Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Personal Brand

Taking the lead of one of my authors Elizabeth Ferry-Perata who I encouraged to take a social media course designed specifically for authors, I thought I would start to drill down and define my own brand a little better. 

If you've been reading my blogs and newsletter you have a pretty good idea about me. I like what Liz said in her blog, "I am who I am." (See her blog at: http://elizabethperataauthorblog.blogspot.com/).  I have to say that after 51 years roaming this planet and going through numerous amazing and sometimes painful life experiences, "I am who I am." 

Who is that person? I am a good woman. I always strive to do the right thing. I'm nice to everyone, but if someone tries to "bite" me, it's not a question that I will bite back. I know you can't please all of the people all of the time, and inevitably someone just won't like me for no reason at all. Well, I'm not here to win a popularity contest. My goal in life is peace of mind. 

I'm also funny. If you know me at all then you know I'm witty. If you've read my novels in the California Girl Chronicles series then you know I'm the mind behind the "Love My Coconut" T-shirts. I'm also down-to-earth and a little "freaky" as my fiance likes to call me. We joke all the time. He'll say, "You FREAK!" LOL and I don't argue. Far be it from me to argue the truth. 

I like good food, but it's not beneath me to demand once in a while we get a chili dog and French fries. I love to watch the Food Channel and Carnival Eats. One time many years ago, my ex-husband and I took a trip and stopped at many Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives restaurants. YUM!

 I'm first and foremost a writer and novelist. I've defined myself this way since age 10. In fact, I get annoyed with people, who only trifle with writing, who then position themselves as experts. How am I different? I am absolutely, positively in love with writing and books. I don't use writing as a means to add to my platform. I write because I have to write. It's like my arm. Without it I would be crippled. 

I became a publisher because I love books. I also love working with other authors and teaching them our craft. I've bonded with many clients who have become dear friends over the years. You really can't work on something as personal as a book and not become close with clients. 

And I'm a painter. I only recently took up the paintbrush again. The reason I paint in watercolors is perhaps silly: I don't like the smell of oils and watercolors are washable. After ruining a bunch of clothes with oil paints, I figured I would use watercolors. It turned out I like them better. I like the vibrancy and translucent effects you can create. 

In the personal department, I am a mom to two fabulous children, Cole and Cambria. Cole is now 19 and it's a wonder to see my young adult son as he grows and changes. My daughter is an incredible teenager now at age 13. Every person who meets my kids says how amazing they are. They are both incredible human beings. I get asked about those difficult teen years and whatnot. I also say that my kids are just great the way they are. 

I'm single but recently engaged to Christopher Carter. He's brought so much to my life. We've been together a year now and intend to get married perhaps this summer. Chris though is so funny and sweet. He complements my outrageous sense of humor. We often spend evenings just "talking shit" as he puts it. He is my best friend. I'm fortunate and blessed to have met such an incredible man at my mature stage in life. 

My next novel is in the queue and after some issues get resolved I intend to get out there and promote it. I can't release it for a while. 

So... that is who I am. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Big Little Lies makes for "Whopper" Storytelling


Big Little Lies
Rating: *****

Big Little Lies starring heavyweight actresses Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley is yet another great limited series from HBO. As always I look at TV shows and movies from the viewpoint of storytelling. What impresses me about this show is how each woman’s story is woven together and somehow linked in the murder that we have yet to discover who is the victim. As you watch the show unfold you’re aware that their stories are tied to the murder, but the tension and mystery lies in the question: which woman did it and to whom was it done?

I will find out the coming weeks, as many audience members will as well. I love two things about this story: the way it’s constructed around the mysterious murder and the individual women’s stories. The first layer is the murder and we see the rest of the story in flashbacks. A police interview of outsiders looking in on the women’s stories is used almost like a narrative to retell what happened previously that led up to the murder.  I always like unique narrative and different, clever ways of telling story, and this method works well to give the town gossip and speculation about our three heroines.

First, we have Withspoon’s Madeleine who is a helicopter mom with an edge of bitchiness, jealous bravado, but also deep insecurity. Her former husband’s marriage to a much-younger woman named Bonnie (played by Zooey Kravitz) grinds at her and causes a rivalry over motherhood. Madeleine is married to Ed who is also edgy and interesting. He seems to be like a slow-boiling pot about to simmer over. He is keenly aware that is wife is unhappy and still deeply angry with her ex-husband for abandoning her and their daughter Abigail. As the series unfolds we discover that our prim and only somewhat-proper Madeleine had an affair with the theater director. How this will fold into the entire story line should be pretty interesting. You have a feeling (as is the case with all three women) that each family is on the verge of a complete meltdown.

Then we have the beautiful Nicole Kidman who plays Celeste the gorgeous wife of Perry (Alexander Skarsgard who is playing a “human” version of his alter ego vampire Eric from True Blood). Celeste and Perry outwardly appear to be this gorgeous, loving couple with two cute twin boys. Yet like the others, their union is very flawed. Perry is beating Celeste and then having primal sex with her afterward and yet another form of release. They’re expressing their relationship through violence and sexual aggression, and neither seems happy about it. We soon find them on the therapist’s sofa and eventually Celeste goes solo where the therapist finds out the truth. You can see the dark entanglement of these lovers emotional relationship that is destroying them both. A little note: I always find it interesting how Skarsgard can switch between sweet and nice to ugly and dark. You can see why she loves him despite his violence toward her.

Finally, we have Shailene's young mother who has a son that is a product of rape. Her story is as dark and mixed up as the other characters. Her son Ziggy is being accused of bullying a little girl, Emabella, daughter of the third couple in our mix. Emabella’s mother is a working mother and already insecure about her status. She aggressively tries to get young Ziggy suspended from school even though no evidence has been produced that it’s him. In the meantime his mother Jane’s rape and rapist haunts her to the point that she is considering revenge.

I love this show. It messes with your head. You’re not quite sure who to like and root for. And that makes sense since we don’t quite know who are the real villains. The cheating, violence and anger is mixing and slowingly building to a boil that is sure to blow the lid off. Big Little Lies is the perfect study in how to write extremely flawed characters, and that’s why you’re not quite sure whom in this drama/murder mystery to root for. It creates an interesting series where you’re anxious to see what comes next.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Creating "Demand" to Sell Books


Many authors mistakenly believe that it’s enough to just have their books on Amazon. What they don’t understand is that unless they purchase advertising through Amazon, free promotion through the company is virtually nonexistent. Best sellers enjoy some promotion by being named “best in new fiction”, but that kind of helpful promotion means the book is already selling. New books and low sales don’t get anything for free.

I recently had an author contact me with a really great question: how do you get your book to be more easily searchable. Again, books that are ranked lower in sales won’t be at the top of a nonspecific keyword search. For example, to find this author’s book requires the full title be input into Amazon. Its keywords aren’t enough to make it move to the top of the search because it’s not being routinely searched and clicked on. Other books with similar keywords and higher sales will come up first in a search. It’s similar to Google. What people click on the most often is what ranks at the top of the search.

I try to educate authors to help them understand that simply publishing a book and putting it out there won’t give them sales. Some authors think it should be enough. It’s just not going to work. Much like any product people have to know it exists to buy it. They won’t look for your book if they’ve never heard about it. Amazon’s system reacts to this demand and supply model. Most of the book industry works on demand and supply.

Thus, it’s up to the author and his/her publicist to create that demand. Your publicist promotes your book typically using a combination of traditional media relations combined with trending social media tactics. You really can’t have on method without the other. Although a social media focus can work if the author has targeted the right prospects. So whether or not you have hired a publicist to do this high level thinking for you or you’re doing it yourself, your first exercise should be to identify your primary, secondary and tertiary audiences.

Once you’ve identified your respective audiences, it’s time to promote to those audiences by identifying where the read and get their information. Then you must promote to those media outlets or through those social media services. If you’re promoting to traditional and online news sources, you’ll need a media kit and/or press release. You will also want to do customize pitches. You can create 4-5 different standard pitches, but you should personalize each one you pitch to its target editor/writer/journalist.

Do not throw pitches out there like tossing mud on the wall to see what will stick. Editors and writers know when the publicist hasn’t done his/her homework. They can spot generic pitches. They may think you don’t care enough to even look at their media or what they like to publish and read. Each pitch you should spend time trying to figure out the proper angle to take with that particular media source. It’s time well spent. One placement in what we in the business call a Tier 1 media source can quite literally create a best seller. So, it behooves you to do your homework. Once pitched and turned down, it’s unlikely another pitch will turn it around.

Now go sell, sell, sell! Till next week Friend-Os.



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Do we all have a book in us?

How many of you have heard the phrase "everybody has a book in them"? What does this really mean? We're all writers? No, it means we all have a story to tell. Living on this planet and making our lives happen creates our biographies or stories. The current trend in business is the memoir/business story. Many leaders have turned to telling others about their journeys to share life's lessons and experiences. When I read about another person's story and I see commonalities between their experiences and mine then I know I'm not alone. People like to learn and be entertained at the same time. Storytelling is a way to share that common ground with others.
 
One problem though ... maybe you're not a writer. Maybe you have a very compelling story to share, but writing wasn't your strongest skill. Maybe you are a fairly good writer, but you've never written more than an essay or business letter. You don't have the slightest idea where to begin your book writing process. That is where working with me pays off. You don't have to be a writer to tell your story. You can hire me as a ghostwriter.
 
What does that process entail and is it difficult? I work with each person around his/her needs. Ghostwriting can be done one of several ways:
 
Step 1: Develop the table of contents, which is really your book's map. It's good to put together the table of contents first. It organizes the book's content and gives you a firm place to begin.
 
Step 2a: Clients can start by simply writing out a version of what they think the first chapter should contain. I will go in and revise it and add content by doing additional research if necessary. Each chapter swaps back and forth between myself and the client. For example, while I'm working on chapter 1 the client can be working on chapter 2.
 
Step 2b: The other option is for me to develop sub-heads and questions under each sub-head. I will then have the client answer those questions. Once the questions are answered I write a narrative around the answers to make the entire chapter flow and make sense.
 
Step 2c: Clients can also record in their own voice their stories. I then transcribe those stories and write it so it makes sense.
 
So that is the ghostwriting process with the 3 optional approaches. Does that spark any ideas in you? If you want to open new doors to opportunities, I guarantee a book will do it for you. You'll have a chance to get media coverage, book reviews, book sales, and even be asked to be a speaker.
 
If you're ready to take that next step and tell you story, give me a call at 916-300-8012 or send an email to info@3LPublishing.com.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Is Traditional PR Dead?

Is traditional public and media relations dead?

The analysts are asking this question because of the rapid rise of social media as the main technique to start buzz and sell products. My answer is no, it's alive and well. Today, you've got more avenues than ever before to promote your books, products or services. The real answer is you've got to cross traditional public relations with trending social media techniques, but one without the other isn't the working formula.

 
Here is how it should go:
 
Step 1: Create a traditional media campaign and promote to the online, print and broadcast media.
Step 2: Set up interviews and promote book reviews.
Step 3: Take the results in the form of links and use social media to blast the results to your respective social media audiences.
Step 4: Use social media to promote to your respective audiences your own book promotions and excerpts.
Step 5: Engage your social media audience.
 
Traditional media campaign come together with social media campaigns to make both effectively work. Today the reality is you can't have one without the other - and that's the answer to the question.
 
Now go take on the day!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Failure: Falling down in business hurts


I was feeling particularly down the other day. Business hasn’t been going easily or smoothly these last few months. Then I began editing the forthcoming book by Stephen Marinaro with the working title “Brand ‘You’” and felt inspired and validated. Stephen makes some wonderful points about being an entrepreneur and the struggles. It made me realize I am not alone.
     I started to joke that I needed to write the book titled “Failure: what to do when you fall down in business.” The reason I wanted to be so blunt with the title was to help other entrepreneurs facing some of the major business issue I am facing. When I read Stephen’s book and the profiles included in our other book Habits and Attitudes, it made me feel better.
     No one wants to admit they’ve failed somehow or are facing some kind of failure. When it comes to social media we’re all about boasting about our successes. Don’t get me wrong I think a positive outlook is important. In reality, though, life doesn’t work off straight sunshine and shining, happy faces. Life can go wrong. Mistakes get made. It’s how we rise from the challenges that count.
     One thing I’ve realized is that patience plays a critical role in your rise from the ashes. I’ve often felt like these challenges just keep adding and piling on. I feel frustrated when I’m not making the kind of progress I want to make. Yet while you’re going through the lows just know that from the lows come the highs. You cannot reinvent yourself without first facing the process of rebuilding.
     Though for me as a highly educated and overall successful person I found it very difficult emotionally to realize I had some tough things to face and clean up. I wondered how someone like myself could fall on her face so hard. Did that make me less than I thought about myself? And that’s why I feel like a book that addresses what is more common than you realize would help other people.
     Why? Because as I said, no one is out there bragging how they messed up. So, when the chips are down you might feel alone and bad. You might think you’re the only who screwed up. Yet when you realize you are not the only one who faced problems and you’re not quite as misguided as you think then it’s comforting. Knowing some very successful people have pulled it out will help you.
     So, here I am. I am trying to rebuild business after some difficult times. I’ve even taken up driving Uber just to pay basic bills and keep my doors open. And I’m driving Uber with a positive attitude. I’ve met many great people doing it. It won’t be forever but at least whatever income I generate from driving I have the power to control. That is the difficult thing. You can’t always ensure sales will close. As an entrepreneur that can be harrowing when you don’t have dependable income. So driving Uber has taken off some of the stress.
     I hope my sharing on this blog makes someone out there feel a little better just like Stephen’s words in his forthcoming book made me feel better.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tips to Freshen Up Your Writing


Today we’re going to discuss keeping your writing fresh and flowing. I have edit thousands of documents and books over the years. I see common mistakes made by new writers and sometimes even seasoned experts, too. Here are some down-and-dirty tips to improve your writing whether it is for creative or business projects.

Grammar and punctuation varies based on style usage. Did you know several different stylebooks exist? Yes, several choices are available, including AP Style, Chicago Style, Strunk and White, and Masters of English Arts. Here is the rub. Different styles make it seem like some usage is wrong. For example, if you’re an AP Style users then Chicago Style has conflicting rules. Here is a breakdown of how the stylebooks apply:

AP Style – used by the mainstream media and press. AP Style came from the media outlet the Associated Press. You’ll find AP is used for newspaper and magazines articles as the basis of journalistic rules.

Chicago Style – generally used for technical documentation and workbooks. It has uses applied to things like charts, graphs and lists. It also uses commas differently. Some online content providers use it, too.

Strunk and White – taught mostly in higher education English classes as the basis for term papers and essays. Mostly students and academics to keep their work consistent use it.

Masters of Language Arts (MLA) – definitely an academic stylebook used for things like a thesis or books.

The insider tip: whatever stylebook choice you make, apply it consistently. Don’t change your mind halfway through a document and decide to apply a different style. The end result will be the “appearance” of mistakes. Consistency in writing plays an important part in keeping it clean. While someone may not agree with your style choice, if you’ve kept it consistent they cannot say you are wrong. If you choose to create a stylebook for your publication, which many books and magazines do, then keep it consistent. No one can argue with conscious choice to do something a particular way.

Redundancy is a problem for new writers. Redundant word choices and or saying the exact same thing you said two paragraphs earlier or even three sentences before. I am working on a manuscript right now for a new author who has a following established, which is why I accepted the book. The author’s weakness is restating either entire paragraphs or sentences over again. The restatement leads to an unorganized train of thought that doesn’t flow but repeats. Don’t restate more than once. Don’t use the same word over and over again. A Thesaurus should be handy at your desk at all times or use the one in the word processor.

Insider tip: the quickest way to find out how many times you’ve repeated a word? Use your Find tool and look for the word you’ve repeated. Every time it comes up, use the Thesaurus to find a new word choice.