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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Marvelous musings and the mind-boggling journey of marketing a book 


woman holding her face in dark room

SELF-AWARENESS

We never forget our bullies, no matter how many years have passed. 

For me, the bullying took place in middle school.  It was a dark time in my life and I didn't know how to make it go away.  The bully sat behind me on the school bus.  She made fun of me and pulled out strands of my hair.  I thought ignoring her would make it stop.  It didn't.  As the bullying continued, it escalated and eventually drew the attention of the principal.  And that put an end it.

As an adult, I thought those bullying days were over.  But seven years ago, I encountered a cyberbully.  This person criticized me online for starting a blog.  Good grief.  What on earth is wrong with starting a blog?  And why did he feel it was important to write an article for an ezine telling readers that my blogging was foolish and a big waste of time?  This attack was personal and painful.  And this was my first encounter with a troll.  For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a troll is a person who makes unsolicited and/or controversial comments to provoke an emotional knee jerk reaction from unsuspecting readers to engage in a fight or argument.  

Ironically, a year later, he started a blog.  Go figure.

I thought this troll was cruel and insulting until I came face to face with a mean-spirited man, which I will abbreviate as MSM.  This encounter enfolded as I gave a workshop on publishing with a small press at the Carnegie Center for Literacy in Lexington, Kentucky.

MSM thought it was appropriate to question my authority in front of others.  Though his remarks caught me off guard, I answered him politely, after all there were other people who genuinely wanted to learn.  Maybe MSM just wanted to express his opinion, but it felt more like he was trying to trip me up.  On purpose.  To discredit me.  Put me on the spot.  To embarrass me.

I never thought I'd run into bullies as an adult.  But having childhood bullies does not exempt us from encountering them again.  So, what can we do about it?   We can become more self-aware.

Stephen Covey, author of the popular book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, defines self-awareness as our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, our motives, our history, our scripts, our actions, and our habits and tendencies.  It is having a clear understanding of our personality and character, our weaknesses and strengths, our beliefs and thoughts, and our motivation and emotions.  


Covey says self-awareness allows you to understand how people perceive you.  When you are engaged with others, they are observing your attitude.  People are weighing your verbal responses.  They are taking in the nonverbal signals such as your facial expressions, gestures, and posture.  

In order to understand how you appear to other people, Covey suggests that you see yourself as others see you by stepping into their shoes and experiencing yourself through their eyes.      

You can do this by standing in front of a mirror while practicing a speech or having an imaginary conversation.  The idea is to focus on your body language and hand gestures and to practice changing the pitch and expressiveness of your voice.

Ever since the Carnegie lecture I've tried to imagine how others see me when I'm giving lectures, visiting schools, doing book signings, mentoring writers, taking classes, or having casual conversations.   

Though I wasn't aware at the time, self-awareness kicked in with regards to the Internet troll.  I imagined what the public would think of me if I wrote a scathing rebuttal.  Trust me, I wanted to lash out.  Really badly.  But after putting myself in the public's shoes, I decided against it.  It wasn't worth the possibility of damaging my reputation.

Through restraint, I was able to handle the troll reasonably well, but I dropped the ball with the MSM.  This bully targeted me because I appeared weak.

If I had put myself in the shoes of the attendees, I might have seen myself as a lecturer who was a little put off and unsure of herself during the confrontation.  With hindsight, I should have not have remained seated.  I should have stood up, placed my hands on my hips, lifted my chin, and addressed MSM with more authority.  That probably would have made a difference.  A huge difference.  My body language would have spoken volumes—that this lecturer knew what she was talking about, so don't mess with her.

This encounter happened several years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday.  Though the interaction was uncomfortable and unpleasant, it was a great lesson for me.  I learned about being self-aware.  It's a shame I didn't know about this before the workshop.  Because if I had, there would have been one less bully in my life.

✌ and 









Wednesday, May 15, 2019



Marvelous musings and the mind-boggling journey of marketing a book 



DOWN AND DESPERATE



I have hope...

I search page after page of the Manuscript Wishlist 

looking for agents who represent picture books...

but find agents who prefer


author-illustrators
accept only agented clients
accept only nonfiction
are currently closed

I skip the listings of 

middle grade and young adult 
fantasy 
historical 
horror 
mystery 
thriller 
women’s fiction 
commercial 
crime 
family saga 
general
literary 
mystery 
graphic novel

I hone in on agents who want PBs, picture books, standalone texts. 


They say:

I'm wanting character-driven
I'm looking for characters that need to be heard
I'm searching for stories with obvious potential for animation

I like stories that grab your heart and don’t let it go even after they’re finished

I like good prose and lively characters 
I like funny storytelling 

I would love to see animal POV 

I would love to see Movie X meets Movie Y pitches 
I would love a story with funny characters 

I'm on the lookout for

I'm hungry for
I'm dying for
I'm a sucker for

I have a soft spot for  
I have a hankering for
I have a craving for 

I'm not focusing on 

I'm not a fan of 
I'm not crazy about

I don't know what I'm looking for until I see it.


I feel discouraged
depressed
dismayed
daunted
dispirited
down and desperate. 

I fret and get that awful sinking-feeling. 

Will I find an agent who'll like my work?  

Will I ever find representation? 

I compose a short list of agents—the possibilities and prospects

who throw a lifeline for hope...


and I feel better,

optimistic, 

brave and determined.

Few is better than none. 

I will not quit 

and I will submit

because they request PBs, picture books, and standalone texts.

✌ and 


Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness ~  Desmond Tutu







Monday, April 15, 2019

Marvelous musings and the mind-boggling journey of marketing a book 

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Photo: Clem Onojeghuo

HATS 

I don't wear hats.  Even if it's the fashionable thing to do.

May 4th is Derby Day.  Like most Kentuckians, I will watch the Run for the Roses on television.  For those who attend the Derby, it's customary to 
wear hats at Churchill Downs.  Hats come in all shapes and colors, may include ribbons, feathers and flowers and are often larger than the heads they top.  Some are downright outrageous.  For instance, take those worn by commentator Johnny Weir.  The ice-skating legend has worn a hat made of roses in the shape of a horse head, a white and gold crown adorned with a three-foot pink braid down his back, and for the 2018 Derby, a three-crowned headpiece (to symbolize the Triple Crown:  Kentucky Derby, the Belmont, and the Preakness).

When I attended the 100th running of the KY Derby however, I didn't wear a hat.  It never occurred to me to wear one because it just wasn't fashionable to get dressed up when you watched from the infield.  Though hatless and far from the grandstands, I was treated to a most memorable Derby.  That year, there were two unique attendees:  a streaker who climbed a flagpole (who didn't wear a hat) and the Queen of England (I'm sure she wore a hat.)


I don't wear hats.  Even if it's the sensible thing to do.

I should have worn one in 1976, when I attended a FUR-EEZING cold Ohio State football game.  The blustering wind whipped through the stadium nonstop and gave me an awful earache.  But even if I had brought a hat, I'm not sure I would have worn it—God forbid I should have flat hair.  As French novelist George Sand once said, "Vanity is the quicksand of reason."  

I should have worn one a couple of years ago during a graduation ceremony which was held outside on a sunny, cloudless spring day.  If I had found a cute hat to match my dress, not only would I have been stylish, I would have felt much cooler and been better protected from the sun.  But seriously, would I have worn it and risked having flat hair?  

By now, you know the answer. 

It seemed likely that I would have to wear a hat for the 2018 U.S. Tennis Open held in New York City.  The temperatures were predicted to be in the nineties all week long.  Luckily, the day for which we had purchased tickets was overcast and in the mid-seventies.  The hat I had purchased stayed in the suitcase.

I don't wear hats.  Even if it's glamourous.      

Hats have been worn by actresses, wives of presidents (like Jackie Kennedy and Melania Trump), and British royalty.  When these celebrities wear hats, they look stylish, elegant, and graceful.

Though I could never carry off wearing a hat as these women have, one famous hat-wearing author inspires me to consider it.

Many years ago, my daughter was into the movie The Princess Diaries, based on the book written by Meg Cabot.  When we found out that she was coming to Lexington for a book signing, we had to meet her.  On the day of the signing the place was packed with parents and kids.  Granted, Cabot was wildly popular, but I wondered if one of the reasons she drew a huge crowd was because she wore a sparkly tiara.  Technically, a tiara is a jeweled crown, not a hat.  Still, that got me thinking...maybe I should wear a hat on my head to draw a crowd when I do a book signing.

Wait.  

Who am I fooling? 


I don't wear hats.  And yet...

I'm thinking:  a straw hat.  If the crown is big enough, my hair wouldn't get smushed.

I could glue seashells, postcards, and tiny plastic poison dart frogs (some of the souvenirs in my book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell) to the brim.

It would be kind of crazy.  Cute.  Eye-catching.

Maybe not as wild as what Johnny Weir would wear, or as fashionable as a Jackie Kennedy pillbox hat, but doable.

I don't wear hats.

But maybe I should. 

It's something worth thinking about.

Flat hair and vanity aside, wearing a hat could be just what this author needs.

✌ and 


Friday, March 15, 2019

Marvelous musings and the mind-boggling journey of marketing a book 


LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION

Guess what?
I received the most unexpected invitation.  An invitation that could open doors to new opportunities.

So, go on.  Guess what it is.

A six-figure book deal?

No, guess again.

A cross-country book tour?

No, try again.

No, wait.  I'll give you a clue:  a movie.

No, my book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell is not going to be made into a movie.
But close.  I was invited to be an extra in a short film.

I am not making this up.

This is how it happened.  Last November, I was invited to participate in a Local Author Day at the Central Library in Lexington, Kentucky.

On the day of the event, authors gathered in the middle of the library lobby and set up around a large circular table.  We had about fifteen minutes to get ready before the doors opened.  Some authors hung banners, while others arranged posters, giveaway gifts, and bookmarks.  I only needed to assemble my table top display with books and stuffed animals.

As I waited for customers to stop by, I noticed that one of the authors looked vaguely familiar.  He reminded me of a tennis pro who had given my daughter lessons when she was young.  The more I listened to him speak, the more I was convinced it was indeed Chris.

During a lull, I walked over to him and struck up a conversation.  We reminisced about the tennis club days, some twenty years ago.  He reminded me how we had gotten together for lunch to discuss our dreams of writing for children.  Back then, he had been interested in making films, too.

Over the years, we lost touch.  And then, here we were.  He had published several books and wrote and directed some movies.  He had made two short films and was working on a feature film.  Me, being clueless about movie-making, asked him the difference.  Short films are generally 20 minutes long and feature films are about 90 minutes.  He had come a long way since our last meeting.

Later that afternoon, Chris came over to chat.  He told me about his first short film, Jenkins' Choice.  It is an award-winning movie about a talented young man who has to make a serious life choice.  His second film, Wimbledon Dreams is about a tennis pro who reluctantly teaches some orphans how to play tennis and, in the process, learns an important life lesson.  

Chris explained that he does the majority of the work himself.  He scouts out settings in rural Kentucky for scenes.  He writes the screenplays, produces, and directs.

For Jenkins' Choice he even wrote the lyrics to the music that actor Keith Cox performed.  I was totally impressed.

And then out of the blue, because you can't make this up, he asked me if I wanted to be in one of his films.  Now, we're talking about a totally flattering and yet a frightening proposition because:

  • I'm terribly shy
  • I've had little acting experience, unless you count the plays during my teenage years
  • I'm self-conscious about the way I'm photographed
  • I'm terribly shy (this bears repeating)

Chris clarified that he was looking for extras.  Even so, everything about the conversation seemed strange and surreal.  Was he feeling generous?  Was he desperate?  Did he see me as someone with a certain je ne sais quoi?  Yeah right.  Oh, the things that ran through my head.

I'm not sure why yes rolled off my tongue.  At the time, it seemed like the appropriate response.  A role as an extra would be perfect, given there are no speaking parts.

After Author Day was over, Chris and I wished each other the best and exchanged emails.  He mentioned that we should get together for lunch.  He wanted my opinion on some of his new book projects.

So, who knows what will happen?  Being in a short film could be totally cool.  This could be an amazing opportunity to see what it's like to be on a set and work with Chris and his crew.  And, being in a film would be another way to build my platform.  As any author will tell you, growing a platform involves more than compiling email lists and having a strong online presence.

But nothing is for sure.  Chris has warned me that the screenplay may be revised and scenes with extras may be cut.  If a scene doesn't further the film's thesis or it distracts from the main plot, it will be removed.

So, time will tell what the future holds.  Will I be on a movie set?  Will I hear a director say action?  Will there be a line in the credits for R.L. Mrvos?

I hope so...but that will be anyone's guess.



Jenkins' Choice:  https://youtu.be/C6nTnLCED8k

✌ and 

COMMENTS:

That is great news...if he ever needs someone that looks like Denzel Washington let me know....that is wonderful for you and you just never know the doors that can be opened. G. Smith

Great idea.  Good luck! J. Flowers

Got for it!  Have fun! G. Kendall

Friday, February 15, 2019

Marvelous musings and the mind-boggling journey of marketing a book 

  
                                                                                                                                                                                                   Photo: Milada Vigerova 

                                                                                                                                              

MEAN


For the life of me, I will never understand mean people.

Like the person who knocked the side mirror off my car.  What was that all about?  Did it make him feel powerful?  Did he get a thrill?

I want answers.  Why are people mean?  So, I found out what some experts had to say.  

Author, life coach, and speaker Martha Beck believes mean people are hurt.  Really hurt.  "At some point, somebody—their parents, their lovers, Lady Luck—did them dirty.  They were crushed.  And they're still afraid the pain will never stop, or that it will happen again," says Beck.


Dr. Marcia Sirota, author of the article "What Provokes Us to Be Mean to Nice People" in the Huffington Post states, "When we're overtired, overly stressed or really angry, it's much harder to contain our impulses, and something nasty can leak out: a hurtful comment, a selfish choice, a thoughtless act."

Dr. Monica Frank, founder of Excel at Life and a clinical psychologist says that most people are mean because of a distortion in their thinking or some flaw in themselves.  She breaks meanness into two categories:  
  1. the unintentional meanness which refers to behavior or statements that the recipient may perceive as mean but that weren't intended to be hurtful 
  2. the malicious meanness which is behavior or statements that have the purpose of hurting the recipient.
Thank goodness, I've only encountered one malicious (mirror-smashing) mean person.  Most of my run-ins fall into the second category, the unintentionally mean—

the friend who agreed to help me out, and then changed his mind,

the agent to whom I paid a mentoring fee, but never responded to my query,

the local newspaper reporters who refused to write a feature about my book.

Words are every bit as hurtful as actions.  People have told me:

"I told you so" after I lost a talent competition.  Nobody wants to hear someone's musical selection would have been a better choice. 
"You look like a boy" after I had my hair cut.  Nobody wants to hear this if looking masculine wasn't the goal.
"Look at those thighs" after I showed a coworker a photo of me.  Nobody wants to hear this.  Period.

Dr. Frank believes people are unintentionally mean because they: 
  • lack awareness or social skills
  • are misunderstood for humor or sarcasm
  • are sharing an honest opinion
  • have misdirected intentions (as in trying to be helpful)
  • have low self-esteem coupled with jealousy
  • need to feel superior
  • have displaced anger
  • have a mental illness  

However, the intentionally mean are mean for a different reason—they are pleasure-seekers.  Dr. Frank says, "People who act mean based on this reason are doing so due to a self-centeredness and complete disregard of others.  They seek to feel good at the expense of others."  She believes people who are intentionally mean engage in this behavior for attention, power, money, or respect.

According to Dr. Frank, "Usually, unless you have done something significant, it is not about you."  To shake off meanness she says, "Focus on living your life and don't get involved in the pettiness of mean people."

Tommy Cestare, the founder of The Leading (a website dedicated to improving people's lives by writing about the bright side of life) takes Dr. Frank's advice one step further.  He believes that a person with a positive outlook would not let mean people bother them.  He says that positive people have the confidence to brush it off and move on because they’re confident in their own abilities and aspirations. 

He states, "Someone called you ugly? You’re happy with your body so who cares what they think? Someone’s avoiding you? They’re loss, you know you’re awesome. Someone doesn’t believe in your abilities? You believe in yourself so why should you care about what they think?"

For a junior in college, Cestare impresses me with his maturity and positive lookout on life.  In the post "Let People Be Mean to You," Cestare says we should "let people disrespect you, cut you off on the road, leave you out of certain events, call you mean names…whatever it is.  Because these situations are the best teacher to show how confident you are in yourself.  They tell you more about you than anything else."  

Cestare also urges us to be more sympathetic toward mean people.  They may be are going through tough times and should therefore be given the benefit of the doubt. 

It's been noted that it's easier to be mean than it is to be nice.  And it's amazing that the seconds for someone saying something mean has the ability to make us feel depressed for hours, even days.  The time we have to live is much too valuable for being miserable.  

Sad, but true, there will always be mean people.  But we can change how we react to them.

We can be kind. 

We can be more understanding.    

We can be positive and self-assured.

We can focus on the good things in our lives.     

✌ and 
COMMENTS

Hey, I loved reading the article about being mean.  From my years of working in mental health and now at the school.  I can say that some people are simply mean, and have distorted views of themselves and the world.  Then there are some people that go out of their way to be mean.  Some have mental issues and some do not have any home training or reference to rely.  Simple "yes sir, or please and thank you" are not being said from our young people and when I meet the parents, I can see the reason.  Very sad when I see mean people.  I try to keep myself strong and have a good positive thought life to deal with such people.  G. Smith. 

I love this quote by Mahatma Gandhi: "Nobody can hurt me without my permission."  R. Montana



Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Marvelous musings and the mind-boggling journey of marketing a book 



THE TEARS OF AN AUTHOR

I'll be honest with you.  My marketing plan did not go as well as I had hoped.   

For my first book, you could say I was fairly successful.  But in my mind, I felt there could have been better strategies for promoting Maggie.  I wanted to be spotlighted in the local newspaper, have libraries buy copies, and secure a lot of school visits.  

This did not happen for me, and it left me feeling frustrated and nearly in tears.

Authors like me who are published by a small press must do most of the marketing by themselves.  So, I learned about marketing well before the release of Maggie.  In fact, I began marketing nine months before the release date.  

After signing the publishing contract, I studied marketing books, read articles on websites and emailed other published authors to find out how they marketed their books.  There was so much to grasp and at times it was mind-boggling.  Eventually, I began to see how the process worked.  Most published authors stressed the importance of contacting the local paper, libraries, and schools.  So, I followed suit.

But school media specialists didn't answer my emails or return my phone calls even after I had mailed packets detailing a school visit program that would benefit their students. 

Newspaper reporters were not was interested in a local author whose book was inspired by a local rescue dog.  

Librarians turned down my requests to read at storytime or to acquire the book for their collection.  

I got angry and whiny, but soon realized that was not going to help the situation.  There had to be other options to promote my book.  So, I worked on developing a new marketing plan.  Not the plan of other published authors.  MY marketing plan.  And here is what I did:    

  • Arranged book signings at local bookstores and gift shops
  • Partnered with non-profit organizations that connected to my theme
  • Placed books in local boutiques
  • Created strategic keywords for my book on Amazon
  • Visited day care centers for book readings
  • Sold my book at craft fairs
  • Developed a unique website 
  • Wrote articles and guest blogs  
  • Created a Pinterest account and made boards and pins that related to my book 
  • Got a book review in local magazine
  • Participated at the Kentucky Book Festival 
  • Placed copies of the book in a doctor's office with part of the proceeds benefiting an animal rescue organization
  • Signed books for Small Business Saturday


As I look back, I couldn't figure out why the newspaper never contacted me, even though my publisher sent a press release and I followed up with emails and phone calls.

But I did learn that the local libraries have a tight budget, and therefore they gravitate toward purchasing books published by larger publishing houses.

Likewise, schools have little funding for school visits.  On top of that, some schools require a background check for visitors.

It took me months to learn about marketing.  And even after a year, I'm still learning.  Marketing is still not easy, but this is what I discovered so far.

  • Authors must learn the ins and outs about promotion.  They must explore how other authors market their books and decide which of those methods might be worth implementing. 
  • Authors must be determined to think outside the box.  Not all of the ideas tooted in books and online are going to work.  Authors should think of ideas that have never been tried and dare to be original, different, and exciting.
  • Authors must be plot a new course when the best laid plans aren't working.  Authors must not give up and accept failure, but be flexible to change their marketing plan when things aren't going smoothly...


even if they have no clue where to start,

even if it means getting a little whiny,

even if it means shedding a few tears.  

✌ and 

Comments:

"Thanks for this honest look at marketing."  J. Cornebise

"Ah, the lessons of life. Everything is more difficult than imagined."  D. Henley



Saturday, December 15, 2018

Marvelous musings and the mind-boggling journey of marketing a book 


THE BEAUTY OF HINDSIGHT 


Math has never been and will never be my strong suit.  But when I was fourteen, you might have thought math was my best subject.

At the end of 8th grade I took a placement test and scored high enough to take advanced algebra.

When my freshman year began at Jeffersontown High School in Louisville, Kentucky, I was proud to be part of Ms. Leslie's advanced class.  But after a few lessons, I realized this was not the right place for me.  I was in over my head.  Equations looked like a foreign language to me.  A blurry foreign language.  Vanity called and I gave up wearing my glasses—there were so many cute boys in class.

Ms. Leslie intimidated me.  No, let me rephrase that.  She scared the hell out of me.  She never smiled.  She was firm.  She was totally all business.

I wanted to do well in class, but the book was impossible to follow and there was no way to approach a teacher who frightened me.  Looking back, if I had been braver and asked for help, I would have probably made fewer Ds in algebra.

Ah, the beauty of hindsight.

Since then, my math skills have not improved that much.  I have a habit of overestimating.

I overestimate when packing for a trip and bring
  • way more clothes than necessary: 14 outfits, two jackets, earmuffs, scarves and gloves—I kid you not—when going to Spain for a week in April.  
  • too many meds:  Tylenol, muscle relaxer, Imitrex, Flonase, Pepto Bismol, Imodium, Naproxen, decongestant, antihistamine, Benadryl.    
  • too much jewelry:  earrings, bracelets, and bangles for every outfit. 
  • too many hair products which I won't list because this in itself is another blog.

I overestimate when cooking for a family gathering (20 pieces of chicken for five people, right?)

I overestimate when I should arrive for an event (an hour is not too early, is it?)

Sometimes, I underestimate.  When Jim and I got married, we held the ceremony and reception at a Spindletop Hall, a historic mansion in Lexington.  The ceremony took place in the library.  A very small library.  The room only held 200 people.  We invited 210 people.  We counted on five couples declining. 

They showed up.

I have a habit of overestimating more than underestimating, like the time I had my first book signing.  Two hundred invitations were sent to family and friends.  Of course, not everyone could attend.  There was a nice turnout, but true to form, I overestimated how many books would sell.  

And then there was a school visit.  I was scheduled to give nine classroom visits over two days.  The teachers gave me a head count of 225 students.  

I thought half of the students might like to buy Maggie.  Roughly 112 books.  Then, I thought that's being too optimistic.  It seemed reasonable to order two cases of books.  Each case has 25 books.  Surely, I could sell this quantity.   

I sold 14 books.

That said, I still have quite a few more copies.  I would love to sell them.  Each and every one of them.

How many do I have?

It might be best if you did the math.
   
✌ and 

COMMENTS:

Read it. Enjoyed it. I don't know what that stuff is on the chalkboard, but I think it's way beyond algebra!  M. Cook