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.

G.I.V.E. — Four Questions to Define Your Social Media Presence

I go to a lot of author events, and both there and among aspiring authors, I hear the same question repeated often: Is social media worth the time involved? Personally, I think that depends on how you invest that time online.

I’ve done a lot of things wrong over the years when it comes to social media. In fact, the whole point of the three-hour workshop I teach on social media for writers is to teach people how not to do what I’ve done wrong. But the one thing I’ve done right is that I’ve never given up on it. Everything else is fixable. So whether you have five followers or five thousand, you don’t have to be a slave to what you’ve already accomplished. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the time you’re spending or underwhelmed by your results, take charge. You can do it!

Establishing a positive and sustainable social media presence for yourself comes down to four simple questions you have to ask yourself. It comes down to what can you G.I.V.E.

  • Goals: What do you want to achieve with social media?
  • Inspiration: What inspires you? What strengths and talents can you offer to others?
  • Viability: How much time and effort do you want to put in?
  • Enjoyment: Are you going to enjoy doing whatever you decide to do enough to continue doing it indefinitely?


One of the classic newbie mistakes of social networking is that we writers tend to start blogs about writing. Do you see me raising my hand? Yep. I have a writing blog. And a twitter feed for writers. Is that going to help me sell books? Probably not. I didn’t think through my goals before I started blogging. I went to a local Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators meeting with a friend and heard an agent tell us that all aspiring authors had to have a blog. My friend and I decided to begin a blog together. Since we were just starting down the road to publication, what interested us was writing, and ergo, that’s what we blogged about. I don’t regret that at all. I learn by writing, so writing *about* writing was my way to move up the learning curve. Eventually though, I hit the point where I wasn’t learning anything new by creating articles for beginning writers, but I didn’t feel comfortable offering writing advice that went beyond the basics. At the same time, my blog partner had personal issues that took her away from blogging, so for a year and a half, with the exception of the First Five Pages Workshop, I handled the blog on my own. I let myself get overwhelmed. Instead of being able to focus on reading other blogs or craft books or just interacting with other writers via social media, it was all I could do to keep up my “required online presence.”

The solution? I examined my goals. Over the course of my blogging journey, I have met fantastic writing friends and critique partners. I learned a lot, but there is much more I want and need to learn. I want more time to read blogs and craft books, to read everything. I want to encourage and support other writers and connect with readers so I can learn more about what they want to read. Most of all, I want more time to write.


There isn’t any one way to achieve your social networking goals. The most important thing is finding a vehicle that will connect you with a network of people in a way that meets your goals and inspires you as a writer.

Before investing time into any social medium, make sure it will work for you in the longterm. That includes matching the type of medium to your goals and inspiration; they all have different strengths and conventions. Research them and discover which one will help you connect to the audience that will buy your books, help you grow as a writer, or support your emotional needs on the journey.

Any social medium is subject to change. New social media pop up all the time, and they can fade just as quickly. Remember MySpace? Consider who you want to reach, how you want to reach them, and what kind of content you want to provide to find the vehicle that will help you achieve your goals and keep you inspired to continue, and always be open to new ideas.


Users of different formats of social media have different expectations. Blogging, for example, works best on a set schedule so that your readers know when to stop by to catch their favorite feature. Tweeting too frequently can clog your readers’ feeds and result in them “unfollowing” you, but if you don’t Tweet enough, you can’t build much of a following. Writing long diatribes on Facebook is a great way to get yourself “unfriended.”

Before you jump into a particular social network, take the time to investigate what works for other people on that network, how often you will need to provide original content, and what your “followers” will expect in reciprocity.

With any form of social medium, creating original content takes little time compared to how long it takes to read other people’s blogs. For most authors, it also yields the least success. Social networking is all about being social. Sharing. Giving back. Building up others. If you don’t have the time to do that, then you aren’t creating a network and having an online presence isn’t going to do you much good. If you’re not the kind of person who wants to engage with people, put up a static website and don’t worry about the rest. Really. Chances are, if you don’t like being social–on the Internet or in real life–you aren’t going to be good at it if you force yourself to try, so find a medium that lets you put out the level of social contact with which you feel comfortable. You also have to be careful not to take on so much that your writing time gets sucked away.

A joint blog may be a good solution for writers who may not have a ton of time, or those who are hesitant to jump into social media too deeply. I definitely prefer to have someone to share the responsibilities, the occasional aggravation, and the success. For me, assessing my goals, inspiration, and viability led to inviting new blog partners/mentors to join me at and the I also started a new blog for readers called, where I have not only author friends helping out, but also a great group of readers who collaborate to collect and share content from all over the web.

If you are considering a joint blog, or any kind of shared media, be sure to leave yourself room for branding. I have had to slowly transition my Twitter feed back to my real name, because I made the mistake of setting it up as a blog-related feed. I have also only recently discovered that we can post on the blog under separate names. Branding is critical in building relationships with your readers and potential readers. Investigate the options available for whatever kind of media you are considering, and remind yourself that you can’t build relationships on anonymity.


In case you missed that last sentence, let me restate: your online presence is all about relationships. You don’t have to do it, but if you choose to be online, make sure you participate in a way that doesn’t become a chore. Have fun and don’t make it all about you. Make it about the people you like and respect. Share information. Pay it forward.

Consider who you want to reach and what *they* want. Then G.I.V.E.


Martina Boone was born in Prague and spoke several languages before learning English. She’s the acclaimed author of the romantic southern gothic Heirs of Watson Island series, including Compulsion (Oct ’14), Persuasion (Oct ’15), and Illusion (Oct ’16), from Simon & Schuster, Simon Pulse. She’s also the founder of, a three-time Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers Site, and, a site dedicated to encouraging literacy and reader engagement through a celebration of series literature. She’s on the Board of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia and runs the program to distribute books to underfunded schools and libraries.

She lives with her husband, children, and a lopsided cat, she enjoys writing contemporary fantasy set in the kinds of magical places she’d love to visit. When she isn’t writing, she’s addicted to travel, horses, skiing, chocolate flavored tea, and anything with Nutella on it.

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.

Enter the Siren’s Song Fan Art and Cosplay Contest!

YA fantasy author Mary Weber just released the explosive finale to her bestselling Storm Siren Trilogy, Siren’s Song (Thomas Nelson, March 1)–and now, readers can bring the world of the storm-summoning Elemental Nym to life (and win some really cool prizes!) by entering The Siren’s Song Fan Art & Cosplay Contest!

What to do: Submit an original piece of fan art representing Nym, your favorite Storm Siren Trilogy characters, recreating the covers in a creative way, scenes from the book, and/or the world of Storm Siren. Get creative! Submissions will be accepted in the form of cosplay, photography, drawn, painted, digital, or in any other two-dimensional format. All entries will be showcased online, and compiled into a slideshow that will be released on YouTube after the contest ends.

Contest Dates: April 1–27. On April 28, Mary will select five finalists and showcase their work on her Facebook page–and then the rest is up to you! Vote for the Grand Prize Winner on Facebook from April 28May 1. Winners will be notified via Facebook or emaiand announced by May 2.


  • One Grand Prize Winner will receive a 5-minute phone call with Mary Weber, as well as a special gift package including autographed copies of all three books, a map of Faelen, and cool Storm Siren swag including a custom mug, candy, buttons, bookmarks, and pens.
  • Four finalists will each receive an autographed copy of Siren’s Song and a custom mug.

How to Enter: Entries will be accepted through the following formats:

  • Post a photo or scan of your original piece of art on your personal Facebook page with #SirenSongArt, and (very important!) tag Mary Weber’s author page in your post!
  • If you are unable to post your art to Facebook, send a photo of your art to
  • We recommend the following format for submission: Post or send a .jpg or .png file; suggested maximum file size is 5MB, and suggested minimum dimensions are 600x600px

Abbreviated Rules: No purchase necessary. Must enter by 11:59 pm EST on April 27. Open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia who are thirteen (13) years of age or older and of the age of majority in the jurisdiction in which they reside as of the time of entry. Visit for complete details and Official Rules. Void where prohibited. The contest is sponsored by JKS Communications.

About Mary Weber: 

Mary Weber is a ridiculously uncoordinated girl plotting to take over make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives. In her spare time, she feeds unicorns, sings 80’s hairband songs to her three muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. They live in California, which is perfect for stalking L.A. bands, Joss Whedon, and the ocean. Facebook: marychristineweber, Twitter @mchristineweber, Blog:


About Siren’s Song: 

After a fierce battle with Draewulf, Nym barely escaped with her life. Now, fleeing the scorched landscape of Tulla, her storm-summoning abilities are returning; only…the dark power is still inside her. Broken and bloodied, Nym needs time to recover, but when the full scope of the shapeshifter’s horrific plot is revealed, the strong-willed Elemental must race across the Hidden Lands and warn the other kingdoms before Draewulf’s final attack.

From the crystalline palaces of Cashlin to the legendary Valley of Origin, Nym scrambles to gather an army. But even if she can, will she be able to uncover the secret to defeating Draewulf that has eluded her people for generations? With a legion of monsters approaching, and the Hidden Lands standing on the brink of destruction, the stage is set for a battle that will decide the fate of the world. And this time, will the Siren’s Song have the power to save it?

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!!

How Many Books Should I Print?

This morning, a lovely author from Greece and I spoke for over an hour.  During this time, she asked many great questions.  But it was the last question asked before she hung up that really struck me…

“One last thing,” she said. “Is printing 5000 copies crazy?”

“Well,” I replied, “it depends… what are you going to do with the 5000 units?”

“Sell them I guess” was her answer.

When deciding on a print run number, the  decision often comes from how many units can one purchase for a deeper discount.  At 5,000 the unit price goes down nicely. What most small publishers fail to recognize however, is that until the books are sold, those unit costs are totally fake.  If you pay $15000 for 5000 units of your book and only sell three books, each book cost you $5000.

There is a better way.  When choosing your print run number, start from the END (sales portion) of the process and move back towards the printing part of the process.

For example:

  • How many bookstores will you sell your book into?
    • How many ARE there in your area of attention?
    • How many are you going to contact and ask them to stock your book?
    • How many will likely say yes?

If there are 1000 bookstores in your country AND you have a plan on how to contact 500 of them in 2016, AND 150 of those agree to stock 2 copies of your book AND half of them (75) sell two copies of your book (150) and don’t return them you are looking at 150 units in 2016.  Even if ALL 1000 bookstores are contacted and HALF of them agree to sell your book and NONE of them return the books they get you are looking at 1000 units.

  • How many will sell on line?
    • Well, how many sold of a competitor’s book?
    • Why will your book get as much attention as theirs did?

If Amazon was able to sell 3000 copies of a book like yours, published and promoted by a large publishing house, you can rest assured that you will not be spending the time and money on promoting it that they did.  Sooooo I’d shoot for 10% of their sales.  AT BEST.  That is 300 units.

  • How many do you need to give away?
    • A few hundred to reviewers
    • A few hundred to magazines and newspapers editors and freelancers
    • A few hundred as sample books for bookstores and libraries to use to evaluate

That is 600 give or take.

Sell 1000 to libraries?  Sure! If you have the time to call 500 libraries in 2016 you will sell them!  The nice thing about libraries is that they DO buy books and rarely return them.

Let’s look at  the total:

Bookstores 150 – 1000

Online 300

Give Aways 600

Libraries 1000

3000 units TOTAL in 2016 and that is ONLY IF you actually take the time and expense to present the books to libraries, bookstores, reviewers and editors.  These books will not sell themselves.

How many do you want to print?  5000 makes sense if you are okay with having them for a few years, are willing to do the work to sell them and start with the sales expectations and work backwards.

Want to learn HOW TO SELL more than a few hundred copies?  We can teach you.  Email Amy at and send her a bit of info about your book and she will come up with a plan for you.  (Sales evaluations and plans are always free of charge at New Shelves!)


This post was written by Amy Collins and originally published on

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.

Saying “Everyone” Will Love Your Book is Actually Hurting Your Readership

There are three cringe-worthy statements when authors explain “who” will read their book:

“My book will appeal to both men and women, ages 10—100. Everyone will love it!”

“It’s the next [insert mega-selling international franchise here].”

“My book is completely unique. There’s absolutely nothing like it out there, there never has been, and there never will be.”

The fact is, the book that “everyone” loves does not exist, and never will. The only book that ages 10-100 are even potentially cracking open in the United States is the Bible (if that)—not exactly a great comp title for a new thriller. The misconception that everyone will love a book (or that it’s so unique that it’s completely dissimilar from books that are being read right now) can actually damage how authors understand and approach readers, and ultimately it can damage their sales.

The good news is that you do have a readership out there, and you can reach them if you identify them correctly. Here are some steps authors can take to understand and reach their real readers:

Identify your target demographic—really identify them. When I worked as an editor and wanted to acquire a book for my publishing house, I had to be very specific in identifying the book’s readership if I wanted to “sell” it to our team. For example, if I wanted to acquire a book about healthy living, explaining to the team that it will appeal to “women aged 18-50” isn’t realistic or useful. Saying it’s perfect for women aged 22-35, urban, physically active, interested in fitness and healthy eating habits, who probably shop organic is more accurate; we can research what these women read, and strategize how best to reach them. Your readers are out there, and the more you understand them, the better you’ll be able to approach them.

Choose good—and realistic—comp titles. Comparative or “comp” titles can do a lot of the heavy lifting when you’re pitching your book to an agent or publisher, writing a synopsis, or just trying to explain the premise to a friend. Publishers do it all the time when writing sales copy: “Fans of The Lunar Chronicles will love [this new book]” and “It’s the next read for fans of Eleanor and Park and The Spectacular Now.”

Be realistic when choosing three or four comp titles. Just because your novel has magic in it doesn’t mean it’s the next Harry Potter. Just because it’s a nonfiction memoir about a teen with cancer doesn’t mean it will appeal to fans of The Fault in Our Stars. While it would be amazing if your book really was the next literary phenomenon, picking comp titles just because they’re popular or have a thin connection to your book isn’t realistic—and can actually lead you to overlook books that are truly similar to yours, and are already garnering fans who would pick up your book when it hits shelves.

Also, if the comp title or franchise is older than three years, it’s outdated. With over three million books coming out every year, there’s always something new on the market. Once you’ve successfully identified your demographic, do some research and find out what they’re reading right now, and choose titles that accurately compare to yours.

With a little brainstorming and research, authors can more accurately identify and approach their target market, which can truly make all the difference in how a book is sold, read, and enjoyed!

What (Not) To Wear for a TV Interview

Have you ever watched an interview on television and couldn’t help but feel that something was drawing your attention away from the person’s message? Perhaps it was what they were wearing.

People shouldn’t make judgments based on your appearance, but some will, even subconsciously. Certain colors, patterns and types of clothing can create unintentional distractions on camera when they would typically go unnoticed in everyday situations.

While there are always exceptions to every rule, here are a few tips to keep in mind for your next television interview:

Don’t wear white, black, red or green. Cameras are sensitive, and these colors can be harsh on screen. While white tends to glow, black will absorb light, and bright red hues can be distracting. Green also interferes with digital backgrounds. Solid blue and pastel tones are generally a safe bet.

On that note, stay away from patterns, including stripes, plaid and small designs. Again, cameras pick up everything, and some designs can create visual interference.

The general rule for attire is business casual. Avoid wearing short skirts, dresses, shorts or other revealing clothing. It’s also a good idea to look online for recent interview clips to get an idea of the set and see what other guests have worn in the past.

Before an interview, remove any jewelry that moves, makes noise or could hit your microphone. This includes dangly earrings, bangle bracelets and long or bulky necklaces.

Avoid brand name logos and words on your clothing. You want viewers to hear what you are saying, not your T-shirt.

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.