Thursday, October 18, 2018

What's in a Media Kit (aka "Press Kit")?

As a publicist, I have created media kits (aka "press kits") for mailing, e-mailing and what are called Digital Media Kits. I actually prefer DMKs because they act like websites for the book.

Here are samples of the Digital Media Kits that I've designed for authors.

"Arrgh!"
http://arrghpresskit.blogspot.com/p/media-releases.html 

"Father's Wisdom"
http://authorpresskitsbymarlansample.blogspot.com/ 

What's in a Media Kit (aka "Press Kit") why do you need one for PR?

A Media or Press Kit is a one-stop look for media hosts (i.e., news editors, reporters, TV/Radio hosts and program coordinators, bloggers, etc.) to see what you are about and what you are (to be blunt) selling...and whether, at a glance, they feel you might be right for an interview or story about your book.


What goes into a Media Kit hasn't changed much, although how it is presented has. Here's what goes into it:

1. A One-Sheet that features the following content:
  •  Small photo of book cover at the top.
  •  
  •  "(insert your name) would be honored to speak at your event about ______." Or "would be honored to appear on your show to speak about _________."

  • Very Short Summary of the book that is actually a marketing pitch but not one that emphasizes hype, exclamation points, etc. or says "This is the best book ever written," etc. But it should interest whomever you intend to interest with a short and sweet, professional-looking pitch that says what the book is about and why it would attract readers. 

  • Early Book Review "Blurbs" if the book is brand new or strong book review quotes from impressive reviewers (anonymous Amazon reviews really do not count, sorry) if the book has gained these reviews after publication. A blurb consists of one or two lines praising the book.

  • Sell Sheet
    This used to be on a separate page when the media kit was sent by mail. I now include the info briefly on the one-page (Where is the book being sold, how much is it -- although price is optional as it keeps changing for indie authors, and most of the relevant info that is on Amazon re ISBN number, etc.)

  • Author Bio
    Keep it brief, but pick the most exciting and interesting things about yourself. (Sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised.)

On the back of the One-Sheet, if you're printing it out to mail to a bookstore, you can put a short excerpt of the book or a marketing plan if that is relevant. If you have Press Release that can fit on the back, go ahead and use it.

2. Photos: Author Photo and any photos of book signings, etc.

This can get tricky if you are emailing your kit to someone you do not know because it may land in their spam folders. Many "stranger emails" land in spam if they contain attachments or even live links.

3. Book Excerpt: If you include a book excerpt, keep it relatively short (receivers tend to have Attention Deficit Disorder) and make sure it is exciting, humorous or intriguing.

For some reason that I have not yet figured out, the majority of authors need assistance in picking out the most exciting aspects of their bio or book to show someone else. Think about it: Would you rather slog through a boring page of narrative as an intro to a book or the juiciest passage?


Friday, August 17, 2018

AMAZON REVIEWERS & AUTHORS BEWARE! YOUR REVIEWS MAY BE PURGED.





Update: Since I posted this all over my social media, Amazon has notified me that they have "reviewed" my reviews and decided they were Kosher enough to put back. But stay woke!

Check your book's Amazon site. Amazon is banning reviews left and right, often for no good reason.

All the reviews I wrote on Amazon have been removed. No notice. I only found out when I tried to post a negative review for defective merchandise I received yesterday, telling me that my reviews are no longer welcome on Amazon. Next, an author contacted me to say that my review disappeared from their book's Amazon page.

I have a strict honesty policy. If I don't like a book, I don't review it. Period. And when I review, I'm careful to include either a quote or items that clearly reflect that I've read and considered the book.

Right now there's a sweeping Amazon policy that will affect all of your book reviews on Amazon. Some of things to be aware of, as far as their bots are concerned:

1. If there's an indication that the reviewer and author know each other, the review can be removed.
2. If you say you received a complimentary copy, the review can be removed.
3. If 5-6 reviewers post in the same day, all those reviews can be removed. 

("Andddd...YOU'RE OUT!")

I'm not that worried. I still review for Midwest Book Review which has an excellent reputation and I'm honored to have a review "shelf" with them. And my reviews can still be found on Roadmap Girl's Book Buzz and L.A. Now & Then...plus Twitter, Facebook, etc.

AMAZON REVIEWER ALERT!
By Nate Hoffelder

Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader

Amazon has been fighting fake reviews since at least 2012. They have deleted scads of reviews, banned paid reviews, filed suit against several batches of fake review perpetrators, and even forbidden authors from having any type of relationship with reviewers.
 
And it's still not enough. Fake reviews are still being posted, mostly due to an underlying problem.
Buzzfeed published a story earlier this week that delved into the dark underbelly of the paid review ecosystem that has sprung up to manipulate rankings on Amazon. This massive system continues to operate despite Amazon's best efforts:

The systems that create fraudulent reviews are a complicated web of subreddits, invite-only Slack channels, private Discord servers, and closed Facebook groups, but the incentives are simple: Being a five-star product is crucial to selling inventory at scale in Amazon’s intensely competitive marketplace — so crucial that merchants are willing to pay thousands of people to review their products positively.

To be fair, Amazon isn't the only retailer with a fake review problem; earlier this week Valve announced it had permanently banned a game developer from the Steam marketplace after finding out that developer's employee had posted fake reviews.

This problem exists in all marketplaces, and not just Amazon, but Amazon is the only retailer who has a reputation for banning innocent reviewers, thereby punishing innocent authors.
Right about the time that Buzzfeed was publishing its article, I was reading FB post after FB post from authors whose reviewers were getting banned from posting reviews.

Elena Page wrote about how she lost one of her first fans: "Amazon emailed her last week and accused her of leaving biased reviews on Amazon. She was banned from ever leaving reviews on Amazon again, and told she was not allowed to argue her case or refute the claim in any way. All the reviews she’s ever left, have been removed."

Other authors chimed in with similar reports, including one who noted that their books had lost most of the reviews even though none of the reviews were fraudulent.

Amazon has an automation problem. This company uses bots to run almost every aspect of the Kindle Store from detecting fake reviews to checking the formatting in ebooks and finding fraud in Kindle Unlimited, but the bots don't work very well. This leads to situations where innocent authors are punished because Amazon's bots think the authors are scamming Kindle Unlimited while the actual scammers continue to operate at a massive scale.

The under-performing bots are also in part to blame for the ongoing problem with fake reviews on Amazon.com.

The simple fact is Amazon can't tell which reviews are fake, and which are forbidden by policy, and they're not the only ones.

A lot of the recent stories about fake reviews, including the Washington Post article from last month and Buzzfeed's piece, have relied on a company called ReviewMeta. This one of two startups that have developed algorithms to detect fake reviews. The other is called Fakespot, which has its own algorithms that work in essentially the same way.

These two companies will tell you that they can identify which reviews are fake with a high degree of certainty, but the thing is, they rarely agree and that raises serious questions as to their accuracy.
After the Washington Post reported on the fake review problem last month, David Gaughran followed up with a post that pointed out how ReviewMeta falsely labeled his books as having fake reviews.
Okay, this doesn’t look good. And if you look down the page it shows each of the products they have assessed that led to this overall brand trustworthiness score. You can see many of my books have “failed” in the eyes of ReviewMeta and “Unnatural reviews detected” has been appended to several of my books. Crikey.

You can click on each product and see how it came to that determination, and the supposed evidence for each component of that decision. Again, I stress, this transparency is truly commendable.
But this breakdown also reveals the faulty assumptions that led to these incorrect determinations about my reviews. And it’s not just my reviews, of course. These simplistic calculations affect most authors. (You can search for your own books here.)

You can find ReviewMeta's analysis of David here. While you are at it, you might also want to take a look at Fakespot's analysis.

The thing about these two companies is that they identified some of David's books as having fake reviews, but not all. The other thing about these two companies is that they didn't agree on which books had fake reviews.

One thought Let's Get Digital was tainted, while the other passed the book. The same goes for Liberty Boy, and other titles.

The disputed analyses call into question the very idea that fake reviews can be identified by algorithms. As David put it:

The sad thing about all of this is that Amazon does have a fake review problem, one which is compounded by Amazon deploying a fake review detection algorithm that seems about as accurate as the one from ReviewMeta, perhaps for similar reasons too. Which means that authors innocent of any wrongdoing get genuine, organic reviews from bona fide reviewers removed every day and the scammers and cheaters with fake reviews keep getting away with it.

This problem is only going to get worse before it gets better.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

"BEST PUBLICIST IN L.A." - THANK YOU, YELP!


Yes, it's true, Yelp.com has named Roadmap Communications--my PR agency--to its "Best Publicists in Los Angeles" List! Book Publicity By Marlan is also on Yelp, and is a subsidiary of RC. So...

Huzzah! And thank you so much, YELP!

It may have come about due to Yelp's algorithms (aka "Robots") that track certain elements that may make it eligible for this honor. What elements, you wonder?

Become a client and find out! Just one of the many magical tips I've got up my publicity and marketing sleeve.

By the way, while we're on the topic of...well, me...

Did you know that Roadmap Communications' author services run the gamut from writer consultations from the moment the book is conceived to editing to assisting with book cover design, author website creation and maintenance, formatting manuscripts for e-book and print publication, book launch, events, media interviews, press kits, press releases, etc. etc.?

Yelp 5-Star Reviews

"As a managing editor of a small independent book publishing company, having Marlan on board has been an essential part of the the process. She is so knowledgeable and an expert at what she does. She is a joy to work with!" Kari Hock, Green Darner Press, Gemelli Press

"I hired Marlan three weeks ago to help publicize my Fathers' Wisdom book. She did an outstanding job with all of her work and services. She wrote a press release to publicize a reading that I was giving at a store in Long Beach, and the event had standing room only! She also created a one-page media sheet and media kit for my book, which are filled with powerful language to convey the highlights and inspiration of the book. Marlan was also a great help and support with some publication issues for my book. She was in frequent communication with me, so I knew the progress of her work. In addition to being an excellent publicist, she was also highly encouraging to me with issues I faced as a new author. I also appreciated her service ethic and genuine care about me and the book. Her expertise, work and guidance were stellar. I highly recommend Marlan's book publicity services. She definitely merits her five stars!"--Jennifer Jordan

"Marlan Warren is the publicist for my new novel, Changing Spaces, published by Plain View Press in January 2014. She has been an indefatigable advocate and tireless researcher, finding ways to promote my book, arrange appearance, and, unexpectedly, acting like a detective to discover glitches in the listing of my book on Amazon. She's smart, hard-working, sensitive to my needs as a writer/author, and an expert at communicating complex ideas and practices clearly and thoroughly. I cannot recommend her highly enough!"--Nancy King






Monday, January 8, 2018

HOW TO MAKE AN AUDIOBOOK

Happy New Year!

Ever wish you could figure out how to record and publish your book as an audiobook? Me too!

Here are some helpful tips that I came across in my searches that I hope you find valuable.

SUMMARY

·        Warning: The Audiobook Road can be thorny with "producers" who want to talk a gullible author into spending a fortune on producing a product that may have little return on the investment. Sound quality may not be great, even if the producer is well known.

·        The good news? Audiobooks are cheap to make.
·        The other news? Audiobooks are fun, but tedious work.

·        HOW TO MAKE AN AUDIOBOOK RECORDING: You'll need a super quiet room (carpeted floor, padded walls are preferred); a USB mic that plugs directly into computer or tablet; Download Audacity (free, easy to use digital audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac, etc.). There is a lot of tech stuff to know in terms of which volume levels are acceptable; how far away from the mic your mouth should be; marking pauses in your manuscript before you read, etc. Also keeping the files organized, etc.

·        VIDEO: HERE'S A SUPER HELPFUL STEP BY STEP DEMO BY ROB DIRCKS: HOW TO RECORD YOUR AUDIOBOOK:





·         
·        ACX: Several services offer Audiobook Creation and Distribution Platforms. ACX (Amazon) is the most prominent. If you register your published-on-Amazon book with them in order to find an Audiobook producer, be forewarned those producers do not come cheap--although some offer authors a "Royalty Share" option (less or no money up front). Audiobook quality varies; so make sure you get what you are paying for. The producers publish and distribute your audiobook on Amazon's AUDIBLE.

·        CD BABY and AUTHOR'S REPUBLIC:  Lee Stephen, author of Dawn of Destiny went a different route entirely: producing an audiobook that is more like a radio play (5 years in the making), and offers it on CD Baby under "Spoken Word" in their Music Category. He states that success depends on how well you publicize your audiobook via social media and your fan base. But CD Baby passes on 91% profit to the author/producer. Plus, he says you can get them easily on the phone (unlike Amazon). It is worth noting that since posting this on Jane Friedman's Blog, Lee has signed the audiobook with Author's Republic, and is happier with their distribution deal.

Author Lee Stephen on the Power of PR:

"You might wonder about the "wide" exposure that comes with having an audiobook on Audible. To that, I would say that our fan bases are our exposure—the incredibly amazing people who follow us on Twitter, who like us on Facebook, who join our mailing lists, and who hound us for our next release dates. And they don’t care if you point them to Audible, CD Baby, or a shed in your backyard. If they follow you, if you’re fair to them, and if you reward them with quality material, they’ll make the purchase."

NEED MORE INFO? CHECK OUT THESE LINKS!

ACX (Amazon Platform):
ACX Production Advice and Helpful Hints:
AUDACITY (Free, easy to use digital audio editor and recorder download for Windows, Mac, etc.):

JANE FRIEDMAN'S BLOG (RE ACX ALTERNATIVE)
GUEST BLOGGER, LEE STEPHEN, ON JANE FRIEDMAN'S BLOG:

Author Lee Stephen on the Power of PR:
"You might wonder about the "wide" exposure that comes with having something on Audible. To that, I would say that our fan bases are our exposure—the incredibly amazing people who follow us on Twitter, who like us on Facebook, who join our mailing lists, and who hound us for our next release dates. And they don’t care if you point them to Audible, CD Baby, or a shed in your backyard. If they follow you, if you’re fair to them, and if you reward them with quality material, they’ll make the purchase."

I include this not as a recommendation, but because it gives an idea of the expense involved.

"ListenUp is a full-service audiobook solution. We give every author and small publisher the same service we give to our big clients. That means a dedicated casting director, choice of narrators, professional studio recording with a trained engineer, a full edit and final mastering according to Audible standards. Authors have the option to use us for distribution or do it themselves. And we’re creating new marketing solutions.

And with us, you can call up and talk to us about what you want. There are a lot of different ways to go about creating and distributing audio and we’re open to exploring all of them.
Our standard rate is $450 per finished hour of audio. That’s for a book with one narrator. To estimate how much a book will cost, figure a narrator reads about 10,000 words an hour. So a 70,000 word book will be approximately 7 hours long, or $3,150."

Authors Republic is an audiobook publisher/distributor that evaluates your ALREADY COMPLETED AUDIOBOOK to see if it is right for its 30 major retailer buyers. If AR accepts it, you get 70 percent of the sales proceeds. Monthly payments. Sales records displayed for you to track easily.

NY BOOK EDITORS WEBSITE (Helpful Info for Beginners):

About Me
Marlan Warren is a publicist, as well as a published novelist and produced playwright. Her PR services can be found on Midwest Book Review's "Trusted Publicist" and Linked In's "Top Publicists" lists.



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Thank you, Athena Cats, for including my play in your New Works Fest (4/8/17)!




Los Angeles playwright Marlan Warren's play, "Chasing Sangha," has been selected for Athena Cats' New Works Festival of 10-Minute Plays, and will be performed as a staged reading Sat., April 8, at the City Garage in Santa Monica's Bergamot Station Arts Center. The event ties in with SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day.

"I'm thrilled Athena Cats invited me to be part of this afternoon of 10-minute plays," said Warren. "Athena Cats--with its focus on women playwrights and directors--is like a dream come true for me."

Saturday, November 5, 2016

How to Love a Writer


I do not often write #poetry. But this one is for all you writers and the people & animals who love you.


Advice to the Lovelorn

If you value your privacy
 Do not date a writer.
If you have secrets
 Do not date a writer.
If you want to sneak around
 Do not date a writer.
If you want to lie your head off
 Do not date a writer.
If you want to see & not be seen
 Do not date a writer.
If you want calm and peace of mind
 Do not date a writer.
If you do not want to see yourself in Public
 Do not date a writer.
If you want to be cherished beyond all else
 Date a writer.
If you want to find new depths in intimacy
 Date a writer.
If you like the unexpected
 Date a writer.
If you accept your warts and all
 Date a writer.
If you do not care what she does as long as she’s with you
 Date a writer.

Advice to the Lovelorn, Warren, Marlan. November 5, 2016 

When Life gives you Lemons, make #poetry!


Thursday, November 3, 2016

My Midwest Book Review of "Imperfect Echoes in Nov. Issue! Huzzah!



My review of Imperfect Echoes is published in November 2016 Issue of Midwest Book Review: Reviewer’s Bookwatch!

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 16, Number 11
November 2016


Imperfect Echoes: 
Writing Truth and Justice with Capital Letters, lie and oppression with Small
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
HowToDoItFrugally Publishing
9781515232490, $9.95 Paperback, $2.99 Kindle, 148 pages
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Imperfect-Echoes-Writing-Justice-oppression/dp/1515232492

Marlan Warren, Reviewer
http://roadmapgirlsbookbuzz.blogspot.com

Genres: Poetry Anthology/Social Justice

Narcissus knows her reflection
well. She forgets to peer
under burkas, in our jails,
in the beds of the abused,
deeper, deeper into the pond...

―Howard-Johnson, Carolyn. Narcissus Revisited.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson's "Imperfect Echoes: Writing Truth and Justice with Capital Letters, lie and oppression with Small" is just perfect.

This Los Angeles award-winning poet lays out the landscape of her contemplative thoughts, feelings and reactions with such honesty and deceptive simplicity that they have the effect of offering a peek into her private journals. What puts this poetry on par with leaping tall buildings is the fact that each poem manages the feat of conveying personal and universal relevance at once.

Do not be scared off by the prospect of political rhetoric masquerading as literature; this is not one of those books. Although the book's subtitle may strike some as rather lofty, it is a quote from Czeslaw Milosz's poem, "Incantation," in his anthology, "The Captive Mind," which reflects Howard-Johnson's poetic themes. She has divided her prolific poems into a Prologue plus four sections: "Remembering What We Must"; "Nations: Tranquil Self-Destruction"; "Acceptance: Waiting for the Gift"; and "Future Stones of Distrust."

Howard-Johnson deftly blends the "Truth and Justice" observations with the "Small" moments of "lie(s)" and "oppression" as they intersperse through her poet's journey. The poems in "Remembering What We Must" address the stark realities of war and global misery, which Howard-Johnson treats with her practiced light touch that floats like the proverbial butterfly and stings like an outraged bee.

In "Belgium's War Fields," she compares the reasons for bygone wars to our present day confusion: "And now a war that takes from the mouths /and hearts of the stranded, the homeless. / How different from those who / marched with snares or flew flags / in a war when we knew / why we were there."

In the "Nations: Tranquil Self-Destruction" section, "The Story of My Missed Connection in Minneola" brings to life a brief rest stop during a road trip, which seems rather amusing at first as the wife relieves her bladder and the husband declines the coffee with "Let's skip it. Coffee's / probably been stewing for days..." but hits an unexpected bump of overt bigotry when the roadside store owner confides in them (in between the screeches of his pet parrot) that he left Los Angeles to get away from the "ragheads."

In the "Acceptance: Waiting for the Gift" section, "Relatives" takes on the ways in which "Small" minds can make a family dinner feel like a stint in Purgatory: "Perhaps you won't invite me back / if I mention that infamous / uncle. You know, the one who killed / three of his wives / but is candid / about who he is, / how many he's killed, / the methods he used / and never gets invited to dinner.

In the "Future Stones of Distrust" section, "Rosa Parks Memorialized" opens with "On the day our September losses / reached 2,000, a tribute / to Rosa..." and asks "If she were alive now.../ would her solo / be enough or do we need now a choir singing, / thousands screaming...?"

Imperfect Echoes allows readers to witness a poet's lifetime revisited in memory and with fresh wisdom. If the topics of oppression, prejudice and war seem to some "overdone," Howard-Johnson responds in her Prologue poem, "Apologies from a Magpie":

Magpies are born to sing others' songs -
stained notes, imperfect echoes -
until the world begins to know
them by heart.


Note: All proceeds from the sales will be donated to the non-profit human rights watchdog, Amnesty International.