Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to Be a Good Guest

So excited for my first post as an official AlleyCat! What my introductory “interview” didn’t mention was my background in book publicity. In over seven years, I’ve scheduled media appearances, coordinated bookstore events, and organized blog tours for authors. I could write an entire post filled with ways these bright and brilliant personalities have, to put it frankly, behaved badly.

But instead, I’m going to share three ways you can be a good guest in your promotional efforts so hopefully you’ll get invited back :)

1. Above all, be gracious.  Whether you’re J.K. Rowling or a pre-published author with two Twitter followers, don’t get delusions of grandeur. If someone is hosting you, he or she is doing you a favor by giving you the chance to connect with a new audience.

Don’t act like you’re above an appearance or unhappy to be there. Because any hint of this in your tone can translate poorly for future opportunities, even with other outlets. Don’t be demanding. Ever. (See what I just did there?) Low maintenance guests who make a contact person’s job as easy as possible are much more likely to get invited again.

And do your best to make sure all of the stipulations you previously discussed with the contact person are met in a timely manner with excellence. Turn in your article or arrive at the designated place on time if not early. Don’t stray from the agreed subject matter or pull any fast ones. Even if you discover the people you're working with are difficult, only you are responsible for your behavior and the way you choose to react. 

If you know your heart isn't into an opportunity enough to give it your very best, don’t commit to it in the first place. But if you do, see it through and be gracious. Always write a thank you note.

2. Give back to your audience. Hopefully you or your marketing team have created room in the budget for strategic giveaways that will capitalize an appearance’s exposure. If you haven't reached that point in your career, do keep that in mind! While published authors typically give away books, promotional materials, and packages of keepsakes that fit with their stories’ themes, if you’re not published, you can give away a book in your genre (Hint: Make sure to tag that author when promoting your appearance!), a service you provide such as design or editing, or even practical non-book-related items that fit with the brand you’re trying to create.

Food is also good if you’re appearing in person. Food is always good.

While tangible giveaway items can be beneficial, I’d argue that some kind of takeaway knowledge is just as valuable to your audience. Is the overall focus of your “spiel” self-serving, or will your audience be better for it? What can they learn from your education? Your experience? Your mistakes

It’s important to have a good grasp on how your appearance is not only accomplishing your personal goals, but how it’s making your audience better, too.

3. Interact with your audience. Granted, this doesn’t apply for radio or TV spots unless the Q&A format is supported, but for appearances online or in print, make sure you check for comments and respond to the legitimate ones (graciously—see #1). End with a question or call to action that will encourage dialogue and make you more memorable. 

People love talking about themselves. It's just the way most of us are wired. Your audience will remember someone who seemed invested in what they had to say. You don't have to make a bunch of new best friends or anything, but do make sure your appearance is two-sided if possible.  

GIF by disneylatino.com
And in everything, be professional but beeeeee yourself. Unless you’re just a terrible human being, in which case, do what the sweetest person you know would do :) But seriously, there’s a huge difference between a strong hook and tacky shock value. Always choose genuine and classy over shock value. It’s just the right thing to do.

These rules are important to keep in mind whether you’re an author, business, or anyone with a message or product to promote. Hopefully if you’ve been given the platform to reach a new audience, you’ll capitalize on it in a way that's beneficial for you and them, also keeping the opportunity open in the future.

What have your successful guest appearances been like? Have you ever worked with a difficult personality before?

Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom who writes stories of grace in the beautiful mess. When she's not writing, she enjoys car singing, baking, and going on adventures with her husband and little girl. 

Her first book won the 2013 ACFW Genesis Award (Contemporary), and her second is a current finalist in the 2014 Genesis Contest (Romance). She is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary.

You can connect with Laurie at www.laurietomlinson.com or Facebook.com/AuthorLaurieTomlinson.


Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

YAY LAURIE!!! So excited for your first post as an Alleycat! I'm super impressed by your book publicist experience. Now that is one handy background to bring to your writing career!! You'd be any agent's dream client!

Fantastic tips - this line made me laugh: "beeeeee yourself. Unless you’re just a terrible human being, in which case, do what the sweetest person you know would do." LOL!

Oh, and I just love the beautiful graphic you created. You're so talented!

Pepper said...

I know who I'm asking about promotion when I get published some day!!!

What a great post. You just keep getting cuter and more impressive the longer I know you!

These tips are great and good reminders of our placement in the grand scheme of things. "Puttin' on airs", as my Granny would say, is never impressive

Grace is always a good choice :-)

So glad to have you with us! YAY!!!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Hi Laurie! I loved reading your post. Your ideas are fabulous. Not surprisingly. I've definitely discovered that gracious words and actions speak much more effectively than being a diva or being outright rude.

When we are gracious we can speak encouragement to those around us.

I so appreciate your tips! I haven't had public appearances, and only a few online appearances. Writing thank you notes is always a good courtesy. It's such a rarity anymore that this gesture stands out to people.

And, yes, I've worked with difficult personalities. Grace is hard to give sometimes, but it does help diffuse tension when one person handles a situation with grace. It's never easy though. :)

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Laurie! So nice to welcome a new Alley Cat!

Your post is quite timely as I begin a round of blog interviews in August for my first book release. YAY! This is all new territory for me, so I will do my best to be a good guest! Hope people don't get sick of seeing my face in cyber space. I know I'm already sick of it. Need new pictures! LOL.

Shameless plug - 'Betrayed Hearts' releases this Friday, Aug.8th on the Pelican Book Group website. It should be on Amazon as well, if not on Friday, then soon! The ebook (which can be sent to your Kindle) is apparently half price on release day!


Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Such GREAT stuff here!!! We are so blessed to have you here, Laurie! And with such a great background. It's just the perspective we need :) thanks for sharing all your know-how. Awesome!

Angie Dicken said...

Great tips, Laurie! So glad to have you here. I agree with Amy, a nice fresh perspective needed here! Can't wait until I take your advice! :)

Krista Phillips said...

Ohhh, LOVE this!!!

Okay, so I'm an oddball and have a QUESTION!

So, back when my first book came out, my publisher set up LOTS of blog appearances. Some were interviews, some were guest posts, but some where just "reviews" that they had scheduled specific dates for the blogger to do.

My quandary always was... we're told not to respond to reviews (specifically on amazon/goodreads) regardless of if they are good or bad, and I WHOLE-HEARTEDLY agree with this tip.

But if a blogger blogs a review (presumably good) as part of a blog tour type deal... does the same protocol apply? I always tried to interact with people who commented or thank bloggers as you suggested, but it felt odd when it was a "review" vs a guest post.

Oh I am SOOOOOOOO glad you're here at the Alley!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Karen - Thank yooou! I just try not to be a know-it-all when it comes to being the author side of the coin haha! And wouldn't it be easier if awful human beings KNEW and ADMITTED to what they were? hehe Oh, I create all of my graphics on my iPhone apps!

Pepper - I'm glad to be here! You're exactly right about putting on airs. Not a good thing and will catch up to you!

Jeanne - I love the connection that grace leads to encouragement. I hope that's any guest's motive: to encourage/inspire first and then promote themselves :)

Susan - Congrats on your new release! I have heard wonderful things about Pelican. We will look forward to checking it out!

Amy & Angie - Happy to be here! So glad you picked me :)

Krista - I think there's a certain discernment that needs to be exercised when it comes to responding to reviews. Obviously I've never been in those shoes, but if you're a guest on that person's blog, you can certainly respond with a thank you and sharing the link on social media. I think the biggest no-no when it comes to responding to reviews is trying to argue with one. Some people are just difficult and would give ANYTHING to stir up a reaction from an author.

Keli Gwyn said...

How fun to join in welcoming a new Alley Cat. You're a great addition to this group, Laurie.

Thanks for your tips. They're great. I used to have a blog where I hosted unpublished and debut romance writers. I was privileged to interview around 200 before I reluctantly brought an end to that blog. I learned that there are all kinds of guests, and I did my utmost to accommodate them all graciously.

From my experience hosting that blog, I learned what traits the best guests exhibit. I've been blessed to be hosted numerous times by many wonderful bloggers, and I endeavor to be the kind of guest they'd be willing to have back. It takes time to be a good guest, but the rewards are so worth it. I've made many wonderful friends whom I first met when they hosted me.

Joanne Sher said...

Super tips, Laurie! Welcome to the Alley!

Ashley Clark said...

Great post, Laurie! I especially liked your advice on giving back to the audience. I've heard authors say that when they do book signings, they always try to give chocolate to draw people to their table. :) Also, I think it's so important not to just see an audience as a means to an end, but to genuinely invest in and engage with them as a two-way street.

Welcome again to the Alley! :D

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Keli - Thank you! I'm confident you're a great guest because I've only heard wonderful things about you as a person!

Joanne - Thank you so much! Happy to be here :)

Ashley - That's exactly right. And yes to the chocolate! I also love that Katie Ganshert does Oreo truffles. Those are so good!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh Laurie! You have been holding back on us! Book promotion??? Wow...what a great skill to have, girl! I loved all "how to's" and I know this kind of stuff is needed!

Sooooo glad you are with us!!!

Sarah Allen said...

Great comments! Treating our hosts and our audience kindly is very important. These are great tips!

Sarah Allen
(From Sarah, With Joy)

Rachelle O'Neil said...

Welcome to the Alley, Laurie! I'm excited to see what else you'll bring! With this great post, you've definitely made me think carefully about my own promotion work, especially since I have a guest blog appearance coming up soon. :)

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Sherrinda - As a reformed know-it-all, I'm always happy to lend my expertise haha!

Sarah - Thanks for reading!

Rachelle - Thank you much! Glad it was timely for you :) You'll do great!

Rachelle O'Neil said...

Well, thank you! :)