Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

Marketing: 10 Tips to Make It Work for You, Part Two

Marnie Lamb

 6. Go on NetGalley: Dock your boat at a big, densely populated island where the inhabitants know you’re coming and at least some of them want to meet you. NetGalley is an online service that connects book reviewers—including bloggers, members of the media, booksellers, and librarians—with authors and publishers seeking to promote their books. As an author, you sign up to have your book listed on NetGalley for a specific term. During that term, book reviewers can request a digital copy for review. Sounds fabulous, right? It is, but for authors, NetGalley comes with a few caveats.

The first is the cost. While NetGalley is free for those seeking to review books, those wishing to have books reviewed must pay a fee for their listing. The cost for an individual author to list a single book for six months is approximately US$450 (C$571), a heavy duty to pay for landing on NetGalley Island (https://netgalley.uservoice.com/knowledgebase/articles/105722-do-you-work-with-individual-authors-). Fortunately, you can join a co-op, which allows you to purchase a listing at a reduced price. Through Xpresso Book Tours, the company who arranged a blog tour for my book, I bought a three-month listing for only US$180 (C$228).

Deciding who should review your book is another challenge. NetGalley has over 175,000 registered reviewers (http://xpressobooktours.com/xpresso-book-tours-netgalley-co-op/). While no book will interest all reviewers, you may be in the lucky position of receiving hundreds or even thousands of review requests. However, as Xpresso cautions on its website, a small percentage of the reviewers on NetGalley are simply looking for free books. You want to promote your book, but you don’t want to be taken advantage of. How do you know which reviewers to trust? Although you can’t be certain of the answer, you can try to weed out the inhabitants who are simply going to grab a copy of your book, run off to the other side of the island, and never be heard from again. Set parameters for who reviews the book. For example, you could stipulate that reviewers must have a social media following of at least 500, and or that they must have posted a review on NetGalley within the last six months. As part of its NetGalley service, Xpresso undertook this weeding process for me. My contact at Xpresso, Giselle Cormier, asked whether I wanted to stipulate any other parameters as to who could review my book (such as the ones I’ve suggested above). As a first-time novelist, I decided that I would welcome everyone who wanted to read my book, so I didn’t include any additional restrictions. I’m glad, though, that I had Xpresso protecting my interests by choosing who would and wouldn’t receive a copy of my book.

Finally, as with all marketing, be careful what you wish for with NetGalley. During the three months that The History of Hilary Hambrushina was listed, it received numerous review requests, which resulted in reviews being posted on Goodreads, Amazon, and elsewhere. Having cleared the hurdle of finding reviewers, I now had to worry about their response to my book. While my book earned some heartwarming praise, it also gathered its share of criticism, some of it snarky. Yes, some island inhabitants are going to roll their eyes at your art, and you are powerless to stop them. Instead, be grateful that your book has garnered interest, and at the risk of sounding a bit slimy, try to make peace with the old adage about all publicity being good publicity. Point nine offers a more in-depth discussion about dealing with negative reviews.

 7. Be careful how you set up giveaways: As you’re rowing around the ocean, you may wish to toss a few freebies to the island inhabitants. Keeping the prizes small and light will ensure that you’re not weighed down or distracted from all your other marketing duties. I found this advice in several articles about giveaways, but I didn’t always follow it. So I think it bears repeating here.

I’ve run several giveaways (contests) in connection with my book promotion: two on individual blogs, one through my blog tour with Xpresso, and one on Goodreads. The first guideline of giveaways is to resist the temptation to offer your book as the prize. Otherwise, you’re taking away potential sales. After all, if people think they can get something free, they won’t buy it. On Goodreads, you can offer only books for giveaways, but blogs and blog tours provide the chance for different prizes. On the two individual blogs, I did offer my book as a prize, and in one case, I offered two different rewards: one print book and one ebook. Giving out two different prizes can be confusing, though, because winners may think that they have a choice of prize and they may both want the same one. So if you have multiple prizes, simplify the process by offering two of the same prize.

For one of my blog giveaways, I offered a $10 charitable donation to a charity of the winner’s choice, in addition to a copy of my book. I felt that this was a unique prize in keeping with both my life philosophy and the themes in my book. The prize did involve a bit of legwork in terms of setting up an account with the charities, but I’m happy to have been able to use my success to give back a little. Depending on your values and budget, you may wish to incorporate a charitable element into your giveaways. Overall, though, I strongly suggest keeping your prizes as simple as possible.

What prize is both simple for the donor and enticing to the recipient? You can’t go wrong with an Amazon gift card. Gift cards may seem unoriginal, but they give the winner a choice in what he or she wants to buy. When I was first looking into gift cards as prizes, I began considering other popular stores and places that tied into some of the themes and characters in The History of Hilary Hambrushina, such as The Body Shop, Lush, and Cineplex Odeon. But that just raised more questions. In which countries do these stores operate? Are the cards transferable between countries? Will readers even want one of these cards? A certificate to an online retailer, which can be easily accessed in any country, is more straightforward. And anyone who’s visiting a book blog clearly likes books, so why try to guess what else the person might like?

I think I was trying to be as innovative with my giveaways as I am with my writing. Setting up a giveaway is not an exercise in creative writing, however. By the time of my book tour, I’d learned from my earlier missteps, and as the end-of-tour prize, I chose a US$50 gift certificate to Amazon, which proved popular with blog readers. So don’t get too fancy with your prizes. You have enough other marketing tasks without trying to complicate this one.

 8. Take advantage of small promotional chances: In the midst of all the large promotional opportunities—going on a blog tour (see point five), getting your book into bookstores, and running a giveaway on Goodreads—it’s easy to overlook more modest marketing venues. But islets have fruit-bearing plants, too.

For me, the best smaller promotional opportunities came with marketing my book to colleagues. As an editor, I’m blessed to be part of a profession filled with people who love to read. Editors Canada (the national association for editors) provided me with several chances to tell other editors about The History of Hilary Hambrushina. The first came in the monthly e-news update, which contains a section for members’ news. I typed a short description of my book and sent it in. The blurb ran in the next update, which was distributed to 1300 editors nationwide.

Sometimes, a chance to market your book can be the fringe benefit of another opportunity. Three months after my blurb ran in the Editors Canada e-news update, I was featured on the Editors Toronto blog in its series Editor for Life. Although the article’s purpose was to profile my career as an editor, I piggybacked on the publicity by mentioning my book and including a link to my publisher’s website. Similarly, at a recent Editors Toronto monthly meeting, I spoke on a panel about branding for editors. Again, the panel’s purpose had nothing to do with YA novels or marketing fiction, but I made sure to mention my book in the biography the host read before I began speaking.

Have these promotional gambits resulted in many sales? I don’t know yet, but these marketing tasks involved little time and no money, so choosing to pursue them was a no-brainer. I know I made at least one sale through the blurb in the e-news update: The membership coordinator, to whom I’d sent my announcement, emailed me a week and a half later to say that she’d purchased my book and really enjoyed it. As with any marketing task, you need to ask whether smaller opportunities are worth your effort and money. But if they are simple and free, go for them. After all, no sales can be generated from people who don’t know about your book.

 9. Manage your emotions: During your journey, you will sometimes be riding high, hair billowing behind you, lungs breathing in the fresh sea air, as your boat crests the top of a wave and you survey all the islands you’ve conquered. The next minute, your boat will be pitched down into the roiling ocean and your body drenched in frigid water. As you emerge, gasping for breath, you’ll have salt up your nose, seaweed in your ears, and a bad case of the chills. The main cause of this cresting and pitching? Reviews. As a friend sagely warned me just weeks before my book went on NetGalley, “Amazon is good, but Amazon is horrible.”

I remember confidently telling two people at a party a couple of weeks later that while I knew my book, like any other, would receive one- and two-star reviews, I simply wasn’t going to read those reviews. “Good for you,” my listeners responded. Yes, good for me, only my resolve was about as adhesive as glue from the Trudeau era—Pierre, not Justin. The first review I came across had rated my book two out of five stars. Unable to stop myself, I clicked on the review, read the criticism, and immediately felt a six-inch-square knot crystallize in my chest. I read the first dozen reviews of my book—including, I’m happy to say, several four- and five-star reviews. Still, I had trouble sleeping for several nights, haunted by the snippy comments in some of the negative reviews. Soon, though, after I’d had my fill of masochism, I found the Justin-era glue, slathered it on my resolve, and stopped reading reviews that were fewer than three stars, a resolution I’ve stuck to.

If your willpower is stronger than mine and you can avoid reading negative reviews from the start, kudos! I don’t believe that anything positive can come of reading bad reviews, so if you can crush your curiosity immediately, you’ll be in a better emotional state than I was. Realistically, though, I suspect that many writers, particularly first-time novelists, will find it impossible not to unstop their ears for at least a moment as they row past that island of hecklers. And that’s OK. Indulging your curiosity about bad reviews is a part, albeit a painful one, of the writing journey. However, if you’re finding that you’ve been sucked in to landing on Heckler Island and you simply cannot move your feet to get back in the boat and row away, put out an SOS call to a loved one to rescue you.

Share your heartache with compassionate, supportive people who are good listeners, people who will let you rant without shelling out that useless advice, “Don’t worry.” It’s easy for people who haven’t had to endure public (or even private) critiquing of their art to tell you not to worry, but many writers are sensitive souls who are natural worriers. With apologies to Geico, if you’re a worrier, you worry. It’s what you do. You can’t will yourself to stop worrying. You will be anxious about bad reviews. How you handle that anxiety, however, is key.

Aside from connecting with supporters and trying to avoid reading bad reviews, you can use several techniques to deal with negative publicity. You can try rationalizing it by telling yourself the following: “One review is just one person’s opinion” and “If that reviewer didn’t connect with my book, that’s unfortunate, but I can’t expect that everyone will like it.” Personally, though, I don’t find rationalizing a very effective technique, at least not at the start of the process of recovering from heartache. When I feel badly, I need to feel well, not think well. So if you’re like me, prioritize positive feeling over positive thinking. I keep a separate file folder on my computer containing some of the four- and five-star reviews given to The History of Hilary Hambrushina. When I’m feeling down about marketing, I read these reviews to remind myself that regardless of what else does or doesn’t happen with my book, it has touched the hearts of strangers tens of thousands of kilometres away. That in turn touches my heart. Rewarding yourself also induces positive feelings. After reading those first dozen reviews, I bought several bags of tea, not of all which I needed. But the luscious lemon liquid and calming camomile concoction revived and soothed my body, mind, and heart.

Most importantly, regardless of how you’re feeling about your marketing, take breaks from both it and your book. Making a small excursion on the ocean before returning to the mainland to rest and refuel before heading out again is more than fine; it’s necessary. As difficult as it is to remember, you are not your book. For your own emotional and mental health, you need to separate the two.

 10. Define the extent of your marketing: Decide when you’ll return to the mainland. One of the best parts of being published with a company that doesn’t provide marketing is that you control your book’s promotion. Yes, the responsibility of creating and implementing the marketing plan falls solely on you. But so do all the decisions about where—and how far—you want to take your marketing.

I offer this advice with some trepidation because I don’t want to appear to be contradicting everything I’ve said thus far. So don’t think of this advice as telling you that the marketing route you’ve taken has been incorrect and you need to row your boat back to the dock from which you departed. Rather, see it as plucking you out of your boat, suspending you several hundred feet above the ocean, and giving you an aerial view of the path you’ve travelled and all the possible paths you could take.

When I began promoting my book in earnest this past spring, a well-meaning cheerleader urged me to “Reach for the moon. If you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” While I appreciated the sentiment, I dislike this expression for three reasons. First, it’s a cliché, often said without any deep thought about the particular situation in question. Second, it’s illogical. Think about it. The stars form about as solid an alliance as a sieve. They’re not necessarily going to catch you if you miss the moon. Who’s to say that in shooting for the moon, you won’t wind up flat on your back on the Prairies? Third, it’s harsh. It implies that any endeavour that doesn’t attain, or at least attempt to attain, a heavenly body is a failure. And that’s narrow thinking.

Let’s review. If you’re at the point where you’re marketing a book, you’ve already accomplished so much: creating the story and characters, writing the book, rewriting and editing it, finding a publisher, dealing with the lows and highs of rejection and acceptance, and maybe even running a crowdfunding campaign to cover the book’s publication costs. Those accomplishments comprise more than most hopeful writers will ever achieve. Yet, these achievements are often portrayed as not enough. What’s the motto of the biggest global competition, the Olympic Games? “Faster, higher, stronger.” You can always have more sales, more income, more accolades, more publicity, more glory.

When I first spread the news about the upcoming publication of The History of Hilary Hambrushina, several people made bold predictions: “Think of how much money you’ll make!” “You could be the next J.K. Rowling!” Fortunately, as someone who has worked in the publishing industry for over a decade, I have much more realistic expectations about where my book publication will likely lead. Furthermore, I have no interest in being the next anyone. I’m the first Marnie Lamb, and I’m proud of that.

However, some people will always tell you that you haven’t done enough. Ultimately, though, you need to take the marketing journey for yourself only. Marketing takes time, money, and mental stamina. Most of us have families and careers, from which we can be away for only so long before we begin to suffer in other ways. (Remember: You are not your book.) So one day, you may decide to dock your boat permanently and move on to other oceans and land masses. When that day comes, be proud of everything you’ve accomplished. Moving on is not the same as giving up.

Finally, rout out that festering weed of a word, “enough,” from your vocabulary. Your achievements aren’t impressive enough, inspiring enough, praiseworthy enough, or amazing enough. They are impressive, inspiring, praiseworthy, and amazing. Full stop. Don’t limit your accomplishments by qualifying them. Celebrate them in all their glory.

Happy marketing!

© Marnie Lamb

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW!

Author Bio:  Marnie Lamb is a Gemini incarnate: half writer and half editor. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Windsor. Her short stories have appeared in Journey Prize Stories 25 and various Canadian literary journals, including filling Station, The Nashwaak Review, and The Dalhousie Review. Her first novel, a YA book named The History of Hilary Hambrushina, was published by Iguana Books this past spring. She pursues her other love, editing, as the owner of Ewe Editorial Services, which offers copy editing, indexing, permissions and photo research, and proofreading services to educational, scholarly, and trade publishers. When she is not writing or editing, she can be found cooking recipes with eggplant or scouting out fashions—preferably ones with polka-dots—at Toronto’s One of a Kind Show.

Marketing: 10 Tips to Make It Work for You, Part One

Marnie Lamb

This past spring, my first book, a young adult novel named The History of Hilary Hambrushina, was published by Iguana Books, a Toronto-based hybrid publisher. Hybrid publishers represent a third way, a cross between traditional and self-publishers. Like a traditional publisher, Iguana maintains high quality standards and will not publish manuscripts that do not meet those standards. Like a self-publisher, Iguana does not include free marketing in the services it provides for authors. Instead, authors are responsible for promoting their own books.

After having successfully raised money for my book’s publication costs through crowdfunding (see my earlier two-part article on crowdfunding), I turned my attention to marketing. I wasn’t a total greenhorn. I’d been running a freelance editing business for seven years, which necessitated some self-promotion. But for me, marketing was always the grimy other side of the coin to the polished artisanship of writing and editing. During my years in Ryerson University’s Publishing Program, I studiously avoided all the marketing and sales courses. I wanted to focus on the careful crafting of books, not on the dirty, cutthroat business of selling them.

But once my book was in the process of being published, I had to accept the grime and begin navigating the treacherous waters of selling. However, Iguana didn’t just toss me off the pier and walk away. My contact there suggested that we have a phone conversation with a colleague of hers who had marketing experience. In it, they sketched out a rough map of the marketing ocean, highlighting some of the islands at which I should stop. The planning of the route, the paddling, and the embarking and disembarking were all up to me, though.

The Internet offers a cornucopia of information about marketing for writers. Some fruits appear multiple times in the cornucopia. For example, many wonderful articles have been published about the importance of having an eye-catching, informative website and becoming social media savvy. In this article, I’ll focus on some of the smaller fruits that remain hidden in the middle or at the back of the horn of plenty, as well as on the arrangement of the fruits in the basket—that is, on marketing as a process.

Here are ten tips I’ve learned in my marketing journey with a hybrid publisher.

 1. Give yourself as much time as possible: If you’re being published by a company that doesn’t provide marketing services, chances are that the publisher is either a hybrid or self-publisher. Therefore, you probably have at least some sway over the publication date. You may be tempted to set the earliest possible date so that you can send your masterpiece out into the world immediately and begin bragging to everyone you know about your book’s being on Amazon. But doing so is rarely a wise marketing strategy, especially for an unknown author whose book doesn’t yet have any buzz surrounding it.

Marketing is multi-faceted. Not only are there many islands to explore, but these islands are all part of archipelagoes, and each island in the archipelago must be visited or at least considered for a visit. For example, when Iguana advised me to “go on Facebook,” I had many more tasks to complete than simply signing up for an account. In fact, before I even signed up, I needed to decide which type of page I wanted: business or personal. Then, I faced a multitude of decisions about my friending policy, my security settings, the tone of my posts, and the amount of control I wanted to grant to others (would they be allowed to initiate or only respond to posts on my wall?).

Every aspect of marketing is a journey in itself. So allowing yourself enough time to formulate and execute a marketing plan before publication is crucial. Six months is the average time that a writer must wait after publication before receiving the first royalties cheque. If you rush to publication and haven’t had time to spread the word about your book, you’re unlikely to garner many sales, which could mean a delay in receiving payment. You’ve already worked so hard to get your book published, so why not start earning money as soon after publication as you can?

Even more sobering is the possibility of your book going out of print after only a short time in print. Most publishers, including hybrid publishers, have a clause in their author contract stating that if sales fall below a certain threshold, the publisher will cease to print copies of the book. Garnering sales can be a slow process because you often have to try various marketing initiatives to see which ones are most fruitful for you. If you wait until after publication to begin marketing, you risk having very low sales over the first few months or even year, which could put further printing of your book in jeopardy. The few months before publication are a precious time to get a jump on your book promotion.

Start your marketing at least six months in advance. If that means postponing the publication date, do so. Production wise, my book was ready to be published at the end of February. But I wasn’t ready. Fortunately, in earlier consultation with the publisher, I had chosen May 31 as the publication date, which gave me an extra three months of marketing time. By the time that date arrived, I felt comfortable knowing that I had made a push to spread the word about The History of Hilary Hambrushina.

 2. Talk to someone before you start formulating your marketing plan: If you push your boat out before making a map, you’ll quickly become lost at sea. But even creating a map is tricky for a newbie cartographer. Speak with an experienced mapmaker who can give you an idea about how to chart your course. For me, this person was my Iguana contact’s colleague. If your publisher cannot provide any advice about marketing, seek that guidance elsewhere.

Chances are excellent that you know someone who knows someone with marketing experience. If you’ve successfully crowdfunded your book’s publication costs, the network you’ve built during your campaign will come in handy now. If you’re lucky, you may know someone who works in marketing or publicity. But people who have some background in promotion, even if they’re not marketers per se, may be helpful. Maybe the daughter of a friend took a marketing course in her publishing program and would be glad of the opportunity to hone her skills by assisting a newly published author. Or perhaps a colleague’s spouse had a book published and can offer his perspective. However, ensure that whoever you choose does have marketing experience, preferably with books. Many well-meaning people will give you ideas, solicited or not, for promoting your book. But when you’re beginning your marketing, you need to first talk to someone who’s been out on the ocean, however briefly.

If your circle of acquaintances doesn’t yield fruit or you want further advice, consider taking a seminar or reading a book. I picked up some good tips at a morning-long course from the Toronto-based Canadian Children’s Book Centre titled “The Business of Writing: Selling Your Books, Selling Yourself.” The newer and more convenient cousin of seminars, webinars, ensures that as long as you have Internet access, living outside a large metropolis is no barrier to availing yourself of educational opportunities. Shop around online and look for marketing courses aimed at writers and offered by professional institutions such as universities or writers’ groups.

With all the advice about marketing for writers available online and in print, you may be wondering why you should bother having an information interview with a marketer or spending money on a course or book. But before you begin reading articles, knowing where to start is essential. If you don’t which islands are out there, how will you know which travel guides to read?

 3. Make and remake a to-do list: Once you’ve spoken with a cartographer, sketch out a plan for which islands to visit in which order, and revise the plan as many times as you need to.

Most people work better having a written plan for major endeavours. I’m no exception, and as an indexer, I love lists. So after speaking with Iguana about marketing, I saved a new copy of the notes I’d typed during the meeting and began putting tasks in the order in which they needed to be completed. At first, I grouped tasks under different headings such as Author Website, Social Media, Readings and Bookstores, and Other. Although this was visually pleasing because the to-do list was not presented as one big chunk, the presentation was impractical because it meant that I had to look under multiple categories to figure out what my next marketing task was. So I collapsed all the categories and simply made a long list. For every completed task, I wrote “done” in uppercase pink letters at the end of the line (or “n/a” in red letters if I’d decided not to pursue the task). For ease, I highlighted in blue the tasks that I needed to perform next.

You may prefer to group tasks by category, or perhaps you’d rather use an Excel spreadsheet or pen and paper instead of a Word document. Experiment with different list formats and find what works for you. Regardless of format, include timelines for completion of a given task. Return to your list every time you work on your marketing, and refine it by adding, deleting, or moving tasks around.

 4. Realize the limitations of non-traditional publishers: Sadly, books from self-publishers, independent publishers, and hybrid publishers are not welcome in some quarters. If you attempt to land on those islands, you’ll encounter hostile inhabitants who will bar your ship from entering the port.

This fact didn’t come up during my marketing conversation with Iguana. Instead, my status as authora non grata was a distressing lesson I learned soon after I began researching book bloggers to whom I could send my novel for review. Some bloggers state in their review policy that they won’t consider self-published books. Because of its newness and connection with self-publishing, hybrid publishing is equally suspect in some quarters, and books published by such companies are lumped in with self-published books.

I wish I had a way of busting open these ports, Commodore Perry style, but I don’t. You’re better served by advice warning of the existence of these islands and suggesting that you move on. As an individual writer, especially a new one, you’re unlikely to change anyone’s mind about non-traditional publishing. More likely, your impassioned pleas and carefully reasoned arguments will annoy bloggers. This anger is justifiable. After all, you wouldn’t send a query about a romance novel to a blogger who specifically states that she does not review romance novels, so the same applies to non-traditionally published books. Also, book bloggers are a close-knit community. They talk to one another. If you send too many “will you make an exception for me because my book is awesome?” emails, you might be pegged as an obtuse pain who wastes bloggers’ time because he doesn’t read review policies properly. And as someone trying to promote your book, you definitely don’t want that reputation.

The tide of opinion about non-traditionally–published books has shifted over the past twenty years. When I was studying for my master’s in creative writing, self-publishing was called vanity publishing, and our seminar instructor assured us that none of us would ever have to stoop to the degradation of publishing our own work. Now, with the commercial and critical success of more and more self-published books, including Canadian Terry Fallis’s first novel, The Best Laid Plans, non-traditional publishing is becoming more respected. You can do your part to help this opinion shift by writing the best book you can, promoting it to the best of your ability, accepting that some still people won’t want to read it, trying not to take this rejection personally, and moving on.

 5. Go on a blog tour: A blog tour is a virtual book tour. Instead of visiting bookstores, reading from your book, and signing copies, you have your book featured on several blogs (the exact number depends on the tour package you choose) over a set period. The blogs offer excerpts and reviews of your book, author interviews with you, and guest posts written by you—all important promotional opportunities. The best part? You can hire a blog tour company to organize a tour for you. Inviting someone else to chart a course and steer my boat for a while was the smartest marketing decision I made and the best money I spent.

When I first learned about blog tours, my reaction was “why bother?” Many individual reviewers have guidelines for how authors can contact them. I figured that if I could contact reviewers myself, I could save money by not hiring someone to reach out to people for me. I was confident that I could secure the same number of reviews and promotional opportunities that a blog tour would produce. I resolved to resort to a tour only if I struck out with the bloggers I was contacting personally.

Within a couple of weeks, I realized my error. Iguana had provided me with a list of over 600 YA bloggers. I spent several days combing through the list and narrowed it down to 184 who were the best candidates to review my book. Then, I spent another two weeks reading over some of these blogs, crafting personal emails to the bloggers, and sending out queries. Of the 96 bloggers I emailed, I received 8 responses: 3 yeses, 2 maybes, and 3 nos. Given the number of books out there and the number of authors, publicists, and publishers jockeying for reviews, I suspect that an 8% response rate is decent, especially considering that I was a first-time author with no published reviews and only a fledgling web and social media presence.

Nonetheless, I found the process demoralizing and time consuming and the result disappointing. I’d hit a sandbar and knew that I couldn’t continue. I checked my pride and made an SOS call to a blog tour company that specialized in YA fiction. Thankfully, Giselle Cormier of Xpresso Book Tours responded immediately and agreed to come to my aid.

As I was researching potential blog tour companies, I realized just how arrogant I’d been to assume that I could quickly make the kinds of connections that tour hosts have taken years nurturing. Blog tour companies are deeply connected; Xpresso has ties to over 2000 bloggers. Unless you’re someone who’s already securely plugged in to a network of bloggers, I strongly recommend hiring a professional to organize reviews and other promotional opportunities for you. As with any other hiring decision, do your homework. Tour companies specialize in certain genres of writing, so make sure you’re targeting organizations who will promote your type of book. Investigate their credentials. How long have they been in business? What are their qualifications? Is their website professionally designed and free of grammatical and spelling errors? Does it have a testimonials section?

Promotional opportunities organized by tour companies have another advantage over those you organize yourself. If a blogger says she’ll review your book, that’s not a guarantee that the review will happen. Life sometimes has other plans. With a blog tour, there are no guarantees, either. However, you’re more likely to get the reviews requested. For example, Xpresso added a couple of extra stops to my tour to compensate for any bloggers who might not be able to post. In the best-case scenario, everyone would post and I would get a couple more stops than the twenty for which I’d paid; in the worst-case, I’d still have my twenty posts.

My blog tour provided The History of Hilary Hambrushina with great exposure. I first noticed the effects on the giveaway I’d been running on Goodreads. After five weeks, around 400 people had signed up to win one of ten free copies of my book, not exactly a stellar turnout. Then, Xpresso posted my tour sign-up sheet on their website and began promoting the tour. In the last week of my giveaway, the number of entrants spiked to over 1300. During the tour, I ran another giveaway organized by Xpresso. Over 2000 people entered, meaning that those 2000 people were now aware of me and my book. I would never have been able to attract that many eyeballs on my own. If you take only one piece of advice from this article (except for point ten, coming in part two), take this one.

© Marnie Lamb

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW!

Author Bio:  Marnie Lamb is a Gemini incarnate: half writer and half editor. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Windsor. Her short stories have appeared in Journey Prize Stories 25 and various Canadian literary journals, including filling Station, The Nashwaak Review, and The Dalhousie Review. Her first novel, a YA book named The History of Hilary Hambrushina, was published by Iguana Books this past spring. She pursues her other love, editing, as the owner of Ewe Editorial Services, which offers copy editing, indexing, permissions and photo research, and proofreading services to educational, scholarly, and trade publishers. When she is not writing or editing, she can be found cooking recipes with eggplant or scouting out fashions—preferably ones with polka-dots—at Toronto’s One of a Kind Show.

Crowdfunding: 10 Tips to Make It Work for You, Part Two

Marnie Lamb

 6. Go on social media: Blow your own tuba but don’t be a one-person band. Support your campaign by using your social media accounts to spread the word about your crowdfunding project and drive people to the campaign page.

This is another tip that I didn’t take full advantage of during my own campaign. Although I now have an author website, a Facebook page, and a Goodreads account, these all came after my crowdfunding ended. I had no social media presence during the campaign. Quite the opposite: For various reasons, I had been a dedicated Facebook loather for almost a decade. When I signed a contract with a publisher who doesn’t provide marketing, I knew that I would have to become more active online to promote my book. However, I was so focused on the short-term goals—ensuring that my publication costs were funded and getting the book to the editing and design stages—that I failed to look to the long-term goal of marketing. I was going to have to set up a Facebook page and an author website at some point, and I wish that I had done so before the campaign. Not all of my current Facebook friends are people to whom I’d promoted my campaign. So I can’t help but wonder how many more people I might have reached and how many more pledges I might have secured had I made my mark on social media earlier.

Another advantage of being on social media is that it helps willing supporters promote your campaign. Even if you’re a newbie to social media, chances are that you have several friends and family members with a large social media following. Enlist their help by asking them to post, tweet, and share. Several of my supporters did so, some without being asked. But I would have made their promotion so much easier by having been on, for example, Facebook and posting messages myself. Supporters would then have been able to simply share with one click, as opposed to typing new messages themselves.

Finally, if you’re on social media, you can engage with the people who read posts or tweets related to your campaign, by thanking your supporters, responding to comments or tweets, and liking people’s responses. This engagement shows you to be a live person rather than a paper cut-out named “my friend, the faceless author who is not online.” Generally, people will respond better to those whose profiles they can see and interact with. If interested parties can click on your profile and be taken to your author website, where they can read more about you as a writer, so much the better. All this information whets people’s appetites for your book, and maybe some of those diners will order a copy to satisfy their cravings.

7. Get extra funding from generous donors: Find angels who don’t fear to tread. Angel investors are people who are willing to spend money on a cause for the love of the cause—or of the person promoting it. Due diligence is involved, but because angels often have a personal relationship with the fundee, they are usually more willing to part with their money than are venture capitalists. In the context of crowdfunding, I’m using the word more specifically to refer to supporters who are willing to pledge money without receiving anything in return. This is where the no-reward pledge, discussed in part one, is essential.

Because my campaign was premised on selling advanced copies, I assumed that I would raise all the money through book sales. However, for a couple of reasons, that didn’t happen. First, several people on whom I’d been counting for donations didn’t come through. Second, many people who bought copies purchased the paperback, which was half the price of the hardcover, so I was earning less money than I expected. I wouldn’t have come close to reaching my goal without the help of a few winged saviours who swooped down and blessed the money pot with large-denomination bills. I wasn’t expecting to have to rely on this heavenly support. But if you’re planning a campaign, consider sounding out people to whom you’re close and who might be able and willing to be your angels, depending on how the campaign goes.

And depending on the content and specificity of your book, you may also wish to approach organizations with which you’re connected. For example, say you’re writing a historical novel about Chinese railway workers in late-nineteenth-century British Columbia. Perhaps you know someone at a Chinese-Canadian historical society or friendship association that might be interested in donating money to help disseminate your story to a wider audience. Organizations will probably respond more favourably if you’re able to offer them something in return, such as an invitation to your book launch, a thank-you on the acknowledgements page, or cross-promotion of their work. I wouldn’t advise approaching organizations with whom you don’t have an existing relationship. People may not react well to a sponsorship request from someone they’ve never heard of. Then again, if you’re an assertive personality with strong selling skills, you may be comfortable with this approach. So much the better for you.

As with a guardian angel, you hope you don’t have to rely too much on angel investors. But if you do need their help, you’ll sure be glad that they’re around.

8. Manage your emotions, part one: Tune out the elevator music. One of the most surprising and unsettling developments of my crowdfunding campaign was how emotional the journey was.

Hope. Fear. Despair. Joy. Anticipation. Uncertainty. Excitement. Anger. Anxiety. Disappointment. Elation. I felt every emotion throughout my campaign. The experience wasn’t the clichéd roller coaster. With a roller coaster, you can see what’s coming, and the ups and downs are always extreme. Rather, my journey was more like riding an elevator with one button. When I entered the elevator and pressed the button to check my fundraising progress, I never knew where the elevator would take me. Would I shoot up several floors (“Yay! Three hundred dollars more in donations!”) or plunge down several (“Ugh! It’s been five days and still no new pledges!”)? Would I bump up one floor (“Another paperback sold!”) or drop down one (“Nothing new. Oh, well. I had two new donations yesterday.”)?

Even the most equable person will be buffeted by waves of emotion during a campaign. Crowdfunding is a high-stakes proposition. You spend years crafting a manuscript, you find a publisher or decide to self-publish (probably after many rejections), and you bravely share your story (or at least a chapter or two of it) with the world. Now, you must wait weeks to see whether the public expresses enough interest in your manuscript to make publication viable. You don’t have to be a highly sensitive person to find this situation nerve-wracking.

That’s why maintaining some life–crowdfunding balance is critical. Yes, spending time on the campaign is important. Every night, I completed or initiated one piece of promotion, always asking myself the same questions: “Who can I tell about my campaign who hasn’t heard about it yet? Who can I follow up with who hasn’t donated? Where and how else can I promote it?” But when spending time on your campaign, be sure that you’re actually working productively on it, not morosely navel-gazing about it. Checking your campaign’s progress every hour is like constantly looking in the mirror to see whether your acne medication is working: Checking isn’t going to make the medicine work faster, and if you don’t detect any change from your previous scrutiny, you’ll feel depressed. I looked at my campaign page a maximum of four times a day and sometimes not at all on weekends.

Take breaks and recharge in environments that soothe and relax you (for me, this environment is yoga class). This self-management is essential for your health, both mental and physical, but also benefits your campaign. Feeling too confident or too despairing can result in you giving up on promoting the campaign, causing you to think, “Why bother?” for opposing reasons.

9. Manage your emotions, part two: Tune out the jeers and tune in to the cheers. The harsh truth is that not everyone in your life will be supportive of your publishing endeavours.

But, you might argue, surely this isn’t unique to the crowdfunding process. No, but any lack of support is made clear during that process. After all, someone could claim that she bought a copy of your book after publication, and you don’t have any practical way of proving otherwise. During the crowdfunding, however, you can see who has purchased a copy. On PubLaunch, for example, a list of supporters appeared on a public page of my campaign. However, Iguana and I also had access to a private page, which listed the names of the supporters (including those who had chosen to be listed anonymously on the public page), their email addresses, the rewards packages they purchased, the amount they spent, and the date and time of their purchases. So at the end, I knew who had not ponied up. Some people had excellent reasons for not having supported my campaign. But not everyone did.

I had two friends, both of whom I’d known for over a decade, who fell into the latter category. During the campaign, one told me that while she would try to purchase a copy of my book, she couldn’t make any promises. After all, it was “a busy time of year” so she might not be able to set aside the time it took to buy the book online. (This after I had spent over an hour travelling to her birthday party.) The other bought the book under protest, after having phoned me to warn that the crowdfunding sounded “dangerous on many levels” and that “no one [she] talked to thinks this is a good idea.” When my campaign succeeded and her doubts were proven wrong, she stopped speaking to me. Not surprisingly, both of these relationships had been rotting for quite some time. But the news of my book publication and crowdfunding campaign painfully exposed the depths of the disease at a time when I was already vulnerable and under stress.

I don’t think it’s ever possible to be emotionally prepared for such betrayals. The best you can do is handle these attacks by connecting with kind, level-headed supporters who can talk you through the rough patches. One of the best pieces of advice I received from such a person was this: “People are going to be jealous of you. Don’t even give it air time.” That encouraged me to keep my eyes focused on my goal, not on the hecklers jeering from the sidelines as I sprinted past. The cheers of the people who’d encouraged me throughout the publication process helped propel me forward to that goal.

10. Keep supporters in the loop after your campaign ends: Silence is cheap. Regardless of your campaign’s outcome, share the result and next steps with all your supporters. If your campaign failed to meet its target and you’ll be refunding the money that was donated, let supporters know when they can expect reimbursement. If your campaign succeeded in meaning its target or if it failed but you’ll be financing the shortfall yourself, let supporters know the next step in your book’s publication process (e.g., “The book will be moving on to the editing and cover design stage.”).

Many of my supporters came from one of several groups: family, friends, fellow worshippers at my church, and fellow members of two professional associations to which I belong. I crafted slightly different emails for each group and sent them off immediately after my campaign concluded. A few supporters didn’t fall into any of the above categories, so I contacted those people separately. I also enlisted the aid of some supporters in updating others who were mutual friends. In all instances, I made sure that my deep thanks were prominently conveyed in the communication.

As an alternative to email, social media is an excellent way of informing multiple groups of people about your campaign’s progress. Be sure to reach out individually to people who are not on social media, too. If that means sending a postcard to your technologically challenged great-uncle in rural Manitoba, do so. He supported you, and he deserves to know where his money is going.

Not long before my campaign started, I was asked to support another crowdfunding campaign. I happily did so and received a couple of updates about the campaign’s progress. Then, silence descended. The person running the campaign didn’t keep in touch about whether the fundraising had succeeded. In fact, in her initial communication, she hadn’t indicated a deadline, so I didn’t even know how long the campaign was running. Only once I joined Facebook several months later did I receive a message from this person inviting me to like a page she had created for her cause. It turns out that the campaign had succeeded, but had I not joined Facebook, I probably wouldn’t have known. And in those preceding months, I was left wondering where my money had gone. This situation puzzled and irked me. Don’t risk annoying your early supporters, many of whom are probably your family members or close friends. Take time away from celebrating or moping to write those emails and mail those postcards.

If your book publication is going ahead, keep communicating after you’ve relayed your campaign’s result. Sharing milestones with your supporters—revealing the book’s front cover, showing off your glamorous new author photo, and announcing the publication date—is fun and rewarding. Your supporters will get almost as much joy by reading about your book’s journey as you will by sharing that journey.

********************************************************************************

Having read this far, you might be thinking, “Why bother crowdfunding? It sounds risky, stressful, and difficult.” For many people, crowdfunding is all three. However, it offers two important benefits.

First, crowdfunding saves you a lot of money. Funding a book’s publication costs solo requires a huge outlay of money, more than many people can afford. Combined with covering the marketing expenses, paying publication costs means that the likelihood of you recouping your investment in your book, let alone turning a profit, is miniscule. Unloading the burden of a huge chunk of the expenses gives you a much better shot at profiting financially from your book. And why shouldn’t you make money on your book? Without your hard work and dedication, none of the other partners—the publisher, the printer, the distributor—would earn money. Surely, you’re entitled to your share.

Second, crowdfunding operates as a dry run for your marketing. If you can’t sell your book to family and friends, how are you going to sell it to strangers—people who have no emotional investment in supporting you? Crowdfunding enables you to gauge your promotional skills. You might find that, like me, you could make better use of social media. Maybe the information you presented about your book could be more compelling: a snappier synopsis or a more enticing excerpt. At the end of a successful campaign, you’ll find that you want to adjust your promotional strategy, even if only a little. If your campaign failed, you have much to ponder and assess before you embark on trying to market your book to a wider audience. Marketing is a trial-and-error process. Crowdfunding is a great trial (in many ways!) during which you can learn from your errors and successes before your book is published.

The crowdfunding world offers no guarantees. Ultimately, if your book doesn’t appeal to people, your campaign is unlikely to succeed. But learning from the experiences of other fundees, both successful and not, will give you a better shot at that elusive success. It’s like having a bigger boat: It won’t rid the ocean of sharks ready to drag you down, but it will increase the likelihood that you’ll reach land safely.

To see an example of a successful crowdfunding campaign, visit my PubLaunch page at http://www.publaunch.com/campaigns/history-hilary-hambrushina.

Happy crowdfunding!

An earlier version of this article appeared on the blog Hooked to Books.

© Marnie Lamb

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW!

Author Bio:  Marnie Lamb is a Gemini incarnate: half writer and half editor. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Windsor. Her short stories have appeared in Journey Prize Stories 25 and various Canadian literary journals, including filling Station, The Nashwaak Review, and The Dalhousie Review. Her first novel, a YA book named The History of Hilary Hambrushina, was published by Iguana Books this past spring. She pursues her other love, editing, as the owner of Ewe Editorial Services, which offers copy editing, indexing, permissions and photo research, and proofreading services to educational, scholarly, and trade publishers. When she is not writing or editing, she can be found cooking recipes with eggplant or scouting out fashions—preferably ones with polka-dots—at Toronto’s One of a Kind Show.

Crowdfunding: 10 Tips to Make It Work for You, Part One

Marnie Lamb

Crowdfunding is becoming an increasingly popular way for people to realize their goals, both personal and professional. Crowdfunding refers to raising money for a cause through soliciting donations from a large group of people, often via the Internet. Although I had a hazy idea of the general principles behind crowdfunding, I never imagined that I would launch a campaign, much less one to raise money to get a book published. I first heard of crowdfunding for book publication six years ago during one of my courses in the Publishing Program at Toronto’s Ryerson University. I recall thinking, “Whoa. That’s a bit too new and radical for me.”

Then, last year, Iguana Books, a hybrid publisher based in Toronto, accepted my young adult novel, The History of Hilary Hambrushina, for publication. Iguana uses a newer publishing model. Iguana publishes only books that meet its editorial standards. To ensure that it doesn’t lose money on its books, Iguana asks authors to either pay the publication costs up front or raise the money through selling advanced copies via crowdfunding. At first, I was going to pay the money myself and be done with it, but Greg Ioannou, Iguana’s president, convinced me to try crowdfunding, saying that a YA novel would be a good candidate for a successful campaign. Buoyed by his enthusiasm, I agreed to take the plunge. The amount needed to cover publication costs was C$4315.

On Shark Tank, you hear about people launching a Kickstarter or GoFundMe campaign that exceeds its goal within the first few hours. Listening to these glorious tales, you might easily be trapped into thinking, “All I need to do is set up my campaign, push the start button, and wait for the money to gush in, right?

Wrong. So wrong.

These wonder campaigns are rarer than a sunny day in a Vancouver winter. According to Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/help/stats), 64% of crowdfunding campaigns fail, and 14% never earn a nickel. My informal observations about PubLaunch, a site affiliated with Iguana Books and which raises money for book-related endeavours only, show similar results. I count at least eight other campaigns that started in the months during or surrounding mine; only one was successful in meeting its goal. The amounts raised in the others ranged from 0% to 25% of the target.

So why was my campaign a sunny day in a season full of grey skies? I was an unlikely candidate to run a fruitful campaign. I’d had little experience fundraising. Before this campaign, the most I’d ever had to raise was C$150 for a charity walk. I’m also a proud introvert who generally disdains self-promotion as tacky, narcissistic, or desperate. I didn’t have an author website, I wasn’t on any social media platforms, and the only reason I had a website for my freelance editing business was that I needed to engage in some self-promotion to pay my bills.

Iguana provided me with their crowdfunding guide, which offers basic information about setting up a PubLaunch page and tips on helping a campaign succeed. However, I don’t credit my success only to having followed the guide. Rather, intuition, forethought, observations about previous PubLaunch campaigns, adjustments along the way, and a little luck were the keys. Here are the top ten pieces of advice I’d offer anyone considering using crowdfunding for book publication.

 1. Choose the dates of your campaign carefully: Don’t be the fool who rushes in. Once you’ve decided to test the crowdfunding waters, you may be tempted to plunge in immediately and start sharing your dream with the world. However, carefully choosing your campaign’s timing is more likely to set you up for success.

First, consider the when: What are the start and end dates and time of year? My PubLaunch contact advised that in her experience, Tuesday and Wednesday are the best launch days; hence, I chose the former for my kickoff. I’m not suggesting that other days will result in a failed campaign or that a magic formula exists to find the best day of the week. But try to avoid days on which many people will be busy, such as holidays or the first Saturday of the school summer break.

The same applies to the time of year. During the holiday season in December, people are distracted and busy. In January, they’re poorer after their holiday purchases and may not be willing to dish out more dollars. The exception may be a campaign for a fitness or health book. Then, you can tap into people’s New Year’s resolutions to exercise or eat better. Also, consider your own schedule. It’s unwise to launch a campaign the day before you leave for a long weekend canoeing expedition in the backwoods of Algonquin Park. You need to be available throughout your campaign, especially at the start and end, to answer potential supporters’ questions.

Next, consider the how: How many weeks will the campaign be? Some PubLaunch campaigns were only three weeks, but the idea of raising over C$4000 in such a short time made me nervous. Iguana and I agreed on six weeks. Part of the impetus for the extra weeks was that my campaign began on August 2, and I wanted to leave enough time to catch potential supporters who would be returning from vacation in September. If you thrive under tight deadlines, a shorter campaign may suit you. If not, I’d suggest a minimum six-to-eight-week run time. Moreover, consider your circle of potential supporters. If your kith and kin are procrastinators, you may need a longer campaign to nail down all their pledges.

Try to choose dates that best set you up for success, while recognizing that your choices offer no guarantees. These choices should include giving yourself enough lead time (ideally at least a couple of months) to promote the campaign to family and friends, who can in turn promote it to their circle.

 2. Choose and price your rewards wisely: Good things come in small packages, but better things come in big packages. On PubLaunch, rewards are packages of goods that supporters purchase to help fund a book’s publication. Rewards form the building blocks of a campaign, so taking time to fine-tune them is essential.

The first reward you’ll want to offer is a copy of your book. Offer each edition as a separate package, and consider combining editions and selling them at a discount (e.g., “Save $5 when you purchase the ebook and paperback together”). Iguana encourages authors to give their rewards fun names; I named mine after the characters in my book. Think, too, about including a more expensive reward for a limited-edition item. I offered a hardcover of my book, which was available only during the campaign. The cachet of exclusivity appeals to people, and you’re giving supporters real value by enabling them to purchase something special.

Rewards don’t have to be only books. An invitation to your book launch, a shout-out in the acknowledgements section, or an appearance at a book club meeting are all good rewards. Do you have a special talent such as quilting or sculpting? Work that into a package. Some PubLaunch campaigns offered a piece of unique artwork, handcrafted by the author, the ultimate example of a limited-edition item.

Pricing is a crucial part of reward preparation. Don’t gouge your supporters by charging unfairly high prices, but do charge enough. After all, the cheaper the rewards, the more supporters you’ll need for a successful campaign. According to Iguana, the paperback of my book would have a list price of around C$20. My reward package The Mom comprised a signed paperback and a bookmark featuring the cover art. I felt that C$25 for a copy that included two extras (the personalized signature and bookmark) was fair. However, C$40 would not have been. But avoid overly cheap rewards. A couple of PubLaunch campaigns offered a thank-you email in exchange for C$1. Providing such cheap options is tantamount to saving up for a cross-country trip one nickel at a time. The Mom was the most inexpensive reward I offered; I didn’t offer the cheaper ebook edition, because I knew I’d have to find more supporters if I did. If you’re concerned that your lowest price might drive away more frugal customers, you can also offer a no-reward pledge, in which supporters simply donate any amount of money without receiving anything. I did this and earned a big chunk of money from it (see tip number seven, coming in part two).

If you’re including non-book rewards, don’t assume that your publisher will produce the materials or cover the cost. I made this mistake about my bookmarks and was dismayed to learn that I would have to design, print, and pay for them. Luckily, a couple of kind souls helped out, and my work and costs were minimal. But be sure you charge enough to offset your own costs.

 3. Offer packages of multiple books: Two for the price of one is better than one for the price of one. Make ordering multiple copies of your book as easy as possible for your supporters. This is part of choosing rewards wisely, but it’s so important that it bears setting off as a separate point.

I learned the importance of such packages quickly. On the first day of my campaign, one of my supporters phoned me and inquired about ordering multiple copies. When I explained that PubLaunch isn’t set up to order multiples of the same package, he responded, “so if I want to order five paperbacks, I have to go through the process five times?” Realizing the impracticality of this set-up, I consulted with the publisher and came up with a solution: separate rewards for purchasing two hardcovers or two paperbacks. To these rewards I gave the same name as the rewards for one copy, except with “plus.” So while the Mom (C$25) was one copy of the paperback, the Mom Plus (C$50) was two.

Several of my supporters wanted to buy a copy for themselves and another for someone else. If the ordering process had been too cumbersome, I’m sure that some of those supporters would have given up on the second copy, costing me sales. I also realized that two $25 books are worth more than one $50 book. The second book offers a chance for a new reader to not only discover the book but also potentially tell others about it, possibly creating more sales. Multiples are another area ripe for discounts. Although I didn’t choose that route, you may wish to do so to encourage supporters to buy more books (e.g., “Save $5 when you buy two copies of the paperback”). Interestingly, the other successful PubLaunch campaign also made use of the multiples technique.

 4. Set your goal slightly higher than what you need: Do overextend yourself. I offer this advice cautiously, as it’s both a remedy and a poison. I didn’t actually do this on my campaign, but in hindsight, I wish I had set the bar a little higher to help cover my marketing costs.

Setting a loftier goal is a remedy in that exceeding your goal gives you a little boost in covering other book-related expenses. If you’re being published by a company that asks you to crowdfund, chances are that the publisher will be doing little or no marketing of your book (or they might provide marketing, but only for an additional fee). That promotion and its cost will fall to you. I was blessed to exceed my initial goal by almost C$500 extra, and the excess funds, given to me by the publisher, went right back into the book in the form of marketing. Some marketing endeavours will be in US$, therefore costing more in C$, another reason that raising a little extra dough may be helpful. (I’ll discuss marketing more in an upcoming article.) If you’re an assertive go-getter who feels confident about your chances of reaching your goal, think about resetting your target to net a modest amount extra, say 5% to 10% of the publication costs.

For a different personality, though, this new goal might be a poison. Publication costs are expensive, and raising enough money to cover them is already a steep hill to climb without adjusting the gradient. If you’re at all uncertain about crowdfunding or concerned about meeting your goal, stick with the original target. As I’ll discuss in part two, crowdfunding is an emotional journey, and you may not wish to invite the added stress of a higher goal.

 5. Promote your campaign early and often: Understand that if you build it, they won’t come—unless you tell them about it, draw them a map, or even strap them into a car and drive them to “it.” As Bethany Joy Carlson advises (https://janefriedman.com/crowdfunding-for-writers/), “The success of your campaign and the marketing of your book in general hinge on your willingness to embrace the role of your book’s number-one cheerleader.” Expecting your campaign to market itself is the biggest mistake you can make.

Expecting your publisher to market your campaign isn’t wise, either. While Iguana did promote my campaign by sending out a few tweets and posting a few messages on Facebook, this publicity garnered maybe two supporters. (I say maybe because both of the supporters are fellow members of a professional association to which I belong and to which I had been promoting my campaign. So I don’t know whether their support resulted from my publicity or from Iguana’s.) Definitely ask your publisher to promote your campaign—you need all the weapons in your arsenal to ensure success—but recognize that you are ultimately responsible for driving supporters to your page.

Tell everyone you know about your campaign. Family and friends, yes, but also colleagues, fellow members of any professional groups, members of your place of worship or any clubs to which you belong, neighbours, friends of friends, your accountant, your hairdresser, and your dental hygienist. Not everyone will donate, but no one will donate if he or she isn’t aware of the campaign. To build buzz, tell people about the campaign weeks before it begins and again as soon as it starts. Don’t stop promoting after your first contact. Halfway through the campaign, follow up with people who haven’t donated. I had to ask certain people three times before they donated, but persistence paid off and those pledges came through.

In your initial email or conversation after the campaign starts, make donating easy by explaining what crowdfunding is and how it works; providing instructions for donating, the link to your crowdfunding page, and the deadline for pledges; and inviting questions. Be sure to indicate the currency: Are your rewards and goal in C$, US$, etc.? Let supporters know how long they can expect to wait before receiving their rewards. People who aren’t familiar with the publication process may expect a book two weeks after your campaign ends! Even a ballpark estimate helps. If the publication date changes (as mine did), you can update supporters later with the new details.

Self-promotion does not come naturally for many people. If you fall into this category, you’ll need to be willing to be uncomfortable, at least at first. But I found that the more I spoke about my passion for my book and its story, the more I embraced the role of cheerleader and the more authentic my cheerleading became. I think that being more of an introvert and less of a self-promoter can actually be an advantage when you do have to promote yourself and your causes because it makes your marketing weightier. Your family, friends, and acquaintances know that you’re not someone who’s always hawking his or her wares. So if you’re promoting your crowdfunding project, it must be close to your heart. That will likely convince more people to listen to and ultimately support you.

© Marnie Lamb

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW!

Author Bio:  Marnie Lamb is a Gemini incarnate: half writer and half editor. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Windsor. Her short stories have appeared in Journey Prize Stories 25 and various Canadian literary journals, including filling Station, The Nashwaak Review, and The Dalhousie Review. Her first novel, a YA book named The History of Hilary Hambrushina, was published by Iguana Books this past spring. She pursues her other love, editing, as the owner of Ewe Editorial Services, which offers copy editing, indexing, permissions and photo research, and proofreading services to educational, scholarly, and trade publishers. When she is not writing or editing, she can be found cooking recipes with eggplant or scouting out fashions—preferably ones with polka-dots—at Toronto’s One of a Kind Show.

Time-management, Productivity, and Efficiency for Busy Professionals

Jennifer D. Foster, freelance writer, editor, and owner of Planet Word

I think almost all of us are aiming for balance in our professional and personal lives.

I’m not a certified expert on time-management, motivation, or productivity. And I don’t have all the answers. But I’m a fairly successful freelance editor and writer, who’s happy to share the strategies and best practices I use in order to keep my clients happy, juggle multiple editorial jobs, and keep sane in the process.

I’ll give you a brief synopsis of how I got to where I am professionally and what I do, to give you some overall context, then I’ll talk about specifics.

I’m a freelance writer, editor, and mentor, with 20 years’ experience, 14 of those as a freelancer. As the sole proprietor of my business, Planet Word, I wear many hats and tackle many projects. I work on everything from adult and children’s fiction and non-fiction, consumer and trade magazines, web content, newsletters, and ads to style guides, curatorial material, press releases, annual reports, and book reviews. My clients and projects are vast and varied—just how I like it!

My first degree is an honours double major in sociology and mass communications from York University in Toronto. For my second degree, I went to journalism school at Ryerson University, also in Toronto.

After graduating from Ryerson, I got a two-month internship at Chatelaine magazine, while Rona Maynard was editor-in-chief. I wrote a few articles, did some fact-checking, and sat in on editorial meetings, but I wasn’t hired, as there were no staff jobs available. It was a fantastic view into the editorial world, and I wanted more!

I then worked for about three years as assistant editor at Homemakers magazine, under the leadership of Sally Armstrong. She was an inspirational boss and gave me my own section to edit after less than a year there, and after two years there, she sent me on a feature-writing assignment to the Philippines.

After Homemakers, I headed to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) as writer and editor in the Marketing and Communications department. That was a dream job, where I got to utilize both my editing and my writing skills. On particularly intense or trying days, I’d leave my desk to wander in the galleries, remembering why I was working there in the first place! After 2.5 years, I went on maternity leave and never looked back. When my son, who’s now 14, was six months old, I felt I was going brain dead as a stay-at-home mom and decided to launch Planet Word. I had no idea what I was doing as a new business owner, but I told all of my friends, family, and business contacts that I was available for freelance writing and editing.

Fast-forward to now, where sometimes I’m juggling up to half a dozen client projects at a time, with overlapping deadlines. This is very stressful and extremely demanding, but I find the following strategies help me get through even the most intense work periods.

Know Yourself and Your Work Style

My main tip is to know yourself and your work style and embrace them both wholeheartedly.
I know that I like lots of natural light, myriad lists, an uncluttered work space, lots of herbal teas and salty snacks, great variety in my projects and that I thrive under work pressure. Be your own best friend and work with yourself and your quirks—not against them. Don’t compare yourself to others and how they work: one magic formula does not fit all, and I believe everyone’s a work in progress, so be kind to yourself.

Woody Allen said 80 per cent of success is showing up. I couldn’t agree more, so that’s why I make an effort every work day, which is often seven days a week, to wake early, eat a decent breakfast, get dressed (yes, no pyjamas or sweats for me!), and be at my computer for 9 am. I treat my freelancing for what it is—a successful business and a professional undertaking. Call me crazy, but I feel very unmotivated and unprofessional sitting at my desk in pyjamas. Getting dressed and being at my desk for 9 am gets me into the right frame of mind to work.

Carpe Diem

I’m high energy, detail-oriented, and work well under lots of pressure. I think that’s how I came out of the womb! But I’m always open to trying new strategies, and I know that I have room for ongoing improvement. My theory is carpe diem. Treat each job as a privilege. And take each day as a gift and run with it. Which brings me to another tip: don’t procrastinate! I know—we all do it. But try and jump into a project right away. As a freelancer, I never know what’s coming down the pipe and when, so I need to tackle each project as soon as possible.

Speaking of trying something new, I wanted to share a time-management method that I discovered last year, while I was writing a feature on beating writer’s block for Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique. In a nutshell, this is how it works:

Step one: Pick your task.

Step two: Set a timer (traditionally, it’s for 25 minutes).

Step three: Work on that sole task until your timer rings.

Step four: Put a checkmark on a piece of paper after the timer rings.

Step five: If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (typically, it’s for three to five minutes) and then go back to step two.

Step six: After you have a total of four pomodoros, take a longer break (typically, it’s for 15 to 30 minutes). Reset your checkmark count back to zero and then return to the first step.

The main premise is to work in 25-minute blocks of time (called “pomodoro sessions”), followed by breaks. Each pomodoro session requires your full attention on a single task and then you take a break. The supposed results are improved productivity, burnout elimination, work-life balance and distraction-management.

Maybe some of you may have already tried it, and maybe it works for you. I tried it a few times, but I realized I’m more of a head-down, just-get-the-job-done kind of gal, so the timer going off was, ironically, a major distraction for me, and I found this method more irritating than anything, so I ditched it!

Make Lists

I’ll confess that I’m a list junkie. I make lists for almost everything, whether it’s business or personal, and I get a thrill crossing things off the list. My husband’s now doing it, after years of initially thinking I was crazy! He was always amazed at how much I’d get done in a day, and I told him it’s partly because I thrive on using lists. Now he’s a convert, and sometimes we jokingly fight over who will get to cross completed tasks off the chore list! Crossing jobs off a list gives me a great sense of purpose and accomplishment, and it motivates me to see lines through completed projects and tasks. I used lists with all my in-house jobs, and I’ve continued that method with freelancing.

It may shock you to know, however, that I work with a hard copy calendar and pen-and-paper lists—call me a dinosaur, but I love to get and stay organized on paper. I spend so much of my day on a screen that it’s a welcome change to actually use my hand to write, though my handwriting is atrocious! I have a work calendar that gives me a month at a glance, as I’m one of those people who needs to see the big picture, as well as the details. I write down when projects are due, and that way I can see where the bottlenecks are/could be, and that helps me know right away if I can take on any more work. I also use lots of highlighters and different coloured pens, so projects and deadlines stand out.

I make a list for the upcoming work week, usually on Sunday night, so I know what is due when and to whom for the upcoming week. That’s a smaller version, if you will, of the bigger picture. If my workload is light for that week, then I put on my marketing hat, contacting clients I haven’t heard from in a while, reminding them I’m available for work, or contacting potential clients (and yes, I have a list of potential clients!). Before going to bed, I add to the list, cross off tasks completed or move them to a newly created list. I also have an organized plan for each work day and that keeps me on track and motivated. Maybe there are apps or programs to do this, but hard copies work for me.

I also find creating editorial checklists helpful, depending on the size of the project. If it’s only a few pages, then I don’t create one. But if it’s a major project, like copy editing a 300-page cookbook, I develop a checklist in addition to the style guide I’m using. They are often a simple Word doc or sometimes I write out my checklist. I usually use the checklist at the beginning and at the end of my project, to ensure I’ve been thorough.

Get Through Every Email

Another time-management and motivation strategy I use is making it a priority to get through all of my emails before the end of each day. It’s a quirk of mine, and I realize it sounds freakishly anal and maybe impossible, but, again, this a strategy that works for me. I find it soul-crushing to open up my email in the morning, only to find a long stream of neglected emails/clients. Sometimes that just means a quick and professional acknowledgment of the email, stating that I’ll respond in more detail the next day or very soon.

Regular Breaks, Exercise, and Self Rewards

Another tip: I make time each day for regular breaks and exercise. They are essential for my sanity and my productivity. I do weekly hatha yoga, and I have an ex-racer greyhound who needs multiple daily walks. Exercise helps me manage stress and allows me to brainstorm or work through an issue I may be having with something I’m writing or editing. Bestselling author Gretchen Rubin says that doing 10 jumping jacks will boost your mood and increase your energy. I haven’t tried that yet, but maybe I should! Even when I was an in-house editor at Homemakers and especially at the AGO, I took time for regular breaks. As I mentioned, on particularly stressful days, I’d wander in the galleries, enjoying my favourite Emily Carrs and Tom Thomsons. I have very fond memories of the Yoko Ono, William Wegman and Hermitage exhibitions because I was able to enjoy the art during a weekday morning, often avoiding all the ugly weekend and afternoon crowds. For me, breaks are a form of escapism and regeneration, a chance to lose the work chains and give my brain time to recharge and think freely, which really aids in efficiency and motivation.

I’m also a big believer in self-rewards. I will say to myself that after I get X number of pages edited or y number of pages written, I will treat myself to, for example, wandering in some of my favourite neighbourhood shops or cafes, watching a BBC show, or to some pleasure reading.

Also, I take advantage of any downtime or lulls in work. Freelancing is feast or famine, so I use downtime to re-energize, strategize, and sometimes make more lists! I visit arts and antique markets, visit with friends or family, or think of potential new clients or story ideas. I also meet with fellow editors and writers to commiserate, often sharing work tips and strategies.

Just Say “No!”

Another tactic I use is just saying “No!” No to a client, no to a volunteer opportunity, and even no to myself for doing any more work that day. My theory is, it’s better to pass on a project than to take it on and do a less-than-spectacular job and ruin your precious reputation. Clients appreciate the honesty, which keeps your integrity as an editor intact. Almost every client I’ve ever said no to has come back another time with another job or another part of the job I originally declined. I recently had to turn down a copy editing project for a main client because of prior work commitments, but I was approached by that client again several weeks later to proofread the same project. Fortunately, I was able to say yes then.

I also don’t have a problem with making some nights a “get-your-own-meal” or “cereal night” at our house. My husband likes to cook, but he gets home from work around 7 pm. He is very understanding and so is our teenaged son. They’re used to this occurrence and know that sometimes a decent weekday meal isn’t going to happen, because “Mom’s on deadline again!”

Switch to Something New

Another way for me to meet deadlines and stay motivated is to work on multiple projects in one day or just switch to a different project altogether. As I mentioned, I wrote a feature last year for Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market on beating writer’s block, and many of the writers, editors, publishers, and writing instructors I interviewed do this. If my mind is wandering or if I need a break, I put aside that project and start on another. For example, if I just can’t look at that annual report pdf one more time, I’ll try writing a page for my YA novel, start working on my next book review for Canadian Children’s Book News, or research or brainstorm potential authors for the next season of Rowers Readers Series, for which I’m the administrative director. Sometimes that’s all I need to feel motivated to finish or return to the first project.

Positive Energy, Kind People

My final strategy is, surround yourself with positive, kind people. I express regular gratitude to those people in my life, as I know success is never a solo venture. It may sound cliché, but having family and friends who are supportive and respectful of you and your work will do wonders for your self-esteem and your peace of mind, which in turn has a favourable effect on your productivity, motivation and efficiency.

*****

Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto, Canada-based freelance writer, editor, and mentor. She’s been in the writing and editing business for two decades, and her company is Planet Word. Jennifer’s clients are from the book and custom publishing, magazine, and marketing and communications fields and include The Globe and Mail, Art Gallery of Ontario, D. F. Plett Historical Research Foundation, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Canadian Children’s Book News, Dundurn Press, Ontario Dental Association, and Firefly Books. When she’s not busy spilling ink for her first novel, walking her greyhound, Aquaman, or reading, Jennifer enjoys travelling, antiquing, gardening, camping and yoga. She’s a long-time mentor to novice editors via Editors Canada and novice writers via the Professional Writers Association of Canada. Jennifer is chair of Editors Toronto and administrative director of the Rowers Reading Series. Find her online at lifeonplanetword.wordpress.com.

Introduction to Writing

Alberta Sequeira

Welcome to your world of writing. It all begins with a thought for a great story. The next step is to start writing your first sentence.  You don’t need to spend every spare moment at the computer. A half hour a day will bring your story together. Pushing aside your desire to write will never fill your dream of having that special book published.

Publishing your work can happen if you persevere and keep your confidence. Famous writers had to start where you are now. In the beginning, don’t worry about making every sentence flow together or panic because they make no sense. There will be numerous times going back to recheck your grammar, punctuation, and spelling. You may find it necessary to reword sentences. Those corrections should be in the last stages.

A computer is a gift and a best friend to a writer. Its function keys allow you to cut, paste, copy, delete or add a page from the internet to your manuscript. Remember, most mistakes can be fixed.

One important fact that I suggest is to SAVE your material with each paragraph or page that you finish. If you take a break, if there’s a storm, SAVE your work on a CD before shutting everything down. You’d be surprised how many hours of work can be lost. If it’s gone, you will learn what frustration is all about when you try to remember what you finished writing; you know, those perfect thoughts! 

When done for the day, SAVE your work on a CD. Make it a habit that you write your fresh, new, daily entries at the start of each day in your manuscript in the computer and SAVE the day’s work on the CD. It is easy to get mixed up if you start one day writing on the CD and saving the work the computer and then the next day starting on the computer and saving on the CD because you will over-riding pages of entries with your finished work. I made this horrible mistake with my first book for months forgetting which location I started my writing last, where it was saved, and I had deleted important information. Remember, work on the computer, Save on the CD at the end of the dayMake this a routine practice. 

Keep a pencil and a pad of paper in the living room, kitchen, and bedroom. Some of the best material seems to come during the wee hours of the night or morning. Have one special location to store your notes. Type them daily into your document. It saves paperwork from piling up or your notes getting lost. 

© Alberta Sequeira

www.albertasequeira.org

Email: alberta.sequeira@gmail.com

Bio:

Alberta Sequeira is from North Dartmouth, Massachusetts and is a four-time award winning Author, speaker, and an Awareness Coach on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Her memoirs are:  A Spiritual Renewal: A Journey to Medugorje, Someone Stop This Merry-Go-RoundAn Alcoholic Family in Crisis, and its sequel Please, God, Not Two; This Killer Called Alcoholism, and her Narrative Non-Fiction book What is and isn’t Working for the Alcoholics and Addicts; In Their Own.

Ms. Sequeira is an educational instructor for three workshops: Bring Your Manuscript to PublicationHow to Self-Publish Your Own Book with Create Space and Writing Memoirs.  All three classes were made into handbooks.  

She is a co-founder to Authors Without Borders (www.awb6.com) and a director, producer and co-host to the NBTV-95 Cable Show out of New Bedford, MA.  

She is in the process of working on her first fictional story, The Rusty Years.

Character Development

Award-Winning Author Hank Quense

Nothing tells the reader the author is an amateur quicker than reading about a make-believe, cardboard character, one that isn’t a ‘real’ person.

In this article we’ll cover the mental or inner workings of characters. These are the attributes that turn a character into a ‘real’ person. There are a number of areas involved and it will require creativity and hard work to complete the character development. These areas include the character’s personality, his dreams, his aspirations and any mirages that affect him. The character’s inner philosophy is also an important element.

Let’s briefly address each area.

• Personality: Here is a definition from the American Heritage Dictionary: The pattern of feelings, thoughts, and activities that distinguishes one person from another. If you scan the web, you’ll find a bewildering array of web sites about personality including some heavy-duty stuff from doctors. Basically, it seems to break down into two areas: personality types and personality traits.

According to one theory, there are sixteen types of personality. There are four types in each of four categories: analysts, diplomats, sentinels and explorers. Your character has to be one of sixteen. For more information see http://www.16personalities.com/personality-types.

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW

Within these categories, there are many personality traits. You need to define your character by giving him or her a personality trait or two. Is your character affable, charming, pompous, unfriendly? There are many personality traits that can be used. Once you select one or two, do a web search on that trait to ensure you can write convincingly about that type of personality. There is more information about personality traits here: http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-personality-traits.html

• Dreams (aspirations): What does your character want out of life? What does he want to do when he grows up? What does she want to achieve? This attribute can influence how the character acts and can provide a measure of conflict. What if she wants to become an engineer, but has to decide whether to stay in college or drop out to help her sick mother? This situation will provide inner conflict.

• Memories: These are influencers that characters have. Memories can also be used for foreshadowing and to build up internal conflict. How? Consider this example: as a five-year-old, the character almost drowned. Ever since, she has had a healthy fear of open water. At some point in the story, she sees a man drowning in the middle of a lake. What does your character do? Does her fear of water cause her to ignore the man and walk away? Does she search for a boat to use in the rescue? Does she suppress her fear and dive into the lake?
This inner conflict can provide a memorable scene in the story. Remember though, a heroine has to do heroic stuff. It would be acceptable for a villainess to let the guy drown, but a heroine will have to try to save him, or she won’t be believable.

Another example will concern a man who was punished as a child by being locked in a dark closet. Now he fears dark basements, caves, alleys and any unlit place. You can see how this memory and foreshadowing can lead to exciting scenes and gripping internal conflict.

• Mirages: These are fantasies the character tricks herself into believing. Want an example? Most politicians thinking they have the slightest chance of getting elected President. Another example: your character pursues a goal that he can’t possible achieve because it is a mirage.

• Descriptor (or voice): This item isn’t the same as the way the character speaks, it’s a brief description or summary of the character and the way he thinks and acts. This isn’t easy to develop but I believe it’s essential to have one for the major and main characters. Once you have the descriptor, it will help you write accurately about the character and his thoughts, his actions, his reactions.

Examples may be the best way to explain the descriptor. A banker can be the voice of greed and will endlessly talk about money and financial concerns. A psychopath is the voice of rage, always ready for an argument or fight. A warrior could be described as the voice of chaos. An accountant can be the voice of precision.

• Philosophy: Everyone has a personal philosophy. You have one whether you realize it or not, whether you want one or not. I don’t know if a personal philosophy comes with your birth package or is a product of your environment and your upbringing. To me, how it happened isn’t as important as recognizing that it did happen. My personal philosophy is skepticism with a healthy dose of cynicism. Since all people have a personal philosophy, it follows that your main and major characters should also have a personal philosophy.

Once you assign a philosophy to a character, limitations instantly follow. For instance, if your character’s philosophy is individualism, you can’t have him acting hesitant or asking other characters for help and answers. An individualist character tends to do stuff by himself. He’s decisive, not wishy-washy. Similarly, if the character is an optimist, you can’t have her bad-mouthing everybody’s ideas and suggestions. That’s the way a pessimist will act.

As you can see from this discussion of inner attributes, building a memorable character requires a lot of creativity and work. However, the effort is worth it and your readers will appreciate it.

The material in this article is based on my book Creating Stories.

© Hank Quense 2017

Post Cards from a Heart-Centred Photographer

Debbie Flynn of DebbieFlynnPhotography.com. Click the photo to visit her website.

Why is your author photo so important for your book?

Isn’t the content the reason the reader is looking at your book? Yes, absolutely.

And what if there is another important aspect to your book? An aspect that is a visual process the reader actually uses to take in your book because we are highly visual creatures. So much so that ninety percent of the information we take in is visual.

Visually, when the reader comes to your book they are first going to see the cover and the next important visual will be your photo.

It goes even deeper. The reader is actually longing to connect with you through your photo even in that brief moment. They want to know you and what better way to do it visually than through a photo of you. All you have to consider is the impact social media has had because we are highly curious about one another. For writers Facebook even has an author Facebook page. The reader can connect with their favourite author and learn about upcoming projects and even what their day looks like. 

Which brings us back to your photo – the one that reflects your true essence and what you’re passionate about as a writer. Or does it? Wouldn’t you love to be portrayed this way?

I was out of town attending a workshop for healers. A woman I knew came up to me to ask if I could photograph her sometime during the weekend because she needed a photo right away for her forthcoming book and she wanted what I could offer. We found the time and her photography session was unlike any previous experience. During the session I encouraged her to remember her passion for what her book was about. The book was about her personal struggles and ultimate triumph. She was writing it to help other indigenous women. We created a safe environment for her to be able to do this in. It was an easy and playful session. She shared with me that the final photos lit her up every time she looked at them because they brought out her best and showed her passion. She was proud to use them.

So how do you have a session like this?

The following tips will help you to bring more passion and aliveness to your author photo.

1. Remember why you wrote your book and the passion you felt about writing it.

Journal. Make some notes to be able to refer to and re-ignite yourself regularly before the photo session.

2. Research photographers in your area.

Who do you feel good about and are drawn to use? It’s a personal decision and one that needs your heart’s attention. It is about being portrayed as who you truly are.

3. Interview the photographer.

Are they truly interested in you? Will you be yourself when you work with them? Is there space for the session such as time and an environment that allows you to be comfortable? Interviewing prospective photographers is worth it when you understand the benefits. Hire the photographer who is right for you.  

4. Prepare for the session inwardly before you go.

Remember why you wrote your book and refer to the notes you’ve been keeping. The photographer may not be able to help you express yourself from an inner place. It’s not how photographers are trained. Take time with your appearance to feel good about the way you look. This allows you to relax and to be comfortable enough to go inner.

5. During the session keep coming back to your passion for writing.

Give yourself permission to do this.

If you follow the tips above your photos will make you happy. They will act as an on-going witness of who you are and what you bring to the world.

And the first impression your photo has on readers will be authentic and compelling which will become the most lasting impression they have of you. 

The Flow of the Heart

A beautiful song arises only

when the singer forgets herself and the audience.

A deeply moving painting emerges only

when the artist forgets himself and everything 

else in the world. 

For your talents to be expressed in all their 

fullness and beauty,

the sense of otherness must disappear entirely –

or it will block the flow of your heart. 

~ Amma

ABOUT ME

After my marriage ended and I became a single mom I didn’t know where to turn.

Guidance came in the form of a photojournalist. She was photographing the kids at the family centre where my son and I were swimming. It was obvious how much she enjoyed her job working for a daily paper. We had a rich conversation about what she did. Her happiness, brightness and gratitude came through as we spoke.

She became my inspiration. She helped to revive my love of photography. That conversation inspired me to go back to school and major in photojournalism. I received a Journalism Certificate from the local college.

I mentored with a well-established wedding photographer before opening my business eight years ago. Working with hundreds of clients has taught me how to create an easy, enjoyable experience for them with images that light them up. Over the years my clients have ranged from families and their life events to executives, entrepreneurs and artists.

My nature photographs were published in a best-selling book called “Eco-yards.” It is one of a number of books and magazines who have published my photos. To see more of my landscape, nature and wildlife photography please go to DebbieFlynnPhotography.com.

For two years I exhibited my work at galleries as part of a professional women’s photography collective “femme foto” in Calgary, Alberta.

Professional organizations I have belonged to include: The PPOC (Professional Photographers of Canada) and PPOA (Professional Photographers of Alberta). I attend many photography conferences. To improve my publication skills I completed a multi-media computer certificate.

A Little More About Debbie

Well, as this was happening I started on a heart-centred spiritual path. From my studies I understood our lives have a purpose . . . a mission that we’re meant to do. My mission is to bring more love and beauty to the world through the people and nature I photograph. When I hike in the mountains and close to the ocean it reminds me of how important nature is for our well-being.

There have been obstacles along the way. Through heart-centred energy training I’ve learned how to transform obstacles into what my heart truly wants. The training skills included how to deeply listen, quick, easy tools to move through obstacles and specific work to bring more harmony to my inner world. As a healing practitioner I’ve brought these skills to help many people move through their own limitations into becoming more of who they want to be.

Now I bring this experience to photography clients in the form of encouragement and attentive listening as we talk about their passion. From this place they can express what they deeply care about. And I’m able and fortunate to be able to portray it.

You know what else I love doing – dancing. I will put on a favourite tune and get movin’ whether it’s in the living room in bare feet or having a dance in my chair in my office. Try having a little chair dance sometime it will make you feel good.

Who gets you dancing?

© Debbie Flynn 2017

DebbieFlynnPhotography.com

Character Development

Award-Winning Author Hank Quense

Building a main character in a story requires a bit of creativity and a lot of work.  Let’s talk about two topics on character development that don’t get much attention: limitations and biographies.

1. Limitations

As you build the characters, you may notice that limitations crop up.  Perhaps, a character can’t do what you want him to do because he is too old.  An elderly person, for instance, can’t do many things a younger person can do. You are becoming limited in what you, the author, can do and what your characters can do or can not do.  These limitations or restrictions will also occur with plotting and motivation.  The more the story design develops, the less freedom you and your characters have.  As an example, if you build a character’s physical aspects so that he has a serious limp, you can’t have him outrunning the bad guy.  Similarly, if your character dropped out of high school, he can’t use the laws of thermodynamics to develop the solution to the plot problem.  This is one huge advantage to building a complete biography; it gives you a better understanding of what the character is capable of doing.  The biography will expose the limitations the character will have to deal with.

2. Biographies

A biography for the character serves a dual purpose.  Besides providing background information, it allows the author to understand the character and that understanding is vital when dealing with the character in stressful situations.

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW

For a short-story character, I write a few paragraphs of bio material.  For the main character in a novel, the bio may run to more than a page.  Other novel characters will get less of a bio.  The less important the character, the smaller the bio I create.

The strange thing to many new story writers is this: most of the biographical material won’t show up in the story so why bother developing it?  The answer is that the bio allows the writer to understand the character and what makes him or her tick.  The better the writer knows and understands the character, the better the writer will be able to predict how the character will respond to situations and stimuli.

For instance, suppose someone walks up to your character and punches him in the mouth, or a beautiful woman unexpectedly kisses him.  How does your character react to the punch?  Does he punch back?  Does he walk away?  How does the character react to the kiss?  Does he get red in the face?  Does he kiss her back?  Does he develop a stammer?  Your detailed biography will guide you in writing the character’s response.  If you don’t have the bio material, the character’s response is really a guess.  In addition, the writer will have difficulty keeping the character’s response consistent when other situations occur.  Your second guess may be different from your first guess.  Believe me, the readers will pick up on it.

There are a number of biographical elements the writer should address.

Family: Are his parents alive?  Does the character have any siblings?  What is everyone’s age?  Are any siblings married?  Where did the character grow up?  Did the character have any unusual childhood experiences?  What were they?  Do these experiences affect the character?  Is the character’s family stable?  Or is it chaotic?  How does this affect him? 

Education:  Schools, degrees, favorite subject?

Career: Jobs, military experience?

Adult experiences: Married?  Divorced?  Children?

It’s the author’s job to come up with events that affected the character’s life and outlook. After that, the author must incorporate this information into the story.

This article is based on material in my book Creating Stories.

© Hank Quense 2017

Crowdfunding for Authors: How to Raise the Funds You Require to Publish Your Book

Joseph Sale, Author

The landscape of publishing has changed. And it’s still changing as we speak, metamorphosing into something entirely different. But, unlike other industries in which the ideology is changing along with the processes and practices, the publishing industry remains strangely religious in its observance of certain tenats which just plain and simple don’t work any more. Let’s be real here, the days of glorious £20,000 advance payments, 50% royalty deals and months of marketing and advertising are now over, except for a select few. Only the top names with proven sales records get that kind of attention. For the rest of us, the middle and light-weight writers, we have to make do with the odd pocket-money payout, zero marketing and next to nothing support. This is not the fault of the publishers. Nothing is ever entirely one person’s fault or another. Publishing houses are being squeezed harder than ever, giving greater and greater margins to distributors like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and selling less and less books as we get more and more hooked on TV and visual stimuli. There’s nothing wrong with great television, of course. I admire the writers adapting Game of Thrones and Dirk Gently and all those top-quality HBO shows. I similarly do not begrudge video games their recent billion-dollar industry status. They deserve it, and interactive narrative is becoming a powerful tool for storytelling on an epic scale.

But where does that leave books? Are they dying and can they be saved?

The answers, I hope, are maybe and yes.

Our new technological age of corporatisation and automation has, in part, created the problem writers now face. Virtually anyone can write a novel with a cheap second-hand laptop and an internet connection. Virtually anyone can send in their manuscript to an email address on a website. Once, these manuscripts were handwritten/typed, laboriously edited, typed up again and again, then sent via post to agents who reviewed them, who then passed them on to publishers, who then mailed the writers direct. Only a handful of people had the skills, energy and patience to do this, but in our digital age, anyone can with relatively minimal effort. Of course, writing a good book is still hard, and one must never overlook the massive achievement of setting down 50,000 or more words, whether it’s publishable or not, but this process has been made easier and more accessible. This is good and bad. Good, because it’s allowed disadvantaged people a chance to get their words out there. Bad, because now there are millions of writers clamouring to be heard, and many voices are getting lost in that ocean. The competition is the highest it’s ever been.

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW

Even those that do get published professionally often find themselves disillusioned by the results when their books sell next to nothing (the average literary fiction novel published by a major publisher in 2016 sold 260 copies) and they make next to nothing from the pitiful royalty offering. Often publishers say it’s the best they can do, and in many cases they are telling the truth. So, the situation would appear to be pretty bleak.

However, as with all things, there’s two sides to the coin. Our technological explosion has also brought with it alternative solutions, including self-publishing and crowdfunding. Six or seven years ago, self-publishing was looked down on by the industry. Publishers would outright reject writers who had taken the self-publishing route. Now, as self-published writers generate ever greater sales, and reputable artists (across all mediums) increasingly turn away from big corporate productions in favour of doing more radical independent work with complete creative freedom, publishing houses and agents are coming around to the idea that writers can be self sufficient and there’s money to be had in letting them have control. Some publishers even use self publishing as a proving ground for writers. If you can sell 2,000 copies of your book off your own back, what could you do with a full team and financing behind you? Here’s two important pieces of information to further explore this reality. The legendary alternative rock/EDM band Radiohead and heavy metal alternative rock band Avenged Sevenfold both dropped their record labels in the last three years and released self-published albums, to massive sales and critical acclaim. They did this to throw off the shackles of studios and producers trying to make their sound more palatable and mass-market, and it’s achieved a starting result. In fact, they’ve become more successful, as their reputation and following loyalty deepens in appreciation of their true art. Similarly, many major writers now also self publish books alongside their main titles. In addition, the quality of production between pro-published books and self-published is negligible. In fact, many publishing companies use the same tools as self publishers, such as CreateSpace and Lulu, to print their books. So really, what’s the advantage of publishing, unless they are going to market you extensively?

My books are a mixture of professional and self-published work. My first novel, The Darkest Touch, was published in 2014 by Dark Hall Press, a professional horror publisher based in New York. I adore this little book, but ironically, it’s probably my lowest-quality title in terms of production value. My most spectacular book in terms of production quality is NEKYIA. NEKYIA is a 720 page epic multiverse horror novel in the vein of King’s The Dark Tower and told in a poetic style reminiscent of early 80s Lustbader (The Ninja, Black Heart). This book was produced via Lulu, and lovingly worked on over a period of five years. I wanted the physical print to match the scale, theme and vigour of the prose. It’s printed on parchment-quality paper, and has cover art I designed myself using imagery created by Grand Failure and modified in Paint.NET. As you can see, the effect it’s possible to achieve using simple (and free) tools, and putting the hours in, can equal and surpass what many pro-publishers can do. The fact is, when it came to releasing NEKYIA, I knew I wanted it to be a special book. Most publishers would have advised splitting it down and releasing it in parts (it’s 170,000 words long), but I knew the story would lose impact and people would see through this as a cheap money-grab tactic. So, I released the novel as one big tome, in the way of King’s The Stand. I don’t pretend it’s as great a novel as King’s biblical masterpiece, but I certainly wanted people to experience it in the same way.

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW

The other advantages of self publishing, quite apart from creative control, are greater monetary cuts and increased visibility. I get far more money from the books I’ve self published, sometimes £2.00 or £3.00 of the cover price (not always though), whereas with traditional publishing, I see barely 50p most of the time, and that’s only after the publisher has deducted their expenses. Similarly, I don’t have to wait for a report that is often out of date, or even incorrect, to know how many books I’ve sold and where and who too, I can merely log-in and look it up. This is a very powerful tool for understanding which of your books are making the biggest impact.

The other alternative is crowd-funding. Now, the two of these work very well together, and are really a crux upon which writers and small indie-publishers can build empires in our modern world. They call it “online democracy” and while this is technically untrue given the fact that those with more influence, money for advertising, or followers will probably get more backing, there is certainly more democracy to crowd-funding than winning over the whims of an individual editor or publishing house. So, what is crowd-funding for those who’re new? Crowd-funding is where a platform, such as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, allow a creator to set up a page to obtain funding for their project, whether it be book, album or any other creative endeavour. People give money to these campaigns and in exchange are offered rewards. These could be as simple as a “thank you” in the acknowledgement of the book, or a printed and signed copy, or T-shirts, merch, you name it. People get very creative with their rewards, and that’s part of the fun and challenge, because creative rewards will generally draw more backers. Campaigns can run for various time periods but it’s generally 30 days. Kickstarter is “all or nothing funding” which means if you don’t make your target, no money is taken from anyone, and you are not funded. IndieGoGo offer both “all or nothing” and “flexible” funding, which allows you to keep whatever you raise.

I’ve used both Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. I used Kickstarter to crowd-fund my novel Across the Bitter Sea in 2015. I raised £520.00 (my goal was £500.00) and delivered 22 rewards. This was my first ever foray into crowd-funding, so I wanted it to be humble and achievable. Most people who backed were interested in the more outlandish rewards such as original artwork (ink illustrations done by me), T-shirts and limited edition hardback runs of the book. In early 2017, I raised a more ambitious Kickstarter for my publishing project, 13Dark, with the aim of raising £32,000 to publish 13 incredible writers of dark, supernatural fiction. This work would be accompanied by conceptual art by Grand Failure and the comicbook veteran Shawn Langley. We raised £4,500, which was an amazing achievement in itself, but sadly didn’t meet our goal. You might think that my ambition was over-reaching here, and perhaps it was, but the combined followings of all the writers and myself put together was over 60,000 people, so I thought we were in with a shot. Always remember, the percentage of people who will actually give money to your crowd-funding campaign is always less than you think. If you have 1,000 followers, probably only 50 of them (5%) will actually be willing to support you financially.

However, we didn’t give up with 13Dark, I was privileged to be working with writers who believed in me, even some of the big name authors who could well have bowed out at that point and found other homes for their work. We received an overwhelming influx of support. I spent time selling special book bundles and offering writing coaching, two of the rewards we offered on the original Kickstarter. After a while, we had enough funding to breathe some new life into the project. We ran an IndieGoGo campaign for a modest £700.00 just to Fund Issue #1 of 13Dark, which will publish the first 3 stories. We now find ourselves with £912.00 of backing as of writing this article. What’s more, we are now InDemand, which means our campaign is still going despite the time period being over, with people able to use our IndieGoGo page like a digital marketplace. We can add new rewards and edit old ones. It’s very exciting. Our latest goal is to raise £1,000.00 (we’re only £88.00 off) in order to add a fourth story to Issue #1 of 13Dark. Issue #1: Dead Voices features work by a host of new and talented writers, and is definitely worth checking out if you want to experience a new type of fiction.

Let’s take one more example. Most recently, STORGY magazine, a London-based publisher of quality short stories (Chuck Palahniuk said STORGY is “Keeping the short story alive”, what better  recommendation could you want?), ran a kickstarter to fund their epic EXIT EARTH anthology, a collection of 22 stories, including 4 works by the editors, 4 works by big names, and 14 stories by writers shortlisted in a story competition judged by Diane Cooke. I miraculously managed to win third prize in this competition with my story “When the Tide Comes In”. This kickstarter was a huge success, raising £8,000, whereas it only needed £6,000 to be backed. EXIT EARTH is now going to be taken to print and will be available in bookstores across the UK. Within 30 days, STORGY went from a popular online magazine to a fully fledged publishing house. Part of the reason STORGY were so successful, I believe, is their teamwork. Not just with each other, but with their writers, and with their community of readers.

Crowd-funding is, as you might gather from this brief story, A LOT of work. It requires you to be a marketing guru, artist, graphic designer, business director and writer all in one go. It’s easier if you have a team of people (and the bigger campaigns do). But mostly, it’ll be you on your own. The potential is tremendous and my campaigns are certainly at the lower end of the spectrum. The genre-defining board game Kingdom Death: Monster has currently made $12,393,139 on Kickstarter. Of course, not every idea is going to take off into the stratosphere and capture the imaginations of thousands like this game has (take one look at the design and ambition of it and you will see why even if you’re not a board game nerd like me). Not every creator has the time, energy and resources to commit to creating something as sprawling, and indeed, it can be hard to find your audience, people who are predisposed to this kind of content. Before going into a crowd-funding campaign, you have to carefully plan out what you can and are prepared to deliver. And throughout, you have to be honest about where you are at with the project. Give realistic time-frames and expectations and your audience will understand.

13Dark is only in its infancy despite going through two campaigns, but each time, we get stronger and stronger (and I get more knowledgeable too, which helps). We’re soon going to re-launching the campaign for our second issue, once the first has been delivered, and also potentially releasing some other unique creative projects via the InDemand page. I’d recommend crowd-funding to anyone who’s interested in taking their own destiny into their hands. If nothing else, you’ll get a sense of just how many people might be interested in your work and ideas. From there, you can start to build a fan-following. One of the best pieces of advice I could give is work with others. Don’t just run a campaign for your own book. Unless you’re Neil Gaiman, it’s unlikely to be successful. Do a collaborative project with other writers, or publish their short stories as a preface to your novel, or team up for a graphic novel production, or perhaps do a joint double-novel release with another writer, cross-polinating your fan-followings. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination, and the audience is there, even if they are getting harder and harder to find.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joseph Sale is a novelist, writing coach, editor, graphic designer, artist, critic and gamer. His first novel, The Darkest Touch, was published by Dark Hall Press in 2014. Since, he has authored Seven Dark Stars, Across the Bitter Sea, Orifice, The Meaning of the Dark, Nekyia and more. Under the pseudonym Alan Robson (his grandfather’s name), he won third place in Storgy’s Exit Earth anthology competition, judged by Diane Cook.

He is the creator of 3 Dark, a unique publishing project born in 2017 showcasing the work of 13 writers including Richard Thomas and Moira Katson; each story is accompanied by original concept art from Shawn Langley and with cover art by Grand Failure.

He contributes feature-pieces, film, TV, and book reviews. and fiction, to Storgy Magazine. He also writes for GameSpew, and has an enduring love of video-games.

His short fiction has appeared in Silver Blade, Fiction Vortex, Nonbinary Review, Edgar Allan Poet and Storgy Magazine, as well as in anthologies such as Dark Hall Press’s Technological Horror and Storgy’s Exit Earth. In 2014 he was nominated for the Sundress Award for Literary Excellence.

In his spare time he plays badminton, watches Two Best Friends Play and puts on his DM hat, concocting fiendish dungeons for his friends to battle through.

LINKS

themindflayer.com

@josephwordsmith