Friday, August 31, 2007

Featured Author Interview -- Marcia James

Wow, do we have a treat for you today! For the next couple of weeks my feature author is my twin sister. NOT! Well, considering our names you might think that. Marcia James has some great insight to promotion she'd like to share with you in her interview. Enjoy!

Maddie -Tell us a little about yourself.

Marcia - My background is in communications – particularly promotion and marketing. I’ve worked as a corporate video scriptwriter, advertising copywriter, and journalist. The latest and most fun addition to my resume is “romance author.” Penning love scenes sure beats writing shoes ads or shooting videos on how to install neon signs! ;-D

Maddie - You have a new book out. We’d love to hear about it.

Marcia - AT HER COMMAND, a comic romantic suspense, is my debut book from Cerridwen Press. It explores the question: What if the DEA, FBI and Washington, D.C. police put operatives undercover at the same hedonistic club without telling each other? The comic possibilities of such a situation were too fun to resist, and I particularly enjoyed writing the character of Smokey -- a Chinese Crested hairless dog who is my DEA heroine’s tiny, drug-sniffing canine partner. AT HER COMMAND is available in trade paperback or e-book.

Maddie - What does your writing schedule look like? Are you a morning writer? An all day, for the long haul, writer? Or are you a night owl?

Marcia - I have the great good fortune to work out of my home, so I can write when my energy is highest – usually afternoons and evenings. I’m definitely not a morning person, so I usually handle e-mail in the mornings and write after lunch.

Maddie - What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Marcia - Here’s a few suggestions -- mostly in the PR arena, since that’s my field: Lock in your author domain name, create your Web site (at least on paper), and start to brand yourself BEFORE you sell. Google your proposed slogan (mine is “Hot, Humorous Romances”) BEFORE you commit to it to make sure it’s unique. Create a Web site and slogan that support the “author brand” you want – something with the tone and look that will let your readers know what to expect from your books.

Power-schmooze – with other authors, agents, editors and readers -- whenever you get the chance. Don’t make the mistake in underestimating the power of networking. The author you meet today could be someone who hooks you up with her agent or gives you a cover quote in the future. If you are too shy to network, see if you can find ways to get past that hurdle, even if it means learning relaxing self-hypnosis or public speaking. And remember that people in the romance industry are some of the nicest in the world.

Believe in yourself, be proud of your writing, and don’t let anyone – including family and friends – be dismissive of your accomplishments.

Maddie - What is your next project?

Marcia - I just finished writing the first book in a comic romantic mystery series featuring a sex therapist/amateur sleuth heroine and a hunky but uptight cop hero. This manuscript is currently at Berkley, Kensington, and St. Martin’s. It was incredibly fun to write, and I fell for the characters. On my Web site, instead of a blog, I have a light-hearted sex advice column “written” by my sex therapist heroine.

Maddie - Today, writers need not only write great books, but be great promoters of their books, too. What kinds of things do you do?

Marcia - Thanks to my PR and marketing background, I’ve been applying what I know to author promotion. That said, I continue to learn all I can from established authors and creative newbies on my Romance Writers of America email loops. I’m co-presenting a PR workshop at late September’s Central Ohio Fiction Writers’ conference and at the April 2008 Chicago “Spring Fling” conference. For those events, I’ve developed a “living document” on author promotion, which is free to any author who’d like it as a seed file to start their own. Just go through my Web site (www.MarciaJames.net) and request it using the “Contact Me” page.

Here are several more PR suggestions for published authors: Take advantage of the many free promotional opportunities for authors out there – especially the chance to be interviewed (like this!), guest-blog, and participate in online chats. If you have the time, post comments on other authors’ blogs. All of these things increase the number of hits you’ll get when Googled. Come up with a creative idea for bringing people to your Web site. An example of this is author Paige Cuccaro’s “Writer’s Cave” Web site pages. (http://www.paigecuccaro.com/html/the_cave.html) She puts photos of authors’ offices on her site for free and has pages of them now. Readers love to see where their favorite authors work. The Writer’s Cave is a great PR idea!

Depending on your finances, you can check into the many online sites that will promote an author for a fee. I haven’t tried any of these, but I wouldn’t rule it out for the future. And don’t forget to promote to the general public, not just to established romance readers. You can send press releases to your college’s alumni association and to your home town newspaper, as well as to trade publications and newsletters of associations that would have an interest in your book. For example, since I have a crestie dog in my books, I have posted on a Chinese Crested dog owners’ message board.

You can also come up with a creative tie-in to your books for your promotional giveaways. For example, I give away thumbcuff keychains that relate to the law enforcement protagonists in my books and also remind readers that my books contain some kinky elements. I have my Chinese Crested hairless dog logo on all of my PR items and on my Web site, which ties into the fact that I have cresties in all of my books. So your PR materials can be part of your brand vs. just being something that contains your pen name and Web site URL.

Maddie - Now, here is the totally off-writing subject question. What’s the coolest, wackiest, most risk-taking thing you’ve ever done?

Marcia - That’s a tricky one. I think participating in a March of Dimes celebrity downhill ski race when I was barely off the bunny slopes was probably pretty nervy or nuts, depending on your point of view. ;-D My team captain, Olympic gold medal pole vaulter Bob Seagren, told me our team could win if I would just snow-plow around the gates and not miss any or fall, since he didn’t want me to be disqualified. I made it down and past the finish line just fine, then I fell at Bob’s feet.

Other than that, I’ve done some interesting things in my life. I worked for a military subcontractor, shooting training videos aboard submarines. As a special events volunteer, I’ve met dozens of celebrities. (There are photos on my Web site to prove it.) ;-) My wedding was covered by People Magazine because we raised money for several charities. And most recently I petted a dolphin.


Thanks, Marcia! A great interview and what wonderful promotional tips for all of us. Thank you so much for visiting. If anyone has questions for Marcia, please leave a comment. She'll be checking in and out. And be sure to visit her on the net at http://www.marciajames.net

Maddie

18 comments:

victoriablisse said...

Great advice, thank you. Promotion is something that we all have to get to grips with and it's not as ismple as it sometimes seems.

Marcia James said...

Hi, Victoria! You're right about PR not being as easy as it might seem on the surface -- particularly getting newspapers and other general public PR venues to take an interest in a romance authors. And something has become clear to me as I try different PR options: Not only are some ideas more effective than others depending on what sub-genre you write and what (if anything) your publisher is doing to promote your book, but some options work better than others depending on your personality. For example, I love booksignings and conference networking since I’m an extrovert, but I'm not as good at chatting on email loops because I feel like I have SO many things to do and SO many deadlines looming. So for me, my best bet are things that require a one-time commitment of time, like guest blogging or chatting in a chat room for a specific hour. I'll try MySpace, but I'm probably better at writing publishing craft and business articles for trade publications. Everyone has her own strengths, so I try not to beat myself up if I don't enjoy all avenues of PR. ;-)

In case you're interested, I have a file of PR options for authors that I give away free to any author who visits my Web site and requests the file through my "Contact Me" page.

Happy promoting!
-- Marcia ;-)

patricia sargeant said...

Marcia, great promotional suggestions, as usual. :) I've got my fingers that your mystery series takes off. At Her Command was great!

Magdalena Scott said...

Marcia,

Thank you for sharing SO MANY wonderful PR ideas! Now, as you say, I need to think through them and see which ones suit my own personality best. Sometimes the promo opportunities are overwhelming...

Marcia James said...

Hi, Patricia! {{{waving from Dublin, OH}}} Thanks for dropping by and for the kind words about my debut book! For those who may not know it, Patricia's second book, a cool romantic suspense titled ON FIRE, hits bookstores Sept. 4th! I can't wait!
-- Marcia ;-)
www.MarciaJames.net

Marcia James said...

Magdalena -- I agree that all of the PR options out there can be overwhelming. For example, I keep putting off getting a MySpace page because I'm already taking too much time away from my writing to do promotion. Guest-blogging and being interviewed by other authors are two easy ways to get your toes wet doing PR. So is schmoozing with other authors in the bar at conferences! ;-D A personal favorite of mine -- although, since conferences are business, I stick with non-alcoholic drinks.

Best wishes on your self-promotion!
-- Marcia ;-)
www.MarciaJames.net

Maddie James said...

Ah! So, non-alcoholic drinks! That's the trick, eh? Magdalena and I, we must admit, found the bar on a few occasions in Dallas. Somewhere on this blog I believe there is a picture of a nice big margarita sitting in front of her...of course, non-alcoholic. :)

maddie

Marcia James said...

Hi, Maddie! The reason I mention the non-alcoholic drinks is I was amazed at how many people were well beyond pleasantly buzzed at the bar this last Romance Writers of America conference. I think the reason is the incredible popularity of flavored martinis. Unfortunately, the people who weren't major tipsy were the editors and agents -- they were quietly observing the drunk RWAers who were all wearing their name tags. Bad move...

Before anyone thinks I'm knocking those who were enjoying the bar scene -- or I come across as a judgemental tee-totaler -- I had wine with dinner at the conference, but then I switched to virgin sea breezes (cranberry juice with a splash of grapefruit juice) at the bar. Networking is much more productive if you actually remember what was said while you were schmoozing! ;-D
-- Marcia ;-)
www.Marcia James.net

Jan said...

Marcia,
I'm one of the Ladies of Legend. I plan to see you at the Chicago Fling, if we don't connect sooner. Goog luck on your submissions. Your books sound like fun.

Maddie James said...

Marcia, of course, I wholeheartedly agree! I just have to say, for the record, that Magdalena and I did quite well to stick with one drink per evening and the only remotely embarrassing happening was a strange fit of giggles over my mispronunciation of the term "name badge" (funny you should mention those) which somehow came out "name bag" and for some reason was extremely hilarious...at the time. :)

maddie

Marcia James said...

Hi, Jan! I look forward to meeting you in person! I'm co-presenting the PR workshop with Jennifer Stevenson and Pat White, two authors who have interesting takes on PR and lots of great advice. ;-) See you in Chicago!
-- Marcia ;-)
www.MarciaJames.net

Marcia James said...

Maddie -- If you plan to be at the next RT and/or RWA conference, let me know. I'd love to meet you in the bar and have a fun time! ;-) One of the reasons I keep my alcohol consumption to a minimum is that I've been known to say outrageous things stone sober. ;-D
-- Marcia ;-)
www.MarciaJames.net

Maddie James said...

RT is a strong possibility! I've already marked off the days in my day job calendar and barring anything unforeseen, I'm planning to be there. Would love to meet up with you! Just be sure to wear your name bag, er, name badge, so I will know you.

maddie

Marcia James said...

Maddie -- not only will I wear a name bag/badge, but I'll have one of the electronic scrolling ones, too. Originally, I believe Ellora's Cave authors got them to identify each other at RT and stand out from the crowd. I like the digital badges because they are great conversation starters -- one of the ways a shy person can approach you and open a conversation. ;-) Since I've presented a networking workshop, I tend to take my own advice (~L*) and wear things that offer an opening for other people. For example, my cell phone cover is a dog (which ties into my dog logo). All the time I get compliments on it and requests for information on where to buy the covers. Once the conversation has begun, you can chat up the person and suddenly you're networking.
-- Marcia ;-)
www.MarciaJames.net

Magdalena Scott said...

Not to belabor the conversation about alcohol, but if anyone does look up that Magdalena/Margarita photo, I want to state again that the Margarita was NOT that big. The photo makes it look huge because the drink is in the foreground. Honest.

And surely "name bag" is an hysterically funny phrase, whether one is slightly tipsy or completely sober. I know I laughed out loud when seeing the phrase again in Maddie's comment a moment ago, and I'm drinking plain old sweet tea.

Having had a room that overlooked the atrium/bar in Dallas, I can attest to the late night happiness of at least one woman. It always sounded, as the laughter reverberated up to the tenth floor, as if one woman was having the time of her life. Of course this was some trick of sound, blending all the voices into One. I called her the Laughing Lady of the Atrium. She caused me to sleep with a pillow over my ears.

Not sure what any of that has to do with promotion though. Oops.

Marcia James said...

Magdalena -- I had a similar problem with the Hyatt Regency in Houston at the RT convention last April. Sound really echoes up that center tower and into the nearest rooms. I was lucky to get one of the rooms away from the tower down a hallway in the Dallas Hyatt Regency for RWA.

As for how this all relates to PR -- it's a lot easier to power-schmooze (a great type of self-promotion), if you've had a good night's sleep!
-- Marcia ;-)
www.MarciaJames.net

Maddie James said...

I just want to say thanks to Marcia for hanging around the past couple of days and offering up her wonderful ideas on promotion. Best of luck to you, Marcia with your current book out and your future ones! Let us know where they land and we'll be sure to check them out. Many thanks for being my guest.

Marcia's interview will remain up through September 15. On that date, we'll have our next interview with the CEOs of Resplendence Publishing!

Stay tuned,

Maddie

Marcia James said...

Thanks, Maddie, for interviewing me! I enjoyed meeting my "twin" in name and look forward to reading your books!
-- Marcia ;-)
www.MarciaJames.net