Fall Philly is exactly one month away, and I’m very excited to introduce you to Dawn Michelle Hardy, CEO of Dream Relations PR. We’re doing lots of new things this time around, including a pre-event Twitter Live Chat with Dawn @DAWNMICHELLEPR on Thursday, October 10 at 7 p.m., using the hashtag #FallPhilly! Dawn stopped by the Cafe to chat with me, but she’s excited to answer YOUR questions online October 10 and, of course, on November 2 at Fall Philly. She’ll be doing a keynote on platform building, participating in our diversity panel, and offering critiques throughout the day.
Lindsay: Hi there, Dawn, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! We’re so excited to have you at this year’s Fall Philly on November 2. Many of our published members will be in attendance at this year’s event, participating in the regional book fair. As the CEO of a literary PR company, what is one piece of advice you always give your published clients?
Dawn: I’ve been in publishing for 17-years and have been running Dream Relations PR & Literary Consulting for 15 years. The #1 piece of advice I give all authors, whether they are self-published or seeking a traditional deal, identify and connect with your primary target reader. If you are writing a novel connect with the reader who will most certainly identify with characters, the setting or even the obstacles in your story. Focus on a specific demographic. You don’t have to promote your book to everyone, just the right ones.
Lindsay: For authors who are just starting out on the road to publication, what is one helpful step they can take to get a platform going?
Dawn: I’m a big fan of authors using social media. It’s cost effective and running 24/7. You can share a message and engage an audience using video, photos, and copy at no cost.
I’ve watched authors build their brand by sharing personal preferences for their reading or writing experiences. Writers share places they enjoy reading or writing, beverages they sip while reading, pictures of pets with the books, inspirational quotes for novice writers and more.
Instagram has been a fun place for authors over the last few years. Check out the #bookstagram hashtag and you can connect with authors and readers directly. You can find me @TheLiteraryLobbyist. I see social media as a must because it allows you to be proactive in connecting with like-minded individuals. You follow and engage them and vice versa. On Instagram most users have an email tab or direct message option in which you can request and gather their contact information including phone numbers. You can use those email addresses to build a reader database. Email marketing list are priceless and the author that comes to the table with a significant list will have a strong point for negotiation with a publisher. You don’t have to spend a dime or even change out of your pajamas to accomplish this. 😊
Lindsay: I know that promoting diverse literature is close to your heart, and I’m really looking forward to hearing your perspective during our panel discussion on writing sensitively, inclusively, and accurately. What’s one misconception you’d love to address on the panel?
Dawn: Black women and their reading choices. Black women are the #1 book buying audience in the country, outpacing everyone in starting small businesses and pursuing college degrees at large rates. However, when it comes to being offered a book deal for contemporary women’s fiction, they experience endless rejection from publishers. All publishing professionals will agree that positioning a book properly is a major factor in the book’s success. Publishers appear to be challenged in positioning books written by WOC or they want more narrative on the understood ‘black experience’. Every book written by a person of color does not need to address civil rights, race in America or slavery. Sometimes a girl with ambitious career goals, rocky romances and crazy family are enough to keep us turning the pages. In 2014 The Atlantic published an article that shared this truth, the most likely person to read a book — in any format — is a black woman who’s been to college.
So, why can’t she get a book deal?
Lindsay: Wow. Great stats – and even better question. We’re looking forward to hearing more – and reading more from women of color!
In addition to participating on the panel and giving our closing keynote, you’re offering critiques throughout the day. With your experience as a literary agent and publicist, you have a unique perspective when looking at manuscripts at various stages. What special insights can you offer participants who sign up for a critique with you?
Dawn: Take the critique experience as an opportunity to learn and make a professional connection. I call it speed mentoring. Please do not be nervous. The odds of you getting an offer for representation during our conversation is slim, but you can learn.
I like when writers can tell me who the current top names are in the genre they are writing. Tell me who your primary reader is. Every book is not for everyone. Take this time to run a promotional idea past me. What ideas do you have to promote the book? Never take any critique as a personal assault on your person. I am giving advice to help you fulfill your aspirations of being a bestselling author, look for the lesson. Smile and keep in touch on social.
Alrighty, Dawn, prepare for our special feature – Flash Favorites! Ready, set, tell us your favorite….
Book as a child Where the Wild Things Are
Place to read My deck at home
Vacation spot I love beaches! Whether in South Africa or Martha’s Vineyard.
Type of shoe Wedges
Social media platform Instagram 😊
Song on your playlist right now Chainsmoking by Jacob Banks
Movie Black Panther, with all those beautiful melanated people.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Dawn! Can’t wait to see you in November and chat with you on Twitter on October 10 at 7 p.m.