Monday, February 12, 2018

4 Ways to Maximize Book Sales - A Guest Post

If you've been overwhelmed at the thought of writing, selling, and marketing your book, you will be encouraged to hear from straight-talking, goods-delivering, USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Shirk who has ten books to her name and is on the blog today to tell us her top 4 ways to maximize book sales. Check out her fun author instagram account if you enjoy a chuckle with your morning coffee. 

Hi, all! Jennifer here.
I've written and published about ten books now and believe me, I'm still looking for the magic formula on marketing a book. I constantly hear I should be on Pinterest or I should be using my newsletter content more, and I even should be blogging more. But of course, you can't be everywhere all the time or you'd never get any writing done. Plus, I see plenty of successful authors who are not pros on every aspect of social media. (Thank goodness)
So where is an author to start with marketing his/her book? Well, as much as social media and marketing changes, there are still some key ideas for maximizing book sales that DO seem to stay consistent. (At least for now!)

1.     Reach out to authors who write in your genre
One thing I really believe is that authors are not in competition with each other. The real enemy is TV, Netflix, and movies. And unless you are an author who writes 365 books a year, a reader HAS to read something else while waiting for your next book. So why not collaborate with authors who write in similar genres? Send them an email and ask if they want to do a Facebook party together, or run a contest together, or just recommend each other's books in your newsletters. Chances are you'll both walk away with increased fans.

2.   Reach out to bloggers who read your genre
Word of mouth is THE most popular tool in any kind of sales. So ask bloggers who enjoy your genre to host you for an interview or to review your book. The worst that can happen is they say no thank you.

3.    Don't underestimate value of  Facebook and Instagram advertising
Once your book is released, it's a good idea to keep in the public's eye for a few weeks after as well. Remember the Rule of 7. A buyer usually has to see an item or message at least 7 times before they decide to make a purchase. And even if advertising doesn't translate to direct sales then, if/when your book goes on sale in the future, readers will remember your book from the buzz you created and grab it then.

4.    Reach out to your newsletter subscribers
Don't be shy. Your subscribers obviously like you and want to hear from you. Ask them to sign up to review ARCs for you or to help promote your new release via social media outlets. You'd be surprised how much your readers really do want to help you.

I hope these tips help for your next book release or your next book sale.
Thanks for having me today.
Until then, happy writing!

ABOUT JENNIFER SHIRK:  Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. Don't forget to check out her latest sweet romance, Bargaining with the Boss at an etailer near you.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Long Hand: In Praise of Inefficient Process - A Guest Post

Today's post will resonate with you if you've ever wondered if you were doing it "right" & pursuing your writing in the most efficient way possible. Author Crystal Cestari, whose second book (The Sweetest Kind of Fate coming to you from Hyperion this March) is very forthcoming about her inefficient and successful process and if you visit her colourful instagram account, her love of ice cream, unicorns and all things nerdish as well.

In her words...

I am the World’s Most Inefficient Writer.

It’s not a title I consciously pursued, or that I’m particularly psyched to have, but over time, I’ve accepted my fate, knowing that while the way I write may not work for everyone, it’s the only way for me.

I write everything longhand. Everything. Whether it’s a blog post of a first draft of a novel, I always put pen to paper before committing to type. For some reason, opening an empty word doc makes my mind go blank, and the constant pressure of watching my word count grow (or worse—not) in the corner of the screen makes me absolutely crazy, and trust me, I’m already crazy enough without that extra element.

A blank notebook is different, though. The open lines call to me, giving me a place to scribble and play. None of my misspelled words jump out with jarring red underline; nothing documents the progress I’ve made. Paper has proven to be much gentler than the screen, and the physical act of forming letters is calmer than the clicks and clacks of the keyboard. When I’m stuck, I can draw in the margins or make little notes to myself, planning ahead for future chapters.

Does this take forever? Yes. Is it effective? YES.

My handwritten drafts adhere to one rule: don’t stop. I don’t let myself get caught up on word choice or finding the perfect turn of phrase. If I’m using the same adjective too many times (which I often do), I go with it, underlining all the examples of the duplicate word so I can find better synonyms later. If I don’t know exactly how to describe a character or setting, I move on, making a note to fix it later so I can keep moving forward. More often than not, I’ll find the instructions “MORE HERE” sprinkled throughout my draft, and it works out, because when I get around to typing up my work, I’ve had more time to visualize what I was stumped by, allowing me to flesh out my trouble spots. Also, my word count usually doubles as I’m typing up what is now draft two because now the entire story is clear; I’ve found my way to the end, and I now understand the beats that need to happen along the way.

Terry Pratchett once wrote that “the first draft is just you telling yourself the story” and that resonates with me. First drafts aren’t perfect; they’re messy, just like my handwriting. The important thing is to keep going, and writing longhand helps me do that. Yes, it makes my hand cramp, and sometimes I don’t understand the notes I’ve left myself, but this technique gives me momentum, and that’s what counts.

However you can take pressure yourself is worth it, even if you acquire a ridiculous title along the way. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Imposter Syndrome: A Guest Post

Much of the emotional work of writing is pushing through the feelings of not being the real thing or not being good enough. You may think that when you land a publishing contract, that Imposter Syndrome would not affect you anymore. YA Author Beth Ellyn Summer (whose cheery IG account I recommend following to get your dose of pastel, pretty, and words) shares how Imposter Syndrome can strike anytime. I loved reading this guest post and can't wait to share it with you:

Imposter Syndrome: A Guest Post by YA Author Beth Ellyn Summer

When I was little, I couldn't wait to be a “real author.” This past April I published my first novel with Bloomsbury.
Last week, I found myself telling a friend, "I can't wait to be a real author."

No. That's not a typo. I said these words just.last.week. Seven months after my YA novel debuted.

I've met a lot of writers and we all seem to have the same problem: we wait our whole lives to do this writing thing, and then we either shy away from telling people we're writers or awkwardly dance around the title. You know how it is. You go to a party and someone asks you what you do. You duck your head and shrug apologetically while saying " books?" Imagine if doctors introduced themselves by saying, “ people?”

It’s called Imposter Syndrome. This idea that we’re just faking it till we make it to the point where we’re waiting for the world to catch up to the fact that...well...we’re all a bunch of fakes.

The problem with creative endeavors is that there's no degree or graduation ceremony telling us "you're a real writer now." It’s so much simpler to point to a diploma on your wall to back up your profession.  All we have to go on is publishing milestones which are a) far and few between, and b) based on more than studying for exams; luck and trends play such a huge role in what we do.

At one point I was convinced getting agented would crush any doubt that I'm legit. Well, that happened, and it was amazing, but I still couldn't admit I was an author. The next step was obviously to land a book deal. That happened too. And I really believed this was it. I’m now a Real Author. But nope! All I felt was terror. Because now I didn't just have to prove myself to my agent, but to an editor, then The World. 

My next train of thought was along the lines of “once the book is out, and someone tweets me telling me they loved it, then it's real.”

Not even close. Because when I got my first good reviews, and tweets saying how much the reader loved it, my brain said: "OMG. I'll never write another book! And if this reader knew just how much I struggled they'd laugh at me. They'd know that I don't know what I'm doing, that this book was a fluke."

So, why is it so hard for us to accept that what we do matters? I think we need to stop looking at success as one definable achievement, but rather the sum of all the small moments. The journey from opening a fresh document to typing The End is wonderfully torturous, and stringing dangling threads of ideas together until there’s an imaginary world to show for it is about as real as it gets. 

Twitter: @BethEllynSummer
Instagram: @BethEllynSummer

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

How to Adapt Your Novel Into a Screenplay

I am thrilled to introduce you to Sam Wilson of Any Possibility. She is a screenwriter in LA who specializes in helping writers with career strategy. I first came across Sam's work on her fun instagram account that had great insights into the life of a working writer, especially one who collaborates with others so well. If you dream of writing with other writers in cool cafes in LA, you will want to take a break from your workday and head over to her account to see how she does it.
I have talked to more than one writer who wonders how to best tackle writing a screenplay or adapt their novel into a screenplay. Her website is must visit for resources and she is also sharing strategy with us today.

Without further ado...

How to Adapt Your Novel into a Screenplay
Guest Post by Any Possibility

Have you ever written a book and thought, this would make a great movie? Don’t stop there! Consider turning your novel into a television pilot or a web series as well. Now is the time to learn how to adapt your novel into a script. The entertainment industry thrives off of intellectual property adaptations, so where exactly should you start?

Turning your novel into a script means that you are about to become a translator. Condensing your novel into screenplay format takes time, patience, and creativity. You have a set number of pages to convey your story in the most visual way possible. 

Structure and Length
Scripts follow a strict format. Think in these terms: one page equals one minute of screen time. That’s why movie scripts are between 90-120 pages, comedy pilots are around 30 pages, and drama pilots are around 60 pages.

Pacing is of the essence. Typically, each scene in a script is about two to four pages. The scenes should build up one by one to covey the arc of your story and main character(s).

When adapting your novel into a script, choose the key plot points (aka the pivotal moments in your story that move the plot forward externally and/or emotionally). Use specific scenes as the anchors of your story.

A popular outlining method for scripts is the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet, which says a movie can be broken down into forty scenes. This is just one of many approaches, but it certainly is something to check out.

There are always exceptions, but learn the rules in order to break them!

Scene description
Keep your scene description visual, clear, and concise. Cut any wordage that you would not be able to see on screen. Where a novel might thrive off of paragraphs of description, thick passages in a script are a red flag for a reader. Break large chunks into two or three sentence descriptions.

Where a novel gives you room to dive inside your character’s head and touch upon all five senses, a screenplay has less room to go in depth in that way. A script is not in its final form; it is meant to be filmed. What is written on the page has to be able to be seen by an audience or it does not matter in the context of the screenwriting medium.

Present and Active
Scene description in a script is written in third person present tense. Keep your verbs active and engaging. Find a visual way to portray internal problems or quirks. “Show don’t tell” is of the essence in a script.

In a book, you might say something like “the diner was as empty as her stomach. Emily couldn’t remember her last meal, which was typical - anxiety made her forget to eat. She sat at the counter and rang the service bell.” In a script, you could say, “An empty diner. Emily rushes to the counter. Her stomach grumbles audibly. She taps the service bell three times.”

Kill Your Darlings
Do away with the non-essentials. Kill off or condense supporting characters, take out unnecessary subplots, and cut down lengthy scene description. You might think something you’ve written – a scene or a character – is incredibly witty or poignant, but remember in a screenplay, the page count limits you. If it doesn’t service your plot or if it is redundant, cut it.

Everything you love in your book will not make it into the script. Close your eyes, cover up your heartache, and press on. You’ve got this!

Check out Any Possibility for more tips and tricks on how to foray into screenwriting and join the free 7-day email series THE WRITE TRACK to jumpstart your screenwriting career.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Creating Your Online Course Content: The Key To Your Personal Instructor Brand

As many writers and other artists move into the realm of teaching others what they know and are learning, online courses are popping up everywhere. This is a great thing. Whether you are sharing your knowledge with your peers in an informal Facebook group or are launching a course to subsidize your art; your personal brand should be considered as you create the course content. It will improve the experience for both you and your students. Here is what I mean:

The title of this blog post may strike you as odd. Should one really have to think of something as superficial as personal branding when creating course content resources such as videos? The short answer is "yes". Think about the scenarios in which personal branding already makes sense: the job interview, introducing yourself to a face to face class, and selling a class from your own website. In each of these cases, you are aiming to both inspire confidence in your abilities as well as engage your hiring committee, clients, and students to want to work with you again and again. Here is where creating your online course content can do double-duty and go to bat for you as the key to your personal instructor brand. There are a few items to keep in mind to keep your content as consistent, efficient, and engaging as possible:

1. Inject your Personality into It - Your voice, your sense of humour, your insights, and your photography hobby can all be engaged to bring together videos and resources that come from the same angle, let the students know what to expect each time, and create a cohesive experience as they move along your course.
2. Keep a Professional Tone - While I mention using humour in point one; of course, always keep it in the realm of workplace/professional humour even if the course is online. You don't want your professionalism to come into question and detract from your student's confidence in you.
3. Limit Distractions - Also important to remember in the professional approach is a clean uncluttered background in videos, polished presentation of content, and staying with one topic at a time. It will inspire confidence as well as promote a better learning experience.
4. Wrap up by Reminding your Audience Who You are - The conclusion is the perfect time to restate the main points, offer additional resources, and remind students of your availability. Knowing that you are there for them makes them more likely to engage in their learning and feel less overwhelmed by what is expected of them. This makes for the likelihood they will look for you as an instructor in the future because they enjoyed their time with you and already know what to expect from one of your classes.

Blog post image is from my own instagram account. The original image can be found here.
A version of this post originally appeared on my blog Tales from the Classroom

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A recipe for Writing Confidence: 6 Ways to Get There

You know that the best way to improve as a writer is to keep writing. But you also know that on days that you are discouraged, tired, intimidated, or just second-guessing how long it's taking you to break through; that something is standing in between you and your writing confidence. For those days, here is a recipe for writing confidence with 6 easy ways to get there:

1. Give yourself deadlines.

I didn't have to practice putting words out into the world before I felt like they were ready until I worked for a newspaper ten years ago.Writing articles week in and week out, I realized that no matter how my week was going and how I felt about that week's writing; I was consistently writing articles I enjoyed reading a few days later when I saw them in the paper. You can do the same for your blog readers or your beta readers. Set up a regular deadline, hit it, and read the results several days later. It will take practice to see yourself as the great writer you are.

2. Post a favourable reaction to your work where you can regularly see it.

Whether it's printing off an email from someone who was impacted positively by your work or a review from a reader who loved your book on your fridge or office bulletin board; seeing affirming words regularly helps you dispell the negative voices that can emerge in your head. That red pen wielding inner editor is good for double checking, but not so good for fighting procrastination. Building outside affirmations is a good recipe for inspiring you to take regular action and write, 

3. Connect with others who are writing and publishing.

Find others who are where you are and where you want to be. Read what they share about their journey and apply the tips they post. Much of what looks like their individual success is application of collected input from others. No one learns in a vaccum. As you are taking action and seeing improvements to your writing, marketing, or connections; share what you've learned. Seeing what you have to offer helping others is a great confidence booster.

4. Take criticism with a grain of salt.

Notice I say not to ignore criticism. Often we can learn from things others have noticed. The importance is to be discerning. Someone may have a valid point, but a rude or passive-agressive delivery. Separate what is good (noticing what you can use to make your work better) from what you can leave (lack of appreciation for your genre, projected feelings of insecurity, etc.) Good criticism will have information you can apply to make improvements. Bad criticism is simply discouraging and says more about the giver than it does about your writing.

5. Invest positively.

You can invest positively to grow your writing identity. Giving reviews for your favorite books on and promoting articles that were of help to you adds value to others' lives. You know how much you appreciate knowing that a book is a good buy before you invest your hard earned money on it and love to read an article that helps you out without having to go search for it. Make others' lives better in the same way. It will grow your reputation as someone in the know and will help you to see yourself the same way.

6. Be thankful for what is part of you.

Writing is something you are driven to do. Ideas come to you begging to be executed in a way that not everyone experiences. Taking the time to be thankful for that and the joy it brings to your life is a good way to connect with writer you. The process is more than the outcome. Instead of striving for a certain outcome, focus on taking action steps that support the direction you want to be moving in. Progress and growth are not a straight line. Celebrate the whole journey there.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Authentic Engagement: Connecting with Your Instagram Community and Doubling Your Followers

You know the importance of connecting with your community in order to keep yourself engaged and inspired, grow your platform, and connect organically with opportunities that networking provides. But if you've ever wanted more connections, but don't feel like you have time to search for great accounts to follow and recruit your own followers as well; you will be thrilled to know there is an approach that is authentic, enjoyable, and time efficient. (And I'm not talking about robots or follow/unfollow or any of those scammy ways to increase your following--we don't want mere numbers, we want engaged community because that's what will translate into real results.)

Here are the basics to get you going:

1. Optimize your profile to help your followers find you.

On your profile, make sure your picture is your own photo and if it is not, make sure it is in line with what your account is about (ie. a pen for writing, makeup brushes for makeup, food for cooking, etc)
When people spot you on another account, you want them to gravitate to your profile instead of waiting for the opportunity to be a featured instagram account. Adding a tagline to your profile that indicates the theme is the second step. You will see this strong move in action once you start looking for your own great accounts to follow.

2. Analyze and adjust your content to keep it consistent.

Look at your landing page to see how your images work together. Are they coherent or are you all over the place thematically? It is ok to have more than one interest. Just add them all into the tagline and try to combine them into images when you can. Then use hashtags to attract your target audience. For example, if you are a mother who writes and is interested in feeding your kids healthy food, you could present all of those interests with a kiddie food plate, notebook and pen. Check out the accounts that inspire you to get ideas. If your interests don't align well, it is also ok to separate them into separate accounts or focus on one on Instagram.

3. Find great accounts to follow.

Once you have a couple of rows of posts that look coherent on your landing page (which only takes a week or so of daily posting), start looking on the following lists of those accounts that are similar to yours or are what you aspire to be with yours. Use the profile images and taglines to determine if their accounts are aligned with yours (for instance, I look for words like writing, reading, author, editing). Then, follow those accounts. Once those accounts start following you, visit their pages to comment and like the images that speak to you.

4. Engage with those you're following.

All you have to do to maintain the connection is like the images you like and comment on them as you go through your feed a couple of times a day. Community will grow as you see your shared interests, experiences, and sometimes even locations. There is nothing to be gained by being a stalker. Participate and engage. Don't like things you don't like just to be a people pleaser. On each account, (unless it is one that truly offends you and then it's just best to unfollow it), there is going to be something you can agree on, like, or find visually appealing. Connect there.

5. Have pictures ready so you can post every day.

As you go about your day, you will spot photo opportunities. Take pictures from several angles so you have something to choose from. If you haven't posted by evening, make sure to do so and connect with new accounts before bed. Worldwide time changes will mean you are gaining extra followers, likes, and comments as you are sleeping. Acknowledge them in the morning. That's it! A simple approach that gains you interesting contacts, engaged followers, and a wider community without leaving your usual routine. Let me know how it helps you.

If you have any questions or additional ideas, feel free to comment on this post or email .