Écririons

Where’s My Eleventy Billion Dollars?

Last week, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and a post caught my eyes. I’m in a lot of groups of Facebook, mainly ones where we discuss marketing tips, and where I can meet authors and can exchange launch takeovers or blog interviews or other fun ways to help each other promote books.

The post that caught my eye was something along the lines of “I can’t wait until I get picked up by a publishing company. All of this marketing is tiresome and I don’t really have time for it.”

I had to laugh. Okay, I didn’t really laugh, because it was really early and I hadn’t had enough tea yet and if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m super cranky in the mornings. Like really. So I wasn’t laughing. But I’m not sure that I’ve read a more untrue statement since I first got involved in the writing community.

Here’s the deal. Yes, marketing is tiresome. I once watched an author I love do five author takeovers in a week. If you’re unfamiliar, an author takeover is generally done when an author is having a party to celebrate the launch of their latest book. He or she will invite other authors over to her Facebook page to “take over” during the launch party. This means the author who is launching doesn’t have to entertain his or her fans entirely on her own for a few hours, and authors and fans who hadn’t previously been connected get introduced to each other. It’s beneficial all the way around. But it’s tiring, especially given that most authors are still rocking a full time job in addition to writing and marketing their books. Chances are, the author I watched do five takeovers in one week also worked forty hours that week, and had a commute. Maybe she even had a family.

Marketing is also ever ongoing. If you stop marketing, you stop selling books, until you become a household name. For most of us, we’ll have to market until we die, or at least until we get so tired of it that we retire from trying to sell books.

But getting picked up by a traditional publisher isn’t going to end that.

Let me repeat myself. If you get picked up by a traditional publisher, you’re not going to find that you’ve sold a mountain of books and magically have eleventy billion dollars in your bank account without doing any marketing.

It’s just not going to happen.

First of all, marketing budgets have shrunk, all the way around. Even the Big Five publishing companies aren’t going to sink marketing dollars into a relatively unknown author. They’re already in to you for editing, cover design, formatting, and maybe, if you’re lucky, a small print run. There’s no money left for marketing. I’ve read that some publishing houses are even looking at your author platform to see if you already have a following. So even if you’re hoping to get signed by a publishing house, you need to have already done some marketing to get some people interested in what you have to offer. Oh, and that author I watched do five takeovers a week? She’s signed to a publishing house.

Not only that, but the time frame from being signed to releasing your first book through a traditional publisher generally takes months. Months. I’ve seen people who have waited over a year from the time they signed their contract until their book was available for sale.

Advances have shrunk, too. As self-publishers and e-books have driven down the price of books overall, there’s not much money left for huge advances. I’ve known some authors to be signed to major houses who got no advances. I predict that advances will continue to shrink as bookstores like Barnes and Noble continue to close, leaving Amazon with all of the bargaining chips.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to get picked up by a traditional publishing house. Hell, I’ve just booked an editor to go over my manuscript before my first round of queries. Oh, I’ll self publish if I don’t land an agent or a publishing house, but I do want to at least try. I’m going to start talking about my efforts in a few weeks, and I’ll probably update monthly.

I just don’t want you going into the game thinking that if you get picked up by a publishing house that you’re going to be living on steak and lobster for the rest of your life. That’s an unrealistic expectation in today’s publishing world, and to let you think any differently is a disservice. If you do get a big fat advance, I’m really happy for you. And yes, a little jealous. But, truthfully, the chances of that happening are fairly small. Be realistic about your expectations. Educate yourself. Learn about the business that you want to be involved in, rather than walking around holding out your hand, and asking where’s your eleventy billion dollars.

Looking for a Mentor? Pitch Wars May be the Solution!

For aspiring authors, it can be challenging to get their work published. It is hard to find the right channels and contacts to get a manuscript to the final stage of publishing. Putting so much hard work and emotion into a manuscript just to have a hard time getting people to read it can be emotionally difficult. Pitch Wars is the opportunity many authors in this typewriter-801921_1280position need. Pitch Wars give authors a boost to get to the publishing phase.

Pitch Wars is somewhat of a competition between authors. Hosted by published author Brenda Drake on her blog www.brenda-drake.com, Pitch Wars is a brilliant invention. Aspiring authors from all over the internet can submit their manuscripts to up to four mentors. Each week leading up to the submission day, Brenda is posting mentor profiles to help the contestants learn which mentors would be the right match for them. There are mentors for four different categories of writing: middle grade, young adult, new adult, and adult. For one day only, August 17th, 2015, authors can submit their pitch and first chapter of their manuscript in hopes of winning the eye of a mentor. If an author does win a mentor, they will read their entire manuscript and help the author spruce it up to help their chances in publishing.

Sounds pretty sweet, right? The contest is open to anyone, so if you think you are interested in submitting your work, here are a few tips for entering the Pitch Wars:

  • Your manuscript should be fiction. Do not submit any nonfiction works.
  • Only submit manuscripts for middle grades and up. Do not submit any picture books or elementary school books.
  • You can only enter one completed manuscript. Unfinished or previously published manuscripts, even self-published manuscripts, will not be considered.
  • You can only apply for up to four mentors, max. You do not have to apply for all four, but four is your limit.
  • Mentors will only consider manuscripts in the categories they signed up for. If you submit a manuscript to a mentor not signed up for that category, your manuscript will be ignored.
  • The sample chapter you submit must me in 12 point, double space format. This is typical manuscript format.
  • To enter, fill out the online form on her blog on August 17th. It goes live at midnight.

There are 92 mentee spots up for grabs! The submission period is only open for 24 hours, so mark your calendars now! Chosen mentees will be mentored for two months to get their manuscript ready for agents. So, between now and August 17th, check out the mentor profiles and decide what mentor(s) would be right for you. These mentors are wonderful resources in the publishing process and are not to be taken for granted. Please respect the mentors and fellow contestants. They will delete your application if they find you not to be compliant with the contest rules. So remember, have fun and play by the rules, and you could be published in no time!

10 Ways a Writing Group Will Help You Be a Better Writer

As you may know, I didn’t start writing until I was older.  For awhile there, I wasn’t sure where to start or how to do any of the stuff that needs to be done when you want to publish a book. And, truthfully, my writing needed work. Lots of it. It still does, mind you, but I’vewriting Group improved greatly in the last few years, and most of that is due to the help of my writing groups.

I knew I needed help (which is the first step in identifying any problem behavior, right?) so I went looking for an online community. While I think a local group would have been great, there just weren’t any resources available to me locally. I live in a town of about 525 people. Yes, really. We don’t have a thriving community center that hosts book clubs and creative groups and moms get togethers every week. We have an eighty year old building that hosts a seniors luncheon once a week and an average of one birthday party, funeral, or baby shower per month. There is a local writing group that meets once in awhile, one town over, but that night usually interferes with something the family has going on. Plus, it’s an hour round trip, plus two to three hours in the group, after I’ve worked a full day and rushed around folding laundry and cooking dinner. That doesn’t work for me.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t look for a local group. Truthfully, I think local groups are great, and if I could find one that met at a time that worked better for me, or in a location that didn’t involve me driving on the highway late at night, during winters where winds can get to be 50 miles and hour and temps go below zero regularly, I might be up for it. Being able to have someone down the street for a critique, or for you to read out loud to in preparation for a public appearance, or to meet for coffee and commisserate over rejected manuscripts, would be awesome. But it’s not realistic for a lot of authors I know, who are parents with kids still at home, and working full time on top of trying to find time to write.

But an online community? Somewhere I could contribute to at 5 am when I have some time before I have to start breakfast and get dressed and help my nine year old find his shoes again? Where I can pop in and post a critique request while I’m waiting for the water to boil so I can put in the pasta for tonight’s dinner? Sign me up!

By chance, I had followed writer Katharine Grubb on Twitter, and she was posting about her writing group, 10 Minute Novelists. I jumped in with both feet, and, let me tell you, I can  honestly say that it was the best move I ever made. Here’s what I gained from joining a writing group:

1. A sense that I wasn’t alone. When I joined 10 Minute Novelists, there were writers there in all of the phases of publication-from published authors who had lucrative contracts and awesome agents, to people who hadn’t done much beyond a few NaNoWriMo attempts.

2. A support group. Those folks freely gave advice. Need a word to describe the feelings that you have when you have your first kiss (because you don’t remember because yours was 30 years ago)? Post it. Need to vent because you haven’t gotten any words written because you got stuck in traffic and the dog crapped on the floor and dinner exploded? Someone’s going to be around to listen. Need to celebrate because that agent you queried wants a full? Your writing group is there ready to party.

3. Access to resources that I would have spent months finding on my own. Think about your bookmarks tab. How many publishing related bookmarks do you have there? I have hundreds. Think about having access to 100 or 300 or 500 other people who also have hundreds of publishing related bookmarks. Someone is bound to have a link to the info you need.

4. A ready made critique group. In a writing group, you can always find someone who will critique or beta-read for you, for free. And because they’re writers, they’re going to give you advice that will help you become a better writer. And because you’ve connected with them through a writing group, and they’ve become your friends, they’re going to pat you on the back while you drink all the wine while reading your critiques.

5. Networking opportunities. In 10 Minute Novelists, several participants host chats. From there, I was able to watch an author lecture about world building for fantasy books, and ask any question I possibly could think of, of an agent (My question: What if you don’t follow the genre rules? His answer: Don’t query that novel. Wait until later or self publish that book.). I was able to find authors who were semi-local to me (remember, I live out in the boonies), so that when I’m ready to do a public reading, I can reach out to those semi-local authors and put together an event.

6. Marketing support. Did I mention support? When my first book, an anthology, was released, we had a Facebook launch party. Several of the attendees were there because other members of my writing groups had helped to spread the word. I’ve done the same for other authors, especially those in my genre, as we’re likely to share a fan base.

7. The push to be better. Through offshoot groups, some writing groups have contests, groups that hold each other’s hands during NaNoWriMo, or work on sprinting with specific targets or prompts to increase writing skill.  Also, when you read another author’s book and think “Holy shit. I really need to up my game!” are an eye opener, and fantastic for pushing you to be better. Especially when you know the author and you know they are down to earth and burn the dinner and fall down at inappropriate moments instead of being some magical, mythical being.

8. Exposure. One of my writing groups, The Writing Wenches, has a blog, to which I am able to contribute. This helps new readers find me (because the Writing Wenches all have one thing in common; it’s all about the romance, baby!). I’ve made contacts through my writing groups that have been happy to share about my latest release on their own blogs, and I’ve hosted more than a few author interviews and launch party celebrations on my own blog.

9. Someone to hold my hand. Writing is hard, y’all. There’s days when nothing works right, or days when that agent that you queried doesn’t want a full. At any time of the day or night, I can head over to one of my writing groups and find someone who can say “I know. I’m sorry. I’ve been there and I completely understand how you feel right now.” That’s invaluable in the writing world, especially if we don’t get a lot of support from friends or family.

10. Friendships. Those long nights of hand holding, or beta reading, or laughing over the most ridiculous words ever used in a love scene have built solid, long lasting friendships that I’m better for having experienced. I wouldn’t trade the relationships I’ve built for anything. As an author, there’s more to your life than just writing, and when you can have great friends who can be there with you in those other moments, both good and bad, it’s invaluable.

As you can see, I feel like writing groups are essential for a writer’s success. In fact, I would go so far as to say that even if I had never published, the experience of improving my writing, and making deep, lasting connections, has been well worth the price of admission.

Inspiration & Connection Writing Prompt #6

Weekly Writing Prompt Link Up at Écririons

Welcome to the Weekly Inspiration and Connection Writing Prompt Link Up here at Écririons!

Each Monday, I’ll be posting a writing prompt. It might come as an image, a song, a question, a piece of dialogue, a word or an idea.

The purpose of this weekly writing prompt challenge is to get you writing, to get you trying new things as well as connecting you with other writers and readers. You can find the full rules here.

Here’s a quick run down:
Use the given prompt to create a new, original creation. It can be a story, a poem, a song, a dance etc
Share it on your own site and be sure to include the Écririons banner by copying the following code and paste it into your html/text editor (replace the brackets with < and >)
[a href=”http://ecririons.com/2015/06/inspiration-connection-writing-prompt-6/”][img src=”http://ecririons.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/linkup.jpg” alt=”Weekly Writing Prompt Link Up at Écririons” width=”600″ height=”100″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-300″ /][/a] Come back here and link up to your direct blog post in the link up below.
On Sunday night, one of our editors/authors at Écririon will go through the linked up posts and pick our top 3 and feature them in the new post the next day.
Be sure to use our hashtag on social media #EcririonsPrompt

Week 6 Prompt:

This week’s prompt is a photograph:
writingprompt6 source

Entries:
After writing your story, share a link to the post in the comments below.

What Five Words Define Your Author Brand?

Last week, I posted about what you need to do before you published your novel. Today, we’re going to begin going over those topics individually. First, we’re going to talk about building your author brand. Your author brand is just like the brand for any other business out there. It’s the story of you, as an author. So the first thing that you need to do is begin to develop that brand.

Let’s Get Down to Business

What Five Words Describe

 

Grab a pen and some paper, or, if you insist, use Evernote or even word. I came into this world using pen and paper for lists, and I’ll go out of it that way, too. Probably. The first thing that I want you to do is write down the name of your favorite author, and then write down five words that you think of when you think of him or her. Then do it two or three more times. Here’s mine:

 

 

Diana Gabaldon

  • Outlander
  • Scotland
  • Jamie
  • Claire
  • Tea

Robert Jordan

  • Wheel of Time
  • Long-winded
  • Wordsmith
  • Storyteller
  • Dead

George R.R. Martin

  • Game of Thrones
  • Sadistic
  • Funny
  • Creative
  • Storyteller

Some of these terms, the authors and their marketing teams have worked very hard to cultivate; most notably are series titles. Some of them, the marketing team, or even the authors themselves, had nothing to do with building. I think of tea when I think of Diana Gabaldon because I would love to sit down for a cup of tea with her. Robert Jordan is, indeed, dead, and no one would deny that George R.R. Martin is sadistic. By their choice or not, these are the first five words I associate with some of my favorite authors.

My Five Words

My day job is in marketing. When I do a beginning consultation with any new client, I ask them to choose five words that they want people to think of, when they think of their company or brand. We then take those five words and find ways to build them into their content, so that as they tell their story, we are creating images that go with those five words. I’m going to give you mine, and then tell you about how I’ve worked to implement them into my own brand-building efforts

Funny

Relevant

Gritty

Working Mom

Friend

I’m in the process of rebranding my author business, so this is actually something that I work on, on a regular basis. Let’s look at those words one by one.

Funny:

If I want people to perceive me as funny, I need to do funny things. To that end, I retweet funny tweets, I share funny content on my Facebook page, and I write funny stuff on my personal blog. Not everything is funny, of course, but if I see an opportunity to be funny, I take it.

Relevant:

Sadly, one can’t make themselves relevant. One can only do things that will lead people to think they are relevant. So I stay up on current events, and talk about them. I occasionally soapboxeven get on my soapbox, breaking that rule that says you shouldn’t talk about politics or religion in a public forum. It’s worth it, to me, to do that, because it contributes to building my brand. I know many authors who do not feel that talking about religion or politics is right for their brand, and some who strongly feel that talking about politics or religion would not, in any way, help their brand. Something like this is a personal decision that only you can make. Whichever decision you make, is right.

When we’re talking about being relevant, it doesn’t have to mean that you’re talking about controversial subjects. One can talk about current events without being controversial.  But it also depends on the brand you’re trying to build. If you’re a children’s author, then your “relevant” is different than the “relevant” of a romance author, and that is different than the “relevant” of a science fiction author. Because I write romance, and my target demographic are older women who are likely to be moms, I got on my soapbox a lot when people were mad about Kim Kardashian’s naked ass because she’s a mother. I felt strongly that her being a mother has nothing to do with her posing naked, and that women should be able to live their lives as they choose. I figure my target audience feels that way, too.

Gritty:

A few of my planned novels are going to be pretty gritty. Frankly, the word “gritty” describes an aspect of my personality. I am slightly abrasive. As noted above, I talk about politics with abandon, and I tend to tell things like it is. I want to push some buttons.

Working Mom:

I work full time. I walk that tightrope between being a professional who works at home, being a mom, and being a woman; then I decided to throw in this whole author thing. My gosh. What was I thinking? Truthfully, I was thinking that sometimes, I fall off of that tightrope. We can’t really have it all, no matter what society tries to tell us, but that is a topic for a series of future non-fiction books, and part of why building that into my brand is so important today.

Friend

Recently, I had been struggling with my blog. In the future, I’m going to tell you that writing a blog is important. Really important. But I was having a hard time keeping up with that aspect of things, myself. I contracted with a promotions company to share their promotions on my blog, so that I would have a good stream of relevant (see, there’s that word again) posts for my readers. However, I had essentially turned my blog into a space where I was plugging writers whose work I hadn’t read, and I really didn’t like that.

About two weeks after I finally bought my domain, it finally occurred to me what I wanted my blog to be: a conversation between two friends, much like you would have over a cup of tea on the front porch. I was thinking that ConversationsOverTea.com would be a great domain. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be investing in it, since I already bought my domain. Maybe later…

Anyway, the point of this is that marketing in today’s digital marketplace is all about relationships. If I’m going to be selling my gritty, emotional, funny, relevant books, I’m going to need to make friends with my potential readers. And that’s best done over gritty, emotional, funny, relevant conversations over tea, on my blog.

It’s Homework Time

So your homework for today is to think of five words that you want to define you, as an author. I would caution you to avoid using genre specific terms here-you may someday want to branch out of whatever it is you’re writing now. But other than that, there are no rules here. The second part of this is to put together a one paragraph plan of attack for each word, defining how you’re going to take those words and make them yours. Want to run your plans by me for the opinion of someone who pays the bills by helping others do what you’re doing here? Post your five, and your plans, in comments, and I’ll reply with my thoughts. Next week, I’ll talk about my own processes, so you can see how I work daily to build my own author brand, related to those five words.

Your brand is the story of you, as an author. Choose five words to help you define that brand

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