Category Archives: The Writing Life

Intro to Guerrilla Marketing

The tune here in June is all about unique or unusual ways to get your writing noticed by others. The term you hear frequently in seminars, online self-marketing videos, writing groups, and in interviews with successful authors is “guerrilla marketing.”

No, that doesn’t mean hiring Jane Goodall.

Does everyone still know who Jane Goodall is?

On second thought, hiring Jane Goodall as a guerrilla marketer might be a brilliant example of exactly what we’re talking about. Hmmm…..

And, yes, I know Jane Goodall is a chimpanzee researcher, and chimpanzees aren’t gorillas. Also gorillas aren’t guerrillas.

One thing worth doing on this opening month post is talking about some things that you definitely shouldn’t do in your attempts to get the word out. Things like:

  • Using social media to spam “buy my book!” messages to everyone on the planet.
  • Buying mailing lists and sending out “buy my book!” emails to random strangers.
  • Offering to swap reviews with other authors to get review counts up.
  • Paying for reviews (with a few exceptions, specifically Kirkus Reviews).

I’ll relate one example that I very strongly considered doing when I self-published my first book, and probably should have. At the time I was also moving to a new state halfway across the continent, and looking for a house or a lot to build on. That meant a lot of travelling back and forth between Colorado and Arkansas on interstate highways filled with lots of other drivers.

To make the move as cheaply as possible, I purchased a 6′ x 10′ trailer and walled it in to make it weather-proof so I could move stuff in rain, snow or sunshine. Well, that meant I was practically driving a billboard, or two billboards, across the country. I wish now that I had printed huge posters and plastered them on my trailer with my book cover and some clever marketing slogans.

C’est la vie. Maybe I’ll get another chance. But that’s the sort of thing we’ll be talking about this month.

You Are Not Alone

Writing is by its nature a solitary occupation.

But writers don’t have to be alone.

We don’t have to channel our inner Robin from the Lego Batman movie when he asks himself, “What would Batman do?” and decides Batman would “go in alone!”

As authors we wear a lot of hats and have to learn a lot about a lot of things, but no one ever said we have to do everything alone, figure it all out without help, and build our readership in a vacuum.

One resource most authors end up with in spades is a fantastic secret weapon: other authors!

We’re all trying to build readerships and connect with fans, but one great thing about being an author is that we don’t have to consider other authors as competitors. Our industry is not like real estate or car sales. A book buyer won’t just buy one book and keep it for years. They buy books a lot, and there’s no way any one author can write enough to satisfy all the demands of all of their readers.

So we need other authors. Our fans need other authors. They actually appreciate it if we help them connect with other great reads.

So use those connections. Work with other authors to cross-promote your stories and reach a far greater fan base by helping each others’ fans get more great books.

This website – Fictorians – is one way for a large pool of authors to provide content that far exceeds anything we could do alone.

When it comes to book sales, there are lots of ways to collaborate and cross-sell. For example:

  • Guest blog on each others’ blog sites.
  • Include interviews with other authors in your newsletters to your fans, particularly if you don’t have any big news of your own to share with them.
  • Share other authors’ new releases and big sales events with your fans and via your social media. People like seeing that you’re not focused only on yourself.
  • Get into a book bundle.
  • Even if you can’t get into a formal bundle, there’s no reason you can’t cross-promote with other authors and set up sales to coincide with one of your launches. I’m beginning a cross-promotional, unofficial bundle like this with three other authors. I expect it’ll produce lots of results for all of us.

So keep writing. Do everything you can to push your craft and your career forward.

And look for ways to share the journey. It’s a lot more fun that way.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinRune Warrior coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers Contemporary Fantasy/Historical thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

What’s Keeping You From Publishing and Building a Fan Base?

We all have beliefs which limit our ability to succeed as artists. Whether you’re publishing with a small, large or medium press, or independently publishing, it’s time to believe in yourself. Let’s talk about those limiting beliefs and

I’m afraid of failure
this statement can mean a lot of things. But, let’s take it at face value. You’re afraid that your passion for writing, your imagination and your artistic core will be rejected and people will laugh. Am I right? At it’s worst, that’s how failure feels. The stakes feel high because writing is like breathing to us and it forms a significant part of how we see ourselves contributing to the world in a meaningful way.

So, now that we understand the problem, let’s change how we define failure. If I suddenly got the job of being a chief structural engineer for a 20 storey high rise, I’d fail. I don’t have training as an engineer. I don’t have a team or know how to put one together. I know nothing and of course I’ll fail. Even a little knowledge sometimes isn’t enough. So, with the current statement and definition, failure is our only option.

Having defined failure in this manner, let’s change the statement to: I don’t understand the steps I need to succeed. This is a proactive statement now with a positive goal (failure isn’t an option anymore) and a plan. Now make a plan. Two of them. One for you to better your skills at story telling and the other to learn the business of both independent and traditional publishing which includes marketing. Why both? Because when you understand both, you’re making informed choices and choices give you power and increase your ability to meet your goals.

I’m not good enough
Bah! Humbug! Gosh, I hate that critical inner voice. I want to know – good enough for what? Seriously? Are you trying to write the perfectly executed book or is your goal to become a best seller? Now, no matter which, writing well is important. However, you need to know your target market and what they want to read. Write for your market! Get to know it. You’ll be good enough because you’ll be writing to your passion (okay, I’ve assumed you’ve chosen a genre or market you love).

Besides, saying I’m not good enough is like saying I’m not perfect. Well, none of us are and when it comes to craft and telling a good story, what defines perfection? There are so many styles of writing within any genre because every author has a unique voice. Which authors do you love? For me it is the ones who compelling characters, good pacing and an intriguing plot. Understand the stories you love, how they’re structured and what makes them compelling. As you write those stories, remind yourself, that you are not that author (I’m not Stephen King!) but you’re an author with a unique voice and story to tell – heck, even the best faced failure before they became best sellers.

You’re better than good enough! Change the belief to: My ideas and voice make me a unique story teller.

My work isn’t good enough
Oh, flip the bird on this one! Story telling is a skill! Keep learning and practising. Sometimes, you can over-edit a story and kill it. I’ve seen that done. Sometimes you can revise until you’re so sick of the story that you’re certain it’s trash. That’s what beta readers are for – to tell you what is and isn’t working. And hey, if you’re going to hire an editor to help you with structural or scene or line-by-line edits, make sure you hire someone who knows the genre and who has experience writing so you don’t get inappropriate advice.

But one other thing – your work may be good enough because you’ve done everything you can, but if your confidence isn’t good enough (which I suspect is more the problem) then you’ll self-sabotage and self select. Let an editor reject your story. That’s their job, not yours! Submit. Write, get the feedback you need, and submit.

I don’t know enough people to build a fan base
Of course you do! You just don’t know it yet. Let me digress and tell you a story.

Not that long ago, there was a very shy person (she still is) who attended a wedding. At that wedding, she sat with people she didn’t know. When they were talking, she go brave enough to tell people about her writing and that one of her stories was up for an award. Much to her surprise, those around her were genuinely interested. Then, she got brave enough and asked them if they’d support her. They said yes! And, they even gave her their email addresses to add to her email list. Now, she even has beta readers who are fans and give her great feedback.

That story is about me. It was the most nerve wracking and the most wonderfully validating thing I had ever done. Talk to people. Tell them a little about yourself. Ask for their email. Then, as your career grows, they’ll tell other people and they’ll sign up because you’ve given them a means to via your website. Your website, just like talking to people at a wedding, provides people the opportunity to participate in your writing career.

I’m a slow writer and won’t be able to keep up with fan demand
Learn to dictate. That’s all I can say on this one. There are many dictation programs, Pick one. Use it. But, I must admit, that even with dictating, it’s easier to get a better first draft for me if I outline or plan the book a bit. I guess maybe that’s two things – outline and dictate. It’s an amazing combination.

The timing isn’t right
Hmmm …. when will it ever be? When the kids are grown up? When my arthritis stops aching? When? When? When?

Do it because you love it, even if it’s simply collecting ideas in a jar until the story coalesces in your head and demands to be written. Even write 50 words a day – fiction or non-fiction. As you write, the story grows and the book gets completed. As your story grows, so does your enthusiasm for it and time has a way of being found. Writing, like any craft or art, demands a modicum of discipline and for the artist to not be afraid to claim some time to write. As I’m getting older (hey, we all are!) I’m learning that the timing is never perfect. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old when you start to write, you just need to write because you want to!

So, face your fears and challenge your beliefs! You are an artist, a darned good one who is learning and practising craft and gaining business skills. You’re not afraid to ask for help. And, most importantly, you have a unique voice and story to tell, so tellit and share it with the world!

School Visits – A Captive Audience?

For authors who write middle grad or YA books, it seems like a no-brainer to include school visits in our plan to build our fan bases, right?

Maybe.

Like a lot of things, it depends on your personality, your books, and how you approach those visits. I personally love visiting schools, even though I haven’t sold lots of books as a direct result of most of those visits. Still, I consider visiting schools, teaching kids about writing, talking about stories, and mentoring young writers well worth my time.

Through the process, I’ve learned a few things.

  1. When you first approach schools, don’t be surprised if they’re wary. These days a lot of indie authors try to get school visits, but few seem interested in helping busy teachers, administrators, and librarians accomplish their curriculum objectives. And they don’t have time to babysit an author coming only to pitch their book.
  2. When you do get school visits, many schools are happy to set you up in the library. Don’t be surprised if you don’t have tons of visitors, unless you schedule with teachers in advance.
  3. Get to know the librarians. Promise them a free book. They love free books, and I always give them one every time I visit. Ask them to put you in touch with English teachers or other teachers who might be interested in meeting with you.
  4. Contact those teachers and ask them what they need, or how you can support and assist their current plans.
  5. Note – don’t be surprised if quite a few teachers scoff at the idea of some indie hack coming into their classrooms and teaching their students anything they couldn’t teach themselves. Some teachers are very open and friendly, but some are quite snobby, even though they usually have no idea how to actually write a publishable story. I’ve had to work through that in initial visits where I prove I know what I’m talking about, students enjoy interacting with me, and I bring value. They’re often much more eager to invite me back a second time.
  6. Be friendly and smile a lot.
  7. Offer to teach students about writing. I’ve spent entire days at local schools teaching students about writing and holding writing workshops with them. Students love it best when only a little formal instruction is given, followed by a hands-on exercise. I really enjoy building a story with students, and they usually love the opportunity to help create stories together.
  8. Prepare a message or presentation that appeals to a wide audience beyond just your books. I’m working on a couple different presentations suitable for larger audiences that should make administrators a lot more eager to invite me to come speak to their schools.
  9. Although it is possible to set up a big book signing event at the school, the more I learn, the more I think there are better ways. One well known author I know warned me that sometimes holding a big book signing can actually generate hostility from the school.

He pointed out that at least one teacher or administrator at almost every school fancies themselves an author, and they often feel resentment when they seen tons of students lining up to buy books.

So for a really big book signing, a great suggestion they gave me is to line up multiple school visits for the same area over a couple of days, and send all the kids home with a notice that you’ll be holding a big book signing at a local bookstore or venue close to the schools. Then the kids and their parents can come on Saturday and buy your books.

I plan to test this approach soon, and I’m eager to see how it goes.

10. Finally, know your objectives. Make sure you’re helping the school and bringing value to them. You’ll get exposure, if not tons of sales at first, but over time, it really pays off.

I’ve been cultivating relationships with local schools for the past few years, and I have a strong local fan base, partially because of those efforts. Plus I’ve helped a lot of budding authors learn some things I wish I’d known at their age.