The 15-Minute Writer: Book Marketing in Life’s Margins

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Photo by Bench Accounting via Unsplash.com.

We writers wear many hats these days. In addition to writing proposals, queries, and manuscripts, we’re expected to market and promote our books through social media, speaking, radio/television interviews, and book-related events. Whew! What’s a busy author to do?

First, don’t get too overwhelmed. No one can do everything, so take that expectation off your shoulders. Take deep breaths. Now…don’t you feel better? Let’s do our part, and leave the rest in the hands of the Author of our life stories.

Second, after you write it but before your book releases, experiment with different marketing ideas to find out what you enjoy and are good at naturally—Facebook parties? Speaking engagements? Library visits?—and concentrate on those things. The fun you experience will come through, and you’ll sell more books (and even if you don’t, you’ll have more joy. And who doesn’t want that?).

Third, pray for wisdom, discipline, and creativity. After all, God gave us the idea and the opportunity to write a book, and He cares about the people who will read the message we’re sharing.

Finally, clear a few minutes in your schedule and write “marketing” on your calendar in a small window of time. This way, you’ll do a little bit every day. (It’s like the old question, How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!)

To help you get started, here are a few book marketing tasks that take 15 or 20 minutes, tops (just make sure each is related in some way—via a hashtag, link, or text—to the volume you’re promoting):

  • Write a short blog post
  • Draft a newsletter for your email list
  • Brainstorm a free resource to offer your list
  • Update a social media profile to reflect your new release details
  • Write a Facebook status or Twitter update
  • Take an Instagram picture and upload it
  • Read a blog post on another author’s site and comment on it (thanks to Michele Niefert for this idea)

    A photo by Alejandro Escamilla. unsplash.com/photos/N7XodRrbzS0

    Picture by Alejandro Escamilla via Unsplash.com.

  • Rate/review a similar book you’ve read on one of the major bookseller’s sites
  • Ask friends on Facebook or Twitter to review your book for you
  • Share another author’s book, which is related in some way to yours, on a social media platform
  • Update your website or blog in some way
  • Draft a query letter to a magazine on a subject related to your book
  • Ask other bloggers to review your book (Elizabeth Evans shared this tip with me)
  • Create an image on Canva or PicMonkey with a reviewer’s blurb on it and Tweet it (a terrific idea from journalist and author Simran Sethi)
  • Write a thank-you note to a book reviewer, librarian or bookseller
  • Follow-up with a meeting planner or editor you pitched but haven’t heard back from
  • Set up an Eventbrite page for a future workshop or seminar you’ll lead on the book topic
  • Read a book marketing article on line or in The Writer, Poets and Writers or Writer’s Digest

Now it’s your turn: share in the comments. What are your favorite—or most effective—quick marketing tasks?

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The 15-Minute Writer: Tips for Creatives Who Parent

 

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Photo source: https://unsplash.com/giuvicente

I began writing before God blessed me with children, and in the last eighteen years, I’ve birthed two boys and eight books. Being an author has been a grand adventure. It’s also kept me sane.

Seriously.

After having my oldest, who was a very high-needs baby, I suffered severe depression and stopped writing. One day, my counselor asked me, “Why aren’t you doing something that makes you light up whenever you talk about it?” Her question helped me realize God had called me to writing not only as a ministry to others, but also for my own growth and happiness.

Combining parenthood with a creative passion can be challenging, but I believe it’s worth the effort. If you’re a parent who longs to create, here are a few tips from the trenches:

Make the most of your kids’ sleep times.  When Jordan and Jackson were small, I used nap times to write instead of clean. Hiring a once-a-month housekeeper was well worth the expense…even when I didn’t get paid for writing. If you work full-time, dedicate a few moments after bedtime (or before your children wake up) to your art. A Netflix binge won’t feel as good as creating something–I promise.

Apply your creativity to time management. Once my sons were old enough, I enrolled them in Mother’s Day Out (two days a week) and dedicated those twelve hours a week to my art. On days we were together, I did household chores and errands with them in tow. I’ve also written by hiring a temporary sitter or working when my husband was at home. When my husband and I both worked full-time, we made one Saturday a month “guy time.” The boys enjoyed days with Dad while I worked on upcoming deadlines.

Work away from home. If you can swing it, try to write at a coffee shop or restaurant with free wifi. Another helpful habit is to participate, at least once a year, in a writing conference or retreat. For me, the expense of travel has paid off in contacts, clarity, and opportunities. (It also helps my family realize all that I do, and they appreciate me more when I get back. Talk about a win-win!)

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Photo source: https://unsplash.com/impatrickt

Say “no” to distractions. Every artist who makes time for their passion has to say “no” to social events, book club meetings, and various distractions (such as Facebook posts about organizing closets). On the days I set aside to write–first proposals and queries, now articles and books–I worked. Even if I set self-imposed deadlines, I tried (and still try) to meet them if at all possible. Take yourself seriously, or no one else will.

Be patient with yourself and your goals. I found this very difficult at first, because I began writing before my kids were born, and I’m a very goal-oriented person. However, I found contentment when I surrendered my dreams and accepted that the kids needed me now, while the writing could often wait. Try to picture your artistic pursuits as a marathon, rather than a sprint.

Pay it forward. God gave me a supportive spouse who’s also creative, so he understands my calling. I don’t take that for granted, and I try to let him have space to pursue his own passions. I also have a heart full of gratitude for the precious relatives, friends, and colleagues who’ve encouraged me along the way.

Today, I hope I’ve given you a bit of that same encouragement.

Your turn: if you’ve combined parenthood with a passion, share your tips in the comments. (Hurry, before the kids wake up!)

The 15-Minute Writer (part two): 5 Ways to Get Organized

(Read part one of the series here.)

Are you having trouble writing because you can’t see past the piles of books, Post-it notes, and paper on your desk?

Trust me, I’ve been there. I’m a pile-r by nature, a fact that has frustrated my  husband–and me!–more than once.

If you have limited time to write, though, getting organized is absolutely essential. After all, you don’t want to waste precious minutes you’ve scheduled for writing on finding lost items–or clearing your messy desk.

So here are my top five organizing tips for busy writers:

1. First, figure out your organizing personality. For example, don’t try to use notebooks if you’re not a notebook person. If you love technology and abhor piles of paper, go paperless. Hate Google calendar? Admit it! Don’t try to fit yourself into someone else’s mode. It doesn’t work in the long run. If you’re visual, you might need a big bulletin board or calendar on the wall in your writing area.

2. Set up a system you’ll want to use regularly. Why spend time on something if you’re going to dread it? If you love bright colors, use them in your file folders.  Play your favorite CDs when you’re going through receipts—or watch a funny movie while you’re organizing your calendar and notebook.

3. “Backwards plan.” I learned this handy phrase when my husband took a church administration course during seminary. It’s been invaluable for both of us. Here’s a short explanation of the BP process: Take a deadline (or set one for yourself) and mark it on your calendar. Then take all the tasks you’ll need to complete in order to meet the deadline—interviews, outlining, writing a rough draft, revising—and decide how much time you’ll likely need to complete each one. Then plan backwards, setting yourself mini-deadlines.

4. Set aside a few minutes of each writing session for de-cluttering. You need time to delete old material, back-up files, tame paper piles, recycle books, and throw out trash–or you’ll be on the way to auditioning for Hoarders. Once you’ve gotten organized, five minutes a day is do-able and will go a long way toward keeping your desk, computer, and writing space organized. Believe me, once you make this a habit, you’ll be glad you did!

5.Use OmmWriter. (Thanks to writer Duane Scott for this fabulous tip!) He said, “It blocks out all distractions (email, social media, chat messages, etc…) and provides you with a completely white screen with only a blinking cursor. It also offers different peaceful backgrounds and music to accompany your writing. Another great feature: you can set it to have a manual typewriter sound effect when you type.” The cost for all this? A one-time fee of $4.99.”

Your turn: what are your most effective organizational strategies? I’d love to hear them!