Making Lettuce from Soup! How to write and sell inspiring stories
(c) 2012 by Mona Vanek, contributor to Chicken Soup™ series.
Publicity people and press kits
*Gambling can make success happen. Seizing chances through the choices you make, and the effort you invest into turning the odds to your favor, pays off. Publicity is a key component.
It is never too early in your writing career to begin preparing publicity material.
When you receive the congratulatory letter saying your story will be included in the Chicken Soup™ book, you will receive a PR questionnaire. Complete it carefully and as completely as possible, and return it to your editor. The PR questions are relevant to the book and will ask the following questions:
Ø Participate in marketing and promotion, including media interviews, book signings and tours.
Ø Share information about your previous print, radio or TV interviews.
Ø Provide media contacts, including TV, radio, print, etc.
Ø List professional and personal background and experience.
Ø Include your memberships and level of involvement in organizations.
Ø List newsletters or other publications of those organizations.
Ø Provide contact details
Include your professional affiliations, membership in any organizations (past and present), awards you've won, major publicity of your achievements. Provide contact information wherever possible. The people responsible for publicity and sales may incorporate information you supply into Press Kits they create.
Tip: The subsequent press kit from Chicken Soup™ may arrive as a downloadable .pdf file-link in an email. If you are unable to download the file, use the telephone number provided and ask for copies of the Press Kit to be mailed to you. It contains the following elements:
· Suggestions for developing a local angle press release.
· A sample local angle press release, formatted for you to send to your local newspapers, TV, organizations, etc., announcing your story in the book.
· A FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) sheet. This document should answer typical questions asked by contributors.
· A Tip Sheet for creating successful book signings and promoting your story in the book.
Sharing in the book sale profits and marketing blitz
*The editors and the publisher of Chicken Soup™ books give you the option to share in profits, and join in pre-arranged tours.
Ø Buying at discount.
Ø Hitting the road.
Besides a free copy, autographed by the authors, that contributors of stories to Chicken Soup for the Traveler's Soul™ receive, they are eligible for 50% off any Chicken Soup™ books they purchase through the corporate office. These writers are also invited to participate in an upcoming marketing blitz designed around an eleven-week, "See America 2002" cross-country tour by RV through 23 states. The route goes to many popular travel destinations including some that are featured in the book, as well as the hometowns of many of the book's contributors. Book signings and other special events are planned along the way.
My initial reaction was, what a golden opportunity! I envisioned chances to sell my own book, Behind These Mountains and my video, Aunt Lena, Cabinet National Forest's Unsung Heroine. If I convinced an RV company to provide a rig and pay expenses, what fun it would be to travel on even a part of the tour. Visions of a caravan traveling leisurely through Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada danced in my head. Three weeks, seven cities, four states. Wow! Maybe I should begin scheduling my workshops and seminars along that route. I clearly saw the title of one of the seminars I'd teach, "Making Lettuce from Soup! How to write best-selling inspirational stories."
Then reality hit -- I learned that writers are not paid and must provide their own transportation, accommodations and meals. Besides, I lack the stamina to fulfill my daydreams.
Tip: While you are considering the many options available, take into account how each one affects your spouse and other family members.
*Beware of trademark infringement. You cannot use the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" name (or any of the titles in the series) in the title or subtitle of any workshop course you plan to present. It can be in the body of the description for any course, but not in the actual title or subtitle.
Ø Gather names of news reporters, radio and TV stations, book storeowners and other people or organizations you can inspire.
Ø Write a short press release
Ø Create your own Author Profile
When you begin exploring prospects to parlay your clip into fame and/or fortune, phone calls will occupy a good bit of your time. You will give your sales pitch to whomever you can inspire to offer a commitment that benefits you.
Ø Telephone the local-talk radio station and TV stations; you may get interviews on the air.
Ø Call bookstores and ask to speak to the person in charge of signings.
Ø Contact libraries and organizations to schedule book signings, readings, your workshops, your seminars, and anything else you can think of to promote book sales.
Ø Keep in mind that local newspapers may devote considerable space to you, which translates to free publicity.
Ø Make the most of it.
Follow-up by mailing your Press Kit, which should include:
· A short Press Release.
· A longer, more detailed Author Profile.
· Posters and flyers you've designed, etc.
· Reviews and promotional information about your own books, etc.
Your short Press Release should have the Five Ws, who, what, where, when, and why in the first paragraph. You might also include a small autobiography, listing your achievements, or your connection to the sponsor of the event the Press Release announces.
A longer, more detailed Author Profile will contain information about you that will answer questions that the targeted readership might have about you. Limit it to about a page and a half.
Your editor may allow you to download and reproduce a copy of the cover of the book, to use in a poster or flyer designed to promote any event where you will be reading from and signing the Chicken Soup™ book that features your story. The flyer can also include images and information about your own books, upcoming workshops or seminars. Devote the greater part of the poster or flyer to the Chicken Soup™.
In your Press Kit, include promotional information about your own books and copies of materials you will hand out at the event.
*Brainstorm ways to use a Chicken Soup™ clip to your best advantage. Announce your good fortune. Use it:
Ø On your stationary.
Ø On your business card.
Ø On a bumper sticker.
Ø As a stepping-stone to other writing assignments.
Ø To get speaking engagements.
Ø To conduct seminars.
Ø To participate in book signings at which you also sell your own books, etc.
Ø As a key to open doors to invaluable publicity.
Ø As a feature on your web site. Ask permission to be linked to your editor's web sites.
Ø As a design on a personalized garment, purse, key chain, pens, cups, etc.
Toot your own horn! Jump on the bandwagon by sending a 'Yahoo!' message to everyone you can think of, informing him or her of your achievement. Let excitement show through in your exuberance -- because excitement is contagious. Hitch your wagon to this star.
If you don't have a web site, inclusion of one of your stories in a Chicken Soup™ series book is an excellent reason to have one created by a professional. Phyllis Cambria, co-author with Patty Sachs of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Throwing a Great Party" says, "The majority of people who contacted Patty or me for radio, TV or a print interview has been as a direct result of them finding our PartyPlansPlus.com site and book on the Internet." (www.PartyPlansPlus.com .)
Jennifer Nelson, who is published in magazines such as Writer's Digest, SHAPE, Freelance Success and many parenting magazines, offers the following good advice about whether or not to have a web site: Understand that magazine editors don't have time to search websites for writer's clips. But if you are selling any other writing services it's wise to have one. Web sites are great tools for:
· Promoting your book, especially if you offer it for sale or have a link to Amazon.com or Borders.com.
· Marketing yourself to conferences.
· Directing organizers to a professionally created site, so they can see what you offer.
· Offering to write copy, advertisements, advertorials, grant proposals, or other writing related services.
Jennifer says that having examples of this type of work on a web presence can be beneficial to direct clients such as organizers, companies, academics, non-profits, etc. -- not necessarily editors -- to you. Editors surfing the web in search of good writers might bring a job offer you'd otherwise miss. Jennifer is engaged to instruct the pre-conference workshops for the 2002 Flathead River Writers Conference, at Whitefish, MT, in October 2002.
Debbie Farmer says, "Nothing is a total loss. Book signings may not fill your pocketbook, but become invaluable in other ways." Debbie is author of LIFE IN THE FAST FOOD LANE and a syndicated column, FAMILY DAZE (http://www.familydaze.com).
Debbie used the sale of her essay, "The Prayer of a First Time Gardener" to Chicken Soup for the Gardening Soul™ to promote her own book and column. She licenses rights to her essay to newspapers and regional parenting magazines and thought she had exhausted all of her realistic options for that piece, and didn't plan to use it again. However, since the Chicken Soup™ rights are non-exclusive she could -- as long as the new publication didn't mind.
Debbie's main goal was getting the Chicken Soup™ credit as a perk to add to her sales pitch. She does Chicken Soup™ book signings in the Bay Area of California where she also sells her own self-published book and columns. Since Chicken Soup for The Gardener's Soul™ became #9 on the NY Times best seller list, Debbie's name soared, helping to promote her writing career.
Making the most of contacts and associates
*Networking pays big dividends. Invite others to bask in the glow of your spotlight.
Enlist aid from writers' groups in the towns where you're scheduling book signings. Ask them to pitch for you, too. Generous offers of lodging and invitations to speak may ensue. Writers can also provide names of, and important information about media contact people in their locale.
*Work with stores when arranging a date for signings, and realize that your returns might come in kind, not cash.
Ø Call early, asking to speak to the person who arranges book signings.
Ø Provide the expected publication date, and allow lead-time for stock to arrive.
Ø Get the store's newsletter deadline, and provide your author profile well in advance of publication dates.
Ø Ask who will advertise events.
Ø Send timely reminders to bookstores.
Ø Get posters displayed.
Ø Sell your own books and materials.
Ø Learn from storeowners.
Ensure that the bookstore where you've booked signing events stocks the Chicken Soup™ book, and provide them with the publication date your editor gave you.
Ask if you can bring your own books, videos, CDs and any material you hope to sell. Policies vary with each store. Some stores ask you to consign them, others allow you to handle your own sales and they don't take a commission. Some simply keep a tally at the register of how many are sold. Or, you count how many you start with and how many you end with, and the store pays what you agreed upon when you made arrangements. Make sure you have a clear understanding. And find out about collecting and reporting sales taxes, where applicable.
If your material is consigned, arrive early enough to complete the paper work before your event's scheduled beginning. Allowing a few extra minutes for this will avoid stress.
Bookstores advertise signings. Remind the person who makes the arrangements a week or so before your event to put a blurb in the newspaper.
· Send your Press Release and your Author Profile to the person you spoke with right away, and send it again when you remind them.
Big chain bookstores put up their own posters, but that doesn't prevent you from creating some of your own to put up in places with high people-flow.
Wal-Mart, Big K-Mart, Costco, Waldenbooks and Hastings, are good stores to contact. Barnes and Noble also holds book signings. However all books sold in B&N stores must be in B&N warehouse. Don't overlook regional bookstores and small local bookstores.
Paying attention to store owner's tips can provide invaluable facts. Since my story is in the Traveler's Soul™, one owner advised me to not do signings until travel season arrived in the area where my signings are booked. That translates to Memorial Day weekend, July and August in some of the areas I planned to work.
*Small details spell the difference between success and failure.
Ø Carry your stock.
When I contacted one storeowner to schedule a book signing, she asked if I'd brought along any copies of my book, Behind These Mountains. She bought six copies. Always arrive prepared. When you're calling on customers, carry your stock with you. Because the advertising materials that I prepared were not with me, I mailed her the complimentary free bookmarkers, the "Autographed First Edition" stickers to advertise my book, and sales brochures that promote my video and my book.
Entertainment and handouts
*Entertainment draws your customers at bookstore signings.
Ø Read from your story in the Chicken Soup™ book.
Ø Bring your own book and read entertaining excerpts.
Ø Hand out bookmarks and/or order forms for your book.
Ø Offer discounts.
You are expected to read from the story you contributed to the Chicken Soup™ book. Also read excerpts from any books or material of your own that you bring to the signing. The bookstore owner is hoping you'll help the store sell their merchandise. To them, you are a sales tool. Be a good salesman, you might get invited to return in the future.
Many writers use this opportunity to give free bookmarks that advertise their works or handout copies of material from workshops and seminars that they market. There are a myriad of ways to take advantage of this golden opportunity to promote or market your writing expertise.
A production company transferred my docudrama video from VHS onto VCD so that I'm able to show it on my laptop computer. It's not only terrific entertainment, but also a good sales and promotional tool.
Tip: If you offer a "special" discount for your book if it's bought "tonight" make sure that you won't sustain a loss after you've paid the store's commission.
Seminars and readings for profit
*Consider buying the Chicken Soup™ books to market, and begin scheduling your own potential career boosters and moneymakers.
Ø Arrange readings at local clubs, like the Kiwanis, Home Extension clubs, church groups, libraries, etc.
Ø Conduct seminars.
Ø Present a workshop.
If you participate in marketing by buying books at discount and scheduling signing events, sharing part of the profit from them with the hosting organization nets you an additional profit from your story. In these arrangements, customarily you retain all proceeds from sales of your own books and materials in these "back of the room" sales, which take place after the reading, seminar or workshop. You might also benefit from providing the sponsoring organization with a copy or two of their own book -- with ordering information on the back. As word spreads, sales and opportunities increase exponentially.
A seminar is an inspirational type affair where afterwards you'll sign your own books, etc. Wise speakers know that bargains are irresistible to attendees. Capitalize on the ability to buy Chicken Soup™ books 10% cheaper than bookstores' wholesale cost, and offer special discounts to customers at your seminars. You can net a profit in two ways by also charging admission fees of $30 or more.
A workshop is where you teach others about some specialized part of writing or marketing. You can present it in an hour, or it can take several days. That depends on your choice if you set it up independently, or on the terms of the agreement you enter into to fulfill the desires of a sponsoring organization.