Fear Not: Market Now

When I ask authors, “what makes marketing so frightening?”  most often the answer is a shrug of the shoulders followed by “I dunno…marketing makes me nervous.” However when I push the issue three reasons remain constant.

Top Three Reasons Authors Are Afraid of Marketing

* Fear of rejection

* Inability to prioritize

* Trying to eat the marketing elephant in one single bite

Rejection

Many authors have a (justifiable) fear of rejection. The amount of energy it takes to see a book through to completion requires diligence and patience. However, authors must push through the fear of being rejected in order to reach out to readers. Every author on the face of this earth has experienced rejection. It is part of the author’s life. However, there is an explicable feeling of empowerment that comes by pushing through rejection.

Let’s role play for a moment. You (the author) tell me about your book during a conference. I listen politely, nodd, take a bookmark (Stress-free Marketing teaches you to bring them to conferences). I do not buy the book.

Ouch.

That mild sting of rejection hurts for only a moment. If you have exhibited confidence during our brief conversation I may be interested enough to go home and visit your website. I may want to learn more about you. I may buy your book online, or order it through your website.

However, I will not know that you, or your book, exists unless you introduce yourself.  Fear of rejection absolutely must be defeated.

Prioritizing

In order to reach readers you must prioritize your schedule.

I am a wife, and a mother of a teenager (who also has two demanding pets). I also still help Billy Albertson, the farmer in my first book, two days a week. Most-evenings I prepare a homecooked meal.

How is all this possible? Truthfully, sometimes it is a struggle. When I first became “serious” about my writing career prioritizing my life became crucial. I don’t watch Survivor, Glee, American Idol…just to name a few. Yesterday I spent ten hours emailing contacts for the release of Stress-free Marketing.  The creative side of me wanted to write the next book. It lured me with the promise of excitement. The rational side of my brain whispered Renea, the only person telling the world about your book is you. If you don’t do the hard part up front, readers won’t know about this book. Market today…write tomorrow.

Listen to the rational side of your brain. Listen as your brain says: “You should get up off the couch and work on your marketing plan.” The rational side of your brain wants you to sell books. Listen. Ignore the side that says: “it’s too hard. I can do it tomorrow.”  There’s nothing but trouble on that side of town.

Eating the Elephant

For the record there are two things on the face of this earth that I detest eating: crow, and elephant (not literally…you know what I mean).

It takes one bite at a time to eat what is placed on our plate.

Dear friends, don’t try to contact everyone on your list in one day. You will burn out…speedy quick. Instead, set aside a manageable amount of time two to three days a week and reach out to readers. A wonderful example of this concept is described in the book, Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day. (ask your librarian if they have a copy).  I know what you’re thinking; I just shared that I spent ten hours in the marketing chair. That was because I have spent the majority of the week reading galley copy, writing the next book, searching for my wayward feral cat. Thursday arrived and I had invested zero minutes marketing a book that will be released in just a few days! (insert visual of me running around the house like my hair is on fire).  Life will get in the way of selling books if you allow it. Finding balance between the two is paramount.

We’re all human. The point is to set a manageable goal and work toward completion. If you are about to release a book, you must do the marketing before the release.

For the yet-to-be-released author. Your assignment is to gather information. Review local newspapers and magazines for those who can write about your book release. Perhaps you should write a press release and approach the editor, or reporter about your work. Begin searching for people to review your book. Keep all contact information in a file you can easily access. For me, it’s an (old school) notebook; for others, electronic devices. Regardless, today is the day to search for people who can introduce you to readers.

As always, feel free to comment on this, or any blog.

Thank you for your time,

Renea Winchester

www.reneawinchester.com

In Defense of Prayer

On Monday night I posted the following request on my Facebook account: Tomorrow, please pray for my daughter. It is her last day of testing, and two of her most important tests: Math and Japanese. Truly, she needs your prayers. I really don’t know what to pray for, just know that we need them. Thanks, R

Never would I have thought that I needed to defend my request. If you are reading this post hoping that I will defend the post, you might want to stop reading right about now.

I don’t expect my Facebook friends to know me, they couldn’t possibly know that yesterday I functioned on three hours of sleep, worked in my garden, helped my husband construct a frame where we will lay tile (yes, my toe really is broken), fixed dinner, took my daughter to a job interview, and wrote over a thousand words for a short story collection. My Facebook friends don’t know that I do NOT have cable television, that I don’t care who is on American Idol, or Survivor (is that show even on?) I live in Atlanta where I desperately try to be as unplugged from television and its bad news as much as possible. Friends know that if something bad happens in Atlanta, please call me on the phone, otherwise I’ll be working, doing, and living the life I so love.

My face-to-face friends also know that I am not a bible scholar. I am a believer, a sinner, a reacher-out to God on a daily basis. I pray for strangers, random people, friends I know, and sometimes I even pray for myself.

So imagine my shock when I found the following comments to my prayer request: (name withheld)

 I believe deeply in the power of prayer, but I have to say now that my prayers are those who are victims of the devastation in Oklahoma. That is deep and horrific suffering there, and those folks need great prayers for healing. I’m a mom, and yes, I know the need to pray for a daughter. Mine has been through some life threatening times. What we need here is perspective . I do hope you send up some prayers for the many tornado victims. I mean this. I do not take prayer lightly. It is a deep focus of my spiritual energy merging, I hope, with God. So please do send some focus and prayers to those in the deepest need. I’m sorry but Math and Japanese tests don’t compare to the loss in those tornado torn states.

There are many reasons why a person might post something of this nature. Which is visited her Facebook page to see if perhaps she lived in Oklahoma, had posted a plea for those she knew. There were none. No prayer requests, no mention of the victims in Oklahoma at all. What troubles me further is that this person is an author, a colleague, someone who while I do not personally know, made a conscious decision to take the time to write this on my wall. I don’t really understand why she did and that’s ok it is what it is.

As an author there is an unwritten rule that unless you are a Christian author, published by a “Christian Press” it is in your best interest to keep God in a box, beside your bed, taking Him out only when you need Him, never during a book signing, conference, conversation where someone else might overhear, become offended and decide not to purchase a copy of your work. Now if you have written about a controversial subject, or one that uncovers the evils of the church, then by all means talk all you want. Otherwise, answer questions in an indirect manner, politically correct of course. Don’t offend someone who might be there to purchase copies of your book.

While I was in Texas speaking at the Pulpwood Queens I met a group of Queens who had a photo of their friend, Susan. Susan’s image sat at the table with them, wore a different tiara each night. Drawn to them for personal reasons, I asked about Susan’s illness, cried with these ladies, understood their concern, admired their love and devotion to a friend. When it was my turn to speak on the panel, I am sure that some people were offended when I began my talk by asking for prayer for Susan, whom I did not know other than having just learned that she had cancer and was in the fight of her life.

Here me clearly, selling books is not a priority in my life. At that moment, praying for Susan was.

As an aside: perhaps this is why I don’t have a book contract, because I won’t put God in a box, because when asked, and sometimes when not, I try to give God the glory and credit for my life. He gave me the writing gift, I did nothing, nothing but provide the fingers, and even those are not my own.

I don’t mean to ramble, but this morning as I prayed I was just overwhelmed with the suggestion that my prayer was less important than those in Oklahoma. Or worse, that someone thought I believed my prayers were more important than the victims in Oklahoma. Then I remember God himself says, “come all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. (All). God doesn’t prioritize, saying: “Today is BIG PRAYER day. Don’t bother me with little prayers. No! Don’t bother me with those small prayers, I don’t have time. God does not prioritize sin (no big or little sins) man does; and He does not prioritize our prayers. He is always waiting for us to reach out to him with every concern.

God didn’t say, “Today is Renea’s day. I’m only listening to her prayers. Today, she gets everything she wants.”

Because honey, if God proclaimed a Renea day my mouth would ramble things that I really, really want:

Could there be food for those hungry, the starving, those who won’t eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner, not those who have run out of ice cream and feel a slight twinge

Could the abused children be removed from their circumstances, could they know love

Could there be peace, just today since it’s Renea Day- could we have a day, where no one is murdered, where no one dies from violence, (please, it’s my day)

Could there be jobs for the mom’s and dad’s who have been searching for years

Could there be healing from terminal diseases, all of them… not just cancer

Can those struggling with addiction be cured

Could there be love, a hunger to love one another instead of saying something to harm another

Could rain be sent to drought ridden areas, and sun sent to those areas underwater

Could the homeless be comforted, the dying not be alone, could we learn to love each other

Could we ALL reach out to you and be hungry for more of YOU, Lord

 

Introducing Dana Ellington Myles, an Author Who Did Her Homework

Today I’d like to introduce Dana Ellington Myles. Daily, authors approach me begging for an Amazon review, a word, a mention that-they think-will help them sell books. I rarely offer these reviews because few authors understand that marketing words to readers reaches far beyond Amazon. I actually contacted Dana and asked for an interview because she defines the life of a fledgling author…or at least how one should act. She is hard-working, spending hours researching how to sell her books; hours perfecting her craft; hours being the best author she can be.

That is lesson one. Offer only your best to your readers.

Her writing is filled with emotion, offering pieces of her soul in a way that causes readers to nod while consuming the words she has written. I am proud to introduce her to readers because I know this interview will help you.

Question: First, let me congratulate you on the success of Let There Be Life, Satin Sheet Memoir and Hello Diva. You are a writing machine! Can you share the joyous feelings associated with birthing a book?

Dana: I tell people all the time that the only other feeling that topped it was when I held my daughter for the first time.   Coincidently, the books were ready for pick up from the printer on my daughter’s birthday, July 18th.  She turned 15 that day.  I’ve since adopted July 18th as a day of blessings in my life.

I feel the same each time I crack open a box from the printer – whether it’s a first print or a re-print; holding a book that I wrote is such a satisfying feeling.

Question: Would you share how much time you invested in learning how to market your work, and what has and hasn’t worked for you?

Dana:The direct answer to your question is that I’ve now spent three years (2009 when I started graduate studies for my Masters of Arts in Professional Writing to the present) learning the business side to writing, two of those years have been specifically focused on marketing strategies.  Thanks to authors such as yourself, Kristen Lamb, and Tonya Kappes, I’ve learned that for me, the confidence and resilience needed to successfully market my work starts with a quality product and a professional image I feel good about promoting.

Marketing is an ongoing activity – first step, learn to tell a great story; second step, build the platform by which I will deliver my best writing; third, and this is where I am today, getting that platform in motion by networking with authors, reaching out to readers, and building professional, mutually beneficial relationships with both groups.  I’m sure there are more steps to come.  I’ve been fortunate thus far that the guides and teachers have been there to show me the way to each subsequent level.  There’s always something new to learn and an old approach that could use some upgrading.

What hasn’t worked?  My tendency to rush through things and skip steps.  I did that with the first book.  I’d managed to sell 42 of the initial 50 copies I’d had printed and despite what I thought was great marketing at the time, I hadn’t achieved the ground swell of support I’d expected.  It was right about then that I finally read the proof copy of the book the printer had given me.  When I’d first gotten it, I was just so excited about seeing my name on the cover of a book, I did a quick thumb through then okayed it for print.  Truth is, no matter how brilliant the marketing plan, it can’t overcome a book chock full of grammatical and other errors.  I was so embarrassed.

It didn’t work to rely so heavily on my friends and family to spread the word, either.  I told the people I was comfortable with but did very little, if any reaching out to people outside my comfort zone.  And I didn’t do a very good job forming relationships with the few who bought the book.  I’m sure I’ve missed out on quite a few book club invitations, speaking engagements, and other opportunities because once the book was sold, I let the reader slip away.  I just didn’t know how to build the relationship.  Now, I’m working on relationship building first and already I’ve seen an increase in readers on my blog and likes to my Facebook page.  I have faith that I’ll begin to see sales increase as well.

Question: Your books are available electronically on Amazon, are they also available in print? If so, will you speak to the process you chose and why you made that decision?

Dana: All three are available in print. I chose to offer printed books because my target audience are women in their thirties and older.  A generation or two that are going to remember printed books and may not have gotten caught up in the fervor of the e-reader set.  Not to mention, I myself still prefer reading my fiction in book form.  And ultimately, as much as I want to make a living from my writing, I’m mostly in this for the satisfaction of being able to say I’ve written a book (or three now) and just like having a baby, there is no comparable feeling to holding that final, printed and bound, book in my hands.

Question: Why did you publish your own work?

Answer: Well, since an early age, I could be observed doing things a touch differently than my peers.  As a toddler, I walked backwards whenever placed in a walker.  By the age of five, I was known to turn a five minute walk from our front door to my aunt’s house into an hour long “short cut” as I used to call them.  The older I got, the less able I seemed to be able to follow step-by-step instructions.  I’d look for patterns I could follow; I’d use the finished product to tell me how things were supposed to be put together (quite often I’d have taken the finished product apart first).  Based on my history, it was pretty obvious that the “traditional” route of write, query, rejection, query..etc. published,  wasn’t in the cards for me from the get-go.

The rise in companies offering “non-traditional” publishing options  were charging what I thought were exorbitant amounts of money to publish books.  To get any kind of marketing materials was going to cost even more, and if the author wanted a copy of their work once it was printed and bound, they had to BUY it.  I choked at that – I was going to have to spend even MORE money to hold my life’s work in my hands?  Authors I was meeting during that year had gone with these companies to the tune of five, sometimes six or seven, thousand dollars.  All to have boxes of books they then had to charge crazy prices for in order to even remotely come close to recouping their initial investments. Marketing costs for them were also in the thousands as websites had to be developed and hosted, business cards, book marks, tables at book fairs and conferences.  I saw all this money being paid out but none of the authors seemed to be getting ahead.   I decided that wasn’t the path I wanted, or could afford to take.  I had to find the most cost effective route I could.

I researched book binding as that was the only thing I knew right off the top that I wouldn’t be able to do myself. I lucked up on a company just 45 minutes from my home.  I made a couple of phone calls and eventually was able to meet with the owner.  He spent an hour with me talking about self-publishing as a business; how to correctly format my book’s layout, and how to put together the cover.  When it was all said and done, I was able to produce my manuscript for printing and binding for less than $300.  Factor in the cost of printing and my first print run cost just over $500.

Marketing (what little of it I knew to do) added an additional $200.  I did a couple of readings (one at a bachelor party of all places – now that’s a story), developed my own website, had book marks and business cards all of which I designed then printed.

Question: What’s next for you?

Dana: As I’ve grown as both a writer and a business person, I realized that I needed help particularly in the areas in which I’m weakest – proof reading, editing, graphic design and web design.  I sent out a request for talented people in this area who would be willing to work with me on a limited (have to keep my budget in mind) basis; I want to establish a uniform image for myself as an author.  That request has since morphed into a business idea.  I could just as easily use the resources I’d gathered to help other wildly non-traditional authors bring their work to life.  So, on top of working on my next novel, I’m starting a publishing company.  Through it, I hope to not only publish my own work, but I hope to also promote the great work of the folks helping me, while opening another door to publishing for new authors. I guess you could consider it more of a publishing brokerage firm (again, non-traditional).  Of course, doors “open” this July 18th.

Thank you Dana, for giving us your time. Truly,  I would suggest to anyone who is looking for a good read to pick up a copy of Dana’s work today.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author who was recently named the Pen Women Author of the Year. She offers individualized marketing classes and group marketing sessions. Contact her through her website, www.reneawinchester.com

Today, my guest, Anju Gattani writes about Mentors

In the writing world the majority of us would grin at the word ‘mentors’.  Why?  Because it is precisely this, just a word.  It is a wish, a blessing, for any writer, if a professional or a published author is willing to look at your manuscript and lead you by the hand.  Now if you had to pay someone would you consider this mentoring?  I’m guessing it would probably fit the phrase ‘editorial services’. 

Whenever I bring this up at writers’ meetings, conferences and during general conversations, professional writers are shocked when I tell them that I’ve had (and still have) 2 writing mentors: New York Times Bestselling author, Haywood Smith and USA Today Bestselling author, Jade Lee.  They continue to grow even more shocked when I tell them these professional and extremely talented women have never asked for anything in return and to date, are just a phone call away. 

How did this come about?   Through writers’ conferences, attending chapter meetings and sharing the passion of my project with others.  I didn’t just share my work and have a flurry of authors take me under their wing.  I asked for help, connected with these 2 women (and other bestselling authors after) and followed their lead without question.  This unspoken trust sparked a mentor-student relationship where understanding and the willingness to learn lay the foundation.  I jumped in with a thick skin (the thickest possible) ready to embrace every criticism and red-pen remark. 

I learned and grew as a writer and these women soon became my friends.  They didn’t wave a magic wand and find me an agent or a publisher—that was the next stage in my journey—but they gave me the confidence to go on and believe in myself.  And I did, because they did.  Now I’m a published author myself; but I still remember how they taught me to walk, tread on the fine professional line and be a better writer than I was before. 

So when I shared their books and my gratitude at my very first author talk in January 2012 I wanted the world to know that DUTY AND DESIRE wasn’t just a product of perseverance and persistence.  It was a book, like many others, with a front and back cover, and a story.  And another story lying hidden behind the pages… of two professionals who had believed in it long before the world did. 

The choice to mentor is totally yours.  How deeply you’re willing to get involved in another’s project is your choice too because as a mentor you’re offering the aspiring writer something beyond the written word.  You are offering trust, truth and a belief… perhaps… that you are also just a phone call away.   

Learn more about Anju Gattani at http://www.anjugattani.com/

Today, A Little Humor

"I'm going to write a novel."

Today I would like to share a funny video posted by dwkazzie who has created an entertaining video. Please click the link below.

Truly a funny four-minute look at the misconceptions some authors have. Enjoy, and I dare you not to laugh.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9fc-crEFDw&feature=player_embedded

Have a blessed weekend, and please share this post with friends.

Renea Winchester

Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author FREE for Amazon Prime Members

$ 2.99 for Kindle Owners

Also available: In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes

Finding Balance

The life of an author is filled with chaos.

Whether placing fictional characters in difficult situations, or personally pressing through the real-life anxiety of speaking to a crowd, those who have chosen the author’s life must be brave. Constantly bombarded with life issues as well as characters who-if we’re honest-love to misbehave, oftentimes our lives spin out of control. Today I want to talk about balance.

Dear one, you must take care of yourself.

Pouring your soul into a manuscript is an investment of time. Few authors can boast enough book sales to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Instead, we have a “real job” that pays the bills. We write during our lunch hour, while waiting in line at carpool, before the sun comes up, or after it goes down. Writers seize every opportunity to put pen to paper, an act that sometimes leads to burnout. Following this initial release comes a period of editing, re-editing, asking veteran readers and authors their opinion on your work, and the assembly of a marketing list.

All necessary.

All tiring.

All worth the effort.

The industry classifies this as a “birthing process.” As a mother, let me say that childbirth is much less traumatic to the body than book birthing. Book birthing is exhausting, never for the weak or faint of heart.

Take heed those who are about to release a book, I am talking to you. Before launching your book into the world, take a moment to breathe. Seek peace and quiet, if only for a moment.

Step away from the work.

Let it rest while you do the same.

Treat yourself to lunch with friends; lounge in a bubble bath; take a walk; savor a steamy cup of coffee. You will be glad you did.

As always, I welcome your responses. Visit me on Facebook or my website.

Happy New Year

In preparation for the 2012, I clean house and set goals for the new year. This week, I found a Polaroid of my daughter taken when she was in kindergarten. It was fireman’s day, evidenced by the lopsided hat atop her tiny head. She stood with her friends, all were smiling, looking directly at me and the future ahead. Beside the picture I uncovered a Steven Covey journal with a ten year old personal mission statement which read, “someday I would like to write a book.” Blinking away tears, I realize so much time has passed. My daughter has grown into a beautiful teenager and my dream is a reality. 

This year instead of finishing the novel in progress, I released: Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice forthe Newly Published author… a project that was not on my “to-do” list. I wrote Stress-freeMarketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author after meeting two North Carolina authors at a conference. One had a beautiful memoir filled with professional photographs. However, in today’s market the  $ 34.95 price tag was professional suicide. The second author remortgaged her home only to see her dream disappear in foreclosure while unsold stock gathered dust. Each day images of these women haunted me making it impossible to focus on my manuscript. Then the muse fell silent.
 
Upon sharing my intent to write this book, my husband and I had quite the “discussion.” He argued I was making a terrible mistake. He believed emerging and self-published authors are obstinate, opinionated and “dead set on doing what they want to do regardless of who tries to help them.” Further, he explained, “this is why they self-publish, because they don’t want to listen to anyone in the industry.”
 
I defended that “if someone had tried to share marketing tips with me when I was starting out, I would have listened.” Surely, I reasoned, newbies would listen to someone who had “been there” and “done that.” Surely, they would want to do everything in their power to sell the books they had worked so hard to write.
 
He crossed his arms and reminded me that I am “not like everyone else.” He reminded me that I had spent months researching my market and compiling contacts. Then he gave me a we’ll see look before saying, “Trust me, writers aren’t going to listen to a word you have to say.”
 
I tried not to cry as his resolve remained. I explained that writers help each other and that I am “doing my part to pay it forward.”
 
Veteran authors whom I interviewed agreed with my husband. They suggested I lead marketing workshops, instead of authoring a book aimed at emerging authors. I listened…kinda.
 
Partnering with local brick and mortar bookstores and small businesses, I now offer workshops to emerging authors at a ridiculously low price. Workshop attendees receive a copy of the book, a password to a community blog specifically designed for new authors, and two hours of instruction from yours truly. Businesses who host a workshop receive half of the fee as my way of saying thank you for shelving copies of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life & Tomatoes. I hope these classes will encourage and teach emerging authors as well as benefit small businesses, especially in the winter months when business is slow. The workshops will not make me independently wealthy and the fact that I am not promoting this book with a tour means those who monitor sales information won’t be pleased.
 
Insert crossed arms from the beloved.
 
I like to think of Stress- free Marketing:Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author as a community service project. Someone needed to guide the fledglings and who better than a fellow fledgling that experienced extraordinary success with her first book. Thank you readers, booksellers and book clubs! Knowing that I have written something that, when read, will guide others on their pathway to publication pleases me. I have done my part. The rest is up to referrals and the magic of social media. If I can save one author from financial ruin, my work is done. Once again, the muse is smiling. Once again, it is time to set attainable goals. Once again, I am writing. 
 
Have you set goals for 2012?
 
As we begin a new year, many of us wonder what the future holds. Hopefully I will finish the novel or perhaps the sequel to In the Garden with Billy. I will continue to support independent booksellers and volunteer at the public library, both need our help. And my personal mission statement remains, “I will write a book.”
 
Visit Renea Winchester’s website for more information about her work.