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The truth about SWAG

For a moment, let’s talk about S.W.A.G (Stuff We All Get) or rather; giveaways, at author events, conferences, and book signings. For this conversation, the term SWAG refers to author branded pens, jar openers, sewing kits, lip balm, recipe cards, bookmarks, etc. Any promotional item you can put your name on can be considered swag, and just as you wouldn’t show up at a friend’s house for dinner without a dessert or a bottle of wine, you can’t attend a signing without offering a little bit of swag.

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Over the years swag has become a “necessary evil,” one that authors have poured money into in the hopes that the reader will not throw their trinkets away.  But, now, I wonder if you and I are looking at swag through the correct lens. Instead of wishing our swag a long and dust collecting life sitting on a shelf, maybe we should make the most of its short-term existence.

Pondering if I was alone in my opinions of swag, I sought help. Fellow romance author, Kim Boykin gave me her opinion of swag. She says, “For newbies like me, it’s expensive, creating stuff, postage is the real killer. It’s hard for me to tell what giving it away actually does for sales. Does it build up your brand, lots of good will? Most definitely.  But does it sell books? Probably not. I think it’s one of those tools the industry used so people do it. Everything is so price driven these days, I’m guessing readers would rather have a discount or free books rather than stuff. I’m always amazed going through the SWAG room at RWA how much stuff there is and how much of that stuff is still there at the end of the conference. Except chocolate, that always seems to go. Fast.”

To Kim’s point, I’m often baffled by the author who labors over the perfect piece of swag and tries to get it “just right,” then complains post-event that she didn’t see her book sales spike. Have you ever purchased a book because you were given a free nail file? I haven’t. This leads me to believe that we are looking at swag the wrong way. Therefore, if we must invest in promotional items, we should come together to look at swag for what it is…a tradition. Let’s And readers do not feel obligated to buy your book because they walked away from your signing table with a free bottle of hand sanitizer. Let’s admit swag is expensive and after a few years it is possible to run out of good ideas for giveaways. Let’s accept tiny bottles of screen cleaner won’t sell a book. Let’s vow, in unison, not to check sales when our supply of pens is exhausted to only suffer disappointment when the expected uptick in sales isn’t realized.

Instead, let’s do this. Let’s make a promise to carry on a tradition. That if we do invest in promotional items, we do so with the following in mind:

  • We will try to make our swag as clever and unique as we can without breaking the bank.
  • We will strive for our swag to match the tone and theme of our book, and order just enough so that we aren’t giving away author branded hot cocoa in the summertime.
  • We will aim to imprint a visual image on our swag and recognize some people are better at remembering faces and icons because we are more than just fancy script and a web address.
  • We will attempt to make the swag work for us. We vow to share our ingenious ideas with our friends and fans on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
  • We will understand it is more important to place our swag in the hands of the readers than display it on a table to await its unavoidable meeting with the trash can.
  • We vow to look at swag as a gift to the reader, not as a means to a sale.

In conclusion, dear authors, I ask you to stand alongside me to carry on the tradition of swag. Together we realize that from chocolate candy to refrigerator magnets it’s all been done before, and will be done, probably forever. Because just as readers have come to rely on a trinket given in good faith, we have come to expect to provide it. With nothing expected in return, except a smile.

Do you listen to BTR?

For those who haven’t heard of it, BTR stands for Blog Talk Radio, the latest in on-line entertainment and informational programming. Everyday professionals, experts, and entertainers are hosting their own radio shows and being heard by millions. These topic-driven programs allow listeners to hone in on their interests and hear the latest news in whatever industry that floats their boat. So what does that mean for readers and writers? So glad you asked! PJ Sharon here with the latest scoop on how to help writers find their audience and readers connect with their favorite authors.

Writers can share their books and talk about their writing process with interviewers while sitting behind their computer or on their phones, feet up and fuzzy slippers gracing their desks. All while sipping tea and chatting about their favorite things with whomever decides to tune in. Fans or readers can type in questions to be asked and answered in real time, or a link to the show can be used later for promotion and advertising purposes.

For readers who love romance, it’s a chance to hear your favorite authors dish about their characters, read excerpts, and maybe even share a few spoilers about upcoming books. Basically, it’s another way for readers and writers to connect in a fun, user-friendly format.

The really cool thing is that anyone can host their own show. Of course, that means adding consistent content, being entertaining and engaging, and building an audience over time. It’s not for everyone, but those that are doing it appear to be enjoying the up close and personal interaction and sharing it with listeners.

I’ve done several such interviews over the past year or so and I have to say, I love doing them. It means not having to actually be on camera, but being able to hang out as if I’m conversing with a pal on the phone. It’s very non-threatening. My most recent BTR interview was in February with Linda Mooney from Other Worlds of Romance, who hosts mostly sci-fi/fantasy writers and has a decent following.

She asked me to come on the show and read a steamy excerpt from WESTERN DESERT, book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. Several listeners showed up to ask questions and I had a blast sharing my story with them, including behind the scenes insights into the third book, the title of which I’ll reveal at the end of this post as promised last month!

After the show, Linda sent me the link to embed into my website so readers can refer to it and listen at any time. What a great promotional tool and something I can definitely add to my press kit. I’m sure if I use it properly it could lead to TV/radio interviews in the future. It’s a way for media types to hear how well you speak about your books and interact with the interview process. You can find a list of hundreds of shows that might be willing to host romance authors here. Or you can go in and search categories for more specific shows that focus on your genre.

Just one more way to connect readers and writers in the digital age!

Now, to reveal the title of the third book in the trilogy…drum roll, please… we had WANING MOON, WESTERN DESERT, and coming this fall…HEALING WATERS, the continuing adventure of Lily Carmichael and friends as they make their way back home to warn the good folks of Stanton of a coming doom. Will they reach them in time…or is it already too late? Can Lily and Will overcome their differences and find their way back to each other as they race against time to save the human race from certain destruction?

Don’t forget to join me on my PJ Sharon Books FB page as I roll out the cover reveal for my next Contemporary YA novel, PIECES of LOVE, set to release June 21st. POL Picture4The big reveal will take place on April 18th, but pop over and “like’ my page now so you don’t miss out on the fun as I reveal a new “piece” of the cover each week along with an excerpt. Leave a comment on my FB post and be entered to win an ARC of the book, winners to be drawn on reveal day, April 18th, when you’ll also be privy to links for the release of my single, PIECES of Love, the theme song to the book.

Tell me, have you ever listened to BTR?

HOW FAR THE BAR?

Greetings, everyone. Thea here today. This past weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at t CTRWA March meeting about writing erotic romance from my perspective. Which admittedly goes back at least twenty years, when one of my historical romances, Beyond Desire, was the first romance to be reviewed as erotic romance — a totally new designation at the time. And not one that publishers jumped on either.

That took the publication of the anthology, Captivated, in 1999. Labelled “tales of erotic romance,” it flew onto the USAToday bestseller list in no time. And even then, the industry sat back and watched as the follow-up anthology, Fascinated, zipped onto USAToday as well.

There were constraints at the time as to what terms you could use, what body parts you could name, how far you could go.

Twenty years later, 50 Shades changed everything.

Now everything is on the table (and in the bed) as far as combinations and sex — front, back, side, upside down, inside out, casual, meaningful, manacled, chained, blindfolded, whipped, flipped, one night stands, one day, one hour get it on and get off, no commitment, scratch the itch and over you go.

So now that there are readers for every sexual taste, where’s your line? How far will you go? You could push the bar even further — male/male, female/ female, triads, quadrads, and any multiple combination of that; bestiality, hard core bondage/domination/punishment, corset discipline, flogging, gagging, needle play, fire play … .

And so my question to you, which I asked at the meeting as well, is — do you feel the need to compete with 50 Shades? To push further? To define the bar rather than straddle it? To be the one to make waves? Or you do have your own strict won’t-go-there parameters?

Thea Devine’s books defined erotic historical romance. She’s the author of 27 historical and contemporary erotic romances and a dozen novellas. Look for “Beyond the Night”, the sequel to “The Darkest Heart,” to be released as a Pocket Star eBook, fall 2014.

10 Rules for Writing an Effective Press Release

Hi Scribblers,

Being a marketer, I was blessed with the gift of gab.  And, using my gift I’ve been quite successful getting my clients of Market or Die Author Services, LLC noticed in the media.  My client, Kourtney Heintz was even featured on a local TV station – and her book was the focus of the show.  But, getting the attention of traditional media isn’t easy.  I’ve gotten more no’s or no responses than yes’s over the years.  But, my wins have been big ones. Just last week I was on the phone with the producer of CBS This Morning discussing my client Ava Miles as a potential guest.

Having the contacts is part of being successful in the press. The other half of the equation is  writing an effective press release.  So, here are my top ten must-have’s for writing a release that is both professional and eye catching.

1.- The words FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE should appear on the top left of the page above the headline – No dates – Dates will be overlooked.

2. Next, the headline should appear in bold capital letters.  Write the headline to attract the attention of the reporter.  If you have a title before your name like, USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR, make sure you use it here.

3. Avoid overused words like HOT, NEW, BEST EVER. Write simply and concise.

4. Make sure your book title appears in all caps.

5. Write your release in the 3rd person and do not use a title such as Mr. , Ms. or Mrs.  Just refer to yourself by your last name, such as, Fusco says this is her top ten rules for writing an effective press release.

6. Never use exclamation points in a press release!!!!!

7. At the bottom of the press release type the word “end” or designate the end by using ### .

8. List your website and social media information as well as your phone and physical address.

9. Your release should be no longer than 2 pages MAXIMUM!!!

10.  Submit your press release, and follow up about a week later. If there has been no response – accept that the venue is not interested and move one.  Further correspondence will only piss them off.  :)

Finding New Ways to Shine

Hey folks. It’s been a busy month since we last met. PJ Sharon here, on this first Thursday of March. I’ve been finishing up edits on my contemporary YA romance called PIECES OF LOVE, due out the first part of June. I also spent ten hours in the recording studio hammering out the theme song for the book!

I’ve had to bump my production schedule back after some, hehemm…technical difficulties with my cover artist. Basically I’m starting from scratch with someone new on the project so I’m excited to see what they come up with but I’m chomping at the bit to get it done. Admittedly, I also wanted a little more time to prepare for my launch this go round. As many of you are writers and authors, you know the importance of preparation when it comes to marketing and promoting your books well—especially in today’s competitive marketplace. But how do we find new ways to shine the light on our product?

I’ve been trying to think of some out-of-the-box ideas to add to the tried and true methods that others are using to launch their books successfully. Many of these ideas came from an awesome workshop I recently took with Amy Atwell and her pal Kelli at Author EMS. This was my takeaway from the workshop (which offered sooo much more), and what I came up with specifically for my book. There’s much to be done but I’ll try to implement at least the following over the next few months:

1)     Happy Couple Cover Reveal-Introduce a piece of the cover each week for three or four weeks leading up to launch (“Pieces” of love…get it? **ggg**). You guys get the first peek right here! Along with an excerpt, I’ll share each piece with newsletter readers first, and then on my FB page, attempting to gain momentum for the full reveal date—which I will advertise profusely as soon as it becomes available:-)

2)      Get reviews-this is my first time pushing for reviews ahead of launch, but it makes sense to me to get as many as possible before launch day to create buzz and to have enough reviews to get an add on Book bub and ENT-which have to be set up weeks ahead and budgeted for.

**If anyone is interested in an advanced reader copy (ARC) in exchange for an honest review, I’ll have those available in the next few weeks. Just leave a comment below and let me know you’re interested or e-mail me off loop if you like at pjsharon64 (at) gmail (dot) (com).

3) Pre-orders-Smashwords offers a way for Indies to do pre-orders…YAY!!! Mark Coker. Thanks, man. On a limited basis, Amazon might do this as well, but I’d have to look further into that possibility. If any of you has done it, I’d love to hear how.

4)      Release of song to i-Tunes. Yes, PIECES OF LOVE, the theme song to my book will be available for a .99 cent download on i-Tunes in the very near future! I’ll keep you posted as to when it’s available for sale. Part of the song will be used for the book trailer, which will hopefully cross-pollinate attention for both the song and the book, and bring something unique to readers of YA fiction. A link will be available within the e-book so readers can listen to a song that Lexi writes and sings in the story. I’m very proud and excited about the finished product.

And NO—I’m not starting a new career as a recording artist. This is something I did for fun and for my love of music. I think readers will get a kick out of hearing the author’s voice. Now, I know that not everyone can write music or sing, but how cool would it be to add within your e-book, a link to a pod cast or a personal message to readers about your book? Maybe a three to five minute interview about where the idea came from and so on.

Multimedia integration is where the industry seems to be headed, so why not get creative? Beyond having links to your other books, your newsletter sign up, and social media sites, you can offer live chats or book club discussions. Or maybe offer access to a private page on your website for readers of that particular book, giving them deleted scenes, playlists, a contest or some other special privileges unique to your books theme.

4)      Release book trailer—see above. There are several sites that promote book trailers, one being the USA Today HEA blog. I’ll try to get the trailer out to as many as I can find that are within my budget. Hear that honey? Get working on that book trailer!

5)      Launch book-There are a dozen or more steps that have to happen before I get to this point, but on launch day, the plan comes to life. A FB party launch seems to work well these days. Although teens are hanging out less and less on FB and more on Instagram, I have a pretty enthusiastic cross-over market with adult readers who enjoy my contemporary YA romance novels. (Yes, I will set my FB feed to jump over to Instagram at some point.)

For PIECES OF LOVE, I’ll focus on the Mediterranean cruise theme. It will be in June, so I can invite readers to take a trip with Lexi and Ethan to the Mediterranean. I’ll have excerpts from the book, pictures taken throughout Europe, and of course punch and Spanikopita for everyone. I’m currently trying to find dolphin themed swag in reference to a recurring totem throughout the story, and of course there will be giveaways and free books. Mediterranean cruise 2011 005 (2013_02_16 18_14_38 UTC)I plan to reach out to other authors who might want to use my launch to offer some of their books for free through Smashwords coupons or PDF copies. I know Gemma Halliday does this. Her readers love it and authors can find new audiences through another author’s fan base.

** Anyone wanting to offer up e-books or even signed print copies, let me know in the comments below and I’ll connect with you about how to get your books into the hands of a potential new reader.** (Sweet romance only, please. I do have to consider my YA audience.)

6)      Blog tour-I’ve done blog tours in the past with mixed results. For this launch, I will do a focused tour and try primarily for review sites and YA bloggers.

**If any f you YA authors or book bloggers out there would like to host me in June, July, or August, let me know in the comments section below or email me off loop.**

Well, there you have it. Those are just the basics, and I may not get it all done, but that’s where you’ll find me for the next few months. In my free time, I’ll be writing book three in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy due out in the fall of 2014. When I see you next month, I’ll reveal the title! Stay tuned.

What new ideas have you seen that are helping books stand out in the market?

Lady Mary, what's wrong with you? Are you really going to let Lord Gillingham marry someone else?

Return to Downton–Part Two

Hello, my darlings! Suze here. What’s new with you? Lots of things going on in Suze-ville. Like, I heard from my editor and the Berkley team is working on my cover! My Greek restaurant series has a new, adorable name: The Georgie’s Kitchen Mysteries. Book 1 will be called Feta Attraction. I’ll be sure to let you know when I have a release date!

In the meantime, my Downton Abbey obsession continues. If you missed my post from a couple of weeks ago, click here.  So here are some more predictions for the characters of DA:

Lady Mary, what's wrong with you? Are you really going to let Lord Gillingham marry someone else?
Lady Mary, what’s wrong with you? Are you really going to let Lord Gillingham marry someone else?

Mrs. Hughes:  Guilt from the lie she told Mr. Bates continues to eat away at her.  So she hatches a plan to exact revenge on Lord Gillingham’s valet. Throwing everyone off the scent by saying she is needed by an elderly aunt suffering from the gout in the Outer Hebrides, Mrs. Hughes steals the estate car and travels to Gillingham’s estate. She lures the valet outside under cover of darkness and promptly dispatches him, stuffing his body into the trunk then driving back to the Abbey.  The next day, she presents Mrs. Patmore with a large amount of ground meat and requests that she make pasties.

Alfred: Fresh from his disappointment at not being accepted into the chef school, Alfred continues to hone his craft in the Downton kitchens.  After catching James kissing Ivy in the scullery, he secretly laces one of the savories (which he whipped up from some of the leftover meat he found in the newfangled refrigerator) with a powerful laxative and offers it to James. But before James can take it from the tray, Molesley swoops in and pops the tainted treat into his mouth. He spends the next few hours in the servants’ loo, lamenting his lowly, not-able-to-get-a-buttling-job state.

Carson: Carson refuses to eat the pasties, having seen what Mrs. Hughes has done. Although he now realizes he loves her passionately, his respect for her is erased and he knows he can no longer stay at Downton. He retires to his room and makes plans for his return to the stage. Working feverishly, in a single night he blocks out the choreography for a new production: The Downton Burlesque Revue.

Cousin Rose. Cousin Rose, desperate for a part in Carson’s show, enlists the aid of the Countess’s new maid (what’s-her-name) and her mad sewing skills to make her a costume–complete with rip-away bodice and a fan made from feathers pinched from the hats of The Dowager Countess and Isobel Crawley.  She wows Carson and it’s off to London with the two of them, where they mingle with all the wrong sorts of people. The Downton Burlesque Revue? It’s a smash!

Edith. Jealous, Edith decides she also wants to be in the show, so she steals Rose’s costume and tries it on. However, due to the fact that her midsection is swelling noticeably, she cannot fit into the tights and skirt.  Her cries of anguish can be heard all the way to Germany.

That’s all for now. Do you watch Downton Abbey? What do you think should happen?

Tawny Weber’s Excerpt Tour

Hey Gang:

I’m so happy the Scribes were asked to be a part of Tawny Weber’s excerpt tour. Just take a little read below. If this doesn’t make you want to buy the book, not sure what will.

Warning:  It’s HOT!!

A SEAL's Salvation cover (1)

A SEAL’S SALVATION

by: Tawny Weber

ISBN: 978-0373797875

 Subject: Navy SEAL Petty Officer Brody Lane

Current Status: On leave

Obstacle: The one girl who was off-limits…

Where Navy SEAL “Bad Ass” Brody Lane goes, trouble follows. Being run out of his hometown years ago for misbehaving with Genna Reilly—the sheriff’s daughter—was one thing. Now Brody is about to step into real danger. Not the suggestive letters he’s been exchanging with Genna, but the kind of trouble that can send a soldier home injured and broken inside…

Genna’s entire life has been orchestrated by her family. The right job. The right friends. Enough! Brody’s return offers the promise of lust-filled pleasures. Of flesh teased and tasted. She’s not expecting to find a soldier with distant eyes who has secluded himself from the world. But this good girl knows exactly how to bring a bad boy back to life….

Uniformly Hot!  The Few. The Proud. The Sexy as Hell.

Excerpt:

She was so damned cute when she got feisty. Brody couldn’t help but smile a little. Actually, she was so damned cute all the time, feisty or not. And sexy. Fascinating, entertaining, fun.

His smile fell away.

Maybe that was part of the problem.

He’d thought they could be friends. He hadn’t been able to resist spending time with her, and had thought he could control the intense attraction he felt for her. That he could channel it into making up for some of the lousy deal she’d gotten after he’d left.

But he felt as if he’d signed up for a torture project. Days spent talking and joking. Watching her bake, listening to her dreams. Nights spent hard and horny, diving into dreams so hot he thought the bed was on fire. He was a man used to pushing through the pain, well trained to overcome his body’s weaknesses. Except, apparently, the ones Genna inspired.

“Look,” he said, taking a deep breath and hoping for some semblance of tact and diplomacy. “This friendship thing, it was a mistake.”

Her eyes widened, surprise and hurt flashing. Then, with a sweep of her lashes, her expression changed. Intensified. It sent an itch down Brody’s spine.

“We’re not going to be friends anymore?” she asked in a calm, friendly tone. If it wasn’t for the fact that she was saying the right words, he’d have figured she hadn’t understood him.

As soon as he nodded, she gave him a brilliant smile and tossed off her coat. It hit the floor with a swoosh just as she reached behind her back. The move was quickly accompanied by the sound of a zipper. And Brody’s hiss.

“What, exactly, do you think you’re doing?” he asked, hoping like hell it wasn’t what he thought she was doing.

“Seducing you.”

Damn.

That’s what he’d been afraid of.

A SEAL’s Salvation Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0373797877/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0373797877&linkCode=as2&tag=tawweb-20

Tawny Weber

USA TODAY Bestselling author of over twenty hot books, Tawny Weber has been writing sassy, sexy romances since her first Harlequin Blaze hit the shelves in 2007.  A fan of Johnny Depp, cupcakes and color coordination, she spends a lot of her time shopping for cute shoes, scrapbooking and hanging out on Facebook.

Readers can check out Tawny’s books at her website, http://www.tawnyweber.com, or join her Red Hot Readers Club for goodies like free reads, complete first chapter excerpts, recipes, insider story info and much more.

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Websitehttp://tawnyweber.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/TawnyWeber.RomanceAuthor

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/TawnyWeber

Pinterest:   http://pinterest.com/tawnyweber/

A SEAL’s Salvation: http://tawnyweber.com/books/seals-salvation/

A SEAL’s Surrender: http://tawnyweber.com/books/a-seals-surrender/

A SEAL’s Seduction: http://tawnyweber.com/books/a-seals-seduction/

A SEAL’s Kiss: http://tawnyweber.com/books/seals-kiss/

A SEAL’s Salvation Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0373797877/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0373797877&linkCode=as2&tag=tawweb-20

A SEAl’s Salvation Barnes & Noble:  http://click.linksynergy.com/link?id=U2Z6CH9yWnc&offerid=266972.9780373797875&type=2&murl=http%3A%2F%2Fsearch.barnesandnoble.com%2FA-SEALs-Salvation%2FTawny-Weber%2Fe%2F9780373797875

A SEAL’s Salvation Harlequin:  http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html;jsessionid=4806944D326FA240103DB9727254679F?iid=50156

Email:  tawny@tawnyweber.com