Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Lure of Easy Money

Oh, I know the money isn’t easy or even luring me. (Truth be known, money doesn’t even know I exist.) But I always wanted to use that old line from the “Miami Vice” song, and it kind of fits. There is something in me that keeps trying to make this job of author easier, quicker, less demanding of my time. Is that human nature?

I have my writing rules posted by my desk—I wrote about that earlier. I get up early and set aside hours and hours every day for writing. I have daily weekly, and monthly goals posted on my computer desktop to monitor progress. Still.

Write a book in a week? Write a book on weekends? Write a book in a month? Write 10 chapters in 3 days? I have bought them all. If you have published a book about how to produce the maximum pages in minimum time, I probably have your book. If I don’t, let me know. I’ll buy it. I always do.

One track at the upcoming Southern California Writers’ Conference in San Diego (Feb. 18-21) that got my attention is the debut of their 3/10 PowerPen alternative. The focus for the three days is to produce 10 chapters of a new novel. I’m there! Hubs scoffed. “Do you really think you can write 10 chapters in three days?” My response: “So, say I only write 5 chapters. Is that a failure? I still have more than when I left for the conference.”

But, see, I believe. I believe they will help me write 10 chapters in 3 days. I believe they will scaffold my experience so I have success. At ~20 pp per chapter, that’s 200 pages of a 450 page manuscript (translating to a 300 page book). To finish the whole book in a week, I just need to replicate in Peoria, AZ what they do with me in San Diego. At that rate, writing four books a month, and giving my self some time for edits and revisions, say two weeks for four books, why that is an output of—wait, let me get the calculator—that’s . . . , WOW!

In 2012, I will write 32 books and edit/revise them. (Because I am getting started so late in 2011, I project only finishing 26 books with this method.) Still, to have 58 books done by end of 2012 is an accomplishment, don’t you agree? This must be how Steven King and Richard Patterson do it! At that rate, I will have my story backlog (story ideas file we all have) cleared out mid-year 2017! Whew! That will be quite an accomplishment! Good for me! Job well-done!

Come back in a couple of days. I’m going to start reviewing some of the books on my bookshelf about writing systematically. Just in case. You know what I mean.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Author Platform—Yes, Again!

I know. Here I am again writing about building an author platform. Obsessed, you say? One woman's obsession is another woman’s focus. Call me focused. Really, really, really focused.

I have a sign revealed unto me. Truly. The last two days my “horrorscope” has scared me straight. Straight back to getting more writing done. The whole raison d’etre, eh, for marketing. So, here are they are. What do you think they mean?

“You are in the process of learning, growing, and improving. There’s a limit to how much of this you can do in a day. Go easy.”

Yikes! Did that not sound to you like a warn-off for Twitter/FB/blogging/website-ing? I mean, really, how can there be any other interpretation. “You have learned much about social media networking. Now get back to your writing.” Very clear! Wasn’t it? Or did it mean . . . Never mind, here is #2:

“You might procrastinate. It’s not because you can’t be bothered to take action. It’s because you are busy with important things.”

Okay. Call me crazy. Don’t those two contradict one another?

Tuesday’s horrorscope told me to stop on-lining (a non-drug type of mainlining). Wednesday’s said it’s okay because that stuff is more important than your writing. Or at least as important.

So what do I do with the sign? I mean, the Old Testament is filled with guys who ignored signs. Job was whale food. Noah presided over “the end of the world as we know it.” Eve . . .well, we all know how that turned out. The signs are there for a purpose. So what to do?

I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me Twitter or give me Facebook. Or the other way around.

Excuse me, please. I gotta get stuff posted today so more and more people will be screaming for the book I will write on weekends and during commercial breaks. Author Platform or Bust!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Building Author Platform While Tearing Down Writing (Time)

Members of both my critique groups have asked how I can be spending so much time on building my author platform? “Aren’t you losing writing time?”

Yes, indeed, I am. I try to keep up with two blogs, two Twitter accounts, a website, and two Facebook pages. Social Media Networking, indeed! I hardly ever see real people. Mostly my day is spent with virtual “friends” and “followers”. I am losing big writing time as I prepare blogs, tweet, and FB postings.

I post (mostly) on this, my writing blog, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I post on my foodie blog (www.sharonarthurmoore.blogspot.com). I try to write one or two of these articles a day so I have a storehouse to pick from when it is time to post. Then I must replenish the stock.

Everyday I post on Twitter accounts @RomanceRighter (where I give relationship advice and share links to relationship articles among other things) and @good2tweat (recipes, links to food articles, food quotes, etc.). I keep a tweets page for each account minimized on my desktop so I can post something every hour or so throughout the day. That keeps my name floating around so no matter what time someone signs on, I am there.

On Facebook, I have a personal page and a fan page. Truly, if I could figure out how to do it, I would eliminate the personal page and just do the fan page. That would be more in line with my writing goals, and it would have a sharper focus. Most of my posts there are to drive people to my Twitter accounts or my blogs.

Except for Twitter, I don’t post much, if at all, on weekends. I give myself that time off. Ha! Instead I spend the weekend preparing future postings, trying to get ahead of the daily grind of having meaningful posts.

So why am I spending these hours doing what I never thought I’d be doing? Why don’t I just write, as I saw myself doing when I “transitioned” a few years ago. Because it works! I have seen more traffic at both blogs, and people I don’t follow on Twitter are following me. How they found me, I don’t know or care.

As I have addressed on these pages before, the new reality is that I must market my own materials along with the publisher. When I attend the Southern California Writing Conference in San Diego next month, and meet there with agents and editors one-on-one, I want to be able to say, “I can let 2500 people know instantaneously that I have a book contract. And those 2500 are connected to tens of thousands more people.” So I build my platform, friend by friend, follower by follower.

But the underlying purpose of it all is based in my writing. I’m thinking of buying one of those books on being a weekend novelist, since that seems to be where most of my writing time comes from these days.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

“Get Known Before the Book Deal”—That’s What I’m Trying to Do!

I got a great book for Christmas: Christina Katz’s Get Known Before the Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform. You gotta add it to your personal gift-getting-occasions list. If you are a serious author, that is, in search of how to become a published author.

If you already know this stuff (or are Stephen King), apparently you have no need to buy the book. But, I know from conversations with my various critique group members that there are lots of us who are unsure how to navigate the book-marketing waters.

This Brave New World we face is relatively new. Sure, authors have always had to promote their books, thus the 12-cities-in-four-days book tours of the past. But this is different. We must have a clear idea of how to promote our work to selected audiences that we have already developed a connection with/to. These are “fans” who will be delighted to hear that we have something they can buy from us.

So, if like me, you are trying to figure it out, get this book! Christina Katz writes clearly and specifically about what we need to do. She manages to break the whole scary thing down to manageable bites and she does it without talking down to the debut author.

She explains what a platform is and in subsequent sections helps you see yourself doing what she describes. Part One is “Platform Ready” which includes (but is not limited to) chapters on becoming visible, cultivating your expertise, aligning with the audience, thinking productively, and acting from passion. There are more chapters in Part One.

In Part Two, “Platform Set”, she includes chapters on teaching to learn, connecting with others, and offering a service. Again, there are more sections than I have listed.

In Part Three, “Platform Grow”, Katz discusses, among other topics, identity quest, getting testimonials, and broadcasting your blog.

Practical, authentic, realistic. This book holds your hand and leads you through the parts of self-promtion that seem so scary and unfamiliar.

I have bookmarked her website: www.christinakatz.com because she has numerous helpful blog posts, a free monthly newsletter, and workshop offerings. It is a great site to add to your regular rotation of blog sites.

You CAN get known before the book deal. I believe that after reading her book. And you will, too. Welcome, Fellow Debut Author! And a round of applaluse for our guide there, Christina Katz.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Book Marketing 101

Sending a submission off into the ether known as “The Internet” (imagine sepulchral tone and organ music in the background) is like letting my child spend an overnight at a stranger’s house.

It doesn’t matter that I’ve met the other child (agent/editor). It doesn’t matter that I’ve been to the house (read the submission guidelines). Actually allowing my child (manuscript) to be in that strange place for many hours (months) without me around is scary. What will happen to him (it) there? Will they treat him (it) with respect? Will they be kind? Probably better not to be there.

As a way to finish off my writing year, I submitted Streetwalker, my erotic novel, to Eternal Press. Just one publisher. For now.

I made the decision of which publisher to submit to based upon a divine sign. Kris Tualla, a member of Valley of the Sun Romance Writers, notified our group that she had another book coming out in her trilogy and that she wanted to do a blog tour to celebrate and announce its “birth” simultaneously.

I volunteered to be one of those blogs. I e-mailed my critique partners in two groups to tell them this is a great idea for us to do when we have a book to announce. After a few days, probably from some stewing going on in a part of my brain, I thought, “Hmm. Who publishes Kris?” I re-read her note and found the name, Eternal Press. Something heavenly about that. Sort of a sign.

I looked them up: www.eternalpress.biz They take un-agented submissions. Good. Click on submission guidelines. And that was where the shock was. With the first three chapters, the last chapter, and the synopsis, I had to submit “Your marketing plan should we accept your manuscript for publication.”

There it was. Staring me right in the face. At my workshops, conferences, and on-line classes all the talk was about building your platform and that you were expected to do major promotion for your own work. This was proof those guys knew what they were telling us.

Frantic e-mail to my critique partners: “HELP! I need a book marketing plan.” I sent along the scanty list I had come up with on my own. They came through, of course. So, with their input and my own list, I put the following together. I hope it will help any of you who are in a similar situation. Who knew that the plan would be considered along with the initial read of the manuscript?

[Disclaimer: I have absolutely no idea whether or not this is a good plan, but it is what I submitted. Leave additional suggestions for marketing in the comments below. I will be grateful for your assistance.]

Book Marketing Plan for Streetwalker

Use an entrepreneurial approach as a long-term marketing strategy across the various genres of my writing. I will cross-fertilize by informing different social media (two Twitter accounts, fan page on Facebook, online group memberships, two blogs, and one website) and local in-person groups I connect with that I have a book in press.

Announcements of the release of Streetwalker will appear on all my social media sites, with an excerpt from Streetwalker on the writing blog and website. My Twitter account, @RomanceRighter, was created to promote this book.

Approach local bookstores for signing opportunities. Provide them with a poster, flyers, and an announcement of my appearance they can submit to the newspaper.

Distribute a media kit (press release, pitch letter with author bio, promo brochure, and bookmarks) to the Arizona Republic as well neighborhood newspapers and magazines.

Target local radio and TV stations with the media kit and an offer to be interviewed.

Submit a request to Barnes & Noble (using their B&N marketing plan form) to carry Streetwalker.

Announce to my on-line member groups that I am available to do a blog tour of their sites to celebrate the release of Streetwalker.

Announce to local in-person groups that I am available as a speaker.

Submit an advance copy to the Kirkus Review and request they print a review.

Contact book clubs (such as Book-of-the-Month Club, Doubleday, Quality Paperback Book Club, and The Literary Guild) and request they select Streetwalker.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What Makes a Critique Group Work? Pens Afire Tri-Blog

Visiting today are the other two members of Pens Afire, one of my critique groups. Annie Weissman writes a blog called The Single Senior (at thesinglesenior.wordpress.com) and Sandy Bremser (at sbremser.com). We have a very successful weekly critique group. So why do we think that is?

ANNIE: I think the most important quality of a critique partner is insight. I used to think someone who was great at writing or a broad reader would make the best critiquer but that's not necessarily so.

SHARON: I'd agree that you want someone who knows what good writing is and whether or not your piece has what it takes. But don't you think it is generally true that a more consistently good critique partner does read a lot?

ANNIE: I agree that people who are well read in good fiction (meaning they read good fiction AND think out it) have a feel for story, character, and all the other literary elements.

SHARON: In my opinion, the single most important part of having an effective critique group is honesty with a heart. If you can’t trust that your partners will tell you the truth where your piece isn’t working, then how can you trust them when they say it is wonderful? By the same token, there are ways to give critiques that are critical and ways that are helpful. Being hurtful doesn’t move the piece forward nor does it engender trust.

SANDY: Honesty and insight are important, I agree. There are also practical aspects.

I’d say group members need to be on the same page when it comes to how often the group meets, how earnest each is about writing/publishing, and how focused they are during meetings. My goal is to publish, so I want to meet 2-4 times a month with a couple of partners who are serious about writing and don’t spend critique time discussing their jobs or their neighbor’s barking dog. The perfect time for that is after the meeting when people can stay and chat or not. Large groups require a larger personal investment of reading and critiquing others’ work.

Someone else might be after totally different things, preferring to meet once a month with several friends who mainly provide emotional support for each other’s writing efforts. Both groups could be effective, but a writer needs to seek out those critique partners who have similar goals.

If members of a critique group aren’t evenly matched but want to form a group, they could all agree on ground rules and go from there. There’s something to be said for having similar temperaments and good chemistry, so people can be honest in sharing their insights.

SHARON: How true that the group members have to share goals and a common vision! But, Sandy, that's a management issue. Say that the group does share goals and vision, still within that group some people give better feedback on your work than others. Why is that? And what makes you value some people's input more than others?

SANDY: Offhand, I want to say, “I just know which people give me the best feedback.” Upon reflection, I think the most useful advisors differ depending on the author’s needs at the time. For instance, I belong to two critique groups and receive a lot of great input. One critique partner might catch every typo, while another suggests I’m having point of view problems. I appreciate those responses, and it does save me time, but I probably would have caught them on my own during rewrites.

I benefit most from probing questions such as, “Is each character in this chapter unique and necessary for the story? Could you collapse a few personalities together so I, as a reader, don’t have to keep track of so many?” or “How does this scene move your story along? What could you add to make it more relevant to the plot?” Dialogues like these that make my book richer and tighter are flashing neon signs for me to listen up and take notes. Gotta love those critique partners!

ANNIE: I’ve been surprised more than once at insightful feedback from someone who hasn’t offered much before. But there are some people who routinely give better feedback. I also need the detail people who catch my typos and tense problems. The frequency of a critique group is very important to me to keep on track with my writing projects. If I know I have to get twenty pages ready every week or every other week, I’m much more likely to keep on track with my writing projects. I also think the moral support is very important. Writing is such a lonely profession and publication is far off and iffy.