As a published author, I receive a lot of inquiries about promoting and marketing because my name is everywhere on the Internet. New authors want to know how I do it, and aspiring authors want to know what they can expect once they do get published.
What follows is a mixture of tips which I hope will be as beneficial to you as they have been to me.
1. Use postcards. Mail them to bookstores, media, friends, family and even your neighborhood. They’re cheaper to mail, easy to create and take less time than putting together a complete publicity kit. It’s a better way to gauge interest. 2. Keep track of your promotions. Just as you use a manuscript tracker (hopefully) to keep up with where you submit your manuscript, you need to know where your postcards have gone, which stores you’ve called and if you need to follow-up. I use an Excel spreadsheet with columns indicating the name of the contact, how contacted, date, response, if follow-up is required, etc., but you should customize it to fit your needs. 3. Don’t just look for obvious ways to promote. A friend of mine wrote a book about running a French Country Inn with her husband. Guess where her book sells really well? Wine shops. She thought outside the box as what goes well with French cuisine—wine. 4. Don’t take no for an answer especially if you believe your book would be a good fit. This isn’t giving you carte blanche to make a pest of yourself, but persistence is a required trait for any author/publisher. 5. Bookmarks aren’t the only choice for promotional materials, and there are only so many bookmarks that a reader can use. Be creative. Think of things your readers might be able to use. Pocket calendars with your book covers replacing the image, book cover magnets (holds pictures on the fridge), photo boxes with your book cover as the top picture in the lid (used for storage) or even key chain holders, mugs with inserts or charms for bracelets or necklaces. These work especially well if there is an object in your book which takes center stage like a sword or amulet. Most of these ideas are inexpensive but effective. 6. Stock your library with promoting/marketing books and read them frequently. Take notes. Try different avenues. Some of the best books on the market today are 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer, Jumpstart Your Book Sales by Marilyn Ross and The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson. 7. Once published, make marketing part of your daily schedule. If you can make time to write, you can make time to promote. I can get a lot of promoting done in as little as fifteen minutes. Things like updating my blog, addressing five postcards, sending a press release out to at least five different media contacts, checking in with my Yahoo Group and posting to another can all be done in that amount of time or less. 8. Cultivate readers. Don’t treat the people who buy your books as nuisances or people you have to communicate with. Instead, show them the gratitude and respect they deserve. Because of this tip, I had a reader offer to place promotional flyers about my books in a local chain bookstore six states away from mine, had another offer ideas on things readers would like that are inexpensive and still another reader offered to help me with promotions. 9. To keep your name out in the public eye, write an article at least a month either for pay or for a byline only. I’ve had aspiring authors contact me over a year after an article was published to thank me for the tips. 10. And finally, keep track of what promotional activity is working and what isn’t. This is where your spreadsheet can come in handy. If you sent out twenty postcards to bookstores and didn’t receive a response, try a phone call to the next twenty bookstores. Also, switch things around every so often so the same media contacts aren’t getting media releases every month from you. One month send a postcard, the next, send a photo release.
These tips have all helped me over the past few years, and with each book published, I add to my experience. And I realize, promoting has to be an ongoing occurrence or the sales will diminish.
Work hard at writing your book, but work harder at selling it once it’s published!
Ms. Newbie: To Critique Or Not To Critique? By Joy Liddy and Shelley Munro
Hi! I'm Flora Newbie, and I'm a writer. A beginner if you will. As a beginner, I have loads of questions with the topic foremost in my mind at the moment-critiquing. Where do I start? What do I do? I decided to ask critique partners, Joy Liddy and Shelley Munro my questions. Thanks for chatting to me today. Firstly, can you tell me what critiquing is? Joy: Pleased to meet you, Flora! A critique, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is a "critical analysis". I prefer to think of it as the three C's - caring concerned comments - a critique is a way to look at your work through 'fresh' eyes. What are the characteristics of a good critique partner? Joy: Tact, consistency, and someone who is continually honing their craft. You don't necessarily have to be at the same level or writing in the same sub-genre for a critiquing partnership to be successful or helpful as Shelley and I have proven . All you need is a strong and sincere desire for mutual success. What are the characteristics of a bad critique partner? Shell: Hi, Flora! One who batters your confidence or makes you feel worthless as a writer. A partner who gives inappropriate advice or worse, no advice at all. Also beware the critique partner who tells you you're brilliant and that every word you write is gold when the opposite is true. An unsuitable critique partner can be very damaging. You definitely don't want one in this category! Hmmm. I can see that there's more to this than I thought. Okay, so how do I critique another writer's work? Joy: The thought that I keep foremost in my mind when I give or receive a critique is that I'm trying to help and uplift my CP - not discourage or erode her confidence. A critique is a tool for them to improve and should be given and received in that spirit. Just like writing, we all have a different style when we critique, but there are general guidelines we can follow. Just as I would in a critique, let's start with a couple of general comments. First, when I critique I keep in mind that I'm not trying to rewrite my CP's story. Though I provide examples to clarify a comment, they are intended as a springboard for my CP's creativity not to replace her own unique voice. Second, I try to be sensitive to Shelley's feelings. We all know there are going to be times when we have to hear tough comments about our work, but that doesn't make them any easier to swallow. If a comment is made in a kind and tactful manner, then it's a bit easier to ingest. Remember: How something is said is important. If someone says to you, "Your breath is rank. Get out of my face." You will probably not be receptive to anything else that person has to say. If she said, "I really enjoy working with you, but it seems you have a problem with bad breath. X-brand mouthwash works for me, have you tried it?" then you might still be disturbed by her comment, but you would be more willing to listen to things she might suggest. Sincere praise is important. Many recommend the "sandwich technique," which means beginning and ending the critique with a word or two of sincere praise. If you want to punctuate the passage with praise that's even better - Shelley and I indicate kudos with green highlight - I really look forward to, and hope for, a lot of 'green space' when I receive a critique from Shelley. It's also a good idea to explain a 'negative' comment. For example, instead of simply saying, "I saw several examples of comma splicing," point out an example because they might not realize what a comma splice is. Let's get down to the mechanics of a critique: First, read through the passage without making comments. Hopefully, your CP gave you specific things to look for. Think about them as you read through the passage. For example: What are your overall impressions? Did the opening scene grab your attention or was it confusing? Did the pace lag? Did the characters actions have believable motivations? Did the characters seem real to you? Did the conflict feel contrived? Was there enough description to set the scene without slowing down the pace? Are the actions, attitudes and dialogue suitable for the time period? Is there a good variation in the lengths of sentences and paragraphs? Are there any logistical problems? E.g. Are the characters opening the same door twice? After that, you can deal with the 'nitty-gritty' with comments on grammar, punctuation, (especially commas ) and spelling. The style of a critique is as varied as there are partnerships. If you use Word then you can use their revision feature to insert comments. Some people like to use capitals or a bold or colored font for their comments. Others prefer to use the highlight feature. After you work with someone for a while, you will develop a style that works for both of you. There are a couple things to remember when you receive a critique. Remember, your CP is trying to help. If you are angered or upset by something they've said, then it's probably a good idea to let some time pass before you respond. Think about it. They might just be right. No one wants to hear that our work might have flaws. After all, we've invested hours, perhaps even days or weeks on that chapter. If you give the comments some thought and still feel that they don't suit your work, you can 'decline' using them. Regardless whether you agree with your CP or not, don't forget to thank her. She's taken the time to offer comments on your work (even if you don't agree with them. ) She was kind enough to invest time in your work and sincerely wanted to help you. All right then, what should I expect from my critique partner? Shell: Before you go into a critiquing relationship, it's a good idea to discuss what each critique partner expects. And remember, you don't have to stick to one critique partner. For example, you might belong to a group where several writers critique your work. Joy and I usually critique one chapter at a time. We'll email chapters between us, sometimes specifying certain areas where we feel there might be a problem. With me it's commas (Joy inserts a ) Decide how quickly you'd like your critique back, how often you'd like to exchange work or if there's an urgent critique required because you've received a request from an editor or finalled in a competition. Set down the rules before you start, and then no one is disappointed. Be honest and do the best job you can. Joy: Above all, I hope for two things: first, tactful honesty, I know that I want to hear bad news from my CP not an editor; secondly, their undivided attention. Don't critique in a rush. If you don't have time to do a thoughtful read through and make comments, wait until you do. Also, a good critiquing relationship doesn't happen overnight. It takes time for trust and respect to grow. What happens if I disagree with something my critique partner tells me? Do I have to change everything my critique partner tells me I should? Shell: Definitely not! If you're in a group where several people are critiquing your work, and they all point out the same area as having a problem, then it's wise to consider their advice and probably make the changes. A critique is one person's opinion. They're doing their best to help you. Consider their comments, and if you still strongly disagree, go with your gut instinct. Joy: This is where a huge dose of trust comes in. I trust Shelley's opinion implicitly, and even if I don't always change everything, I certainly give it considerable thought. What happens if my critique partner and I don't gel? Shell: Sometimes that happens since not all matches are made in heaven. Different writers have different creativity processes. The best idea is to start out the critiquing partnership like a trial marriage. Specify a certain length of time or start off by critiquing one chapter first. If, after the time elapses and you feel the partnership isn't working, say so. Don't let your frustration fester. This is definitely a case where honesty is the best policy! Do I need a critique partner who writes in the same genre as me? Shell: The short answer is no. Joy and I write in several genres, some the same and some are poles apart, for example inspirational versus romantica. It all depends on what your critique partner is comfortable critiquing. Joy and I are both happy reading across the sensuality spectrum. This is something that should be discussed at the onset of your partnership. I also belong to a critiquing list. What we do is state at the start of the piece we're offering for critique that there's a torrid love scene coming up. That way, the reader is warned and proceeds at their own comfort level. Okay. I think I have this straight. So where do I find a critique partner? Shell: Here are a few suggestions. If you belong to any of the Romance Writers of America groups, some of them have critiquing groups. Two that I currently belong to are From the Heart Romance Writers at http://www.fthrw.com and also the Mystery and Suspense chapter, Kiss of Death http://www.rwamysterysuspense.org/ There's a yahoo group called RomCritters specializing in romance. The group address is http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Rom-Critters/ where you will find details for joining. You can also try Charlotte Dillon's writing group, ( www.charlottedillon.com ) which is where I found Joy. You can join the specialty critique list at RWCcritiquefirstname.lastname@example.org or RWClistemail@example.com . On the RWC loop, Charlotte used to post a list of people looking for critique partners each week. And lastly, eHarlequin has a place on their community page where you can post requests for critique partners and maybe find one too! Thanks very much to both of you for answering my questions. Critiquing sounds like a lot of fun as well as a tool to improve my work. After listening to your advice, I'm going to jump in with both feet and find myself a critique partner. Thanks! Joy Liddy lives in Moncton, NB, Canada with husband, three children, and a psycho budgie. Her romantic suspense, FOOL ME ONCE, was serialized by their local paper as part of their "Sizzling Summer Romance" promotion last summer, and she is a semi-finalist in the Noble Theme Contest with her manuscript, FUGITIVE ANGEL. Shelley Munro lives in Auckland, NZ, with her husband and a small, bossy dog called Scotty. She writes sensual stories for Medallion Press and hot and spicy stores for Ellora’s Cave. You can visit Shelley at www.shelleymunro.com
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