lexie O'Neill said...

Thanks for gathering this information--I'm sure it will be helpful to any who read it (including me)! Evonne, I know it helped me when they said the votes were very the same time, I kept imagining, if only if...
Now, I feel better knowing my restrictions would have got me very soon.
Going to bed now:)

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Helen: I just wanted to ask how you heard about RT votes having to be a percentage--I've never heard that. It makes sense but I guess I missed that announcement and wondered where you picked it up.

And I do agree with you that you have to make each and every round of entry count because you never know what round will be your last.

Evonne Wareham said...

That's the thing isn't it? You don't know, so you have to give every round your best shot, in all senses. But you also have to realise that there will only be one winner, so even best shots will fail. The great thing is we have all learned a lot, and WE HAD FUN!

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Anitra, i didn't hear anything about RT votes having to be a percentage. I just meant that whatever number of votes we each polled, a certain number of those votes must have come from RT readers who don't know us. Sorry if what I said was misleading.

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Ah, no problem! I did read that wrong. But really, you want folks to vote every round, RT readers or your die-hard fans!

Yes, it's a vote thing but also it's about the story people love... :)