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.

The Dip or the Dead-End?

My guest today is Mary Gottschalk, author of Sailing Down the Moonbeam and most recently, A Fitting Place. Mary shares her insights into marketing and the challenges marketing presents to writers today. I encourage you to visit Mary’s blog and to take a look at her books. Mary is an excellent writer and someone I look to for guidance in many ways.
Now let’s welcome, Mary.


Back in the days when I was a financial consultant to multi-national corporations, I loved Seth Godin’s little tome called The Dip.  In it, Godin offered a way to deal with that awful feeling of being ”stuck” … with those days when you’re wondering why on earth you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing.

Godin, a popular management consultant in the corporate world, draws a distinction between “a temporary setback that will get better if you keep pushing” (the Dip) and a situation that “will never get better, no matter how hard you try” (the Cul-de-Sac or dead-end).

I find Godin’s wisdom relevant for writers, particularly for indie authors who are laboring in the field, trying one trick after another to market their books, with varying degrees of success.

Even as I was still in the writing stages of my novel, A Fitting Place, I found myself resenting the seemingly endless hours I spent on social media, garnering information about titles and book blurbs and covers and printing options and, of course, marketing strategies. Pundits (social media people, mostly) kept telling me how useful this information would be. I had no reason not to believe them, but I wanted to be writing, not making lists of websites to contact and contests to enter.

I grew grumpier with every passing day.  I abhor repetitive tasks. The ever-growing list of to-do’s made it almost impossible to enjoy a bike ride or read a book—assuming I actually found time to get on a bike or pick up a book.

Even more, I hated the idea of asking strangers to do something for me.  This quirk goes back a long way.  At age 7, I was the only one in my troupe who failed to sell her quota of Girl Scout cookies.  That pattern followed me throughout a successful career.  In the early years, I never had to send out resumes because I had mentors who believed in me and opened doors on my behalf.  In the later years as a consultant, word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients meant I never had to advertise.

As a consequence, I was woefully ill-prepared by both temperament and training for the kind of self-promotion that an indie writer needs to be successful.

We’ve all heard, of course, that you’ll be more successful if you focus on things that you are good at as well as passionate about.  Marketing failed on both counts.

At the same time, I didn’t like the idea of being a quitter.

Should I just buckle down and do the marketing tasks, regardless of how unpleasant they seem? Was this a dip that I could forge through, eventually developing the marketing skills to generate significant sales?  Or was this a cul-de-sac? Would I spend days and weeks on a repetitive series of tasks I hated, with little to show for my efforts?

What Godin’s little book offered was a way of thinking it through.  What I soon realized was that my measure of success with A Fitting Place is not how many books I sell or how many contests I win.  It is the simple pleasure of having a reader tell me that my novel made him or her think differently about the complexity of human relationships, about the need to break down social stereotypes about gender, about the importance of taking responsibility for your own decisions.  It is the delight of sharing life experiences with book clubs and writing groups.  And of course, it’s always nice to be told that A Fitting Place is a “page turner.”

From that perspective, I already know that my novel is successful.  Selling another 1,000 or 50,000 books will not materially increase my level of satisfaction.

An intensive marketing campaign would almost certainly be a dead-end rather than a dip.

With Godin’s help, I have begun to get some balance back in my life.  I now have time to take a philosophy class, to go for a bicycle ride, and last but not least, to dig into my waist-high “to be read” pile.

I would love to hear how you’re dealing with challenges of marketing.

Meet Mary:

DSC_4440-Edit_2-2Mary has made a career out of changing careers.

She spent nearly thirty years in the financial markets, first in New York, and then in New Zealand and Australia, eventually returning to New York.

Along the way, she dropped out several times. In the mid-1980’s, at age 40, Mary and her husband Tom embarked on the three-year sailing voyage that is the subject of her memoir, SAILING DOWN THE MOONBEAM. When the voyage ended, she returned to her career in finance, but dropped out again to provide financial and strategic planning services to the nonprofit community.

AFittingPlace_FrontCover_3.5In her latest incarnation, she is a full time writer. Her first novel, A FITTING PLACE, was released in May, 2014.  She lives in Des Moines, Iowa.

Links:

http://marycgottschalk.com/home/

http://twitter.com/marycgottschalk

http://www.facebook.com/mary.gottschalk.9

Amazon:

A Fitting Place – http://amzn.to/1m57778

Sailing Down the Moonbeam – http://www.amazon.com/Sailing-Down-Moonbeam-Mary-Gottschalk/dp/0979799724

5 People and 2 Sites You Should Follow

Writers and bloggers need resources to aid in getting their ideas into context attractive to their followers. In order to find these resources, we could spend hours surfing the Internet to find those people most helpful to our brand, blog, or book. The following five individuals and two sites are resources I follow consistently. I hope you find something helpful among them.

1. Frances Caballo of Social Media Just for Writers

Frances Caballo
Frances Caballo

“Social Media Just for Writers was named as one of the top 30 websites for independently published authors by Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.”

“This website will help you to get your writing in front of more readers who would love to know about your books. You’ll learn how to use social media efficiently and effectively, and you’ll learn about new applications, best practices, and tips that will help you reach your marketing goals.”

(quoted from About page of Social Media Just for Writers)

2. Dan Blank of We Grow Media

Dan Blank
Dan Blank

“I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of writers, helping them share their stories and connect with readers. Some of these folks are bestselling authors, with millions of books sold, while others are first time authors, and many more are somewhere between those two points.”

“…I’ve worked with hundreds of authors, and some of the most amazing organizations that support writers.”

(quoted from About page of We Grow Media)

3. Gretchen Louise, Connoisseur of Words and Code

Gretchen is a treasure trove of tech tips, social media tips, suggestions for maintaining an easy-to-work-with inbox, and more. Read some endorsements I found on her site:

Gretchen Louise
Gretchen Louise

“I like to think I’m fairly computer savvy, but there are some aspects of WordPress that really freak me out! Gretchen took my vision and was able to make anything I wanted happen. All I had to do was ask!”
-Kalyn Brooke, Creative Savings

“I really can’t say enough good things about Gretchen…she is professional, helpful, kind, and a coding superstar! She customized a theme for my site and it looks amazing. I felt completely confident that she would make my site look beautiful and work flawlessly, and I was right! She is a wonder.”
-Kelly, The Pretty Bee

4. Angela Ackerman and Rebecca Puglisi at Writers Helping Writers

Writers Helping Writers, formerly known as The Bookshelf Muse, is hosted by co-authors and co-bloggers, Angela Ackerman and Rebecca Puglisi. Together they have written “bestselling triplets, The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, and The Negative Trait Thesaurus.”

From their About page, “Our mission is simple: offer help and support as much as we can. This site has many different tools and resources for writers, editors and teachers, so poke around and enjoy!”

5. Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer

Joel Friedlander
Joel Friedlander

Joel Friedlander, better known as The Book Designer, offers practical advice to help writers in producing better books. The following quote sums up Joel’s philosophy:

“Writers change the world one reader at a time.  But you can’t change the world with a book that’s still on your hard
drive or in a box under your bed.”

Joel’s blog is filled with resources and tools to help you decide how you want to publish your book and to teach you the ins and outs of self-publishing should you choose to follow that route. The author of many books on the subject of publishing and with a background in the field, Joel’s expertise is priceless.

6. Writer Unboxed

In 2006 aspiring novelists Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton collaborated to dissect complex books and movies. After their second rejection, they decided to create a site where they could state their opinions with no possibility of rejection, except possibly from readers. Writer Unboxed was born. With a list of contributors too long to share here, the articles posted in Writer Unboxed always bring something to the reader useful, educational, and resourceful. It is a site I recommend to all aspiring writers.

7. Writers Digest

writers digest
writers digest

Writers Digest, the site, is a one-stop shopping experience for the writer. With everything from books, magazines, downloads, conferences, workshops, classes, webinars, tutorials, blogs, competitions and resources, this site is like an online shopping and educational experience rolled into one. Writers of all genre will find something to suit their needs and competitive spirits. With a subscription to the newsletter, you’ll receive a list of 101 websites for writers, more than I’ll ever be able to list here. (That doesn’t mean you won’t need to continue to read my blog! Or subscribe to my newsletter.)

These are some of the folks I rely on for information and leads as I write my book. Of course, there are many others as well. However, I encourage you to take some time to visit each of these if you haven’t already. I think you’ll find something valuable.

What about you? Do you have favorite sources of information online you could share with us?

Encounters of the Best Kind

Via MorgueFile
Via MorgueFile

Not to minimize fantastic vacation trips and summers experienced in the past, but this summer’s experiences have amazed me! I cannot resist sharing the almost extraterrestrial sense of time and place present during this season.

For some time I have interacted with two writers and one editor online. In fact, I would go so far to say we forged cyber-friendships never knowing what lay beyond emails and comments.

Like the three windows shown here, we cannot see what is on the other side of the window panes. We can only imagine.

Likewise, we could see a computer screen and send messages to one another. Beyond screens and words, we knew very little about each other. We had no way of knowing the authentic person on the other side of the screen.

Summer 2014 has changed all that, and it has been a rewarding and special time.

First off, in June, I met writing friend and mentor, Sharon Lippincott, in real time in Lake Oswego, a suburb of Portland, OR. We shared a couple of hours and coffee at St. Honore Bakery as we talked writing and memoir, husbands, health, travel, technology, and yes, children and grandchildren! Sharon and her husband, Parvin, were in town to attend their granddaughter’s high school graduation.

Sharon blogs at The Heart and Craft of Life Writing, a reservoir of excellent information for those wanting to write life stories and/or/memoir. Sharon also is co-founder and host of Life Writers Forum, an online gathering place for writers to meet others interested in life story writing and memoirs. Additionally, the forum is a base for exchanging writing tips and other writing-related information.

Sharon has written several books, which are available via Amazon.

Next up was a real encounter with Candace Johnson of Change It Up Editing. Candace has a vast background in working with traditional publishers, self-publishers, and independent book packagers. She has assisted clients with nonfiction subject matter ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments and self-help as well as reality based novels and more traditional fiction genres.

A few weeks ago I telephoned Candace to talk over the possibility of contracting for editorial services when the time arrives. While on the phone, she reminded me that she and her partner spend some part of the summer in Portland. We agreed to meet up for lunch or coffee during that time, and we did!

Last Thursday Candace and I met at The Dragonfly Coffee Shop at 1:30 and finally decided at 4pm we had solved as many of the world’s problems as we had time for that day. We had also run the gamut of conversation expected between an editor and a writer. Along the way, we also managed to talk about the places we have lived, jobs we have worked, books we’ve read or are reading, our children, the men in our lives, our favorite spots in Portland, and more.

If these two materializations were not enough, this past Sunday my husband and I attended our first worship service in a Mennonite Church. You might ask why, and I will tell you it’s fairly plain and simple.

A third online acquaintance, writer and mentor Shirley Hershey Showalter was preaching at Portland Mennonite Church that morning. Shirley had invited us to attend providing not only the opportunity to hear Shirley’s message but also for us to meet face-to-face. And we did!

You may or may not know that Shirley and her husband, Stuart, are currently traveling the west coast south to north on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight. Their trip is shown on Shirley’s events page as “The BooktourAnniversary Palooza Amtrak 30-Day Pass on Coastal Starlight and Empire Builder Trains.” Their travels are so described as this year marks Shirley and Stuart’s 45th wedding anniversary and along the way they make stops for Shirley to speak or preach or read from her recent memoir, Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World.

Meeting Shirley and Stuart was a high point of our Sunday. An extra blessing was the palpable warmth and love of the members of Portland Mennonite Church, an experience I would not have wanted to miss.

I could have flown around the world or taken a 30-day cruise, and neither would have been as gratifying having the opportunity to meet these three cyber-friends, up until now, within a four-week period.

And to Sharon, Candace and Shirley, thank you for taking time from busy schedules to meet up with me face-to-face, real-time, for encounters of the BEST kind!

When you are travelling, do you ever think about folks you’ve connected with online and the possibility of meeting them face-to-face? I highly recommend it!

How to Sell Your Memoir: 12 Steps to a Perfect Book Proposal by Brooke Warner | A Review

Image via Goodreads
Image via Goodreads

How to Sell Your Memoir: 12 Steps to a Perfect Book Proposal

By: Brooke Warner
Publisher: She Writes Press
Published: October 25, 2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Source: Author

Synopsis: How to Sell Your Memoir: 12 Steps to a Perfect Book Proposal offers memoirists an easy-to-follow formula to create a winning book proposal that will attract agents and editors. Brooke Warner is a former acquiring editor and current publisher who breaks the nonfiction proposal into three editorial components and three marketing components. This ebook includes a section about platform-and an explanation of why memoirists need one and how they can build one-as well as real samples from authors who have sold their memoirs to traditional publishers off their proposals. Find easy-to-follow templates and smart tips for navigating agents and publishers, along with best practices memoirists can’t afford not to know!

(Synopsis from Goodreads)

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My Thoughts:

With a memoir well on its way to completion, I’ve been muddling over what does a writer does once the manuscript is complete, when you believe it’s really ready for the hands of a publisher.

When the opportunity arose to review Brooke Warner’s newly released book, How to Sell Your Memoir: 12 Steps to a Perfect Book Proposal, I signed on to help spread the word about it. Little did I know that a majority of my questions would be answered while I read the book.

Warner succinctly and with clarity provides a step-by-step guide to what a memoirist needs to do in order to place his/her manuscript on the correct pathway to publication. Leaving nothing to chance, she provides tips set apart in such a way that it is easy to thumb back through the book and easily spot them. Here’s an example similar to what you’ll find in Warner’s book:

TIP: THINK OF YOUR BOOK PROPOSAL LIKE A BOOK REPORT YOU WOULD HAVE DONE IN GRADE SCHOOL. IT NEEDS A TITLE PAGE AND A TABLE OF CONTENTS SO THE READER OF THE PROPOSAL KNOWS WHAT THEY CAN EXPECT TO FIND, AND SO THEY CAN SKIP AHEAD IF THERE’S SOMETHING SPECIFIC OF INTEREST TO THEM.

Additionally, Warner provides other best practices information with each chapter. These are extremely well written and easily understood. Samples of each phase are provided, including query letter, components of proposal, marketing research, etc.

Sprinkled along the way are resources Warner believes beneficial to the writer new to the marketing and publishing aspects of book publishing.

Her writing and format are both good examples of what agents and publishers will likely be looking for.

Considering the short length, 88 pages of text and tips, Warner answers all of my questions to date and has demystified the issues of platform, query letters, book proposals and more.

My Recommendation:

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough for people writing memoir who may be reaching that point where issues surrounding marketing and publishing begin to come into focus. This is by far one of the best examples of a “how to” book which clearly maps out the process for you.

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Meet the Author:

Image via Amazon
Image via Amazon

Brooke Warner is the founder and president of Warner Coaching Inc., where she specializes in helping writers get published. She is also the publisher of She Writes Press. In her thirteen years in the publishing industry, including seven-plus years as an acquiring editor at Seal Press, Brooke shepherded over 500 books through the publication process. Her expertise is in traditional and new publishing, and she is an equal advocate for publishing with a traditional house and self-publishing. Brooke’s website, www.warnercoaching.com, is the recipient of an award from the Association of Independent Authors for Best Website for Independent Authors. She sits on the board of the National Association of Memoir and She Writes. What’s Your Book? is her first book and she’s proud to be publishing on She Writes Press. Warner lives in Berkeley, California, and works remotely with clients nationally and internationally.

Other places to connect with Brooke Warner:

Facebook: facebook.com/warnercoaching Twitter: @brooke_warner She Writes blog: http://www.shewrites.com/profiles/blog/list?user=1resr57ciyxus YouTube: youtube.com/warnercoaching Pinterest: pinterest.com/warnercoaching

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UP NEXT: Coming soon we’ll take a look at how to choose stories you’ll include in your memoir.