Two Sides of the Same Coin

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When you teach someone else how to do something, you learn a lot yourself.

Teaching has a way of cementing ideas, facts, procedures—all kinds of information—in our brains through the visual and auditory senses, as well as the writing (of the lesson plan, main points on charts or power point and so on).

So, I am going to suggest something you might think is crazy: I’d like you to consider mentoring a beginning writer. 

You may consider yourself a beginner and question just how much help you could be to someone else. But, even if you only stay a step ahead of them, the experience will be invaluable—as you learn TOGETHER.

I remember, as a first year teacher. being assigned to teach two periods of sewing in Home Economics. I had no experience. I didn’t know any of the terms, parts of the machine, not even how to read a pattern.

Each night, I would go home and teach myself what I needed to know in order to get through class the following day. This went on for the entire semester. I stayed, literally, one step ahead of my students. But, by the last day of class, I found myself actually looking forward to the next group of students. I felt increased competence and confidence 

So, the point is: whether you know a lot about the craft of writing, or you consider yourself a beginner, the experience you will gain by mentoring someone else will be invaluable.

It will be time well spent…because learning and teaching are two sides of the same coin.

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Creative Networking

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At a recent book sale, my table was sandwiched in between two watercolor artists.

Next to one of them was a young lady selling delicious homemade cookies.

Beyond her was a married couple designing one-of-a-kind T-shirts.

On and on, down the line, there was a nice mix of artists, crafters, and authors.

All brought unique opportunities to network.

Here’s what I learned on that chilly Saturday morning.

We shouldn’t limit ourselves to only making connections with others in our same profession or field of interest. Authors can also make use of opportunities to network creatively with many other individuals.

Just because they may not be authors, doesn’t mean they are non-readers, you know. You need to meet, great, and exchange cards with everyone.

Ask yourself, “What is the connection I can make with a painter?” Well, do you ever need an illustrator? When your book is written, will you need a cover?

T-shirts? How about one displaying the cover of your most recent book…main character…catchy quotation?

But, a baker?  Hum…are you writing a cookbook?

I’m not, but I have a partially-written—and long-forgotten—novel in the bottom drawer of my desk. It has the word “Cookie” in the title. That’s enough for me to start a conversation with the gal selling Snickerdoodles.

You never know who you’ll meet.

So, wherever you go, look for ways to connect.

You just might end up with a free sample.

Chocolate chip…pumpkin spice…oatmeal raisin…

When It Comes “Write” Down To It

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Yesterday, I spent 4 hours in my booth at an outdoor Art Walk—and sold two books—my marketing tip for today will try to answer the age-old question:

What is the best use of a writers’s time?

Given one hour of an author’s time, which is the most productive/profitable?

Book signings, creating Amazon ads, making display posters, making new giveaways—bookmarks, business cards, etc., doing podcasts/interviews/speaking engagements?

First, let’s agree on what it is NOT.

It is NOT checking your emails or texting for the nth time.

It is NOT vegging out in front of the television.

It is NOT allowing yourself to be lured into the mall for hours of shopping madness.

What it IS very much depends on YOU.

If you like those things mentioned in the third paragraph (not the fifth, I said the third), and if they bring you into contact with others whose ideas stimulate your creativity, and if they get your name “out there,” then they can be a good thing.

However, in the articles I have read, most authors will agree on only one consistent finding. 

It is this:

Give your writing a value. Let’s say, just for the sake of conversation, that you feel you are worth $30 an hour. Then, take a look at the list above. See what the going rate is that you would have to pay someone else to do that job for you.

If the person you would hire costs MORE than $30/hr, then you may want to do the job yourself.

If the person’s hourly rate is LESS than $30, then you may be wise to hire someone to do the job for you.

Then YOU can spend that time WRITING.

Because, when it comes “write” down to it (sorry, I just couldn’t resist) most authors agree that their time is most efficiently/profitably spent by actually WRITING.

HUM.

Imagine that.

Do the math: what is the best use of your time?

Covers That Speak to the Heart

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I can see the cover now: a blinding storm—a blizzard, perhaps—commuters trapped in an avalanche of snow—waiting to be rescued by—a team of sled dogs and a handsome forrest ranger…

(Sounds so good,  I just may write it!!)

But, wait—we are talking about the COVER of the book.

The question is: Should the cover tell the story…or only allude to it?

Since I just finished the cover for my newest fiction book, Simon Says, I can only share my insights from the process.

I thought, I knew what I wanted. I even conveyed it to the design team at 99Designs.

However, when I made a poll of my favorite designs, it turns out that responders had something else in mind.

They wanted a somewhat vague, emotionally-driven cover.

This shouldn’t really surprise me, because when I shop for a book to read, covers that evoke emotion are at the top of my list. They speak to the heart.

The cover should be a little vague. It should allude to–but not tell the whole story. It should make the shopper curious...pick it up…turn it over…read the back copy…hunger for more…

My new cover shows a boy watching a neighborhood baseball game from afar. The reader doesn’t know it is about bullying until they read the back cover copy…but THEY SENSE THE ISOLATION and that is how they connect with Marcus, the main character.

So, when it came down to it, I had to trust my audience because

the customer is always right.

Spend Until it Hurts

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I promised to address the subject of a marketing budget this week.

Delving into it, I discovered a frightening truth: how much money to allocate for marketing simply depends on how much you have and how famous you are.

The more your name is recognized, the less you’ll have to spend on marketing.

Do you think Stephen King has to spend much, now that his name is a literally a “household word?”

Nope.

He has people searching the internet and bookstores for his newest releases. They fly off the shelves the minute they are available for sale.

So, what I can tell you about a marketing budget is this:

Spend until it hurts.

Spend it when you can least afford it because that’s when you most need it.

When you’re rich and famous, you can sit back and rake it in…without spending a nickel.

“Don’t Beat Your Head Against a Wall”

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It’s an old expression.  Choosing time and time again to learn, or perfect, a skill, but seeing little or no improvement no matter how much you try.

You just don’t have the knack for it—like me and making blintzes…

Tip #1 for 2018: Hire someone to do the “dirty work” for you.

I’m not giving up on marketing. But, I know my limitations and am now conceding the battle—waving the white flag.

I’m hiring an expert to assist me in accomplishing those things I just cannot do for myself…am not gifted at…would prefer not to struggle to learn anymore.

I’m throwing in the towel.

I am deciding to work smarter…not harder.

You may need to make a similar decision for yourself this year.

The internet is filled with people willing to help—for a price.

That calls for a marketing budget.

And, that calls for another blog post—

next week.

Move Over, Procrastinators–Here I Come

 

24042412056_d5c3c25f59I get my Christmas shopping done early. I’m ready. I avoid the long lines. I get first pick of what’s in the stores—what’s new for the season.

In contrast, there are the procrastinators. They wait until the last minute, braving the crowds and getting amazing deals.

Often, the very items I bought two months before those shoppers ever showed their faces in the malls, are sometimes 50-70% off a few days before Christmas!

The procrastinators are getting rewarded!

Now, if you are one of them, don’t think I am having negative thoughts about you.

Quite the contrary.

I am in awe of you. And, next year, I am joining you.

Why not?  I’ve watched the trend for the last five years and I don’t see that it is going to be any different next season.

So…watch out. Next Christmas Eve (or perhaps just a day or two prior) I will be out there with the best of you, raking in those last-minute bargains…laughing all the way home!

But, as an author, I cannot recommend procrastinating. In fact, just the opposite.

Writers need to be organized and just one-step-ahead in order to get our product out there—and thus, into shoppers’ hands in time for gift-giving.

This year, I started seeing some books marketed for Christmas as early as August. That means, by the latest, an author needs to be wrapping up the editing process, cover selection, and started on pre-marketing by mid-summer.

So, you see, the winter/spring months should really be ones filled with hard work, if you are thinking about targeting the Christmas market. To be sure, though, December isn’t the only month that is profitable. Valentine’s, Easter, and Mother’s Day are times when lots of sales can be made. So, they are great markets to focus on, also. In fact, the summer season is also hot (ha!-I didn’t see that one coming, really…) Think about all of those beachy reads…

In the past, I have just written and published when a book was ready, giving no heed to seasons, holidays, and trends. But in 2018, I’m going to give this aspect of book marketing some serious consideration–perhaps even write something with a Christmas theme…

If that idea doesn’t appeal to you, an easier route would be to simply make a boxed set of your books, or tie a virtual ribbon around your existing series and market it at a special price.

Marketing is the hardest, most time-consuming aspect of writing for me. If it is for you, too, stay tuned. I will be sending tips your way in 2018. As I learn, I will be passing ideas along, in hopes that you will share those that you have found helpful, too.

Let’s make 2018 an amazing year of getting things done.

No procrastinating!