Writers, Do This and Be Amazed At the Success of Your Marketing Efforts

Marketing. Ugh

Megaphone

I am one of the worst marketers in the world.  There's something about shouting my name out from the rooftops that makes me cringe.  And I know that I am not alone in this.  But last week I had an experience that gave me some new perspective on the topic.  And from that I learned something that I hope to figure out how to apply going forward.

I've heard that one way to succeed is to quit worrying about promoting yourself and put others first. But how, exactly, are you supposed to do this? Beats me.  Don't have a clue.   In the past, I'd read this sage wisdom, nod my head, think for a minute how this might work, come up blank, and quit thinking about it.  Then go back to my usual marketing ploys.  In other words, doing nothing.

Maybe a Different Way?

But here's what happened last week that put this into perspective and showed me how it might work:

TS at Another Read Through

#1 I had a reading at a local bookstore that I like a lot.  I like the owner a lot, too.  She supports local authors like crazy and is doing her best to create a nice community around her store.  More than anything, I really wanted to introduce people to her store.  

#2 I was reading with my Twitter friend Kayla Dawn Thomas, who was coming down from Washington.  She didn't know many people in the area, and this was her first reading.  So I wanted to make sure she had an audience, too.

Are you sensing a theme here? I had two people I wanted to make happy.  And because of that, I pulled out the stops, sending out emails and promoting on Twitter like crazy.  In the emails, I wrote about how great the bookstore was, and asked people to stop in some time even if they couldn't make it to the reading.  

In other words, I had a mission larger than myself.  

And the Winner Is...

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The ultimate result was a reading that about 25 people attended, which is not bad at all for a Thursday night in summer.  And I've cemented a wonderful relationship with Elisa, the bookstore owner.  She's offered to do my launch for The Bonne Chance, about which I am very excited, and Debbie and I will likely do our workshops there in the future.  (Local writers--we are planning one in October about all aspects of publishing, including how to get an agent, book contracts, and indie publishing.)

The thing is, I felt so much more comfortable doing the marketing when I was talking about the bookstore and Kayla.  How to expand this into larger marketing efforts?  I don't have a clue.  But recently on the Women's Fiction Writer's Association mailing, there was a link to Kristin Lamb's blog, which I hadn't read for awhile.  In wandering through its pages, I found the link to her most recent book, Rise of the Machine, Human Authors in a Digital World, which I gather from the reviews has a somewhat similar theme.  (From a review: "Well, here's the big deal.  It's not about promoting yourself.  It's about caring for your neighbor.")

So, I'm onto something here, even if I am late to the party.  And I'm going to figure out how it works.

Do you have ideas about how to put this in motion?  Ideas about marketing in general? Please do share in the comments.  This is a topic all writers need to know more about, I'd wager! Your ideas may help someone else--which is the whole point.

Photos are by xenia and brsky and Another Read Through.


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #52

Here we go again with our weekly collection of prompts from my daily Tumblr blog.  Enjoy and write a lot, will you please?  It would make me happy.

#357  Use the words umbrella, metal and sunlight in a sentence.  Now use that sentence as a prompt.

#358  He couldn’t understand a word she said.  

#359  Write about your character experiencing a storm.  Is he/she scared or exhilarated?  Eager for it to end or happy to let it rage around her? Does it energize her or tire him?

#360  Who is the love of your main character’s life?

#361  “I’d stay another year if I saw a teardrop in your eye.” Heard it In a Love Song,by the Marshall Tucker band.  Write about what’s going on here.

#362  It was over.  Thank God.  She breathed a huge sigh of relief.  But then….

#363  Oh, the exhilaration of it all!  

There you go! How is your writing going this week?

 

 


Five Things on Friday: July 24, 2015

AnotherReadThroughSignHere we go again.  It's still summer, still hot, but rain is forecast tomorrow.  Yay!

What I'm grateful for: Friends and family who turned out en masse last night to hear me read from The Bonne Chance Bakery manuscript, and to also hear Kayla Dawn Thomas read from her latest novel, Tackling Summer.  She and I are Twitter friends and since she lives in Washington and I live in Oregon we'd never met until last night.  So fun. She's awesome!  The bookstore where we read, Another Read Through, is awesome, too, and owner Elisa offers readings every Thursday night.  She's a huge supporter of local writers and a really cool person, too.

What I'm reading: The last two weeks I've been struggling through Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. She's a NYT bestselling author, but frankly, I was not overly impressed with her writing.  It was certainly serviceable enough, but the characters never grabbed or charmed me. I looked up the reviews on Amazon, and while many were over-the-top glowing, several agreed with me.  I also learned that she is known for her twists at the end, so I skimmed and skipped to find out what this one was.  And can I just say that if I'd bothered to read the whole thing I would have been furious? Like, throw-the-book-across-the-room, rip-it-into-shreds-even-though-it-was-a-library-book furious.  The twist was as hackneyed and stupid as the old it was all a dream schtick.  

Now I'm reading, sort of, Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  I say sort of, because it's sort of depressing.  Not giving anything away here to tell you the premise, which is that the moon gets whacked out of orbit by an asteroid and terrible things happen on earth.  It's all written from a teenager's perspective.  It is compelling, but sometimes I just can't take apocalyptic fiction. Although, in looking for a link I've just discovered this book launched a whole series, so that's hopeful.  I also discovered that Pfeffer retired from writing books last year, which I just don't get. I want to write books until they shovel me into the ground, many years into the future.

I'm also reading After Perfect, a memoir by Christina McDowell, the story of a wealthy family losing everything.  Another cheery one.  But its good.

Where I've Been: Seattle, last weekend.  More to the point, the suburbs south of Seattle, near the Sea-Tac airport.  My cousin (and fifty million other cousins) lives up there in a house a few feet from Puget Sound.  Nice spot, to put it mildly.  We were celebrating the wedding of her youngest daughter, and even though I nearly got arrested (I'm exaggerating the tiniest bit) by an overly zealous traffic-type person who didn't want to let us cross a street where a parade was congregating, it was a lot of fun.  After all, few things are better in life than watching your three-year-old grandson entertain a roomful of people by dancing to Shut Up and Dance.

 

What I Need: A housecleaner.  Every time I gaze (in a writerly manner) in any direction in this house I see cobwebs. Sigh.  At least I'm making progress on sorting through files and books in my office, in advance of moving it back downstairs.  I WILL get this project done before I leave for Europe in September.

What I'm Reading Online: I read a lot of blogs and newsletters, but surprisingly, not a lot on writing.  Oh well, my tastes have always been eclectic.  For writing blogs, I recommend Writer Unboxed (I love Barbara O'Neal's posts there), Janice Hardy's Fiction University, and Shawn Coyne's work on Story Grid.  Oh, also Steven Pressfield.  

And now, here's my compendium of non-writing blogs and newsletters I follow: thekitchensgarden, where New Zealand transplant Cecilia writes every day about her "farmy" and also dispenses all manner of practical wisdom; Dispatch From La and Kelly Rae Roberts for visual inspiration, emails from Steve Chandler and Brian Johnson for kick-ass motivation, and Leonie Dawson for a combination of visual, crazy, and down-to-earth inspiration.  I know there are more, but these are enough for now.

And that's enough from me for now! What's going on with you as we cruise toward the end of July? I think we should all take a cue from Henry and get some dancing in this weekend!


When You Don't Know How to Write

Painter_sidewalk_easel_596182_hYears ago, as a freelance writer, I wrote a lot of articles about art.  One of them was about the Makk family of artists, who lived in Hawaii.  The big thing I remember from this article happened while I interviewed the Eva, the matriarch of the family. She told me how when she was a young artist she had images in her head that she wanted to paint--but it took her a long time to figure out how to get those images onto canvas.

I could relate.  As a fledgling fiction writer, I often had trouble translating the stories in my head onto the page.  And even now, after writing fiction a gazillion years, sometimes I just can't quite get what I'm writing to work right.   I have the idea in my head.  I can see it.  But when I put it on the page, it is dead and lifeless.  Something about it doesn't work, and I moan and groan and wring my hands and decide I'm going to sell yarn for a living.  Or get a job in a restaurant.  Or something, anything, other than writing. At times like these, I need to remind myself how to write all over again.  

But the great thing about writing for so many years is that I've figured out a few things about how to get myself out of these situations.  And so I offer them to you.

1. Write a scene.  Often, deadly boring prose is written in narrative summary, which is, as the name implies, words written in summary.  She spent the afternoon reading on the couch, is an example.  Or, six months later, the baby was born.  You glide over a short or long amount of time or compactly explain some information.  Narrative summary most definitely has its place--it is a useful technique for all manner of things--but when it is used too often it results in big yawns.  Writing a scene, which incorporates dialogue, description, action, and interiority, will be much livelier and it may be just what the writing doctor ordered.

2. Try a line of dialogue.   Have one of your characters say something.  This can often lead you into a full-blown scene, or a half-scene, which is a bit of narrative summary with a line of dialogue as its anchor.  This link has great definitions of half-scene, scene, and narrative summary.

3. Copy exactly.   Take out your favorite novel or memoir, prop it next to your computer, and copy a scene word for word.  You know, of course, that I offer this as an exercise only and you aren't going to use this plagiarizing for anything but your own learning purposes.  This is kind of an amazing way to get the cadence of writing into your brain and heart and is a great learning tool.  Try it.  You'll be amazed at how much you glean from it.

4. Copy and rewrite.  A variation of the above.  First complete #3, then take the scene or paragraph and rewrite it in your own words, maintaining the same idea and actions as the original.  Another surprisingly fabulous learning tool.

5. Read.  Take a break from your struggles and go read a book.  Nine times out of ten, this sends me running back to the computer.  Its as if I just need to refill myself with words.  Note: reading blog posts, gossip sites, news articles, or anything on the internet DOES NOT COUNT.

6. Take a class.  If you are a true rank beginner, a class is going to be your best starting point.  If you are an introvert or don't have time for an in-person class, there's a ton of great offerings online, and many of them are self-paced.

7. Hire a coach.  Like me.  This would sound incredibly self-serving but for the fact that I'm not taking on new clients for the time being--unless you call and beg me on bending knee, in which case I'll consider it.  But whether it is me or someone else you work with, a coach can point out your strengths and weaknesses and help you learn to implement more of the latter.

So there you have it.  Oh, by the way, you might also be interested in my post on What to Do When You Don't Know What to Write, which inspired this one.

What do you do when you don't know what to write?

Photo by moriza.


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #51

We are coming up on a year of writing prompts--isn't it amazing what a passing fancy of an idea can produce if you set your mind to it? Plans are afoot to compile the entire year of them into a book--that's a little project for August, before I take off for Europe.

But in the meantime, I'm wondering what to do next: keep going with the prompt a day/weekly round-up? Or try something new.  Ponder, ponder, ponder.  

Anyway, here you go:

#350 The worst day of your life.

#351  What’s your alibi?

#352  Every step was painful, but still he walked, on and on.  He had to, because ______.

#353  Write a scene featuring your protagonist arguing with another character about something he doesn’t want to do but knows he must.

#354  She watched the sun rise through the trees, lighting first the leaves, then everything around it.  Usually the sunrise made her feel happy and hopeful, but not today. 

#355  Write a story about a character who either forgets an important birthday or anniversary, or whose birthday or anniversary is forgotten.

#356  Write a scene with your character at her closet, trying to decide what to wear to a party.  

 There you go--have at it! And please weigh in on whether I should continue with the daily/weekly prompts or do something else.