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#WritingBiz: Networking & Marketing: Hard Sell vs. Soft Sell | #amwriting

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I worked in the advertising industry for thirteen years before moving over into the publishing world and then academia. When I first started in advertising, if I’d been asked to define or describe networking, it would have been what I saw the sales reps I worked with doing—being pushy, forcing people who didn’t really want to talk to them to do so, and above all, closing the sale. Networking and sales to my uninformed mind were the same thing: “Seven nos means a yes.” In other words, keep going back, keep pushing, keep putting on the pressure for the person to say yes.

But I learned something over the years:

This is not networking. This is sales.

Networking, on the other hand, is a much gentler, more refined skill. Networking is building relationships. Networking is more listening and less talking. Networking is not pushing someone else to do something for you or give you something; networking is creating a positive image of yourself by learning when not to push.

Case in point:

Snowflake Method writing guru Randy Ingermanson identifies writers’ skill levels by using the terms Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior. He suggests that when Freshmen and Sophomore writers (and even some early Juniors) set editor/agent appointments, it may be a better idea for them to not pitch anything. Instead, they should go in and ask questions about the industry, about the particular publishing house/agency. By doing this, the amateur/beginner writer is creating a more positive image by showing the editor or agent that you’re interested in growing, in learning more about the industry. (To see more about this, visit Gina’s blog, Writer…Interrupted.)

Hard Sell vs. Soft Sell

In the sales and marketing industry, there are two types of selling: the hard sell and the soft sell. The hard sell can be summed up by the statement, “He could sell ice to an Eskimo.” This is the P. T. Barnum method—the in your face, my product is the best in the world, let me show you the demographics and statistics, pressure-pressure-pressure sell. These are the sales reps who make the big bucks, but who also lose a lot of clients because of their abrasive methods. You always know they’re trying to sell you something. This is not the impression we want to give off.

The soft sell is word of mouth, brand-image sales. It’s a new restaurant that opens its doors to bloggers first and gives them a free sample meal in hopes of receiving tons of positive reviews. It’s me telling a friend at work that I just recently bought a certain type of hair product, and I absolutely adore it. It’s every time I mention Stein on Writing on this blog. It’s creating an image that generates brand-loyalty. Why do millions of people buy James Peterson’s new novel without even knowing what it’s really about? Because they’re loyal to his image, to the brand he’s created as a writer. This is much closer to what networking is all about.

To put it in writing terms: the hard sell is the writer who dominates the conversation with the editor/agent who’s hosting the table at lunch. They’re the ones who lie in wait outside a classroom where that targeted agent/editor is teaching a session and talk to them nonstop as they walk two inches from the editor/agent wherever they need to get to next. They’re the horror story that all editors/agents warn all writers at the beginning of writers’ conferences about—the writer that follows them into the bathroom and tries to pass them the manuscript under the bathroom stall door.

The soft-sell networker is the one who listens more than talks. They ask questions about the industry or the agency or the publishing house instead of constantly pitching their work. They attend the workshops taught by their preferred agents or editors and ask insightful questions that further the topic under discussion (and do the same thing on those editors/agents’ blogs). They volunteer with their writing organization to organize programs and projects or serve on committees in which they can start building name recognition. They build professional relationships with those they want to work with in the publishing industry.

Sounds Like Soft-Sell Networking Costs Money

How can you start soft-sell networking if you can’t afford to attend conferences or don’t yet have the gumption to break out of your shell and talk to strangers?

Become an avid blog reader and commenter. Regularly visit/subscribe to blogs and like the public Facebook Pages of your favorite authors, agents, and editors and start participating in the comments sections—not just random comments, but thoughtful insights and responses to what the person has written. Don’t do it in such a way that you’re trying to pull the attention away from the blogger’s post and onto yourself. Be respectful and humble—remember, it’s their conversation, you’re just a participant.

Become a blogger. Make sure your blog has a focus. Do you write about characters who are gardeners? Make your blog gardening related. Blogs that have a focused topic (like writing or gardening) tend to be better read than those that read more like a personal diary.

Participate in online author/editor/agent chats. These are usually hosted through a writing organization like ACFW or RWA, though many now host their own through Twitter or Facebook Live or YouTube. Again, don’t just comment randomly or try to pull the attention away from the host and onto yourself.

Become actively involved in organizations—even if it’s just an online group that never meets face to face. It’s almost a must for writers who really want to succeed to join a professional writing organization—whether it’s ACFW, RWA, MWA, or even a local or regional general writing group that isn’t associated with a national organization. Get involved and start communicating with other writers.

I’m an Introvert; Is There a Way to Ease into Networking?

Think about the last time you went to a social event, whether it was an after-work casual gathering, a black-tie awards dinner, the all-church picnic, or even a small dinner party at someone’s home. How do you interact with the people there? Are there certain people you make a point of speaking to? Do you go in with an agenda listing to whom you will speak and about what topics? Most of us would say yes, there are certain people we want to make a point of speaking to. For having an agenda, if it is truly just a social gathering, most of us would say no.

For those you make a point to speak to, is it because you’re wanting to catch up with them or find out about something that’s going on in their lives? Or is it because you want them to know you better? If we’re really honest with ourselves, many times the people we seek out to speak to are those we would like to know better and, through making a point of speaking with them about their concerns and activities, we are hoping to get them interested enough in us to ask our concerns and activities. Right?

This is soft-sell networking. You never know whom you might run into who might have an opportunity or a connection to share with you. That’s not saying we want to exploit every relationship or contact we make for our own gain—by no means. I’m just saying that by cultivating relationships with others, we never know what might come our way—whether it’s an opportunity to serve or help that other person, or an opportunity that might be in some way beneficial to us.

As I mentioned before, one of the best ways I found of doing it was to be actively involved in the leadership of a national writing organization. Granted, not everyone can do this, as not everyone is comfortable in or skilled for leadership positions. At a writing conference, there is the built-in method of the editor/agent appointments where those who sign up for them get 15 minutes one-on-one with the editor/agent (hopefully) of their choice. Then there are (sometimes) the hosted tables at meal times. While these can be nerve-wracking for those of us introverts who have a really hard time meeting others, it is important to learn how to put yourself forward, hold out your hand, and introduce yourself. It is important to be polite and let others have their equal share of the attention, but if you do not put yourself forward, you will be overshadowed by the more outgoing people at the table.

Do not be afraid to approach someone—be it a published author you admire or an editor/agent with whom you would like to work—and ask a question about something they may have said in the panel discussion or in a class or over a meal. (Just don’t follow them into the bathroom to do so!)

Outside of a structured business environment like a conference, always be on the lookout for opportunities to make contacts with others in the publishing field. Writers: go to book signings to mingle in the crowd and potentially meet the author and/or representatives from publishing houses. Many years ago, when a Zondervan-author book signing tour came to Nashville featuring Brandilyn Collins, Terri Blackstock, James Scott Bell, and Bill Myers, I had the opportunity to speak with an editor who was there from Thomas Nelson (this was before they were owned by the same parent company). I had sat at her table at a conference several months before and she’d asked me if I would review a manuscript for her. I had given her my card at the conference, but then never heard back from her. When I saw her at the book signing, I approached her and re-introduced myself (she recognized me but I didn’t want to put her on the spot if she didn’t remember my name) and gave her another card. Within a week, I had a copy of the manuscript. While that did not directly result in a publishing (or even freelance editing) opportunity for me, it was still an important contact, because it got my name in front of two or three editors whom I subsequently had contact with over the manuscript.

What are some ways can think of to start soft-sell networking?

See also Networking–What is it, really?

Book-Talk Monday: My Libraray Wishlist | #amreading #librarylife

Monday, March 20, 2017

I think most people know that you can set up a wishlist at online retailers (like Amazon) where you can add all of the books you’d someday like to read. You may also have a To Be Read “shelf” on Goodreads where you’ve saved all of the books that look interesting to you. But how many of us are ever actually going to make our way through those lists? But a wishlist on my local library’s website? I use it all the time in order to pull my next book(s) to read or listen to.

I’ve always been an avid patron of the public library system, no matter where I live. For someone who can devour a couple of books in a week (or, at least, I used to be able to and am trying to get back to that), I can’t just go out and purchase every single book that I want to read. Even now that most of what I read is on the Kindle and those prices stay pretty low, it’s still not the best financial decision to spend that much money per month on books. (As much as I’d like to be able to purchase every single title I read!) So in order to still support the authors (libraries purchase licenses for each ebook and audiobook they lend) as well as keep my bank account solvent, I use the library—the Nashville Public Library, to be specific.

I have dozens of books on a private list on Amazon—mostly writing craft, research, or other books that will be better to read in print rather than ebook format. I have hundreds of books on my “Sounds Interesting” shelf on Goodreads—I add books to this list whenever I read a review that piques my interest or see that one of my Goodreads friends has added/reviewed a book that sounds like something I’d enjoy. And then, when I’m “working on reading”—as in, setting my reading goals for the year or it’s been a while since I’ve done so and need to do it again—I will open up my Goodreads and Amazon lists and the library ebook/digital audiobook site (Overdrive) and start looking up titles and adding them to my library wishlist.

So I thought it might be fun to go through and share ten titles from my library wishlist each month—and ask you to do the same! Since this is the first month, I thought I’d pick something from each page of my list (I have 422 items saved, but it narrows down to 305 when I filter it to “available now”).

What’s on YOUR Library Wishlist?

10 Random Titles from My Library Wishlist:

  1. The Vow, a novella by Jody Hedlund [inspy historical romance/Medieval England | ebook]
    Young Rosemarie finds herself drawn to Thomas, the son of the nearby baron. But just as her feelings begin to grow, a man carrying the Plague interrupts their hunting party. While in forced isolation, Rosemarie begins to contemplate her future—could it include Thomas? Could he be the perfect man to one day rule beside her and oversee her parents’ lands?

    Then Rosemarie is summoned back to her castle in haste. The disease has spread, and her family is threatened. And the secret she discovers when she returns could change her future forever.

  2. Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell [classic British Lit, Paranormal/Horror | ebook]
    Elizabeth Gaskell’s chilling Gothic tales blend the real and the supernatural to eerie, compelling effect. ‘Disappearances’, inspired by local legends of mysterious vanishings, mixes gossip and fact; ‘Lois the Witch’, a novella based on an account of the Salem witch hunts, shows how sexual desire and jealousy lead to hysteria; while in ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’ a mysterious child roams the freezing Northumberland moors. Whether darkly surreal, such as ‘The Poor Clare’, where an evil doppelgänger is formed by a woman’s bitter curse, or mischievous like ‘Curious, if True’, a playful reworking of fairy tales, all the stories in this volume form a stark contrast to the social realism of Gaskell’s novels, revealing a darker and more unsettling style of writing.
  3. The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley [nonfiction | audiobook read by Anne Flosnik]
    From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to the cozy crimes of the Golden Age, renowned historian Lucy Worsley explores the evolution of the traditional English murder and reveals why we are so fascinated by this sinister subject.
  4. Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins Series, Book 1) by P. L. Travers [classic children’s lit | audiobook read by Sophie Thompson]
    The timeless story of Mary Poppins, the world’s favorite nanny, and her magical adventures with the Banks family

    Mary Poppins is like no other nanny the Banks children have ever seen. It all starts when their new nanny is blown by the east wind onto the doorstep of the Banks house, carrying a parrot-headed umbrella and a magic carpetbag. She becomes a most unusual nanny to Jane, Michael, and the twins. Who else but Mary Poppins can slide up banisters, pull an entire armchair out of an empty carpetbag, and make a dose of medicine taste like delicious lime-juice cordial? A day with Mary Poppins is a day of magic and make-believe come to life!

  5. The Bet (The Bet Series, Book 1) by Rachel Van Dyken [contemporary romance | ebook]
    “I have a proposition for you.” Kacey should have run the minute those words left Seattle millionaire Jake Titus’s mouth. It’s been years since Kacey’s seen her childhood friend Jake, but the minute Jake mentions his ill grandmother, Kacey is ready to do anything for the sweet old woman. And if that means pretending they’re engaged for her sake-so be it.

    But Kacey wasn’t counting on Jake’s older brother Travis still being there. She calls him “Satan” for a reason: she’s never forgotten the way he teased and taunted her. Yet when they meet again, Travis’s gorgeous smile is a direct hit to her heart . . . and Kacey’s more confused than ever. As the days pass, only one thing starts to become alarmingly clear-she never should have accepted Jake’s deal …

  6. Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt [historical fiction/US West | ebook]
    Wrongfully accused of murder, Dr. Catherine Bennett is destined to hang… unless she can disappear.

    With the untamed territory of Colorado as her most likely refuge, she packs her physician’s kit and heads West. But even with a new life and name, a female doctor with a bounty on her head can hide for only so long.

  7. Petals in the Storm (Fallen Angels Series, Book 2) by Mary Jo Putney [historical romance | ebook]
    LOVE AND BETRAYAL…A cool master of sensuality, Rafael Whitbourne, the Duke of Candover, earned his rakish reputation in the silken boudoirs of London’s highborn ladies, never giving away his hand or his heart. Then a vital mission for his government takes Rafe to Paris to work with the Countess Madga Janos, “the most beautiful spy in Europe.” He is appalled to discover that the smoky eyed temptress is no Hungarian countess, but the deceitful doxie who betrayed him a dozen years earlier—the only woman he ever loved, and the only one he’s ever despised. Margot Ashton wants nothing more than to walk away from her turbulent past and the mesmerizing man who ruined her life. But patriotism binds them together in a shadowland of intrigue where a diabolical plot may plunge a continent back into war—and a whirlwind of passion sweeps Margot and Rafe into a shattering passion that cannot be denied.
  8. Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life by Terry Brooks [nonfiction | ebook]
    Writing is writing, whether one’s setting is a magical universe or a suburban backyard. Spanning topics from the importance of daydreaming to the necessity of writing an outline, from the fine art of showing instead of merely telling to creating believable characters who make readers care what happens to them, Brooks draws upon his own experiences, hard lessons learned, and delightful discoveries made in creating the beloved Shannara and Magic Kingdom of Landover series, The Word and The Void trilogy, and the bestselling Star Wars novel The Phantom Menace.

    In addition to being a writing guide, Sometimes the Magic Works is Terry Brooks’s self-portrait of the artist. Here are sketches of his midwestern boyhood, when comic books, radio serials, and a vivid imagination launched a life long passion for weaving tales of wonder; recollections of the fateful collaboration with legendary editor Lester del Rey that changed not only the author’s life but the course of publishing history; and an eye-opening look at the ups and downs of dealing with Hollywood, as a writer of official novels based on major movies by both Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.

  9. The Anatomy of Death (Doctor Dody McCleland Series, Book 1) by Felicity Young [historical mystery | ebook]
    At the turn of the twentieth century, London’s political climate is in turmoil, as women fight for the right to vote. Dody McCleland has her own battles to fight. As England’s first female autopsy surgeon, not only must she prove herself, she must prove that murder treats everyone equally…

    After a heated women’s rights rally turns violent, an innocent suffragette is found murdered. When she examines the body, Dody McCleland is shocked to realize that the victim was a friend of her sister—fueling her determination to uncover the cause of the protestor’s suspicious death.

    For Dody, gathering clues from a body is often easier than handling the living—especially Chief Detective Inspector Pike. Pike is looking to get to the bottom of this case but has a hard time trusting anyone—including Dody. Determined to earn Pike’s trust and to find the killer, Dody will have to sort through real and imagined secrets. But if she’s not careful, she may end up on her…

  10. Founding Grammars: How Early America’s War Over Words Shaped Today’s Language by Rosemarie Ostler [nonfiction | ebook]
    Who decided not to split infinitives? With whom should we take issue if in fact, we wish to boldly write what no grammarian hath writ before? In Founding Grammars, Rosemarie Ostler delves into the roots of our grammar obsession to answer these questions and many more. Standard grammar and accurate spelling are widely considered hallmarks of a good education, but their exact definitions are much more contentious — capable of inciting a full-blown grammar war at the splice of a comma, battles readily visible in the media and online in the comments of blogs and chat rooms. With an accessible and enthusiastic journalistic approach, Ostler considers these grammatical shibboleths, tracing current debates back to America’s earliest days, an era when most families owned only two books — the Bible and a grammar primer. Along the way, she investigates colorful historical characters on both sides of the grammar debate in her efforts to unmask the origins of contemporary speech. Linguistic founding fathers like Noah Webster, Tory expatriate Lindley Murray, and post-Civil War literary critic Richard Grant White, all play a featured role in creating the rules we’ve come to use, and occasionally discard, throughout the years. Founding Grammars is for curious readers who want to know where grammar rules have come from, where they’ve been, and where they might go next.

#2017WritingGoals: Finding and Feeding the Muse (Zen in the Art of Writing) | #amwriting

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The fact is simple enough. Through a lifetime, by ingesting food and water, we build cells, we grow, we become larger and more substantial. That which was not, is. The process is understandable. It can be viewed only at intervals along the way. We know it is happening, but we don’t know quite how or why.

Similarly, in a lifetime, we stuff ourselves with sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and textures of people, animals, landscapes, events, large and small. We stuff ourselves with these impressions and experiences and our reaction to them. Into our subconscious go not only factual data but reactive data, our movement toward or away from the sensed events.

These are the stuffs, the foods, on which The Muse grows. This is the storehouse, the file, to which we must return every waking hour to check reality against memory, and in sleep to check memory against memory, which means ghost against ghost, in order to exorcise them, if necessary.

Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing, p. 35

Last week, we looked at taking responsibility for our own success. This week, let’s build on that with the quote from Bradbury above by incorporating the following questions into our daily routines.
In the morning, ask yourself:

  1. In what ways can I deliberately feed my Muse in order to work toward my 2017 Writing Goals today?
  2. How can I make myself aware and available for the impressions and experiences and my reactions to them as I go through my day?
  3. What is my plan for today so that I can be deliberate, take responsibility, and be successful?

At the end of the day, ask yourself:

  1. What did I do today that was a deliberate attempt to reach my short-term and long-term 2017 Writing Goals?
  2. What are the specific impressions, experiences, and reactions that happened to me today with which I can feed my Muse?
  3. Did I stick to my plan for today? If not, what can I do tomorrow in order to be successful in meeting my plans and goals?

Have a great writing week!

Works Cited:

Bradbury, Ray. Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius within You. Santa Barbara, CA: Capra Press, 1990. 35. Print.

Writer-Talk Wednesday: “Say What?”—A Series About Dialogue | #amwriting

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Say What?

    Since 99% of writers are readers, we all know when dialogue “works” and when it doesn’t when we read it. We just may not be able to put our fingers on exactly what it is that makes it work or not. Well, that’s what we’re going to try to figure out in this series.

hello“Say What?” How Do You Say Hello?

    When you speak, the words you choose, the inflection you use, your body language, the rhythm of how you speak, and the accent which shapes what your words sound like are a reflection of who you are. Without even realizing it, you have certain idioms and metaphors you use all the time in your speech.

“Say What?”—Uh, Um, Well, So, Wow, Great, Yeah, Really?

    If you were to read a dialogue exchange between two people talking off the tops of their heads, you would begin to feel overwhelmed by the number of times “uh” shows up—because it’s the filler we use when we have to give our brains a moment to catch up with our mouths to supply us with the proper words or thoughts.

“Say What?”–Transcribed Dialogue Assignment

    Okay, today is the day for us to compare our transcribed conversations with actual scripted dialogue to mark some differences.

“Say What?”–Where Do I Put the Quotation Marks?

    Where quotation marks come in relationship to other punctuation can be rather tricky, especially if you’re like me and you read not just American-published stuff, but British and Australian as well. If you’re outside of the U.S. reading this, please understand that the rules I will refer to apply to standards of American publishing. Also, this will focus on the use of quotation marks in fiction/prose writing.

“Say What?”–A Delicate Balancing Act

    Remember back at the beginning of the series when I posted the scoring guidelines for several different contests? Most of them required a “balance” between narrative and dialogue as the mark of good writing. But what is this balance, and how do we know when we’ve achieved it?

“Say What?”–What Direction Is Your Dialogue Going?

    If you don’t take away anything else from this series, one of the most important things we have to learn about dialogue is that in a novel, dialogue must impact the story and the story must impact the dialogue. The plot(s) and conflicts of the story are what should drive the dialogue so that what your characters say pushes the story forward.

Fun Friday–Favorite Movies/TV for Dialogue

    While these may not be some that are considered the “best” when it comes to dialogue (I’ve always heard that Woody Allen’s movies are great for this, but I’ve never been able to watch one all the way through), when I start thinking about movie/TV lines that get stuck in my head, these are the top ones…

“Say What?”–Is It Dialogue-Worthy?

    “How do you know if a moment should be translated into dialogue or not?” Last week, I started to answer this when I said, “Don’t write the small stuff.” In “Dialogue: The Lifeblood of the Mystery Story” (The Writer, October 2008, pp. 30–33), William G. Tapply puts it this way: “Don’t be afraid to summarize any hunk of dialogue that you think readers may be tempted to skip.” . . . Here are some guidelines to apply to your scenes to try to figure out if something needs to be summarized or if it needs to be shown through dialogue.

“Say what?” she intoned incredulously.

    Yes, that’s right. Today’s topic is on dialogue tags.

“Say What?”–Subtexting

    The basic definition of subtexting when it comes to dialogue is that the character is saying one thing and thinking something totally different.

“Say What?”–Character Quirks & Non-Verbal Dialogue

    I . . . wanted to wrap up the series with a look at how dialogue can make our characters unique and how we can use unspoken “dialogue” to deepen our characterization, tension, and plot.

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The Business of Writing: Networking = Name Recognition = Marketing | #amwriting #writingbiz

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Introducing a new weekly feature! I post a lot about the craft of writing fiction and the emotion – inspiration – creativity of writing/being a writer, but not a lot about the business side of the profession. So every Tuesday, I’ll be tackling a topic that focuses on the Writing Biz—what it means to be a professional writer beyond just putting words on a page. I’m going to start out gently—for both you and me—by writing about something I already know a bit about: Networking.

__ __ __ __ __

In talking to a friend about the concept of “networking,” she mentioned that one of the things she is doing is participating in a genre-specific group blog where she is gaining name recognition, but that she isn’t sure that it is networking.

I’m building name recognition, but is it networking?

Building name recognition is a major part of both networking and marketing! Because the three work hand-in-hand. This is why we write blogs, why we participate in local writers’ groups (aside from the fellowship, knowledge, and support of other writers), why we volunteer to help out with contests and “group management” type tasks with our writing groups, and why we walk up and introduce ourselves to published authors, editors, or agents at conferences. We want name recognition.

How can networking and building name recognition be the same thing?

Many years ago, I used to joke that I was one of the best known unpublished authors in Christian-fiction publishing circles—I was heavily involved in the American Christian Fiction Writers national organization, first as an active member, then as an officer for several years. This was helped along by several things, some of my doing, others because I actively networked, both as a writing-group member and a writing-group officer. I participated in the email loop and forums (this was pre-Facebook days, but now I participate in several writing-related Facebook groups), and thus the other members knew my name, and many considered me a mentor, even before I was published. As an officer, I worked with the most prominent editors and agents in Christian publishing through several of the projects I was involved with, not the least of which were the contest for unpublished authors and the annual national conference. This meant that I not only had contact with them through email/phone calls before conference, but also had every reason to walk up and start talking to them at conferences or book shows (like ICRS) because I was building a professional relationship with them. By the national conference the year that I was VP of ACFW, I actually had editors and agents ask me when I would be pitching something to them!

But something I couldn’t have planned, but which also gave me name recognition—not necessarily writing related, but still name recognition—happened because I was networking with other authors. At the first ACFW national conference in 2002, I got to know Brandilyn Collins, one of the preeminent CBA authors at the time, and just a fun person to be around. It just so happened on our last night there, as a bunch of us were hanging out in the restaurant/bar at the hotel, another patron decided he wanted to have a bit of fun and walked over to our table and kissed someone on the cheek—ME! It was fun and funny and we joked that I would go down in the lore of the stories that are told about ACFW conferences.

What I didn’t know is that for a couple of years after this, Brandilyn was still telling this story about me. When she came to Nashville with the Zondervan book signing tour a couple of years later, almost as soon as I walked into the bookstore, I was practically mugged by this tall man I’d never seen before in my life who wrapped me in a huge bear-hug and kissed me on the cheek. Well, he turned out to be James Scott Bell who’d been told the “kissing bandit” story at lunch by Brandilyn, who knew I would be there. (And is JSB’s name one that you recognize? It should be.)

What can networking/name-recognition do for me, really?

Through networking (and because he already knew my name before we met face to face—through my work with the writing organization), I knew my agent for years before he became my agent. Same with the acquiring editors at the two publishing houses my first two series were published by.

Networking builds name recognition and name recognition translates into marketing—because a recognized name is a brand. Think about it. John Grisham. Tom Clancy. J. K. Rowling. Nora Roberts. has a feature on their website where you can “follow” your favorite authors to receive notifications of their upcoming releases so you can preorder their books. If these authors didn’t have name recognition (to you), you wouldn’t know to follow them, would you? And remember, at one point in time, all of the authors I mentioned above were unpublished writers trying to break into print. Now people buy books simply because their name is on the cover as the author.

Granted, their name recognition has come through selling millions of books; but for those of us trying to break into an over-saturated publishing market, building a following by networking ahead of time, getting our names out there, marketing ourselves pre-publication is vitally important when it comes to first convincing a publisher if they buy our novel it will sell, and then parlaying that into sales and royalties after the book hits the streets. And not only will you have built-in readers eager for your book to come out, but you will have influencers—readers willing to read your book ahead of time and market it through reviews and word of mouth; and endorsers—published authors willing to put their “seal of approval” on your book with a quote about what a wonderful author you are and how fabulous your story is.

Caveat: Networking—like social media—is not something that should impinge upon the time that you need to be writing. Remember the formula: 90% of your time writing, 10% of your time doing everything else related to the Writing Business. But these are the kinds of things to be thinking about now to start learning about and trying out slowly before you’re suddenly thrust into it once you complete your manuscript and are ready to start pitching it at conferences.

Think about everything you do and all the ways in which you are involved communities where you are building your name as a writer working toward publication. How are you networking and building name recognition?

Books Read in 2017: ‘Claiming the Duchess’ by Sherry Thomas (Romance Short Story, 3.5 stars) #amreading

Monday, March 13, 2017

Claiming the Duchess (Fitzhugh Trilogy 0.5)
by Sherry Thomas
Genre: Historical Romance (short story)
My rating: 3.5 stars

Book Summary:
Clarissa, the widowed Duchess of Lexington, has two great loves: the reticent and reclusive Mr. James Kingston and her faithful correspondent Miss Julia Kirkland, whom Clarissa has never met.

Now both Mr. Kingston and Miss Kirkland are due to arrive at Clarissa’s house—and Clarissa is about to find out that nothing of either is as she has been led to believe…

A story of longings–and longings fulfilled.

My GR Status Update(s):
03/06. . .Currently Reading
03/06. . .Finished Reading

My Review:
3.5 stars

I had this on my “novella” list in GR—because I’m supposed to be reading/analyzing “novellas” this year as part of my professional development toward writing my own.

However, with everything that I know about what constitutes the difference between short stories (up to 10k words) and novellas (approx. 10k to 35k), I’d say this one is a short story, not a novella.

According to the technical information for the book, it’s 24 print (45 Kindle) pages long. If you take the age-old formula that a print page is approximately 250 words, that means this story is only around 6,000 words. Which puts it squarely in short-story territory (i.e., under 10k words).

Is that a bad thing that it’s a short story? No . . . technically. I have nothing against short stories. In fact, I read another short story (fantasy) right after this one and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I liked the idea of this story (even though I’d figured out the “twist” a few pages into it). It was the execution of the story that didn’t work for me in this short format. You see, there was no conflict. There was a meet. There was a happily ever after. But there was no rising tension. No relationship development. No conflict. No dark moment. Nothing to really make me care about either of these characters.

When reading romance, yes, I know going into it that the two main characters are going to end up together (even if only one of them gets a viewpoint, as in this story). That’s not the main point of reading a romance story. The point of reading a romance story is to see what these two characters have to overcome in order to be together. And in this story, it was . . . not really anything at all.

Even the fact that the hero is a plain “Mr.” while the heroine is a dowager duchess could have been thrown in as a conflict. But nothing is ever even mentioned about the disparity of their social statuses. It was all just too easy.

So why 3.5 stars rather than a lower rating? Because I love Sherry Thomas’s writing style. Before reading this short story, all I’d read of hers (so far) was The Burning Sky, the first book of her YA The Immortal Heights series. (LOVED it—review here.) Because even with all of the issues enumerated above, I sped right through this story, smiling over the zippy dialogue and the sparkling prose. And I devoured the excerpt of Beguiling the Beauty, Book 1 in the Fitzhugh Trilogy that this short story is an introduction to. And I immediately added it to my TBR list.

My rating matrix:
5 STARS = one of the best I’ve ever read
4 STARS = a great read, highly recommended
3 STARS = it was okay
2 STARS = I didn’t enjoy it all that much, not recommended
1 STAR = DNF (did not finish)

View all my reviews on Goodreads

#2017WritingGoals: Being Responsible for Your Own Success | #amwriting

Sunday, March 12, 2017

“Being deliberate is owning the responsibility for your success and planning how you will achieve it.”

I read this in a document I edited this past week. Because I edit the text of online courses for graduate school programs, I see lots of stuff about setting goals, time management, and success in specific professional/academic fields. But this line really stood out to me. Because this is what 2017 and our Writing Goals challenge is all about: being deliberate, taking responsibility for our own success, and planning to achieve it.

So here are the questions we should ask ourselves at the beginning and end of every day:

In the morning, ask yourself:

  1. In what ways can I deliberately work toward my 2017 Writing Goals today?
  2. What can I do today to take responsibility for creating my own success?
  3. What is my plan for today so that I can be deliberate, take responsibility, and be successful?

At the end of the day, ask yourself:

  1. What did I to today that was a deliberate attempt to reach my short-term and long-term 2017 Writing Goals?
  2. What did I do today in order to create my own success?
  3. Did I stick to my plan for today? If not, what can I do tomorrow in order to be successful in meeting my plans and goals?

Have a great writing week!

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