Claire McKinney PR, is a publicity firm that works with traditional, hybrid, and self-published authors in marketing, branding, and publicizing their books. Claire specializes in campaigns for books, authors, educational programs, websites, art, film, and other intellectual properties. The agency also has a blog on which they share knowledge and experiences with authors who are interested in book marketing and promotion.

Meredith: Is there a different way that the media-shy author/writer can view promoting his or her book when the constant “putting it out there” feels out of line with their inner calling/sense of self?

Claire: If you are a novelist in this position, the best thing to do is rely on the internet and social media outlets.  You will have to at least write to bloggers to see if they will review your book, but you don’t have to constantly be on Twitter and Facebook. It would be a good idea to also have a website for the book as a destination for when reviews of your book are posted.  Ask family and friends to read your book and post reviews on Amazon, that will help with your profile there.  You can also set up an author page on Amazon and Goodreads.  For a non-fiction author, you probably need to have an interest in putting yourself out there because in your case, your expertise and credentials are going to help get the book noticed.

Meredith: I’m hearing less outward chatter about “platform building” than I did five years ago. Does that mean it’s really gone? What does it mean?

Claire: I think the reason you are hearing less chatter is because it’s become a part of the promotion process as a whole.  Everything people are doing these days online and in other places is helping to build a platform.  Individuals and their works have to be recognized “brands” out in the world or at least to their target audiences.  So, no the “platform” is here to stay and actually “branding” may be what’s replaced the term.

Meredith: Is bad publicity really good publicity? (As in the adage, there is no such thing as bad publicity)?

Claire: It depends a bit on the kind of publicity you receiving.  Negative book reviews are never good, but a public argument or controversy about your subject or a tangential topic can be good for raising awareness about you, the book, and your ideas in general.

Meredith: With so many people using various communication methods (YouTube, Constant Contact, websites, texts, Facebook) what can authors do to set themselves apart? And when should the process begin? 

Claire: I think the way to set yourself apart as an author is to decide what it is YOU are sharing with the world with your work no matter the genre.  Are you trying to help people? Enlighten? Entertain?  Then consider what you feel comfortable doing.  You might like writing in 140 character blocks or love to be on camera or writing personal essays, speaking in front of an audience, etc.  Pick your media forms and then either feed them content or approach them from a place of integrity–with the work and with yourself.  People can tell the difference between someone who is faking it and someone who is real.

As to when the process should start?  As soon as you are finished with the book if not before.  It depends a bit on which media you choose but no matter what, starting to build yourself and your “brand” will help to set you apart.

Meredith: Has self-promotion interfered with real promotion of books by overexposing a person or a work to the extent that people are sick of receiving word? I think this is a question on the minds of a lot of writers.

Claire: I think again, if you consider your promotion as a way of sharing ideas, you will be perceived less as a salesperson. Keep you and the book a bit separate at first so that the awareness of the subject and/or story can build out from what you’ve started.  Don’t start marketing the book specifically, until about four months ahead of publication.  Also, if you have a contact list that you are going to enlist to help you get the word out, divide those names into groups: People who will want to know you have a book coming; People who may be interested in the book; People who can help you get media attention; Colleagues/Professionals.  The first group will want to know right away; the second and third closer to the book’s publication; and the final may only want to receive a note about the book when it’s finished or even a signed copy with a personal note tucked inside.

[Thank you, Claire!]

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When we moved my sister, who is an interior decorator, helped me set up our house. Set up as in decorate.

I, alone, can tell you when a finished room looks good, but I can’t begin to tell you how to put it together. My spatial skills are barely adequate. She, on the other hand, can eyeball a room, go to the store and tell you what will fit where, and what will go with it. When you get the furniture home, it works.

The problem with how I “decorate” is that I tend to make everything the same – even if each piece is utterly unique. Too much color, too much busy, too much monochromatic – fill in your own “too much.” I do mosaics, and I love them, and I’d decorate my entire house with them – which I kind of did in our last place. But even I noticed, before we moved, it was getting difficult to “see” them as individuals, and worse, they started competing with each other for attention. Instead of my eye glancing around the room, it was more like a ping pong ball (pardon the cliche). Not a federal offense, but not great, either.

“It’s hard to know what’s important to look at in the room when everything is in it is the same,” my sister told me. “Then nothing is important, and it defeats the purpose for having an important piece.”

a-HA!

As I get inside long-form writing, I need different ways of looking at the different elements that are essential to writing well. Basically, I’m willful, and I want to write what I want to write, and I want people to like it. But it doesn’t work that way, just like it doesn’t work when you’re decorating your home. People will come over and tell you they love your mosaic table, or your this or that – individual things…but what you (I) really want is for the visitor to tell me they love my house, that it’s a place they want to stay, to relax in, to spend time. I want people to say this about my book/manuscript. More than telling me they love my writing (though who doesn’t love that?), I want them to love the story I’m writing, to want to read it, to say it moved them, that it was unforgettable in the best possible way. Don’t you?

Since my sister started to help me decorate I’ve been thinking about “show, don’t tell” differently. When I go into the manuscript, I try to see where the expository parts include information that is essential to the reader knowing the character and to moving the story along. Some exposition is appropriate to inform, info that’s not going to be shown in a scene because it’s not happening in the real time of the manuscript. I do this when I’m editing, not when I’ve writing. To use the decorating analogy, I bring the chair home and see how it looks next to the window, or I move it to the bedroom. Sometimes I return it, and buy something else. The goal is for it to fit, to look great in its place. If it is meant to be the focal point, that it should do that very, very well.

If the decorating analogy doesn’t strike a chord, maybe my “getting-dressed” one will. Exposition can be like buttons and button holes – they help close the garment in order for it to be wearable. The buttons should be attractive, too, but they don’t need to be the entire length of material that makes the shirt. They simply close gaps. However, if the focal point of the story is the garment being torn off, those buttons better pop in the most spectacular way.

How do you think about the elements of writing to support your storytelling?

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The truth about personal essays and what the “personal” should be

Before I began writing professionally (and for a long time while I was), I was a therapist. Therapists are dedicated to confidentiality and bound to it by law, except in very specific cases. As a writer, how do I reconcile writing essays that include other people while writing a really good essay as well? It’s […]

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The Surrendered Writer vs The Controlling Writer

Just like I can’t control what other people do, sometimes I can’t control which direction my writing is headed. I feel so powerless, no—impotent. Though I shouldn’t. Because I have no business trying to control. Just like living beings, my words have their own footprints and fingerprints. If I respect that then my words, once […]

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