Preorder Campaigns

Most authors, whether independently published or publishing with an established press, are responsible for at least some of their own marketing. One marketing option is putting together a preorder campaign for your books before they release, offering a small gift to readers who send you proof of their preorder. Erin Bowman has a great post about what such campaigns entail and some ideas for them; I want to focus more on the nitty-gritty of setting up such a campaign.

Why consider a preorder campaign?

Unless you are a big lead title at your imprint, your publisher probably won’t do a preorder incentive for you. However, preorder campaigns can be a useful way to build buzz about your book before it comes out, particularly if readers share the campaign or their swag on their social media platforms. Preorder campaigns provide you with media content to share, and they can be a fun way to say thanks to readers.

Preorder campaigns can be time consuming and (depending on your swag) costly, however, so if organizing a campaign doesn’t sound fun to you, there’s no shame in not doing one. As for me, gift giving is one of my love languages, so preorders are precisely the kind of marketing I enjoy.

Step One: Figure out the size and scale

The first thing you’ll want to establish is how many preorder gifts you’re willing to send out, and whether the campaign is local or international. If you’re in the U.S., it’s a good idea to send swag that fits in a standard envelope with a forever stamp (.50 in 2018) or an international stamp (1.15). If you only have a limited number of swag packs, you may want to cap the number of preorders, or say “while supplies last.”

In Bowman’s post, she talks about setting up different tiers for your preorder: everyone in the first tier gets a basic gift, and are entered into giveaways for the higher tiers. If you choose to do giveaways, you should know that most states forbid sweepstakes, where entrants have to pay for their entry, so you’ll need to provide an alternative entry that does not cost money. (Or be prepared for your publisher to not be able to help promote your campaign on their social media platforms).

Step Two: Design and Order Swag

If you’re not sure how much you want to invest in a preorder campaign, you can opt for a simple bookmark and signed bookplate. Personally, I like preorder campaigns that offer exclusive content for readers, whether that’s a digital content related to the book (a chapter from a different POV, supplemental material, etc.), maps, character cards, etc. I offered a map that I’d drawn with BLOOD ROSE REBELLION that got an enthusiastic response; for LOST CROW CONSPIRACY, I opted for flat fridge magnets and temporary tattoos.

As far as vendors, there are lots of options out there. Here are my preferences (though I’d love to know other ideas in the comments).  It can take several weeks for swag to arrive, so plan ahead.

For bookmarks, Gotprint is fast and pretty inexpensive. I had mine designed by Icebooks.com.

For bookplates, any 3×4 stickers work well. This time around, I used UPrinting and I loved how well they turned out.

I used Vistaprint for my fridge magnets, and Tattoofun for the temporary tattoos.

Step Three: Advertise

You’ll want to make sure the preorder information is prominent on your website and any social media you use regularly for readers who go looking for it. Graphics are an easy way to advertise it on social media (I used Canva for mine). Be aware that if you’re planning a Facebook promotion for your campaign, you’ll need an image with minimal text.

Canva graphic for my Lost Crow Conspiracy preorder

 

Step Four: Collect Information

Most preorder campaigns require some kind of proof of preorder (screen shot, email) along with a mailing address. Some authors opt to have those sent directly to their author email; I prefer to create a separate email dedicated to preorders so the information doesn’t get lost.

Ultimately, setting up a preorder campaign can take time (and money), but it can be a fun way to say thank you to readers and generate some excitement before the book comes out.

What kind of swag do you like to see in preorders? Do you have any suggestions for swag vendors? Or questions? Let us know in the comments.

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Rosalyn Eves is a part-time writer, part-time English professor, and full-time mother of three. She loves all things BBC, especially costume dramas and mysteries. When not wrangling children (and sometimes when she should be wrangling children), she’s often found reading. Her debut novel, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, is now available. The sequel, LOST CROW CONSPIRACY, comes out March 27.

 

 

Five signs you’re not ready for a brand design

We are thrilled to welcome Allison Martin as our newest contributor! 

Branding design is a complicated topic that most like to pass off as something simple and inspirational → Just be yourself and your authentic brand will shine through!

While I personally believe that, I have spent ten years educating myself in design and marketing both formally and through the school of experiential learning, so I truly understand what it means.

The even tougher part of it all is that for authors you are not just branding a company, you are branding your soul, your life experience, your view of the world.

That would be a daunting task for a narcissistic sociopath, never mind an author riddled with impostor syndrome and self doubt.

There is a big piece of the branding puzzle missing in publishing and it’s the piece that has become my mission — what to do Before the Brand.

As a freelance Art Director I coach authors through understanding their branding needs, defining their career goals, and translating that into meaningful design to grow their confidence as well as their readership.

If you’ve been playing around with the idea of developing an author brand here are five signs that you’re not quite ready.

Five signs.png

— — —

YOU CAN’T PINPOINT YOUR PURPOSE

When someone asks you why you write or what you write about and you can’t confidently state it in three sentences or less—like you would pitch your book to an agent—you are not ready for a branding design. There are two sides to this fence, those who say ‘I just love to read and want to share my love of stories with others’, and those who ramble off ten thousand disjointed things over a 20 minute time frame.

The problem with the first is it is vague and says zero about who you are and what you are promising your readers. What that tells me as a coach is that you lack self confidence and therefore direction.

The second tells me that you lack focus and probably self confidence too—although arrogance is a thing with some new authors, the majority struggle with feeling inadequate so they try to cram in all the things to compensate.

If you can speak clearly and concisely about what you hope to achieve with your work you might be ready to hire a designer.

YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY DESIGNERS CHARGE SO MUCH MORE MONEY FOR A LOGO THAN A COVER

There are two reasons why logo design is more expensive:

  1. Copyright — When you hire a designer to make a cover you are licensing that design from the designer, they own it and you cannot alter it or duplicate it without permission from the designer. When you hire for a logo design, you own it. The designer creates it and then relinquishes rights to you to use however and wherever you choose.
  2. The purpose — To a designer, a cover is an advertisement for a single product. A logo is a visual representation of a company’s mission statement. A design that will be used to sell products and generate profit indefinitely. So because your logo will generate you more revenue in theory it costs more to create.

Logos also require a lot more pre-design work and back and forth with a client so time is a big factor in cost.

YOU BELIEVE A BRAND DESIGN IS A LOGO

A logo is only a single piece of an author brand and not even the most important one, I would argue. You would be just fine to build a visual identity by simply choosing a font for your name and sticking with it across your entire platform.

Your brand design is about understanding your mission, working toward a consistent goal, and making sure everything you do is ‘on brand’. Your brand includes your interests, the images you take/choose, the colors you use, the clothes you wear, how you talk, what you talk about…

And if after reading all that you’re sweating and saying ‘great, now I have to change everything about myself to have a brand’ then you are definitely not ready for a branding design.

It’s not about forcing yourself into something you’re not, it’s about paying attention to what you already are and amplifying it.

THE WORD MARKETING MAKES YOU CRINGE

We are hit with thousands of messages every day wanting our money and a majority of those messages are shameless and gross. But the only marketing that should make you feel gross is if you have to lie or manipulate your way to a sale.

If you understand there are many different ways to share your stories and get the word out that don’t include tricking people into buying your stuff then you might be ready to get a brand design to help with that.

YOU THINK YOUR CAREER IS JUST ABOUT YOUR BOOKS

A lot of us authors get into writing because we can hide behind our books and remain relatively faceless to our readers. But the industry is changing rapidly, we are more and more connected in a visual way, and readers are wanting to see more of our personal space.

I want to clarify that the advice of ‘write more books’ is 100% valid. The best way to get relevant and stay relevant is to keep writing, keep improving, and keep the books coming.

But it’s no longer enough to just write more books.

Our careers are becoming more intertwined with our lives and processes, but with a little bit of forethought and strategy and a whole lot of honest introspection, an authentic author brand should be an exciting journey, not a daunting task.

— — —

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Allison Martin is the author of nine independently published YA & NA novels, and a Graphic Designer, with over ten years experience in television and newspaper advertising, and freelance publishing design.  

Makeready Designs began five years ago as an accidental hobby and grew to a full service publishing design business that works with NYT and USA Today Bestselling authors, as well as Penguin Random House. She has currently shifted her focus to her real passion—helping authors set realistic career goals and implement effective branding strategies to grow their confidence as well as their business.

Allison lives and breathes the North Canadian wilderness, adventuring with her husband and daughter and plotting her next novel on some mountain top—but not until she’s had at least two cups of coffee.

She is represented by Sharon Pelletier of Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret Literary Management.

 

Back Cover Blurbs vs Query Letter Blurbs

Blurb is a weird word. It sounds like a fish trying to talk. Blurb. Blurb. Blurbitty-blurrrrr-blurb.

Quirky as the word itself is, the ability to write an effective one is a vital marketing technique. While studying effective query letters and back covers can help us develop a sort of sixth-sense regarding blurb writing, a lot of authors struggle because of the profound similarities and differences between back cover blurbs and query letter blurbs.

The queries I critique tend to fall into one of three camps:

Camp #1: Reads like a synopsis, listing almost every major event in the story, often in laundry list “and then” fashion. Literary TMI.

Camp #2: Reads like a back-cover blurb. Often contains vague, and clichéd language.

Camp #3: Gets the level of detail spot-on, making my job way easier (yes, this actually happens, and yes, I sometimes weep tears of joy when it does).

I’ve seen authors complain that some agents ask for queries that are “more like a back cover blurb,” but when they try to mimic that style, their queries still fall flat. It’s my belief that understanding the similarities and differences between a back cover blurb and a query letter blurb, can make or break a querying author.

Blurbs_ Back Cover vs Query Letter.png

Similarities: 

Back-Cover Blurb Query Blurb

Meant to intrigue/entice the reader.

Meant to “sell” your book.

Contains plot, character, and world-building elements (to name a few).

Doesn’t reveal the resolution of the ultimate climax of the story.

Is written in present tense.

Differences:

Back-Cover Blurb Query Blurb
Avoids spoilers as much as possible. Spoilers galore! Many secrets revealed!
Generalized language. Specific details all over the place!
Attached to a published book. Does not need to prove it can be a book, because it already is. Attached to a manuscript that might or might not be ready to be a published book. Needs to prove itself worthy.
Aimed at readers. Aimed at publishing industry professionals.

 One of the biggest differences between the back cover blurb of a published book, and the query blurb of a query letter, is detail-level. Back cover blurbs are secretive creatures. They have to be vague. They have to avoid spoilers. Their goal is to intrigue with just enough information to entice the reader, but little enough that the reader will still be thrilled and surprised by the story itself.

Your average author has read far more back-covers than they have query letters. When we try to describe a story in blurb-format, Back-cover-ese is the language we automatically translate into. Also movie trailers. Our brains tend to be big fans of movie trailers.

Back Cover Blurb: “In a race against time, young Owen must delve into his secretive past and learn the truth, or lose his newfound brother who he’s already beginning to love!”

Query Letter Blurb: “Ha! That’s not what I heard. My author told me Owen was adopted, and that his newfound brother Jimmy lives with his bio-mom—who kept Jimmy but not Owen!—and his birth family is super screwed up because his bio-dad cheated on his bio-mom with her sister, then robbed both women blind! And while he’s dealing with that hot mess of emotional overload, Owen’s got to track dad-dude down because he’s their last hope of finding a bone marrow match for Jimmy!”

^^^Don’t write your blurbs like this. This is terrible writing. The story idea is kind of cool though. Someone should maybe write that.

Query blurbs, as you may have noticed, are the loud-laughing, secret-sharing gossip at the party. They spoil almost everything. But they do it for good reason. Agents and editors read more query letters than we can probably imagine. They understand story structure. They get it on a deep, bedrock level. To appeal to them, to show them ours is a story worth giving their (very limited) time to, we need more than just the basic surface-level of the story.

Details. It’s all about those specific details.

When writing your query letter blurb (or anything, really) please, for the love of words, avoid phrases like:

  • “Or her whole world will be turned upside down.”
  • “Or everything he thought he knew would fall apart.”
  • “Or everything would change.”

Back Cover Blurb: “She must race against time to prevent a catastrophe!”

Query Letter Blurb: “She must defuse the bomb or a school bus full of children is going to blow up!”

If a phrase in your query could be used to describe literally hundreds of other stories, it doesn’t belong there. You’re not going to hook agents or editors with generic lines like “They must master their new ability or the world will be destroyed.” The world is always about to be destroyed. Main characters always have new abilities that need mastering.

What makes your story special? What’s unique about it? What does your story have that the other 724 queries in the agent or editor’s inbox don’t? A main character who uses graffiti art to make incisive social commentary, but secretly dreams of being an accountant some day? A clever novelization of Westside Story, but with mermaids? A murderer who puts a chess piece in the mouth of each of their victims, and the clever young waitress who figures out why?

Querying authors, find those details, and then share them! If you sacrifice clarity for the sake of mystery, you sacrifice your best chance to show agents or editors what your story is actually about. Make sure your query letter is that talkative gossip at the party*.

*But aim for the 250-300 word sweet spot, okay? Agents and editors have tired eyes and tired brains. Be nice to them.

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Kimberly VanderhorstKimberly VanderHorst is a YA author who cherishes a love for all things quirky and strange. Claims to fame include running Prism Editing, co-hosting the annual Pitch Slam contest, and serving on the committees for the annual LDStorymakers Conference and The Whitney Awards program. Despite being a city girl with a tendency to cuss a lot, Kimberly is married to an LDS minister and lives in rural northern Canada. There, she helps raise their four lovely daughters while pretending not to be afraid of the neighbour’s chickens.

 

Naming Things

I have a dog named Dog. All right, that’s a slight exaggeration. I have a dog named Puppy. His collar says his name’s Ptolemy, but no one in the family has ever called him that. Ever since he wandered into our lives, he’s been Puppy. And really, that’s probably a good thing, because who knows how to pronounce Ptolemy?

I get the embarrassing task of responding to each question of, “Oh, what a cute puppy! What’s his name?”

“Um…well…Puppy…”

And then I follow up with the story. Once upon a time on a December 26th, a puppy showed up in the culvert under our driveway like a belated, growling Christmas present. We called, we coaxed, we offered turkey scraps, but nothing would induce him to come out. We ended up calling Animal Control to evict him. Of course, by that point the kids had fallen in love with him.

Puppy.jpg

So we fostered our little squatter until the animal shelter people were sure no one was coming for him. During that whole week, he was The Puppy, and by the time we were finally sure he was ours, the name was firmly attached. (In case you were wondering, Puppy’s “real name,” Ptolemy, came about because we had another dog named Cleopatra.)

The point of this whole tale is to show you that I’m utter crap at naming things. Dogs, cats, kids, blog posts. But novels, especially. In fact, I’m positive that overall, I spent less time choosing names for my children than I’ve spent on manuscript titles.

I end up with ridiculous working titles like Middle Story, which I then spend months trying to change. Because there are working titles, and then there are titles that have terrible work ethics. They slouch around the house, eating all the snacks and watching TV, and they just won’t leave.

As I suspect that I might not be the only one with this problem (and judging from everything out there on the topic, I’m not), I thought I might compile some of the material I found, with links to a few excellent articles.

So why bother coming up with a great title, you might say? Won’t a publisher change it anyway? Possibly. But it’s still important to stand out from the slush pile. So what follows is my list of the most informative and thought-provoking bits of advice I have found. It’s by no means inclusive. It’s simply a summary of all the ideas I found particularly helpful.

Naming Things.png

First of all, the obvious (but always worth a reminder):

  1. A title should be memorable. I think The Hobbit is a great example. It’s an easy but unusual name. Short, simple, and evocative.
  2. A title should be attention-grabbing. Titles such as Fahrenheit 451, Neverwhere, or Strong Poison can be positively chill-inducing. As a kid, I bought (and enjoyed) The Undertaker’s Gone Bananas solely because of the title. Years later, on my bookshelf, it caught my teenage daughter’s eye, too.
  3. It should give an idea what the book is about. Pride and Prejudice. Harry Potter and the (magical artifact).
  4. Make sure the title fits with the story and also isn’t badly out of place with the genre. If you pick up The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, you probably know you’re about to read a fantasy. On the other hand, a title could fit in any number of genres and still be memorable, such as Winter Garden.
  5. Make sure it hasn’t already been used recently, or is the title of a well-known book or movie. Titles aren’t copyrighted, so you can reuse them. It just might not be in your best interests to do so. So do a Google or Amazon search to make sure that Twilight, your epic novel based on the Norse legend of Ragnarök, hasn’t been used anywhere before…

Some great advice I hadn’t considered:

  1. Make it easy to pronounce. Something like Phthamlxatl and the Pachyblepharon—maybe not so much.
  2. Offer a mystery. What is a hobbit (I imagine someone asking in 1937)? Or take, for example, The Other Boleyn Girl. (Wait, there was another one?)
  3. Make a promise to the reader. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Enough said.
  4. Try not to make it too embarrassing to read in public—unless you’re going for something meant to be read in the privacy of one’s home. Imagine sitting on an airplane reading something called Sex Tips for People Who Are Really, Really Bad at It (I’m pretty sure I made that one up. Apologies if I did not).
  5. Be precise. Spend plenty of time choosing the perfect words. After all, Death on a Train isn’t nearly as evocative as Murder on the Orient Express.
  6. Think about multiple meanings—good or bad. A Separate Peace has one, obvious, meaning at the outset. At the end of the book, the reader realizes the title could refer to many different things. (Full disclosure: I bombed that symbolism essay in high school.) On the opposite side, the name Isis has a different meaning to most people today than it did even twenty years ago.
  7. Avoid overly trendy titles, like The (Something)’s (Relation). (Although having just thought up The Geneticist’s Cousin, I’m tempted to write a sci-fi story of forbidden love.)
  8. Don’t make it too short or too long. One-word titles don’t often stand out, unless you’re a Disney film (Frozen, anyone?). Conversely, leave Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships to Jonathan Swift.
  9. A title should be original but not distracting or obscure. Poor Phthamlxatl.

What to do:

  1. Study other titles in your genre.
  2. Brainstorm lists of 10-20 titles, then refine them down to the top two or three.
  3. Poll other people on what they think of your choices.
  4. Figure out what your book is really about. Write down some key words that you think describe it, then construct a title from one or more of those words.
  5. Find something from your text that speaks to you. Maybe it’s something one of the characters says that defines the theme of the book. Or maybe it’s an original twist that you think is unique—an unusual world (The Night Circus), event (The Hunger Games), or an intriguing protagonist (The Ghost Bride). Perhaps it’s your character’s unique perspective (Bridget Jones’s Diary). Add imagery and/or alliteration (Blood Rose Rebellion).
  6. Finally, if you’re really, really, really stuck, there are always the online title generators. A Google search will give you an obscene number of hits. Here are only a few:
    1. Completely random: http://booktitlegenerator.com/
    2. This title generator (http://www.fictionalley.org/primer/title.html) generates ideas that actually have something to do with your plot. It uses key words that you input.
    3. And finally a fun one: this title generator by Tara Sparling (https://tarasparlingwrites.com/book-title-generators/). You use your name, birth month, and so on to generate the title of your masterwork. Looks like I need to get started on my chick-lit book, Where Smiles Would Speak. Or perhaps my autobiography, My Breathtaking Pilgrimage.

Great references:

Appel, Jacob M. 7 Tips to Land the Perfect Title for Your Novel. http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/write-first-chapter-get-started/7-tips-to-nail-the-perfect-title

Bottcher, Saul. How to Pick a Title for Your Book. http://www.indiebooklauncher.com/resources-diy/how-to-pick-a-title-for-your-book.php

Buttars, Marla. Choosing Your Fiction Title. http://www.eschlerediting.com/choosing-fiction-title/

Farndale, Nigel. Naming a Novel: Nine Months of Angst. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/books-life/7075095/Naming-a-novel-nine-months-of-angst.html

Max, Tucker. Picking the Perfect Book Title. https://bookinabox.com/blog/how-to-title-book/

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Kris Bio Pic.jpg
Kristina Starmer lives in Southern Utah and writes renaissance-era historical fantasy. She read—i.e. memorized—her first book, The Owl and the Pussycat, when she was two. She likes to think this is where she got her first taste for thrilling adventures in magical lands, spiced with a touch of romance. When she’s not working as a university chemistry lab manager, she enjoys spending time with her four independent children, an adventure-loving husband, and more dogs and cats than she likes to admit. She is passionate about traveling to new places, ice cream with lots of mix-ins, and the peaches from her garden.

Life After Querying: Publication Insights from Authors

For writers who are interested in pursuing traditional publication, there are all kinds of tools and resources for drafting writers and revising writers and querying writers. There is hardly anything that then allows a writer on submission with publishing houses know what to expect. And if a writer publishes with one house — even a few times — and then doesn’t resign? It’s like trying to walk a maze in the dark with a blindfold on.

Life After Querying_Publication Insights from Authors.png

With this in mind, I put together a survey to see what the “typical” experience tended to be, how writers negotiated time expectations when writing and marketing, and asked for some advice. Over 50 authors jumped in to share their experiences. I’m going to get out of the way and let you peruse the results.

How many times have you been published?

Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 2.33.01 PMWhen was your first book released?

1990s – 4
2006 – 2
2009 – 2
2011 – 5
2012 – 4
2013 – 6
2014 – 6
2015 – 8
2016 – 6
2017 – 4
2018 – 1

Did you publish the same book that you were querying when you signed with your agent?

Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 2.57.25 PM

How many publishing house read your book before you signed? Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 2.57.44 PM

How many books were included in your first contract?

42 authors signed a single book deal.
6 authors signed a two book deal.
5 authors signed a three book deal.
One author signed four books, and one author signed six (this one was direct author to publisher)

Has the entirety of your publishing career been with the same publishing house? Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 3.03.02 PM

If you have changed publishing houses, which book was it with? screen-shot-2018-01-19-at-3-03-33-pm.png

Considering the amount of time you have available to write, what % is spent crafting and what % is for marketing?

(for reference, the 1st number is crafting/the 2nd is marketing)

7 – 90/10
1 – 85-15
10 – 80/20
3 – 75/25
6 – 70/30
1 – 65/35
5 – 60/40
14 – 50/50
4 – 40/60
3 – 30/70

What advice do you have for authors who just signed their first contract?

  • Don’t be shy about communicating with your editor and publicist when you have questions or ideas.
  • It’s never too soon to start working on your next book
  • Always be writing.
  • Enjoy the honeymoon
  • Don’t stop learning. Book 1 is part of the journey, but keep writing, keep honing your craft so future books can be even better.
  • Market a lot at first, keep writing too
  • Read and understand what you’ve really agreed to.
  • Don’t compare to other authors!!
  • Get an agent.
  • You’re not done waiting.
  • Enjoy the giddy, crispy delight of having done this amazing thing. Then take a deep breath, because there’s way more work than glory ahead. ??
  • Keep writing. Book one is just one piece of your career.
  • Make sure to read the contract before you signing you don’t understand it ask for help
  • Build a mailing list!
  • Keep your day job
  • Be clear on the expectations
  • Be careful and read the final print of the contract. Make sure you have an agent who has your back.
  • Start writing the next book! One book does not a career make.
  • Try not to fret social media
  • Connect with other authors who are in a similar situation. It really helps when questions come up.
  • Don’t be a jerk
  • Build relationships based on commonalities and a desire to support others–not on hoping people buy your book. Have your agent be ultra-involved in marketing plans with an aim toward getting you as much support as possible. Remember this is a long game, a marathon not a sprint, and focus on your next book, and your next, and…
  • You make your living writing, not waiting. At first, I was nearly frozen with fear as I waited for edits or notes from my editor (agent) but I’ve quickly learned that that time is golden. It is time to try new ideas, work on my craft, build the next book. Oh, and become friends with your cover artist! Getting to know her/him will be a HUGE help if you need additional art for swag etc. They will also LOVE to help spread the word for you on their social media channel because it is their work too.
  • Be patient and keep writing
  • Focus on the good parts and celebrate them
  • All your marketing efforts are a drop in the bucket. If I were going back, I’d focus on a few select things I like or really want to try and would just spend the rest of my time on the next book.
  • Don’t rush to sign a contract. Don’t rush to fire your agent.
  • Get marketing savvy. You still have to do a lot yourself.
  • Remember you have little control about what happens next. Focus on editing your book to the best it can be and let go of the rest.
  • Before you sign, don’t rush. Don’t settle. Read it twice. If you sign, be cautious. Be clear. They’re not doing you a favor. This is your career.
  • Begin your next manuscript as soon as possible. Do not stop writing.
  • Write your next book and consider going indie. 😉
  • Breathe. Ask questions. Advocate for your book and your career. Meet your deadlines.
  • Nothing is as big a deal as it seems. Things will happen that you’ll be sure are going to ruin the book, the events, your career. It won’t. Don’t sweat it. Just keep working.
  • Everything is going to be fine.
  • Lay strong marketing groundwork now. Build relationships with people.
  • The first contract is just the beginning, not the final milestone. Enjoy all the little successes, because there will be lots of things that don’t pan out the way you expect them to. Cultivate gratitude and try to keep your eyes on your own paper–envy is hard to avoid, but poisonous to creativity.
  • Enjoy it!
  • Treat the time between signing and actual release day as a learning experience.
    It depends on whether they signed via an agent or not. If it’s an experienced agent, let them handle it. Ask for twice the number of finished copies they offer. Ask for print ARCs. Remember that while your sights are on a single book your editor is juggling multiple titles. All are important to him or her; keep that in mind when emailing, etc.
  • Keep writing, keep making connections like you’re still trying to get published
  • Start networking!
  • Just keep swimming
  • Keep your head down and work on your craft. There is so much out of your control.
  • Try not to compare yourself to other writers. Everyone’s journey is different, but all are valid.
  • Expand your platform as much as you can now. Be gracious. Watch out for people who just want to take your money. Ask around before signing up for marketing/promo services.
  • Be prepared to do a LOT of marketing on your own, no matter how you are published.
  • Ask questions!
  • Be informed. Stand up for yourself. If you’re panicking, you’re in the majority.
  • Be willing to make your own magic happen– your publisher likely won’t do it for you.
  • Make sure you have a lawyer look over the contract. Watch out for contracts that want to claim all future works or who will force you to purchase your rights back.
  • Editorial feedback is not always direct, so trust your gut. “We need a bigger plot point here” may mean “you need to make us care more here.”
  • Have an attorney review it. Don’t get sucked into the hype of the moment.

What advice do you have for authors who have to go on submission after having worked with a publishing house?

  • Be patient and prepared for change
  • None. I’m about to do the same thing.
  • Understand this happens to everyone. Publishing houses make mistakes and editors get fired or hired away, all of which are to of your control. Switching publishing houses is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Sometimes the journey is hard and ugly. But it’ll get good again eventually.
  • Be patient and start working on something else
  • Keep writing.Keep submitting.
  • You’ve got this.
  • Keep moving forward
  • Evaluate how your agent or publisher has performed for your book and don’t be afraid to jump ship.
  • If you have to start over trying to find a new agent or new publisher, I would say gird your loins! And never give up, and stay busy on a new project.
  • Keep your chin.
  • It’s not the end of the world. Many authors end up publishing different works with different publishers. You’ve got a leg up in the process since you have books out there in the world and a web presence already.
  • If you want to publish traditionally, don’t give up.
  • Don’t think about it. Write the next book instead.
  • Hang in there. You did it once, and it will happen again. Maybe even at a better house than your first turned out to be.
  • It takes time. Oh my goodness, so MUCH TIME! Before finding a publisher that was a fit for me, we went out on submission to at lease 20 different editors/houses. I piled up comments, collected them, then finally started writing something new.
  • Before we had even collected all of our responses I had a new book ready and THAT is the book that finally found a home. Did I mention it takes a long time?
  • Solidarity, friends.
  • Don’t take any contract if it means changing your manuscript in a way you don’t want to.
  • Good luck and keep writing.
  • Being on sub is the worst anticipation. Fill your time with non-related writing activities as much as possible.
  • All the eggs in one basket is not the norm. It’s okay to be at more than one house, and self-published at the same time.
  • Most of us do have to chAnge publishers from time to time. Don’t be discouraged
  • Consider going the indie route. 😉 My indie book makes more than my book with a publisher…and I get paid every month and can see all the numbers.
  • Take courage. Believe in yourself and your writing. Absolutely write the next book, and focus on the things you can control!
  • Keep your tribe close. There are no guarantees in this business. You’ll need them more than ever.
  • Submission sucks. Be kind to yourself. Remember that your worth is not tied up in your writing–and even your worth as an author isn’t solely dependent upon whether or not a publisher buys your books.
  • It’s brutal out there. Believe in yourself and enjoy the act of writing.
  • Keep trying. There’s a home out there for it somewhere.
  • Best advice: never get angry in publishing (agent, editor, copyeditor, PR folks). It’s not personal–though it certainly will feel like it is.
  • Patience, grasshopper, it only takes one YES
  • As much as possible, try and write the next book and forget about the one on sub. It can take a LONG time, but that is no reflection on the quality of your work.
  • My bias is toward finding an agent you trust and who believes in your work 100%. That might include telling you a particular book of yours doesn’t have a market right now. This is certainly harsh to hear but I really do believe agents know and understand the market better than most writers do.
  • It’s OK to feel bad. Submission isn’t fun. Stock up on junk food and binge watch your favorite shows when you need to.
  • Develop a nice, thick, shell. I’ll be “out there” again after book #2, and at least I know now not to take rejection personally!
  • Get writing on something new
  • Turn the MS over to your agent and forget about it. Do something else, write something else. That book, for the time being, is not in your hands.
  • Find other things that bring you joy, and focus on them.
  • Each house has its own business plan. Whether or not your project is a fit may have nothing to do with the quality of your manuscript. Reality is, if they don’t know how to sell it, they aren’t the publisher for you.
  • Persistence outweighs skill 10 times out of 10

How do these experiences align with what you’ve experienced or heard? Have any advice you’d like to add? 

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Tasha Headshot Color

Tasha Seegmiller believes in the magic of love and hope, which she weaves into every story she creates. A co-founder of Thinking Through Our Fingers, she is the managing editor of the writing-focused website as well as a contributor to Writers in the Storm. She is passionate about helping women nourish their creativity and is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, where she serves as a board member. The former high school English teacher now assists in managing the award-winning project-based learning program (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. Tasha married a guy she’s known since she was seven and is the mom of three teens. She is represented by Annelise Robey of Jane Rotrosen Agency.

Star Wars, Coke, and Other Things to Ponder

I did a whole big branding worksheet not long ago, and it asked questions like – Why do you write? Where do you fit in? How are you different? Only, I had to think beyond my normal answers. Deeper. And man, was it HARD. I’m interested in EVERYTHING. And I’m currently in the switch from writing YA Contemporary to… everything while I figure out what direction I want to go next. In my mind, none of this “everything” or “experimentation in writing” fit with any kind of brand–although, I’m learning differently. Anyway, this is what’s been on my mind lately. (If you’re curious, you can find the worksheet HERE)

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I listened to a great episode of This American Life the other day, the one with the real Coca-Cola recipe. (If you’re curious, you can find that HERE.)

The people behind This American Life worked hard to re-create Coke using a recipe they found while visiting the Coca-Cola archives. They found the same suppliers for the specific ingredients of Coke, they learned as much as they could about what made Coke one of the biggest companies in the U.S. The Jones Soda Co even helped them out with the mixing/stirring/creating. In the end, they had a product that was almost indistinguishable from the real deal.

And then… They went to a grocery store and had people take a taste test, comparing the real Coke to the version they’d created. Some got it right, some got it wrong, but the interesting take away for me came from one sentence, spoken by one person… “This tastes like my childhood.”

Coke isn’t just a flavor, it’s a brand. They have DECADES of marketing behind the flavor. So, Coke is about a lot more than just what people taste after they pop open the can.

And before you wonder if I’m getting paid to promote Coke, know that I like Pepsi better.

So, the flavor is the same, the texture is the same, but Jones Soda Co could never recreate Coca-Cola. There’s too much behind that name for them to compete.

And to jump to Star Wars, for those of you who were paying attention and read the title of this post 😉

We went with the masses to see THE LAST JEDI, and love that film, hate it, feel meh about it, millions of people watched that movie. There was much discussion  in my family about what we liked and didn’t like (no spoilers, PROMISE!) And my daughter wondered why anyone would watch any more STAR WARS after seeing the prequels. (She did love the most recent). But again, STAR WARS is so much more than each individual movie. Every time I see those letters scroll up the movie screen and hear the opening music, I’m 8 years old again. STAR WARS is my childhood.

So why on EARTH am I talking about Star Wars and Coke on a website set up for writers? I mean, no one is expecting you to run out and be the Coke version of an author. But there’s still something to be learned.

AUDIENCE IS IMPORTANT. How your readers feel is IMPORTANT. When I open a novel from Stephen King, I know (at least some) of what I’ll get. When I open a book by Sarah Eden, I know (at least some) of what I’ll get.

Do people know what they’re getting from you? As much as I occasionally despise the idea of “branding” it is so important. Find your readers. Find your people. Be conscious of WHO will read your books, and how you want them to feel. Put thought into your posts, newsletters, social media, etc… This isn’t about you, this is about them.

I’m a very slow work-in-progress with this, but being mindful is the first step, right? RIGHT??

Happy Writing!

~ Jo

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IMG_9581Jolene talks about everything, but is most happy when encouraging other writers to be writers. She is the author of 8 traditionally published YA novels, and many indie published romance novellas and novels. She works as a freelance editor, interned with The Bent Agency, and is the current chair for the Storymakers Conference in Provo, UT.

You can find her at BeenWriting.com and joleneperry.com, or just hiding behind her laptop in her bathroom where she (occasionally) hopes to not be discovered by her family.

 

 

How to be in the top 10% of your industry

We are thrilled to welcome today’s guest, Ryan Decker!

In a world where there are literally thousands, if not millions of people competing to do exactly what you want to do, how will you stand out? How will you ever get noticed?

You may assume there are too many obstacles to overcome or not enough opportunities out there. You might feel like you’re not connected enough, skilled enough, or have what it takes. You may even feel like you have done everything you can already but nothing seems to work. Whatever you’re thinking, you’re right.

“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

So why not think you can? Why not you? Why not now?

Good news…

The world has a way of rewarding those who decide what they want and work to go get it.

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Step one: start

Begin where you are with what you have. Start down the wrong path if you have to. Explore even your bad ideas. Be okay with failing and start creating. At this point, don’t let creating something perfect get in the way of creating something, period. Do this and you have already beat out 80% of the competition. Most people fail before they even begin. They get a bad case of paralysis by analysis and never begin working to make their dreams a reality. You too may have been stuck in this trap before. But not anymore.

Step two: keep going

The next 5% of your competition will burn out after a while and quit. By being consistent with you craft, you have already placed yourself in the top 15% of the world! Keep patiently and diligently working. One day, your chance will come. One day, you will be heard.

That’s the amazing truth behind consistency. There is a certain compound effect taking place. When you improve even less than 1% every day, before you know it, you’re where you want to be. Exponential growth only comes with time and commitment. This type of commitment isn’t easy. If it were, there would be more people doing it. That’s why by simply following step one and step two, you will already be in the top percentile of your industry.

Start. Keep going. If you want something bad enough. You will make it happen. There will be sacrifices, but when you love what you do they won’t seem like sacrifices anymore. You’ll sleep less, watch less tv, spend less time with friends and doing hobbies. You’ll replace some of those things with getting educated, connecting with like-minded people, testing your ideas, failing a lot and learning a lot. But that’s what you signed up for, isn’t it?

Step three: breaking into the top 10%

After showing your craft the level of commitment it requires, you can now take your performance to the next level. Here’s how:

  1. Find a mentor or hire a coach.

As the proverb says: “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” You will not get to where you want to go without the proper training. People who have been there before or are doing what you want to do can help you avoid certain roadblocks saving you both time and money. The right mentor will help you gain clarity around your unique message. They will help you connect with the right people to help spread your ideas. The wrong mentor or coach can have the opposite effect, so be sure never to take advice from someone you wouldn’t want to switch places with.

  1. Create something remarkable. 

Easier said than done. That is why testing and failing and learning about your target audience are so vital to your success. Your purpose is to gain trust and earn attention. The only way you can do that is to write something people will want to read, sell something people will want to buy, and serve people how they would like to be served.

  1. Be a marketer.

You are a marketer now. It doesn’t matter what your skills are or what you think you role is, if you are serious about being in the top 10% of your industry, you will need to learn marketing. Pay attention to how people respond to what you do and say. Observe what favors people are asking you to do for them. Ask more questions. Listen. Learn how to best fulfill the needs of your market. You have more to offer than you think. It’s time for your market to understand that.

  1. Think like a designer. 

Designers are taught to pay close attention to the details. Because details matter. Everything designers do, from eating to grocery shopping to driving down the street, influence their work. In order to make the most out of what you do, your work will always need to be top-of-mind. A commitment to your work requires a commitment to solve the interesting problems that come your way. They will demand your attention because you have promised your attention. So when inspiration comes your way, go to work. Organizing your thoughts for a later time is good, working on your craft as soon as inspiration comes to you is better.

  1. Do it because you love it.

If you love what you do, stick with it. It’s a marathon – almost everything meaningful you will do in life is. It’s supposed to be hard. Would you do it even if you wouldn’t get paid to? If the answer is yes, then keep going. Think of the many people you can and will touch by creating meaningful work. Think about what might happen if you don’t. Do what you do because you love it. Love what you do because of who it helps.

Conclusion

You are either getting better or getting worse. There is no middle ground, no state of stagnation. What got you where you are today will not be enough to get you where you need to go. Remember, you aren’t doing the world any favors by thinking small. Play big. And then, don’t settle for being in the top 10% of your industry. Instead, ask: what can I do to to get to the top 1%?

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RyanRyan Decker is an entrepreneur and blogger who writes and coaches about personal growth, leadership, and marketing. When Ryan is not making lists or thinking about goals he is cooking, cycling, reading, or traveling with his wife, Hannah. Connect with Ryan at ryanwdecker.com.