Bruce E. Mowday is an award winning author and newspaper reporter. He has authored more than 16 books on history, sports, business and true crime. Mowday was appeared on the Discovery ID channel, C-SPAN, the Pennsylvania Cable Network and Philadelphia and local television shows. He is a contributing editor with Business 2 Business magazine. Mowday has hosted his own radio shows and was chairman of the Chester County Historical Society and president of the Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates. He is a frequent speaker at various civic and historic groups. For more information on Mowday, his books and his schedule of events, see www.mowday.com.
Matty Dalrymple: Welcome to Episode 4 of the Indy Author podcast. Today my guest is Bruce Mowday. Bruce is an award-winning author and newspaper reporter who has published more than 16 books on history, sports, business and true crime. He’s appeared on the Discovery ID channel, C-Span, the Pennsylvania Cable Network, and many Philadelphia area television shows. He’s hosted his own radio shows and was chairman of the Chester County Historical Society and president of the Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates. He is a frequent speaker at civic and historic groups. Welcome, Bruce!
Bruce Mowday: Nice to be here, Matty. Thank you so much for having me today.
Matty: It is my pleasure. I’d invited Bruce to be on the podcast because I wanted to talk with him about how to use media outlets to promote books and book related events. But before we get to that, I wanted to talk a little bit about how I met Bruce and some of the things we’ve worked on together because I think it’s a good follow-on to the discussion I had with Scott Pruden in the last episode about how writers can support each other.
As you may remember, Scott talked about how he and some of his journalism colleagues who are writers and editors got together and formed Codorus Press in order to support the book publishing goals of members of that group. Then, we talked a little bit about how authors can do that in perhaps a more informal way. So I think that my evolving work relationship with Bruce is a really good example of this.
We met at the Mechanicsburg Mystery Conference. I knew Bruce because I had been to a couple of his talks. But I saw him at the Mechanicsburg Mystery Conference and I remember that we got chatting and then because neither of us was really there with a support staff, let’s say, we agreed to take pictures of each other because we were both speakers and we wanted those pictures for our own promotional purposes. So, there’s just a very small, but obvious way of people helping each other out in their pursuit of their goals.
Then, as a follow-on to that, I had organized some author meet and greets that we were holding at local wineries and breweries. We were billing those as ‘Wine and Words’ and ‘Beer and Books, and I used my project management experience to line up and manage those events. Then, Bruce was nice enough to bring his journalistic and promotional background to help with the promotion of those events. So, another great way, another great illustration of authors helping each other out.
As a follow-on to that, we are going to be doing a joint talk, and I’ll use this opportunity to put a plug in for that: on Sunday, October 2nd, 2016 at 3 PM, Bruce and I are going to be doing a talk at the Galer Estate Winery in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania and the topic is going to be “Keeping It Real: Research in Fiction and Non-Fiction” and that’s an opportunity that certainly wouldn’t have come about, if it hadn’t been for some of the other things that we have had been working on.
I really just wanted to use that background on things that Bruce and I have been doing together to really emphasize what I think is a really important part of the message that I want to get out through the Indy Author podcast, and that is, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” So it’s not a matter of, I get a book sale or Bruce gets a book sale. We’re both improving each other’s chances of reaching our audience by supporting each other in those ways. So, Bruce, any thoughts about any of that?
Bruce: Oh, a lot of thoughts. Matty, first, thank you again for having me on your podcast. Also, I must admit, you’re a much better photographer than I am from the photographs that you took at Mechanicsburg.
But you’re so correct. As an author, you can look as if Matty’s got a book sale, and that’s going to take one away from me because usually, the readers are looking for something different. They might like a certain subject, even if it’s in the same genre. Frankly, I’ve always looked at it the more books sold, the more people read. In the long run, it’s better for me. But also for everybody to have an educated public that can read and take in different ideas.
So, I am always happy to sit with other authors and talk about marketing and how to promote books. I have had a number of authors come to me and say, “Look, how do I promote my book?” Or, “Look, I got 2500 of them sitting in my bedroom. How do I get rid of them?” There’s so much to being a writer these days. It’s much more as you know than just writing.
Once you have the book, you’ve got to be your own business person and you’ve got to be your own marketer and your own sales person. That’s a lot of different skill sets. If we all sit down and pass information among each other, I think, that’ll just help us all and it shouldn’t be look like I’m losing a sale every time Matty sells one of her books.
Matty: Great—thank you. In this episode, we wanted to focus specifically on using media outlets to promote books and book related events. I know you have done a number of press releases for the work we’ve done for Wine and Words, and Beer and Books. I thought it would be helpful to sort of start out with describing what’s going on behind the scenes.
For people on the other side of the press release process, the people who are receiving requests to have these press releases published, what information are they looking for? What challenges are they facing that the person who’s trying to get their book or event promoted should be keeping in mind?
Bruce: Really, their challenges are our challenges as authors because the whole media is changing so much. When I started my own company and I did media relations and promoted my own books, it was pretty easy to write a press release and you send it out to about a zillion different newspapers in the area and TV and radio. Enough of them have picked up and you’ve got the press.
Today, if you look around, there’s only a few newspapers. Matty, you and I live here in Chester County and I actually had a conversation yesterday on an event where the local newspaper did not publish their event. That was because they don’t do that anymore. Their weekend edition is printed in another county. Unless you buy an ad, you don’t get into it, and they were complaining they did not get their event and that kind of relates to us, how do we get our press releases into the media.
First of all, I say don’t let that deter you. If you’re an author, write the press releases, and you need the who, what, where, when and why. Make sure you have all the information in there. But the authors or the editors are looking for authors, usually either in their own community or if you have something really special to say in those press releases, make sure that you use your best ammunition. You know, “Why this press release? Why people should come hear your talk? Why they should buy your book?”
Don’t be afraid or bashful about promoting yourself because if you’re not going to promote yourself, other people won’t either. But remember, you’re trying to get the attention of that editor. “This is a debut of my new book.” Or, “This is the first time that Coatesville, Pennsylvania has been featured in a mystery novel”—look for something unique. Put your press release above just not, “Bruce Mowday is speaking at the local library tomorrow at six o’clock.” If you send something like that you’re not going to excite anybody. You probably won’t get it published either.
Matty: One thing that you had told me that was very helpful and in retrospect makes perfect sense but I had been thinking of it this way was that it’s helpful to actually provide the outlet with the article that you want published. So, they’re not looking to just get the bare bones and then come out and interview you, for example. If you can give them what could be a finished product and then let them edit it as they need to, you’re much more likely to get some traction than if you just send them some high level information and then hope that someone’s going to call you for more.
Bruce: Boy, that was a good advice because that’s exactly what I do with my clients and for myself. Again, there’s fewer reporters or fewer outlets. They don’t have as much time to go down and track everything down and interview. So, when you send it out of information, it should be complete. What I do is exactly as you said. They can lift that article, my press release, and have it as a completed article and put it in.
I’ve had papers do that, where they’ve done everything but give me a by-line. Actually, I had one paper that actually gave me a by-line off of a press release but it’s easier for them and it doesn’t really take you that much more time and you get to fashion the release, the way you want the public to see it.
If the newspaper or the magazine or the radio or TV outlet changes it, that’s fine. You’re there to get the publicity and if they don’t, it’s better for you so do a completed one and send it in. It doesn’t cost you anything to send it.
Matty: Right. The other thing that I found helpful was to think about it as if you were interviewing yourself or as if you were doing promotion for someone else. Sometimes it’s sort of awkward to write a glowing review of yourself. But if you put yourself in the position of, “Oh, if someone were interviewing me or someone were doing promotion for me, what would they say about my book or what would they say about that event?” That gets to some of those things you were saying about “Don’t just say, ‘Bruce and Matty are doing a talk.’” Explain why it’s exciting for people.
Bruce: Right. Once you get somebody who gives you a good review, or if you get a comment, or if you get an email, sometimes I’ll use all my social media. If someone sends me an email sayngl, “Wow. Thank you for writing the book. Couldn’t put it down” or “It’s the first time somebody explain this subject to me,” whatever I was writing about, and you can use that as part of your press release. You don’t have to say, “Well, I’m the greatest writer since Shakespeare.” You don’t have to say that. I like to use other quotes.
My publisher also will write the first press release and I’ll use information out and I’ll repeat it and repeat it. Again, for an author, you don’t have to make up fresh stuff every time. Even though it might get boring to you, if you have a really good story and a good way to tell your story in a press release, yeah, use it over and over again. You might want to put it down at the bottom of press releases that you send to the same places over and over again, but you don’t have to reinvent that press release every time.
Matty: Do you feel as if some of these press release services that are out there are useful? Or is this something that’s better for the author to be doing themselves?
Bruce: Actually, I’m not a big fan of the press release services. I’ve seen where they advertise to the author that they will send your press release to 100,000 newspapers across the United States or whatever the number is. I always said, “Yeah, maybe one might print it.” Because usually, it’s one press release that they send out and for press releases to be effective, you almost have to tailor it to a certain town or part of the country. If you just say, “Matty’s new novel is out,” but if you send it to Maine, where I think your latest one is set, you know you can say, “Maine is setting for Matty’s new novel,” and these press release companies won’t do it.
Plus I remember when I was on the other side of working as a reporter and I did book reviews and I know what information I took, and sometimes there were press releases and I would say, “No way they’ll go,” because it’s not written to your style. It’s not relevant to the area or your readers and they don’t get put in. So, I’d be very careful—it’s not that difficult if you’re an author to collect those outlets that you want to get your books to.
Some are listed on their internet websites, where to direct it, and you can write your release. Of course, you put your list together. You have a media distribution list and it’s really easy. Just to hit that one button and away we can go. I always caution authors, there’s so much that you can spend your money on, depending if you’re self-published or traditional, there’s so many ways and you’ve got to watch your cost and return. The more you can do yourself is usually better.
Matty: And I think it’s a matter of balancing the actual dollar cost and the time cost and seeing where it makes sense for you to invest your time. I know that when I was working on a press release for The Sense of Death, I sent it to some places in Chester County and then I would say, “Chester County based setting in The Sense of Death,” and then there were some in maybe a little north of outside Chester County but in the Philadelphia area so then I would say, “Philadelphia area based setting.” Or, “Southeast Pennsylvania.” The further away I got, I sort of expanded the description of what the base was so that it was applicable to that outlet.
Bruce: Perfect. It’s exactly what I was talking about, and those press release services, just take one press release and send it so you’ll get “Chester County” every place, even if they know where Chester County is or even if they don’t.
Matty: Right. What’s the best way to identify what that pool of outlets is that you want to be promoting to?
Bruce: Good question and that’s probably your biggest research. If you have mystery writers’ clubs and if you know certain newspapers or trade publications, you want to gather those. You want to know which ones are in your local area for when you say a local author publishes new books.
When you have something in Maine, you go up there and hit Maine newspapers, Maine radio stations, and Maine TV, or internet publications. You can usually get a list. It will take a little digging on your part but you hit those subjects. You go in, you get it, you put together the lists, you send it, and you get rid of the bounce backs, or figure out why they were bounced back, and keep on going. My list is just continually being updated.
My latest book was on Civil War. I have another one on Gettysburg. I’m hoping it will be out next year. I have this list of Civil War roundtables and Civil War magazines. Since they’re both about Gettysburg, I get Gettysburg papers and their distributions. That’s part of what I do with the promotions, to figure out who really is interested and how you really target it because it’s one thing, drives me nuts that, some people think if you have a zillion followers on Facebook, or whatever, my question is always, “How many sales did you make?” and it’s usually very few. So, a lot of viewers and followers don’t always turn into sales. I’d rather have 700 targeted people than 10,000 people who don’t really care that much.
Matty: I’ve just been reading some articles and books by Tim Grahl who does book marketing. One thing that I really like is his position about social media like Facebook is you should only really do it if you enjoy doing it anyway, that it is a good way to build a relationship with people so people have a stake in your work. Someone who’s maybe exchanged messages with you on Facebook is more likely to pay attention when you announce a new book. But you shouldn’t be using Facebook just to announce your new book, that it needs to be more focused on establishing the relationship, not focused on making the sale. That makes a lot of sense to me when I look at how I use Facebook and the kinds of things that show up on Facebook that are appealing to me and attract my attention.
Bruce: Yeah, I agree. Facebook, I think is a really good tool, actually because I’ve done talks just through Facebook postings and I have had restaurants totally filled and that’s the only place where I did any marketing. Yes, you need to establish the relationships. Frankly, I just use Facebook for business. I don’t really post anything really personal. But it’s not only “Bruce Mowday is speaking at Chadds Ford next Saturday and Sunday,” I also use it to thank the people that put it on, or hosted it. I say, “It was a great group, they had great questions.” You can also use it that way to get the point across you were there and you appreciate and thank the people that really helped put on whatever was that.
Matty: You know, one thing that I found has worked well for me on Facebook — I don’t want to go too far down the Facebook path because we’ll spend a whole episode on that, and maybe we will in the future — is whenever you’re referencing someone, I want to make sure that you call them out, using the outside and call them out using their Facebook name because it will show up on their feed and they’re much more likely then to share it, and like it.
Bruce: Those shares are just great because they just hit all the other people and that’s very good. I don’t know if you read this morning but somebody who has an investment in Twitter is suing Twitter because they’ve overestimated to reach Twitter.
Matty: Oh, really?
Bruce: Oh, yeah. It’s kind of a gamble out there. Also, statistics show that only a third of postings are even ever read by anybody so it’s kind of a shot in the dark. But their turn, I think is a lot better than sending out postcards. I‘d worked with a family organization, we did a family history but it was more national and just kind of a local thing. You know, if you get 1% return on a postcard mailing, it gets to be pretty expensive after a while.
Matty: I would also think that things like Facebook are probably better for advertising events than advertising a book. Do you think that’s true?
Bruce: Yeah, actually, that’s true. You can reinforce that’ll turn your books for sale but you have to do more when it’s released than just that. Events are very good. You know, “Hey, everybody in the Downingtown Area. Come see Matty’s book talk at the local library,” and you can do that if you have a Downingtown page.
I have a new book coming out on West Chester, and I have a signing coming up at the Chester County Historical Society the first Friday in October. “Remember when” West Chester page and say, “Hey look, here’s my cover of my new book. It’s great and come out and join me at the Historical Society,” and I’ve gotten that reposted and shared a number of times.
Matty: Great. So I’m going to use that as an entrée to walking through an example, and I’m selfishly going to use an example of an event that I have coming up at the end of October. It’s on Thursday, October 27th, 2016. I’m going to be doing a talk at the Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor, Maine. I’m going to be doing it with one of the researchers who helped me with the research on The Sense of Reckoning which had as its back story — a fire that took place on Mount Desert Island, where Bar Harbor is located, in 1947.
The title of the talk is ‘Fact and Fiction: The Fire of ’47’, and the talk itself, I’m going to be doing a reading from the book that describes the fire. Then, Sean Cox, who’s the researcher I’ve been working with, is going to be talking using slides and historical information to describe more of the historical background of that. Then, I’ll be doing a reading of the post-fire environment and he’ll be doing a little talk and slide show about that.
Using that as an example, what would you recommend lining up in terms of promotion to get the word out about that event?
Bruce: Well, first of all, good for you for being in Bar Harbor. It’s a great town. I like that place. It’s very nice. That’s another perk of being an author. You can write off that trip on the business side and go enjoy yourself.
You’re trying to draw people from that area, again, you have the press releases, you look for all the internet sites, anything that is connected with that, or the area where you’re going to draw all the people. Your researcher, is he connected with a museum or newspaper or –?
Matty: He was connected with the Mount Desert Island Historical Society when I worked with him. So one of the things I wanted to do is contact the director of the historical society and ask them if they could help spread the word as well.
Bruce: Absolutely. I was going to suggest that because you get a group there. You know, if you have a local chapter of the Mystery Writers, or you contact them and say, “Hey, look. This is right up your alley.” Any other historical societies, or groups, or reading, or book clubs, and everybody that you can think of along those lines, I would get that really good press release where you really promoted it and why they should come and get it to them and get it out very much that seems to work, and kind of the best.
I actually did a talk on Gettysburg at the General Warren Inne and it was Histories and Mysteries of Gettysburg, and the mystery was the paranormal. Actually, I talked about what happened at Gettysburg and then we actually had a Paranormal Society in. It filled it up and again, we promoted through the restaurant and we were promoted through paranormal societies and historical societies. We really had a nice turnout.
Matty: I think that’s a really good tie-in to what we started out talking about which was partnering up with people, finding those areas where interests overlap. For me, for this talk, it’s the fictional work and the historical event, which is fascinating to hear about. In the same way for you, it was that historical event and the paranormal aspect, which is great. So I think any of those opportunities to find where your goals line up with another author’s goals.
Bruce: Actually, the restaurant wanted me to do another talk because I’ve given a couple talks with a good turnouts. I had done another paranormal talk so it was big in the area so it seemed kind of natural to put it together. But just a tip for you and the other authors, when you’re going to join with somebody or another group to give these talks, do a little bit of rehearsal.
We had a little bit for the paranormal talk. It seemed like everything was fine. But when we got there, the production equipment wasn’t there. They forgot one of the good tapes, and it was not as smooth as I would have liked it and I haven’t repeated that one.
Matty: Is that the one you got invited back for, though?
Bruce: I can go back any time to the restaurant but I wouldn’t do it in that format because the second half was just a little too jumble. I would like the kind of talks and presentations go.
Matty: Okay, great. I guess, the last question I wanted to ask is the value of finding somebody in the business, for it to work. I know because of your background, you know some of the people who might be the recipients of these press releases. Is that important or necessary?
Bruce: It helps. It’s not totally necessary but if you’re going to go to a certain publication or whatever group, the personal relationships always work the best so make an effort. “Hi, I’m Matty, I’ll be sending you press releases. I hope you like this genre—“ Get them to know you. It helps. It certainly doesn’t hurt. I always like to know who I am sending to or meeting or something along those lines. But it doesn’t mean your press release won’t get in but it always helps.
Matty: Yeah, the personal relationship always helps. Well that was extremely helpful, Bruce. Thank you so much. Would you like to just tell people a little bit about where they can go and find out more about you and your work?
Bruce: Matty, thank you so much again for having me on. Again, I’m Bruce Mowday, and I do media relations and I write books on history, crime, and sports — actually, any people stories that kind of interest me. You can find my information, the best place is my website, and that’s at a Mowday.com, and if you want to send me an email, it’s Mowday@Mowday.com. Thanks, Matty.
Matty: Excellent thanks so much.