Friday, November 7, 2014

Marketing and story-telling in easy and fun steps!

by Michelle Ule
Michelle Ule
(Happy birthday, Seekerville! Thanks for seven years of producing interesting information for readers and writers alike!)

People always want to know where writers get their inspiration and other writers are curious as to how authors integrate experiences into their stories.

            One of the best examples of a setting inspiring a story is found in my short novel Bridging Two Hearts. Set in Coronado, California, it was prompted by a visit to friends who lived on the island. The husband was the executive officer of the USS Ronald Reagan. The wife worked at the world famous Hotel del Coronado. They lived on San Diego bay and delighted in telling stories of what life was like when Navy SEALs exercised just off their back yard!

$0.99 ebook on sale now!
From our visit, I developed the tale of a massage therapist at the famous Hotel del Coronado, who was
terrified of the expansive Coronado Bridge-- which made the commute to work a major challenge.

            She fell in love with a Navy SEAL who didn’t think he was afraid of anything.

            Let the excitement begin!

            I did a lot of research through the Internet, but halfway through the writing, my husband and I packed up our military ID cards and traveled to the gorgeous Hotel del Coronado for a long weekend of relaxing (of course I needed a research massage) and sleuthing. We needed details—where would my couple find ice cream? Did special forces operators really roam the community?

            Those details all made it into the story, which then presented me with a number of marketing opportunities once the book released. I spoke to the owner of McP’s, a Navy SEAL hangout, to request permission to use his pub in my story.

“No problem,” he said once he examined my ID card.

            My heroine and hero bought passion fruit gelato at the Bottega Italiana and sauntered past Pandera Bread. I sent copies of my book to each spot mentioned in the novel, along with a small sign about the book, just in case we could cross market each other. Readers who read Bridging Two Hearts told me they know exactly where they are on the island because of the clear descriptions.

            My daughter was delighted to find another source for delicious passion fruit gelato.

            Including real places can be a great way to link your story with potential endorsers and easy to do while you’re writing. In this publishing era, anything that can make your story more marketable is important.

            Of course, references should be positive and you should clear the name use with the owners!

            If they’ve got a Facebook business page, you can send information about your story. Every little mention helps, but don’t abuse it.

Pinterest, of course, is another place where additional information can be shown and adds to the stories you’re telling. I’ve set up Pinterest boards for all my stories: Bridging Two Hearts, The Dogtrot Christmas, An Inconvenient Gamble, The Gold Rush Christmas, The Yuletide Bride, and even boards related to the World War I project I’m currently working on.

            Contemporary stories lend themselves to this type of marketing but what about historical stories—which is what I really write?

New York Times Bestseller
Seeking any sort of unique angle helps. For example, my first novella, “The Dogtrot Christmas” (part of the New York Times bestselling A Log Cabin Christmas Collection) has an unusual title.

I’m glad you asked. Take a look at the short video I made to explain:

This is obviously silly, but you now know what a dogtrot cabin is, don’t you?

Because several of the scenes in “The Dogtrot Christmas” were taken directly from my family history (including actual relatives), I could also pass along information about the book to forums with distant relatives. If an historical society functions in the community in which you set your story, contact them. I set two stories in the same county and when I contacted the local library, was told they’d be delighted to purchase copies of my books.

12 Brides of Christmas Collection Bk #5
On Sale for $0.99 in all ebook formats
In my recently released The Yuletide Bride (a rhyme and a pun on my name, wonderful!), my heroine needed to learn how to play the bagpipes. While I’ve been a woodwind player my whole life, I’d never tried to get a squawk, er, sound, out of such an instrument.

What better way to be able to describe the effort than by trying it myself?

And what better way to promote it than by making a video of my attempt?

A friend used an IPhone to film while I . . . made noise.

Setting a story in a real place can be helpful even for historic tales. “The Gold Rush Christmas,” part of the bestselling A Pioneer Christmas Collection, took place in Skagway, Alaska—which has a thriving tourism trade revolving around the gold rush history. The National Parks service runs two halves of a museum about the Alaskan Gold Rush—a small outpost in Skagway as well as a splendid museum in Seattle. When I stopped in to thank the rangers for their excellent webpage (in Seattle), they wanted
Click to Buy on Amazon
to hear all about the book.

Letting the locals know, dropping off a copy of the book, thanking museums in print, all can go a long way towards establishing good will for your book—and for you. It’s as easy as saying thanks, acknowledging their help (perhaps in blog posts) and by writing stories that demonstrate to readers how interesting history can really be.

When has a book’s setting captured your imagination and inspired you to visit?

Do you enjoy visiting Pinterest boards that provide additional information about the books you love?

Would a silly video interest you in a story or send you running away screaming?

            I'll be giving away copies of Bridging Two Hearts, A Log Cabin Christmas Collection as and an eBook-only copy of The Yuletide Bride.

Navy wife Michelle Ule is a graduate of UCLA and the best- selling author of five historical novellas and a novel. She lives in northern California with her family where she works at a literary agency, teaches Bible study, plays in a woodwind ensemble, and writes.

Fascinated by the “why?” and always looking to encourage and provide hope, Michelle is currently working on a World War I book involving Oswald Chambers. You can follow the exciting research by subscribing to her quarterly newsletter here:

Michelle is a long-time lay counselor in both crisis pregnancies and budget counseling. She loves to travel and is an accomplished genealogist. You can learn more about her at




  1. There's coffee aplenty.

    Appreciate the tips.

    It's been a long day. Eight hours on the road. Off to bed I go.

  2. Welcome, Michelle.

    Fascinating post which I will need to take notes on.

    I got to the end and thought: WHAT LITERARY AGENCY? and then I became totally shamed by all the things you do in your spare time.

    Now off to watch that video.

    NAVY? Our own Cara Lynn James is former Navy.

    I'm Army.

  3. Loved the post ... Now I not only want to read your novels, I'm going to want to visit them! Thanks, Michelle, and I'd love any and all of your stories. Please put my name in the boat or hat or cat dish or whatever you use! Thanks

  4. This does sound like you made the most of opportunities. Bring on the video, silly or otherwise I say.

  5. All your books look great, Michelle. Please enter me into the drawing. I enjoyed reading your post. You are a busy lady.

  6. Thank you for the great post Michelle. Here I am a native Southern Californian, raised in a military family and I can't tell you how many times we drove by the Coronado Bridge and looked over at the island but never went there. I live in Indiana now otherwise this weekend I would be doing a road trip. You made it sound so fun!

    I would love to be entered into your drawings. Thank you for your generosity.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  7. What fun that you're part of all these collections, Michelle! Yay for you!

    And you're utilizing a part of the country I've never seen, so that's always fascinating. Thank you so much for being here... and congratulations on these delightful pay-offs for all of your hard work!

  8. And reading your bio is crazy impressive! What a fun and varied basis for creating great stories.

    Good for you!

  9. Welcome Michelle,

    In November 2001 my husband had a week meeting in San Diego. (We made our plans before 9-11 but still went despite the extra security and threats of bombing the bridge your heroine is scared of.)

    My then 8 year old son and I traveled with Tim and had a great week. We loved the island and went a second time with Tim.

    I appreciate all of our military and what they do to protect us every day.

    Thanks for sharing. Now I need to figure out how to weave a massage into one of my stories so I can get one.

  10. What a fun post! Thank you Michelle. And thanks for the great tips for doing research.

    Hmmm... my main character loves good shoes...come to think of it...I need to do some research on brands.

  11. Welcome, Michelle! We're glad to have you today.

    I enjoyed both your videos. :) I can't imagine trying to play bagpipes! It looked crazy difficult.

    Thanks for your suggestions on using real places in stories. I've made up fictional towns in all but one of my books (my first). Maybe it's time to try using a real place again!

  12. Would love to read one of your stories! Loved your post on setting a story in a real place where readers can follow along and know where you are. That is so interesting!

  13. a wonderful posting...thanks for sharing :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  14. Awesome! Educational videos first thing in the morning. I'd never heard of dog trot cabins before. Loved your edible explanation. And the bagpipe video...LOL...when I was a kid I begged and begged and begged my dad for bagpipe lessons but he refused. Now I understand why. No offense. :-)

  15. Good morning, Michelle, and welcome to Seekerville! Those are great ideas for linking your story to potential endorsers.

    I'm going to have to track down your book set on Coronado Island. I LOVE that place and am hoping to pay the beach there another visit when RWA's national conference is held in San Diego in (I believe) 2016. I haven't stayed at that magnificent old hotel, but have had lunch there--the place just oozes with charming atmosphere that would be an ideal setting for romance in your book!

  16. Michelle, I love your passion for your stories, and your creative ways to market them. I also love the Hotel del. I lived in San Diego many years ago. It's such a beautiful place!

    Maybe I'll have to set a story there so I can do research. ;)

    Thanks so much for sharing your practical ways to market a book and create relationships with others who might also help.

    Great post!

  17. Wow, what great marketing ideas. I especially like the idea of a short video to tickle interest. Nice post!

  18. I live on the west coast, it's early here but I can see I'm behind all you other readers!

    I work as the editorial assistant at Books & Such Literary Agency. I've been there nearly 11 years.

    I hope many of you get a chance to visit Coronado some day. I fell in love and wish I could spend a summer in that glorious climate and playing on that beautiful beach.

    And a massage is always good. It's funny how interested and thorough massage therapists are now when I tell them I wrote a novel about a massage therapist!


    and WOW, what unique settings/situations you venture into!! That alone would draw many a reader!

    I'm definitely taking notes because I'm currently working on a unique location that would lend itself to marketing it at that locale.

    Like Tina, I am pretty much blown away by all you have on your plate, so God bless you, which He obviously already has!


  20. Cindy W--ironic how we can live somewhere for years and not visit tourist spots, isn't it? I grew up looking at Catalina Island and never went "26 miles across the sea," until I returned as an adult and worked at youth retreat on the island!

    We spent four years on Puget Sound in Washington and never went to the Orcas Islands either. Now, we're itching to return and see what we missed!

    My husband, meanwhile, is thinking of all sorts of exotic locations where I should set a story. :-)

    Thanks for all your comments and we'll put your names into the cyberhat! :-)

  21. wowzers Michelle

    great tips on the marketing angle. will have to remember that as I work on different stories. speaking of... all of yours sound so interesting and unique. please put my name in the ol' cyberhat please.

    your descriptions make me want to visit Coronado. as a wife of a retired Navy Boatswain's Mate, i really appreciate the military angle of Bridging Two Hearts. very cool!

    thanks for sharing your wisdom at Seekerville. i love being introduced to new authors!

  22. Deb H--As a military wife, you may be as sensitive as I am to the nuances of writing about military life. I have difficulty handling stories that are unrealistic.That's why it's so helpful to have my own resource here in the house!

    A friend of mine actually checks in from time to time if she's got a question and I went back to my Coronado friends at least once to ask questions and brainstorm plot. They bought the book! :-)

  23. Hi Michelle, Welcome to Seekerville and what great tips for marketing. I love how you used the locations you had visited and great advice to get permission. That would definitely lead to promotion. smile

    Have fun today and thanks again for joining us.

  24. Michelle, visiting the Hotel Del Coronado is on my bucket list ever since my sister went there and...........walked through the lobby to sit on the beach.

    She said it was so beautiful..........but she couldn't afford to rent a room. LOL
    I've seen it featured in other books, too. I just bought a copy of Bridging Two Hearts and I have your contribution to the 12 Brides of Christmas here. The Yuletide Bride.

  25. Deb H is that a new picture? Very cute! :)

  26. Michelle is your husband thinking of exotic you have to go on research trips? :) Sounds like a good idea.

  27. Yes, my husband, like many, is a great supporter of my work (he also thinks he's the hero of all the stories . . . ), and laughs I should write a story set in Hawai'i.

    We lived in Hawai'i for four years and I've got a couple ideas set there, but . . . not yet, so far. :-)

    BTW, Hotel del Coronado has a military discount on their rooms if you're eligible . . .

  28. Falling over now. DebH has a face on her profile picture. She's lovely!!!

  29. Eileen Barnes now has a face. This must be FACE DAY!!!! You are all BEAUTIFUL!!

  30. Michelle,

    Thanks for a great post packed with delightful and fun marketing tips!

    I love Coronado Island. Hubby, a US Army guy, was stationed at the National Training Center for two years. We lived at Fort Irwin in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and Coronado was our beach getaway. We stayed at the military lodging on the island but visited Hotel del Coronado often. (I don't think they offered a military discount at that time.) Loved the old photos, displayed at the hotel, of the late 1800s/early 1900s or so when folks would pitch tents on the beach and spend days enjoying the sun and surf. Of course, the ladies were in long dresses and remained in the shade of their tents. :)

    An FYI for those who haven't seen the hotel, Disney World in Florida has a hotel on their property that looks very much like the regale one in California. I believe it's called the Grand Floridian.

  31. Fabulous post and use of marketing. I've only been to California once when I was a teenager. Would love to go there again.
    But I've never heard of Hotel del Coronado. I lead a very sheltered life.

    Your books sound fascinating. Would love to win one.

  32. Dear Michelle,
    What a great idea to write about the Del (as locals call it) and the bridge. It is iconic to where we live and has an interesting story of how they engineered it (can you tell I live with boys). We have wonderful memories on that island and the beach is very worthwhile, it is often named the best in the U.S. After the wildfires here, it became a favorite respite while we were without a home.

    Thank you for your creative approach with the marketing efforts. Coronado gets so many visitors, I'll bet your book will travel to many places, riding home in their luggage. And I love how you honor the military with your characters (and life, thank you and your husband, too!!).

    Please everyone when you come to visit, send me a note on Facebook and I'll send you our favorite restaurant and activities to consider!

  33. Welcome to Seekerville, Michelle! Thanks for the fantastic post! Loved how you use setting to not only enrich your stories but promote them.

    We had lunch at the Hotel del Cornonado while in San Diego. What a fabulous setting for a novel!

    You must be very organized to handle everything you do! Your books look and sound wonderful!


  34. Thanks for all your comments. I am organized, but I also don't have any children at home and my husband works long hours when he's not busy running the church, etc.

    Many of you may still be in the very busy season of life with children at home. It's important to know that my first contract came the day we drove our last child to college. I'm so grateful it didn't come until then--the business work of writing consumes a lot of time and I wouldn't have been a good mother had I been publishing while raising my four children.

    Here's another blog post I wrote about the publishing life some of you might find interesting. It's important to understand your personal value is not in what you do, but in who you are. We all need to remember why we write:

  35. So interesting. I'm learning to make notes of research tips and the extras so that I can use them later.

    Michelle is a master at this. I don't know where she finds the time though!

  36. So glad you could be with us today, Michelle! It really does make a difference when you have the opportunity to actually visit the setting you're writing about. I took full advantage of that while writing my Till We Meet Again series set in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Even though the books are set in 1918-1919, many of the historic buildings are still in existence.

  37. Cool marketing ideas, Michelle! I'd never thought of cross-marketing with real places. What a great idea. :)

  38. I guess it does help to write what you know. It makes it more realistic :) I'd love to win your books.

  39. Hi Michelle, welcome to Seekerville! I checked out the video for the dogtrot cabin and loved your creative use of tootsie rolls and licorice : )

    You bring up such fun research for books. I'd love to watch Navy SEALs train. I do believe my imagination would be filled with exciting stories after that, LOL!

    Thanks for sharing your research methods and experience. I understand Pinterest is an excellent research source, I just haven't figured out how to use it. I'll have to work on that.

    I'm off to check out the other links you have included. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

  40. Jackie, I'm with you. I need to figure out how to weave a massage or two into my current book. Purely for the research of course, LOL!

  41. DebH! I love your profile picture! Is it really you???

  42. So Michelle, you mentioned a friend made your video with their iPhone. Really? Is it that easy?

  43. Welcome to Seekerville, Marilyn.

    I love to check out settings. I visited orange groves in central Florida to get info for the first part of my historical, A Path toward Love. I also visited San Augustine, the setting for a future book.

    I'd love to go to San Diego to do research. I lived there for a 3 yrs. when my husband and I were in the Navy. In fact, that's where we got married. I cried when we had to leave California.

  44. Thanks for the new pic comments. Yep, that's really me. Didn't realize people couldn't see my face too good with the other pic that had my little one in it as well. Anyway... thanks for the ego boost today.

  45. Michelle, I LOVED your post! I love San Diego! My parents went to the Hotel Coronado for one of there anniversaries! I grew up in Southern Calif. and visited San Diego many times. I love it there. My daughter only lives 2+ hours from there (in Arizona) and likes to go there when she needs to "cool down"!!!! Your books sound fantastic! I would love to win them - I bet I would recognize some of the places! I love military references, even though I have no military ties!!!

  46. Yay for Books and Such! I knew I recognized your name from the Bookie page. Fun post!

  47. Michelle, thanks for your ideas. The videos are great....a fun way to market your books. I love to travel to various places for my story ideas, especially sampling the restaurants.

  48. Loved your post, Miichelle. I have friends in San Diego and want to visit. An idea for a novel set during 1939-42 on the home front and overseas came when visiting Long Wood Gardens where I discovered some fascinating history. My hero is a gardener. It was possible to make a connect between Long Wood Gardens and Kew Gardens during the Blitz. Thank you for the advice about using the location when promoting and marketing.

  49. Thank you for all your comments! The day got away from me and ended with the annual Pregnancy Counseling Center dinner . . . I'm only back to the computer now.

    In terms of making the film--yes, we used a simple Iphone. I started attempting to play and my friend pushed the red video button! My web mistress/daughter-in-law edited it to a shorter piece with regular software and up it went.

    Very easy. I'll need to make more videos!

  50. I'm surprised by all my "fellow" military wives out there. I guess our travels, different places where we lived and all the stories we either lived through or our friends did, turns us into story-lovers and story tellers!

    I remember going with a friend to watch her husband's sub come in and thinking, "I may be enjoying this vicarious experience too much!" We've lived with such drama in our personal lives and among our friends, we may not be good for "normal" life? :-)

  51. This comment has been removed by the author.

  52. How wonderful to make that connection to Kew Gardens, Pat. I hope you've been able to visit London and see them! For the WWI project I'm finishing, we visited Edinburgh, London and Paris last fall. My husband was on a business trip in the UK, but the France part was all mine--and tax deductible because I was writing a novel (and I wrote blog posts to prove it).

    Unfortunately, it was a hurried trip and we only spent two days in France--one in Paris and one day visiting the Somme River valley and the remains of trenches. Research, yes, but also time to really think about what happened there 98 years ago.

    And picking up tips that made it into my novel. If you can visit your location, do it!

  53. We were walking on the beach south of the Del when a group of Navy SEALs came running up the beach! Even my husband (a Navy Commander, though in submarines) was impressed as these men sprinted past us, dove into the ocean and then swam right back the way they'd come.

    Civilians aren't allowed on the beach where the SEALs train, and I'm not sure if we could have gotten on either, even with our military IDs. I did find, however, that people who lived on Coronado were WAY too chatty about what they knew.

    The only person who asked for ID was the McP's owner. Everyone else freely passed on information that I used in the book. Because my husband was a submariner, I held a security clearance during his years in the military--just so I could know when to pick him up. More than once during that weekend, I wondered if I should have reported some of my sources for having extremely loose lips--particularly with a self-identified writer!

  54. My thanks to all the Seekerville readers for allowing me to share some ideas with you.

    Write on! :-)

  55. Ah memories. Hubby and I lived on Coronado while he was stationed to a carrier. Two times a day the traffic on the island was horrendous and we spend a lot of time at the Amphib base where the Seals trained.

    On the bagpipes, we bought a cheap one for our son who wanted to play them. They were so easy. Actually rather comical. Our son played the alto sax and he still couldn't get the breathing right. Which frustrated his h ighlander spirit. So he got the bright idea to use the air compressor to fill the bag and well, blew it up.
    Thanks for sharing.

  56. Great excuse to travel and explore new places. My newest WIP is set in my own city. Great reminder to ask owners permission before using their business in your book. I have an idea that happened with my own ancestors too. Thanks for sharing.

  57. Great excuse to travel and explore new places. My newest WIP is set in my own city. Great reminder to ask owners permission before using their business in your book. I have an idea that happened with my own ancestors too. Thanks for sharing.

  58. TOTALLY laughing, Tina!

    I wish I'd thought of that!