The Doubting Devil Sitting on my Shoulder

September 30, 2018

58142732A few days ago, I was congratulating a friend on an accomplishment.  This particular friend was rather delighted because someone in a position of power had given my friend’s writing a big thumbs up for a great piece of writing.  It made no difference to this friend that I had been saying the same thing all along.  “Your writing is great.  You’re a writer.”  There was so much self-doubt none of my repeated kudos made their way through.

Finally, having been told by this powerful person, my friend finally said “I’m a writer” and is very happy over that fact.  LOL!  Then the statement was made that I, Maggie Rivers, do not have those feelings of self-doubt.  I corrected my friend in a heartbeat.  Yes, Maggie Rivers has that little voice inside my head which says your writing sucks!  It’s not any good at all.  Nobody will ever read it and if they accidentally picked up a copy of my book, they’d toss it in the garbage because it’s that bad.  My characters suck, my plot sucks, my conflict sucks!  I suck at writing and everyone knows it and I’ll never be any good.

Yes, there are days where the last thing I ever want to do again is put words on paper.  There are those days when I’m so depressed over not being on the New York Times best seller list, I can’t see my computer screen for the tears.  I fight that depression every day, just like every other writer out there.  None of us feel our work is of the caliber of the great ones.  We all have that self-doubt.  Yes, I fight the same depression other writers fight.  I fight those self-doubts daily.  So why would my friend think I don’t.

Maybe it’s because I don’t show it.  What you see is the smiling me.  The me who loves writing.  The me who wants to touch someone’s life in a good way.  The me who wants to help any “wanna be” writer achieve their dream of becoming published.  To touch another individual’s emotions to the point they send me a fan letter telling me what my book has done for them, how it helped them get through a particularly tough time in their own life, or how it made them laugh out loud, is simply priceless.

2013-03-23 22.50.14Yes, I doubt my writing on a daily basis, but I’ve fought to achieve my dream and I simply refuse to let any Doubting Devil take it from me.  So, when your own Doubting Devil raises his/her ugly head, stuff its mouth with manuscript pages and keep on writing!

I am Maggie Rivers and I AM a writer!

 

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How to Create Ripples – Part VII

September 23, 2018

Water-Ripple-5Natural self-promoters don’t say it once.  They say it many times. We have to make multiple impressions.  So keep those ripples going.  Here are a few more ways to create them.

Pay attention to booksellers.  Don’t treat the bookseller like the help.  The person behind the counter or on the floor is the most important person in the bookstore.  Why?  Because they put your book in customers’ hands, or on display.  Also, booksellers gossip.  They meet other booksellers at various functions where three things happen.  Drinking, recommending books and gossiping about authors.  So remember to always smell nice and speak kindly to all the booksellers in the store.  And always ask for the appropriate person, i.e., the book buyer or events coordinator instead of the owner or manager.  People who want to complain ask for the owner or manager.  And by all means, no matter what shelf you find your book on in the bookstore, always, always, thank them for carrying your book.

Blog Book tours are a fun way to promote your book.  If you’ve never participated in one, here’s how it works.  Have your friends feature you on their blogs around your release date and you in turn do the same for them.  It’s fun, cheap, and helps drive traffic to both blogs.

Promotional items can be expensive.  But, you can make your own bookmarks using lightweight cardstock.  Include your professional photo on them as people tend to keep things with photos.  Be sure to autograph them as well.  Then hand them out wherever you go.  Place them inside bills you mail out.  Don’t pay your bills online – you’re missing out on a promotional/name recognition opportunity!

Do innovative things by thinking outside the box.  One writer did a book signing at her local Curves, an exercise place for women only. She did it in January because that’s the busiest month of the year for exercise (remember New Year resolutions). The owner talked it up to her clients, had a poster board display of the book displayed at the front desk and pre-sold twenty-one books to women who weren’t going to be able to attend the autographing but wanted books signed. Twenty-one books at a book signing is fabulous! Think outside the box.

Donate copies of your books to charity auctions.  There’s a charity auction out there for everything so pick a cause and go for it!

You need an electronic Media Kit as well as one you can mail out as needed.  Put your bio, your professional photo and any clippings from newspapers, etc. that you’ve accumulated into it.  Then, send out press releases every time you do a book signing or an event of any type.  There are plenty of books to tell you how to do a press release.  Just be sure to tell them how to get to your Media Kit to find more information about you.

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How to Create Ripples – Part VI

September 16, 2018

images-2Name recognition is an asset we can take to the bank.  Keep in mind that IT’S NOT ABOUT SELLING BOOKS!  It’s about SELLING YOURSELF.  Think about it.  We writers are different from other artists out there.  Take for instance someone who draws/paints.  They can hang their art work in a public place for anyone to see or even on the refrigerator door.  But, for a writer, until someone actually reads our work we’re stuck in obscurity.  So we need to build a reputation to bring people into the bookstores looking for us.  The experts say we need name recognition and in order to be remembered people need to see and hear our names five times before they remember it.

How do you do that?  Easy ways are through your blog and newsletters, of course.  Go out to Amazon and other sites and write reviews for your fellow authors.

Does your UPS driver know you’re an author?  What about the nurses at your doctor, dentist or vet’s offices?  Your hairdresser/barber?  Does your mail person know you write?  Every time a repairman comes to my house, I send a goodie bag home with him to his wife or tell him to give it to his girlfriend, etc.  First, the bag has my logo on it and inside the bag I place a book, two or three business cards, postcards and any other item I have on hand.  Sure it costs a few bucks but I usually gain a new fan who then tells her friend about this author who …

I even mail copies of my books to on-line people I do business with.  For instance, the first time I contacted my “go-to” guy for promotional products, I was extra nice and made sure to thank him profusely for all his help in ordering.  I went overboard calling him awesome, wonderful, etc.  I laid it on so thick he had to laugh.  Then when the items actually arrived, I emailed him and told him my items had arrived and how excited I was to get them, etc.  I started that email with “hello oh great and wonderful guru of all things promotional.”  Why?  Because it made me memorable to him.  It made his day a little brighter and gave him a chuckle, I’m sure.  I even managed to work in the fact that Mouse, my teacup chihuahua, thought he was wonderful, too, and that I was a published author.  That in turn, led him to tell me about his dogs and that his wife loved romance books.  I asked, of course, if I could send her a free copy of my book for all his hard work.  He loved it.  I got two new fans plus they talked me up to their friends.  I also made a friend who now contacts me when he has something promotional he thinks would fit with my writing.  He lets me know when the company he works for is having a sale plus he gives me an extra discount which certainly helps.

I help other writers as much as possible.  I’ve had friends and family who, after finding out that I’m an author, have contacted me for help in writing a book.  I’ve had fans who mentioned they had always wanted to write a book so I take the opportunity to offer help in getting started.  I’ve had several who actually went on to write and publish their own book.  I’ve had others who have given people my name to contact me for help.  It’s getting your name out there.

So get out there and make your name memorable.  Then, when someone goes to the bookstore looking through books for something good to read and they see your name, and recognize it as a name they’ve heard somewhere before, they buy the book.

The constant “buy my book, buy my book, buy my book” spiel is like a used car salesman.  People tend to run the opposite direction.  So get out there and sell yourself first!

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How to Create Ripples – Part V

September 9, 2018

preview16Let’s talk publicity.  First rule of thumb is “Be Prepared.”  You need to be prepared for that phone call from the media, a radio talk show or even Oprah Winfrey.  Will you ever get that phone call?  Maybe or maybe not, but you do need to be prepared for it and many more.

So, think about it.  Have a friend or significant other phone you as if they’re someone in the media and start asking you rapid fire questions so you have your standard answers ready to go.  Make your answers interesting, humorous and spontaneous sounding.

Research your target publicity market.  Find out how they do things and tailor your publicity talks around what they do.  Cultivate your media contacts.  Stay in touch.  Let them know you’re available at a last minute notice.  At times, for one reason or another a guest has to cancel and they need someone available to fill that spot immediately.  Keep on their radar so they know they can call on you to fill that spot at any time.

The slowest week for the media is the week between Christmas and New Year.  There’s nothing going on and the media is trying to fill time slots.  Plan something interesting.  Years ago I read a publicity book on how to get some free television publicity.

I will forever remember the story he talked about in that book.  The day after Thanksgiving it is tough to find a decent story.  Government offices are shut down and police departments are running on skeleton staffs.  People are home eating leftover turkey.  So this particular reporter was trying to come up with something to put on the news when his phone rang and a guy tells him about a turkey he has.  Seems the guy just couldn’t bring himself to kill this particular turkey and when asked why not, he tells the reporter it’s because he just looks too much like Elvis.

So the reporter, desperate for anything, jumped in his car and headed out to see Elvis Turkey.  When he gets there, he has a hard time seeing the resemblance to Elvis but the owner says wait a minute and proceeds to take the little piece of skin that hangs down from the turkey’s beak and throws it back over the turkey’s head.  Then he says “now don’t that look like Elvis’ hairdo?”  The reporter still doesn’t exactly see the resemblance so the man says he sings.  He takes hold of the turkey’s wings and they start dancing around the barnyard while the man sings “One for the money …” and the turkey answers with “Gobble, gobble, gobble.”  So the man and the turkey dance around the barnyard singing “Blue Suede Shoes” while the cameraman takes the photos and, you guessed it, that night on Dallas TV news was the story of Elvis Turkey!  It was even picked up by a couple of the big all news networks.  The object is don’t be ordinary – be memorable!

So plan your publicity now and be memorable!

Stay tuned for next week’s blog, and I’ll give you more ideas to add to your ripple effect.

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How to Create Ripples – Part IV

September 2, 2018

images-2So far we’ve been talking about mostly free ways to start your ripple effect.  The best piece of promo material you own is your book itself.  Use your book to sell it!  A tantalizing excerpt will make a potential reader a definite buyer.  Never ever underestimate the power a great excerpt has in promoting your book.  An excerpt should tantalize, entertain and let the reader see a glimpse of what they’ll be purchasing but the key thing is it should leave an impression.  Make your reader wonder why, what and how.

Try guest blogging and interviews.  While a new author doesn’t have an established fan base, guest blogging with other authors will help you make contact with new readers.

Another thing that’s free and easy is to give free talks.  That’s right.  There are lots of organizations out there who need speakers for their monthly meetings.  Most can’t afford to pay a speaker fee.  However, they will let you bring your books and sell them after the talk.  So give a talk.  What can you talk about?  How about the day in the life of a writer?

And while you’re doing free talks, try radio!  There are over 700 phoners (talk shows) that need guests every day!  Right now, those 700 phoners don’t know you exist.  Tell them!

Did you know that in the world of marketing, a potential buyer needs to hear your name 5 times before it gets lodged in their heads and then another 5 more times to get them to buy anything with your name on it!  It’s not the one big thing that works but all those dozens of small things that you’re consistent with which makes a difference!

And don’t forget to write a comment on other authors’ blogs.  It’s disheartening to spend time putting up a blog and nobody comments on it.  So, if you want your blog to be commented on, go comment on other authors’ blogs.  They’ll return the favor when you get your blog out there.  And who knows, that little author whose blog you comment on now, may just turn out to be Big Name Author when you need the favor returned.  Could you imagine having Big Name Author comment on your blog and how many books of yours that might get sold to their readership!  It’s that well-worn rule of “Do until others …”

So start creating your ripples by throwing out some pebbles.  Stay tuned for next week’s blog, I’ll give you more ideas to add to your ripple effect.

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How to Create Ripples – Part III

August 26, 2018

Water-Ripple-5So, you’ve gotten some business cards and have started actually handing them out.  Good for you.  Remember to have them with you at all times and pass them out daily.

Next thing is to concentrate on your website.  I know, I know.  People seem to think they don’t really need one, but yes you do.  Because that’s the first place an editor looks and if they can’t find what they’re looking for in three seconds or less, you’ve lost out.  So get a website.  If you can’t build it yourself and make it look professional, get a college student to do it for you.  Check with your local college for the class on web design and let a student use your website as their project for the class.  It does need to look professional.

You’ll need a professionally done photo of yourself for your bio page which should have two bios on it.  One will be your professional one for use by the media and the other will be a fun one for your readers to learn more about you.

Also, you’ll need a “Books” page that has cover photos of all the books you’ve written with links directly to purchasing them.  You want to make it as easy as possible for your fans to be able to go right to the site to purchase any or all of your books.  If you have a series, be sure you note which one is the first, second, third, etc.  Make it as easy for your fans as possible.

A word of caution on the series though.  Once you’ve gotten a few books in your series published, don’t list them by first, second, etc.  Sometimes, a reader will look at one of the books, say number fifteen in the series and decide they don’t want to invest that kind of money into fifteen books so they look for another series to start.

You should also have a link on the website for your newsletter.  That way your newsletter program can collect email addresses for you to use not only when sending out your newsletter but when you want to announce a new book or some event that you’re having.  Your fans want to hear directly from you.  Those are the ones you cultivate.

If you are self-published, you may think I don’t need a website for an editor to locate me.  But, what if Mr. or Ms. Editor stumbled upon one of your books somewhere and likes it enough they want to contact you and possibly make an offer.  So they jump on the internet, which is what all editors do, and oh, you don’t have a website.  That tells them you’re an amateur right off the bat and the one million smackeroos contract they were going to offer you for the movie rights just flew out the window.  Oh, but like you say, you don’t need a website.  Think again.

Make your ripples and throw out some pebbles.  In next week’s blog, I’ll give you more ideas to add to your ripple effect.

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Play Music on the Porch Day

August 25, 2018

berea1Today is Play Music on The Porch Day – Worldwide! From 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

“What if for one day everything stopped…and we all just listened to the music?”

It started as an idea in 2013 and it spread around the globe.  Last year, thousands of musicians from at least 40 countries and over 400 cities participated.

Today, join in the fun!  Everyone can participate.  If you can’t play an instrument, grab a couple of spoons and beat out the rhythm.  Or grab a trashcan and turn it upside down and bang away.  Just play something – anything!  It’s easy!  Just go outside and play music.  Participate alone or invite a bunch of friends to gather on your own porch or wherever you play.  Share a video on your social media platform and add #playmusicontheporchday.  Keep the video, if you do one, family-friendly!

It doesn’t matter what you play, when you pick up your instrument and start to play the world disappears and you get lost in the sound. Music goes way beyond words. It soothes the savage beast.  It’s in our blood, our bones and the depths of our soul.

Most of you probably know I play musical instruments with the main one being piano.  I started learning piano in first grade and I’m so glad I had that opportunity.  I’m not Carnegie Hall material but I do okay.  Now, I am learning the hammered dulcimer and the mountain dulcimer – two very different instruments.  I’m having fun with it as well.  When my creative writing side needs a lift, I will spend hours playing whichever instrument fills my musical need at the moment.  There’s just something about music.

Back when I was a kid, relatives gathered around on my grandparent’s porch and in their yard and played music way into the evening hours.  I’m not talking about amplified guitars and such but the acoustic guitars, banjos, fiddles, harmonicas, jugs, spoons, juice harps, etc.  Anything laying around was fair game to thump out a tune on.  Those were happy times.  The music was good.

So, you can bet I’ll be participating in Play Music on The Porch Day!  I’ll be playing music on my gazebo!  Maybe I’ll even video it.  Come on outside with me and let’s have some fun!

How to Create Ripples – Part II

August 19, 2018

ripplesofwater2So, what does a writer do to get their name out there?  That’s the question we all want answered.  Let’s start with something easy and not too expensive.  It’s so much easier now than when I first started writing.  With the advent of the internet, spreading your name out into the world is easy and inexpensive.  If you don’t already have a website, get one.  That’s the first place an editor goes when they receive anything from you.  They want to know that you’re really trying to be an author and not just a hobbyist.

Your website should contain your bio and a “professionally” done photograph of you for a minimum.  Also include a link to your blog or other social media pages.  Don’t overload yourself on the social media pages.  It takes time to update them on a regular basis and that steals time from your writing.  However, you fans do want a place where they can go to learn about you and interact with you, so pick one or two to use.  Then keep them updated regularly.

In addition to social media, the next thing I would do is get some professional business cards.  You can do some searching to find the lowest price but be careful.  There are some unscrupulous businesses out there.  I know of one place which offers an extremely low price on their business cards but, when you check your statements a few months down the road, you find they’ve charged you yet again for the same order.  And, once you finally get that straightened out, they do it again.  So be careful out there.

Business cards are a must.  Hand them out everywhere.  And, I do mean everywhere.  If you’re at a restaurant, leave two on the table.  When going through the local drive-thru, hand two through the window.  Pay your bills by check and insert a business card/bookmark or whatever you have into the envelope along with your payment.  Getting gas, go inside and leave a business card with the attendant.  As I said, leave a business card everywhere!

Start collecting email addresses for your newsletter.  Yes, you need a newsletter.  It doesn’t have to be a weekly or monthly event.  You could send out one four times a year or even twice a year, but you do need to start one.  For those who are published already, send out a newsletter each time you release a new book.  For those unpublished, send out one four times a year letting your fans know what you’re working on.  Keep them apprised of how hard you’re working to complete your book, what research you’ve been doing or what research problems you’ve run into.  Build up that list continually.

Those are just a few inexpensive ways to get your name out there.  Start now to make your ripples and throw out some pebbles.  In next week’s blog, I’ll give you more ideas to add to your ripple effect.

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MARKETING AND PROMOTION FOR WRITERS or How to Create Ripples

August 12, 2018

RipplesWriters are a solitary bunch.  Most don’t like being in the spotlight.  We would rather be sitting in front of our computers creating people, worlds and plots.

Once you get those people created and those worlds built, you have to present them to the public if you want your book to become a best seller.  That’s where writers seem to have the most difficulty.  Marketing and promotion.  Two simple words that carry the proverbial “big stick.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re traditionally published, unless you are already somewhat famous, the traditional publishers aren’t going to throw their marketing/promotion dollars in your direction.  You have to promote yourself until you become worthy enough that the big guys begin to notice you making a name for yourself.  Then, they may decide to throw a few dollars in your direction and might even set you up with a book signing.

As an indie, you have to do the marketing/promotion efforts yourself also.

So, what does a writer do to get their name out there?  How do you get noticed when you’re just a small pebble?  It’s the ripple effect.  You do a little bit here and a little bit there and watch the ripples spread.  You can drop a pebble in the middle of a lake and eventually the ripples will hit the shore.  The bigger that pebble, the bigger the ripples and the faster the people on the shore will see them.

So, get busy and throw out some pebbles.  In next week’s blog, I’ll give you some ideas of what you can do to start your ripple effect.

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OVERCOMING THE FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING FOR AUTHORS or How to Survive Standing Up in Front of a Crowd

August 5, 2018

nervous-public-speaking-clipart-7.jpg“What?  Me get up in front of people and talk!  You’ve got to be kidding.”  I hear that frequently from other writers.  But think about it.  Why Do Authors Need Public Speaking Skills?

Why do most people rank the fear of speaking in public higher than the fear of death? Or, as Jerry Seinfeld said, “Most people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.”

I don’t know about you but if I had wanted to speak to strangers all the time, I’d have gone into politics. I’m better at writing.  That’s why I write.  Oh sure, maybe those famous authors like Nora Roberts and Stephen King need to be able to get up in front of a crowd, but me, I’m just a writer.  I’ll never have to speak in front of people like they do? Well, think again, honeybuns.

nervous-public-speaking-clipart-1Matter of fact up until I decided I had to actually promote myself I was petrified of getting up in front of anybody.  It didn’t matter if it was one person or a hundred.  I was petrified.  I can remember back to my high school years (stop that – I know what you’re thinking!) having to give speeches in English class.  I was so scared by knees shook, my teeth chattered and my voice cracked all over the place.  I broke out in a cold sweat.  At times, I would get physically sick.  I had to read my speech even though I knew it by heart.  Standing in front of the class was extremely mortifying to me.

Public speaking isn’t a skill we’re born with, it’s learned and practiced.  Even the people you see who seem to actually enjoy speaking in front of a crowd usually didn’t come by it naturally.  They had to learn it.

a-female-speaker-addressing-a-conferenceIn today’s writing world, it isn’t just the book that sells. It’s the author. You have to sell not only your books, but you have to sell yourself as well.   If you choose to publish the traditional route, you have to sell yourself to publishing houses, editors, agents, and other industry professionals.   “Oh, well, in that case, I’ll just self-publish my books,” you say.  You’ll have to do even more speaking in public.  You have to sell yourself to your readers.

At some point in your career, you’re going to have to leave the house, and be a public face to your author name.  Read that sentence again.  Yes, you’ll have to speak in public.

But you don’t have to fear it as much as I did.  You can start now to sharpen those speaking skills.

speaking-keynoteTake a look at some of the various opportunities where authors might be meeting with strangers and need some public speaking skills.

  • Pitching
  • Reading out loud at critique groups
  • Discussing revisions and changes with an Editor or Agent
  • Making idle chit chat with people at a conference or during a party
  • Research interviews
  • Book signings
  • Workshop presentations
  • Library group talks
  • Book readings
  • Media interviews (radio, TV, newspaper)
  • Keynote addresses at conferences
  • Award acceptance

I’ll bet you didn’t even think going to critique group was a public speaking opportunity?  What about conversing with your editor about changes.  That’s just talking, no big deal. Yet the same skills are required for formal speaking engagements, like keynote addresses or workshop presentations.  It’s the same set of skills necessary for informal speaking opportunities, like critique groups.  For any of the above situations, you need to be articulate, charming, friendly, accessible, and knowledgeable.

In your regular day-to-day life, you can get by without being that charming, sociable author person.  When you’re meeting an editor or agent, or a reader you hope will buy your book, you have to switch into that alter ego person and sparkle.  When I’m going to a book signing, I become Maggie Rivers, author.  The rest of the time I’m just plain ol’ me.”

As an unpublished author, let me point out you need to overcome your fear of public speaking simply because you’ll eventually have to pitch your book to an editor or agent. Doing it with confidence in your voice and manner will say as much as the words you have so carefully prepared.

TEDWomen2015_attend_heroThe bottom line is you want to sell books. Lots and lots of books. And in today’s writing environment, you have to market yourself as well as your books. Think about your writing career and give some thought to how improving your public speaking skills will enhance not only your image but it will improve your sales.

So don’t wait for those speaking opportunities to come to you – go out and find them!