Five Things I Wish I’d Known About Publishing

by Connilyn Cossette, @ConniCossette 

It’s been nearly six years since I began Googling things like “How to get published” and “How to get an agent” and pretty much freaking out over the sheer volume of information those searches provided. You too may be overwhelmed by all the (sometimes conflicting) advice out there and the myriad unknowns involved on the bumpy road known as publishing. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past few years that may encourage you to keep moving forward!

  1. Rejection gets way easier over time

I learned that with every negative contest judge comment came ten positive ones, and with every scathing 1-star review came twenty glowing 5-star ones. Yes, there will those that do not like your work and those that feel it necessary to post unkind opinions, but those readers are not your target audience. Your skin will toughen and the right editor/agent/reader will connect with your work when the time is right. Take heart, remember every single author gets bad reviews, and press on.

  1. Everything is slooooooooowwwww 

In my Pollyanna outlook, I thought as soon as I received manuscript requests it would be just a few weeks before I received a response. Instead, it took months before I heard anything, months before I was signed with my agent, months before I received a contract, and then another year and a half before my first book was published. And honestly, my experience was inordinately swift. If you are heading the traditional route you must be prepared to wait! Use that time to hone your craft, dig into another story or two, and do not be discouraged. With timing and perseverance, great things can happen!

  1. Successful authors are super cool and encouraging

I went to my first conference completely in awe of “real” authors, knees knocking if I even happened to stand next to one of these “rare unicorns.” I had put successful authors on a pedestal instead of realizing that they were just like me—people who adore words, likely sitting around in their pajamas paralyzed by fears and doubts when faced with the blank page. Don’t be afraid to reach out to an author, ask for advice, or just let them know you enjoyed their work, it’ll bless both of you!

  1. Social media doesn’t have to be stressful

Social media does not have to take over your life. Pick a platform or two that you enjoy, don’t mess with the ones you don’t, and just have fun connecting with people instead of focusing on sales. Instead, spend your valuable time writing the very best book you can.

  1. It’s hard but so worth it

Sometimes this business is tough, sometimes it’s discouraging, sometimes you’ll feel like knocking your head against a wall—but if you’ve been called to it and you love writing for the sake of writing then it’s so worth the ups and downs. I can’t imagine my life any other way now. Enjoy the journey, with all its twists and turns!

Tweetables: 
Tweet: Five Things I Wish I’d Known About #Publishing by @ConniCossette via @NovelAcademy https://ctt.ec/ub39k+ #writing

Tweet: “It’s hard but so worth it.” 5 Things I wish I’d Known About #Publishing by @ConniCossette via @NovelAcademy #writing https://ctt.ec/B6zf9+

~*~

Connilyn Cossette is the CBA best-selling author of the Out from Egypt Series with Bethany House Publishing. Her debut novel, Counted with the Stars, was a finalist for both an INSPY Award and a Christian Retailing’s Best Award. There’s not much she likes better than digging into the rich ancient world of the Bible, uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus, and weaving them into an immersive fiction experience. Although a Pacific Northwest native, she now lives in a little town near Dallas, Texas with her husband of twenty years and two awesome kids, who fill her days with laughter, joy, and inspiration. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.

 

 

 

 

 

One Thing Marketing—Why You Need a Marketing Budget…or Two—Part 1

ideasparking

stock-photo-4945253-business-success-concept If you’re going to get serious about stepping up your author marketing and platform-building strategies—whether pre-pubbed or pubbed—then the savvy thing to do is budget.

Now I’m no Dave Ramsey, so this is not a post on the specifics of budgeting. Really, if you want hard core budget help, you should go to someone who is better at saving receipts than I am.

BUT I have come up with a writing budget that works well for me, and as I’ve moved along on the road to publication, marketing has begun to take up a bigger chunk of that budget. Nothing astronomical, for sure, but it’s still good to plan for and track marketing expenses.

As you consider your own marketing budget, here are some factors to take into consideration.

1) Decide which marketing avenues best fit your personality, your schedule, and your available resources. And then ask yourself, which of these avenues is going to require a little mullah. Examples of not-so-free marketing efforts:

• Website design—Your expenses could be all over the board here. You can always set up a free blog site, but even this may come with some costs if, for instance, you decide to purchase your own domain name.
• Networking & Events—In-person marketing is wonderfully effective, but attending writing conferences and book fairs, throwing launch parties, even purchasing prizes or goodies for book signings, it all takes money.
• Headshots and Publicity Photos
• Conference Materials—Business cards, pitch-sheet design and/or printing, etc.
• Advertising—Depending on your publisher, the marketing department may take out ads in print or web publications. But you’ve certainly got the opportunity to take out your own ads in local publications, e-zines, popular writing websites, etc.
• Organization fees—Participating in a writing organization IS a marketing tool. But organizations often have fees or dues.

2) Take a realistic look at your overall budget and figure out how much money you can afford to put into marketing. Here is what has worked well for me:

• I reviewed my monthly income a year or two ago and decided to set a certain amount of money aside each month for “writing.” In the beginning, this money paid for me to attend writing events, but as noted above, now a bigger chunk is going toward marketing efforts.
• When I’ve received extra money on the side—annual bonuses at my day job, tax refunds—I threw all that into my writing pot, as well.
• I received my first book advance check last fall. I’d decided long ago that if I was ever to receive a book contract, I’d put my advance money right back into supporting my writing career.

Now I have a pool of money—not tons, mind you, but it’s something to work with—to support my writing efforts. Personal circumstances will differ from person to person, of course. For instance, I don’t have a family to support so I’m a little freer with my finances. (Although, I also work at a nonprofit, sooo… ☺ )

But whatever situation you’re in, discover what works for you. Don’t stress out if the amount isn’t large. The purpose isn’t to break the bank on marketing, but simply to make the wisest use out of the dollars you’ve got.

3) Now review your list of marketing strategies from above and figure out where to put which dollars and when. The key here is to decide which efforts are going to give you the most bang for your buck. Some tips:

• Ask around. What has worked well for other authors? Do they feel any particular marketing strategies aren’t worth the effort?
• Pool your resources. Is there are way to spread out expenses by shared efforts with other writers? Could you save on dollars by “trading favors” with others? For instance, maybe you’ve got impressive graphic design skills and a fellow writer is also a photographer. Consider offering to design a pitch-sheet or logo in exchange for a photo shoot.
• Distinguish between one-time expenses and ongoing.
• Think ahead. Don’t spend money now on a low-ROI marketing effort if you know you’ve got a big conference or book releasing down the road. Strategize.
• Track your efforts! You won’t know if your marketing dollars are paying off if you don’t track the results of your efforts.

Again, every author’s financial situation when it comes to platform-building is going to be different. The good news is, even if you’re unable to set aside many funds for marketing, there is SO much authors can do marketing-wise today that doesn’t cost anything—social media being at the forefront, of course.

However, free marketing efforts can sometimes be the most time-consuming. (Facebook, anyone?) That’s why it’s important, in addition to budgeting your marketing dollars, to also budget your marketing time. And that’s what we’ll talk about next week!

For now, do you have any questions about budgeting in relation to marketing and platform-building?

***
Tagg_Melissa_028--4Melissa Tagg is a former reporter turned romantic comedy author. Her debut novel, Made to Last, releases from Bethany House in September 2013. In addition to her nonprofit day job, she’s also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy. Connect with Melissa at www.melissatagg.com and on Facebook and Twitter (@Melissa_Tagg).

One Thing Marketing—Tips on being an “Extroverted Writer” from Agent Amanda Luedeke

Today I’m pumped to have agent Amanda Luedeke with MacGregor Literary as a guest here on the MBT blog. Tuesdays are all about marketing around here…and if there’s anything Amanda knows, it’s marketing.

Well, that, and the awesomeness of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. Which she may or may not appreciate me mentioning, but now that it’s out…

Anyway, before she entered the world of agenting, Amanda worked in marketing at a number of top companies and she just recently released her book, The Extroverted Writer: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform (available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble). Connect with Amanda on Twitter (@amandaluedeke) or on Facebook. She’s here today with some helpful Q&As.

1) So, let’s say a pre-pubbed writer comes to you and asks why they should think about marketing before they’re even contracted? How do you answer? 

For fiction, so much of it comes down to the writing and the story. So I can see how platform takes a back seat. But because marketing and promotions are such big deals these days, and because much of the responsibility falls on the author’s shoulders, publishing houses are always impressed and attracted to writers who navigate social media well, have an online presence, and can prove that they’re not going to shy away from the marketing angle.

So if anything, I’d say the case for having a presence BEFORE the book deal comes down to the fact that it increases the likelihood that you’ll make a good impression, and it might even help your project edge out over the others that the pub committee or agent is considering at the time.

2) What would you say might be the top three most important marketing strategies or efforts a writer should focus on? 

First, you want to know who you are and what you’re about. It’s hard to market yourself when you’re not sure what your angle is. And once you have your “brand,” it should permeate everything you do. It should be reflected in your website, your blog, and your social media channels. So that’s the number one thing: KNOW WHAT YOU’RE ABOUT.

Second, you want to form relationships with your readers or fans. In other words, if someone is excited about your book or your writing, don’t simply say “thanks” and walk away. Nurture that relationship. Groom it. You want to turn your fans into advocates—people who will do anything to get your books in the hands of others.

Third, you want to be present on social media, but you also want to be comfortable there. So, if you hate Twitter but love Facebook, then just do Facebook. Or maybe vlogging comes more naturally for you? Whatever you cup of tea, do it and do it well and don’t worry about the fact that you aren’t on every single social media channel.

3) As an agent, what do you look for in an author’s marketing plan? Is there any area authors tend to fall short?

Most authors fall short by not even having a marketing plan! They may line up a few guest posts and they may take to Twitter and Facebook like crazy the week of release, but beyond that, they’ve got nothing.

But for the authors who do put together marketing plans, I always encourage them to incorporate a schedule or calendar of events. Everything from their tweets to their status updates to their featured blogs to their in-store appearances should be on this calendar. The goal is create steady buzz over the course of four weeks or so (especially after a launch). Many times, authors will hit it hard for a few days and then fizzle out. A calendar helps you see the big picture and know how to move stuff around so that you generate the best, biggest impact overall.

4) I’ve heard many writers wonder (and have certainly wondered myself) how much time I should spend on marketing versus writing. I’m sure this changes depending on where an author is in the publishing journey, but do you have any general advice for writers looking for good balance? 

Because marketing is the main thing you can do to ensure sales, and because sales mean job security, then I truly believe that marketing should take a chunk out of your writing time. So, when it comes to your personal schedule, fight to protect the month or two leading up to a release and the three months following it. This is your window to hit it hard. During this time, I advise authors to dedicate half of their writing time to marketing (if they’re on a deadline. If they aren’t on a deadline, they could dedicate even more).

So, if you typically write 10 hours a week, aim to set aside 5 of those hours for marketing. During that time you can be writing guest posts, researching blogs and reader groups, organizing Twitter and Facebook campaigns, lining up interviews, putting together mailers to churches and schools, and so on.

5) And tell us about your book! What do you hope readers gain?

Marketing is such a huge part of the process, but few authors know where to begin! My book, The Extroverted Writer, is for the published and unpublished, social media veterans and newbies alike. I cover websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and more. And the best part is it’s really easy to understand and apply. Through it, I hope to help authors feel more in control of their marketing efforts…and therefore their writing futures!

*****

AmandaLuedekeMacGregorLiterary1More about The Extroverted Writer: Literary agent Amanda Luedeke uses her background in corporate marketing to show readers that even if you’re an introvert you can have a great online author following by tapping into the reader-packed world of social media. From ideas to tips to absolute musts, THE EXTROVERTED WRITER builds on Amanda’s successful “Thursdays with Amanda” blog posts on ChipMacGregor.com. This easy-to-read guide breaks down the most popular social media sites and online options to give YOU the tools you need to be effective when engaging with your readers.

One Thing Marketing—Market your book from the inside out

Did you know some of the best keys for marketing your book might be hidden right in your book itself?

We’re talking today about what I’m terming Inside-Out Marketing…or, turning your book inside out to discover your marketing potential.

Say what?

It’s like this: Your story is most likely full of marketing opportunities beyond your hook, your title, your plot. Opportunities to reach new niche groups, create new publicity pieces and even events, expand your social media horizons. Just turn your story inside out and look at:

  • Setting—Your setting can do wonders for your marketing potential. Is your story set in an iconic city or landmark? Then ask yourself how you can build a marketing strategy based on that setting. Maybe you film a series of videos on location. Maybe you target bookstores, libraries and reader circles in that place.
  •  Time period—The same goes for your time period. If your book is historical, consider themed launch parties or events, blogs centered on the time period, and more. Or think about what season your book is set in. My second book is set close to Christmas and yet it’s coming out in the summer. So I’m already thinking about some fun “Christmas in July” publicity efforts.
  •  Character careers or hobbies—Author Lisa Jordan’s second book, Lakeside Family, included a café owner and as part of a blog tour promotion, she put together a coffee giveaway which included coffees, biscotti, books and even a painting of the book’s café logo! What unique careers, hobbies and interests of your characters could you play off of in your marketing efforts?
  •  Events/Issues—When author Katie Ganshert’s first book, Wildflowers from Winter, released, she explained the meaning behind her title and asked fellow bloggers and readers to share their own “Wildflowers from Winter” story. She had wonderful participation! Are there events, issues, spiritual themes or special causes in your story that might aid your marketing?

Again, the idea in inside-out marketing is to look at the story you have and identify the unique elements and audience-friendly pieces just waiting to be built on.

Here’s an example from my own experience. My debut novel, Made to Last, features a homebuilding TV show host. That’s a pretty obvious marketing boon right there. A few of the things I might consider doing with that angle include:

  • My own humorous “how-to” videos (humorous because I’m so not a DIY girl)
  • “How to Survive a Hardware Store” Guide
  • Home design Pinterest boards
  • Something involving a chainsaw. I’m not sure what yet. But I figure this is a good excuse to finally use one!

This is just a short list off the top of my head, but you can see how a little inside-out thinking starts sparking marketing ideas right and left.

Did this get you thinking? Turn your own story inside out. What marketing potential do you see there?
***
Tagg_Melissa_028--4Melissa Tagg is a former reporter turned romantic comedy author. Her debut novel, Made to Last, releases from Bethany House in September 2013. In addition to her nonprofit day job, she’s also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy. Connect with Melissa at www.melissatagg.com and on Facebook and Twitter (@Melissa_Tagg).