Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bonus Post: #ArmchairBEA

I hardly ever post on the weekend, because I am busy reading, writing, agenting and sleeping. However, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to help you guys out.
www.armchairbea.com

Haaaaave you met my friend, #ArmchairBEA. If not, here's the down and dirty. Right now, gazillions of people are carousing in New York for the annual BEA event, otherwise known as Book Expo America. The rest of us have BEA Envy. It's a real thing, look it up.

However, every year some amazing book bloggers organize the #ArmchairBEA. I keep using the hashtag because most of the interactions take place on Twitter. If you aren't following this hashtag yet, go do it now.

Here's what you'll find.

1. A ton of book bloggers talking about all things bookish, which is just plain fun,
2. Many bloggers hosting a giveaway of some sort, mostly for books and gift cards, and
3. A great place to check out new book reviewers.

Ah, you knew there was going to be a marketing angle in there somewhere, didn't you. That's right, this week, all these amazing bloggers are posting about what books they love, what's on their wish list and things they'd love to see happen in literature.

Hello, resource! Not sure which bloggers are interested in your YA werewolve dystopian (dibs on writing that one)? Follow the hashtag and go read the posts from these guys. They are also having Twitter chats each night where they hand out even more information about what's hot and what's not.

If you are considering reaching out to bloggers in anytime that resembles near future, you need to check these guys and gals out. These are the dedicated bloggers who are absolutely crazy about books. I mean, we all are, but these folks can take it to another level.

So don't miss this opportunity to learn about some new blogs, connect with bloggers you already know, and learn more about the important people who will hopefully want to read your book!

Also, be sure to check out www.armchairbea.com for even more great resources!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Social media feed test

A friend of mine recently finished up her marketing degree (Congrats, Amy!). She was telling me about an interesting experiment they did in class one day. Everyone pulled out their phones and brought up their Facebook page. Then they passed the phone to their neighbor. They went around and gave the class descriptions about who their classmates are based on what their last few posts were.

https://www.facebook.com/SarahDNegovetich

Wow!

That really got me thinking. What would someone say about me based on my last three FB posts, Tweets, or Tumblr posts? What would someone say about you?

You might not think this is a big deal. Readers probably aren't perusing your Twitter feed to make sure you're the kind of author they love before picking up your book. But guess who is doing that...

1. Agents/Publishers: Yep, they are looking to see that you understand appropriate social etiquette, are active online, and aren't being a Negative Nancy when it comes to your publishing career. No one wants to work with someone who is a constant source of doom and gloom.

2. Reviewers: Oh, right...those amazing people who wield a mighty power. They are absolutely gonna check out your social media feed before agreeing to read and talk about your book.

3. Press: Before any news agency even considers running a story on you, they are going to do their research. That includes your Facebook and Twitter activity.

Social media can and should be fun, but keep in mind that as an author, you are a constant representation of your brand. If you need to vent or rant, do it privately with your friends, not as a public post.

Same thing with reactions to bad news about your career. I see this one a lot and cringe every time. "Check email. Another rejection letter. Add it to the stack." Yes, we all get rejections. It's a natural part of the process, but that doesn't mean you should keep a running tally for everyone to see. Imagine an agent is considering signing you. They check your FB feed and realize you've posted 30 times in the past month about rejection letters. The agent who was considering you is now second guessing that decision.

And for the love of all things good and holy on God's green earth, never, ever, ever bash the publishing industry. I don't care if you are the most successful self-publisher in the business and would rather eat a live crow than sign a traditional deal. Don't do it. You never know when you might need a favor. I'm not saying you can't criticize, but do so in a professional manner. This means no name calling or knee-jerk reactions. There is a big difference between saying I think publishers need to pay higher eBook royalties and posting that publishers who pay less than 35% are a disgrace and should be strung up by their pinky toes. Constructive discourse, good. Hate filled lambasting, bad.

So take a few minutes and give yourself the social media feed test. What kind of person would a stranger think you are based on your most recent posts? Make sure you are sharing an image you can be proud of.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Colander vs. Bucket: Staying in touch with readers

How are you keeping your readers and getting permission to continue the conversation with them? Did that question cause you to break out in hives because you have no idea? Grab the cortisone cream and let's chat.
Activities such as social media are an outreach. You can contact and engage with readers online through Facebook, Twitter and other sites. You can also meet readers in person at signings and conferences. These activities are a great way to let readers know about you and your book.

The problem is, none of those touch points are permanent. Facebook and Twitter may feel invincible right now, but go ask MySpace how it felt back in 2007. Yeah, it wasn't all that long ago that MySpace was the place everyone hung out online. Now, dead space. You can't depend on any of these social sites to still be popular five years from now.

And even if those sites are still around, who knows what the rules will be. Facebook used to be a perfect way to engage with fans. Now, even those readers who become fans of your page aren't guaranteed to get your content. In fact, you'd be lucky if 1/3 of your fans see any one post. How many are missing your most crucial announcements?

The only way to ensure your message reaches the readers who want it is to control the flow of information.

Your website, and more specifically, your email list, is how you gather your readers in a way that establishes permission to talk with them and continue building the relationship. Your mailing list is the bucket. Readers can always splash out the top by unsubscribing, but most are going to settle in and stay collected.

By inviting readers to join your mailing list, you control the content and frequency of your messages to them. You avoid the risks of a social media site fading out of popularity or changing the rules. Don't wait. It's never too early to start building your list of readers.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Agency Lessons: the sometimes ugly business of books

I had another post scheduled for today, but the Amazon v. Hachette issue has gotten so big I can't really ignore it anymore.

I tried to find a good article to link to for those who don't know about the current negotiation struggle, but I couldn't find one that wasn't filled with diatribe from one side or the other. Disappointing, yes. Surprising, no.

Here's what we know. We know that Amazon and Hachette are currently negotiating their distribution contract. We also know that Amazon has recently changed its distribution for some Hachette titles by either changing their delivery time frame or removing their pre-order option.

That's it.

Everything else is pure speculation. Read that again. Every article you read that makes broad statements about Amazon forcing Hachette to bow to their might or Hachette playing a risky game with their author's money is based on assumption, speculation and probably an ingrained dislike of one party or the other.

Amazon and Hachette have been tight-lipped about the details of the negotiation. And this is perfectly normal. No companies discuss their contract terms until the ink is dry. This is simply how negotiations work, and it's frankly none of our business. Certainly we want to know and if you have a book with Hachette, you have a vested interest. But unless you own one of these companies you don't have any rights to know the details.

Now, for the authors. There are plenty of mid-list authors who are feeling the pinch from Amazon's actions. Honestly, that stinks for you and I'm sorry. Many of these authors are encouraging fans to head to other outlets to get their books. That's smart. Amazon isn't the only show in town and there are other places for readers to buy books.

However, what's not smart is for these authors to run all over the internet bashing Amazon. No one knows what's really going on except Amazon and Hachette. I made that pretty clear. So bashing Amazon shows a disregard for educated debate. Because none of us are educated on the details.

Many authors will automatically side with the publisher saying that they obviously have their authors in mind so whatever terms Amazon is proposing must be anti-author. To this, I say "Bullox". Amazon and Hachette are both businesses. While both are obviously fans of books, they are both in business to make money. I'd be willing to bet the terms of negotiation have less to do with what is best for authors and more to do with what is best for these companies. Keep in mind, this is speculation on my part, but so is any other assigned motivation.

One of these days Amazon and Hachette will work things out and these books will probably be back on the Amazon shelf. Then those authors will be back to pushing their readers there and Amazon, who helps them make the majority of their money, won't feel like such a bad guy.

This will continue to be a story as negotiations between these two companies drag out. And I'm sure we've not heard the last of the bashing from both sides. But it doesn't need to be that way and shouldn't be. If you are a writer, write books. If you have books to sell, find ways to get those books into your readers' hands. End of story.

Friday, May 23, 2014

If you can't be with the one you love, honey...

Love the one you're with.

And now that we're all singing that song in our heads, let's talk about marketing.

So much of marketing is about getting your book in front of new readers, but I've talked before about the importance of showing your existing fans plenty of love.


That's why I really enjoyed this article from Buffer about putting more focus on your existing customers, or for writers, existing readers. Most marketing plans work on the funnel basis or attracting a large number of people and then hoping that at least a small percentage of them will become customers/readers. It's why people use big prizes in giveaways. You attract a ton of entries by giving away a Kindle Fire with the understanding that only a very small percentage will, hopefully, buy your book.

Buffer suggests putting more focus on showing appreciation for your existing customers/readers to create buy-in and then they will be the ones to spread the word out to their friends and family. Some of those new exposures will result in sales, some won't. But you can guarantee that you've strengthened the relationship with existing readers.

The article lists three ways you can show the love to your readers. Their examples are business based, so I wanted to share some writing examples to bring it home.

1. Make your readers feel like part of the club
No one does this better than John Green. His community has their own name: Nerd Fighters. They flash their own gang sign and call out "Don't forget to be awesome". They tune in weekly to watch his video chats with his brother and donate massive amounts of money to various causes that the community wants to support. This past month they turned out in droves to support the release of the movie version of The Fault in Our Stars and the movie doesn't come out for another month. Green created a loyal community who will now buy every word the man writes and do it with a smile on their face.

2. Make providing more, free value for your existing customers a priority
We all have value we can give readers. This can come in the form of deleted scenes, short novellas, behind the scenes info and anything else that lets readers get closer to you and your work. And excellent example of this is Hugh Howey. He allows anyone to write in his world, and doesn't charge a cent for it. This makes it safe for readers to dabble with fan fiction and presents an opportunity to expand the world of Wool to new readers. Howey could charge big bucks to allow writers to write inside the universe he created. Instead, he does it for free and treats his readers like a valuable part of his community.

3. Make your readers feel important
We make our readers feel important by engaging with them. This means responding to tweets, emails, Facebook messages, etc.. It also means sharing photos you take of them, highlighting their fanfic, thanking someone for a great review and celebrating the things they are excited about. If a fan sends you an idea or suggestion, acknowledge that, especially if you use it! Don't be the author that feels too important for their readers. Instead, be the author that recognizes without your readers your books are just ink on pages. Make sure your readers always know just have valuable they are to you.

You never want to stop trying to expand your reach to new readers. But make sure you aren't doing so at the expense of sharing the love with your existing readers.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Marketing Time vs. Writing Time

"The best way to sell your book is to write more books"

We've heard this idea a million times and there's no denying its truth. The more books you have on the shelf, either physical or virtual, the more chances a reader can find you.

Some authors take this to the next step and say their time is better spent writing than marketing. Again, I don't have a problem with this. I agree that if you are limited to a certain number of hours each day, you will reap more benefits from spending an hour writing than spending an hour building your platform.

Here's where we start running into problems. You can't claim that you're not going to market because you'd rather spend that time writing, but then not produce any new books. Unfortunately, I'm seeing this a lot. Writers who have basically given up on marketing so they can focus on writing, but only managed to draft half a book in the past year.

I realize everyone works at their own pace, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's not good enough. Writing instead of marketing only works when you're prolific. This means writing...a lot. It means actually taking that time you would have spent marketing and using it to put words on the page that you then polish into something that can be published, no matter if you are doing so traditionally or indie.

"But Sarah," I hear you whisper for fear I will send you the stink eye. "I did write a lot, but no one is willing to publish it."

That stinks, my friend, it does. Guess who doesn't care about any of that? Your readers. If aren't putting something new on their shelves then you need to come up with another way to stay relevant. Hint, I'm talking about marketing and platform.

This may all sound a little harsh, but maybe it should. No one said publishing is easy. In his speech during DFWCon, Jonathan Maberry said some very true words. "Writing is an art, publishing is a business." Success in business isn't easy. It means effort and sometimes doing things we don't like or aren't as fun as the creative whirlwind that is writing.

Sorry.

If you want to skip the marketing efforts in lieu of writing, go for it. I'll be the first to say there is more than one path to success in this business. But don't assume that writing words your readers can't read is a fair trade.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Agency Lessons: Objectivity in a subjective world

Before we get started with today's post, I have to share a bit of what I've been working on this past week. I'm not quite ready to release all the details yet, but I will say this. If you enjoyed my DIY Blog Tour series last year, you are going to love what I have in store for you this summer. Is that enough of a tease for you?
I have a great book, but no agent will represent it.

My book has been edited to perfection, but no publishers want it.

My book has everything readers want, but no readers will buy it.

These are statements I hear on a nearly daily basis. The questions come from an honest place. Writers who have poured their hearts into a book, sometimes laboring on it for years. And yet, there is sits, seemingly destined to rust away on a hard drive or in Amazon obscurity.

The problem here is you are trying to apply objective values (clean editing, strong plot, well developed characters) to a subjective response (enjoying the story). You might as well ask a random group of people how they feel about Cohen brother movies. Half will tell you they're genius while the other half will bemoan their complete lack of value. 

At the end of the day, there is no such thing as a perfect story.



So what does that mean for you?

First, it means you need to be completely honest with yourself when it comes to your own work. It really isn't good enough to like it. They are your characters, your world, your words. If you don't love it with a white hot fiery passion, then how can you expect anyone else to care?

Second, in the immortal words of Adele Dazeem, "Let it Go!"

If you truly love your work, then you have to come to terms with the fact that there will be others who don't like it, maybe even hate it. That means you might never find an agent for that manuscript. If it's already published, you might never find readers who love it. It may need to be good enough for you that you love it.

Writing, and really any art, is not an easy business. It comes with a lot of rejection and plenty of people who will tell you that you aren't good enough. As an author you need to tell yourself that you're good enough. You need to look at your work and know in your heart that it's amazing. If you can't do that, you need to keep working on your craft until you can. 

You can't wait for the world to tell you it's perfect, because it never will. And that's okay.



Friday, May 16, 2014

Creating sizzle to find the sale


Imagine something with me. You're sitting in your favorite restaurant, perusing the menu and trying to decide what you want to order for dinner. You're considering settling for a chopped salad when a server walks by with another table's food. She's got one of those hot iron plates with a perfectly cooked steak that sizzles as she walks by. The aroma hits you and you're sold. Steak it is!
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tajima_cattle_-sirloin.jpg

Joe Konrath talked about this on his blog several years ago. You can serve a steak on one of these fancy iron plates that sizzle and throw delicious aroma into the air or you can serve one on a paper plate. Regardless of how it's served, it's the same steak, but one is definitely more appetizing than the other.

And if we're being honest, the sizzle plate is not a great thing. It's super hot so the server has to use a woven mat to surround it so you don't burn your fingers off. It's heavy and dangerous so servers have to put their life on the line in order to bring it to you. Plus, it's still cooking your food. That's right. After you asked for a medium rare steak and the chef cooked it to perfection, they put it on a hot cast iron plate which continues to cook it while you try to eat it without getting any third degree burns.

So why does it work?

It has perceived value. Something served with so much care must be better than the burger and fries served in a plastic basket with a checkered waxy paper soaking up the grease. Obviously, this is a quality item. It's why we serve the overcooked Thanksgiving turkey on china.

And even better, it sells itself. Each time a waitress walks by a table holding the cast iron plate of death, the sizzle follows them. Patrons crane their necks to see what she's holding. The smell of the perfectly cooked steak being overcooked with each step reaches their noses and it no longer matters what less expensive and higher fiber item that table was about to order. They are now getting steak.

What does that mean to you and your book?

Much of the readers impression regarding the quality of your book is in its perceived value. Readers are inundated with hundreds of choices when it comes to which book to read. Every week hundreds of new books come out and many of them might be exactly what an individual reader is looking for. They have to make judgement calls that have nothing to do with if they will enjoy the book.

Instead, they have to judge your book on its perceived value. They are guessing which book (or books) they will enjoy the most. How do they do this? A few ways.

How does a reader perceive a book's value?

1. Picture
A picture is worth a thousand words and your cover image could be worth a thousand readers. Make sure your cover is professional and sells your book. Depending on your publisher, you may have tons of input or none at all. If you are asked for opinions, share them. Your cover matters.

2. Popularity
Most readers like talking about books with other readers. This works best when they are reading the same book. Readers like to read the books that other people are reading. This is why bestseller lists are so great at selling books. Until you've worked your way on to one of those lists, it's your job to keep your book visible so it looks popular even if you don't have a ton of readers yet. You do this through blog tours, Goodreads, reviews, contests, etc. The more a reader has heard about your book, the more popular it will appear.

3. Professionalism
Your cover might be a first look at your book, but readers won't stop there. They are going to read your description, check out your author picture, and scan your bio. The actual content they find is less important than the image it portrays. You want to come across as a professional. This means no selfies for your photo, a bio that doesn't read like an online dating profile and a home base online. You don't want a reader to pass you by because your aren't taking your writing career seriously.

4. Plugs
What are other people saying about your book? Who else is talking about your book? Some of this you can't control, however, you can help to steer the conversation. If you feel that the readers of a certain author would really enjoy your book, reach out to that author and ask for a blurb. Target popular book bloggers and ask for a review. Try to connect to large fan sites for your genre.  Other authors, popular reviewers and high traffic sites can all add to your books perceived value.

You can't always control the way readers will view your book, but there some things you can do to give your book the sizzle it needs to attract new readers.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How to borrow a fan base

A college senior about to graduate posted an article on The Daily Aztec back at the end of March. It was titled "How I feel about graduation in 11 The Princess Bride gifs".  To say the article was successful is a bit of an understatement. Upon discovering this animated cult classic love fest,  The Princess Bride fans crashed the page. It was fixed, but when The Princess Bride FB page announced it was fixed, fans crashed it again.

The author of the article tapped into a powerful market of fans who love all things The Princess Bride and here's the best part. His original topic, graduation, doesn't have anything to do with the movie. No one is graduating, no once is moving on into the next phase of their lives. None of that. He simply recognized that the movie has a lot of great lines and that they expressed some of the emotions he was feeling.

Honestly, the author probably didn't think about the immediate draw of thousands of fans of the movie. So what if you tapped into this intentionally. As part of the A to Z challenge, I threw out the idea of using Buzzfeed. So what if you used a free site like Buzzfeed or The Daily Aztec to post an article that utilizes an existing fan base to create excitement for your own work.

I can almost see you itching to start writing, imagining the millions of fans who will soon flock to your post. But first, here are a few points to keep in mind:

1. Some fandoms are already overused (Harry Potter, Dr. Who come to mind) so these fans are accustomed to seeing GIFs and meme pictures. It's not a big deal to them anymore. That's not to say these fans won't enjoy your article, but don't expect them to crash the server the way a lesser served fandom (say Sailor Moon) would.

2. While the original content doesn't need to match the fandom, you'll get better results if the fandom is made up of your potential readers. Don't try to top into the X-Files fandom if you write YA contemporary romance. Generally speaking, the people who enjoy X-files and contemporary romance are not the same people. Instead, consider using a classic movie like Gone with the Wind or Casablanca.

3. None of this will mean anything if you can't tie your work to it someone. If you can come up with a clever way to include your book into the article that doesn't feel like spam, go for it. But if it's not a natural fit, don't force it. Instead, write a clever bio with plenty of links to the book page on your website and your cover image as your picture.

4. An great article with a perfect reader tie in won't do you any good if no one ever sees it. If you want to really get a buzz going, I suggest searching out these fan bases and letting them know about the article. In this case, you aren't advertising your book, just letting them know about a great article that features their favorite show/movie/comic etc. You'll find that most of the bigger fandoms will have groups all over the internet, including fanfic pages. Those will be your best bet for finding viewers for your article and, hopefully, new readers for your book.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Agency Lessons: How to use hypothetical questions in your query

If you've read many articles on writing the perfect query, you know that hypothetical questions are eye-roll inducing for almost every agent out there.

But...what would you say if you could use hypothetical questions to build a winning query?
  
A really great (and unique book) starts with a hypothetical question. What if an average orphan boy discovered he was the most famous wizard alive? What if the government forced kids to battle to the death once a year for entertainment? What if a human fell in love with a vampire?

At the heart of each of these novels is a premise based on a hypothetical "What if" question. While the question is a great cornerstone for developing a plot, it doesn't work in a query. Why? Because the obvious answer to those questions, the one people will probably think of first, isn't that interesting. Let's look at our examples.

What if an average orphan boy discovered he was the most famous wizard alive?
Answer: That would be cool. I want a wand.

What if the government forced kids to battle to the death once a year for entertainment?
Answer: That would suck.

What if a human fell in love with a vampire?
Answer: That would suck, too. Human is now dead.

The trick to using the hypothetical questions is to get rid of the question. Let's take another look at our first question: What if an average orphan boy discovered he was the most famous wizard alive?

Now, instead of a question where we ask the reader/agent to insert their own impression, let's tell the reader/agent what to think: Harry is an average orphan until the day he finds out he's actually a wizard, and a famous one.

Okay, so we got rid of the question and put some authority into the sentence. The next step is to make it sparkle by adding in the same little details that make your story shine.

Orphaned as a baby, Harry lives a lonely, but normal life. All that changes on his eleventh birthday when a letter, delivered by an owl in a decidedly un-normal fashion, reveals Harry is a wizard.

Now we have an intriguing start to our query. And it really isn't all that different from the original question used to inspire the whole story. Of course, a good query is more than just a log line. But starting out strong sets the stage and keeps an agent reading.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Marketing Anthologies: more authors = more exposure?

A few months ago a reader asked me about marketing for an anthology. As it happens, I was actually part of an anthology last year, RICH FABRIC. Though we didn't do a ton of marketing for the project, I did learn a few tips. Here are five ideas for getting the word out about an Anthology.

Shameless self promotion at its finest
1. Even though each author brings their own platform to the project, you'll still need to find your core audience. Who reads anthologies? Are you targeting readers of a certain genre or subject matter? Is there a non-fiction audience for your fiction anthology or vice versa? Before you start your marketing efforts you'll need to decide exactly who your audience is. And don't forget your own audience. Even if this is outside what you normally give readers, your fans will be excited about something you're excited about.

2. Divide and conquer. With more authors, you need to recruit everyone to participate in the marketing, not just those who are organizing it. Make sure the efforts are consistent. Everyone might select a different section to showcase from their own contribution, but make sure all the rest of the information being used in marketing is the same. One hashtag, one cover image, one blurb, one banner ad, etc.

3. Anthologies have shorter pieces that are great for magazines and newspapers. As a group, decide on one piece in the anthology to showcase and use that to try to get additional exposure. This is one of those times when everyone needs to be in agreement. While it may be difficult to put egos aside, submitting everything separately is a quick way to end up with no exposure.

4. Consider planning some joint events. If more than one author lives in a somewhat close proximity, consider hosting a group event such as a workshop or reading. You can talk about collaboration, the process of an anthology, or themes in your project. And don't forget to cross promote. With an anthology, you almost have a built in blog tour, but remember to branch out as well.

5. Would your project work well for a charity? Anthologies are perfect for charity work. As a group, determine a percentage of sales to donate to a charity that means something to all of you or has a tie in to the theme or subject of your book. Put this information in your marketing packet and ask the charity to help you in promoting the book.

These are just a few ideas, but the sky's the limit. The main point to keep in mind with promoting a group project is to keep everyone in the loop with what efforts are being made (and how they can help) and staying consistent in how everyone is marketing the anthology. This may mean one person becomes the lead to keep things organized, but don't fall into the trap of letting the organizer carry all the load. Take advantage of how many of you are involved and keep each other accountable in spreading the word. After all, you wrote a book together and that was the hard part!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

It's okay to google yourself

Are public perceptions matching the impression you are shooting for?

Spending all your time worrying about what other people think of you is counter productive to the writing and marketing you need to be working on.

That said, you can't afford to ignore your platform. Did you know the vast majority of Google users never look at the search results that aren't on the first page? That means you want to make sure your most important real estate is showing up there.

If your blog or website is missing the mark, this is probably a result of a stagnant site. Search engines love new content. Also, make sure your back end information is set up for daily updates. Even if you aren't making changes daily, you want search engines to check your site often for new content.

Equally important is making sure any old content isn't taking up valuable real estate. About a year ago I realized my old MySpace page was still showing up on the first page of my Google searches. Even though I didn't use it anymore, the account was still active. It took cancelling the account to get it out of my searches. Make sure you don't have any old social media or group memberships that are wasting your precious search space.

We can't control many of the aspects of what shows up in our searches, but that doesn't mean we are without options. Make sure your online presence is as clean as it can be to help your readers find what they're looking for... you.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Agency Lessons: DFW Conference Lessons

I'm back from the amazing DFW Conference, exhausted and inspired by so many writers dedicated to the craft of writing.
First, let me say that if you have the desire to attend a writer's conference, you should definitely put the DFWCon on your list. These folks know how to put on an event. I honestly don't know how the attendees picked which sessions to attend with so many amazing choices. And the main session speakers (Jonathan Maberry and Donald Maass) were no slouches either.

Conferences are a wealth of information and I can see where it can be easy for attendees to get hung up on the official events, such as the classes and pitch sessions.

My best advice, don't forget how important the off-schedule time can be. Take this opportunity to network with the other writers there. Share stories, swap ideas and support each other. Writing can be such a solitary experience. At conferences, you get the opportunity to step into the literary community. A community that, as a writer, you are a key part of.

And don't limit those social interactions to just your other writers. At many conferences you can find yourself sharing lunch with an agent or dinner with an editor. Now, I'm not suggesting you pitch your novel over chicken salad. But that doesn't mean you can't ask questions or talk shop. If you aren't sure how to get the conversation started, ask an agent or editor what books they have coming out soon. We like gushing about our clients as much as grandmas love showing off baby pictures.

In short, be social. I realize that can be a large task for the most introverted among us, but the benefits of learning from your peers and others in the industry is well worth the momentary discomfort. Go to conferences, attend classes and learn all you can, but don't stop the education when the class ends.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Back to Basics

First, things, first. Thank you so much to everyone who participated in this week's Blitz. My blogs were all written and scheduled to post, but I hadn't been online much due to a stomach bug hoping around my house. Tuesday (my blitz day) was actually my first day out of bed since Saturday so it was such a nice surprise to log back in to find so many kind and thoughtful comments here. You really did make my day.

Also, I'm going to be closing to queries starting Monday, May 5th so I can catch up on everything I haven't read yet. If you are planning to query me, you need to get your email in before Monday.

Now on to today's real post.

I realized that if you've only recently joined me in my little corner of the internet, you might think I'm crazy. After all, I've spent the last month throwing one hair-brained idea after another at you. So today I wanted to take a moment to talk about what should be at the core of every marketing plan.

Your readers.

It's easy to get caught up in the newest flashy idea or try to mimic the success of an unorthodox technique. I fall victim to this as well. I have an entire notebook where I write down marketing ideas from the mundane to the zany. It's fun to let our creative side run wild with possibilities.

But being a successful writer is about more than just being creative. It's about having the business sense to only invest your time, energy and money into efforts that will result in more readers.

Sometimes, you can't know if something is going to reach your readers until you try. That's when you learn and move on. At the same time, you need to know your readers and weed out the ideas you know aren't going to target them.

You can find 1000 marketing ideas with little more than a few Google searchers. Don't fall into the trap of feeling like you need to try all (or even half) of them. Make your readers your first priority and your marketing plan can be successful with or without all the bells and whistles.