7 Lessons a Team of New Novelists Learned in Their First Week

My guest today is Kay Ellington, co-author with Barbara Brannon of The Paragraph Ranch. Kay is sharing lessons the two writers learned while navigating the process of platform building, writing their book, publishing it, and now using social media to market their début novel.
Please join me in welcoming Kay to the blog!

Kay Ellington, Author

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WIP seems to be the acronym du jour for authors. Work in Progress. That’s a pretty apt way of describing the massive undertaking my co-author, Barbara Brannon, and I are attempting— to capitalize on social media to market our debut novel, The Paragraph Ranch (Seattle: Booktrope Editions, 2014). If we’re successful, watch for the sequel next year.

For authors, our primary job—besides writing the book—is to build the platform, the audience, the fan base, if you will. But how do we do it? Here’s our WIP and the thinking behind it.

1. Rule number one, there’s only so much you can say about The Book. We knew that going in, so we picked topics and themes in our novel—creative writing, care-giving, and family—that would lend themselves to social media marketing.

We’re building our social media presence based on loyalty. At the top is email marketing. Your newsletter is social media, even if it doesn’t have a cute icon that you can hotlink. Why do you need it? To connect with your proven followers when you have something new they want to hear—and your email provider won’t let you mass-mail to a large list.  Followers who sign up for your email newsletter have a genuine interest in you and your work. We’ve both worked in publishing for decades—me in newspapers and Barbara in book publishing—and through the years we’ve collected emails as though they were rare, precious truffles and nourished those contacts, so that when the time came to launch our author newsletter we wouldn’t be dinged with spam reports.

We mailed our first issue earlier this month to 1,264 people. Our 29% open rate was pretty high by industry standards, and we had only a few opt-outs. We hope that following this intro letter, we’ll fine-tune topics to be of interest to our followers. There are many well-known solutions for email newsletters. We’ve done Constant Contact and MailChimp; we like MadMimi. It’s fun and not so technically challenging.

2. After the newsletter Facebook is next on the loyalty scale. We’re assuming that if you’re reading this post, you’re savvy enough to have your own personal Facebook page and a separate Facebook author page. The latter should avoid photos of your poodles and grandchildren, unless, of course, your book is about poodles and grandchildren. And to minimize Unlikes, make sure only 1 in 4 of your posts relates to The Book. To grow your community of loyal followers, post about the general interests contained in the book and the people you wrote the book for.

We wrote The Paragraph Ranch for writers, people who love Texas, caregivers, farmers and ranchers, and women who love romance, and we’ll post on those topics. We started at square one in May, kind of late in the game for a September pub date, but right now we’re closing in on 500 Likes. When we start having book events later this month, we think we can rachet those up.

3. Twitter. We’ve followed everyone and their dog, it seems, on Twitter. How did we choose? We started with author, bookseller, and local friends we already knew. And then we spied on their profiles and followed the influential authors, publishers, bloggers, and reviewers they knew. If we had read and genuinely enjoyed a book, we tweeted praise. If someone we didn’t yet know followed us, we tweeted thanks. And we retweet interesting bits on writing and authors we know, and interests we share.. We’ve hitched our tweets to the hashtag wagons of similar topics as well. Within the first week we expect to crack the three-digit mark. The 1-to-4 posting ratio for The Book–to–everything else includes Twitter.

4. Pinterest. Best practices say that authors should create five bulletin boards on Pinterest. We’ve been at it for about ten days, and we have six bulletin boards that range from social media for writers to Dr. Dee’s Rules for Writers, drawn from our own book. We expect followers to number in the hundreds by the two-week mark.

5. Instagram. We’ve taken Instagram pics of the book and we’ll use it to post photos at our signings and events. We were tickled pink when one of the 51 people following us asked us to provide a link to buy the book, which we promptly did!

6. Google+ We’ve used Google+ to promote our full schedule of book-signing events this fall, and we’ve tagged content in the book, and linked to how to buy information. We’ve exceeded 200 people in our circles.

7. We started this posting by talking about a long-form tool, and we’ll wrap up with another. Our blog is called The Working Writer (a nod to the fictional writing guide in our novel). We recognize that writers follow many paths to publishing. We’re working to build a community of writers helping one another with best practices to achieve the greatest success possible from their words—whether through sales or self-fulfillment.

Join the conversation at The Working Writer.

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A BIT ABOUT KAY ELLINGTON

Kay Ellington, co-author of The Paragraph Ranch, has spent three decades working from coast to coast in newspapers for companies such as Gannett and the New York Times Regional Group. She consults with clients on traditional and new media at MediaGarden.

Connect with Kay on the following media:
Facebook
The Working Writer
Email: ParagraphRanch@gmail.com
Paragraph Ranch
Twitter (@paragraphranch)

Find The Paragraph Ranch at these sites: Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads.

See Affiliate Disclosures.

Work-in-Progress Blog Tour | My Memoir-in-Progress

The holiday season brought to mind the impact of community. Community with which we gather to celebrate various seasons of the year are part of who we are. My online writing community became my support in 2014 during some difficult times, and without them, I would not carry out nearly as much as I do day-to-day.

Primarily, I want to thank Madeline Sharples, author of the memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, her story of living with her son’s bipolar disorder and surviving his suicide. You can read my review of Madeline’s memoir here.

I am also grateful to Madeline for tagging me to take part in this blog tour. Madeline’s tag simply jarred me out of the doldrums of the Pacific NW winter and back into the life of writing. Read about Madeline’s work-in-progress here.

So here goes:

My Work-in-Progress

Synopsis and story idea :

My memoir is the age-old story of a dysfunctional and abusive mother-daughter relationship. However, my story has a surprising twist, one I never expected and I doubt my readers will either.

Until I was 57, I believed my mother despised me and did everything within her Southern matriarchal power to destroy my dreams and aspirations. Suddenly, however, everything changed at a point when she found herself in need of finding a way to escape abuse herself.

My husband and I became her salvation and in a matter of months, she died peacefully. However, a silent, invisible gift was left as she gained the home she always dreamed of.

Status:

The first draft is finished. Upon reading it, I made the earth-shattering discovery it did not read well and needed major revisions. Not surprising, I’m told by other writers.

In the meantime, a local Portland author led a workshop I attended in August 2014. I enjoy her books and writing style. Her teaching methods and background tempted me to sign up for a course an artists and writers’ collective sponsors. As luck would have it, I fell ill two sessions into the course and had to drop out. I will be able to start over in April and hope this course equips me to write a stronger story line and develop characters forging together my story in so readers will not want to put it down.

Here are brief excerpts from my first three chapters:

Mama’s Toolbox [working title]

Preface:

For some time, I ruminated over writing my story down. What would family say or think? What would friends of our family say or think? Should I change peoples’ names? Should I write under a pseudonym? And then the last question, why obsess?

It is, after all, my story and my mother’s. And yes, it is a story written many times by many different people. Yet every story is different. Each one defines a difficult mother/daughter relationship differently, especially those of the abusive kind. And I believe each one has something in it to help another, maybe more than one person.

Chapter One:

September 2000

I picked up the phone as soon as I’d sat down a couple of bags and checked for voice mails. There were a couple from my boss, but also one from an older brother that put into motion unexpected emotions at my end of the line.

“Hi, there! Thought you’d want to know what I did with your mother this weekend. Call me.”

That was it. What he did with my mother? She was his mother too. What was that all about? And what could he have done? I held power of attorney for our mother’s health care and finances, so he couldn’t have legally done anything with our mother.

Chapter Two:

December 2000

As I flew toward home in Oregon and all things comfortable, I considered the events leading up to this trip.  So far, it had not been an easy one.  Several weeks of anguish over my mother’s confinement in a nursing home and her allegations of abuse had pointed me toward resolution of my mother’s situation.  It is said “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), and I clung to the hope this was true.

In many ways, however, I felt that perhaps the truth was about to imprison me.  My plans surrounding Mama’s situation were indefinite from this point forward.  No detailed, step-by-step recipe showed me where I’d be in a day, a week, a month, maybe in years.

The work-in-progress blog tour rules:

1.  Link back to the post of the person who nominated you.

2.  Write a little about and give the first sentence of the first three chapters of your current work-in-progress (I overdid it a bit on this one).

3.  Nominate four or more other writers to do the same. (Unfortunately, many of the writers I would select had already been tagged, and at the end of the day I came up with only three takers.)

Tag. You’re it!

I’m so pleased to recognize and introduce you to friends and writing colleagues who have agreed to take part in this work-in-progress blog tour. I hope you’ll stop by their sites and get to know them and their work.

Dorit Sasson is an author, blogger, teacher, blog talk radio host, mentor and coach. Basically, Dorit is a busy woman. Dorit’s writing appears in Pebbles in the Pond: Transforming the World One Person at a Timenow part of a best-selling series, and she has published two books on teacher collaboration for K-6 ELL students. Dorit’s work-in-progress is a memoir.

Luanne Castle is a woman of varied talents. Her bio shares her educational background but getting to know her through her blog and her poetry and memoir writing has shown me she can juggle many styles of creative arts at one time. Luanne’s first full-length collection of poetry, Doll God, hit bookstores January 10, 2015. (Congratulations, Luanne!). Luanne is also working on a memoir.

Jade Reyner and I met when I reviewed Jade’s first book in her Twelve Days series. The first and second books, Twelve Days: The Beginning and Twelve Days: The Future, are now under editorial review and will be re-released soon. The third in the series is still a work-in-progress, and Jade has plans for at least two others in this series. If her writing doesn’t keep her busy enough, she is mum to two boys and volunteers at the local school.

Dorit, Luanne and Jade for so willingly agreeing to take part in this WIP blog tour. I look forward to reading your posts in the future.

How about you? Do you have a work in progress you’d like to share? Share in the comments and perhaps someone will tag you!

Once the Storm Is Over: From Grieving to Healing After the Suicide of My Daughter by Nina Bingham

No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. ~ C.S. Lewis

When Nina Bingham lost her fifteen-year old daughter to suicide, she thought her own world would end. But what she learned about love and forgiveness changed her life forever. It will change yours, too.

… Raw and honest, she shares her painful past: an abusive alcoholic father, a failed marriage, the rejection she suffered after she came out as a lesbian, and her own brush with suicide. What could have been a story mired in self-pity and misery, ultimately is a story of hope. Nina’s compelling life journey shows how pain and loss can be transformed into strength and purpose. This book is not only for survivors but for anyone facing depression with suicidal tendencies. …

Once The Storm Is Over unapologetically rips apart the façade of coping to show the devastating aftermath of a child’s suicide and how a mother, flawed but courageous, learns to live again. Described as brave, insightful and inspiring, this book is sure to make its mark in the literature of suicide recovery, and be remembered for its profound and healing message.

(Synopsis via Once the Storm Is Over)

Nina Bingham first contacted me about her memoir via Portland Bloggers. At that time, Nina was looking for help in getting out word of her publication of Once the Storm Is Over.

Soon our email exchanges grew into talk of a guest post, perhaps an interview, whatever might help. Check here for my recent interview with Nina.

And then I opened the advance reader copy Nina had provided. I could not put it down.

From the beginning with her quote from Haruki Murakami, I knew this mother, woman, and counselor had a life story to share:

And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.

The above synopsis more than adequately summarizes this memoir. I struggle finding words to explain more about what Nina Bingham brings to the page.

But what I know is she is a heartbroken mother ravaged by fear and questions over her daughter’s suicide. She can help others but can she help herself? Many families struggle with these same fears, questions, and doubts following such tragic loss.

Nina is not ashamed to write her truth, and she does so with raw anger, sorrow, grief, and at times a hopelessness that brought tears to my eyes. But her story is so well told there is no doubt it will help others.

I highly recommend visiting Once the Storm Is Over, the book site, between now and late February 2015 when the book launches to gain greater insight into the story and other reviews. Links to connect with Nina are below.

Nina’s memoir is a book you want to read if you have experienced the grief and hopelessness of suicidal loss, or if you have someone in your life who seems suicidal and/or depressed, or if you are a professional working with support groups for such people.

Nina’s story is unabashedly truthful and real. It is believable, and Nina herself is accessible for interviews, talks, and more.

Connect with Nina here:

createyourlife.nina@gmail.com
www.oncethestormisover.com
www.ninabingham.blogspot.com
www.amazon.com/author/ninabingham
www.twitter.com/liv_enlightened
www.linkedin.com/in/livingenlightened

Interview with Nina Bingham, Author of Once the Storm Is Over

No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. ~ C.S. Lewis

Today I welcome Nina Bingham, author of Once the Storm Is Over: From Grieving to Healing After the Suicide of My Daughter. In addition to writing, Nina is a life coach and clinical hypnotherapist. Educating not only from academic knowledge, she shares from her own hard-won life experience in a new and profound way. In private practice since 2003, she has treated individuals and couples with a wide variety of mental health issues.

Nina graciously agreed to answer a few questions about her professional life and her book, which will be out in February 2015. Additionally, I review her memoir on this blog on January 22nd.

Join me in welcoming Nina to my blog and gathering for discussion and questions in the comment section below.

First, Nina, thank you for your willingness to share such a personal story with your readers and my followers. I appreciate it is not an easy topic to discuss yet you have written an amazing book and have answered my interview questions graciously.

Nina, would you share with my readers a bit about your professional background aside from your success as a writer?

There’s a long history of mental illness in my family. My paternal grandmother was institutionalized with Clinical Depression, and my father was an unmedicated Manic Depressive (what is now called Bipolar Disorder). He self-medicated with alcohol, and was abusive as a result. Because of my family’s history, I earned an AA in Psychology. It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I developed Clinical Depression, and became suicidal myself. When I couldn’t function anymore, I began taking an anti-depressant and rebounded. I wanted to use my experience to help others, so I returned to college and earned a BA in Applied Psychology, and had completed my academic program for my MS Mental Health Counseling Degree when my 15-year-old daughter began a downhill slide into severe depression after the death of her father. The family curse went from me to her. 

As a mental healthcare professional assisting clients experiencing grief, how do you help them find their way through the devastation of something like suicide where guilt is also an emotional response?

I normalize the experience of guilt and self-blame for them, so they understand it is the most common emotion shared among suicide survivors. We all look back and see where we could have done better or intervened sooner, or said something we wished we had said, or regretted having said things. Only people who loved greatly feel remorse greatly. And while I will forever wish I had done things differently, as time passes I can see that I did love her and I did get her help, that I did the best I could and knew to do at the time. I assure clients who are grieving a suicide, and even those who have lost a loved one by any means, that survivor’s guilt is common, and can be a heavy weight. My advice is to not grieve silently. Get support by sharing your feelings, and finding supportive people. They may not fall in your lap–you may need to go out and look for a support group or a counselor to talk to. But nobody should shoulder the burden of grief alone.

You yourself have experienced the loss of a daughter through suicide. What confounded you the most about not being able to cope with the depth of that grief on your own?

Because I’d been trained to recognize the warning signs of suicide, and had intervened to prevent client suicides in the past, it was doubly hard for me to accept that I had been unable to save my own daughter. Because of this I felt incredible, overwhelming shame. Because of the guilt and self-condemnation, it made it that much harder for me to seek support. Eventually I did find my way to a Psychologist who was very helpful in encouraging self-forgiveness. But what I feel helped me the most was to journal about my feelings, and to talk it out with a friend. I came to realize that suicide happens to every kind of person, in every culture, and mental health professionals are not immune. Today I am not hiding behind the stigma of mental illness anymore, and encourage everyone who has a mental illness to get comfortable talking about it. The more we share our own stories of our challenges and how we are coping and living successfully with these issues, the less societal stigma there will be.

Your memoir, Once the Storm Is Over: From Grieving to Healing after the Suicide of My Daughter, chronicles the lessons you learned during your grief and healing. Could you share briefly about your own healing and how it came about over time?

Key to emotional healing are the words “over time.” You’ve heard the saying, time heals all wounds. That’s true, but only if you express your pain and grief. Keeping the pain of trauma and loss too close to our chest can kill our spirits and hope for the future. Only when we give ourselves permission to be human–to make mistakes, and to see failure as part of the human growth cycle will we accept that we are not perfect, and in fact we are coded for error; making mistakes is part of how we learn and grow. Healing happens when we are willing to externalize the grief by expressing it. Not pushing it away from us and denying it or avoiding it, but looking at it squarely, facing it and saying: I am not perfect, but I did the best I knew to do at the time, and because of that, I deserve a little grace. Healing comes when we allow ourselves to stop running from the pain and to feel our real feelings.

Lastly, talk to us about writing your book and if you can, share with us any launch details.

This book was unintentional, meaning I didn’t write with the intention of sharing my story. It was my Psychologist who suggested I journal about my feelings, and get the grief on paper. To my surprise, I found that although it was difficult seeing my life and problems on paper, it was also miraculously transformative. The more I wrote the more I wanted to write, because it was like a salve that I could apply to the wound any time I wanted. Writing about my feelings was the biggest healing factor for me, because it’s difficult to deny what you’re feeling and thinking when it’s coming straight out of your pen! Journaling was like holding up a mirror in which I could see myself clearly, and that clarity really helped put things into perspective. My journal became this book where readers will be taking this journey through grief with me.

Once The Storm Is Over publishes February 2015 and you can find it on the book website, www.oncethestormisover.com and on Amazon.

Again, Nina, thank you for sharing your words and thoughts with us today.

Learn More About Nina:

Nina Bingham, Cht, AA, BA

Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, American Pacific University, HI

Associates of Arts in Psychology, Santa Rosa Junior College, CA

Bachelors of Arts in Applied Psychology, City University of Seattle, WA

Masters of Science of Mental Health Counseling Academic Program Completed-Capella University, MN

Nina Bingham is an Author, Life Coach, and Clinical Hypnotherapist. Inspiring, sincere and whole-hearted, she educates not only from her academic knowledge, but shares from her own hard-won life experience in a new and profound way. In private practice since 2003, she has treated individuals and couples with a wide variety of mental health issues. She is the author of 3 books of poetry and one recovery workbook, Never Enough. Her fifth book, “Once The Storm Is Over: From Grieving to Healing After The Suicide of My Daughter,” is due out in February 2015. It’s the autobiographical confession of a counselor who lost her teen daughter to suicide. What she learned about love and forgiveness changed her life forever. It will change yours, too.

Connect with Nina here:

createyourlife.nina@gmail.com

www.oncethestormisover.com

www.ninabingham.blogspot.com

www.amazon.com/author/ninabingham

www.twitter.com/liv_enlightened

www.linkedin.com/in/livingenlightened