Saturday, February 20, 2010

Penny Sansevieri's Advice About On-line Publicity

I am delighted to have Penny Sansevieri as my guest today. I bought her book, Red Hot Internet Publicity, and wrote a review (look in my archived posts). My copy is dog-earred and highlighted so that I can return to its pages to study and put some of her tips to good use. Since I had burning questions, I boldly asked Penny if she would consider answering them on this post so that all of you who read this blog will benefit.

Penny, welcome and please tell us a little about yourself and how you became a top Internet publicist.
WOW, thank you for the compliment! The Internet came to me when I was on a flight from San Diego to New York a number of years back. I realized that we are very fortunate to live in a country where anyone can publish a book. The problem with that is that now a lot of books are clogging the system and causing problems. Why? Review space is shrinking, and books are competing for the same shelf space which isn't getting any bigger, in fact shelf space is shrinking too. So I decided it was time to find a new way to market. Enter the Internet. We explored it for a while - we did a lot in beta. We had always done some marketing online, but not as much as we do now. Our campaigns are really leading edge. We were using Twitter almost three years ago, before anyone knew what it was. It's exciting stuff and it's really leveled the playing field.

What are some good ways to use our blogs for book publicity?
Well, if you're talking about the authors blog, I recommend that they blog - first and foremost and at least twice weekly. Authors should blog on topic, on current events related to their book, or anything that will engage, entertain, or educate their reader.

What should an author's Web site look like? What would you say to those who don't have a Web site to promote their books?
First off, your website is a 24/7 sales tool - every author *must* have a website. Second, what a site looks like isn't as important as what's on it and how well it's converting traffic. A site should be clean and easy to navigate - it should tell the visitor exactly what you're offering and give them a quick and easy way to buy your book. People don't want to guess what your site is about or what you're selling. You have to tell them up front. Be clear and remember you must sell the benefits. No one but mom cares that you wrote a book. Your readers want to know what the book can do for them!

How can I triple my book sales by having an Internet presence?
Well first off, it's about knowing your market/audience. You've got to get out and do some cyber-schmoozing. Here's a great little tip I teach authors to get themselves into the online conversation. The Internet is one big networking event. When you think of online promotion this way, the connections you make start to make more sense. So... the first and best place to look for these pockets of people is on blogs. I recommend finding the top 5-10 blogs in your market and following them. You can identify these top blogs on sites like Google Blog Search or Technorati, follow these bloggers and when you're comfortable, start commenting on their blog posts. This form of dialog is very important. Not only will you get to know the bloggers but you'll also begin networking with them. Then when you want to pitch them your book for review, they already know you! Also, each blog post you create creates an incoming link back to your site because when you blog comment, you have to register.

Let's talk about tags and keywords. There are still many of us who don't really understand how this works. How do we know we're selecting the right ones?
You really have to see what people are searching. Sometimes folks will look at Google Adwords to see what searches are most popular. Go check out your competition and see what types of keywords they have on their site and what they are using in their verbiage. Keywords are a very specialized industry but you can get a good sense by knowing and researching your competition...

I want to set up a virtual blog tour. How do I go about it?
After years of working with authors on Internet tours, talking about blogging, podcasting, social networking, and all other assorted online promotional tools, the basic questions still remain: How the heck do I promote myself on the Internet? Broken down in simple steps, this article is designed to give you a good starting point to kick your Internet promotion into high gear. It’s not difficult but you have to start somewhere. Let’s start with your web site…
Web site: Why would someone visit it? Why would anyone care? Before you start marketing yourself online, ask these basic questions. You can get anyone to a web site once, but getting them back a second, or third time is where authors often lose momentum. Studies have shown that less than 14% of web site visitors will buy the first time they visit. It’s only on the second or third visit that they decide to make a purchase. Anyone can drive traffic to your site, it’s getting them back that counts.

The point of your tour: getting incoming links.  Here’s the thing: anyone can get incoming links. The point is, you want GOOD and quality incoming links from sites that can actually send you traffic and readers that will buy your book. We get numerous calls from authors who have bought into inexpensive programs that do nothing more than driving unqualified, “tire kicking” traffic to their web site. This kind of traffic is not going to do you any good. In fact if you’re not careful, getting a bunch of errant links from sites that Google doesn’t feel are right for your topic or market can get you downgraded online instead of better ranking. So how do you beat this? First, you’ll want to download the Google toolbar. This toolbar comes with a Page Ranking piece (in some cases you may have to download this separately). This Page Rank is important because it’s an indicator of how important Google thinks a particular site is. Ideally sites you target will have a Page Rank of 4 or above. We like to target sites that have a ranking between 4-6.

Penny, this is great. I"ve learned even more and hopefully my cyber buddies have as well.
Bloggers, feel free to leave comments below this post for Penny or me. Ask questions. Penny has agreed to return with more tips to help us all. To learn more about Penny:

Penny C. Sansevieri
Author Marketing Experts, Inc.
Turning Authors into Success Stories

Ready for your own success? Ask us about the 10 Bestsellers we've worked on! Will your book be next?
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hank Quense: Fool's Gold

Hank Quense, author of Fool's Gold, is my guest today. Welcome, Hank.

Can you give us a brief bio?
I was born late in the last millennium and wrote some stuff. A bit of the stuff was published;most wasn't.

When did the writing bug bite and in what genre(s)?
I recall writing what is now called humorous flash fiction in high school. I wrote them during boring classes and sent them around the classroom. I got a lot of my friends in trouble because laughing in class isn't a smart thing to do in a Jesuit Prep School.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you wanted readers to grasp?
I decided not to write serious fiction. There is enough of that in the newspapers. The world needs more laughter and my goal is to provide a measure of it.

Briefly tell us about books.
Fool's Gold is a retelling of the ancient Rhinegold myth from Northern Germany. I set it in the future and replaced the fantasy creatures with aliens.

Tunnel Vision is a collection of twenty short stories that had been previously published. The common thread in all the stories is that many of the characters suffer from extreme cases of tunnel vision.

Why are your main characters always fantasy creatures or aliens?
I write comedy and satire and that will always bring out the political-correctness police for insulting one group or another. I avoid that problem by using non-human characters. For instance, in my latest stories, elves are larcenous. Many of them are thugs and criminals who band together in large gangs. I'm pretty confident the elves won't hire a lawyer and sue me for disparagement.

Who's the most unusual or most likable character?
I have a few. Ida is an undead woman who struggles to survive in Manhattan. Vatsik is a knight-accountant. Burga is a warrior-cook. Finally, there is an alien race called Zaftans. They think treachery and assassination are social skills and list successful murders on their resumes.

What are your current projects?
I recently sent a novel to an agent. It's book one of a trilogy about the Zaftans I just mentioned. It's a blend (mishmash?) of scifi and fantasy. Book two is finished and I'm collecting notes on book 3. I'm currently writing the first book in another trilogy. This one is straight fantasy and involves the knight-accountant, the warrior-cook, the thuggish elves and many more bizarre characters.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
On my website: or my blog:

Favorite books?
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller is my all-time favorite. I love it way begins 90 percent humor and 10 percent horror and gradually changes until, at the end, it's 90 percent horror and 10 percent humor. The Vertical Smile by Richard Condon is probably the funniest book I've ever read. For SF, it's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Fantasy, Lord of the Rings.

Favorite authors?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Donald James Parker Discusses Homeless Like Me

Donald James Parker

Synopsis of book:

Brian has a dream of writing the great American novel. He knows that without a gimmick to set him apart from the rest of the pack, he'll never succeed. From reading Black Like Me, he gets the idea to masquerade as a homeless man to get the material to write the saga of those suffering from poverty. During his first visit to the local homeless shelter to gather facts, he is accosted by Zeke, one of the subjects of his research. In order to save his skin, Brian spills his guts to the huge black man. After hearing the story, Zeke sees value in the project for his homeless brethren, and pledges to help the wannabe paperback writer. Also on his first visit, a vision of loveliness, aptly named Angel, takes away Brian’s breath and subsequently his heart. She turns out to be a fanatical Christian who is waiting for God to reveal the identity of her future husband. Brian decides to write a novel and make Angel the heroine. With the recent popularity of atheist books, he figures he can market a story where the Christian heartthrob is sweet-talked out of her irrational faith by a smooth talking protagonist. He hopes his plotline will somehow become a reality, and he will be able to sweep Angel off her feet and her religion under the carpet. Things get complicated when Angel becomes involved in protesting same-sex marriage and ends up mentoring the former homosexual partner of a member of the Rainbow Warriors, an anarchist organization trying to usher in gay power while ushering out the government. When a Native American patron of the rescue mission introduces Brian and Zeke to the supernatural power of God, they both are faced with a decision that could rock their world.

Donald James Parker is tha author of Homeless Like Me.  Donald, thanks for stopping by. Please give us a brief bio.
There is nothing exciting in my life to spice up a bio. I went straight from high school to college (thus avoiding the Vietnam War and some potential excitement). I obtained my degree in four years and then my life became unpredictable. I taught school for a few years before giving the classroom up to program computers. I discovered the computers listened to directions much better than teenagers. My heart is still with the young adults though. It was hard finding my way when I was a kid. Our world has become much darker and more dangerous since then, making the coming of age process a very precarious one. My goal is to help teens find their way toward a productive, healthy, and happy life.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
I dabbled with writing back in 1980. The real journey to publish began in 2006. I'm not sure the bug has bitten yet, because I'm not compelled to write out of love for the publishing jungle. I hate having to classify something as a certain genre. I think I cross genre lines with my work. My books are about life and man's relationship with God. Life doesn't stay within genre lines. If you have to pigeonhole my work, Christian fiction will perhaps be the most meaningful classification.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
I started out wanting to write about sports and love to teach people to love each other and to live life to its fullest by taking on challenging projects which stretched them as a person. Now after maturing, I find my message is similar but incorporates God into the equation as a main ingredient rather than just as a catalyst.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Series or stand-alone?
My latest book, a stand alone titled Homeless Like Me, came out about a month ago. It should be interesting to the writing community because the protagonist is a wannabe novelist. He decides to write a story about the homeless and disguises himself as a transient. His disguise doesn't fool one of the regulars, a 300 pound angry black man. The two become an odd couple and work together to produce the book. A twist of fate occurs when the hero falls with one of the volunteers at the rescue shelter. Due to her influence, the hero has to entertain the notion that God might really exist, bringing about some agony of the soul in deciding what to do with his book.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?
Zeke is a huge black man who hangs out at the shelter. He is unemployed as a result of a former drinking and anger problem (mostly directed at his father) that earned him some jail time. He takes the wannabe novelist under his protective wing to help him with his project. His journey to learn to forgive his father is one of the main themes in the book, even though he is only a sidekick and not the hero.

How do you develop characters? Setting?
To be perfectly honest, I don't develop anything. I just sit at the computer and type. When I get done, people ask me how I did that. I can only say it is a God thing. I don't analyze what I've written and contrive to add a dash more romance or make a character a tad meaner or more loveable. I sometimes wonder what kind of monster I could create by applying my computer analysis skills to my writing. I don't plan on finding out anytime soon.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
See the answer to question above. Mark Twain said that anyone attempting to find a plot in Huckleberry Finn would be shot. I might suggest that trying to find a plot in my work is a daunting challenge. I like to duck out of this one and say that my novels are character driven instead of plot driven. I usually don't know what's going to happen myself until I write it. Some people call that writing by the seat of your pants. Others might call it creative genius.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?
I have a distinct (I think) writing style. I don't follow rules very much. I'm trying to tell an engaging but edifying tale, not conform to someone's arbitrary regulations for writing a good novel. I couldn't care less about setting and description. The interaction of my characters, their conversations, and their thoughts are the things I focus on. My characters carry on intense and humorous (I hope) conversations that I refuse to interrupt with meaningless literary fluff. My POV is usually third person omniscient. I like to get into my POV's head and reveal his or her thoughts about what happens to them.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
I was raised in a rural area. My hometown, in which I am living again, had 5400 residents when I grew up. I spent a lot of time on my uncle's farm. I learned the facts of life and death on the farm. The importance of character and reliability were hammered home in that crucible (or maybe it was only an incubator). My heroes are usually people grounded in such character with emphasis on honesty, hard word, and the golden rule. They might have their moments of wavering, but they always find their way back to the straight and narrow.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.
Hard to choose. I'll use this one from Apex Reviews:
“Homeless Like Me courageously exposes the reader to one of the more often ignored aspects of the human experience….Parker's insightful tale chronicles a…journey through the good, bad, and ugly experiences of a particular subset of the greater population. Without falling into hyperbole or exaggeration, Homeless Like Me provides the reader with invaluable insight into how devastating homelessness can be - as well as just how easily it can happen to anyone, regardless of the stability of your current situation. Despite the heaviness of the subject, though, Parker's trademark humor adds just the right touch of levity, providing an effective counterbalance to what could be a decidedly difficult subject to explore. A compelling read from beginning to end, Homeless Like Me is recommended reading for anyone unfamiliar with the specific trials and tribulations that accompany life as a homeless person. Sure to inspire an increased appreciation for the plights of people from all walks of life."

What are your current projects?
I am working on perhaps my most ambitious novel yet – a story of an American Indian reservation and a clash of traditional native religious practices and Christianity.

Donald has written many other books as well:  Reforming the Potter's Clay, Love Waits, Angels of Interstate 29, Against the Twilight, and the Masterson Family series including The Bulldog Compact, More Than Dust in the Wind, All the Voices of the Wind, All the Stillness of the Wind, and All the Fury of the Wind
Learn more about Don at: