Memoir Author Shares Her Marketing Experiences

by Matilda Butler on March 16, 2012

Book Business PaperclipPost #90 – Women’s Memoirs, Book Business – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

Women’s Memoirs Welcomes Author Karen Fisher-Alaniz Who Returns to Discuss Book Marketing

memoir, memoir writing, journaling, autobiographyWomen’s Memoirs: Hi Karen. Welcome back to Women’s Memoirs. We so enjoyed our interview last week.

Before asking you about your book marketing efforts, I want to share your comment about your new memoir. Then I’ll remind everyone about your special MEMOIR GIVEAWAY that you and your publisher are offering our readers:

“My memoir is the true story of the secrets my father swore to keep during WWII and what happened when he finally began to talk about them. He kept his secrets locked away for more than 50-years. But secrets have a way of taking a toll on their keeper. That’s what happened to my father. Shortly after 9/11/2001, he began having terrible nightmares and vivid flashbacks. He was in his 80’s and I simply wanted to help him. So we set out on an unintended journey.” — Karen Fisher-Alaniz

memoir-karen-fisher-alaniz, memoir, memoir writing, memoir, storytelling, memoir author interviewKaren’s GIVEAWAY. In case your missed our interview with Karen last week, you don’t know about Karen’s incredibly special OFFER — a free copy of her memoir — autographed both by her and by her wonderful father. There are very few of these doubly autographed copies so this is quite a treat.

Want a chance to win a free autographed copy? Leave Karen a note in the Comments section below. Tell her about your father — or about a tie to World War II — or what her article has meant to you. Then we’ll let Karen choose the best comment and that person will receive a copy of  Breaking the Code: A Father’s Secret, a Daughter’s Journey, and the Question That Changed Everything. We’ll contact you to get your address once the comment period ends.

If you missed our interview with Karen last week, just click here.

Now, on to this week’s interview with Karen Fisher-Alaniz where she describes her experiences marketing her new memoir.

memoir, memoir writing, journaling, autobiographyWomen’s Memoirs: Karen, marketing is a big challenge for writers. I wonder if you would share your experiences? What seems to work for you? What hasn’t worked? What activities do you see continuing on a regular basis?

Karen Fisher-Alaniz: Because I am a debut author, I have a rather short experience from which to draw.

Marketing and publicity are really difficult for most authors. We’d rather sit behind a screen with our fingers on a keyboard than tell a group of people about our book. But it is necessary. Know your audience. That’s so important. My audience is baby boomers through seniors and people of my parent’s generation. So much of the advice we read is generic. And a lot of that focuses on using the internet and social media to market your book. Well, for my audience, that isn’t necessarily where they are. Know where they are and go there.

I’m a work in progress and certainly still learning. I have a really wonderful publishing company behind me, Sourcebooks. Still, I think it’s important to ask questions. If a bookstore signing is set up for you, find out what exactly the publicity plan is. What will the bookstore do to ensure that people attend? Simply having your poster in the window and a blurb on the bookstore website isn’t enough for most authors. Think about your own experiences. What draws you in? If what the store will do is sparse, come up with your own plan.

memoir-Karen-Fisher-Alaniz, memoir, memoir writing, memoir author interview, book marketing, father-daughter memoirFor example, with my book, contacting retirement homes ahead of time so that activity directors can offer it as an outing. Contact local writing communities and book clubs. Find blogs and websites in the area and contact them or leave comments. And when you go out of town, make it worth your while. After the signing, go to other bookstores and sign their stock. Signed books sell faster. Stop by the local library and introduce yourself. Give them some bookmarks to hand out. Every single place I’ve been has said that people love bookmarks. When was the last time you threw one out? Never? That tells you how long that advertising will stick around.

And finally, give people something to talk about. Word of mouth sells books. Do something that is worthy of someone telling their friends. One author I heard about bakes cookies for her signings because her novel is remotely related to baking. You can bet the smell of those cookies lingers. It also gives people something to tell their friends about. I learned about this because I was at a bookstore presentation for another author and after she spoke, the book events coordinator told the audience to come back next week to hear this author. She said everybody loves her signings because she always brings freshly baked cookies. See how this gave even the bookstore personnel something unique to talk about?

This can be done within your book as well. For example, the title of my book is Breaking the Code: A Father’s Secret, a Daughter’s Journey, and the Question That Changed Everything. There are a lot of things to talk about just within that title. The most obvious is, “What’s the question that changed everything?” But also the title, Breaking the Code, has a double meaning. You have to read the book to figure out what it is. And once you read it and someone asks about it, you have something to tell them that only you know.

Thank you for inviting me to visit your blog. I’ll be happy to come back to answer any questions your readers might have

storytelling, memoir, memoir writing

[If you prefer the Kindle version of Karen's memoir, just click on the book cover on the left.]

storytelling, memoir, memoir writing

Karen has posted some of her interviews with her father on YouTube. These are stories not covered in the book. Last week I posted Part 1 of this story. Here’s Part 2:

storytelling, memoir, memoir writing

[If you are interested in the Kindle version, just click on the image to the left.]

storytelling, memoir, memoir writing
Be sure to leave Karen your comment below in order to entered for a chance to win an autographed copy of Breaking the Code: A Father’s Secret, a Daughter’s Journey, and the Question That Changed Everything.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda Hoye March 16, 2012 at

Karen, thank you for sharing some of your marketing strategies, and those of other authors (baking cookies!). I’ve been wondering if I should have bookmarks printed for my own soon-to-be published memoir because of the increase in the use of ereaders. You’ve convinced me there are still people who love them (like me). I look forward to reading your book and finding out what the question is!

Claire Hennessy March 16, 2012 at

Your memoir sounds really interesting. My grandfather was a POW in an Italian camp (I think) and would never talk about what happened. Sadly he took his secrets with him. I shall look forward to reading your father’s. Thanks for the cookie tip – will remember when when I finally get my memoir finished and published!

Matilda Butler March 16, 2012 at

Thanks for joining Women’s Memoirs again today. It’s so important to hear about the experience of writers as they market their memoirs rather than a list of theoretical activities. You are an inspiration.

Janine Stubbs March 17, 2012 at

Hi karen,
Thanks again for your advice. It is your thoughtfulness in giving at your book promoting events that demonstrates your warmth and pulls people to you. I would never have thought of giving cookies, fresh baked, at that. And I love the idea of bookmarks. Not to mention visiting retirement homes and libraries. You are definitely an inspiration and a breath of fresh air.

Heather Marsten March 18, 2012 at

Wow, never thought about war memories being impacted by 9/11

Dodi Wozniak March 18, 2012 at

Thanks Karen for all the advice. My father stayed in the states during the war but played a very important role. He trained navy pilots and flew experimental plains for the Navy. He told us one story about this time when there was this big send off for a new plane that was going to be introduced in front of top brass which had been under construction for sometime. When he arrived with the plane on it’s trailer, he went to his commander and asked where he should take it for the pilot to test drive it. The commander had no idea who the test pilot was supposed to be. He turned to my father and said, “Can you fly?” my Dad replied that he could and the commander ordered, “you’re the new test pilot!” Dad took it up for the first time in front of all those people. Luckily it went over well.

I wish more WWII vets had and/or would write their own memoirs.

Linda Austin March 21, 2012 at

That’s true about bookmarks – I have a collection! Excellent advice from Karen about not depending on the store to do much publicity for a signing. Many libraries, however, do have regular newsletters so if you book your event with them far enough ahead, they can publicize it that way. Karen has been doing a bang-up job getting book events!

Karen Fisher-Alaniz March 23, 2012 at

Linda – I know what you mean about e-books. I’ve actually had lots of people come to the signing who had bought the e-version. There was a stack of bookmarks at the bookstore counter for a week or so before the signing and people brought in a bookmark to have signed. If I print new bookmarks, I might make a point of leaving a space for this and a small comment.

Claire – It’s incredibly sad when a story is gone forever. I’ve heard your story so many times and each one carries pain with it. I know how fortunate I am that my father not only was finally able to talk about his experiences, but that he lived long enough to do so (he’s 90 now). The war was an era when everything was encapsulated by time. It also shaped and formed who your father was. By remembering (writing) about his life, even after the war, you still gather those stories. A story is never truly lost.

Matilda – My pleasure! I love reading the comments because it makes me realize that I really have learned something that is worthwhile. LOL All of this is so new to me, I just kinda jumped in with both feet. I appreciate the opportunity to slow down and assess things. Your readers are quite unique – thoughtful and articulate. ~Karen

Karen Fisher-Alaniz March 23, 2012 at

Janine – That’s sweet of you to say. The philosophy I’ve developed is that the message of the book is more important than the sales (don’t tell my publisher). I always am sure to let people know that they can check my book out at the local library. And if the library doesn’t have a copy, I’ll donate one.

Dodi- that’s a great story. I hope you have written it down. I’m so glad your dad wasn’t sent overseas. But even so, he no doubt saw loss. I remember reading about an airplane mechanic who would fix the planes and send them off, and the pain when they didn’t come back. Even those who stayed home, saw neighbor’s kids or kids from church sent off to war, and then attended their funerals a few months later. Everyone of that era was effected.

Linda – That’s so true, and it’s a great confirmation for me. I’ve had huge crowds at libraries. Right now, I’m in the process of creating a “one-sheet” of information specifically for library presentations. With bookstores, I’ve learned that they are often understaffed due to budget cuts. So, I find out what they are doing, and supplement as best I can. I also never, ever trust that something has been done prior to my signing. I try to always check myself; I’ve learned the hard way.

DN March 23, 2012 at

Dear Karen,
After reading your book I have made it my personal mission to pass it on to as many people as I can get to pick it up. I feel that this story needs to be read by all! No matter the generation or audience target, each and everyone of us can relate. I beleive that this book should be readily available to all veterans(no matter the service period) and their families. I personally have started inquiring at our local VA about how this could be possible. Like so many have mentioned so few of our soldiers are ever able to find someone they are comftorable enough to talk to. You are a very special person, and your father knew that sharing his secrets and his pain with you would not go without action. You helped him along his journey and you are now helping so many many more. You inspire me to write my own memoir. Thank you.

Karen Fisher-Alaniz March 25, 2012 at

Wow, that’s quite an endorsement. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Seriously. If you figure out a way to get my book into veteran’s hands, please contact me via my website, . I can work with my publisher and we’ll come up with something. I simply don’t have the contacts. Thank you so much for the nice comments! It makes me realize that my book is getting to the people it’s “meant” to. Good luck with your own memoir! ~Karen

Debbi Weitzell March 26, 2012 at

What a great undertaking! Several of my uncles served, but none of them would ever talk about it–except one, who had a private conversation with my son as he was about to head to the Middle East. That was the only time I ever knew him to say anything about his experience. Yet these men shared a bond that kept the VFW alive and well for many years. They could all go there and know they had common bonds, but never have to deal with the details (or if they did so, it was in a very understanding and accepting environment). I have always been curious about what they went through, and about later veterans (like my husband and son) who likewise never talk about it. Thank you for getting your father to help some of us understand more of what they sacrificed on our behalf. (And thank him for me. I always try to thank service people.)

Karen Fisher-Alaniz March 27, 2012 at

Debbi – It is my hope that my father’s story speaks for many veterans, and from what they tell me, it has. But it has also become a starting point for them to tell their own stories.

I will thank my father for you. You can’t even imagine how much those things mean to these WWII vets. My father has had some amazing experiences, people paying his lunch or breakfast at a diner, coming up and thanking him, asking if they can give him a hug. He tells me about every instance, if I wasn’t there.

One time a man passed him with his little, red-headed kids in tow – they were on vacation. The man turned back around and brought his “stair-step” kids to each thank my father, explaining that Dad was in a war and that he fought hard for the freedom we have. Dad said the kids were probably 4,5,6,7, and 8. The oldest one said, “Did you get hurt?” and put his hand in Dad’s. Dad said, “Just here” pointing to his head (PTSD). It’s amazing to me that through a child, my father expressed something that at the time was not spoken of.

That said, I do understand that veteran’s of our more current wars often do not want to be approached like this, but for the WWII vets, in general, it’s healing!

I hope you get a chance to learn more about your family’s service. ~Karen

Jessica Gardner April 26, 2012 at

Hey Karen,
Thank you so much for writing this wonderful book. My father was also in the Pacific in WWII, on the island of Saipan. He is no longer with us but this book made me feel closer to him and helped me learn even more bout what he must have experienced. Unlike you I never got the chance to write down his memoirs and I’m so glad that you are sharing your father’s story with the world. It is so important to get the personal stories of the war published before all the veterans are gone. Thank you again for writing this book. It reminds me so much of my father and I so enjoyed reading it.

Karen Fisher-Alaniz June 7, 2012 at

Jessica – I’m glad that my father’s story resonated with you. The power of story is just amazing, isn’t it? That’s why we really need to take the time to listen to each others stories, and to record our own. You just never know what your story might mean to someone else. Thank you for your kind words. ~Karen

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