The Insecure Writer’s Support Group
Copyright 2017 by The Insecure Writer’s Support Group
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in a retrieval system in any form–either mechanically, electronically, photocopy, recording, or other–except for short quotations in printed reviews, without the permission of the publisher.
The views and ideas presented here do not represent the views of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group administrators.
All contributors to this anthology gave The Insecure Writer’s Support Group permission to use their work and assume all responsibility for their articles.
Table of Contents
10 Questions to Ask Your Beta Readers by Morgan Hazelwood
Have Patience, Young Grasshopper by Samantha Bryant
[ the Story is Ready! b+]
Juggling for a Living by Trisha Faye
The Value of Flexibility for a Successful Writer by Lynda R. Young
Don’t Just Promote–Get Involved by Alex J. Cavanaugh
Blogging Tips to Attract and Keep Readers by J.Q. Rose
Marketing with a Budget of Zero by Christine Rains
Learn to Diversify – Public Speaking by L. Diane Wolfe
Selling Yourself in Public For Profit by Heather M. Gardner
The Insecure Writer’s Support Group was founded in 2011 with one goal in mind—connect writers to one another for support and encouragement. It began as a blog group, posting on the first Wednesday of every month. The response was incredible as participants found inspiration, answers, and friends in the process.
The group’s membership swelled into the hundreds, and in 2013, the IWSG Facebook group was established. At the same time, we launched the IWSG website, a database of databases covering a multitude of writing and author topics. In addition to thousands of resources, we feature articles from authors and industry experts every week. In 2017, we were named a Writer’s Digest 101 Best Website for Writers and a The Write Life 100 Best Website for Writers.
This novelette represents the spirit of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group—to encourage and support writers everywhere! The articles and essays within all came from our members. They cover the three basic areas—writing, publishing, and marketing. It is our hope that this novelette will benefit you as a writer, no matter where you are in the journey.
My heartfelt thanks to the administrators of the IWSG website–without you this book wouldn’t be possible:
Lynda Young http://lyndaryoung.blogspot.com/
Michelle Wallace http://writer-in-transit.co.za/
L. Diane Wolfe http://circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com/
Joy Campbell http://joylcampbell.com/
Heather M. Gardner http://hmgardner.blogspot.com/
C. Lee McKenzie http://writegame.blogspot.com/
Pat Hatt https://rhymetime24.blogspot.com/
Nick Wilford http://nickwilford.blogspot.com/
Christine Rains http://christinerains-writer.blogspot.com/
And thank you to all of the writers and authors who contributed their words of wisdom.
For more information about the group, please visit the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s websites:
Alex J. Cavanaugh, IWSG Founder
By Morgan Hazelwood
Asking for Feedback
You’ve finished writing your manuscript. Now what?
You’ve run your novel through spell-check, done a few read-throughs, and made sure your story says what you want it to. Maybe you printed it, marking it up, writing pages and pages of new material on the back, sorting it out by chapter, making index cards for each one… Whatever your favorite techniques are to edit it, clean it up, and make it consumable by eyes that aren’t your own.
But, eventually, you’re going to have to let the manuscript go. To send it to a beta reader for your hopes and dreams to be crushed—or not.
Not all beta readers are created equal, though. There are certain things you want to hear from them. Harping on your grammar and syntax is probably not what you’re looking for at this stage; you’re looking for the “big picture” feedback. However, that can lead to wishy-washy feedback. Or inconsistent stuff, where different readers focus on different things, or get stuck on one fragment that doesn’t really matter to the rest of the story.
So how do you get useful feedback?
The best way to get something is to ask for it. Wishing and hoping and wondering is all fun and games, but not the most effective way to go about it.
What do you ask for?
When I first started reaching out to potential beta readers, I looked online for the answers and carefully whittled my questions down to a short list.
Then, I sent them a copy of my story and this questionnaire: things for them to think of during their read, and to answer (as much as they felt like) when they finished.
10 Questions to Ask Your Beta Reader
1. Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? If not, why not?
2. Did the setting interest you, and did the descriptions seem vivid and real to you?
3. Was there a point at which you felt the story started to lag or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next? Where, exactly?
4. Were there any parts that confused you? Or even frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts, and why?
5. Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details?
6. Were the characters believable? Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting or more likable?
7. Did the dialogue keep your interest and sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial or not like that person would speak?
8. Did you feel there was too much description or exposition? Not enough? Maybe too much dialogue in parts?
9. Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to keep your interest?
10. Was the ending satisfying? Believable?
I admit it, it was hard to limit myself to ten, so I tacked on a few bonus questions. They’re mostly ego boosts, but still useful information!
● Which parts resonated with you and/or moved you emotionally?
● Are there parts where you wanted to skip ahead or put the book down?
● Which parts should be condensed or even deleted?
● Which parts should be elaborated on or brought more to life?
● Which characters did you really connect to? (None is acceptable)
Given a handful of pointed questions, even the most inexperienced beta reader can find ways to get you the feedback you need.
Morgan Hazelwood – I write from my lair in the suburbs of DC, and when I’m not writing, I’ve been known to lend my voice to Anansi Storytime, a fairy tale audio drama.
By Hank Quense
In various online writing groups, I often see authors ask for opinions and comments on their book blurbs. Almost all of these blurbs are short synopses. Let’s face it: a synopsis is usually boring, not the kind of material that attracts a reader’s interest. I don’t use the blurb as a short synopsis. I prefer to use it as a marketing tool with which to differentiate my book.
Differentiation is an attempt to convince potential buyers to become interested in the book in a way that a synopsis can’t.
The blurb—or hook—consists of three parts and must be brief. Very brief! Essentially, what developing a blurb entails is writing three sentences or short paragraphs that can be used to sell your book.
The first part (the pitch line) is the hook for grabbing the reader’s attention. Its purpose is to persuade the reader to keep reading the other two statements. The pitch should be simple, a few short sentences at most, and it must make a clear statement about your book.
The second part answers the question “What’s in it for the buyers?” It is a statement that explains what the reader (i.e. a book buyer) will get in exchange for money. This must be explicit. This statement is not the place to get cute. Don’t come across like the legendary used-car salesman. Tell the readers what benefit they’ll get from buying the book.
The third part explains “What is different about this book?” In other words, tell the reader why she should buy this book instead of the other books on the shelf or the webpage.
Think of your blurb this way: If your book was surrounded by hundreds of similar-sized books on a shelf in a bookstore, what would persuade the buyer to choose your book instead of one of the others? With all the books published every month, what makes your book stand out?
I’ll use a few examples of book blurbs from my books.
Falstaff’s Big Gamble uses this as the blurb: 1) Falstaff’s Big Gamble is Shakespeare’s Worst Nightmare. 2) It takes two of the Bard’s most famous plays, Hamlet and Othello, and recasts them with fantasy characters in a fantasy world called Gundarland. 3) Hamlet is a dwarf and Othello is a dark elf. Iago and his wife, Emilia, are trolls. You don’t have to know anything about Shakespeare to enjoy this romp.
The first sentence 1) is the “hook.” The next sentence 2) explains “what is in it for the buyer.” The last part 3) tells the reader “what is different about the book.”
My non-fiction book, Planning a Novel, Script or Memoir, uses this statement for its blurb: 1) Creating a long story, such as a novel, requires a great deal of effort and creativity. 2) It is easy to get lost in the details and to lose focus on the main issues. This book describes a process for planning the work prior to writing the first draft. 3) The purpose of the plan is to allow the author to concentrate on the important elements of the story.
Writing a blurb requires creativity and sweat. Usually, my initial stab at a blurb is too long, too muddled, and not very good. But as I refine and edit it, the statement becomes clearer and shorter.
Eventually, after numerous revisions, I end up with the final blurb. The blurb then goes into a number of marketing activities.
Hank Quense – I write sci-fi and fantasy parodies.
By Samantha Bryant
Enthusiasm is vital in a creative endeavor, but it’s not enough. If you want to make a career out of your writing, you’ve also got to be persistent and determined, bold and dedicated, humble and indefatigable. And most importantly: patient. Because this is going to take a while.
When I signed my first book contract, not that long ago (2014, for a 2015 release), my imagination went wild. I could see the whole beautiful horizon glowing with fame and fortune—especially fortune—lining my pockets as I lived my dream. I think a lot of us imagine that publishing a book will be a life-changing experience in the sense of swimming pools and movie stars. If I could just get a book deal…if I could just get an agent…
Part of me knew that wasn’t true, even then.
I’d been paying attention at writing conferences and author interviews for years. I knew other writers who were ahead of me in the game, and I knew that they did not suddenly have extra houses on the Riviera or fancy cars in their garages. That lightning-fast change and recognition is so rare as to be legendary, as in the “legendary city of El Dorado,” in that I’m not sure it actually exists at all.
Still, it was a let-down how little I made at first. It wasn’t at all like winning the lottery. I actually made more at my teaching job, which is saying something because I teach public school in North Carolina, one of the poorest paying states in the United States. Even now, three years and several more contracts later, I’m nowhere near being able to give up my day job yet.
So, I channel my inner Kung Fu master and remind myself to “Have patience, young grasshopper.” Rome wasn’t built in a day. Walk before you run. All things come to those who wait.
Choose your truism about patience. I’ve probably used it when I was feeling frustrated. And you know, there is a lot of truth in these sayings. Repetition may make them clichéd, but it doesn’t make them untrue.
We all love stories about overnight successes, but all these suddenly-discovered-geniuses didn’t just spring up from nowhere. They practiced their craft in quiet, unknown to the world. They experimented and failed. They got better at what they wanted to do. They kept putting their work out there, listened to criticism with a heart to learn, and grew. It’s not that they tried something on Monday and were discovered for it on Tuesday. It’s just that no one was paying attention on all the Tuesdays before that particular one.
Patience continues to be a virtue and not one I always have. I see others on the same track as me and I get jealous. Maybe they’re able to crank out words faster than me and have more titles in their catalogue than I do. Maybe one of their books caught the attention of someone with a bigger microphone and they have sold more copies or gotten higher prestige opportunities. When I do reach some measure of success, I raise the bar for myself defining “success” as something still out there ahead of me. It’s hard, but you have to shove all that aside and work on your work because of the work.
Everyone’s journey is different. Luck is a factor. So is timing. So are connections. So is hard work. So is not giving up. Have faith in yourself and your work. Keep on keeping on. The worst book you’ve ever written is still better than the one you only dreamed about writing.
Maybe you’ll hit it big someday, and maybe you won’t. But you will still have done something thousands of people only dream of doing. Even if that doesn’t come with a Ferrari or a beach house, it does come with a deep feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a novelist by night,and that makes her a superhero all the time.
By Shah Wharton
I’ve learned so many lessons since I began writing. From reading both good and bad books and as many craft books as I can get my grubby little grasping hands on, to making a bazillion mistakes, to hating then loving then hating my work, and so on. But if I have to choose one lesson to share with you, I choose this:
Don’t publish before the story is ready!
With the growth and ease of self-publishing, the allure to do so can be great. That doesn’t mean you should! You see, with the gift of having no gatekeepers such as those in traditional publishing comes with the very real potential for humiliation.
My first book developed from a short story about a young journalist in a haunted house into a 400+ page urban fantasy monster project, entitled, Finding Esta. It was part one of the Supes Series. I wrote it quickly and passionately, got a recent graduate editor friend of mine to give it a pass, paid for a fabulous cover and published it on Kindle and via Shakespir for all to see.
Why, oh why did I do that?
For a few months, I was proud as punch. I even used Createspace to publish it for print and got a few copies to give to friends and family. I thought, I’m a writer now, and I consumed craft books at an alarming rate (those things I should have read BEFORE I published.) Unsurprisingly, the more I learned, the more I judged Finding Esta to be a costly mistake.
You see, before reading all those books (and hundreds of blogs), I’d never even heard of outlining or character arcs or plotting, etc. I just sat down one day and wrote a story about a character, a superb character in fact, who I couldn’t get out of my head. A few academics I’ve met lately would argue that’s what writing is all about, but I’ve learned and completely accept that there must also be structure.
Soon enough, I decided to re-edit the story using techniques I’d learned, and I split and re-published it as two smaller books. But I still had to finish the series with a third book, which would have been entitled Finding Luna, so I wrote the first draft of that one quickly, though far less passionately because it was something which ‘had to be done.’ Then, I edited the third draft during a manic phase (of bipolar disorder) until it became a jumble of useless words. Every time I looked at the manuscript thereafter it reminded me of the manic episode and I couldn’t think straight enough to work on it. I even left it for several months, hoping that would help, but it didn’t.
The first two books received a few great reviews during this time, and I was even offered two publishing contracts by indie publishers who wanted to work with me and re-launch the story. Unfortunately, the anxiety of making the initial mistake—publishing way before I was ready—polluted the whole story. Even the third and final book. In the end, I regretted ever starting it. The story had sucked the joy from writing and dented my confidence. I didn’t want to let anyone down, so turned down both publishers.
Then, because of the guilt I felt for anyone who bought the first book and because an unfinished series up for sale wasn’t a great advertisement for me as an author, I had to remove Finding Esta from sale.
That was the end of the Supes Series.
What I should have done in the beginning was read craft books, read and read some more, and practice writing with shorter pieces like flash fiction. I should have patiently approached publishing only when ready, after beta readers and critique partners have scrutinised and editors have cauterised, and after learning how to write a blurb and how to market the book. Currently, I’m a Masters student of creative writing while writing horror shorts, some of which I hope to enter into competitions or anthologies (and re-editing the horror short I’ve previously published.) Essentially, practising my craft.
Will I self-publish again? Never say never, but next time I’ll do so as an informed writer who knows exactly what she’s doing, the story will be ready, and I will have a publishing plan in place. Good luck!
Shah Wharton has been a freelancer since 2012, providing ghost writing, coaching, and ghost editing services.
By L.G. Keltner
It’s safe to say most writers would love to bring home massive paychecks for their work like some of the big names out there. I know I would. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how to make that happen in a timely fashion. If I could, I would already be doing that myself. However, I can give you a few tips that might help you on your way to getting published and making some money in the process
1. Keep an eye out for submission opportunities.
Opportunities to get your work out there abound. You simply need to learn how to see them. The internet is making this easier than ever. Search out calls for submissions. Make a list of your favorite magazines and find their submission guidelines. What are some of your favorite blogs? Many of them are open to having guest posts. Join writing groups. Not only will this give you the support you may need, fellow writers may inform you about opportunities you might have otherwise missed.
2. Don’t be too concerned about how much money you make in the beginning.
When you’re starting out in the writing business, you need to do a couple of things. You need to gain experience and establish a name for yourself. Both things are accomplished by writing and submitting your work. Not all the writing opportunities you come across will pay, but they may offer you the platform you need. By submitting your work to these venues, you’re giving readers a chance to get to know you. You’re also learning the ins and outs of the submission process, and that experience is invaluable.
3. Research and read carefully.
You need to do your homework before submitting. Read all submission guidelines. Thoroughly review any publishing contract before signing. Make sure you understand what all the terms mean and know what your rights are as an author. Do a simple internet search to reveal any complaints other authors may have against the publisher or publication in question. Unscrupulous people try to take advantage of newbies, but you don’t have to fall into their trap.
4. Don’t be intimidated.
A lot of things might scare you into quitting altogether, such as the mounting number of rejections. Rejections are inevitable. After all, you’re competing with countless other writers who are just as hungry for success as you are. Or maybe you’ve had some small successes, but upon seeing a publication opportunity that pays well and promises to get your writing in front of lots more people, you freeze up. Self-doubt takes hold, and you’re suddenly convinced that you’re not good enough for that. Not yet.
Self-doubt is one of the biggest obstacles writers need to overcome. We’ve all been intimidated, and a lot of us have let that fear get the best of us at times. You need to take chances that scare you. That’s how you grow and learn.
5. Temper your expectations.
That first payment is exhilarating. Whether it’s an upfront payment or royalty, it’s rewarding to know someone was willing to give you money in exchange for your work. That first bit of money might be sizable, or it might be meager. The size doesn’t necessarily matter. It’s still a sign that you’re on the right track. You’re legitimate! You get excited, hoping that more payments are on the horizon.
You may have to wait awhile.
Writing for profit isn’t the most predictable of paths to walk. Paychecks can be few and far between in the beginning. You need to keep working and set realistic expectations. If you get carried away in your fantasies of financial abundance, you may get disheartened when things don’t pan out the way you’d hoped.
You can make money from writing, but that shouldn’t be the only reason you do it. You also need to love it, because that love is what will give you the determination you need to get through the frustration and rejection we all experience along the way.
L.G. Keltner is a writer, wife, mom of three, coffee fanatic, and avid sci-fi geek.
By Trisha Faye
I never intended to become a full time juggler. While I was fascinated watching the dexterous handling of multiple objects flying through the air, it wasn’t a skill or a talent I felt compelled to try.
And then the day came when I decided that I was a writer and I was going to write full time. Before I knew it, I was picking up multiple balls and attempting to keep them all in motion. Without dropping any. Ha! Many a beginning juggler must feel like an awkward klutz. I, too, felt incapable and unaccomplished. For a while I had more balls–or projects or interests–in the air than I could manage. Many dropped to the floor with a thud. Some I picked up and tried to keep afloat again. Others I let lie there and kicked them off to the side.
There were the books and stories that called to me–the ones that insisted on being written. Most were of people or items from the past. Those are my favorites. There were also the inspirational and encouraging ones. An online romance writers group had me dabbling with love. Then I tossed a few children’s stories and books into the mix. As if that weren’t enough, I added magazine articles and guest blog posts as another writing avenue.
Why couldn’t I pick one genre, one niche, like many other authors and stay there? I could blame it on the astrological traits of my flighty Gemini side. I could justify it as following the “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” school of thought. Or, is the “Shiny Object Syndrome” to blame?
The reality of the answer is that I like to eat. The people from the past haunt me until I tell their tale and children’s book characters lie dormant waiting to surface at inopportune moments. But as I’m writing the books and building a platform–which doesn’t happen overnight, or in a week, no matter what some of the webinars try to tell us–I still need to buy some groceries, put gas in the car, and pay the utilities.
Some of the other balls that we can pick up as writer/jugglers, such as journalism, content marketing, newsletters, web site content, or B2B (Business to Business), may not be our hearts desire. (At least not mine.) I don’t lie awake at night, lusting after writing a 500 word blog post for a dental office. That’s not the writing that lures me into this career choice. But, it is a venture that comes with a bigger paycheck. One assignment for a national magazine can equal many months of royalty payments from books. Hence, more food for the table, more months of internet service, and more paper and ink cartridges for the computer-printer beast with a voracious appetite.
So, even though some days I doubt I’ll ever gain the polished dexterity to keep all the objects flying through the air in a dazzling array of prowess and skill, I continue on. Because I’ve learned that there’s a common trait between the juggler and I. Practice. We each need practice to learn our craft, to polish our skills, to become better than the day before and more able to handle increase items in the air.
I tried several methods before I settled into a routine that keeps me at a steady pace. At first, I printed out monthly calendars. I picked one week for queries, one week for children’s stories, one week for stories of the past, etc. That didn’t work for me. Although I’d make great progress on those particular tasks that week, it would be a month before I’d look at those folders again. By then I’d lost a lot of momentum and was too far away from the mindset I needed.
Next I tried scheduling different workloads throughout the day. One hour for marketing, one hour for queries, two hours for a book, one hour for… That didn’t work either. The time segments were too short and choppy and I didn’t get anything accomplished on any of my niches.
In the routine I’ve settled into, I spend one day a week working on queries for magazine articles. One day is slotted for my newsletters and marketing. One day is set aside for guest posts, online writing group projects, and miscellaneous projects such as this anthology. Friday through Sunday is when I concentrate on the larger book projects, keeping me focused and in the story for a longer period of time.
This schedule works for me at this period in my life. My children are grown and live out of state now. My better half works every Saturday and spends most of Sunday hiding behind a computer screen to relax from an intense retail week. Everyone else would need to tweak it to align with what’s going on in their life. But the concept adjusts to different lives. The number of balls that you’re trying to juggle may vary. The times you have available to practice may differ from mine, but practice is a must. The old adage is true–practice makes perfect.
The more we practice, the more adept we become. We’re able to pick up additional balls to add to our repertoire. Or, we can drop a ball or two and juggle fewer balls with only one hand. It’s all in the choices we make and what path we choose for our writing career. All I know is that the next time I’m entertained by a juggling act, I’ll have a lot more respect and admiration for the hours of practice that took place unseen behind the presentation.
Trisha Faye practices juggling daily; her books, her magazine articles, and her children’s stories.
By Bonnie Jean Feldkamp
Many in the industry have discussed both sides of this issue. Some refuse to write for free and ask others to do the same in hopes that they’ll enact change in a bottom up approach. Others play the odds the right person will read their work if it’s out there and hope getting paid-in-exposure will lead to a lucrative book deal or at least a regular gig at a publication. Still others fall somewhere in between–writing for free on a selective basis when they think it’s worth it.
There’s a fundamental problem in the discussion about not getting paid to write. We complain about how it affects us, instead of looking at the root cause. We’re concerned about the cough instead of the virus, so to speak. No one is talking about how to make it better. We just say, “pay me, I’m worth it,” and we totally are.
On the flip side of things, in the world of Internet reading and sharing, everyone expects to read for free. Think about it, when is the last time you paid for an article? A magazine? A newspaper? Any content whatsoever?
We’ve watched newspapers dwindle and die for years knowing the end was near. They’ve tried online subscriptions, even offered so many articles for free, but no luck. That’s when the industry learned that there are two types of reading, “lean in” reading (online spontaneous discovery reading) and “lean back” reading (sit in a comfy chair with a chosen book reading). Journalists lost their jobs and papers closed their doors. Writers flooded the market. Now, to find solid journalism is difficult because, as consumers, we expect quality journalism for free. The quality has tanked in some regards. Typos are everywhere because many columns are never seen by a second set of eyes prior to being published. Click bait ads make it so difficult to maneuver information that the reader abandons the article all together. Instead of seeing your own frustration as a consumer, try and see the industry that is struggling, searching for its new path.
Facebook likes and shares are the new drug of choice for many writers. Boosting posts and collecting “likes” is another hope for impressing an editor who can only afford to pay you in “exposure.” They hate the game too. There are a few big online publishers who take advantage of the writer but many editors are equally frustrated with the current state of the industry. They wish for a budget to pay for quality as well. They are also underpaid.
While we look for publications with a budget to pay us, as writers we also have to be willing to support a solution. I encourage writers to pick a publication that they enjoy on a regular basis and pay for a subscription. You can afford the $25. Yes, you can. Or if an online magazine you like prints an anthology – buy it. Become a member of an organization that supports the craft, like this one. This may not be the final solution for the industry, but it’s the only solution the industry has right now. We’ll figure it out. The music industry is starting to, and they hit their tech crisis before the publishing industry.
We really can’t complain about not getting paid to write until we’re willing to pay for the quality content we wish to read. Quality still exists. Be willing to support it.
Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a blogger and features contributor for Cincinnati Family Magazine, and also the Communications Director for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
By Tyrean Martinson
What do I know about writing for profit? I might know more about writing for “coffee money.” I’m from the Seattle area, so nearly everything can be related to the cost of coffee. Eight coffee shops grace the mini-mall area just two miles from my house. You may be asking: what does this have to do with writing? It’s how I grade my success and my profit as someone born in the coffee city and who still lives within a forty-five minute drive of that same city.
I started writing before I liked coffee. In second grade, I wrote a story about a top hat that I still treasure. In sixth grade, I received praise for a story about a pencil that runs away from school. Reading it now makes me cringe a bit, but I guess I did have good grammar and a sense of pacing through the narrative. Reading helped me with those skills, so my first tip for any writer is to read. Read for fun. Read for study. Reading and writing go together like Seattle and coffee.
In sixth grade, I knew I wanted to share in the magic of creating books that could take people to other worlds and to a new understanding of themselves and the people around them. From family and friends, I received both criticism and enthusiasm for this dream–sometimes both from the same individuals. That taught me perseverance. It taught me to share only when I was ready to share. It also taught me the beginning glimmers of the fact that no matter what I wrote or how I wrote it, someone wouldn’t like it and someone else might. This works the same way in that not everyone likes the same brand of coffee.
In high school and college, I kept writing. I tried getting published a few times, waiting for months to hear a response (mostly rejections) before writing anything else. I took classes, learned more about writing short stories, poetry, and grammar, and I had three truly awful poems published in 1992. After college, I took extension classes through the University of Washington in Commercial Fiction and Advanced Commercial Fiction. Those classes taught me invaluable lessons about the craft and the business of writing novels. Our class had an anthology of novel excerpts published. However, I was full of self-doubt and after a bit of a bad experience at my first big writer’s conference, I shut my writing away from public viewing for several years while I raised small children. Somewhere along the way, I started sending poetry out because my poems mattered less to me than my fiction. It was a small “emotional” risk venture which paid off at $1-3 a poem. I had money for a drip coffee or a cup of tea! This success made me brave enough to send out short stories. Eventually, one sold for $13.42 and I danced around my house in joy. I sent more stories out. I stumbled across the blogging world. I found writers and bloggers who inspired me to write, to persevere, and to submit my work as often as possible, despite rejections or anything else.
I started sending out a dozen poems or short stories a year. When they were rejected, I sent them out again. Sometimes, I make $20 for a short story. That equals four cups of a specialty coffee drink (coconut milk, vanilla, double-shot lattes) or nine cups of tea. Sometimes, I make zero and I consider those unpaid publications as marketing opportunities for my books. Sometimes, I get stories rejected and I send them out again. I used to attempt a “thick-skinned” approach with rejections, but I’ve learned it’s best to allow a bit of grief for rejections and bad reviews, then send the stories and poems out again. My tips for writers when faced with rejection: Write something new. Enjoy the words and the ideas. Don’t let anyone rob you of the joy that brought you to the writing table at the beginning–it would be like letting someone steal the coffee that you just ordered from your favorite barista!
I went the self-published route on purpose with my first books–no queries, no rejections–just straight to sales. They receive a trickle of sales and they have 4-5 star reviews. This equates to more coffee or tea money. I’ve learned more about marketing since I started, but I’m still learning yet. I do have a novella out with a small press, but the working relationship is pretty quiet. With the Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life anthology, I have had the opportunity to work with a publisher who cares deeply about the quality of the books released and the ways they are marketed. That’s the kind of working relationship I hope for in the future for my novels.
Hope is important in this business. Several times, I’ve almost given up on the writing-to-publish idea. Monstrous obstacles have seemed to rise out of the ground like something from a horror novel, but I keep on writing–in my journal, with poetry, with short stories, with lengthy novel projects. I still have hope that I will find profitable success with enough profit to at least consider writing a part-time job, instead of simply coffee money. Coffee money in the Seattle area can mean between $3 and $200 a month–depending on how addicted one is to coffee shops. Maybe if I include coffee in my next novel, it will increase marketability? This is the kind of thing a professional writer considers when one is still operating on hope with a “coffee money” profit margin, even after losing the ability to drink coffee to a health issue (monstrous obstacle #infinity). I can still drink tea and write, so I have hope. There’s actually faith involved, too, but that doesn’t rest on a cup of coffee so it’s a bit harder to market.
Tyrean Martinson is a daydreamer, believer, and writer from the Pacific Northwest who blogs at:
By Lynda R. Young
To successfully write for profit, a writer must write a great book that fits the targeted market, find an agent/publisher or learn to self-publish, reach out to the right audience and make an impression, get reviews, stay on top of marketing, and somehow find the time to write more great books. Sounds simple? Not so much. I have great news for you, however: It becomes a whole lot easier when you allow for a certain amount of flexibility.
Flexibility is the ability to adjust and adapt in different or changing situations. The way we publish and market and reach our audiences has changed rapidly over a short time. What may have worked five years ago could have a completely different result today. If you choose to shy from all this change, you could miss out on some amazing opportunities, and your profits may not reach their greatest potential.
So where exactly do you need to be flexible? In every aspect of writing from what you write, how you write, and how you get it in front of readers.
Back when The Hunger Games found success, the dystopian genre exploded on the shelves. Thinking this was what agents wanted, I wrote a dystopian. Unfortunately it was at the tail end of the genre’s glory days. I soon discovered no agent wanted to even look at dystopian. So I changed my story slightly and rewrote my query so my book was now a light science fiction. Suddenly agents and editors were interested again. Being flexible made the difference between having a manuscript languish in a drawer and getting that manuscript in front of hungry eyes.
Staying flexible is also important while you self-edit. You may have a beautifully written scene in your book. You’ve spent hours, days, even weeks getting it right. Instinctively, however, you know it doesn’t work for the book as a whole. It has to go. Be flexible enough to let go of those gems. Listen to your instinct and, despite the artistry of the scene, delete it from your manuscript and write a new scene that does fit.
Once you have that precious manuscript in your hot little hands ready for editing by a professional, you will find the greatest success if you practice a high degree of flexibility. Even if you are lucky enough to find an editor who has the same vision for your book, this doesn’t always stay true one hundred percent of the time through the editing process. Particularly if it’s the first time you’ve been edited, you will be challenged along the way. You will struggle to find the balance between what the editor wants and what you feel is right for your story. Being flexible doesn’t mean bowing to every suggestion the editor makes, but it does mean listening to your editor who has years of experience in the industry, weighing what they have to offer with the overall vision of your book. If you hold onto your personal vision with too tight a grip, then you risk choking the potential right out of it. And if you make every suggested change without thinking, then you also risk losing what you first loved about your book. Pick your battles while also staying open to suggestions. This will make your story shine for both you and your readers.
When I was young, I had a grand dream of getting published by one of the big publishing houses. Nothing less would do. I held onto that dream for many years, even though the publishing world changed around me and other avenues for publication rose. I ignored those opportunities for far too long. When I finally shook myself awake, I realized how silly I had been. Why not a small publisher? Why not self-publish? Why not all of them? Multiple stories and non-fiction that would otherwise have been left to collect dust and remain unread by the public, are now published or on the way to being published. This is because I chose to be flexible.
Even the way we can market our books has changed and requires flexibility. New opportunities have risen while others are less effective. It used to be all about getting our books in bookstores. While this is still true to a degree, a lot of the brick and mortar stores are disappearing. Readers can now find their books and their communities in other places. The trick is to find where those places are, and to understand that those places could change again in a matter of a handful of months. For example: In less than a year I’ve noticed a shift from email marketing to marketing through Facebook messaging. That will likely change again in a blink of the eye. To remain flexible and staying on top of these changes means staying in front of your audience and growing that audience.
So staying flexible is crucial to finding success as a writer. It’s important to embrace the changes, to find those opportunities, to allow yourself to dream different dreams to the ones you may have glorified in your early days of writing. There is nothing wrong with changing your goals, adjusting your dreams, even changing how and what your write. It doesn’t mean you’ve sold out of given up. It means you’ve found a new way of achieving what you want out of writing.
Lynda R. Young, author of Cling to God: a Devotional, non-fiction, science fiction and fantasy.
By Alex J. Cavanaugh
Making a profit means selling books. Which means we need to market our books. Marketing isn’t an author’s favorite thing to do, but it’s a must. We have to let the world know about our books and convince readers to buy them.
But just promoting all the time won’t get us far. Then we become the thing nobody likes–a never-ending commercial. Especially online. No one wants to see a Twitter feed of ‘Buy my book.’ No one wants to read blog post after blog post about our books. In the real world, authors don’t constantly talk about their books. Why would we think it’s all right to do so online?
Just popping online to announce a new book and then vanishing again isn’t cool either. Yes, we authors are a solitary lot sometimes. But, even in the real world, we get out and socialize a little. We don’t call up friends and relatives only when we have a book coming out. People would block our calls after a while. And imagine if we only showed up for work when a book came out? Can you say unemployed?
The secret is involvement. With people everywhere. Especially online.
Get involved in the online community. There are thousands of writers and authors online—on Twitter, on Facebook, blogging… Seek out those people. Look for readers of course, but find other writers. Find people who understand the journey.
For one thing, we can learn from them. Someone is always further along in the process than us and can share their wisdom. They can also support us. And we, in turn, can teach and support others.
Don’t be afraid to give to others—our time, our knowledge… Funny thing about giving is the more we give, the more we have to give. It’s a well that feeds itself. And when we give, really give from the heart, others will give back.
So support and promote others at every opportunity. A friend has a book coming out? Share it with the world. An author sets up a Thunderclap campaign? Sign up for it. A writer buddy is trying to set up a blog tour? Be the first to offer a blog stop. An author’s pinned Tweet is about his book? ReTweet it for him. That also goes for buying books and reviewing when possible. Everyone needs help from their friends. Be that friend.
But don’t stop there. Be a leader and a game changer. Make a difference for others. Writers are looking for critique partners? Start a group where everyone can come together and find those critique partners. Really good with world building? Set up a page that lists all of those helpful tips. Whatever we do, it doesn’t have to be huge. We just have to step out and do something.
I know what you’re thinking. Does that really work though?
In 2011, I started the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. It was just a monthly blog hop for two years before the website came together. But it was my way of giving back to the community of writers and authors who had helped me through my first book launch and continued to support me as I embarked on a second book. Writers latched onto it and the IWSG began to grow.
And then a funny thing happened.
My first book, which had been out almost a year, suddenly took off on the Amazon charts, selling thousands for many, many months. The second book came out a few months later and it joined the first. When the US ranking started to drop, the UK ranking shot up and took its place for the next few months.
Coincidence? Could be. But, the fact I’d started the IWSG and was very involved in the online blogging community played a big role. I was also an A to Z Challenge co-host and my site was listed as a Blog of Note on Blogger during that time. I’d have to say it all added up.
So there you have it—we need to get involved. Step up, engage, make a difference, and make a profit.
Now, how are you going to impact the writing world?
Alex J. Cavanaugh is the Ninja Captain, founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, and author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars.
By J.Q. Rose
Writing a weekly blog is a great marketing tool to engage readers. They can discover your books and services (and purchase them), as well as connect with you through your writing. Not only is a blog good for marketing, but it’s a place to build a sense of community.
In my marketing research, my own experience, and reading other’s blogs, I’ve picked up tips that help build an engaging blog site. You may find a golden nugget in the list below that will spark your blogging muse.
Tips on Blog Setup
Tips on Content
Tips on Marketing
Take your time to develop and be comfortable with your blog. Post on a regular basis. Not only is engaging your readers fun, but it can be profitable!
J.Q. Rose, traditionally published mystery author and self-published non-fiction author.
By Toi Thomas
I can’t speak for most people, but if someone told me an author needed to be a good public speaker, I would raise my eyebrows and walk away without saying a word… Maybe that’s a bit harsh but I think it’s fitting for this idea. The truth of the matter is, I don’t think an author needs to be a good public speaker, but I do think it helps in ways that most authors don’t realize.
As a self-published author of 10 books and counting, I’ve found that my most effective marketing tool has been my own words. For me, it makes perfect sense. How will people know if my written words are any good if they don’t know anything about me or my style? Yes, there are several effective ways to gain interested readers that don’t involve public speaking, but what about creating fans and true followers; the people who aren’t just interested in being entertained–the people who want to be entertained and or informed by you.
Experts and industry leaders before me have always said that growing a mailing list was vital to any business, especially that of an independent author. The thing I’ve always wondered, is, how the subscribers feel about this notion. Are people waiting around just hoping someone will offer them a chance to sign up for their mailing list? I think not. Unless you have some special influence or are able to tap into big deals and bargain resources to share with the masses, what reason would the average consumer have for joining your email or snail mail list?
Perhaps they have a vested interest. Maybe they saw one of your videos online and found you intriguing or delightful. Maybe they met you at a meet and greet or book signing and can’t stop thinking about your story and want to support your creativity. Maybe they related to you and gained a greater understanding of entrepreneurship after seeing you speak at a conference. Maybe they shook your hand at a Con or book fair and trust that your words will impact them in some way.
In this world of digital communication, it can be easy to forget that there’s a sort of power in eye-to-eye interaction. It’s so easy to search for what we want these days and acquiring things is becoming easier and easier. Think about it, we now have drones making deliveries. There’s no real need for person-to-person interaction, so just imagine how much more impactful it is when we do interact. I think it’s important for authors to seek opportunities that allow them to share their spoken words and interact with their potential fans. More importantly, it’s important for authors to be ready and well prepared to make a good impression when those opportunities arise.
Having an opportunity to speak with your target audience or a general group of readers shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s important for authors to present themselves as human beings, not booksellers. A few things I’ve learned along the way include the fact that you don’t need years of training to be an effective speaker. Yes, it’s true that many authors are introverts, so a bit of training to overcome one’s fears may be required, but you’d be amazed how a bit of honesty can even help with that. Here are five helpful tips.
1. If you’re not yet comfortable speaking in front of crowds, just say so. Let your audience know that you’re passionate enough about your writing to put yourself out there and speak to strangers about it, even though it scares you.
2. Don’t be afraid to get a little personal, but know where to draw the line and know what your audience is looking for. Tell your audience about your significant other, your pets, your upbringing. Show them you are a real person. Unless you’re speaking about a somewhat biographical story, don’t give too much away.
3. Prepare ahead of time and tell unfinished stories. Think about what kinds of questions you want people to ask during the Q&A portion of your talk and cater your speech around that. (I always mention that I worked for N.A.S.A. and that without highly imaginative dreams, my writing career wouldn’t exist. Of course, this compels listeners to ask questions.) Even if you’re having a one-on-one conversation, don’t offer up too much information. Let the other person ask for what they want to know.
4. Smile and make eye contact. This is one of the hardest things to master. When you’re nervous or stressed, your smile can sometimes come off a bit sinister or plastered. As silly as it sounds, go ahead and practice light conversation with a gentle smile. Too much eye contact can also make people feel uncomfortable. When speaking to a group of people spend a few seconds focusing on the spot in between the eyes of each person as you speak. It gives the appearance that you are casually addressing everyone. This also works with one-on-one conversations, but instead of focusing on one spot, travel from ear, to forehead, to other ear.
5. Ask questions. This is by far the most effective way I gain the interest of others; making it about them. Again, think about what you want to get out of your speech or conversation and ask questions that will help make it happen. Before I tell someone my romantic comedy is for them, I ask “Does anyone here feel like their crazy family would make a good book if you could just change everyone’s name?” The response is always entertaining and brings out more questions.
So, there you have it. No, I don’t think a good or successful author needs to be a good public speaker, but I think it definitely helps. Speaking and interacting with potential readers will always set you apart from those not willing to do it. Plus, there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction.
Geek girl, animal lover, and vinyl collector, Toi Thomas is a multi-genre author of ten books and counting.
By Christine Rains
We all have to start somewhere. And usually that somewhere is at the bottom of the barrel where the top looks like an impossibly long way off. Many of us have been there with no money to market our books, and as frustrating as that can be, some of us still are hard at it.
This doesn’t mean we can’t promote our work. In fact, there are several ways we can do so. Here are five strategies that have worked for me:
1) Make one short book permanently free. None of us likes to give our stories away, but this technique hooks readers. If they pick up the free read and enjoy it, they will buy our other books. Some writers give away a free story when people sign up for their newsletter. It’s the same strategy. We want to make readers hunger for more.
2) Speaking of newsletters, it’s good to have one, not only to keep our loyal readers updated with all of our news, but for promotional purposes. Newsletter swaps are a fantastic free way to get our work out to new readers and help our fellow authors. If we include their book in our newsletters, they’ll include ours in theirs. Authors are generous folks. I have just under 1,000 subscribers, but writers with over 20,000 have swapped with me. That means there were thousands of new eyes on my book.
3) Whether we have a blog, Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook, use social media to our advantage. Do our research about our audience and go where they are. Many YA and romance readers love Facebook parties. Play games, answer questions, giveaway a book. Fantasy readers tend to be drawn to the more visual sites like Pinterest or Tumblr. YouTube has been increasingly popular for children’s authors. Be creative and have fun.
4) Promoting with a group of writers can make a big impact. Multi-author sales and giveaways are huge and draw a lot of attention. Readers love the chance to win giant prize packs. Be wary of the ones that make entrants pay to participate unless they allow the authors to see the receipts. There are many that organize these giveaways for free with the only requirement being we help shout out about it via newsletter and/or social media.
5) Write a series of books. These days, folks want more of what they like. There are a lot of benefits to us as writers penning a series, but as a marketing strategy, it converts readers into longtime loyal fans. This is a strategy that works for any genre of fiction or non-fiction. The series might not take off until book three or four, but if we consistently put out good connected stories, readers will be drawn to them.
Marketing can be intimidating, but we shouldn’t let a zero dollar budget hold us back. There is no secret to book promotion and no one right way for every author. If we put in the time and effort, we’ll find what works for each of us.
Christine Rains is a writer, blogger, and geek mom with one novel and several short stories and novellas in her bibliography.
By Nick Wilford
What to say when it comes to writing for profit? I think the best thing I could share would be to treat publishing as a long game. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement surrounding a book launch and forget that marketing must be treated as an ongoing endeavor. When I released my first collection on Amazon, I assumed that this was about dipping my toes in the self-publishing pool and testing the temperature. I had a blog tour and a Thunderclap campaign, but I haven’t really followed it up with anything long-term. I’ve since come to the realization that this was the wrong approach. Anything you’ve sweated over when you’d rather be sleeping, or felt like throwing your laptop against the wall, deserves your best shot at giving it a happy and successful life. You don’t abandon your child once they’re out of the nappy stage, do you?
So let’s look at some ideas for long-term marketing. Of course, these can be adopted or adapted in any way you like.
The bottom line? Theoretically, your book is there forever. It will take on a life of its own once it’s out there in the world, but there’s nothing wrong with giving it some encouragement to hit those higher updrafts and really soar.
Nick Wilford, writer, stay-at-home dad, former journalist, and freelance editor and formatter.
By L. Diane Wolfe
Most authors can’t live on book sales alone. Fortunately, there are many options for earning income outside of writing and selling a book. Public speaking offers a unique and diverse opportunity with multiple benefits. Not only does speaking earn money, it also spurs book sales and doubles as marketing. In three easy steps, authors can place themselves in this role.
Select a Topic
What knowledge is in demand? What speakers are needed? Do your research. It’s easier to fill a need than create a demand.
The best time to develop a speaking topic is while you are writing. Continue to write what you love but tailor it to teachable subjects. If you already have published books, comb through them for potential.
Ultimately, what is your area of expertise? Where does that shine in your books? Is there a lot of history? Professional facts and figures? Knowledge about the publishing industry? Find your niche.
Develop a Talk
Start gathering notes and researching your topic in depth. Place all the information in an outline and develop a natural flow. Keep in mind that the goal is to provide valuable information. You will be answering questions and helping people solve their problems. You’ll want plenty of facts, but remember, this isn’t a research paper. It’s a talk, so add some personality.
Your talk might require a handout or Power Point presentation. You might need props. It’s also wise to tailor your talk to several different lengths. Some venues will want a full one-hour talk while other organizations might engage a speaker for a 30-minute lunch.
The secret to a good talk? Practice, practice, practice. You don’t want to read straight from your notes. When you know your material, your words will flow and you’ll be comfortable in front of an audience.
You’ve already researched what knowledge is in demand–where will you find those who seek it? Make a list of all the potential places you could speak–libraries, businesses, schools, churches, writer events, clubs, organizations, etc. You’ll need a business card and either a flyer or brochure to send.
As you start setting up speaking engagements, you’ll offer most for free. That’s okay–at this point, you’re building your skills and resume. Eventually you will be able to charge a fee.
Another bonus is what’s called “back of the room sales.” You’ll make money either selling books at the event or through pre-orders. In addition, your presence, and your books, double as marketing and book promotions and will generate even more speaking engagements and sales.
As you can see, speaking is a great way to increase your income and diversify!
I began speaking 20 years ago. Once I became an author and the owner of Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C., I dove full-force into public speaking. I developed six seminars and one school talk, earning membership with the National Speakers Association. It’s provided a very healthy secondary income, keeping me afloat when other areas experienced drought. Best of all–I’ve been able to share my knowledge and meet some amazing people along the way.
Known as “Spunk On A Stick,” L. Diane Wolfe is a member of the National Speakers Association, owner of Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C., and the author of seven books.
By Heather M. Gardner
Marketing in person has to be the hardest thing I’ve done when it comes to being an author. Perhaps even harder than writing the dreaded query letter. Oh, and the short synopsis. Don’t forget the blurb.
Well, you know what I mean. It’s all hard, but trying to market yourself out in public, when you barely leave the house, can be a very daunting task. But you have to. To sell the books. And, that’s what we signed up for when we chose to be authors.
I’ve been asked to a few venues to market my books. Here’s how I get through them.
I only choose the ones that feel right to me.
Trust yourself and your instincts. If you’re not going to feel comfortable or safe in a certain environment, say thank you, but no thank you.
I ask a lot of questions in advance to make sure I won’t be surprised when I get there.
What is expected of me? Will I need physical books to sell or swag? Do I need to do a giveaway? Will I be asked to speak in front of an audience? Do a presentation? Do I need to provide my own seating or my own beverages/meals? You get the idea.
I don’t try to wing it.
I’ve jotted down stuff in my notebooks, on note cards, and even written a two-page presentation that I had to stand and read in front of a room full of people. Having something you can refer to, in writing, especially if/when you get nervous, can REALLY help make you feel more confident.
I mentally prepare myself.
“Heather, you are a strong, powerful author. You have written books that people enjoy and want to know more about. This is not one of those teen movies where they asked the girl to prom as a joke. You don’t need a date to prom. You ROCK no matter what. Do your thing and then you can have chocolate when you get home.”
Readers are just people.
I find that most of the readers who want to talk to me are just regular people like me. Some are nervous, some are curious, and some don’t know what to ask. Knowing that makes it a lot easier to talk about myself and my books.
Smile and wave.
Just like the Penguins from the movie Madagascar, a little smile and wave can get you through the tough times.
Of course, online marketing is the easiest. You write a blog post or a tweet and move on with your day. Leaving the house to market your books does have its challenges, but if you prepare yourself beforehand, you have a better shot of making it work and possibly even enjoying it.
Heather M. Gardner – Romance Author * Chocolate Enthusiast * Coffee Junkie * Cat Addict * Puppy Slave * Book Hoarder * Fluent in Sarcasm
By Sherry Ellis
Are you and your books stuck on the school bus like bubble gum under a seat, riding around in circles? If the royalties you earn barely cover a daily cup of coffee, I have a solution that can help. I’m here to tell you how to un-stick yourself by getting into the schools as part of your marketing campaign to sell books.
What many people don’t know is that writers who are able to earn a living do so by giving presentations related to the topic of their book or the craft of writing. I am a children’s writer. School visits are something I have added to my marketing strategy. They’ve yielded a nice chunk of change.
The first step to getting started with school visits is to figure out what your presentation will look like. What age range are you comfortable with? (Age 5-7 = grade 1-2; age 7-11 = grade 3-6; age 11-14 = grade 7-9; age 14-16 = grade 10-11.) How many people will you talk to per session? How many sessions will you have per day, and how long will they be? What type of sessions will you have (e.g., reading with Q & A, talk, interactive workshops, or drama sessions)? Will your session cover any aspects of a school’s curriculum? Once you’ve figured these things out, you can create your presentation. If you’re lacking ideas, you can always go online and see videos of what other authors have done.
Before approaching schools or other venues, consider making a one- or two-page flyer. This visual representation of your brand allows organizers to learn who you are, see a summary of the presentations you offer for particular age groups, and know what to expect during your visit. The flyer should include your author photo with a personal message about how you enjoy school visits and what you hope to accomplish, such as getting kids excited about reading, and ways to contact you to request a visit. Let them know what your technical requirements are. Do you need an overhead projector, a microphone, or something else? Of course, you want to sell books, so tell the school if you’ll bring books with you or if they need to pre-order. And, do you charge an honorarium or travel fees? Be upfront about financial arrangements. (A note about fees: if you’re a beginner, consider relying on book sales for your earnings. When the word gets out about how awesome your presentations are, then start charging for personal appearances. Some authors charge $300 for a half day and $500 for a full day. The best-known authors can command more than $1000 a day.)
It’s also a good idea to create a “librarian kit.” The kit includes electronic files of Jpegs of your book covers, interior illustrations, a customized price list that students can take home to parents, and Power Point presentations. Later, you might want to create book cover posters that you can snail mail to the school.
When you’ve created your presentation and librarian kit, you are ready to contact schools. Google searches provide lists of schools in the cities you wish to visit. Call the schools to ask how to arrange an author visit. Usually, you’ll speak with the librarian. Keep track of who you’ve contacted and the responses you’ve gotten. Spreadsheets are useful for this. With a lot of tenacity, you will schedule a visit.
Two weeks before your visit, confirm the date and time of your session, the equipment you will need, the group size, number of books needed (paperback: two for every three children; hardcover: fifteen percent of the total number of children), how books are supplied, and fees. The day before, run through everything on your own equipment. Make sure it all works and that you’re comfortable with the presentation. On the day of your visit, arrive thirty minutes early. Be nice to everyone, because it’s important to make a good impression. Be ready for anything. Stay calm even if things aren’t going perfectly. Make it enjoyable for your audience and make sure a teacher is in the room with you. After the visit, send the organizer a thank you card. If sales were especially good, you might include a Starbucks gift card.
It takes time and energy to visit schools and build your experience with them. Once you’ve done a few, you can post information about them on your website. Include photos and reviews you’ve received. Eventually schools will approach you. With a little effort, you can make money by getting off the bus and going into schools.
Sherry Ellis is a children’s writer whose works include That Mama is a Grouch, Ten Zany Birds, _]and [_That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN!
By Raimey Gallant
At the 2016 Writer’s Digest Conference, keynote and Newbery Medal author Kwame Alexander recounted his long road to success. One of the parts of his journey that stuck out for me was when he decided to sell his children’s picture book, Acoustic Rooster and his Barnyard Band, at farmers’ markets. I don’t trust my memory, but according to a Publishers Weekly article, he sold $1,000 worth of books in a few hours, so he booked many more market days.
This is a great example of lateral thinking, of finding a peripheral sales channel to where you would normally sell books. In Alexander’s case, his book’s theme fit right in with farmers’ markets, which also shared his target demographic: parents.
The trick to finding peripheral sales channels is to think, “Where would my book complement what is already being sold?” If your book is set in a particular city, a table at a street festival in that city with the right signage could be the ticket. You could even collaborate with other local authors (and share costs) in order to make the table a bigger draw. “New fiction set in Seattle, written by Seattleites.” I would visit that table.
If your book speaks to a particular cause, find out which smaller celebrities share your views and passion for this cause. If you know a local band, ask if you can sell your books at a table at their concerts for some quid-pro-quo. Maybe in exchange, you’ll sell their CDs at other events you’re tabling at, or add links within your book as a recommended soundtrack to accompany reading.
If your genre is mystery, horror or thriller, think about opportunities around Halloween. Are there events you could sell your books at, again, perhaps partnering with other authors? My city does an annual posh do at our art gallery. It’s a place where people are mingling, cash in hand for overpriced cocktails. And while they’re browsing the art on the walls, would they be interested in hearing about your form of written art?
There will be some trial and error, but to cut down on the error, really think about your marketing strategy and all the logistics going in. If you’re at a Halloween bash, should you be in a great costume in addition to your concise and attractive signage? If you’re at a concert, are you really happy with that table where no one can see you or could you be closer to where there’s lots of traffic, like near a bar or washroom? Is it possible to add a mini-lounge area (a couple of chairs) where readers can take a load off and read your first pages prior to investing in the whole book? And have you set up and practiced with the software you’ll need to accept all forms of payment? Look into an app like Square Up, and have a sufficient float so that you are never stuck saying, “Can you wait while I find change?” Have you figured out how to email redemption codes to those purchasing the e-version? Don’t expect people to remember their Amazon login or to even be comfortable typing their password onto your laptop. And do you have enough hard-copy books to sell? If you’re expecting a lot of traffic, have you pre-signed copies, or do you have a friend who can handle transactions while you’re custom-signing each copy as they are purchased?
Thriller author Raimey Gallant is a marketing and fundraising consultant, and blogs about the business side of writing as well as the craft of writing at:
Other IWSG Books
Anthologies produced by Freedom Fox Press, a subsidy of Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.:
Parallels: Felix Was Here
Print ISBN 9781939844194
eBook ISBN 9781939844200
IWSG site – http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/parallels-felix-was-here-insecure.html
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29537007-parallels
Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life
Print ISBN 9781939844361
eBook ISBN 9781939844378
IWSG site – http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/parallels-felix-was-here-insecure.html
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34065208-hero-lost
The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond
eBook ISBN: 9781939844088
IWSG site – http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/parallels-felix-was-here-insecure.html
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23556637-the-insecure-writer-s-support-group-guide-to-publishing-and-beyond
From writing to publishing to marketing, the Insecure Writer's Support Group members provide tips on making money as a writer. This guide represents the spirit of the IWSG - to encourage and support writers everywhere! It is our hope that this book will benefit you as a writer, no matter where you are in the journey.