Posts tagged with: author promotion

Preparing for a Reader Conference

Have you ever attended a Reader Writer get together, event, or conference? As an author, I love spending a weekend with readers! And just as there are varied and wonderfully unique books, there are different types of reader weekends. As an attending author, I need to tailor my preparations to the type of reader event to make the most of the opportunity.

Tomorrow I leave for Romancing Williamsburg, a new Historical Romance Writer/Reader weekend event in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Romancing Williamsburg Historical Reader Event

Regency style dress with poke bonnet

I’m beyond excited, because I’m an historical author and someone who loves to dress up in period clothing. Early this year, I commissioned Victoria Vane (one of the founders of this conference) to create a 17th century English court gown

for me to wear in her Vintage Fashion Show. My mother also made me a Regency gown with jacket and bonnet and a 17th century Scottish costume to wear to my book signing at the conference. I am also part of a group of authors giving a presentation about tea history, one of my favorite subjects. As you can see, this is the perfect event for me.

17th century Scottish gown

I have attended two other reader events recently. The Lori Foster Reader/Author Get Together and the Shameless Book Con. They were very different from one another but both fabulous! Lori Foster’s event veered more toward the sweeter romances, although there were also spicy romances represented and everything in between. Shameless Book Con veers toward erotica, but there were also plenty of other romance sub-genres represented (I was one of two historical authors there).

No matter what type of reader con you are attending, you can make it work for you as an author, even if it doesn’t line up easily with what you write. The number one thing to remember is: You are making an impression on readers, so make it a good impression. Always be accepting of what they like and be friendly. If they don’t read what you write, they might decide to take a chance and read one of your books if they like you.

With that in mind, let’s talk about preparing for a Reader Event.

1. What are your goals? Meeting readers, selling books, dressing up in costumes, networking with other authors, getting people to sign up for your newsletter… Whatever your goals are, make sure that you can quantify them, so you can tell if you met your goal when you return home.

2. Are there themes or certain parties at the event? For a historical reader event, I am bringing my historical gowns and accessories. For the Shameless Book Con, I brought my human rose costume for the big, sexy Smut Gala on Saturday night. My husband attended with me and shipped his stilts to the hotel as part of his costume (it was a carnival theme, and he was the tall man). He ended up winning the costume contest!

Tall man & Human rose at Shameless Book Con

Honestly, if you can dress up in an interesting way, you should do so, given the chance. Even hanging out with readers during the day, I try to wear interesting outfits that will stick in their memories. I just ordered a dress that has books all over it, and my mother made me a fun pencil skirt in hot pink that has little typewriters in the pattern. Not only does an interesting, themed wardrobe give you and readers something in which to start a discussion, but it shows your fun, approachable side and makes you memorable.

3. Who else is going? Are there authors you want to meet in person, friends you’ve made on line but have never gotten to sit down with? If they are going to the same conference, set up a time to chat or eat together. Do you have readers who have reached out to say that they are attending? Make certain to reach back and see them there. Invite them to sit with you or bring a little prize for those loyal fans.

4. Gather your swag and prizes. Double check to make certain you know what the conference might require you bring for a grand prize (books or swag for the reader goodie bags). Hopefully your swag reflects your brand and the sub-genre in which you write. At the tea history presentation at Romancing Williamsburg, I’m giving away a tea cup and saucer, Scottish shortbread, and of course tea. I’m also handing out individual tea favors and booklets on tea history to each participant. These reflect not only the presentation but what I write.

Tea Favor

When I attended Shameless Book Con, I brought key chains with a picture of a kilt on them and the tag line “For the hero who needs extra room.” It was a bit sexier than what I will take to the historical reader event. Bottom line – think about who will be attending and what they might like that still represents your brand.

5. Think about selling yourself and your sub-genre. Going to a book con that was geared toward erotica when I write historical romance required a different approach when talking to readers about my books. My Scottish historicals are a bit spicy, but they are not erotica. I would never mislead a reader, but I did talk more about the spicy parts.

At a historical reader event, I will talk more about the Scottish/English history and things like tea and making my own poke bonnet. For both conferences I talk about the themes of empowering women about which I write. At the historical reader event I will talk about the difficulties getting into my English court gown, where at the erotica event I talked more about the difficulties getting out of my English court gown and how I could see a heroine just telling the hero to forget the stay ties and throw her petticoats up over her head!

6. Don’t forget the basics. These are items you should bring to all kinds of reader events.

Bookmarks with your latest books (QR codes are helpful)

Swag with your branding

Banners and signing table decorations and markers

Sign up sheets for your newsletter and/or mailings

Cash change or way to take a credit card (Square, Venmo, PayPal)

Business cards for networking with other authors or industry professionals

Books if you are required to bring your own to sell. If a book store is providing your books, find out how many they will bring. You might need to bring more.

Badge holder with pins, special bag, or favorite note pad

Prizes and special swag to give out to presentation attendees

Names/Contact info for those with whom you want to meet up

Computer, phone, chargers, and all documents you might need for presentations

Costumes and wardrobe with the right shoes (comfortable and/or stylish) and jewelry

Travel details and wallet

17th Century English Mantua with Fontage headdress

Going over this list has helped me prepare for Romancing Williamsburg! I’m thrilled to attend, and my mom is going with me as a reader. I still need to wash and pack ten teapots for table decorations, and I mustn’t forget my pompadour shoes and fontage headpiece. It’s going to be a fun weekend!

Have you attended reader events? Which have been your favorites? Please add anything that I may have left out. Thanks! Heather





Reader Cons

Have you ever attended a reader-oriented conference? One that is centered around readers instead of writers? For the first ten years of my writing career, I only attended writer conferences (Moonlight & Magnolia, RWA, etc), but recently I’ve branched out to reader conferences. They are so much fun! Really, they are a weekend full of parties, but they are also so much more.

Last weekend I attended my first Shameless Book Con down in Orlando, Florida. It was a blast! A cocktail party Friday night, an all-day book signing on Saturday, a huge after-signing gala on Saturday night, and a fun Candy & Spoons event on Sunday.

This was a time to meet and get to know readers and to network with my fellow authors and book industry folks. Now that I am published, these reader-centered conferences are an extremely important part of marketing me as a writer. I came away with new friends, readers, and fabulous memories. I was able to get to know the people at my publishing house with whom I work. I was able to find kindred spirits in my fellow authors and set up ways we can help each other promote. I met book bloggers and sold twenty-eight books at the signing. All of this in a space of three days!

Okay – so here is the key to success at these types of events. You need to step outside your comfort zone. Unless you are a comfortable extrovert, all of these events can take their toll.

So I:

  1. Brought my husband with me and asked him to wear his kilt to the cocktail party and his stilts to the Saturday night gala (the theme was Side Show Carnival, and he ended up winning the costume contest!).
  2. Practiced my makeup for the gala (I was a human rose) at home several times and created our costumes.
  3. Brought fun outfits for each event and props/swag for the book signing.
  4. Put together and lugged a huge giveaway basket down with me to Orlando on the train.
  5. Made it a point to go to everything, smiling and chatting. I walked up to people I didn’t know and sat next to complete strangers at breakfast and lunch.
  6. Helped my publishing house set up their event and made certain to leave each person I met feeling a bit better about themselves (everyone deserves a compliment or a show of interest). 

For a closet introvert like me, this took its toll. I am now sick with a horrendous head cold. But I’m back in the comfort of my home behind my computer screen wearing comfy yoga pants and drinking chai lattes. And I have fond memories, networking contacts, a new signing-table BFF for next year’s conference, fifty-one new readers for my newsletter list, more followers on FB and twitter, and fabulous new readers of my books. All-in-all, the conference was totally worth the exhaustion and head cold! And I’m already signed up to attend next year where it will be held at Disney World!

Have you ever attended a Reader Conference before? Which ones? Do you feel it was worth it?

Are Blogs History?

Recently, behind the red curtain, the question ‘if blogs are history’ came up and a great discussion followed.   It’s hard for us to know the correct answer, because our brick counter tells us we have between 650 – 1000 reads a day, which is pretty awesome. And some days, only sisters comment while on others the world speaks up. This same question arose at my local writers meeting this past weekend.  

Promotion is a big topic for writers, whether you’re traditionally pubbed or self-pubbed. Blog tours are still on the list of things an author must do, but should they be?

So the questions today are:

Are blogs like the Ruby Sisterhood helpful to the writing community? (Do you love the Rubies?)

Do writers see a ROI on doing blog tours?

Do readers really read blogs?

Please chime in. And if you have blogs that helped with promotion of your work, please share.

Books & Tea Reader Event

Hello everyone! I just love libraries. The hushed peace, the smell of so many books packed together, just
 waiting to be opened. And I love tea. The warm, calming sensation that comes with sipping (silently) the subtle flavors of suntanned leaves steeped with honey, or sugar and cream, or just plain. Books and tea, a perfect pair.


I was recently invited to participate in a Romance Writers Tea Party at my local library. All the libraries in my county were part of the program. Three romance authors were invited to each party to rotate between tables where attendees drank tea/lemonade, ate cookies and strawberries, and asked us questions. It was a marvelous event!




The library had copies of our books on the table, and we could bring others for purchase as well as our free swag for attendees. Keeping with the tea theme, I made paper tea bag/chocolate holders with my web site and book covers on the outsides. I set one at each attendee spot, along with my book marks, notepads and pens. Inside one of the paper tea holders, I stamped a shamrock. Whoever sat at that table spot won a free copy of my book, CAPTURED HEART.

The tea party was held in the library conference/children’s program room and started out with everyone mingling, getting refreshments and choosing a seat. One spot, for the author, was left open at the three tables. The librarian introduced each of us with a brief bio, which we provided to her.

Collage for CAPTURED HEART – Scottish Historical Romance

I started off at each table showing some of my collages, which I use to help me write, and discussed my process. It was very casual and attendees asked questions throughout, although the very on-top-of-it librarian had a list of potential questions on each table. At twenty minutes, she encouraged us to switch to another table, although we all ran over.

At the end, attendees were able to fill up on refreshments, take a look at the books, sign up for newsletters and talk with each author if they had individual questions. And a couple people bought my books. It was a unique, fun way to meet new readers (even if you don’t like tea). If you are a librarian or have a local library, you could suggest a Romance Writers Tea as an outreach event.

Here are a few details about my particular experience:

  • Three authors were invited to attend each event. Each author received a $100 honorarium.
  • Between 15 and 20 readers attended each tea party.
  • The library made up fliers and a poster for each entrance into the library. They asked for reservations so they would know how much food to have.
  • A beverage station was set up with hot water, various tea bags, sugars, creamer/milk, lemonade and ice water.
  • Attendees were asked to bring their own tea cups but could use the paper ones provided.
  • Cookies and strawberries were set out with napkins and little plates.
  • Tables had table cloths and simple center pieces (I brought my own tea pots for the center pieces).
  • I’m the only one who wore a hat, but a library could suggest hats as part of the fun.
  • The event took about one and a half hours.

Have you ever attended a similar author event in your area? Were there interesting features/details that made it even more fun?

For more information about Heather McCollum, including her homemade Chai Tea Latte recipe (link below), please check out her web site and sign up for her newsletter

Chai Tea Latte Recipe

Free-For-All Friday: Crowd-sourced Promotion Insights

Readers of the Ruby blog may know that I’ve been waiting out a rights reversion timeline with my former publisher. I have good news and bad news.

The good news? I obtained publication rights back for my traditionally-published Underbelly Chronicles books in December! If my plans hold, I’ll be able to reissue those books sometime during the first quarter of 2017, and publish ENTHRALL ME, Tia and Wyland’s story, later this year. 

The bad news? I haven’t published a book in over three years – eep! – and what little insight I had into promoting indie books – any books – is woefully obsolete. It must be said, I suck at promotion. As a lifelong Minnesotan, and a massive introvert, I probably come by this honestly, but I loathe inflicting promotion on others, and I’m really good at ignoring promotion I might see or receive.  

/wincing/ Yeah, I know….    #PROMOFAIL

So that’s where you come in! I’d love to pick your brains. As authors, where and how you promote your books? As readers, how do you learn about new books in ways that don’t annoy you?

A few questions to kick things off:

  • Is “first book perma-free” still a thing?
  • Do you place ads? Notice others’ ads? If so, where?
  • Blog tours: Worth the time, or not?
  • Publicists: do they provide value?
  • Social media: what role does it play in your promo strategy?
  • Amazon-only, or wide release? Pros and cons
  • BookBub: still the Holy Grail of ad buys, but can you recommend alternatives?
  • Contests and giveaways: what,  if anything, do readers value?
  • SWAG: useful or not?
  • Signings and personal appearances: do readers actually care?

I hope this post kicks off a lively, wide-ranging discussion, and ultimately serves as a resource for others who might have some of the same questions I do.

Thanks in advance for your input!


An Author’s Guide to Geeky “Social” Stuff

Whether you are a published or soon-to-be published author, the chances are pretty good that you’ve already been thinking about social networking.  If you’re a published author, your publisher has probably insisted that you do this.  If you’re an indie author, knowing this stuff can make a huge difference in building readership.  If you’re pre-published, learning this stuff before you sell can be a huge time saver.

So, like it or not, we right-brained authors need to learn a few left-brain tricks.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t learned any of this stuff before I sold my first book, so I had to do a lot of catching up while simultaneously trying to meet killer book deadlines.  I would not recommend this method of learning.

And so, in the interest of sparing you some of the pain I’ve gone through, I thought I would pass along a few helpful tricks that might give you a running head start in trying to stay “social.”

How to have a blog delivered to your email account.

Let’s start with something really simple, like having the content of the blogs you want to follow, including the Ruby Sister blog, delivered to your email.  To do this, you’ll need to learn about something called a “Real Simple Syndication Feed,” otherwise known as an RSS feed.  (And, no, that is not short for Ruby Slippered Sisterhood.)

Every WordPress and Blogger site has an RSS feed that contains the content of the blog.  An RSS feed looks like an Internet URL address, but it’s not the address for the blog — just for the blog’s content.  Here is the URL address for the Ruby Sister blog feed.

If you follow this feed, you’ll see all of the blogs posted on the Ruby Sister Blog, displayed in a webpage without our site’s navigation buttons and graphics.

Using an RSS feed, you can have just the content of the Ruby Sister blog delivered to your email account on a daily basis.  All you have to do is visit “Feed My Inbox” (  At this site, you simply enter the URL for the Ruby Sister blog and your email address and voila you’re done.  Every day you’ll get an email containing the blog posted here on the Ruby Sister blog.

Obviously if there are other blogs you want to follow, you’ll need to get their blog feed.  Luckily there are specific naming rules for WordPress and Blogger RSS feeds.  Below you’ll find a link to more information about this, so you can figure out the feed for each of your favorite blogs and have them delivered to you, instead of having to go onto the Internet and search for them.

For a full discourse on RSS feeds from WordPress blogs, follow this link:

For more information on Blogger RSS feeds, follow this link:

Following blog comments

It turns out that WordPress and Blogger have RSS feeds that include more than just the content of the blog posts.  You can also follow comments posted on a blog.  So if you want to follow the comments that are posted on the Ruby Sister Blog, the URL would look like this:

Like any other RSS feed, you can have this one delivered to your email.

Following a specific blog author

It gets better — and more useful — because WordPress has a way of filtering an RSS feed.  You can filter a feed in a number of ways, but for me the most useful is to filter the feed so that it provides only the posts of a specific blog author.  So if, for example, you wanted to read blog posts that were submitted only by me, the RSS feed would look like this:

Using a blog feed on your own webpage

I use my own Ruby Sister author feed to build content on my own webpage.  If you follow this link:, you’ll see how my posts at the Ruby Sister blog show up on my own webpage.  I don’t have to create these links by hand, using my RSS feed, they post automatically.

My webpage uses WordPress so I have a huge array of free software “plugins” that help me manage the page pretty effectively.  The WordPress plugin to display my Ruby Sister author feed is called “Syndicate Press” (, but there are others available.  I am not familiar with Blogger webpages, but I’m sure there are methods that you could use to have your author RSS feed embedded on a blogger webpage.  If your webpage is more traditionally built, you may have to check with your webpage designer for ways to have your author feed embedded into your webpage.  But if you are blogging at other sites, you should not miss this opportunity to automatically keep your webpage content dynamic.

Using a blog feed to create Facebook content

Suppose you have a webpage like I do that includes a blog.  I occasionally make posts on my own blog, as well as participating in multi-author blogs.  Every time I blog, I want to make sure that I let my friends on Facebook know about it.  If you visit my facebook author page, you’ll find my blogs posted in two different ways.  I have a tab on my facebook page that shows the feed from various blogs that I participate in.  In addition, every time I create a blog, a Facebook status update is created, with an automatic link to the blog.

I use an app called “Social RSS” to make this happen.  The free version of social RSS will post the blog feed to your Facebook status timeline or author wall in about 24 to 48 hours after the initial blog post.  Because I want my feeds to show up quicker than that, I pay for the premium version of this service.

I have to be honest, I like this app, but it sometimes malfunctions.  I’ve been searching for a better way to do this, but I haven’t found it yet.  If anyone has suggestions, please leave a comment.  The point, though, is that it is possible to link your blog feeds to your Facebook page automatically, using an RSS feed.  And anyone who regularly blogs, should be taking advantage of this connectivity.

What else can you do?

Well, it turns out that Facebook and twitter also have feeds.  And with a little bit of research you can figure out ways to do some pretty interesting things.  For instance:

  • You can connect Facebook and twitter so that the feed for every one of your Facebook posts is automatically tweeted.  There are two advantages to using twitter this way:  1) you don’t have to worry so much about the character count, and 2) you only have to post a status update or comment once.  Follow this link to set this up:!/twitter/
  • You can put your Facebook or twitter feed directly on your WordPress website.  I embedded my Facebook feed on my own webpage by using a WordPress plug-in called “Simple Facebook Connect.”  Not only does this plugin allow me to embed my Facebook feed on my webpage, but it also allows my readers to “like” posts and other content on my page.  If I wanted to, I could allow users to post Facebook comments on my webpage content.  If you visit my page ( you’ll see my Facebook feed on the right sidebar.
  • I have also opted to use Constant Contact to manage my mailing list.  This is a paid service, so it might not be for everyone.  But one of the advantages of using Constant Contact is that the service provides a mailing list app that I can use on my Facebook page as well as my personal webpage.  Facebook normally doesn’t have a mailing list option, so if you are an author and trying to build a mailing list, I strongly recommend that you find a service that will allow you to connect a mailing list option on your Facebook page.  Constant Contact also has a way for people on my mailing list to tweet and to share my email messages to them, potentially broadening every mailing that I send to my mailing list.
  • If you are using both twitter and Facebook to communicate with readers or friends, it can get really tiresome flipping from the Facebook interface to the twitter interface.  There are two great solutions for this problem.  You can download free software called “Tweetdeck.” Alternatively, you can visit and set up a hootsuite account.  Both of these solutions allow you to set up multiple twitter, Facebook, and linkedin accounts in one place.  You can post to all of your accounts in a single post, instead of trying to post in multiple places.  Using hootsuite has really saved me a lot of time.

I am only beginning to explore additional ways to connect my presence as an author on Goodreads and Amazon to my webpage and Facebook.  So I can’t provide much help on those things right now.  But I would sure be interested in hearing any other tips from readers and authors about connecting things up and staying social.

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