Sunday, August 28, 2011

Promotion: Playtime or Paytime?

I spent yesterday unsubscribing to a large number of newsletters which, while they looked interesting, have little relevance to what I'm doing. In short, I overextended myself and wore out the delete button. BUT the two newsletters I did NOT chunk and NEVER WILL  are Hope Clark's Funds for Writers/Small Markets and Dana Lynn Smith's Savvy Bookmarketer Newsletter. Both are free. So get over there and sign up for these gems if you haven't already.

But I digress. I recently read an article in the Savvy Bookmarketer by Robin  Hoffman: Using the Calendar to Promote Yourself and Your Book. She finished by saying, "So, do a little research and look up unusual holidays, take note of the ones that you can tie to your message, and brainstorm ideas. Plan the year in advance. You can even write the press releases months before--waiting and ready to send out as the date nears."

I found a recommendation elsewhere for Chase's Calendar of Events, which is apparently updated yearly. The 2012 volume is not yet available on Amazon, but it's too rich for my blood--$70+. Even last year's edition is priced at around $52. So...

Go here for free--"Calendars: A Guide to Locating Events for Each Day of the Year". You'll find links to the following which produce more links, ( ) denotes how many links.

  • Today's Date (15)
  • Historical Events and Birthdays, General(17)
  • Historical Events and Holidays; Regions and Countries(18)
  • Astronomical Events (6)
  • Historical Events and Birthdays: Specific Subject Areas (42)
  • Holidays and Festivals: General (5)
  • On This Day in Military History (5)
  • The Religious Year (13)
  • Timelines (8)
Plus three bonus categories: Timelines (8), The History of the Calendar and Clocks (10) , and Create a Calendar (9)

These links aren't just useful for promotion. In fact, I'd say they were even more useful for researching your next story! Bookmark the site, then print out the lot--7 pages--and file them in a pocket folder. The pockets will be useful for storing related clippings from newspapers and magazines.

I noticed--and should definitely credit--someone named Linda Bertland, a school librarian, who maintains this treasure trove!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Marketing Plan: Must or Myth

Actuallly, the title of this blog is a bit misleading. Obviously, if you're going to write a book (and unless you're a best-selling author for one of the mainline publishers), you're going to have to market it. I mean, get out and sell it. And therein lies the problem.

So what have I done? Not as much as I should. I have business cards and brochures which I hand out to almost every contact. I do book signings. I've set up the requisite three social media sites--Facebook, Twitter, and a blog. I've also joined Linked-In, though I'm not sure I'm making the correct use of it.I have a website. I have a website, which I'm pleased to say I keep updated--most of the time.

I have a file drawer full of marketing information--good information. I subscribe to several marketing email newsletters and always find great ideas in them.  Four writing journals arrive in my mailbox throughout every month--more marketing information and great ideas.I have author pages at various sites and, when I think of it, use their free advertising offers.

The thing is--I don't consistently make use of all these resources. Let's face it--for someone who was brought up to keep quiet and in the background, marketing my books--and myself--is a painful process. But it has to be done. Edits have to be done, too. And galleys. Real life has to be dealt with. But the fact remains, marketing is a must if books are going to sell.

 Right now I find myself with edits for two books--obviously, my submission timing was skewed. I'm more than grateful for the contracts, and doing the best job possible on the edits is top priority. I'm also involved in a personal project--getting out a directory/memory book related to the recent church youth group reunion. And, I have another cozy mystery begun, the fourth of six, and if I don't keep up with it, I'll run out of material for my critique partner to read at our weekly meetings. I also keep thinking about the drawer full of short stories which need a home--besides the drawer, that is!

Do I have a marketing problem--or a time-management problem? I suspect it's the latter. Would anybody out there with the same problem like to weigh in?

Meanwhile, here are my link offering for this blog--well-worth checking out and using (do I hear myself?)

Sandra Beckwith--BookBuzz
The Savvy Bookmarketer

UPDATE: Amber Leigh Williams' guest at The Cozy Page today has some great tips on marketing.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Writing on a Budget

Let's face it--writing is an expensive habit/hobby/second career. Royalties are nice, but stack up those payments against the money going out for basic supplies, not to mention marketing. It all adds up. There are, however, a few economic strategies that save a little bit--and these days, every little bit helps. Short of drilling for oil in your backyard, winning the lottery, or receiving an inheritance from a long-lost relative, you might consider these ideas:
  • Buy recycled ink cartridges.
  • Use the front and back of paper when making copies for critiquing, editing, etc.
  • Buy used writing books from or ABE Books--even with shipping, they're considerablly cheaper. Ebooks are a great bargain, too.
  • Send for/stop at visitors centers for free travel brochures from places you'd like to go but can't afford to--they provide great ideas for stories, settings, etc.
  • Watch for special offers for free shipping on office supplies--save the gas you'd spend looking for exactly what you want. I've had a great experience with Staples online.
  • Make your own marketing brochures--even with the cost of a good grade paper and the ink you come out ahead and with exactly what you want. 
  • Check VistaPrint for special FREE offers--postage is negligible. I get all my business cards this way.
  • Consider partnering with a friends to subscribe to one writing journal apiece and exchanging--or see which magazines are available at your local library. Some renewals will come with free gift subscription offers--a nice surprise for any writer.
  • Share gas/room with a friend for that writing conference you really want to attend. It's often a lot more fun that way, too.
  • If you like contests, set a limit for entry fees--mine is $10--and free is better. Make sure the contest is reputable.
  • Subscribe free to the Writer Beware Blog to keep an eye out for scams--seems like there's a new one every week!
  • Visit Michael's to look at their 10/$10 rack--a great way to stock up on gift basket items to use at book signings/sales and also a great source for those handy-dandy notebooks every writer needs to keep handy. 
  • Make your own signs for the windows of stores hosting your book signings. A package of good cardstock will go a long way.
  • Take advantage of every site offering an author page.
  • Watch for good sales on thumb drives--4GB is more than enough--and keep your work backed up in many places! Consider keeping at least one in a fireproof box or safe. Mozy also offers a free (limited) backup, and their paid subscription is reasonable.
  • Take your own pictures--a telephone call to get permission for use, if it's a commercial site, is a nice courtesy and might just net some interest in your writing project. Of course, sites like iStock and Fotolia are reasonable, too.
  • Learn to make your own book trailers. (There are other how-to sites out there, too.)
And, if anyone turns up a nose at your economies and homemade marketing products, just smile all the way to your next writing conference where you'll have some extra pennies in your pocket.

Then, when you become a best-selling author, just write a check and let someone else do the work! (But I think being creatively economic is a lot more satisfying/fun!)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Journaling, Pen Names, and Contests

Unfortunately, I'm not sure I can weave these three topics together into any cohesive post, but I wanted to put in my two cents' worth on all three. Here goes.
Many (some anyway) writers swear by journaling. It makes sense from the standpoint of having some organized notes from which to pluck a story idea. On the other hand, I don't want to be snatched from the face of the earth and leave behind any personal observations. If I have to write them down, as opposed to sharing them verbally with a friend, perhaps they don't need to be recorded at all. Just my opinion.

I do, however, carry a notebook everywhere and jot down things that interest me. To wit: sitting at DFW airport a couple of weeks ago, I made these three entries:  young guy with cell phone walking round and round seats while talking! non-stop! wish he'd run out of battery! And later, walked almost clear to end of B concourse both ways--guy still pacing/talking. Arghhhhhhhhh. found seat sort of out of gate area with back to him! And still later, okay, so guy apparenty waiting on someone--she arrived--they're gone--9:50-11:15!!!

What, if anything, I'll do with that piece of fascinating information, I have no idea. But if it gets 'left behind', no sweat!
I'm debating the continued use of the pen name Gwyneth Greer. Don't get me wrong--I love it! Though I've only used it on one book, I'm poised to use it on the book currently in edits. Another Vintage Rose romance will be coming up for edits soon, so do I use my real name on that subgenre and my pen name on the others? I read somewhere that pen names should be fashioned from the first eight letters of the alphabet--mine is--and should be used for reasons other than just being 'flashy'. Of that I'm guilty. Having lived with a very plain name for 60-odd years, Gwyneth Greer is exciting! Could she be my alter-ego?
Writing contests aren't difficult to find, but the entry fees are often high when measured against the odds of even placing in the contest. I have a $10 limit--which also limits the contests  available. (Free is good.) However, I would like to recommend the contests found in The Writers' Journal. I especially like  'Write-to-Win'. Entry fee: $5 for a chance to win a first prize of $150, a 1-year subscription, and publication at a future date. No 2nd-3rd prizes but four honorable mentions which garner a 1-year subscription. Using a given beginning phrase, you write a maximum of 1,500 words and post it by snail-mail. I've placed once and enjoyed the subscription so much I've renewed it regularly. Go to their website for more information on this and other contests sponsored by the magazine.

Maybe these three topics do have a strong link--they're all about writing, and we're all writers.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Advantages of a "Small" Press

Despite being woefully behind in reading the various writing journals to which I subscribe (I eventually read each one from cover to cover, I promise!), my interest was piqued by the offerings on the cover of the latest issue of The Writer: 
"Small Press, Big Reward"
"Make a Splash with a Literary Press"
"10 Canadian Publishers Worth a Look"
"100+ Publishers and Self-Publishers Looking for Submissions"

As a writer of multiple genres, I'm always looking for new markets. And, I currently have contracts with two publishers that would be deemed "small" by virtue of not being one of the "big boys". It amazes me that some readers still feel  an author not published by a "big boy" isn't really a published author! Anyway, though I feel I know well the benefits of being associated with a "small" press", I took a quick look at the Editor's Notes (Jeff Reich) "Bigger isn't always better" and found he'd hit the nail squarely on the head.

I hope I'm not violating fair use by quoting a single sentence from among many: Smaller presses are frequently easier to submit to--and to work with--and their focus tends to be on qualilty, not quantity.

My own experience with a small press has been positive:
  • personalized rejections which tend to encourage more submissions
  • straight-forward contracts
  • knowledgeable editors who have a personal interest in working with authors to bring out the best possible product
  • fellow authors who mentor newbies and support/share with their peers
  • sponsored retreats bringing together staff and authors, creating a we're all in this together atmosphere
  • regular communication between administrators, editors, and authors via message boards and chat rooms
  • business decisions made in the best interests of the authors as well as the publisher
Granted, not all small presses get all these kudos, so it's important to do one's homework before submitting.

This issue of The Writer belongs in your files--after you've read it, of course. Don't forget to read all the way to the back where you'll find 7 pages of small presses, as well as a few self-publishers and some upcoming writing conferences.

Here's a link to more complete information about the September 2011 issue of The Writer. Check it out, then get to the newsstand for your own copy--or better still, subscribe. And if the FCC needs a disclaimer, here it is--nobody paid me anything for touting this magazine! (Writers share with other writers.)

Monday, August 1, 2011

And the winner is...

The winner of a free copy of the new Silver Boomer Books anthology, The Harsh and the Heart: Celebrating the Military, is Arlene Foster. Arlene couldn't post on the blog but did leave a comment on Facebook.

Congratulations to Arlene. Your book will be in the mail as soon as I receive my copies!