How To Find the Right Critique Group

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notebooks and laptops around a table with hands and drinks scattered around
“The best way to get what you want is to help others get what they want.” -Deepak Chopra

Finding the right critique or writing group to click with is a helluva lot like dating. Partners are seemingly everywhere with all the potential for match perfection. Think about it. Much like finding just the right person to share your heart and personal space with, you have to find the right writing group that you can trust to open your heart to and have good enough hearts themselves to be gentle with yours. They’re people who need not only be decent writers who can help guide you and teach you, they need to be people you want to spend time with and who you genuinely enjoy their company.

The beauty of today’s modern world is that options for finding the right group abound, no matter what your schedule is like or where you live. Large or small, in person or online, the possibilities are abundant. But also kind of elusive because you’re looking for a group that gives you the right feels.

What to look for.

Lots of factors can make people click or not with a critique group or partner. We’re going to talk about the two I consider to be the most important.

1. Reason and level

It helps if the group you seek out has the same, or similar, goals- like writing for publication or socialization-so they know what to expect from each other. One of the key reasons for seeking out a writing group (other than improvement) is to act as an impetus for your writing. If you’re just a casual, write-when-the-mood-takes-you writer then you (and your group) might get frustrated, even discouraged if everyone else is on the path to publication.

Similar goals aren’t the only important factor to consider. Ask: What level of writing experience do the members of this group have? If you have years of experience writing and you’re surrounded by newbies constantly, you might be a little frustrated. Unless, of course, you’re looking to be everyone else’s mentor. Look for a good mix of writers at all different stages: a few newer writers, maybe they’ve never been published, those who have been with it for a few years and might have some publications under their belt, and writers who are old pros or technical experts (like former literature or English teachers or professional editors).

 

 

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your writing experience?
  • Do you have material to share right now? Or are you looking for a group that will help motivate you through the finish, or help motivate you to get started?
  • Do you have a consistent writing practice or schedule?
  • Where do you want to go as a writer? Why are you interested in the group?
  • What else do you do to meet your writing goals? Do you read blogs (well, clearly you’re here but others) or books on craft? Do you take classes or attend workshops?

Assessing where you are today is important. But knowing what you want and where you want to go, also how you will get there, is more important to finding a good match in the long run.

2. It’s all about the pace, about the pace, no trouble.

Pacing is tricky. I mean, it seems to easy: how often do group members meet up or submit material for review? What’s tricky about it is balancing another time demand as a writer. Not only a time demand  but energy too. The pace of the group should move quick enough that you make progress in your writing and goals. Then again too fast a pace can overwhelm you, too slow can be boring or like others aren’t on your same level. Either one can lead to you, or others, quitting.

When evaluating yourself, don’t get cocky about how much you can realistically produce. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of new people and new input. But it’s not only worrying about how much you can produce, you have to consider how much time it will take you to read others’ work and to give appropriate feedback. To be safe, remember to cut your own estimate of self in half and double your estimate of feedback needs.

Here are a few good questions to consider about production:

  • Consider accurately how much writing you produced this month. Then think about how much you produced the month before that.
  • Settle on spending a minimum of 30 minutes reading on commenting on others’ submissions – possibly more for longer pieces. Don’t forget that you need to consider all of the group members.
  • In-person groups are a little different, pace depends on how often members meet. While you might not have a say in how often the group meets, you do have a say in your schedule and how often you engage with the group.

There should be a balance when working with a writing group. Some people produce more regularly than others, and some people go through brief spurts of creativity. Let’s not forget that life, in it’s infinite screw-with-us, intervenes too. The balance comes in making sure members feel like they are both critiquing and writing equally.

 

So, where are all these groups?

Chances are there are several different writing associations in your area. Many host meet-and-greets, educational workshops, or you can volunteer. Let your chapter know you are looking for a writing group and they will probably know of a few and be able to give you some contacts.

Most associations have online boards where you can look for groups that have listed with the associations.

There is nothing quite like a writing conference or retreat. The energy of the community, no many word nerds in one place, is invigorating. Talk with people, mingle, and chances are you will run across others who are in or wanting to form a writing group.

You can find a thorough list of writing conferences from Shaw Guides. Facebook groups are also good places to find groups. If all else eludes you, Google it.

Meetup is a good option, depending on your genre and area, for finding groups. These groups typically meet in person and are organized by one or more individuals in your area. As a matter of fact I found my local group through Meetup. Just remember to read through the group’s history and expectations. Some groups are social, some are quiet and organized production in a social setting, some have a level of writing production that you might not be able to meet.

Thern there are online critique sites. Don’t worry, most are private so that you are willy nilly haring your work. Online groups most often run on a credits or points system, where credits are used to submit work and earned for giving critiques. A lot of times the credit-based systems also work hand in hand with a queue system where you will have to wait for your work to be critiqued.

 

That’s the down and dirty about how to find a writing or critique group or partner. Tell me, do you use a writing group? Is it online or in person? How did you find the group that fits you?

 

Image of a redheaded woman in a black leather jacket. She has her hands held up in the American Sign Language sign for 'I love you.'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 DarknessA Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short FrictionQuixotic: Not Everyday Love StoriesA Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

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Why You Should Update Your Blog Content

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Change is the only constant. – Heraclitus

Let’s face it, today content is money. Blogs are content engines for most writers. They’re integral parts of our branding and marketing. (And if they aren’t, you’re doing this wrong.) But so many field experts simply puke their content onto the digital page, promote the crap out of it, and then never look back – an act that is almost as bad as not producing content at all.

Here are 5 reasons why you should refresh old content on a semi regular basis.

  1. Google loves a shiny new thing.

That Google prefers regularly updated content is proven. There are dozens of studies to back up the validity of my statement. Here’s one. Everyone know that if Google’s affection with your blog decreases, it can be damned hard for you to win it over again.

Why does Google get giggly over new/updated content?

  • Updated content is longer. You know the old adage: size matters. Well, for Google, size does matter. Lengthier content regularly published indicts to Google little bots that you are a substantive and knowledgeable field expert.
  • Because, as we’ve pointed out, content is king, content is cash, and if Google likes anything it likes to be king of the cash.

Changing, adding or removing parts of your blog posts are ways to effectively implement your content marketing strategy.  Google notices your savvy ways and bumps your ranking. Pretty good deal to get immediate rewards for just giving your content a tune-up.

  1. New stuff, am I right?

A lifetime promotional deal is not really a deal when you get right down to it.You are a business. Your content is often a large part of that business. And when your business introduces new promotions like an ebook or a video course or a new blog post, you must link to it in the old content. It’s called working smarter, not harder to reach your readers.

Not being timely with your updates can equal losing moolah, and sometimes it isn’t chump change.

But it isn’t just new stuff you need to be concerned with. You also need to go back and eliminate old information, products, or posts. For instance, one of my books went out of print a couple of years ago. It didn’t make sense to have broken links to a book that no longer exists. So I needed to go back through my content and make sure to remove those links and clean up any promotions of the product from my site.

  1. Readers’ time is valuable.

Don’t waste your reader’s time by talking about something that no longer exists. You’ve been a reader; you’ve been to a site that all the information is old, links are broken, and nothing is updated, right? Bet you were frustrated. Bottom line: it’s never good to frustrate your audience (a.k.a. your buyers).

Making old content go poof is the easiest way to show your readers your care about them and their time. While it’s true people remember negative impressions more than positive ones, never giving them a negative impression certainly makes it easier for them to remember a good one, right?

  1. Constant evolution.

Content, information, is constantly changing. Forget a better user experience…who wants to be the person with the old information?

We all write dated material. There’s nothing wrong with that (although you should try to keep dated material at a minimum and balanced with evergreen material). Writing a brilliant article about “The Best SEO Techniques in 2016” is all well and good except, before you know it, it’s suddenly 2017 and that article is old news.

Change it up. update it by replacing 2016 with 2017 through little tweaks in content (like new links and research material) and the different images. One, using updated and different images should be a staple to marketing any product or content. You never know what will catch different peoples’ attention. Two, you may find a better image than the one you originally used. There is nothing wrong with going “Oh hey, yeah, that works so much better!”

And what happens if your whole brand underwent a change? If you had old screen shots or logos in your content, you will definitely need to update those.

  1. In with the new readers.

Q&A time: How often do you personally scroll back through a blog’s content just to find what that field expert may have posted 5 years ago when they started their blog? Okay, I don’t know about you but I rarely go back more than a few months to a year to see what I might have missed. Unless that business posts their old material (which you should be doing btw) regularly, it just isn’t prudent for me to waste my time. But think about this: what if half of all your new readers really really need to see some of that content? You know, it’s just perfect for them; just what they are looking for.

The whole point of generating content is to build your expertise with readers. If they don’t know you’re an expert simply because they don’t have time to dedicate to stalking you and your product, how are you supposed to be considered an expert?

 

Look, it’s important to update your old content regularly. Secondly, it’s really not that difficult to do. And, third, you’ve put this much work in making yourself more viable to your audience (you know, like reading up on how to be more viable to your audience in this blog post) so why aren’t you?

 

Image of a redheaded woman in a black leather jacket. She has her hands held up in the American Sign Language sign for 'I love you.'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 DarknessA Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short FrictionQuixotic: Not Everyday Love StoriesA Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

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What Consistency in Social Media Marketing Really Means

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Black and white image of a woman holding her ears and smiling.
“Don’t build links, build relationships.” -Rand Fishkin

Consistency. It’s the $65,000 word when it comes to social media marketing. Readers/fans anticipate that once they start hearing from you, they will keep hearing from you. And it’s your job to continue to deliver.

At a recent book marketing lunch, several authors bemoaned the necessity for social media marketing. They had tried it; it didn’t work. They would rather invest their time in actually writing instead. Getting into the discussion further however proved why the authors had such dismal results.

Boring consistency

Yes, it’s necessary to be consistent when interacting with readers/fans on social media, but consistency doesn’t mean the same ol’ same ol’ all the time. When poked, the authors admitted they shared the same thing every day, never fail. A blog post shared every day, a promotional item after that, a picture about their lunch or a place they visited followed that…rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat.

I got bored just listening to their social media marketing. Consistency isn’t about the same schedule held daily. It isn’t about the exact same post shared regularly. It’s about interaction. A good social media marketing campaign has variety. There are sometimes weeks where I don’t share a single blog post or a note about my books. There are some weeks where all I share are Star Trek memes and pictures of my animals. Sometimes I share them on the same schedule I usually do, and other times I decrease frequency. What is important is that I don’t disappear; I still have a presence. On top of that, I make sure to interact with others, participate.

Consistency in social media marketing isn’t just about what an author puts out in the world, it’s more about how well they play with others. That includes dialogue and discussion, sharing.

Patience is a virtue

The next item discovered at the book marketing lunch was how quickly authors abandoned their social media marketing. One author shared that she consistently posted to social media for 3 whole months before she called it quits. Another mentioned how he tried it for about two months and saw zero results so he quit.

A common misperception with social media marketing is that it is either quick or easy. It is neither. A good social media marketing campaign requires a minimum of 6 months of careful planning and study, adjustments and interactions to be successful. Even 6 months would be expectant. The fact is, social media marketing can take a while to bear any fruit, and then it may not be what most authors expect.

Another man’s treasure

Social media marketing isn’t about sales. That’s right, you heard me – it isn’t about sales. It isn’t even about followers or clicks. Although followers and clicks are helpful – but not in the way you might think. Followers interact with you; clicks mean you’re offering those followers valuable information. Basically, it’s about the relationship you build with others. It’s making friends. Friends aren’t sales. They can equal sales, but that’s not the real reason for it. And if it is the reason you’re doing it, well then you aren’t being very genuine anyway.

After a little more discussion, the importance of social media marketing seemed to become apparent to, at least, a few members of the group who previously wanted nothing more to do with it. With a little added guidance, many have started reconsidering their social media campaigns. A few have even started small in re-engaging with people through SM. What’s most promising is seeing the inconsistent consistency they’re posting with and starting to see some results from…I mean, who wouldn’t thought?

 

A woman with red hair styled into a sleeked back pompadour. She sits, leaning her face on her left hand near the temple. She is wearing a silver, antique choker chain with an antique locked of Celtic design. She has on a black and white Houndstooth vest. There is bright sunlight streaming in through a glass door behind her. She smiles faintly, and has green eyes.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)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction ◘ Quixotic: Not Everyday Love Stories ◘ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

 

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How to Read One Whole Book Every Week

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Image: Black and white; an open book on a plain surface
“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
― Mark Twain

Having time to read isn’t something precious to be put on a pedestal and admired. Reading a book every single week is not as difficult as many people make it seem.

I’m not special. I don’t read hundreds of books each year. But I do manage to consume one to two books a week, not counting comic books and graphic novels (which can be several per week). Am I bragging a little? Yeah, okay I am. But the key to my bragging rights is that anyone can make the time to read. One of the most common utterances of busy adults everywhere is “I wish I read more.” But the secret is to take the act of reading itself off the pedestal. Reading isn’t something that needs special pomp and circumstance. If you think you can only pull out a book when you have an afternoon off and a snuggly blanket, and the rain pitter-pattering off the roof outside…chances are you will only ever read when you have the afternoon off, a snuggly blanket, and it’s raining.

Reading isn’t a luxury; it’s something you make a part of your daily life, a habit, a necessity. Like creating any new habit, or breaking an old bad habit, it’s making a conscious effort. And it isn’t hard to do. When creating a new habit, it just takes a little bit of hard work and willpower. Oh yeah, and a little bit of self trickery.


Don’t read before bed, read before work

It’s common practice for most people to keep their reading on their nightstand. If you read at night, you probably only get through a few pages before you relax and get sleepy. Remember, you’ve already logged a full day’s worth of work and activity, and your brain has already been set to ‘sleep mode,’ not learning mode. Instead, make reading a morning habit. If you’re like me, you’re not an early riser. Instead of spending each morning checking Instagram or surfing Facebook in bed, try replaced it with reading a couple chapters. (I promise not much has happened since you opened the app at midnight.) Make tea or coffee and ease your way into the day. (If you’re like me, I read two or three blogs in the morning, reserving my lengthier chapter reading for throughout the day. Of course, that’s mostly because I’m not much of a human being first thing upon waking.)


Take advantage of your commute

Changing up my morning commute was one of the best decisions I ever made. If you take the bus or the train to work, use that time to your advantage: read. Instead of listening idly to music or a podcast, actively read. The average commute is around 30 minutes one way. In 30 minutes, you can read a couple of chapters (depending on the book and its average chapter length).


Read on your phone

I love the smell of real books. I love the feel and weight of real books. That said, I read (on average) half of all my books on either my android’s Kindle app or my iPad’s Kindle app. Chances are you have your phone on you pretty much at all times. Most people never let it out of their sight for more than a few minutes, and it’s conveniently right there in your pocket when you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or at the coffee shop. Even if you only read a page or two for a few minutes, those minutes add up over the course of a day.


Stop reading books that…suck

Nothing will make you quit your new reading habit faster than feeling like you’re trapped in junior high school and forced to read, just because you paid money for it or someone said you should read it. There are literally millions upon millions of books out there. Books you will love to spend minutes, even hours, on. If you don’t like a book, don’t read it. Pick up a different one. Even if you’re broke after spending money on that last book, there is…


The library!

If there is a universal constant in this world, it’s: free shit rules! The library is probably one of the best bastions on that constant. If you were using “Hey, I paid money for that last book so I have to read it!” then consider instead the fact that library books come with due dates! It’s built in incentive. Also, there is something infinitely gratifying about the treasure hunt that is finding a truly awesome book among stacks and stacks of books.


Multitask, baby

We’re kings and queens of the multitask. It’s a staple of modern life: needing to be able to process and do a lot of different crap all at in one day. Picking multiple books to read at once is just smart planning. You never know what your taste will be at any given point in the day. Usually I go for a fiction book, something epic and escapist; a nonfiction, improve thyself yaddah yaddah; and at least one comic book (or comic series). There are days your brain will be fried after work during your commute home; grab the comic instead of the dense fantasy novel with a million characters and plots and subplots to follow.


Read while you watch

Most of us aren’t so uppity that we don’t watch some form of live TV. You can still use that time to read. I mean, what can be more gratifying than saying you read hundreds of hours or thousands of books during Geico ads? Also, even if you don’t watch live TV, many streaming services still have 30-45 seconds worth of ads periodically throughout the program; keep a book right beside you for those “down times.” An avid moviegoer? Read during the previews or while waiting in the concession line.


Keep track of what you read

We’re competitive, gratification-seeking mammals. We like to feel a sense of accomplishment. Reading is no different. Keep track of what you read. One, it will help you keep from accidentally picking up and wasting time (possibly spending money on) books you read a year, two years, or even three years ago. There are sites like Shelfari and Goodreads, which are fun and will let you do a bit of social bragging, or you can just keep a quick note in your phone or on your tablet. However you do it, the point is to remember to give yourself a little pat on the book for every book you complete (even the ones you don’t complete – you don’t want to accidentally waste time on those again). Doing so will reinforce the good reading habit you’ve worked so hard on.

 

So, there you have it. Increase how often you read; do the thing you say you always want to do: read more. All you have to do is tweak a few little things in your life and get over yourself. There is time.

 

@BCBrownBooksBC 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 DarknessA Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short FrictionQuixotic: Not Everyday Love StoriesA Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

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A World of Silence: How ‘Deaf’ Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

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Photo is from The Princess Bride movie. The character is Inigo Montoya, a swarthy man of Spanish heritage with chin-length brown hair, brown eyes, and a brown mustache. The caption reads: You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

 

I am Deaf. But I can hear. At least, I can hear some frequencies, slightly muted, about 50% of the time with my Lyric implants (inner ear canal implants that are inserted by a doctor quarterly) and about 30% of the time, muted and choppy, without my implants.

Technically, under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) I am profoundly hard of hearing. My condition is degenerative however, so in a few short years I will be legally deaf under the ADA definition.

Why am I telling you this? For understanding and to clear the air about a few common misconceptions as to what being deaf means – for realsies. ‘Deaf’ is a two-fold word implying both a state of different ability (like Michael Jordan is differently-abled than, say, your average high school basketballer) and a culture and community identification (think about nationality or ethnic heritage pride).

My differently-abled definition is profoundly hard of hearing, as I retain some hearing capacity. My culture and community identification is Deaf.

I interact with the speaking/hearing world a great deal of the time. It’s hard to lecture a room of speaking-inclined authors using only American Sign Language (ASL). Well, I could but what would be the point? Also I commute via bus and bicycle often. While hearing is not a requirement at all for doing that, it does make the commutes a smidgen easier (asking questions if you’re in an unfamiliar place and need directions for example) and safer (hearing a car horn blaring behind you because they’re about to careen into the bicycling lane for example).

Since I grew up speaking and hearing (my degenerative disorder didn’t start being noticeable until my teenage years), my speech is fine, I still enjoy music (based in large part more on my remembering what the music sounds like than what is being translated by my implants), and interacting frequently and largely with the speaking/hearing world. Living in both worlds doesn’t bother me. Until…someone makes one of the asinine comments that make me have to take two slow breaths and then launch into instruction mode.

 

You’re deaf? But you speak so well.

There is nothing a Deaf person can’t do that anyone else can do, except hear within “normative” ranges. Those of us who choose to interact with the speaking/hearing world and choose to speak take great pains to make sure we do effectively communication. In my case, I didn’t have to learn how to make recognizable sounds; I just have to maintain them. That means, like many Deaf people, speech lessons.

 

You’re deaf? You act like you can hear!

Can someone explain to me how a person acts like they can hear? Does my head perk up or my ears twitch like an animal? This one frustrates me quite a bit, but I try to remember that not everyone can tell when they’ve encountered a Deaf person. What I try to remind people is that I have implants that give me some range of hearing. Although in a few years I won’t even have that luxury. I try to remind them that being and identifying Deaf is not dependent on a total lack of sound.

 

You’re deaf? Can you teach me sign?

Yes but probably not. Do I teach my friends some ASL? Some of them. The ones who seem genuinely interested in communicating with me more effectively and who are compassionate enough to realize that sometimes hearing communication is hard on me. But they have to show a real commitment to it. I’m not a “cool new trick” or a free class at the Y. Sign is a very real part of my life, and like any language it (and those of us who use it) deserves to be respected.

 

Basically those are the top three statements that I find frustrating. I know it’s a simple matter of people not understanding or being aware of what it means to be Deaf. It’s a matter of limited perception. It doesn’t make it any less annoying, but it does cut down on the sarcastic or biting responses I give.

A woman with red hair styled into a sleeked back pompadour. She sits, leaning her face on her left hand near the temple. She is wearing a silver, antique choker chain with an antique locked of Celtic design. She has on a black and white Houndstooth vest. There is bright sunlight streaming in through a glass door behind her. She smiles faintly, and has green eyes.BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed A woman with red hair styled into a sleeked back pompadour. She sits, leaning her face on her left hand near the temple. She is wearing a silver, antique choker chain with an antique locked of Celtic design. She has on a black and white Houndstooth vest. There is bright sunlight streaming in through a glass door behind her. She smiles faintly, and has green eyes.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)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction ◘ Quixotic: Not Everyday Love Stories ◘ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

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From The Writer’s Pack: Meet My Inspiration

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I am an animal lover. It’s true. The first “people” I meet when I visit someone’s house or go to a party are the animals. I spend a good deal of time with each, learning their names, greeting them slowly and gently. It actually distresses me when an animal doesn’t seem to like me, while I couldn’t care less when most humans don’t like me.

So, even though there is nothing “writerly educational” in this post, I want everyone to meet my constant inspirations: the Cat, the Old Lady, and the Shepherd, my writer’s pack.

Very dark grey cat with big, round green eyes. The cat is still young, a kitten, with medium long fur. It is crouched on a black table edge. The cat is looking up, as if hunting. It wears a bright purple harness. A tiny dog with reddish fur, a face full of white fur from years of age, and big brown eyes lays on a cool linoleum floor next to a black carpet. The dog's head is laid down with its chin on the floor. Although it appears drowsy, its ears are big and pointed straight up, like it hears everything. A German Shepherd mixed dog lays down on a cool lineolium floor. The animal is black and brown with a white neck and chest, belly and legs. Its head is held high, alert, with its ears perked, eyes scanning. It pants lightly, its tongue out.

 

My animals write with me, they hike with me, they are there for me every bit as much as the stories are there for me. When I don’t want to get out of bed and stare at the screen, my pack is there with gentle nudges, cold noses, and warm hearts (and sometimes a much-needed claw for added incentive).

So, like I said, nothing writerly or educational in this post. Just my sharing my animals with the world.

 

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed A woman with red hair styled into a sleeked back pompadour. She sits, leaning her face on her left hand near the temple. She is wearing a silver, antique choker chain with an antique locked of Celtic design. She has on a black and white Houndstooth vest. There is bright sunlight streaming in through a glass door behind her. She smiles faintly, and has green eyes.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)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction ◘ Quixotic: Not Everyday Love Stories ◘ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

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Author’s Book Marketing Guide: Month 2 Pre-Release

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Photo: Notebook with checklist and hand checking off the list.

The countdown is getting close! Are you able to breathe? Hopefully with the homework we’ve laid out in Months 6, 5, 4, 3 of the pre-release plan, the only nervousness you feel is the excitement of your new book almost ready for a booming and successful start! This month is all about “priming the pump” so to speak for advance sales.

This month we’re going to concentrate on:

  • Article directories
  • Press Releases
  • “Push” pages

Article Directories

Remember that in order to catch peoples’ attention, you have to be visible. The best way for a writer to increase their visibility (not to mention increase inbound links to their website, therefore increasing search engine results) is to have name recognition everywhere. That means contributing articles online. You can easily capitalize on any membership sites you belong to. Doing so increases your membership’s community library and helps establish yourself as an expert. (Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be about writing or publishing. Any expertise can be linked back to your website, which will promote your book when it releases.)

There are also a number of articles directory sites. Articles directories are super easy ways for your articles to find their way into blogs, newsletters, and other sites. With these directories, you retain full attribution and gain links to your websites. Posting your articles for free is sometimes the quickest way to have people pick up on your material for redistribution among their blog, newsletter, or website. While the effort won’t be directly compensated, the exposure to different networks can be amazing. Most directories allow you to track your articles so you can ensure the poster does properly attribute you and provide a link to your information (like your website, book link on Amazon, etc). Sometimes your articles can even end up in publications around the world, increasing your visibility and establishing your expert status.

If you’re like me, the thought of writing “how-to” articles as a fiction writer was daunting. But, as you can see, as a writer, no matter that genre, you are an expert in writing, at the very least. From my own trials and errors (many, many errors!! Oy vey!) I learned how to market myself and my books better, and a lesson learned is something that can written and submitted!

 

Press Releases

All right, the time has come to put together your book’s press release. I recommend completing on main release, then all you need to do is tweak the first paragraph a bit here and there for other releases. The “tweaking” allows you to tailor it specifically for types of publications you want to target.

But I’m a fiction writer! you’re thinking. No worries. So am I, but a press release is easy. Think of it as backwards storytelling. In fiction we start with the broad and tailor down to the specifics. In press release writing, we start with the specifics and supply the filler information. So your “who, where, when, what, and why” information is at the top. Make sure to include a headline and lead sentence to “hook” the readers, just like you did when writing your back blurb. (Example: New Book Provides Step-By-Step Book Marketing to Authors). Don’t make the mistake of focusing on you as the author (example: BC Brown Launches New Marketing Book). The writer isn’t as important in the headline as catching the reader’s attention. The first sentence needs to hook the reader with what is new, original, or hmmm….weird about your book. Then hit ’em with the book title, release date, publisher, and author name. Head into the next paragraph with a one-line recap of the book’s content. The best is if you can focus on how to book solves a problem or introduces a useful process. If the book is fiction, then you need to highlight how your book is different or original from the others on the marketing, and your one-line recap should be a plot summary. Then add on your credentials.

You head into the next paragraph with any special launch events, media appearances, and book tour signings. Don’t forget to give accolades to your publisher or distributor (if you have one). I tend to give my editor a little shout out here also. Definitely include how your book is available – online, in bookstores, and/or through your website. If self published, it’s best to not mention that fact. It’s unfortunate and unfair but a lot of stigma is still tied to self publishing. Although many indie authors are making strides toward bettering the image in quality of work and expertise, it isn’t quite there yet.

Last paragraph should include your website information, push page (which we will discuss next), and contact information so interested stores or media outlets can follow up with you. Successful press releases are limited to around 200-300 words. Keep sentences short, use active verbs, and keep the focus on what the book delivers for the reader, not on the book itself. Your credentials should always show how your experiences is beneficial to the reader. Make sure to double-check for typos. You wouldn’t believe how many press releases have come across my desk with errors in the email or phone number for an author – yikes! (A useful hint is to read your press release backwards, starting at the bottom of the document and reading it one line at a time to the top. The break in continuity will keep your brain from “filling in the known gaps” and glaring errors should present clearer.)

Traditional media outlets are still sticklers for what they consider “professional submission guidelines.” And let’s face it, the traditional media outlets still dominate the landscape for news. Make sure you follow the traditional press release format. Here is the example I used for my novel, A Touch of Darkness:

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Glorious Bastards Press 555-555-5555

A Touch of Darkness Revitalizes Gritty Noir with Dark Humor, Realistic Police Procedural, and Touching Humanity

     Mattoon, IL—A Touch of Darkness, An Abigail St Michael Novel, the newest title by fantasy author BC Brown, catapults into the modern-day, alternative reality of mysticism and madness with Abigail St Michael, former cop and psychic consultant.

A Touch of Darkness opens in the midnight world of psychics and serial killers with the death of a child, washed in the shadows of night and the alternating red and whites of police lights. Abbey St Michael is forced to confront an evil on her doorstep that may be closer than she ever realized. With her unique brand of dark humor and sarcastic wit, she struggles to catch a killer while not getting caught herself.

BC Brown’s first work, the dark fantasy Sister Light, Book One: Of Shadows and published under the pen name BB Walter, burst onto the sci-fi/fantasy scene first as short fiction and then expanded by request of fans for a full-length printing. Sister Light then went on to repeated sold out signings while on book tour and earned high praise from reviewers and readers alike. In A Touch of Darkness, Brown has brought all the sweeping vision of epic fantasy to contemporary paranormal mystery with an added noir grittiness and realism evident in its market pre-sales.

A Touch of Darkness is published by Glorious Bastards Press, a new author collaborative imprint. The Abigail St Michael Novels are distributed in the U.S. by Simon & Schuster. Learn more at www.bcbrownbooks.com.


When submitting your press release make sure to embed it in the body of your email. Do not attach it as a document. Understandably reporters are uneasy about opening attachments for fear of viruses. Many firewalls are built to keep out attachments for that reason. You should always include a personal note to the correspond in an effort to build personal relationships. Keep it brief however. I usually start with a line or two about one of their recent articles I’ve read. Just remember to be sincere, actually read the article. Then wrap it up with a polite note asking their consideration for your release.

Don’t forget about all the paid and free press release distribution services. The paid ones range in price. I’ve seen them go from inexpensive to costly, depending on their presence and distribution, plus bonuses that can be added. I’ve used PR Newswire in the past. Free sources I like to use are OpenPR and 24-7PressRelease. There are numerous others, and I suggest doing a little websurfing to see one that fits you best.

Why press releases? Every release that gets picked up online will drive traffic to your website and the push page we’re about to discuss. It also helps boost search engine results, creates buzz about your book, and builds visibility about you as an expert. Don’t forget to use your press release when emailing bookstores too. Their PR person will be able to use it in their marketing when setting you up for book signings and events. Always notify media personally of events when you’re going to be in the area as well. And don’t forget about capitalizing on the “homegrown” aspect – let local professional association publications, alumni magazines, community event publications – know about your book and who you are. You’re a celebrity now!

Push Pages

A push page is an industry term that allows for online pre-sales of your book. This can be done even if you are self publishing by creating a pre-order button on your website.

Most commonly used in non-fiction, push pages are becoming popular in genre fiction work as well. Typically push pages (for fiction) use pre-ordering by offering bonus materials, such as a short story in the same genre etc. It can be anything really (audio recordings, swag, etc) from the author. The point is an incentive to commit to and purchase the book prior to its launch. Another fun way to market (and grow your audience and author network) is to ask other authors to cross promote with you. You can ask them to offer an excerpt or downloadable chapter, article, discount (anything) to your launch. Just remember that you want similar content without competing messages. This can work especially well if you and an author friend have opposite publication schedules. Also, ensure you have a way to fulfill the cross-promoted material (or the material you are providing) so everyone gets what you’ve promised.

To recap: this month you should be working on article directories and submissions to them, press releases to be sent out, and push pages for pre-release sales. If you haven’t yet, you should make sure you have bookmarks, business cards, posters, and book “fliers” designed and ordered. Send out your press releases and review copies. Contact bookstores to schedule those important signings. Start scheduling conventions and conferences for speaking opportunities and signings.

During all of this, make sure you update your spreadsheet with notes as to who you’ve contacted, when, and responses received. This includes media, reviewers, and book stores. Make notes about personality, outcomes, and overall experience. You can work with those who are willing to work with you instead of against you by keeping accurate notes. And it will save you a lot of time in the future! I also consider what “swag” I will be giving away at future events. In the beginning, I suggest keeping it small: bookmark with some type of giveaway (I suggest a short story download), maybe pens or magnets, candy). Keep it simple and small at first. Find ways to tie it to you or your book when possible.

Okay, well that wraps up your 2 month pre-release. You are well on your way to a successful launch if you’ve followed the steps laid out. Remember, by following each of these little by little you save yourself a lot of last minute stressing and initials sales that may be discouraging, to say the least.

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.
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Why I Help the Homeless

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I didn’t grow up in a family that had causes. I was taught from an early age that you took care of yourself first, and then you helped others when and where you could. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized that helping others was taking care of myself.

#SandwichesInParks 
 
I work with several non-profit organization in Phoenix, Arizona that assist people experiencing homelessness. Many of those non-profits are a mixture of groups that provide services like meals on Sunday and a few nights a week or large outreach events once a month on Saturdays or Sundays.
 
One such group called Hope 4 Phoenix began providing meals for homeless individuals on Sundays and Wednesdays. Using leftovers from those meal, they started distributing sandwiches to people struggling with homelessness in downtown Phoenix popular areas for homeless to frequent. Phoenix homeless advocate Mike Atanasio saw the need to expand the meal service to a full 7 nights-a-week. He coordinated local food banks to provide ingredients for soup (in the winter) and items for sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly for the yummy win!).
 
Along Came BC
 
Mike handles several dozen outreach projects and events for the Arizona Friends of Homeless network. His advocacy is full time – morning, noon and night, including the middle of the night at times. When he decided to tackle the task of expanding the meal service to 7 nights-a-week, I asked to participate. And decided to make it a “thing.” Because someone in marketing doesn’t know how to do anything without first figuring out how to brand it, even a soft brand. #SandwichesInParks 
#SandwichesInParks
BC Brown and fellow author C.A. Wilke helps people experiencing homelessness in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.
The program is intended to provide a basic meal (soup and a sandwich), perhaps a warm blanket during the cold season, to those in need on the streets and in the parks of downtown Phoenix. However as I went out each week, the overwhelming cry for more items, such as hygiene, towels, and socks, became louder and louder. I put out the call and people responded with an abundance of compassion and supplies.
 
Coordinating donation efforts from local, statewide and even multi-state resources, #SandwichesInParks has grown from providing a single cup of soup, a sandwich, and a blanket to providing a cup of soup with dipping bread; a full sack lunch with peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chips, a snack item, fruit, and a piece of candy; a beverage; and assorted hygiene and feminine hygiene products, as well as socks, shoes, clothing, and towels and washcloths (all as donated).
 
But what’s more are the changes in the faces of the people I see every week. Some few of them eyed me warily when I first started. Now I’m on a first name basis with many, chatting weekly about their lives. Instead of woes and sadness, these people tell me of prospects and hopes; they smile instead of grimacing.
 
I know what I do weekly isn’t a solution to homelessness. I know it isn’t sustainable in the long term and it is only one small local effort to help. But in a world where people often get too wrapped up in the big picture, it’s enough for me to take a closer, hands-on approach to dealing with a topic that is important to me. 1) it makes me feel good, and 2) it helps my community.
 
Who knows? In time my efforts might be duplicated in other areas. Or maybe someone will come up with a better idea of helping. In the mean time, I’ll keep driving my truck around and handing out #SandwichesInParks among other necessities.
 
 
@BCBrownBooksBC 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.
 
BooksA Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
 

Coming soon: Karaoke Jane                  

 
 
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Author’s Book Marketing Guide: Month 3 Pre-Release

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Let’s get ready to rumble!

Okay, we’ve covered what to do in months 6, 5, and 4 prior to book release. We’re halfway toward your release day. In this post you should start to see all the hard work you’ve put in so far pay off. This month, we’ll focus on: 

  • Website content creation
  • Blogging schedule
  • Utilizing social media for pre-launch excitement
  • Mailing out review copies

Content, baby!

All knowledge is worth having.” (Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey)

Knowledge is one of the most valuable resources in today’s world. As a writer, that is especially applicable to you. Every time you write, you turn what you know into content for others to consume. A good writer knows how to go one step beyond their book however. But don’t worry about having to do a ton more work. You can take what you already know – how to write – and repurpose it into content. For example, I’m using my own marketing fumbles, bumbles, and jumbles to help you take an easier path while on the road to book marketing. In the end, it’s

Author Book Marketing Plan, Month 3 by BC Brown @BCBrownBooks - Photo Credit: Eric Rothermel. Source: Unsplash

a win-win for us both. You get the benefit of my knowledge, and I get you reading my blog and learning a little bit more about me and my writing.

 
I’m bloggin’ it! Your website and subsequent blog are amazing opportunities for you. Combined with social media, you get to share your expertise with the world. Using your website and blog to put out valuable content is important. It’s makes you more than just a spammy spammer shouting “Buy my book!” at everyone. Think of it like this, your book is like your business card to the world. It tells people you’re here and you write. Your website and blog are your pitch, which you should remember from Month 4 Pre-Release. The media pitch is your chance to sell not only the story but yourself as an expert as well.
 
Your website is also a great place to offer readers a “sneak peek” at your book. Offer them a free chapter to get them hooked on your story. I mean, a little honey goes a long way. You can include interviews, a Q&A session for readers, and audio and video chats. You can tie in current events with your books. For instance, if you write a paranormal series about witches based around Salem, Massachusetts, even if it’s fiction, you could write historical tidbits about the Salem Witch Trials, or expand out a series of articles for the week leading up to Halloween or El Die de Los Muerto (The Day of the Dead). 
 
Feel free to invite other experts on your website too. Cross promotion between writers or other artists can only improve your traffic and broaden your reader base.
 
Be a social butterfly. Social media is a great opportunity to grow your network into a global audience. The trick is having interesting content to add to social media, keeping it updated, and participation, participation, participation!
 
Many writers make the mistake of only adding their website or book content to social media. It’s a big neon sign of “Look at me; look at me!” And then they vanish until, lo and behold, the next “Look at me!” moment gets posted. Social media takes a little time and commitment, but it is well worth the effort. It’s true that every time you post any content on social media, you make it easier for search engines to find you. Which, as an author, is important. You want those clever little searchbots seeking you out. What you want to avoid however is them only finding the same, boring things over and over. 
 
I spend a great deal of time on social media, surfing and chatting, sharing and liking information out there. Yes, a lot of content I share is writing-related, since that topic happens to interest me. But I also make sure that for every article I share I am careful to be conversational on my social media channels. I include content that isn’t just writing or book related. Essentially, you need to be a person – multifaceted like the characters in your books.
 
I can’t stress how important it is to have a regular presence on social media. Don’t set up profiles on a dozen sites, slap up some introductory promotion, and then abandon the sites until your next blog article hits and you want the promotion. Do you have to be on there every minute of every day? Certainly not. Not if you plan on putting in your due diligence writing your next book and promoting your current and upcoming ones. Then, of course, there’s always that whole family and friends thing you should put a little time in on. Oh, and a job if you have one of those. Keep your presence on social media active and load it more heavily with you as a person than you as an author. Just don’t forget some of the author gig too.
 
It’s time to fish. Now that you’ve got your media pitch and reviewer letter all squared and polished, it’s time to cast them out there, baby. This can get overwhelming quickly, especially if organization isn’t your forte. I recommend keeping this to a manageable amount each week. I tend to go with 3 media pitches and 3 reviewer letters per week. That gives me a dozen by the end of the month. Fairly respectable. Some times reviewers and media people will have comments or suggestions for reaching out to them or how to better pitch. Take the advice and adjust as needed. Continue doing this routine each month right up launch day and even after. 
 
So basically, what we’ve established this month is you getting social media accounts squared away. Do your research and find out where not only authors are but where readers seem to be. Get those accounts set up right away. Remember to keep it small at first. You can build your social media network gradually as you get more comfortable.
 
We’ve also talked about getting content going for your website. I recommend writing and having a minimum of two months worth of valuable content ready for your blog in the pipe at all times. For me, I come up with a list of topics I want to cover and then take one afternoon to get them all written and ready to post. Keep in mind that the key to being valuable to your reader is keeping your content high quality, interesting, and consistent.
 
And, lastly, it’s time to send out your media pitches and reviewer letters in small batches. You have 3 months left until your book launches. That’s a comfortable amount of time to get booked on a few radio, TV, or podcast spots, still toss in a few newspaper interviews or spotlights in the local “hometown news” sections, and get a review or two back from established reviewers. 
 
If you’ve been tackling each month as I’ve written about it then you are well on your way to a bombastic book launch.
 
Photo: Author BC Brown
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.



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5 Easy Ways to Support an Author

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You love to read? You have a favorite author you just can’t wait until they publish their next book? Show ’em some love.
5 Tips to Support Authors
5 Ways to Support an Author

  1. Write a review. This seems simple but the truth is few readers take the time to review a book once they have read it. Reviews don’t have to be difficult. Writing a simple line or two is easy: “I read a lot of…and I enjoyed this story. The story was exciting and kept me reading to the end.” Seems basic but will encourage your favorite author to keep writing. Not to mention, if on Amazon, will increase that author’s visibility to other readers, leading to more writing by your favorite author. Win-win!
  2. Tell your friends. Bookworms tend to know a lot of other readers. Tell your friends about your favorite author and their books. Nothing helps support your favorite author like readers buying their books. We are fond of eating. 
  3. Share with your friends. There is nothing like the gift of a book. Have you ever finished a book and thought “I wish there were someone I could talk to about this book!” There could be. Buy a copy for a friend you think would enjoy it. Even if you only decide to gift your copy of the book to a friend, it’s still beneficial. Your friend may fall in love with your favorite author and buy more of their books, write reviews, etc.
  4. Use the public library request system. All authors, no matter how popular, need exposure to readers. Nothing gets a writer more exposure than being available in public places where the demographic is perfect: all readers (well, mostly). Putting a Request to Stock into your local library may give your favorite author access to a town they haven’t yet been found by readers. (I should also point out that it isn’t misleading to put in a request to stock even if you own the book. Just remember to rent it at least once, maybe twice, to be fair to library resources.)
  5. Share your author on social media. Like the book? Tell the world! Literally. Social media connects many of us with hundreds of thousands, even the potential of millions, of people a day. When you have a favorite author, find them on social media; follow their sites; and share stuff you find interesting on their sites with your own friends. Two things happen by following an author’s social media a) you are telling your friends online how much you like an author and helping them reach new readers, and b) you’re front and center for sneak peeks, new contests and releases, and goodies your author is giving away. It’s win-win!
There are five easy tips to show your support for your favorite authors. How do you show your support? Are there more ways not listed?
 
@BCBrownBooksBC 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)
 

Coming soon: Karaoke Jane       

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