Marketing in the New Year

business planMy writing focus has changed a lot in the past year. Whereas before I was all about production and learning how to write a novel…and countless pep talks to stick with it, this year I’ve got to add marketing maven to my author resume.  (Because, YAY! I’ve got a book coming out in JUNE!)

Fortunately, I’ve been preparing! We here at Routines for Writers are all about setting routines to help make our writing—or marketing—easier.

For years I’ve been collecting book-marketing advice so that I would be ready once my time came. And my time came at the end of 2013.

As I work on my goals for this year, I’ve realized the first half of the year is pretty much laid out for me, give or take. I start with my release date and work backwards, filling in all the items I plan to do.

Toastmasters

Knowing that I will have a launch party June 3, I signed up for Toastmasters to help me take the edge off my nerves. By the time I get to my launch, I’ll have several speeches under my belt.

What I didn’t account for was being invited to participate in my local indie’s big YA event this month on the 25th! Fortunately, I’ll be one of 12 authors and I won’t have much “screen time.” It will be a nice easing-in to the local YA community. Note: This opportunity came about because I went in early to introduce myself to the children’s book buyer. I was nervous, but she was amazingly supportive–and set me to work right away ;). Marketing tip: don’t put off talking to your local bookstore people.

But, Hello! I’m going to need something to hand out!

Postcards

Since I don’t have any ARCs or even a sample chapter (my book is currently in editorial; I’m biting my fingernails down), I ordered postcards. 1000 of them. And 200 stickers inviting people to my release party. I was expecting to order these later, but it will be nice to have something in my purse to hand out when people find out I’m an author.

Newsletter

My first personal author newsletter goes out tonight. My subscriber base is small and loyal, aka—made up of a few of my friends. My goal is to get to 100 people by my launch date. I have no idea if this goal is too small or too large, but it’s the goal I set. (Help me get to 100! Go sign up at ShonnaSlayton.com.)

Videos

I write for YA, and not necessarily the adults who read YA, but the actual teens. If I want to catch their attention I need video. So far, my author blog has been aimed at fellow homeschool parents/ teachers because they are my current tribe. When I announced to my friends about my book deal—they were all adults! Granted, most are parents, and their kids are or will be my target market. Eventually, I’ll need to transition to my actual teen audience. I think video is the way to go. Here’s my first:

 
http://youtu.be/6es3hRXjCjo

Social Media

In the past few months I’ve joined Pinterest (Love it! I avoided it because I was afraid I’d get hooked, and I have.) For better or worse, I’ve made the decision to stick with a Facebook profile instead of creating a page. And, I’ve got an author photo in place of my statue-girl avatar!

The Other Marketing Plans

Other marketing plans will take shape as the months go by. I’ll be staying flexible and keeping my calender open. I believe my publisher has plans for a blog tour and some giveaways and there are some other things I’d like to try to engage with my audience.

How about you? What is your best tip for marketing? Planning for marketing? Or even setting up a routine for marketing?

The Efficiency of Routines

Last year my kids and I read a book called Cheaper by the Dozen which records the real-life antics of the Gilbreth family in the early 1900s. Their father was a motion study/efficiency expert and often conducted efficiency experiments with his twelve kids. He started down this road when he was a bricklayer and developed ways to make bricklaying faster and easier. From buttoning a shirt bottom to top, to bribing the kids to learn to type using his methods, to getting their tonsils taken out, he was always looking for the best, most efficient way to do something.

This is how I view writing routines. I try to pay attention to how I am writing/editing and decide if there are better ways to go about it. Then I can create my own writing profile set to optimal writing. Or, at least, that’s the theory!

Some Variables for Routines:

 Methods (for getting words down):

  • write same time every day
  • write whenever I can fit it in
  • word goals
  • NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo
  • word sprints
  • deadlines (self-imposed or for conferences or contests)
  • keep word count score on the calendar for accountability
  • follow an outline

Location:

  • home: (comfy chair, bed, office, behind a locked door?)
  • coffee shop
  • library
  • beach (that’s for you Kitty!)

Timing:

  • mornings
  • during breaks in the day
  • nights
  • weekends
  • retreats
  • Thursdays and Saturdays

I’m sure you can discover more movable pieces to your writing routines. Pay attention and see if you can increase your own efficiency.

Start at the End and Work Backwards

This month we are talking about taking control of our writing careers. This week, it’s about the Big Picture VS the Details.

For me, this means the old saying: plan your work and work your plan.

THE BIG PICTURE: Plan Your Work

What is your end goal?

Career? Hobby?

Do you write as a creative outlet, but not necessarily to make it your day job? Do you need to make money? Is your biggest desire to add your own work to the body of literature that you love so much?

Start here. Dream big. (The way you used to when you were young and nothing had beaten you down yet!) Write down your big dream, then above it, write an even bigger dream because your first dream was probably too small. We’re talking BIG PICUTRE, by-the-end-of-my-life type dreams.

THE DETAILS: Work Your Plan

Work backwards from your BIG PICTURE. Let me catch up to you in the middle of the backwards plan:

FIRST PUBLISHED BOOK
Celebrate! And now comes all the marketing and other authorly duties. Once you’ve signed the contract and have a publishing date, figure out your marketing plans working backwards from that date. Get it all on your calendar so it doesn’t sneak up on you.

AGENTED
Start creating your list now so when it’s time to submit you’ll be ready. Remember at this stage you will need huge doses of patience. Avoid anyone’s blog that talks about how quickly it happened for them. It’ll just make you grumpy.

This process is slow enough, so don’t do anything to make it slower. Make sure you query in batches. (Because likely you started querying before you finished polishing. If your first round comes up with no requests at all, go back to polishing.)

And say “no” to exclusives. If you do agree to an exclusive, for a Revise & Resubmit for example, set an end date. Even if the agent says these things are hard to determine, set an end date at which time you can decide whether or not to continue with the exclusive agreement. Time has a way of slipping by when there is no deadline, so put in a stop-gap and then you won’t stress out wondering what is happening.

WHERE’S THE MONEY?
Now that you’ve got some experience under your belt, you have options if you want to hustle. From the easiest: affiliate links from your website all the way to teaching classes (on and offline) self-publishing ebooks, offering critiquing and editing services. Even after publications, authors need to get additional income streams to pay the bills.

POLISHED MANUSCRIPT(S)

The majority of your time will likely be spent here. More time than you think, because our manuscripts read differently in OUR heads (which know the story and how it’s supposed to read!) than what is actually on the page that other people read.

This is where critique partners can be so helpful. Try to find people who can go several rounds with you and who aren’t afraid of hurting your feelings. (Although it is nice to have someone who just loves everything you do! It’s just not helpful in making the story better.)

FIRST DRAFT
You must finish. You must finish. You must finish.

EDUCATION
You’ve got to learn how to become a writer. Being an artist doesn’t mean the work naturally comes out of you all perfect. There are techniques. Genre conventions. Accepted business practices. Learn them as you go. Never stop learning.

DESIRE
This is where it starts. You keep this desire burning and it will help carry you up through the other steps. Do all you can to encourage yourself because things will get hard and you’ll want to quit many times over. And we all know what a writer who never quits is called: published.

Options and Opportunity Cost

Once you decide you want to become a novelist, you have to look at your options through the eyes of a writer.

Not just the option to traditionally publish or self publish, but how you are going to spend your days, your weeks, your years in pursuit of this goal.

Options.

We have lots of them.

Do I write or do I research? Do I write or do I watch TV? Do I write or do I __________.

Any activity we choose over writing will leave behind the opportunity cost of NOT writing.

How big that cost is to you depends upon how serious you are about publishing. If you aren’t that serious, the opportunity cost will be small. It would be no big deal if you blew off your writing time in favor of something else.

But if you are serious about furthering your career, you have to keep in mind the opportunity cost of getting distracted by other pursuits when you should be writing. Your time is finite. You are either writing or you are not. The cost of not writing is high if your plan is to be successfully published.

That time you take to _________ is no longer just about _________, it’s about NOT writing. Not finishing the first draft. Not slugging through the edits. Not taking one more step toward your dream.

Now, I know we can’t possibly spend all our time writing. Pouring out all that creativity without doing something to fill those creative buckets back up will be a quick way to short-circuit your career.

But, I’d guess if an aspiring writer has any problem, it’s not spending enough time writing! It’s so much easier to read a book about writing, or read blogs, or chat with our critique partners about how hard this business is!

Or is it just me?!?

This is it!

Ah, the feeling of finally—FINALLY!—figuring out that problem about your WIP that was driving you crazy.

Sometimes it feels like you are a toddler trying to figure out walking. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Stumble step….think I got it….Down. UP. Step. Step. Step. Aaaaaannnnd down.

For what feels like a kazillion years I’ve been working diligently on a WIP problem. I’ve tried several different ways to make it disappear. I’ve found several new directions/quirks/details to add to my WIP that don’t solve the main problem, but made it seem less obvious and made the WIP stronger overall.

Each time I thought…this is IT! My creative breakthrough.

And then a few weeks later I’d realize, nope. That was just the excitement of writing new words. (Like my young daughter who told me yesterday as she was working on a story—Want to read it, Mom? It’s a good one!)

So, in my latest attempt at creative breakthrough, I have changed the personality of one of my lesser characters so that my main character can step away from the wall. So she can become more of an actor and less of a re-actor. This requires a giant sweep through the entire novel changing motivations, dialogue, reactions, etc. When I first wrote this lesser character, I had reasons for writing her the way I did. But as the novel evolved, those reasons disappeared.

I hope this is it. Right now I’m thinking it is. Time will tell.

Is Creative Procrastination an Excuse?

So you find yourself stuck.

It’s your first draft and you feel the storyline is starting to get boring. Or, you’re editing and know your character needs a personality change, but you don’t know how to fix it.

Do you plough through until you work it out…or do you set it aside, poke at it now and then, and wait for inspiration?

The “just do it” writer in me says well, of course, you just sit yourself down and work it out. You dig up all your creative techniques to keep yourself going: mind mapping, character charts, plot charts, etc. How else will your story ever get done if you don’t keep working on it? Routines, people! Routines!

But what if you do all that and your novel still has *that problem* You’ve just written several versions around the same problem. You’ve been working, but you’ve been writing in circles. Couldn’t there have been a better way to use your time?

Since the whole point is to finish, you need to try everything you can to get to DONE. I think you have to try working through the barrier first. Because maybe by diligently chipping away at your WIP you will figure it out. You will stay in the mind of the novel and everything will come together.

But if you sense that you are writing in circles, STOP! Perhaps your brain needs a break. A chance to breathe a little. If you push too much you risk getting frustrated and angry and mad at the writing world. (Oh? Is it just me?)

Procrastinating finishing your novel might just be the thing that allows your subconscious time to come up with a brilliant plot twist or a new way to show your character’s inner self.

However, you don’t want to lose your writing momentum either! Remember to work at keeping your writing muscles strong.

Taking a break from your WIP doesn’t mean you should take a break from writing! Just stop working on that one problem for a while. Pick up your next WIP. Or start doing writing prompts. Or practice writing on *that problem* but in a totally different context.

It’s only a matter of time before you’ll find yourself unstuck.

Ideas In, Creativity Out

Output is limited by input. Things don’t “come to you” so much as they “come out of you.” Ideas don’t appear from nowhere; they are the result of the combination and permutation of previously existing ideas.”  –Andrew Pudewa Thoughts on Creativity

Last night I had this crazy dream where I was trying to let the dog in through a sliding glass door (my house doesn’t have a sliding door) but these large, evil, peregrine falcons kept trying to get into the house at the same time. My poor arms were pecked at and bleeding.

Where did these random dream thoughts come from? 1. There was a story on the news that night about the actress who played the lead in the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds and they showed several scenes of attacking birds. 2. Before turning out my light I was reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and if you’ve read this novel, you’ll understand where I got the peregrine from. So, while I was sleeping my brain took images and ideas from my day and mashed them up into a new dream sequence.

I write my novels the same way.

One idea paired with another idea sparks a concept. Add some more thought and research and then I’ve got a basic plot. I’m at my most creative when my mind is spilling over with ideas. What happens when I’m stuck? I need to go out and find more ideas—either new information or something that jogs my memory and sets me off on my merry way again.

Speaking of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and the question: Where does Creativity come from? I love the concept of this book. The author, Ransom Riggs, took a bunch of old crazy photos and wrote a book around them.

I’m still mid-read in the novel, but aargh! I wish I had thought of this idea. Of course, my story behind the pictures and would have been different, but still…what a great concept! I’m frequently flipping through old photographs looking for ideas/setting/mood for my historical fantasies. Not once have I thought of including them in the books! *writer envy*

And you may as well go check out Ransom Rigg’s website. He’s got a few items there to stir your creativity.

 

June and July Summer Hiatus

My kids are already on summer break and plan to spend the next two months mostly goofing off. They’ll read lots of books, see some movies, hang out with friends. Basically unwind from the past few months of hard work so that when school starts up again in August they will be bursting with enthusiasm and be ready to work.

Well, taking a cue from the school-set, we here at Routines for Writers plan to do the same. I’ve seen several authors who take a blog-free summer and always felt a smidge envious. Why should they have all the fun? It seemed a little bit irresponsible and carefree, like the lazy days of summer used to be.

So, this year, we are joining the pool party instead of slogging at our computers. *okay, not quite* We are writers and write we must. But for ourselves and our WIPs.

We are going to use some of the time we would normally be writing up our blogs to brainstorm some ideas on how to better serve the writing community. We’ve already had some cool thoughts and it will be interesting to see how our ideas pan out.

Have a fantastic summer. And please come back in August to see what we’ve done! We’ll announce on http://twitter.com/RoutinesWriters

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In the meantime, you’ll find us in these places:

Kitty: http://kittybucholtz.com/

Stephanie: http://stephanieshackelford.com/

Shonna: http://twitter.com/ShonnaSlayton

Jamie: http://jamieraintree.com

End One, Start Another

Transition times are awkward. Spring to Summer. School to no school. WIP #1 to WIP #2.

There’s a little bit of space between one state of being and the next. The trick is to not lose productivity during the between times. If you studied WWI (like my kids and I did this year) you’d know getting stuck in No Man’s Land is not where you want to be.

There must be a trick to keep the momentum flowing from one project into the next. I haven’t found it yet. I suspect that the trick contains words like “contract” and “advance” and “deadline.”

I’ve got my writing routines. I know what I’m supposed to do. But sticking to the routine can be hard sometimes.

It’s much easier to look back over that last season of work and think: “Look at all I did!” Because looking ahead at the next project you get: “Uh oh. Look at all that work coming up!”

It takes a lot of energy to ramp up to a new project. I supposed you have the newness and excitement of starting a new manuscript. But if you learned anything from the last novel, you likely learned that you have to work harder on this one. It can be daunting. Stifling. Work stopping.

So, you start small because you know you have to start. Yes, you do. Remember that write-every-day thing? So you start small and pick up your momentum as you go. Unplug from social media for a bit so you don’t get trapped in that time suck.

Before you know it, transition time is over and you are in the thick of your “next thing” whatever stage of the writing process that is.