Marketing for Success 101: And the Gold Goes to…

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You, of course!

How did you get to the top?  You worked hard (unpacking boxes-ha!).

Seriously, though, you did work hard; dissecting and utilizing all the tools of marketing is intimidating.

So, your final manuscript should glow like gold in the hands of an agent, editor, or publisher.  You get the gold because you took the following actions.

iu-5.jpegEditing.  I don’t know how many posts and lectures I have given on this topic.  It seems to be the area where a new author wants to take high risk.  Agents, editors, publishers are very busy.  We usually have a year’s worth of work stacked high and more comes every day.  Thousands and thousands of manuscripts.  No one can read all that.  So, the norm is to read about 3 pages.  If there are too many typos or grammar problems, that’s a giant red flag.  Your ms is not going anywhere except back to you or the trash.  I know that’s harsh.  How else can I get this point across?  People like books that flow and sustain some kind of pace.  Typos and grammar problems ruin everything.  You don’t want your reader stumbling from word to word.

Note:  not all editors are the same.  If you are writing fantasy, find one who likes fantasy. He or she is already familiar with the genre, loves to read it, and knows what reader expectations are.  A proofreader is not an editor.  See my previous blogs on editing.

Note:  get quotes.  If you have $25 in your pocket and the bill is $250 for editing, you may want to get more resourceful.  Self-publishers should particularly pay attention to this.  Knowing where to find a good editor can be problematic.  Ask for recommendations.  If you are reading a book that you think is exceptionally organized, see if the editor’s name or company is on the title page or acknowledgment page.  Ask me.  I know some great, very thorough editors with decades of experience.

Price:  Free to $$

iu-6.jpegArt Work.  If you are not already an artist, don’t think you are going to sit down with Photoshop tonight and design an award-winning cover.  I wish it did work like that.  Finding good art that works in a book has been the most challenging part of my job.  I wrote quite a few kids’ stories a long time ago, but that’s where it ended because I had no clue where to find an illustrator.  Then I published novels.  Again, the art was a problem until I lucked into a great cover designer at a conference.  You never know whom you will connect with.

Invest in a good illustrator or cover designer.  Use somebody who does this as a job, not a hobby.  Communicate.  Communicate. Communicate.  If you want a white dog and you get a brown one, say something.  You may be paying for illustrations you are not going to use.

There is no such thing as a good cover.  You need a good front cover AND a good back cover.  The front cover serves to grab someone’s attention.  Colors should be genre appropriate, no more than 3 fonts from the same family, and give standard information:  title, author, series, and maybe a comment.  It must be readable.  The back cover compels the looker to buy.  A back cover could include a blurb, reviews, author bio info. You can find writers who specialize in writing back covers.

If your book isn’t selling, ask someone to look at the first 3 pages.  If there are many errors, fix them.  If there aren’t any errors, then redo the covers. You could go as far as also changing the title.  Of course, that’s going to cost you an ISBN each time, but you do what you have to sell the book.

Price:  Free to $$

iu-7.jpegIdentify your genre.  If you don’t know what the genre is, nobody else does either.  Different genres have different rules.  Prologues are good for epic fantasy and sci-fi, but not for any other genre.  You can create all kinds of worlds which may or may not be logical.  Your reader will buy into one unbelievable fact, but not two. Even color has something to say.  Three years ago turquoise on a cover indicated you were reading a metaphysical book.  That color is everywhere now.

Plus, there are new genres and niche categories popping up every day.  Boomer Lit started about 6 months ago.  Bizarro Lit, Ergodic Lit, Oulip.  Sorry.  I have no experience here.  They are too new to the market.

Price: Free

iu-8.jpegNow you have a finished product, so start entering contests and get your book out there.

If you are writing a children’s book, Google children’s book contests.  How many contests you enter often depends upon the time of year.  There are many to enter right now (October).

If you follow me on FB, I repost contests the minute one shows up in my feed.

Note:  watch the fees.  They vary from Free to $$.  If you are paying a fee, what are you getting?  Yes, you can say you won such and such and maybe you have a medallion to put on your books, but what else?  Any publicity with that or is it over?  Any contest that charges exorbitant rates should provide something other than a medallion or the jpg of a medallion.  AND it should be a prestigious award.  Some money would be nice. (Smile)

Note:  always read the fine print.  Every contest is different.  PDF or hard copy?  How many hard copies?  What category?  One or cross categories?  Fees.  If you enter a contest and the prize is the publication of your work, don’t enter several of those.  You could be looking at legal issues.  If you win, did you sign a contract that promises you’ll be there?

Tomorrow, I’ll address questions and offer what little financial advice I can provide.  I’m also putting together a list of marketing agencies who have some experience with fiction. If you want to turn the entire marketing project over to a third party, there are some good people to work with.  (I also know the scammers.)

Hope to see you or interact with you in a FB Group–never a dull moment there!

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Marketing 101: Essentials

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I’m getting pretty used to opening my front door and finding a package waiting for me.  What did I order this time?  Sometimes I can’t go to sleep, so I stay up and entertain myself with shopping sites.  It’s amazing what I think I need at 2 AM versus what I think I need at 2 PM!  
So there’s this huge package on my doorstep, evidentally dropped by a drone since I never heard a delivery truck.  The heavens dropped this here by magic. Must be something great inside. And. It’s. FREE!!!
Hours later…
Um, I have all these nice little colored boxes of various sizes.  It was quite thrilling to open each one, but all I see are some weird pieces and paper with tiny printing on it.  Oh no!!  I have to read INSTRUCTIONS.  It probably looked good in the ad, but now I have to put it together?  Really??  
My favorite expression right now is expectations versus realities.  This box EXPECTS me to assemble the parts–ha!  Not my forté.  However, when I ordered this, I must have believed there was some real component to it that would have a REAL impact on my writing career.
So, let’s unwrap each box together and simplify the assembly.  You will not need any special tools unless you need some special tools.
 
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The Copper Package

There are essentials to marketing anything today.  The book industry is tough.  If you think you have just written the Great American Novel, maybe somebody but you should know about this revolutionary piece of literature.  How do you get the word out?  Open the box and start with #1.
#1  You must have a website.  No website=pretty much nothing.  Don’t expect to be acknowledged as an author or sell any books without one. Brick and mortar is going the way of dust.  When a client of mine described what the closing of a Barnes and Noble did to her community, I was shocked.  Yes, I can and do, obviously, order online, but when it comes to books, I’d like my experience to be in a store.  That is exactly how many authors gauge their success:  I got into B&N!!  Yeah! Get a website.  If you know what you are doing, you can go to Wix, Weebly, use Apple templates (Sandvox)–anything to get you started.  Minimally, you should have a page about you, a page about your book, a way to contact you and order the book, and a blog so you can stay in touch with fans.
Price: minimum is free
#2  You must have a domain name appropriate for your site. GoDaddy or other websites will offer you the opportunity to purchase one there.
Price: $100+
#3  You must have a professional email address.  If you are currently using slutty909 or cock#1, get a new one.  These look like you are immature or don’t take your writing seriously. Yahoo and gmail addresses are usually accepted, but rather than take the chance, change to one that reflects you as the professional writer you are.  This will be included in your website hosting or domain name.
Price: free as included
#4. You must have a Facebook account.  Whether you like it or not, there are millions of active people and groups on Facebook.  You can control who sees what, but remember your goal is to get your name out there and sell books.  Authors survive and build reputations based on exposure. I do agree that FB only targets people over 30.  There are similar ways, but different methods, to reach the under 30 crowd.  If you are Facebook shy, ask someone to set you up.  You will need a profile page and a post page.
Price: free although you can purchase FB ads
These are just some groups I have found lately that look very promising: Writers’ Group, Children’s Book Reviews and Promos, A Place to Promote Children’s, Reviewmates, Writing for Children: A Community for Kidlit Writers, Writers Helping Writers, Fiction Writing, Writers Assembled.  More pop up every day.
#5  You must have a professional headshotDo not use a selfie.  Those things you have hanging on your wall that you don’t really notice get quite the attention when they look like alien antennas or something sticking out of your head.  Maybe you know a photographer or can watch for specials.  Conferences generally offer free or very inexpensive headshots.  NOTE:  you do not own that photograph even though you paid for it.  The photographer owns it.  You will need a signed release.  Most photographers have the paperwork.
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#6  You must have a business card that advertises you as an author or writer.  The best ones I have seen are very simple:  a cursive or printed name of the author with “author” below it.  Detail information can go on the reverse side.  This is your job, not a hobby or something you do when time affords it.  Take your writing side seriously.
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the bronze plan.  Obviously, that package has more to assemble and may require some outside assistance.  Just saying…

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

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RMFW held its Colorado Gold Conference this weekend in Denver, CO. #RMFW2017 http://www.RMFW.org @RMFWriters

I have been encouraging new writers to join an organization. It is the number one way to improve your writing, get the latest information on the publishing industry, get help for your stuck points, practice pitches, and talk to agents, editors, and publishers.  This conference targeted new writers.  Tons and tons of workshops and panels, tons and tons of experts willing to give you some individual time, and lots of master classes for the already accomplished author.

AND we got to meet Diana Gabaldon, author of the OUTLANDER series, which premiered on STARZ last night.

Throughout the week, I will be posting sage advice I gleaned from the conference and pass that along to you in segments.

You can join for as little as $45.  Check out the online classes, free help sessions, and monthly events–all designed to make you a better writer.

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What does an editor do?

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You are your own worst enemy when it comes to editing.  There’s a psychological term for this that escapes me right now, but it boils down to mind games.  Your brain will look at errors and automatically correct them or fill in the blanks.

Can You Read This?  by Chris McCarthy (Study@ecenglish.com)

I cnduo’t bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whoutit a pboerlm. Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Aaznmig, huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghhuot slelinpg was ipmorantt! See if yuor fdreins can raed tihs too.

Whether you are self-publishing or signing with a publisher, you want the best editor you can get.  Constructive criticism is hard to take these days. It’s not intended to beat you down.  An editor is the invisible person behind you who honestly has your best interest at heart.  An editor can shape your manuscript from the ordinary to the best product possible.  Yes, it can be frustrating and take a while, month and years.

But, there are options there, too.  If you don’t like your editor for some reason, ask for another.  You can always go out on your own, but remember good editing is expensive.  Yes, your first-grade teacher or next door neighbor, friend, or spouse can always look at it, but is that in your own best interest?

Are Your Dreams of Being Hemingway Dissolving? Don’t Despair!

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You might start out with a plan, but after you write a while, your writing can take on a life of its own and lead you down another path.  Don’t despair. “[T]hat’s the great thing about fiction. We use it for entertainment, and we also use it to explain and understand our lives. We only make sense of what has happened to us when we can tell it as a story. I’ve used my fiction to deal with 9/11, the War on Terror, aging, death, wealth, poverty and a host of other issues. I just happened to include the undead and werewolves and spies while I did it.

Five books in, this is the one lesson I can say I’ve learned, the one thing I can tell any aspiring writer: Write what you want. Even if it includes lizard people or Atlantis. If people don’t like what you like, write it again, and make it better until they do. But never be ashamed of your enthusiasms.”

Read more of “I dreamed of being Hemingway and ended up a pulp fiction writer” at http://nypost.com/2016/08/14/i-dreamed-of-being-hemingway%e2%80%8b%e2%80%8b-but-ended-up-a-pulp-fiction-writer/

Where’s My Book? The Mystery behind the Publishing Process

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Where is your book?  The most honest answer involves a tidy arrangement of piles and piles of manuscripts.  You’re in there somewhere!  So how do you move to the top?

  1.  The top of the pile often depends on genre.  If I’m looking for diversification in my catalogue, I’m looking for something different.  Are you different?  How so?
  2. The top of the pile often depends on the rules.  Did you read our website?  Are you turning in a manuscript that meets our minimum requirements? Unreadable manuscripts are often tossed–they don’t make it to the top of the pile.
  3. Moving to the top involves a series of rewrites according to an editor’s direction.  Even an editor gets tired of fixing the same old comma splice over and over again, so to speed up the editing process, make sure your copy is as clean as it can be.
  4. Editors get busy.  One novel can preoccupy months of the writing process.  Be prepared for delays along the way.
  5. If you have spent two years writing a children’s book, don’t expect an illustrator to produce visuals overnight.  Technically, if it took you two years, give the illustrator two years.  Most illustrators work faster than that, but remember they are trying to make a living.  Perhaps they have more than one job in the works. The final tweaking can be complicated.
  6. Layout and typesetting also take time.  It’s easy for a book to get caught up in production and design.  Remember, all you started with was a manuscript, and all you wish for is a book.

Be patient.  Rome wasn’t built in a day. The featured image says it all.

Reference:

Publishing Infographic: How A Book is Born

by Madeleine Crum