Monday, January 4, 2016

So You Think You Can...Writer? (Part 2)

I wrote an article a couple of weeks back telling people that the act of writing doesn't make one a writer. There were waves. There were angry emails. There was a barrage of supportive private messages. It seems everyone had an opinion on what it takes to be a writer.

GOOD!

So, in the wake of the conversation, I'm going to write another article on what it takes to be a writer.

1) For details, read the previous article here.

2) Never let criticism deter you.

If you're the type of person who lets every bad word slung in your direction send you to bed crying, honey, writing isn't for you.

Let's go over a few things as explanation.

1) Your family and friends LOOOOOOOVE your writing! Well. La-dee-freaking-dah. That isn't good enough. Have you had someone who loves you, truly loves you, tell you they hate it? If they did, how did you take it?

Being a writer is hard. Like with any art, it's an extension of your soul. You offer it up willing and say "Here world, shit all over my very life's blood because no matter what you say and do I'm going to keep writing." Because that is what you do if you are really a writer.

People gonna hate. That should really read "People gonna hate you." But it can't be a deterrent. To be a writer, you have to have the pathological obsession with 1) words, 2) the very act of writing, and 3) the need to shove it in other peoples' faces what you're doing.

2)  I write for me and no one else. Well. La-dee-freaking-dah. I hear this one a lot. You know what? I write for me too. I am the audience when I sit down and write a poem, a short story, a novel. I aim to please myself first and foremost with the story. I also know, however, that deep down there is someone I want to reach out to with that piece of writing. It doesn't matter what size the intended audience is, if there is any audience then #3 applies to you.

As with #1, the obsession with words is also a writer's way of saying "Aren't I clever?" Whether we're a simple or bloated writer, we love finely crafted words. We're the ones who jot down (or simply underline within the text) a beautiful phrase we read somewhere. We're the ones who spend an hour writing, revising, and rewriting one five-word sentence.

#2? I covered that a bit in the previous article. If you don't physically, emotionally, and mentally want to sit down and write; if it doesn't give you a little thrill that you are about to create a world that didn't exist until right then; if writing is nothing but pure torture without any physical, emotional, or mental satisfaction derived and you're only waiting to type THE END so you can be published, this profession isn't for you.

Yes I anticipate receiving more messages and email after this article. Yes I expect some of it to be belligerent, asking me who the hell I think I am. I say bring it. Because I am a writer. I welcome criticism, or else I wouldn't be a writer. What I want others to ask themselves is if they think they are truly writers? Is it in their bones?

So, I want to know, do you still think you can writer?


  BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple   short story anthologies. Having committed almost every 'bad deed' in
 the book of 'How To Be An Author.' She now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.

Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light


Upcoming: Karaoke Jane (2016)


Monday, December 14, 2015

Get It Right: Social Media For Authors


The world is digital. Short of an apocalypse scenario, there is no going back. Authors who don't utilize social media marketing to promote their writing will become extinct. But there is a fine line between using social media and using social media well to market.

Hard Vs. Soft

If you know anything about marketing, there are two types of selling: hard and soft.

Hard sales are those annoying kiosks at the mall. Those sales associates who get right in your path and offers you all sorts of a minute of your time. It isn't enough that their product is on display enormously. It isn't enough to be available. They have to be in. your. face.

That is hard selling. And that is a mistake a lot of authors, new and experienced, make when using social media to market their books. There are several examples of how authors use hard selling in one of my previous articles, Twitter Twits.

Soft sales are the meandering, not directly related to a sale offerings. Like the free song download offered by your favorite artist. The singer hopes that by giving away something small for free they can entice you to buy the whole album. Notice there is always a "click here for more" option on your device at the end of every free song? That isn't a "click here for more free stuff" option; that is a "click here for more stuff I'm selling" link.

Soft selling is trickier and, sometimes, has less direct results. There are always people who are only interested in whatever can be obtained for free. Those are lost avenues and you shouldn't be concerned with them. They will always be the 'only free stuff' people and won't ever become your buyers. 

To know how well your soft selling is working, you can track the effectiveness of your soft sales with any number of sources like bitly.com, goo.gl, tinyurl.com for example.

Social media approach.

Using social media for marketing does take a little bit of thought. But what it needs more of is a whole lot of genuine.

You must be genuine in your approach to social media as an author. Like life, social media is a give and take process. If you want people (potential readers or other authors), you must be willing to give almost twice as much as you take.

For example, on my Facebook page, I promote other authors and artists with my "Pimp A Creative" posts. Was I asked to promote people through those means? Nope. Did that person write or do something I thought was creative, entertaining, and possibly informative? Yep. So I 'pimped' them.

Why do I call it "pimping?" Well, to be honest, like any good pimp I do hope to get something out of that non-me promotion. However it can be any number of things I want to earn: give my readers something, good will, establish a relationship, catch their followers' eyes, build a correlation between their brand and mine, and the list goes on. What's most important is that unlike most actual pimps, I am genuinely invested in their information I'm promoting (i.e. I took the time to read it, liked it, and thought it should be shared.) Disingenuous pimping would be piggybacking directly off someone else's established name or information without bothering to at least give them the courtesy of my click-through. 

Social media timeline.

A mistake many new authors make is not bothering with social media until the week or two before their book releases. Building relationships and establishing a presence online takes time and crafting. I discuss it in more detail in my article, So You Think You Can Author? (Part 1).

To use social media well, you have to invest a little time into it before your book is released. Just as importantly, you have to remember to maintain that investment while your book is out and when you no longer have a 'new' book out. It's just as phony to take the time to craft relationships online, release a book, and then drop promoting others in favor of your own promotion. 

Remember, the key to online is to give almost twice as much as you take. If you ask another writer to submit one guest article for your blog, be willing to offer them two articles from you for theirs. For every one "ad" you post about your book, post two other authors' "ads" as well. 

Using social media is easy. All it takes is a little common sense and a genuine approach. 



BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every 'bad deed' in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.

Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light

Upcoming: Karaoke Jane (2016)                                                 



Monday, December 7, 2015

So You Think You Can...Author? (Part 1)

The End.

Every writer rejoices in typing those words even though they know their work has only started. Endings are nothing but beginnings. Writing is hard work. My article So You Think You Can...Writer? describes the very special personality type it takes to be a writer - a masochist. A writer is someone who sits down to write knowing that no matter how hard it is to get the words to flow, the scenes to match up, or those damned plot holes filled, the writing is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The real work comes after the writing.

Editing, revisions, rewrites, more editing; critique groups, critique partners, beta readers; second round editing, revisions, rewrites. But that's just all writing still, right?

Sure. Except while you're doing all that (and don't forget, you're probably already logging words on the next project due out), you're also gearing up for publication. 

Vetting cover artists and approving designs, book formatting and layout - those are still necessary parts of writing and editing, gearing up for ultimate publication. But those are still only the visible parts of the berg.

If this is your first book, you aren't working with a ready base of fans. You need to build anticipation for your launch day. Book sales can be made or broken depending on the anticipation built prior to a launch.

Let's break that berg down into ice cubes.

Launching a book isn't necessarily expensive, but it does cost some money. There's building a website with a reserved domain name; promotional materials like business cards, bookmarks, posters; gas, food and lodging for events, signings, and conferences; and, of course, household expenses like internet. And, unless you contract out for someone to do that work for you, which would be an additional expense, it all falls to you - the writer, the editor, the marketing agent, and the PR rep.


So now you're writing, editing, reviewing artwork, discussing layout and formatting, designing promotional materials, and designing websites.But, so far, you still haven't started actually building anticipation for the book. The good news is that the foundations you lay now during the first book will reduce the work you have to do during promotion of future books.

Building anticipation ideally starts at 6 months to 1 year before launch. On average, most authors seem to stick with the 6 month mark and do pretty well for themselves.  Like all writers know, there's a tremendous amount of research that goes into writing. The same is true of pre-promotion. That will take just a little set up on your part. Since you're still undergoing an enormous amount of work with the  aspects of writing yet, we'll keep them simple.


  • Get to know your media. Newspapers, TV, radio, podcasts, specialty magazines, websites and blogs, social media. All are avenues for marketing your book. Now is the time to compile your list of media opportunities. What you want to get are publication names, call signs or letters for radio and TV, website and bloggers, hosts, reporters, and reviewers phone numbers and emails, notes about their target audiences, distribution areas and circulation numbers.
  • Know your bookstores and area events. Find out names, location, managers and marketing person for each bookstore plus the best phone numbers and email addresses for each. Don't forget to visit the stores you want to be able to call in the future to arrange signings. Make note of other authors they have scheduled, how they promote, what their layout and primary sales are invested into. Having these little details ready on hand when you want to schedule an event is worth its weight in the time it will take you to compile it.
  • Build your online presence. Reserving a custom domain name (recommended to brand it with your name, not your book title as, with hope, you'll publishing more than one in your career and won't want to have to build a new site for every book you publish) and building the website doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. There are several inexpensive domain hosts you can purchase for next to nothing that also come with easy-to-use template website design. Don't forget to tie a blog in with your website for added visibility, future ability to cross promote with other authors and creatives, plus a boost in search engine results every time you blog.
  • Social media. Many authors are daunted still about using social media for promotion. I recommend a minimum of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Each are free and require minimum time to establish and maintain. Just remember to keep all your interactions genuine. And above all else avoid the hard sale approach using social media. If you're still unsure how to use social media to promote your books, take a look at three articles on using Twitter here and here and here.
  • Book sites. There are specific social media sites geared entirely toward books and readers. Goodreads, Shelfari, Armchair Interviews, AuthorNation are a few. Naturally, if you're publishing through Amazon, you'll want to make sure you have an author page established there as well. Amazon author pages give you the added advantage of having a blog that automatically sends updates to everyone who bought your book through Amazon.

All of this is a good, small step to building anticipation for your book launch well before you're even technically finished with the initial process of writing your book. Building these early relationships with reporters, reviewers, bookstore owners and marketing managers, potential fans online and other authors is all key to first making yourself visible and available.

It might feel overwhelming, and it's definitely not easy work. However starting your promotion 6 months prior to publication gives you a solid base for anticipation of book launch. 

And you thought the writing part was hard. So... you think you can author?



BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every 'bad deed' in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.

Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)

Upcoming: Karaoke Jane (2016)                                                                   

Monday, November 30, 2015

So You Think You Can...Writer?

There's an idea rattling around in that brain of yours. You have a laptop. You have an urge to write the next best novel. You, are a writer. Right?

Wrong.

All of these things are things writers should have, important and definitely big factors of what one needs to write, but they aren't what a person needs to be a writer. 

At eight, I handed a thirty-page handwritten "novel" to my mother and declared my intent to be a writer. My mother, always very direct and honest, even with  budding youth, smiled and looked over the scrawled pages. Then, clearly, she said, "I always wondered which one of my girls was a masochist."

Of course she had to explain what a masochist was since, at eight, my vocabulary was good but not that impressive. What my mother was trying to tell me was that, to be a writer, one needed a thick hide, a stubborn head, and desire to plod on despite critics and naysayers.

Face it. To be a writer, to really be a writer, one has to have an absolute obsession with putting words on paper. It has little to nothing to do with writing "the next American novel" or "getting rich and famous." 


Being good with words isn't the same thing either. It's easy enough to write a well constructed sentence, paragraph, or even book. It's what comes after you string those words together that makes a person a writer. 

Even the exceptional writer has detractors. At best, they write a 1 or 2 star review on Amazon or any number of book review sites about why they dislike a particular read. At worst, they rip to shreds the body of work you spent the last umpteenth months pouring your blood, sweat, and - oh, yes - tears into. 

A writer has to have the pure, blinding, maddening obsession of putting words on paper to keep them going. They have to be able to take the abuse, the tear down, of people coming after a piece of their very soul.

At a recent writer's conference I attended in Scottsdale, Ariz., compliments of Desert Rose RWA, I had the privilege of lunching with several well known authors and several aspiring writers. When one man mentioned how hard writing was for him, how it was a struggle to sit down and write, one of the author's asked him why he continued. He said he had a book in him and wanted to write it.

"Give up now," she said. "You're not cut out to be a writer."

Harsh? Maybe. True? Definitely. After speaking with this man at length, everyone at the table got to hear how much he dreaded sitting down to write, how he was just waiting until it was finished so he could "get to the published" part.

"Quit now," she said. "If your obsession isn't to sit down and write, if the writing is only getting done so you can 'be published,' then this isn't for you." She went on to say she didn't want to dissuade anyone from being a writer, but she'd been at this game long enough to not sugar coat what she saw - he just wasn't meant to be a writer.

I didn't disagree with her. Writing, needing to put words on page, to tell a story, has to be the end all, be all for going through the daily torture of being a writer. Because that is what it is - torture. Few other professions, or passions, require a person to inflict as much daily torture on themselves as being a writer. 

Once you'd struggled through the self doubt, the elation, the exhausting torment of waking frantically out of sound sleep, pouring words onto paper, only to stumble back to bad for an hour of sleep before going to your day job, plodding through the rigmarole of daily work so you can get back to your real love, there's the editing. An editor ripping apart everything you'd just poured your heart into for months, or even years, building, bleeding, is excruciating. Then it's on to beta readers who do the same - love, hate, indifferent (and the later can be just as bad as someone hating the story, trust me). Finally it's off to the public, who have the opportunity to hate, love, or not care - only they get to do it on a very public, and very heartbreaking scale.

No, writers don't just write. They write because, despite the pain and hardship and difficulty of doing do, they simply must write. Because, despite the torture, they love every minute of it.

So... you think you can writer?


                                                         BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple                                                            short story anthologies. Having committed almost every 'bad deed' in
the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate other writers through humor and simple instruction.


Upcoming: Karaoke Jane (2016)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Be Right Back

Some of you may have noticed, I've not been active on my blog in the last few weeks. The main reason? My general fiction novel, Karaoke Jane, is gearing up for release, and I'm hard at work making sure it's utterly amazing for you. Bear with me just a bit longer. The words have gotten their claws into me, and I'm singing in the rain!!