Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Who Sees Your Book Promotion?

In an age where those bookstores are not as abundant as they were back in the early 2000's, authors now need to rely on alternative methods for getting the news out about their latest release. But the real question is, who is actually seeing any of your promotions?

Let's start with social media. If you are on any of these platforms, you have to remember that people are not just "stumbling " across your information. For any of these readers to see your announcements, they have to follow your site. I know this sounds really basic, but we often forget that. I was speaking with another author about just this and she noted that it seemed like the only people following her posts or commenting on her posts were the other authors in the group. Probably not that effective?

Now, let's talk about Blogs and Vlogs. The same think happens here. The only people who would see anything you do are people who even know who you are or how to find you. Without building up that clientele,  the work you do is simply not making any forward progress.

OK, so if this is not working, how about those reviews you get? You got it. The same thing happens here. Unless the reader follows that book reviewer, or they follow your social media, the news is not going to get out to people.

Now what?

This is where you need to really utilize your friends and your personal network. Many authors have what they like to call, their "Street Teams." These are people who do follow the author, but they really work on extending that network for you. When you post something, they immediately launch into sending that information out to everyone they know.

This group also does another important task. If they read your book and love it, they immediately get on all of the "BIG" sites like GOOD READS, AMAZON, BARNES AND NOBLE and the like and post those great reviews.

The other thing many of these people do is to utilize common "Hashtags" that might draw in readers. For example, around conference time, when I post something about submissions, workshops, pitch appointments, etc, I make sure to use the current RWA conference hashtag. The idea is to tap into those links.

Is there any easy solution to this? Not really! To be successful though, you have to be creative, think outside of the box and really push yourself.

I would love to hear what some of your are doing? Let me know. But please, don't just use this blog post to advertise. I promise, I will delete that advertising.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Does A MFA Make You A Better Writer?

I was back on my cooking podcasts again, and they were discussing whether or not it was a worthwhile thing to attend culinary school. Again, this got me thinking about writing and the degrees people can get in creative writing. So the question is, does earning a Masters In Fine Arts in Creative Writing make you a better writer.

My answer is NO!

But, I would also add that for most degrees, the actual degree does not matter. It comes down to your knowledge of how to use those skills successfully in the real world. Still, I want to take the time to really address most MFA programs in Creative Writing.

If yo have worked with higher education, the universities often hire people based on the degrees they have earned. The idea is that these people have taken a great deal of time to really understand their area of research. And you know what? They have. They fully get the concept. But here is where the downfall comes in. These people are experts in their field, but, as teachers, they may lack the ability to convey that information to the students.

When it comes to MFA programs, many of these degrees are taught by instructors who may understand "creative writing" but in terms of understanding the business of writing, those skills are not there. The result, unfortunately, are a lot of students who graduate with that great MFA degree thinking they are now ready for being published. What they really have are probably a lot of pieces of writing that demonstrate some of those traits we find in great writing, but the execution of those skills is just not there.

I had the chance to teach several creative writing courses at the local colleges. I was required to use the textbook the college had chosen. OK, that part is fine. But when you look at the assignments and the direction these chapters and assignments took, it became clear that, while these were useful skills, these are not the skills necessary to really be a published author.

So what does it take? I spoke about this earlier in the week. This is that intuition piece. This is that ability to translate those basic craft skills into that masterpiece. This is not a formula. Unlike what the textbooks say, there is not just one approach.

Think of that scene from DEAD POETS SOCIETY at the beginning.

Did this make great poetry?

We all know the answer. It did not!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Guest Speakers For Your Writing Chapter

If you are part of a writing chapter, the odds are that you have a diverse range of authors. You have those who are still fighting for that first contract, and those who have been around the block already. You also have those who are interested in traditional publishing as well as those who want to go the self-publishing route. Regardless of your population, bringing in guest speakers is always a great thing to do.

Now, I fully understand that this will require money. Most guest speakers will expect to have transportation and lodging covered. But, in return, you get advise from people who are experts.

If you do want to bring someone one to speak, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, what are the needs of your chapter. If you have a ton of new authors, bringing in someone who has been working for 30 years is not going to really help you a lot. They will tell you how they write their stories, but they are in a completely different place than you are. It is great for motivation, but make sure that person can bring it down a couple of notches for you.

Secondly, if you are looking for editors and agents, make sure those people are acquiring and, along the same lines, acquiring those things that your writers actually acquire. I attended a chapter a while ago and the entire chapter only did digital self-publishing. Now, while I could give them some tips for writing, the time I spent with them could have been better had they invited someone who knew what was going on.

Next, ask yourself why you are inviting this person. Are you doing so because you think this person is the hottest things since sliced bread? Are you inviting them because they are popular? If this is your only reason, this might not be a great use of your funds.

I would also argue, inviting someone just because they are not in your area is not a great reason. I heard a conference coordinator state that they didn't invite that editor/agent because that person lived in the area. They wanted to get someone the writers could not easily get to. The reality is that you can get to editors and agents pretty much 24-7. In fact, if that person is in your area, that might be a great reason to bring the person in. It can save you expenses in both hotel and travel! Consider that one! (Hint those of you in the Pacific Northwest).

Finally, I don't know if you have noticed something, but I continually have used the phrase INVITE the person. Getting someone to your chapter requires YOU reaching out! All you have to do is email. You might be surprised how easy it is to get people to your group!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Don't Quit Your Day Job

I am sure every author out there has the same goal. They want to just quit all of those mundane jobs that pay the bills, and just write full time. No worries except for making sure your cup of coffee or tea is nice and hot next to the computer, and only you and your characters. That would be great! But it is not going to be the reality for the majority of you out there.

Yes, I know you can probably all name a ton of authors who write full time and that is their only career. Those people are anomalies. Those are the exceptions to the rule. Those people also have other variables that you don't know of.

We all know of the term "starving artist," right? Well welcome to that world. As an author, you have the chance to do what you love to do and get paid for it. Does it mean make a living? Again, for most of you, the answer is probably not. Yes, you can make a lot of money, IF you are in the right genre and IF you get that deal you are looking for, but again, for most you, this is not going to be the reality.

Let's talk about some of those exceptions. I know of several authors who are full time authors, however, they are also working with some variables that many of you do not have:
  • Spouses who are the chief bread winners
  • Retired and now writing
  • No kids in the house
  • No college expenses.
I think you get the idea.

Now, what about those people who snag that amazing contract. These are the one-in-a-million person. Yes, it would be great if we can all nail those contracts, but you have to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right project, and the right voice.

Now, does this mean you should give up on your dreams? Absolutely not. But it does mean you might need to bring those dreams back down a bit more.

When I think of this, I always think of those kids who believe they are going to make it as a professional athlete. As many of you know, my son swims competitively, and like many kids, when they were young, he had goals of being in the Olympics. The variable he did not know at that time was that the U.S. Olympic Team only takes the top 2 athletes in each event. That's pretty tough competition.

I think there is another aspect to keeping that day job that many authors don't think about. What happens when Barnes and Noble goes bankrupt? What happens when your contract is not renewed due to low sales? Do you have a fall back position?

So please, keep those day jobs! I promise, it will pay off in the end.