Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Don't Sell Yourself Short

Marketing: Part 1

You have an agent. You have a publisher. You don’t need to market your book, right? Wrong. Even if you are with a large publishing house, you need to market your book. Or if freelance is your gig, you need to market yourself.

I was chatting with another writer online the other day. She wrote: “I can’t market my book. I don’t know where to start.” She was talking about the fact she had a contract for her very first novel and was learning that she had to do some of the marketing if she wanted the book to be successful. It’s a tough lesson to learn.

I assured her she was already doing a great job at marketing. She was. She had pitched her story to an acquisitions editor, provided the publisher with written materials, told me about her book, and shared on Facebook that her book was accepted for publication. That’s marketing.

Of course there’s more. For Breathing on Her Own I am trying everything I can think of doing. Chip MacGregor, a highly respected literary agent and advocate for writers, uses a baseball analogy in talking about marketing. In baseball, batting .300 is a good percentage. It means a good baseball player may strike out or get out approximately two of three times at bat. You’ll want to read Chip’s blog if you are serious about writing. ( A return on thirty percent of my effort is good? I can live with that. It simply means not everything I try will work. I can’t put all my heart into one strategy hoping my ad/quote/news release or whatever will go viral and make everyone in the country buy my book.

Taking Chip’s advice, I’m trusting that I need to do everything I can to promote my book. I may try ten different things. If three of them work, I’m batting .300…as good as a big league hitter!

The argument I’ve heard from some authors is to pick only those areas where you can do a good job. True. You only have so much energy. But you don’t have to do everything by yourself. Consider enlisting the aid of others to do those things you feel ill equipped addressing. And remember this: What may work for one book may not work for another.

For today’s post, I’m going to briefly describe five strategies I’ve employed to promote Breathing on Her Own. I’m also sharing a few of the pitfalls so you can hopefully learn from my mistakes. Next week I’ll share five more.

Social media Word of mouth is still the best way to get people reading your book. Social media is a piece of that. Through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a host of other social media sites, people are connecting with one another. And reconnecting. You can share your writing activity with your friends via social media. That’s good. One word of advice: Don’t dominate the conversation. Don’t make it all about your book.

A writer friend recommended I use a media management system to plan, schedule, and send out messages to my social media accounts. I provided a series of entries about the book. Unfortunately, every post I wrote went out to every group to which I belonged…every day….multiple times a day! I was inadvertently “spamming” my friends. I apologized. I learned how to remove some of the entries. I took charge of the media management system to better manage my posts!

But remember what I said about word-of-mouth? You know you are meeting with success when you aren’t the only one spreading the word. I’ve had people share my Facebook status with a note about how they know me. It’s great to see a “tweet” retweeted. But my favorite? When a person I didn’t know, contacted me to speak for a group because she heard about my book through a friend who heard about me through Facebook and had read my blog.

Book Launch- I know there are a number of people making use of a virtual book launch on Facebook. I have never had that explained to me fully and couldn’t wrap my head around it, so I had an old fashioned launch a couple of weeks after the book was released. Since I don’t know what I’m doing, I am having a second launch in Ohio in June. My story takes place in both Ohio and Florida so to me this makes sense. Maybe the second is merely “an event,” but I’m calling it a launch.

How does having thirty to forty people celebrate the beginning of a book help market it? For one thing, those people talked about it. A lot. Following the event, I had several people asking me about the book and some tell me they were getting it.

I had a few books available for purchase at the launch. In each I put a piece of paper telling the recipient how they could help promote the book. One of those strategies was “buy a book and donate it to your church library.” Two weeks later, a woman who had attended the event did just that. She purchased one of my books for her church library. She attends a mega church. There is a potential for hundreds of people to read my novel. Does that promote Breathing on Her Own? I think it does. People who had never heard of me will read the book. Some may want a copy of their own or a copy to give as a gift. Some will recognize my name when my next book comes out.

One woman let me know after the event that she put the book up to her book club. (another of the recommendations made on that half sheet of paper) They were all going to read it and leave reviews. I met a neighbor the other day who recognized my name and said, “You’re the one who wrote that book, aren’t you?” People talk. I am a people person. For me, a launch made sense.

Another reason I wanted a launch is that I wanted pictures. I wanted evidence the book was real and people really knew about it. That may sound silly, but to me it was a credibility piece.

Bookmarks- I wanted to have something to give away at the book launch. This is one of those areas where I needed help. My daughter, Danielle, is good at designing anything on the computer. She made my business cards. I called on her skills and talent once more. And she came through. The cool thing about the bookmark is it is a visual reminder of the book. She put a QR code on it and my contact information. And it’s useful. I may consider carrying bookmarks instead of business cards.

Book trailer- I’m putting this next, because I used it at the book launch as well. My husband found a way to make it loop so it played over and over. I don’t have the talent to make a trailer, so again, I called on the help of two of my daughters, Allison and Kendall. I love it. Does it help sell books? I don’t know yet. It isn’t likely to go viral, but we learned a lot in doing it for the next time. Everyone who has watched it tells me it makes them curious about the book. I'm sussing it at book signings an book talks. View it HERE. 

Getting reviews- My publisher tells me Amazon reviews are like gold. So one marketing tool I’ve used is to enlist the help of 100 people who are sympathetic to my efforts to be a part of my Amazon Launch Team. All I asked them to do was to download the book, read it, and give an honest review. I told them they didn’t even have to like it! Just review it! So far I have 41 reviews. Not all of them are from the launch team, which is even better.  My goal is to have 100 reviews by May 15. From everything I’ve read, Amazon takes you seriously as an author if you have 100 reviews. Having Amazon take you seriously has to be helpful in the marketing efforts, right? You can read some of the reviews here.

Those are my first five strategies to market your book. Next week? Five more. Hey, we’re all in this together. I want to share what I’m learning along the way.

ONE FINAL NOTE: My publisher tells me the Kindle version of Breathing on Her Own is available on Amazon from April 28-May 4  for $.99.  Your chance to read and review! 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gym Shoes, Leotards, and Ball Point Pens

News Alert: Check out on American Christian Fiction Writers website this week! I am the featured author in an interview. Wow! "Who woulda thunk it?"  Here is the link: ACFW 

Now on to the blog post of this week…dust off your stationary bike to read this one!

Remember walking into English class every Monday in high school? Mrs. Morrison had written a prompt on the dusty black chalkboard. She called it a writing exercise.

I have said this before: Good writers become better writers when they write, just as good runners become better runners when they run. Talking about writing isn’t enough. Do it. Get started every Monday with an exercise that would make Mrs. Morrison proud.

I keep a list of exercises by me. Sometimes if I am struggling with a writing project, I will turn to one of those exercises to get the creative juices flowing.

Stretch and Flexibility
Like any good exercise program, start with a few stretches. Get out of your comfort zone to add flexibility to your writing muscles. For example, I agreed to write an article for a home health journal. Trust me, this was totally out of my comfort zone.     

The article was to inform home health aides about medicines their clients may be taking while in Hospice care. I had to research the medicines and I had to research my audience. I used the freelance writing assignment as an exercise in researching and writing.

The article was accepted for publication, but more importantly, learning about the role of the home health aide answered a problem I had while writing Breathing on Her Own. Writing in a home health aide character to engage in conversation with my main character when she came home from the hospital provided a wonderful solution to my dilemma. I’ve now written several articles for Home Health Aide Digest.

As I am crafting my third novel, I am intentional about creating a Home Health Aide to help Karen’s mom in the story. The simple challenge to take on that first assignment and strengthen my writing has continued to be of benefit to me.

You would never write a children’s book? Then stretch yourself by writing a children’s devotion based on your Bible reading for that day. Learning how to communicate to a different audience will strengthen your writing skills. Being able to share God’s word to a variety of audiences will strengthen your witness.

I’m sure you will be able to come up with exercises of your own. If not, look for prompts elsewhere. I took the list of proposed topics for Chicken Soup for the Soul and decided on a few for which I had personal experiences to share. I used the prompts as exercises to practice my writing. Two of those stories were subsequently accepted and published.

Aerobics for Your Pen
I hear authors talk a lot about word count. Some argue that setting a word count goal for each day or week doesn’t improve your writing. I disagree. I belong to a writing group where every member attempts to write at least 500 words a day. Most of us do just that. Having that word count goal has helped members get in the habit of writing on a regular basis. Again, the more you write, the better you will get at crafting your story.
Want to engage in a bit of aerobics for your pen? Try completing a free writing exercise. This is when you write for five or ten minutes without stopping to read, revise, or edit what you are putting down on paper. You will be surprised at the bold, courageous words you craft in a free write. Somehow, being released to write without fear of editing also releases you to pour out your innermost thoughts.

Another way to bump up the aerobics for your pen is to bump up your word count goal. If writing 500 words in a day starts to feel easy, set a new goal to write 750-1000 words a day.

Strength Training
Do writing exercises really require strength training? You bet. The strength for a writer is in the power of the words you use. There are many ways to achieve maximum strength for your words. Here are a couple of suggestions.

1. Build your vocabulary. No, I am not suggesting you do crossword puzzles or play word games even though I know these work in building your vocabulary. I’m thinking in terms of using a thesaurus. How many different words could you use to convey your message? And try this one for real word power: Use fewer words to convey your message.

2. Hone your self-editing skills. You may want to subscribe to a blog about writing and editing. For example, I have found the short posts on A Little Red Inc. provide great reminders of common editing issues I should watch. (

Cool Down
·      Read something inspiring. (Dare I suggest a sweet little novel called Breathing on Her Own?)
·      Post inspiring pictures on your computer or by your desk.
·      Get up and take a short walk.

Note: Do not use your social media as a cool down. It doesn’t work. Your cool down needs to inspire you and allow you to think.

Social media will distract you. There is a time for Facebook or Twitter or whatever you use when you are not writing.

Above all, if you want to be a writer, exercise your craft consistently. If you want to lose weight…well that’s a different blog.

 P.S. Breathing on Her Own is now available through Barnes & Noble! Things are moving fast here!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Getting those Crazy Ducks in a Row

I have discovered that most people don’t think of writing as a job. A career. A business. I’ve been told it’s nice I found a hobby. Others have praised me for developing my “gift.” Few realize the hours it takes to write, pitch, publish, publicize, ….in a word: work.

Is my writing fun? Yep. Rewarding? Yes. Purposeful? You bet. Lucrative? Not yet.

As a writer I am self-employed. Writing is my business. And to prove it, I have real honest-to-goodness business cards. (Thank you, Danielle.) More importantly, I have a business plan.

No one told me I needed to draft a business plan when I started this career in earnest in 2012, but common sense dictated I create one. At the time I was still teaching at the university. I knew I would be leaving that setting in December of 2012, so in March of that year, I spent a good portion of my Spring Break drafting my business plan to become a writer. It helped me get my ducks in a row.

Most business plans have a mission or vision statement.
This may be the toughest, most honest writing you will do if you want to be a writer. A friend of mine said, “Can I just say I want to write a best seller or be famous?”


A mission or vision statement should reflect who you are or who you want to be as a writer. Not necessarily famous. A few weeks ago I posted an interview I had with +Debby Mayne. Debby is a successful writer of Christian romance novels and novellas. At one point she was told she could make more money if she wrote romance novels with steamy sex scenes in them. She thought about it.  For about a minute. Those books wouldn’t be true to who she was. She told me she never wanted to write something she would be ashamed of letting her children or even her parents read. She was true to the vision of who she is as a writer.

Clearly state your goals. Set some specific yet realistic goals for your writing career. You may say, “Within three years I want to have published a novel.”

It’s okay to take it slow though, too. You may say, for example, “This first year I want to spend building my platform and learning everything I can about the publishing industry while I write. This would be realistic. You can then be even more specific by breaking each of these goals down a bit.
            1. I’m going to build my platform using social media. I’m going to aim to have 1000 friends on my Facebook page.
            2. I’m going to research the publishing industry on the internet.
            3. I’m setting a goal to write 500 words every day.

Get the idea? Write specific, realistic goals in your business plan.

Engage in a little self-examination: Analyze your strengths and weaknesses. You are not perfect. Sorry if I burst your bubble there, but it’s true. You do have some strengths. And you do have some weaknesses. Maybe you are good at writing dialogue. Then again, maybe you type so fast your fingers and brain don’t always coordinate. You are not a good editor.

Put your strengths in your plan as well as your weaknesses. Plan a strategy to work on those weaknesses. Write it down. Maybe you need to pick up a book on grammar or self-editing. Maybe you need to type your post into a Word document first then cut and paste it into your blog. Be sure to create a plan to address your weaknesses and capitalize on your strengths.
Educate Yourself: Include in your plan an education piece. I mentioned earlier about researching the publishing industry. Every writer should learn all he or she can about the publishing world. It changes, yes, but the more you know as you write, the better chance you have of getting published. One of the education pieces I wrote into my business plan was to attend a writing conference. I could only afford two days of that first conference, but it was well worth it.

Engage: Work with mentors. Connect with other writers. Join a writing group. As you do this, re-examine your plan carefully. Look for any holes.  For example, although I had considered blogging, I did not realize the importance of using this tool as a platform. After attending a writing conference and talking with other writers, I identified this as a hole in my business plan.
Once you have found an area you need to address, formulate a plan to fix it. For me, I decided to read several other writer’s blogs to identify what types of content I needed and what appealed to me as a user. I then researched blogging and found an on-line tutorial to help me develop a plan to implement my blog. Until I finished the tutorial, I decided to write a weekly mini post on my existing Facebook page. I took this route so I could get in the habit of regular on-line writing.  I know it was a baby step, but a step in the right direction.

Create a timeline to realistically meet your goals. I am talking about a visual here: A chart, graph, calendar, or picture to include in your plan. Do not neglect this piece. Some elements of your plan will get lost in the words. They will be clear on your timeline and help you remain focused.

Finally, remember this: Your business plan should be a dynamic, not static, document. As you grow and learn more about your new work and about yourself, your plan will change. As you move from a part-time writer to a full-time writer, your plan will change. As you age or have children or move to a new location or discover a passion for skydiving, your plan will change.

If you are a writer, revising your plan is always an option. The first challenge is to make sure you have one to revise.
On a side note: Breathing on Her Own is getting great reviews. You can now order it on Amazon or through your local Barnes & Noble bookstore! Yay!
Here are the links:

Maybe that’s not really a side note after all. Getting Breathing on Her Own published was, you see, part of my business plan.

 Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Writing Novellas with Guest Author Tamera Kraft

Delighted to have guest author, Tamera Lynn Craft, sharing another avenue for publishing your story: 

Writing Novellas
By Tamera Lynn Kraft

Novellas are basically stories that are too short to be considered a novel and too long to be under the short story category. They are fiction between 15,000 and 40,000 words. Although novellas used to not be popular with traditional publishers because of the high cost of printing them, they have come into vogue. The main reason for this is because of e-books. A novella can be sold in e-book format for as little as 99 cents which makes it very popular with readers. Many publishers have created anthologies with a group of novellas around one topic, such as the Civil War or Christmas on the frontier. I have a published novella in both of these categories.
Although there are no hard fast rules in writing, here are some things to remember about writing novellas:
One Plot: Novellas generally only have one plot. They are too short to develop subplots effectively.
One to Two POVs: A novella does better with only one or two points of view. It’s too short for much character development, so by limiting the number of main character points of view, it makes it easier to have deep character development.
One Topic: Keep the main thing the main thing. You want to limit yourself to a brief span of time and one problem your character needs to overcoming. One major focus will make your novella stronger.
Write Tight: Novellas are shorter than novels. They require you to get to the point as quickly as possible. This isn’t the genre to use long flowing writing or descriptions. Novellas require tight writing.
Soldier’s Heart:
After returning home from the Civil War, will his soldier’s heart come between them?
Noah Andrews, a soldier with the Ohio Seventh Regiment can’t wait to get home now that his three year enlistment is coming to an end. He plans to start a new life with his young wife. Molly was only sixteen when she married her hero husband. She prayed every day for him to return home safe and take over the burden of running a farm.
But they can’t keep the war from following Noah home. Can they build a life together when his soldier’s heart comes between them?
Soldier’s Heart can be purchased at these links:

Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures. She loves to write historical fiction because there are so many stories in history. Soldier’s Heart is her first published fiction work. She has also written a novella, A Christmas Promise, published through Pelican Book Group. Tamera has recently celebrated her thirty-fifth anniversary with her loving husband. She has two grown and married children and two grandchildren.
Tamera has been a children’s pastor for over 20 years. She is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire For Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist. 

She is also a writer and has curriculum published including Kid Konnection 5: Kids Entering the Presence of God published by Pathway Press. She is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry.
You can contact Tamera online at these sites.
Word Sharpeners Blog: