Bite Somebody · Bite Somebody Else · Public Relations · Publishing · Sara Dobie Bauer · writers life · Writing

The Best Part of Being a Writer

I’ve spent the past month (longer) preparing for the release of Bite Somebody Else. Last year, it was the same story for my debut, Bite Somebody. I can now say I have successfully launched two novels into the world with the help of my publishing house World Weaver Press and my editor Trysh Thompson. What have I learned?

Launching the book is literally the hardest part of the authoring process.

Sure, it’s fun doing interviews because we all like talking about ourselves (or, in my case, expounding over why Benedict Cumberbatch is my muse). It’s fun doing book signings, especially when you get to rub elbows with author friends and people who’ve known you since you were a fetus. The positive reviews are fabulous. The social media explosion is, frankly, alarming. It’s all very magical, and yet, it’s the most draining, terrifying, and stressful experience of my life because I am a writer and all I want to do most days is write.

You see the conundrum.

In order to be a successful writer, one must take part in book signings (in public AHHH), guest blogs, retweets, advertising campaigns, interviews (on video AHHH), and more and more until you think you’re going to go quite mad. As a population, most of us writer folks are introverts, so this is daunting as hell. But we do it because promotion is one of the biggest parts of being a writer—and the most difficult.

The week of my final Bite Somebody Else signing, I realized I hadn’t written anything creative in a very long time. I was losing my mind. I saw some romance publishers were looking for erotic novellas, so I started writing. I wrote, and I felt sane again. In fact, I felt amazing. I realized writing is the best part of being a writer. Sounds obvious, right? It wasn’t until now.

See, I’ve been writing for years. I always figured the best part of being a writer would be the ego boost of a book launch and the excitement of meeting fans face to face (which is great, don’t get me wrong). I thought that publishing a book would bring me all sorts of joy—and it has—but not the kind of joy I feel when I’m hunched over my computer all alone, laughing at my own jokes.

Writing is a solitary thing. Writers are solitary people. Expecting us to be promoters and social butterflies is ludicrous, but we do it because we have to. The world we live in requires writers to not just craft sentences but craft personas. We need to be out there on social media and at conventions, and we do it—because we must. However, at the end of the day, the thing that brings me the most joy is writing words that become sentences that become paragraphs.

Having now launched two novels, I’ve come to realize the things I always thought would make me happy—fortune and fame—won’t make me happy. Am I rich and famous right now? No, but I’ve had a taste of both at book signings and on release day. It feels good to be appreciated, but compliments sometimes make me want to hide. Ask my editor Trysh: the only thing that keeps me standing and smiling at book conventions is beer. Once I’m allowed to stop smiling, I hide in my hotel room.

I just want to write. I want to sit on my ass every day and tell stories—even if those stories never get published. There is something so fulfilling about creation. (In fact, I’m pretty sure creation feels a lot better than birth.) Writing is the best part of being a writer. What a relief to remember.

Bite Somebody · Public Relations · Publishing · Writing

Rust City 2016: Why do we go to book conferences?

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Last Thursday, I told my husband I was terrified. I had to drive up to Detroit for the very first Rust City Book Con, and I did not want to go. I wanted, in fact, to curl into a tiny ball and cry all weekend. Instead, I had a four hour drive, followed by three days of panels, workshops, and socializing.

Jake, ever patient, said, “You’re going to have fun.”

Of course, he was right. I arrived at Rust City Friday morning, one workshop already under way. The organizer met me barefoot and with a smile, which made me think, “Okay, if Jackie’s barefoot, I’m going to be all right.” (Don’t ask me why this was so comforting, but it was.) Then, fellow author Cali helped me carry stuff up to my hotel room. I’d made a friend.

I sat in on some panels that morning and learned fantastic things about character motivation and the industry. I laughed with other audience members. During the long lunch, I had a beer and was invited to join a table of women with whom I immediately fit. I could cuss and say silly things, and they laughed. They actually LAUGHED.

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Pin the fangs on Bela!

Over the course of the weekend, I sat on some panels of my own. I gave an 8 AM workshop on planning the novel. I did a book signing. A fan ran up and called me “Ms. Bauer,” which made me giggle because no one calls me that. I organized a “Pin the Teeth on Bela Lugosi” game, because why not? I sold some books, but mostly, I guess I networked.

As authors, why do we go to book conferences? Since Rust City was my first as an official author person (thanks to Bite Somebody), I wasn’t sure going in. Now, I think I’m getting an idea as to why conferences are necessary.

It’s not for the money. I did not come close to breaking even, when you consider travel costs, conference costs, and oh, beer costs. Although I learned a few things, the conference was not about education for me, as most of the topics discussed were things I already knew.

Networking? Yes. I think we go to book conferences to network. I was lucky enough to have breakfast with one lovely lady who plans to refer me to her agent. I met authors who think like me, write like me. I have a cornucopia of new Facebook and Twitter pals, and yes, I found a few new readers.

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Roselynn and me

However, maybe just maybe, we authors go to book conferences to feel not so alone. Yes, as writers, we are “high-functioning introverts.” New soul mate Roselynn had a shirt that said, “I’m Done Peopling Today.” I get it; I hid in my hotel room as often as was appropriate.

Despite our general tilt toward the anti-social, though, we need each other because we need to talk about writing. We need to talk about books we love. We need to talk about rejection and how much it can suck being an author, even once you’ve been published.

It’s wonderful to meet our readers, but it’s wonderful to meet other authors, too, and commiserate. And for those of us who write about sex, how nice to have our jokes actually land.

I made the mistake of leaving Rust City Saturday night. I had a lovely, wonderful dinner with old Detroit friends, until a lady at the table behind us complained about me saying “orgasm” in public. Funny how empty it feels when you’re no longer surrounded by “your people.”

I drove home yesterday completely exhausted and “done peopling.” I have a stack of new books to read. I have new friends across the country to keep in touch with. For my first book con as a published author, I’ll call this one a win, not because I made any money but because I felt the love. I laughed. I connected. That’s what Rust City Book Con was really about.

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Public Relations

Dobie Back in Love with PR

Since quitting my full time job, I’ve gone back to my freelance roots. It’s where it all started—my passion for PR. Back in my Ohio days, I started my own PR company—Tree Town Promotions—and I repped only authors and artists from the Midwest. When I moved to South Carolina, I had to leave most of them behind. However, Michigan author Alan St. Jean has always stuck with me. I’ve launched five of his children’s books, and I hope to be a constant help and support for this talented and prolific Steelers fan. (Had to give a shout out.)

Anyway, I’m in the midst of sending review copies for Alan’s newest release, Alyssa and the Spider. Alyssa is a beautiful book with a beautiful story. I want it to win awards, and I want it to be SEEN. I’m doing my best to spread the word, so in the process, I thought I should share some of what I do to launch a new title. With this entry, I mean to help all the independent authors out there by demystifying public relations and giving you some learned tricks of the trade. To do so, I’m going to run through my review copy process. In other words, what do you send and HOW do you send it?

1) Preliminary email. First, I do my homework. I find the online reviewers who write the best reviews and have the most popular sites. I find the publishing industry magazines that need to see this book. Then, I email them. I introduce myself. I introduce the book. I see if they would like a review copy, and in certain cases, I see if they would like to interview the author. This gives them a heads-up. They will then be looking for the book in the mail. This starts the “hype”—gets the ball of interest rolling. Plus, it’s just nice to introduce yourself. It’s nice (and important) to build a relationship with the people in your industry.

2) The cover letter. You have to have this. It’s another step in the introductory process. It reminds the reviewer who you are and what you represent. It should have a reiteration of your email introduction, a synopsis of your book, and a request: Why are you sending this book? What do you want from the reviewer? A simple line works: “I am honored to have my title considered, and I look forward to reading your review.” Be sure to have all your contact info on your cover letter, too, so that it is easy for the reviewer to get in touch with you if he/she has questions or concerns.

3) A promotional document. The promo doc can be only a page long. It needs to include title, author, publisher, and ISBN details. It should have a synopsis, an author bio, and imagery. This is your opportunity to do “pretty” stuff. Be sure to use cover art. Use interior art, as well, if you’re dealing with a picture book. WOW the reviewer with all you and your book have to offer. A promotional document is like an image-based representation of your marketing copy. It should sell your title with little more than a glance, so make it attractive and concise.

4) The BOOK. (Duh.)

5) Something fun. Call me a dork, but I like including something fun with review copies. For example, for Alan’s Alyssa and the Spider, I found these funny, stretchable spider toys. I put a little toy with each review copy. Twenty spiders cost me four bucks. Stay on the cheap side, but have FUN. The spider toys make Alan’s book stand out. Sure, the things will probably get tossed by some reviewers. The hope is that other reviewers will get a kick out of the stretchy spiders and keep ‘em on their desks. That way, the spider will be a reminder of Alan and Alyssa. That way, the reviewer will be more likely to remember Alyssa and write a review. It’s the fun, creative touches that set you apart—as a person and as an author. Never forget to have fun, really, because isn’t that why we’re here anyway?

6) The envelope. Anyone can stuff a book into a big manila envelope and send it off. Going back to the “Something fun” idea, I like to make individualized labels. I don’t mean individualized to each reviewer, but I do mean individualized to your book. What I suggest is buying sheets of big mailing labels to print yourself. Then, throw cover art onto ‘em. Include the book title, author name, and if there’s space, your website address. Not only will your package jump off a reviewer’s desk, but hey, maybe the post man will end up buying a copy of your book because he saw your envelope in the mail!

QUICK TIP: Be sure to set up a Google Alert for the title of your book and for you. Reviewers don’t always have time to let you know they reviewed your book. With Google Alerts, you get automatic notifications when your name or your book title pops up on the web. This will keep you in the loop and let you know when your amazing book is getting some press. Check out http://www.google.com/alerts for sign up details.

Hope these tidbits were helpful! As for me, I’m freelancing, and I’ve fallen back in love with public relations. It’s good to be back. Happy book promotion, everyone!

Charleston · Public Relations · Publishing

Dead Spiders

For a long time, I had a pet Banana Spider outside my office window. I watched her build a web. I watched her seduce and eat dude spiders. Her ass grew, as did my work TO DO list. She would watch me type, and I would watch her, watching me, through those eight million eyes. Then, one day, I thought she was dead. I felt terror and dismay at this realization, because Ms. Banana Spider had become a friend—a compatriot and an entertaining distraction at work. That day, though, she wasn’t dead. She was just resting.

Ms. Banana Spider is not resting anymore. Ms. Banana Spider is dead. I watched it happen. It was about a month ago, on one of those uncharacteristically cold Charleston afternoons. Again, I looked up, and I thought she was just taking a nap. Then, the wind blew. Ms. Banana Spider fell out of her web and into the bushes below my office window. I stood up and stared outside. After the initial shock had melted into mourning, I sat down in my chair and realized it was over. My little friend was dead, and for the rest of that day, I typed slower, walked with hunched shoulders, and frowned down at my TO DO list.

The feeling grew. The dead spider bothered me. I’m not superstitious. I don’t believe in “signs.” But maybe part of me had gone with Ms. Banana Spider. Maybe, as I watched her web fill with pieces of fallen leaves, I felt myself toppling—cold and lonely—into the bushes outside my office, too.

Yesterday was my last day at my full time job. I resigned two weeks ago, and now, I sit here, typing on my computer at home with no Banana Spider outside my window. And it’s okay. It’s winter, and the spiders are hibernating somewhere warm. The seasons are changing. Everything changes. I was at my full time job for a year and a half. I learned how to be a publicist. I learned how the publishing world works. I made great friends, and I will never EVER regret moving here, to Charleston, SC, for said job. I have been, and I am still, blessed. But it was time for a change. It was time to shake off the dead spiders and have a new adventure.

One of my favorite quotes: “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy shit…what a ride!’” And so the ride continues. A wide open unknown awaits. I am lucky to have the support of so many friends and family. I am lucky to have the opportunity to immerse myself in freelancing. Finally, I’m lucky to have made the acquaintance of a certain Ms. Banana Spider, who reminded me that sometimes, you just gotta move on to move up.

Public Relations

I WANNA BE ON OPRAH! PART TWO

Part TWO of Andrew Ng’s column, “I Wanna Be On Oprah.” Take notes. Take his advice. The guy knows what he’s talking about! (And in case you missed it, Part ONE.)

I Wanna Be On Oprah! PART TWO

By Andrew Ng

Back to Oprah for a moment—you really need to think what angle you can take that might appeal to the Producers at Oprah and to the viewers of Oprah. Think creatively – find something funny or uplifting, find something relevant to current issues globally, find something that will simply charm the Producers into liking you and your products / services.

Very briefly I’m going to touch on utilising the Internet in your PR and how it might help you in a quest for Oprah. As this is a general marketing and PR piece that I’m writing, I won’t go into too much detail about generating excitement on the Internet. If you want more information about that you’ll have to find yourself a media consultant or do your own research. The Internet is arguably the easiest way to reach people who will be interested in your products. The same marketing basics apply online as do in traditional media. Think about what you’ve got to offer, who might want it, and then, hunt around to see where you can find a collection of these people on the Internet. I always push the use of multimedia as a great way to grab someone’s attention. The Internet likes multimedia – a lot! For more information about utilising multimedia online, I recently wrote a guest article at Refocusing Technology about video technologies – feel free to have a look: http://www.refocusingtechnology.com/index.php/2009/08/18/utilising-video-in-technology-and-social-media-marketing-andrew-ng. You can also see i-Showreel, the video product that I mention, in action at www.i-Showreel.com if you’re interested.

I’ve now covered a lot of essential marketing and PR ideas, so now for the million dollar question: how do you actually get on Oprah? I’ll give you a completely truthful answer. I’m very, very sorry, but I really don’t know.

Don’t stop reading yet, however; I have got a little more information to add. There are two routes that I see open that might, only might, lead to being on Oprah.

The first route. Oprah is a massive television show. I know the TV industry quite well (I have a company that operates in that industry). Appearances on big TV shows require good “ground-up” PR. Utilise the press – get a few decent stories in the papers by targeting where you want your stories to appear effectively and intelligently. Utilise the Internet – make people excited about what you do. Do some serious networking – run a few high-profile events and invite the “right” people to them, feeding them mucho wine in the process (wine is a good answer to most problems). By combining these different approaches, you’ve got a decent chance of making an appearance on a television show. You never know which TV Executive might be reading the paper, might find you online, or might really like wine!

After getting your “basic” PR right, you can then contact television producers, utilising all your existing coverage to create a persuasive case for getting you on a TV show. As with everything else, pitch yourself appropriately to the television programme in question. Just like any other kind of marketing – make sure you find an angle that they will be interested in.

And the second route. Get a hold of a PR person who has contacts in the broadcasting industries, appropriate to where you want your media coverage to appear. This industry is a lot about “who you know”. If you can get hold of the Chief Editor of the news, you can probably get a news story broadcast if you pitch it correctly. If you can get hold of a PR person who knows the Chief Editor of the news, he will know how to pitch it properly. It’s a lot less work, but also a lot more expensive and nobody can guarantee results!

Which one would I pick as a better option for small-medium sized companies? The first one – it will have a more positive impact on your profit margins over a more prolonged period of time.

Does this mean that you shouldn’t have a PR person or a media consultant? No – they will be able to add value in terms of marketing and PR strategy and though utilising a fantastic network of contacts in the industry. It’s just probably not a good idea to have them target the Oprah Winfrey Show as their first assignment. I’m a media consultant and if someone rang me and said, “I wanna be on Oprah”, I would politely suggest a more balanced media strategy as I outlined in my first route to Oprah. So what would my role be? To lay out media strategy, generate Internet “buzz” and look for good angles to gain press coverage. In the long term, that is a much more profitable, much less high-risk strategy than focusing solely on getting on Oprah. And who knows, generate enough hype about what you do, and one day, you may well end up on Oprah.

The final point that I have for you…

In all honesty, if Oprah wants you, I’ll be very surprised if Oprah doesn’t find you.

(BY THE WAY! About Andrew Ng: Andrew Ng is a serial entrepreneur and leading media and innovation consultant in the UK. His businesses include media innovation company, Fat Mouse Productions Ltd; communications and public relations agency, re:Markable; and web development and online marketing business, Expanding Web. In September 2009 he is launching i-Showreel, an innovative video product designed for Internet and mobile marketing. Alongside his business activities, he is currently authoring two books and works as a freelance artist and illustrator. Visit Andrew’s website at: www.andrew-ng.com. Follow Andrew on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/Mr_Ng.)

Public Relations

I WANNA BE ON OPRAH!

You know I’m sick when I have other people write articles for me.

In all seriousness, I was lucky enough to “meet” Andrew Ng via email. For a young man, he is incredibly accomplished. He gives amazing advice. He is an expert in the field of marketing and PR. Hence the following essay, “I Wanna Be On Oprah!”

My original media query (via Blogger Link-Up. Thank you, Cathy Stucker) was tongue-in-cheek. I mean, personally, Oprah terrifies me. I wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley. (She’d end up shoving chick lit down my throat, and I’d wake up in the morning a fan of Dr. Phil. I digress…) Regardless of my personal phobia of the woman, no one can deny her sway on public opinion, especially where books are concerned. Since I work for a publishing house, it only makes sense that Oprah Winfrey would be on our list of media coverage we NEED.

So for me, Andrew wrote the following article. I love it. I think you will, too. Happy Labor Day!
 

 I Wanna Be On Oprah!

By Andrew Ng

Out of every request for marketing information, this title has got to be the single most eye-catching I have seen. It is also the one that has made me smile the most (and I like smiling)! So naturally I jumped at the opportunity to write an article around this topic.

To start with, let me clarify one minor point – I personally don’t want to be on Oprah. In fact, being that I live and work in the UK, I’ve never actually seen a full episode of Oprah. This question actually came from Sara Dobie, a children’s book publishing PR Coordinator in America.

Ok, this is a huge question, so let’s start by looking at some marketing and PR basics. I’ll also tell you a bit about who I am and what I do so you’ll have some idea about my expertise in answering this question. I am a serial entrepreneur with companies operating primarily in the media sectors. I also hold a role as an executive consultant at a communications and public relations agency that also runs corporate workshops aimed at igniting creativity and innovation called re:Markable.

With every client that we work with at re:Markable, I ask two very basic questions. These questions are used by us generally to create marketing and brand strategy, but they can and should be applied to all areas of communication – including with television executives! These two questions should define everything behind your approach to marketing, advertising, and PR.

1) What do you do?
2) Why the hell do I care?

Are those questions a bit blunt? Probably. Why? I want a blunt answer (without any frills).

Here is a bit more “no frills” stuff for you…

Too much marketing is unfocused.
Too much marketing is sending mixed messages.
Too much marketing is not designed with a specific target audience in mind.

The two questions that I’ve outlined must be answered before any attempt to gain media coverage. There is no point approaching the media if you can’t tell them what you do, and why they should be interested. Once you can answer those two questions, you can clarify your marketing and PR approaches. This will result in improved communications and media coverage.

So you wanna be on Oprah? Get a notepad and write down in a single, simple sentence what you do; then write down a maximum of two sentences about why Oprah should want you. If you can’t do that, you really need to examine your business and work out what you do and why you do it. Because chances are, unless you can work that out, your company is gonna go bust pretty soon.

Now let me tell you a big secret. The mass media wants your stories. More than that, the mass media needs your stories. Without your stories there will never be enough content to fill newspapers, websites, magazines, or even television schedules. So why aren’t you filling every second page of the paper and why do large companies spend so much on PR professionals?

How many businesses are operating in the world? I don’t think an exact figure exists, but it will be many more than there are column inches. Basically, a lot of people want to give the mass media their stories. You might be incredibly persistent, you might have something great to say, and you might deserve recognition for incredible achievements on a personal, national, or international level, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get any press coverage. There is usually one answer why – the approach is wrong.

The tricky thing about gaining big PR coverage is that humans control newspapers and television. (The Internet isn’t really controlled by anyone so we’ll come back to that one.) Humans are not robots and hence, make judgement calls. When it comes to PR, it really would be much easier if everything was controlled by a smiling, happy robot who, if fed the correct ingredients, always printed what you want it to. As it is, there is no single formula for gaining high exposure in the media.

Think back to those two questions that I posed for a minute. Think about what you do, and why I should care. Who will be interested in what you have to offer?

There is no point approaching a fashion magazine when you are trying to get exposure for educational children’s books, such as the books Sara represents. A better approach would be to speak to some television programmes relating to books or education, or to the editors of book columns in quality newspapers. There is one other option if you’re looking for more creative PR – find an interesting twist to your products / services. If in a children’s book there is a recipe for chocolate cake that the child reading the book can try out themselves, maybe you could consider approaching a food magazine for coverage? Creative thinking is a key ingredient in the PR mix and can usually be used to get your story where you want it to be.

Back to Oprah for a moment—

 

Or…..NOPE! Sara is cutting you OFF! That was segment ONE of Andrew’s column. Segment TWO will pop up Tuesday morning, but I think he’s given you enough to think about for the holiday weekend.

So I charge you with a mission. An assignment, thanks to Andrew: “Get a notepad and write down in a single, simple sentence what you do; then write down a maximum of two sentences about why Oprah should want you.” I want you to think on this. It’s important, whether you’re a writer, artist, musician…anything! If you want to make it big, you have to be able to answer this. So think of your answers this weekend. And I’d love to have you post here on the blog. If you come up with something good, share it with me. And maybe someday, I’ll be watching you sip lukewarm coffee on a swanky couch on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

andrew(BY THE WAY! About Andrew Ng: Andrew Ng is a serial entrepreneur and leading media and innovation consultant in the UK. His businesses include media innovation company, Fat Mouse Productions Ltd; communications and public relations agency, re:Markable; and web development and online marketing business, Expanding Web. In September 2009 he is launching i-Showreel, an innovative video product designed for Internet and mobile marketing. Alongside his business activities, he is currently authoring two books and works as a freelance artist and illustrator.Visit Andrew’s website at: www.andrew-ng.com. Follow Andrew on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/Mr_Ng.)

Public Relations · Publishing

Might as Well Post That Picture of Me in Vegas

There’s a theory that all press is good press, and the debacle with Bloomsbury’s upcoming YA release “Liar” makes me a true believer. From Publishers Weekly Children’s Bookshelf: “Bloomsbury Children’s Books has told PW exclusively that it will change the controversial cover of Justine Larbalestier’s ‘Liar.’ Bloggers and the author herself had criticized the publisher’s choice of a white girl with long, straight tresses for a novel about an African-American girl with ‘nappy’ hair. ‘We regret that our original creative direction for “Liar” has been interpreted by some as a calculated decision to mask the character’s ethnicity,’ said Bloomsbury officials.”

Justine Larbalestier’s Liar BEFORE the outcry
Justine Larbalestier’s Liar BEFORE the outcry
Ha! HA! That’s me, laughing really, really hard at Bloomsbury’s regret. Regret? Bull POOP! They don’t regret a thing! In fact, this is me begging: “Oh, Bloomsbury publicity director Deb Shapiro, please teach me your ways!”

Does anyone else think this was the most ingenious way to get this book in the news? I mean, when the original cover for “Liar” hit the web, people were livid. Bloggers attacked Bloomsbury, and as the article states, even author Justine Larbalestier was ticked off. But I read about it, didn’t I? I clicked on the link and read the whole article (Publishers Weekly, July 23).

SEE! DID YOU JUST CLICK THAT LINK? It’s working! Deb Shapiro! Justine Larbalestier! Bloomsbury, it’s WORKING!

This goes along with a point my buddy made on my banned books post from a couple weeks back (https://saradobie.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/we%e2%80%99re-still-burning-books/). He basically said that, shoot, the people fighting the banning of books should just post the list of “bad” books online, and the sale of those “bad” books would go through the roof! A nice big go screw yourself to the censors. Back to the idea: all press is good press!

Justine Larbalestier’s Liar AFTER the outcry
Justine Larbalestier’s Liar AFTER the outcry
Which is why I must congratulate Bloomsbury and their PR chick Deb Shapiro on this whole “Liar” scandal. Because of the race question, this story hit the press. Because of bad publicity, you’ve received PUBLICITY, which is painfully difficult in this world of YA books, dime a dozen. Geniuses. I wonder…how am I going to make educational picture books scandalous? Hmm…I guess I could go the Disney, Lion King way and sneak “S-E-X” somewhere in the Library of Congress data. Hmm. Not a bad idea.

Read the most recent PW article on this ingenious PR campaign HERE.

Public Relations · Writing

David Sedaris: When You Are Engulfed in Flames

When You Are Engulfed in Flames
When You Are Engulfed in Flames

I discovered David Sedaris while feeling really bad for myself in an airport in Columbus, Ohio. I’d just attended my little brother’s college graduation, so I felt old. I’d just had a Bloody Mary at the Ohio State Buckeye café, and since I’m a Michigan fan, I felt guilty about it. I’d finished the newest edition of Cosmopolitan (don’t judge me) on the flight to Ohio two days prior, so I had nothing to do but sit around and wallow in my hang-over.

Then, I’d spotted the books in the back of the airport gift shop. Since I was feeling bad about myself, I browsed the James Patterson/Harlan Coben mystery thrillers first. I thought, well, at least I’m not being murdered…although that may have been better than the cheap beer headache. Next, I moved onto the biography section. There was that new one by Michael J. Fox. Something about being an optimist. Since I’m not an optimist, I thought buying this book would be almost as out of character as me (Michigan) and my Bloody Mary (Ohio State). Finally, there it was—a black and white cover of a skeleton smoking a cigarette. I pounced. Yes, this would be my book of choice. Yes, this felt like home.

For those of you who already know David Sedaris, you know I purchased his newest book that day in the airport—a collection of short essays, entitled When You Are Engulfed in Flames. I’m a big fan of short stories. I first fell in love with ‘em when I read Stephen King’s Everything’s Eventual what seems like a million years ago.

After reading King’s collection, I did one of my own, called “Come to Happyland.” I wrote that collection two years ago, but I never tried to get it published. It was twelve stories, written in three months, thanks to inspiration from a bad breakup and an even worse rebound. In this way, many of my short stories feel more like personal essays than fiction. My nearest and dearest know that eventually, everyone in my life ends up in something I write. (My ex-boyfriends have unfortunately learned this, as well.) Perhaps this is why I’ve started a love affair with David Sedaris. I’ve found the accomplished, adult, gay male version of myself, and I can’t wait to devour the rest of his work.

The way I feel about David Sedaris is the same way I feel about Chuck Palahniuk, only Sedaris is better with sentence structure and is not so much of a pompous a-hole. This isn’t to say I don’t like Palahniuk. I DO like Palahniuk. I just realize who he is and how he writes. Sedaris is the softer version. Sedaris is the version to which I can relate.

Over the course of Flames, you’ll come to know Sedaris—the somewhat reclusive, nice guy with a derisive devil on his back. You’ll come to know Hugh, his fast-walking, levelheaded companion. You’ll travel to Japan as Sedaris struggles to give up cigarettes, and then, you’ll go to France, where Sedaris befriends a hungry spider on his windowsill. Warning: You will laugh in public, so if you refrain from embarrassing public displays of giggles, do not read David Sedaris in public. Read him in the comfort of your own home, where squirting Bloody Mary out your nose will not make the foreigners behind you at the airport turn and stare.

It’s not just that he’s funny. It’s that he’s honest. He pulls no punches. His work is self-deprecating and cruel, but he doesn’t make you, the reader, feel bad about any of it. His prose feels like a shrug of the shoulders. Like he’s saying, “Hey, I’m just being HONEST. You can’t get mad.” And you don’t. You love him for it. If I could hypnotize you and make you go buy When You Are Engulfed in Flames, I would do it. It’s a well-organized, well-rounded collection of essays that make you want to write your own essays. So GO. GO BUY IT NOW! Or just go meet David Sedaris at his website: http://www.barclayagency.com/sedaris.html.

Speaking of websites, I just started a “Self-Promotion or Death” Tip of the Week for Feathered Quill Book Reviews. Go learn some stuff: http://featheredquill.blogspot.com/2009/07/self-promotion-or-death-pr-tips-from.html. If you have questions/concerns, leave me a note at Feathered Quill or send me an email: sdobie@treetownpromotions.com.

And a quick teaser: I’m doing a month-long series for ForeWord Magazine’s Publishing Insider: http://www.forewordmagazine.com/blogs/insider/. It’s all about blog tips this time, entitled “We Be Bloggin’ with Sara Dobie.” The first column goes live tomorrow, and I’ll throw up a link once it’s posted.

So. Why are you still sitting there? Go read some Sedaris.

Public Relations · Publishing

Old dog; new tricks

Well. So far so good. I have a BLOG. As a publicist, I was originally forced into it by the cruel, judgmental voices in my head, saying, “You don’t have a BLOG? Everyone has a BLOG!” I have continued to ignore Twitter (Twitter? What’s Twitter), but dang it, I have a BLOG.

So what have I learned? What advice do I have to give to the lost, bewildered bloggers out there? I suppose there are a few things I’ve picked up since February.

1) Make your bio and your contact info easy to find on your blog. The worst thing for you is to be mysterious. Tell readers about yourself so they can relate to you. Make yourself easy to contact for comments and interview opportunities, especially if you have a marketable area of expertise.

2) In the first few weeks, write about people you want to meet/interview/clone. Seriously, I wrote about HARO’s creator Peter Shankman within the first month of my blog, and he was nice enough to send me an email, thanking me for the shout out. In turn, you hope people like this will spread word of your blog. And that’s what it’s all about—forming a group of personal minions.

3) On the same token, if you write about someone (an entrepreneur, an artist, a band, a restaurant, etc.), TELL THEM ABOUT IT. Get in touch with them and say, “HEY! I wrote about you on my blog!” On the business side: Make it a networking opportunity. People like to see their name in print, so share the love. And just as I mentioned in item 2, maybe the person you network with will start networking for you. On the fun side: I did a review of Fish Restaurant here in Charleston, and the owner found the review, printed the review, and posted it in the kitchen. I then had my birthday dinner at the restaurant, and I was treated like royalty because I was “the girl who wrote that amazing review.”

4) Start an interview series. I have a series on my site called “An H and Five W’s.” I ask artists, musicians, and authors six questions. In each case, the questions are similar—basic but with highly individualized responses. Sure, this is easy for me, because I don’t have to actually write much of anything. But it’s more than that. It’s about reaching out and giving someone attention for what they do. Then, because of the attention given, the fans/friends of said artist/author/musician find my site. It’s good when people find your site! Example: I interviewed Charleston artist Nathan Durfee. Not only did I get hits from gallery owners who showcase Nathan’s work, but Nathan posted a link to my blog on his website. This equals blog traffic, and hey, isn’t that why I started the blog in the first place?

So there you go—four tips after four months. Thanks to you who have been paying attention. Thanks for the comments and the emails. I’ve been having so much fun! Hope you have, too!

Charleston · Public Relations · Writing

Introduction?

me in the morning.
me in the morning.

My name is Sara Dobie, and I am the Public Relations Coordinator for a publishing company in Charleston, South Carolina.

I’ve only been here–this city, this company–for eight months. I’m originally from Ohio, where I spent the entirety of the first twenty-five years of my life. I don’t miss Ohio. I’m one of the blessed few who has found her city and her industry. I love Charleston; I love my job. But it is only a job…

I’m also a writer. I’ve won short story contests; I’ve completed three full-length novels. I completed my most recent novel January 2, 2009. It’s called “SNM.” It takes place in Charleston, SC, and the first scene is the dismantling of a male-female romantic relationship at one of my favorite bars here in my beautiful city. Is it semi-autobiographical, you ask? Well. We don’t know each other that well yet.

I have a second job, too, beyond the daytime PR gig. I work as a hostess at one of the classy joints in downtown Charleston. I’ve been referred to as glorified door candy by one of my coworkers at the restaurant, and I don’t mind. It’s a second job, and I like smiling at strangers. Plus I have two jobs! In this economy, there is no one more blessed than a woman with two jobs.

On top of all this, I do have occasion to sing. I have a grainy, jazz voice, so I sing grainy, jazz music. Billie Holiday is my vocal icon, and I thought it was hilarious when Etta James put down Beyonce Knowles in recent media reports. I’ve performed at Mistral on Market Street in downtown Charleston, and this past Friday, I belted out an unplanned number on the roof of the Vendue Inn. Alas, there is rarely the time for singing preparation. Therefore, singing is something I do on the fly…much like the random beginning of this blog.