Yesterday as I was driving around alone I thought to myself out loud: I have a confidence in my writing, and in myself that I have never had before in my life. And of course, that got me thinking about why I think and feel this way.
For so many writers, including myself, I always looked at whatever I wrote at any given time and said it was pure, unadulterated crap though no one writes a perfect first draft. Yes, sometimes things come out right the first time but for the most part, they don’t. Take this piece for example: I wrote several paragraphs before I wrote the one that started this off. Once I got that paragraph, I deleted the other ones I’d written and started over. I know there are times when I need to vent off thoughts before I find what I’m looking for and that’s okay. The world is not going to end if you have a false start (or more than one).
In the past, whenever I did a huge cut like that some dumb voice inside my head asked me what ‘someone’ (no one specific as far as I can tell), would think about me making wholesale cuts like that. One, unless I reveal I’ve made wholesale cuts like this no one would know to begin with. Two, if someone doesn’t like the way I write why should I freaking care about their opinion? Yes, I’ve had people tell me not to do wholesale cuts like that unless I dump the cut-material into a file to salvage later. I’ve tried doing that over the years and you know what- I never used those cut-files. I always worked from the new material I’d come up with. And the world doesn’t explode, and my writing doesn’t suffer if I don’t use this cut-material. Now I won’t tell anyone else not to do this because everyone has their own way of doing things. But for me, I don’t need to be a word-hoarder.
In the last few years, I’ve been saying writing is largely instinctive for me, that I can just read something and know if it’s working or not. I’ll go at it and see if editing and revising will work and if not, I’ll just chunk it and start over.
I feel like these instincts have grown as strong as they have because I’ve stopped beating myself up mentally and emotionally, and I’ve stopped worrying about what some mythical ‘someone’ might think about what I’m doing. Lately I’ve been telling myself my job in life is not to pull someone’s head out of their backside for them and I’m starting to truly believe that. I focus on myself and my work and not on what other ‘people’ might think. I used to think I couldn’t stand up for myself if someone did have the stupidity to come at me and get all butt-hurt when I pushed back against them. Now I know I have the right and the ability to stand up for myself and do my own thing. And luckily I haven’t had to deal with anyone’s crap because of it. I believe people have a right to their thoughts and feelings no matter what they are. But I also believe I have every right to my own thoughts and feelings and to live my life the way I want to.
To wrap things up here I want to share something my late father was fond of saying to me: “Don’t ever get into a one-legged ass-kicking contest with yourself because you’ll always win.” What he meant was don’t beat yourself up because that doesn’t accomplish anything. And in regard to writing, that means don’t just say your writing is all crap all the time. Instead, look at on its’ own merits and if it’s working and your gut is telling you you’ve got something to go on, then go with it. Most writing involves a fair amount of revising and editing and sometimes that’s where the really good stuff comes from. And if you want to put stuff into a cut-file, do so. Feel free to go back to it, too if that works for you. You may get to a point in time like I have where those cut-files aren’t needed. But the writing process is something that is in a constant state of evolution and change. And I think once you accept that evolution and change, you’ll gain the confidence needed to write well.
Because for me, true confidence in my writing has shown me I have the ability to write in ways I’ve dreamed about and aspired to for many years. And yes, sometimes those ways are blunt and hard, or deeply emotional, and just good writing that flows well. I don’t think about perfection in any way when I’m writing. I think about going over something I’ve written as many times as I need to in order to get it to where I want. And like a musician finding that perfect melody, I’ll know it when I see it. I won’t doubt myself or think that I’ll never be good enough. I won’t listen to the voices of doubt and negativity anymore because those voices won’t help you at all.
My favorite writing quote is from one of my all-time favorite authors, Nora Roberts: “You can’t revise a blank page.”
So I’ll add this: face that blank page with confidence and faith in yourself, and don’t tell yourself your work is all crap. It’s just a work-in-progress.
We all struggle with the progression of writing our stories sometimes. We get lost in the middle and write ourselves into a corner that seems impossible to get out of. Here is a tip I learned when I find myself in that frustrating predicament. I look to the MacGuffin.
What Is the MacGuffin? The short answer is; it is the reason for your story. It’s what drives your characters to do what they do. It can be something tangible like a treasure being sought or a quest for a character’s inner strength such as seeking redemption or a mystery to be solved. The MacGuffin is the heart of your story, no matter if your tale is a short story or a novel.
Each story, no matter the length, needs a beginning, a middle and an end, otherwise known as the resolution. The MacGuffin will guide you through these steps:
The beginning ~ introduce the MacGuffin
The middle ~ chase after the MacGuffin
The End ~ obtain the MacGuffin
Sometimes the MacGuffin is not so much of a ” what” as it is a “why”. For example, the briefcase in PULP FICTION passes from hand to hand throughout the movie. Characters open it and seem awed by its contents, but those contents are never revealed to the audience. So the actual MacGuffin, although a tangible object, served to connect the characters and drive the story. Discovering the contents was not the goal of the story. Instead, the MacGuffin caused the adventure.
There are many articles on how a MacGuffin can be used, and I believe that exploring those purposes will help all of us to use the MacGuffin as an essential tool for better storytelling. As you can see, if you break it down to how the MacGuffin influences the beginning, middle, and end, it’s really quite simple.
About the Author
Cheryl Ann Guido is a retired mother, grandmother, and animal lover. To date, she has published two books, The End in the Rainbow and The Golden Huntress Murder Unscripted. An article she wrote about a cat she rescued was also published in CATS Magazine. Several of her poems appeared in anthologies published by the National Library of Poetry. She has written several children’s short stories along with numerous serialized fanfiction stories as well as standalone and rhyming narrative poems that are posted on various websites. She also served as the writer/producer/director of an in-house movie for one of her previous employers. Cheryl’s love for the written word began at a very young age and she continues to be an individual who is not afraid to let her imagination fly free. Enjoy and visit Cheryl on Facebook:
I do not doubt that as you read the title of this article, you read it in Elvis Presley’s voice. Those words are widely attributed to the King of Rock and Roll and used by every Elvis impersonator.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Are these hollow words to be uttered at the appropriate time, or are they true words conveying sincere thanks? The answer to this question is one an author should consider and consider seriously.
What’s Nice Got to Do With It?
I have spoken to numerous podcast, radio, and TV hosts, as well as print and online interviewers who constantly lament the lack of manners from their guests. Indeed, some hosts don’t care and are as guilty, but most, and I dare say, the ones who approach their craft professionally, do care.
As an author, you may have sought out an interview to promote your book or were contacted by a media representative. You arrange to appear on that show, discussing time, location, and interview topics. Before the interview, you should consider the questions you may be asked and how you would answer them succinctly. Perhaps listen to, watch, or read interviews the interviewer has conducted with others to gauge their tone, manner, and personality so your conversation will be natural, not stilted.
The quality hosts are also preparing by reviewing your past interviews, reading your book or bio, and other material about you. Many may spend hours before the scheduled interview to learn about you so they may present you to their audience in the best manner possible.
After the interview concludes, some hosts have staffs who process or edit the interview and do all the follow-ups, and some do not. Many independent hosts of podcasts may be a staff of one or two. After spending a few hours researching before your interview, and approximately an hour conducting the interview, these hosts spend time editing and promoting your interview.
Then you do not thank them.
The success of these hosts is not due to one interview alone but your book or the cause you are promoting, or your livelihood might. Even if we estimate the amount of time a host spends on you to be as short as a couple of hours, not taking thirty seconds to thank the host for their time and not promoting the interview is impolite—in fact, rude.
An Interview! What Now?
The surprising thing is so many of us tend to do the interview and walk away, expecting the interviewer to do all the work. They’ve done their part.
Why did you interview if you care nothing about utilizing the interview to promote yourself? The advent of podcasts has put everything we do a click of a mouse away for posterity. If you take the time and spend someone else’s time talking about your work, why walk away when you have a tool to promote yourself? If you do not offer the same exposure to your audience as your host has to theirs, it is unlikely that the host will ask you to return for a second interview. And extremely unlikely that you will be effective with your target audience.
You may appear on numerous shows and have great interviews, but you have wasted everyone’s time if you do not connect with your target audience. Market your appearances, announce a live show, a book signing, podcasts, and print media—spread the word. The show, newspaper, magazine, or podcast might target a broader demographic. It is your job to promote your interviews to those you need to hear your message.
One podcast host remarked that she was shocked at the number of scheduled guests who didn’t show up for the interview. Again, if you sought the interview or were invited and agreed to appear, why would you not show? At least, if you cancel for a valid reason or you panicked at the thought of being interviewed, tell the host in a reasonable amount of time. It’s respectful to do so.
All About Manners
There are a lot of attributes associated with good manners, and most are common sense—say hello, thank you, yes ma’am/sir or no ma’am/sir, hold open a door, don’t gossip, be on time, etc. But among the gestures that display good manners, the easiest to convey sincerity and respect is a simple thank you.
Thank you. Those two words took less than three seconds to type.
Thank you for your time. I enjoyed being a guest on your show and look forward to talking with you again. These words took less than thirty seconds to type.
Factor in the time to open an email, Messenger, or text and hit send, and you might spend two to three minutes—two or three minutes spent saying thank you. Are you so busy that you cannot spend a few minutes thanking someone who has provided you with a service and valuable marketing tool?
I don’t think that you are. Take the time to thank the interviewer, the person who arranged your interview, the bookstore manager where you held a book signing and the person who shared your podcasts. Thank the person who answers your writing questions or critiques you online. Thank them sincerely, and they will appreciate your thoughtfulness and reciprocate.
“Politeness can and will improve your relationships with others, help to build respect and rapport, boost your self-esteem and confidence, and improve your communication skills.” —Skills You Need
Don’t be one of those impolite people. Be respectful, considerate, and say thank you.
If you have read my writing, you know I generally set my stories and novels in the southern region of the United States. That is understandable because I grew up in South Carolina and live in Florida. A piece of writing advice says to ‘write what you know,” and I know the South. I can’t entirely agree with that particular advice because we can write about anything with a bit of solid research. Thank you, Google. But our life experiences certainly influence what we put on paper.
Speaking to a friend, we discussed how life impacts writing, and I stated that I do not consciously put my life experiences into my work. I no doubt subconsciously do. My attitudes toward good and evil and how characters (people) should behave can’t help but influence my writing as it does anyone. I generally do not pattern any character after someone I know, although I have done so occasionally.
In thinking back on that conversation, I wondered what my influences were. What creates the mood of my writing? I realized that there are two influences. One is my childhood memories of growing up in the South, and the other is music.
While I was fortunate to enjoy a somewhat idyllic childhood, I am not naïve enough to ignore the issues that faced my “hundred-acre woods” (thank you, Winnie, the Pooh) or the rest of the country and the world. Equality is never easy to obtain and inequality difficult to witness, and that alone will influence us, consciously or not.
My parents provided a haven for me and a feeling of security, and I realize how fortunate I am for that environment. They never hid the realities of the world from me, but the gentility that existed was also a part of my life. When writing, I attempt to show the area’s complexity because the truth is always best.
My environment, however, was not the only influence on me. I believe that growing up in the South served as the platform for what is truly my muse. Music.
I grew up listening to classical music more than any other music genre. My father often had classical music on in the car or at home. Still, my parents were huge fans of music in general, so the sounds of my early childhood included Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Louis Armstrong, and Frank Sinatra.
I was a typical kid, I loved Elvis and the Beatles, but I was also the preteen who loved Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and asked for their albums for Christmas. Music was and remains an integral part of my life, and I realize a considerable influence on my writing.
For music lovers, every type of music becomes part of the threads woven to create our personalities. My memories of the spirituals I listened to as a child or the blues music that developed from various influences after the Civil War to jazz that grew from the blues and ragtime in New Orleans have influenced me greatly.
Jazz. I am not sure how one can define jazz. In an opinion article written by Josiah Boornazian, the author states:
“Jazz encourages, celebrates, and rewards newness, originality, personality, and meaningful expressiveness in music. Jazz never stopped evolving.”
This observation about jazz mimics writing. Doesn’t writing do the same, encourage, celebrate, and provide the same rewards?
When I was a child, my parents had a family friend, Mr. Price, whose mother was from Louisiana and who I wrote about in a previous article. His stories of his mother’s life in Louisiana and the Cajun meals he prepared for us on some Sundays greatly influenced me. I loved the stories and the food, and as I grew up, my affection for the area never waned but became a love for New Orleans and jazz.
When I started my first mystery novel, I never hesitated to set the story in New Orleans. I visited there a few times and felt a kinship with the French Quarter, more so than with my hometown in South Carolina.
As I wrote, I felt the ambiance of the French Quarter. The colorful residents, the awed tourists, the neon, and the art and Voodou shops all mingled with the smells of spicy food, beer, incense, and, well… some other aromas, but all part of the fabric of the Quarter.
However, one component of the ambiance was the sound of jazz. Walk along the narrow streets and listen as the music waxes and wanes from one club to the next—some joyous, some melancholy, and all reaching into your soul. There is a rhythm to life, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the jazz-filled French Quarter.
When I write, those beautiful spirituals from my early days to today’s jazz are my muse. The music spurs my creativity. The connection to the life force, the vibe, if you will, from the places that create that music, hopefully, keeps me evolving as a writer.
Whatever your music tastes, play some tunes while you write. If I may suggest, play a little Bossa Nova for enchantment and romance, a little Buddy Rich for the zest of life, a little Miles Davis for the soul, and let your muse play.
Around Fall/Winter 2018 if my memory is correct, I came up with the idea of doing a ‘writing book’. At the time I thought it would be a mix of writing instruction and advice with maybe a few stories of my writing time over the years. Then this thought came to me: my relationship with writing is complicated. I thought that would be the hook to make this book stand out but in reality, that’s been a huge wall I’ve had to figure out how to get through. One way I’ve had to figure out how to work through that wall is finding a title for this project. It’s gone through at least two or three titles but ‘Behind the Story’ feels like the fit that I want for it.
But in order to get a handle on this project, I needed a title I could write to. I need titles to write to so when I’m struggling with a title then I struggle with the project itself. So the first thing you can see about writing for me is that my brain works in weird and mysterious ways. Putting that crazy thought process into words is a challenge, to say the least, but it’s one I want to do.
For me, writing is largely instinctive now. I just start out with an idea in my head then sit down and start writing. I trust myself to know when something is working and when it’s not. Like this blog entry here for example has been in the works for a couple of days now with several attempts scrapped. I’m not doing this project to discourage people from writing, or showing off, but instead, I’m trying to put into words a process that I don’t really think through before I dive into it.
In my teens and twenties, and even into my thirties, I devoured everything I could about writing. I read a ton of articles and books, attended workshops and conferences, and studied constantly. Back then I felt like I had to earn my chops by working my ass off studying and writing. I’m glad I did that but it wasn’t a popular decision with some people in my life. In those years I felt like my writing was seen a weapon to be used against me, something to be held against me, something I felt wrong in doing sometimes. It’s taken me a long time to realize that people were wrong to think that about my writing as I NEVER let it get in the way of any responsibilities I had taken on. In those years, I was just told to keep my mouth shut and keep writing.
To anyone who has a problem with my writing, or ever did I’m going to say what I should have said a long time ago: fuck off. Take your stupid bullshit and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. I fought with everything I had to keep my passion to myself and for no damn good reason other than placate someone’s dumb-ass ego.
Like my other writing projects, I’m not writing this book as an act of revenge or any bullshit like that. In addition to trying to illuminate the creative process to help people understand it, I’m also doing it for other creative people like me who’ve taken way too much shit for being creative. I don’t believe every single person has it in them to be creative and curious. In fact, I think there are a good number of people in this world who are the total opposite of that and who sure as hell aren’t shy in expressing that to the rest of the world.
For the longest time, I used to say I just let my imagination run wild and that it was not a reflection of my own thoughts and feelings. But that’s not true and it never was, and that’s another thing I’m trying to put into words with this project. And that I believe is also another reason some people may have had problems with my writing because they somehow thought it was about them. It’s not and it never was. But that barrier had to fall in my mind for me to get to the point I’m at now with my writing, this mix of instinct and the ability to put those instincts into words.
I appreciate the opportunity to share this article on Elaine Marie Carnegie – Padgett’s website, The Writer’s Journey Blog. I hope that my mistakes in marketing my first book will help others as they publish theirs. Please click on the link below to visit Elaine’s site and enjoy the wonderful contributions from many authors. Thanks!! The Writer’s Journey Blog
How Not to Market a Novel Publishing Without a Plan
I have always wanted to write a novel.
So, I wrote a novel, or two or three.
I never published—until now.
The one thing I missed along the way was marketing the book.
As an adult, I began writing my first novel when I convinced myself I had the time. I had stars in my eyes. I would write what I hoped was a good story, find an agent, and sign a book deal with a publishing house.
I was naive.
The realities of publishing and how independent publishing had changed the marketplace surprised me. The difficulty in acquiring an agent, much less a contract with a traditional publisher, drove many authors into the indie market, some successfully and some not. The independent author became writer, publisher, and marketing manager with the click of a mouse and, sometimes, an editor and cover designer too—a lot of responsibility for someone who only wants to write.
Editing and cover design can be contracted depending on the writer’s budget, as can book promotion. The question is, at what cost? With high competition for readers, it is difficult for many writers to recoup their investment and decide when they stop spending money to prepare a book for publication.
In today’s publishing world, the brutal truth is that traditional publishers provide only minimum marketing efforts unless you are a best-selling author. Fortunately, many resources provide information on how to market your book.
So, what do we do?
Although I followed my dream and wrote a few novels, life and other responsibilities always got in the way of taking the time to publish. I had done all the research, written articles about marketing, and had marketing responsibilities in former jobs, but when it came to my first novel, I did little. The intent was there, but the execution was lacking.
Faced with that fact, I decided to publish anyway. I haven’t embarked on a marketing campaign, but frankly, I am at a point where I want to publish. I am running out of excuses.
I am fortunate to have some graphics experience and have made book covers for anthology collections.
I am also lucky to have friends who are editors. My need to pay for these services is minimal, which leaves me some financial leeway to pay for advertising.
However, with this first novel, I will forgo paid advertising and promote only on the platforms where I have a presence. I was working diligently to improve my following on my blog and was quite satisfied with the numbers. Then my blog crashed, and due to an oversight on my part, I could not retrieve my account. (a word to the wise, update your phone number when it changes). In an instant, I lost all the hard work I had done and a considerable number of followers.
The thing is, how much do followers matter? In many instances, fellow authors follow their peers for mutual support. Not all will be fans of our novels’ genres and may not be potential readers. While our fellow authors give support, it might not always be by purchasing our books.
I could enter into a discussion of the many avenues available for marketing—newsletters, email campaigns, advertising on Facebook, Amazon, free giveaways of eBooks, the list is endless. However, that would be pointless since I am not doing any of the above for this first novel. While the efforts are essential, to what extent do they work?
One author I know, who writes in a niche market, began her marketing efforts a year before publishing her first book. Another author markets through newsletters and advertising, and both are successful. Yet, many marketing stories are unsuccessful despite engaging in the exact activities.
Building an email list can be daunting. While there are many ways to acquire email addresses, it is often a slow and tedious process, and statistics show that the return on any marketing effort is in the twenty percent range. The email list needs to be extensive to be effective, and that takes time and effort to build and money if choosing to purchase an email list.
Contacting influencers and potential reviewers feels a bit like selling your soul. While reviews are akin to gold for an author, seeking them always feels like pandering. Advertising can be effective, but to be so must be planned for the long-term, which can become expensive and often ineffective.
So, what works?
I wish I knew, and I imagine I am not alone in the struggle.
My tardiness in publishing is my fault. Being responsible for a large writing group and providing content to keep members interested and informed as well as the group publishing several member anthologies certainly stood in my way—but only because I let it. Life issues often interfere as well, but the fact is, I could have taken the time to publish, and I did not.
I had envisioned a roll-out with a book launch, press releases, advertising, and book signings. Despite marketing experience during my professional career, I did not anticipate the time and expense involved in marketing a book. Careful planning is possible, but it isn’t easy to manufacture time. At least, we tell ourselves that, but like money, we can budget time.
Regardless, I am about to publish my first novel and have done nothing. That’s a bit of a misnomer. I have done a few things. I have been promoting the upcoming release on my blog, author page, and Instagram, but my efforts are minimal.
What I do know is that I must start somewhere. So, I chose to publish now and not wait any longer. And with that begins my marketing plan for the next book.
I watched one of my favorite online writing coaches recently as she discussed writing a series or stand-alone novels. One thing she said that stuck out to me is that a published body of work was often an excellent marketing tool. If you have several books available for a reader to read, chances are if they like one of your books, they will read the others. Sounds like a good marketing plan to me!
In a few weeks, I will self-publish, and that novel will be part of my marketing strategy for the next book. D. A. Ratliff, author of “‘insert title,” has a ring of credibility and might help market my second book. In addition, I might start a tad earlier on that promotion effort.
I have no delusions of grandeur when it comes to success. While I am proud of the finished product, I am under no illusion that any novel or any author will become successful. I choose to take satisfaction in the process and hope someone will enjoy reading it.
The moral of this story is do not do what I have done and neglect the things you can do to improve your success. While we have no guarantees, planning for success is much better than having no plan.
I started toying with the idea of doing a how-to writing book around the same time as “Breaking Radio Silence” and “Stand or Fall” with some personal experiences mixed in. But then I had a thought one day:
My relationship with writing is complicated.
And as I asked myself why that was, I fell down another rabbit hole like with the other two books and had to take a whirl around the demented Wonderland of my past to answer that question. One answer that jumped out at me and knocked me back hard was this:
Did my father try to use writing to deal with his untreated mental illness?
All my life my father told me he had been diagnosed as manic-depressive, now referred to as bi-polar depression but had refused treatment. I can’t independently verify that diagnosis (as my father is dead and he had no proof to show me when he was alive). But after reading about bi-polar depression… let’s just say he would have checked pretty much all of the boxes for symptoms and behavior.
I was about eight years old when my dad blew an ulcer and in recuperation started writing. He wrote at first on yellow legal pads then hammered away on a typewriter in the bedroom next to mine late into the night. He was obsessive and a major pain the ass about his writing at times especially to my mother (who he raged at in incredibly-horrible ways). And when I began writing when I was about ten years old, I put myself in a precarious position of not wanting to be an asshole about my writing like he was but wanting to pursue it with the same passion like he had.
I’m sure people who knew my father, and even others who didn’t, won’t be comfortable with me referring to him in the ways that I will. But my father, and my mother (both of my parents are dead, by the way), would be the first ones to tell you they weren’t perfect. One thing I’ve read about bi-polar illness is the extreme mood swings people with that illness have and my father had those in full-blown stereo. But my writing journey is about me but he will be along for the ride just like my mother is along for the ride with my ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project.
I was around twelve years old when I decided I wanted to be a full-time working writer. In junior-high I wanted to be a songwriter/lyricist but I couldn’t find an Elton John to my wannabe Bernie Taupin. Then I wanted to be a journalist, then a screenwriter, a filmmaker-director, then a novelist. When I graduated high school I just wanted to write and my dad went to bat for me with my mom (though my mom only agreed to let me live at home and write if I did chores and errands, which I did without a second’s hesitation). Then my dad had his first heart attack when I was nineteen and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was twenty-one. But all throughout my twenties when I was living at home and taking care of them (and later working part-time then full-time), they supported my writing. They paid my writers’ group dues, conference fees, and made sure I had time to write. This wasn’t a popular decision of theirs with other people in my life at that time but my parents asked me not to say anything and I stayed silent to keep the peace. But the damage was done (and a lot of it you can also read about in my book ‘Breaking Radio Silence’).
In the years since my parents died, I didn’t fully pursue my writing and creative endeavors due to the extreme bullshit of my twenties that twisted me into a huge knot of fear. Luckily I’ve worked through that shit and un-knotted that fear and am now pursuing my writing with a passion and determination like never before.
Most of all, I have never taken writing for granted and it’s never felt like a grind to me. And I will never let anyone try to make it a grind for me, or shit all over me for writing. Despite all the bullshit I’ve been through and the time away from it, writing has always been there for me. And yes, it’s been a form of therapy for me, too. My father kept journals that he destroyed shortly before he died so I have a feeling that writing was his therapy, too. Mine is just more public than his, and I’m also not prone to huge mood swings and raging paranoia like him (just anxiety I’ve learned to gain a significant measure of control over).
So I would say ‘The Written Road’ is a memoir of my own writing journey, a conversation with my late father, and any writing how-to I can work in.
About the Author:Michele Sayre
Michele is a writer from Texas who has been writing since she was twelve years old. She writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry with the goal of self-publishing her own works someday. She’s also a single mom to a dog and a cat, and is saving up to buy a van to travel and write in someday.
Of all the issues today’s writer faces, marketing is the trickiest and probably for most, reviled. No one likes it and yet it is essential. That beautiful work of inspiring prose will not reach an adoring public or put a cent in your coffers resting there in your Documents folder, read by your mother and a few Facebook or Twitter friends.
I don’t know the Secret. I am constantly searching and trying new options. I have had some limited successes but to tell you the truth… The differences and similarities in what writers are using these days included in this article, caught me by surprise. There are great ideas in here. I will be trying several of them in the future. We should get together and talk about this more often!
One of my responses showed his frustration when he said, “I’ve spent lots of time and money on marketing my debut books—and then realized that no amount of advertising can save them because they are not marketable. So, the lesson I have learned is that first, you need to research the market and then write a book that fits the market and meets the readers’ expectations.
Also, splurge on the cover, as it is the first thing a reader will see. You can have the world’s best story, but if the cover sucks and if the story doesn’t hit the right tropes, the book won’t sell. Ever.” P.C. Darkcliff,Author of the Deathless Chronicles.
Next, storyteller and songwriter, Mike Turner has this to say. “I’m convinced that “marketing” is the true “dark art” of the writing world! I rely heavily on social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter – I try to take advantage of every opportunity, in posts and comments, to mention my book and how to obtain it. I’ve also begun approaching local independent bookstores about carrying my book on a consignment basis – be aware that many bookstores are resistant, if not hostile, to books published/marketed on Amazon, whom they see as their direct competitor (I don’t understand that mindset – if they don’t carry my book, they don’t get to make any money from its sale, and they need to deal with the reality of Amazon in the marketplace). I also actively pursue opportunities to do video/print interviews, guest blogs (like The Writers’ Journey Blog), podcasts, library reading/signing events, and the like, always looking to reach new audiences as potential readers, fans, and purchasers.”
I found Celestial Echo Press (Gemini Wordsmiths) to have an interesting and informative opinion on getting out there with your work. I had not thought of conferences in the context of marketing. (Not now, but maybe post Covid I will definitely consider this option)
“Each day thousands of books hit the market. If you are one of the lucky authors to complete and publish, now you’re ready to sell. Your novel has to stand out from the crowd. You have to market to achieve that stardom. And successful marketing comes in many forms.”
We at Celestial Echo Press employ several strategies. Aside from social media and tapping reviewers, one marketing tool we use is making appearances at conventions such as Philcon, the longest-running sci-fi convention in the country.
In fact, that is where we hawked our latest publication, TIME Blinked, a time-travel baseball novel written by George W. Young. We held a book launch and signing because attendees at the con were the target audience for this genre of novel…. Ann Stolinsky & Ruth Littner Celestial Echo Press
Steve Carr ofSweetycat Presswho supports the #WritingCommunity on a consistent basis says, “Marketing is the least fun I have as the publisher of Sweetycat Press. I primarily publish anthologies, so marketing works best when both I and the authors work in tandem to promote an anthology. I encourage the authors to announce to their networks (friends, family, local writing groups, Facebook groups, and other social media sites they belong to) that the anthology is available for purchase, almost always on Amazon.com. Since any extra money earned above that which pays for the publication costs, advertising, and website fees, is used 100% on publishing the next anthology, the more anthologies that everyone sells, the better. It’s a team effort.
The problem with marketing anthologies is that there is no way to know who has purchased an anthology unless an individual tells you they have purchased it. I’m very careful not to spend more money on advertising (on Facebook or other sites) than I think I can earn back through sales. It’s all about watching the bottom line. Financially, I underwrite everything I publish, so watching the bottom line is really important. But, even so, a lot of my marketing strategy is based on gut feeling and a sense of what sells and what doesn’t. Some more experienced publishers have it down to a science. I’m still in the learning how to use a Bunsen burner phase.
For anthologies, and probably all books, the first key essential in marketing is choosing the right cover. I’ve been extremely lucky with having great covers designed by Priti J, David Harms, and one upcoming anthology cover by Norbert Somosi. I get almost immediate feedback about covers once they are revealed. No cover is going to please and delight everyone, but if a cover gets a lot of negative reaction, then I know I need to make changes to it, but as I said, I’ve been lucky with who designs my covers, so that hasn’t been a big problem.
The other thing about marketing is that it’s a lot like getting a short story published (something I do know a lot about). Just like an editor who reads submissions for stories and is looking for well-written content, if the contents of an anthology are good, then readers will be pleased, and word-of-mouth will generate more sales. For some reason, there is a general reluctance by people who buy books on Amazon to write reviews. Other than asking everyone to do that, which usually doesn’t solve the problem, you have to publish a book or books that get people talking. Hands down, having one individual influence another individual to buy the book is the best marketing tool out there.”
The more I read my fellow writer’s thoughts on marketing, the more I realized everyone seems to be walking the same high wire without a proverbial net and at multiple heights. Here are some of their thoughts!
Marketing Strategies by P.A. O’Neil. “I’m not exactly what you call “tech savvy,” so the majority of my marketing has been by word-of-mouth or Facebook posts. I have used their advertisement feature, it is very low costing, but other than getting my name out there, I don’t know how they relate to sales of my book. I have tried going the News Release method but that has never panned out. The most promising thing I have ever done is create Facebook Page just for my book, Witness Testimony, and Other Tales. On the page, I thank people who have sent me a photo of them with the book, as well as share background information about how the stories were inspired. There are almost 300 members who, in turn, will share those posts on their page. That, along with the over 15,000 followers of my P.A. O’Neil, Storyteller, has created a worldwide marketing campaign.”
Deborah Ratliff. “With my first mystery novel scheduled for release this spring, I am constantly searching for helpful marketing tips, and one thing stood out to me. As part of a large writing group, I noticed authors tend to market heavily to other authors. While those who write do read, we often forget to look for reading groups, book groups, especially those dedicated to our genre. The ‘writing experts’ tell us to write to the audience we want, but do we market to that same audience? Our best readers may not be in the marketing areas that we choose, and it is vital to the success of any novel to find a way to reach them.”
Christy Miller. “I reach out to my target audience. Groups on Facebook are a fabulous wealth of help and advice. If I’m going to write an Arabian horse book set in the middle east. I reach out to breeders in that area and get them involved, including their animals as characters, and even they can be an inspiration for my stories. The people I contact are going to buy the books, tell their friends and create a fan base and niche market. It is much more special to people if they are included in the process.”
Dawn Debraal. “Marketing is a tough nut to crack. I don’t have the first idea of what to do, so I will be interested in what the other authors say. I have friends give books away in exchange for a critique. I’ve been bombarded with ads on Facebook, which makes me think this is not the ideal marketing tool. Don’t tick the people off that you want to sell a book to. I purchase other authors’ books and read them, critique them, and then when my book comes out demand, they do the same! Luckily, I only have one co-authored book which comfortably lives in obscurity because I don’t know how to lift it up.”
This Is A Marketing Plan? by Jack Mulcahy. “My marketing efforts consist of establishing a presence, mostly by using Facebook. I have a fairly large number of friends, and I also belong to nearly twenty writers’ groups. As for group participation, I mostly post links to markets and share articles from various other writers’ blogs. I’ve created two blogs, but only one is still active. I don’t have any readers, have no idea how to attract readers, and don’t know what to blog about. Several other writers, more successful than I, have told me just to keep writing and submitting, and not to worry about a blog.”
Ann Christine Tabaka – poet & author. “My marketing strategies are pretty much that I do not have any. Oh, I tried purchasing ad space on various Literary Websites, and in Literary Publications, but … I never noticed any sales following those ads. I spent money and got nothing in return. Mostly I use my Social Media Sites to advertise my books. I enjoy making fun memes/ads and posting them on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Twitter. I cannot say how much success those ads have brought me, but I do sell a book or two most months. I am sure it is mostly my friends who are supporting me. I doubt that I ‘grab’ any new customers since I am not a well-known writer/poet.Where I live, there are no venues nearby where I could do readings, etc. Our small local libraries do not host readings or signings for local artists. I have had two book signings at our one small local bookstore. Again, only my friends who came purchased books (and very few of them did). I am uncomfortable reading my work, and mess up terribly when I try to.
I am always asking [on social media] for people that have my books to leave a review on Amazon, but it does not seem to do much good. I get very few reviews, and when I do, I still do not see any increase in sales. For me, it comes down to this … I am not well known, and do not have a lot of experience in hawking my books. I have come to look at my publishing as a hobby. I spend money and do not make money back. But if I played golf as a hobby, I would be paying greens fees and membership dues, replacing equipment, etc. So, in the end, it is what it is.”
Amrita Valan. “When my debut collection of poems Arrivederci was published in May 2021, I tried to promote the poems by raising overall awareness of them on social media. Any open mic that I participated in I read out poems from the collection. I also posted excerpts of a few poems I liked best on my wall, page, and groups. And when my book went online, I plugged it as much as I could in 20 odd groups and inboxed a few who were interested in further details. I keep channels of communication open and humbly request reviews from editors and publishers as this all goes into creating awareness. I realize I should also request reviews from friends who bought my book. And perhaps get them to share my book on their walls. I am daily learning how having good friends over social media groups helps, as they promote your book for you as well. This is something that I am eager to work towards. Other than that, accepting any opportunities to be interviewed so I can talk about my book or post the links also is another option to market my books.”
Jim Bates. “Unfortunately, I would give myself a D – when it comes to marketing. I read with interest what others are doing to promote their books, like a friend of mine, Paula Readman. She’s in touch with Amazon and frequently runs ‘specials’ on her eBooks. She does videos and puts them on Facebook. She stops in local bookstores (she lives in England) to offer them her books. She brings books to events she attends on the off chance she will talk to someone interested in purchasing a book. She promotes her books through her local paper and radio station. I envy her creativity.
My first book was published last year. The publisher Gill James promotes my book and all the other books she publishes through her newsletter and other postings. She’s very active in that regard and I truly appreciate her for doing that. For me, what I’ve done is pretty pathetic. I’ve listed my books on my blog. I’ve started to link to Facebook whenever a book of mine (five, now) gets a review. Just to get the word out. I’ll also continue to do something I started last year, which is to once a month promote one of my books on my Facebook page. Again, to get the word out.
In the future, I’d love to attend a book convention, but Covid stops me from feeling comfortable being in large public gatherings. I’d love to do a book reading/signing but have yet to find a venue here in the states to do that.
So, I will keep muddling along. One of these days, I plan to quit spending so much time writing and really delve into the market side of this endeavor. Until then, I’m afraid I’ll still be an incredibly poor participant in this essential part of our business.”
Justin Wiggins. “The way I go about marketing, whether it is promoting my books, my friend’s music, books, businesses, publishing companies, or podcasts, is through Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and by word-of-mouth when at work, out at coffee shops, bookshops, restaurants, pubs, writer retreats, or at a literary gathering with friends.
By doing this, I have found great joy in cultivating an artistic community globally, cultivating my craft as a writer, promoting what my friends do, expressing great gratitude and joy to my community, and to all the people who have taken the time to read something honest and hopeful I wrote for people of all worldviews.”
There you have it! I hope you got some good ideas and enjoyed the post. If nothing else it lets us all know that we are not alone in our pursuits. Thanks for reading.
The original article can be found on the Writers Journey Blog.
Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery? You know the kind, where we see the clues lead us to the culprit through the eyes of the detective or the hero of the story. In just about every tale of murder, the sequence of events is, the body is discovered, the detective is called, and we watch through the detective’s (protagonist’s) eyes as he or she follows the clues to catch the murderer.
If we are crime writers, we all attempt to put our own personal spin on this sequence of events. Some of us are more successful than others but that doesn’t mean that our readers don’t have fun along the way.
But I want to talk about a different approach. Being a crime buff all my life I have read about and watched many murder mysteries on tv and in the movies and enjoyed the investigative prowess of many detectives. The authors of those tales pull me in and keep my eyes riveted to the page or screen right up till the end. But one of my favorite characters of all time is the guy in the picture, Lieutenant Detective Columbo of the LA Police.
What is unique about this series is that in the beginning of each episode we actually view the murder being committed. We know right from the start who the murderer is and how he or she committed the crime. In this series, we do not follow the clues through the detective’s eyes. We follow them through the eyes of the murderer as he or she observes Columbo following clues in order to solve the crime. We are never told Columbo’s first name although in current times an astute viewer screenshotted a scene where he flashed his badge revealing that his first name is Frank. But remember, those techniques were not available when his character was created, so we go through every story knowing only his last name and he is so endearing that we don’t even mind.
Columbo is an everyday Joe, someone often not recognized as a Lieutenant because of his rumpled raincoat and old, falling apart Peugeot. He constantly smokes cheap cigars and clumsily knocks over items often causing the suspects minor annoyances all the while praising and buttering up the killer. Yes, it’s a set-up. As he hones in on the perpetrator, his pestiness increases, always employing his signature “just one more thing” as he turns around from heading out the door, invoking the suspect’s impatience and anger until the climax where he confronts the murderer, usually with some small detail they overlooked and reveals how he or she committed the crime. He never carries a gun and takes a lot of chances but somehow he is never hurt.
Yes, a lot in this series is outdated since it was written many years ago and many of Columbo’s techniques would never hold up in a court of law today however, his charisma, likeability, pestiness, and relentless determination to bring the murderer to justice is something we just cannot look away from even today and even though the sequence of events follows the same basic pattern in every screenplay.
All in all, knowing who the murder is from the beginning and seeing the crime solved through the criminal’s eyes is quite a unique approach to writing and it’s absolutely brilliant. The point of all this as it pertains to writing? Don’t be afraid to be different. You don’t need to follow accepted patterns in your genre. Think outside the box. Build your character’s personality and showcase his or her skills. This should be applied to stories in all genres, not simply murder mysteries. That way your story will stand out in a sea of many others swimming around in the same pond.
About the Author
Cheryl Ann Guido is a retired mother, grandmother, and animal lover. To date, she has published two books, The End in the Rainbow and The Golden Huntress Murder Unscripted. An article she wrote about a cat she rescued was also published in CATS Magazine. Several of her poems appeared in anthologies published by the National Library of Poetry. She has written several children’s short stories along with numerous serialized fanfiction stories as well as standalone and rhyming narrative poems that are posted on various websites. She also served as the writer/producer/director of an in-house movie for one of her previous employers. Cheryl’s love for the written word began at a very young age and she continues to be an individual who is not afraid to let her imagination fly free.
Urban myth has it that Ernest Hemmingway wrote a complete story in six words for a bet: “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” Maybe he did, maybe not, but certainly, those six words tell a powerful and tragic story, albeit with no structure.
Drabbles allow you, not just six words, but a full 100 words to write a powerful and captivating start, an engaging middle, and a big pay-off at the end. Writing a drabble is a great way to hone your skills as an author. It helps you to choose words that convey meaning with economy, accuracy, and authenticity. It also helps practice the art of creating a story, characters, dialogue, and dramatic action out of nothing. Not least, it helps you with that all-important, uncompromising, ruthless edit.
If you need any help getting started, here are some suggestions.
We all find it hard, sometimes, to come up with a story idea. So why not start with some research? A quick Google search will bring up alternative definitions of the word and other references can produce great story ideas. Another source of ideas for me is music. For the prompt word “storm” I thought of a line from a Leonard Cohen song that talks about a woman’s hair on Cohen’s pillow-like “a sleepy golden storm.”
For the drabble “Coffee” I wanted to write about Arab merchants. I spent a few minutes looking at Google and Wikipedia for more detail about the historical origins of coffee drinking, which also helped me choose names. One of them, Sheikh Omar, had been exiled from Mocha and lived in a cave for a while, which led me to the location and dramatic encounter of the story.
Having thought up some ideas for your drabble, how to start? Try writing a brief story just as it comes to mind without worrying about the word count. You might end up with 200 or 400 words, but don’t worry. The job of cutting it down to 100 is easier than you might think.
If you are having trouble getting started, I would suggest forgetting the narrative for a minute and think about what you want to say. To me, a drabble is all about the punchline. Why not try writing the end first and see what you come up with?
I wanted my “Coffee” drabble to end with the guest spitting out the hot drink he’d been given to try, because I can’t imagine anyone enjoying their first taste of coffee. That was the whole point of the story, but it had to be written in a way that had impact. I chose a closing scene in which the MC “sniffed the strange, dark liquid…” which he then “spat into the fire, which hissed in protest.”
When I wrote “Coffee” I was intending to make the ending a surprise, but my preferred ending is the unexpected twist, which is where the ending is the opposite of what the story leads you to expect. Other types of ending are: the happy ending, sad, ironic, funny ending, or whatever you like. So long as it has impact, which usually means the reader doesn’t guess the ending. There has to be an element of mystery. It can also help with impact if you tie the ending closely to the beginning, with a set-up and pay off.
Beginning: “David loved ribbons…” Ending: “Today, he wrapped a blue and gold satin ribbon around his and his bride’s wrist, as he said ‘I do.’”
The opening three words begs questions like: what did David love about ribbons? When I was a boy, interest from a boy in colored ribbons could lead to him being bullied. Was he? How did he respond? These questions create hooks for the reader. Your narrative will reel them in. Your ending will be their reward.
The process of joining the beginning to the end is, of course, to write the middle. You may find the job of keeping the middle brief and to the point is much easier if you already have the boundaries created by the start and the finish. All you need to do then, is take two or three steps from one to the other. Those steps must reveal stages in the story and develop the dramatic action. Tell your story with dialogue if you can. Stories are so much more engaging when told by their characters. Don’t worry about the word count too much at this stage. Cutting the story back to 100 words is surely half the fun.
Start your edit by cutting out anything that does not add to the story. Rewrite some of the lengthy descriptions and dialogue into shorter, sharper prose. Most descriptions will have more impact if you select fewer, choicer words to convey meaning. Try substituting different words and see which ones work the best. If you can’t think of great substitutes, go to any dictionary or thesaurus, online or in print.
For instance, you might have written the following scene for my story “Coffee” like this: “Just then, a man called Sheikh Omar appeared from the cave he had been hiding in since he was exiled from his home-town of Mocha. Omar was a bit of a shady character.” From this, cut the reference to Mocha, as it adds nothing to the story. “The outcast Skeikh Omar,” tells you his name and suggests the questionable reputation in just four words. “Concealed in a cave,” tells you where he was and what he was doing. Your scene “the outcast Sheikh Omar, concealed in a cave,” has been trimmed down from 34 words to just eight.
That’s really all there is to it. Writing a drabble is a great way to have fun and practice tools and techniques for writing anything from a short story, or flash fiction, to a full-length novel.
Why not check out this week’s prompt word and give it a go?