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This week I'm starting a new schedule that involves doing promotion/marketing on Mondays. So it's appropriate, I think, to talk today about this terrific promotional article, What It Costs to DIY A First Book Tour. In it, author Katey Schultz discusses her year-long promotional tour for her book, Flashes of War, which was published by a small university press.
Schultz spent $12,000 on her tour, split pretty evenly between hiring a publicist and tour manager and travel expenses. It was money she'd inherited or saved, not borrowed. She wouldn't go into debt for the book. This caught my attention because several years ago I attended a NESCBWI event at which a colleague said she didn't want her family to lose money on her writing. Something writers need to consider--writing can cost you money.
Five thousand books is too large a goal for a year. Schulz had to lower her expectations and spread that goal over three years. She's been told that the 1,500 books she believes she's sold over one year is a good number. Good numbers are still small numbers.
Some booksellers were not very supportive. I don't know if her experience is common. I can't help thinking, though, that within writers' circles there's so much commitment to booksellers. So...
Schultz hasn't made back her financial investment, but feels the work she's done has been good for her career overall, preparing the way for the promotion of a second book. And that's often how things work with writing. You have to think in terms of the career, not any one particular book.
Yesterday I attended a New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' program, Marketing Your Brand. Jen Malone was the program leader.
Now Jen's first book, At Your Service, was published just last year, though she has several others under contract and coming out soon. What she brings to the table when it comes to marketing is that she is the former New England Head of Publicity and Promotions for 20th Century Fox and Miramax Films and has sixteen years of experience teaching film marketing at Boston University.
This was a very good program. I try not to go into too much detail regarding events like this, because the content is the presenter's. But I feel comfortable discussing workload and blogging.
You cannot exaggerate how hard many children's and YA authors are working at promoting, the time they are spending going to events, planning presentations, traveling, contacting people, all on their own dime. They may hold jobs of one kind or another and have families. It is just huge. And then they need to be writing their next books.
Sigh. I happened to be reading Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki today. Suzuki says, "The driver knows how much load the ox can carry, and he keeps the ox from being overloaded. You know your way and your state of mind. Do not carry too much!" It seemed appropriate.
The feeling among the people in attendance yesterday was that blogging is a bit yesterday as far as "Authors must blog!" is concerned. Some authors in that room were vocal about disliking blogging. What does that mean for long-time writer/bloggers like myself?
I'm thinkin' good news.
The Internet began to buckle under the weight of all the blogs that were created by writers from, say, 2006/7 to date. The pool of blog readers couldn't absorb them all, so many of us saw our readership drop and drop. If writers no longer feel compelled to blog, that could mean more readers for the rest of us.
That's what I'm hoping, anyway.
The caption under the picture of Jen Malone? The capacity to caption appeared out of the blue. Computer Guy is mystified.
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GetResponse just launched a new email marketing tool, Global View.
With this tool, you can see when your subscriber opens your email AND where. Talk about big brother.
If GetResponse has this feature, you can be sure the other email marketing services either have it already or will be getting it soon.
This is great for the marketer.
You can instantly track who’s opening and clicking
Jeff Herman, a long-time literary agent, has published his guide to the publishing industry for more than 20 years. I’ve used it a number of times to research publishers, agents, and editors. It could be quite useful for you to save time, target your efforts, and avoid missteps.
He opens the book with articles with information on the publishing industry and its processes. There are good insider insights that could help you in your quest. In this 2015 edition I found an idea I like: can’t get an agent? Then become one yourself. If you do this, then the sections on book publishers and their editors become your guide to pitching.
If you’re looking for a literary agent, he asks them a number of questions that can help guide and focus your queries (he also discusses how to write query letters and book proposals). There’s personal information that could help you connect with an agent (not all agents answer all questions, but their answers are helpful nonetheless). The questions he asks include:
Describe what you like to represent and what you won’t represent
What are the best ways for writers to pitch you?
When and where were you born?
Do you charge fees?
Describe your education and career history
Why and how did you become an agent?
Would you do it over again, or something else?
List some representative titles you have placed
Describe yourself as a person
Do you miss the way the business “used to be”?
How would you describe the proverbial “client from hell,” and what are the warning signs?
Describe your job and what you like and don’t like about it
I’ve met very few writers who got excited over the idea of marketing and promotion–and those who did, were typically folks who did that for a living. Maybe it’s an aspect of a creative soul, but it’s not usually something that comes naturally to us. And the thought of pushing our work on others? -shudder-
I’ve always advocated that the best marketing strategies are the things we enjoy doing. Good marketing is all about making connections, and a great way to do that is by helping others. Volunteering is a fun, rewarding, and beneficial way to “promote” without promoting. For example, conferences need volunteers:
To pick up presenters from the airport and assist them during the conference
To help register attendees
To moderate panels and introduce speakers
To work book sale and refreshment tables
To help promote the conference through blog interviews or guest posts with presenters
All of these provide opportunities to meet and network with other local writers as well as industry professionals.
I’d belonged to various writers’ organization prior to selling my first novel, but it wasn’t until I joined my local chapter of SCBWI that I realized how valuable such groups could actually be. Up until then, I’d always been “on the outside,” paying my dues (literally) and attending the occasional conference, but never taking advantage of what the organizations had to offer. In fact, I was so clueless then I didn’t even know there were local chapters of the national groups.
Then I met a fellow author at one of my first book signings, and she encouraged me to check out Southern Breeze, which happened to be having their fall conference a few weeks later. I figured, why not? It was only a two-hour drive away, reasonably priced, and had a fun workshop schedule.
As I was registering, I noticed there was a box marked “want to volunteer?” Again I thought, why not? and checked it. Shortly thereafter someone contacted me, and I was signed up at the registration desk to help folks as they checked in. I spent the morning meeting and greeting other writers in my area and had a fantastic time. I was at that conference alone, but after that one hour I knew the names and faces of half the attendees (those in the M-Z section). What could have been a lonely conference was suddenly more welcoming, and guess what–a lot of those people went over and bought my brand-new book when they found out I was brand-new author.
That experience led me to volunteer to moderate the peer group critiques, then I helped out at the conference bookstore, then I became the bookstore liaison, and eventually the publicity coordinator for the region. Along the way, I’ve met some amazing people–from writers to editors to agents and other industry professionals I wouldn’t have been able to meet had I not be a volunteer. I’ve also had some wonderful opportunities offered to me. Best part of all of this–I had fun. Tons of it.
There lies the beauty of volunteering.
Obviously, volunteering for the sole purpose of promoting and shoving your work down everyone’s throat isn’t going to work (we can all spot a poser, right?); you honestly have to enjoy it. But ultimately, networking is what a professional conference or organization is for–to help the members of that organization advance their careers. You get out what you put into it.
Reasons to Volunteer: The Good Deed Side
Volunteering feels good, it’s helpful, and much appreciated. Many local events run on volunteers, and the more people who help out, the better the event is for everyone.
You’re supporting other writers
You’re sharing the task burden so those who run these events don’t burn out and get overwhelmed
You’re helping your organization raise money to educate writers
It’s a way to pay back any good fortune you’ve received
It’s a way to be part of the community you want to belong in
Reasons to Volunteer: The Business Side
Publishing is a business and these conferences are networking opportunities. The more connected you are, the better your chances of encountering something that can help your career.
Opportunities to meet and interact with authors, agents, editors, and publishers
Opportunities to speak or present workshops
A chance to be considered first (because they know you) when career opportunities present themselves–speaking engagements, awards, writing jobs, etc.
Opportunities to meet other authors who can team up with you to market and promote
Opportunities to promote your own work
Conferences take a lot of work by a lot of people, and they’re wonderful opportunities to connect with fellow writers and industry professionals. Volunteering can be an enormous benefit on both a professional, and a personal level.
Do you volunteer? Share your experiences!
And speaking of conferences…
Calling all kidlit writers and illustrators: Springmingle ’15 Writers’ and Illustrators’ Conference will take place on March 13-15, 2015 in Decatur, GA. Meet editors and agents from industry-leading agencies and publishing houses—and the friendliest, most supportive colleagues one could ever hope to find. Attendees will find nearly a dozen workshop sessions, including: 101+ Reasons for Rejection, Writing La Vida Loca, and Traditional Picture Books in a Digital Age. Visit their website for a complete listing of workshops: https://southern-breeze.scbwi.org/events/springmingle-15/. Presented by SCBWI/Southern Breeze Region.
Janice Hardy is the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now. She lives in Georgia with her husband, one yard zombie, three cats, and a very nervous freshwater eel. Find out more about writing at her site, Fiction University, or find her on Twitter @Janice_Hardy.
Book marketing is tough, especially when it comes to self-publishing. The good news is there is no shortage of experts, books and websites out there to advise authors on how to market. The bad news is that while some offer content brimming with strong, helpful advice, others impart ‘wisdom’ that belongs in a primer on what NOT to do. It takes time and the willingness to work hard to sort good ideas from bad and come up with a plan that is best for you.
But here’s a cold, unpopular truth about book marketing: you can do everything experts say to do, and still feel you are not getting a good ROI (Return on Investment).
There are a number of reasons for this. Here are some of the biggies:
It’s human nature to look around and compare one’s book to that of a similar one and weigh the success of each, but the reality is this is an unfair comparison. Every book is different, so how readers connect with the characters and story of each will also vary. And readers aside, each author will have a unique platform and marketing focus. So while outwardly two books rest in the same apple cart, they might not belong together, and authors should not expect them to perform the same.
Not only do readers’ tastes change as trends reach a saturation point (people grow tired of reading about X so change to Y), so does the online retail market. Going exclusive with Amazon used to be a golden ticket, but now? Not so much. Same thing with the power of free. In the early days, free was the fast track to downloads, exposure and shooting up Amazon lists. But technology is fickle. Algorithms shift. Subscription services enter the picture. And BAM, just like that, the playing field changes…what used to work no longer does, or the value of marketing a certain way lessens. So depending on when you release a book and what is happening in the online marketplace at that time can affect your ability to reach those big sale goals.
Anyone who says luck has had nothing to do with their success is either lying or naive. Luck is ALWAYS a factor – the right book, the right time, the author connecting with the right influencers to help boost their reach, and finally, being discovered by readers who will become super fans…this all requires an element of luck. Sometimes, people just can’t catch a break. But, that said, authors make their own luck by putting themselves out there. If you want to hear a knock at the door, you have to be close by.
Playing the game, but not getting why.
I know many writers who “do everything right” by pricing appropriately, paying for a professional cover, designing a website, blogging, getting on social media, running visibility events, book signings, speaking engagements…and they still don’t feel it’s working. A person can do every strategic thing right and still fail if they don’t understand and respect that their number one goal should be to connect genuinely with readers. Readers aren’t dollar signs, or Facebook likes, or book reviews…they’re people. It means treating them like people, caring about them like people, and enjoying that relationship without strings. It is about providing them with value when we can, and entertainment, a listening ear or whatever else is within our ability to give.
Being on social media is not the same as “getting” social media. Tweeting and blogging and posting to Facebook in ways that are strategic, not social, means one is not using the platform as it is meant to be used. And if you don’t come across as genuine and interested, if it feels like a job to tweet and share…people sense it. They will (maybe) friend you and (maybe) retweet because it is the polite thing to do, but the depth of the relationship will only ever go so far. They won’t really care about what’s happening with you. That level of connection won’t be there.
Marketing to the wrong audience, or focusing on only a niche.
If you are marketing your heart out trying to connect with people who love and need hammers by hanging out with golf enthusiasts, your efforts won’t yield much. Understanding who your exact audience is and what they need and want is key to improving your chances for success when it comes to finding readers. Think beyond genre. And in the same wheelhouse, if you are targeting the right audience, don’t focus on too small a group. A typical way authors do this is by concentrating marketing on other authors who write in the same genre. Yes, writers are readers, but at best, this is settling for a tiny slice of pie when the whole pie is available. At worst, you are damaging relationships with your fellow writers who may feel put off when you promote at them.
Simply stated, a lot of books are published that aren’t at the caliber they need to be to do well. Learning strong writing craft takes a lot of time and dedication. Some writers understand this and by applying savvy marketing to their quality book, they knock it out of the park. But with the ease of self-publishing comes a subset of writers who are hoping a quick upload to Amazon is their shortcut to success. Or they think quantity wins out over quality, and seek to get out as much product as possible to have a larger revenue funnel. But, if one is more focused on quantity than making each book better than the last, the saturated market offers a sobering reality: unless there is something special about a book, it generally doesn’t gain a foothold that lasts. There are just too many other good books to read.
So, does this mean we should all give up? That the cards are stacked against us? Not at all!
I’m no expert and have plenty to still learn. But I’ve picked up a thing or two, so here’s a few sound bites:
1) Write a book so good it fills you with pride. Never stop learning your craft. Always strive to do better with each new book.
2) Be genuine. Talk to people, start conversations. Build relationships and be present. This takes time and energy, but it’s worth it.
3) Only do what feels right via social networks. If you hate twitter, don’t use it. Remember to be social. Provide value in some way and be part of the community.
4) Figure out who your audience is, and find them online. Don’t just focus on other writers…unless that is your exact audience.
5) Learn to love what you do…not just the writing part, but the connecting with people part. Yes, even you introverts! The more you do it, the easier it gets, I promise. And when you connect with people, you find friends, supporters, and influencers, making your own luck!
6) Understand your personal strengths and what you have to offer, then offer it the best you can. Are you funny? Let it out. Have a knack for finding interesting content your audience will like? Share it! Be yourself, and be awesome.
7) Talk to other people about marketing. Ask for help. Offer help in return. Collaborate. We’re all in this together.
8) Try new things, take risks. Look at other industries and how they connect with their audiences. Don’t fear mistakes because they are simply opportunities to learn. Not everything will work and that’s okay.
9) Make it about your audience, not you. Put yourself in their shoes…shoes that are probably overworked, stressed, underpaid and over-promoted to. Do they need more spaghetti promotion thrown at them? Probably not. So how can you use social media to make a positive difference in their day to day lives? How can you provide content that entertains, supports or adds value? How can you make them feel valued?
10) When you give freely, it comes back to you. As self-publishers we have many hats to wear, and only so much time, which is why some authors struggle with the idea of doing something so labor intensive as “building relationships.” But taking the time is well spent, because when you form real connections with people and care about then, they care about you in return, and about your books and your success. Many end up helping in little ways, including telling others about your books. Word of Mouth is the most valuable marketing currency there is.
Have any tips to share? Please leave them in the comments.
I read a great article over at Matt Lloyds Blog. It explained why some are able to create a successful online business and other can’t. It was a l-o-n-g article, but it was interesting.
To break it down and give you the gist of what Matt said, we do have the power. We are in control of whether we become successful or not.
We have to stop making excuses and playing the ‘woe is me’ card. Stop
What do Ezra Jack Keats, Sylvia Plath, Stephen King, Richard Avedon, Truman Capote, Robert McClosky, and Andy Warhol have in common, besides being incredibly creative? Ding. Time’s up. Each won a Scholastic Art & Writing Award when they were in their teens. Of this experience Richard Avedon, among others, said winning was “the defining moment […]
This weekend we relaunched my website after some work that I originally thought would "just" be cosmetic. Cosmetic. That's tweaking, right? How long can that take? Well, it took about two-and-a-half weeks, though we're not talking two-and-a-half weeks of eight-hour days. My computer guy ended up using a lot of his snowdays on this project.
Many of the issues we ended up dealing with in this revamp are the same kinds of things we'd be considering if we were starting a website from scratch. So if you're thinking of getting started with a site or you've been wondering if it's time to do some touch-up work, yourself, you may be interested in what we've been doing these last few weeks.
What Got Me Started
My website is quite old, going back to 1998. We've made many changes since then, of course. Recently, though, I'd been feeling that my site was very white. That's not ethnic commentary. My website was very white meaning that its pages seemed to spread across computer screens, which are now often quite wide, in an unattractive manner. But what to do about it?
Last month I happened to read some articles in More on personal branding. The two issues I was particularly interested in:
Using color to help brand. Color has attributes it communicates when it comes to branding. Yellow is supposed to communicate creativity and intellect, as well as energy. I most definitely am not a pastel person. Any pastel. But I thought I might like some kind of gold in my website, maybe an autumn-type color. Yellowish.
Finding ways to unify your brand message across your social media platforms so readers/viewers begin to recognize you, wherever you are. Color can be a unifying element.
What We Did And Why It Took So Long
Originally, all I wanted to do was create a colored border around the pages of my website. Because I was interested in gold, which is similar to the theme of this Blogger blog, we would immediately be providing some unity between these two platforms. But once we placed the gold color around each page, the color we'd been using for the hyperlinks clashed. All the color on all the links had to be changed. (By the way, we changed the theme on my Twitter page to conform with the color of my website's hyperlinks, thus creating some uniformity with that platform ,too.) Then Computer Guy started really getting into this and gave the space behind the text a little hue-like color, so we really were rid of the white. This was also more in keeping with the blog's appearance.
All this had to be done to every single page in the site. In case you weren't aware, I have a very big website. It's deep, meaning it's multi-leveled. A link from the homepage leads to another page and there are links there that lead to still more.
While we were touching everything, anyway, we were careful to bring any outdated material up to 2015.
And, Then, Fonts
Things were looking better, but now I wasn't happy with the font. Fonts, it turns out, have attributes, just as colors do.
Serif fonts, for instance, are associated with artistic, intellectual, and warm attributes. Sans serif fonts are considered technical looking. Computer Guy loves sans serif fonts, which are very straight and have little embellishment. I, however, have always been a Times New Roman woman because it looks like the text in a book. TNR is a serif font. Serifs have little extra bits at the end of letters and, like TNR, look like what we'd expect to see in books and other publications.We decided to go with a serif font for the text, which would require more reading, and a crisp sans serif font for headings.
Sounds as if we're done with fonts, right? No! Why not? Because a certain number of fonts are preloaded onto every computer making that computer capable of rendering text accessed from the Internet onto its screen. There are fonts that are commonly used. If I were to choose an uncommon serif font for my website, one that many computers couldn't render, they would have to use a fallback font that may or may not look the way I planned it to. Thus, I needed to choose common fonts.
Some Things We Didn't Change
Believe it or not, I have some very specific views on websites. These views are related to communicating messages and making communication easier for people receiving my messages.
My homepage, my users' first stop when they come to my website, includes real content. I want my users to get something immediately for having made the effort to come to www.gailgauthier.com. I don't want them to have to click again to "enter website." I don't want them to be faced with just a menu.
I'm not into bells and whistles. Things that move and pop are slow to load. I value my users' time. As a user, myself, I sometimes leave sites while I'm waiting for gimmicks to load.
I avoid distracting clutter. I want to make the reading experience on my pages comfortable.
I try to keep content short. I believe the reading experience on the Internet is supposed to be different from other kinds of reading experiences. Is is supposed to be fast. That is not a bad thing. We can read long in other places. That's true of blog posts, too, by the way. If I can't keep a blog post short, I use sub-headings, the way I am today, so users can pick and choose what they want to focus upon.
This was a fun thing I hope we don't have to do again for a while. "A while" meaning "years."
While it is true that we should not write for the market but for ourselves, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to know what readers want to see these days. If you’re in a hot-selling category, that could be reassuring. If not, it just means make your story the best it can be—books sell even in declining categories.
An article titled “The Hottest (and Coldest) Book Categories of 2014" reports that the self-help and graphic novels categories had the fastest print growth among adults. The juvenile segment performed much better overall than adult, and the winning category there was science fiction/fantasy/magic category.
My new e-book — Commit: How to Blast Through Problems & Reach Your Goals Through Massive Action — is all about creating a life you love by throwing every ounce of energy and resources you have at your biggest problems and goals.
I’m thrilled that in less than a week, Commit has racked up 16 five-star reviews on Amazon! And I’m even more excited to hear that readers are starting Commit practices to build their businesses, lose weight, and more.
Freelance writer Penny Hawes has been Committing to a BIG income goal this year — and she lined up more than a third of her income for 2015 by the first week of February. I interviewed Penny to find out:
What her Commit practice looks like.
How one decision helped her go from feeling broke to achieving her goals — and then some. (Penny took advantage of NINE Commit tactics to make it happen!)
How Committing has helped her with the winter blahs and self worth issues.
What her work style was like before she started Committing.
How many Letters of Introduction she plans to send out to help her reach her income goal. (You won’t believe it!)
How she reframes cold calls to make them less scary. (Hint: It’s about the service, not about you.)
How Committing is like body surfing.
And much more.
I know some Renegades prefer to listen to interviews, while some (like me) are readers — so I have both options for you.
I hope you get a lot out of this interview, and that it will help you start your own Commit practice!
If you want to read Commit: How to Blast Through Problems & Reach Your Goals Through Massive Action, here’s the Amazon link…or just visit to check out all the awesome reviews, including one that says, “I feel like I’ve been shot out of a cannon!”
This afternoon I attended Lynda Mullaly Hunt's book launch for her second book, Fish In A Tree, which goes on sale in four days. The event, which included a number of games set up at staffed stations as well as at least a half dozen raffle items, a book sale and signing, and a quite marvelous short talk, ran from 2 to 4:30.
I got there around 3:30. When I arrived, there was the kind of crowd I'd expect to see at a group appearance. I was told it had thinned out. Earlier in the afternoon, the Barnes & Noble staff person running the book sale had been worried about running out of books.
This was a hugely successful launch. Book launches/publication parties are far more common than they were the last time I published a book. My guess is that there's a lot of risk involved in putting on these things, because there's a lot of risk involved in putting on any kind of party. (Or is that just an introvert speaking?) I would like to impress upon my readers how much effort, time, and expense went into planning this one. The games were related to Fish In A Tree. Some of the raffle prizes related to the book. Did I mention the t-shirt sale? Yes, there were book-related t-shirts, too. Lynda pulled this thing off in a big way. This year I have to do a birthday luncheon, Easter, a rehearsal dinner, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Lynda, Lynda! Come quickly!
I’ve long believed the benefits of positive thinking and positive projection. Now, in line with these philosophies, there is positive self-talk.
In an article at NPR.com, “Why Saying is Believing,” it explains the importance of not only talking to yourself, but how you talk to yourself.
Researchers delved into the influence that referring to the ‘self’ has on how the individual thinks, feels,
Now more than ever before, there are so many things we can do to promote our books, articles, stories, essays, services, and other creative works and skills—regardless of whether we’re self-published, traditionally published, or even not-yet-published. Bookstore and library events remain staples, of course, as do reviews, mentions and bylines in prominent media. But add to the mix blog tours, home pages, social networking sites, free promos, cheap promos, paid placements, Web ads, print ads, Goodreads giveaways, email lists, indie author coalitions, and the myriad services claiming to increase “discoverability,” and one thing becomes clear:
You can’t do them all.
And even if you could, who would want to? Just reading that list is enough to make even a savvy marketer’s head spin.
What you need is a strategy—one that’s developed through a solid understanding of what makes the best sense for you and your work, while allowing flexibility to bend with the changing winds.
I don’t need to tell you that self-promotion and platform building are important. In a reader survey we conducted in 2014, 61 percent of respondents listed “to learn how to promote myself and my work” as one of the primary reasons they read Writer’s Digest magazine, and 45 percent of readers requested even more coverage of the topic.
In creating this issue, first, we identified two key areas worth focusing on: your author website (essential for scribes of all stripes, from freelancer to novelist, from beginner to multi-published author) and Goodreads (a must for book authors in particular). We enlisted experts to deconstruct what you need to know to make the most of each medium. Digital media pro Jane Friedman’s “Your Author Website 101” and bestselling hybrid author Michael J. Sullivan’s “Get in Good With Goodreads” are comprehensive guides ripe for earmarking, highlighting, and referencing again and again. Whether you’re just starting to investigate how to promote a book or you are looking to create a Web presence that will be the foundation of your career, these articles are a great place to start.
Then, we put a call out to the writing community asking for “Success Stories in Self-Promotion”—and we got them, in droves. Learn through the real-life trial and error of writers whose promotional efforts ultimately yielded impressive sales, further opportunities, and, in some cases, even agents and book deals.
Best of all, as those authors share their secrets and tips, you’ll notice one key takeaway that comes up again and again:
The February 2015 Writer’s Digest is already getting some great buzz on Twitter, Facebook and blogs from other writers who likely share in the same platform and promotional challenges that you do. If you’re looking for fresh tips on how to promote your work—plus the usual doses of writing inspiration and craft advice we put into every issue of WD—you won’t want to miss it!
Have you seen the Seinfeld episode where George accompanies his girlfriend to a funeral?
It’s post-wake and everyone’s at her parent’s place noshing on hors d’oeuvres and sipping punch. George finds himself in front of the potato chips, so he takes one, sinks it in the dip, takes a bite, and dips the chip again; much to the annoyance of his distraught girlfriend’s brother.
A knock-down, drag-out fight ensues before the very upset girlfriend kicks George out.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a double-dipper.
And why not? It’s the only way to really enjoy that French onion dip and get the most mileage out of your chip.
Freelancers should be double-dipping too. Not their chips (unless they’re into that sort of thing), but their writing.
Double-dipping is a golden opportunity not enough freelance writers take advantage of.
So how does double-dipping work in the freelance writing world? Here are five easy ways.
1. Sell reprints.
It’s been published once, why can’t it be published again?
How to do it: The first thing you want to do is make a list of publications that cover the topic of your article. Then, check out their website and writer guidelines to see if they accept reprints. If you’re not sure, ask. Send the editor a friendly email telling them about your article and why you think their readers would be interested. Ask if they’d like to purchase it as a reprint.
Not all publications accept reprints…but that doesn’t mean you can’t reuse old content.
How to do it: First, find a market that covers your topic. Go back to your research notes and interview transcripts, and write a pitch that covers a different angle of the story with publication #2’s audience in mind. If you quoted someone in the first article, paraphrase in the new one. Where you paraphrased, use quotes. Include information that didn’t make it into the original article.
Keep in mind: You may want to consider doing some additional research in case things have changed, or find one or two additional sources. But the work load is going to be a lot less than what it was the first go-around. Only this time you stand to earn the same amount of money… maybe even more!
3. Send pitches in batches.
When you come up with a brilliant idea, don’t save it for just one publication – share the love! There are tons of publications with audiences that would love to know more about the topic you’re pitching. It’s just a matter of re-framing each pitch to fit a variety of publications.
How to do it: Let’s say you’ve got a great story idea about traveling with babies. Of course parenting magazines would be interested, but so would travel publications, women’s glossies, maybe even custom publications for baby product companies. As you’re doing your initial research and collecting sources, think about what these various audiences would want to know and how/why they could use this information. Tweak each pitch to suit each market.
Keep in mind: Unlike the tactics above, here you’ll be writing completely different queries and completely different articles for each publication. While parents would want this information to help them in their travels, a pediatrician might want this information to help her advise parents who wish to travel with their little ‘uns. A women’s magazine might want to provide tips on how to have a smooth flight for travelers finding themselves on a plane with a baby. The difference is, you do the research once and get multiple articles out of it.
4. Send simultaneous queries.
The idea here is to send the same query for the same idea to editors at multiple publications. When you send out a query, you could wait months — or even a year — only to have the editor respond with a resounding “no.” Sometimes editors take a really long time to respond to queries…if they reply at all. Rather than wait around for them to get back to you and risk having your idea become stale or already-been-done, cast your net wide and find that article a home ASAP.
How to do it: This one’s easy — find a bunch of publications that fit your topic, write one query, and send it out to editors at all of those publications.
Keep in mind: You may have more than one publication show interest in the article. However, you cannot sell the same article to more than one publication. In this case, it’s a first come, first served thing. But don’t let those other publications go home empty-handed. Offer them the same story, but from a different angle. Or pitch them a few similar ideas instead.
5. Once you’ve got ‘em, keep ‘em.
The thing about queries is they can get a “yes” or a “no” or be met with silence. There’s not much you can do about the third instance, but you can turn a “no” into a “yes.”
How to do it: An editor might turn you down for a number of reasons: the timing’s off, someone else has already covered it, they’re not interested in the topic, they’re having a bad day… But just because they say “no” to one idea doesn’t mean they’ll say “no” to another. If they’ve emailed you back, you’ve got their ear. So take advantage by replying with a “Thank you for getting back to me. I completely understand. Perhaps [insert new idea here] would be a better fit?”
Keep in mind: That you suck as a writer or the editor hates your guts is rarely if ever a reason for a rejection. Odds are the rejection is based on factors you have absolutely no control over. If you get a response, thank them, tell them you get it, and offer up a new idea. This shows that you’re persistent and not just a one-idea dude. Then send the rejected query somewhere else.
When you have a chip — er, idea — get the most mileage you can out of it by double dipping, and you’ll get more assignments (and more money) with less work.
Tiffany Jansen is an American freelance writer and translator in the Netherlands. She is also the author of an award-winning children’s historical fiction series. You can find out more about her at www.tiffanyrjansen.com.
P.S. Carol Tice’s and my next Article Writing Masterclass starts in January, and we have THREE editors on board to critique your homework assignments and answer your questions: Current editors from Redbook and FSR (Full Service Restaurant) Magazine, and a former Entrepreneur editor. In this 10-week class, you’ll gain the skills and confidence to land lucrative article-writing gigs. Learn more and read raves from students on the Article Writing Masterclass website.
Anyone watch Scorpion on CBS Monday night? The Christmas episode where everyone starts feelin' the season when a child is trapped in a cave with the water rising? In the course of the show, Katharine McPhee's character (I don't remember her name, we always call her Katharine McPhee) says that her son only wants one thing for Christmas, something called I Want an Alien for Christmas. Later in the episode, he gets it! And it's a book!
Well, I was on-line by the time the closing credits were running. I Want an Alien for Christmas appears to be a self-published book available on Kindle and Smashwords. Except for those two sales pages and its placement in Monday's episode of Scorpion, there doesn't appear to be any marketing for it.
What's particularly interesting about this situation, assuming this book turning up in an episode of a nationally broadcast television show is interesting enough for you, is that the author, Nick Santora, is also the creator of Scorpion. He's written for other TV shows and has written another book.
You'd think that a couple of mentions in a network primetime show would create some buzz. But two days later, I'm still seeing next to nothing about I Want an Alien for Christmas on-line. The book is mentioned in a Forbes piece, but that's from back in September.
Tis the Season!
WISHING ALL A HEALTHY, HAPPY, AND
SAFE HOLIDAY SEASON
Below is a little video I created for you from all of us at
Writers on the Move.
(For those who don't already know, I'm the founder and manager of Writers on the Move. We're a marketing group using cross-promotion, content marketing, and social media marketing to increase our visibility, authority, and conversion.)
Yesterday I deleted my Facebook author page (not my personal page), though it may still be up for a number of days while Facebook waits to see if I change my mind.
The short story: I deleted my Facebook page because I wasn't reaching enough people to make it time and energy efficient to maintain it. There was also very little engagement there, which, people often forget, is the point of social media.
The long story:
First Off, The Difference Between A Facebook Page And A Profile
Facebook pages are used for professional reasons. Pages are Liked not Friended. At the time I set up my author page, people who weren't part of Facebook could find it with an Internet search. I was interested in it because I wouldn't be posting to a finite group of people within Facebook but to the entire Internet. I saw the page as a place to post information about publishing, events, and maybe do a little literary salon-type stuff, discussing reading, for instance.
Facebook profiles are personal and far more social. Lots of pet and kid pictures there. Profiles are Friended, not Liked. People may post work-related information on them just as they would share work-related information with personal friends. My writer friends will post on their profiles that they've made a book sale, have a new cover, or will be making an appearance, just as they would tell that information to their friends if they met them in the store, at church, or got together with them in a social situation.
The Famous Facebook Formula/Algorithm
Facebook doesn't send out every post made on a professional page to every person who has liked it. The story goes that Facebook doesn't want individual users overwhelmed with masses of posts on their newsfeeds/walls, making individual professional posts less effective because the receivers are...ah...overwhelmed. So it only sends page posts to a percentage of the people who have liked the page. I've read that it's 17 percent of the total, I've read that it's less. The Likers in that percentage are supposed to be those that have interacted with the page, meaning, presumably, that they are more interested in the page and more likely to act upon any information they receive from it.
And What Does This Have To Do With You, Gail?
Well, if you are Target and have in excess of 20 million likes, 17 percent is still a lot of people getting your posts. If you are a mid-list writer with 116 likes, 17 percent is only 19 people. Facebook kindly let me know how many people I reached with each post I made. For whatever mysterious Facebook reason, more often than not I was reaching far fewer than 19. I was generally coming up with unique content for that page, even if it was links to reading. I don't do automatic broadcasts of this blog to all my social media platforms to avoid hammering away at people who are connected with me in multiple ways. So, to get back to the short story I was telling you at the beginning of this post, maintaining that page wasn't worth the time and effort.
Additionally, there was very little engagement there. I have some kind of interaction with someone on my personal page nearly every day. I get some retweets and follows on Twitter every week. I get more +1s on Google+ than interaction on that Facebook page and when I post to Google+ communities, I usually see a bump in my blog stats. Everything does better for me than that Facebook page did.
I can do what I was doing at the Facebook page at my Facebook profile, and I can use the kind of material I was posting at the page here at the blog. Though my Facebook profile is only available to my friends on Facebook, I have far more friends than I had likes at that page and far more engagement. I like Google+ and Twitter where I actually see content I'm interested in. That was impossible through the Facebook page.
So I'm thinking there's nothing to lose and plenty to gain in terms of time and energy from dropping that Facebook page.
From time to time, we try to give you a glimpse into work in our offices around the globe, so we are excited to bring you an interview with Ellen Carey, Senior Marketing Executive for Social Sciences books. Ellen started working at Oxford University Press in February 2013 in Law Marketing, before moving to the Academic Marketing team.
What publication do you read regularly to stay up to date on industry news?
I work on the Social Sciences lists, which includes Business, Politics, and Economics, and lots of the books I work on are very relevant to current affairs. I tend to read the top news stories in The Economist, Financial Times, BBC News website, The Guardian, and The Times every morning. This especially helps with commissioning newsworthy blog posts and writing tweets for the @OUPEconomics Twitter feed. I’ve always been interested in current affairs, and this is something I really enjoy.
What is the most important lesson you learned during your first year in the job?
That everyone makes mistakes and there’s usually a way to fix them, and lots of people are willing to help. Though we obviously try to get things right the first time round!
What is your typical day like at OUP?
My day starts with a huge cup of coffee and a catch up with the team. My day is divided between author correspondence, marketing plans, events and conferences, project work, and social media.
What is the strangest thing currently on your desk?
I have a promotional penguin toy from an insurance law firm – his name is André 3000 – which was given to me by one of my friends who works for a law firm.
What will you be doing once you’ve completed this Q&A?
This afternoon I’ll be working on the Politics catalogue for 2015.
If you could trade places with any one person for a week, who would it be and why?
It would be a prima ballerina in the Royal Ballet – that would be the dream!
How would you sum up your job in three words?
Busy, challenging, diverse.
I love cats! I have a really old, grumpy, 17-year-old cat called Paddy, and my friends and I regularly send Snapchat updates of our cats. I like to be kept in the know with what’s going on in Pickles’ and Mag’s lives.
What is the most exciting project you have been a part of while working at OUP?
The Economics social media group. It’s been really exciting to be part of the team that set up and launched the Economics Twitter feed, and it was great to see us reach 1,000 followers in six months. I’ve also really enjoyed working with colleagues to commission blog posts and we’re looking forward to increasing our social media activities.
What is your favourite word?
Pandemonium. My Mum read me the Mr Men and Little Miss books when I was little, and I always remember this line from Mr Tickle because she’d put on a funny voice: “There was a terrible pandemonium.”