Monday, March 27, 2017

What the Heck is Copywriting Anyway?

Bryan Cohen's Many Hats
Let's Welcome Bryan Cohen who can tell us all about Copywriting and how authors can use it in their marketing. Hi Bryan. It's so great to have you here today.

Bryan: Thanks for having me!

You're the copywriting guru, so what’s your definition of copywriting? Why should authors know the techniques of copywriting?

Bryan: Copywriting is the act of writing all the words that go outside of your book. Book descriptions, emails to readers, and advertisements all fall under the copywriting umbrella. Consumers choose to buy items due to a combination of factors including price, social proof, and copy. If that’s true, then that means improving your copy can improve the chances that you’ll sell any given item.

If authors know how copywriting works, then they can improve their chances of selling more books. It’s as simple as that.

Well, everyone's interested in better sales, so this is great information. How is copywriting different from writing fiction or nonfiction?

Bryan: Copywriting is persuasive. You’re trying to get potential readers to take an action, whether that’s buying your book or joining your email list. Copywriting also requires a different kind of editing. You aren’t just writing one rough draft and then editing from those first words you blurted out. You need to give yourself multiple versions to work with to ensure you have the most powerful copy possible. It’s different from writing prose. It’s almost more like poetry.

It looks as if copywriting takes some practice. I'm always working on writing a good hook. For those who are new to this business, can you tell us what a hook is in the book description and what should it do?

Bryan: The hook is the first line in your description, which is usually separated from the rest of your copy by a paragraph break. The hook (also known as a tagline, log line, headline, etc.) needs to concisely explain why this book of yours is a must-buy for the readers of that genre. It’s the highest possible top-down view of your book in a short, sweet package that tells romance, thriller, sci-fi, or other readers that they’ll love your story. It tells nonfiction readers what problem your book will solve.

It’s a line that gives you a chance to close the sale in 20 words or less.

I can see why that hook deserves a lot of attention from us writers. Now can you tell us what three basic strategies a new author needs to help them sell their books?

Bryan: Your copy (from your book description to your emails) needs to be compelling, concise, and easily understood.

Your funnel (your email list) needs to be set up properly to turn strangers into fans for life before bringing in more strangers.

Your network (who you know and how well you know them) must continue to grow over time to bring you more potential readers in the long run.

Those are excellent strategies, Bryan. Thanks. I know you're a man who does a lot of different things. Tell us about some of the hats you wear.

Bryan: I’m a new dad! That’s pretty exciting. I do tons of stuff, from podcasting and coaching authors in book marketing, to writing comedy and running a weekend soccer team. You’ve heard of a know-it-all? I’m a do-it-all.

What’s 2nd most important (after being a mindful husband and father) is helping the author community to grow, improve, and sell more books.

You are a "do-it-all!!!!" And a huge congrats on the new baby.

And a huge congrats on your book series. You didn't mention it, but Ted Saves the World is ready for readers. 


And here's his hook: Ted Finley was your typical, wise-cracking teenager… …until an otherworldly force gave him abilities beyond his wildest dreams.

Thanks so much for the great information. And stop by his site(s) to get much more. You can find out more about Bryan and his book marketing training at SELLING FOR AUTHORS. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

It's That Conference Time of Year

Writing is a lonely and complicated business. There are ways to keep the enthusiastic fires burning. One of my favorite is attending a conference every year. As an board member of Pennwriters, I attend that conference every year and do what I can to help the organizers. If you're in the Pittsburgh area the third weekend in May this year, please join us. Chuck Sambuchino is our keynote speaker this year. Read his advice about attending a writing conference.

Is Pittsburgh outside your comfortable travel zone, there are conferences everywhere. Check out IWSG's conference page. Pick the month you can attend and find something in your area. But there's more to picking a conference that it being a convenient location.

Picking a conference.

*First, find a conference that is within your budget. Some one day affairs can cost less than $100 dollars and other large weekend conferences may be priced in access of $1,000.
*Make sure the conference has offerings to fit your needs. Do you need basic writing craft advice? Do you need workshops on promotion and the use of social media?
*Will there be a opportunities for you to pitch your work to agents and editors?
*Will you get something in return for your investment?

Once you're at your conference, what things shouldn't you do?

*Don't just hang out with the people you already know. Sit with strangers at meals. Talk to people between workshops.
*Don't drink too much. The bar can be a great place to network, but be careful.
*Don't go to the conference expecting to be a perfect time. There will be blips and some disappointments.
*Don't go over your budget. It's tempting to buy lots of books at the book sale or spend a little extra at the bar, but you'll regret it later

Do this at your conference.

*Do have fun. Yes, it's related to your work and career, but you love writing.
*Do know what you want to get out of the experience and look over the schedule so you can plan ahead.
*If it's your first time at a conference, especially a big one, attend the orientation session they'll probably offer.
*Be flexible. You should make a plan but don't be afraid to alter it if you decide you want to change things up once things get underway. Don't get upset if s workshop gets canceled or a presenter doesn't show up. It happens a lot.
*Dress comfortably but still be professional. Shoes especially need to comfortable. You will walk more and stand more than you expect.
*Do carry business cards. You'll meet busy people and it's the quickest way to exchange information.
*Network, network, network. Meet people and then make sure you follow up with new friends and opportunities.
*Volunteer. Introduce speakers, help pass out things, take a turn at the information table.
*If they're not too expensive, do the after hours extras. Some are special social events and others are group critique sessions.
*Hangout in the social areas like the lounge and the hospitality suite. You'll get a chance to talk one on one with some of the presenters in those areas.

Have you ever attended a conference? Did you get your money's worth? What would be your top reason for attending a conference?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Interview with YA Rebel-Author, Barry Lyga

Today we welcome Barry Lyga, a writer who's not afraid to write in many different fiction categories and to explore darker themes in his books.

Hi Barry. Great to have you here.

According to your bio, you’re a comic book collector. What are your favorite or most prized comics? And can you tell us a bit about your life in the comic book industry?

My most prized possession comic book-wise is an original copy of Adventure Comics #247, from 1958! It’s the first appearance of my favorite team, the Legion of Super-Heroes. My local comic book store came across a copy about twenty years ago. I couldn’t afford it at the time, but the owner was a good friend of mine. He took the comic and hid it behind the counter. Every time I had a spare twenty bucks or so, I’d give it to him and he’d keep a running tally until I’d paid it off. I basically bought that sucker on layaway, which most comic book stores won’t let you do. He could have probably sold it to an established collector for a lot more, a lot faster. I love that damn comic.

You’re called a YA rebel-author. How did you come by that moniker? Do you think of yourself as a rebel?

Kirkus called me that when they reviewed the first book in the I HUNT KILLERS trilogy. I tend to think if you think of yourself as a rebel, you automatically disqualify yourself from being one. I was initially caught off-guard by that label, but I came to understand why they said it — I usually write radically different kinds of stories, as opposed to authors who find a niche they like (say, thrillers or romance) and generally stick to it. I’m all over the map — thrillers, sci-fi, comic books, slice of life, what-have-you. That prompted them to call me a rebel, which is totally their prerogative, but I never think of myself that way. I just write what interests me and then cross my fingers and hope that it will interest others as well!

You have a new short story coming out each month of 2017. Wow! Can you tell us a bit about what’s behind this year-long commitment?

Shortly after the election, there was a lot of angst and anxiety in the arts community. And people were saying, “What can I do to resist?” The usual answers were “Call your representatives” and “Organize at the local level,” which are eminently sensible and effective suggestions. They are also things that I’m happy to do. But I kept feeling as though there had to be something I could by dint of my specific skill set, such as it is. And I realized in December that the ACLU not only was going to be enormously important to preserving our democracy, but also that it had already drawn a line in the sand. I’m a member and I could always give them more money, but I thought, “What if I did something that went beyond me? What if I did something that could bring in dollars that the ACLU wouldn’t see otherwise?”

We often read discussions about how difficult it is for writers to know when a story is finished and ready to send out. Do you have that difficulty? What is it that tells when it’s really time to write “The End” and send the manuscript into the world?

Nah. I usually know the ending long before I get there. I’m EAGER to get there. I don’t write stories to sit with them — I write them to share. When I get to the end of the story and feel a sense of satisfaction, I know it’s done. It’s baked. Time to take it out of the oven and put it on a serving platter.

Do you have any inspirational quote or secret sauce for success that you’d like to share with our readers?

“Just do it ’til it’s done,” a friend once told me. I was stuck on a novel a million years ago, years before I got published. And I was wallowing in self-pity and remorse, whining about how hard this was, and so on. And this friend of mine said, “Stop whining. It’s a book, not a tunnel through a mountain. Sit your ass down and write. Don’t think about how. Don’t think about why. Just write. Just do it ’til it’s done.”

I printed out a sign that said, “Just do it ’til it’s done” and hung it over my desk for many years. We writers can be exceedingly precious and find reasons not to work, always looking for some mystical combination of elements to prod our inspiration, but at the end of the day, there’s no magic to it. You just sit down and write until there’s nothing more to write. Just do it ’til it’s done.

Thank you so much for being here on the Insecure Writers Support Group. You've given us a chance to know you better and shared some of your insights as a writer. We appreciate it so much.

You can see all of Barry Lyga’s books on his website. His latest book is I Hunt for Killers (Little Brown). It has an intriguing plot that explores the effect of murder on the family of a killer and his community.

Connect with this author on Twitter  Facebook  and Tumbler

Monday, March 6, 2017

Why Switch Your Point-of-View?

 In editing stories I wrote ages ago, I can’t help noticing how my writing style has changed. I’m worse than neurotic when it comes to editing, so it takes me longer that most to feel that process is complete.  Sometimes it happens that I have to adjust the point of view depending on the story. There's one particular novel that I wrote in third person omniscient because of the unorthodox way in which it is told.  

Some things had to be revealed from the perspective of adults and I wanted readers to have an up-close and personal experience, no matter which character was on stage. I think I eventually did a decent job of that in going for deep point of view.  The filters between reader and character/s were removed, which created a rich reading experience.  

An aside here—every time I edit a book written ages ago, I regret not learning the craft properly before I started writing novels. It would have saved me a lot of time and energy as it pertains to editing.  

By changing the set-up in the novel I mentioned, I was able to tidy things up nicely for publication.  That said, have you ever had to overhaul a novel and switch up the point of view? What’s your take on having different points-of-view—including that of an adult—in a YA novel? Which point of view do you prefer writing in?  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Insecure Writer's Support Group and Twitter Pitch Event!

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. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

Our awesome co-hosts today are Tamara Narayan, Patsy Collins, M.J. Fifield, and Nicohle Christopherson!

Optional March Question - Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

We have a lot of cool things in the works for our members, including another anthology opportunity and an upcoming Goodreads book club group.

Hashtag #IWSGPit

July 27, 2017, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Eastern Time

All writers and authors are invited to participate in our very first Twitter Pitch. Create a Twitter-length pitch for your completed and polished manuscript and leave room for genre, age, and the hashtag. On July 27, Tweet your pitch. If your pitch receives a favorite/heart from a publisher/agent check their submission guidelines and send your requested query. Many writers have seen their books published from a Twitter pitch - it’s a quick and easy way to put your manuscript in front of publishers and agents.

We invite all of you to join us that day! Authors with a publisher or agent, please ask if they would like to participate or pass along their contact information to the IWSG. We intend for this to be a twice yearly event, July and January, giving our members a great opportunity for publication. Help us spread the word!

See the IWSG Twitter Pitch page for details and a sample email to send to your publisher or agent.

New Swag!

Check out the IWSG Swag page for some cool new stuff, including mugs and erasers.

The tiny profit we make from sales of IWSG swag goes to fund opportunities to make the IWSG better for everyone and extend our reach. We recently created our own business cards and have other exciting options in the works.

Please support the next IWSG anthology, Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life, by signing up for the Thunderclap campaign.

The anthology authors are working hard to market the book. They’ve also set up a Hero Lost website, covering everything from the theme and genre to the stories and authors.

Last but not least, we need co-hosts for April, May, and June. Co-hosting means a lot more visitors to your site that day and it’s a lot of fun. Please leave a comment if you can help.