Category Archives: Nancy Greene

Branding

And no, I don’t mean with an iron despite the picture.

Whether your traditionally published, e-published by a publisher, or indie/ self-published, marketing is where it’s at. With the rise of Kindle Direct and other media that allow self-published writers to get into the larger marketplace, writers, especially new ones, struggle to get noticed. One of the ways to do that is to establish strong “brand” recognition. Your brand is what and how you market. So, let’s start with the concept of brand recognition. You, dear writer, are a product just like a Hershey Bar. And just like a Hershey Bar, you want an immediate connection to the consumer (reader) on the mention of your name (brand). I know for me, when hear or even type “Hershey Bar” a vision of the dark brown wrapper full of chocolaty goodness pops into my head. That’s good brand recognition Some products so dominate the market that the brand name is synonymous with the product – as examples look at Kleenex and Xerox. Excellent branding and marketing.

The interesting thing about Hershey Bars is that at one point the product so dominated the market it had become synonymous with chocolate bars. Then it made a mistake. Hershey decided it could stop advertising, that’s right just stop. But it lost that dominance when it did because Nestle, among others, increased advertising. Hershey tumbled from the top of its chocolate mountain.

My publisher’s first anniversary is in a few weeks. As part of prepping for the event, I typed “Musa Publishing” into Amazon to see what there was to see. Here’s what I noticed. While the search brought up non-Musa books, at least 90% of the time I could tell if it was really a Musa book by looking at the thumbnail picture of the cover. I was able to reject books that didn’t fit my profile by looking at them. That’s good branding (and a great art and marketing division).

What does this tell writers about branding? Several things.

(1) You MUST create a brand.

Writers like Neil Gaiman have a brand. Again, if you’ve seen a picture of Neil or met him in person, he is always wearing black on black. Kevin J. Anderson has a brand. Take a look at his press releases and photos, he’s always in a sport coat, usually camel colored, or a dark brown leather jacket, a softly colored oxford shirt (usually with the sleeves rolled to the elbow (if no jacket), and jeans. That’s his brand. I could recall it without looking at any of his press photos making it a successful brand. Dean Wesley Smith has his hat. And so on. If you look at the superstars in the writing field, you’ll note each one of them has a consistent look or brand. That’s not a coincidence. It’s done very intentionally and by design.

The picture on tthe right is part of my brand. I’m a mommy, writer, lawyer who writes fantasy, often with romantic story lines. What was I aiming for in a look then? Something polished and professional, but that was soft around the edges to suggest that romancey feel. Did I do it? Feel free to tell me in the comments. I’m a lawyer, which means thick-skinned and I can take it.

Anyway, I go to professional writing events – seminars and conferences dressed in at least business casual. If weather permits, I wear a blazer. Why? I’m trying to create a look or a brand.

(2) Get professional help.

I don’t mean a therapist. I didn’t take the photo on the right. I hired a professional do to it. I also hired a fashion consultant, who went through my wardrobe and engaged in the Ceasar-like task of indicating thumbs up or down. We went shopping. I now have a new wardrobe that “fits” all of my jobs – mommy, writer, lawyer.

(3) Use your website and blog.

Okay, don’t look at my website yet. It’s under construction to fit with the current branding attempts. Or actually, look at the website as what not to do. It’s a mess. I hired (see item #2) a website designed who’d never worked with a writer before, didn’t understand what I wanted/needed, and didn’t know what a falcon was or at least couldn’t find an image of one for the site. This last one is tough since the website’s called Falcon’s Fables. Sigh. Anyway, the original website is a lesson in better than no website than a bad one. I now have a webpage designer who has worked with a lot of writers, knew what a falcon was, and designed a kick-butt new logo, which is in the same color family as the rest of my items. I’ll let you know when we’re ready to reveal.

My blog is a different story. I designed that, and while it’s still not perfect it’s a closer fit to the brand I’m trying to create.

(4) Market

Don’t make Hershey’s mistake. You must market. Even the superstars of writing have tweet, FB, maintain a website and regularly attend conferences. A few of them still go on book tours. You have to get your name out there. Your publisher might give you some press, but it’s not enough. You need to be out in the world where people can find you. If you have friends with blog, be a guest blogger. While the site your a guest on may only have 50 followers, odds are there are 40 people that weren’t also your followers.

Join blog hops. What’s a blog hop, you say? A blog hop is a sponsored event where a number of blogs post together, usually on a common theme and contest. An example is probably the best way to show you. Right now, I’m participting in the Wicked Pleasures Scavenger Hunt Blog Hop with 21 other writer. All the blogs are linked, and readers get a chance to win fabulous prizes at each site. Readers, most of whom would not normally visit my site, are encouraged to do so. They are “required” to look around the site if they want to enter the scavenger hunt since they need to find the answer to the hunt’s question. At the end of the hunt, Rafflecopter will choose the winners. Again, a blog hop is a great way to introduce yourself and work to readers. The cost of the giveaway is minor. I’m signed up for a blog hop a month until the end of the year and am looking for more hops to join in 2013.

If you are blogging, the cover of your book (or one of your books) should almost be your digital signature. Just like your words, you can and should market your covers. Your covers should have been designed with their marketing functions in mind. If you’re writing a steamy romance and your cover brings to mind a sword and sorcery fantasy you might have misbranded, and vice versa. Make sure the promises your covers (front and back) make match the pages in between them.

(5) Keep it professional.

We all have pet causes and beliefs. But unless they aid in attracting your target audience, keep them off your professional pages. If you are really keen on the idea that evil robots should rule the world, create EvilRobotsToRule.com and post your manifesto there, ideally under a different name. Bringing personal causes to the forefront of your professional page will reduce your potential reader pool.

(6) NEVER EVER get into a flame war.

This is a subset of #5 but it’s important enough to mention separtely. Just don’t do it. It takes a lot to build a career. It takes one rant to destroy it.

(7) Protect your brand.

Protecting your brand on the legal side may mean getting patents and copyrights, but I’m taking about a bit more than that.

Realize every time you go out with your “Author” hat on, you are marketing. You are always on stage. Be nice. If you are nasty to someone asking about your writing, you’ve lost a reader, and maybe several readers as that person tells his friends how mean you were. Good impressions can be lost, but bad impressions are almost always forever.

If you’ve created a “look” -whether for clothes, covers, or voice – make sure you are using it.

As noted in #6, if someone attacks you or posts a “bad” review, don’t argue with them. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion regardless of how much you may disagree. You give that negative comment too much attention when you respond. If the response escalates into a war, you’ve lost so much more than you’ve gain.

Good luck and good branding to you all.

To restore Daphne to her nymph form, Apollo must bargain with treacherous Hades, but Death may demand too high a price.

After all I’d said about marketing, you didn’t really think I’d leave the cover of my newest release, Apollo Rising, off this post, did you? Thanks for reading.

Promises To Keep

 I have a commitment issue.

Okay, maybe it’s better to say I have an overcommitment issue.

I describe myself as a mommy, writer, lawyer. Needless to say, each of those things is a full-time job. So, necessarily there are instances when the time required by each of them add up to more than 24 hours in a day. I’m in one of those periods right now. But I’ll end up waking up at midnight, carving four hour of work out of the night, and then napping for a few hours before I have to get up to feed the horses. In other words, I make it work until I fall down. Not the best strategy but it’s who I am.

There are a number of downsides to this very A-type personality trait. One of which is when other people fail to meet their commitments to me, it is a source of annoyance. But, that’s a different post. Balance is the issue.

Most of us haven’t reached the point in our writing careers when we can give up the day job and write full-time. Those who do write full-time often work on more than one project at a time. Oh, the luxury of only having one thing to work on at a time. But, reality is that life rarely is that simple. We juggle. Animals need to be fed. Kids need to be reminded to shower. They need to be taken to school, or sports, or a friend’s house. We need to meet work deadlines, and get new work. We need to write, and edit, and market our writing. And somewhere between managing our life, we need to live it.

There’s all sort of advise out there about how to fit writing into the rest of your life. You’ll often be told that we have to write every day. And that’s great. For when you can. I have a post on my blog about inching toward sucess – having low daily writing goals so I feel motivated to start every day. I was recently listening to Get-It-Done Guy’s podcast “How to Juggle Multiple Projects,” and realized his advise, as it often does, applied to many areas of my life.

So, how do I juggle? Sometimes very poorly. I do try to stay on top of my commitments so I can spent time with my family and honor all my other obligations. The following is what (mostly) works for me:

First, I follow the Get-It-Done Guy’s advise.: prioritize my “to-do” list.

Second, I focus on one task at a time. Have you ever walked around in a circle because your attention is being pulled in too many directions? I have. My kids think it’s funny. My husband knows to get out of my way because a melt-down is coming. We’ve been sold this idea of multi-tasking, but we really can’t work on more than one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is really serial attention focusing. Focus on one item and work on it until done, or until you reach its time allocation, see #3 below. I turn my e-mail alerts off and my phone to “do not disturb.” Because I’m not starting and stopping tasks, I generally can accomplish my goal for that session. Minimize distractions.

Third, I schedule my tasks by Time. I’ve been a lawyer long enough that I know that most routine matters will take a certain amount of time. If I need to write a memorandum that’s going to take 30 hours, I can break that time commitment up to 3 hours a day for ten business days. Because I’ve broken down my time allocation, I can start without feeling overwhelmed. It’s only three hours after all. The Get-It-Done Guy takes this one further and suggests putting the time blocks on your calender. For me, this doesn’t work because I see all the working “appointments” and die just a little. The blocks of time on my calendar become a wall I have to overcome and create more stress for me as I run “late” between tasks. But it might work for you.

My writing time is 9 pm to 11 pm. I’ll write when I can steal minutes (the Get-It Done Guy also has a great post on maximizing and using down time), but those two hours a night are my time. I write blog posts, edit, review other people’s stories and write in that window.

Fourth, I try to set realistic goals. My daily word count goal is only 250 words and amounts to about 15 minutes of time. Remember my two hour window? The 250 word goal means that on any day I can write, I’ll met the word-count goal. Because the goal is so easy to reach, I can beat back the need to sleep to get it done. After all, it’s only 15 minutes. The nights I write I average 750 words? What does this mean, it means I generally meet my weekly word goal (1,750 words per week). Writing isn’t a chore for me when I think about it in these terms and get to mark a check in my “goal completed” column. If you are the kind of person who needs the tangible reminder, go ahead and make a chart to show when you’ve met your goals. I use a word-count comment in my WIP so I can see I’ve met that day’s goal.

Fifth, deadlines are your friends, but unlike real friends you should manipulate them. There are some deadlines you must meet, and others that are aspirational. Use aspirational deadlines in advance of any hard one. If I’m writing for a November 1 submission deadline, I’ll have a September 15 completion deadline. Why? I’m very deadline motivated. I will push off matters with later deadlines to get to priority items. The aspirational deadline builds in a “catch-up” window. It also ensures I meet the “real” deadline without pulling an all nighter whenever possible.

Finally, I give myself a break. Not too long ago, I was in trial or other hearings nearly every day. Because my lawyer-ly matters were back-to-back my preparation time spilled out of normal office hours (7 am – 7pm – yea, I know – not so normal working times). I was at the office trying to get exhibits ready until 2am the morning before a trial. Needless to say, I didn’t write that night or any night that week. I forgave myself for missing and started in fresh with the new week.

For me balancing my family’s, writing’s and day job’s obligations is a constant dance. With some planning, I manage to limit the times I stumble. I hope a look at how I work to keep a balance between the important pieces of my life will help you do the same. For me, it’s time to have dinner with the kids.

Check out my newest release from Musa Publishing: Jack Gorman Got Cut By A Girl. Karma is a bitch, and Jack Gorman is about to find out how much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women Writing the Weird – Publishing in an anthology

Nancy: Welcome back to The Fictorian’s Publishing Month. Colette and I wanted to talk a little about our experience with the Women Writing the Weird (WWTW) anthology published by Doghorn Publishing since participating in an anthology is a bit different than other forms of publication. So, Colette, what did you think about the opportunity to participate in an anthology?

Colette: I was thrilled when you told me about the upcoming anthology, in part because of the publishing opportunity, and in part because it consisted entirely of women speculative fiction writers. I was excited about that opportunity. I’ve always meant to ask, how did you find out about it in the first place?

Nancy: Accidental networking. Seriously though, I met the editor, Deb Hoag, through an online writing group. Deb approached her publisher – Doghorn – and asked if she could put together an anthology of genre defying stories by women writers. When she got the go ahead, she contacted a group of writers she wanted to work with. Fortunately, I was in that group. Deb later opened submissions up and I sent an e-mail to the Superstars Writing Seminar group to see if anyone had a story that might work. When you said you thought you just might have a story if Deb was willing to accept previously published works, I put the two of you in contact.

Colette: Even though my story, Beneath the Skin, was published in SNM Horror magazine under the title, Becoming, it seemed like the best of my current stories for an anthology called Women Writing the Weird. A were-beetle burrowing into your leg with nefarious purposes fits weird. I was very flattered that despite it being a reprint and one of my earlier stories, Deb still accepted it. Of course, it’s definitely a different tone than a guy in a monkey suit.

Nancy: Yea. The Gorilla in the Phone Booth was definitely very different than your story. The idea for the story came out of a Writing Excuses episode where they were talking about the promises we make to our readers. Howard Taylor mentioned that if you put a gorilla in a phone booth you’d better have darned good reason for it. So I spent the weekend figuring out why. I came up with a twist on the genie story and some land selkies. One of the fun things about WWTW is the stories cross a lot of genre lines and, at least one of the stories, defies classification (in a good way) in my mind.

Oh, and because Colette’s too modest to mention it, I should tell you that Beneath the Skin got a really wonderful review at http://www.kathulhu.com/2011/11/women-writing-weird.html

Beneath The Skin, by C.M. Vernon gives a different twist to the were-creature tale and I think this story would make a great movie. I also couldn’t help but think of Kafka’s Metamorphosis while I was reading it.

You have to love being compared to Kafka.

I won’t put Colete on the spot and ask her about the review. But I will ask her about her thoughts on this publishing experience. So . . . ?

Colette: I thought it was amazing that even though the book didn’t come out in hardcopy until last month, you put together a book promo at World Fantasy Convention in October, 2011. I couldn’t believe what a great job you did with posters, flyers, food…the whole deal.

Nancy: Thanks. Putting together the book launch was a lot of fun and a bit nerve wracking. World Fantasy is a huge writer’s and agent’s convention. Tor hosted a huge party in the suite we used later that evening. For the book launch, Doghorn printed a small number of the book so we could promote it at World Fantasy. Adam Lowe (the head editor at Doghorn) sent me the artwork so I could make the posters, postcards and flyers. I’m not sure the postcards were effective swag, so I probably won’t use them as promotional items again.

We were also lucky enough to get a lunch-time slot to promote. There were no competing lectures. We were also next to the hospitality suite, and when it ran out of food, they directed people to us because we had food. We probably had an extra thirty people drop in because of the food. And they stayed for the readings.

Of course, the book launch wouldn’t have been as successful if I hadn’t sweet talked you into helping. Your reading was great.

Colette: I’ve read in public before, but never my own piece. I was so nervous, but once I started, I have no idea if I did a good job, but I loved it. I would love to be an author who does presentations in schools, book readings, signings, the whole deal. I look forward to that part of publishing. Speaking of which, it seemed rather odd that you had the book in October, but it didn’t come out in bookstores until May. I haven’t heard much buzz on it, either, but I haven’t been in this business long enough to know if that’s just normal.

Nancy: The book’s been available at the publisher’s website since October, but for some reason the general release was delayed until May, 2012. I’m not sure why Doghorn decided to stagger the release or if the delayed release was just part of its agreements with Amazon and Lulu. Amazon’s currently out of stock on it as well.

I know with the two short story collections I’ve published through Musa Publishing (yes, I had to get them into this post) , Paths Less Traveled and Shots at Redemption, Amazon had the book within hours of it going on the Musa site. But then, the Musa collections are e-books and that might make a difference.

Colette: I have no idea if the book will do well from this point on, but it’s been a fun ride, don’t you think? I wish I had researched the anthology a little better before I jumped on board, not because it isn’t top quality, because it is, but I’m afraid that my participation in a book fondly called by our friends, “the booby book,” is a bit of a misrepresentation of my name as a brand. I don’t write erotica, and the beautiful cover suggests there’s a fair amount of content in that category. That’s something I’ll pay more attention to in the future, so I don’t confuse any readers as to what they might expect from my writing.

Nancy: Ah, yes, our cover. One of the things you often can’t control as a writer – what your cover looks like. Coming up with a cover that captures the scope of the anthology would have been tough, and I understand the decision to base the cover on the short story by the best known writer. But I’ve had web designers decline my job and promotion sites decline the listing because the catfish girl on the cover has very prominent and very naked breasts. And don’t get me started on telling my folks about the anthology. The artwork is gorgeous but, in accurately rendering the light coming from above, the artist placed a lot of emphasis on the breasts. It wouldn’t have been my choice of a cover if we’d had any say in the matter, and my story did have erotic elements. I think this is one where a bit of strategically placed seaweed would help attract more people to the anthology.

Colette: More than anything, I’ve enjoyed the publishing experience and the chance to interact with fellow writers and readers. I also loved the launch party you put together at WFC. I may not make any money from this particular sale, but I’ve learned a lot from my experience. I’m grateful for that.

Nancy: WWTW made me realize how difficult putting together an anthology is. We have a lot of short stories in the anthology from very different genres. Deb did a great job bundling them into the three sections based on the type of weirdness. If you’re looking for stories that balance on genre edges, this is the anthology for you.

It’s definitely been fun. I got to know a lot more writers than I would have if I hadn’t participated. I wouldn’t turn down another opportunity to work with Deb or Doghorn. Being invited to submit to the anthology was an honor. Having Deb select my story for it was amazing and my first professional sale. So, WWTW will always have a special place in my heart.

 

 

E-Publishing – Why I chose it.

 As you know from my post earlier this month, I have two short story collections published by Musa Publishing. I’m participating in an anthology – The Jack Gorman Project – that was born at an after-conference dinner at the 2011World Fantasy Con, The anthology will release on July 20, 2012. I also have a novella, Apollo Rising, that should be released in September, 2012. All as part of Musa’s line.

So, why did I choose E-publishing?

Well, let’s be honest, Musa said yes.

All kidding aside, I chose to E-publish rather than continue the short story publication rounds or wait on traditional publishers to deem me worthy for several reasons. But, before I go into those reasons, let me use Celina Summers’ definition of E-publishing from the June 1, 2012 blog.

According to Celina:

(E-Publishing) houses are digital first. They publish e-books primarily, although some are moving into POD(print on demand) availability for their books. An e-publisher is a genuine small house, following the same submissions, acquisitions, and editing processes as traditional publishing. Five years ago, e-publishing wasn’t considered a legitimate publishing credit by agents and New York publishers. That mindset is changing as the popularity of digital books increases.

Okay, now that we are all on the same page, let’s talk about why I chose this path.

Probably most importantly, I met Celina at World Fantasy. I liked her. We talked for hours about everything and nothing before she gave me permission to pitch her. I can’t stress how important this personal connection is in any form of publishing. I’m not sure I would have trusted my babies (the stories) to an e-publisher, especially one who’d just opened its doors, if I hadn’t met Celina.

On to more general reasons to consider an E-publishing house. I don’t have the time or energy to do all the work the fabulous people at Musa do for me. Self-publishing wasn’t an option for me. E-Publishing has all the benefits of traditional publishing. When I submit a story, a slush-pile reader has to like it enough to take it to the head editor for that genre. If the editor likes it, I get a contract. Once the story is under contract, it benefits from professional editing. Then it goes through line editing. So, we both know we’re publishing a book that’s as clean as possible. Musa has a professional artist that does my cover AND (unlike traditional publishing), for anyone but the N.Y. Time best sellers, I had significant input into what that cover looked like.

E-Publishing has the potential to pay better. Musa’s contract is on its website. You can see how your royalties will get calculated before you submit to it. If I’d sold my short stories to a magazine, I might get 6 cents a page. For a 15,000 word story, I’d be paid $900. It’s a good number, but that’s it until I get the rights back and resell it. Paths Less Travelled is a 15,000 short story collection being sold for $3.99. For Paths, I make that same $900 after I sell about 460 books. That’s not that hard to do. From book 461 on, I’m making more money than I could have by traditionally selling the short stories. It is potential that is up to me to realize. Musa will help, but success or failure sits on my doorstep. Which leads me to marketing.

As part of an E-Publisher’s line, you’ll get some limited marketing. But just like with traditional publishing the onus is on you to make sure your book sells. Musa helps me work on my marketing materials. In fact, Musa requires it. Musa won’t release a book unless its tags, blurb and excerpt are turned in. It also has pre-existing deals with Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other vendors to get my book out to the public. There’s no one but myself to blame if I only sell 100 books. There’s a lot of people to thank if I sell 1,000, 10,000 or more books.

E-publishing also happens a lot quicker than traditional publishing. You might wait 2-3 years between signing a contract and a publication date with the Big 6. Not so with E-Publishing. As a new author, it’s highly unlikely that a traditional publisher would take a risk on four books in one year. And, as it is said, the best marketing for your current book is your next one. By allowing me to get more stories to my audience quicker, E-publishing helps me build a platform that I can convert into more sales and, maybe some day a print contract.

The nature of E-publishing allows those houses to take risks that traditional publishers just can’t afford. A significant portion of producing a book is in the actual printing process. E-Publishers don’t have this expense. Most first time novels lose money for the traditional houses. Think about that for a minute. A traditional publisher knows that most of its first time authors won’t earn their advance. As a result, a traditional publisher has to limit its exposure to these losses meaning it will be hesitant to take on an unpublished writer. Because of the significant difference in costs structures, E-publishers can take more risks with new writers. Just like I have the potential of making more money this way, an E-Publisher needs to sell fewer books than a traditional publisher to recoup its expenses and start making a profit.

E-Publishing makes novellas and short story collections viable. A novella is a story between 40,000 – 70,000 words. Magazines have problems with novellas. Often, they are too big, and take up too much space. This length of story poses two problems to traditional houses: First, the expense of producing one is about the same as producing a full novel. Second, the spine of the book is going to be too small to show up on a shelf. So, novellas have been a hard sell for traditional publishing. However, E-books breathed new life into novellas and collections. E-publishers don’t have to worry about spine size or shelf space. They can price a book at $1.99, and still earn a profit. Traditional publishers can’t. E-publishing created a market where none existed.

I can’t end this post without bragging about Musa, and how thrilled I am to be part of this house. So, bear with me. Here’s what makes Musa special. Musa is a community of writers. We support each other. We help each other market. Musa offers master classes to help us become more savvy business people and better writers. I don’t know anyone else out there that’s investing in its writers in this manner. Musa strives to provide more and better services to its writers and readers. We now have books on OverDrive, a library lending program. We have a vibrant blog. Again, if I don’t succeed to the level I want, I have no one to blame but myself.

So, yes, I chose E-publishing and it chose me. Does this mean I’ve given up on traditional publishing? No. I think they are both avenues that should be pursued. But I’m happy to be with this fabulous E-Publishing house. I chose it as much as it chose me.

For my short story collections, Paths Less Traveled and Shots at Redemption, or a host of other amazing stories in just about every genre, please check out Musa Publishing.