C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Authors & Publishers: How to make a media kit Part 1

My hardboiled crime thriller Higher Than Jesus is available now. Please click it to get it.

Some crazies have already put up their Christmas lights so, ready or not, prime book selling season is here. One of the easiest things you can do to promote your books is a press kit. Start with local media to get the ball rolling. (If you want a sample of my catalogue and press release so you can see how I handled it, go to my author page at AllThatChazz.com and I’ll be glad to email you my most recent press kit.)

Before you mail anything out, consider these variables for your press kit:

1. If you have one book for sale, look for some angle and detail to pitch in the press release. Non-fiction with a local angle is the easiest sell. Non-fiction by a local author is a little less attractive, but saleable. Fiction can be the hardest pitch, but the smaller the newspaper, the easier it is. If you have multiple books, focus your press release pitch on one angle but send them a catalogue. Your press release materials can be repurposed to sell to customers through your website or at conferences and author events.

2. Research your media targets and be aware of deadlines. It’s already way too late for magazines, though some small arts newspapers that focus on the local scene may still have room for a piece about you before Christmas. Read the newspaper, community newspaper or magazine first. Aiming at individuals and likely targets works much better than bombing everyone everywhere.

From this research, be selective. For instance, aiming your press release and a friendly cover letter at a columnist who covers unique business enterprises and people in your city might be more effective than hitting up the editor for the arts section. Don’t just go for the book review editor (for whom a press release now is way too late for Christmas no matter how small the venue.)

3. Don’t overlook radio stations. They’re media, too. College radio stations are often easier to get into and provide diverse programming options to a reading audience. Also consider podcasts. They hit a worldwide audience but have fewer barriers to entry if you choose to send a friendly email off to the right one.

Television is unlikely unless you’ve got very specific material that fits the show, like a unique and very visual pitch to a TV producer at “Breakfast Television” on City TV in Toronto. Newspapers and magazines are a shotgun blast to opportunity. Getting into TV or national markets in radio requires a rifle scope, a cookbook or a picture book about fashions for dogs. Watch a lot of that stuff to see if you could fit in somewhere. Be a celebrity first. That helps immensely.

4. Send your media kit to one person and be familiar with their work. Get the name of the arts and entertainment reporter, for instance, and send the email directly to his or her email. Don’t send multiple emails to the same media venue. That can create chaos, resentment and blood blisters on your genitals.

In some smaller newspaper operations that use freelancers, it may not be apparent which individuals are assigned particular beats. If so,  select the appropriate assignment editor from the publication’s masthead and address your cover letter to him or her. Don’t send it to one of those general addresses that start info@somerandomnewspaper.net or inquiries@couldn’tbebothered.com. Again, it’s best to have picked up and read an issue or two before sending out anything.

5. Tie your press release to some larger event if appropriate. For instance, if you’ve written a book about consumerism, I’d tie the press release to Black Friday right now. Always look for this opportunity to give the story traction for the reporter. They’re looking for an angle and they want you to give it to them in the press release. Remember, you have to sell the angle to the reporter because they have to sell the idea to a jaded and depressed editor who has heard it all and hates it all.

6. Write your press release as if it’s the story you want to see in the paper. e.g. “When you supply ready-made quotes, you’re making the reporter’s job easier and giving coverage of your story a better shot,” Chute said. “When I was a newspaper reporter, I still checked out all the facts stated in the press release but the document was often a strong springboard for the articles I wrote.”

7. Show some personality in your cover letter. It’s probably going to run in the Arts section, right? So why write the cover letter as if you’re a humorless conglomerate’s soulless flack trying to put an oil spill in a happy light?

I’m angling for an author profile so to get the interview — as opposed to a straight news story — I’m striving to hit a certain tone that matches my books. Here’s the opening paragraph to my cover letter for my media kit:

The book publishing revolution is here in London and it’s going to make a big boom. I thought we should talk about my plans for world domination before I give my ninja monkey clone assassins the launch codes. 

That got their attention. Here’s the slightly more serious follow-up paragraph: 

In the attachments you’ll find the media kit for Ex Parte Press and my press release. The short story is that I quit my day job to form a publishing company a year ago. Ex Parte Press lords its power over one client: Me. I now have seven books for sale on Amazon in digital and paperback. I write hardboiled suspense, publishing advice and some very quirky self-help. For more on me, you can also check out my websites: ChazzWrites.com and AllThatChazz.com. You should be warned that I ply reporters and spies alike with bad coffee.

Obviously, if you’ve written a business book about successful investing in ostrich farms, you’d be more serious. I’d go with a few bullet points on why the future is in ostrich farming. The headline would read, “Investors are losing money by sticking their heads in the sand,” which, by the way, is a persistent myth about ostriches. Even with most serious topics, write a catchy headline even if you play the rest of the press release straight. They won’t use your headline, but you still need to be catchy.

For the rest of my tips on building a killer press kit to sell more books, achieve celebrity and host huge orgies with a distinctly Roman theme, see the rest at AllThatChazz.com. 

Or overcome your better judgment and buy all the books by Robert Chazz Chute here. 

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review: The highs and lows of a book promotion campaign. What works?

Suspense, parables, inspiration, surprise.

Last week I wrote about my campaign to drag Self-help for Stoners into the world’s consciousness. If you’re new to the blog, long story short: I wrote a book of suspenseful fiction with a self-help twist dedicated to director Kevin Smith. When I had the honour of handing the book to my DIY hero at a comedy event simulcast to theatres across the US and Canada, I felt I had to take advantage of this unique opportunity. I tried an experiment with a press release distribution service called PR Web. For more on that review of the troubles I had getting the press release accepted for wide distribution, check out the original post here. 

Soon after the press release went into wide distribution, I got a small increase in traffic, but not, it seemed, in the way I’d hoped. 

The Dangerous Kind

Murder might solve your problems. Two brothers go hunting. Only one will see home again.

A fellow on Google+ was complimentary to me (I have balls!) but thought the money ($240) was wasted. He wasn’t being unkind…at least I don’t think he meant to be. He just thought there were better uses of my time and newer, more innovative ways to spread the word about my book’s existence. I’m always interested in learning more and I’m particularly interested when people have ideas about what to do instead of what not to do. (More on that in another post after I conduct more field research.)

Imagine my chagrin when I read a post by Dead Wesley Smith who decreed that spending money on book promotion is a waste of time and money until you have 50 books for sale. That’s right. Fifty! I double-checked to make sure it wasn’t the cloying cloud of depression and stress headaches obscuring my vision misleading me. Kurt Vonnegut only wrote fourteen novels in his lifetime. If Dean Wesley Smith is right, is there any place for book promotion for most of us? Maybe I struck the iron too early, but given the scope of the simulcast, my press release appeared to be a now-or-never opportunity.

My speed of production isn’t near as quick as Dean Wesley Smith, but how many of us can write (good) books that fast? Maybe I should write faster, but even at once every three months, I wouldn’t be gambling a promotional penny to let the world know I exist until 2024. Will I even live long enough to ever have to bother with book promotion at that rate? Hm. That would be a great solution except for  the part about me being dead. I do agree with Dean on one point thoroughly and I’ve said it many times myself: your best book promotion idea is to get to work on the next book and I’m certainly doing that. I’ll be coming out with three books this year (so that’s one every four months, though I confess that two and half are already written and I’m mostly in the revision stage.) I’m not as skilled as Dean Wesley Smith because I’m not up to the pace he’s setting. I honestly wouldn’t have confidence in the end product if I pushed that fast. No worries or apologies on that score. We’re all just doing the best we can. (For more on what indie production actually costs, check out Dean Wesley Smith’s post here.)

But what you’re wondering is, what did the PR Web press release actually do and could that work for your book? It’s too early to tell, so once again, my results are

Don't argue over parking spots with strangers. Or else.

preliminary. The cycle of Google analytics is 28 days long, and what follows is just the first week of results. (However, isn’t it already old news now that the event is over a week stale?) I can tell you that PR Web’s marketing guy sounded very pleased. He phoned me yesterday morning to say that I’d worked the SEO right (five links maximum was how it worked out with my word count) and he said the response to the press release was “great.”

“How do I quantify ‘great’?” I asked. I’m sure I whacked him with a heavy note of skepticism but he seemed no less bouncy at my glorious prospects. He told me how to get the analytics for the press release. Apparently, the number of people who read the release, liked the headline and read to the end of the article was impressive, perhaps even unusual. Nice, though I wish I liked the press release more. (For more on that, once again, refer to the original post.)

8,027 media deliveries boiled down to 49 “interactions” (where a link was clicked or a pdf was downloaded) and eight “pickups”. The report contains a sample of Web sites that picked up or syndicated my story. It’s apparently not the full list, but media outlets included: Hollywood Industry, Mac DVD Pro, Digital Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Corporate Media News, Yahoo! News, and Consumer Electronics Net.

But these aren’t the numbers you really want to know. Has this press release helped sales? Sadly, not much so far that is measurable. I saw a bit of a bounce up on my Amazon sales, but that settled quickly. And the truth is, since I’m doing several other things, I could easily attribute that blip to the success of other marketing tactics. But before I draw conclusions in this review, see if you can follow the roller coaster of author thrust and bureaucratic parry that has brought me to my sad current state.

Here are the highs and lows and forays

of my marketing campaign for Self-help for Stoners:

High: I sent out several press releases about meeting Kevin Smith to CBC shows and to my local paper. These forays cost me nothing.

Low: CBC didn’t call back. The local columnist who showed enthusiasm seems to have lost my number. Or he’s sick and not at work. Gee, I hope he’s sick.

What if God gives you what you want? What if you win an argument against God?

High: Kevin Smith has a cult and for a shining moment I was in front of them. I paid $200 for a one-minute ad to run on Smith’s Smodcast network the day he got back on the mic. I figured since he hadn’t been on the mic for such a long time, the first day he got back on the show would have high ratings and many downloads. And maybe they’d remember said shining moment from the broadcast of the Live from Behind Show in Toronto.

Low: The ad didn’t run on schedule. There was a communication breakdown. Despite my best efforts at keeping in touch with the ad guy at Smod, it didn’t happen. It’s supposed to run today (February 14th on Smodcast Internet Radio. I’m sacrificing a goat to Thor, hoping it happens this time. Don’t worry about the goat. He’s suicidal.)

High: I did two podcasts about my Kevin Smith experience, before and after. They’ve been well-received by those who have heard them. “One and a quarter hours of narrative gold,” said one, Thor bless him. Bliss. (See all the podcasts here.)

Low: Though they may catch on in the long term, not many people have actually heard them! I screwed up the metadata so, on Stitcher, the first words that show up in the tiny window that give the podcast summary are not Chazz Meets Kevin Smith and Jay Mewes. Instead it reads: Show notes and podcast details… That won’t get anybody new to check out my filthy jokes and stream of consciousness trips in order to find me utterly delightful and worthy of their love and bucks.

Twisty and twisted. Click the pic for more.

High: I thought KDP Select might be my salvation to really get things going. Amazon told me all I’d have to do was tell Bookbaby to withdraw from all other platforms to meet the exclusivity caveat. Any other action might risk duplication on Amazon’s site.

Low: BookBaby disagrees. I got a nice email (eventually—BookBaby seems awfully slow to respond to me of late) saying that they would have to withdraw the books from all channels, it would be permanent, and I’d have to enter my books into KDP Select myself. With no confidence in how long that might take, I don’t want to risk not having any books for sale anywhere, especially with all the promotion work I’ve done. I replied to BookBaby that rather than risk a screw up and no availability of my books for an indeterminate amount of time, I’d keep my books where they were through BookBaby and just get the new books straight into KDP Select without them next time. That’s a loss all around, I’d say, but I’m the one who will feel it most.

There are a lot of tragic starts and stops to this tale, aren’t there?

The word “thwarted” is pushing into the centre of my brain like the capricious thumb of an angry god.

High: I tried to organize a Buy X Get Y promotion for my book on Amazon.

Low: Amazon Advantage said they couldn’t do it because fulfilment for my paperback is through CreateSpace, which is POD and they’d need stock on hand. After a light scolding, they told me to go to CreateSpace for a similar promotion program.

Asia_Unbound

Are we ever free from our secrets? Find out here.

Lower: CreateSpace said they’d call back. Then they sent me an email instead saying they have no idea what Amazon is talking about. (Note that CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, too, but never the twain shall meet, I guess, even if the plan would have made a buttload of money.) Once again, Chazz hurts moms. So much so, he begins to write about himself in the third person. With loathing,

Lowest: As I write this, I’m feeling a bit emotional and teary. The sum of the message so far is: Nobody knows me, I don’t matter and as good as the book is, it still doesn’t matter if I can’t convince anyone to try it out. And a fresh pile of bills arrived yesterday. There isn’t an author on earth who hasn’t felt this way, yet the lash feels equally new for every person every time.

Clawing and climbing out of the mire: So there are a few things I am doing which I’m more positive about. Writing and revising the new stuff is going well. (Three new novels this year! Whoo, and also hoo!) The Writing World will run an interview with me in early March. My friend Eden Baylee will also run a saucy little interview with me soon. I’ve sent out a couple more copies for book reviewers and will continue to seek out reviewers for all my books. The Self-help for Stoners podcast continues weekly and I had a clip broadcast on Succotash, a popular comedy clip show. I think I’ll have an excerpt from Self-help appear on the next The Word Count Podcast, in support of #IndiesUnite4Joshua (fun and a great cause.) I’m also getting quite a few nice mentions on other podcasts, like Logical Weightloss and The School of Podcasting.

But wait, Chazz! How do you account for that blip where sales came up a bit? It could be my promise on my podcast to gain converts individually by tying each new reader up and torturing them with sexual delights to gain converts. It could be that some new people I met lately have checked out my books or some found me through the Kevin Smith event when I was on

Get Vengeance and get surprised.

camera. Maybe the press release had some effect, but I tend to doubt it, at least until more evidence arrives through Google analytics.

So what have we learned about promoting our books? So far? We need more data.

I’d say I’ve learned this much:

1. Triberr has helped me get more new traffic to my blogs than anything else. I can see that clearly in my stats and my Twitter feed.

2. I have to find more innovative ways to get the word out. I’m working on that. (More later.)

3. I have to get more reviews. I have had excellent feedback on much of my work, but even when people are enthused, it doesn’t necessarily translate to reviews. I am soliciting reviews as my writing schedule allows.

4. I have to remember how much I believe in my books, because in the beginning, no matter who you are and no matter your experience, you’re just another schmo until you’re discovered. After you’ve made it, you’re a genius. Until then? Schmo. The writing awards and all the experience don’t matter. Yet.

Most important?

Did I mention I have more books coming out?

That will be what counts more than anything.

I have to provide a larger target for my readership to find me. 

My people are out there. I will find them. They will find me.

UPDATE: In keeping with the theme of getting thwarted, the Smashwords website is down at the moment, so the links from the short story covers are directed back to the author site until Smashwords is back up. The links in the The Dangerous Kind, Self-help for Stoners and Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun & profit) covers work fine. You can still get everything I write across most digital book platforms, of course, (i.e. search Kobo and there they are) but as long as Smashwords is down, you can’t grab the short stories directly from that site. I will update as soon as the Smashwords server is back up. It’s all very…consistent with today’s theme, isn’t it?

LATEST UPDATE: SMASHWORDS IS NOW BACK ONLINE AND THE SHORT STORY COVERS NOW LINK BACK TO THAT SITE. Find out more about these short stories here.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit), the novella The Dangerous Kind, Self-help for Stoners and several suspenseful short stories with gut-punch endings, available at Smashwords. He’s in suspense, figuratively and literally and his comedy podcast, Self-help for Stoners, airs each Friday on Stitcher and iTunes. Visit the author site, AllThatChazz.com,  for updates on Chazz’s fiction and to download the podcast.

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Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rejection, reviews, web reviews, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Using mass press release distribution to let the world know about your books

Hi everyone. This post is meant to be a helpful preliminary review of a press release service you could use to promote your books. Then it devolves into a self-pitying, snarly, snarky rant in which a tiny, hairless pig feels threatened. No animals were harmed in the making of this post…I think. Okay, he may be psychologically wounded.

I’ve had an eventful week. I got to meet director Kevin Smith and Jay Mewes (of Jay & Silent Bob fame) and handed them each a copy of my book, Self-help for StonersNext, how to capitalize on that?

I tried to organize a confluence of events around the book.

It’s basically a fiction collection of dark suspense with a self-help twist. (Yes, not an easy categorization which is both an advantage and a curse.) I’d met Kevin Smith in unusual circumstances in that when I handed him the book, thousands of his fans were watching on movie theatre screens across North America. I didn’t think the press release would be as hard as it was, especially since my training is in journalism and I’ve seen hundreds of press releases (and dumped hundred of press releases in the wastebasket.)

Then a friend of mine convinced me I should send out a press release. Well…a bunch of them. I sent them to several CBC shows and my local newspaper. The local columnist bit and me and my books will be profiled. So there’s that.

Then I remembered PR Web.

It’s basically a press release distribution service. It cost me $240 and to meet their editorial guidelines was a real bitch. Their marketing guy assured me they work with authors “all the time”. Non-fiction authors, maybe. They gave me a lot of hassle about getting into the widest distribution channel. (They offered to let me print it the way I wanted, if I were to accept a smaller distribution channel. For $240? Hell, no! I kept banging my head against the wall four or five times and they kept pushing the goal posts back to get into that wider distribution channel.) Finally, today it went out and was reprinted verbatim on a major website. (ONE website so far with little appreciable increase in blog traffic or sales. So far. UPDATE: By the way, here’s the link for the final draft: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/578381. It’s not what I envisioned at all, but it’s okay I guess. )

On the other hand, it just went out this afternoon. It was delayed for “editorial reasons” They wanted it to be more newsy, fewer back links etc., no opinion… Basically they require that it look like any other press release, which isn’t what I was going for, but maybe I’m wrong and maybe they know what they’re doing. I’ll be the judge of that in coming days.

In the meantime, I have an ad running soon on the Smodcast Internet Radio network and one of the bits from my podcast (also called Self-help for Stoners cuz mama didn’t raise no dummy) will run on Succotash, a popular comedy clip show podcast. I just recorded a podcast today that will air Friday that details the whole experience meeting my DIY hero. The cult is into it.

And frankly, I am so tired of marketing! I normally don’t mind it, but with the PR Web delays and frustrations, I just want to crawl into bed with a coffee and write the next book uninterrupted, under the covers in my cowboy jammies with Alfred bringing me M&Ms (he brings the cape and cowl at midnight.)

This morning I screamed bad words at no one several times. The kids’ skinny pig is above my office and he probably shit himself in terror.

I haven’t finished my evaluation of PR Web yet, but I’d say go over their editorial guidelines to be sure you can meet them. As a fiction writer, it’s obviously difficult to be “newsy” enough. I had a very specific hook, several references to new technology (a first, in fact) and a major celebrity to piggyback the story. And they still didn’t zoom it through.

Even if I get a thousand hits tomorrow morning, here are the things I didn’t like:

the editorial person I spoke to on the phone wasn’t friendly (and I was… I only scream at empty rooms and tiny, terrified pigs); the marketing guy started out bouncy and helpful but then seemed anxious to dump me after he requested the draft (and his department couldn’t communicate with editorial); their user interface wasn’t all that intuitive; you pay before you can actually see the template you’re using to create the press release and they artificially delay the release of the news. (On that last point, I was concerned the information was getting more stale by the minute, but they make you pay more for the express line and I thought $240 was plenty, especially since $40 of that was to get a “star” to bump me up a list to improve visibility. Frustrating.)

I hope this helps someone here. Biggest issue for sure would be: being just another fiction author without a big hook. I had it and still encountered resistance I hadn’t anticipated that was a huge time drain.

Back to writing and revising…and lower blood pressure.*

 I wrote this post on Devin O’Branagan’s writer’s forum first, a couple of days ago and I’m sharing it here again for my blog readers.

__________________
~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Self-help for Stoners, The Dangerous Kind, and Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun & profit). I’m in suspense, literally and figuratively.

Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, Social Media, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, , , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

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