Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Writers, publishers, both? Technophobes?

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One thing that happens when you go to a writing conference is you end up spending a lot of time with writers. Many kinds of writers. And that can be very instructive.
There were several hundred writers in attendance at the San Francisco Writers Conference, which ended yesterday. Throughout the four days there were writing workshops, keynote addresses, “ask the pro” sessions and a lot of panels and presentations about options in self-publishing.
Although most of the sessions were on writing topics, the incredible popularity and explosive growth of self-publishing, both with new and already-established writers is the obvious rationale for presenting this material. And there were some people who were clearly interested in pursuing the self-publishing option.

Slogan of the Day

In almost every presentation, somewhere along the line I heard, “It’s the best time to be a writer.”
And why not? Armed with only a laptop and an imagination, a writer today can create her own publishing story, gather fans, learn to market her books, and start to make real money though book sales if she keeps at it and has good skills.
In many of these self-publishing presentations there were stories told of authors who had followed this same path and arrived at the promised land, where agents and editors are calling you with six- and seven-figure offers.
Just before the big panel I was part of on Saturday morning, I read in Publishers Weekly about the latest, Brittany Geragotelis, who used the reader community Wattpad to accumulate over 16 million reads of her work, attracting a six-figure contract from Simon & Schuster.

The Dark Side: Still There

It was also interesting that many writers had never considered self-publishing. On the last day of the conference there was a big, two-hour panel discussion on “The Great Adventure: Joining the Self-Publishing Revolution,” moderated by Carla King (Self-Publishing Bootcamp) and including Mark Coker (Smashwords), Brian Felsen (Bookbaby), Jan Johnson, (Turning Stone) and Jesse Potash, (PubSlush). And me. Pretty good panel, wouldn’t you say?
The room was reduced to half its usual size by dividers, and it was still only about half-full.
Where were all the writers?
They were upstairs, standing in a long, long line that snaked from a room at one end of the hotel, through the lobby and in front of the front desk. Each grasped a sheaf of papers and many looked nervous.
This was the core of their visit to the conference, and maybe the reason a lot of them paid to come to San Francisco: “Speed Dating With Agents.” A chance to sit down and talk face to face to a literary agent is a powerful draw for an unpublished writer.
I thought about some of the writers I know. Many are quite technophobic. Just learning Word is a major accomplishment. I know people who can write prose that will melt your heart, but they never figured out how to attach something to an email.
These writers will never join my training course. They might read the blog because you can get it in your email. The whole thought of “formatting” makes them nervous. They just want to write, and let other people take care of the rest.
I’m not so sure it’s the best of times for these writers. It could be coming into the worst of times. As popular fiction moves to ebooks, publishers try to find an economic model that will survive digitization, and marketing becomes a necessity for the average author, what are non-technical writers to do?
Most of the new self-publishers who are in the news get there through using social media for marketing. Many are bloggers or do blog tours. This is a community in which uploading to Kindle Direct Publishing is about as easy as booking a flight online.
But even in 2012, many writers aren’t there yet, and the dream of landing that contract lives on.
Do you think there will be writers who are pushed aside by the technical requirements of the new era in publishing? Or will there always be publishers to take care of the business end of things for writers who want no part of it?

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Goodreads and book promotion!!

How To Use GoodReads for Self-Promotion

My friends thought I was crazy when I said I was going to write an article about all the things I have learned about self-promoting on ( I tried to tell them these were not my insider secrets, but rather tips and etiquette I have learned from being an active member of this online community. Goodreads can be an extremely useful and free tool to your marketing, but the difference between acquiring a successful following of individuals buying your book, and completely alienating the online community is as simple as etiquette.
Goodreads is an international, online reading group community. You sign up and can immediately chat with people from all over the world about any kind of literature you’re interested in. If you have an interest, it’s represented there and if not, feel free to start your own group and begin inviting people. Although I believe the group originally started in order to bring readers together, the growing popularity of self-publishing has brought new and established authors there in droves. Goodreads is completely free for the user and therefore an ideal way to get your work in the hands of readers. There are several ways to market yourself and see almost instant results. I have found that if I spend an hour or two on the site, I see the numbers of my stories sold on Amazon go up by the next day. Although that sounds very enticing, I want to stress a very important point before I go any further. If you are only interested in a quick result and not being part of a community, or do not have the time to put in, then Goodreads is not for you.
Once you set up a Goodreads account you can begin joining reading or writing groups. I recommend only joining groups you are really interested in for two reasons. One, you probably won’t have enough time to keep up with twenty different groups and two, you will not have anything to contribute to a group you care nothing about. Since I am a self-published writer who writes mostly Sci-Fi and Fantasy, I belong to a lot of the self-publisher groups as well as Sci-Fi and Fantasy groups. I like to belong to these groups not only because that is what I write, but also, because I write in these genres, I also like reading them. I belong to Kindle and Nook groups as well because those readers are my target audience since those are the devices I publish on. Find the groups that work for you.
After you join a few groups, you will find that most of them ask you to write in their introduction folder. This is a great place to tell people that you’re a writer and to even tell them a little bit about your work. Self-promoting in this area is acceptable as long as you’re also telling them a little bit about who you are as a person as well. So go on, tell them you dream of owning a unicycle one day, or all about your devotion to all things knitting. They just want to know you. There is a little button on the top right of the comment box where, if you are published on any of the major websites like Amazon or B&N, you can put a picture of the cover of your book and a link to where people can buy it. That’s very helpful and widely used.
When you have finished that, scroll through some of the folders on that group and write on some of the topics that interest you. This is where people go wrong; they go straight for the folder that allows self-promotion, leave their book info there and never write on the site again. Then they wonder why people don’t buy their book. Some people even just “spam” by leaving their book info in a place where it does not belong, like a folder titled “What did you think of the last Lord of The Rings Book?” That is a huge no-no and will anger potential readers as well as get you kicked out of the group. Remember, it’s a community and people want you to participate, so feel free to promote your book in folders that the moderator has allowed, but it is important to contribute to the group as a whole. You just might learn something as well; I know I learn something every time I am on. I typically spend about an hour on Goodreads several days a week. You may not have as much time as I, who am a full time writer, but don’t underestimate the importance of self-promotion. When I am on, I respond to people’s questions, I talk with others about books I have read, and I also sometimes start my own threads and ask questions of others. People get use to me, they feel like they know me, and often they will friend request me or go on my profile and find out I am a writer and buy my book because they feel like they know me. It’s that simple, but you need to be genuine and remember its reciprocity. You will only get something out of it if you put something in.
Ok, so if I have one big secret it is this: mention you are a self-published writer without advertising. People can see right thru advertising. All the time I am on groups chatting with people and someone will say, “Oh yes, I deal with what you’re talking about in my book Blah Blah Blah,” and they add a link. That just makes people mad. Instead try this, “As a self-published writer myself, I, too, love reading books where I feel like I can identify with the character, like Eugenia in ‘The Help’. I found her refreshing.” That way you have mentioned you’re a writer without hitting them over the head or distracting from the conversation. If someone is interested, then they can look up your books on your profile at a later time. I notice I get a lot of people buying my books because they really liked the insightful things I have to say and wonder what I talk about in my books. I have also bought books from self-published authors on Goodreads for the same reason.
So the trick is to go into it with the reader in mind. Remember Goodreads was started for them and most people are there to have a genuine conversation about the books they love.  If they find a new wonderful author like yourself, that is an added bonus, and it should be to you as well. Good luck and welcome to the community!