At Books & Such, we help authors to build careers. From the smallest detail of the next book idea, to the big picture of the writer’s lifelong dreams, we work strategically to help each author reach his or her writing and publishing goals.
Last week the American Library Association (ALA) announced that the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, a prestigious children’s literature prize, would henceforth be called the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. You can read the announcement on the award’s website and dig into the rationale as deeply as you want by clicking on the site’s links.
The Story Behind the Change
While the association’s press release and other documents present the decision as civilized, sensitive, inclusive, and compelling, in my opinion, the name change represents taking an eraser to our country’s history. By way of background, the award initially was named after Wilder for her significant contribution to children’s literature.
Many a young girl still falls in love with reading because of Wilder’s books. And many a young reader still cozies up to the charming Ingalls family as they settled into their soddie and made do with whatever was at hand through each season of the year. The three sisters fell into a deep slumber each night to the sound of Pa’s fiddle playing. Young readers see what a happy, resilient family looks like, even though the girls themselves might well experience something far less wholesome in their own families.
The Rationale for the Change
All of the love, warmth, and sweetness remain even today in those novelized stories of Wilder’s own pioneering childhood. And ALA carefully writes that the name change is not intended to censor the books themselves. The organization believes removing Wilder’s name from the award makes sense because Ms. Wilder, who wrote the books in the 1930s and 1940s, depicted those lovable people as what we today would label racists. A variety of characters in The Little House on the Prairie utter the sentiment that “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” That probably was considered sage and true advice in the late 1800s, when Laura grew up in a land where settlers were sparse and Native Americans could kill you. After all, the pioneers and Native Americans were at war.
Another offensive passage occurs when Laura attends a minstrel show and refers to the African Americans as “five black-faced men in raggedy-taggedy uniforms.”
Why Readers Should Care
Stripping Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from the award is to post-posthumously dishonor a writer for portraying commonly-held views from the era in which she grew up. It’s also a subtle form of denial that a shameful time in our history occurred. We must remember who we were so we all can strive to be better versions of ourselves. Whites’ treatment of Native Americans constituted an egregious time that all whites need to acknowledge really happened. Wilder’s books for the most part showcase the beauty of a family loving its members well. But they also highlight the shadow side of some of those people. Isn’t that part of a good story’s job? Not to create caricatures of settlers but multi-dimensional characters.
Why Writers Should Care
Sometimes being politically correct isn’t correct at all. I think the ALA’s decision is a case in point. As a writer, you work hard to accurately depict a person, a time period, and the attitudes that prevailed. This does not lessen the quality of what you write but enhances it. Even if you hold beliefs that society eventually comes to disagree with, don’t you expect to have the right to communicate those beliefs without future generations berating your contribution to the public discourse? What if, a generation or two from now, it’s not politic to write about one’s personal belief in Jesus? It’s such an excluding worldview, after all.
Are we so unsettled by people’s past behaviors that we feel compelled to step away from important voices from those times?
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
~ George Orwell, 1984
Who Else Belongs in the Pantheon of Infamous Authors?
What other authors do we want to distance ourselves from? Mark Twain? Now, there was an opinionated man who held forth many a thought that we would condemn today if it were uttered in our hearing.And yet, how much delight do we experience when we read a humorous piece of his? Or gain insight into life from Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn?
What about Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, which was written in the 1930s, as were many of Wilder’s books? Mammy is a winsome character. No wait, maybe she is a caricature…
How Far Will We Go?
I didn’t intend to write a blog post about the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award until I read an article in the June 11 of Publishers Weekly. The magazine always concludes on the last page with an opinion piece sent in by one of Publishers Weekly’s readers.
In this issue, an author writes an essay entitled “Cover Bias.” She argues that fiction covers shouldn’t employ full-face images but should leave what the character looks like to the reader’s imagination. That way the book will appeal to a broader swath of readers–in terms of readers’ age, ethnicity, and imperfect bodies that compare poorly to the models on many a cover.
The writer suggests: “Finding agnostic cover art isn’t easy, but there are a few tricks:…think twice about showing faces; maintain a sense of possibility by using ambiguous models; and avoid ethnic anchoring by converting images to grayscale, sepia, or alternative color scales.”
As I read the essay, I thought to myself, I don’t think I would relate to a cover model with gray skin. How far will we go to pretend we aren’t different from one another?
So now I ask you,
Are these authors and their works of less value to us because of their flaws? Or of greater value because of them?
P.S. Now that I’ve thrown this hot potato at you, let me add that I’ll be traveling when this article posts so I won’t be able to join you in the conversation.
Does the name change to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award make sense to you? Join the conversation. Click to tweet.
Why should writers care that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name was stripped from the prestigious children’s award? Click to tweet.
Recently, I’ve received a few query letters for top-notch ideas, but when I look at the proposal or manuscript, I realize the author shouldn’t have submitted the project yet. The idea and bones of the book are good, but the writing could use some major editing.
A writer who sends a query letter too early doesn’t take the time to have critique partners look at the project first and then make the suggested changes. He or she is setting him- or herself up for failure. If an agent requests a project and sees it’s a mess, that agent is unlikely to re-request, even if the book is amazing after more work has been put in.
I know that sometimes an author can get a request for an unfinished or unedited project because of a connection made at a conference or through an author recommendation to an editor or agent. If you make a connection like this and your project is requested before it’s ready, you can wait to send it. Let the agent or editor know that the book isn’t ready, but that you will send the proposal as soon as it is. Also, more often than not, you will grow as a writer through the classes you take at a writers’ conference. When editors and agents request projects during a conference, we expect to wait a little while while you get the manuscript fixed up before you send it in. If there’s a rush for some reason we will make this clear at the time of our request.
An author-friend of mine who was chatting with an editor at a conference about what the publishing house was looking for. Off the top of her head, she came up with a book idea that blew the editor away and fit right in to what the house was looking for. The editor wanted to see a proposal for the book. My friend took a few weeks to come up with a strong synopsis, proposal and sample chapters and then submitted the story. I can’t remember if this project was contracted, but I think it was. I know that the time my friend took to prepare the proposal helped her to put her best foot forward with the publishing house and showed that she cared about creating a great product.
Have you ever received a manuscript request before your book was ready? What did you do?
What are the steps you take to make sure your project is in the best possible shape before sending your query letters?
What truths do we hold as “self-evident”? With the United States’ Independence Day just behind us, many of us are still eating cake with strawberry stripes and blueberry stars, picking up yard evidence of expired sparklers, and reflecting on what those freedom evidence truths mean to us.
Writers hold certain truths as not needing explanation, too. Self-evident, evidently. Inalienable rights. But are they? (The final version of the Declaration of Independence calls them “unalienable.” Same thing.)
“Everyone has a right to write.”
Yes. Although “right” is a strong word. Almost anyone can take advantage of the opportunity to write, to create stories, to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and express themselves through writing. Books, poetry, spoken word, music, jokes, opinions, apologetics, creative grocery lists, Tweets, posts, studies, curriculum, plays, scripts…
“Everyone has an inalienable right to publish.”
No. Publishing is not an entitlement. It’s a privilege and an honor. Approaching it any other way is a distortion of truth. Even though independent publishing allows the possibility of publishing without involving a traditional publishing house, savvy independently published authors understand that freedom of speech and freedom of publishing don’t mean we can use words without consequences, that we can say, write, or print anything we feel like because of an inborn right.
“Every writer can count on the truth that their work deserves to be respected as-is.”
Ooh. A tricky one. There’s that word respect. One thing I appreciate about Books & Such Literary Management is that we treat everyone’s work with respect in our responses. Even if the query or book proposal is misguided, volatile, error-thick, and poorly done, we respect that a human being created the work. But the finest and highest quality writing can always use the benefit of an expert’s eye and advice.
“Every writer can count on the truth that even exceptional work is edited.”
Yes. That is truth.
Writers can depend on the writing truth that “if you work hard enough and long enough, you deserve to be published.”
Again with the deserve? Publishing isn’t an equation. Good idea + hard work + writing skill=publication? That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works. Good idea + hard work + writing skill + annual writers conferences + agent + chocolate=publication? Still not how it works.
So many factors enter into the chemistry of traditional publication. The atmospheric conditions. That’s right. What’s the publishing atmosphere right now? Is it conducive to a book on that topic? Is the timing a little off? How many other authors are tackling that topic/genre/setting/approach? Does that help or make it less likely the excellent book will be published? I turn down projects almost daily that are good, even fascinating, but not for me. They’re for another agent. It’s not a project that resonates with me, even though it might with the next agent. Editors tell the same story. They need to feel passionately about the proposal or they can’t convince their editorial team, much less their pub board.
An excellent book that is too similar to another excellent book already in the publishing pipeline is enough to stop a great book from reaching the bookstore or library shelves. Some might say, “All the more reason to independently publish, then.” Could be a good option. But the book will always be tugging for the same readers as the one already on the market.
Self-evident truth? “If the book is excellent, it will find a publishing home.” Not always. A hard truth, but undeniable.
Working hard and long is good. But it doesn’t give an entitlement to automatic publication. Publication entitlements don’t exist.
“Practice makes perfect.”
A more solid truth is that practice makes permanent. And practice makes possible. Some have been writing for many years, attending multiple conferences a year, but haven’t advanced toward publication because they’re rehearsing the same mistakes. They haven’t applied the editorial or critique comments. Or they’re practicing average rather than growing toward excellent. Practice doesn’t always make perfect. Or published.
“Agents and editors owe me and my project their attention. They at least owe me an explanation for why they turned it down. It’s my constitutional right. ‘Life, liberty, and the pursuit of publication.'”
Our primary agenting responsibility is to the clients we represent. Editors’ primary responsibility is to the authors they’re publishing. I assume no one who follows this blog would fall for the “constitutional right” idea in this untruth. But you might be amazed how many do.
Where’s the hope in this post? Simply this. We may not have an inalienable right to publication. But we’ve been given the freedom to write, to learn, to grow. We’ve been given unprecedented opportunities to develop our writing craft and ever-expanding access to rich research resources. And we’ve been given the privilege and opportunity to pursue publication.
One of the most common questions I receive is: Can I write books in more than one genre?
Well, sure, you can write whatever you want!
Can I write books in multiple genres and expect to build a successful publishing career?
A lot of people have asked me this question, and they don’t understand my answer. Hey, they can write historicals, suspense, and fantasy. Why wouldn’t I be ecstatic about a multi-talented author who can do it all??
This is a marketing issue, first and foremost. If you want to publish books, attract a loyal readership, and have long-term success as an author, then you’ll need to pick a genre, do it well, and keep doing it over and over. Simple as that. All the arguing in the world and all the talent in the world is not going to change this reality.
You want to specialize, because a publisher can’t afford to try and reach a whole new audience with every single book. If your first book is a historical romance and 25,000 people buy it and love it, you now have 25,000 historical romance readers eager for another book from you. If your second book is a contemporary suspense, you completely give up the audience you’ve already built (leaving them hanging, by the way) and you have to build a new audience from the ground up. How much sense does that make?
It’s not usually feasible, especially in today’s competitive market, to try and be a jack of all trades. You can’t reinvent the wheel every time out.
Choose the thing you enjoy most and do it the best you can.
I know, it’s frustrating to be “pigeonholed” into one genre. You feel like the marketplace wants to limit you. They’re holding you down, keeping you in a box. The world wants to put artificial constraints on the heights to which you can soar.
I recommend you avoid thinking of it as pigeonholing. I doubt LeBron James feels pigeonholed into “just basketball.” I don’t hear Stephen King bemoaning that no one wants to read an Amish romance from him. They’re not pigeonholed, they’re specialists.
Even if you’re thinking about variations of a genre (romantic suspense, romantic comedy, etc.) it’s best to keep your main goal in mind: sell books. What’s your best chance of selling the most books? How do you build yourself a loyal readership? Specialize. Create an expectation in the reader, then fulfill that expectation. If your first book is romantic suspense, plan on doing that for awhile. Once you’ve proven yourself a success, you may have leeway to branch out.
Many self-published authors build careers writing books in several genres, but it works a little differently. They’re typically offering books at lower price-points ($4.99 or less) and they’re publishing several books per year. They often write under different pen names for each genre. They don’t have a publisher’s help with marketing, but they also have low overhead, so they can afford to do a lot of experimenting. It’s different when you’re an indie-publisher.
Some authors write both fiction and non-fiction. If you want to do this, understand that you’ll be working to build two different audiences simultaneously. There may be some crossover, but you can’t count on it.
How much time, energy, and money do you have to devote to marketing? Most authors find it challenging to promote a book in one category, let alone two. Make your decision with the full knowledge that you’ll be doing twice the promotional work if you’re publishing in two categories. This kind of writing life is best done when you don’t have kids at home, or a day job.
Writing in more than one genre or category means you’re also diluting your ability to focus. Are you able to study and improve the craft of fiction at the same time as learning the particulars of writing a great memoir? Just something to think about.
Of course, there’s something to be said for experimenting. You may want to try writing books in several genres that interest you. But whichever one is the first to sell to a traditional publisher—that’s the genre you’ll want to stick with for the first few books.
Have you found it challenging to focus on one genre?
I’m just finishing up my summer vacation. Or I should say, staycation. My daughter and grandson came to visit for two weeks and we decided to stay put and do as many local travels as we could fit in. So after trips to the coast, to Angel Island and Alcatraz, excursions into the Mother Lode, ghost towns and, of course, outlet malls and the local salon for our annual mother/daughter mani/pedi treat, we left for the airport to return Rebecca and Alex to the East Coast at two o’clock this morning. (That’s the time we leave home for a six o’clock flight. )
We never embark on a vacation without remembering THE vacation. I cannot believe it was twenty-three years ago. I wrote about it a while ago but I figured today was the perfect day to dredge up that blog to re-share it. I can’t believe how young our children were. Our eldest daughter is now a college instructor and regularly introduces students to the literary world. We only had two children at the time. Our third and youngest child came to us when she was ten years old so she missed this trip.
Sometimes our literary pilgrimages will offer new insight into the milieu of the writer. Such was the case with our most extensive literary jaunt. The year was 1995 and we decided to visit the birthplace of the New England Transcendentalists. Our oldest daughter had just graduated from high school and was already a confirmed bluestocking. Our poor son would have rather been fishing, parasailing or hurling himself down a mountainside but he had learned to put up with us. And our youngest daughter didn’t join our family until she was ten, so she missed this one. But for the four of us who went, we’d all say that it was the trip of a lifetime.
We began our trip by staying in Copley Plaza in Boston where we haunted the museums with side trips to see the famous points of history. Little did I know then that I would write a book, Freedom’s Pen, which took place on those very streets. We even saw the grave of Mary Goose, widely thought to be the famed Mother Goose.
We went from Boston to Concord where we stayed in a bed & breakfast that was said to have been Nathaniel Hawthorne’s springhouse at one time. It was directly across the road from the Alcott’s Orchard House where Louisa May Alcott’s father Bronson used to sit on a bench under a tree and hold court with the literati of Concord, including Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Both of them just lived down the road. The philosophy of the New England transcendentalists grew out of these meetings.
Our travels took us to Walden Pond on a drizzly morning and were able to walk the whole way around barely seeing another human—a miracle if you know the modern Walden Pond. We walked up to Sleepy Hollow cemetery and visited the gravesites of all these famous writers. I found the grave of Margaret Sidney as well. She wrote The Five Little Peppers—another book from childhood I loved. We went to the Old North Bridge where the “shot heard round the world” was fired. Nearby stood The Old Manse, which had been home to Ralph Waldo Emerson and then the newlywed Nathaniel Hawthorne’s. The herb garden there at the Old Manse had been planted by Henry David Thoreau as a wedding gift for the Hawthornes.
As we walked the town and began to understand the interwoven lives of these beloved writers I understood in a very tangible way the importance of a writer’s community. I came home more determined than ever to stay connected to my fellow writers—that’s where creativity blossoms.
After we left Concord, we stayed for a time at Williamstown so we could take in the theater and attend a Tanglewood concert (with Yo Yo Ma, no less). We took many a day trip—to the studios of Daniel Chester French and Norman Rockwell. And another literary side trip to the Stockbridge Library where I got to go down into the basement and actually hold Hitty in my hand (from the book, Hitty her First Hundred Years by Rachel Fields). That was before they began thinking of archival protection for the adventurous Hitty. Now I’m sure she is hermetically sealed or something.
Our last leg of our travels was out to Amherst where we stayed in a guesthouse on campus just a few doors from Emily Dickinson’s house. At twilight that last night we walked over to her house and sat on the porch to watch the sunset.
It was a trip we will never forget and more than anything we came away with the understanding of the interconnectedness of the community of writers/artists. And to think, this was just one geographical location and one era.
So here’s my question for you: Where would you take your dream literary travels?
What stimulates you to write a story or to compose a manuscript about a certain topic?
I find it instructive to listen to interviews with highly successful authors. They often are asked–and love to talk about–their writing process. Usually they’ve worked their way through to some helpful insights that all of us can borrow. Thus saving ourselves the pain of learning it through personal experience.
Or the author might have boiled down to its finest essence–like a rosemary sauce for lamb–a way the writer thinks about approaching the next manuscript.
Write What Obsesses You
Some time ago I watched an interview with novelist Meg Worlitzer on The PBS News Hour. As she talked, I grabbed a piece of paper and noted a couple of sentences that held the essence of how to think about what you write.
We’re told to write what we know, but I say, ‘Write what obsesses you.'”
Writers are instructed to steer clear of, say, writing a novel about a group of explorers to Antarctica in the 1800s, if you’re a stay-at-home mom who has lived in Florida all her life. The research necessary to authentically portray the setting, the challenges, and the interior lives of those men makes for a steep climb for any writer. But all the more so for someone newer to the craft.
On the Other Hand…
Ms. Worlitzer’s point is that, if you find yourself obsessively thinking about a topic and how you want to explore it–whether in fiction or nonfiction–you might just be the right person to tackle the concept, bringing to bear everything you know of life.
Here’s an insight from Ms. Worlitzer on why it’s okay to tackle something audacious:
I write not to provide answers–my novels don’t answer questions–but to look at the question from different angles.”
Each of our lives is informed by our experiences of the world that we’ve spent years collecting. If we start out our next writing project determined to showcase that knowledge–and thus lead readers to the answer you’ve already selected for them–you haven’t opened up the world to readers but instead have led them to the corner you reside in, with their faces to the wall.
How Adults Learn
Many years ago, when I received instruction on how to write curriculum, I was told, “Adults learn best when you don’t give them obvious answers–or even pre-selected answers. But if you ask them questions that let them bring their life experience to this new topic, they’ll teach themselves by thinking about the answers.”
Books should not give obvious answers but instead invite the reader to use all he or she has learned about life to consider how he or she sees answers to the questions you pose.
An Enriched Experience
Approaching your writing this way is much harder than presenting a pre-determined answer to life’s conundrums. That means you put your novel’s characters in a seemingly untenable situation, and then you and the reader watch how different personalities, temperaments, and personal histories come to bear on that circumstance.
For your nonfiction book, it means asking the question(s) you’ve been toiling over and–like any good discourse–present some of your noodling. Then give the reader space to noodle with you.
That’s what writing obsessions is all about.
Have you ever written to ask questions rather than provide answers? What did you like about that process? What did you dislike?
I recently watched a documentary on Netflix about the Funko company and noticed how welcomed all of their “funatics” (this is what they call their fans) feel into their brand culture. I’m sure you’ve seen their Pop! figures in stores or online. Funko has created a network of people who love them and love their products. This seems to have happened both organically and through the careful care of their marketing team.
This got me thinking about authors and their fans. How can authors make readers feel more welcome? Authors are trying to sell books and readers that feel included and welcomed into the author’s space are more likely to continue to buy from that author. Many readers like to feel close to the author, even if they’ve never met him or her before. How can you make your website, Facebook, blog, etc. more welcoming to readers–inviting them in to spend some time with you and hopefully increase the chances of their purchasing your book?
And yes, as Christian writers, it’s not all about sales–but to spread the message you are hoping to share, people do need to be purchasing your product.
Here are a few suggestions I have to make readers feel more welcome and I’d love to hear yours!
1) Create a Q and A section on your website that answers the most popular questions you are asked in your emails. Do get a little bit personal, but don’t share private information, 0f course.
2) Share pictures on Facebook, in your newsletter, and on your blog. You don’t need to share pics of your kids if you are uncomfortable with that, but put pictures of you on trips, with your pet, doing research, and more. Visuals are really important these days.
3) If you create a special “street team” don’t announce that to all of your fans. You want everyone to feel special and you don’t want to make any of your readers feel less special than others.
4) Include snippets from reader emails (with permission) on posts or in newsletters. This shows all of the fans that you are paying attention and care about what they are saying. What they share with you can really be life changing for you, too, and it’s good to let them know that you are touched.
5) Create a guestbook on your website–these can allow for fans to “check in” and show where they live on a map of the world. The guestbook doesn’t need to allow comments or pictures–they come in all different types. You might not want comments or pictures if you don’t want to spend much time approving the posts. Find one that fits your needs.
6) Even if you can’t personally respond to every fan letter, make sure the readers get some sort of reply if they message you. Set up an email auto-reply to let them know they matter to you. Also direct them to your newsletter and encourage them to follow you on social media.
7) Be you! The readers like your books because you wrote them and each book includes a lot of you in it. By being yourself in your interactions with readers (in a professional way, of course) you will naturally welcome the readers who are reaching out to you.
How have you helped readers feel welcome? What new ideas have come to you as you’ve read this post? Please share!
Wait. You really thought publishing success shortcuts exist?
Some try. Writers can successfully employ time-savers, but shortcuts aren’t the positive elements they might be in mountain hikes or traffic jam bypasses.
At a recent conference, I overheard another agent tell a writer, “You’re about two years away from being ready to submit your work to a publisher.”
Cruel response? Not at all. Kindness colored the agent’s words. Why might years have been a success recommendation?
The author may have needed time to support a great concept with a strong platform. The investment of two years in building a solid platform could have meant the difference between the book reaching a few or many.
The idea needed time to percolate. It wasn’t yet fully formed.
The pain was still too fresh. Sometimes books intended to encourage others out of the painful experiences the author has endured wind up being cathartic only. Given time and the perspective that accompanies it, the book’s impact might be stronger, richer, and free of anger that would otherwise fog the takeaway value.
At the same conference, I asked to read a sample of an attendee’s writing. He replied, “I’m working with a professional editor. She hasn’t edited this yet.” I still needed to see it. An author might shortchange his or her publishing success–and the agent’s success–if unwilling to show a snippet of unedited work. Why?
For an agent to consider representing a writer, he or she needs to know the level of writing talent or skill the author has pre-editing. Your highly polished piece will tell me how well the editor edits. But will it give me clear clues to the writing strength of the writer?
Can the writer present another book, many others, throughout their writing career? Or can the writer create only rough drafts?
How rough is the rough draft? If it shows lack of understanding of basic writing premises, basic storytelling skills, basic grammar, spelling, punctuation guidelines, the writer may need to invest in more craft education before embarking on an agent/author relationship. Without that investment, the author’s first book could be the last.
A typo in a one-sheet, a proposal, or an email to an agent isn’t a deal-breaker by itself. A typo doesn’t spell instant doom rather than success. But if it has many typo friends…
Computer grammar, spelling, and punctuation checkers leave red flags for writers. Or double blue lines. Or red squiggly lines. Successful authors take time to consider and correct, when needed. Ignoring red flags is a mark of a writer in too much of a hurry, or unobservant.
Typos in a one-sheet don’t leave a good first impression.
Multiple typos in an email query sometimes keep agents from going any deeper into consideration. It takes very little time to proofread an email. In an email as important as a query, not spending a few moments to proofread is a path away from rather than toward success.
Marketing Plan Shortcuts
When creating the marketing plan section of a proposal, a writer who takes a shortcut–or a cookie cutter approach–may miss opportunities to win the heart of an agent or editor. What shortcuts might derail potential success?
Listing only local library or bookstore events.
Including what the author is willing to do, rather than what the author will do.
Noting that the author will cooperate with the publisher. That’s a given. More effective are the marketing plans that include innovative ideas that don’t merely “get the word out” but are likely to net actual sales.
Rather than settling for shortcuts, successful authors dig in, put in the work, and consider the time investment a small price to pay.
Most people understand that it’s difficult to promote a book without first having a platform. However…
A platform is not enough.
To sell copies of your book, you have to actually promote the book.
You can have a huge platform — thousands of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and blog readers. Maybe you’re even a public speaker, have a popular newsletter, you’re a go-to expert on your topic, or you’re already a bestselling author.
But if you don’t put your latest book in front of people and make it easy and advantageous for them to immediately click-to-buy, nobody is going to buy it.
Even bestselling authors and celebrities have major “launches” for each book—they don’t just sit back and assume people will find the book because they’re famous. But when you’ve been working hard at platform building, it can come as a surprise that once you have a book available, there is even more to be done.
So what’s the difference between platform and promotion?
Platform-building activities could include:
→ Having a blog and using proven strategies to increase your traffic.
→ Interacting effectively on Twitter and building up your follower count.
→ Having a Facebook fan page and growing your number of fans.
→ Establishing an author brand for yourself.
→ Building an email subscriber list and sending out regular newsletters
Book promotion activities could include:
→ Offering a free giveaway of something your readers would enjoy (a novella, a short non-fiction e-book, a collection of behind-the-scenes information about your book, books from your backlist, etc.) to anyone who buys your book within a specified time frame, and promoting the giveaway on all social media.
→ Creating contests and events on Goodreads, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook that give readers the opportunity and incentive to buy your book.
→ Having a blog tour for your book, in which dozens of bloggers post about your book within a given week.
→ Running targeted advertising on Facebook.
→ Having a “street team” who can work social media on behalf of your book.
It’s important to understand the distinction between platform building and book promotion. You need both, they’re both ongoing, and they require separate activities. Don’t fall into the trap of doing only half!
Have you thought about this distinction between platform and promotion? Are you uncomfortable with either one? What are some platform or promotional activities that have worked for you?
I almost never address the issue of grammar because, sure as shooting’, I’ll make a handful of mistakes right here in front of you. But irregardless I’m feeling cranky so I’m going to list seven of my top cringeworthy examples of grammar and word use mistakes.
Irregardless— need I say more? Regardless is the word. Irregardless is fingernails on a blackboard.
Confusing Your and You’re— Is this the most common grammar mistake in written communication? I have to hold myself back from correcting those responsible for the signs that say, Your in for a Treat! or Turn You’re Engine Off Before You Pump Gas.
The Plural Apostrophe— Why is it that people feel the need to separate the singular version of a word from the plural? Every fruit stand in Central California seems to sell orange’s and artichoke’s and avocado’s. Can they charge more by throwing in an errant apostrophe?
The Self Conundrum— Since when did we start using myself in place of me or I? I have a feeling that people are so confused as to when to use I and me that they feel the safest route is to substitute myself. *buzzer* Nice try. The -self words (myself, herself, themselves, itself, etc.) are used in only two instances– to emphasize, like, “I picked out the color myself.” Or to refer back to the subject, as in “She spends hours preening herself.”
Nauseous or Nauseated?— I hear this way too often, especially by YouTube vloggers. “I’m especially nauseous today.” Oops! That does not mean what they think it means. It means they are especially sickening. If you are sick, you are nauseated. Sick vs. sickening.
Upgrading words— when simple seems too simple. I wish people would use the perfect little word instead of turning simple into simplistic or use to utilize or even orient to orientate.
Secret or Secrete?— I’m wondering if I am wrong here because I hear this pronunciation (or what I believe to be mispronunciation) frequently when listening to professional newscasters and commentators. It makes me gag every time I hear someone say that the “documents were secrete-ed on a hard drive.” Shouldn’t it be secret-ed? When I picture secretions of documents it makes me nauseous. Someone set the record straight, please.
Okay, your turn. Name a couple (or more) of your pet grammar gaffes or word use mistakes.