One of the highlights of presenting at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in 2014 was meeting Cathy Turney. Editing her book has honed my humor skills. And Cathy has shared many resources–including an introduction to her brilliant Amazon marketing expert and book designer, Howard VanEs. Here Cathy shares her tips for book promotion, especially on Amazon, for leveraging a book for business opportunities and for writing a great book in the first place.
Lisa: What was the inspiration behind writing Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success?
Cathy: I became hooked on seeing my name in print with my first book, Dog Stories – Hilarious Tales of a Codependent Pet Owner. And I loved how I felt when it was DONE! Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success was also part catharsis. I had to get a lot of my real estate annoyances off my chest, so to speak. It went from a litany of complaints to (thanks in huge part to you, Lisa!) a humorous, constructive, helpful “how to” book.
Lisa: Do you always write “funny”?
Cathy: Yes! Unless I’m writing a nastygram for a real estate transaction.
Lisa: A nastygram? That doesn’t sound like you.
Cathy: It’s very rare. Funny is why I write, though. It lifts my spirits and seems to lift other Realtors’ spirits. It gets the good juices going in your body. And besides, I’m no good at outline and plot.
Lisa: When you first wrote your book, did you have a business plan in mind (i.e. how you would make money with the book)?
Cathy: This is a good one! My business plan was to earn enough in real estate to cover the cost of producing my book! Ask my husband, who is delighted that I won the ABA awards because it justifies all the time and money I’ve spent on the book, in his mind. No, I sure didn’t have a business plan. But I didn’t start writing and publishing until I was near the point in my career where I could retire – or semi retire and afford to write.
Lisa: In what ways has Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success opened new doors for you professionally?
Cathy: OMgosh – it’s put me in a whole ‘nother place! I was recently invited to do a webinar for the largest real estate continuing education company in the U.S.; I was appointed to the Board of the San Francisco Women’s National Book Association; I’ve been invited to speak before Rotary; and it highlights my commitment, experience and professionalism to others in the industry. Having published a book elevates you and definitely opens doors.
Lisa: Your book and e-book have each won a national award and an international award. What are some of the results of writing an award winning book?
Cathy: I just won those awards, and I hope to capitalize on them, but they already got me noticed by the Bay Area newspaper. I know they’ll garner more attention and credibility for my future books and anything writing-related.
Lisa: Your book was an Amazon bestseller. What happens when a book becomes a bestseller on Amazon? How does Amazon boost potential sales?
Cathy: My Amazon best seller rank was accomplished via a free Kindle giveaway and tons of promotion (via Howard VanEs, as you know, Lisa!). The financial benefit came later from those who didn’t get in on time for the promotion and from others who read it and encouraged others to buy it. I don’t believe that any one thing you do to market your book makes it a best-seller – it’s a combination of marketing efforts and consistency and perseverance.
Lisa: And writing a great book to begin with! Are your readers mostly in California or are you attracting readers from all over?
Cathy: I’ve been surprised that many have been out-of-state. I don’t know the breakdown, but I’ve had comments from other states. I think the message and basic tenets about how to deal with challenges in real estate aren’t geographically specific, so it calls to anyone who needs to see the humor in real estate sales.
Lisa: What tips do you have for our readers about writing with humor?
Cathy: Do it! No matter what your topic, it warms readers to your writing. People remember lessons you impart much better if they’re delivered in a funny story or at least a story with a twist of humor. I read a lot in magazines and newspapers and online about people who put humor in what they do, and it’s met with great success – that’s why it’s being talked about.
Lisa: I’d like to note for our readers that they can read another interview you and I did where you shared very specific tips on how to write humorously for a business audience. How about tips for book sales?
Cathy: I don’t think book signing parties or events justify the time and expense. They haven’t for me. It’s much more profitable to volunteer to speak before a group and bring books to sell afterward. Getting a magazine or newspaper (online or other) to review your book is huge. Getting people to talk about you in social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, is time well spent. Most importantly determine your target audience. Mine is Realtors, so I found groups online to join, bloggers, etc. Whatever your field, Google “(your discipline) blog” or “(your discipline) group” (use your imagination), and you’ll find many places where you can engage and promote your work. At first I tried to get my book into bookstores, and then I figured out that the amount of space, placement in the store, likelihood of the right buyer finding my book, and the money and effort it would take me to do that would never be justified.
Lisa: Any other tips for authors?
Cathy: While you’re writing your book, send the table of contents (your best effort at what will undoubtedly change by publishing date) and a few chapters to other professionals and any type of reader who would typically buy your book, and get their reviews for the front pages of your book. Great reviews at the front of a book (and on the back cover) program readers to like your book before they’ve even started it!
Go for the most prominent, recognizable, illustrious names you think would do this for you. First, I asked permission to send them the chapters and told them that I planned to reward their kindness with an Amazon gift card. It really works! And tell them you only need a few sentences, so it’s not an overwhelming request.
Lisa: Any tips for monetizing–leveraging your book for your business?
Cathy: Talking nonfiction here. There are MANY writing contests out there, some without a lot of competition. Try to win one or two so that you can call your book “award winning.” Put that in your marketing. Absolutely put an image of your book on the masthead or some other prominent place on your website. In your e-mail signature line, include “Author of (your book title)” with a link to its Amazon page. You’d be amazed at how that works – people remember that they forgot to buy your book! Plus it’s great free and subtle advertising for your business.
Whatever your profession, having published a book is huge with potential clientele. It presents you as an authority. That’s why so many public figures (ghost)write books.
Lisa: Anything we haven’t covered that you’d like our readers to know?
Cathy: The most important things you can do after you’ve written a draft that you believe is ready for the next step is to hire a “voice” coach (YOU, LISA!!!) to look at it objectively, to see if it needs restructuring and other tweaking:
- Is the voice right?
- Is it too much “I, I, I”?
- Is the tone right?
- Where is it unclear or even boring?
- Does the book accomplish what you intended it to?
After you’re through with the rewrites, again, hire a professional editor or proofreader to fix the grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, spelling (spellcheck does not cut it!) because if your book is not perfect, your reviews will crucify you. And your objective is to get as many 5-star reviews on Amazon as possible. It’s fine to have a few 3s and 4s, but the preponderance should be 5s.
If the book is not structurally almost perfect it looks like you didn’t care enough to make it so. Click To TweetIt suggests “amateur.” Perfect structure can compensate for the writing – kind of.
Once your book is published, aggressively seek reviews on Amazon from friends. Many of the nice things that have happened to me since publishing Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success have been because people saw all my 5-star reviews and believed them!
Lisa: As well they should. I had so much fun editing it. The very first words in the introduction had me laughing out loud. And the real estate advice is priceless. You’ve delivered all that you promised in the title–and more.
Cathy Turney is an award-winning humorist and 28-year veteran of the real estate industry. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is Managing Partner at Better Homes Realty, Walnut Creek.