To Market, To Market

To Market, To Market

Ruth E. Walker

I recently attended a celebration of local authors in Ontario’s cottage country. Aptly named Kaleidoscope, the book sales event offered a wide range of styles and published works for readers. Intriguing mysteries, fantasies for all ages, beautiful photography collections, wildlife explorations, compelling memoirs and biographies, and children’s picture books filled huge dining tables on two floors of the rustic Wintergreen Maple Syrup and Pancake Barn in Gelert, near Minden.

For readers, Kaleidoscope was a great opportunity to sample works by some of the many writers who call the Haliburton Highlands home. But for writers, it was an even better chance to learn from one another: what kinds of books were being inspired by the rugged natural beauty of the landscape and who are the people behind the titles? And even more important to me, how are those writers sharing their words with each other and their readers?

Even Margaret Atwood has to promote her books

I saw a range of approaches to direct sales of books and each has benefits and pitfalls. Of course, it’s always a personal choice on how one sets up their sales table. And that choice has to suit the writer. Some writers are painfully shy. I can say this because I am exactly that kind of writer. But I’ve put on my “act outgoing” pants so often now that people think I’m an extrovert. Don’t tell anyone — let’s keep it our little secret.

I toughened up my sales approach after a few years of setting up booths at Word on the Street and Eden Mills Writers Festival. I was there with LICHEN, a jewel of a literary journal I’d helped found and edit. Eventually, I learned to accept people walking past our table, avoiding all eye contact. I no longer took it personally when, after talking up a potential buyer, I watched them put the journal back and walk away. And I quietly celebrated those who bought their own copy.

I watched the writers at Kaleidoscope and recognized the many ways we promote our books:

The Quiet Table

This is the simple “here are my books on display” approach. Just the books. Stacked in an attractive display: cover out, at least one in a stand. The writer stands behind/next to the display, ready to chat with anyone with questions. This is a time-honoured marketing approach. Head to any bookstore and you’ll see lots of those display tables. Readers are attracted to quiet displays.

What you need to remember:

  • show the price; if there are specials let visitors know (2 for $xx or BOGO 50% off) Yes, it feels weird but it is part of marketing; most people dislike having to “guess the price”
  • business cards/postcards show readers you’d like to engage, even through an email or note
  • smile and say hello; it can feel unnatural (and really awkward if they ignore you) but you get used to it
  • NOTE: A recent article in Write magazine recommended displaying a question to give visitors a topic to engage with you on: “Ask me about…” — especially effective if your book(s) tackle tough or intriguing subjects that you spent time researching
The Audio-Visual Augmented Table

Video is a remarkable tool for marketing. Just like an illustration in a book, a video attracts passers-by through sound and/or images. It’s easily set up on a laptop or tablet that’s tucked in among the books.

At Kaleidoscope, a writer displayed a video of First Nation drumming scenes to share at his table. He did the following and these were exactly what we fellow writers appreciated:

  • consider your neighbours by watching the volume (but even the fairly low sound attracted visitors from the first floor to climb the stairs and see what was going on the second floor)
  • avoid constant looping to allow your visitors (and those at other tables) time and space in which to chat
  • NOTE: check in advance or arrive early to ensure your electronics are close to a power plug AND watch the cord for any tripping hazard (including for you)
The Multiple Offerings Table

Some readers are attracted to busy tables. And many readers are also writers (and that should not surprise you, writer!) so I make it a point to have material on hand for writers. Sometimes a jar of writing tips to reach in and pick from. Sometimes writing prompts. And, of course, I always have the latest on upcoming Writescape retreats.

  • offer treats or takeaways; even a jar of wrapped candy or bookmark can attract people to your table
  • define your space with a backdrop/tablecloth or banner (especially effective if you can tie it into the book)
  • get creative — for a children’s story about a picnic, use a picnic blanket and display copies of the book in a picnic basket along with picnicky items. If it’s a mystery novel, include a Sherlock Holmes cap and magnifying glass, etc.
  • NOTE: A plastic display stand can hold excerpts of reviews on your books or promote your next reading or event

No matter what kind of salesperson you are, writer, you know that in today’s noisy and crowded marketplace, we need to be prepared to sell our words and find our readership. No matter what, be ready to answer this question: What is your book about? A short one- or two-sentence answer should be on the tip of your tongue.

Like the writing process, marketing your book is a journey. But thankfully, with cooperative sales events like the first-ever Kaleidoscope in the Haliburton Highlands, it’s not a journey we need to take on our own.

DID YOU KNOW
Heather. signing BETTING GAME

Book sales events are just one piece of the marketing pie. Remember that websites and social media can also be a useful tool to introduce readers to your work. Here’s a look at Heather O’Connor’s Top Drawer post on the marketing work she did IN ADVANCE of the launch of her best-selling YA novel, Betting Game.

Invaluable and oh-so-practical advice from a successful author. And, as noted, it’s a journey.

Get that Grant: Write Winning Applications

Get that Grant: Write Winning Applications

 

Wish you could get a writing grant? Stop wishing and start winning with this workshop. Learn how to craft a compelling application that will sell you and your writing project to granting organizations. Dozens of grants are open to writers: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays…

Get That Grant is a full-day prep session with hands-on writing activities and how-to tips, so you will:

  • define and clearly state your goals
  • write a project description
  • prepare your writer’s bio or literary CV
  • present your writing history
  • all of which will be invaluable for far more than grant applications

Participants are encouraged to select and bring an actual grant application to work on.

Don’t have a grant in mind? We’ll help you find a grant for now or in the future.

Participants leave this workshop with loads of information, resources and inspiration.

“Thanks, Heather. I had no idea I could apply for research grants.”

“This workshop helped me look at my manuscript in a completely different way. Amazing.”

When: Saturday, October 28, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location:  NewMakeIt Training Room, 1310 Kerrisdale Blvd. Suite 200, Newmarket, ON

Your presenters:

Heather M. O’Connor is a freelance writer and author. She has won five recent grants totalling more than $20,000, including a prestigious Ontario Arts Council Works in Progress grant and a Marion Hebb Research Grant from Access Copyright.

Ruth Walker

Author and creative writing instructor, Ruth E. Walker taught government employees how to write persuasive bios and CVs, and has won bursaries and creative writing scholarships, and Ontario Arts Council writers’ grants.

Together, Heather and Ruth deliver practical workshops jam-packed with useful information and resources.

 

Register online:

$90.00 +HST
$80.00 +HST Writing organization members discount

Questions? info@writescape.ca

Read the fine print

Read the fine print

Heather M. O’Connor.
I recently stumbled across a contest for writers and artists, run by a well-known government-funded organization. The topic was intriguing. So were the $500 prize and the no-fee entry. Until I read the rules.

By entering this Contest and submitting an entry, you grant to Sponsors the right use to any material related to your entry for use in any and all manner, format, or media whether now known or hereafter devised (which use may include without limitation, editing, reformatting, modifying, publishing, posting, distributing, displaying, and transmitting for print, audio, visual, digital, or broadcast media and the like), for any purpose, including without limitation, the Contest and advertising Sponsors  or Sponsors’ products, services and organization.” 

Hold the phone.

If I entered, I’d surrender ALL RIGHTS to my work. In perpetuity. Contest organizers and even their sponsors could publish my story even if I didn’t win. They could reformat it, modify it, post it or publish it anywhere and as often as they wished.

And remember. This rule doesn’t just apply to the winners. It applies to EVERYONE who enters.

This is the second such contest I’ve seen recently. The other was the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) nature photography contest. Again, ALL entrants (not just winners) must agree to grant:

“…to the ROM a royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, transferrable, non-exclusive license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, create derivative works from, and display his/her wildlife photo (the “Work”), in whole or in part, on a worldwide basis, and to incorporate it into other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed, including for promotional or marketing purposes; in connection with the Contest.

The Canadian literary magazine Geist, on the other hand, makes a more modest and reasonable rights request:

“Winning entries: Geist takes first serial rights for print and non-exclusive electronic rights to post the text and image at geist.com. All other rights remain with the author. 

All publication rights for non-winning entries are retained by the entrants.”

That’s more like it. So what am I giving up?

  • First serial rights. That’s one-time publication in their magazine, then the rights are mine again. That’s fair.
  • Non-exclusive electronic rights. They can publish it online forever, but it’s still mine.

And there’s none of this “waiving of all rights in perpetuity” nonsense.

Don’t go in blind

Always read the rules when you enter a contest. Then ask yourself the following questions:

What rights am I giving away?

Publication rights can be for a country or a language, (e.g., Canadian, European, world, French language.) They can cover a variety of formats: print and online, audio and visual, or “all manner, format, or media whether now known or hereafter devised.”

Will I ever need the rights again?

I might if I want to publish that story in an anthology, or include it in a novel.

Moral of the story?

When you enter a contest, verify the rights you’re signing away. Even trustworthy organizations can include unfair conditions.

Did you know…

There are plenty of places, in print and online, to find contest listings. Here are a few you might like:

Got a good tip on good contests to enter or your favourite places to find them? Let us know in the comments below.

Learn from two contest insiders when you spend a day with writing contest judges, winners and organizers, Ruth E. Walker and Dorothea Helms. Watch for their always popular Write to Win workshop later this spring.

Expert advice

Expert advice

Heather M. O’Connor

When Richard Scrimger came to Turning Leaves a couple of years ago, he told us, “Writers are liars and thieves.”

He meant, of course, that the best stories are partly made up, and partly built on stolen bits of real life. Readers want to believe your lies. You can tell the most outrageous whoppers, from a theme park with cloned dinosaurs to a school for wizards. As long as the stolen bits ring true.

Steal what you know, research what you don’t

Take my novel Betting Game, for instance. It’s the story of an elite soccer player who gets mixed up with illegal gambling.

I could lie and steal with panache about soccer. I play. My kids play. I watch the sport on TV. But illegal gambling? That was a central part of my novel’s plot and characters, and I didn’t know a thing about it. Nada. Zip. How could I make my story believable?

Who ya gonna call?

I needed a subject matter expert. Someone in the biz. But not the gambling biz. A “reliable narrator” if you know what I mean. Someone in law enforcement. It took time to track down an expert, but what he told me was invaluable.

Looking for an expert of your own? Here are the steps to follow.

Go surfing

Begin your search online. I started by studying news stories. Who was quoted on the topic? Who went to court?

Your expert may speak at industry events and conferences. Check continuing education classes and LinkedIn, too.

network of peopleTap your network

Have you asked your friends and family if they know an expert? I was stunned to learn that one of my teammates was once a CSI investigator in New York City. (She now teaches forensic science and invited me to a crime scene class. Coolest writer field trip ever!)

Don’t forget your local librarians—they’re walking encyclopedias.

Do a little diggingman-1483479_1920

Once you locate subject matter experts, don’t waste their time. Pick your own brains before you pick theirs.

Prepare a list of open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Try to think up a couple of questions they may never have answered.

Email your questions and a short synopsis of your story a day or two before the interview. This gives the person time to mull over answers and think of interesting anecdotes.

Don’t be shy

Relax. Chatting with a subject matter expert is easier than it looks.

People like talking about their jobs. Though they find their work fascinating, their friends and family may not. You provide a rare treat—an enthusiastic audience.

office-336368_1920Take note!

I prefer to interview in person or by phone. People have more to say when they don’t need to write it all down. You also have a chance to ask follow-up questions when you’re talking live. Email interviews are very limiting. They’re best for confirming facts.

I usually record my interviews, as long as there’s no objection. Most smartphones have an app for that. I also take detailed notes.

Say thank you

Remember to thank your expert for taking the time to share their knowledge and expertise. Send a thank you note. If their help was significant, include them in the acknowledgements, and consider sending them a copy of your book.

Prenatal care for your book baby

Prenatal care for your book baby

Last fall, Orca Books published my debut novel Betting Game. I had nine months between signing a contract and delivering my book baby. It seemed like plenty of time. It wasn’t.

Here are a few lessons I learned along the way.

Start earlyPregnant woman with a journal

Next time I’m expecting a new book baby, I’ll sit down right away and make a plan of action.

What do I need to do, and when? How much time will it all take? What are my priorities?

Get organized

scrivener logo

Keep everything. Edits. Images. Ideas. Promo materials. Information from your marketing team. You will use, reuse, rework and re-purpose these files again and again, so find a logical way to organize them for easy retrieval.

Scrivener worked for me. I stored all the flotsam and jetsam in one project, using labels and keywords to make the project super-simple to view and search. Of course, you can also store everything traditionally in folders and subfolders. Just be sure to file and label wisely.

Sure, it takes a little longer to be meticulous, but it saves you time every time you need to find something. And bonus! The next time you publish, you have a ready-made road map instead of starting from square one.

Gather the building blocks

wooden block towerThe first items my publisher asked for were basic promo items: an author bioback-cover blurb and a professional author photo (more on author pics in a future post.)

I tucked these items in my Scrivener project, and as time went on, I added more elements:

I also collected a variety of links and bits of code:

Raise your profile

My memberships came in handy. I belong to national writers’ organizations like CANSCAIP, SCBWI, The Writers’ Union of Canada and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, and locally, to the Writers’ Community of Durham Region. They offer a variety of promotional opportunities.

  • book and event pages
  • school visit and speaker pages
  • member profiles

You can also create author pages on GoodReads and Amazon.com, as well as social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Prepare these pages and profiles well in advance. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as uploading the same bio and photo to each site. But they all start with the same basic building blocks.

Don’t forget to update them along the way. I kept the most recent version of each profile in Scrivener. It was easier than viewing each website one by one. (Aren’t you glad you started Scrivener project or folder system now?)

Ways to work smarter

Front-end-load the tasks. For example:

  • write newsletter announcements and media releases early so they’re ready to go
  • prepare your website, blog and social media platforms so you can trickle out your good news

Make a book trailer

One of my best investments was Rich Helms’s Book Trailers 101. This 5-week workshop taught me the elements of a successful trailer, as well as the specialized knowledge to make one. Basic tech like how to use Animoto and Movie Maker. A bit of Audacity. Where to find reasonably priced voice talent, music and images. Tricks for uploading the final product to YouTube.

Step by step, my book trailer grew from concept to finished video. The weekly group critique helped me figure out what worked and what didn’t. I came out with more than a video. I also came up with strong tag lines and blurb text. Which, of course, I tucked away in my promo folder.

Book a launch dateBetting Game book launch

Book your launch as soon as you get a publication date. I launched Betting Game at Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge. They’re one of Canada’s best independent booksellers. As a result, they get booked up quickly.

Like many indies, Shelley Macbeth and her staff really care about promoting Canadian books and authors. They gave me great advice and support. But that’s a post of its own!

Got any prenatal advice of your own for authors expecting their first book baby? Please share it below!

The value of keeping random ideas.

The value of keeping random ideas.


Gwynn Scheltema

Ever write a story that seemed to go nowhere? Ever thought of a brilliant opening line, but never wrote the story? Ever found a line that you thought might make good dialogue, or a line in a poem, or the premise of an entire novel and lost it?

lights-1254298_640Rummaging around in discarded ideas will invariably turn up something unexpected, surprising, fun or usable.
That’s not to say that every word you write is gold – saleable gold – and that none of it should go to waste. But ideas don’t always come at a time when you are ready for them, and if you have no way to revisit them, then even the good ideas will go to waste.

Increase your wheat-to-chaff ratio with an Ideas File and pop them in there. Actually, have several ideas files:

Ideas Files
  • hard costory basketpy file folder: for ideas scribbled on napkins and other scrap bits.
  • computer file for the same. Make sure you develop a way to easily navigate through them. Naming each one “good idea” won’t be too helpful when you have 400 “good ideas.” Make use of “version” and “date” options if you have very similar drafts of an unfinished story:
    • horrornovel_v2_2016
    • babypoetryRev3March
    • trilogy_idea3

 

Personal coding systemcolored-pencils-168392_640

Create a personal coding system to mark up journals or notebooks for easy browsing retrieval. I use coloured highlighters: I underline or asterisk possible poetry ideas with yellow, novel snippets with blue, non-fiction article ideas with green, etc.

Other people’s ideas

Expand the concept to ideas beyond your own writing

  • In another hard copy folder keep cuttings from newspapers and magazines, old letters or theatre tickets or postcards or photos. Expand to new subfolders as ideas begin to consolidate.
  • In computer folders, keep ideas suggested by blog posts, or anything internet related, including email copy. Be sure to include URLs if you want to reference later.
  • Create a Pinterest board. This is especially useful in the early stages of a novel. Pin pictures of faces, buildings, landscapes, objects, or anything that stirs up ideas or cements a visual for you. Here is one I started for my MG novel.

pintrest board

Of course, having all these ideas is pointless if you don’t do something with them.

Here is a creative exercise to try:

Take these twold bicycleo random pictures and write a scene that will somehow link them together.ticket-153937_1280

 

 

 

When pairing ideas, don’t worry if they seemingly have nothing in common when you begin– that is the point of the exercise. The struggle of creating the link is what gets your brain going.

 

Get the Word Out: Social Media for Writers and Artists

Get the Word Out: Social Media for Writers and Artists

with Heather M. O’Connor and Anne MacLachlan

Fee: $125 [$110 for writing association members-WCDR, WCSC, WCYR, SOH etc.]

Social media: the online cocktail party where writers, agents, publishers and readers mingle, connect, share advice and resources, do business. Are you ready to join the party?

Get the answers you need at this 5-week workshop:

  • Two skilled facilitators 
  • Lots of hands-on help in class 
  • Online support between classes

Who should attend?

  • Intermediate users hoping to develop a writer-specific audience and applications
  • Social media novices needing lots of support
man with social media iconsfinger picking social media iconssocial media cubes in a gift boxFacebook buttonTwitter buttons with birdsYouTube logoSocial media icons on a phone

What’s getting covered?

  • Facebook, Twitter, blogging, YouTube, Pinterest and more 
  • Why writers use these platforms and HOW
  • Ways to develop your craft, connect with the writing community and to promote your writing

For example:

  • Open and customize a Twitter account
  • Learn how, when and what to tweet
  • Find out where to find writers, agents and publishers
  • Attract Twitter and blog followers

What else?

  • Discover social media settings, tools, resources and apps that measure your progress and help you work faster, safer and more efficiently

Learn how to meet, who to greet and how to make a killer impression in the writers’ world of social media. By the time you’re done, you’ll have the foundation for your social media platform. You’ll also have the resources and tools to continue building your social media presence in the arts community.

Here Be Dragons: Plot and character in fantasy fiction

Here Be Dragons: Plot and character in fantasy fiction

with Heather M. O’Connor and Anne MacLachlan

Choose your own adventure–and who to take along for the ride–in this four-week workshop on plot and character in fantasy. Through hands-on activities and discussion, you’ll learn how to:

  • craft nuanced, believable heroes and villains
  • follow the Hero’s Journey to chart their path and yours
  • explore fantasy’s many subgenres and archetypes
  • discover online resources to continue your quest

Excellent companion to The Many Worlds of Fantasy.

The Many Worlds of Fantasy

The Many Worlds of Fantasy

with Heather M. O’Connor and Anne MacLachlan

Date: Wednesdays, March 18, 25, April 1, 8, 15

Time: 7:00-9:00 pm.

Location: Trent University, Oshawa Campus

Fee: $125 ($110 for members of WCDR, SOH, WCSC, WCYR and other writing organizations)

 

 

 

 

Explore the worlds of fantasy, both fictional and professional, in this 5-week, hands-on workshop.

Learn how to create convincing fantasy settings. We’ll use world-building techniques and activities to:

  • discover a brave new world
  • layer in realistic depth and detail 
  • build your world, week after week
  • extend your new realm around the corner and across the seas

We’ll also explore the fantasy writer’s world. Discover a treasure trove of:

  • markets and publishers
  • conferences, workshops and networks
  • writing resources

To register:

  1. Select your workshop using the Add to Cart button.
  2. Find Your Shopping Cart on the right.
  3. Click on the yellow Check out with PayPal button to pay securely using a credit card or PayPal account.

$125 – The Many Worlds of Fantasy

$110 – The Many Worlds of Fantasy (members of writing organizations)

Excellent companion to Here Be Dragons! Plot and character in fantasy fiction. Register for both workshops and save $20.

$220 – Register for The Many Worlds of Fantasy and Here Be Dragons

$190 – Register for The Many Worlds of Fantasy and Here Be Dragons (members of writing organizations)