Copyright July 2016 St. Louis Writers Guild – All rights reserved
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Cover design by Brad R Cook
T. W. Fendley
Brad R. Cook
The Scribe is published monthly digitally by the Saint Louis Writers Guild with an annual print issue. The editorial staff invites Guild members to submit original submissions of poetry, short stories, or articles about writing (4,000 words or less) for publication in this magazine. The Scribe is promoted to more than 1,000 people on our mailing list. Submissions should be sent by the first of each month to -- put SCRIBE in the subject line.
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[In this issue
by Brad R. Cook
by Brad R. Cook
by Lauren Miller
A New Writers Conference is coming in 2017!
By Brad R. Cook
Gateway Con – the Gateway to Publishing Conference and Convention presented by St. Louis Writers Guild will take place June 16-18, 2017!
A conference for writers and a convention for readers.
There’s a new road on the path to publishing… the Gateway to the West is now the gateway to the publishing industry. The St. Louis Writers Guild (SLWG) is bringing a new twist to the traditional writers’ conference by adding a readers’ convention and book fair to the mix. They are expanding the traditional writer’s conference, meaning next June, the Renaissance Hotel will be taken over by all things literary.
The first annual Gateway to Publishing Conference and Convention will feature a writers’ conference with multiple writing workshop tracks, pitch sessions with publishers and literary agents, critique sessions, master classes, and more. One cool feature—-conference attendees who are published can have their books sold at the book fair while they are at the workshops.
The Readers’ Convention and Book Fair will feature a weekend-long bookstore run by the Independent Bookstore Alliance, a “Hall of Authors” with books by authors from across the region, and books by speakers and authors of the conference faculty, as well as SLWG members. Best of all, the readers’ events will be free and open to the public.
St. Louis Writers Guild, founded in 1920, has a long tradition of holding writers’ conferences. In the 1940s they held the region’s preeminent writer’s conference, and recently, supported events like the Missouri Writers Guild conference, the Big Read Festival, and other large-scale writing events. SLWG’s Writers in the Park, which is celebrating its seventh year, is a free festival for writers and has been an overwhelming success. Now the Guild is turning its sights to helping writers get informed about the publishing industry and maybe even find an agent or publisher.
To learn more about St. Louis Writers Guild’s Gateway to Publishing Conference and Convention, or as it’s become affectionately known – Gateway Con – visit
Follow them online as well on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram - @GatewayConStL
Save the date, and more information is coming soon!
Gateway to Publishing Conference and Convention
June 16-18, 2017
Renaissance Hotel in St. Louis, MO
(Right across from STL Lambert International Airport)
Three Thoughts About Writing Rules
By Brad R. Cook
(Brad R. Cook writes a weekly column on writing tips for The Writers’ Lens, a resource blog for writers. He’ll be bringing some of these posts to you in The Scribe as a way of stirring up the writing thoughts within you. This post originally ran in July 2015)
Over the course of a writer’s life, we’ll run into so many writing rules. All these instructions can be overwhelming, or at least confusing. It starts in school where English teachers lay out the rules of grammar, and continues on into college where creative writing classes teach us a new way to craft a story with each new professor. Once you’re a writer, it expands to an endless series of workshops at conferences, and explodes into a myriad of books, blogs, and tweets.
I love learning from the greats, authors who have already struggled through the same woes that every writer faces. Here are three thoughts about writing rules.
1 – Know the Rules Before Breaking Them
Breaking the rules is fine, but it’s best to know them before you break them. If you want a prologue, put in a prologue, but understand why prologues are discouraged and ask yourself if this could fit into the story. Don’t like the oxford comma? That’s okay, but then you have to find a way to separate ideas within a sentence. The point is, when you know the rules, you know when it is best to bend them, or break them. We write in a world where smashing convention can lead to greatness, the creation of a classic, but if a writer breaks a hundred rules in single piece, it isn’t ground-breaking, it’s seen as amateur.
2 – Read Them All and Adopt the Best
If you want to be a great writer, study the habits of your favorite authors and adopt the best for your routine. Stephen King’s On Writing is a great place to start, and I still follow his rule about adverbs.
Mark Twain famously said, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
Kurt Vonnegut said, “Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action.”
Maya Angelou said, “The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.”
Pixar has 22 Rules of Storytelling, and Neil Gaiman has eight, but Anton Chekhov might have one of my favorite rules. He said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
3 – Take All These Rules with a Grain of Salt
There are so many rules out there that a writer might go insane trying to remember them all. No one is an expert. There is no one way to write. For every rule, there is a successful author who broke it. So study the rules, emulate the greats, but know that at the end of the day, writing is personal. Stories are told the way you want them – just understand that some rules make your novel more desirable to an agent or publisher.
Ernest Hemingway said, “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”
C.K. Chesterton said, “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.”
However, my point is best made by W. Somerset Maugham, who said, “There are three rules for writing a novel, unfortunately no one knows what they are.”
If you’d like to learn more rules of writing, the Write Pack Radio, a weekly podcast for writers, has a couple of episodes that will help you.
Pixar’s 22 Rules for Storytelling –
The Writing Rules According to Elmore Leonard –
I also have written two blog posts on what the great writers have said about writing. Find them here:
…And Now a Word from the Masters –
…And Now a Word from the Masters Part II –
Do you have a favorite writing rule? Let us know on the St. Louis Writers Guild’s Facebook Page.
If you’d like to read the original post on The Writers’ Lens:
Workshops for Writers: Mailing Lists & Advertising Campaigns with Eric Asher
By Lauren Miller
Article Photos by Brad R. Cook
Making the transition from blogging to marketing can be intimidating, but you can ease into the process by starting with mailing lists and advertising campaigns, a topic that Eric Asher spoke about at the Guild’s June 4 workshop. He is the bestselling author of the young adult series, Steamborn, and the Vesik urban fantasy series.
“The basics, when it comes to marketing, [are] you need to have a professional-looking cover, you need to have professional editing, and you need your book professionally formatted.” Asher launched into a discussion of how the wrong formatting (interior/exterior) can negatively affect sales. He recounted his work with a professional photographer (Teresa Yeh) and cover designer (Phatpuppy Art) to find a model who looked like his protagonist, Vesik; the resulting cover tripled his sales. Similarly, after Asher pointed out that the interior formatting of a friend’s novel was less than the industry standard, the book began selling once those changes were made.
So where to begin? A newsletter! If you can write an email, you can write a newsletter; that’s essentially what a newsletter is -- a regular email you send to your readers that can be formatted to include evergreen content (relevant content that is not dated) or announcements about promotions, downloads, etc. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will constantly change and be replaced (remember when MySpace was popular?) but you have ownership of your website.
Reliable newsletter distributors include MailChimp, Constant Contact, GetResponse and Aweber (the latter is what Asher uses). Aweber is one of the oldest on the market, and costs about $19 a month. MailChimp is free up to 2,000 subscribers. GetResponse and Constant Contact are both good, the latter is probably the most expensive . One thing to keep in mind – when setting up a newsletter, you are required to include a mailing address. Asher set up a PO Box to use for this purpose.
Offer a Reader Magnet as Incentive
“There’s been a lot of really terrible advice about this, and I’ve tried pretty much all of it. People love free stuff. The best way to grow your newsletter is through giveaways and reader magnets,” Asher said. A reader magnet, he went on to explain, is anything free you offer if someone signs up for your newsletter. It could be an eBook, a short story, a novella, the first novel in your series, or character sheets—anything related to your book that will be attractive to your readers. If you’re leery about making your book free, try running 99-cent sales periodically for more views and more word-of-mouth promotion. Another idea is offering fantasy artwork as a freebie. If you don’t have that yet, consider running a contest for artists to create/submit fan art and give away a small prize (ex. a $5 gift card, or better, something related to your book). While you can make an argument for doing a giveaway instead of a free incentive to get sign-ups, keep the prize book-related. Remember, you are trying to grow an audience of people interested in what you are offering. If you go with a generic gift card with a high monetary value, you people will sign up just for the chance to win.
Advertising Your Reader Magnet
Does building a list really pay off when it comes time to marketing your book? Asher thinks so. When he launched his eBook, he sent out a special eblast to his list and the click-through rate was an impressive 60 percent. His book skyrocketed to the Top 10 list in his category. Establishing a relationship with your audience through a regular newsletter conditions them to seeing you in their inboxes and makes those special eblasts stand out.
Asher learned a lot about advertising reader magnets in a course by Nick Stephenson, “How to Attract Your First 1,000 Readers.” Stephenson recommended placing ads inside your eBook and advertising links on your website. You can also place ads in your social media news feeds to attract people to sign up. Google Adwords or Facebook has Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns so you pay each time someone clicks on your ad. Using Facebook ads, Asher had about 100,000 people download his free eBook, which translated to future sales.
Websites, such as Book Funnel or InstaFreebie, are useful for hosting your content for download, and some include FAQs for the reader, sparing you from “how to” emails. Prices and features vary, so keep in mind that the more questions the form asks your potential audience to fill out, the less likely they are to click on it; fewer clicks equals more interaction! Besides direct ads and eblasts, don’t forget to use book signings and conventions as great ways to network and advertise your book. Meet other authors in a similar genre to yours and offer to plug their book on your website (it’s likely they’ll appreciate it and reciprocate). “For me, conventions are not about making your money back. It’s about meeting other authors, meeting your readers, and making those connections. That’s how you get people to buy subsequent books. It’s good to be nice at conventions because people remember if you’re a jerk,” Asher said.
Targeting Your Audience Online
Targeting your ads to reach your ideal audience is a process that involves fine-tuning variables to try and reach the right crowd. With Facebook ads, for example, you can create a lookalike audience, based on your fan page. A lookalike audience may target people who liked your page, liked the pages of similar authors/genres, are based in the United States, etc. Asher compared the prices of obtaining new buyers with ads to offering swag at conventions, and the costs might surprise you. Experiment with variables and try to build your target audience to a respectable 10,000-person list.
Asher used to give away lens-cleaning wipes. His cost per item was around $1.20. A new customer might be worth $3 to $4 in sales, so his margins weren’t bad. Compare this to Facebook ads, and the margins increase significantly. A Facebook lookalike ad promoting a reader magnet costs Asher around 40 cents per new person who signs up for his mailing list. Costs do vary – expect to pay around a $1 per subscriber at first, but if you can get it down to about 20 or 40 cents per subscriber, that’s even better. On the other end of the spectrum, if an ad costs you $2.70 a subscriber, that’s really terrible.
Facebook ads can be tied directly to your Facebook fan page, which will allow you to separate your public writing profile from your private life. At the audience’s request, the discussion briefly diverted to do a walkthrough of how to set up a fan page. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: This process is too detailed to include in this article, and numerous websites cover how-to’s. My Google search showed more than 9 million results the day I looked for “how to set up a Facebook fan page”].
Ads with graphics get more views than text-only ads, so select high-quality graphics. A number of public domain or creative commons offer free graphics, or paid graphics at low rates. Include strong copy. Compare yourself to similar authors, but be wary of trying to assert that you are a better author than someone else. Plenty of Internet trolls would be only too happy to contradict you. Instead, Asher suggested, try language like, “A great new read for
Landing Pages as Marketing Funnels
The average attention span of a web surfer is eight seconds. If a website is cluttered or full of distractions, you have little chance of capturing the surfer’s attention. Asher recommended a clean landing page (or alternatively, you could use one of those pop-up buttons to sign up or leave) that isn’t hosted on your website. Companies referenced included OptimizePress (for Wordpress) or LeadPages (see websites for pricing details).
Landing pages are sometimes called a squeeze page when they present an offer in exchange for someone’s email address. A good example includes your book’s cover, some copy about the book, and a link to “get my free book.” When you click the link, it redirects you to a sign-up form for your newsletter provider. After this process is completed, they should receive a confirmation email from the newsletter provider. After this confirmation, then they will receive an email with information on how to access your free product. This format of requesting the user to confirm their desire to receive emails from you is called a double opt-in, and is designed to ensure that the only people receiving your emails have requested to receive it twice. This helps reduce the chance that your email will be marked as spam. The entire process, from start to finish, is what is known as a marketing funnel.
For more information on this subject, Asher recommended Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula (selfpublishingformula.com), Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10,000 Readers (http://noorosha.com), and Author Platform Rocket (authorplatformrocket.com). The first month Asher used Author Platform Rocket, he gained 1,000 new subscribers by running Facebook ads and promotion giveaways. Paid services like this take the hard work off your plate so you can focus on other tasks. “The less time I can spend doing this, the happier I am,” Asher quipped.
Lastly, he recommended reaching out to Robin Reads, Kindle Nation Daily, Booksends, Author Marketing Club, and the gorilla of the group, Bookbub, which are dedicated to pushing exposure of free or discounted books. Bookbub is difficult to get into, so don’t become discouraged. You may get turned down based on cover art, poor editing, or even if there is another book similar to yours already being promoted that month (the monthly acceptance rate is around 20 percent). Consider slowly building your sales growth over time and tweaking your techniques by including some of these strategies, and you may see some stronger, and more organic growth over time.
For the latest information on poetry events in the St. Louis, MO area, visit the .
Second Friday notes, second Friday of each month, 7 p.m., at Whole Foods Town & Country, Clayton Road just west of Highway 141
RIVER STYX. Third Mondays, 7:30 p.m., Tavern of Fire Arts, 313 Belt Ave. riverstyx.org/events.
POETRY AT THE POINT, 4th Tuesday of the month, at Focal Point, 2720 Sutton Ave. Read their ezine at [+ http://zestyguitar.com/stlpoetry/poetry-at-the-point/+]
Sheila Nolan Whalen Reading Series at SLU, 221 N. Grand Ave., Dubourg 409.
Tuesdays at 4 p.m.
CHANCE OPERATIONS on the last Monday of each month at Tavern of the Arts, 313 Belt Ave., just off Pershing, between Union and DeBaliviere. 7:30 p.m. Open mic follows featured poets.
EVERY WEDNESDAY open mic for poetry and music at Stone Spiral Coffee & Curios, 2500 Sutton in Maplewood (2 blocks N. of Manchester). Great food and beverages. Open mic, 8 until around 11 p.m.
GOODY HOUSE, 7 p.m., fourth Thursdays at Art Marketplace, 2028 S. 12th Street. Featured poets.
R_SPACE. Last Saturday of the month, Lenny Smith and friends at 2 p.m.
ST. LOUIS WRITERS GUILD open mic for prose and poetry, second Tuesday of each month, 7 p.m., Kirkwood Train Station, Argonne Drive, just west of Kirkwood Road. Allow time to find parking.
ADDITIONAL OPEN MICS at The Wolf, (every Tuesday), Legacy Books & Café (every Friday), The Historical Crossings (every other Tuesday), Shameless Grounds (Wednesdays at 7), Venice Café (Mondays at 9)
A Quick Guide to St. Louis Writers Guild Events
It’s as easy as
Workshops for Writers
First Saturday of every month (except holiday weekends)
10 a.m. to Noon at the Kirkwood Community Center
Station Open Mic
Second Tuesday of every month
7-9 p.m. at the Kirkwood Amtrak Station
SLWG Authors Series
Third Thursday of every month
Query for “SLWG Authors Series” on YouTube or check the Members’ Room on our website, .
Brad R. Cook, author of the young adult steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles (Treehouse Publishing Group). A former co-publisher and acquisitions editor for Blank Slate Press, he is a member of SCBWI, and currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as President. A founding contributor to , a resource blog for writers, he can be heard weekly as a panelist on Write Pack Radio. A cover designer since 2013, he also creates posters, bookmarks, and other marketing materials. Find more @bradrcook on Twitter, Instagram, and tumblr.
T.W. Fendley is an award-winning author of historical fantasy and science fiction for adults and young adults, including Zero Time (2011) and The Labyrinth of Time (2014). She’s a founding contributor to , a resource blog for writers. Her short stories are available on Kindle and Audible. When she’s not writing, T.W. explores the boundaries of consciousness through and shamanism. twfendley.com
Steven W. Langhorst is a life-long resident of St. Louis with an insatiable hunger for the facts and trivia of St. Louis history. He is a retired elementary school principal who still serves education as a mentor and consultant focusing on leadership. Steven has dabbled in poetry and photography since his youth and still plans to publish a book of poems and photographs as well as a memoir of his years at principal. Besides holding membership in the St. Louis Writers Guild he also proudly holds a membership in the Professional Tour Guides Association of St. Louis. Steven also contributed to the design of the new St. Louis Writers Guild logo.
David Lucas is the President of St. Louis Writers Guild, a published fiction short story author and poet. He has a Master’s Degree in Management from Webster University. For two years, David has been the host and producer of Write Pack Radio (WPR), a podcast with a panel of authors exploring the changing writing industry. In 2016, David decided to take his experience in podcasting and his love for radio dramas and start Winding Trails Media, which will produce podcast audio dramas beginning in the fall of 2016 as well as continuing WPR podcast.
Lauren Miller reviews books quarterly for the Historical Novels Review and has a fifteen-year background in library science. She has over fifty nonfiction reviews and articles in print and spends her free time discovering new reads, RPGs, period films, and surrounded by dogs. To read more about Lauren, visit her blog at .
Jennifer Stolzer is an author and illustrator living and working in St. Louis, MO. She graduated from Webster University with a degree in digital media and animation and uses this skill set to create bright and engaging characters. In addition to illustrating books for clients, Jennifer writes and illustrates original work, serves as secretary for the St. Louis Writers Guild, and commentates on the weekly writing podcast Write Pack Radio. See more of Jennifer’s work at , as well as Twitter, tumblr, and Facebook.
For more than a decade, The Scribe has been the mainstay for communicating with members of the St. Louis Writers Guild. It began as a way to showcase the organization and share insights into the publishing world. Back issues give a wonderful record of the Guild. The Scribe is now available to everyone, not just members. It features stories, poems, and essays from our members, as well as information about our events, most of which are open to the public. The June 2016 edition features two articles by Brad R. Cook (on Gateway Con; and "3 Thoughts on Writing Rules") and a report by Lauren Miller on the Guild's June 4th workshop presented by Eric Asher.