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This week, I’ve had a few conversations about art and the value of it. For many people it feels indulgent to create art if there is no end goal (i.e. monetary payoff) and then there is the question of how to price something (in this case it was a comparison of three paintings worth thousands of dollars and which was worth more than the other).
This got me thinking about value because one of the biggest barriers to people creating written material is the idea of spending two, five or even ten years on a project that may never get read, let alone published.
I’m all for making money from writing, in fact I make a living from it in various forms (writing, publishing, coaching) but there is a benefit to it that far outweighs the money – the health benefits.
If we think about the three areas of life that are most important to health – mind, body and spirit – writing can improve all three.
Writing keeps your mind sharp. You know that old saying, use it or lose it? Writing, even if it’s simply to write in your journal, will boost your memory and comprehension and also increase your capacity for working memory. You could equate it to going to the gym for your brain. Aside from better brain function, writing will boost your mood and create better mental health.
You could say that sitting at the desk hunched over computer or notebook is bad for you physically (yes, it is) but writing lowers your stress levels and we all know what stress does to us physically. If you don’t, go do some research. If you can reduce your stress levels, you will improve your immunity to disease.
It’s very easy to become spiritually bereft if our life is all about working to put food on the table. Writing, or any creative outlet, nourishes our spirit. It’s a form of play that allows us to forget about a stressful life for a while and reconnect with ourselves.
I’m no scientist and I haven’t delved deeply into the facts and figures but this is what I’ve learned from my own writing practice and from talking to countless people about it over many years. For some, writing has saved their life. This is worth much more than any dollar value.
If you spend just ten minutes a day writing in your journal or working on a writing project, you will notice the improvements to your life very quickly. I liken it to a form of meditation, something I do for myself when so much of my time is devoted to other people. If you can steal another ten minutes on top of this, all the better!
I’m always happy to connect with people who would like to delve deeper into their writing practice. You can email me here.
Blaise the book chick
*As an aside, reading is equally beneficial and goes hand-in-hand with writing.
August 27, 2020
It’s well known that word of mouth is the best way to sell books. In fact, it’s the best way to sell anything. To create word of mouth, you and your book need to be visible in as many areas as possible. Some do involve you being on camera but there are ways around that if you absolutely can’t do it.
Create a list of the kinds of activities you do feel comfortable with and then make a four-week plan for implementation. Promotion should be a regular activity if you want your book to do well. Remember that you have written a book, this means you have a ton of content right in front of you that you can repurpose in many ways such as extracts, educational snippets, fun facts and teasers.
- Create a website. This is your shopfront and the ONLY place you have control over online.
- Create a YouTube channel to share videos relating to you and your book(s).
- Create a list of popular hashtags that are relevant to your genre for social media.
- Search these hashtags on social media and engage in 10-15 posts.
- Join 2 reader Facebook groups – engage in the group at least once a week.
- Share posts about your book on social media.
- Create a trailer for your book (this doesn’t have to be Hollywood quality).
- Video yourself 9or someone else) reading an excerpt from the book, post it to YouTube and share on social media and your website.
- Create a giveaway and ask people to share on social media in order to go in the draw.
- Send an email to your list sharing any of the above.
- Create a profile on GoodReads.
- Engage in posts on GoodReads to build your community.
- Once your book is published, claim your book on GoodReads as the author.
- Ask people to post reviews for your book on GoodReads.
- Have a one-week promotion of your book at a lower price.
- Create a one-page info sheet to send to media, bookstores, libraries.
- Create some visuals to post on social media that entice people to want to know more about your book.
- Give away 5 copies of your book in exchange for reviews.
- Create printed promotional materials such as bookmarks, flyers, posters or a pull-up banner.
- Start a blog to share your writing process or background information about your book such as characters in fiction or your experience for non-fiction.
- Look for opportunities to be a guest on a podcasting show.
- Team up with other writers to cross promote.
- Contact libraries to offer yourself to do an author talk.
- Contact your local newspaper with a media release for a profile (they love supporting local authors).
- Attend an open mic night or business marketing group to share your book and make connections.
Put aside 1-2 hours per week for a list of activities around promotion so you aren’t overwhelmed.
Each month at Busybird Publishing, we have a one-hour Publish for Profit session where we talk about writing, publishing and promotion of books. Feel free to join this free zoom session on the first of each month 8-9pm (AEST).
We also run a monthly open mic night on the third Wednesday of each month, also run via Zoom (7.30-9pm AEST) while we aren’t allowed to meet in person.
Blaise the book chick
August 12, 2020
Self-help books are big at the moment. Let’s face it, the world feels a little broken and everyone is looking for a quick fix. Most notable is the fact that we have everything and yet there are so many unhappy people who can’t understand where they went wrong.
This means that there is a big market for self-help. You just need to name a problem and promise a solution. Easy, right? It is actually easy but so many people get it wrong. Here are some pitfalls to avoid in order to get your book into reader’s hands.
You might have a ton of experience over a number of different things because of your life experience. It might be certain business skills, wellbeing tricks you’ve learned and you may have survived cancer thanks to a variety of tools you have acquired. This doesn’t mean that your whole life experience needs to go into your book. You may actually have two or three books worth of content. Be focused about what your book is about.
Too much story
If you have focused what your book is about, this hopefully won’t be an issue but there is a tendency with many, many authors to put everything they know into the book. Before you know it, you have written 100,000 words. No one will want to read it because ‘quick fix’ is what they want.
Overuse of ‘I’
Don’ be a Donald Trump. While you may be talking about the wealth of experience that you have, make sure you are relatable to the reader. Show them how they can benefit from this book. Use ‘you’ and ‘our’ more than ‘I’ unless you are relating an actual anecdote to demonstrate a point.
Don’t make promises to the reader about how this book will solve their problems, but not show them how. It will just make them irate. Show them a problem, along with the how to fix it. This means giving clear instructions that go from A to B showing the reader how they can help themselves fix things. Hence the term Self-Help book.
A flooded market
Once you have focused on what you want to write about make sure you check out other books on the market to ensure you aren’t reinventing the wheel. Going to Amazon or GoodReads is a good start. Think of some tag words that people might use to find your book and see what comes up. You may see lots of similar books. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write yours but if you do, think about what your point of difference is.
There are of course many other aspects to writing your book to consider but these are the most common that I see. If you are really serious about writing a book, I will be running an online 3-hour workshop. Check it out here. Or, if you are ready to publish, check out my book here.
Blaise, the book chick
June 10, 2020
There are many reasons why you might write about your life. You may have had an adventurous journey that people will be interested in reading about, or you have overcome trauma and come out of it stronger and happier than ever with a lot of great experience to pass on to someone else. It might just be a bucket list item or you want to leave a legacy for your children. Whatever the reason, you’ll find this expedition rewarding in many ways.
The most common hurdles that I come across when working with people writing their story are not knowing where to start and thinking they don’t know how to write. Like anything, when you break it down it becomes less of a daunting task.
By tapping into your emotions, you will draw deeper into your story. I call this writing from the heart. This takes courage. For some writers, they are not ready to ‘go there’ yet. The event they’re writing about may be too recent and will present them with too-raw emotions. Even events from far back in your past can bring up emotions that you haven’t dealt with properly or you may not realise there are emotions attached to them.
How do you tap into these emotions?
Write it out!
There are a number of writing exercises that you can try but one that I use often with workshop participants is this: Write a letter of gratitude.
Pick someone from your life (past, present, dead or alive) who has had an impact on your life. This influence can be positive or negative. This is one of those exercises that can go anywhere depending on the choice you make. The idea is to thank this person for what they brought to your life. How fully are you going to turn that tap? The more water you let out, the more emotions will flow. If emotions don’t come, think about what you’re writing about or the person you’ve chosen. Are you playing it safe?
Once you’ve made your choice, sit with it for a minute or so and think about this person from all angles. Write a few specific words. How does this person make you feel? Angry, sad, nostalgic, frustrated, happy? Don’t over think this because it should be as free flowing as possible. Remember the tap, the free-flowing water. Writing will be like this if you don’t overthink it.
Now set your watch to ten minutes and write your letter.
When the timer goes off you may still have more to write. That’s okay. This is an exercise to get you going. You may or may not use this in your story but with practice, you will learn how to switch it on. It takes courage to open yourself fully and write authentically. You need to do this if you want to connect with your reader. Don’t be an old, rusty tap.
Try this exercise a few times, thanking a different person. Why not write one to yourself or your pet?
If you need help to get started on your life writing, we can help you through our online workshop this coming Saturday. Check it out here.
Blaise the book chick
May 27, 2020
Do you know your publishing opportunities? It’s all very well to write something and think it will be published just because you wish it so. The more publishing history you have, the more chances are that your story will be wanted by a publisher. There are so many options and to get the best outcome for your story, you should look at what your options are.
No matter what you are writing – essay, short story, novel or memoir – there’s bound to be a writing competition that will suit you. The great things about competitions are that there is usually prize money and if you win your story will be published. Don’t enter if publication isn’t part of the competition. Another reason to enter a competition is that it will give you a goal to complete your story by the deadline of the competition, and to make it as good as you can.
There are often call outs from magazines (print and digital) for articles or short stories on specific topics. It’s worth a look on Google to see what’s out there. Be mindful of word counts for these as they are strict and need to adhere to space, hence the word limit.
There are lots of anthologies out in the marketplace that publish short stories and articles. Again, it’s a matter of researching what is out there. Some anthologies ask you to contribute to the cost of publication, others will pay you. Avoid paying to publish if they ask you to pay for a large quantity of books. Always, when paying to publish, look at the fine print and look for negative reviews about the publication.
We have a very strong small press industry in Australia. To find out more about some of these publishers, check out the Small Press Network (SPN). We’re members of this fabulous group. Small Press publishers don’t have the overheads of some of the big publishers and so are not as risk averse. There may be an opportunity for you to be published by one of them.
Of course, we’d all love to land a contract with Hachette or Penguin or Allen & Unwin but it’s a waiting game and very few people actually get a contract, (around 2% of submissions). Again, it’s about knowing the market and looking out for opportunities. At the moment, Allen & Unwin have re-opened their Friday Pitch, so check that out if you are writing adult fiction, non-fiction or illustrated books.
Of course, you can take matters into your own hands and self-publish. But only do this if you are willing to do the work to make it a great product. Treat it like a business. You will need to invest money but please don’t take out a second mortgage on your house. Publishing your book won’t cost that much if you do it right. And don’t do it if you are wanting to publish a best-seller. No one can predict a best-seller. To date we have worked with over 500 people to self-publish and the overwhelming feeling is that it is fun and rewarding.
So, where do you find out about all of these opportunities? Often libraries have information but there are writers’ centres in most states that you can become a member of (recommended) and they will tell you about lots of what has been mentioned above.
We often run competitions and publish books that are either author contributed or we pay for the story. It depends on funding and the publishing situation. Our latest competition opens next Monday 1 June. Check it out here. We’ll also be opening our short story anthology on 1 September, where we pay for the story.
Get educated and learn how the publishing industry works. This is one of our missions, to educate writers about writing, publishing and their Intellectual Rights/Property.
Go forth and publish!
Blaise the book chick