"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: June 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

You Wrote a Book - What Now?

Let me make a prediction.

By 2015, based on current trends, 50% of the books available online and even offline, will be self published.

How will this happen? Simple. Print on Demand technology has already progressed to the stage that even the big traditional publishers are using it - which means, yes, now we're all equal.

Plus, distribution networks are now seeing that there is money to be made stocking and distributing self published books - as long as the writers are diligently involved in their promotion.

Book marketing is now no longer the sole responsibility of a publisher's sales staff. More and more trade publishers are requiring, even demanding, that authors self promote their books.

So, whichever way you go, you will have to get out there and sell your books yourself. But what does self promotion actually involve?

Are there any special skills you need?

Yes, but don't fret - you're a writer. Much of what you need to do is already within your skill base.

Here are nine pointers for the serious newly published author:

1. Create a Web Presence

Having an author website is a must - but there's more to be done than that. Having a presence on the web to promote you book(s) needs a more strategic approach.

You need to hunt down any and all Net platforms - including social networking sites - from which to promote you and your book.

2. Make your Website Interactive

You need to run a newsletter, a blog and have useful resources for readers and writers to make your website 'sticky' - which means giving people reasons to find your website and keep coming back.

Do whatever you can to build a mailing list, online and off.

3. Use Ads to Generate a Following

This may require some investment of money and time. Book sales don't just happen. They never have. Authors throughout history - from Geoffrey Chaucer to Jeffrey Archer have spent money publicizing themselves in the short term to gain book sales in the long term. If you believe in yourself and your writing, follow their example.

Online this may mean using Google Ads. Offline you may need to consider printing up posters, business cards and bookmarks, putting ads in the paper and sending out promotional material to bookshops, libraries and schools.

4. Create a Stream of Press Releases

One is never enough. You need to catch the eye of the media. And the way to do that is to make your book relevant. Follow the media daily and reshape your press releases to reflect and include current news headlines. Make yourself relevant. Send out press releases consistently - and have a ready made 'press pack' available for any journalist who may call.

5. Contact Radio and TV Stations

Deliberately target news media outlets in your press releases and then follow up. Find out when and where the media airs shows about authors and books - and let them know you're available for interview.

Okay, this is scary - but it works. And don't be nervous. Once you've done it the first time, it gets easier. Trust me.

6. Do a Launch Tour

It used to be that a book launch was a fun one-off activity. Not anymore. You should plan a tour of book launches. In your own town there may be half a dozen places you could hold them.

Plan on touring interstate, even internationally, and doing as many launches as you can.

Not just in bookstores and libraries but nightclubs and community centers, gyms and pet stores. I'm not joking. You can make these things work. And try this: invite celebrities to your launches. You just never know who will come!

7. Do a Lecture/Personal Appearance Tour

You might think that only the extroverted are best suited for giving talks and workshops on their books. You'd be wrong. And I'm willing to bet you can do it too.

Don't think in terms of making a profit on your speaking engagements - but do take lots of your books with you. The money is made at the back of the room, after your speech.

8. Keep Looking for Opportunities

Whenever you're out and about, deliberately build networks of useful contacts. Visit other writers and talk with them, share your self promotion tactics. (Here's a tip: buy them lunch - it's tax deductible.)

Online, join discussion groups that focus on self promotion. It's all useful for developing a mindset, even if you don't use all of the strategies made available to you.

9. Keep Writing

Most of all, don't lose sight of your art - the reason you're doing all this promotion. You want to be a professional writer, so you'll need to keep coming up with the goods.

A famous bestselling author once told me he spent 60% of his year writing, 20% promoting himself and 20% resting, usually in a far off country. That sounds about the right balance to me!

All this may sound rather daunting to the newbie and to the newly published. But the good news is that doing at least some of these activities will generate book sales.

Now all you need to do is consider this:

If you're going to be doing all this self promotion, would it be more profitable for you to be self published - or share all your hard earned royalties with a trade publisher?

This is the real reason why self publishing will become so important in the future. It's way more profitable to self publish.

Think of it this way:

The average book sells less than 500 copies - shocking but true.

With 10% earnings, your standard royalties from a trade publisher, and you'll make around $1000 (if you're lucky, after the usual contractual deductions - don't get me started on this one.)

Sell 500 copies of your own self published book at the same retail price and you'd make around $5000 - if not more!

You don't have to be a genius to work out which option most enlightened authors will be taking in the future.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How Does Your Writing Grow?

People are always asking me, "How do you manage to write so much?"

It's funny to me because I never feel I have written enough!

Each day I write a little more - an article, a chapter, a lesson or some fiction and each day I think, if only I'd had a few more hours I could have done 'this' or 'that'. There never seems to be enough time.

We've just been asked by our movie producer to work on our Hollywood script - again - a new director wants some changes to it. For the next 4 to 6 weeks, we're intending to get stuck in to that script - and find time we didn't think we had.

That's the writer's life. Just like everyone else, we have to find the time, whether we think it's there or not.

People also ask me, "How do you write so fast?"

Actually I don't think I do. I write slowly, considering every word and phrase as I go along. Just like the way I read.

Okay, I get to write two to three thousand words a day but that doesn't mean I put them all down in a mad dash. Often I'll spend hours editing and rearranging words and paragraphs for best effect.

I'm also not afraid to delete a whole swathe of writing if I think it's not working or, in fiction, is irrelevant to the story.

It's about not being precious. Having the courage to see writing for what it is - a collection of words that, like sand, settles sometimes beautifully, sometimes not. And like building sandcastles, it's okay sometimes to break them down and start again.

If I had to pick one characteristic that marked out a great writer I think it would be this: The ability to scrap everything and start again without fear or a sense of frustration. The courage to work without ego - and without pride obscuring vision.

Writers tend to get very attached to what they've written - and often regard their work as concrete and immutable. This is okay if you're writing for yourself. But, when you're writing for the market, this tack won't really help you.

Writing is rewriting.

Writing is editing.

Writing is polishing.

Think about it. If you went to a jeweler and he showed you his half finished rocks and told you he thought they were beautiful just as they were, you might agree. But you'd still want to see his diamonds, wouldn't you? You'd still want to buy something polished and sparkling to perfection.

So it is with writing. You might think that what you've done is pure brilliance - and it probably is.

But when someone else thinks there's something lacking - or there's too much, you need to listen.

Writing only works when it works for the majority of people.

Readers, even when they don't really understand the mechanics of writing, seem to have an innate ability to know when something is working - or not, even if they don't know why.

And if you find that your writing is not as effective as you'd imagined, don't be afraid to go back and rework things.

Personally, when we're dealing with publishers, editors or movie producers, we make a point of listening very carefully. We ask questions about what they consider good and effective writing - and we're often surprised by their answers.

But we absorb what they say and then rework our writing so that it is more in line with their expectations.

And here's a tip. Often when publishers and producers have criticisms and ideas, they don't actually want to you to go back and just fix the things they don't like. And they really don't want you to put in the things they suggest!

What they want is for you to bring back something 'better', even if it's markedly different from what you originally showed them.

You have to make writing 'work'. And if you're reworking material, don't just fix things, rethink the whole piece. Take onboard the suggestions, yes, but also be mindful of the entire package. Do the suggestions change the way the writing works? Do you have to approach the manuscript again - and make it work, again?

If so, don't be afraid to do that.

Because when you do, you'll make yourself paying fans in the writing business.

And they'll keep coming back.

Keep Writing!

Your Success is My Concern
The Easy Way to Write

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Follow Your Instincts - Way to Go!

We spend a lot of our time distracted by our daily chores and commitments. So much so we tend to ignore what our instincts are telling us.

You know how it goes. You spend your time working or, unpaid and traveling to and from work.

You spend time dropping off and picking up the kids. You use up invaluable hours of the day preparing food, eating, sleeping, relaxing with your loved ones, watching TV, socializing, caring, volunteering, whatever.

All the time in the back of your mind you have this little voice that says: You really should be writing, you really should be writing...

Your instincts know what you want but your activities are committing you to a lifestyle you don't want. There's the writer’s dilemma. How do you stop doing what you don't want and start doing what you do want?

Simple - listen to your heart.

I believe there's a reason why we have instincts - they are there to tell us what we really want.

They are there to nag at you to deal with the things that are lacking in your life.

Think for a moment about your dreams – the one’s you have at night.

Your brain needs balance. Your life may be focused on certain activities, relationships and commitments and these alone may seem to be enough stimuli for your waking hours. But during sleep, the brain needs more - it needs to be stimulated to take in a more fully rounded life experience.

So it compensates for missing life experiences by 'making them up' in your dreams.

It's a natural coping mechanism - designed to keep you sane.

On a subconscious level, the brain is taking in, assessing and dealing with all the information it receives - real or imagined. It processes everything, striving for balance.

But what if there is something left over, something found wanting in your life, how would that manifest itself?

I believe it manifests itself as instinct. It's an intuitive yearning that is telling you that you have an emptiness that needs filling - a feeling that something else or some other direction is right for you.

And, for your own good, it's something you must respond to.

For the sake of your writing, you must begin acting on instinct.

Learn that being selfish is most times okay - and in everybody else's best interest and not just yours!

Even flying in the face of logic, you must do the things that your reasoning mind might regard as crazy. You must begin to follow your heart, rather than always listen to your rational brain. For a healthy and fulfilled life, you must begin to do what your instinct is telling you to do.

And guess what?

It will work for you. You’ll be happier than you've ever been. More successful than you could have ever hoped for. Every day you’ll be doing more of what you love - taking life as it comes and doing what your instinct tells you to do at any given moment.

And you will be rewarded.

Is this path reckless? Irresponsible? Impossible?

Maybe – but do you really want to spend your life letting what other people say influence your need for more creativity? Do you really want to spend your days running around after other people instead of responding to your desire for more ways of expressing your true self and finally living your life with integrity?

Just because other people want you to do things, be places, and honor commitments they forced you into, doesn't mean these things are important. Most likely, in the great scheme of things, they're really not.

Since when was anybody else the boss of you?

Sure, things may get sticky. For me, when I first resolved to start listening to my heart instead of my head, I got sacked from my job. My old boss said outright: "You and I know you shouldn't be here, you should be doing your own thing. Just think of me as the bitch who made it happen!" Sweet lady.

But really, it turned out for the best because my old boss forced me to come to terms with my life. She'd given me no choice but to confront my destiny.

I could have panicked and got another job. Done what everyone else was telling me - seek security, seek boredom, seek a living death.

But no - this time - I refused!

I knew then I had to be a professional writer - what my instincts had been telling me all along - and that I had to make it happen, then and there - or die trying.

So that's what I did. I woke up every morning from that day on and just did what my heart told me to do: write a book today, set up that website now, teach this writing genre, start that writing school, become a publisher, write screenplays for Hollywood, whatever felt right. And it's what

I'm still doing to this day.

Simply responding to my instincts.

(And I guess it's worked out pretty well!)

So, if you have some nagging voice in the back of your mind - listen to it - and act on its advice. It's doing more than just nagging.

It's showing you the way to your destiny!

The Writing Academy

Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!