The Harlem Shake, Indie Bookstore Style

The Harlem Shake, Bookstore Style

Breaking News: It is world wide knowledge that Indie Bookstores go the extra mile to sell books. They have free giveaways, quirky contests, and sometimes . . . ask authors to act a fool while someone captures their shenanigans on film. Cat Blanco, owner of The Book Exchange in Marietta, Georgia recently did just that, ask me and a handful of others to act a fool.

Younger readers will recognize The Harlem Shake as a phenomenon that has taken over YouTube.

For those who are unfamiliar with the phenomenon, here’s the gist: as best as I understand. The video begins with a group of people hanging out. These people could be in the Starbucks, college dorm, or in this case, a local bookstore. All of the sudden a kooky person enters, dancing all kray-kray while no one else seems to notice. Then when the music hits a certain note everyone starts dancing kray-kray.

For the record, we realize our feeble attempt is in no way similar to the “Original” Harlem Shake. We’re just trying to spread the word that Indie bookstores are anything but boring.

Cat assembled the group and we picked out our headgear (apparently head-adorning-implements are required for this type of activity). Next, it was time to cue the music.

Law have mercy. It's a good thing none of our parents have internet access !

Law have mercy. It’s a good thing none of our parents have internet access !

What you can’t see on the video are customers entering the store as we’re standing there wearing hats, motorcycle helmets and bunny ears. Cat explained, Don’t mind us; we’re just filming a Harlem Shake video.

She said this like it was an everyday occurrence. Then she asked. . . wanna join us? The look on their faces was priceless. By the way, no one volunteered to join us.

harlemshake1 (1)Cat also pulled the guy next-door from the barber shop. C’mon, join the fun. Here’s a pic of her covering adjusting his silver wig.

As my people would say, They help my time.

It took a couple of takes, before the video was done. Even now, we look at the video and smile. We were supposed to stand in one spot and shake our booty. But there was something about the music, the excitement that filled the room that made up hop around the room like excited bunnies.

If it’s been a while since you’ve visited an Indie Bookstore you’ll see that they are, loads of fun. No stuffed-shirts hoity-toity folk in here. Most Indies bookstore owners remember your name, and your reading preferences. They provide jobs for the neighborhood and are far from being extinct. If you haven’t visited The Book Exchange well it just up the road from you on Canton Road.  The address is 2932 Canton Road, Marietta GA 30066. If you’ve got your eye on a new release, or you want to load up on your favorite used books give Cat a call at (770) 427-4848.

Cat is known for hosting fabulous author events that bring New York Times best-selling authors to North Georgia. If you have never attended an author event, here’s a listing of upcoming author appearances:

April 16, 2013 Wendy Wax

May 16, 2013 Charles Martin and Patti Callahan Henry

June 4, 2013 Karen White

harlemshakemyra1I promise. We will leave our goofy headgear and stick pony at home. You will find that we’re just a group of passionate readers happy to support the local Indie, and a group of devoted authors acting a fool all for the love of books.

Please visit The Book Exchange on Facebook and LIKE their Page. We’d hate for all our Tom Foolery to be for naught. Oh, and while you’re there please follow me, or send me a friend request.

And now, without further ado, the video. The Book Exchange’s version of the Harlem Shake. harlemshakeyoutubepix

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at

In the Garden with Billy Book Trailer

Visit to learn more about Billy Albertson. Or on Facebook at In the Garden with Billy

Advice for Authors: How Book Trailers Increase Sales

I must admit, when I first started writing I didn’t understand the importance of having a book trailer. At the time I believed the word trailer and book didn’t go together. Unless I was speaking about Hollis Gillespie’s book Trailer Trashed.

Then I began spending time with successful authors. What I discovered is that most of them have a book trailer that teases readers. Authors offered readers a video snapshot into the story, book characters, or their personal lives as an author. In turn, readers were intrigued with their video and purchased copies of their work. Here are links to a few of my favorites:

Stephanie McAfee

Shellie Rushing Tomlinson

Karen Spears Zacharias

These trailers, or book videos if you prefer, have one thing in common, YouTube. Each is hosted on YouTube (for free). The challenge becomes finding an affordable videographer. Authors need only look at their local high school and colleges.

I first met Sean Pettit at the Roswell High School during an author signing. I was there listening to the beautiful and talented, Robin Mellom speak about her first book, Ditched. When she finished I noticed a tall young man in the back of the room with a gigantic video camera. At that exact moment by brain went. Ding. Ding. Ding.

Rushing toward him, I pressed my business card in his hand and said, “I’m an author. I’ve written a book about a local celebrity and need a book trailer.”

Sean took my card and said, “I think I can handle that.”

Just to be safe, I jotted down his email as well.

Before you spend a fortune, give local students an opportunity. High school and college students desperately need the experience. They are building their resume’. They need you. You need them.

Next I wrote a short script. Putting voice behind the visual isn’t required. A simple power point presentation will suffice. However, I wanted something that captured the soul of Billy Albertson. I just didn’t know how to make it happen. This was why I gave Sean carte blanche to work his magic. I must admit, giving him unconditional power made me a bit nervous. I really didn’t know how the video would turn out, but I trusted Sean to work his magic. He was the expert. He obviously knew a lot more about making videos than I did.

At this point, let me say that if you want to hire Sean, tell him that I sent you. He will get to your book trailer as quickly as he can. Like most artist with “the gift,” Sean doesn’t say much. He walked Billy’s property while absorbing important facts like lighting, sound quality, things necessary to make a video look great. More than that, he captured the essence of Billy Albertson. All I needed was a couple of children for the video, which I borrowed from my friend, Kelle Mcentegart. I think you will agree that Sean truly, he has a gift.

To view Sean’s creation click HERE. Please share the video and leave comments.

In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes is currently out of print. A few copies remain on Amazon. Or, if you want a personalized copy, please order through my website. For emerging authors who haven’t attended my workshops or read my book titled: Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author, all Indie Booksellers can order the book. It is also available on Amazon and through my website. Obviously, a book trailer for that is forthcoming.

Thank you for reading and as always, keep writing.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author. She just finished In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is now working on her first novel. Friend her on Facebook or find her on Twitter at ReneaWinchester.


Book Launch: The Beginning of Your Journey

Many self-published authors fail to understand the impact a book launch has on future sales. Some may not even know what a book launch is (insert gasp!). So let me rewind just a second. A book launch is perhaps the single most important event in the life of your work, a birthday if you will, a coming out party, where you announce to the beauty of your newborn. Please, do not publish a title without first planning a launch.

What do I need? Every book deserves a book launch (or three). This grand event is one of joy, excitement, and of course…sales. Those who have read Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author know that it takes approximately two months to plan an adequate launch. You need to reserve a venue, plan for light refreshments, speak to friends who take photos, and —don’t forget—make certain you have enough copies of your work on hand.

Imagine selling 250 copies of your title. That is what happened during my book launch.

Finding a Venue: Since I am a North Carolina native, and also lived in Tennessee for an extended period of time, and currently live in Georgia, my first title: In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes had three separate launches, one for each state. Find a venue that either compliments your character, or the theme of your book. Listen to your characters, they will tell you where to hold their birthday party.

Launching your book doesn’t have to be fancy.

Setting a Budget: Be realistic about sales and set a budget. Notice that the “sign” for the Billy launch is hand-made and attached to his truck. Refreshments were popcorn and lemonade, all perfect for a garden book launch.

Confused?: If all of this seems overwhelming, consider asking an independent bookseller for help. That being said, do not…repeat not contact them two weeks prior to the release demanding that they work with you. Business people need advance notice, and time to acquire your title. If you are self-published you will need to partner with the seller, not try to boss them around (trust me, that happens). Refer to Stress-free Marketing; Practical Advice for tips on how to approach booksellers, and also read these two post about approaching booksellers the wrong way, and approaching them the correct way.

Invitations: Mail post-card size invitations to the list of contacts you have acquired. Include a link to your website, and these important words, copies of the book will be available for purchase.

Standing room only and sell out book launches can happen. I’m living proof.

 Don’t forget: On the day of the event, don’t forget to have change for those who will pay with cash and a way of taking credit card payments unless you have specified on the invitation that payment will be accepted by cash or check.

These are just a few of the things one needs to have a successful launch. Once the day has ended you will also need to use the photos taken at the event to generate publicity to keep the momentum and excitement about your book progressing.

Keep writing dear ones.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author who is currently working on her third book. When she isn’t writing she volunteers at the local library. Visit her at www.reneawinchester. Or Twitter at: Reneawinchester

Fresh from the Literary Festival

by Renea Winchester 

I have just returned from one of my favorite literary festivals held in Canton, Georgia. If you are working on a manuscript, attending festivals and workshops is the best way to meet authors and gather information about how they have successfully marketed their book. Here is what I learned.

While sitting on a panel with Stephanie McAfee, I, and many others in attendance, marveled when she told us that she sold 145,000 copies of her (then self-published) e-book. Not only that, but Stephanie sold those copies during a time when the sale of traditional books fall flat. Her sales came in January and February.

Those who have read my book Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author know that I am firmly against releasing a printed book during January and February. Why? Most people are on a budget and, during the months of January and February, have limited funds by which to purchase books.

The exception… those who receive a new Kindle and gift cards.

Kindle fledglings scour Amazon searching for cheap (or free) books. Stephanie’s plan was simple. Write a book. Release it in January during a time when people were uploading  99 cent ebooks. Then wait. Hope. Pray.

Caveat: what worked for her then may not work for you today. She released her e-book on the cusp of the Kindle explosion. Today, there are literally tens of thousands of 99 cent ebooks.

Stephanie also shared that once the book started selling well, (well above average) she became embarrassed at the number of typographical errors it contained.

“I didn’t have an editor,” she explained to those in attendance at the conference. “So when I started selling a lot of copies I was embarrassed at how many mistakes the book contained. If you are considering publishing, please invest in an editor.”

Today, Stephanie is living every author’s dream. She has a three-book contract from a New York Times publisher. She also has a tremendous amount of work ahead. With three books to write in addition to marketing those books, she spends a lot of time locked inside her home office.

“I asked for my agent for an extension,” she announced at the conference. “I thought the publisher would give me 90 days…they gave me thirty. These are the things new authors learn fast.”

Certainly, Stephanie’s e-books will never again be priced at the bargain price of 99 cents, but for her, the low-price strategy worked.

Thank you for reading and remember, keep writing.

Renea Winchester is currently working on her third book titled: In the Kitchen with Billy. She was recently named the Atlanta Pen Woman Author of the year. Visit her at

To learn more about Stephanie visit her at

Oh the Joy of Radio

Dear Ones,

Today is a short post. I thought you might enjoy this link to Joy Radio. Patti is a wonderful host who has stepped into the world of Blog Talk Radio.

Those who have read my book, understand the importance of radio and how it magically helps authors build an audience. Self-published and emerging authors benefit by reaching out to radio hosts. I hope you will take a moment and encourage Patti by listening to some of her shows. She is a kind soul who loves to support authors.

Here is the link to her other shows.

Blessings and best sellers to you!

Renea Winchester

Name Dropping is a No-No

Name Dropping is a No-No by Renea Winchester

Disclaimer: Names have been changed to protect the victims

After speaking with a colleague whom I will call Betsy, I was shocked to discover she has a “stalker” (of sorts). During a conference Betsy met Name Dropping Nancy. The two had a grand time. They chatted as authors do, and discovered mutual interests. As an aside, authors are always eager to speak about their work, share ideas and extend the hand of friendship. Unfortunately, Betsy had no idea that Nancy’s sole purpose for chatting was to gather information.

The problem began when Nancy began contacting publishers saying that our beloved Betsy sent her.

Yes…she did.

The situation escalated when Nancy (who didn’t understand that unanswered emails = “no.”) began calling the publisher.

Yes…she did.

The situation redlined after Nancy received a “no” from the publisher, and instead of accepting the response, continued to press. She didn’t understand that with every dropped-name, sent email and interrupting telephone call she soiled her reputation.


Nancy called, and called, and evidently called a couple more times. Miss Nancy rang the phone so many times that the publisher of a major magazine called Betsy and said, “you are going to have to tell her to stop calling.”

Imagine for a moment Betsy’s surprise. She paused, replayed the conference sifting through the faces she met, uttered conversations and exchanged business cards until she recognized Name Dropping Nancy. That is how well she knew Nancy.

Dear Ones, how do we solve this problem? First, if you are Nancy, or related to her, stop it. Today.

Now Betsy, who doesn’t really know Nancy from —as we say in the south— Adam’s housecat, is in a terrible situation. Nancy and her pushy can’t-take-no-for-an-answer must stop. What is Betsy to do? She doesn’t have time to deal with this, but Nancy is persistent.

Apparently, this happens a lot. Two authors strike up a conversation, share tips, exchange cards and poof, next think you know it’s “Betsy sent me.”

For those new to writing, here is how networking really works.

If, in fact, a colleague has suggested their publisher, agent or hairstylist, they will call or send a message FIRST. After they have opened the door, then you may proceed. Any other contact automatically and immediately illuminates every warning bell and whistle imaginable. Sending an email saying, “I met Best-selling Betsy at a local festival and she said I should contact you,” when Betsy has no idea you are using her name is (blunt warning) professional suicide.

I mean serious irreparable damage to your career.


How many other authors have had this happen? I would love to hear your response. Feel free to post, link to FB and tweet. We all must do our part to silence Name-Dropping-Nancy.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author and In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. Her books are traditionally published and available in bookstores upon request, and online through the usual outlets. Visit her at to learn more.

Questions from Workshop Participants

The most common question I receive from workshop participants is, “How do I get my book in bookstores?”

While ultimately the decision to shelve your book depends on the owner, here is a simple tip that worked for me.

Send readers to their store.

If you want a bookseller to consider your book, they must know they can sell it. (Step One: Write a perfect-error free book about interesting subject matter). 

An aside: I once visited a pitch session with an agent. A pitch session is where you meet an agent and tell them about your book. If they like your “sales pitch,” they request a copy of your manuscript. Anyway, the woman beside me was pitching her book which featured a talking racoon. After the author described her book as the next Art of Racing in the Rain, the agent kindly explained she wasn’t interested and couldn’t sell the story concept.

“So, can I send you the manuscript?” the author asked.

Dear ones, you will not be like that lady. There is a thin line between assertiveness and career-ending pushy behavior.

All of the booksellers I know have owned their store for years (read decades); this means they knows what their customers read. Take a moment to consider this chart from Publishers Weekly:

Understanding how readers find books is crucial for author's attempting to reaching them.

While I am on that subject let me ask this question, “do you spend money in the store you have approached?” Do you have a relationship with the owner?

Good. Keep shopping at the store.

People also  try a variety of methods to trick booksellers into stocking their books. A common technique is having a friend pose as publicist or agent. This is the BIGGEST mistake an author could ever make. For those who have yet to read my book, you will soon learn that everyone knows everyone in this business. Pretty-pretty please with sugary sprinkles on top,  do not do this to yourself. Do not take your book  into the store, (or have your momma, g-ma, preacher, sister, brother or another obscure relative shove self-published pages under the owner’s nose) and then proceed to tell them you have written the best book since the Bible. Certainly, do not call a bookstore and tell them I sent you. Lawhavemercy.

This is exactly the behavior that will ruin your career, before you even have a career.

You are a professional. You will research and understand how to approach a bookseller before actually doing it. Understand that not every store will stock your book. Not every store stocked my first book. This is the nature of the business. Once you read Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author you will realize the value of their shelf space and the pressure to turn books around quickly.

Dear ones, there is no “fast track” in the writing world. You  must earn your place on the shelves of bookstores with time, patience and a following of readers who adore that perfectly flawless book you have written. Some books never get into the bookstore. They still sell well. They still have a following of readers. Many factors determine the success of your book; professionalism is one of them.

Hope to see you soon.


Renea Winchester

The Editing Process

Today I offer a rare glimpse into my writing world, an actual photograph of (revision number one) for my current manuscript.  Before I begin, let me clearly state this is my way of editing; it is not the only way. Find what works for you. Don’t force yourself (or your muse) into a painful routine that doesn’t work.

Writing should not be (all that) painful. A little bit uncomfortable, yes; blood on the forehead, no.

Looking at the photo let’s be honest…it is a jumbled mess. Many authors would take one look at this debacle and run. I actually find comfort in this.

You are witnessing the birth process.

You can see there is an entire section blocked off with a big NO written on it. However, the confusion begins with the words “Keep this sheet” noted at the bottom of the “no”page.  Why would I emphatically write NO, but still decide to keep this sheet when I clearly do not like anything on it?

Primarily  because I may decide to use it somewhere else. Since I continually try to improve and grow as an author, saving this edit reminds me of the areas that need improvement. (hint: no writer is perfect).  Being a sensory writer; meaning that I must touch the paper and physically print a manuscript before I bleed edits upon it; you will see on the left of this photo is a simple sheet of notebook paper whereby I have freewritten an addition (which I marked through a portion of).

This my friend, is the process. That of writing, READING, marking through, bleeding upon, until finally we release a manuscript to a professional editor who will do exactly the same thing. This is why books take years. This is why we press on, scribbling across pages that ultimately look like train wrecks.

For those who are asking: How does this help me market my manuscript? the answer is simple. Clean manuscripts translate into error-free books. We endure this process to bring our readers something they will adore and, hopefully, something they will encourage their friends to read.

Thank you to everyone who subscribes to  my blog. Please forward it to others who are walking their own personal path toward publication.

Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author FREE to Amazon Prime Members.

$ 2.99 for Kindle Owners  Paperback

And, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes, the book that launched me on this journey.

Have a wonderful day.


Leaving 2011 Behind

As we leave 2011 behind I pause to reflect on this past year. As the economy continues to struggle I hear from many emerging and veteran authors that they are clamouring to sell their books. It seems like everyone is searching for someone to read their work.

Perhaps, just maybe it is time to polish your manuscript through the winter months and release it in the spring, a time when all things are new and exciting. I always advise against releasing books in December through February  because Mr. and Mrs. John Q Consumer have spent any extra money during the holiday, January and February bring with it the hope there will be some sort of tax refund. Unfortunately, any tax refund will be used to pay for the holiday gift spending.

Those who believe that December is the best time to release eBooks (because people are receiving wireless readers as gifts) know this, the majority of books uploaded in December are freebies. If you have a backlist of high-quality books, and if you have a reader following, you might consider offering a book for free. However, I strongly advise against releasing your first book for free. Why? This sets the expectation with your readers that the next book will also be free.

So dear self-published scribe, I ask you to wait. Wait before releasing your manuscript. I do not want you to become discouraged. Wait for winter to pass. Wait for spring to come. Wait. While you are waiting read the newspaper and magazines searching for places to market you book. Polish, polish, polish your manuscript until it shines with the newness of spring.

For those who have yet to visit a seasoned blog written by many successful authors, please follow this link to read Southern Authors Blogspot. 

Blessings to you for a prosperous, best-selling new year.

Visit my website to learn more about me.