I recently learned that Sisters in Crime, a mystery author organization, plans to launch a new chapter in the Houston area where I live. It's pretty shocking that the fourth largest city in the United States hasn't had a chapter before, but it's finally coming and will be a welcome development for mystery writers in our area.
But I know for writers of many other genres, it's not a big deal. Which spurred me into thinking about how we find the right writer organization to join. Is it just the genre you write? Who's on your doorstep? Where you've always participated?
The most common type of writing organization may be genre-specific, with the purpose being to serve members who write a particular kind of story. You probably recognize some of these groups:
- American Christian Fiction Writers
- Horror Writers Association
- International Thriller Writers
- Mystery Writers of America
- Romance Writers of America
- Romance Writers of Australia
- Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America
- Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
- Western Writers of America
- Women's Fiction Writers Association
Some of those larger organizations also have chapters that address specific subgenres, like RWA's online chapters.
Some writing organizations are just for authors generally, though often with a focused mission.
The Authors Guild's stated purpose is to aid and protect "author's interest in copyright, fair contracts, and free expression." Across the pond, The Society of Authors is a United Kingdom trade union "for all types of writers, illustrators and literary translators, at all stages of their careers." I'm sure others exist around the world.
Then there's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which encourages writers of any background to pen a novel in the single month of November. But their writing sprints tool is open year-round, their sister organization Camp NaNoWriMo hosts a summer event, and they have a Young Writer Program. NaNoWriMo isn't really an organization as much as a community, but it can be worthwhile for many writers.
Stage of Journey
Other organizations or chapters of organizations focus on where you are in the journey: Are you a newbie? An up-and-coming author? A multipublished bestseller?
For example, Novelists Inc. is for multipublished authors who've reached a required level of income and tends to focus its programs on the publishing industry. Guppies is a chapter of Sisters in Crime that focuses on helping unpublished writers navigate to publication. And The Author's Guild mentioned above has membership levels that range from Professional to Emerging to Student.
Somehow there's nothing quite like getting in a room with other writers. As much as I treasure both my introversion and my online connections, I've found so much value in engaging face-to-face with my "tribe."
Most large genre-based organizations have chapters around the U.S. that host regular meetings and offer educational opportunities. But there are also independent writer's groups that crop up in various areas.
When I went looking, I discovered everything from Alaska Writers Guild to California Writers' Club to Wyoming Writers, Inc. In my own neck of the woods, I'm quite familiar with the Writers League of Texas (Austin) and Houston Writers Guild. You can search in your own area to see what's available.
How Should We Choose?
Let me first say that I'm not vouching for these organizations. I know some well enough to say they're quality groups, but others I don't know anything about, other than they appeared to be both professional and active. So do your homework when figuring out who to join.
What I will say is this: Many writers join groups because they're easy—the one that's nearby, convenient, where friends are members. That could well be the group you should be in! But the primary question you should be asking is: How will this organization help me reach my writing goals? If the answer is that it won't, it's time to find another group.
Look, I'm a firm believer in community, but if it's just socializing you want, put down the pen, grab some friends, and go out for dinner. Your writing organization that you pay dues to should be helping your writing goals, whether that's better marketing for the 40 books you already have out or finishing that one memoir you're writing for yourself and your family.
Also, your needs may change over time, so that the group that was fantastic for you five years ago...? Not so much now. If you need something different, acknowledge that, wish your fellow members well, and move on.
Mind you, I'm not saying that everything an organization does will cater to your needs or that every meeting you attend will further your specific career plans, but the overall experience you have should be helping you reach your goals. Take a look around and figure out what will work for you. With so many choices, you can find the right place!
What writing organizations are you in, or what are you looking for in an organization?
Julie Glover writes cozy mysteries, young adult fiction, and supernatural suspense (under the pen name Jules Lynn). Her upcoming YA contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER, finaled in the 2015 RWA® Golden Heart®, and her co-written Muse Island Series is available now, beginning with book one, Mark of the Gods.
by Fae Rowen
Years ago, when I attended the UCI Summer Writing Institute, I learned about golden lines. These are the lines you go back and highlight after taking notes in a class or workshop or in a great book. These are the takeaway ideas, the ones you want to remember and implement in your writing.
Every year, after the annual RWA conference, I share my golden lines from the workshops and sessions I attended, so that those of you who were unable to take advantage of the talks presented by experts in writing and marketing are able to share in my experiences.
Here are my golden lines from this year’s conference in New York.
From Skye Warren, an indie author who accidentally grossed over seven figures in sales last year:
Your visibility = conversion (sales). More conversion gives more visibility.
If you don’t already have a closed Facebook reader group, put one together. Ask questions and run polls about your books and your characters. Let these readers in as you get ready to write a new book, with questions about names, book covers, etc.
Use reader quotes in your ads.
Mobile Only ads have the highest conversion (click through to sales site).
Do not spend on a new release or the first book in a series.
Write a bonus chapter for your previous release. Update that book the day before the release of your new book.
Marketing does make a difference.
For more info: www.skyewarren.com/rwa19
Do not write description that is skippable, like, “I was nervous.”
Always tie descriptions to the story.
Use active verbs.
For deep POV, use the five sense like this:
- Sight: intellectual sense
- Sound: emotional
- Smell: memory sense
- Taste: deeply intimate; very sensual
- Touch: experiential sense
Example: “He walked in the room and I swear I felt a baby kick in my postmenopausal womb.”
- Get across the character’s experiences and choices, their belief system, the history of impactful life events.
- What is your character’s deepest fear? …deepest secret?
- Think about the purpose of every scene. Why would the reader care about that scene?
- Characters have opinions. Know them and show them.
- Show the push/pull between what the character is thinking vs what the character needs.
- Does the story arc move the character’s voice? Does s/he have different thoughts than in the beginning of the book?
Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts (AME:)
95% of all books are sold through personal recommendations. The micro-influencers have a smaller base, but they are more active.
Put clickable links in your newsletters and the back of your e-books.
Always put a call to action (ask for something) in each newsletter.
Vet your street team by checking their book reviews, that they’ve read all your books.
From Eliciting Emotion Panel of Mary, Winnie, and Reese:
Google up to twenty-one emotions. Our emotions are different because of:
- Sense of time (distortion)
- Sense of equilibrium (dizzy disorientation)
- Sense of space (how we perceive distance and bodies)
Everything is colored by our emotions.
Your word choices can affect the mood of the scene.
The use of character tells, like in poker, are subtle, but your reader will get it.
The age of your character at their wounding will be the age they will act when the same wounding comes back to hit them again.
What’s the bulls-eye of the scene?
Emotions come from the character, not from the plot.
The external goals keep the characters together. The internal goals keep them apart.
Ramp up the story tension to ramp up the emotions.
Laurie Cooper on Facebook:
Compare your page with similar pages.
Ask your readers how they found you.
When you get a sign up, give them a call to action, like read more, which is a button that takes them to your website and excerpts.
Share teasers with text, then share link not website with the buy link.
Sign up at www.amyporterfield.com for free tutorials.
Get reader permission for anything (quotes!).
Last Three Chapters: Teri Michaels:
The HEA has to be earned.
You can do the wedding/honeymoon after the book ends—makes a great follow-up novella!
We must see the moment that both people recognize they love each other.
What is the best "golden tip" you've heard from a recent class or conference? What "golden tips" of your own do you have to share?
* * * * * *
Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.
P.R.I.S.M., Fae's debut book, a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, and love is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.Fae's second book in the series will be available for pre-order October 1, 2019.
If you’re looking for a way to get yourself out of a creative rut, refresh your viewpoint, and bring new life to your writing, you may want to try going on a color walk.
What is a Color Walk?
American writer and artist William S. Burroughs came up with the idea of the color walk to inspire his students.
It’s really easy to do. Simply pick a color before you head out on a walk, and then let that color lead you on your route.
Follow that yellow bicycle until it goes out of sight or until another yellow object catches your fancy. Maybe it’s a yellow Labrador taking a walk with its owner, so you go the same direction for a while until you see a yellow car turning left at the next block.
You turn left, too.
Little by little, let the color lead you on a route you wouldn’t normally take, all while keeping your eyes peeled for new things containing that color.
Here are some other helpful tips:
- Give yourself an hour of uninterrupted time. Take your watch with you. Once thirty minutes have passed, turn around and head back, or arrange for a friend to pick you up wherever you end up at the end of the hour.
- Use your intuition to pick your color. Which one speaks to you today?
- Try not to talk or interact with others on your walk. Use it solely to observe your surroundings and allow your imagination to play.
- When you return from your walk, sit down immediately and record your observations, including any ideas that occurred to you while you were out.
5 Ways Writers Can Benefit from Color Walks
Anyone can benefit from a color walk, but they can hold some special creativity-boosting benefits for writers.
1. Spices Up Your Exercise
Writing and walking go well together. (Check out our post, “What Famous Writers Know About Walking.”) But let’s face it—sometimes those daily walks can get boring, especially if you’re treading the same old route all the time.
Focusing your mind on a particular color forces you to pay closer attention to your surroundings and creates new interest for your brain. Suddenly what’s old looks new, and that’s all it takes to make the walk more fun.
2. Adds Unpredictability
The fact that you need to follow the color takes all the routine out of your walk and plunges you into the unknown. You don’t know where you’re going to go or how you’re going to get there, and that simple change causes your mind to wake up and pay attention.
Don’t be surprised if after a color walk your writing descriptions become a lot more detailed and rich!
3. Gets You Out in Nature
Nature inspires creativity. Several studies have shown that walking, by itself, boosts creativity (by 60 percent in a Stanford University study!), and when you add in greenery and plant life, the effects are even greater.
If you think you don’t have time for a walk, reframe it in your mind—this is part of your creative work. You need to do what’s necessary to inspire the muse, and walking in nature is one of the easiest, least expensive, and most enjoyable ways to accommodate that need.
4. Gives You Another Way to Craft a Story
One of the fun things you can do while on a color walk is to take the items you see and bring them together into a story. Weave together the yellow bike, the yellow dog, and the yellow car into a series of events involving a character—perhaps one you see on your walk.
Allow your imagination to play. This story doesn’t have to become anything important. Use your color walk as simply a way to exercise your imagination, then see what you can come up with for a story, essay, or poem.
5. Livens Up Your Descriptions
We writers love to spice up our descriptions, and a color walk can help you do that. Try “interviewing” your color when you return from your walk. What did it have to say to you? What did it teach you? What do you think the color represented to you that day?
Write down the impressions you received regarding this color in general, and then see how you might use your findings the next time you need to describe a setting or a character.
Have you tried a color walk? If you haven't, are you willing to try one?
Colleen M. Story inspires writers to overcome modern-day challenges and find creative fulfillment in their work. Her first non-fiction book, Overwhelmed Writer Rescue, was named Book by Book Publicity’s Best Writing/Publishing Book in 2018, and her novel, Loreena’s Gift, was a Foreword Reviews' INDIES Book of the Year Awards winner, among others.
Her latest release, Writer Get Noticed!, is a strengths-based guide to help writers break the spell of invisibility and discover unique author platforms that will draw readers their way. With over 20 years in the creative industry, Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness and Writer CEO. Please see her author website or follow her on Twitter.
“You’re building a WHAT?”
“The whole THING?”
That’s where the next response will be different for each writer. Yes, some of us do build an entire world for our stories. No, some of us don’t.
But regardless of how detailed or how sketchy it might be, we can never write a story without creating SOME kind of world.
It might be as simple as a few lines about the setting. “Twelfth-century France, on the way to the Third Crusade.”
“A doughnut shop on Main Street where all the townspeople come to get their news.”
“The camp for women who served with Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War.”
Sometimes, that’s all the author—and the readers—need to envision where the book is set. For them, the world takes second place (or third, seventh or fifteenth place) to other aspects of the story ... like plot twists, character journeys, dramatic dialogue, emotional arcs, entertaining events and more.
Other times the world is an essential part of the book, without which the story would feel emptier. Lacking in richness. Imagine a Harry Potter story without Hogwarts Academy or an Eve Dallas story without the New York Police Department. Readers would feel cheated.
Series readers, especially, like seeing the touchstones they’ve come to expect in a particular story world. J.R. Ward, Susan Mallery, Robert B. Parker, J.R.R. Tolkien and dozens of other authors have created worlds that live far beyond the covers of each book in the series.
Other writers create a fresh world for every book, and their readers are perfectly satisfied with each new one they come across.
What belongs in your story world?
Obviously, it’s more than just the physical setting.
That doesn’t mean the place and time aren’t important. Where the characters are located, what surrounds the active area, what the weather is like, what hour of the day different scenes take place in, what seasonal events will affect the plot ... all of those matter to the story.
And that setting can be described in lavish detail or quick brushstrokes, whichever best suits the author’s voice.
There are times when it’s crucial for readers to have a solid grasp of the setting, like when clues are related to “the distance from the dock to the barn” or “whether sunset actually happened along the way home.”
There are also times when knowing details like the color of the heroine’s bedroom quilt and the sound of her clock gives the reader a welcome sense of being fully immersed in the story world.
Then there are times when such details diminish the reader’s interest, taking them away from character or plot elements and shifting the focus to things they view as immaterial.
Why time and place matter
Regardless of how extensively or briefly your physical setting is described, though, the time-and-place location plays a crucial role in making your story’s characters do what they do.
Taking real-life locations as an example. Nobody would expect the same response to news of a kidnapped child from someone living in present-day Jerusalem and from someone living in an Antarctic research station.
Likewise, the characters’ setting—whether or not it appears during story action—has already played a role in making your people who they are. If Elizabeth Bennet and Katniss Everdeen were faced with one another’s choices, we can figure each one would still value her beloved sister’s well- being above her own ... but what she’d do to preserve it would be completely different, based on the world she grew up in.
So whether or not the characters’ coming-of-age setting is included in your present-day story, it’s still going to affect what happens. Because it’s made them who they are, whether or not that’s something they embrace or want to change.
Accept it? Or change it?
Just as characters are faced with the decision of whether they’re satisfied with who they are, or whether they need to alter it somehow, that same question can apply to the world that surrounds them.
In fact, it often provides the conflict that gets a story started. Someone who perceives injustice in the way feudal serfs are treated by the local barons, or someone who dreams of a more exciting life in the big city rather than on an isolated ranch, is someone with a story ready to happen.
Conflict doesn’t have to come because of dissatisfaction with their setting, though. It can also come from someone else who wants to change it.
Say, the new boss who decides to transfer everyone to the upgraded headquarters office two hours away. Or the character’s true love who plans to pursue a new opportunity on the frontier. Again, there’s a conflict waiting to unfold.
And that’s still only the beginning of how the story world plays into making your book memorable.
We’ll go into more detail on that from August 12-23 during “More Than Setting: World-Building” at WriterUniv.com, but meanwhile I’d love to know what story world comes to mind when you think about those you’ve enjoyed reading ... or writing.
Somebody who responds will win free registration to the class, and everybody who responds will give the rest of us great ideas for books we want to read or re-read. So that’s my question for you:
What story world did you love reading or writing?
I’ll check back for answers throughout the day and tomorrow and congratulate the winner of the registration for the free class on Saturday night. I’m looking forward to hearing about some fabulous story worlds!
A novelist who won “Best Special Edition of the Year” over Nora Roberts, Laurie Schnebly Campbell always has trouble choosing her favorite activity: writing, reading or teaching. Her newest course explores building story worlds, whether they’re a completely fictional creation or an actual setting the author knows well.
From a business standpoint, giving something away for free to get a sale may seem counterintuitive. How can giving something away for free help you make money in the long run?
Think of offering those freebies as a marketing expense: the cost of exposure. Free promotions are a great way to get you exposure in front of your target audience. This exposure can help expand your following, and eventually this will lead to sales down the line. The key is to know how to take advantage of free.
Let me give you an example: One author I worked with held a freebie promotion that led to 37,000 downloads of her eBook. The following day, when the promotion was over, she sold 1,300 eBooks. While 37,000 seems like a lot of lost sales, it’s actually a conversion number. You can’t get all the 37,000 downloaders to become fans. Within that group are your fans and readers, perhaps around 1,000 or so. They are the people who take the time to read the book, and who may even write a review. You’ll gain enough of a following to start building a fan base, and you’ll continue to market to those people in order to keep the connection strong.
Don’t worry about the freeloaders. Instead, focus on those downloaders who will take the time to read your book and become fans.
How can you make this work for your book? Below are the first few benefits of free, as well as ways to use free promotions effectively to get more fans and sales.
1. It Makes Your Book Attractive
Being discovered by readers is a real challenge for authors these days, since there are an estimated 350,000 books published every year. Readers are inundated with choices. By making your book free, you make your title attractive, and make it easy for readers to choose your book— especially if you’re an author they’re unfamiliar with— over another author’s book.
Freebies are a way to introduce readers to you in a risk-free way, and there’s a good chance they’ll want more. By offering a risk-free introduction to you and your books, you gain fans who will pay for your books in the future.
2. Promotion is Easier
As mentioned above, offering something for free now can turn into a potential sale in the future. To make the most of this free promotion, and to make sure you reach the most potential readers, spread the word about your promotion. Share it with your email list, in your newsletter, with social media fans, etc.
For instance, take advantage of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program, which allows you to offer your book for free through KDP Select. You will have to sell your book on Amazon exclusively during this period, but it can be one of the most effective ways to make sure your book is seen by a large number of readers at once.
There are other free giveaway opportunities available on sites like Library Thing and Goodreads. Both of these sites allow members to give away copies of their books. Again, for these freebies to work, you do need to promote your giveaway, both on the site you choose and to your own network.
3. Pricing is Competitive
So how should you price your book once your free promotion is over? As mentioned above, readers are inundated with choices, and pricing can make a huge difference in which books readers will choose. If you want to build a fan base, you’ve got to price your book competitively within your genre or niche. How do you determine pricing? Look at books in your market and find the average price. Amazon is a good place to do this research, but keep in mind you may see a lot of eBooks listed for free as part of a promotion or the Kindle Lending Library. Look at regularly-priced books.
How to Use Free Promotions Effectively to Grow Fans and Sales
1.Give away more than your book: The concept of free extends beyond your books. Think of all of the additional freebies you can share with your fans, such as tips, videos, webinars, and content. They’ll all bring people back to visit your website, read your blog, and buy your other products.
2.Stay relevant:As you grow your fan base, make sure to keep people’s attention by checking in with them on a regular basis. You can start to grow this relationship by using the last page of your book to thank them for their purchase, encourage them to send you feedback, and ask them for a review. Let your fans know you’re interested in them and that you appreciate them. Once you have gained followers, cultivate this relationship by sharing ideas, posting great content, and making connections on social media. The more you reach out, the more effective you’ll be at building and growing your fan base.
3. Invite fans into your world:Use your blog, social media, videos, and more to draw readers into your world. Be informative and entertaining by providing additional fun, free content. For fiction authors, share tidbits about your characters, blog in character, ask fans to help you select music for the characters, or post fun quizzes. Nonfiction authors can use their expertise to create tip sheets, informational videos, and mini eBooks. Identify how you can connect with fans in different ways, and be sure to offer variety.
It’s important for you to remember that there’s no single marketing strategy that will help attract and retain fans. Instead, marketing is made up of a series of actions and consistent engagement over time that will help you to increase your following and keep them interested and involved. Freebies are only one marketing tool, but you now have the understanding and tools to make sure you’re using freebies effectively to get more exposure, fans, credibility, and sales over the long term.
For more book marketing tips, check out my new book, 5-Minute Book Marketing for Authors - Updated 2019 Edition.It’s out now and features easy and effective ways to market your book every single day in as little as 5 minutes!
Have you ever tried free? Any tips for us?
Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU. She was named one of the top influencers of 2019 by New York Metropolitan Magazine.
Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most innovative Amazon Optimization programs as well as Social Media/Internet book marketing campaigns. She is the author of eighteen books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon, Revise and Re-Release Your Book, 5-Minute Book Marketing for Authors, and Red Hot Internet Publicity, which has been called the "leading guide to everything Internet."
AME has had dozens of books top bestseller lists, including those of the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal.
To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at www.amarketingexpert.com.