Friday, April 30, 2010

Writing and Publicity Tips from Mars and Venus

I just listened to Steve Harrison interviewing Dr. John Gray, author of the best-selling (over 30,000,000 copies) Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. It's worth a listen for any author. Here some of my takeaways:

1) There's value in sharing your ideas in seminars before sharing them in books. Typically, authors think the other way around - "I'll write this book and then sell it at my seminars." But Dr. Gray started with counseling and seminars. For him, this was valuable in that over time he could observe the audience response and discover what connected and what didn't. It also gave him time to develop key analogies, such as "Mars and Venus."

Here's how it happened:

He'd been teaching relationship seminars about how understanding gender differences can improve relationships. Another seminar leader used a striking analogy which compared the man-woman relationship to a cross-cultural experience. (Dr. Gray knows he's hearing a great point when the hair on his arms stands up.)

But he knew he needed an analogy of his own. So one day he began to imagine what it would be like if men were Martians, but were unhappy, and contacted the inhabitants of Venus to try to find happiness. Then, they move together to earth. Since Martians and Venusians do things differently, they must come to understand those differences to get along and thrive.

The point: Sometimes your seminal points and analogies can come out of years of working with people and leading seminars. "To be successful you need a perspective that has been honed and sanded down." (None of my quotes may not be exact.)

2) Dream up a unique perspective. If it's just another book on relationships, with chapters on each of the main points that everyone else lists, that's not news. Why would radio stations want to interview you? But Mars and Venus presents a fresh perspective. The media is all about fresh perspectives.

3) Utilize your life experiences. For nine years, Dr. Gray lived as a celibate monk. There, he learned to be content and happy on his own. Thus, he could relate very differently than people who were hoping to find purpose and happiness through a mate.

"It's your life experiences that give you the power to pull people in."

4) If you're wanting to educate and inspire others, don't depend on selling books to them for your revenue. Support yourself in other ways, so that you can get out and share your ideas. Supporting himself as a computer programmer gave him the time to write and promote his book, without having to depend upon them for income.

5) Don't be discouraged if your early books aren't great successes. Publishers didn't want his first book, so he self-published. His second book was with a small publisher, so small that it took him a year to get a distributor.

6) Smaller books can often communicate better than bigger books. After writing a large book on relationships that said everything he wanted to say, he honed it down to ten concepts for his Mars and Venus book. Most people read only the first two chapters of self-help books.

7) Make it fun and lighthearted. This was another change he made from the larger book.

8) It's okay if it's not an immediate success. Some authors feel that if their books are good enough, that reviewers will instantly rave and word of mouth will immediately take effect. Not for Venus and Mars. He went on a book tour, which indeed landed him on Oprah. Yet, he was relegated to the last three minutes of the program, and it didn't produce sales. After that, his publisher gave up on publicity for his book, saying, "Well, that was our chance and it didn't work out."

9) Keep pressing forward with your own marketing strategy. After his publisher quit publicizing, he took it upon himself to advertise in the Radio-Television Interview Report (RTIR) and did radio interview after radio interview. After doing those for a year, he got best-seller status. Then, he wrote Oprah again and she devoted an entire show to him. After that, his book stayed on the New York Times Bestseller List for seven years.

What struck you about this interview? Anything I missed? Anything you'd like to add from your own experience or knowledge to my nine takeaways?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Getting Reviews on Blogs

Book marketing guru's all speak highly of getting book reviews, even to the tune of sending out 500 or so books to get the word out.

I've found the top 500 blogs in my subject area (I write nonfiction) and am spending a couple of months going to each one and asking if they'd like to do a review and a giveaway. Some don't reply. Some say they've got too many books beside their bed, or they don't do reviews. But about 1 in 6 request a copy for review. (I'll tabulate later just how many come through. Some need reminders.)

Nobody acts like I'm bothering them. It's a win/win and they're grateful for getting a free book on a subject area they're passionate about. And some of these blogs get major traffic. One that reviewed my book yesterday gets 80,000 visitors per month, has 250 incoming links, an Alexa rank of 94,000 and 900+ subscribed RSS readers.

Again, I'll tabulate results later (like how many came through with reviews and how many of my books actually sold as a result), but it seems at this point to be a good campaign.

btw, I do take the time to read some posts on each blog, and read the "About" section so that I can see if we're indeed a match and I can personalize my request to each one. I think it's better to take a slow, personal approach than just try to see how many blogs I can hit in a day. A couple of the bloggers mentioned how much they appreciated that I took the time to check out their blog before suggesting a review.

Has anyone else had success/failures in getting reviews from bloggers?