Wednesday, October 30, 2013

DIY Blog Tour

I'm super excited to announce something I've been working on for a while now. Blog tours have become almost a must have for any author launching a new book. There are plenty of services out there that will plan a tour for you, but like most things in life, you get what you pay for. For some of us, the high price tag of a high end blog tour pushes the limits of our budgets.

The idea of planning your own tour can be more than a little intimidating. No more, I say! During the month of November I'll be posting once per day to share my best tips for a DIY (Do-it-yourself) Blog Tour!


Each day I'll post one step toward organizing and completing your own blog tour. Some will be tasks you can take care of in under an hour. Others will require a week or more of work. So, this isn't something I expect you to complete in 30 days. But I've found breaking down a rather large and daunting task (like planning a blog tour) into smaller steps can make it feel more manageable.

If you're thinking about doing a blog tour or have done one, but would like some tips on ways to do it better, this next month is just what the author ordered.

Come back on Friday with the kick-off post. Tool belts optional.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Guesting at Beth Fred's place

Real quick. Today I have a guest post up over at Beth Fred's blog talking about maximizing your guest post exposure.

The end of the post has a sneak peak at a special announcement I'll be sharing here tomorrow. It's all kinds of fun.

I hope you'll stop by Beth's blog and say hello!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Agency Lessons: A boost of confidence

A few weeks ago, I wrote about owning the title of "author". +David Watson brought up a great point about keeping up confidence, even in the face of rejection. It's hard to keep calling yourself an author when everyone keeps saying no.
This is something that I'm sure a lot of authors deal with, so I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips on maintaining a chin up during the lows of the query trenches. 

You're in good company
Take a piece of paper and pencil to your bookshelf. Make a list of every author with a book on your shelf. Feel free to stop when you run out of space on your paper. Now, get a red pen. Find a big, thick felt one that you imagine every editor buys by the truck load. Draw a sharp, authoritative line through each authors name and write "Reject" next to it. 

Every single author on your paper has, without fail, been rejected. Either from an agent, an editor, or a reader. Each one of them has felt like the whole world drew a red line through their name and called them a reject. 

If all those writers can face a mountain of rejection and come out the other side as authors, so can you.

Listen to your fans
If you've gotten to the querying stage, I'm going to assume you've had other people read your work. Hopefully, lots of other people. I'm also going to assume, that within that group of people there have been folks who like and love what you wrote. These are your first fans.

Go back through their notes. Ignore the constructive criticism. You've fixed all that by now. Focus like a laser on the words of praise. The comments that give you warm fuzzies are little jolts of author boost juice. Write them down on note cards and tape them up. Put them on your computer, the mirror, the fridge, inside your notebook. Type them into the document where you keep track of rejections. Decorate your world with words that fill you back up. Not everyone is going to love your work, but these people did.

Look at your journey
Most of us have been writing for a long time, even if it wasn't toward a goal of a novel. If you're like me, you have random notebooks or scraps of manuscripts long forgotten stashed in your drawers. They are embarrassing,  laughable attempts at prose. They are what we once thought was nothing short of sheer brilliance.

Of course, now you know better. You can look at that short story from college and groan at all the adverbs and 7 syllable words you thought made you look smart. Even if you don't have a history of writing samples, you do have the first draft of your manuscript. Go back and look at your original first chapter. Can you imagine sending that off to agents or publishers? Yikes.

Being an author is a journey. You're much better than you were even a year ago and next year, you'll be even better. Even if this project doesn't make it into print, you can and will get better so maybe the next one will.

What tips or tricks do you have for keeping the faith in the face of rejection?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Character Marketing: yeah or nay?

When it comes to marketing your book, authors are always looking for the new and different that can set them, and their work, apart from the masses. Something I'm seeing more of is character marketing.

Have you seen these new commercials for Anchorman 2 and the Dodge Durango? The character Ron Burgundy (played by Will Ferrel) is the star of the show. What do you think? Is this effective marketing?


The recent YouTube hit "The Lizzie Bennett Diaries" utilized character marketing by having each major character set up a Twitter account. They commented on the weekly video and interacted with fans about what was going on.

In books, Julie Kagawa included a character interview between two of her main characters at the end of the third and final book of her Iron Fey series, The Iron Queen.

The question is, can this work for your novel?

Some of the recent trends in character marketing are:
  • Character Interviews
  • Twitter Accounts
  • Facebook Fan pages
  • Character hosted events
I've even heard of authors dressing up as their characters at conferences. Not too sure about that one.

I think the big question of if this type of marketing works, depends on your audience. Obviously this is more likely to be a hit with a beloved children's book character appearing at a school visit than with a classic adult literary character hosting a Twitter chat.


What do you think? Is character marketing cheesy or genius? Can it work for certain genres or ages? Have you seen it work? Have you seen it fail?

If you want to know more, here's a recent article about setting up character Twitter accounts. Also, in case you missed it yesterday, here's the link to a new, free Storytelling class that starts today.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Free MOOC

I don't usually post on Thursdays, but I wanted to share this interesting course I just signed up for. It's called The Future of Storytelling and is being offered as a free MOOC from iversity.org.



What is a MOOC? It's a Massive Open Online Course. Basically, they'll post a new video once a week with associated "homework" that is available to everyone who enrolls.

The storytelling elements of the course sound fairly basic, but should be a good reminder of the elements that make up a great story. I'm most interested in the section on how technology is changing not just how we distribute stories, but also how they are created.

This should be interesting so I wanted to pass the word along in case anyone else wanted to sign up. It does take place during Nano, but we'll all need a little break from pounding the keys. I figured a course on storytelling should be a nice way to replenish the creative well while I try to suck 50K from it in one month.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Imitate Success

"Imitation if the highest form of flattery."
We've all heard this before and hopefully, you've applied it to your writing. Some of the best writing advice I've heard is to read books that you love and study them to find out why they work. We look for commonalities in character arc, plot lines, & world building. Then, we imitate these successes in our own work.*

*Of course, by imitate I mean incorporate into your own style. We'd never want to become another version of a writer already out there. The world already has that writer.

The lesson we don't hear as often is that we can apply this same technique to our marketing efforts.


We can learn a lot by studying the efforts of successful authors that have come before us. What did they do during launch week? What was their social media presence like in the month before their book came out? How much of their blog content changed to promote their new book?

If you're working on a marketing plan, I suggest studying some of your favorite writers. Do a little historical stalking to analyze what their blog, social media and promotional content looked like in the months leading up to and right after their book launch.

Just like reading bad books can teach us what doesn't work in our writing, studying authors with a launch flop can provide some great marketing lessons. Find an author or two writing in your genre with releases that never really got out of the starting gate. Study what they did (or probably didn't do) and take this into account when planning your own release. 

Marketing isn't a one size fits all strategy. But by studying authors with an audience similar to your own, you can get a better look at what does and doesn't work when it comes to getting your work into the hands of your readers.
 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Agency Lessons: Failure

This just in: Agents are failures!
This past weekend, I attempted to make an apple jelly. This attempt came after several successful batches of apple butter, peach jam and all other sorts of jelled items. I followed the instructions in the book, did everything I was supposed to, but as of today, I have five pints of apple syrup. No jelly. I failed.

And sometimes, agents fail too. We pass on a project that we don't think will sell and then see it splashed across Publishers Marketplace a few months later. We take on a manuscript we think is genius and will sell right away only to still be waiting for a contract six months later. We offer a client advice on marketing their new release, but sales are only trickling in.

I'm offering up these examples, because it's easy as an author to imagine agents as mystical beings with the all powerful sight and insight into the magical world of publishing you so very badly want to join. Agents can feel a bit like the Holy Grail after months of querying with no success. But we aren't gods of a literary Parthenon.

We're people. People who love books, love authors, love seeing fantastic manuscripts find homes with publishers and readers. We make mistakes and sometimes, we fail. And sometimes, hopefully more times than we fail, we succeed.

As you are querying agents, focus on the success. This is why you want an agent. But always remember in the back of your head, especially when the rejections come in, that sometimes we fail.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Yes, writers are readers, but...

The writing community is amazing. Seriously, all kinds of awesome. When an author comes out with a new book, it's not surprising when the other authors in his/her network pull out the love and help run some promotion. And that's great.

But at the end of the day, most of those authors all have the same audience, made up of...other authors.

Yeah, it's like that. It's lovely and heartwarming, and a little bit like running on a big hamster wheel. Authors are readers, but they make up only a teeny, tiny little piece of the pie of readers you really want to reach.


To the rescue comes this great post from Laura Pepper Wu sharing 31 tips for getting your work in front of people outside of your own circle. Some of these are ideas that I've shared here on the blog, but all of them are great ways to get your book in front of readers who aren't a regular part of your circle.

What's your best tip for promoting your work to readers outside of your current network?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Agency Lesson: Writer vs. Author

There is a difference between being a writer and an author, but the dividing line may not be what you think.
When I first took off down the long hard path of writing my first manuscript, I somehow got it into my head that I was only a writer, but as soon as this bad boy got published and the money started rushing in, I'd be an authors. I cringe at my poor naive self.

I drew the line between writer and author with a big green dollar sign. Author meant professional, and pros get paid.

Over the years, my view has changed. I still think a writer is someone off in their little corner of the world, banging out words. And an author is still a professional. But the line doesn't come with cold hard cash anymore.

To me, becoming an author is all about mindset.

I'm talking talking about the whole "I think (I'm an author), therefore I am (an author)". To be a professional author, it takes more than talking the talk. You need to walk the walk, with the way you handle yourself as a professional.

It's pretty clear in reading queries, who still thinks of themselves as writers, and who has made the leap to author.

The writer makes excuses for why they don't have writing credits. The writer talks about how long they labored on their work. The writer fills in missing bio info with irrelevant family trivia. The writer references their work as if it is their one and only chance at 'making it'.

The author lists relevant credits, but if they don't have any they simply leave it out. The writer never bogs down their query with indications of how long they've been working on a manuscript. The author keeps their bio short and sweet with only publishing related information. The author doesn't show an emotional attachment to the manuscript, even if they think it is 'the one'.

The biggest difference is that the author has moved into a professional mindset. This mindset lets them pour their heart and soul into a manuscript, and they query it without showing in every line that their next breath depends on an agent's response.

None of that means, the professional author doesn't refresh their email every fifteen minutes. It doesn't mean they aren't emotionally attached to a manuscript. Being professional hasn't turned them into soulless submission robots.

It has allowed them to recognize that as a professional, you win some you lose some. You send off a query, hope and pray for the very best, and keep going no matter what the responses are. You celebrate every request. You digest every rejection. You process all the emotions, never once forgetting that publishing is a business.

You don't have to wait until you're raking in the cold hard cash to call yourself an author. I suggest making the mental switch now. Decide that you are a professional. Start treating yourself like one and use the language of a pro. Remember, agents are looking for career authors, someone who's in it for the long haul. The question is, are you ready to make that leap?

Friday, October 11, 2013

School visits for the non-children's author

A long standing marketing tool for children's authors is the School Visit. After all, what's better than an uninterrupted session to speak in front of your core target audience? But just because your books aren't targeted to students doesn't mean a school visit is off the table. Here are five reasons adult authors might want to give schools another look.


1.Students aren't the only ones there
Yes, when you speak, your audience will be mostly students. But they aren't the only ones there. Teachers, principals and other staff members will know about your visit, giving your book an instant visibility. Depending on how involved the visit is, you might also get interest from the PTA or other parent board. All of these people could be part of your target audience.

2. Don't forget about the parents
Schools often send home flyers or info sheets to parents when someone is coming to speak. Again, this gets your book some visibility with people who might not have heard of it before. Half the game in finding readers is letting them know you exist. Encourage parents and students to work together to submit questions ahead of your visit that you can address in your talk.

3. Tie-in Events
While it's unlikely the school can open the doors to the community during regular hours, you might see if an evening event can be planned that welcomes parents and other community members to come hear from you. If the school isn't available, this is a great time to reach out to the local library. By hosting two events on the same day, you get more visibility with less travel.

4. Crossover
Not everyone that reads YA is a teen. Likewise, not everyone reading adult genres is an adult. Just because your book isn't targeted to the age your speaking to doesn't mean those students won't be interested in reading it. Never underestimate a book hungry teen.

5. Bulk order discount
Since you're going to be there, you might as well offer the school a bulk order discount. This will encourage pre-sales and limit the number of books you have to haul back home. Readers love the chance to get a signed book on discount.

I suggest starting local with the schools closest to you so you aren't out much more than a half-tank of gas if the visit doesn't go as planned. You can always branch out later or include a more distant school visit as part of a non-marketing related trip.


If your book is too steamy or graphic for a middle school or high school, consider reaching out to colleges. They are more forgiving when it comes to content and professors are always looking for a way to link classroom lessons to real world applications.

So what do you think? If you write Adult, can you see a benefit in classroom visits? Any advice from those who have braved the rooms of 40 eyeballs all on you?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Marketing Lessons from Kindergarten

Marketing lessons are everywhere, but today we're heading into the way-back machine to pick up a few tips from the juice box filled euphoria that was kindergarten. Here are few lessons that never go out of style



Share your cookies
You’ve got the best mommy on the block. While the rest of the ankle biters are nibbling on carrot sticks and hummus, you’re nomming on a sandwich baggie full of Oreo’s. Truth is, you’re perfectly within your rights to keep all that yummy cream filled goodness to yourself, but you’ll make more friends if you offer one to the poor kid with celery sitting next to you. You’ve got to give more than you get. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s the truth. Offering your time, talents, and resources to others makes you the kind of person others want to help.
 Not everyone’s good at finger painting
You’ve been working on that picture of a blue cat for the past 20 minutes, but it still looks like a dying cow. Meanwhile, little Jimmy has a dead on reproduction of Starry Night. Finger painting may not be your thing, and that’s okay. You don’t have to love blogging, twitter, Facebook, fill in the blank with the things you loathe. If the thought of writing yet another blog post has you chugging Pepto Bismal with a Merlot chaser, don’t blog. There are so many other ways to promote your work. Play to your strengths and ignore the tactics that make you feel like a dying cow.
No hitting, pinching or biting
This should be obvious, but it occasionally needs stating. Gone are the days when writers could throw words on paper and call it a day. Authors are going to be in the public eye no matter how much you may loathe or avoid it. This means being on your best behavior at all times. Don’t respond to reviews, don’t attack other authors, and don’t talk bad about the publishing industry in any of its forms. I’m not saying you have to be bosom buddies with everyone, but if you can’t be nice to someone, don’t be their Facebook friend.
Some kids don’t like Goldfish crackers
Goldfish are the universally accepted snack food of choice for all kids under the age of seven (and moms who missed lunch…again). I have never met a kid who didn’t love the little buggers. But as you read this, there are some of you holding up your hands saying “My kids hate them” or “My niece won’t touch ‘em”. Some people don’t know how to appreciate artificially flavored cheese-like die-cut snack food. Your book will (hopefully) appeal to a lot of people who will love it and tell everyone they know. But not everyone is going to like it. And some people will hate it. You should accept this fact before your book even hits the market. Don’t let that first 1-Star review take you by surprise. Instead, wait for it in expectation, accept it when it arrives, and bask in the glory of joining the ranks of Steven King and JK Rowling.
Kindergarten doesn’t last forever
As much as we all wanted to stay in the land of the letter people and nap time, eventually they kicked us out into the unknown and mysterious world of First Grade. Once there, we either discovered that first grade was even better than kindergarten or started begging to go back. Either way, first grade eventually came to an end as well. No matter where you are in the path, you can’t stay there forever. If you’re in the ravages of a failed book, chin up, eventually you’ll write another one. If you’re basking in the glow of a bestsellers list, fabulous, but don’t get too comfy. Eventually, you’ll need to get back to putting out another book and the whole process starts over.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Agency Lessons: Sick Days & Marketing Classes

I tried to pretend I wasn't getting sick, but no amount of head-in-the-sand technique can ward off the germs that refuse to be Lysoled. So today, I'm curled up in my favorite writing chair with a hooded sweatshirt, fuzzy socks and a hot cup of coffee.

I tried to read manuscripts, but with the mood I'm in, that's probably not fair. So instead, I'm working on a marketing class outline. Several of you have asked when I'm going to teach a marketing class. I heard you. I don't know when it will happen yet since the class is still a very rough outline that exists mostly in my head. I'm shooting for January, but I promise to keep you posted.

The class I'm planning right now is a One-Hour Marketing Plan. The goal is to have everyone walk away from the class with a workable marketing plan to get them started on the path of selling more books. I'd love to hear from you about other classes you'd like to see offered. Any topics you want to see covered in an online, interactive classroom?

In the meantime, I will accept all well wishes for health and a virtual cup of chicken noodle soup.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Your own defiition of success

The story that motivated today's post is a bit of a stretch, but work with me for a minute. A Twitter pal of mine commented the other day that her husband said pants and a bra don't count as getting dressed. I recognized this for the lie it is, since I willingly leave my house wearing what could be considered pajamas at least once a week. Someone else might not go to the grocery store in anything less than full make-up and hair.


We all have different definitions of terms that work for us. I certainly know my definition of a clean house isn't the same as my mom's. But that's okay. The same rule applies to defining success. What looks like success to me could be considered a horrible failure to someone else.

Maybe as you query, success could be getting at least a 10% request rate. Great, shoot for that. For another writer, that has been down this path before and already knows the magic sauce of getting requests, they define success as finding an agent. And yet another writer, that already has an agent, defines success with a book deal. Each definition is valid for that person.

You can't compare your success to someone elses.

Let me say that again, but in a different way just to be clear.

It is okay for your success to be different from another writer's success. Someone else doing better than you does not diminish your success.

Back to my Twitter friend. She also shared that her husband's definition of dressed includes hair and make-up. He claims his definition matters since they would be out in public together. While the whole "out in public" argument doesn't convince me he's right, it does bring up a good point to consider when defining success.

If you are an indie publisher, then your definition of success is the only one that matters. But if you are going the traditional route, other people will have a stake in your success.  Sometimes you aren't the only one with an opinion that counts, you need to know what those other definitions are so you don't find yourself confused when you're the only one having a dance party in your pjs. Not that you can't still celebrate your own "wohoo" moments. But it's good to know what your agent, editor, publicist, etc. consider success.

So stop worrying about how many requests this writer got, or how fast so-and-so's book hit the NYT Bestseller's List. Not only is it counterproductive, it's irrelevant. The only success that matters is your own and you'll never achieve it by playing the comparison game all day.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Austin Teen Book Fest

This past weekend was the annual Austin Teen Book Fest. So much fun. I love that this conference is all about readers connecting with authors.

In the spirit of connection, I finally picked up a copy of Brandon Sanderson's THE RITHMATIST. We ended up standing next to each other waiting to get into a panel, so I also scored an autograph and picture. I may have fan-girled.


Of course, along with wonderful authors and amazing panels, several publishers were there...with SWAG! I love checking out what the big guys are doing to promote their authors, so I thought I'd share a few of the cooler items I picked up.

Lots of folks had bookmarks, but Kendare Blake wins for the coolest (and the only one I bothered to pick up).

This great bookmark is for her new book series The Goddess War. The feather is made from a really heavy vellum so it will stand up to a little wear, but it's still a little sheer. I love that it's a common item, useful to readers, and still stands out in a good way.

Next up was sampler books. I saw a couple of these and two really caught my eye. The first was for a Rick Yancey title that came out in May.
This glossy booklet is 5x11 inches, and if it looks thick, it's because it is. Forget a free chapter, we've been given nine. That's right, nine chapters. Noticing my astonishment, the lovely publicity lady informed me once I read those nine chapters, I'll have to read the rest. I haven't started yet, but I'll let you know how that turns out.

Another sampler book that caught my eye was No Safety in Numbers by Dayna Lorentz. This one actually came out in May of last year, but I'd never heard of it. You can bet I'll be finding it now.

The book doesn't look all that exciting until you open it up. I quickly realized that we'd been given a quick glance at the four main characters who drive the story. I don't know if the book is told in multiple POV, and it doesn't really matter. This would be a great idea for multi-POV or a single POV that has a group of protagonists, like an epic fantasy.

What makes this work is that it isn't a character description. We learn who the characters are through a very short scene featuring them. Again, this could be just how the book is written, but that doesn't mean you couldn't do something similar for a single POV.

The last item I picked up is something I hadn't seen before and perfect for a group of authors looking to share costs.
Sampler booklets can get expensive, so instead of printing the samples, these authors posted them all online at a single site. The 5x11 inch glossy card features 6 books on one side and 6 more on the other. These are separated by release season, but you could do it anyway that works for you. Each book is featured with the cover, the title, the author, the tagline and a release date.

You could do this with other authors with similar release dates or even select a new release for each month of the year. You could pick a genre theme or shake up as a "something for everyone" collection. I love the idea of pairing up with other authors in your area to create some local author buzz.

The options are endless and with costs split between several authors, you can get more bang for your buck.

So that's it for this conference, but I'm always on the lookout for author promotion ideas. Have you seen any cool promos lately. Share them in the comments!