Marketing My Way – Part Seven

My initial tweets sounded like when I tried to sell my used Fiat 124 Coupe 5-speed.

Please buy my car; please buy my book.

Well, at least I was polite.

As a Tweeter-newbie, I wanted to keep up so badly that my self-induced social media anxiety seeped through every 140 or less characters.

I assumed everyone else knew what they were doing—an old entrenched pattern. Years back I had believed the guy at Vitamin World with the bar through his nose and fifteen tats who told me that extracted milk thistle with a pinch of valerian root would help insomnia. I eventually realized that another person’s view isn’t always correct especially when it comes to writing, marketing, insomnia and even Twitter.

“Stop,” I said my Alexander Technique training as soon as I realized I had included the link to my website for the last twenty tweets. “Chill out. You’re never going to have 3.6 million followers like Beyoncé.”

I began to follow people and accepted everyone who asked to follow me. Eventually, I blocked anyone who used the Arabic alphabet or any reference to Jesus. I learned about retweets, favoring tweets and hash tags. As I became educated on Twitter good behavior, my learning curve expanded from pushing my book to becoming aware of my own reaction when I read someone else’s self-promoting tweets and shares. I had been guilty of the same obnoxious behavior—promoting myself versus developing relationships.

With my newfound awareness, I moved from being petrified of Twitter to having fun. I posted a link to an article on the shortage of escargot in France, favorited someone’s photo of Mt.Tamalpais at dawn, and become involved in a multi-tweet conversation, “Eating raisins before bed helps you not get up to pee in the middle of the night #bedtimeraisins.”

Based on some of the people I was following, I read about a Marin Tweet Up. Since I didn’t want to seem like a complete Twitter ignoramus, I didn’t ask what that meant, assuming a Tweet Up meant a group of people who met at a local cafe, and sat around tweeting to each other even though everyone was in the same room.

While I still didn’t know what a Tweet Up was, over the next few weeks I followed issues, causes and people and developed virtual relationships that expanded from Twitter to Facebook and eventually to real life (IRL).

One day as I stood in line at Table Cafe in Larkspur, I glanced at two women having lunch, one of whom looked familiar, but I couldn’t place. As I ordered a Caesar salad—hold the croutons—I mentally shuffled through my obsolete rolodex, ruling out people from tennis, karate, exercise class, or the bike path. Then, it registered. I recognized @alembic— from her avatar.

We made eye contact—@alembic had also recognized me. In the virtual world of favoriting tweets, liking Facebook posts, and giving a “thumbs up” to a LinkedIn update, I had met someone in the real word through the meshing of connections and serendipity. She and I already had a sense of each others’ personalities through our tweets, posts and comments. I walked to @alembic’s table.

“Maria?” I asked.

She nodded. “Wendy?”

It’s great to meet you in person,” I said.

“Likewise.”

“I’d love to have lunch sometime,” I said. “I’ll send you a DM on Twitter or PM on Facebook.

“Sounds good.”

Three weeks later we sat around the table talking in complete sentences, instead of 140 or less characters. I had to ask @alembic something that I couldn’t shake.

“What’s a Tweet Up?”

She laughed. “It’s a social event where people who know each other through Twitter get together at a local restaurant. I’ll let you know the date of the next one.”

At the next Tweet Up I met people whom I had initially met in the virtual world. Many of them looked like their avatars with the exception of one woman who uses an avatar of her dog. I expanded my network and developed relationships.

I haven’t convinced my husband to do the same. He says he has no interest in Twitter or Facebook except when he looks over my shoulder and says, “Who’s that?”

“You don’t know him. Maybe you should try Twitter,” I said. “You never know who you might meet.”

Marketing My Way – Part Six

 

My connections with a Greek salad, a candy bar, and some sharp-cheddar cheese steered my next marketing push to asking local brick-and-mortar bookstores about taking It’s Your Fault on consignment.  I started with Book Passage in Corte Madera, where I purchase most of my books. One day while having my usual order of a Greek salad with tuna, no onions, I approached their consignment coordinator and asked if the store would carry some of my books. He agreed and my book ended up sitting next to Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington, the creative director of Vogue. The only thing she and I have in common is curly hair, and the fact that our last names start with “C.”   Once my book cozied up to Cleopatra: A Life.  Nothing in common there.

Green Apple Books on Clement Street in San Francisco didn’t exist when I was growing up in the neighborhood.  However, the prior tenant was a liquor, candy and dirty magazine store that was the only place in the area that carried Chunky candy bars, my favorite. My father had referred to the shop as the boogeyman store because he said the man behind the counter looked like Boris Karloff.  While I no longer eat candy bars, I have retained a childhood connection to the ‘hood. Green Apple took some books.

Books, Inc., in Laurel Village a dozen blocks away, also held a similar neighborhood connection.  The store used to be the Laurel Delicatessen, which had a barrel-sized block of sharp cheddar cheese near the front counter.  While my mother purchased sliced meats, the clerk handed me a sample of cheese on waxed paper.  It was so good that when no one was looking, I scraped my fingernail along the side of the cheese and stuck my finger in my mouth. Although my connection was to the deli, Books, Inc. took a few of my books because I asked.

My search for additional bookstores extended beyond the Bay Area. A Siberian husky introduced me to a bookstore in Reno, Nevada.

One evening as I sat in front of my computer thinking about other venues that might carry my book, I remembered that Nancy, a Siberian husky breeder whom I had met five years earlier at a Marin dog show, lived in Reno.  We’re Facebook friends.  A year before she had sent me an announcement that Sundance Books and Music had moved into the Levy Mansion, now a historic building. I picked up the phone.

“Do you take books on consignment?” I asked the man who answered.

“Sometimes, it depends on the book,” he said.

“I have a past connection with Sundance,” I said.  “My great-grandfather, William Levy, built the mansion where the store is located.   I used to go to Reno every summer when I was a child to visit my great aunt, Tinker, who still lived in the house.”

“Wow,” the man said. “You should contact Philip in the bookstore.”

I sent Philip some books, a letter outlining my family history, and enclosed a photo of myself as a little girl with Tinker in front of the house.

“If you’re ever in Reno, let me know,” Philip said. “We can arrange a book signing.”

The only person I know in Reno is Nancy, plus Nancy’s dog. I figured the dog wouldn’t want to attend a book signing. My husband and I decided to visit anyway. I had last traveled to Reno thirty-five years ago after Tinker died to help my father clean out the house.  I inherited a Revere Ware pot and four artichoke plates.

Prior to my trip, I reviewed old family photo albums and found additional pictures of the house and my ancestors, which I brought with me.   The Sundance publicist had contacted a  local historian as well as a reporter at the Reno Gazette Journal who wanted to interview me.

While the bookstores I tapped weren’t obvious connections, they all had prior personal links. Now, I have a ongoing relationship with Sundance in Reno along with a fellow husky owner.

Nancy stopped by to say hello—her dog stayed home.

 

Coming home: Author’s Family history tied to Reno bookstore  http://bit.ly/1r3KSSH

Marketing My Way – Part Five

When I was five years old I received an honorable mention in the San Francisco Chronicle Junior Art Champion art contest, and won a red Storybook key to the San Francisco Zoo.  That was the first time I saw my name printed in a newspaper.

I hoped I could capitalize on that initial media exposure with the marketing my book.

I contacted the Mill Valley Record and Marin Magazine. I emailed Leah Garchik, a columnist at the Chronicle and suggested some possible anecdotes.  I also reached out to a local reporter who had written an article on Zero Balancing, a modality I once considered. While I never heard from the MV Record, my book was mentioned in Marin Magazine.  Leah Garchik ran the following:

Wendy Coblentz, whose new book is “It’s Your Fault: My Journey Through Back Pain, a Teenager and Self-Discovery,” is the daughter of the late lawyer William Coblentz, a pillar of the San Francisco community and regent of the University of California, often regarded as the most powerful behind-the-scenes mover and shaker in San Francisco. Coblentz’s book is, of course, about the travails indicated in its subtitle. It also, however, sheds some light on her father:

“It wasn’t until my mid-40s,” she writes, “that I realized that ‘I’m as Lonesome as a Gentile in Miami,’ which dad had sung in full voice in the lobby of the Diplomat Hotel, wasn’t a real song.”

No word from Zero Balancing.

While in San Francisco for a doctor’s appointment, I swiped a Nob Hill Gazette from someone’s driveway. This free monthly social magazine, which my father referred to as the “Snob Hill Gazette,” has a section called “The Good Book.”  I emailed the publisher with the details of my book, and offered to send her a copy.   It’s Your Fault appeared in the November 2013 issue.

I submitted the book details to my UC Berkeley “class secretary” for California Magazine, the alumni magazine, and was mentioned under my class year. It’s a good thing I don’t have a problem with anyone knowing my age.

I emailed the alumni groups of the three different high schools I attended preparing to be solicited for a contribution—too bad for them that I hated high school. I even joined the Santa Catalina 40th high school reunion group page on Facebook, despite that I had only attended the school for less than two years. The best part was reconnecting with some old friends The book was mentioned in two of the three school alumni newsletters.

I stretched to think of other connections.

My family, good San Franciscan Jews, had always celebrated Christmas and Easter. Nonetheless, I contacted the J Weekly.  After all, I had attended Sunday school for three sporadic years although I only remember the Necco wafers awarded in third grade Hebrew class.

What the hell. I picked up the phone.

“I’m Jewish and grew up in San Francisco,” I said to the editor.  “I’ve recently published a memoir and wonder if you could mention it in the J?”

“What’s the book about?” she asked.

I gave her my elevator speech.

“Well, we’re specifically interested in Jewish books, but if you’d like to send me a copy we can see if we can find an angle.”

“Thank you, “ I said.   While I appreciated her offer, I didn’t want to waste a book.

 

 

 

 

Marketing My Way – Part Four

As I made my debut as an actual published author, I realized I had to ramp up my marketing efforts. I combed through my list of email contacts and created a group mailing that consisted of 500 of my contacts including family, friends, and any other breathing person who wasn’t listed as “info@customer service.” I didn’t include any treatment provider who resembled a composite character in It’s Your Fault: My Journey through Back Pain, a Teenager and Self-Discovery. I didn’t think those people would be interested in purchasing the book, although I certainly had paid, or overpaid, some of them for their “advice.”

As a template for my email, I reviewed a book announcement I had received from Alex Berenson, author of The Night Ranger, among other books, as well as one from another author who had included a link to a recipe for filled Swedish sponge cake. My own email summarized the book, included the back cover copy, plus links to my website and Amazon page.  I also attached a picture of the book’s cover, and signed my email “Happy reading.”

My book announcement was a soft sell, sort of like faux leather.  I didn’t want to be as pushy as the clerk at my post office who tried to sell me on a sheet of wedding stamps when I was mailing a package.  I had passed on the stamps without telling her that I had been married for thirty-one years.

Some of my emails bounced back.  I only received one negative response from a self-designated important individual—telling, not asking, me to remove him from any future book announcement emails.

In advance of publication, I had 4×6 notepads printed with the title of the book in the same typeface and colors as the cover of the book, along with my website and email address. Once my book was published, I sent a copy to family members, friends, blurbers, and key people who knew people, all with personal handwritten notes—a total of fifty books.

I set up a ten book giveaway on Goodreads and plugged it on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  When I received the final list of “winners,” I sent a signed copy of the book, along with a handwritten note to each person. I received a nice thank you response from one.   While I had hoped that the winners would review and rate the book on Goodreads, I only received a few posts.

On the local front, I asked a couple of businesses that I patronized if they would display the book. Suzanne, the owner of Table Cafe in Larkspur ( I recommend ordering the dosa of marinated and grilled chicken breast with wilted spinach and goat cheese) placed the book on top of the front refrigerator case near the wine. At Tony’s Shoe Repair in Mill Valley­—where old shoes come back to life—the book teetered on a dust-coated ledge behind the counter piled with shoe laces, insoles and paper bags.  Hey, it was free exposure.

Now that It’s Your Fault had its public display debut, I no longer needed to flirt with becoming a published writer. In the past when I was asked, “What do you do?”  I had stammered, “I’m a writer.”  I can finally say, “I’m a writer and I just published a book,” whether I’m responding to the endodontist giving me a root canal, or the woman in the next lane to me at the pool who I couldn’t recognize because I wasn’t wearing my glasses.

Marketing My Way – Part Three

Blurbing a book is not like endorsing the new unscented version of Tide. I figured that out quickly.

“I plan to get endorsements for my book,” I said to Kevin, the marketing guy at Mill City Press.

“You mean blurbs?” he asked. “Well, as a first-time writer it’s really difficult to get someone to blurb your book.”

He didn’t know me. One could say I was persistent, or a full-fledged member of the secret society, PINTHA, coined by my father, and meaning—Pain in the Ass.

“I’ve already drafted an introductory email that I’ve tweaked for each person,” I said to Kevin. “I’m planning to include the book’s back cover copy, and a picture of the cover.”

That way people would know I had a real book, not something I had thrown together at Kinko’s.

“What else should I include?” I asked.

“I suggest attaching the unproofed, professionally edited, manuscript. That way people can have the option to skim the book.”

Kevin helped me on strategy and calmly answered my deluge of questions. He made some other suggestions that I now can’t recall, because I relied on my gut instincts instead of following his advice.

Prior to the publication I checked out the competition reading books with similar themes. in addition to researching books that were different.  I searched Amazon using key words like “back,” “pain,” “back pain,” “teenager” and “alternative medicine,” and further expanded my list of blurber candidates.   Although I had initial fantasies of well-known authors prostrating themselves over my request, I came to my senses and mostly contacted people I had some relationship with, even if it was a tenuous one. Two years earlier, I had emailed an author whom I had never met saying how much I liked her book, and she responded.  She went on the list.  I had recently read a book that I enjoyed, and without having any prior correspondence with the author, I decided to include her to my list as well.

My final list of prospective blurbers included a few real medical doctors, an Alexander Technique teacher and some published authors.

I sent out twelve emails which fell into the likely, the maybe and the questionable categories—sort of like applying to college with the safety schools, likely ones, and reaches. My safety school was Prescott College in Prescott, AZ where I knew I would never go.  My safety blurb request was to a psychiatrist whom I had seen far too many times.

I immediately received two responses to my blurb-request emails asking for my deadline; I gave each person a time that was about four weeks away. Two weeks later I followed up with another email to those potential blurbers.

In the end, I received seven blurbs including one from someone who was originally on the questionable list.  This was more positive than my list of college acceptances, and much more rewarding.