The Fictorians

Posts Tagged ‘writing life’

Business Plans for Writers

19 November 2013 | 3 Comments » | Ace Jordyn

A business plan for writers – what an absurd idea! That may be your first reaction, but chances are that you already know how you want to your writing career to evolve. A business plan is the road map to launching and growing your career in a strategic, efficient manner. Everything you’re doing now – networking, writing, learning craft, blogging – it’s all part of a plan but let’s face it, we’re writers first and the less time we spend floundering or making mistakes with the business part of our career, the more time we’ll have for writing.

Here are the key elements for a writer’s business plan:

1. Company Description
Yup, you’re a company with accompanying tax write offs but let’s be more specific than that. Does your business include writing, editing, holding workshops, attending trade fairs, or other activities related to writing and promotion? As a writer, do you write short stories, novellas, novels, magazine articles, or some combination? What is your genre? Who is the target audience?

2. Operations Plan
This is a one person company, right? Wrong. For tax purposes you may be a sole proprietor or an incorporated entity but your company is bigger than one person. For example, who are your support groups – writers’ groups, critique groups, book clubs, blog group? Do you belong to interest groups locally or on-line such as science, knitting, bird watching, Sherlock Holmes fan club? These are important to note because they not only inspire you and provide valuable input they may also be part of your readership. Who are your mentors, critiquers and editors?

Bestselling authors have an organization. Take a look at the Acknowledgements page of their books. Most Acknowledgement pages list editors, research contacts, readers – anyone who helped them. For ease of organization, you can divide your support network into four categories: craft, business (contracts, taxes, editors, finances, etc), networking (conferences, on-line, writers groups, readers groups), and market access. Note any deficiencies you have in these areas and develop a strategic plan to deal with that aspect. For example, I need to know more about marketing strategies and so I’ve chosen to attend a seminar on marketing rather than a critique workshop to fill this gap. Finding the experts I need fills a gap in my organization and allows me to use my use my limited budget wisely.

Remember – it takes one person to have the idea and write the story, but it takes a community to support a writer and make the work available to the reader. Who is in your community?

3. Products and Services
We touched briefly on this in the Company Description, but now we need to get specific. You may be writing in one genre or several writing poetry, short stories or novels and writing for the children’s, young adult or adult markets. In the market you’re writing for, who exactly is the audience? For example, not all people who read mysteries love the same type of mystery or the same degree of graphic language. Those loving cozy mysteries (think Stephanie Plum series) may not like Ian Rankin’s gritty detective or James Patterson’s thrillers. What type of mystery/fantasy/romance do you write? Who will it appeal to? What are the sensibilities of the genre and does your writing reflect that? Where will your work be placed on the bookshelf?

If you’re editing or involved in some other aspect of writing (volunteer or paid), note that too. Depending on the level of your involvement, you may need to create separate business plans. However, having them listed in one spot will help you manage your time better when setting goals.

4. Marketing
It’s so easy to want to stay at home and only write or at most, to go to a writing meeting where we chat with like minded people. Marketing means getting out of our comfort zone and reaching out. The easiest way to do this is to have a plan and to follow it. A haphazard approach erodes confidence and the ability to present things in a comfortable confident manner.

For every product you need to have your elevator pitch, synopsis, chapter by chapter plot line, a great manuscript before you promote. Having these will help you understand your product so you can differentiate it and create a unique selling proposition. In other words, what distinguishes your story from others it the market? Why will your target market (children, young adults, mystery/romance/horror fans) like it?

Describe how your stories will be sold – book stores (which ones?), on-line, book clubs, and how you intend to get the books there. Even if you have a traditional publisher, you still have to market and sell, so be prepared to do that.

What are your promotional tactics? In other words, how will you reach your audience? Some examples are: tradeshows, school appearances, readings, book tour, social media marketing (Twitter, Facebook, etc,), reading clubs (local, Goodreads, etc), on-line advertising, conventions, local advertising and book trailers. Your website should appeal to the book buyer. One writer I know designed her site for teachers because they’re the ones who will be buying her books and will be allowing her to make school presentations. Who is your website designed for – readers, teachers, technical users (how to books), other writers?

There have been many good posts on marketing at Fictorians so just click on the Marketing category and you’ll receive a ton of information. Just remember to choose a few things to do (for example you can’t belong to every book club and effectively utilize all social media) and do them well.

5. Finances
Having a budget will focus your marketing strategy and allow you to develop and manage your business more effectively by allowing you to prioritize. Which convention/workshop can I afford to go to? Do I purchase business cards or have a professional design my website? What can I do for free?

After all the work we do to write our wonderful books, we can’t afford to fail now because we failed to plan the business part of our passion.

 

Conventions as Marketing, Part II, or Every Day is An Interview

25 October 2013 | 1 Comment » | Nancy

I wanted to follow-up on Quincy Allen’s great post of October 15, 2013 about the value of active convention attendance on your marketing plan. The post is particularly timely as I’m packing my bag for World Fantasy which will be held in Brighton, England from October 31 – November 2. Quincy shared how his career had been enhanced by his decision to attend conferences. Like Quincy my successes in writing can be traced back to my decision to attend a conference. But that’s only a part of the story. Showing the is the easiest part. What Quincy did, and I recommend you do, is he was an active participant in the conferences.

Taking a convention from being a fun event to being a professional marketing tool is hard work. We attend writers’ conferences or seminars, to market our writing, and to meet other writers, agents, publishers and editors. For ease of reference, I’ll refer to agents, publishers and editors collectively as “agents.” You cannot sit in the seminars and only interact with the group of people you came if you are marketing. Every day of a convention is an interview. Every moment of every day is an opportunity for you to help or hurt your career. So how do you ramp up your marketing potential at a Con?

Before the Con: do your homework.

One of the things I love about World Fantasy is it posts a list of attendees or “members” so I can see if my dream editor or agent is going to attend. This year WFC also has a separate list of attending publishers so if you don’t know that Jane Doe is with XY Literary you can see that XY Literary is attending and investigate further. Conventions are often crowded. Decide in advance who you’d like to make a connection with, why, and how.

I wanted to talk to Peter Beagle because I love his stories and since he was a Guest of Honor that year . How was I going to meet to him? Because he was scheduled for a reading, an interview session, and to attend the banquet I knew where and when I could find him, but I also asked my friends if anyone knew him. One of the founding Fictorians did and she introduced me. Ask your friends and colleagues if they know the person you want to meet. Chances are that one of them does. A personal introduction will usually take you a lot further than cold calling on someone. If the person you want to speak with is not giving a lecture or otherwise booked to be in a specific place be prepared to check the Con Bar – regularly.

If you are planning to pitch a story make sure it’s finished. “Finished” does not mean the first draft is complete. It means you have done everything you can to make the story as compelling and as free from typos as you can. Prepare your pitches. Ace Jordyn attended last year’s WFC with a list of the people she wanted to meet, and pitches prepared for each work and each person. Amazing, really.

At the Con: Be professional and bold.

I’ve written about this before so I’m not going to delve too deeply here. Appearances matter. If you want to be taken as a professional be dressed as one. Does that mean you have to wear a suit? No – unless that’s your brand. Look at just about any New York Times best-selling author’s website and you’ll see what I mean. Lisa Scottoline, a retired lawyer and writer of legal thrillers, wears suits. She wore one when she was instructing at the Seak, Legal Fiction for Lawyers convention where I met her. Because of who she is and what she writes the suit is part of her brand. Neil Gaiman and Brandon Sanderson don’t wear suits. In fact, I would guess that the bulk of professional writers don’t wear suits. Still, they all look professional. You should too.

Act professional. Don’t interrupt, don’t be rude. Enough said about that.

Go boldly. Follow-up on your plans. Go to the places the people you are looking for are likely to be. Talk to them when you find them. If you can’t find them, ask other people if they might know where Jane Doe is. You must approach strangers at a convention. You must ask friends to introduce you to people you don’t know, but want to. At least one agent has said that she only signs people she’s met at a convention, and the agent doesn’t wear a name tag. She, like every other agent, wants to see you’ve done your research and that you’re passionate about your work. After all, if you’re not excited about and willing to sell your work, why should she be? Sitting in a corner watching the con go by will not result in publication.

Strike while the iron is hot. If you are engaged in a genuine conversation and someone asks what you are working on. Tell them.

After the Con: Follow-up.

Oh lucky day! You spent three hours talking to your dream editor at the Con Bar. So, now what? Follow-up with that person just like you would do at any other networking event. Send her an e-mail saying you enjoyed meeting her at the Con. Make the e-mail specific so that if you drinking a purple girly drink remind the editor so she, who met hundreds of people at the Con, has the opportunity to place you. If you were asked to submit to the editor do so now. It not, just thank her for her time. At minimum, follow the editor’s twitter feed or friend her on Facebook. Comment honestly on posts. If she posts something you find interesting you should comment on it. If not, you shouldn’t. You are trying to maintain and forge a genuine connection with her.

Don’t forget your friends. Remember all those people who helped you research and introduced you around? Thank them as well.

Conventions are one of our most powerful marketing tools if used correctly. Meeting someone at a convention may make the difference between a polite “no, thank you” and a sale. Treat every convention like an extended job interview because that’s what it is. Your primary goal is to form honest and lasting connections with the people you meet. Succeeding at that goal leads to success.

 

Overcome Your Deepest Fear

30 September 2013 | 1 Comment » | fictorians

A guest post by Nina Munteanu.

How many of you have been working endlessly, revising and polishing a manuscript? How many of you have several works—half finished—stuffed in a drawer, awaiting more revision?

There’s a poignant scene near the end of the 2005 movie “Coach Carter” where a student finally responds to Carter’s insistent question of “what is your deepest fear?”. It is a quote often mistakenly attributed to Nelson Mandela but originally written by Marianne Williamson (“A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles”). And it speaks to the artist in all of us:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Let me tell you a story… I’ve been writing stories since I was ten years old. I used to stay up until late at night with my sister, when our parents were snoring in bed, telling stories: fantastical stories with a cast of thousands and spanning the entire universe. When I was in my teens, I began to write a book, inspired by several dystopian movies and my own passion for saving the planet. It was called “Caged in World”. By the time I was married and had my son, I had written three entire books, none of which I’d published. I had by then sold several short stories and essays and articles to mainstream, travel and science fiction magazines. I started to become known as a reviewer and critic of movies and books. And my short stories were gaining good reputation with stellar reviews and invitations to appear in anthologies.

I began to market my first book—a medical ecological thriller—to agents and publishers. Although I got many bites for partials and even full manuscripts, none came to fruition.

Then something strange happened.

Driven by something inside me, I wrote over the space of a few months a book entitled “Collision with Paradise” based on some research I’d done on Atlantis, the bible and the Great Flood. The book was important to me on a number of fronts: in its ecological message of cooperation and its exploration of new paradigms of existence. I wrote it fast and well and it hardly needed editing. Without thinking and without hesitation, I submitted it for publication. As quickly as I’d written it, I had an offer from a publisher. My first published book! My first reaction was elation. My second reaction was: What have I done? I was proud of my book and its story, but it also contained erotica. My first thought was: how are my family and friends going to react? What about my parents? OMG!

Fear, not of failure but of success came crashing down on me and I felt so exposed. If I could have retracted it, I might have several times. Thankfully, I didn’t. While some friends and family did in fact shake their heads and look askance at my work (and labeled it variously), the book was very well received by mainstream critics and readers alike. It was, in fact, a hit. Faced with success, I bowed to its consequences and embraced what it brought: the good, the bad and the ugly. I was, in fact, relieved. I have many times since contemplated my actions in submitting this subversive novel that exposed me incredibly. Was it brave intuition or bold recklessness that propelled me? The point is, I’d stepped out into the light, crossed the line into another paradigm. There was no way back into the shadows. And that’s good.

Ralph Keyes, author of The Courage to Write, tells us “any writing lays the writer open to judgment about the quality of his work and thought. The closer he gets to painful personal truths, the more fear mounts—not just about what he might reveal, but about what he might discover [about himself] should he venture too deeply inside. But to write well, that’s exactly where we must venture.” If you’re emotionally or psychologically not ready for the consequences of getting published, then you will falter, procrastinate, forever fuss over your creation and convince yourself that it isn’t ready. In truth it’s you who aren’t ready. It’s you who aren’t ready to shine.

Just remember that while we are born artists, it is still our choice to live as artists. Until we embrace that which is within us, we will not find our voice to give to the world. That is our gift to the world. Laurence Gartel says, “to be an artist is to take responsibility for the world’s destiny. You shape it by your vision.”

Brian Simons reminds us that, “The true artist is not interested in having a nice life, being comfy or fitting in, but rather sees himself as a benefactor. His goal is to make a contribution to life, and to this end there are no barriers, doors or blocks, but only wide open spaces.”

Don’t let your own fear subvert your success. Step forward and don’t look back.

Guest Writer Bio:
NinaNina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published novelist and short story author of science fiction and fantasy. She is currently editor of SF Europa, a zine dedicated to informing the European SF community.Nina’s guide for writers called “The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now!” by Starfire World Syndicate was adopted by several colleges and universities throughout North America and Europe. It was recently published by Editura Paralela 45 in Romania. The next book in her writing guide series “The Journal Writer: Finding Your Voice” was released in spring of 2013.For more information about booking her workshops, consultations, or speaking appearances visit www.NinaMunteanu.com.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

27 September 2013 | 2 Comments » | fictorians

A guest post by JJ Bennett.

When I was asked to talk about growing as a writer, one thing for me stood out. Every time I pushed myself, I succeeded. So, how on earth do you push yourself when you’re just starting out? Good question. Stop treating yourself like a hobbyist and treat yourself like a professional.

It’s so easy to relax in your comfortable zone as a writer. You write when you can, dabble in blogging, have that one book collecting dust on your shelf, and you call yourself a writer. I’m just as bad as the next person when it comes to procrastination. So, how do you make that jump? It’s fairly simple. Make better choices.

fish

Sounds easy, but it’s not. Let me explain. Professionals have deadlines, meet with other professionals, and work every day in their craft. They don’t let things stand in the way with getting the job done. They work hard and fast.

Let’s get moving in the right direction then. I’d suggest following these guidelines.

1. Attend a professional writing seminar where you’re asked to produce writing.

Yep, other professionals are going to read and critique your work. Get over yourself. You’re a professional. The best way to improve your writing is to get feedback from other professionals. You’ll be surprised by your growth. While you attend, the pressure of having to write to a higher standard will help you grow as a writer. You will be amazed by the work you produce. Only by being cornered to produce, will you grow at a faster rate than otherwise.

2. Your new best friend is having a deadline.

Professional writers have deadlines. Give yourself some. I’m not talking about goals like I want to write 2500 words a day sort of goals. I’m talking hard deadlines where other people are waiting for your work. If you’re trying to finish that “first book” then pay for an editor before you finish the story. It sounds crazy but most editors (at least the good ones) are months out until they can take on a new client. Pay and get on the list. This way you are invested in the task. You’ve made a commitment to both yourself and the editor. You’re making a “blood oath” so to speak that they’ll have your manuscript in hand in “X” amount of days, weeks or months. Professionals only work under deadlines like these. Get some!

3. Make a place to write.

Not everyone has a beautiful oak carved desk with matching built-in shelves in a home office. Sure it would be nice, but most of us live in the real world. This doesn’t mean go kick your kids out of their bedroom just so you can have an office, but it does mean you need to make a space of your own. It could be a small computer desk in the corner of the front room, bedroom, or even in a closet (if you have a large walk in). Find a space that’s yours and yours only. Remember, you’re a professional. Your area is only for you. I have friends who write in trailers, rent office spaces away from home, and make a space somehow. Wherever your space is no matter how big or small, don’t let the kids do homework there. It’s YOUR SPACE! Ultimately, if something goes missing, is lost, or spilled on… it’s all on you. Taking responsibility is part of being a professional.

4. Make yourself a schedule.

Professionals have their life mapped out. They have a planner or calendar of some kind. It could be on their mobile devise, on a computer, on paper–just somehow get organized. If you have a blog, write down the days you need to post. Write down days and goals to meet your deadlines to others as well as yourself and then integrate it into your family schedule. One schedule to rule them all…

5. Live it.

This one is pretty easy to explain but the most difficult to do. You need to set your priorities.

6. Stay Educated in the Business.

Part of being a professional is staying up on trends. What are people in the field of writing talking about? You need to understand your profession and what’s working and what isn’t. If you read, research, and understand the business side of writing, it will only strengthen you and your standing in the industry.

Getting out of your comfort zone is hard. People don’t like it. It causes stress, inadequacy, and it brings your faults to the forefront. Nobody likes that. It’s hard work and it’s so much easier to coast through life at your own pace than to push yourself. Without that push however, you won’t see that growth that you’re looking for.

chair

If you take these steps to move out of your comfort zone you’ll become a better writer, people will take you seriously, and your writing will show all your hard work and dedication you’ve put into your craft. Sure, it’s nice to sit back in your easy chair and coast through life dreaming of becoming something. But, you’ll spend all your life dreaming instead of becoming anything. It’s time to put down the footrest and get up out of your chair. Get out of that comfort zone.

 

Guest Writer Bio:
JJ Bennett BioJ.J. Bennett grew up as a Southern California native and moved to Southern Utah in 1989. She and her husband Matt, reside in St. George with their four kids. Jen is the creator/head of the “Authors’ Think Tank“. A group by writers for writers that supports both traditionally published and independent writers. She has written articles locally for “The Independent” and is currently working on her debut YA novel “The Path.” She enjoys travel, cooking, music, and has a deep desire to become a Bigfoot hunter. Find out more about her at www.jjbennett.com.

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