Monday, July 25, 2016

Blogging: An Inexpensive, Powerful Marketing Tool for Authors

By Anne R. Allen 

Do all authors need a blog? Nope. But blogging sure can save you a lot of time and marketing money…and it's the easiest way to establish your author brand.

All writers need to be on social media these days—and a blog is the only social medium where you're in control. Your Facebook page's reach gets more restricted all the time. New Google Plus is unfathomable. Pinterest and Instagram are all about images.

And you're a writer. Blogging is writing.

NOTE: I'm not telling you to use a blog for direct sales. Social media is not about hard sales. It's about making friends, networking and letting people know who you are (also known as "building your brand".) Once people know you, they'll be more likely to buy your book than if you throw your title at random strangers.

I'm amazed at how many new writers still think a book launch involves an expensive party at a local bookstore, a big splash at a nearby book fair, press releases and interviews with hometown newspapers and radio stations.

Today, a writer's market is global. And blogging is the best way to reach the most number of readers all over the planet.  You can reach more readers with one blogpost than with months of those painfully ill-attended "signings" or those $1000-a-pop book fair booths.

I'm not saying you should go on an expensive blog tour, either. An informal series of guest posts and interviews with other writer-bloggers in your genre can get your book in front of just as many potential readers.

In fact, blogging can be absolutely free. A blog at or costs nothing.
Blogging also:
·         makes you visible and gets you into search engines.
·         allows you relate one-on-one with potential readers.
·         connects you with other authors (via groups like IWSG) and publishing professionals.
·         puts YOU in the driver's seat.
·         lets you show off your writing chops
·         gives you a regular writing venue
My blog sure has made all the difference in my own career.
Seven years ago my career was over. My publisher had gone under. My fourth agent had dropped me. My freelancing jobs had dried up.

I was bloodying my knuckles on the doors of agents and publishers, invisible to Google.

So I started a blog. And yeah, nobody read it. But traffic started to pick up after the first year. I started to network with helpful people (some later formed the IWSG.)

Fast forward a few years and miracles happened. 
  • Publishers came to me—I didn't have to query.
  • I shared my blog with one of my idols, Ruth Harris, the NYT million-selling author. 
  • I was invited to write a book with another NYT bestseller, Catherine Ryan Hyde.
  • I was asked to speak at writers' conferences—and magazines and anthologies solicited my work. 
  • High-circulation publications from slick fashion magazines to the American Bar Association Journal contacted me when they wanted an interview, because the first thing that came up in a Google search on various subjects was posts from my blog. 
  • I was invited to contribute to the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016
  • I had 10 books in print and two were on the Amazon humor bestseller list for over a year.
And I'm not the only author who's found blogging the key to career success. Listen to what Nat Russo said after an expensive launch that failed to make any book sales.

"I slashed the number of book ads…and went back to blogging…sales rocketed…they leaped from 3/day to over 70/day, where they’ve remained ever since."
Got that? He stopped buying advertising and went back to blogging. That took him from a negative bottom line to making a nice living from his books.
And not only is a blog free, it doesn't have to take much time. I've never blogged more than once a week. A working fiction writer doesn't need to post as often as the "monetized" blogger. More on this in my blogpost 9 Tips for a Successful Author Blog.

How about you? Do you blog? How has it helped your career?

Anne R. Allen is an author-blogger who writes the hilarious Camilla Randall Mysteries. She's also the author, with Catherine Ryan Hyde of How to be a Writer in the E-Age: A Self-Help Guide. She blogs, with NYT million-seller Ruth Harris at Anne R. Allen's Blog…with Ruth Harris. And her book blog is Anne R. Allen's Books. She's working on a book on the author blog, due out early next year.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Insecurity Buster: Book Signing Fear

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is all about insecurity and hopefully overcoming them. Insecurity Buster is a feature I'll do from time to time in which I’ll provide tips to help you defeat an insecurity.

Today’s Insecurity Buster is…Book Signing Fear.

When you do a book signing, you’re coming face to face with your fans maybe for the first time, you’re representing your book in public, and you have to “pretend” you’re an author. All of this can be stressful.

Here are 3 ways to help you ease into a book signing:

1. Signing at a Park

Invite your family and closest friends, who you know will support you, to the park or some other place where you can gather without drawing attention to a crowd. Set up a table with a table cloth, books, and postcards. Have a chair so you can sit down to sign books. Greet your friends and family when they arrive, sign some books or postcards, and then have a little picnic to unwind and have fun.
TIP: Get clips to keep the table cloth from flying. 
This is an image of a park book signing I did with my family. I sold 2 books. :)

2. Home Signing + Holiday Sale

I got this idea from Melissa Maygrove. Set up a book signing table on your driveway next to a table with gift baskets for a holiday. Melissa Maygrove chose Mother’s Day and held her event Mother’s Day weekend. Put out signs as if you’re having a garage sale but advertise it differently. Example: Mother’s Day Gifts + Local Author Signing.

Don’t forget to put an ad in the paper in the yard sale section. You can also create an event on Facebook, invite everyone you know in the area, and have them invite everyone they know.

On the day of, prepare your table early, have a water bottle, shade, a ready smile, and pens. Greet everyone who stops and ask them if they’d like a book or postcard signed.
TIP: Always have postcards or something else with your book promo on it, so if someone doesn’t want a book you can still send them off with info about your book.
Don’t be bummed if you don’t sell any books. I’ve read that at book signings, most authors sell an average of 1-2 books. Yes, really. This isn’t about money, though. It’s about connecting with potential readers.

Melissa's Mother's Day Sign + Sale

3. Sign-Up for a Big Event + Signing

If you’re afraid of doing it alone, you can do it with a group of authors (5 to 50!) at a book event. I will be doing one of these June 2017 in Florida at the Space Coast Book Lovers Event with about 70 other authors, including M.J. Fifield! Doing a signing with a bunch of other authors takes the heat of you, and you can see that everyone else is probably just as nervous as you are. You may not sell a book with that many other authors in one space, but you can still make countless connections. That’s why promo materials (postcards, business cards, bookmarks) and SWAG is so important.

How to ease your book signing fear:

  • Hold one of your books so your hands don’t shake.

  • Smile and ask the person at your table what kind of books they like. This can work if you’re nervous about talking about your book at first.

  • Have a tagline ready that you can recite to anyone who asks what your book is about. Then hand them a postcard with part of your blurb on it (or your book so they can read the blurb on the back).

  • Practice signing your signature before the signing and make sure you have a good pen.

  • Sit down when you sign, but stand back up when you greet or say goodbye.

  • Have post-its on your table to ask so you can ask everyone to write their names down. This will help you not misspell names.

  • Thank them for coming and always give them something so they don’t walk away empty-handed. 

Author of Hurricane Crimes, Seismic Crimes, 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.

QUESTION: What are your book signing tips? Have you ever done a spin on a book signing? Tell us about it!

AUGUST 3RD QUESTION: What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

 *Add this question and your answer to your August 3rd IWSG Post.

Monday, July 11, 2016

How to Instill the Joy of Reading and Storytelling in Children by Jemi Fraser

As a teacher, I often hear adults telling me that it's such a shame that kids don't read or write anymore.


They haven't been to my school!

Of course, there are always kids who don't like to read, just as there are always kids who don't like to play volleyball, or study Science, or do long division. On the first day of school, I always ask who likes to read. Generally I get about two-thirds of the hands to go up, leaving me with one third I have to work to convert. When I tell them, they'll all like reading by Christmas, they give me sympathetic smiles and shake their heads.

They're almost always wrong.

Most of the people who don't love to read have some sort of struggle with it.
• they struggle with phonics and/or sounding out words
• they can't visualize in their heads as the story unfolds
• they have no interest in fiction
• they have some kind of learning difference or disability
• they need glasses
• they have low self-esteem or self-confidence
• they're not risk takers

There are (obviously) many ways to solve all of the above troubles, but one of the best ways to encourage kids to love stories is to read aloud really good ones. I try to choose books that encourage conversation and books they've never encountered before. I very, very rarely choose books that have been made into movies (and I get really annoyed when the powers who be turn one of my faves into a movie!). Maniac Magee. Underground to Canada. The Giver (BOO to the movie people!). Ranger's Apprentice. The Shadow Children.  And Then There Were None. Hatchet. Ice Dogs. And so many more.

Despite themselves, students get caught up in our stories and discussions. I NEVER turn a read aloud into an assignment. It's all about pleasure. 

I've had classes beg to hear the ends of stories. One class insisted I read aloud on a bus ride because they HAD to know what happened next. I've had entire classes in tears when we got to THAT scene in The Outsiders. I've had students rage and argue about book endings (I'm looking at you, Lois Lowry!). I've had students write to authors on their own to talk about books. I've had students who professed to hate reading turn into some of the most passionate readers I know.

And I've had students create magic by writing their own stories.

Confidence starts early. By reading and hearing really good books, students learn how stories work. They inhale the rhythms of language and plot. They know the joy of the happy ending and the incredible power of a not-so-happy ending.

People are natural story-tellers, but we often have the squelch our innate tendencies as we learn to behave 'properly' in public. Kids are more willing to take risks, and, as adults, we often need to take ourselves out of their way and let them create.

Maybe one day, authors will be more filled with confidence than you and I, and we won't need wonderful sites like the IWSG! While that day isn't today, I have faith it won't be that far into the future!

So, tell me, do you have any memories of favourite books you had read to you?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. She blogs  and tweets while searching for those HEAs.

*Voting for the IWSG anthology contest genre has ended and the winner is - FANTASY! Keep watching for the theme. Contest opens in September.*

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Insecure Writer's Support Group Day & Vote For The IWSG Anthology Genre

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Everyone is encouraged to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. 
Today's co-hosts are  Yolanda Renee, Tyrean Martinson, Madeline Mora-Summonte , LK Hill, Rachna Chhabria, and JA Scott! 
Don't forget to visit them and thank them for co-hosting.

We’re revving up IWSG Day to make it more fun and interactive! Every month, we'll announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

TODAY'S QUESTION: What's the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?
My first piece of flash fiction (104 words) accepted by an online magazine in 2013, came with this (shortened version) editorial response:

Ha! Love your story Blast From The Past!
I was reading it thinking, WHERE is this going...and you got there in perfect time.

I burst out laughing and will publish it on August 14th.

The comment opened my eyes to the importance and power of pacing. Pacing is the rhythm of your story, the speed at which the events unfold and the rate at which the reader reads. It was quite a challenge getting this to work within 104 words!
I keep a printed copy of the e-mail. This was a major boost to my confidence and cemented my love for flash fiction.
What's the best thing someone has ever said about your writing? Share in the comment section below! 

This year will see the second annual The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology being published and the contest kicks off  in the fall. You get to vote for the anthology genre!
There are 10 genres to choose from. Please vote only once. Voting ends on July 8th. The theme will be revealed after the genre is chosen. Then you'll be able to write a story for the contest.

Facebook Features
Our Facebook group is currently at 3260 members. The special feature days are M-W-F. Join us on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Wednesdays of the month, for fun and interactive posts.

1st Wednesday - IWSG Day (remember to link your blog post url to the badge pinned at the top of the Facebook page)
2nd Wednesday - Wacky Words where you get to "invent" a wacky definition!
3rd Wednesday - Ongoing Story where you add your sentence and watch the story grow!
 4th Wednesday - Silly Mistakes where you get an opportunity to share a silly mistake you've made during your writing career, and have a good laugh!

5th Wednesday - Wow It's Wednesday which provides an opportunity for a mid-week boost and announcements.  
 A reminder that we are also on Twitter - catch us at @TheIWSG.

The next IWSG day is on August 03rd.
AUGUST 03rd QUESTION: What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?