I meet some amazing people in the writing and publishing world online! I met Maralyn on a publishing forum. She has a wealth of experience and manages to combine her writing, cooking and travel into one brilliant life! I asked Maralyn for this interview in December but she has been jetsetting the world with her business – all evidence that you can be a successful author and business-woman even in the “downturn”.
Maralyn Dennis Hill is CEO of NoraLyn Ltd. (http://www.noralyn.com) . She has co-authored several books with Brenda Hill, “Our Love Affairs with Food & Travel”, “Cooking Secrets, The Why and How”…, and “$uccess: Your Path to a Successful Book.” The second book was also co-authored with French Master Chef Hervé Laurent.
Maralyn provides consulting, coaching and editing services to other authors, gives writing seminars and does food judging. Recently, she was producer and host of a Time Warner Cable television and web series, “Dishing with Carolina Chefs.” Maralyn is President of the International Food, Wine, & Travel Writers Association, as well as its Conference Co-Chairman. She is also a member of the Organizational Network, The Organizational Development Institute, Travel Writers Association, Freelance Writers.com, The Association of Psychological Type International, and other professional associations.
Please can you give a brief introduction about you and your books?
Born to travel and share the tale is an easy description. I’m energized by different cultures domestically and internationally. I derive great pleasure in helping others achieve their goals. I enjoy writing by myself, with my husband, and with Brenda Hill, my long-time friend. We have worked together 25+ years.
Brenda said, “We should write a book.” I said, “OK.” It was a challenge as she lived in England at the time and I was on the East Coast. After a false start, we decided to write what we know–chefs, food, and travel. No matter where we travel, separately or together, we interview chefs. Hence, “Our Love Affairs with Food & Travel.” It features 90+ chefs from 19 countries and 17 states and stories with over 200 recipes. Chefs love it as well as armchair travelers. From that, I ended up getting my Time Warner Cable TV show for four years, 2002 to 2006, “Dishing with Carolina Chefs.”
Master French Chef, Hervé Laurent, whom we featured in our first book, asked if we would do a book with him. He had been with LeCordon Bleu and then the Paul Bocuse Institute. I said, “Why us?” His reply, “You understand me. I want to do a book of tips based on what my students have asked.” There was no problem with that as long as we could add what tips we had picked up from various chefs. So, “Cooking Secrets,The Why and How“… happened.
My background is more than writing about food and travel, as I wrote incentive programs, safety programs, company newsletters, mission statements, etc. for years and had a successful marketing company for 15 years. So, it was natural to start doing workshops when asked. Brenda and I also were on a panel at the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference in 2002. Attendees liked our handouts and asked why we didn’t have a book. So, “Success, Your Path to a Successful Book,” evolved–a book/workbook on how to write a book. The best parts are the wonderful reviews we’ve received.
Are you self-published and do you use print-on-demand? If yes, why did you choose this route and what have you learnt from the process?
Yes, we are independently published and the company we deal with does use print-on-demand.
Originally, we planned to be traditionally published. We had a California publisher who agreed to publish “Our Love Affairs with Food & Travel.” The problem, we had promised our contributing chefs that they would have copies of the book for holiday gifts. It was going to take 15 months. While we were originally looking for a traditional publisher, I had researched approximately 10-15 independent and POD publishers. We decided that we had to keep our promise, and went to independent publishing and got our book in the hands of contributing chefs by December, 2001. We no longer promise when a book will be completed.
Print-on-demand works for us. However, in our book “Success, Your Path to a Successful Book,” we cover the different forms of publishing as well as marketing. We provide a list of some POD companies and a worksheet of questions you should discover from possible publishers. They are not all created equal and you owe it to yourself and your book to discover the differences and determine what works best for your needs.
No matter how your book is published, even traditional, you need to have a marketing plan.
You are selling your books at a number of online sites. What is your most effective sales channel?
Our most effective sales channel are when we speak, are on panels or conduct workshops. That produces the highest numbers and the highest profit.
Even though we earn a higher royalty selling through our publisher’s website, Amazon is a site buyers trust and like, plus they ship internationally. We earn less, but sell more. Other on-line sites are important, as you never know where someone will see your book. You want them to know they can get it anywhere.
Many self-published authors do not make much money from just their books. You also sell consulting and coaching services as well as workshops. What other ways can authors supplement their income other than just having a book?
Book sales alone would not support us, but they do provide credibility and open doors for other opportunities.
As a result of “Love Affairs…”, I landed a four year program with Time-Warner Cable which paid quite well. In addition to a web site, I was producer and host of my own television show, “Dishing with Carolina Chefs.” It was their highest video on demand request.
I’d recommend that authors call public radio to get interviews, see if you can contribute some columns locally, then expand. Be willing to speak just about anywhere and publicize it when you do.
Book signings are not the largest source of book sales for us, but they provide great publicity. We send out our own press releases and announcements.
The best thing an author can do is market himself. Build an on line presence with a blog, and a couple of networking sites like Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter.
If your work is non-fiction, market yourself as an expert in the field you’re writing about. If your work is fiction, make your characters come alive, possibly through a blog.
Write magazine articles, they will help your book sales.
Brenda and I have a monthly column on The Blend Magazine which gets 2.4 million readers a month. Our column is “Culinary Secrets with the Hills.” I also have a column with The Blend Magazine called, “Successful with Words.” Both reference our books, our website and our blogs. They have helped book sales.
Marketing in any way possible is a on-going never-ending project if you want your book to sell, and you have to be willing to invest in it.
You have testimonials for your books from authors like Dan Poynter and Brian Jud. How can authors go about getting testimonials like these?
We were attending an authors’ retreat. I was on the marketing panel so we had credibility. However, I believe Dan and Brian would have looked at our book anyway, because we simply asked them if they would. Both Dan and Brian have newsletters where they provide tips, they are approachable.
We took the time to research reviewers and sent e-mails asking if they would review our book. Our book “Success” is somewhat different, as it is a workbook with room for you to make notes, a marketing plan, work sheets, etc. Our feedback has been better than we ever imagined.
With our request asking someone to review our book, we sent a press release as well as a synopsis. Our early reviews were good and used on the bookmarks we printed, but once we had Dan and Brian’s quotes, we reprinted the back cover and put in a fly sheet with a few more quotes.
If you are going to ask for a review, do not ask for your book back and be sure your request is well-written.
You’re President of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA). What are your top 4 tips for aspiring food/wine or travel writers?
1.Capture the local culture and what the food, wine and destination mean to them.
2.Interview locals and tell their story and how it makes you feel.
3.Write about the excitement, adrenalin, sense of peace, tranquility or whatever makes it distinctive for you.
4. Travel, eat, taste wine and enjoy the experience.
You have a couple of blogs. Why is it important for authors to have a blog now?
The current generation loves computers. I attended a marketing symposium, where Peter Shankman was one of the guest speakers. After you hear him speak, you know you have to promote yourself online.
But it comes from more than Peter. Many of us say, “Who reads those things anyway?” Well I’ll tell you, a lot. A New York editor said, “When I get an inquiry, I look the person up on Linkedin, if they’re not there, I don’t bother.” Other editors have said, “Your blog gets a lot of traffic.” A well respected collegue I worked with at Time-Warner Cable recently told me more traffic goes to websites from networking sites than from search engines.
When I started my first blog, I knew it was necessary, but I just couldn’t do it once a week, let alone two or three times. So it took me several months, and then I discovered I could do several entries at once and schedule them to post when I want. After the first blog was going, “Success” was released. That was a different topic, so a different blog was needed, as it’s about writing. Now, our posts are at least every two days and sometimes more and they are scheduled 2-4 weeks in advance.
In the late 80s, I read MegaTrends by John Naisbitt. He said the higher tech we got, the higher touch we need. I believe in our high tech global society, blogging, tweeting, social networking. All contribute to people knowing they are communicating with others. I’ve received beautiful e-mails, thanking me for something I’ve written. And many say, “Wow, I’m going to get your book.” Blogs are worth the effort if you’re committed and consistent.