Followers to Flyers: discovering what works

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This is my contribution to the first ever Online Marketing Symposium!

One month into my debut novel release and the word success is not on my lips, yet. But I remain optimistic because there are still promotions in the pipeline. ‘Spiral of Hooves’ was released on December 9th with an online party on Facebook, which was well attended. However, there was a slight delay, of a few hours, with the book appearing on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Since then it has been promoted to my followers and friends in a low key way on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and here. But I have not spammed cyber-space. Apologies if I have been in your faces for the last few weeks. I still need to learn the secret of keeping my followers happy. Treats?

The most useful marketing tools, so far, have been the two five star reviews that have appeared on Amazon. One has even been re-used, by the reviewer, to garner additional coverage on Facebook and an online equestrian site. There are some other reviews in the wings as the novel went out to some of my journalist friends, contacts from when I covered equestrian sports. As the novel is a thriller set against the sport of eventing, the forthcoming coverage in the sports main UK magazine, Eventing, could be key to the spring campaign. Use your contacts but don’t lose their friendship.

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

I have also sent the novel to some rider friends, including an Olympic rider, in order to get some useful quotes, and to spread the good news about the book being out. As one journalist friend said, ‘getting the word out in the lorry park will boost sales”. With that end I intend to produce some A5 flyers quoting the reviews and the name riders, and linking to my website and where to purchase a copy. Unable to hand these out at shows myself, being wheelchair-bound, I have some good friends that will get them in the right places. Despite being stumped from pressing the flesh in person, flyers might help spread the word at the grassroots. I have no previous experience of using flyers to promote books, so I will be interested to see the results for ‘Spiral of Hooves’. Later today I will check out the other blogs and see how others have fared with similar marketing techniques.

However, when I was in the film industry we used flyers quite often, although these were usually A4 glossy hand-outs that we used at film and TV conventions, including Cannes. We attracted interest, but not as much as we needed to fund a movie. Some were used for selling short films but it is hard to say how successful the leaflets were. All the sales were via a Distributor so our production company was last in line, having paid everybody else. Flyers do work for some producers and, from my observations, it was the hook plus pitch, the cover and elements like cast that were key selling points. But the flyers mustn’t have too much information. And that has to apply with book flyers as well. What are your thoughts on flyers? No better than random advertising? Destined for the recycle bin? Another useful tool in spreading the word?

For links to other participating Blogs and information on the first ever Online Marketing Symposium! please visit here.

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Writing Tips

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For Post 7 in the Indie Block Party the topic is: Share your most helpful writing tips and advice. What do you know now that you wished you had known when you started writing?

I always say that I wish that I had known that completing my first novel overnight wasn’t guaranteed or required. It’s been 13+ years and publication is just a few months away.

So for all you wannabe writers out there, with that one book crying out to be written, I need to say that it can take a lot of sweat and patience, plus discarded ideas and words, especially if all criticism is taken on board. But it’s all worth it. There are amazing moments especially when words flow and visions come to life on the page. Just give yourself time and don’t rush the creative process.

Tip 1: Learn the craft well. Writing is a craft that we all spend years perfecting, in fact for a lifetime. As wiser people than I have said, the best writers are always learning and consciously improving. Never stop studying your craft.

Tip 2: Be There. These words are posted beside my computer to remind me to live in my writing. Feel your surroundings as your characters do. Immerse yourself in the same way that you want the reader to be captivated. Leave the objective, critical, internal nit-picker locked away until the editing stage. Starve him somehow so he’ll work harder later.

Tip 3: Why? Posted on my wall under ‘Be There’. As a journalist I was often told to use the five Ws in the first sentence of the newspaper story, even if it was an outdated technique by then.  Who, What, When, Where and Why i.e. who is it about? What happened? When did it take place? Where did it take place? Why did it happen?  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Ws

For me this has been simplified to Why? – in the sense of Why is this happening? Why is the character doing this? Why am I changing scenes? Why am I using these words. Not all the questions but the best ones start with ‘why’.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tip 4: As they say in acting – Is your character always in character? Is your character always in the moment? Best explained at: http://writersinthestorm.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/small-actions-deeper-character-better-scenes/

Tip 5: Write that first draft as fast and furiously as the inner muse unleashes the words that she wants to inspire you with. Again don’t let the internal editor hold you back.

Tip 6: Take regular breaks, walk around the house… or in my case wheel myself around. When we move to our bespoke home it will be far easier to go outside, without changing wheelchairs and lifting them around corners. So my advice is mix writing with gardening perhaps, anything to move around as well as write.

Tip 7. Rewards: Not exactly the last one but the point at which the experts move into the wings. I could only add that beyond my writing I know that I will be rewarded with something I enjoy. For some of you that might be coffee, a muffin, chocolate or a shower, but for me it is escaping into another world playing some MMORPG.

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Have I done enough to go now, please?

Okay, guess not.

Here a few links to interesting articles that I have read in the last few days.

http://www.booksandsuch.biz/blog/things-happy-authors-dont-do/

http://www.ksdk.com/news/article/394179/71/Elmore-Leonards-10-rules-of-writing

http://jodierennerediting.blogspot.ca/2013/08/revise-for-success-stress-free-concrete.html

There are various sites I use including:

http://www.livewritethrive.com/

http://blog.janicehardy.com/

http://writersinthestorm.wordpress.com/

And as a crime writer:

http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.co.uk/

http://stacygreenauthor.com/

Finally a site that I have just discovered and started subscribing to:

http://afterwriterdreams.com/

And for other invaluable hints, why not visit the other Indie Block Party participants:

http://scotzig.com/indie-block-party/

Time Exchange

English: timeline example

English: timeline example (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does your favourite book capture a sense of time? Does time play out slowly or race along? How does an experienced writer catch such an intangible element as time in words?

Pacing is a key element to crafting a novel and wiser people have addressed it much better than I can in this beginner’s blog. However, I can address the lessons that I have learnt in my sporadic journey.

When I first started writing my first novel ‘Spiral of Hooves’, I resorted to simply inserting the date at the beginning of each scene or chapter. But although that works if the writer builds more subtle temporal clues onto this, I think for me it became a crutch. Although I had an initial timeline to guide me, I made the mistake of straying too far from it in order to make incidents occur in sequence. So when I was asked recently by my editor to check my timeline, I realised it was hopelessly out of date. Fortunately the juggling needed to bring scenes and chapters into line with the correct timeline was not too complicated, and the novel benefited.

As for the actual time scale of the story, that went from two years in the initial draft to nine months in the final one, which tightened the pace considerably. Faster pacing seems to make sense for a mystery, although I was never aiming for a thriller-type race against time.

Of course pacing is more than just saying: ‘Next morning’ or ‘Two hours later’ and I have tried to vary what happens in scenes and the words I have used. For instance, over the drafts I made better use of the seasonal changes in weather, vegetation and animal life. Keeping dialogue leisurely or snappy depending on the mood has helped I hope, although that will be up to my readers to decide. Have I been too overt by resorting to characters mentioning how many days or hours before a specific event or deadline?  Hopefully not and the readers will be caught up in the story.

Using beta readers, after about the third draft, has helped assess whether the timeline and pacing worked. Adding an editor into the mix has been invaluable – many thanks Yen, you’ve been great to work with. However, I have had to adapt a few things to an American readership, and explain some of the equestrian terminology. As ‘Spiral of Hooves’ enters the final furlong, I feel that the novel has evolved thanks to the input and the lessons learned. What occurs in the time before publication will be another blog tale.

Animated sequence of a horse pacing. Photos ta...

Animated sequence of a horse pacing. Photos taken by Eadweard Muybridge (died 1904), first published in 1887 at Philadelphia (Animal Locomotion). Animation by Waugsberg, 2006-10-8. (The sequence is set to motion using frames of Human and Animal Locomotion, plate 591, “Pronto” pacing) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For other drafted novels, I have tried to keep a closer eye on the timeline as I work on the plot. However, when I get round to editing them I need to take care that I keep the timeline updated. I also need to evolve the date/day references into more subtle and clever ways of showing the passage of time that work with the pace of the plot.

I’ve just outlined the sequel to ‘Spiral of Hooves’, which has the working title of ‘Tortuous Terrain’. Its timeline was complicated to plot due its background against two different equestrian competitions in the USA. Hopefully, as I write the first draft I can find the right words to capture time as well as the setting and characters. There’s an historical mystery in the wings too, set in both 1812 and the present day – ‘Seeking A Knife’. That presents an interesting challenge, but sometime in the future.

As for the blog title ‘Time Exchange’ that was Inspiration Monday – http://bekindrewrite.com/2013/07/15/inspiration-monday-look-at-me-now/. Not the requirement, but the title seemed to fit this piece: an exchange of experiences from me to you.

Now it’s your turn: what do you find gives inspiring writing a sense of time?