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From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
Today, I harvested a whole lot of green beans and later I’ll be doing some canning. At our house, garden preservation activities herald the end of summer and the transition to fall. We have a short growing season and the big question is always, "Can we get everything harvested before the first frost?"
For me, fall is often a time of reflection and new beginnings. Maybe it’s conditioning from years of "back to school" thoughts. This year is no exception. Lately, I’ve been looking at changing the type of writing I do. Because I do so much business-to-business writing for my paying work, I’m finding that the idea of writing fiction "just for fun" has more appeal than it ever has before. So as a first step, I’ve been reading a book on story structure and craft.
SPAWN members are a creative bunch and just because you do a certain type of writing or art now doesn’t mean you have to do it forever. This fall, I encourage you to dare to dream about your next great creative pursuit!
This month we’re talking about pre-selling your work. You can build in promotion as you write as described by Patricia Fry and Barbara Florio-Graham. You can also come up with a quirky and fun way to involve your targeted readers to increase pre-sales. Nancy Martin, author of the Blackbird Sisters mystery series, did just that, using her Facebook fan page. Read how her newest book, No Way to Kill a Lady, hit the ground running. It’s the eighth in the series.
Know your targeted audience—it seems obvious but when asked, “Who will read your book?” writers still tend to say, “Everyone.” Genre is what helps define the writing and helps booksellers determine where to stock books . Ken Janssen knows editors and agents rely on genre. He relies more on writing a good story and letting the editor/agent decide what to call it. His article details more about this and includes some marketing tips.
Need a little help deciding who is your targeted reader? The review of 52 Ways to Sell More Books by Penny C. Sansevieri will help with that and more.
In spite of browning grass and still-green leaves on the summer trees, those of us who write for magazines are thinking spring. Magazines work three to six months or more ahead. What’s happening now that will affect then? The high temperatures of July will surely affect the cost of produce and more. What about an article on hoop or vertical gardens for the home grower. How has the heat affected produce markets in your area? See the topics of magazines on the stands now and turn them around to another season. Take an opposite view. You’ll be able to increase the number of articles you write and the number of magazines you write them for.
– Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, firstname.lastname@example.org
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
Are you a freelance writer, artist or photographer who is looking for work? The September edition of the SPAWN Market Update provides links to hundreds of job listings and a select list of paying fiction markets. Do you need help promoting your published book or finding a publisher? Discover over three dozen viable leads, such as five huge directories of book reviewers, a list of 75 bloggers who review books, tips for getting your book into schools and more. If you’re not spending time with each and every issue of the SPAWN Market Update, you are not getting full benefits as a member of SPAWN.
Ask the Book Doctor:
About “This” versus “It,” Book Proposal Formats, and Finding an Agent
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: Sometimes a writer refers to an item as “this” and then continue to refer to the item as “this” rather than “it.” The definitions seem interchangeable, yet the frequent use of “this” feels wrong. Do you have any thoughts on the subject?
A: Boy, do I! First, as a matter of grammar, “this” should never refer to a concept; it must always refer to a noun. As a matter of creative writing, when used in past tense, the use of “this” jerks readers around, because “this” sounds more like present tense. In most cases, using “this” instead of “it” also results in the overuse of “this.”
Look at these examples: In the first example, “this” incorrectly refers to a concept: Tom loved Mary. This is why he proposed to her. (Correct alternatives: Tom loved Mary, which is why he proposed to her. Tom loved Mary. For that reason, he proposed to her.) Here’s an example in which “this” refers correctly to a noun, but as a creative issue, the usage could be improved. John climbed the ladder. This was the same ladder he had stolen from the hardware store. (Better alternatives: John climbed the ladder he had stolen from the hardware store. John climbed the ladder. It was the same one he had stolen from the hardware store. )
Q: When I prepare book proposals, I religiously follow the format from Cynthia Laufenberg’s (Writer’s Digest) Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript. The guidelines there are consistent and easy to follow.
When a publisher provides author submission guidelines, however, and asks for the same components but in a different order, do I send my proposal in the same order the publisher requests it? If a publisher says, for example, to send the sample chapters, the table of contents, etc, do I do so, rather than in the more logical order of the TOC preceding the three sample chapters?
A: I’m sure it depends on the publisher, but I cannot imagine that a publisher would reject an excellent manuscript simply because of the order in which the proposal pages were arranged.
Q: The Singapore Teachers Union is going to use my short story in its Quest magazine in Asia and Europe. It is my biggest publishing credit so far. How much writing experience do I need under my belt to make an agent think I’m profitable enough to take me on as a client for my first book? I’m in the process of finishing my novel, and my next step is finding an editor, but I want to make sure that when I start sending out my book, I will look good on paper.
A: Oh, how I wish I could find some magic number that guaranteed success: for example, sell four short stories, and every agent will want to represent your novel. I can dream, can’t I?
The truth is that many agents have taken on novels from first-time authors who have never published a thing, just as many authors with dozens of publishing credits have been unsuccessful in finding agents. While no magic formula exists, we do know this: If your short stories have been published in large periodicals with good reputations, your credentials improve, as do your chances of attracting an agent. If your novel isn’t good enough, though, no agent will take you on as a client. In the end, the novel has to be outstanding.
Keep writing, editing, revising, and selling short stories. Keep polishing your novel. Make your novel the best it can be, and then hope that the combination of experience plus a spectacular novel will win you an agent.
Q: Do you know any freelance-writing agents? I would like to do more article writing and make more money doing it, but I don’t want to have to market myself.
A: More than forty years ago, I wrote advertising copy for an agency that attempted to make commissions on article assignments it negotiated for freelance writers. After more than a year in business, the owner admitted that she had no idea it would be so hard to make money from commissions on freelance projects, because the projects paid such small fees. She instead decided to represent only herself and do the work herself, a setup that worked for her.
Freelance writers don’t get paid large amounts to write articles, sometimes as little as $20 or as much as $1,000 tops. As a result, agents cannot handle enough clients or get enough jobs to add up to a decent income. To make matters worse, most magazines prefer to work directly with writers, rather than communicating through an agent.
As a result, writers must wear many hats. Besides being a writer, we must be a bookkeeper and a marketer. We must market ourselves and get our own writing assignments through networking, job banks, and self-promotion.
The exception is, of course, literary agents who find ghostwriting book deals for clients. Those jobs pay well, so agents can make a decent salary, too, but literary agents handle only book writers, not freelance journalists.
Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more "Ask the Book Doctor" questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.
by Patricia Fry
Penny Sansevieri does it again. Last month we talked about her book on getting published. Now here is a companion book focusing on book marketing. She considers both of these books to be part of her “From Book to Bestseller Series.”
This is not your basic list of book promotion ideas. This author starts with the basics every author should consider before deciding to publish, such as identifying your target audience, knowing your competition and so forth. And then she goes into some of the activities she knows so well, but from angles you don’t always see related to selling books.
For example, there are chapters on how to double your sales on the web, how to get involved in affiliate marketing, blogging, creating a killer mailing list, using video to promote your book, how to use the media and offering free content in order to bring potential customers to your website. She also covers social media, how to get into libraries and bookstores and how to use seasonal prompts to sell books.
I particularly like her section on the twelve things authors can do to sabotage their success. It’s worth the read.
This book is a great companion to any other book promotion book because it is rich in perspective and helps the author better understand promotion and marketing where his/her book is concerned. The promo on the back cover states that this book is packed with marketing wisdom. So true. It also has a variety of worksheets to help you process some of the information.
If you are an author with a book to promote, do yourself a favor and add this to your collection of worthwhile books.
50 Shades of . . . You
by Nancy Martin
Discoverability is the most pressing issue faced by the book business right now. Social media has grown into our most useful promotional tool; but how do we make ourselves visible amid the millions?
How you portray yourself is more than posting a cute photo or announcing your morning need for coffee.
Decide on a brand.
I made lists of the specific qualities I wanted to become known for. I decided I was the writer of witty mysteries that are slightly sexy and full of high fashion and sisterly hijinks.
Choose a goal.
I looked at my Facebook fan page. My primary promotional goal was to build a larger fan base. I needed more “likes” before I could use FB to sell my books. I had to find something that would attract readers. The more specifically you can target your audience, the easier it will be. I sat down at my desk, looked at the calendar and counted 50 days before the release of my book.
The number 50 means only one thing this summer, and that’s the 50 Shades of Gray. A creative idea popped into my head. What about choosing another color? A witty, slightly sexy, fashion-oriented color? Pink! I immediately thought of posting a pink dress once a day for the 50 days counting down to my release. In 50 days, surely 50 pretty dresses could attract a few more “likes.”
Boy, did those 50 pink dresses work. Because I use a fan page, not a friend page, I had access to all the tracking information FB provides. Every day, I could see my number “likes” growing, see how old my readers were, which dresses they liked and which ones left them cold. Old dresses = fewer likes. Pretty, sexy dresses = more and more likes every day. Blatant selling—“My paperback is discounted today on Amazon”—attracted practically no attention whatsoever. Few readers came to my page, but noticed my posts as they scrolled through newsfeeds and often shared them with their friends.
When the dresses started to go viral, my daily reach went from 600 viewers a day to over 20,000. My potential reach—the number of friends of fans—went to 400,000.
Three weeks before my book No Way to Kill a Lady was released, my publisher noticed the bump in pre-sales and got into the act by purchasing FB ads that asked readers to “like” my page or to go to a bookseller and “like” or buy my book. I was stunned to see my numbers grow exponentially. Within a week, I had gone from the reach of 20,000 people I had managed to gain on my own to over 400,000 people who were seeing my daily dresses and “liking” me.
The big lessons I learned?
1. Decide what your specific brand is.
2. Decide who your specific audience is.
3. Develop a creative idea that will appeal to your audience in a way that communicates your brand, preferably with a picture or graphic that people will notice on their newsfeeds.
4. Post something every day.
5. Respond to the comments of your readers to build a community.
6. Buy some Facebook advertising.
7. Above all, be entertaining. When using a promotion strategy that focuses on content, you must delight with every post. Demonstrate to your readers how witty, sexy, fashionable, and pink you can be, and they’ll soon be eager to read your books.
The result? No Way to Kill a Lady is a hit. The book was a Bookscan hardcover mystery bestseller the first week it was released—better sales than any of my previous mysteries. My Nook and Kindle sales were overwhelming. All because of pink dresses? Well, no, there were other factors, not the least of which are the seven books that came before No Way in my series. But I could watch my social networking become more effective every day for 50 days.
Nancy Martin is the author of nearly 50 popular fiction novels including The Blackbird Sisters Mysteries, published by Penguin. The 8th book in the series, No Way to Kill a Lady, is on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/8ncnfae
Find Nancy on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authornancymartin
On Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/nanmart1/ where you can see the 50 pink dresses.
How Important Is Genre?
by Ken Janssen
Genre. That little French word that rolls so easily off the tongue, yet can strike fear into the hearts of writers.
I can’t imagine that Ernest Hemmingway, John Faulkner or Edgar Allen Poe gave a moment’s thought to genre. They wrote for the sake of writing; let the genres fall where they may.
Things have changed. Today, genre plays a pivotal role in literature as a determiner of how best to categorize and market a book; everything needs to fit into a neat little compartment. Agents, publishers, distributors, librarians and readers all depend on genre to play a part in the decision making process to represent, publish, distribute, stock or to select reading material.
If we want to be published, we’re expected to play the genre game. When we submit a book to an agent or a publisher, we’ll be asked the genre. All you can do is select the one that best fits your work. If more than one applies, use “Multi-Genre”. If they don’t ask, let them decide. They know the market and will determine what will work.
The move to e-books is one that cannot be ignored. A new or unknown writer can find it difficult to get a book published in print. Most of the publishers that have cropped up in the last five years are publishing books as e-books first and then as paperbacks if the sales justify it. My debut novel Blood Money was published by Untreed Reads and my second novel Hampton Manor was published by The Fiction Works. I can recommend both for their straightforward dealings and willingness to work with newbies.
Of course, getting published is just the start. If you really want to get your book noticed, you’ll have to work at it. Contact book reviewers. Send letters to libraries and ask them to add your book to their e-book circulation. Contact writers whose books you enjoy and offer to do a reciprocal book review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. This will usually result in a five star review.
Try not to get too caught up in the genre game. Write first, classify later.
Ken is a retired Logistics executive with four novels to his credit. He works with writing groups and is a big supporter of the “write it first, fix it later” approach to writing. His style has been compared to Stuart Woods and John Sandford. Ken can be reached at email@example.com
Build Promotion Into Your Book BEFORE It’s a Book
by Patricia Fry
Why do some books sell more than others? They contain information or a story that appeals to one or more segments of the public. The authors made it a point to build promotion into their books and you can, too.
Think, hook. Add aspects to your book that will attract a target audience and, perhaps, additional readers. For example:
Interview experts and informed sources, talk to individuals who have experience in your topic and include them all in your book. Almost everyone mentioned will want at least one copy of your book and they’ll become your best ambassadors.
Give it a Reference Quality
Include a resource list in your nonfiction book (when appropriate) and an index. Any book that is suitable as a reference guide MUST have an index. Think, libraries, university classrooms and general researchers.
Set the Scene for Book Signings
Choose your setting carefully. Imagine yourself promoting your book in the city or town where your story takes place. Is this place conducive to successful book promotion? Is there a wide audience base? Do the residents take pride in their community? Would they be interested in or curious about a novel that puts their town in a positive light?
Enhance Your Story
Give a character a disease, a horse or twins. Introduce a popular activity (motorcycle riding for women) or issue (autism). These additional hooks will give you a wider audience to promote to.
FOR A MEMOIR
Add a Little History, Recovery or Self-Help
There may not be a lot of interest in a book about your childhood, your coming of age or even your torrid love affair with a gangster, if you aren’t well-known. But if you incorporate something of interest along with your story, you have the opportunity to gain additional readers. This may be the history of your community or world history during the period of your story, for example.
If your story involves physical or emotional trauma, offer a self-help feature.
FOR A CHILDREN’S BOOK
Teach a Character Trait
Children’s books that teach a character issue such as honesty, loyalty, responsibility, reliability, kindness, fairness, consideration and so forth, are sought after by educators, parents, librarians, Christian bookstores and the many character education programs.
If you are writing a book, STOP. Evaluate the scope and focus of your novel, memoir, or nonfiction book. And take this opportunity to build promotion into your book before it’s a book. When it comes time to promote your book, you’ll be glad that you did.
Why You Need to Promote Your Book BEFORE It’s Published
by Barbara Florio Graham
When you’re in the midst of writing your book, deciding how to publish it (perhaps querying agents and publishers or investigating self-publishing options), promotion is often the last thing on your mind.
Starting promotion very early has distinct advantages:
1. Most key reviewers want to see a PDF prior to publication. So if you’re self-publishing, you need to get the book edited, proofread, and laid out early enough to send those PDFs. They don’t have to be perfect, and can even be lacking some elements, but you need to give reviewers a head start so their reviews aren’t scooped by an early release.
2. A book coming out often results in invitations to speak to local groups. If you self-publish, you’ll find that selling books in person at events like this produce more sales than bookstores or other retail outlets. And you keep the full profit for yourself. Even if you’re working with a publisher, speaking engagements are great opportunities for them to either set up a booth, or send you a couple of boxes to sell.
3. Creating a website, either for yourself or for your book, gives you an edge, especially since you can link to it in all your messages to social media and groups you belong to. That takes time and needs to be started before the book is ready.
4. You’ll have time to test some promotional materials and techniques, such as bookmarks, flyers, etc., as well as to refine media lists before you need them.
My book, Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity, begins with ensuring you have a unique selling position, something that sets you, your book or your business, apart from competitors. It’s essential to identify this far enough in advance to tailor your promotion to set you apart from possible competitors. It might also influence the title and cover of your book and the design of your website.
5. You might decide you need a logo you can use for your fledgling publishing company and on your website. It will take time to have that designed.
6. You may want to order a permanent badge (most cities have a local company who can do this inexpensively). How professional to have your own badge instead of one of those awful sticky things or a square of plastic dangling from a string around your neck! I find I receive immediate attention and credibility when I wear my badge on my jacket lapel. If someone then asks about the name of my company, it gives me a chance to talk about Simon Teakettle and how my famous cat owns the company.
7. After some testing, you might decide to change your book cover. Sometimes, our first choice turns out not to appeal to as many potential readers as we expected.
Barbara Florio Graham is the author of three books as well as the Managing Editor and one of 18 contributors to Prose to Go: Tales from a Private List. Her website is: www.SimonTeakettle.com Find Barbara on Facebook, LinkedIn, BranchOut, Pinterest, and Google Plus. Simon Teakettle III (Terzo) blogs at: http://www.SimonTeakettle.com/blogterzo.htm
SPAWN President Susan Daffron has been invited to speak at the 2012 No More Homeless Pets National Conference that is put on by Best Friends Animal Society. Along with Melissa Steimer, Senior Director of Development for Best Friends, she’ll be doing a workshop called "Big Fundraising Ideas for Small Rescue Groups." The event will be held October 25-28 in Las Vegas.
Check out this review for new member Anne Fowler’s The Jesuit Papers which also won Honorable Mention in both the LA Times 2011-2012 Festival of Books in the General Fiction Category and in the 2011-2012 New York Times Festival of Books in the Romance Category http://booksbonesbuffy.com/2012/08/16/the-jesuit-papers-by-a-b-fowler-review/
Rex Owens has an article in the Breakthrough Section of The Writer magazine, September issue titled: Newly Jobless, Writer Moved Ahead with a Goal, a Deadline and a Plan B.
Contests, Events and Opportunities
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