Cross Promotion

The publishers for my travel guide have been at it for a while, so they know how to promote a book. For example, my point of contact got an article in the Huffington Post about “Under The Radar Tourist Towns” featuring my location — Astoria — and other titles in their stable.

See it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/10/post_583_n_780645.html#slide_image.

Several points make this a genius move:

  1. HuffPost is a major news website, meaning he got the word out to a passel of potential purchasers.
  2. The format made it so easy to write, he probably banged it out in half an hour.
  3. Because it’s a news source, it lends the message authority.
  4. Appearing in a news website positions the publisher as a travel expert.
  5. He might have gotten paid. Unlikely with the HuffPost, but the theory is sound.
I used to do similar when I ran a martial arts school, by writing self-defense articles for local newspapers and magazines. You see the major movie studios doing the same by turning their upcoming blockbusters into newsy pieces in the glossies and on TV.
Challenge for the day: come up with three ideas to get somebody to pay you for promoting your work. Write proposals and get paid for one of them.
Thanks for listening.
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Writing to Goal

I’ve written before about the writer as entrepreneur, and recently reviewed Penn’s Author 2.0, which also describes the entrepreneurial opportunities for folks in our profession. As publication changes, more and more of us will be writing our books as individual ventures, rather than as bait for large houses who will share only a small percentage of the profits.

This weekend, I had a chance to sit with an old friend and his wife, who had just been struck by an entrepreneurial brainstorm with real merit. We’ve spent four long conversations playing with the idea, and oddly enough they seemed to value my counsel.

On second thought, this makes sense. As a writer-entrepreneur I’ve conceived and launched more than a hundred ventures. Some have even been successful. I’ll be posting regularly on this topic, since it seems important to new authors — and seems there’s much less out there than on other writing concepts.

Today, let’s talk about the end game. Every idea you have — and here I’m talking about writing as a business, not only for pleasure — should be paired with an end. You can write to sell to publishers — they offer some strong value for the cut they take. You can write to bring in web traffic. You can write to woo your One True Love. Whatever it is, start every writing project with a clear idea of what you want it to do and be once you’re finished.

Take this blog, for example. I started it with no clear idea of its purpose, other than learning about blogging and creating an online portfolio. The early posts are all over the place in terms of tone and subject. As things progressed, it’s narrowed in focus.

What I want, primarily, from this blog is to impress potential customers. I hope these posts amuse and educate my fellow writers, but you’ll also notice that most of these posts are about…

  • How to behave professionally as a self-employed person.
  • How to turn out quality writing.
  • Dropping knowledge about the industry and about writing.
  • How important it is to treat clients well.
  • How much I care about what editors and other customers want.

I step out from time to time — for example, the Friday Fun posts — but my real goal is part of how I choose what to write. It’s also a part of how I write. You’ll notice I don’t swear as much in these later entries.

It’s easy to get caught up in the task of writing and lose track of where you want it to take you. Business guru Michael Gerber puts it beautifully by reminding clients to work on the business, not in the business. Write well. Write often. But keep your eye on the ball.

Thanks for listening.

Social Networking and Community (Part I)

image by JD Hancock

I haven’t seen The Social Network movie….nothing against it, but I prefer my historical retrospectives to be about history. Not about current events. That’s not going to the movies. That’s watching the news — and I refuse to pay 10 bucks to watch the news.

Despite this, social networking is now part of a writer’s world. Fiction writers can use these utilities to build up a “platform” of fans to help make their work more attractive to publishers. Nonfiction writers can use it to keep in touch with potential clients, or to get their work out into the world. It’s a lot like marketing a small business: the more people you talk with, the better your chances of hooking into somebody who wants to read what you’re writing. Modern social network allows you to touch thousands of people every day — assuming to keep pushing to maintain contact and expand your base.

Here are some ways to use modern social networking and community resources to get your name and work out into the public eye.

  • Blog routinely — at least three times per week — on subjects related to your work. Any freelancer should have a blog like the one you’re reading now. Something that serves as a “living portfolio” where people can read about who you are and how you write. It can be about any subject you like, so long as it’s regularly updated and professional. Announce each post you write with an email announcement, Facebook notification or similar.
  • Join Forums on subjects about which you are passionate. As you become a respected member of that community, you’ll make friends who will be eager to read your work and share it with others. If the forums are tied to your writing, you can find some alpha readers to check your work — and who will then be engaged in the process and likely to share it with all of their friends.
  • Facebook friends are like ultrasubcribers to your blog or newsletter. These guys are reachable with one click, receive a high-profile announcement automatically, and often have a vested interest in what you’re up to. Ditto for many other networking websites.
  • Twitter is a way to generate buzz. You can tweet to announce blog posts or other events, or to “leak” short blurbs from your work. This can be a brilliant headline from a nonfiction article, or maybe a perfect piece of dialog from your latest book.
  • Professional network sites like LinkedIn and eLance are a must for freelancers who want to keep finding work. People who need what you sell search those, and the networking keeps you connected with people who may just want a writer some day.
  • Media sharing utilities including YouTube and the iTunes Store allow you to distribute video or audio to build excitement for your book. This can be a short lesson tied to your nonfiction project, an audiobook version of a chapter of your fiction, an interview, or anything else that builds your credibility and excitement about your project. You can record your own media, or find people who will have you on a show they host.

I don’t like going over 500 words for a single post, so I’m going to leave this as a list of types of social network sites. I’ll come back with some posts about how best to use them. Meanwhile, I’d love some comments about how other writers out there have successfully used these sites.

Thanks for listening.

 

Getting Started: Try This

The first step in becoming a professional writer is deciding you want to be a professional writer. The second step is developing a small body of work. If you want to write fiction, you need some short stories to sell to print and online magazines. If you want to write nonfiction or ad copy, you need a few articles or blurbs to show what you can do.

I’m going to assume that, if you want to become a professional writer, you aren’t one yet. This likely means you have a regular job. Maybe a wife, kids, commute and house to take care of. You can’t devote all your time to making this happen. That’s life…but it doesn’t mean you can’t make your portfolio happen.

Try this.

On Monday of next week, sketch a simple outline of a story or article. For fiction, write a sentence or two about each character and each major part of the tale. For nonfiction, write a note describing each paragraph in your essay or copy structure, and some lines about where you’ll go for further research.

On Tuesday, write the  “sketch draft.” This is the simplest written form of the story. Any time you get stuck, write in parenthesis a note about what you want to have happen and move on. “John looked into Stella’s eyes and said (something eloquent about loving her).” or “(Put actual statistic here) out of 100 Americans say they fear a terrorist strike in their local area within the next 10 years.” Get it all down.

On Wednesday, focus your efforts on filling in those parts you skipped the day before. Look up the the statistics, scan through scenes in books and movies you liked for inspiration about how to handle those tricky scenes. At the end of the day, you’ll have a working rough draft.

On Thursday, rewrite the whole thing by looking at the printed rough draft and retyping from scratch. This process lets you look at each sentence, tweaking and repolishing as you go. When you’re finished, read the story out loud to yourself. Take notes about spots that were jarring, repetitive or weak. Sleep on it.

On Friday, fix the things you noticed when you read it aloud the night before. Once you’re finished, run a spell check and have somebody else proofread it.

On Saturday, walk away. You’re done. If you want, have a friend critique it…but no more fiddling until somebody else suggests something concrete.

Each day should take no more than an hour or two — time you can give yourself if you really want it. If you do this each week for a month, or every other week for two, you’ll have a body of four respectable pieces. Most writing clients want just two samples when considering you for a job. Fiction magazines want you to send just one.

Presto…instant portfolio.

Thanks for listening.