Sunday, June 26, 2005

Story of a Bestseller: The Power of a Postcard by Penny C. Sansevieri

In the TWL Author Group this week, we've had the privilege and the pleasure of hosting Penny C. Sansevieri, publicist and promoting extraordinaire. It is with her permission to post an article by her called "Story of a Best Seller: The Power of a Postcard" which took her self-published book, THE CLIFFHANGER to the #1 spot on Amazon. Amazing!

Story of a Bestseller: The Power of a Postcard

A recent article in Publisher's Weekly reported about an author who shot their book up to the #1 spot on where it remained for two days. This new marketing tactic (called "permission marketing") is becoming very popular.

Unfortunately, it's not inexpensive and you must also have access to a large database of email addresses. This database is blasted with persuasive emails about buying your book. If you have the database and funds to do this, great! You can get your book to the #1 spot on Amazon. Whether it stays there for one day or one week, you can now call yourself a bestselling author.

Challenging the traditional is the only way to get noticed in a noisy world and there are other ways to launch that challenge. That's how I got my first book, The Cliffhanger, to the #1 spot on (best selling book within San Diego) where it stayed for three months. How did I do it?

I hung my star on something already in the public eye: the 2000 Presidential election. You remember that, right? How could you forget?! In the midst of chads, hanging and otherwise, our local paper ran a huge headline that read: Cliffhanger! I knew if I couldn't find a way to position my book around that, I needed to hang up my marketing hat. Problem: The Cliffhanger had nothing to do with politics. It was a love story about people in denial. (No news there.) Still, I knew if I looked hard enough, I could find a way.

I woke that night at 3 AM with an idea so outrageous, I knew it had to work. I raced out to the office supply store the minute it opened to pick up several packs of clear labels. I got out the postcards I had printed with the book cover on them and stuck on labels with the following slogan:

Getting tired of the Presidential cliffhanger?
Try this one.
The Cliffhanger, a novel.
No politics involved.

I mailed 500 postcards out that day while praying the election wouldn't get called. I mailed these postcards to everyone in the media I'd ever contacted. Ever!

Days after my mass-mailing, I was walking through my living room when suddenly I spotted my book cover on the screen. I was stunned. The local TV anchor was saying, "This has got to be the best thing I've ever seen. This lady wants you to go buy her book. I say everyone should rush out and buy it." And everyone did. That afternoon my book shot up to the #1 spot on Amazon where it stayed for three months. It even beat out Harry Potter (which was #4 at that time) yet Harry got the movie. Go figure.

That single postcard shot my book up the ranks at Amazon and quite literally changed my life and the way I look at marketing. To this day, people in the industry still know me as The Cliffhanger lady. And I'm happy and proud about that.

Wishing you an outrageously successful campaign!

Penny C. Sansevieri

The Cliffhanger was published in June of 2000. After a strategic marketing campaign it quickly climbed the ranks at to the #1 best selling book in San Diego. Her most recent book: No More Rejections. Get Published Today! was released in July of 2002 to rave reviews. Penny is a book marketing and media relations specialist. She also coaches authors on projects, manuscripts and marketing plans and instructs a variety of coursing on publishing and promotion. To learn more about her books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at To subscribe to her free ezine, send a blank email to:
Copyright ã 2004 Penny C. Sansevieri

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Elaura Niles, author of SOME WRITERS DESERVE TO STARVE! 31 BRUTAL TRUTHS ABOUT THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY (Writer’s Digest, 2005), is a former writing conference coordinator who was inspired to pen an advice book to writers based on her experiences in the publishing world.

Click here to buy!


When did your passion for writing begin?

I’ve had a lot of passions… painting, dancing, music, sculpting. Overall, I’m a really creative person and for a long time I was looking for the right outlet (because I really sucked at the above-mentioned activities). While I took stabs at writing poetry and short stories for years, nothing really gelled until 1999 when I bought a book called “The Weekend Novelist” by Robert Ray and finally found the courage to begin penning my magnum opus (that no one wanted to publish).

Can you tell us what your typical “writing” day is like?

Well, first my husband ties me in my chair… just kidding. I always wake up early. That’s the one constant. My writing days have been pretty chaotic this past year. In the early hours I journal, drink coffee and do a few free form thinking exercises to blow out the cobwebs. Then I get to it. Recently, I read a book called “Page After Page” by Heather Sellers. Using her exercises I am trying to lead a more structured writing life.

Do you write full time?

Except for the siren song of a church rummage sale, I’m here at my computer.


First, the title and the structure are all because of a brilliant editor named Jane Friedman. Under her leadership, I rewrote a manuscript titled “Who Buys Lunch? Protocol For Writers” – it had been on submission to publishers for about a month when Jane seized upon it.

Who published your book and how has your experience with them been?

Writer’s Digest published STARVE earlier this year. Greg Hatfield is my hero. The whole team at WD has been incredibly supportive, but Greg went above and beyond, making sure the book received national attention.


My years as a conference coordinator led me to write this book. I saw hundreds of writers making career-crippling mistakes, and while I could take a few of them aside and help, I realized a book would be a better way to pass on my experiences. I’d like to add that the only way I knew these writers were ruining their chances of success was because I had already messed up in the exact same ways.

Can you tell us ways you are promoting your book? Have they been successful?

Thanks to Greg Hatfield, I’ve been invited to many writing conferences, done radio and print interviews. I’m working toward TV. Recently a panel I moderated was taped for broadcast on a local cable station.

Who are your favorite authors and why do they inspire you?

When I first began writing, I loved Olivia Goldsmith’s witty prose. I tried to emulate her by writing out “Marrying Mom” in longhand, trying to figure out how to steal her rhythm and voice. Of course, it didn’t work. Eventually I found my own style, but the late, great Ms. Goldsmith is still my idol.

Do you have a mentor?

I’ve had many mentors… and not just writer mentors. It’s important for all artistic types to have creative life mentors. Face it, saying you’re going to do something -- like writing, painting, music or puppeteering -- is a scary first step. Follow through can be brutal. My first mentor was Susana Domingues, a tango dancer. Through her example, I found the courage to write.

What future projects do you have in the works?

Novels. That’s my true love. I have several outlined, it’s just hard to find the courage to bring them to life (not to mention the months of ass-in-chair time).

What do you feel are the pros and cons of the publishing industry today?

The pros are the people that get behind you to make a project something bigger than you ever imagined. The cons are the people, with their own agendas, who ding you every chance they get – just to pump their own egos. It takes a lot of time and effort to write books. We should celebrate everyone that does.

Can you give aspiring authors words of advice toward getting published?

There are many aspects to “getting published.” Understanding the industry is really the key to becoming a part of it.

What’s one thing about your life that you think is important, but nobody asks?

Well I could trill on for hours about the two baby owls (Great Horned!) in my backyard this year. I’m totally obsessed with my sixteen-week-old feathered friends (and the rapidly declining rabbit population around here), but I realize that won’t help anyone get published. So my official answer will be naps and exercise. When I hit a seemingly unsolvable snag, either in writing or life, naps help facilitate problem-solving. I also take a lot of short walks during the day, usually every hour or so. It helps improve my focus, plus I get to check on my owls.


Barnes & Noble chose STARVE as an “Impulse Buy” for February 2005. Borders has been a wonderful supporter of the book, too, as well as many independent bookstores.

You can visit Ms. Niles' website at

5 Steps to Get Paid When Doing Business With Baker & Taylor by Michelle Dunn

There have been quite a few complaints from publishers about late or non payment from Baker & Taylor. Some have stopped sending books to the large distributor because of past due invoices, some over 180 days old. Part of the problem is no response, it is bad enough when you are not getting paid, but when orders keep coming in and you are not getting any acknowledgement to your collection efforts, you just can’t keep sending books, says one publisher.

There are steps publishers can take to get paid on those past due invoices and keep new invoices current.

Step #1 Gather together all the past due invoices, and stamp them PAST DUE.

Step #2 If you have an email address or phone number with a contact name at Baker & Taylor, email them or call them and give them the information on the past due invoices and let them know their account is on hold.

Step #3 Mail the invoices to Baker & Taylor with return receipt requested or send them in a flat rate Priority Mail envelope with delivery confirmation.

Step #4 Send a letter with these invoices stating the age, invoice numbers, their PO#, your account #, total amount due, and any other pertinent information.

Step #5 Tell them their account is on hold and you will not be shipping any more books to them until these invoices are paid. You can include a self addressed envelope and state that you have enclosed an envelope for them to send their check. Give them a date, to have this paid to you.

If you would like a free sample letter to use, please email me at with B & T past due letter in the subject line.

Once they have received the package, email or call them. Ask them what they are doing with the invoices. Ask them questions such as:

Do they have to be approved by someone else?

If they have to be approved, who has to approve them and when will they give them to that person? Get that person’s direct number if possible. Find out if that person signs the checks.
Are there any discrepancies with the invoices?

When will the check be cut? When can you call back for the check number?

Once all the past due balances are cleared up, you need to think about future invoices. Do you want to extend credit again or do you want to have pre-payment or payment at the time of the order. Whatever you decide put it in writing. If you can both sign the agreement, that is even better. Remember, having a credit policy in place tells people you mean business.


About the author:

Michelle Dunn has over 17 years experience in Credit and Debt collection. She is the founder and president of Never Dunn Publishing, LLC, is a writer, publisher, consultant and the Editorial Advisor for Eli Financial Debt Collection Compliance Alert Newsletter.

Michelle started M.A.D. Collection Agency in January 1998 and ran it successfully until she sold it in December 2004. She owns and runs Credit & an online community for credit and business professionals.

Michelle has been featured in Ladies Home Journal, PC World, Home Business Magazine, Home Business Journal, Entrepreneur, The Internet Web Source, Professional Collector, and in Home Based Business for Dummies, Shameless Marketing for Brazen Hussies, From the Home-Front The Simple guide to starting and Running a Home based business, she was a featured guest on (NPR) National Public Radio and has been in many newspapers nationwide. She has many published articles and 3 published books to add to her list of accomplishments. She is now publishing two more titles in her Collecting Money Series as well as a boxed set.

In addition to writing and marketing her books, Michelle moderates and runs Credit & and has been a member of The American Collectors Association for 8 years. Visit her website at or for more information on how you can make more money collecting the money that is owed to you and having a sound credit policy.

Monday, June 20, 2005

It's So Hard to be Published Books

I was over at Jill Elaine Hughes' blog, Throw Novel From the Train II today (first time and lurved it) and in one of her posts, she was discussing just how hard it is to get published and named a few books with titles such as "78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might" by Pat Walsh and "Some Writers Deserve To Starve: 31 Brutal Truths about the Publishing Industry" by Elaura Niles and it got me to thinking about my own how to book that will be coming out soon on the very same subject.

Walsh's book is described as an insider's blunt, practical, and laugh-out-loud funny guide for the unpublished, filled with advice that may actually help them get into print.

For the hundreds of thousands who buy writers’ guides every year, at last there’s one that tells the ugly truth: writers who can’t get published areusually making a lot of mistakes. This honest, often funny, book shows them howto identify their own missteps, stop listening to bad advice, and get to work. Drawing on his experience as founding editor of MacAdam/Cage, Pat Walsh giveswriters what they need—specific, straightforward feedback to help them overcomebad habits and bad luck. He avoids the optimistic, sometimes misleadingdirections often found in publishing how-to books and presents the industry asit is, warts and all. Here is the first guide that tells writers just what theodds against them are and gives them practical tips for evening them.

Niles' book is described as...

While commitment and craft can take writers to the top, most will fail withoutthe insider savvy needed to navigate the publishing industry. Not just anotherhappily-ever-after writing book, this guide provides:-Twenty-seven cold, hardtruths about the realities of getting published, including Nepotism Happens andWriters Rarely Help Other Writers. -Easy-to-digest, quick lessons that are bothbrowsable and succinct -A tough love approach to instructing and motivatingwritersBoot camp and charm school all in one, this book will toughen up writersso they can survive and thrive in the publishing world.
I've not read either, but from what I've heard, they are excellent books to help the writer/aspiring author open up her/his eyes and see the industry as it really is. You wouldn't jump in a raging river with your eyes blindfolded, would you? Of course not. The more you know, the more your chances of avoiding the pitfalls along the way.

And this is the very same reason I feel that more books like these should be out on the shelves.

Sometimes we hate to see the writing on the wall, but if we could just take these words of wisdom, and learn from them, I have a funny feeling that not only would be become more prolific, we could avoid all those silly, stupid mistakes that writers like myself have made in the past and become even better writers, and better promotors, too, for that reason.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Interview with Debora Allie

“Because I can’t sing,” Deb Allie jokes when asked why she writes. She’s been writing professionally since the day she finished graduate school at Pace University in Manhattan, where she earned an M.S. in Publishing degree. She has written jacket and ad copy for a publishing company, marketing proposals for a medical management company, newsletters, corporate communications, feature articles, Requests for Proposals, software documentation . . . and now a book called The Meanest Girl for 8-12 year old girls.

When Deb was that age, all she did was read. She kept a notebook and looked up any words she didn’t know. She wondered how the book people got all the words to end up at the same place on the side of the page and why there was more space between some words than others. She noticed when commas were used and when they weren’t. When she was in seventh grade at Maple Hill Middle School in Castleton, New York, she entered a read-a-thon but didn’t read too many books because she was reading Gone With the Wind at the time (over 1,000 pages). She won a bicycle anyway.

After high school she went to the State University of New York at Albany and earned a B.A. in English and Psychology. Now that she is “way old,” her favorite pastime is hanging out with her seven-year-old son, Jason. She enjoys rollerblading, but only if Jason is with her to distract her from the monotony of her right leg going in and out. (She doesn’t notice the left leg.) She also likes hiking, but only if it’s not to humid or buggy. She can walk for miles and miles as long as it’s by the sea. She also enjoys playing basketball at the local grocery store and claims she can hit the hoop from down by the squash (“downtown”). Price Chopper has since blocked access to the hoop with cases of soda.

Debora Allie, and her son, Jason, live in East Greenbush, New York. This is her first book.


When did your passion for writing begin?

When I was a little girl. I loved books, but my own creative writing never really took off until I was in college, when I wrote poetry. I never took a writing short stories or novel writing course in college because I thought it would be too difficult to pull off with the course load that I had.

Can you tell us what your typical “writing” day is like?

I don’t have a typical writing day. When I wrote The Meanest Girl, I wrote during down times at work, on my lunch half hour, at 4:00 in the morning (I think that was only once!), on Sunday afternoons if I could get my butt into the chair. I did a major revision on a bus trip to hear Maurice Sendak speak in Boston. That gave me two-and-a-half hours each way to revise. When I was laid off from my last job, I tried to write as much as I could, letting the housework go in order to get the book (Spastic Summer) to my agent as soon as I could. I found that I was more willing to work if I could sit in my big comfy chair with my laptop and feet up on the ottoman than if I had to sit at a desk.

Can you tell us a little about The Meanest Girl?

The title and the first two sentences of The Meanest Girl came to me as a gift, dropping out of the sky when I was really tired one day and the right side of my brain wasn’t working so well:

My name is Maria Alyssa Louisa Elena Fontana. In my family, they say names follow you like curses.

It started as a beginner reader—12 pages, and ended with the character making lemonade out of lemons. (How cliché is that?) An editor actually was interested in the first two lines and wanted it expanded by 85 pages. So I wrote my little heart out and my agent sent it to them. And then I got a generic rejection letter back from the editor’s assistant. I couldn’t believe it. I’d written the book just for them, and they didn’t even have the courtesy to send a personal rejection letter (which was what I had always received).

So then I decided to keep working on it, to make it a good length so that it would be appropriate for middle-grade students.

The story is about Alyssa Fontana, who thinks she has a pretty perfect life in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn until the meanest girl moves to town from Albany and basically ruins it. Hayden Martin sticks gum in her hair, tries to steal her friends . . . even reveals a horrible family secret. Then Alyssa’s best friend Chelsea forms a club, and now that she’s President of the World she doesn’t seem to care about Alyssa at all! And as if that isn’t enough, her mom says it’s time for her to buy a bra, and the only meatloaf she’ll make is vegetarian.

And then there’s all the weirdness with her English teacher . . . like totally major crush, and when Alyssa receives a love note from a secret admirer, her whole world goes into a tizzy. Who’s in love with her? Who sent the note? And what’s the matter with Chelsea? Will life ever be the same again?

Who published your book and how has your experience with them been?

My book was published by Roaring Brook Press. Since this is my first book, I don’t have anything to compare the experience to. But it was difficult because Roaring Brook went bankrupt during the time I was waiting for my contract and my advance. I just kept revising and revising on good faith.

Everyone says Deborah Brodie is a good working editor, but again, I have nothing to compare it to. Her editing wasn’t as extensive as I thought it would be, as far as line by line editing, so it took me a while to catch on to what she wanted. But after a number of revisions, I finally saw a pattern. I cut 28 pages without her telling me to. Deborah took the draft on vacation with her, read it on the plane, and was so thrilled with the revision that she called me as soon as she got off the plane and said she’d tell the company to put my total advance through.

As far as my contract getting held up, Deborah was great to offer me more free books with my contract than I would have gotten otherwise. But I didn’t receive any money for publicity or any printed materials, (other than the ARC and marketing catalogue) which would have helped. For example, I know that some publishers print postcards or bookmarks for the author. I have spent a tremendous amount of money on publicity.

Can you tell us the inspiration behind The Meanest Girl?

None of what happened in the book happened to me in real life, but I did draw on the emotions of similar experience.

Can you tell us ways you are promoting your book? Have they been successful?

I have been flying by the seat of my pants, but it has been going very well. I created a web site,, which I am very proud of because I don’t have any programming experience and it’s exactly what I dreamed of. I had business cards printed up with the picture of the cover, the release date, and my web address. I called a bunch of local bookstores and lined up signings (eight of them). Once I had the dates pinned down, I printed out labels that were the same size as the business cards and put the dates of the signings on the back of the card. Then everywhere I went I asked people if they knew any girls that were 8-12 years old. They almost always did, so I would tell them about the book and hand them a stack of cards. I hated being so bold, but a lot came out of it. Every time I did that, I would check my website stats and there was a big spike in the number of people looking at the site. I also did e-mail blasts. They are very effective. Got many hits on the site after sending out the e-mails. I’ve also done postcards with all of the signing dates listed and my website address. Also very effective. (I created a mailing list database of everyone I could possibly think of that I knew.) I e-mailed a television station and ended up getting interviewed by an Emmy award winning reporter who reviews films and interviews movie stars. They were interested because of the tie-in between my book and bullying. (I’ve created a bullying program to take into schools.) One newspaper had me and my book as the lead story (the very top of the front page!) on Memorial Day, which happened to be my 40th birthday. They justified it by using spinning it with the emphasis on bullying, just like the TV. news did. I’ve sent press releases and advance readers copies to all of the newspapers. I sent information to the local girl scouts’ chapter and they ran the bullying program/signing that I’m doing at the local library in two newsletters.

One day at work they wanted me to e-mail a logo to a local PBS station, and I had to call to get the e-mail address. So, taking advantage of every opportunity, I asked what the man did for the station, and he was in charge of the upcoming auction they were having. So I told him I’d donate a signed copy of the book, and to make the package more valuable, I created a tote bag with my book cover and initials on it (using iron-on transfers from WalMart), a teddy bear with a t-shirt with the book cover on it, and threw in a limosine ride with me and my friends and a tiara for either the girl or the bear to wear. Then I e-mailed everyone about that, and the package went for $59, which the station said was good. I made up bumper stickers that faded in the sun and ran in the rain, a t-shirt for my son to wear that he thinks is too girly, and even buttons. I made up bumper stickers for my parents. My father’s says my name and the book title and then “Please buy my daughter’s book so she’ll stop borrowing from me.” I put the book cover on the back of my denim jacket. Over the top it says “The TMG Shameless Self-Promotion Publicity Tour.” I even made a TMG necklace. (The matching earrings didn’t work out.) I bought a plastic display and displayed postcards and business cards at a local coffee shop. I’ve done everything except hire that guy in NYC who rents out space his forehead. As of this writing, my website has had over 15,000 requests with 4,000 requests for pages. And I didn’t pay to have traffic driven to it. It all came from my efforts, which I can tell, because they got there by typing in “”

Who are your favorite authors and why do they inspire you?

This is really difficult. Adult books: I loved Motherless Brooklyn by Jonatham Lethem. Great voice and characterization. I loved The Quiet Game by Greg Isles. It is the first time that I came across a suspense novel written in a more literary style. I absolutely loved the policeman character in Blinded by Stephen White. And Isabel Wolff’s humor and insight into women’s minds in The Making of Minty Malone and Out of the Blue (lighter chick-lit). I loved Carol Goodman’s book The Seduction of Water so much that I wrote to her. And she wrote back! Her book stays with me to this day, though I read it a few years ago. Years ago I read Beach Music by Pat Conroy and it made me laugh out loud. I also loved In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. I listen to Ann Lamott’s book on writing Bird by Bird every time I take a car trip. And On Writing Well by William Zinsser is absolutely required reading for anyone who wants to be a writer.

As far as children’s books go, I have to say that I’m often disappointed because the writing doesn’t sound like the way kids speak. I really loved Burger Wuss by M.T. Anderson and Stoner and Spaz by Ron Koertge.

I like any author who inspires me, encourages me to be myself—to let it rip, not hold back. Any book with a strong voice and characterization (always the first person) inspires me. And anything that makes me laugh out loud.

I have taught myself how to write by studying the books I read, whether it is fiction or nonfiction. I listen to the rhythms and the voice and try to learn everything I can.

Do you have a mentor?

No, but we have a group here in the Albany, NY area called the Children’s Literature Connection who have been able to help me with some of my questions. Their website is

What future projects do you have in the works?

I am loving the book I am writing right now, but I don’t like to talk about it until it’s done and with my agent. I’m very paranoid. Sorry.

What do you feel are the pros and cons of the publishing industry today?

Budgets are so tight that publishers have to be sure a book will sell and be profitable before they take it on. I was very fortunate that my agent sent my book to Roaring Brook Press, who will publish new authors. Many publishing companies are afraid to take that risk.

And it really bothers me that the publishers will publish any kind of junk written by a celebrity because it will sell. If I hear about one more celebrity writing a children’s book, I will scream!

Can you give aspiring authors words of advice towards getting published?

Read everything you can on writing. Get an agent. Believe in yourself, write for yourself, and never give up. Write what you enjoy and don’t worry about what other people will think, and you’re enthusiasm will come through.

What’s one thing about your life that you think is important, but nobody asks?

About the role of faith in the writing process. One author I met said that writers can be divided up into four groups: extreme plotters, moderate plotters, moderate plungers, and extreme plungers. I am an extreme plunger. I have a vague concept to start with, and then I just plunge in. I have no idea where I’m going. And it’s that way to the very end. One thing leads to another, surprising me all the way. But it’s really scary and it takes a lot of faith in the process that anything of any worth will come out of it. It’s so scary, that many times I can’t get myself to write.

I think there’s more pressure after you publish your first book. You have to prove to yourself (and everyone else) that you’re not a “one-hit wonder.”

Can you tell us where we can go to buy The Meanest Girl?

Anywhere, though they may have to special order for you. Also available online all over the place at tremendous discounts that will kill my royalties.

If you were shipwrecked on a deserted island, what is the one thing you just have to have with you?

My son.

You can visit Debora Allie's website at

Monday, June 06, 2005

Janet Elaine Smith's "Personal Marketing Plan"

I usually don't post this sort of thing, but the opportunity came up to where I see the advantage - not to mention the low price - of something of value to the published author. It's Janet Elaine Smith's "Personal Marketing Plan" for authors who need that push to get out there and sell books.

Years ago, I met Janet in an online writing group and found her inspirational. She would tell us how she went about getting her POD books into brick-and-mortar chain stores. I couldn't believe that someone had found a way to do it and was successful at it.

Janet is a powerhouse of information that she was willing to share with her online friends and now she would like to give that opportunity to those published authors who would like to know the "secret" to getting into the bookstores when all they've heard was, "Sorry, your book is a POD and we don't stock them."

About a year ago, I received a phone call from a top-notch publicist who was willing to help promote my book for the sum of $3,000. I politely turned them down because I felt the price quite extravagant.

Janet charges only $400 for the same exposure. A good deal, in my book!

Read on and you decide...

Your Personal Marketing Plan

Author Janet Elaine Smith came on the book publishing scene in June, 2000, with the release of her historical novel, Dunnottar. Within the next six weeks, Dunnottar had soared to the No. 1 best-selling spot of all Scottish books (over 8,000 titles at the time) on—a position it held for almost three months.

What was her secret? She credits her success to God watching out for her and dumb beginner’s luck. She didn’t even know that she would have to market her books when they came out, much less know how to market them.

Janet’s success could perhaps best be described by that old song that says, “Anyone knows an ant can’t…Oops! There goes another rubber tree plant.” Nobody told her that the things she tried—first on the Internet and then in the non-virtual world—probably wouldn’t work. So, she tried them, and they did work! It’s like author Kristie Leigh Maguire says about Janet’s PromoPaks: “They were so simple, I could have thought of any of them. But I didn’t!”

Janet’s marketing efforts began on the Internet, then moved to getting her books onto the shelves at many brick and mortar bookstores nationwide. Now they are found in hundreds of bookstores nationwide, sometimes even on endcaps or in front displays. When store managers would tell her that “Your books are print-on-demand and non-returnable. We can’t put them in here,” she would move on, undaunted, to the next store. Today, just 5 years later, she gets 30-50 emails a day from people worldwide who are reading—and enjoying—her books. You can do the same thing!

Janet has shared marketing tips with thousands of fellow authors. She writes a regular column on marketing in Writer’s Journal magazine. Many authors have asked her to take them on as their publicist. Janet has a full-time job (she and her husband have run a charitable “Helps” organization for over 30 years, giving assistance to families in crisis) and she was not willing to give that up, nor to sacrifice her own writing time or marketing efforts for her own books. She knows that she must continue with that for her success to maintain itself. However, she feels that by sharing the secrets she has learned by trial and error with other authors, each time another author succeeds, the entire publishing industry makes a few steps forward.

Now, in response to these requests from authors, she is announcing the launch of her Personal Marketing Plan. She will work with authors to design a “Personal Marketing Plan” for their specific book. She will provide the brain power and ideas, while the author will be responsible for applying the “leg work” to see that the program will succeed. Nobody can sell a book like the author; it is their pride and joy. If the author is enthusiastic, the customer will be enthusiastic.

One word of warning: if an author signs up for Janet’s Personal Marketing Plan, it will work only under one condition—the author him/herself must put them into practice. If they are not willing to do the work, they will never work. If they will do the work, they will bring the desired results. Also, authors are traditionally used to rejection. If they send out 12 emails and 4 of them bounce back, they must send out 12 more. The law of averages says that eventually they will bear fruit. If you call 3 bookstores and they say “No” to stocking your book, they cannot give up. The 4th one might be the first one to say “Yes,” and that makes it that much easier to call the next 4 stores.Your Personal Marketing Plan will follows in natural steps that, by building them in order, will make your books available first through online sources, then through small and independent brick and mortar stores, then to the major chains. You will also get tips on a lot of great outside-the-box places to sell your books.

Here is what you will get if you sign up for your own Personal Marketing Plan:
¨ A customized email message for your book to use for Internet marketing.
¨ Tips for how to locate your online targeted audience.
¨ Ways to avoid having your emails discarded as Spam.
¨ Creating a specialized mailing list for future books and mailings.
¨ A very successful online “plan of attack” to get your books into independent bookstores (both online and brick and mortar).
¨ A customized press release, which can be modified to suit various regions and places that will have a high interest in the book
¨ A list of newspapers to submit the press release to
¨ Help in creating an effective press kit, and how to make it easily accessible
¨ A personalized “test script” for cold-calling bookstores
¨ A phone consultation with Janet to test the waters of the phone call before you dial that first number
¨ A sample radio script (this will vary, of course, depending on the radio host) to make the author feel at ease with the type of questions often asked by radio hosts
¨ A copy of Janet’s tested-and-proven PromoPaks (originally sold for $60)
¨ E-mail support from Janet as you move through the plan.

Now, what Janet needs from you to implement the program:
¨ A brief bio of the author
¨ A 1-page synopsis of the book you want included in the plan
¨ The first chapter of the book, or a place online where it can be accessed
¨ The url to the author’s website (if they have one)
¨ Why you feel the Personal Marketing Program will benefit you
¨ A statement of how much time you plan to devote to your promotion efforts
¨ What distribution does your publisher have in place? (Ingram, Baker & Taylor, etc.)
¨ A check for $400, the address and instructions available from . Similar programs from many publicists run $1,500-20,000. Janet is trying to keep this affordable, as she knows firsthand that most authors are on a very tight budget.

Interview with Shanna Swendson, Author of ENCHANTED, INC.

Shanna Swendson has written category romance novels (as Samantha Carter), radio scripts, marketing brochures, annual reports, newsletter articles and too many news releases to count. She has been a finalist for awards given by organizations ranging from Romantic Times magazine to the Dallas Press Club. She lives in Texas but loves to play Southern belle in New York as often as possible. Enchanted, Inc. is her sixth published novel.


When did your passion for writing begin?

I can't remember a time when I didn't entertain myself by making up stories in my head. I do remember a school assignment in fourth grade when I first felt a thrill about putting words together and using them to paint a picture. When I was twelve, I realized that if I wrote down the stories in my head, I'd have a book. That was probably when I decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. It didn't seem like a realistic career goal, but I never got passionate about any other profession.

Can you tell us what your typical “writing” day is like?

There's no such thing as "typical" in my life! I generally try to do all the business stuff related to writing in the morning and early afternoon, then write in the late afternoon and evening. But it all depends on where I am in a project. If I'm really inspired, I'll write a lot more, but I also take a lot of time off between projects to recharge my batteries.

Can you tell us a little about Enchanted, Inc.?

It's a blend of chick lit and fantasy, what I call "Bridget Jones meets Harry Potter." It's got a little of everything -- humor, romance, action and magic. It's kind of a twist on fantasy, since my heroine is non-magical, but she finds out she has her own "super power" that has nothing to do withmagic.

Who published your book and how has your experience with them been?

Ballantine Books is my publisher, and they've been terrific to work with.They're very open to my input, very responsive, and they've done a great job of helping promote the book.

Can you tell us the inspiration behind Enchanted, Inc.?

It was mostly wish fulfillment. I was daydreaming about how great it would be to open my e-mail and find an offer for a dream job. Then the dream job became magical. And then the idea for the book struck me. It was the kind of thing I wanted to read but couldn't find a lot of, something that used magic as a metaphor for approaching the issues of young adulthood -- job, friends, relationships.

Can you tell us ways you are promoting your book? Have they been successful?

I've focused my efforts on the Internet and various Internet communities. I'm part of two cooperative groups of authors who promote each other in our blogs. I've also received a lot of support from people in Internet communities I've been participating in for a long time. I don't know exactlyhow successful it will turn out to be, since the book's only been out for less than a week, but I'm hearing reports from people who've bought and read the book and who have recommended it to friends.

Who are your favorite authors and why do they inspire you?

I have too many favorite authors to mention, but some include: Connie Willis -- she manages to merge humor with some serious emotion and thought-provoking themes, which is a delicate balance I'd like to learn to achieve.Wendy Holden -- she writes some of my favorite chick lit books. She's laugh-out-loud funny and has endearing heroines I can't help but pull for --something else I'd like to achieve. Alan Dean Foster -- He was one of the first authors of "grown-up" books Iever read and was my introduction to science fiction. He's taken me to so many fantastic worlds over the years.

Do you have a mentor?

I don't really have one particular person who fills the role of mentor. I've had mentor-like guidance from a number of people in RWA chapters, online loops and in life in general. It seems that when I have a question or concern, I can usually find someone who has the answer.

What future projects do you have in the works?

I'm wrapping up work on the sequel to Enchanted, Inc. I'm writing an essay for an upcoming anthology about Desperate Housewives. I'm working on a proposal for a young adult fantasy novel. And I'm brainstorming ideas for a third book in the Enchanted series, in case my publisher is open to buying it after they see sales results on the first book.

What do you feel are the pros and cons of the publishing industry today?

The biggest pro is that there seems to be a lot of opportunity out there.There are a lot of books being published, and there seems to be a fair amount of variety. The biggest con is that it's hard for any one book to stand out from the crowd. Books are covered by the media and promoted by publishers in such a way that it almost seems to discourage reading, and that gets frustrating. There's a real bias in the media against commercial fiction, so the general public has few ways of learning about books that might be fun to read that might hook them on reading.

Can you give aspiring authors words of advice towards getting published?

Write your story, the one that no one but you can write the way it needs to be written, and believe in that story enough to keep plugging away. If this is what you were born to do, you won't be able to make yourself give up. If that one story doesn't sell, find another one deep inside you and write that, then start trying to sell it. Chasing the market and trying to write something just because it follows a trend is only going to frustrate you.

What’s one thing about your life that you think is important, but nobody asks?

How do you stay so sane in such a crazy profession? (Hmm, maybe they don't think I'm sane!)

I've weathered some really bad lows in my career, and I've dealt with some wonderful highs, and I think I've managed to stay on a relatively even keel throughout it all. My answer would be that it's faith, family and friends that help keep me grounded and centered. That's how I kept going when logic would have told me my career was over and I should just give up, and I hope that's what will keep me from getting a big head if I become successful.

Can you tell us where we can go to buy Enchanted, Inc.?

Just about any bookstore! I think Barnes & Noble is stocking it most consistently, but you can also find it in stores like Borders andWaldenbooks. It's shelved in general fiction, usually. You can also find iton Amazon and Barnes & Noble online. There's an e-book version, too.

If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what is the one thing you just have to have with you?

Sunblock. I can entertain myself indefinitely, but I have very, very fair skin and burn when I think about the sun, so I'd need a vat of sunblock to survive.

Thank you for your interview, Shanna!

You can visit Shanna's home on the web at or her blog at

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Interview with Janet Elaine Smith, Author of PAMPAS

Janet Elaine Smith, author of 13 novels, has set her latest book across the border. No, not the Canadian border, although she lives in Grand Forks, ND. Pampas is set in Argentina.

Smith is well suited to write about South America, as she and her husband served as missionaries there for 9 years. While they were in Venezuela, Smith says she first became enchanted with the handsome cowboys (gauchos) and huge ranches of Argentina when she was in college in Minneapolis, MN and had an Argentine roommate.

Smith grew up in northern Mn. "Halfway between Bemidji and Grand Rapids, if you went deep enough into the forest," she explains. It was a long ways from there to Venezuela, but she quickly grew to love the people and the country. When she became ill, she and her husband, Ivan, and their three children settled in Grand Forks, where they have run a charitable "Helps" organization in the Red River Valley. Much of their work during those 33 years has been with Mexican migrant workers, so she maintains her contact with the Latino population. She is working on translating Pampas into Spanish, and hopes to have it released by the end of the year. While the books are all different, Smith says two things are guaranteed: they all contain a lot of humor, and you will never find a Janet Elaine Smith novel that doesn’t have a happily-ever-after ending.

Smith had been a successful magazine writer for 25 years, but she says her dream came true in June, 2000, with the publication of her first novel, Dunnottar, which became the No. 1 best-selling Scottish book on in just over a month (out of over 8,000 titles), a position it held consistently for almost three months. Her books have won many awards, including two RIO (Reviewer International Organization) Awards of Excellence.

Her other books include: Dunnottar, Marylebone, Par for the Course, House Call to the Past, In St. Patrick’s Custody, Recipe for Murder, Dakota Printer, Monday Knight, And We’ll Call Her General Leigh, My Dear Phebe, A Christmas Dream, A Lumberjack Christmas

Smith’s books are available at many online stores, including,, and You can also read an excerpt of all of her books at her website: Or, you can get them at your local bookstore.


When did your passion for writing begin?

My husband and I were missionaries in Venezuela for 9 years. When we came back to the US, I wrote down our experiences so I wouldn’t forget them. By the time I had finished that, I was “hooked” on the whole idea of writing.

Can you tell us what your typical “writing” day is like?

You’re kidding, right? I don’t know if there is such a thing. Since we run a charitable Helps organization, interruptions are the norm. My day begins at a little after 6. I tend to my e-mail, then I do some writing—at least an hour. Sometimes it is my books, but many times it is for the dozen magazines I write for regularly. I write the best under pressure and deadlines. Then I spend about an hour in the morning working on various marketing efforts for my books.
I also spend time dealing with the problems of the people who have called in on the Help line.

After lunch, I do the e-mail again, then work on research for the book I’m working on or writing on the current book. I try to squeeze another hour of marketing in in the afternoon, but that depends on how many families we are dealing with on the Help line.

In the evening, I catch up on e-mail again, then go to writing. I have to discipline myself to spend at least another hour on it then. I also do a lot of chats, interviews, etc. in the evenings.
Barring any complications, that is pretty much a “normal” day for me.

Can you tell us a little about Pampas?

I’d love to. It is a fun, exciting adventure, intrigue, mystery, inspirational romantic comedy. I’m trying to get all of the genres I write into one book. I’m gaining on it! LOL!

The main character, Raul Escobar, is a typical Argentine cowboy—or at least so it seems. However, he is really as phony as the rival to Pace Picante Sauce on the TV commercial; he really came from “New Yawk City!” He has gone to Argentina to try to bury his very shady past. He goes to work for Señor Mendoza, who becomes like a father to him. When Señor Mendoza dies, Raul is suddenly the wealthiest man in Argentina. At the memorial fiesta, a young woman—also from New York City—shows up, she is determined to dig up her past, which was revealed to her by her grandmother on her deathbed. The only problem is that she wants to dig it up on Raul’s newly inherited property, and he’s not about to sit still for it.

The tale is one that shows that truly “what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” Can Raul keep his past hidden, and will Samantha Leota Manchester ever find hers? The fun that ensues will keep you laughing as you turn the pages. Even “the godfathers” put in an appearance!

Who published your book and how has your experience with them been?

It is published by PageFree Publishing. They have been wonderful to work with. Besides very nice people to deal with, I really think they have the best distribution in place for any POD or small traditional press I’ve ever run across. In my opinion, they are definitely “a keeper!”

Can you tell us the inspiration behind Pampas?

When I was in college, I had a roommate from Argentina. I was fascinated by the tales of the gauchos (cowboys) and I had always wanted to set a book there. As I did the research for the book, I realized why people call it “The Land of Enchantment.” It is truly a magical, mystical place.

Can you tell us ways you are promoting your book? Have they been successful?

I do a lot of online promotion, and also I spend some time every day calling bookstores across the country. They have been very successful. Again, this is due in large part to the fact that PageFree has their distribution channels firmly set in place. I get about 30-50 emails a day from people who are reading my books. That’s how I judge “success,” not necessarily on my royalty checks. Although I haven’t sent any of them back, either!

Who are your favorite authors and why do they inspire you?

Oh, boy! Why don’t you ask a hard question? I have so many, it is almost impossible to name them all. Way back before I was published, I became penpals with Mary Higgins Clark. She has been wonderfully supportive. I have also gotten to know her daughter, Carol, who writes with her in some of their books. I have become “cyber-friends” with Bertrice Small, and her drive and determination is extremely admirable. So is her sense of humor. I have a folder on my e-mail with the marital advice she has given me. It is labeled “BS Advice”!

And speaking of a sense of humor, to me about the funniest books around are Millie Criswell’s. I love them. We have also become “cyber-friends.” I have to admit, I love the Internet! I have met the most wonderful people through it. Hey, when you live in North Dakota, there’s not a lot to choose from out here!

There are tons of others whose books I adore. Of the new writers on the horizon, I guess my favorite would have to be Melissa S. James. I loved her book Stolen in the Storm. I just got to preview her next one, Solomon’s Choice. I didn’t think she could get any better—but she has. She could give Mary Higgins Clark a real run for her money!

Do you have a mentor?

I guess I would have to give that honor to Mary (Higgins Clark). She believed in me when nobody knew who I was. And Deb Stover. She told me I don’t give myself enough credit. I adore both of them.

What future projects do you have in the works?

I have about 70 or 80 books in my head, but in the immediate future, I am working on Old Habits Die Hard, the third Patrick and Grace Mystery. They are my favorite characters. Then I want to do Tuesday Nolan, the second book in the Women of the Week series. And I’ve had a lot of people asking if I am going to do a new Christmas book this year, so the wheels are turning.

What do you feel are the pros and cons of the publishing industry today?

I think the biggest pro is that because of new avenues (such as POD and even e-books), writers have a much better chance of actually getting published.

The con, to me, is that it is about the most secretive business I’ve ever seen in my life. The author has no way of knowing how many books they have sold, or to whom. Even with the big traditional publishers, they allow “x number of returns” whether they have actually gotten the books returned or not. Also, it is a long, slow trickle-down process for the money to get from the bookstore (either online or a brick-and-mortar) to the distributor, to the printer, to the publisher, and finally to the author. IF everybody pays on time, it takes at least a year and a half to see a single cent from one book sale.

If you are writing to get rich, you might as well quit now. But if you are doing it because you love to write and because you want to make people happy—and those crazy characters in your head won’t shut up until you help them find their release—then it’s the greatest job in the world.

Can you give aspiring authors words of advice towards getting published?

Write what you would enjoy reading. Believe in yourself, no matter what anybody else says. Do your research before you sign a contract with a publisher. I know big-time authors who have gotten “burned” because they didn’t understand the fine print. Make sure you have your facts straight in your book; I read one book that had the Red River (that runs between ND and MN) on the other side of the state (between MN and WI). And as far as the book itself, make sure you get a really good editor. It won’t matter so much for your first book, but it makes a huge difference if you plan to do future books. If readers find a ton of mistakes in the first one, they probably won’t bother to read the next one.

What’s one thing about your life that you think is important, but nobody asks?

Wow! Like I said, you do ask some hard questions. Hmm. I guess it would be if I have any regrets. About my books? None! About other things? Maybe one or two, but I’m not going to tell you what they are! Some things are better left unsaid! LOL!

Can you tell us where we can go to buy Pampas?

You can find it at almost any online bookstore—,,,,—you name it. Or you can go to your local bookstore. If they don’t have it, they can order it. Ask them to order an extra couple of copies to put on their shelves while you’re at it, OK? Thanks.

If you were shipwrecked on a deserted island, what is the one thing you just have to have with you?

Oh, that’s easy—now. For years my husband tried to get me to use the computer. I balked and refused. Now I can’t live without it. I’d take a laptop and make sure I had a lifetime supply of batteries! It’s my lifeline to humanity.

Thank you very much for your time!

Thank you for letting me share with you. It’s not the easiest ride I’ve ever been on in my life, but it sure is the most fun one!

Friday, June 03, 2005

NY Times Bestseller Book Seen on Oprah Is Alarming, Says Human Behavior Expert

In an article in the NY Times, Patrick Wanis disses the book, "He's Just Not That Into You" by saying...

"...women are being fooled into thinking that they no longer need suffer to understand their boyfriend’s weird behavior or make the relationship work, all they need do is dump him and find another guy. “The danger”, Wanis says, “is that this book now makes women helpless, powerless and dependent, It claims that if the man doesn’t act exactly the way she wants and when she wants, he doesn’t love her. The book undermines equality of the sexes and regresses us to a time when women were at the mercy of men, waiting for men to rescue, dominate and make decisions for them."

Okay, gimme a break here. You mean to tell me that all you have to do to get into the NY Times is to totally diss a bestselling book? Is that all it takes? Okay, so the guy has some kind of credentials, but all it is is his point of view, isn't it?

I gave this book to my daughter and she loves it. I really can't tell you whether it's any good or not since I haven't read it, but crimey, what I've heard about it, it's a darn good book.

Oh, the article just happens to mention that this Patrick Wanis is the author of "How to Get Over It - Breakups, Betrayals and Rejection."

Does this look like just another "diss his book but buy mine" blatant promotional job to you? Hasn't he learned that in order to get anywhere with your own book is to join allies with the competition?

Of course, he made headlines so what do I know. Look out, Edgar Cayce.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Can You Spot A Book Slut?

Can You Spot A Book Slut?

I was over at Debbie Ridpath Ohi's blog, Inkygirl, and she posted a link to an entry over at Patricia Storm's literary/illo blog, BookLust. Man, can this woman draw! My favorite - Can You Spot A Book Slut? This would be so perfect for a t-shirt, don't you agree? The above cartoon was drawn by her, too. If anyone needs an illustrator, I'd check her out!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS - Last Call for New How to Book for First Time Authors

As some of you know, I'm putting together a how to book for first time authors that will be published by Zumaya Publications next year. The tentative title is 1001 SECRETS FIRST TIME AUTHORS NEED TO KNOW!

I am in need of a few more horror publishing stories (book related). If you have been burned by a publisher OR an agent (you don't have to mention who they are if you don't want to), and would like to tell your story, send it to me at and put "Horror Publishing Story" in your subject line.

I'm also looking for true personal stories of how you got published from point A to point B. Success stories. Basically, it's a "How I Got Published" type of essay.

Only the best will be considered for publication and will receive a free copy of the book when it's released.

Word count: 800 - 1,500 words (flexible)

Deadline: Sooon! The book needs to go to the publisher, Zumaya Publications, by the end of this month so the sooner, the better!

Remember, this is not an anthology, but a how to book for first time authors. They need to know the real story from those who have been there, done that.

Send your stories to and put either "Horror Publishing Story" or "How I Got Published" in the subject line. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.