When I received my first rejection notice I cried. Since then, I’ve learned how to cope with rejection. I heed publishers’ advice, write better query letters and emails, keep trying to improve, and stay current on industry trends. Putting a manuscript away for a few months and revising it helps too. And I abide by James Michener’s quote:
Some authors get hundreds of dollars for speaking. In addition, their travel, lodging, and food expenses are paid by the group or organization that invites them to speak. For these authors, giving talks about their books is a second income. Good for them, because speaking isn’t easy, and preparing a talk takes thought and time and confidence.
Author talks can be in-person talks in front of a group, or television talks, or video talks on the Internet. Webinars are another trend and good publicity for authors. I’m a low-tech author—no webinars or Internet talks for me. However, I speak to community groups, have been on television dozens of times, scores of blog talk radio programs, and speak for free.
“Really?” one person asked. I told her it was true, but if I have to travel, I would appreciate gas money and lodging if I have to stay overnight. I don’t ask organizations to pay for my food because I would eat anyway Why don’t I charge for speaking?
Speaker’s goal. A bereaved parent and author of eight grief resources, I speak about grief reconciliation, recovery, and creating a new life. I also give workshops about creating happiness. I don’t charge for these presentations because I don’t want people to think I’m trying to make money from their tragedies.
Public perception. I want community groups and organizations to be able to afford me. In August I’m speaking to a St. Paul, Minnesota health-care group that provides in-home services for families. Charging for the talk would make me feel uncomfortable. When the conference planner asked me about my fee she was relieved to hear I don’t charge for presentations. I asked if she would be willing to pay for my gas and she was more than willing.
Author branding. Giving talks and workshops helps me to develop my brand as a health and wellness writer. Varying my talks helps listeners to learn more about me and the books I’ve written. In addition to speaking for free, I provide handouts for audience members. Handouts help them remember me and, thanks to the contact info at the bottom, makes it easy for folks to contact me.
Several years ago I gave a workshop about anticipatory grief. A woman approached me afterwards and said, “I’ve had these feeling for years. Now I can name them. Thank you.” Giving to others helps me and that’s the main reason I speak for free. We’re all in this life together and speaking for free makes me feel good inside.
The idea of keeping a happiness jar has been bouncing around the Internet for months. I first encountered the idea on Facebook. Other posts supported the idea. “I’ll do it,” I said to myself. “Documenting happiness will be fun.” On January 2, 2015 I put my first piece of paper in a wide-mouth Mason jar. It says: “John on zero gravity machine. Looks like his left leg is starting to work.”
The note doesn’t convey the importance of the message. My husband’s aorta dissected in 2013 and he had three emergency operations. During the last one, 13 hours of life-threatening surgery, he suffered a spinal stroke and it paralyzed his legs. After being in the hospital for eight months he was dismissed to my care. A year and a half later he started rehabilitation and the results are stunning.
Thankfully, I have almost 18 years of caregiving experience to draw upon. I was my mother’s family caregiver for nine years and she had dementia. I was my twin grandchildren’s co-guardian and caregiver for seven years. But being my husband’s caregiver is a different story because I’ve never cared for a disabled person before. Still, there are happy moments to document and savor.
So I am keeping two happiness jars, one about my daily life, and the other about caregiving. You may wish to keep a caregiving happiness jar too, or may be keeping it already. How do you go about it? The idea comes from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. She offers some tips in a repost of her article, “Happiness Jar” on the Sacred Folly website. Here is a summary of her instructions.
- Get a large jar or box.
- Write your happiest moment of the day on a small piece of paper.
- Stick the paper in the jar.
- Do this for a year.
- When the year ends, empty the jar and review your life.
Gilbert has been doing this for a long time and loves it. She considers her happiness jar “the whole point of this life.” A happiness jar is also a way to document your life. Without the jar, you may forget these small, meaningful moments of the day. Unlike Gilbert, I don’t write down the happiest moment of the day, I write down several happy moments, a sort of gratitude journal in a jar.
My approach helps me see the positives of life and makes me aware of my blessings. Right now, the notes in the caregiving happiness jar fall into these categories: 1) my husband’s health, 2) daily life, and 3) our family. Future notes may generate additional categories, but the categories aren’t as important as writing the notes. Though I’ve only been doing this a short time, I’m amazed at the benefits of such a simple task.
I am reminded, yet again, that I have an amazing life.
What’s in my caregiving jar? A note about my husband’s health says “John had an amazing rehab session – left leg almost working on its own.” The note doesn’t say my husband seems to be a miracle in the making. A note about daily life says “John loved his lunch – chicken salad with dried cranberries and almonds and warm peanut butter cookies.” The note doesn’t say I love to cook and especially love cooking for my husband, the care receiver.
Right now, the caregiving jar is smaller than my other jar, but I expect this to change. In the months to come, I think the reverse will be true, and the caregiving jar will be the larger one. Being my husband’s caregiver defines my life, and I’m documenting this life with words. Your situation may be similar to mine. Have you been thinking about keeping a happiness jar? If so, make it a caregiving happiness jar, written proof of your life, what you do in a day, and most important, that caregiving is love in action.
Every author has their own approach to writing. One may include page-long paragraphs, so detailed you feel like you are there. Another may string words together in short sentences and move the plot along quickly. Other authors drop clues here and there to spark curiosity. Usually an author’s writing genre reflects his or her philosophy.
For example, biographers search for unknown and little-known facts and photos about a person. Novelists weave real-life experiences, situations, and news headlines into their fictional plots. Nonfiction writers are grounded in facts, keep checking their facts, and cite their resources in bibliographies. Genre requirements very, yet the basics are the same, and writing is hard work.
I’m a freelance health and wellness writer. When I started 37 years ago I didn’t think about my writing purpose. Instead, I followed my instincts and let them lead me forward on the career path. As the years passed, my life changed and my writing changed too. Today I focus on purpose and it is as clear as glass—produce work that helps others. But if you asked me to describe this approach I would probably be wordy.
Thankfully, President Abraham Lincoln summarized my philosophy years ago. He once said: I do the very best I know how—the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.
Lincoln’s phrase, “the very best I know how,” makes me think of the years I spent in the writing trenches, learning, failing, trying again and again. Beginning writers need to understand a tenant of the craft and it’s a simple one: The more you write, the better you get. I once read an online letter from a new writer who said it took her three days to produce a 500-word article. The answer she received: “You need to write more.”
Lincoln’s quote implies persistence. Obstacles and dilemmas and sorrows didn’t keep Lincoln from trying. I think persistence counts as much as talent in life. An author’s persistence includes good work habits, a comfortable schedule, formatting a manuscript properly, adhering to submission guidelines, creating professional letters and emails, rebounding from rejecting, helping other authors, and maturing. While I’m not always
While I’m not always completely satisfied with my writing, the urge to do better keeps me moving forward. Following Lincoln’s example, I continue to write, and plan to do so until the end of my life. I’m grateful for all of the writing opportunities that come my way: writing for several websites, writing articles for regional and national magazines, and writing health and wellness books. I’m also grateful to the community organizations that ask me to speak.
If you’re wondering about your writing philosophy and purpose, Abraham Lincoln’s quote may serve as a starting point. I think the true meaning and power of his quote rests with personal responsibility. We have decided to write. We work to become published authors. We try to keep improving. We write because we must. Thank you, Abraham Lincoln, for stating a writer’s life purpose in such simple words. While I’m not always satisfied with what I’ve produced, I know I tried.
The urge to do better tugs me forward. As Lincoln said, I do my best and plan on doing so until the end of my days. I’m grateful for the opportunities that come to me, including writing for websites, articles for regional and national magazines, and brochures for community groups. I’m also grateful for invitations to speak at conferences. Opportunities like these help authors spread the word about their books.
If you’re unsure about your writing philosophy Lincoln’s quote may serve as a starting point. What points could you add to the quote? Does your statement need more detail? Authors write because we’re compelled to write. We keep honing our craft and trying to improve. We keep challenging ourselves and relish the challenges. Thank you, Abraham Lincoln, for stating our mission in simple, concise, and uplifting words.
When you agree to speak at a conference, the planners will ask you to list your needs. Are you bringing a personal computer or do you need to borrow one? Which do you prefer, a stationary microphone or clip-on one? Do you need an easel or flip chart? Will you have handouts?
Today, handouts are usually posted on the organization's website and registrants are supposed to print them out. I created three handouts for a recent conference. Most attendees printed out the handouts, but some did not. I knew this would happen, and that's why I distributed an objectives handout at the conference. An objectives handout has several advantages.
- It helps attendees to follow the points of your talk and keeps them on track.
- An objectives handout shows that you planned your presentation carefully and done your "homework."
- You can list contact information on the bottom of the handout. As I was leaving the conference, several people asked if I would speak to their organizations. "I have your contact information," one added.
- The handout helps attendees remember the information you share and, just as important, remember you.
- You may list the book or books you've written on an objectives handout. I listed the four books in my family caregiver series and my publisher's website address.
- The handout may also serve as a replacement for your business card.
All are good reasons to create an objectives handout for your next presentation. I wish you good weather, good attendance, and good luck!
Although I worked for a computer software firm, I’m not a technical person. I didn’t grow up with computers and my learning has been trial and error. Sometimes this learning has been painful, and other times it’s been funny. My publisher wants authors to post on social media, so I posted: When I was minding my own business a book idea popped into my mind.
That’s what I thought I posted, but when I looked at the screen I was horrivied to see I said the idea pooped into my mind! At the time I didn’t know how to delete a post and, within seconds, comments started to appear. One viewer wrote, “Hilarious!” Another wrote, “Too funny.” Being a computer klutz wasn’t funny to me.
Since then, I’ve made computer learning a life focus. Recently I listened to “Metadata is Your Brand,” a podcast by Bublish founder Kathy Meis. According to Meis, metadata is information that computers use to access information, or “online book discovery.” If you and I had metadata scorecards how would we rate?
Book category. Your publisher will be glad to help you choose a category. Since I write health/wellness books I thought my category would be “health.” Not so. It turns out they fit under “self-help” and “inspiration.”
Keywords. Long before my book started production my publisher asked me to think of keywords. Some of the words: family, caregiving, caregiver, care receiver, home health, and health-care. Brainstorm on keywords for your book.
Images (book covers). Look at book covers on publishers’ websites and Amazon. Notice that some covers stand out and others are poor in comparison. The cover of your book should be eye-catching and include elements that represent the content.
Locations. This category includes your publisher’s website, Amazon listing, ebook listing, and online presence. With these things in mind, I’ve added extra information to the end of my mails: Visit (website link), Learn (blog link), Like (Facebook link) Connect (LinkedIn link), and Follow (Twitter link.)
Get Amazon Reviews. Your options include asking friends to post reviews, paying for reviews, putting an electronic version on a review website, book groups and clubs. Allow lots of lead time because garnering revews is a slow, challenging process. If you get 10 reviews the computers will notice. Get 50 reviews and the compuers will order more books.
Use Hashtags. This is a new practice for me and may be new to you. Think of a hashtag as a file category system. Rachael Sprung expalins in her Internet article, “How to Use Hashtags In Your Social Media Marketing.” Her suggestions: 1) Be unique and specific, 2) Make it eay to remember, 3) Use on multiple social media.
Authors can improve their metadata information. But it’s a detailed, ongoing task. What would you look for if you wanted to discover your book? Think creatively, think technically, and think Metadata. Help to spread the word about the book you care about so much.
Create a website and keep it current.
Add a blog to your website and post quality stuff.
Give away professionally designed bookmarks.
Give away free print or electronic books.
Tap the power of social media, yet post carefully.
Create free talks that explain and expand your book.
Always carry a book and business cards with you.
Pay a professional reviewer/review service for a write-up.
Ask friends/colleagues to post reviews on Amazon.
Write free articles for national/regional magazines.
Build a relationship with local media and keep them informed.
Update your alma mater about your work.
Take at least one marketing step a day.
Track your progress in a book marketing log.
KEEPING A BOOK MARKETING LOG
Publishers want their authors to get involved in marketing. I understand this and do all I can to promote my books. Despite detailed marketing plans, I couldn't keep track of all of the marketing steps I took. Then I had a "light bulb" moment. I could track my steps in a book marketing log. Although my log entries are short, they document my marketing efforts and are paying off. According to my publisher, sales are picking up. Keeping a log is helping me to sustain and vary my marketing efforts. Some days I do more than others and that's okay. The total book marketing picture is what counts.
So far, I have accumulated two months of entries, and they reveal some important truths.
One: Participating in social media is crucial. I post on Facebook and Twitter every day. Most of my posts are about my personal life. When circumstances warrant it, I post about a book in production, a forthcoming book, or a surprising sale. Many authors have responded to my posts with likes, retweets, and follows. I follow some other authors, but not all of the ones who send me tweets.
Two: Paid reviews can be helpful. Most professional reviewing services charge a hefty sum for their efforts. Since I don't have the money for this, I looked for affordable alternatives, and Midwest Book Review was one of them. I followed the submission steps-business letter, two copies of my book, and $50 for the reviewer. To my surprise, two books in my family caregiver series were reviewed. According to Midwest Book Review, I may use these reviews as I wish.
Three: Giving books away is one of the cheapest marketing steps. My husband is disabled and he was recently hospitalized for pneumonia. After three days in the hospital, he was sent home, and a Nurse Practitioner followed up on his case. At the conclusion of her visit I gave her copes of the three books in my family caregiver series. When the Nurse Practitioner checked on my husband the following week, she said she was going to tell people in her department about my books at the daily staff meeting. That's great publicity for three give-away books.
Four: Book marketing isn't a sprint. It can years to achieve name recognition and boost sales. So I'm going to keep up my marketing efforts and continue to make entries in my log. You may wish to keep a book marketing log too if you're an author. Do it for a year, or half a year, or a couple of months. Read your entries and see if any patterns emerge. What is working? What isn't working? Book marketing isn't for wimps, that's for sure. We have to work at marketing as hard as we worked on our books.
Harriet Hodgson, BS MA
Health & Wellness Writer
My husband is disabled and I’m his primary caregiver. I can be gone for a short time, but limit that time to one and a half hours. While I’m gone I worry about my husband constantly. Is he warm enough? Did he change the position of his wheelchair every 30 minutes, as prescribed? Returning home is always a relief.
The other day I went to get a haircut and color touch-up, a welcome break from caregiving. Before I left, I helped my husband transfer from wheelchair to hospital bed, positioned his over-the-bed table, and handed him a cell phone. I also moved his wheelchair close to the bed in case he needed it.
When I returned home from the beauty shop I was surprised to see my husband in his wheelchair, watching television. “Did you get out of bed yourself?” I asked.
“No, a fireman helped me,” he replied.
His answer puzzled me. Maybe I had missed a linking sentence, or my hearing aids needed new batteries. “What fireman?” I asked. Then he told me this story.
Shortly after I left the house a smoke alarm suddenly went off. This signal alerted our alarm company, and a representative called. The man asked if my husband was okay. “I don’t smell any smoke,” my husband said, “but I can’t give you any more details because I’m a paraplegic and in bed.”
According to the representative, the local fire company had already been notified, and he asked how they could enter our home. “Well, the front door is locked,” my husband explained. “I’ll give you the garage door code and they can come in that way.”
About 15 minutes lager a huge fire truck pulled up in front of our townhome. Three firemen (two stayed on the truck) came in the back door and entered my husband’s bedroom. They asked him some questions and my husband said he could be more helpful if he was out of bed. “If I try to get up myself that will take a half hour,” he explained. “If you swing my legs to the side, I can be up in a few minutes.”
The lead fireman swung his legs to the side and moved the wheelchair closer for easy access. Meanwhile, the other firemen checked all of the smoke alarms. They tried to disable the blaring alarm and, when that was unsuccessful, removed it from the ceiling. It turned out to be a defective alarm, and we had a new one installed.
Then I did something I needed to do. I drove to the fire station, which is only a half mile from our place, and rang the doorbell. A fireman came to the door. I handed him my business card so he would remember our address, told him the story of the malfunctioning smoke alarm, and asked him to thank the crew. “I didn’t work that shift,” he noted. “That was a different shift and I will thank them for you.”
“Thank you,” I replied, “because helping my disabled husband get out of bed was above and beyond the call of duty.”
The fireman smiled. “We’re here to serve,” he answered. Certainly, the afternoon crew served us. We are grateful to all the firemen who serve their communities day and night. They are caregivers, too, and face a myriad of challenges, many of them life-threatening. My husband and I thank the local firemen for their prompt, caring service.
Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing with BooksGoSocial.com about my book The Family Caregiver's Guide. You can view the original blog post over at BooksGoSocial.
Tell us something unexpected about yourself!
I love to cook and decorate. In fact, I read cookbooks the way some people read novels. My interest in decorating may have come about because my husband and I have moved 17 times. A graduate degree in art education also influences my love of decorating and interest in art museums.
What kind of books do you write?
All of my books fall in the self-help category. As much as I appreciate fiction, especially mysteries, I’m a realist at heart, and write non-fiction.
What inspired you to write?
I’ve had many unusual and painful experiences in life, such as the death of my elder daughter. In times of stress I turn to writing. When I research a book I’m helping myself and others at the same time. I believe my greatest talent as a writer is to distill information and present it in an organized, simple way.
What makes your writing stand out from the crowd?
My books connect the dots between research and real life. Readers don’t remember numbers, but they remember stories, which is why I weave real-life stories into research findings. Right now my work focuses on family caregiving, an idea that came from my life. I’ve cared for three generations of family members, my mother (nine years), my orphaned twin grandchildren (seven years), and my husband's disabled years (two years with more to come).
What is the hardest part of writing – for you?
Reliving painful experiences can be difficult and I’ve often found myself in tears. Still, readers can grasp the sincerity of my work. Editors too. As one said, “Thanks for writing so honestly.”
Where do you like to write – what is your routine?
In my last house I had a dedicated office. Today, my husband and I live in a wheelchair-friendly townhome. My office, if it can be called that, is a notch cut out of the laundry room, and my computer desk is really in a hallway. Sometimes I get annoyed with my notch office, but I can’t criticize it because four books about family caregiving have come from the notch.
What do you do when you are not writing – do you have a day job?
I love writing so much I actually write in my sleep. Around three in the morning my mind tells me about an error in the first paragraph on page 37 or helps me revise a sentence. When I get up at five in the morning I’m revved and raring to go. Original work is written in the morning. Business letters, contacts, and social network postings tend to be in the afternoon. For me, every day is a writing day.
Do you work with an outline or just write?
Because I’m a non-fiction writer, I make detailed outlines that include all major points, sub-points, and references that need to be cited.
What advice would you have for other writers?
Whether it’s emails, or letters, or paragraphs, or experimenting with words, I encourage you to write every day.
How important is marketing and social media for you?
Both are very important to me but I’m 80 years old and come from a generation that was taught not to brag. I shared this thought with the owner of my publishing company. Her reply was helpful and wise: “You’re not bragging, you’re citing facts.” One problem I have is that people can’t believe a older person like me can still be productive. In truth, I have so many new ideas I hardly know what to do with them. I’ve written a fifth book in my family caregiver series and want to do one more revision before I submit it to the publisher.
What’s your next step?
My next step it to revise the marketing outline that I created for my caregiving series, improve my social media skills, and continue to give talks and workshops that extend my books.
The Family Caregiver’s Guide by Harriet Hodgson is available here.
Caregiving is love in action.
Caregiving makes us practice patience.
Caregiving causes us to look inward.
Caregiving links us with the past, present, and future.
Caregiving makes us aware of the joy of giving.
Caregiving leads us in new directions.
Caregiving is a learning experience.
Caregiving brings out the best in us.
Caregiving helps us see what is important.
Caregiving honors the miracle of each and every life.
I've been a freelance writer for 37 years. During this time I've witnessed the growth of the computer age, development of social media marketing, and become aware of the blessings of my writing career. Freelance writing demands discipline and persistence, yet it has distinct advantages.
I'm my own boss. For me, and other freelancers, this is a biggie. We determine our own hours, our own writing schedule, stick to this schedule, or depart from it when necessary. Sometimes I work too long and too hard, and have to force myself to take a break from writing.
I pick my writing projects. Because I am able to do this, I am excited about every article and book I write. In fact, I get so excited I can hardly sleep, am eager to get up in the morning, and start writing again. Some of the topics I've written about have surprised me.
I get to meet interesting people. After I've finished a book, I develop talks and workshops to go with it. Speaking to community groups is fun and I get as much from workshop attendees and they get from me. Writing links me with a broad variety of people, and this makes me feel like a citizen of the world.
I offer input on cover and layout. Thanks to a gradate degree in art, I can see every book cover in my mind and printed words on a page or computer screen. It has been a joy to work with my current publisher because the publishing team accepts my photo and layout suggestions.
I can help with book marketing. Some writers may think this is a drag, but I think it's exciting. I get to try new book marketing strategies, appear on television, appear on talk radio, and blog talk radio. At this age and stage of life, I never thought I'd be posting on social media, but do it regularly.
I find joy in every project. Although every book doesn't turn out the way I planned, I find satisfaction in the fact that I researched a topic, write a good outline, and completed the manuscript. Even better, I get to hold each book in my hands.
You understand these blessings if you're a freelance writer. With careful observation, and awareness of our self-talk, and continuing to hone our craft, we can discover more blessings. I am thankful for my writing career and blessed to be a freelancer. Here's to freelancers everywhere
When you agree to write a book with another author, you’re agreeing to collaboration and, in some instances, compromise. Collaboration and compromise are similar, yet they are very different. When you compromise you may give up or reluctantly agree to changes.
Though compromise can resolve short-term conflict, it can also be frustrating for an author. If we’re honest, we admit that we don’t want to give in or up because we believe in ourselves.
Blake Flannery explains compromise in his Internet article, “Conflict Resolution to Improve Relationships: Compromise and Collaboration.” He thinks compromise is a process of meeting in the middle. “You don’t need a good working relationship to compromise,” he comments.
Collaboration is different, according to Flannery. It takes longer than compromise and builds on diversity. Nobody gives up and everyone provides input. “Don’t feel pressured to make a quick decision,” he advises.
James Robertson shares workplace tips in his Internet talk, “Ten tips for Succeeding at Collaboration,” posted on the Slideshow website. His first tip: Someone needs to take ownership. Other tips address preconditions, boundaries, relationships, and support. His last tip; Don’t forget this is all about people.”
Intermediate District 287 in Plymouth, Minnesota developed a Collaboration Checklist for teachers. The list is posted on its Practical Resources for Education Professionals Center (PREP) website. ’m a teacher turned writer and read the list with this life experience in mind. Education professionals are asked to rank their collaboration skills.
Numeral one means “I have trouble with this.” Numeral two means “I don this reasonably well.” Numeral three means “I see this as a strength of mine.” The ranking system and checklist made me think about the collaboration skills co-authors bring to a project. Are you good at collaboration? Use the same ranking system to find out.
Co-Author’s Collaboration Skills Checklist
1 2 3 I understand who owns the book idea. (Owning is not the same as joint copyrighting.)
1 2 3 I helped to set the ground rules for this project.
1 2 3 I try to keep us on schedule and moving forward.
1 2 3 I listen to my co-author and try not to interrupt.
1 2 3 I ask my co-author to explain if I don’t understand something.
1 2 3 I do all I can to stay focused on the topic.
1 2 3 I am respectful of my co-author’s time.
1 2 3 I often compliment my co-author.
1 2 3 I keep my eyes on the goal: producing a top-notch book.
1 2 3 I find joy in the work and collaboration.
Don’t be discouraged about your low numbers. Co-authoring a book is a skill that develops as your personal relationship develops and the manuscript progresses. Establishing work rules and boundaries ahead of time will make collaboration easier.
In the computer age, anyone can become an author, even YOU. There’s a difference between a writer and an author. A writer is someone who is actively writing, whereas an author is someone who has been published. You may have wanted to write a book for years, and never pursued the idea because it was daunting. Here is a list of steps to follow to transform your book idea into reality.
- State the purpose of your book. You should be able to state the purpose in one sentence. If you can’t state the purpose concisely you may be in writing trouble before you start. You may also “tweak” the purpose as you write the book. I write health and wellness books and state the purpose of the book in the introduction or preface. This helps the reader focus on this purpose as she or he reads.
- Determine the category. Print and electronic publishers need this early in the game for marketing. Each category can include many sub-categories, so choose the one that fits your book best. For example, I’ve written grief healing books and books for family caregivers. Instead of choosing spirituality or inspiration, at the suggestion of my publisher, I classified them as Self-Help. Visit https://www.bisg.org/complete-bisac-subject-headings-2014-edition for more information on categories.
- Identify your target market. Your target market shouldn’t be too broad. I just finished the fourth book in a caregiving series. Caregiving isn’t just a hot topic, it’s a huge topic, one that applies to millions of people. I narrowed my target market by writing books for family caregivers. You may want to write a book just for members of the family, and that’s okay.
- Brainstorm on titles. Some ideas surface at the same time, and the same is true of titles. To avoid getting into trouble with another author, publisher, or lawyer, make sure your book doesn’t have the same title as another book. Amazon has a comprehensive list of titles and you may search by specific titles or topics. You may come across some books with the same titles, but the sub-title differentiates them. Make your title memorable by choosing one word, or alliterative words, or surprising ones.
- Think about your cover. All of the books I’ve written in the past decade come from a royalty-free website, www.istockphoto.com. I looked at more than 2,000 before selecting one for a cover. Your publisher and/or graphic designer need to subscribe to this service in order to download photos. Don’t scrimp on your cover because it may well be your best marketing tool. Today, many publishers like their book covers to tell a story. You may find potential cover photos on www.freepik.com and www.gettyimages.com.
- Scope out the competition. Your book idea may already have competing titles in print. This makes sales more difficult. When you come across a competitive book, jot down the name of the publisher, publication date, number of pages, and cost. Go on Amazon and read some sample pages from these books. Now answer a key question: Should I move forward with my book idea.
- Write an outline. Professional authors always have an outline. The outline can be a progression of logical points, or the development of a plot and characters. Your outline should be clear and easy to follow. When I’m outlining a non-fiction book, I list every point, every sub-point, every resource I’ve used, and every page number. Writing a good, workable outline can take months.
- Learn how to format a manuscript. In the current book market, people who used to be acquisitions editors are also doing marketing, and they’re short of time. Handwritten manuscripts often wind up in the slush pile. To avoid this, format your manuscript according to the publisher’s guidelines. Books on this topic are available from local bookstores and the Internet.
- Start writing and keep at it. Years ago, a friend approached me about my latest book and said, in a slightly hurt voice, “I was going to write that.” But he didn’t. I researched the topic, wrote the outline, wrote the book, and found a publisher. I believe in hard work and persistence, two qualities that will help you see your book in print. After you’ve finished the book, put it away for a month or so. Then take it out and read it. What changes do you need to make?
- Find the right publisher. Local publishers welcome work from local authors. Top-notch lay-out and printing companies, such as P. Hansen Marketing, are eager to help you. Many of my book covers have been designed by Jay Highum of Action Graphic Design in Rochester. Submit your book only to publishers in your genre. Don’t submit a mystery to a publisher that prints poetry books, for example.
The publishing industry is changing quickly, and this is creating new options for new authors. So consider electronic publishing (an ideal entry point for new authors), independent publishers (called Indie), and hybrid publishers, and latest variation in the book industry. You’ll find more information about these options on the Internet. Writing is fun and I hope you enjoy the process. You can see your book in print!
Yep, I'm still at it--building my author brand. After 37 years of freelancing I thought I had done this. but I was wrong. Although many people in my community recognize my name, I need to widen my readership, and strengthen my brand. You may have a similar goal.
Writing a book can be easier than building your brand. For one thing, building a brand can take years. The goal is to move beyond name recognition. You want people to associate your name with the type of books you write--mystery, romance, travel, cookbooks--whatever your specialty may be.
Building your brand takes money. When you set aside funds to build your brand you're investing in yourself. Instead of waiting for something to happen, you can make things happen. These steps will help you build your brand. Although the results can be immediate, they usually aren't and, like baking bread, yo have to wait for the marketing yeast to rise.
Here are some steps to hasten the rising.
Freshen your business card. Hiring a graphic designer is worth the money. My designer chose colors that blend with the covers of my latest books. Under my name, on the second line, it says "Health and Wellness Writer." You may list your genre or a slogan that represents your work.
Contact independent book stores. I signed with a hybrid publisher, also an independent publisher and member of the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association (MIBA). I looked up the addresses of Minnesota MIBA book stores, and wrote them. Even if this doesn't generate a sale, at least the store has me on its radar screen.
Get your name "out there." Are you speaking at an author event or conference? Write a letter to the editor, inviting people to attend the event. The editor of this page forwarded my letter to the articles editor. I hope to see it in the newspaper soon.
Write for free. After I discovered a local magazine, I contacted the owner and offered to write an article for free. She gave me the topic, published the article, and put my photo on the cover. The article received so many comments that the owner asked me to write another. She is going to publish the covers of my latest books with the article.
Post on Twitter. According to my publisher, Twitter is the way to get name recognition these days. I post on Twitter daily and it seems to be working. Dozens of people are following me and I'm following them. There is a numerical component to these followers. Once you get 50 followers something happens, and your name appears on the Internet more often.
Use press kit inserts. After I finished creating a press kit, I posted the inserts on my website. I plan to use the "About the Author" insert as a separate marketing piece. If you don't have an author fact sheet, create one now. You never know when it will come in handy.
Hire an Internet expert. I paid $49 to join a social network marketing service that puts my name on a variety of social media. The subscription lasts a year and has already generated interest in my books. Subscribing to the service saves me time, and I'm using this time to write a new book.
Taking all of these action steps can have an impact on book sales. Writing is fun and, as I'm discovering, building a brand can be fun too.
I loved being a Girl Scout, but I didn't love selling Scout cookies. Although I sold some boxes to neighbors and church friends, my total sales weren't impressive. Selling wasn't my strong suit. Memories of Girl Scout cookies came to mind while I was writing a marketing plan for my new book series. Before I started the plan, I researched sales techniques.
Some techniques were familiar to me, and others were way out of my comfort zone.
A hybrid publisher is putting out my series. Under the terms of my contract, I'm supposed to write a marketing plan, help create a press kit, pay for the kits, and other necessary supplies. All of this sounded good, and I was willing to do the work, but I was on a tight budget, a couple of hundred bucks at most.
I tried to spend my money wisely. The steps I took may help you with book marketing.
Update your business card. Your card should include a photo, your publisher's website address, your email address, and social media icons. If you haven't joined any social media, do it right away. Check the Internet for business card deals.
Get bookmarks made. This is an old idea, yet it's still a good one. A surprising amount of information fits on a bookmark. Again, include your publisher's website address, your email address, and social media icons. Your bookmark may include copy from the publisher's press release.
Create a book flyer. You could do this yourself, or hire a professional designer. My flyer was designed by a professional and it was worth the money. He sent me two files, one for the flyer, and one for a large display. Your flyer should have a photo of your book cover, your photo, and explanatory words, such as "An historical mystery."
Create a display. I took the flyer file to a local office supply store, and asked the printing folks to create a huge poster. The poster is on foam board, a mistake, because the corners bend easily. Next time I'll ask for the display to be on heavy cardboard. I bought a $25 folding easel for the poster.
Participate in book blogs. Several days ago I joined a blog for authors and bloggers who review books. Seconds after I posted my first blog, I received an email from another author. Blogs are a way for authors and readers to connect with each other. My publisher uploaded my books to a reviewers' website. Reviews are forwarded to me and I email a thank-you to every person.
Tap the power of the Net. I never thought I'd join social media networks, but I have, and it's been a learning experience. After giving it some thought, I subscribed to a service that posts information about me on social networks. The results were instantaneous and I'm hearing from people in different parts of the world. Time will tell if this exposure sells books.
Plan a book launch. The county history center is going to host a Book Launch for the first two books in my series. I think the center is willing to do this because I'm giving a free talk at the center two weeks after the launch. Hosting the Book Launch is good for the center and good for me. I'm providing coffee, cookies and handouts.
Stepping out of my book marketing comfort zone has given me the confidence to try new marketing ideas. Even if you couldn't sell Girl Scout cookies, or were good at school fundraisers, don't underestimate yourself. You've worked hard, are proud of your book, and be proud to let others know about it.
I've been a freelance writer and need to be careful with my budget. In today's publishing world, authors are often asked to pay for some of the marketing. Like many authors, I have to make my marketing dollars go as far as possible. This led me to the idea of a book flyer.
Many flyers are available from the Internet and they come in different sizes. Templates are available, too. I have a graduate degree in art, but I don't have the computer graphics skills, so I turned to a professional designer. He did an amazing job and the flyer contains all the necessary elements I need: eye-catching colors, author photo, book cover(s), explanation, release date, and ordering information.
The information should be brief and clear. "This mystery keeps you wondering." "A heartwarming love story." "A must-have for nurses."
My book launch is several months away, yet I'm using this publicity piece now, and giving it to as many people as possible. If you're artistic, and have the computer skills, you may design your own flyer. How can you use it?
Post it on social media. In today's publishing world, social media are your best marketing tools. You need to be on Facebook, Twitter, Google+,, and other websites. Get some coaching if you don't know how to do this. My grandchildren are my technical support and I'm grateful for their help.
Send it to NetGalley reviewers. Your publisher may have uploaded your book to this website. You will receive notice of who downloaded the book and who took the time to write a review. Send a thank you email to everyone on the list and attach a flyer.
Deliver one to the newspaper. City newspapers are always trolling for stories. Small town newspapers appreciate stories and images. Mail or personally deliver a flyer to the newspaper and include an information sheet about your book. Be sure to include a business card.
Talk with the folks at the public library. Make up a press kit, including the flyer, and deliver it personally. Ask to give a talk about your book. Tell them yo speak for free, that your talk don't be a commercial, and that it will contain new information.
Email it to a local magazine. I email the editor directly, and also attach an information sheet. persistence pays off, so stay in contact with the magazine. I just contacted a city magazine for the second time to remind the editor of my caregiving series, and attached a flyer.
Send it to close friends. You don't have to be pushy. Take a casual approach and say this is your latest writing project. Word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools and you want to generate buzz about your book.
Carry a copy with you. Often, when you're out and about, you meet people you haven't seen for months, or people who know you're a writer. When they ask you what you're working on, you can whip out your flyer and show them.
Sometimes book ideas come to me out of the blue. That's what happened two weeks ago. "Wow, this is a good idea," I thought to myself. Impulsively I emailed a publisher, met with the Director of Publishing, and she was excited about my idea. She tweaked the title a bit and then I was off and writing. I've been in the writing zone or two weeks now, encased in the world of words. In two weeks I created a basic book outline, a detailed outline, a marketing plan, and written 16,000 words. While I'm writing I think of James Michener. Most people don't want to be writers, Michener once said, they want to have been writers. Instead of doing the work these people want to walk into a book store and see a large display of their books. If only writing was that easy!
I've revised my manuscript three times and checked headings to make sure they're helpful and clear. The manuscript pages are piling up and so are the resources in my bibliography. Each revision makes my book better and brings me close to my dream of another published book. Writing is hard, challenging, and exciting work and I love it. Without writing I would be a different person.
Working with a book editor is a learned skill. Acquiring this skill takes time and practice and patience. I've been a freelancer for more than 35 years and, during this time, learned to work with editors. Instead of viewing my editor as an enemy, I think of him or her as my biggest booster. A book editor has your best interests at heart and wants you to have the best book possible. You may be working with your editor now. Here are some tips from my experience. 1. Leave your emotions at home. Concentrate on facts: organization of your book, writing style, punctuation, typos, writing clarity, and marketing. 2. Listen carefully. Make eye contact with your editor and let him or her finish a sentence before you speak. 3. Take notes to back-up your listening. Jot down the editor's key points in a small notebook. 4. Be courteous. Just like your mother told you, manners count in the real world, and especially the book business. 5. Thank the editor for his or her time. 6. End with an action statement, such as "I'll revise that section and email it to you."
Yesterday I hadmet with a director of publishing who is also an editor. I used all of these tips. I also followed her advice. At five o'clock in the morning, I got up and revised my preface to match her recommendations. It's much better and I'm grateful for her help. Collaborating with an editor helps you and helpd your book.