Julie Cannon

Julie L. Cannon is the author of the award-winning Homegrown series, published by Simon & Schuster and described as ‘Southern-fried soul food.’ She switched from the ABA to the CBA, and her novel I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Summerside Press, Sept. ‘10, made the CBA Bestseller List as well as Nielsen’s Top 50 Inspirational Titles. Abingdon Press will release Twang in August 2012, and Scarlett Says in October 2013. When she isn’t busy tending her tomato patch, Julie can be found teaching memoir-writing workshops. She lives in Watkinsville, Georgia. Visit her website at www.julielcannon.com and connect with her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/julieLcannon and on Twitter at JulieLCannon.

Author By Night

In the Wee Hours

Can you still call yourself an “Author by Night” if you rise in the wee morning hours at 5:00 a.m. while it’s still pitch-dark outside, pound out your thousand words for the day by noon, then switch hats to one of those other income streams an author may have? Mine include freelance editing, teaching various writing workshops, and occasionally being a keynote speaker. On top of that, I’ve still got one kid at home (out of three), one husband, one dog, and two demanding cats.

But the hat I’m wearing today is Marketing My Wares. People have to hear about your novel if they’re going to buy it and read it.

Growing up, one of my greatest joys was writing stories. One of my greatest fears was public speaking. After high school, I got a degree in Journalism from the University of Georgia, relishing the idea of becoming a writer. I believed authors got to sit around spinning their stories all the livelong day. They did absolutely no public speaking. What a perfect career for me! Imagine my horror when my first publisher emailed a long list of speaking engagements.

When book marketing efforts began for my novel Truelove & Homegrown Tomatoes, I was a reluctant book promoter. I almost never have a manicure and would happily live in floppy, rump-sprung sweats were it socially acceptable. So picture an almost forty-year-old woman with her mousey brown hair in a glamorous upsweep beneath a sparkly tiara, enough makeup to coat a barn, and brandishing a tomato-tipped scepter. It’s a scorching hot Saturday in July and she’s standing on an outdoor stage at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Georgia. Her knees are knocking beneath a long red, glittery, body-hugging evening gown. Why? Because she is to address a crowd of a couple thousand at the park’s first annual Tomato Day.

I did not feel like Tomato Queen material. But I realized I could not hide in my writing cave. I learned very quickly that if you want to sell books, you can’t say no your publisher’s request of marketing events: “Well, I’m an introvert, and I don’t like bringing attention to myself, and I’ll never be one of those shameless self-promoters.” God helped me wage war against my paralyzing fear of public speaking. It was not an overnight battle, but thanks to PRAyer and PRActice (can you tell I love words?) I overcame to become a bold and sassy Tomato Queen, a paid professional speaker, and a leader of writing workshops.

Book-marketing guru Steve Harrison got my attention when he wrote, “Writing books is like an iceberg—ten percent is writing. Ninety percent is marketing.” Steve is right that there’s a lot of marketing necessary for a successful book. With the release of my sixth novel, Twang, I’ve got to do my part in hawking this book! Nobody, not even my mama, cares more about Twang’s success than I do.

Though now I am comfortable speaking to large crowds, I am apt to put more time and emphasis on virtual book tours. In this fast-changing publishing environment, new technologies allow authors to do much of their hawking from the comfort of home. Authors can get their names and book titles in front of potentially thousands of new readers on a virtual book tour.

Conducting an effective virtual book tour takes some work. There are about 150 million blogs, so if you can get a spot on a blog, hopefully one with a sizeable following, you get more than one day, or perhaps one week, of exposure. Your post will stay there permanently, so months, even years later, somebody can still find you. You also get permanent links to your press page, your Website, your Amazon page, etc.

Over the years I’ve made contact with and appear regularly on a number of blogs. Just a few minutes ago, I checked my email inbox and found an acceptance note from a new blog welcoming me for August. How did I do this? First I became a subscriber, a loyal reader, and responder to particular blogs, and then they either approach me with an invitation to be a guest blogger, or I ask to appear as a guest.

Happily, my publisher, Abingdon Press, has hired a company called Pump Up Your Book to coordinate a month-long blog tour where I appear on twenty different influential blogs promoting Twang.

Here are six tips on building an effective blog tour:

1. Know your readers. Visit blogs aimed at the type of people who’re interested in your theme/genre/subject. Once you find the most influential blogs in your particular niche, subscribe and study the blog, taking note of content, length, etc., and begin to interact. Ask to be a guest.

2. Build your post around your readers. Think about their needs and desires.

3. Choose post titles that appeal to your readership.

4. Give away a free book. You can give away an entire book to one lucky responder, or you can offer a chapter download to each reader to get them interested in your work.

5. Tweet about the blog you appear on. Post it on Facebook. Link it to your Facebook page or to your press page on Amazon.

6. If people comment on your blog post, answer them. Thank them.

The marketing manager at Abingdon Press suggested I blog on what compelled me to write about a girl with a childhood full of emotional landmines she’s trying to run from. She advised to write about how music/art can be cathartic, and how we have to look painful things in the eye to heal. From the advance blurbs I’ve gotten for Twang, the word Brava! keeps popping up, so I’ve decided to use this when I query potential blog hosts. I hope Twang is brave. I meant it to be. In fact, on my Website, I quote Flannery O’Connor: “I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I’m afraid it will not be controversial.”

I hope these tips help you get started lining up your virtual appearances to promote your book. If you need more help in understanding how to set up an effective blog tour, you can do a Google search using phrases such as blogging as a fiction writer and top author blogs.

It’s nice, this modern-day book touring. I don’t have to put on my Tomato Queen crown or my glittery red gown. I can sit with my hairy legs inside my grubby clothes as my non-manicured hands click across the keyboard, transporting me through cyber space to hawk my books.