Monday, August 18, 2008

In the Spotlight with APOOO Books Founder Yasmin Coleman

Yasmin Coleman is a literary publicist and promoter, book reviewer, and founder of APOOO Books and BookClub. In 2000, she founded APOOO, www.apooobooks.com, an online author and reader community dedicated to advancing African-American literature. APOOO has evolved into an invaluable literary service firm whose influence continues to grow throughout the publishing industry.


The mission of APOOO is to expose readers of all ages to a good book in any genre; to support African-American authors, books, literary events, and book clubs; to provide marketing resources, tools and tips to authors; and to promote literacy within the African-American community.

APOOO and Yasmin can be found ALL over the internet, to include MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, and Shelfari!


The Interview

Yasmin, I've known you since forever, and you have always had a love of reading and supporting authors. Tell us about how your love of words brought you to publicity.
Shon, last year, on the eve of another birthday, I sat at work one day thinking--what do I want to be doing 5 years from now. I realized that as much as I love what I currently do, nothing is guaranteed when you work for someone else. In the future, I want to do something where I have more control of my destiny. I sat and thought, what can I do which combines my passion--my love of reading/books and my profession--marketing? And that's when the lights start going off in my head--literary publicist and marketing consultant.


Is there a particular name of your company?
APOOO of course...and I added Books to form APOOO Books. APOOO has equity and branding so there was no way I could branch out without having it as part of the name. Books say that we've added something. We've always been book discussions, book reviews, and now we're forwarding our mission of 'promoting our voices, showcasing our stories' via the publicity arm.


What types of services do you offer to authors?
APOOO Books is a full-service online publicity resource. We offer press kits, press releases, book trailers, podcasts, book reviews, book features, author interviews via Web site features as well as the APOOO Blog Talk Radio Show, author coaching and consulting, and, of course, virtual book tours.


What are the most popular services authors ask for?
Currently, virtual book tours are the rage and growing in popularity, so more authors are naturally asking for this service, especially since virtual book tours are nowhere near as costly as a regular book tour and can be effective since tour visits live long after a virtual book tour. Book reviews are always popular because APOOO reviews ALL genres, we post reviews to amazon.com, and our reviewers are still FREE. Free seems to be the operative word when it comes to authors and advertising/book promotions. However, now that APOOO has a new Web site (which we have received a lot of compliments on) and authors can be prominently featured on the home page, we are receiving more requests for book features/advertising. For the amount of traffic that APOOO generates and our ranking as one of the Top 5 sites for African-American literature, our Web site advertising rates are quite reasonable, so I hope more authors will utilize our services.


As a publicist, how important do you think publicity is in an age where there are a plethora of indie publishing houses arising to include e-book publishing, in addition to more traditional routes?
Definitely very important! It's not just enough to write a good book today; an author must also know how to get the word out that they have an enticing, must read book. With all the clutter in the market and given that more than 300,000 books are produced each year, but less than 90% of all books have sales greater than 500 copies, it is imperative that authors figure out how to break through the noise. Every author needs to be involved in marketing their book and promoting it to the masses. Even if an author decides to hire a publicist, they should still be involved in the process to know first-hand what is entailed.


If there were three things that EVERY author must have in his/her promotion arsenal, what would they be?
A marketing plan and a budget. Too many authors are aimlessly wandering around searching for how to generate sales for their book. A marketing plan will help guide them and show them how much money they have to spend to promote, advertise and publicize their book. Additionally, a plan is like a bible, it provides guidance and direction and helps to keep one on track and focused. A marketing plan does not need to be hundreds of pages, a one-page plan is sufficient but put it IN WRITING to assist you in creating awareness and generating sales for your book. Oh yeah, no budget, then you will need to do most of your marketing yourself. Not impossible and a lot of authors do this--it just means that an author has to not only be concerned about writing but also creating the buzz about their book. A tall order indeed in today's saturated and proliferated environment.

A Local Presence. Many authors want to travel the country to promote their book and that's fine; however, when I ask them have they explored their local options they look at me as thought I just grew another head. LOL. Does your local newspaper know that you've written a book and have they done a feature article on you? Have you done book signings/appearances at your local bookstores? Are the local book clubs aware that you have a book and have you asked them to host you at an upcoming meeting? What about local organizations? Does anyone know your name? What about in your state? Before an author spends hundreds/thousands of dollars travelling to promote their book, they should make sure they've covered most of the bases in their home location.

An Online Presence. You are an author, and I just met you at a conference, I took your information so that I can follow up with you at a later date regarding your book. Unfortunately, the airline loses my luggage as well as your materials which were included in my suitcase. However, I remember your name and do a Google search to find you online. I'm disappointed...because I don't find anything on you. It's as though Google doesn't know that you exist and neither do readers who might be interested in the subject matter of your book. It's a new millennium and at the very least an author should have a Web site/blog (which are quickly becoming one and the same and actually I recommend a blog because it's more versatile, easier to update and search engines love Word Press blogs) that has its own domain name. MySpace does NOT count as that is not YOUR OWN Web site. Anytime you have to add MySpace, Blogger or any other domain to your name (e.g. www.myspace.com/apooo4u vs. www.apooobooks.com) that does not count as your site...it's the other person's domain/site. Authors do not need a very complex or elaborate site, nor do they need to spend a lot of money on a Web site but at the very minimum the site should be professional, easy to navigate and include the following sections: ABOUT You, Contact Me, Books (JPEGs of front covers and descriptions), and a Media Kit and preferably be in your name (i.e., www.yasmincoleman.com). If you have a static Web site rather than a blog platform, then you should also add a blog to your site so that you can always post fresh and new content rather than having to depend on your Web developer. Other information you might want to include on your site include--book trailers, podcasts, tour schedule as well as any of your social media network sites (MySpace, Shelfari, FaceBook, GoodReads, Ning, Twitter).


How do you separate yourself from the pack of promo people who seem to crop up every day?
First, I have an MBA in Marketing. Second, I have 20 years of experience in marketing, advertising, promotions and publicity with primarily Fortune 500 companies including expertise on brands that are popular household names. Third, I've been reading since I was four years old and have a knack for picking books that I believe most readers will enjoy. Fourth, as with anything, my passion has to shine, so I only represent folks whose books I believe in. It's more than a business or another dollar for me; I have to truly believe in a product in order to promote it. I learned early on in my professional career that while I can market anything, I market exceptionally well products that I've tried and used. So, my education, professional training, background, and passion are what set me apart from others.


Tell us about some of your clients and most successful promotional ventures.
Against All Odds Tour featuring Niambi Brown Davis, author of From Dusk to Dawn—Niambi’s tour was my first virtual book tour. Can we say whirlwind?!?!? LOL. Nothing like baptism by fire. Niambi had to create a Web site, book trailer, and podcasts before we could even get out of the gate. With less than six weeks to plan, I organized and coordinated a 30 blog spot tour including blog guest posts, article writings, book reviews, book club chats, blog talk radio appearances, and author interviews. Because Niambi and I knew each other previously, we knew each other’s styles and were able to work well together despite the short lead time. The tour was a success, many folks that did not know Niambi the writer discovered her, and others who did not particularly care for the romance genre, picked up her book because of the positive reviews, word-of-mouth, and Niambi’s gracious spirit. Additionally, several authors who followed Niambi’s tour have contacted me regarding organizing tours for their upcoming releases.

APOOO has hosted two ‘Live’ literary showcases, spa weekend getaways for book lovers and authors. These events were an opportunity to step out of cyberspace and connect in a relaxing, rejuvenating, and refreshing atmosphere. More than 100 readers attended each affair which included Welcome Reception/Poetry Café, Book Club Slumber Party, Writer’s workshops, Panel Discussions on the state of African-American Literature and Author Readings and Appearances. Featured authors included: Ilyasah Shabazz, Lolita Files, Donna Hills, Gloria Mallette, Karen Miller, L.A. Banks (aka Leslie Esdaile), Jill Nelson, LaJill Hunt, Dwayne Joseph, Marcus Major, and Dywane Birch. Each event was positively received, and if I could clone myself they would be held each year. However, we invite everyone to join us in 2010 for the 10th anniversary of APOOO and the next literary showcase and weekend getaway.

During 2008, each month we’ve spotlighted and featured African-American authors around a theme of the month. In February, in honor of Black History month, APOOO profiled some of today’s hottest, best-known authors who have positively impacted our lives and reading experiences—Bernice McFadden, Tananarive Due, Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant, Victoria Christopher Murray, Connie Briscoe, Martha Southgate—just to name a few. April was National Poetry Month, and not only did APOOO salute poets of yesterday and today, but, in conjunction with Marcus Harris/Voices and Vibes, we also held the first ever Virtual Spoken Word Showcase. It was an EXPLOSION…with new poets bursting on the scene, being discovered and winning cash prizes totaling over $500. Due to its success, the Virtual Spoken Word Showcase will be repeated next year, and because the bar has been set, we will come back bigger and better!

I could go on and on regarding the projects and authors that APOOO has promoted and supported in the past, but hopefully, by the brief highlights presented above, readers and authors will understand that they’re in good hands with APOOO, and all (genres) are welcome at our place.


Tell me, is the paper version of the promo/media kit passé? Is everyone doing digital media kits now in this techno-savvy age?
I do not think the version matters as much as the fact that authors should have one. No matter what your preference is, it should be professional, comprehensive, well-organized, and up-to-date. You want one document that answers the five W’s about you and your book. You want to have a media kit that is prepared and ready to go so that whenever the media/press/book club/literary professional contact you, you can respond quickly. Granted there is a trend now toward electronic press kits, and just as I believe everyone should have a Web site, it goes without saying that if you have a Web site, then your media kit should also be available online. Now, the beauty of having an online media kit is that you can download it, print it and mail via snail mail to those who request a hard copy. You don’t have to worry about creating/printing media kits that you might have to toss or that take up space while you’re waiting for clients to request them. Another advantage of having an online kit is that you don’t waste paper needlessly. Case in point, APOOO no longer requires that authors send a press kit with a review book. A business card and cover letter are sufficient so that I can place contact information with a book. Everything else, if you have an online kit, I can download or view via the Web and do not have to worry about scanning it. Finally, because it is digital, it is easier to make updates, and you can probably make changes without having to hire someone. Definitely less waste with an electronic media kit.


How can interested authors learn more about you and your publicity services?
They can visit me at www.apooobooks.com or email me at yasmin@apooobooks.com for additional details regarding my services and fees.


Shon, thanks so much for featuring me and giving me the opportunity to talk about APOOO and my literary passion. Many blessings to you on all your endeavors and especially getting that doctorate. ;)

10 comments:

Yasmin said...

Thanks Shon and it was an honor to be interviewed by ChickLitGurrl!
xoxo

donielle said...

Wonderful interview with two of my favorite SuperSheroes! Yasmin gave a lot of food for thought...pay attention cause the lady knows what she's talking about. ;)

JC Martin said...

Great interview and insight. A lot of authors really need to read the information provided.

Genesis said...

Excellent interview! Lots of great advice (which I plan to follow, might I add).

Yas and ChickLitGurrl rock!

Chick Lit Gurrl said...

Thanks, JC...Gen...:-)

This is definitely advice to print out and keep around you...

Yasmin said...

Donielle--thank you so much for the kind words!

Jennifer--sis I heart you...you always say just the right thinks.

Darnetta--ya'll gone make a sista get a big head...hmmm bigger head...lol...thanks for the support and kudos!

LaConnie said...

Hi Yasmin:

Great interview, Sis.

Continued success in all you do!!

Best,
LaConnie

bettye griffin said...

Very informative, Shon and Yasmin!

Chick Lit Gurrl said...

Hey there, Bettye, :-)

Thanks for stopping by!

oliviaharis said...

APOOO was started as a bookclub in 2000 with a group of fellow amazon.com reviewers and friends. Today the group has branched out and includes a review team, bookstore and marketing arm.
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oliviaharis
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