Publishing is Personal

I was recently at a conference where one of the other speakers, an author with her first book out, said she doesn’t blog. She said she put out a monthly newsletter, but she didn’t like blogging so she doesn’t do it.  OMG, radical rebellion – she doesn’t blog! What happened to the rules? One must blog, one must run Facebook ads, one must Tweet!

I am well into the process of launching my first legal thriller, and as any newly published author knows, there is more to do than can be done. No matter how large the staff or how many contract vendors one engages, every opportunity cannot be mined. There is also more available than most can pay for. How does a newbie in the publishing world decide which avenues to explore and which to leave for the next author or the next book? How does a writer new or experienced select the marketing items where they can wisely spend their time and money?

I went through my process by trial and error, at first slinging mud to see what would stick. Early on, I realized that I was going to drop from exhaustion and never have time to finish the next book. Two major things came to the fore that helped me to narrow my focus and discover my personal path to publishing.

First, I hired an expert who kept up with the latest trends, and second, I started paying attention to what I enjoyed in the process. This sounds simplistic, just hire an expert and do what you like – but it’s not that easy.

With regard to the expert, I began my pre-launch process with an enthusiastic, but inexperienced advisor who cost a third as much as my current advisors, but who thought that every idea was a great idea. I followed this enthusiasm for a time, ordering promotional items, buying advertising, and wasting time on things that sold no books, got me little exposure, and drained my energy and my bank account. When I began working with a new publicist, I found that just by nature of the contract process, we explored what was important to me, what would be emphasized, and the strengths that both the advisor and I had that supported my launch. When we executed the contract, we followed a plan we had laid out in advance, without adding new tasks every time we saw a shiny new distraction.

Ok, you may say, “I’m on a budget or I’ve decided to do everything myself.” Same here for part of my campaign. Next, I evaluated each of my virtual staff members and re-assessed my ability to monitor and manage them.  For the things I was keeping in house, I broke the plan into parts and looked at each one individually. I had a mental talk with the part of me that wears the publicist hat, then put on the social media hat, etc. until I went through each member of my internal and virtual team to assess what was working and what was not. I thought about what I or the consultant was good at in each department and set limits based on my honest response to that assessment.

Second, I looked at the tasks I hated doing and either delegated them to someone else or eliminated them from the publishing plan. My personal process brought me to a few conclusions. For example, I love to cook and have a recipe included as part of the story in each of the Texas Lady Lawyer novels, so I did a free Cookbook of Southern Recipes that I give to readers in exchange for subscribing to my mailing list. I also included wine in DOLLAR SIGNS as a part of the plot, so I partnered with wineries for book signings and paired books and wine in my newsletter to promote other authors. These items might be time consuming and feel like work to others, for me it’s play. Next, I looked at social media. I originally thought that Twitter was the place for me, but through the process, I realized I could make a more personal connection on Facebook and chose that method to interact. I designed memes of the best quotes about my book and put those up in a rotation so that I always had someone else praising my novel.

These realizations led me to the point of doing the things that fit my personality best. I began to make genuine connections with winery owners, other authors, and readers with similar interests. I found that when I signed books in another town, I found readers through these mutual interests in addition to reading.

I prepared a presentation entitled Legal Issues For Authors that I use to give a free talk to any writer’s groups that request it. (A similar talk could be given on lighthouses, childcare, ghosts, etc.) The presentation allows me to talk about a subject in which I specialize – law, and combine it with an area that I love – writing. It allows me to make a personal connection with other authors who are also readers, and allows me to feel I am giving something to my community.

All of these time consuming activities, and many others too numerous to mention here, feel less like chores and more like play because they suit my personality and allow me to show my strengths. They also eliminate the black box syndrome where all the information goes in mixes around and comes out the other end in a mysterious fashion. I can actually see the target with this new method and assess whether I hit the bullseye or fall short.

And, to answer your inevitable question, yes, I do blog.  But, I blog about things that interest me – travel, photography, cooking, what’s going on in my real life. Not only does it follow my internal compass, but it provides a more organic and satisfying way to move through the publishing day.


Manning Wolfe is an author and attorney residing in Austin, Texas. She writes cinematic-style, smart, fast-paced thrillers with a salting of Texas bullshit. The first book in her series featuring Austin Lawyer Merit Bridges, is “Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs Boots King.” A graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law, Manning’s experience has given her a voyeur’s peek into some shady characters’ lives and a front row seat to watch the good people who stand against them.

This post was originally published on Murder by 4.

My Inspiration for Dare to Kiss

Baseball has always been a sport I’ve loved. I grew up collecting baseball cards, watching the Boston Red Sox whenever a game was on TV, and playing with the boys in the schoolyard. And still after many, many years, the love of the game is still imbedded me. So much so, that my home office is riddled with pictures and memorabilia of the game.

My inspiration for Dare to Kiss goes a bit deeper. As a little girl I fought hard to play baseball on a boys’ city league. But back in the late sixties and early seventies, girls weren’t allowed to play on boys’ team. It was then I came up with the plot for Dare to Kiss on how a high school girl breaks through barriers to play on an all boys’ baseball team.

It didn’t take me long once I started writing. The protagonist, Lacey Robinson is a girl, who is a lot like myself. She loves the energy of the ball field. She loves hearing the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd. She loves striking a batter out, but most of all she loves the game, and no matter the consequences, and she’s faced with many in Dare to Kiss, she works hard to push through everyone of them to play the game.

In today’s society it isn’t far off that we could see females in the major leagues one day. More girls are stepping up and showing their talent and skills. Case in point is seventeen-year-old Chelsea Baker who was the youngest female to ever throw at batting practice for the Tampa Bay Rays two years ago, and the first female of Hillsborough County in Florida to make the varsity team. I was so over the moon when I read about her. I mean, wow! I’m envious of any girl playing boys’ baseball.

To compliment Dare to Kiss, JKS Communications had this brilliant idea of an adult coloring book. At first, I couldn’t get my mind around the concept. As an adult, I haven’t colored since an early age. But I doodle when I sit at corporate meetings and color what I draw on paper. So why not have something fun for fans to do. I polled my fan group, and just about everyone was excited. In fact, the fans helped to pick out the scenes depicted in the coloring book. I wanted them to be part of the process, and I can’t thank them enough for all their help. One fan, Jennifer Lowe, who loves the Maxwell Series, bought the coloring books as soon as it was released. She said, “For me, it was a way to connect with the Maxwell Series, but also to get the creative juices flowing.” Not only can fans color, they can read excerpts of the scenes their coloring, which are located in the back of the coloring book.


S.B. Alexander writes sexy, new adult and college, sports, paranormal and military romance. She’s a former navy veteran, loves baseball, especially the Boston Red Sox, white powdered donuts, and handbags. She is an avid reader and loves to transport herself into other worlds–ones where vampires and the fantastical exist. Where life is the playground for the impossible.

Her young adult series, Vampire Seals, includes three books, On the Edge of Humanity, On the Edge of Eternity, and On the Edge of Destiny, which have garnered high praise from readers. Her Maxwell series claimed the #1 bestseller’s spot on Amazon UK’s sport’s fiction category and includes three books: Dare to KissDare to Dream, and Dare to Love.

This post was originally published on Fresh Fiction.

JKS Celebrates 9 Books on the 2016 Beverly Hills Book Awards List

The International Beverly Hills Book Awards ® contest recognizes the best in fiction and non-fiction books across various genres, and JKS is proud to celebrate seven of our talented authors (nine books total!) who have made the list this year. The awards committee focuses on print books and considers cover and interior design, promotional text, aesthetic components and other factors that demonstrate outstanding presentation, in addition to the writing.

We are so excited our JKS winners and finalists in the 4th Annual Beverly Hills Book Awards!!


The Power of 10 by Rugger Burke – Leadership

Marketing For Tomorrow, Not Yesterday by Zain Raj – Marketing & Public Relations

Things Unsaid by Diana Y. Paul – New Adult Fiction

The Coalition by Samuel Marquis – Political Thriller


Indy Writes Books: A Book Lover’s Anthology edited by Travis DiNicola – Anthology

Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded edited by Clay Stafford – Anthology

The Slush Pile Brigade by Samuel Marquis – Mystery

Blind Thrust by Samuel Marquis – Suspense

Money, Family, Murder by Timothy Patten – Mystery

Congratulations to all of our authors!!

What’s Old is New Again: Book Tours in the 21st Century

When I proposed going on the world’s longest book tour to my publisher, they kindly told me I was nuts. In fact, they convened a conference call to tell me so. My editor, publisher, marketing director, and publicist were all in on it. I remember wondering how I was going to differentiate voices from my position at home—everyone in New York publishing tends to be young and female, or at least female—but I needn’t have worried because they all said the exact same thing. JENNY, STAY HOME.

Some people feel that the book tour is dying, except for the biggest, blockbuster authors, who still don’t make money on a tour—attendees at events would likely have bought the book anyway—but do it to maintain good will with vendors like booksellers, and with fans. Certainly an utter newbie is going to walk into a lot of empty rooms…and that fact winds up dissuading many authors from trying a tour.

But here’s the thing. It took me thirteen years to get published. That’s a lot of rejection—and a lot of desire built up to do everything I could once I was finally given the chance. I also didn’t want to experience the “one and done” phenomenon that often happens when publishing with a Big 5. There’s all this exciting, thrilling lead-up, but after one month, your book has essentially sold most of the copies it’s going to, while vendors, media, reviewers, and readers have moved on to the next batch of titles.

If I was out on the road, appearing at bookstores, libraries, and book clubs, as well as doing local radio, TV, and newspaper interviews around my events, then the buzz and flurry of excitement couldn’t help but continue, right?

Luckily, I had decided to work with an independent publicity firm even before my debut novel was set to come out. And the publicists at JKS Communications didn’t so much as blink when I mentioned the possibility of a very long tour. Well, maybe they blinked…but then they rolled up their sleeves and got to work on a tour so outside-the-box that Shelf Awareness promptly dubbed it “the world’s longest” and asked me to write about my experiences.

My husband and I rented out our house, traded in two cars for an SUV that could handle Denver in February, pulled the kids out of first and third grades to “car school” them in the backseat, and set out on the road for 7 months and 35,000 miles, covering 47 of the lower 48 states. (We couldn’t find a spot to visit in Kentucky).

So what about those empty rooms my publisher was so worried about?

Well, they were right. On some days anyway.

In Goshen, IN there was one person at my event, and he didn’t buy a book. This always troubles me on behalf of the bookseller who has gone to the trouble of setting up an event. (I mean, let’s be honest—one book is not going to cover the cost of my going to Goshen, IN). But this gentleman agreed to buy a book that I recommended, which meant the register rang once that night due to my coming, and salved my conscious. And here’s what happened next.

The man explained to me why he wasn’t buying my novel. It was because he already owned three copies. One to read, one to loan, and one to “keep pristine.” And he had to hurry then—because he had a three hour drive home.

Book tours may or may not make dollars and cents, but they sure make dollars and sense. A sense of the heart—as my encounter in Goshen proved. Their ripple effect can cause a bookseller to keep my book in stock months—even years—after it’s no longer new. At another low turnout event, one of the few people in the audience wound up being a book reviewer for a major paper. I’ve had lines from my books quoted back to me by attendees like I was Taylor Swift and the audience was singing my song. One of the deepest exchanges I ever had was with a reader whose brother committed suicide and read my book to feel less alone.  

But there were also days that my publisher couldn’t have anticipated, especially for a debut author. In Oxford, MS, I got to appear on Square Books’ heralded Thacker Mountain radio show. For precisely thirteen minutes, I spoke live on air about my book, before an audience of 250 attendees, with a foot-stomping banjo band behind me. I also appeared at Litchfield Books’ Moveable Feast on paradisiacal Pawley’s Island. My JKS publicists, who set up both these events, referred to them as the “literary lottery”. And I can tell you that I sure felt like I’d won the jackpot, walking into both those rooms.

So, guess what happened after the world’s longest book tour? My debut novel went into six printings in hardcover. Not mega printings—it’s not like everyone reading this post has heard of me, far less read my work. But my book did better enough compared to my publisher’s expectations that when I returned home, they said, “Hey, if Jenny wants to go out with her second novel, we’re not going to stop her.” And by the third book, they helped set up a portion of the tour.

All told, over the course of three releases in two and a half years, I’ve spent 15 months on the road with my family. Does it “work”? I think that depends on what “working” means. My sales spike each time I’m on tour. It would be hard to separate that spike from the fact of having a new book out—except that they spike for my backlist titles, too.

But my rubric has never been book sales. Book sales are a Medusa’s head of interactions, timing, quality, connections, and luck. If we get too bogged down in a pursuit of numbers, we’ll go mad. We writers have to compute our success by a different schema. A mathematics that counts things one by one. Reader by reader, smile by smile, and word by word.

And what about you? What if you’re not quite crazy enough-slash-ready to cram your whole life in a car? The good news is you don’t have to. A mini-version can pack a lot of the same punch. By drawing a radius around your house and planning events for a weekend, a week, or over the course of a month, you’ll be increasing the range of exposure for your book, and making deep, lasting connections for yourself as an author.

Here are 5 Do’s and Don’t’s to make every event count!

  • Do be generous: Bring gifts for the bookseller, librarian, or book club leader who hosts you. For instance, for a wintery book, think pouches of hot cocoa in a mug with your book cover on it. At book clubs I do a beribboned “Book Club Bundle”, which is a great way to shed books I’ve collected on the road. At events where there are writers, I offer a “Writer’s Wish List” with a query lesson, coaching session, and ten page manuscript critique for one lucky winner.
  • Don’t read at your event. I hear a lot that attendees are bored by the reading portion (I don’t think this is just because I’m a dull reader). Instead, teach a lesson that pertains to something from your book (craft, recipe, genealogy); lead a writing or publishing workshop; act out a dramatic section; make the whole thing Q&A (attendees love Q&A); share your publishing saga.
  • Do use AirBnB if you travel. Not only is this often less expensive than hotels, but nine times out of ten we found that the host bought my book, came to my event, and even brought friends.
  • Don’t send blasts. I can’t tell you how often I get a Facebook invite from someone who lives in Nebraska, 1500 miles away from me. They’ve clearly just sent it to everyone they know. FB and Twitter allow you to identify people’s rough locations. Personalize your invites and you will have the joyful experience of seeing online friends become real ones.
  • Do enlist the support of other authors. When one of us rises, all of us do. If you come anywhere near me, I want to come out and see you, and try to bring a crowd. Your fellow authors make great readers, great attendees, and when they see how much fun you’re having, they may even offer to pair up for an additional event that doubles your exposure in one location.


Jenny Milchman is the author of COVER OF SNOW, which won the Mary Higgins Clark Award and RUIN FALLS, an Indie Next Pick and a Top Ten of 2014 by Suspense Magazine. Her new novel, AS NIGHT FALLS, was published in June, 2015.

She is Vice President of Author Programming for International Thriller Writers, teaches for New York Writers Workshop, and is the founder and organizer of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, which is celebrated annually in all fifty states. She is a 2016 Author-in-Residence at JKS Communications. Jenny lives in the Hudson River Valley with her family.

How Much Is Enough Book Publicity?

I’m asked all the time:

  • How much should I publicize my book?
  • How much should I spend on book publicity?
  • What is the most important thing to do to promote my book?

Unfortunately, just like putting an incredible book together is messy and huge, there is no self-evident right or wrong path to book publicity.


On the initial call, the JKS Communications team asks the author lots of questions to find out some key points that help us help determine how much book publicity is enough for them personally. Here are some questions we ask authors we are considering working with:

  • What is your lifestyle like? Do you have a full-time job? Small children?
  • Where does your book take place (geographically, who might be interested?)
  • What is your sphere of influence and your experience with media and public speaking?
  • Is this the only book you will be writing, or do you have more planned? Are you building a brand as an author?
  • What are your specific goals for the book beyond selling as many copies as possible?
  • How much money can you budget for publicity that doesn’t include putting your financial health at risk or in debt?

Obviously, the more publicity you do, the better it is. But, there is the 80/20 rule to consider. What can you do that will most likely gain the most traction for you?

Book publicists are kind of like farmers. We plant seeds in the soil and know some will grow to different heights – we water and care for each stalk (or relationship). It’s impossible to know exactly which seed we plant will have the greatest return because serendipity happens. And, we’re there to help create serendipity.

My favorite example is an author we represented who had a very limited budget…shoestring. But, his book was bold and amazing…a memoir. I wanted him, a Southern author, to go to  the Southern Independent Booksellers Association (SIBA) trade show to make a presentation on a panel. He really struggled with whether he could afford to drive and stay in the city for the event.

Eventually, he found a friend to bunk with in the city. We had 20 authors at this event, and really cool things happened for a lot of them. But, in this case, special serendipity created a magical force that changed the trajectory of his book’s success. A highly respected and involved bookstore owner met him and got a copy of his book at the tradeshow. She called me a few days later:

“I choose one book a year to get behind and really push. I’ve chosen this book. I will be calling and emailing personally 300 bookstores across the U.S. and encouraging them to order this memoir,” she said.

Because this one bookseller decided to champion this author and memoir, the publisher could not keep up with the demand, a good problem to have. (This happened a few years ago, before POD was as easy to use as it is now for traditional publishers).

Did I know that would happen? No. But, I knew that he would be meeting “his people” and tastemakers that could create book sales if they liked him and his story.

Maybe you’ll catch your break through an online book review that a movie agent happens to read, or talk to a reader who gives your book to a friend on the Pulitzer nominating committee, or a school librarian invites you to present to her class and she happens to post a highly complimentary message about your book on the American Library Association list serve that results in many library orders, or a local feature will catch the eye of a TV booker in New York that is looking for a segment that you can fulfill. A book publicist tries to place you in as many opportunities for magic to happen as is possible.

It comes down to the amount of time spent, the experience and connection of the publicity firm, and how much this will cost you. For some authors, $1,500 is going to be a real stretch. For others, a $25,000 campaign is doable.

Publicity, unfortunately, is not like advertising in which there is a clear measure of ROI (return on investment). Publicity is getting others to endorse your book and third parties to talk about it. It’s a long haul. An author who goes on book tour and pays for it himself or herself (which is virtually all authors today!), can’t expect to make money back on each stop. But, it’s the accumulation of good will created. By the second book, more people are engaged. And hopefully by the third book, you are getting good sales on your new book and the back list is selling. I have seen  situations in which the new book comes out with buzz, but it’s an earlier book that actually catches the attention of a new audience and sells even more copies than the new book.

If you’re going to go to the trouble of writing a book – the blood, sweat and tears of so much time and energy – then make sure that you don’t just orphan it without a plan to get it in the hands of people who can help spread the word.

How much you spend on publicity is up to you. But remember: you only capture the imagination of the book world once as a “debut author” and you need to make it count. The sky is the limit on how successful you will be. After this, you’ll have a sales record that follows you.