Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Finish (or Start) that New Book for the New Year

I usually pound away at books throughout the year. In 2022, I had a bigger mix of other responsibilities, and I finished one and started another. Not good if you count on book income.

However, the slower writing year has reminded me of what I tell aspiring authors.

 Except during times of dire emergency, you can find 15 minutes to write each day.

2) To make that 15 minutes productive, jot notes as you think of ideas. Otherwise, you'll forget them.

3) Think in terms of scenes rather than chapters.

4) Think of scenes as building blocks. You can add the transition glue later.

5) You don't initially need to write a story or book in order.

6) Keep paper and pencil in your glove compartment, backpack, or purse. Most people write faster on a keyboard, but you can write parts of scenes as you wait to pick up kids from soccer practice or in line at the driver's license bureau. (Why a pencil? Pens don't write in the cold.)

7) This is the hardest thing. Tell people you will be unavailable at certain times of the day or week. During that time, turn off your phone.

These suggestions may not be useful if you spend a lot of time worrying about what's going on in your life. If you can't get troubles out of your head, write them down. They're still problems, but it may help your mind move to other things (like writing) at least temporarily.

To follow my own advice, I'm using a special calendar in 2023. Each day, I must write one thing I've done to write a new book and one thing I've done to market my 30 books. Why a separate calendar? Because if I see the other things scheduled I won't concentrate on writing.

I'll let you know if it helps.

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To learn more about Elaine, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Give Yourself a Break with a Book

In many countries, the time between mid-December and New Year's is fraught with frenzied activity. It's traditional to buy gifts for Christmas and Hanukkah, though the retail madness of the United States is not common everywhere.

Even without a lot of shopping, there are holiday cards, home decorations, baking, office or neighborhood parties, and the continuing concern that you won't get it all done. Plus, if you have to travel, now you have to worry about airplane delays. If you drive, there could be the dreaded snow and ice to slow things down.

Who has time to read?

Yet, having a few minutes with a book before bed or at lunch in the office might save your sanity. Do make it a book. If you open a magazine there will be reminders (usually in the forms of ads) of what's on your to-do list.

From the Univ of Dayton Library

When my mind races, I sometimes pick up something I've read previously. I don't keep a lot of books, so last weekend I went to the sales room Friends of the Library maintains at Chatham Library and found a copy of Robert Harris' Pompei. I love that book -- a great story, a threatened romance, and lots about water. Plus, the volcano. Even though you know Vesuvius is about to blow, the suspense is intense.

I just finished Daniel Silva's Portrait of an Unknown Woman, which is very different than other Gabriel Allon novels. The spymaster has retired, so focus is again on the art world of Europe. And so much humor in the dialogue! 

I deliberately picked up paperbacks the last couple times I visited the library. Audiobooks in the car are my daily reward, but I have to slow down to read a physical book. 

Did you forget about your list for a few minutes? Good. Now pick out a book and promise yourself you'll read for at least fifteen minutes.

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To learn more about Elaine, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.


Friday, December 16, 2022

Is it Book Marketing or Relating?

It's been a while since I've written a post about marketing books. I let readers know about what I've written, but because I have a consistent audience (after twelve years), I pay less attention to it. That needs to change.

The most important thing I've learned is that an author isn't selling her books, she's selling herself and developing relationships with readers and other writers. That takes more time and (dare I say it) sometimes it's inconvenient.

In the "old days," people interested in your work would write you a letter. (That's the piece of paper you have to send with a stamp.) You could answer them every week or two -- I'm not saying I've had tons since 2010, but I always admired how my author friend, Leigh Michaels, stayed in touch with the many fans who wrote to her. She even did a short book in which she answered the questions fans asked.

That takes a lot of time, you say. True, but you could schedule it somewhat. Now, if someone sends an email or message on social media, they expect a response fairly soon. I don't check my LinkedIn account too often, and that has irritated a few people. My bad.

I recently read Krystal Craiker's blog post on marketing tips. Three paragraphs are worth quoting directly.

[Book marketing expert Jean Hanson-Depaula] says, “I think the biggest difference is that book marketing has to show readers that their book is worth their time. Readers have no shortage of options when it comes to books—and other entertainment for that matter.”

Books are a time commitment for readers. For most people, it takes a lot longer to read a book than to stream a movie on Netflix. With so much quick entertainment at our fingertips, authors must show people that their book has value.

Book marketing coach Monique Mensah agrees: “My number one tip for book marketing is to stop selling the book and start marketing the value.” For fiction authors, what experience are you providing your readers? What problem are you trying to solve if you write nonfiction?

These concepts are not fully implemented by sending tweets or buying ads -- not that either is bad. I tweet every day because it's something I can do in five minutes. While I mostly tweet about books I have for sale on varied sites, I also regularly post links to my blog and books of other authors.

The most important thing is to write a really good book. That doesn't happen if you rush through your drafts -- emphasis on drafts, not one-and-done. 

It's exciting to finish a book, especially the first one. But it needs to sit quietly for at least a week or two so you can read it with a less enthusiastic eye and make improvements. And then have others read it (not just friends!) and possibly work with an editor. There are lots of freelance editors and proofreaders today.

Mark Dawson of the Self Publishing Formula says, "“Make sure everything—from the manuscript, the cover, the blurb to the ad copy—all dovetails. In other words, every part of your book needs to fit together and be high quality to convert your readers." (Convert? That's a marketing term that means making it easy for someone to get from thinking about a book they see on a shelf or retail website to actually reading it. And then your next book.)

The best thing I've done in terms of marketing was to have all of the covers redone so the twelve books and shorter novellas in the Jolie Gentil mystery series have the same look. When I started the series, I envisioned three books. Ha! Readers now recognize the series before they read the title of a new book.

The best advice I could give is to do at least some marketing every week. It's easy to focus on writing (and the rest of your life) and not consciously look for new readers. You'll find good suggestions in Craiker's article or look for marketing in the index to this blog.

Krystal Craiker, "Book Marketing: Fourteen Strategies." You can find this excellent article at https://prowritingaid.com/book-marketing 
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To learn more about Elaine, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.