Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Literary Karma

It's Wednesday and that means blogging time for me!
While visiting blogs the past two weeks, I've noticed some fellow bloggers posting/talking about positive subjects, encouraging other bloggers, or acknowledging their fellow bloggers' work. That inspired me to write about Karma. I believe that when you do something selflessly, positive energy swathes you. The result: your good deeds are rewarded with more good deeds. :-)

My fellow bloggers also inspired me to pay it forward. For instance, Melissa Gill at Melissa Getting Published, has added a new feature in her blog for 2011: She will feature and highlight each of her followers every Wednesday. She says, "Each and every one of my followers has added something unique and wonderful to my life, and I want to reach out to each of you and share what I love about you and your blogs."

The lovely and versatile Chelsea at Coffee Tale Reviews , awarded me and other fellow bloggers with the "Stylish Blogger Award". She was one of my first followers.

My friend and fellow writer, Kelly Howarth at One Word Pundit, empowers people (especially women) through her inspirational posts.

Old Kitty, a loyal reader at Ten Lives and Second Chances, writes about daily life observations. She's funny, sweet, and quirky (even though she says she's shy), ah yes, she also loves cats.

Sharon Mayhew, my fellow blogger and loyal reader at Random Thoughts, writes about positive experiences like My heart is full, her latest post. I love reading her blog.

These are just a few examples of bloggers who write positive posts and/or acknowledge their friends, readers, and fellow bloggers. I want to do the same by inviting authors, writers, and fellow bloggers who have published or will be publishing their book(s)  to talk about their work. I'll feature them in my posts. I would also invite them to write guest posts or share ideas and/or projects like blog hops or book launches in order to promote them/spread the word (even in a small way). It'll be my pleasure and my literary karmic deed. ;-)

Do you believe in Karma? Has anyone done something for you that was inspirational?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Turning your Writing Dream into Reality

What a beautiful quote by George Bernard Shaw (see photo). I think we all have the capability of creating, but I ask myself, do we have the time we need in order to create? I know that's not my case right now. That's why I want to share a guest post by Pastor Daniel Darling, author of iFaith: Connecting With God in the 21st Century, (Jan. 2011). He says that your writing journey can start with four basic steps:

My advice to the emerging writer—is to start writing. If you’re highly disciplined, start blogging on a schedule. Just crank out stuff and keep writing. If you’re undisciplined as I am, sign up for deadlines in any way you can. Point is: You get better at writing by writing.

I once received a heavily marked manuscript back from a book editor with the advice, “Dan, you’re not Hemingway.” She meant that my manuscript needed polishing. She was right. If you want to succeed and grow as a writer, you need to develop a thick skin. Don’t hang onto every turn of phrase as if it cannot be touched. Instead, open your work up to those who can take it from good to great: a healthy stable of critics. If you want to step your work up to the next level, seek out professional-level critiquing. Your mom’s nice comments may boost your confidence, but they won’t help your manuscript.

In the movie, Finding Forrester, Sean Connery’s character gives a piece of advice to his young writing protégé. “Write the first draft with your heart, the rest of the drafts with your head.” Many times I sit in front of a blank screen, a deadline looming, time short. I have a wonderful outline, but the words for that first chapter just don’t seem to come. Or they come and are horrific. But I push ahead and get them on paper. I write until I can’t write anymore.

Then I close the computer thinking, What an idiot, why do I think I can write? But then I leave the manuscript for a few days, maybe a week. When I come back to it, I find hope again. Every major project goes through this same process, without exception. I have learned to write in short bursts. Every day, as I sit to write, I revisit a chunk from the day before, editing that first draft. I move this way through a book until completion. This write-edit-write method serves me well, ensuring that every chapter is rewritten to satisfaction.

Sometimes you need to close the laptop and get out into the real world. That means you move beyond your project and refill the well of your soul with good music, entertainment, relationships, and good literature. What I mean is that to be a good writer, you, the person behind the words, must grow. I’m guessing, if you’re reading this blog, you’re well-tuned to the craft of writing through magazines, blogs, conferences, and books. That is good. Writers must constantly sharpen their skills.

But you might consider refilling your well by enriching the other parts of your life. I’ve that my writing always improves when I am reading well in a variety of disciplines: including novels, classics, spirituality, self-help, biographies, and more. Often a good movie or timely sermon will spark new levels of creativity. You also need rest. You are not superhuman. You’re human. When you’re brain is shut down, forget your project and enjoy your life. The well from which you draw your words must remain full.

I agree with him 100%. I especially like points #1 and #3. My good friend and fellow writer, Kelly Howarth at One Word Pundit, always tells me to write from the heart. She says she can tell when I've written a story or a post from the heart. Thank you, Kelly for your advice!

How about you? Have you already turned your writing dream into reality?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Criticizing or Critiquing?

In the world or writing there’s a thin line between critiquing and criticizing. Unfortunately, some writers (especially emerging writers) take offense when a mentor or a fellow writer critiques his/her work. When I edit someone’s short story, which is on a rare occasion, I am extremely careful; I try to be objective, professional, yet honest. Below are some of the techniques I apply when critiquing a short story.

• I usually highlight passages that I find confusing or that don't seem important and relevant to the rest of the story.

• I circle in red the wrong tenses.

• I underline or circle weak adjectives and/or verbs.

• I point out all figurative devices: allusions, alliteration, similes, symbols, metaphors and other similar techniques.

• I ask the author if these literary techniques make the reading experience more enjoyable or strengthen the story.

• I make sure the ending the author’s trying to convey relates both to the story as a whole and to the beginning. Does the ending resolve the plot and bring closure to the crisis of the characters?

I find that my fellow writers usually respond positively to my technique. However, last year an acquaintance of mine asked me to read her story and to give her my opinion. So I did. She was not thrilled with my comments because she thought I was criticizing her. I told her to get a second opinion.

Have you dealt with oversensitive writers who are not open to constructive criticism? Do you know anyone in your writer’s circle who falls into this category? Or are you guilty of being of one them?

P.S. the writer in my anecdote never admitted I was right but she asks for my opinion from time to time. (LOL!)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Art of Book Sale: Tips to help you sell your newly published book

Well, this is my first blogpost for 2011. As I posted previously, I'm trying to write an article once a week.

Two of my mentors are launching their latest books this year, so I thought it'd be appropriate to tackle the topic of selling/marketing your book. We all know that book signings and networking are the norm. However, to promote your book you'll need more than these two methods. Have you ever thought of unconventional ways of selling your book?

I got some tips via email from the Book Marketing Expert.
1. Marketing: First and foremost is the marketing of your event. But I'm not talking about the marketing you do in the media (though that is great too) I'm speaking of in-store marketing; this is what most folks seem to overlook. This is where you supply things to the store to help them market your event. Because the first phase of a successful event is driving people to it. Here are a few thoughts.

a. Do bag stuffers. You can easily do this in your favorite computer program, do two up on a page, meaning that you use one 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper to do two fliers. You'll want to ask the store first if they mind that you provide this, most stores or event venues don't.

b. Bookmarks: while most in the industry see these as passé, people still love them. You can do bookmarks and bag stuffers (or staple them to the flier) or you can do custom bookmarks with the date and time of your event. Nowadays it's pretty easy to get these done cheaply. Keep in mind that if you are having the event in a mall or other type of shopping area, you might be able to drop the bookmarks (or bag stuffers) off at the nearby stores to see if they'll help promote the event.

2. Book signings are boring: Regardless of where you do the event, plan to do a talk instead of a signing. People are drawn into a discussion and are often turned off by an author just sitting at a table. Marketing is about message and movement so stand up and speak. If speaking in public is intimidating to you, go to Toastmasters or some other local networking/speaking group and see what you can learn.

3. Unique places: If you want to get more attention for your event, consider doing events in unique places. We've done them in video stores, electronics stores, gyms, even restaurants (on slow nights); doing outside-the-bookstore events is a great way to gain more interest for your talk. Why? Because you aren't competing with everyone else at the bookstore for your crowd. When you do an event at a locale that doesn't normally do events, you'll attract more people just because it's considered "unique."

4. Show up early and talk it up: OK, so let's say you're in the store and there are a ton of people in there shopping (a book event dream, yes?), I suggest that you take your extra bag stuffers or custom bookmarks and just hand them to the people in the store. Let them know you are doing an event at such and such time and you'd love it if they can sit in. You'll be surprised how many new people you might pull in this way.

5. Customize: Regardless of what your talk is about, poll the audience first to see a) what brought them there, or b) what they hope to learn if your talk is educational. I suggest this because the more you can customize your discussion, the more likely you are to sell a book. If you can solve problems (and this is often done during the Q&A) all the better. You'll look like the answer machine you are and readers love that. If you have the answers, they'll want to buy from you. I promise.

6. Make friends: Get to know the bookstore people, but not just on the day of the event. Go in prior and make friends, tell them who you are and maybe even hand them your flier or bookmark (or a stack if you can). Often stores have Information Centers, see if you can leave some fliers there instead of just at the register. Getting to know the people who are selling the book is a great way to help gather more people into your event. If your event isn't in a bookstore but attached to a shopping area or mall, go around to the stores (and perhaps you did this when you passed out the fliers) and let them know you have an event and ask what you can do to help them promote it. If you can rally the troops to help you market your talk, you could triple the numbers of people at your event. No kidding.

7. Take names: I always, always recommend that you get names and (email) addresses from the folks who attended. Signing them up for your mailing list is a great way to keep in touch with them and stay on your reader's radar screen. If you have a giveaway or drawing, great! This will help you to collect names. If you don't, offer them a freebie or e-book after the event. Often if I'm doing a PowerPoint presentation I will put together a set of them (delivered in PDF) after the event. Attendees need to sign up to get them and then once they do, I include them in our newsletter list, which helps me to stay on their radar screen.

8. Pricing: Make sure your book is easy to buy. If you are doing this outside of a bookstore this is easy to do and will help your sales. I find that a rounded number like $10 or $20 makes for a quick and easy sale. If you can round up or down without adding or losing too much to the price, by all means do it.

9. Book pairing: One way you might be able to round up is by pairing your book with a freebie. When I paired Red Hot Internet Publicity with a second, but smaller, marketing book I took the awkward pricing of $18.95, bumped it up to $20 (so 2 books for $20) and quadrupled my sales after an event. Now the pairing doesn't have to be a book, it can be a special report or even an e-book that you send to them after the event.

10. Product and placement: As you're doing your talk (especially if it's in a non-bookstore venue) make sure that you have a copy of the book propped up in front of you so event visitors see it the entire time you are speaking. Hold up the book when appropriate and use it as an example when you can. This will help to direct the consumer's eye to the book - and making eye contact with the product is a good way to make sure it stays on their radar screen throughout your talk. When I do a speaking gig at an event that allows me to sell books in the room, I will sell four times more than I would if the attendees have to go somewhere else to buy it, so make the buy easy. If you can, make sure your books are for sale in the room.

11. Ease of purchase: Aside from pricing, if you're doing your own checkout make sure that you have many ways consumers can buy your book. I take credit cards at the event, checks and cash. Don't limit yourself as to what you can take or you will limit your sales.

12. Post event wrap-up: So the event is over, what now? Well, if you got attendees to sign up for your newsletter (you did do that, right?) now it's time to send a thank you note for attending and remind them (if they missed the chance at the event) to buy a copy of your book at the "special event price."

Speaking and book events are great ways to build your platform, but if you aren't selling books there's little point in doing them. For many of us, our book is our business card and thus, if we can sell our "business card" we can keep consumers in our funnel. If your book isn't your business card you still want readers, right? The marketing before, during and after an event is crucial to building your readership. While it's easy to say that events sell books, they often don't. I find that if you don't "work it" you often will find your time wasted. Seek the opportunities when they are made available to you - and then maximize them when they are, you'll be glad you did!

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.