Tips, News & Info You Can Use

The Limited: Investing in Communities

I’ve had the pleasure of working with the iconic women’s fashion retailer The Limited this year. The Limited has posted some impressive gains in market share recently under the vibrant, progressive leadership of CEO Linda Heasley. However, I think what impresses me most is the company’s investment in the communities their stores call home.

For example, here in Kansas City The Limited gave fashion makeovers to clients of the Women’s Employment Network and donated a share of opening weekend proceeds to this vital non-profit organization dedicated to helping women help themselves.

In Dallas the Dress For Success store received a makeover from the pros of The Limited:

That kind of commitment to being invested in a community speaks volumes about the heart and soul of a company. We’re all taught in Sunday school or its equivalent to give of ourselves, and in a cynical age it’s refreshing to work with a company that takes that lesson to heart and lives it.

PR Tip #264: Use Scope

Minty fresh projects!

One of the key things to remember when you’re working with a public relations firm or consultant on a project is to agree on scope–and we don’t mean minty fresh breath (though that helps).

Scope is what you hire your PR pro to work on and deliver. Scope covers what’s most important to you, the client–and prevents “mission creep.” If scope is set at the beginning–and adhered to by the client and the consultant–it’s a huge factor in preventing failure of a project.

My PRCG colleague Sharon Kreher sums this up nicely;

Too often, we assume that our benchmark for success is the same as our client’s.  But how often have you found out at the end of the day that while you feel you’ve hit all the important targets, your client feels you’ve missed the one that he/she values the most.  Talking about what success looks like at the beginning of the project allows you to incorporate the right measurement tools into the planning and everyone on the team knows what it will take to have a happy client.  It also gives you a chance to explain up-front why some expectations aren’t realistic – a much better time to have that conversation than at end of the program!

Simply: if TV coverage is your top priority, make sure that’s in the scope of work so your PR team doesn’t spend all their time trying to get you in the newspaper.

The mission creep aspect is also part of this equation–it happens when a client decides he wants to add something to the project midstream. That usually translates into the PR firm losing focus and/or doing work that wasn’t part of the agreed-upon compensation.

We build scope of the project into every contract. Why? Well, let’s just say that we learned the hard way. Human nature being what it is, a conversation is almost never remembered by two people in exactly the same way. Best to get it in writing from the get-go. This applies to process as well as “big picture” project work.

A process example: A client hires us to write and distribute a press release (yes, press releases still exist) for his new company. Since we’ve written press releases for a long time, we view it as a fairly simple process and say “you betcha.”

However, we fail to stipulate exactly what press release writing and distribution entails (generally the process is research, initial draft writing, edits by the client, presentation of the rewritten release draft and a final polish). The client feels that since he’s paying for a press release he can make tweaks to the press release ad infinitum, so he changes parts of the release draft on a daily basis and wants several rewrites “to see how it looks that way.”

Long story short, a job that should take four to six hours drags out to twice as long and we have to put our foot down. The client feels slighted and it’s our fault, not the client’s because we weren’t clear about the scope of work.

So, your PR tip for the day: be clear with your PR pro about your expectations from the get-go, and make sure the PR pro gets it. Never assume (our favorite take on making assumptions is covered in this previous post) anything unless you have it on paper and it’s signed off by both parties. Make sure you understand processes–large and small. You’re more likely to have a minty fresh experience if you do.

Writing and Publishing Your Own Book

Check out this interview I did with the Kansas City NBC affiliate about the road I took to independently publishing my novel, Pilate’s Cross. The reporter had read an earlier blog post about my decision and thought it would make a nice story. I think he did a great job and thought you might enjoy watching it–whether you’re into marketing, writing, ebooks, mystery thrillers or just PR guys with very small offices.

I’ve enjoyed writing and marketing my book. Several book clubs have read it and it has received generally favorable reviews. As I work on the sequel and other writing projects (when work and life allows) it’s really gratifying. Sales have been okay (I had a book signing in Omaha–what a blast!), and though I may not be getting rich I’m having a great time.

So to all you “Someday I’d like to write a book” folks out there…there’s never been a better time to do it and actually have a shot at getting your work in the hands of potential fans. Go for it.

Marketing the Exciting, Exotic and Extremely Erotic: An Interview with Author Eden Baylee

Marketing and promotion can be challenging for small businesses and independent artists, authors and musicians. Author Eden Baylee makes it pretty damn sexy, too.

Eden writes erotica, provocative stories incorporating all her favorite things: travel; culture; and sex. Sometimes there’s romance, sometimes not. Sometimes there’s a happy ending, sometimes not. What is consistent are the multi-dimensional characters who grow and change as the stories progress. Sex is the backdrop, but a very important element in their evolution.

We interviewed the Toronto-based author of the erotic novella anthology Fall Into Winter about her work, her marketing techniques and more.

AlexanderG Whiz Blog: How long have you been writing and why did you start?

Eden Baylee: I’ve been writing erotica since I was about fifteen. I started because I enjoyed reading the genre and wanted to see if I could also write it. My first piece was a short story for my high school English class which garnered a good grade, but my teacher told me never to show it to my mother! I liked that I got a rise out of him, and it reinforced my thinking that I could actually write. I’ve had a love affair with words ever since I was a child.  I was very shy (still am) and could easily get lost in reading books. I always thought it would be a cool profession to be a writer and be able to earn a living from it.

AlexanderG Whiz Blog: How do you market your book?

Eden Baylee: In several ways. I had a book launch to get the word out initially, and it was successful in that everyone and anyone I knew were aware I had a book coming out.  I also got connected with a respected book buyer in the city which was important for me. It never hurts to know someone like that. I used Facebook to create an event invitation to my launch, and emailed people personally as well. If you’d like to learn about my process to set up the launch, you can read my guest blog called “Anatomy of a Book Launch.” It lists the steps I took.

When given the opportunity, I do radio interviews, and podcasts so readers have an idea of what I sound like. I really enjoy reading for podcasts because it’s a great way to hone my writing skills. Reading aloud draws attention to deficiencies in my writing such as repeated words, alliteration, and those “what the hell am I trying to say?” moments.

Within the next couple of months, I hope to line up some book signings, and of course, guest interviews such as this are wonderful to get my name out too. Thanks Alex!

AlexanderG Whiz Blog: My pleasure! What tools do you use to reach and stay connected to your fans and prospective fans?

Eden Baylee: Twitter is my main network to connect with other authors. It’s a great place to make short and sweet announcements about myself and other writers. The community is made up of exceptionally supportive individuals, and I’ve learned to do some imaginative writing within 140 characters!

I also have an author’s website and a very active blog. The blog is my lifeline to showcase my writing, other authors, and give readers an idea of who I am. I always look forward to hearing from readers, so please visit my blog. If you like it, I’d be thrilled if you subscribe to it. I’ve included my links, which you can also access by going directly to my website at www.edenbaylee.com

Blog

Twitter

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AlexanderG Whiz Blog: Why do readers like your book?

Eden Baylee: My book, Fall into Winter, is an anthology of four erotic novellas, two that take place in the fall, and two in the winter. It provides the reader with a diverse collection and introduces them to my style of writing.

The three comments I’ve heard the most often from readers are that the book:

  • Is well written
  • Is sexy/sensual/erotic/romantic
  • Has a great variety of stories

Some readers seem to enjoy getting their sex in small doses. I’ve had people tell me they’ve read the first two stories, put down the book because they found it very “hot” and needed a break before reading the second half. That’s the wonderful thing about an anthology, you can read the stories out of order, and savor each one as a completely different book.

AlexanderG Whiz Blog: Why erotica?

Eden Baylee: Ha, Alex! Why not? I’ve always loved the genre of “sexy.” I read Story of O when I was eleven. I’d never endorse anyone so young reading a tale of BDSM, but I did, and it left an indelible mark on my psyche. Writing erotica also makes me feel alive. Most adults have had sex. It’s a common experience that human beings share, which makes it challenging to write about in a way that is fresh and exciting. I try my best to exercise restraint when I write sex scenes. Ultimately, they can either advance a story or halt the reader’s interest. Words on a page can be incredibly seductive, yet, as there are natural ebbs and flows during sex in real life, so should there be when writing about it.

My wish is that my readers feel emotionally connected to my characters, deeply aroused by their story, and fully committed to reading my book.

AlexanderG Whiz Blog: Does erotica present any particular PR/marketing challenges or advantages other genres do not?

Eden Baylee: The only marketing problem I had was with Google who refused to advertise my book with the book cover, so I basically refused to advertise with Google. It’s ridiculous really. There are so many pictures you can find on Google Images that are much more revealing than my book cover.

A bigger challenge is that the genre of erotica can be misunderstood at times.  When a friend suggested my book for her ladies’ book club, the other women refused to add it to their list. Some people consider it porn and think it’s just page after page of sex.  Well, I’m telling you right now, erotica is not just about pounding sexual images into the reader’s mind, it’s not page after page of sex because that would be damn boring—an instructional sex manual at best. God knows when you get that technical; there is nothing erotic about it!

To make it an enticing read, there has to be context. You need to ask: Who are these people? Why are they having sex? Why are they having this type of sex? Erotica is very much about character-driven plots with sex as an important element, but not at the expense of a good story. Sex in a vacuum sucks, pardon the pun.

AlexanderG Whiz Blog: I agree, and having read your book, I can honestly say I found your characters compelling–which made the book very…well, you said it best. Moving on–where are your books available?

Eden Baylee: Paperback copies are sold in specific stores only, and of course via the online market. You can find all the links here:

http://www.edenbaylee.com/books.html

AlexanderG Whiz Blog: Ever get any strange fan mail?

Eden Baylee: Strange fan mail?  No, but I’ve received some extremely sweet tweets and emails from both men and women.

AlexanderG Whiz Blog: What are you working on now?

Eden Baylee: I am currently editing my second anthology entitled Spring into Summer. I’ll have all the seasons covered by the time the book comes out! Following that, I’m switching gears to write full-length novels. They will certainly be erotic, but I’d like to make them darker with more intricate storylines.

Though my novellas fall into the erotic/romance genre, I also enjoy writing edgy and humorous erotica. You can get samples of these on my blog, and I’m always open to criticism, so feel free to leave a comment if you like them, and especially if you don’t!

Here’s the link.

AlexanderG Whiz Blog: I’m looking forward to your new work! You’re Canadian–does that help or hurt you as you try to sell books and/or build an audience in America?

Eden Baylee: I don’t think there are any boundaries for authors given that so much is done online. I socially network with writers from the States, Australia, England, etc. and what comes across loud and clear is how similar we are. We all love to write and want to get our books into readers’ hands.

Sure, the States is a huge market, but online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Chapters/Indigo cater to Canada and the U.S. and the U.K., etc. The Internet has made the world a whole lot smaller—which is a good thing for authors.

AlexanderG Whiz Blog: Any regrets about going the indie route?

Eden Baylee: Not at all, though I haven’t closed the door on traditional publishing. I’m so much better informed than when I first started. I no longer feel the tremendous pressure to publish via the big houses, but I can still learn about what they want. I also have more confidence in my writing, which makes me less anxious about getting published. Knowledge is power, and learning about self/indie publishing gave me that power.

AlexanderG Whiz Blog: Any advice for writers?

Eden Baylee: Not for the technique of writing, but for “newbies” who want to write but have not done so for whatever reason—my advice is: Just do it—longhand, on a computer, via a blog—that’s unimportant. The main thing is to put your story down and to be persistent and believe in yourself. I worked twenty years in corporate banking before I decided to quit and write full-time. It’s never easy to give up the comfort of a regular pay cheque, but life is short, and I’m fortunate to be able to live my dream right now. I know, without a doubt, that I will never go back to banking because it’s not what drives me. Today, I’d rather wait tables to support my writing because that is my passion.

If you’re able to write and work a full-time job, more power to you!

AlexanderG Whiz Blog: Well, I’m trying to! Anything I forgot to ask that you’d like to say?

Eden Baylee: I’d just like to thank you, Alex, for generously offering me some space on your site to babble on about myself. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you, and I hope your readers enjoyed it too.

As always, food for writers are comments or questions, so I invite all readers to leave a note with any thoughts you have about what I said. It’s always wonderful to hear from you.

AlexanderG Whiz Blog: Thanks Eden. It was a genuine pleasure!

I encourage readers to check out Eden’s exceptional work. It’s elegantly written, character-driven erotic fiction that’s sexy and fun.

Disclosure: Ms. Baylee is not a client of AlexanderG Public Relations.

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