This week we welcome Steve Cotler!
Steve is a retired Little League catcher who’s also been a shoe salesman, telecom scientist, singer-songwriter, Apollo 1 computer programmer, Hollywood screenwriter, Harvard Business School MBA, investment banker, and door-to-door egg man. He lives with his wife and writes in Northern California’s wine country. He thinks he is and always will be eleven years old. Cheesie Mack Is Not a Genius or Anything, the first of a series for middle grade readers published by Random House, is his first book.
Welcome to our podcast series: Promotional Secrets for Authors! brought to you by Waxcreative Design and Autographed By The Author stickers.
Hosted by award-winning author and professional publicity coach Elizabeth Yarnell, these podcasts connect author to author about book promotion. Please read on for a transcript.
What kinds of promotional efforts have brought you the most benefit in terms of recognition and book sales?
STEVE: Definitely school visits. I’m both an author and a performer, so when I talk with students and teachers about writing, I get animated, enthusiastically encouraging them to enter the discussion. Of course, like all authors, I talk about the creative process and do readings. But it’s never a lecture. I ask lots of questions, engaging them in discussions of character, voice, plot, and setting and challenging them to imagine. As I share tips from my career as a working writer, I get students to think and to imagine. There’s a lot of energy. I move around the room. I change the amplitude and emotion in my voice. I excite students about reading and writing.
What secrets can you share to help create successful book signing events?
STEVE: Don’t be dry and academic. Be exciting and academic. You want to be fun, but you also want impart information that sticks with them. Kids like it. Teachers appreciate it.
All readers read because the book they’re into is giving them a worthwhile return for the time they’re investing. (Can you tell I’m a business school graduate?) A book signing needs to do the same: the author must give readers something of value. If you’re signing at a table, it could be a smile, a warm or clever remark, or an anecdote. If you’re making a presentation before the book signing, be aware of the image you’re presenting—the readers came to see you—and give them something to make their coming worth it. As an example, I did stand up comedy many years ago. I’m comfortable improvising. So when I hear the inevitable question—How do you come up with your ideas?—I demonstrate with an improv. I ask for suggestions from the audience, and I draft the skeleton of a story. It’s sort of like walking a tightrope—and the audience knows and appreciates the risk I take. I’ve actually gotten a couple of good ideas doing improvs like that.
Do you have branded promotional items other than paper products?
STEVE: Not yet. But I’m thinking. Book two of the Cheesie Mack series comes out next June, so I have a bit of time.
Is there anything you always carry with you, in case you run into readers of your books?
STEVE: I always have a copy of my book (which seatmates on my last three airline flights have asked to buy from me…and I graciously oblige). And autographed-by-the-author stickers. They’re a must! I never go anywhere without them. Readers are eager to have authors sign their books. Nothing makes them happier. And if you affix an autographed-by-the-author sticker, double happier! Also, I always carry a supply of business cards…but they’re not really business cards. On one side is a small version of my book cover; on the other are links to my website and some ordering info. Most people love authors and want to know more. I give these cards out freely. Some readers use them as bookmarks.
Do you have a final tip to offer on conducting successful author promotions?
STEVE: Smile. Laugh. Be engaging. People prefer happy over somber. Let your readers and prospective readers know that you are totally loving your life as an author. If you do, I guarantee you’ll get a smile in return…and a loyal reader.
Great tips and tricks, Steve. Thanks! For all our listeners, check back here regularly to get insider secrets from bestselling authors about what promotional tools YOU can use to support yourself as an author. Or subscribe to the Promotional Secrets for Authors podcast on iTunes!
Thanks for listening, and thanks for showing off your signed books with our gold Autographed By The Author sticker… the signature sticker that makes your signed books that much more valuable on the store shelf and in a reader’s hands.
Don’t forget to check out our other recent podcasts in this series, interviews with Mia Marlowe, Rebecca K. O’Connor, Jane Porter, and Alyson B. Stanfield. We know you have promotional secrets to share! We’ll have an easy-to-use online form ready for you soon, but in the meantime, please email us if you want to be interviewed, be featured here, and share your secrets with other authors.