Sunday, 26 June 2011

Marketing in an Electronic World. . . My First Steps

Writing is ninety percent listening.  You listen so deep to the space around you that it fills you, and when you write, it pours out of you.                         Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Our world may teem with pain and violence, but we have the ability to turn off the chatter, and open our minds to the peace and tranquility all around us . . . this is your choice.

I see wonder in the ordinary, and often get lost in taking pictures of no one . . . pictures without people. 

A weathered wooden fence dappled with layers of peeling blue paint, lifted by decades of heat and rain.  A single rusty nail draws me close.  Who pounded that nail and why?  "Click, click."  Or white crusted barnacles growing on the pilings under Santa Monica pier like on a grizzled old whale.  "Click, click."  Staircases, fire escapes, the angles, the lines.  "Click, click."  A vine hidden treehouse abandoned in the woods long ago.  Where are the laughing children who once played there?  "Click, click." 

Shadows are my favorite, clinging to their subject, if only by a thread.  Shadows add character, depth and dimension to the existing beauty.  If only I can catch it before it disappears.  "Click, click."

Do others see what I see?

Less than 10 percent of new writers have enough promotional ammunition to interest large publishers.                                    
                     Michael Larsen, How to Write a Book Proposal

Never before has a writer had more opportunities to market their own book than today.  Technology continues to advance at such a fast pace it's hard to keep up.  Yet, this is one of the most success-filled avenues to promote your book . . . and the best news is that your choices are ENDLESS.

I'm still wallowing in information, but I want to share what I'm learning as I go . . .
  • Start promoting BEFORE your book is finished - Your objective should be to first create interest.  Then sustain that interest as you build on it.  This will begin your potential reader base . . .  
Currently, my book is in its final edit.  Kay Thompson Lee, my freelance editor, is smoothing out any rough edges she may find, and I'm extremely pleased with her subtle changes and expertise.
  • Create a blog
The first item on my to-do-list, and soon-to-be constructed MARKETING PLAN, was to create a blog . . . my first blog ever.  This was accomplished on Google Blogspot with little difficulty.  My first post was April 9, 2011, and as of today, I've had 1020 page viewers, which includes many other countries.  I'm stunned but delighted because my story needs to be heard.   

How did this happen? 

Each week, after I post my new blog, I send an announcement to all friends and family in my email address book (approx. 80).  This way they know it's posted, and don't have to search for it.  And they have the option whether to view it now or later, or not at all.
  • Join a Writers Group Online
Next, I joined SheWrites, which is an online writers group that was recommended.  SheWrites consists of groups within the group, depending on your genre, interests and the stage of your work.  I joined Blogging about Books and Writing . . . Memoir Writers . . . I'm Thinking of Self-Publishing . . . Marketing Ideas . . . and What Did You Blog About Today?

Each day, SheWrites forwards emails from these writers showing what they posted that day.  I reply to the emails of interest, or to new friends I've made.  My blog address is attached at the end of my reply.  This is time consuming, but definitely joy-filled, and a necessary tool for your success.  And I've met the most amazing women! 

This is where Time Management plays a key role.  And once I figure out how to manage my time . . . I'll be the first to share because I know all writers wrestle with the infamous time bandit.

The women on SheWrites are talented writers willing to share their expertise.  It's been a pleasure getting to know them, and their work, gleaning new ideas daily.  Their comments and encouragement were unexpected, offering friendship from across the country and around the world. 

 . . . to be continued.  

Lesson learned . . . my two cents

Anytime you meet someone new, and they learn you're a writer and show interest . . . NEVER miss an opportunity to ASK for their email address.  Then add it to your address book ASAP (placing a key word next to their name for later recall where you met).  Little pieces of paper have a tendency to disappear, and you don't have time to waste looking for it . . . nor lose a potential sale.

Note:  You can visit:  In The Beginning . . . and Q is for Query Letter . . .  to learn what my book is about.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

What Next? . . . Time for An Agent

When was the last time you saw something that took your breath away?

A week before my trip to New Zealand, I drove a friend to the ocean, which she hadn't seen in years.  The day was perfect.  The water's surface dimpled by a steady breeze, frothy white curls crashed against one another.  I pulled my car off the road overlooking the view, and opened my sunroof to listen to its rhythm.  

Suddenly I notice three, massive brown pelicans gliding in formation over the road coming toward us.  Their seven-foot wing span cast shadows on the mountain wall.  Strong necks stretch to conceal their pouches, purple feet are tucked against their belly.  I am spellbound.  Then I see another formation off to the right.  I count eleven huge birds gliding along the ocean's edge . . . then another group of eight . . . and then three.  They keep coming until I lose count.  These mammoth birds fly over my car like small airplanes.  I feel like we're in Jurassic Park . . . expecting to see an Allosaurus lumbering down the road after us.  It takes my breath away!!! 

Literature is like any other trade; you will never sell anything unless you go to the right shop.    - George Bernard Shaw

Searching for an agent can be overwhelming, whether you just finished your first book, or have several publishing credits on your resume.  The question is . . . do you need a literary agent, or can you submit the work directly to publishers on your own?

Research suggests the following . . .
  • Large publishing houses like Simon & Schuster, Random House, etc. require literary agent representation.  They lack the time and manpower to go through a plethora of queries in search of the next best seller.  However, an agent will dive in looking for the biggest fish.  His/or her reputation is at stake, as well as his income.
  • Medium and small  presses may accept query letters, but you must do your research.
I found two main sources for literary agents . . . the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents by Writers Digest (20th Anniversary Edition) and the 2011 Writers Market (90th Annual Edition).  Armed with a strip of stick-on page markers, one of these references could keep you busy until your next birthday.
Genres are listed in the back of the book.  Mine are Memoir, Military, Creative-Nonfiction & Christian.  The literary agencies in your genres will list their requirements.  Mark the ones that show promise.  Next . . . go to their website for more detailed information.  Does your work still fit within their guidelines?  If so, highlight the specific agent handling your genre . . . then start your list of Submissions.

A query letter can be sent to as many agents and publishers as you desire.  I normally work with two to three at one time.  Each query letter is personalized, then noted on a Submission Ledger . . . which lists the date sent, agent/agency/publisher, comments and the date returned.

Queries that are concise and compelling are the most intriguing. 
                                  - Regina Brooks, founder, Serendipity Literary Agency
An Agent:
  • Gets 15% of whatever you get
  • Monies go directly to your agent, they send the balance to you
  • Sells an idea and your ability to write
  • Handles paperwork for the IRS
  • Do not pay an agent for anything - including a reading fee

I started to submit query letters the middle of November 2010.  Some wanted a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope), while others stated "email only."  An interesting experience!  I checked my emails constantly, as I nervously waited for the mailman.  I was out of control.  But I'm getting better.

Polite rejections are status quo for queries mailed . . . most are form letters.  One was handwritten . . . Not for me, but thank you.  I'm so sorry for your loss.  And of all the emails . . . only one replied!  Possibly the fastest rejection in history!  Sent at 5:01 p.m., the rejection arrived at 5:50 p.m., but it was polite.  I guess it's a lot easier to hit the delete key, then take a minute to say, "No Thank You."

My plan has been to give the "traditional way" one year . . . then consider self-publishing.  In this round, small publishers will be my target with some agents sprinkled throughout.  I'll never know unless I try!

Death leaves a memory that no one can heal, love leaves a memory that no one can steal.                 Anonymous

The demons of war continue to rage out of control.  Throughout the world brave men and women are engulfed in fear, death and destruction as they pray for strength and protection  Others long for the way it use to be, knowing it will never be again.

We must never forget the price these brave men and women are paying for their country . . .

My story is only one of millions.  A family shattered by the horrors of war dwelling in the man I loved with no understanding of what was happening.  Caught in a maze, I couldn't find my way out.  I want to touch others who know this heartache.  They're not alone.

I have a vision to find someone who knew my husband.  Someone willing to share what happened in Vietnam.  Someone who can give me a reason why.  And how do I find this person?  One day I will post the return address information off of letters received from Vietnam . . . letters yellow and faded by the hands of time.    

Lesson learned . . . my two cents

Each new day is a gift . . . cherish it . . . for this day will never come again.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

B Is For Book Proposal . . . Part Two

How all this life would vanish, evaporate, if I didn't clutch at it, cling to it, while I still remember some twinge or glory.                   Sylvia Plath

My goal is not to bore you with the mechanics of writing a book proposal.  Rather my blog is meant to show what I've learned as a novice, having possessed an insatiable need to write my story and get it out of my head.  I want to reach others who have stories of their own chewing at their insides.  And give them hope and encouragement to step off the edge and feel the wind in their face.

I'm still unsure how, or who will publish my book, I can only share the steps I've taken and why.  A book proposal is part of this process.  Each of us must find our own way . . . this is my uncharted journey.

You don't write because you want to say something: You write because you've got something to say.                                          F. Scott Fitzgerald

Your book proposal must answer these questions:
          Why this book?
          Why you?

The crucial first paragraphs of your introduction must hook the editor with the single most exciting thing you can write that makes your book new, needed and timely.  You have approximately 20 seconds to get their attention.  How's that for pressure?

Below is a brief description of each phase of my proposal:

Premise - Your topic must stand out and fill a distinct need with national, and possibly international appeal.
Overview - Show how your book satisfies that need by reaching your readers curiosity, heart or mind.  Think of this section as an expanded book-jacket blurb.
Manuscript -  Status of your manuscript and book proposal.  How long until completion, or completed? 
Note:  It's best to have a book proposal completed when you begin to send query letters.  Agents and publishers need this tool, if they're interested.  Delay may quench that appeal.
Charastics of reader -  Know your readers.  Who will buy your book?
Statistics - Are there statistics that show a growing need for your topic?  If so, show them.
Example:  US Military in Afghanistan had lost 761 soldiers in combat, but a higher number in service.  817 had taken their own lives over the same period.  The surge of suicide has risen five years in a row.  Mark Thompson - Time Magazine  April 13, 2010. 
Competition -  List other books on your topic, and show why yours is different and/or unique.
The Author - Emphasize your authority for writing the book.  I was intimitated as a writer with no prior achievements.  In class, I was told to list writing classes, conferences, community functions I've attended, and any other areas that might give me creditability.
Mission Statment - Optional.
Synopsis -  This was more difficult.  In the end, I condensed my entire book to 5 single-spaced pages.  This included chapter highlights, noting each main character, important scenes, and the end.
Sample Chapters - In this area, I chose my first chapter, and one of my "best" chapters.  A chapter filled with action and emotion.

Writing my book proposal was a labor of love.  It was complex and demanding, but it helped me to grow as a writer.  For this I am grateful.

New Zealand . . . I'm so jealous of their accent

My trip to Auckland was amazing, other than some cold rainy days. I arrived almost 2 hours late, which upset Max (7) who alerted others in the airport his Nana was missing.  And I noticed Charlie (4) had picked up some of the accent.  My favorite word was "Da-dee."  I loved it! 

One afternoon, my daughter and I took a ferry to Waiheke Island for lunch at the Mudbrick Vineyard.  Our view overlooked the vineyards to the sea where we watched the rain approach.  We sipped white wine made from grapes grown there, while dining on elegantly prepared dishes.  But I must warn you . . . don't order the scallops because you only get TWO.  And I was hungry.

The days were filled new places, new faces and lovely food.  Too many to mention here.  A few things I found unique:  Children weren't required to wear shoes in school . . . Cars drive on the other side of the street, which is scary going up a mountain . . . Time seems to go more slowly . . . People are extremely polite, cars drive slower, and no one ever honks their horn.  Can you imagine?   

The night before I left, we were invited to a lovely dinner at a neighbors, whose parents and their friends were visiting from Australia.  It was one of the nicest evenings I can remember.  And my son-in-laws roasted beet root with sliced avacado was a hit.

It was a wonderful trip and I'm thrilled I went, even though it was winter.  Thank you, Tiff and Scott for your gracious hospitality.

Lesson Learned . . . my two cents 

Writing a book proposal is much like eating an elephant . . . one bite at a time.