Blogs We Love: Aliventures
Your blog’s pretty awesome! When and why did you start Aliventures?
Thanks! I launched the Aliventures blog in July 2009 (though I had the URL before that, as Aliventures is also my business name). I’d had a couple of previous blogs — one on healthy eating and one on student life — but I’d lost interest in both of them. Originally, Aliventures was mainly about personal development, with a bit of writing advice thrown in; now it’s a blog firmly focused on writers, bloggers and self-publishers, and I’ve found that I have plenty of energy for the blog — and plenty to say!
How did you build your audience for your blog?
I did a lot of guest posting between 2009 - 2011 and that worked really well. More recently, I’ve been focusing on using Twitter and Facebook to help grow my blog’s audience — though I’ve had a few months off (see question #4 for why..!)
I’d definitely recommend guest posting to anyone looking to grow their audience — it’s a great way to “piggy-back” on someone else’s success, and busy bloggers are often very glad to have a ready-made post to publish. Small blogs that are very close in subject matter to yours will usually give you better results than big blogs which only tangentially relate to what you write about.
Since we all know writers are always asking questions, what’s the most popular question you’re asked? (And what’s the answer!?)
Whenever I survey my audience to find out what they’d like to know, “where do I begin?” comes up a lot, often from writers who have too many ideas or options and don’t now where to start. Last year, I wrote a post addressing this — Starting Your Writing Journey: Two Easy Ways to Get Inspired. The short answer, though, is make the decision to write regularly (at least once a week), and use competitions or writing prompts to get you going.
Blogger, fiction writer, freelance writer (new mom!)…how do you manage your time as a writer?
At the moment, rather haphazardly! My fiction has been a bit neglected recently because I’ve been focused on being a mother — my husband and I had our first baby, Kitty, less than three months ago. I’m lucky that I’ve developed good writing habits over the past few years, though: I write fast, and I know the process that suits me. I plan out all my blog posts before I get started, and I have a few ready-made templates in my head that always work — e.g. “7 mistakes” with a solution for each is a good one.
I think all writers wish they had more time — and as a new parent, I have a lot of sympathy (and respect) for people who fit their writing around their kids. One tip that’s helped me over the years, though, is to focus on writing at the start of the day, before checking emails or taking care of admin tasks. I know it’s tempting to “warm up” to writing — but once you get into your email inbox (if it’s anything like mine, at least!) it can be very hard to escape!
You have so many great tips and resources on your site, but what do you think is the most important thing for an aspiring writer to know?
You can do it. That’s the one message I’d like aspiring writers to take away from Aliventures. Writing can be tough at times — it’s certainly not a quick path to fame and fortune — but it’s extremely rewarding. And whatever stage you’re at with writing, you can always learn something new and take the next step: that applies to total beginners and to best-selling authors.
And leading on from that — “doing it” might not necessarily look exactly how you imagined. When I was a teen, I hoped to one day make a living writing novels. I later found out that would be a lot harder than I’d realised, but I do make a living from my writing, and I love my work.
Describe yourself in 3 words.
Writer, blogger, self-publisher.
Ali Luke blogs at Aliventures.com about writing and the writing life, and runs Writers’ Huddle, a community / teaching site for writers. She has an MA in creative writing and lives in Oxford in the UK with her husband and baby daughter.
Author Education Series #11a
Choosing Crowdfunding Reward Incentives
By AJ Walkley
On April 9th, I launched my first crowdfunding campaign to fund the publication of my third novel, Vuto. I had started to look into crowdfunding opportunities upon finishing the last edit of my novel, wanting to get it into readers’ hands. Not being in a place financially to do so myself, I turned to this platform in the hopes that I would find success. After a couple weeks of research and tweaks to my project, as well as my video, I was ready to put all of my energy into this venture.
Thirty days later with countless hours invested into outreach and promotion, I witnessed my project reach 175% of its funding by the time the clock hit 0. Throughout the campaign, I took copious notes on everything I did to reach and ultimately surpass my funding goal. While I won’t be crowdfunding for another novel or creative project anytime soon, I wanted to record my journey in the hopes of bestowing what I’ve learned upon others thinking of using crowdfunding to finance a creative endeavor as well.
Looking back, one facet of the crowdfunding experience that I found to be of utmost importance was the ability to offer reward incentives. In my initial research prior to launching my own, going through campaigns to see if there were any I wanted to back, I found that the likelihood of me pledging was based on my interest in the project itself, as well as the pledge tiers for the rewards and the types of incentives being offered.
When it comes to rewards, in my opinion, rule number one is to offer something for everyone, even potential backers who can only afford to give you $1. For some reason, those campaigns that started their rewards at $1 made me want to donate even more than the minimum.
I wanted to offer the same on my own project in the hopes of attracting more donors, as well as backers who were further incentivized to give over that minimum pledge level. I also wanted to offer a wide variety of donation levels with varying rewards attached to each. The levels I chose were: $1, $5, $10, $25, $35, $50, $100, $200, $400 and $500. I even had incentives of $1,000 and above at the beginning of the campaign, but ended up deleting them in the last couple of weeks feeling like the amount of might be overwhelming for certain viewers. In many ways, even the $1-$500 might have been going a little overboard. If I were to do it again, I would probably cut it down to between five and seven tiers.
As far as choosing rewards for each tier, I first determined what I would be able to offer: blog shout-outs, postcards, bookmarks, eBooks, paperback books, posters, the backer’s name on the Acknowledgements page, and Skype “meet and greets.” I then did a cost analysis to figure out what each of the aforementioned would cost me and how much it would cost to ship the physical items.
Next, I set rewards for a specific giving level, aiming for each to have value to potential backers, even the $1 reward (a shout-out on my blog and a personalized postcard). Having already determined the monetary tiers, I then paired the rewards with a giving level. I made sure that the rewards being offered for each level made sense based on said level. So, for instance, $10 backers would receive an eBook of my novel, a signed bookmark, a blog shout-out and a postcard – considering that my eBook will likely be priced a bit higher than the $10 mark once published, I saw this as a great deal for backers who would essentially be getting a discounted deal on the book along with the other goodies.
I would say that value and cost-effectiveness were my focus in deciding my reward levels. In the upper levels, I sought to provide added value to the backer without raising my own costs post-campaign. I did this by offering e-versions of my previous titles, which were of value to the backer, being that purchasing them online would cost them $10-$20 otherwise, but cost nothing for me to provide them.
While nobody took advantage of the $400 and $500 tiers, I still kept them up as I felt like the rewards associated with them were clever and might inspire other authors going this route:
$400: the backer would receive all previous rewards, plus their name as a character in my next book.
$500: limited at two, the backer would receive all previous rewards, plus a 20-minute Skype “meet and greet” and the ability to choose the topic of one of my next two books.
Along with the initial reward tiers, I would also highly recommend adding new rewards mid-campaign to keep the momentum going. Statistically, most campaigns hit a slump in the second and third weeks. To try to prevent donations from dropping off too much during this period, I rolled out a few different interim rewards. For instance, in the second week I added a $30 reward – 20 backers could get a handmade bracelet from me in the colors of the Malawian flag (the country in which my novel takes place). I received six additional donations at this level, which was significant for me. Once I hit $3,500, I posted an update letting everyone know that if we could get to $4,500 by the close of the campaign, I’d film myself making a traditional Malawian meal to send to all backers. Once that goal was met, I set another stretch goal of $5,000 – if we hit or exceeded that amount by the end of the campaign, I would publish an eBook of short stories and poems that all backers would receive for free.
Just before we hit the last week, I let my current backers know that a pledge increase of just $7 would get them a tote bag with my book cover on it. In the final week, I let backers and potential donors know that the next 10 people to donate at least $50 would receive an advanced reader copy of Vuto prior to release.
I found great success with these tactics, leading to more donations and pledge increases in the last few weeks of my campaign. I hope these tips will benefit others venturing into the crowdfunding sphere, as well.
A.J. Walkley is the author of Choice and Queer Greer. Based in Arizona, she currently blogs for The Huffington Post, primarily focusing on issues related to the LGBT+ community. Walkley has served as a health volunteer for the United States Peace Corps in Malawi, Africa, teaching villagers how to protect themselves from contracting HIV; this experience inspired her to write her third book, Vuto, which will be published in the latter half of 2013.
Blogs We Love: Memoir Writer’s Journey
How and when did you decide to become a writer?
For years, like many others, I have felt I have had a book inside me. I have enjoyed writing since I was about ten years old when I wrote plays for my maternal grandmother, Nan and all her little Italian lady friends. I can still see them gathered in the living room sipping coffee and chattering on in Italian. I never understood a word but I can still feel their fascination and loving attention as they hushed each other when I stood at the archway to announce the play would begin.
As I grew older and began facing life with all its complications, I found myself journaling my way through the heartaches of relationship failures, the searing pain of divorce, the exhaustion of being a single-parent, the terror of loving and living with an alcoholic son, the heart wrenching losses of my maternal grandmother, Nan, my best friend, Judy and the recent death of my beloved father as well as my own diagnosis of cancer. Journaling became my pathway to healing, capturing my moments of need, longing, passion, creativity, my life.
I started taking writing courses in 2002 while working as a nurse. In 2009, I became serious about learning the art and craft of writing, taking ongoing memoir writing workshops, author platform building courses and attending national writing conferences.
When I retired from my beloved nursing career in 2011 after forty-four years as a registered nurse and family nurse practitioner, the foundation for my writing career was established. I called myself a writer.
Tell us a bit about your blog, Memoir Writer’s Journey.
I started blogging in December of 2009 on response to agents consistently asking about what my author platform was. I have been blogging once-twice a week since on memoir writing, publishing and social media tips gleaned from writing my own memoir and sequel. I feature other memoir writers in guest posts. In January, 2013 I started a series called A Memoir Moment where, once a month I post either an excerpt from my memoir or a story. The working titles of my memoirs are: Choice and Chances: My Jagged Journey to Self and the sequel: Hope Matters: A Memoir of Faith
How does blogging help your own writing?
Blogging guarantees that I stay on track with a message that will resonate with my readers. It forces me to write clearly and concisely. The world wide web is a noisy place and I want to give my readers something valuable when they stop by “around my kitchen table” so they’ll want to come back and participate in the conversation. I have been able to make many meaningful connections with like-minded people who have helped me on my journey. I get immediate feedback on what I’ve written and also gain ideas from my readers.
Describe yourself in three words.
persistent, grateful, facilitator
What’s the greatest obstacle you’ve had to overcome being a memoirist?
It’s difficult to narrow it down to one but I can address the obstacles I have encountered in various stages of writing my memoir:
#1 Facing the pain: .When I first started writing out my stories, facing painful memories was difficult. As I kept writing, new insights revealed themselves to me just through the process of facing them and writing about them. I experienced healing through reading my own words and began to feel I was on the other side of the pain. I learned that emotional distance from the pain is necessary to be able to convey a story to the reader in an objective, clear way.
#2. Dealing with my “inner critic”: Once I finally figured out a way to get by my inner critic—which took a fair amount of time and effort—- who insisted “nobody cares about your story, you can’t write, you don’t know what you are doing”…
#3 Time management: I think the biggest obstacle I am facing now is dealing effectively with social media distractions and balancing author platform responsibilities with the actual writing. Knowing that the only way I will finish my memoir(s) is by writing on a schedule keeps me motivated to keep at it. I am a work-in-progress trying to move forward.
Kathleen Pooler is a writer and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner who is working on a memoir and a sequel about how the power of hope through her faith in God has helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments: domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.
Coffee Shops in NYC for Writers
The Coffee Bean, 606 2nd Ave
You’ll often see the Pubslush team working here, incidentally on this blog post. The Coffee Bean has both booths and lounge chairs, along with tables and chairs to help you focus on your writing.
There tends to be a shortage of outlets, but you can always find a seat (provided they’re not taken up by the Pubslush team), surrounded by plenty of other people either working on their own writing, or studying. It’s a quaint café that can sometimes get a little crowded, but otherwise a great place to write.
Tea Lounge, 837 Union Street
There is plenty of comfortable seating here to accommodate many people. The place tends to get pretty packed, but the drinks are delicious, and the environment makes it easy to work on that elusive novel of yours.
And hey, once you’ve finished writing as much as you can for the day, they have a second bar that serves alcohol—everything you need in one place!
Housing Works Bookstore Café, 126 Crosby Street
Doubling as a bookstore and a café, the atmosphere in Housing Works is extremely quiet, making it the perfect place to concentrate on your writing. Housing Works is run by volunteers, and all of the profits made go to AIDS research and helping the homeless, so you can get the coffee you need to keep working on your writing, and feel great about doing it at the same time.
Housing Works isn’t just a café either: they serve coffee and tea as well as beer and wine. And while you’re here, you can always pick up some of the reasonably priced books. Triple win.
Think Coffee, 248 Mercer Street
The perfect literary café. Not only does the environment condone writers sitting on the comfortable armchairs and couches for hours on end, pecking away at their work, Think Coffee also hosts Scrabble tournaments and book readings, giving you a great reason to pack up your laptop and have some fun.
With great coffee and plenty of outlets throughout the store to get you through the day, Think Coffee provides an environment that helps you keep your focus for as long as you need it (well, you know, until the Scrabble tournament get going anyways).
‘sNice, 315 5th Avenue
Plenty of both small individual tables as well as large communal ones make it so you will always find a place to get your creativity flowing. This café is very clearly filled with a literary crowd, and their book reading events definitely mirror their clientele. ‘sNice also has a full menu of great food and plenty of coffee options instead of just pastries and snacks, setting it apart from other coffee shops.
It does get a little crowded and outlets tend to be hard to come by, but even though it might be difficult to work here for an entire day, ‘sNice’s charm and literary community will still keep you coming back.
Argo Tea, 1792 Broadway
The Midtown West location tends to get a little busy, but you can almost always find a place to sit.
Great baristas let you try something before you commit to a whole drink, and there are outlets for your laptop everywhere. The food and drinks are delicious and are the perfect fuel for your brain.
If you don’t mind the noise during busy hours, the layout of the tables and seating is perfectly conducive to working and writing. You can either have your own private table, or work at one of the community ones for as long as you have the creativity and tea or coffee to keep you going!
Birch Coffee, 56 7th Avenue
With plenty of seating and a library upstairs filled with books, this coffee shop fulfills all of the atmospheric requirements of a writer’s haven. It is also a very community-oriented place: they hold readings and events for readers and writers on a regular basis.
There are also plenty of outlets throughout the shop, so the battery life on your laptop will never be an issue. The only downside is you only receive one hour of free Wi-Fi with each purchase, but that can also be a great help when the only thing you want to focus on is writing. Friendly baristas, great coffee, and delicious cookies will keep you coming back to this cozy home away from home in Flatiron.
The Digital Age: What’s an Author to Do?
Blogging. Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. Goodreads. Amazon. There are so many online platforms to promote yourself as an author. It’s a bit overwhelming, isn’t it?
Despite the array of platforms available for authors to create an online presence, they all link back to the most important facet of online promotion: having an amazing author website.
Sounds like a lot of work though, right? Luckily, it’s not! Wix.com is a free, easy to use website creator that provides everyone (even non-tech savvy authors) with the opportunity to create a beautiful and engaging website!
Pubslush had the chance to talk to Ashely Gallman Williams, the Client Relations and Events Manager at Wix Lounge in New York City. Learn more about Wix and the great services they provide below!
1. What services does Wix provide?
Wix.com enables anyone to design, publish and host stunning websites. No coding or previous design skills are needed! You can build something as simple as a one-page website or as complex as an online shop. Users can easily add text, images, galleries, videos and more to their sites, and our app market allows even greater functionality such as customized contact forms, live chat, and beyond. With Wix you can create an online hub for your business or project that is easy to build and beautiful.
2. What does Wix provide that sets it apart from other website builders?
While Wix is drag-and-drop and very easy, it is also very customizable. We like to refer to our templates as design suggestions because they are in no way rigid or confining. You can make each template 100% your own or start from scratch. This Wix blog post shows you how completely you can transform our templates: http://www.wix.com/blog/2013/02/own-it/
3. How can Wix be a starting point for artists looking to build an audience?
The most successful artists are those that effectively engage and connect with their audience. Social Media is of course one of the best ways to do this, and Wix allows you to create a one-stop hub for all these channels. Fans don’t have to hunt down each individual twitter, facebook, and blog site. They can just visit your website and easily connect with you on each of these platforms from one location.
Wix also offers a number of community-focused apps: DaPulse allows you to create a community forum, Social Sweepstakes lets you create contests, Social Polls Contest gives you the option to feature polls, and there are so many more. Other apps give you the ability to integrate your Tumblr or Blogger into your site seamlessly.
4. What’s the importance of having an online presence?
In the age of Google and Social Media, you can safely assume your audience is online and looking for you and having a stunning website is the ideal way to be found.
For ideas of how Wix can help you, check out these lovely literature related Wix websites:
Literary Spotlight: Under the Gum Tree
Under the Gum Tree is a new micro-magazine that publishes creative non-fiction and visual art. Learn more about the magazine and what they publish below. For more, be sure to check out their website!
1. Under the Gum Tree is a micro-magazine. Sounds fancy! Can you tell us what that means?
Absolutely — the term “micro-magazine” comes from Seth Godin and the concept is that, because of the technology available today, publications can cater to a small audience and be successful. For Under the Gum Tree, that means our goal is to have 1,000 paying subscribers.
2. In one sentence, tell us what you’re all about.
Under the Gum Tree is a digital literary arts magazine publishing creative nonfiction and visual art because we are interested in the power of personal storytelling.
3. Why did you choose to publish only creative non-fiction?
Funny, my editor’s letter in our new issue addresses this question. Aside from the fact that I write creative nonfiction, the genre is compelling to me because of the vulnerability involved. Many people who write other genres argue that any type of writing requires vulnerability, and I agree, but to me there is something more intimate with nonfiction — when authors share an experience and tell their readers, “This really happened to me,” it is somehow more personal and creates a special authentic connection. I believe that the power of personal storytelling is how we connect to each other.
4. Is the visual art component intended to supplement the writing that’s published or stand apart from it?
There’s no intended connection. We solicit the artwork independent from the stories that we select, but often we find that themes overlap. I think that’s the nature of art — we are all attempting to express the truth of our experiences.
5. As a new company, how have you found your audience?
We are primarily a digital magazine, so we find our audience mostly through online outlets. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, the usual social media suspects. But also through sites like thereviewreview.com and thelitpub.com that are devoted to literature and writing.
6. Any advice to authors seeking publication in your magazine?
We get a lot of “when I was a kid” or “coming of age” stories. Those stories are important and most are well-written. But we aim to include one food-, music-, and film-themed piece in every issue. We also aim to include one flash piece in every issue. Those are the submissions we need the most, so for writers who have those stories, the chances of getting published with us are much higher! Otherwise, of course read a past issue to get a feel for our aesthetic.
Literary Spotlight: Boston Review
Pubslush had the chance to speak with Junot Diaz, fiction editor of the Boston Review and author of Drown, This Is How You Lose Her, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
Diaz shares his insights as an author and editor below!
What is the mission of Boston Review?
Trying to publish the kind of work that might be useful to the future. The kind of work that helps to make clear our present. These are the days where spaces of deliberation are few and far between. Boston Review seeks to be one.
Boston review is “a magazine of political, cultural, and literary ideas.” How does that translate into what you are looking for in fiction submissions?
Fiction is composed of politics, culture and literary ideas so our section is perhaps the truest daughter of the Review and its most representative tribune.
But to be less pompous: in our section we’re trying to publish fiction people can’t put down, that starts conversations; also we’re trying to publish as many first-timers as possible. Keeping an eye always for that flash of wildness that someone else might miss but that makes reading such a joy.
What, in your opinion, makes for a powerful piece of writing?
News of the world. Formalistic experimentation and an ineluctable sense of the human. I love to be brought to wonder when I read, to be shaken, to be reminded of what it means to be a person. But most of all I want to leave my skull and be in communion, intimately, briefly with another living mind. Something we don’t often do outside of art and love.
As an author that has bounced back and forth between the short story form and novel form, do you think there are stories that should be told in only one form or the other? And how does an author know which form is best for a particular story?
In this case it really is all about length. There are some stories where the length IS your canvas and other stories where the short connection, severed ruthlessly at the end, best communicate your project. A lot of times you have no idea which will suit your story best. This is something that sucks about the art—sometimes you don’t know until you first make a run at it. The journey teaches you what’s possible. And plenty of stories grow into novels so it’s a dynamic process of learning and feeling out how much life your narrative has in it.
Language. Just talk to us about language.
What a question! So straightforward and yet so impossible to answer well. Don’t know what to say except that I love wrestling with all my languages, trying to make an ark for them all. And for me there is no greater enjoyment than when I read someone who uses their languages well, who describes something so perfectly that I will always refer to their vision of the thing in my mind.
How do you think a person makes the transformation from “aspiring author” to “writer”?
There are ten billion ways. Reading helps most of them.
Literary Spotlight: Better magazine
Stuff We Love: Where Writers Win
Pubslush had the opportunity to chat with Shari Stauch from Where Writer’s Win, an invaluable resource that provides marketing services for authors. Learn more about Where Writers Win below!
Why did you develop Where Writers Win?
I’d worked with a number of authors, agents and editors while helping produce writers conferences in Myrtle Beach, SC and New Orleans, LA and kept hearing the same story over and over again: Editors and agents would tell authors, “We love your work, but you need to go build a website first, make some connections, and bring it back when you’ve built a platform or we’ll never be able to make the sale.”
Worse, authors who were trying to follow this advice were being quoted outrageous prices, and then didn’t even have control over their own sites, were given no training, or weren’t guided at all in the nuances of the social media they were being told to participate in. Or, we’d go to book signings and meet authors who hadn’t been able to update their sites and were being charged money just to list an event.
And, at those signings, readings and panels, we’d see authors with no training trying to engage their audiences, and losing sales when they couldn’t. It would be great if publishers trained authors in these presentation skills before they turned them loose, but like websites and social media training, they just don’t have the resources to do it.
So, with four books, a magazine, and a lot of PR and marketing under my belt through working with other clients, including the Women’s Pro Billiard Tour, I knew I could take those success models and develop something particular to authors. Frankly there are a lot of similarities between pro athletes and pro authors; they both need a team of experts in their corner to coach them through being public figures and cultivating new fans! But authors have the edge in websites and social media because they’re already accomplished at communicating with written words.
What services does Where Writers Win offer?
The Where Writers Win team really is a one-stop-shop for gearing up as an author, including everything from coaching writers on their books and or submissions; writer websites and training to manage their own websites; social media training and how to find and engage their unique readers; media training for authors going out on media interviews or book tours, video book trailers and more.
We’re very careful to keep up with industry trends and share that with our authors, and connect authors to each other, too, so they can exchange ideas and cross promote. Our authors are a generous group of professionals, all eager to help each other succeed, which also helps make us unique. Folks can learn more at http://writerswin.com/services/ where we provide extensive info about each service as well as pricing.
Who comprises the Where Writers Win team?
We’re a collaborative team of experts in social media, website development, video and media training who met in the publishing arena. We began brainstorming how to bring each of our services together in an economical way that would best serve a new brand of entrepreneurial author. Our cumulative experience with a variety of publishing platforms and the wide range of skills we provide allows us to deliver solutions to clients in a very personal way.
The current group includes myself (social media and writer coaching), Kendra Haskins (website and graphic design), Bren McClain and Joanne Cleaver (fiction and non-fiction media trainers), and PJ Woodside (video book trailers).
What’s fabulous about the team is that they’re each TOPS in their field, but all have a special love for reading, books and authors, so the prices for WWW clients are a fraction of the fees they each command for typical corporate clients. It’s a win-win; economical for the authors, and fun for each of us to work with authors with a passion for their words. Bios and credentials of each of the team can be found at http://writerswin.com/the-team/.
We’re also working on a new component that will bring in more team members and allow for some select content and resources for authors, a sort of “Members Only” club. That launches in May…
Why is it important for authors to market themselves and their book(s)?
An author has to recognize that with all today’s new self-publishing and hybrid models comes a VERY crowded marketplace – millions of books being published vs. the 280,000 or so of just a few years ago. I offer up some sobering statistics in my talks at writer’s conferences. For instance, 80% of U.S. families didn’t buy or read a book last year (ouch), but 81% of Americans say they dream of writing a book. That always gets a laugh, but it’s true!
So, with millions of books now being published and only 20% of Americans reading books - how is an author going to stand out if they’re not Stephen King or James Patterson or JK Rowling? Well, the beauty of all this website and social media stuff in our brave new world is that it’s chock full of the written word, and again, that’s where authors excel, right?
And for an emerging author with a limited budget and low margins, marketing themselves and their book is very much about smart marketing. And not marketing their book will most surely limit its distribution to family and friends. Hey, if you toiled away to write something that needs to be shared, don’t you owe it to the book to help it get seen?
At what point in the book writing process should authors begin to develop their marketing strategy?
As soon as possible! Seriously, whether being traditionally published or going the self-publishing route, you’ll begin to think about marketing from the time you conceive of your book, even without realizing it. We work with authors to help them identify who they envision reading their eventual book, then go to work showing them how to find and cultivate connections with their niche market, creating a ready-made audience from the day that book releases.
What would you recommend as the first step to marketing for emerging authors?
Learn as much as you can, and that’s the first place where we can help. We blog every other day on topics of marketing concern to authors and writers can subscribe for free. We also offer free consultation calls to help point folks in the right direction (email firstname.lastname@example.org to set one up!). And yes, some of those callers will end up becoming our clients if the fit is right. But either way we’re happy to help and offer up advice or answer questions.
A lot of new authors are intimidated by all this social stuff and afraid it’s going to be a full-time job. We help them learn which sites require what amount of input and ultimately want an author to be able, after training, to manage their marketing and social media in an hour or less a day (so they can keep writing!)
And whether an author works with our team or anyone else, the first and foremost goal should be to grab that domain name and launch a website. It’s today’s calling card no matter the business you’re in, and the whole point of social media, while grand, is to drive folks to your site, where they’ll be able to interact with you, and of course buy your book!
Blogs We Love: Scribbling in the Garret
Cynthia Platt is the voice behind Scribbling in the Garret. She discusses starting and maintaining her blog and how she balances her life as a writer, editor, student, and mother.
Why did you start your blog?
Would “it’s complicated” work for an answer? I wanted to start a blog two years ago—when my picture books (A Little Bit of Love and Panda-monium) were published. I never did it. I was a blog procrastinator.
Looking back, I think there was a reason why I put it off: at that point, I had no idea what on earth I would blog about. All I knew was that I had books being published and I was supposed to be blogging. For me, that wasn’t a good enough reason.
Until I found that I had something I truly wanted to write, the idea of a blog simply took up room in the guilt-ridden back of my mind where other things that I know I should be doing (running, eating kale) linger uncomfortably.
Now, Scribbling in the Garret is a place for me sound off on my attempts to carve space out for myself as a writer for young people while juggling motherhood and life as a children’s book editor and MFA student.
How do you spread the word about your blog and get people reading it?
Facebook and Twitter have both been incredibly useful. I post or tweet about new blog posts, and I’ve been lucky enough that others have retweeted or reposted and spread the word. Friends, friends of friends, colleagues—people have been very kind. But I also know that I need to do more outreach. Getting the word out is definitely a work in progress.
Where does your inspiration for your blog come from?
I write children’s books, edit them (at a mainstream publishing house—please forgive me), am a student in an MFA program where I focus on writing for young readers, and read children’s books constantly on my own and with my young daughter. Basically, I spend so much time with children’s literature that it’s almost oozing out my pores, if that’s not too unpleasant an image.
It might be.
What I really wanted to do, though, was to separate the writing from the editing as much as I could. It’s not a blog about being an editor—it’s a blog about being a writer and the joys and pains that come with that.
The name of the blog, Scribbling in the Garret, comes from Little Women, the book that captured my fifth grade heart in way nothing ever had before, and set me moving on the path to creating books for children. Jo March was, and still is, one of my heroes. The image of Jo heading up to her garret to do her scribbling, as she called her writing, has stayed with me over the course of many long years.
How does your blog help you with your own writing?
This has been something of a revelation to me—just how much the blog has helped with my own writing. It’s given me a space to let off steam when I need to, to think about writing for young people, and to put on “paper” things that bother me about the world of children’s publishing, as well as things to celebrate about the whole process.
It’s also a wonderful way to keep myself writing, even when I’m feeling a little lost or in need of a break from the young adult novel on which I’m working. It’s good to be able to step away from the mammoth task of novel writing, but not to stop writing altogether. The blog provides a place for that in my world.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to aspiring writers?
If at first you don’t succeed….
But seriously, persistence pays. So does revision. Whether you’re blogging, self-publishing, or throwing yourself into the world of agents and publishing houses, both persistence and the willingness to reassess and revise your work are going to be necessary in good measures.
Have the courage of your convictions to write your story, your way. This might seem to contradict the advice to revise, but it really doesn’t. Being open to revisions and to getting help with your writing is crucial. Following advice that you feel isn’t true to your vision—or worse yet, trying to write something to which you have no connection in order to follow a trend, or that you think you should write rather than what you want to—is a waste of time and energy.
Finally, find a writing group. As soon as you can if you don’t already have one. No one can be their own best editor, and it is helpful to hear what people other than yourself (or your best friend, significant other, parent) think about your work. Plus, there’s the added benefit of being in a community of writers.
Writing up in the garret by yourself is necessary, of course. Finding like-minded people to climb up there with you is a gift.
Literary Spotlight: 95Notes
95Notes is a creative literary journal based out of Chicago, but operating on an international scale. The magazine is in the final stages of launching an online edition, and submissions can be made here. We got a chance to speak with Shaunwell Posley, president of 95Notes, about his take on the industry.
How long has your journal been running?
We are actually just celebrating our 5th year in existence. 95Notes Literary Magazine has been running November 2007. We began as an idea between students in a poetry class at Chicago State University and it is heartwarming to see how much we have grown since our founding. We have received over 15,000 submissions from all over the world from locally in Chicago, all the way to Japan. For the last five years, we have featured the works of some amazing artists and writers like Quraysh Ali Lansana, Frank X. Walker, Adrian S. Potter, Randall Horton,Veronica Bohanan, R.S. DeFrance, Tara Betts, C. Leigh McInnis, Sara Wang, Leila Emery. We have also published the first works of many up-and-coming writers. 95Notes Publishing is looking forward to the future, where we will launch, 95Notes Literary Magazine Online.
What is the focus of your journal?
95Notes is a platform focused on showcasing quality creative writing and artwork. We represent all creative writers and artists within the literary community. We are dedicated to bringing quality writing and artwork to the brink of the creative world starting in the heart of communities where literature is needed most to educate young minds. We are providing all individuals with creativity a chance, as we believe that literature and art is a part of everyday culture and it must be represented in all communities. We truly let artists and writers be themselves.
What defines quality writing for you?
Quality writing is extremely hard to define because it includes so many elements, but I will try my best to make a complete and sufficient definition. Quality writing is writing that is unique containing detailed and specific information that clearly emphasizes and showcases a coherent purpose. The word choice must be concise, strong, and vibrant. The style and setup must be distinct. The grammar must be clear of errors or if errors are present, then the consistency of errors must be at a minimum. Also, the information being presented must show a connection. Overall, writing is complex and practice is essential in becoming excellent at the trade.
How important is a support system for up-and-coming authors?
I believe that it is essential for writers to have a support system as this is needed in order to stay actively encouraged while writing and also if assistance is needed, someone who has experience in the craft of writing can provide help and guidance. I believe that all writers need to support each other and becoming a part of a local or national community is necessary. 95Notes will feature a community area on the website specifically designed for writers to make connections with others. Also if writers and authors have suggestions on how they would like to communicate and collaborate with their colleagues, they are free to submit their suggestions to 95Notes@gmail.com and we will take all suggestions seriously in order to create the perfect experience.
What resources do you recommend to writers looking to improve?
I believe that one of the best ways for writers to improve their craft is by consistently writing and reading. It is hard for a writer to truly become an expert in their craft, especially if they are not practicing with a goal to improve and also by reading the writings of other authors. But in regards to the initial question, I believe there are multiple, actually, an unlimited amount of resources for writers and I will list them below:
· Pw.org (Poets & Writers)
· Purdue University Online Writing Lab (owl.english.purdue.edu/)
· Blogs of fellow Writers / Teachers
· Stanford’s Resource Center – Standford.edu
· World Wide Web is filled with resources for writers
· PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!!
What’s the best way to purchase your journal?
At this time, the journal can be purchased by sending queries to 95Notes@gmail.com but will be available for purchase at website once complete, which will be by end of year. Also, if interested in subscriptions, queries can be sent to 95Notes@gmail.com.
Literary Spotlight: Anomalous Press
Anomalous Press is a literary journal that runs a variety of literature. We got a chance to speak with Sarah Kosch, editor at Anomalous Press, who talks about what it takes to become a successful author.
How long has your journal been running?
Since March of 2011.
What is the focus of your journal?
The diffusion of writing in the forms it can take, whether it is poetry, fiction, nonfiction, translation, or something in between.
What defines quality writing for you?
It’s hard to say. You know it when you see it. The main thing is something polished that took time and multiple drafts to mature and grow into the final piece.
How important is a support system for up-and-coming authors?
It’s important for writers to bring their individual drives and passions into a group where they can react to other ideas and experiences. Writers’ ideas can change and sharpen in collaboration. Also, it’s crucial to learn the logistics of survival in the writing world, whether it be from seasoned veterans or alongside peers searching out a path to success.
What resources do you recommend to writers looking to improve?
Read as much as you can, write as much as you can, and share what you create with people whose opinion you respect.
What’s the best way to purchase your journal?