Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Platform--Building Blocks of Blogging

At a local writer's conference I took a class called 'social media.' I tell you by the end of that class my head was swimming. I was completely overwhelmed with all the strange jargon and the work. I was queasy with anxiety. But oddly enough the instructor who led the class seemed quite at home in all the twittering and blogging--it seemed like she actually liked it. I couldn't wrap my brain around this. Despite my feelings of nausea I decided to start a blog which I then hooked up to Twitter and then to Reddit and Digg and StumbleUpon, and also to Book Blogs and Networked Blogs. (I think I hooked it up to something else--but I can no longer remember!) There's so much out there...I have a bazillion passwords for a bazillion different social media sites. ACK!

But really everything's okay. My head has not exploded, I still sleep at night and I'm still kind to my cat. I am now an avid user of social media. YAY!

Mentor M's book How to Write a Book Proposal is a great book to carry stuffed in your purse (not on your kindle 'cause they freeze up and are annoying) or even on your desk as two-thirds of it deals with building an on-line platform. That's right, over half the book is about marketing and how to stick all that marketing into your proposal. And, of course, building a blog is part of all that marketing.

But the hardest part of blogging is not necessarily creating the posts (finding information that will be both interesting and helpful to people), it's finding the readers--this is the difficult part. When it comes to marketing a blog, I have...
* put ads on Google
* put ads on other blogs
* put ads in magazines
* linked to other sites such as Book Blogs and Networked Blogs (and the other one that I can't remember), joined Reddit, Twitter, Digg

But by far the most helpful advertising method is the linking and it's free! So that being said...if you like this blog and you wish to see me and my kind get published please...
* Like me on Facebook
* Retweet me
* Up me on Reddit (hit the green button at the bottom and sign on to Reddit--post me to the sub-reddit--'writing'
* Share me on Digg
* Re-post me
* or link me on your website (Big 'Thank You' to those who already have!)


 *And Check out the links on my blog*

Below: how to use Reddit

How to use Digg
How to use StumbleUpon

Monday, January 30, 2012

Building the Platform---Oh Joy!

I haven't sent out any queries since I started this blog. I've been busy being committed to writing a better proposal, getting my sample chapters perfected and building my platform. Of course, I say that word platform with a tinge of consternation. After all, I'm a writer--I want to sit in my office and write. What I don't want to do is spend my time engaging social media and meeting so called 'internet friends.' Or, could I be wrong? Maybe I would like internet friends; maybe I am made for social media!

I started this blog thinking "It's what the agents want, so I will do it."  But the truth is I no longer do it for the agents...I like blogging. I like meeting other wanna-be writers, I like connecting, I like working to be an author. 

So here goes: part of being an author is marketing and part of marketing is building an on-line platform. And here's a little unknown fact about me: the number one reason(s) I get rejected is Mentor M's No. 38: You Have no Internet Presence and No. 40: You Are Not Engaged/Poorly Engaged in Social Media. In fact, over the past year this issue became more and more like a large stone around my neck. My manuscript Saving Mary was read by Random House who responded "...impressed in many ways with your prose and your narrative style...[but] we generally only work with authors who have major and national media platforms." Likewise an agent responded to one of my proposals: "'Not visible enough' is a comment I receive [from publishers] all too often....You simply do not have the platform publishers feel they need...."

So there you have it, platforms are annoying but imperative. Over the next few weeks I will build a platform that should be able to convince any agent that:

* I am highly visible on the internet
* I am engaged in social media
* my internet presence is professional
* that I can run a grass roots campaign
* that I can sell books
* that I have PR worthy accomplishments
* that I understand marketing

Easy-peasy, right? (sigh) Not really.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Help! Kindle Keeps Freezing!

So I'm trying. I'm really trying to move forward with all the new technology. I'm trying to give up my comfy habit of holding a beautiful book in my hands. One where I can flip to the front cover or the back cover whenever I want to either look at the art or to re-read the blurbs. But with the new kindle I'm sorry. I'm just frustrated. It's freezing, it's turning four pages at a time and it gets stuck for a few seconds and then only after I've stomped off to another room does it do the move I've requested. When I looked on-line it seems I'm not the only one with this problem. I just want to enjoy my book!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tips for Listing Your Competition

Mentor M has a great chapter on how to list your competition (I recommend you read it). Remember don't just rattle-off a few similar books and be done with it, and don't list every similar book out there:
- list those that are direct competitors or those that complement your book
- list those that prove there is a market for your book
- list books in order of importance
- be brief
- use a verb to efficiently describe what each book does (instead of saying "This book explains the...." just say, Explains the Catholic rite of exorcism."
- mention websites that focus on your book's topic
- mention popular ebooks
- be professional (Don't dis a book in an attempt to make your book look better. Just list what it does. If it has a weakness or if it is lacking something, give a brief explanation.)
- be polite
- don't say, "There are no books like mine!" (Do your homework.)
- at the end of your list write a short paragraph about how your book stands out from those books you just listed.This is where you WOW them with how your book is different, timely and needed.

Here's a link for more.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Reason No.47 Your Book Was REJECTED

Competition isn't so much about 'competing' as it is about 'complementing.'

Competing, to me, stirs up feelings of 'me against you' like two similar writers with similar ideas elbowing each other for the one last available seat at the adult's table during Thanksgiving dinner. But establishing your list of competition, in your marketing plan, isn't really about targeting your competition for elimination, so don't start hurling those tomatoes yet. It's about explaining how and why you fit in with this bunch of already successful writers (they're already sitting at the adult table and you want to join them). This being said, we must do our best to get to know our complementing authors, and then we must explain why we should be allowed to dwell in their hallowed midst. We do this not by saying, "Their book totally sucked and mine doesn't." (Remember, the agent you are querying might have been the agent for that book!) So, no, no, no...we don't join the adult table by saying that. We join by saying, "Their book focused on Dog training tips, but my book focuses on Dog Training the Shih-Tzu--one of the Ten most popular dog breeds in the US, and one of the most difficult breed to train.  

Explaining how your book is different from the competition, and thereby fulfilling a need that has been so far ignored (complementing the information that is out there), is probably the most important aspect of your proposal. Everyone remotely interested in your topic, from agent to publisher, to marketing...to reader is going to want to know how your book fits with what's already out there. So don't tell them why it's better (in your opinion), tell them why it's different. If you don't do this right, you may just end up REJECTED because of Reason No. 47 "You Aren't Able to Significantly Differentiate Your Book from the Competition."

This rejection, from mentor M, is one of my favorites. This is because understanding it leads to believing in your book even more. For example, let's take my possession book. When I did am 'exorcisim' search on Amazon I came up with over twenty books on the subject. Most of the books were written by priests and exorcists; there were also a few written by psychologists and there were some fiction ones from authors, but there wasn't a book written from a first-person perspective or as a memoir. Also, most books dealt with the exorcism itself. Whereas my book deals with the journey towards possession and then the journey towards exorcism. My book was astoundingly different and it was needed. After all, if we're going to discuss exorcism shouldn't someone who's actually been through one be invited to the party?

Of course, if we are writing 'formula fiction' such as a historical romance than proving our book to be different from the competition is practically unnecessary. Formual fiction, after all, has to follow certain guidelines in order to complement the entire genre. However, all the books in the romance genre are still not completely the same. Writers still have to look up their competitors to see what timelines have been done and what settings have been done to death. If the Scottish Moors were popular for all of 2011 maybe it's time to write a love story in Amazon jungle? (I'm not sure that would work, but maybe I'm wrong.) The point is, even formula fiction writers have to complement their genre with something a little different.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Reason No. 45: You Demonstrate No Knowledge/Faulty Knowledge of Your Competition.

Listing your book's competition is a large part of your proposal; sometimes--if you are writing a book on exorcism--it is a very LARGE part of the proposal. (There are a gazillion books out there on exorcism!) Because of this, I will spend a few days going over this valuable proposal point.

Knowing you competition, as Mentor M says, is important because "Editors must prove to their editorial board that a book can stand up to the heat of competing books without burning out." However, if you are writing an ebook or are self-publishing in general, don't pass on this important proposal point. Knowing your competion is just plain ol' good marketing sense. After all, competion isn't always your nemisis--sometimes  your competitors work as marketing partners. Without the help of other writers who work to stir up interest for a certain topic, your book just may stay hidden.

Describing your book's competition is not always the easiest task. Writers, I am told, mess this area up more than any other proposal point, which is probably why mentor M warns us that we could get rejected by underestimating our compition.  Reason No. 45: You Demonstrate No Knowledge/Faulty Knowledge of Your Competition.

I'm not sure why so many authors have difficulty in this area. I suppose if I use myself as an example, it's because we just haven't done enough homework.In my first proposal for the MotherHeart of God, I simply slapped down a few books I knew existed on the topic. But after reading How to Write a Book Proposal, I realized I was going to need to do some fine tuning. And thank goodness I did. My now extensive (and it's not overly extensive leading to boredom), list of competing books shows me off as one who is not only knowledgeable on the topic of the femininity of the Holy Spirit, but also as one who knows how to compliment her competition. Another bonus for doing my homework:I know what books are soon to be released on the topic. Researching the competition wasn't easy. I had to do a lot of reading, and I ordered quite a few books on-line. But because I did my homework, I feel much more confident as a writer.

There is always competition. And if you are truly interested in your topic you should know who your competition is. In our digital age we can't just think "books" anymore we must look at ebooks, websites and blogs. As mentor M says (and I'll sum his words up for you) don't be stupid. In other words, don't fall prey to the idea that saying your book has no competition is a good thing: "My book is the only book out there on this topic!" This, to an agent, just means you haven't done your homework. Remember, Agents know a lot about books. They'll know if you are handing them a  line.

For more info on competition check out the following sites:

Chris Webb's Publishing blog
 June Cotner
Fiction Competition

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Learn More About SOPA and PIPA Today!

You may notice that many websites are going off-line today...take some time to learn the facts regarding the two bills in questions :Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act. Below are some sites to visit with more information:


The Huffington Post

The Los Angeles Times

Monday, January 16, 2012

Reason #69 Your Book was REJECTED!

As I was perusing mentor M's book of mistakes, while thinking about book benefits, I came across Reason #69: Your Book Costs Too Much to Make and I immediately thought, oops! I must remember to take this into consideration. As mentor M points out, we can get ourselves rejected by forgetting that benefits cost money! Think, for instance, about a glow-in-the-dark pop-up book that (after your child finishes reading it) can be turned into a small paper town by simply extracting all the pop-outs and fitting them together (tab A into slot B style). That fantastic book, though totally possible to make, would cost a fortune and so...REJECTION!

So what kind of benefits are rather costly for the average book...well, here are a few...
* full color printing
* permission fees for song lyrics
* maps
* permission fees for reprints of artwork
* large excerpts from other authors
* creative formatting or binding

And let's not forget E-books...
* adding pictures
* adding any graphic
* adding music 

So let's just remember, folks buy books for what they say. And lots of book benefits (like anecdotes and humor) are free!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Book Benefits

Being sick with a cold gives you a lot of time to sit in bed and think...about book benefits. So remembering that a feature is something your book has and a benefit is something your book does, what are my book's benefits? What are my features?

*Bennies for...
The MotherHeart of God: Biblical Evidence for the Femininity of the Holy Spirit

- Open the reader’s eyes to the numerous scriptures that reveal the Holy Spirit as woman.
- Equip readers with simple scriptural arguments to help them explain the femininity of the Holy Spirit to others.
- Encourage readers (regardless of their faith or spiritual orientation) to truly honor women.
-  Explain why Bible translators continually choose the pronoun “he” when referring to the Spirit of God.
-  Provide practical advice and spiritual experience to help others develop a relationship with the Holy Spirit.
- Help women to see themselves as God’s true children, made in God's image, loved, honored and highly respected by God.
- Introduce Christians to their mother--confirming that God truly is a family.

* special features
- Beautiful illustrations of different images of the Holy Spirit are included at the beginning of each chapter. 
- Quotes from spiritual leaders, saints and authors are included throughout. 
- Personal anecdotes regarding my own spiritual experience with the Holy Spirit are interspersed throughout.
- Sub-headings and chapter summaries are used.
- An introduction by ? is included (hmmmmm, have to work on this one).
- A link to a blog is included to discuss the book.

As I worked on this section I learned something important--that I had violated Rule No.10 Your Book Tries to Do Too Much 

Mentor M tells us "One book one message." As I looked over my benefits (in my first draft) I realized I had actually written two books: one that listed the biblical evidence and one that explained why this information had been lost to the Christian church and why it's important for the information to come out now. I had crammed every possible thought and  reference into the book and the book was now a bloated 400 pages. Needless to say, I now have some editing to do on the book, and everything that does not include "biblical evidence" will be cut. After all, as mentor M says: "If you're writing a manuscript and you find yourself drawn toward a deeper exploration of a subtopic or side plot, it should set off a red flag in your critical evaluation of your own work."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Book Benefits...and also features

We've covered the world of not-so-boring word count and also the world of laser-precision audience  and now we are on to book benefits (sounds sooo exciting!)

Now if you're writing fiction this proposal point won't challenge you much because...well, the benefits of fiction are usually similar depending on what genre you're writing. For instance, the benefit for a romance book better not be "This romance will make you think hard about where you invest your money!" And the benefit for a horror definitely shouldn't help us, "understand the complexities of overseas adoption." Fiction better entertain me, or scare me or make me fall in love before it teaches me anything, but then again if through the experience of entertaining me a book doesn't teach me something...anything--then we call that a romance! (Ha, ha, that's a joke...smiley face).

But seriously, what is a benefit? Our mentor M tells us, "Make your book more salable by showing how it will help your readers." And our other mentor, M, warns that if we don't pay attention we could get rejected because of Reason # 34 - You Don't Understand the Difference Between Features and Benefits!

So, for the record (and so we don't upset any agents) a feature is different from a bennie. (Which I never knew...in fact, the notion of having a "feature" section in my proposal never once came to my mind). So what is a feature? It's something your book has -- something you've added to the whole book like adding a good large dose of wonderful-tasting purple garlic to a stew (which, by the way, is also a benefit because garlic is good for lowering cholesterol). So there you have it: a feature is something your book has and a benefit is something your book does.

Your features may include (remember both non-fiction and fiction books have features):
- anecdotes
-chapter summaries
-interesting headings
-reflective quotations
-exploratory questions
-a blog readers can follow
-a romance (romance is the biggest selling genre...so if you can work one in, then yippee!)
-a sequel!

Benefits are a little different, and our mentor M tells us to put them into four categories:
1. Personal (this book will make you feel...blah, blah, blah)
2. Social (this book will help you get friends or keep friends or dump friends...in a nice way)
3. Proffesional (this book will help your profession)
4. Nobel (this book will change the world!)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Congrats to Winner!

Lori Verni-Fogarsi is this month's winner. She is taking home the big book of agents!
Check out her website and her new book Momnesia.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 Recap

 Great 2011 recap about the changes and the ups and downs in the publishing industry at David's blog