Wednesday, February 10, 2021

How to Market Your Book: Interview with Hayley Zelda

This post is an interview with Hayley Zelda on marketing your book. Hayley Zelda is a writer and marketer at heart. She's written on all the major writing platforms and worked with a number of self-published authors on marketing books to the YA (young adult) audience. To contact Hayley, email her at hayleyzelda2 AT gmail DOT com.

Hayley Zelda, book marketing expert


ZR: What kind of foundation should a writer build for marketing a book, even before sending a proposal to editors?


Hayley Zelda: It’s really helpful to have a website up and an email capture set up on the website as early as you can. Personal websites can take some time before they rank on Google, and you can be sure that with any good marketing, people will be looking you up. Start with a website, social profiles, and an email capture. If you have time, you can begin building your audience, but you don’t have to. It’s important just to get the pages active.


Q. How can a writer use personal networks to enhance the marketing of a book?


HZ: I advise everybody I work with to promote to their personal networks. Ping all of your friends, family, followers. You don’t even need to tell them to buy your book, just announce that you just wrote a book. Write about yourself and people will want to support you.


The easiest thing you can do if you don’t have your book out yet is to start building an audience and network around yourself and your story. Building an audience takes time.


You can start with social networks like Twitter and Instagram. Study other authors who write for your audience to see what their fans like them to share. Figure out how to do that, but in your own style and voice. Target hashtags in your genre to attract more readers. The other trick to building your audience is to reply to people who already have an audience. Engage a lot with others and you’ll start seeing your own audience grow.


You can also build an audience on writing sites (like Wattpad or Commaful if you’re writing fiction). These sites are more targeted towards specific types of audiences, so if you’re writing for a YA audience, for example, sharing a few side stories featuring your characters can go a long way and help you build your audience.


When your book is out, share it everywhere! Harness all that potential energy you’ve built up over time.


Q. Is it essential to have a publicist to reach a wider audience?


HZ: Absolutely not! Publicists can be very helpful in the process, given experience and connections in the space. Where you are probably new to the world of marketing a book, a publicist promotes new books all the time.


That said, publicists are expensive and very few will offer a guarantee of any kind. For most self-published writers or writers who don’t get a large advance on a book deal, publicists are out of budget range anyway.


For most writers, thinking more about their book marketing strategy themselves is a good start. There are many cheap/free ways to begin promoting your book. They can take some time to learn, but once you learn them, you can make a lot of progress with generating sales. Some of these strategies include:

  • Press

  • SEO

  • Email list building

  • Social media sharing

  • Ads


Q. How do you find a good publicist, and what should you expect to pay?


HZ: Referrals are by far the best way to find a good publicist. Talk to other authors, see who actually liked their publicist and who actually got results. Many publicists can talk a good game, but don’t end up driving good results.


If you don’t know many other authors, you can join public writers chats and author chats and ask. You can also reach out to publicists you find online and just go deep in reference checks.


Prices for publicists really vary. Most will be at least a couple thousand dollars a month, some $10k+


Personally, I like working with very savvy, younger, and very hungry publicists. They tend to be a little cheaper but also willing to work a lot harder to get books out there.


Q. How can an author get press without having a publicist or PR rep?


HZ: Many publicists and PR reps have existing connections with journalists and blogs, allowing them to feature their clients quickly and easily.


It is entirely possible to get press without existing relationships, though! The key is to start small. Unless you’re already famous, don’t go straight to the New York Times. Start with the most local publication you can find. Local publications tend to be the easiest to get into. Find a writer at that publication you think could potentially write about you. Find their email or find them on Twitter and kindly ping them about who you are and what you’ve done. It’s a numbers game. You may not get a reply on your first several, but keep going and you’ll get some small bites.


Then you can leverage those small bites into larger ones. In your next pitches, include your previous press features and how well they did.


You can use the same strategy for blogs. Don’t go after the big blogs first. Start with small and active blogs. For example, if you’re writing nonfiction, Wired For Youth is clearly still just starting out, but has an initial audience already. It’ll be much easier to score a book review or interview on a site like that before moving onto the bigger ones.

Zack’s most recent book of poems, Irreverent Litanies

Zack’s most recent translation, Bérénice 1934–44: An Actress in Occupied Paris by Isabelle Stibbe

Other posts on writing topics:

How to Get Published

Getting the Most from Your Writing Workshop
How Not to Become a Literary Dropout
Putting Together a Book Manuscript
Working with a Writing Mentor
How to Deliver Your Message
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?
Why Write Poetry? 
Poetic Forms: IntroductionThe SonnetThe SestinaThe GhazalThe TankaThe Villanelle
Praise and Lament
How to Be an American Writer
Writers and Collaboration
Types of Closure in Poetry

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Favorite Movies and TV Series Streamed during Covid-19 Shelter in Place / Lockdown

Here is a highly personal, quirky list of some great streaming entertainment we’ve enjoyed during shelter in place. This isn’t meant to be comprehensive!

Feature Films:


All Together (Et si on vivait tous ensemble?): 2011 French film that features Jane Fonda and Geraldine Chaplin with an all-star cast of French actors, about a group of aging friends who decide to live communally. Vudu.


Ammonite: English drama set in 1840s in Lyme Regis of French Lieutenant’s Woman and Jane Austen Persuasion fame. Based on true story of working-class woman who made major scientific discoveries, unearthing dinosaurs and other fossils. Great performances by Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. Amazon.

Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan in Ammonite

And Breathe Normally: When was the last time you saw an Icelandic movie? Well, it’s time! A heartbreaking but uplifting drama about those on the margins and refugees in a prosperous country. Moving story, well scripted and acted. Netflix.


Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Sacha Baron Cohen is so hilarious, and his crashing of Republican events and leaders is brave and astounding. Amazon Prime.


Bridesmaids: Hilarious and heartfelt Kristin Wiig comedy also featuring Melissa McCarthy and Maya Rudolf. The type of side-splitting humor we need now! YouTube, Amazon, Hulu. 


The Cakemaker: Moving love story of a gay German baker who insinuates himself into the lives of an Israeli family. Netflix.

Captain Fantastic: Viggo Mortensen gives an outstanding performance as a back-to-the-land radical dad raising six children on what they hunt and gather in the wilderness. Gripping complications arise when the family collides with a world that doesn’t share their lifestyle. Kanopy.


Conviction (Une intime conviction) French courtroom drama based on a true story, with stellar performances by Olivier Gourmet as defense attorney and Marina Foïs as a casual acquaintance of the defendant who gets enmeshed in the case.


Crossed Tracks (Roman de gare): French film about a bestselling mystery writer accused of murdering her ghostwriter. Many twists and turns in the plot. Directed by Claude Lelouch. Great cast features Fanny Ardant. Kanopy.


The Dig: Beautifully set in an arts and crafts English country house, this drama with Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan, and a great supporting cast is a surprisingly dramatic true story of an archaeological dig in the days right before World War II. Netflix.


First Cow: A different take on the Wild West than you’ve ever seen, this indie movie about a friendship is moving, understated, and well-plotted. Skillfully directed by Kelly Reichert. Amazon and Hulu.

First Cow

The Good Liar: There’s more than meets the eye in this classic tale of con artists where Ian McKellan and Helen Mirren elegantly spar. YouTube.


The Heist of the Century (El robo del siglo): Engaging Argentine bank robbery caper with eccentric characters and great photography. May not be currently streaming, watch for film festival showings.


Here We Are: Beautifully directed Israeli movie about a father and a grown autistic son who is too old to live at home but too scared to leave. Exceptional performances. Look for film festival screenings.


The Incredible Jessica James: Funny and moving romantic comedy about a young black woman trying to make it as a playwright in New York. Dazzling performance by Jessica Williams. Netflix.


Lady J: A French 18th century costume drama loosely based on a Diderot story. The plot involves a rake and an aristocratic widow sparring in the ring of love. Netflix.


Let Them All Talk: Steven Soderbergh mixed together Meryl Streep, Dianne Wiest, Candice Bergen, Lucas Hedges, and Gemma Chan and let them improvise scenes on a voyage of the Queen Mary 2, and voila! the results are entrancing. HBOMax.


The Life Ahead (La vita davanti a sé): Sophia Loren is still terrific at 86. But her performance is at least equaled by the fabulous young actor Ibrahima Guèye, who plays an undocumented pre-teen, orphaned in Italy. Moving, funny. Netflix.


Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed: Quirky and beautiful movie about an English teacher in Franco Spain who decides he has to meet John Lennon. The teacher picks up two teenage runaways en route and the trio’s adventures keep surprising. Amazon.


Lost in Paris: Great comedy with sophisticated slapstick humor about a small-town Canadian librarian who is hilariously sidetracked while seeking her senile aunt in Paris. or Amazon.


Love Crime (Crime d’amour): French thriller beautifully acted by Kristen Scott-Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier about office politics taken to the ultimate extreme. Great plot twists. Apple TV and Google Play.


The Lunchbox: From India, comes a charming and deeply moving film about the remarkable system of delivering homemade lunches to workplaces in Mumbai, and two people whose lives accidentally intersect. Netflix.


Master Cheng: Finnish movie about a Chinese chef who finds himself in a small town in rural Finland with his young son. Different and fun. Look for film festival screenings.


My Dog Stupid (Mon chien stupide): Recent French movie based on a short story by U.S. author John Fante. Great performances by screenplay writer Yvan Attal and Charlotte Gainsbourg, who are also a couple in real life.


My Donkey, My Lover, and I (Antoinette dans les Cévennes): Laure Calamy from Call My Agent is charming as a teacher obsessively in love with the dad of one of her students. She follows his family on a hiking trip to central France. Great scenery, surprising plot twists. Available at certain film festivals.


My Piece of the Pie: French movie about factory worker who loses her job and becomes the maid and confidant of a Paris hedge-fund financier. Amazon.

Nomadland: Director Chloé Zhao took a risk by casting many nonprofessional actors to play themselves in this emotional story of senior citizens living in vans and RVs. Through her excellent guidance, the risk more than pays off. Hulu.


Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu): French costume drama with a steamy lesbian romance, set on the coast of Brittany in the late 18th century. Amazon.

One Night in Miami…: Stellar performances by a cast led by Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X and the multi-talented Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke (he played Aaron Burr in the original cast of Hamilton). Compelling story, great direction by Regina King. Amazon.


The Professor and the Madman: The remarkably dramatic and true story of how a U.S. Army captain in a U.K. insane asylum played a key role in the compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary. Strong performances by Mel Gibson and Sean Penn. Kanopy.


Roman Holiday: Audrey Hepburn at her most charming paired with Gregory Peck in this classic romantic tale set in Italy. YouTube, Amazon.

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday

A Sack of Marbles: Based on the true story of a French Jewish family trying to flee the Nazis and their collaborators during WWII. Surprisingly uplifting, beautiful performances, complex characters. Kanopy.


Saving Mr. Banks: A surprisingly sophisticated and well-acted movie about P.L. Travers, Walt Disney, and the making of the movie Mary Poppins. Sympathetic performances by Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks. Netflix.


School of Life (École buissonnière): French movie about an orphan who is taken in by a servant couple at a manor house and learns about life from an eccentric free spirit who lives off the land. A bit of a fairytale, but an engaging one. Amazon.

Sol: The premise of this film is unbelievable, the plot predictable, and the whole idea of a French flick related to Argentine tango doesn’t hold much water, but…this is a beautiful movie. Exquisitely directed by Jézabel Marques, with deeply moving performances by Chantal Lauby and Camille Chamoux.


Someone, Somewhere (Deux Moi): In this social satire, two young Parisians face lifelong personal issues in parallel. Written and directed by Cédric Klapisch of L’Auberge Espagnol fame. Amazon and


Sound of Metal: A drummer in a heavy metal band loses his hearing and has to remake his entire world. Fantastic performance by Riz Ahmed, and strong supporting actors. You don’t have to like heavy metal. Amazon.


The Student and Mr. Henri: Bittersweet French comedy/drama based on a play, with tight plotting, complex characters, and great performances. Kanopy.

Supernova: Strong acting by Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci in this intimate drama of an older couple on vacation dealing with wrenching and complex life decisions. Amazon, Apple TV, Vudu, FandangoNow.


The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe: Classic French comedy, parody on spy thrillers, cool 70s fashions. Laugh-out-loud humor. Kanopy.


Tigertail: Moving story of two generations of a Taiwanese-American family focused on the differences between an immigrant father and his U.S.-born daughter. Secrets emerge. Netflix.


The Trial of the Chicago Seven: Excellent performances from Sacha Baron-Cohen, Mark Rylance, Frank Langella, Eddie Redmayne and the rest of the cast in this thought-provoking recreation of one of the key moments in the 1960s in the U.S. Netflix.


The Trip to Italy: British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play fictionalized versions of themselves traveling in the footsteps of Byron and Shelley along the Italian coast. They eat photogenic food, perform hilarious impersonations, and have wacky escapades. Amazon.


The Truth (La Vérité): Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche in a brilliant mother-daughter drama about a celebrated actress who is publishing her autobiography, bringing up all of the family’s conflicts and connections. YouTube.


Uncle Frank: A fine ensemble piece about family divisions. The film takes place mostly in the 1970s, but resonates deeply with the current divide between the educated urban class and conservative rural areas. Funny at the same time it’s tearfully moving. Amazon.


The Whistlers: Elegant heist movie set in Canary Islands and Bucharest about police inspector entangled with ruthless thieves, sexy woman accomplice, and demanding police supervisor. Unexpected plot twists and a mysterious whistling language of the Canary Islands. BAMPFA streaming, Amazon, or YouTube.




Honeyland: Just in case you are in the mood for a Macedonian documentary, this is the one you should see. A deeply moving story about the last woman who collects and lives on honey harvested in the wild and her encounters with the changing world. Kanopy.


The Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story. Terrific flick about the long and storied history of Jewish athletes who have played the great American pastime. YouTube.


My Octopus Teacher: Gorgeously filmed documentary that takes place in Cape Province, South Africa, about a filmmaker who develops an amazing friendship with an octopus. Netflix.


The Painter and the Thief: Surprising Norwegian documentary with intriguing characters about a promising young Czech artist whose two masterpieces are stolen by a thief. Their lives become linked in unforeseen ways. Roxie Theater San Francisco streaming. Amazon.


TV Series:

Collateral: Four-part detective series set in London and scripted by acclaimed film and theater writer David Hare. Features a pregnant detective, an engaging story line, and refugee issues. Netflix.


The Hour: BBC series about a 1956 news program that breaks all the rules to present daring journalism. Fantastic cast that features Romola Garai, Juliet Stevenson, Dominic West, Ben Whishaw, Oona Chaplin, and more. Amazon.


Lupin: French series based on classic French novels about a gentleman burgler, re-set in contemporary Paris. Beautiful performance by Omar Sy. Fast-paced, exciting, fun. Netflix.

Modern Love: Recommending certain episodes: Episode 1: “When the Doorman is Your Mainman;” Episode 7: “Hers Was a World of One.” Amazon.


My Brilliant Friend (L'amica geniale): HBO series based on the Neapolitan Novels of Elena Ferrante. Excellent cast, strong adaptation, great views of Ischia and Pisa.


Our Planet: Stylishly narrated by David Attenborough. Eight episodes on nature with amazing photography that brings you right into the wolves’ den and the humpback whale pod. Netflix.


Pretend It’s a City: Fran Lebowitz is incredibly funny and brilliant as she holds forth on topics from mass transit to cell phones. Netflix.


A Suitable Boy: Excellent six-part adaptation of Vikram Seth’s epic novel of India shortly after independence. Superb cast, exquisite settings and costumes, smart screenplay. Acorn TV, one-week free subscription available through Amazon.

Ted Lasso: Hilarious and moving series about a U.S. football coach who is brought to the U.K. to turn around a failing soccer team. Fast-paced, great script. Apple TV+.

The Trial (Il processo): Italian detective series about a woman prosecutor/police detective trying to uncover the murderer of a teenage girl. A plot with many layers, great setting in Mantua, good cast. Netflix.


Unorthodox: Four-part series about a young Hasidic woman who flees her claustrophobic life and marriage and seeks her future in Berlin. Brush up on your Yiddish. There are subtitles! Netflix.