Saturday, February 27, 2010

Penny Sansevieri: Red Hot Internet Publicity

Penny is back to answer more questions about marketing our books online. Here's an in-depth look at how we should be networking:

Social Networking on Blogs

We all know that it’s great to hop on social networks like Facebook, Squidoo and Twitter, right? But have you ever considered that a blog is a social network, too? You bet it is, but I’m talking specifically about the comment section within each blog. We all know that it’s great to pitch bloggers for your book or product, right? But there’s more to it. Really, it’s about online networking or cyber-schmoozing. Before you even target a blog for your pitch, you should get to know them first. Here’s how.

First, you’ll want to get to know the blogs in your market. To do this you’ll want to follow them and communicate with them via the comment section on their blogs. You can find these blogs through blog search engines like Google Blog Search and Once you find the blogs that are top in your market (I suggest going after the top 5-10 to start with) then you’ll want to see what they post on and comment on their blog posts. What does this do? Well, it’ll help give you a voice on your top blogs and give the bloggers a chance to get to know you. Here are some tips for commenting intelligently on blogs:

· Be interesting and thought-provoking. Save the “wow, great blog” comments for when you are really looking to not impress someone.

· Watch, then comment. I recommend following the blog for a few weeks before jumping in. You want to get a sense of the tone of the blogger and how he or she responds to comments.

· Try commenting on at least five blogs a week, this way you’re not spending all of your free time doing this and still you’re able to get a voice out there in the blog-o-sphere.

· Offer additional insight to the blog post, perhaps you’ve had a different experience than what the blogger cited. If so, politely and intelligently tell them your viewpoint and invite other ideas.

· Be entertaining, engaging, and helpful. Always. Don’t push your book, yes you can mention it - but don’t push it, that’s a big no-no.

· Try to build a rapport with the blogger by being consistent, that’s why you don’t want to follow too many bloggers. You’ll be too fragmented this way.

· Be inspiring, readers love inspiration. Don’t just gush for the sake of gushing.

Commenting on blogs posts is a sort of social networking, even better in fact because blog posts and their associated comments are searchable. Keep in mind that you’ll want to always list your URL when you log in (and most blogs require that you do log in and leave your online “footprint”).

Once you have spent sufficient time online you’ll start to get to know the bloggers that are a significant “voice” in your industry. This type of networking will help when you go back to pitch them your story, book or product. Remember that bloggers, like any other on or offline media, want the scoop. So give them what they want. Here are a few tips for pitching bloggers once you’ve networked with them:

· Know what they like: don’t pitch them a book review if they don’t review books. Just because you have become commenter-extraordinaire doesn’t mean that they’ll bend the rules for you. Well, they might, but better to let them suggest it.

· If the blogger does review books and/or products check out their submission guidelines before sending them a pitch.

· If you’re sending them a story idea be sure and tell them if you’ve pitched this idea to anyone else. If they have an exclusive, tell them and give them a (reasonable) deadline for responding if you’re going to shop this around.

· Present the unexpected: it’s OK to take chances, it really is as long as you stay on topic. Pitch the blogger, you never know what could happen.

· Make it easy: if you’re pitching them a story don’t just pitch them and expect them to do all the work. Make it easy on them by offering to co-interview (when appropriate) or offering them experts you think might work well for the piece.

The key is that as you’re getting known online, the Internet is one big networking party. Just because you can hide behind your monitor doesn’t mean that you’re invisible. Remember that everything is your resume and everything leaves a footprint. The best thing you can do is get out and cyber-schmooze, the worst thing you can do is be unprepared. Do your homework and remember, online networking (when done effectively) can benefit you enormously both in your online footprint as well as the connections you’ll make. Don’t worry about spending hours on this, it’s really about quality not quantity. Get out there and social network on blogs, you’ll be glad you did.

Thank you so much for this information, Penny.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mary Deal: Down to the Needle

My guest today is Mary Deal from Hawaii. Aloha, Mary. Please give us a brief bio.
I’m retired and living out a life-long dream of living on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Most of my time is spent writing, though I do get to the beach now and again. Oil painting and photography are business hobbies in which I take great pleasure and community activities too. Presently, I have four novels published, suspense and thrillers, with two additional thrillers now being written. I also write short stories and poetry which are published in various magazines and anthologies.

Briefly tell us about your latest book.
It’s a thriller called Down to the Needle. (ISBN 978-1-4401-9820-5)

The story is about a woman’s decades-long search for her abducted daughter. Her search leads her to a young woman on Death Row facing lethal injection for a crime she didn’t commit.

All of my books are available from online book stores as well as from the publisher, Just do a search for my name and all my books should come up on the same page.

How do you determine that all-important first sentence?
The first sentence, even the first word, must grab attention. Try never to start your first sentence with “I” or “The” or “There” and similar words. Actually they say nothing so it’s a lost chance to get the reader’s eyes riveted to the page. Some of my first words or phrases were “Blood red letters…” or “‘Witch!’ Randy Osborne said…” Should you find it necessary to use “the” as your first work, the next one or two words should be grabbers, as in “The jagged scar…” Or, as in my latest book, “‘The perp torched himself.’” My advice is to shoot for an attention-grabbing first word or phrase, not just the sentence overall..

How do you develop characters? Setting?
Usually with me, and with both novels and long shorts stories, I have an idea for the story and where it might take place. I see the character in my mind. One of the first things I do is to make a character sketch. That’s as simple as listing each character’s physical features, habits, traits, quirks and even disposition. I’ve written an article about setting up characters. Making a thorough list enables the writer to get into the mind of the character. Guaranteed, by the time you make this list for each of your characters, you will know them and how they will act out your plot.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
I make notes anytime I think of some bit of information I can use in a story. I may not use it all in my present story, but if something comes to mind that’s way too good, I must write it down and save it. When I’m starting a story, I gather anything that may be usable in that story into one file to refer back to.

The way I write is not a way I can recommend to anyone else, unless it is their habit to begin with. When I begin a story, all of it is jumping around inside my mind begging to get out. I write what seems to be the most important scenes that I cannot afford to let get away. That means I may write the ending even before I begin the first chapter. Of course it will change later, but at least I have captured the idea while it contained the original spark of creativity. Too, I may write different scenes knowing, of course, the general order in which they should appear. Later I go back and join them together, maybe by adding more scenes, more story. I’ve also written an article about this subject. I write about anything I experience in order to clarify points for others.

Many people start a story at the beginning and that’s what I usually recommend others do. I can write like that, but invariably while I’m writing one chapter, it will trigger something that needs to happen much later in the story. So I write that part as soon as I can and then store it till I can work it in. However, especially for fledgling writers, know your plot. Make an outline or usable list of scenes. Start at the beginning.

How do you promote yourself online and off?
More promotion today is done online. Join as many sites as is feasibly possible to maintain a presence. A writer MUST have a website and, hopefully, one with PayPal buttons or other means of payment. Readers love autographed books.

I travel a bit so I always try to line up book signings even a year ahead of time. However, book signings don’t sell books. In rare cases it does, but appearances mostly help to come in contact with readers so they get to know you.

Other ways to promote is to make your book available as an ebook and downloadable for Kindle and other hand-helds. The publisher should do this for you. Too, if there are charity drives in your area, donate books. I am in charge of the Silent Auction for the local annual Kauai Coconut Festival. We love books! We have tourists coming here and they read books. Find locations in your area where you can make yourself and your books known. The ultimate goal anywhere is to build readership.

Enter your books into the best, the biggest contests. Even just making Honorable Mention gets your book publicized beyond what you might be able to do.

And finally, send your book out to reviewers. Reviews sell books.

What are your current projects?
My third novel, River Bones, a thriller, won a huge award in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards competition. I’m told by my readers that they loved the characters. So I am already in the process of writing two sequels to this book. River Bones has a subplot of a man traveling back and forth to Viet Nam searching for his MIA brother. Since he and the protagonist, Sara Mason, have fallen in love, the first sequel will begin deep in the Vietnam jungle. Most of the book, however, will take place on Kauai where Sara solves another cold case of a missing child. The second sequel will take place both on Kauai and in the jungles of Borneo, where Sara finds answers to an international cold case.

I read River Bones. It was great.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
My mega-website, offers my books for sale, and is also meant to be a resource for writers. All information on the site is free for the reading. I keep adding to the number of pages so there is a great deal on information available. The site covers creative writing of all kinds – fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc. - and business writing. Chapters from my books are analyzed. We discuss how to choose character names. Aspects of how my books are put together, and how writers can get help with their books, are to be found on

For those wishing an autographed copy of any of my books, PayPal Shopping Cart buttons are available on all the book pages. Notices about my book signings are also posted on the book pages when I have confirmed travel arrangements.
Thanks for the interview, Mary, but I think next time I really should do this in person. LOL.