Sunday, July 24, 2011

Part I Question 3 of Interview Series on Non-Fiction Markets With Writer Noelle Sterne, Ph.D.

PR Strategies for New Audiences and Regular Readership

In this edition of the Interview Series, the topic of discussion is expansion.  Some of the areas you've seen touched upon before here and elsewhere such as the 'elevator pitch', the role of the author expanding to social/marketing spheres and personal appearance as part of your brand and author strategies to involve their audiences such as with the marketing techniques discussed in the recent H.P. Mallory interview in The Write Place At the Write Time.  However, what follows is a different take on these concepts that goes also into new territory with user-friendly strategies and tips that writers at any stage of their career can utilize.  

Regarding p.r., and keeping up with contacts, what are some of your recommended strategies for branching out into new audiences and increasing regular readership?

Many of us became writers not only because we cannot deny our drive and love the process but also because we love the introverted life. But to have our writing read, recognized, and (ideally) praised, we must embrace at least in part of the life of an extrovert.

This prospect may sound uncomfortable, distasteful, or migraine-popping. What does it really mean? To enlarge our view of ourselves so a public relations mentality sits easily beside to our creative genius. To master some of the skills of the outgoing, even to what our inside selves consider brazen in approaching others. To let them know about our work with confidence (feigned as it may be).

So accept the need for p.r. and give it your best. The success of your work depends on it. You’ll stretch yourself, conquer a few fears, and maybe surprise yourself by almost getting to like the promotion process.

BRANCHING OUT TO NEW AUDIENCES
Our audience is not only readers we may never meet but also editors, writing colleagues, friends, business contacts, salespeople, service people, anyone you have interaction with.  New audiences can also be cultivated by some steps you may not have read about or thought of. Here are some.

Editors
Building on suggestions in my previous post, cultivate the editors you write for. As the relationship develops, they may ask you to write on certain topics you hadn’t considered. You never know what great places these can lead to.

When I submitted a personal essay to a writer’s magazine, the editor gently rejected it but mentioned the credit I’d included of my published children’s book of dinosaur riddles. She asked me to write a piece (on spec) about writing nonfiction for young people. Thrilled, I did.

By the time I submitted the piece, editors had changed. The new one rejected the piece, but I kept sending it out (you know about this). Much later, this piece was published,  and then republished. In fact, years later, after another massive editorial change, the first magazine—sweetest of the sweet—accepted and published this piece.

Subjects
Another way to branch out is to identify subjects you’d like to write about other than those you love and/or have an aptitude for. I started with writers’ craft pieces and, as my interest in spirituality grew, began to write pieces in this mode—different market, different audience. A writer friend does children’s nonfiction. She’s a serious runner too and belongs to a marathon training group. When a member suggested she write about the group (how to form one, tips for success, mutual support and socializing), she did several essays. Now she publishes in new markets for new audiences interested in running, athletics, health, and fitness magazines. Audience enlarged.

Responses
Write your own letters to editors praising articles and columns in the magazines or newsletters you publish in. Mention the piece you published in your letter or add it below your name. Readers who missed your article may look it up and write you.

Other responses are possible too. I once wrote to the editor about a column that moved me in a writer’s magazine I’d published in. Surprised, I saw my letter in the “Readers’ Feedback” feature two issues later. The author later wrote me, and we became virtual writing colleagues and continue to exchange leads and referrals. Audience enlarged.

Google Yourself
OK, you have already. But now, other than seeing your name showered all over the Internet, there’s another reason. Sign up for Google Alerts. Type “Google Alert” into your search box and follow the prompts. You can sign up for as many of these as you wish, for example with your name, titles of your works, specific subjects you’re interested in, and other authors.

As the Alerts fill your email box, you may find that bloggers and columnists have mentioned your work or have said something especially provocative on a subject you’re passionate about. Write directly to them, thank them, comment, and offer to write a guest blog or answer questions.

Blog It
Read blogs that interest you (not all morning). Write to the blogger, point out what you especially like, give a mini-commercial for yourself, and offer to write an opinion piece or give an interview. I’ve made some wonderful online friends this way, and we exchange writing “favors” (endorsements, guest appearances, publishing leads). Audience enlarged.

Read More
Acquaint yourself with the ever-proliferating literature on widening your audience. The free Writer’s Digest newsletters regularly have links to blogs on many aspects of writing and self-publicity by staff members and associates. An excellent one is Jane Friedman’s There Are No Rules (http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/ ). 

More than once, I’ve been unable to resist making pdfs of Friedman’s columns, those of her guests, or those she appears on as a guest herself for current or later use. From such newsletters and blogs, you can glean a tremendous amount of information and ideas about what other writers are doing to attract, increase, and entice their audiences. Think about how you can use or adapt the ideas for your own purposes and goals.

INCREASING REGULAR READERSHIP
All of the suggestions above will increase your readership, directly or indirectly. Here are a few more.

Keep in Touch
There’s no substitute. A newsletter of your own is one great way. Several writers I know send out newsletters, but they do more than hawk their works or services. The best combination is to include something helpful to readers—an inspirational quote, several leads on new markets, a great writing blog, two tips on taking breaks—and then trumpet yourself, your books, your ebooks, your youtubes, your signings, your services, your special offer of writers’ t-shirts emblazoned with a catchy slogan (“Writers do it in drafts”).

Ask for Help
Readers love to contribute. A novelist holds contests among readers for the next title of his book in a multi-volume series. He sends out periodic emails about the contest entries, voting progress, top choices, narrowed five, final winner, and prizes. Another writer asks readers for experiences or case studies for her current project. Another offers a free ebook with purchase of his new collection of poems.

In any communication with your regular readers, invite them to share your mailings with other writers. We all have writing friends, and the more helpful you find a communication, the more likely you’ll want to share it with your friends . . . increasing readership.

Get Out There
Resolve to talk about yourself in person (shudder).

Your Elevator Pitch. Write and rehearse an elevator pitch. Why do you need it?  You know—in a casual conversation on the Starbucks or supermarket line, after you’ve announced you’re a writer, the next question is always “And what do you write?”

Instead of stammering and wanting to sink through the floor, whip out your elevator pitch. This is a sentence or two that summarizes your current project and, incidentally and preferably, piques the listener’s interest. For example:

“In my new self-help manual, Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams, I use examples from my academic consulting practice and other aspects of life,  applying what I call practical spirituality to help readers let go of regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings, whatever their age, circumstances, or the state of their waistline.”

“I’m finishing my third novel in the Clara Bottomsley mystery series. In Something’s Knotty in the Crochet Basket, Clara helps a friend who’s become unraveled solve the murder of her husband by following the clues in the directions for a baby romper.”

“I’m writing a collection of interview essays on the road trips of disillusioned wives—the real reasons they jumped in the car and gunned it, never looking back, their one-night stands and chocolate orgies at truck stops, bonding with cheap motel maids, and keeping exact track of the mileage on every tank of gas. One of my essays is coming out next week in Christian Women’s Monthly.”  

Now—try one of your own. Memorize it and rehearse it out loud. Or keep it on a scrap of paper in your wallet or tattoo it on your wrist.

Your Personal Appearance. Speak in public (shudder again). Everyone loves, and is slightly in awe of, an author, and many opportunities are available, before, during, and after you publish. Research places that will welcome your subjects and genres, such as local churches, synagogues, schools, Y’s, libraries, writers’ clubs, writers’ groups, radio stations, bookstores (what are these?). 

Targeting children’s books, I wrote two pieces on the many choices we all have to extend our p.r. “Put On Your Publicist’s Hat” appeared in The Writer (June 2008), and a longer version, “Let Them See Your Title: Publicizing Your Children’s Book,” came out in Writing World (September 2010; http://www.writing-world.com/promotion/sterne). Whatever the age groups were aiming at and our genres, the suggestions and principles in these articles apply to all of us.

A Not-Quite-Final Word

As you see, p.r. for expanding audiences and readers is a tremendously expansive subject. It swells daily, especially as online resources multiply  and connected devices threaten to engulf our lives. Many more ideas, for example appear in Christina Katz’s excellent and sane article, “50 Simple Ways to Build Your Platform in 5 Minutes a Day,” Writer’s Digest (March/April 2011).

Swallow today’s fact that as a writer you do need a platform, and you can choose its planks. Gather information, make files, clip articles, take notes, and accept the writer’s reality that we are our own p.r. agents. Then, take a breath, realize it all doesn’t have to be done at once, or even this month, and choose one to three things to do daily or weekly.

Trust your intuition and follow the leads. After a while, some of the activities will become quite natural (like reeling off your elevator pitch to the plumber—who knew he was a closet crocheter?). You’ll keep finding and creating ways to branch out into new audiences and increase your readership. And you may even get to enjoy it.

© 2011 Noelle Sterne

Bio: Author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne has published over 250 articles, essays, stories, and poems in print and online venues, including The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Writers’ Journal, 11.11, Soulful Living, and Unity Magazine. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for over 28 years Noelle has helped doctoral candidates complete their dissertations (finally). In her new book, Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books), she uses “practical spirituality” and examples from her consulting practice and other aspects of life to help readers let go of regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. An essay on her own recognition and reframing of the past appears in The Moment I Knew: Reflections from Women on Life's Defining Moments (Sugati Publications, August 2011). Visit Noelle’s website at www.trustyourlifenow.com

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Preserve the Majesty of The Book

Two Sides to Every Story

In the flurry of headlines detailing how five hundred British libraries are in danger of closing despite public complaint and how Australia predicts that bookstores shall be a thing of the past in five years, one wonders what the future of books will look like- will it be a back-lit screen or a printed page?

First, the good news
The marketplace, for the first time, has the most prominent voice in determining what will float or sink when it comes to books published in electronic format.  Economic downturn has spurned a spike in electronic publishing to minimize costs.  In less than two years, fiction sales as e-books have gone up nearly ten percent.  In the third quarter of 2010, wholesale e-book sales had reached just shy of $120 million.  These market shifts trickle down the branches to affect not only the way publishers do business, but also how editors, agents and writers do theirs.  With the entry of conglomerates buying up some of the most prominent book publishing houses as only a small percentage of their bottom line, editors felt the compression with a need to make more commercially viable decisions, narrowing the flow of approved publishing endeavors.  Agents started to be turned to in order to fill in the figurative spaces and pre-screen author projects to an extent that they hadn't approached before, meeting editors' new standards and acting as figurative gatekeepers to traditional publishing.  The writers, in response, had new roles to fulfill; suddenly they had to become well-versed in marketing, become their own publicist and learn how to sell themselves and their work from the query letter all the way down the finish line to post-publication.  Post-publication marketing had been a large factor originally associated with self-publishing yet it has taken on substantial significance in traditional publishing as well.  Electronic publishing has opened doors to accommodate these shifts.  Best-selling e-book author H.P. Mallory who has bridged the gap between self and traditional publishing by signing a contract with Random House, said of the current industry climate in a recent interview with The Write Place At the Write Time, “Now is the most exciting time for writers- the markets, the readers, as opposed to only the editors and publishers, get to decide what is a success.”
Now, the what-could-be not so good news
In the UK, amidst public outcry, hundreds of libraries are being targeted for extinction.  Is it an omen that today, Borders has finally chosen liquidation?  Will the prophecy by Australian government minister Nick Sherry come true that in five or so years bookstores will be a thing of the past, leaving only specialty shops in large cities?  Amazon, who has led the race in competitive publishing announced that it intends to start its own publishing house.  Meanwhile, agents, joining self-published authors, are starting to cross boundaries by acting as publishers and booksellers.  Even J.K. Rowling, a veritable superstar of traditional publishing, made richer than the Queen, is now turning out a series of e-book versions of her books direct to the consumers through a ground-breaking website launching in October where fans can “walk through” a book and encounter new information about events, characters and places as though they were attending Hogwarts.  The question is what this will mean for the other author Titans of the industry.
Should the overwhelming proof be in the pudding on the side of e-books, what happens to the historic volumes, the brick and mortar stores, the library atmosphere?  The old texts can be digitized, yes, but the consumers are at risk of losing their literal ‘hold’ on the publishing industry if physical books are not preserved.  Searches on statistics will tell you what percentage of a given population agrees or disagrees and it is the hot topic of the headlines.  For those of us who yearn to hold a book, handed down through the ages, touch the yellowing pages and take in the pleasant scent of decades or in some cases centuries, read personal inscriptions and stand in awe of greatness in the world’s stained glass-lined libraries, there is a call for our voice to be heard.  Nearly sixty percent of votes through Flipter.com stats in association with a Huffington Post article by Shane Snow, report the preference of traditional books.  Nearly forty are complacent with e-books; that said, however, other reports confirm that the percentage that would be amenable to e-books would either not replace books completely or those who would were in a very low percentage coming from a group that owned and used e-readers prior to this digital publishing boom. 
The consensus? 
Why not have the best of both worlds…  Everything in moderation, as they say.        

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Part I, Question 2 of Interview Series on Non-Fiction Markets with Writer Noelle Sterne, Ph.D.

What Writers Can Do After Their Piece Is Published   

Is there anything you recommend writers do after their piece is published? 

Many things—and my responses here are for individual pieces. What writers should do after (and before) book publication becomes another book, or at least another series of responses to questions like this.

After you publish an article, essay, poem, story, or other short piece, I recommend action in two main areas, roughly “external” and “internal.”

External

Think of this area as anything outside your workspace. Even though your article may appear in a small (even obscure) publication, off- or online, it’s still an accomplishment and a credit. So, consider these aspects after your piece is published.

Write to the Accepting Editor: I think writers often take editors for granted. Editors have a hard job too, and they often must plant themselves in sterile cubicles surrounded by piles of submissions and impossible lists of tasks and deadlines. So, on publication, and after I’ve gotten the check and complimentary copies and bought another two dozen myself, I like to write the editor.

With thanks for the fee and issues, I also praise (a) something about my article (other than the brilliant writing). Possibilities: the crisp layout or a photo that captures the essence of the piece, and one or two other things about the issue. This may be another author’s particularly helpful column, a moving poem, or an article that taught me something new.

Sometimes the editors reply with gratitude, sometimes they don’t. Whether or not they respond, I always feel good writing these notes. I believe they will feel appreciated and, even subliminally, hold a special place for you in their hearts and article planning boards.

Tell Everyone: We writers may have a hard time self-promoting, especially if our piece appears in a publication no one but four depressed poets have ever heard of. Nevertheless, publication—any publication—is  cause for pride (the good kind) and declaration.

So, practice. You can be casual but purposive, in person or on the phone.

Your friend: “Hi, how are you!”

You: “Great, thanks [don’t stop], and my latest news is that my essay on how not to let your child get in the way of your writing is published this month in Parenting Away."

Now: Wait for the congratulations. Then lower your eyes, smile a little, and murmur, “Thank you . . . so much.”

Create your own variations—it will get easier, more natural, and you’ll be getting excellent practice for when your master tome hits the bookstores.

Internal

Keep Good Records: We may scoff or groan at what seems like an accountant mentality about keeping records. After all, we’re creative. But, the greatest artists in every field can’t function without lists—of paint, brushes, solvents, notebooks, printer cartridges, pens, chisels, mud, mixing bowls, music paper, not to mention computer folders and files and somewhat organized places to park supplies for quick access in creative sessions we’ve planned or that descend on us with ferocious urgency.

Your system of cascading post-its may have been good enough for the acceptances you got once a year. But now you’re publishing more regularly (!). It’s not wise to rely on your memory or those scraps that can whirl like a tornado at the first sneeze. So . . .

Track Your Pieces. As you send out your work, keep track of what and where.
Various types of software are available for tracking. Free systems include SAMM (http://www.sandbaggers.8m.com/samm.htm)  and  Writer’s Database (http://www.simonkewin.co.uk/writedb.htm). Fee-paid systems can be found at The Working Writer (http://dolphinsoftware.bc.ca/software/writers/index.html) and WritersMarket.com.

Study what these offer and see whether they’re too simple, complex, or totally unfathomable. Browse the Internet also for others; use keywords such as “writers’ tracking tools,” “writing query tracker,” and “software tracking for writers.”

After studying several types of tracking software, you may choose to create your own system. Many writers use Microsoft Excel. I’m allergic to Excel and so designed simple Microsoft tables, one for each year, with columns that make sense to me (important consideration), and the entries in reverse chronological order. Here’s a sample:


*Rejected. If you want a more positive cast, use “NTT”—“Not Today, Thanks.”


Keep a List of Credits. Please curb the groans. A list of credits can be
invaluable, and the sooner you start the less you’ll have to catch up with. Think of this list as your writing resume. As you publish more, you can add to it (a great confidence booster).

I’ve arranged mine, again in reverse chronological order, by year and month. Each entry lists the name of the piece, the publication, volume, issue, date, and, if the piece was published on the Web, the URL. You can also order your list by genre—poems, essays, articles.

And . . . I added a delicious section labeled “To Be Published.” Even if you have no entries right now, add this heading at the top of your list, and think of it as your affirmation of what will take place.

Keep Good Clips: In the table above, notice the comment in the first entry in “Comments.“ At the magazine’s request, I whipped off two sample clips of previous work. They were in my “Sample Clips” folder, nicely labeled by title, number of words, and date. Like your list of credits, your collection of clips has many uses (another article). 

B.C. (Before Computers), I laboriously made hard copies of my articles at the local copy shop and tucked them into a file in one of my file cabinets. Today, electronics trump xerox.

If your article has been published in a hard-copy-only publication, take an issue and scan the article into your computer (labeled properly, of course). Most of the time, the “scan document” choice works well, even with some graphics and an illustration. Otherwise, you can use “scan picture.”  Aim for the sharpest image of the article. Scanning the article as a pdf (which should be one of your scanner’s choices) is the most versatile.

Speaking of the pdf, portable document format—this is an unsung electronic miracle! The software converts anything to a pdf—meaning that a “picture” is taken of your work, saved, and cannot be altered. So, if your article was published online only, in a journal or blog (like this one), summon the pdf .

The most well-known pdf software suite is Adobe Acrobat. You can get various packages with different levels of sophistication for a range of prices. Adobe it is excellent, always upgrading, and with many tools for manipulating your pdfs (kind of fun too, but that’s another article).

Other pdf converters, called writers, are available and they are fine—and free. Two I use are Nitro PDF Reader and Creator (http://www.nitroreader.com/) and CutePDFWriter (http://www.cutepdf.com/Products/CutePDF/writer.asp).  Whatever software you download, play around with it and you’ll get to know how to use it. With a pdf writer, you can transform your articles (and documents) into this form to store, copy, send, print, and cherish forever.

To Conclude, For Now

All of these steps and suggestions may seem like a lot, although maybe you’re doing some of them already. Once you recognize the importance of both the external and internal apr├Ęs-pub steps, you’ll be more willing to give them the necessary time. When you decide on and set up your systems, I promise it will get easier.

And faster than a Nitro pdf, more elating than an editor’s “Yes!" you’ll be doing all the right things with your articles after you publish and publish and publish.


© 2011 Noelle Sterne

Bio: Noelle Sterne is a writer of nonfiction and fiction, a writing coach, and a spiritual counselor, with over 250 pieces in print and online venues. Holding a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Noelle has conducted an academic coaching and editing practice for over 28 years. In her new book, Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, Summer 2011), she uses examples from her practice and other aspects of life in applying practical spirituality to help readers let go of regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Visit Noelle’s website at www.trustyourlifenow.com