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In the June 24, 2013 issue of The Journal, Juliet Lauderdale interviewed Yawatta Hosby, an author and founder of The Procrastinators, a writers group in Charles Town, WV, about her career as a self-published author. Here is an excerpt from that interview:
Though the traditional method for becoming known in literary markets is via an MFA program according to William Miller, Ph.D., director professor of George Mason University’s MFA program. He said self-publishing has gained enormous popularity in recent years among writers who desire to maintain control over their project.
Hosby said for her this means determining the pace at which she will complete a project, the edits she will accept or decline, a book’s cover design and her product’s pricing.
Additionally, not wanting to spend the average $30,000 it would cost to complete a typical MFA program, Hosby, who is a 2000 Jefferson High School graduate and a 2004 graduate of West Virginia University, said she was confident she could obtain essential writing experience and training on her own, and she utilizes social media to gain exposure.
The self-starter said her research revealed that she would need to build a platform early to build an audience, so Hosby created a writer’s blog, which so far has received 16,000 hits.
She also created pages on Facebook and Twitter. She connects with other writers via Goodreads, and she added that The Absolute Write Forum is the best website she has found to network with publishing industry professionals to gain marketing and promoting tips.
The article contains more information for those who wish to self-publish a book. To read the entire article, click here: http://www.journal-news.net/page/content.detail/id/595927/Aspiring-authors-talk-self-publishing–creativity.html?nav=5006
Over the next two weeks, I am going to PUSH to get the editing finished on the novel, so that I can put it into the hands of an editor. Also, I have a 8,000 word short story that I also want to release about the same time as the novel as a $.99 special on Amazon.com.
The short story is titled “Strange.” I am thinking of a marketing teaser that goes something like this:
Everything in this story is strange, from the name of the town to the personality of the male character to the abnormal fear of the female character to the strangely fatal miscommunication between them.
If you were a reader, how would that strike you? Does it make you curious about the content? Are you tempted to read the story? Let me hear from you. Your feedback is helpful to me. Thanks.
My goal for getting the short story onto Amazon.com is the end of June. There is much to do between now and then. I’ll share my learning curve–and mistakes–with you. Better you learn from my mistakes than have to make your own.
There will be cover art to commission, editing and formatting to accomplish, and finally uploading the manuscript. Then comes the marketing. If I come across as a little overwhelmed in the next few weeks, the impression will be accurate.
My publisher Lauren Carr is also an author. In the past six months, she has released two books. Her birthday is coming up. Do you know what she is doing to celebrate? She is spending the day writing on her next novel. My bet is, that by summer, she releases another book. That means she will have written three books within a year.
Several successful authors are prolific–meaning they write more than the traditional one book per year. If the authors are managed by a traditional publishing house, they have to use pen names to put out the extra works.
The luxury of self-publishing or independent publishing is no one restricts your output under your own name except you.
Remember, the statistics say that momentum in book sales doesn’t kick in until the author has three to five titles published.
Do you want to wait three to five years to get that momentum going? I don’t know about you, but I’d like to speed that process along by writing and releasing more than one book per year.
Of course, I am not one to talk, given I have plodded along on my first novel for two years. I hope that my history of writing at a snail’s pace is about to change.
One of our Writers of the Desert Rose Cafe members started the ball rolling on marketing. He used an inside contact to connect me to the head librarian in charge of programming. That conversation led me to volunteer our writers for library programs. The librarian offered to refer news of the release of Writers of the Desert Rose Cafe, An Anthology to her press contact at the local newspaper. Consequently, a reporter from the Lifestyles section called me to schedule an interview.
I invited our publisher Acorn Book Services to attend the interview. This turned out to be a good move for many reasons that I’ll share in a minute. My thought when inviting the publisher was as a thank you for helping us and sharing a bit of the limelight.
During the course of an hour-long interview, I learned that the reporter attended the same seminar at the library where I first collected names to form Writers of the Desert Rose Cafe. That coincidence warmed him to us because he had first hand knowledge of our origins. That piqued his curiosity about how we moved from a start-up organization to a published entity in a relatively short period.
Further, the reporter was on a first-name basis with our publisher. The publisher offered to place an advertisement on the same page as the article in the newspaper. That financial incentive is apt to generate a better place on the page and a longer article than our group would get on its own. The reporter also proposed sending a photographer to the next meeting to snap a some candid photographs of the working group to go with his article. Photos are eye-catching and will draw attention to the article.
Finally, our most organized member and I took the publisher to lunch after the interview to discuss costs for producing print versions of the book. That led to conversation about select members appearing at a writing seminar as members of a panel during a teaching segment. Mr. Organization will not let that opportunity fall through the cracks. He’ll stay on top of it to be sure the writers group seizes every chance to promote our endeavors.
Do you see how that works? Chances are if I cold-called either the library or the reporter directly, the response would have been less successful. But by networking through personal connections and utilizing the special talents within the group, Writers of the Desert Rose Cafe will get free publicity both through the news story and through the local speaking circuit.
Commercial success for writers is like success for politicians. It all starts locally. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the exposure translates to sales!
It’s crazy. Just when I have plotted out my life for the next umpteen months and settled back to work the plan, Life throws me a curve ball. It shouldn’t surprise me.
Enough seasons have passed through my earth-bound existence that I should know better than to think any long-term plan will play out exactly as I have envisioned it. It must be the optimist in me, for I keep planning.
Or maybe it’s my insanity. You know the old definition of lunacy: doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different outcome.
However, my recent roadblocks are just that–little obstacles. The unanticipated hiccups don’t really change my plans. My destination is still the same: write books. Now, I will have a few detours through unfamiliar neighborhoods. That can be a good thing, right? It adds color, dimensions, flavor to my collection of life experience.
I’ll stop rambling and be more concrete.
I make my living by farming. I make hay, cut wood, and grow vegetables for selling. This year I planned to add the sale of landscaping stone to my product line. Due to another hiccup in my life plan, my way of making a living was to be more important than ever in 2013. But. . . .
Karma has other plans. I have torn my rotator cuff. I am scheduled for surgery soon and will be convalescing for six months afterward. No farming this season. No farming means no income.
Thankfully, there is nothing wrong with my brain. So I have to ask myself, is the Universe clearing a path for me to write?
Dates don’t stick in my brain. That’s why I always disliked history classes. The tests seemed to focus on memorization of lots of dates. I was at an instant disadvantage. I would have preferred that the instructors focused on the lessons we can learn from history. If that had been the case, I likely would have majored in history. I love to learn. I hate memorization.
But I digress.
I was saying dates don’t stick in my brain. I can’t remember when I first decided that I would start a writers group. If I were to guess, I would say it was two years ago. About that time, I started attending writing workshops by mystery author Lauren Carr, hosted by different local libraries. In fact, it happened after the first Carr workshop, but before the second. At the second workshop is where I asked for anyone interested to give me his or her contact information.
It took a bit of time to find a meeting place. I had a list of 25 names. I had no idea how many would actually show up. Rose Harris, owner of a local coffee-house in historic Williamsport, MD, was willing to let the group use her back room free of charge two times per month. The local library also had a meeting room, but it was in high demand. The writers group may have to compete for meeting dates. That was no good. Plus, the library felt sterile. The vibe at the Desert Rose Cafe was nurturing, creative, friendly. As an added bonus, “the eats” were good and inexpensive.
It was the vibe that made the decision for me.
Over time the group whittled down to a dozen, then ten regulars. The group was very diverse, from writing styles to personalities to topical interests. Yet we jelled. We shared work by reading aloud. We criticized (in a constructive way) and guided each other in developing our craft. We encouraged and inspired each other.
The restaurant hosted a writing contest, posting short works from the group in the dining room, asking diners to read and vote on a winner.
We all were winners, because, after the contest, we decided to put together the Anthology. We had faith we could create a collection of short works, edit them, compile them, then publish them in a period of about six months.
With the professional assistance and coaching of Acorn Book Services in Harpers Ferry, WV, by December, 2012, the humble writers group–Writers of the Desert Rose Cafe–released its first e-book. The members range in age from 30 to 80-plus and live in a three state area.
One member with Asperger’s Syndrome remarked that the release date of the e-book was one of the greatest days in his life. During the course of writing for the Anthology, he made a decision to move out of his parents’ home and into his own apartment, so he could enroll in college. He is currently working on a solo writing project.
An administrator in the local library system called me a couple of days ago to express her surprise and joy that Writers of the Desert Rose Cafe had achieved its goal. She offered to help arrange publicity for the book through the local newspaper. In turn, I offered to promote the library workshops as wellsprings of creativity. Without the library’s workshop, the Anthology would never have been written.
An idea led to a call to action and resulted in the creation and e-printing of a publication. A young man’s life changed. Others came to see that setting a goal and working on it faithfully yielded results. Several are working on new solo projects.
Dreams do come true.
Without any serious marketing as such, Writers of the Desert Rose Cafe (Hmmmm. Is that singular or plural?) has sold 35 copies of the anthology to date.
And there are two reviews written and posted on Amazon.com. Reading the reviews was exciting. It gave insight and feedback to us on our work.
The sales break down like this:
Amazon.com 34 copies sold
Barnes & Noble 1 copy sold
Several copies have been purchased by the dining patrons of the Desert Rose Cafe. Owner Rose Harris reported there is a lively interest in the book and how the group came to publish it.
Perhaps, in the near future, there will be a “Meet the Writers” event, which may garner a bit of newspaper coverage. That event, or a complimentary newspaper article, may yield a couple of more sales.
What can be done now to sell books?
I have to buckle down and prepare press releases. All of the writers group members need to promote the book on their own social media, blog or web site. This year, I postponed sending out my Christmas letter. I want to write a New Year’s letter and include a promotional blurb in it about the book. Next, I need to put on my thinking cap to figure out other ways to exploit the “local writer” designation.
In sales, they teach you to sell first to family, then to friends or acquaintances, then to neighbors or the local market, then beyond. Until a writer has established himself, the likeliest buyer is someone who knows him or knows of him.
Finally, I need to utilize the “store” component here on WordPress. Obviously, visitors to this site should be able to buy the book.
The lesson in all of this?
Sales don’t magically happen for an author. To sell books, an author has to promote his or her books. That means getting creative so that whatever selling the writer does is effective and affordable.
Writers hate marketing. However, it is a necessary evil, especially for the new author.
Don’t overlook the sales that can be generated by friends or family. Word of mouth is always the best sales tool. A person who reads and likes your book is the most credible advertiser. Ask for help to promote your book.
I would love to hear from other independent authors about the success you’ve had selling your books. Please share the lessons you’ve learned, the mistakes you’ve made or the tactics that have succeeded. In what venue did you sell the majority of your books? Where did things fizzle? What was hard? What worked well?
Talk to me. I am all ears.
A special thanks to the author of aftermathasagabegins.wordpress.com who shares the evolution of the cover of his book from his first concept sketch through influences of other artists to his final design. It’s interesting to follow how the reality evolves from the first idea in the writer’s mind to the final interpretation.
As writers, we create beyond the words on the pages. Finding the right artist to help us translate our story into an encapsulating image is a labor unto itself. I appreciate this little look behind the scenes to prep me for what lies ahead.
Are you on the verge of e-publishing or self-publishing your book? You may want to read the article by using the link above. The more input you get, the better your output will be.