On June 8th, Kasie and Rex took on some of the questions left behind at the April 27th craft workshop held with the SCWA. Here are the show notes:
Theme for the day
Q & A
- Columbia II Workshop Questions Submitted
- Greenville Workshop (6/22) Promoted
- Charleston Workshop (6/29) Promoted
We got a lot of questions answered at our April 27, 2019 The Business of Writing workshop hosted by the Columbia II Chapter of the SCWA. But we had a lot of questions submitted. So today’s episode is an attempt to answer at least a few of those.
Where do you start? — this question comes from someone who has never been published. We say all the time that you should start with a publishable manuscript.
When Raegan Teller was here last week she said she started her research when she realized she had a publishable manuscript. So here are the steps to getting to publishable:
- Have an idea
- Write the thing
- Get some friends to read it — in segments like Workshop or as a whole like a beat-read
- Revise it
- Get some more friends to read it — as a whole, beta read
- Revise again
- Get a professional to read it — an editor with credentials and fees
- Revise it again
- Research Publishing options.
That last step can be done while you’re waiting on the readers. So really, once the book is publishable, the process begins with research. Some resources for publishing advice:
- SCWA writers’ workshops in your area
- Thought leaders online (Joanna Penn comes to mind)
- Books about the industry (Writers’ Digest — the library owns this, don’t buy one yourself)
- People who have done this before (like you SCWA chapter members but also authors, agents, and publishers who love, love, love to blog about this stuff)
- This radio show and similar broadcasts (podcasts)
- Events, conferences, and workshops (like the upcoming one in Greenville)
You really want to become a journalist. Ask questions, listen to people tell their publishing story (it’s like the wedding story, the baby story, and every other story archetype out there).
Marketing, Marketing, Marketing — over a half dozen questions about marketing.
First, the strategic ones:
Does marketing start with a finished manuscript or before? — there are people who would say build your platform before you have your first book to sell. It’s easier to sell to 200 Twitter followers than to start a Twitter account with 0 followers and try to sell those non-existent people a book. That said, your platform would evolve, wouldn’t it? As you hit on exactly what you’ll publish and who your readers will be.
Are there grants and resources available to help pay for marketing? — not really. The grant money out there from the SC Arts Council is about building a business around your art. So if you’re Raegan Teller and you have three books and you’ve already invested a ton of time and money into this and you decided to expand by publishing others’ books, then maybe. But to get $5000 just to marketing something you’ve already written, published, and are having trouble selling?Probably not.
What is a marketing plan? — I would discuss this as a marketing strategy, not a plan. The Strategy is Who do you think will buy your book? Where are those people making buying decisions? How can you get in front of them? The marketing plan is about tactics — what do you tweet and when? What do you bog and when? The plan is about executing strategy. But without a strategy, you have a product with no customers.
And then these tactical questions:
Which social media platform is most important? — It really depends on what you plan to do with your social media channels. If you’re trying to sell the product, consider Amazon – your storefront – and all the tactical pieces available there — book reviews, author page, reading groups, etc. If you’re trying to find an agent or a publisher, think about Twiitter. They’re all out there and there are plenty of chat events and hashtags to educate you, keep you busy, and procrastinate actually writing. Wanna pal around with other writers and maybe get some inspiration, prompts, and critique partners? Facebook. Wanna create a separate persona and build a community around the fantasy world of your books? Facebook. It all goes back to what’s your marketing strategy?
How to find your tribe? — I’m a fan of thinking through “Who would read this book?” I want suburban mom book clubs reading my novel. I want them all to recognize their ex-boyfriends in the novel, see themselves as Kacie or Meli or Tabby. I talk to women who read the same kinds of books I read and ask them what they like best. And if they were to stop reading trashy mindless smut, what would they read instead? I think you find your tribe by asking around.
Should you pay for social media ads? — okay, so what are you trying to accomplish? Book sales? Are you running a special? Did you just release a new edition or some kind of combo pack with swag? Social ads are good when done right. Think Google AdWords for starters and stay clear of Facebook. Google AdWord walks you through the entire process and you pay-per-click, so you don’t pay if it’s not working.
How often should you blog? — if blogging is part of your strategy, then ask yourself what kind of blog content you’re creating. Is it “How” content? So you’re telling people how to do something? Maybe it’s your craft contribution — like Write On SC and the Columbia II chapter blogs are for me. Is it your “Now” content? So you’re releasing new stories, a new book, or some other new pricing for old work? Or you’re responding to something that’s just happened — like A Discovery of Witches which gives me hope that agents and publishers will want to publish my literary fantasy novel about vampires — just had its season-finale on AMC. Or is it your “Wow” content or a sneak peek, extra scene, or peripheral character work. When I finish a great book, I go to the author’s website looking for everything else I can get my hands on with those characters. I binge. So are you creating binge content? The question of “how often” is always answered by “what are you blogging?”
Not adding answers to these, just figured we could riff on them:
Is having an agent necessary and what’s a good fit?
How common are reading fees charged by agents?
When do you give up looking for an agent?
What are the merits of a small press as compared to self publishing?
Should you continue editing a piece while submitting it?
What are the odds of getting picked up off the slush pile?
How often do publishers focus on upcoming projects? Seasonal? Quarterly? Annually?
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