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Posts Tagged ‘Joanna Penn’

I'm A Writer

I’m A Writer

I’m a writer, but I’m also a business person. My writing is a creative process that results in a tangible product that can be bought and sold. I am the CEO of my career, if I want one. It doesn’t matter whether or not I have a publisher, editor, agent, or pr manager, the buck stops with me. As a consumer of books, I already know that readers hold me ultimately responsible for the product I put out there, and are judging my value as a writer with each and every book I write. That’s a lot of pressure!

 

One of the things writers learn very quickly is that we are also responsible for getting the word out about ourselves and our work. Readers want to know about us, and many like connecting with the writers whose work they’ve come to enjoy. That’s very cool. But as great as that is, we also need to connect with other writers and industry professionals on a regular basis. Writing is lonely work, so when we reach out and meet others who are as invested in this business as we are, we learn and grow as individuals and as professionals. That’s where social media is a tremendous boon. In fact, it is an important tool for anyone in business.

 

The ability to easily and cheaply connect with others who share our likes and concerns on a global platform is something entrepreneurs have never been able to dream of before. By forming meaningful relationships via social media, we enhance our ability to do more than sell a product or service. We enable relationships of various levels to grow. Consumers can easily connect with providers and build the necessary trust levels that help a business grow and develop over the long term. This is no different for writers who take their work seriously.

 

Over the course of the past several years I’ve been writing, I’ve made some terrific connections via social media venues such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Other industry professional’s blog posts have proven to be tremendous sources of information and resource for me. Each of these on-line resources provides its own unique brand of communication.

 

For example, LinkedIn is used primarily for businesses, but there are a ton of LinkedIn groups dedicated to writers and readers. No matter what your business industry is, you can share ideas, concerns, industry related news, etc. In fact, through LinkedIn I was connected by a podcast host, Adam Scull, of Eat, Sleep, Write, who invited me to participate in a podcast interview. Adam’s podcast is dedicated to writers and readers, and since its inception, has grown by leaps and bounds. Not only did I enjoy the experience of doing my first podcast interview with Adam, but it allowed me to experience an entirely new medium of communication I’d never heard of, let alone dreamed of contributing to.

 

I hear so many people denigrate Facebook, but if used correctly, it’s a fabulous tool for staying and keeping connected. It’s also a great medium for building relationships with others who share your interests in business, and reach new consumers. I’ve “met” some incredibly talented people on Facebook who are writers, publishers, readers, editors, playwrites, etc. Now, I’m very judicious when I accept people to Facebook. I don’t accept everyone who requests it. I make a point of visiting their own pages before deciding whether or not they are the kind of people I’d like to connect with. People like Jonathan Gunson, Christina Hamlett, Joanna Penn, and others who are avidly involved with my chosen career of writing bring so much depth and knowledge that I just don’t have yet. Their generosity in sharing their experiences, industry information, and ground-breaking industry news makes my life easier, and more interesting. On a personal level, these industry connections help me realize that we’re all in the same boat, battling the same issues, and learning from one another. The funny jokes, inspirational quotes, and personal touches help make writing feel less isolating. We are part of a community. And that’s the crux of the matter. In business, any business, you need to reach out beyond your product or service and become part of your immediate and global community. Human beings generally crave connectivity, and social networks enable this on a grand scale.

 

Beware of Pitfalls!

Beware of Pitfalls!

But there are pitfalls that many people fail to see before it’s too late, even with something as “harmless” as social media. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve seen a posting by someone, family, friend, or industry professional, that is just plain offensive, rude, or unprofessional. I remember reading something a while back that stated you should never post anything on social media that you, literally, wouldn’t mind the world reading about on the front page of your local newspaper. If you are in business, you don’t want your followers gaining a poor opinion of you because you posted a picture of yourself drunk and disorderly on Facebook. On LinkedIn, the expectation is that members will comport themselves in a business-like manner and not be offensive, confrontational, or rude. On Twitter, the same holds true. You are what you write and post.

 

As a business person, you want to be sure that the message you are putting out there on social media reflects the image you want others to have of you and your product or service. It’s so easy to screw it up with one or two really ill-advised posts, tweets, or comments. Remember, these venues all just provide brief snapshots of who you are, so you’re going to be judged, rightly or wrongly, by what you put out there. A good rule of thumb is to have two Facebook accounts, one for personal, meaning family and friends, and one for business. This keeps the two areas of your life a little tidier, and hopefully lessens the chances of a poor image of you.

 

Blogs are terrific for a number of reasons. I read other blogs because they share information I don’t have, or I resonate with the message they are putting out there. Through blogs I’ve discovered more blogs, other writers, and industry information websites that are really useful in helping me grow my knowledge base and craft. That’s important to me. I now follow a number of blogs regularly, and although I may not read every single blog daily, I do read at least one a day. I’ll comment on posts that I’ve enjoyed, and share my own opinions. Remember, writing is lonely, so it’s nice to have a virtual gathering place to express and share ideas and information.

 

Writing a regular blog takes me about 1- 2 hours every two weeks, depending on research etc. If you want to develop a blob for your business, great, but make sure the content continues to remain regular and consistent. I hate it when I visit a new website or blog, only to find the content is out of date or months old. You have to give people a reason to visit you again. If you’re a boring host, you won’t have many visitors. Of course this takes time, but it’s time well invested. More and more companies are realizing the benefits of building a community of followers who are interested in learning more about them, their industry, how-to’s, etc. When something new is happening within your company or industry, you can share it with your followers, and become a trusted ‘expert” in your field. Blogs also invite readers to participate by posting comments, which in turn invites others to likewise share and contribute. This sharing of ideas quickly builds a community of people who all share an interest in your topic. For businesses, it doesn’t get much better than this.

 

Twitter is great for sharing short blasts of information and ideas. It’s a fun way to keep in touch with others who share common interests, and allows business entrepreneurs to share new information or updates on their products and services. A tweet about a book launch goes around the world in seconds, and is completely free, as are all these other e-venues. The ability to attach a link, photo, or video makes sharing this type of information incredibly easy. What a great business tool! But again, be careful what you share. People are watching and judging you by the content you choose to share.

 

Goodreads is an amazing place to share information, book reviews, and participate in discussions on books with writers and readers. You can post and read reviews of books, and discover new writers in any genre. You can connect with writers directly, ask questions, participate in virtual book clubs, and indulge your love of the literary world to your heart’s content. I’ve discovered some incredibly talented new and seasoned writers through this site, and have been thrilled to receive some really wonderful, thoughtful reviews of my own work. For a writer, Goodreads is an invaluable tool not to be overlooked.

 

But do you have to spend copious amounts of time on social networks in order to connect and share your information? No. On average, you only need about ½ an hour to an hour total to dip into each of these areas daily, review what’s being said on each of them, share, comment, or like just a few, and move on. Be forewarned though, it’s easy to get drawn in and distracted, and writers are notoriously easy to distract. By setting scheduled time limits for each networking activity, it can be easily managed. If after your real work is done and you want to go back and “visit” again, go for it and have fun.

 

Never fear

Never fear

Rather than fear social networking, by embracing it in a professional, realistic way, I’ve discovered a whole new world of people whose work and opinions I’ve come to respect and enjoy. Hopefully, they feel the same about some of what I share as well. Being able to communicate on a global stage, instantaneously, is a lot of fun, but it comes with responsibility. I encourage people to join the on-line communities, but please, be respectful.

 

I always welcome comments and would love to hear your thoughts on social media for business and for pleasure. If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with your circles. Thank you.

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Sell! Sell! Sell!

Sell! Sell! Sell!

 

We are bombarded daily with ads wanting us to buy this product, or that service. The ads come on our televisions, tablets, phones, billboards, and in the venues we frequent for shopping. It seems everyone wants to sell us something, and this can be tiring. Sometimes, it’s even downright annoying.

 

Before I began writing novels, my background was in commissioned real estate and mortgage sales, so I understand the concepts and drills of selling. I was never the “hard sell” type though, which is perhaps why I got out of that business. I loved working with people, and putting pieces of the puzzles together, and although I met some wonderful, conscientious sales reps, I got tired of dealing with so many disreputable “professionals”.

 

I also wasn’t driven enough to succeed. I liked the work, but didn’t love it. So, I quit. I drifted around a bit, unsure of what really fit me, my personality, and my skill sets. I kept looking for something that excited me and drove me to want to succeed. There were plenty of things I could do, just not a lot I wanted to do. As a result, my finances suffered, as did my self-esteem. I just couldn’t seem to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life. I felt like a failure. I pretended it didn’t bother me, but it did.

 

I was asking for a lot; I wanted to do something meaningful to me, but couldn’t figure out what. I wasn’t making the logical connections. Then I discovered writing, and all the pieces finally fit. This is what I’m meant to do. More than that though, I began to realize that all those years in sales weren’t wasted. Before that, I worked as an office administrator, so I can type and organize an office pretty well. I’d need my experience in sales and office admin to help me write, market and promote my books. I already had the basics, and I made another connection; it’s all about building relationships.

 

Making it all fit

Making it all fit

When I’d been in sales before, I loved building relationships with my clients and other industry professionals. I’m good at it, and it comes naturally to me. I don’t have to force it at all. Writing is just another way of building even more relationships. I’ve been able to do this not only through readers, which is fantastic, but with other writers and publishing industry professionals all over the world. Sure, I want book sales, who doesn’t, but I love connecting with others on various levels. I’ve discovered so many people out there who are like me; they’re connectors. They love to share the knowledge they’ve gained, and enjoy the connections they’ve built over time. Seth Godin posted on his blog recently about this very subject, which is what got me thinking. He’s absolutely right; it isn’t about the short term gain, it’s about the long term goal.

 

People like Jonathan Gunson, of Bestseller Labs, Molly Greene, Jane Friedman, and Joanna Penn all share the wealth of their knowledge and experience with others freely and openly on their blogs and websites. Well known writers like Hugh Howey, Sylvia Day, and many others are breaking down the walls and sharing industry insights and hard won know-how with other writers climbing the ladder behind them. They’re actively changing the face of publishing in very real, tangible ways, and are encouraging others to re-examine the options. They’re building relationships by sharing what they know. They provide real value in their writing, and in their websites and blogs.

Believe me when I say that when I see one of these remarkable individuals share something on social networks, I forward and share their words, reviews, comments, and upcoming books and events. It doesn’t matter if I personally read every book they write, although I’ll definitely purchase their work too, because I’ll share with my connections and many of them will.

 

Trust must be earned

Trust must be earned

That’s the power of relationship building. It really goes back to sales 101. We don’t buy things or services because we’re told to, but because we trust that what the vendor has to offer will fill a need we have, or solve a problem we’re dealing with. Books are no different. They educate and entertain readers the world over, and writers work hard to bring them to light. That’s why it frustrates me when I hear writers say they hate marketing and promotion. They haven’t made the connection between the product, which is the book, and the message they are trying to convey, or the story they’re trying to tell.

 

I look at sales from the stand point of making connections and building relationships. That way, book marketing, promotion, and learning about the industry I’ve become avidly interested in, becomes much more fun. Social networks have taken on a new meaning for me. Not only do I keep up with family and close friends there, but I also connect with others interested in the same things I am. I learn and grow from other writers, publishers, editors, and agents. Public speaking has given me a forum to talk about my writing, publishing, and my books, but it’s also opened doors to other topics I’m keenly interested in, such as overcoming the fear of failure, and women’s issues.

 

Again, it’s all about making the connections. First, to figure out what I was looking for in my work career, then how to use what I already know to advance that career and connect with others, and finally, to learn more about writing, publishing, and book marketing. I’m not selling anything; I’m simply sharing my work and my words with anyone who’s interested. I don’t have to do the hard-sell. I just have to be me, and that’s easy, flaws and all.

 

I welcome comments, so please do share your thoughts on this issue. If you enjoyed this blog post, please consider sharing it with your social circles. Thank you.

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Which Way?

Which Way?

In the publishing/writing world lately, there’s been much chatter about authors uniting to fight for fair treatment and compensation from traditional publishers. A recent article posted on Jane Friedman‘s blog, journalist Porter Anderson discusses a report published by bestselling author, Hugh Howey, which has garnered much talk on both sides of the fence. This grass-roots movement is spreading globally, and many claim it’s a long time coming. What I’ve read on this and other forums indicates writers are speaking out about the poor treatment they’ve often received in the past. This includes everything from fair contract terms regarding rights to the author’s work, to how much the author is paid for said work. I also recently viewed an interesting video interview with self-published writer, Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn, and best-seller author, Colin Falconer, which addresses, among other things,  the issues Mr. Falconer has experienced with traditional publishing.

We all know the story of the starving artist who struggles for years, or even until death, with poverty while striving to bring his/her art form forward for recognition and purchase. It doesn’t matter whether it’s painting, music, or writing, the artist is expected to go through angst to bring his/her art to the world at large. I get that. The artist has to develop and perfect their technique in order to produce works fit for public consumption and recognition. This takes time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears. I have no issue with this facet of the creation process. This time also serves to weed out those who don’t have the drive and commitment to succeed in the crazy business of, in this case, book publishing.

But times are changing. Self-publishing has blasted open doors previously closed to writers, and many claim it’s about time. Too long have the old “gate-keepers” of traditional publishing held all the cards. The digitalization of publishing has given writers options never before possible. To be sure, some, perhaps even most, of those first writers who began self-publishing turned out less than stellar work in their haste to “publish” their stories. But that too is changing. More and more writers are learning the business of publishing from the ground up, fine-tuning their skills, and hiring professional editors, cover artists, printers, etc., to ensure the finished product can stand side by side with traditionally published books. The truth is, most of the reading public could care less about who published the books. They care about the quality of the writing and stories, and want to be sure that the books they pay their hard-earned cash for are of professional quality. Over time, they come to care for the writers who pen the books. They seek out other works by that same author, and they tell their friends about the books and authors they’ve enjoyed. Readers become the most valuable marketing tool there is via word-of-mouth. In other words, writers, not publishers, are the hub around which the book publishing business revolves. Without us, the publishing industry wouldn’t have the jobs and companies they hold so dear.

Connecting

Connecting

Social media has made a huge impression on the publishing world, and on the authors who write the books the public craves. For the first time ever, anyone can access the words and lives of even some of the world’s most famous authors. Today’s authors usually have a Facebook Fan Page, a Twitter account, a web page, and many now also blog regularly. These windows into the writer’s world allow readers to tap into a writer’s daily goings-on and musings instantly. No longer are writers the obscure creatures behind the penned word. We are coming out into the light and being seen in greater numbers, by greater numbers. We are reaching across the oceans and lands to connect and be connected. We talk. We learn from each other. We hear the stories of who is doing what within the publishing houses. We begin to understand that not all publishers, agents, and editors are created equal. Some treat their authors very well, and fairly, while others do not. We whisper the names of these companies, and the people who make the rules that govern traditional publishing. Writers are becoming more vocal about the poor treatment they’ve received with some publishing houses/agents, and are warning new writers coming up through the ranks to beware. Writers are starting to lift their heads and wonder how, collectively, we can help those working in the publishing industry develop closer, better relationships with their authors.

I’d like to pause here and say that again. We’d like to help them develop better relationships. We don’t want to tear them down. Not really. Writers who seek traditional publishing want to work together to produce the best work possible for the public to enjoy. What we’re asking for is fair and equitable contracts and payment for our work. For those who prefer self-publishing, again, I believe most authors are simply looking to assist one another in the process. A growing number of writers are becoming what is known as “hybrid writers”. Which is to say that these writers choose to work with traditional houses/agents on some projects, while self-publishing others, for a variety of reasons. Personally, I’m in tremendous favour of this model, since it gives control back to the writer, the creator of the marketable work. I think we’ll see more of this writer model in the months and years to come.

It’s a hard road either way. Publishing and writing is not for the faint of heart. But it doesn’t have to be a competition, does it? I’d love to see a day when writers, publishers, agents, and editors like and respect each other. When contracts with publishers and agents reflect the true value of the work and the author, and writers are paid fairly for work which has been deemed marketable. I’d like to see writers have more say with regards to contracts, terms, and negotiations with traditional publishers.

Working Together

Working Together

Change is never easy. Change is difficult and painful, but it’s often necessary to achieve true, long-term success. I’d like to suggest writers and those in the publishing industry come to the table with open hands and minds. My first book was with a small, independent press, as will my second, soon-to-be released book. I’m in the midst of writing a third novel in a completely different genre, so am not sure where it’s going to land. However, if I decide to self-publish future books, I like to think I’ll be respected for my decisions, so long as the end result is professional, and readers enjoy the stories. Writing is an art form and creation process, but it’s also a business. Let’s all make solid, informed business decisions when publishing books and work together, rather than separately.

What are your thoughts on traditional vs self-publishing? If you’ve enjoyed this post, please do share, and of course, leave a comment. Thank you

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Beauty of Cover Art

Beauty of Cover Art

I love working with my publisher on cover art design. It’s a fun way to express creativity and bring a concrete vision to potential new readers. But book covers are more than just a pretty face. They have a message to convey. Book covers portray an image of what the book and/or characters represents. The font, colours, photos/drawings, are all vitally important to catching a reader’s attention and enticing them to read the back cover blurb, then hopefully, purchase the book.

 

It’s also a marketing tool. This is why top companies spend literally millions of dollars creating the right packaging for their product. The packaging says a lot about the company, just as a cover tells a lot about the writer and publisher. This is our first introduction. It’s also a little like being sure to wear your best outfit to a job interview, making sure your hair is combed, shoes are clean, and personal appearance is as pleasing as possible. It’s our virtual handshake and “hello” to the world.

 

It’s also how we remind past readers that we’re still here and have a new story they’re going to love. This is why there are some elements of the book cover you may want to keep consistent, like font, over-all colour scheme, tag line, etc.

 

This is really marketing 101, but most people who will buy our books don’t care about that. They want to pick up a book that intrigues them, and gives them a reason to pay their hard-earned money out for our stories. Huffington Post recently posted an article on this very subject, entitled, Yes, We Really Do Judge Books By Their Covers, written by Terri Giuliano.

 

Ensuring the cover art is as close to any descriptions we have in the book is vitally important. After all, you can’t describe a brunette heroine, then show a blonde on the cover, or a cover model with brown eyes when you describe a main protagonist with blue. It jars the reader and shows you don’t care about the details. I know they won’t realize it until they purchase or read the book, but do you really want to set them up for disappointment? Oh, and negative comments will definitely start popping up if the cover doesn’t match the narrative or story line. Trust me, people notice!

 

With my first book, In The Spirit Of Love, my publisher and I went back and forth many, many times to find the right overall look, then again in choosing the closest male model depiction for Sir Richard. With the locket we chose to feature on the cover, I actually had to go back into the manuscript and alter the description to ensure it matched what we were showing on the cover. Simply put, it matters.

 

High Five!

High Five!

As we continue to work on putting the final touches to the sequel, In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, again, we’ve been working hard to find just the right look. So when readers compare the story line, they can see we’ve taken care to match the cover to the narrative.

It’s a lot of work, and yes, it may cost extra money to get it right, but it’s an expense that’s well worth it. Once the print version is out there, it’s out there for all time. Yes, you can update and change it later, but somewhere an original will still exist. You want to be proud of what you’re putting out into the world. It’s your baby.

 

For the writer, this is even more important, since readers identify with the author, not the publisher or cover artist. In fact, few people pay any attention at all to who the publisher, editor, or cover artist are. Unless it’s poor job, or on the flip side, a really great one, most people don’t care. They’re going to judge the writer on the entire package. Is it fair? Possibly not, since we don’t always have final say, but it is what it is.

 

Personally, I want to be proud of the finished product. I want to be beaming with pride when I attend a book tour, or public speaking event where my book is going to be centre stage. It’s my name that’s on the front cover in big, bold letters, not anyone else’s. It’s my face they’re going to associate that book with.

 

In the talks I do at libraries, bookstores, schools, etc. I talk about the importance of cover art, and use one of my books to demonstrate the different aspects of it. Can you imagine how that would go over if I hated it, or was disappointed in it? I’ve been in marketing and sales for years, so I know that I can’t “sell” something I honestly don’t believe in.

 

No Mirror Images

No Mirror Images

You also don’t want your book covers to look so similar in style that readers are going to think they’ve already read it. This is especially important when selling ebooks, since all the e-venues use thumbnail sized covers, and if your covers look too similar, you’ve got the problem of someone passing it by and thinking “I’ve read that one”.

 

That’s why some authors include the words “sequel”, or “Book Two”, or even just roman numerals to indicate the subsequent books in a series. You want to make book selection easy for potential readers. I know if I’m standing in my favourite book store, I don’t want to have to scrutinize too closely whether or not this is a book I will like, have read before, or, in the case of a gift, is something I think the recipient will enjoy. The old rule of K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) definitely applies here.

 

Conversely, cover art that tells a potential reader nothing about the story will often have them passing over it. Unless you’re writing non-fiction, straight text is rarely a good idea. Cover art doesn’t have to be so elaborate that it confuses the reader, but it does have to intrigue them, and by intrigue, I don’t mean be obscure. This is why certain genres have evolved to include easily identifiable elements. For example, romance books usually depict lovers, a male or female protagonist, or some romantic element that tells the prospective reader exactly what they’re getting when they buy that book. Other genres have certain elements on the cover art that readers expect to see too, and if it’s not there, or is so elaborate the intent is hidden, you risk readers putting the book down and moving on to something they can identify with.

 

The cover of a book can also form part of an author’s branding. It might be as simple as using the same font for each title in a series, or the author’s name, a tag line that follows the author with every book, or an over-all look in terms of colour and layout. It’s what helps readers identify the author at a quick glance. Well-known writer and blogger, Joanna Penn, addresses the issue of author branding in her article, entitled, Branding for Writers: An Essential Step to Building Your Author Platform. I would say that cover art is an important part of an author’s branding and platform.

 

So, now that I’ve shared my thoughts on the importance of cover art, what do you think? Have you ever purchased, or not purchased, a book based on it’s cover?

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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

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