Ruth Ann Nordin has offered advice on how authors can increase their book sales, based on her own experience in selling her self-published book. As she points out, her sales are still modest, but her post is a good source of ideas on how to build an author platform in a year. Thanks for sharing, Ruth Ann!
Welcome to Inkygirl: Reading, Writing and Illustrating Children's Books (archive list here) which includes my Creating Picture Books series, Advice For Young Writers and Illustrators, Writer's and Illustrator's Guide To Twitter, interviews, my poetry for young readers, #BookADay, writing/publishing industry surveys, and 250, 500, 1000 Words/Day Writing Challenge. Also see my Inkygirl archives, and comics for writers (including Keiko and Will Write For Chocolate). Also check out my Print-Ready Archives for Teachers, Librarians, Booksellers and Young Readers.
I tweet about the craft and business of writing and illustrating at @inkyelbows. If you're interested in my art or other projects, please do visit DebbieOhi.com. Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie Ridpath Ohi
One of my favourite blog for children's writers is Mary Kole's Kidlit.com. Mary Kole is an associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Quote from her post today:
It’s in your best interest to develop a thick skin, learn how to take criticism and rejection, separate yourself from what you’ve put on a page, learn everything you can about the industry, get realistic, and keep writing every day. The one-in-a-million publication stories are the ones you hear because they’re glamorous. Most people get published through the tears, snot, spilled coffee, midnight breakdowns and rare moments of joy that comprise a long time spent chasing a dream. It’s not terribly sexy, nor is it quick. But that’s how people make it and that’s the truth.I strongly recommend writers to read the entire post (not just for kids' writers!) and browse her blog for valuable writing advice. You can also follow her on Twitter at @Kid_Lit.
WorkLifeGroup is running a writing contest that's meant to help them find contributing writers but in my opinion, they're going about it the wrong way. "We're aiming to identify writers all from over the globe to write for us on an ongoing basis; to join WorkLifeGroup as contributing writers (paying gigs, naturally!)." No entry fee, prize is $500. Deadline: Jan 31st, 2010. Before you enter, however, be sure to read all the terms and conditions. Not only does the story have to be original and written specifically for the contest, but the company says they may use your writing in their site even if you don't win:
WorkLifeGroup reserves the right to publish any and all entries submitted, but publication may not indicate the entry has won a prize.Also, although they assure you that you retain the copyright to your writing:
The Author grants WorkLifeGroup a perpetual license to display online and use the authored content contributed by the Author.I'm sure that WorkLifeGroup is sincere when it says that it's looking for writers it can hire in the future but as the contest guidelines are currently written, it certainly sounds like an easy way for them to get free content. Check out #13 below:
Copyright 10. The Author retains copyright to the story created and contributed to the web site. 11. The Author grants WorkLifeGroup a perpetual license to display online and use the authored content contributed by the Author. 12. For the story judged the winner, in consideration for the prize money awarded the Author grants an exclusive perpetual license to display online and use the authored content contributed by the Author, and will not allow the story to be displayed online on any other web site. 13. The perpetual license for WorkLifeGroup to use the authored content includes possible use for product commercialisation, promotion, and education, and may include use in whole or in part, including extracts and quotations.Some hopeful writers may be fine with these conditions but I suspect experienced freelancers will shy away. Whatever your level of experience, always remember to READ THE FINE PRINT.
Writers and fans are joining forces in a live fundraising podcast this Saturday at 2 pm. You can find more info here. Prizes include props from the Harry Potter movies, 30 pages of original fiction critiqued by Rosemary Clement-Moore, 20 pages of fiction edited by Cheryl Klein of Arthur A Levine Books, and TONS more.
Scribophile has launched the New Beginnings writing contest. They're accepting short stories (up to 3000 words) featuring the theme "new beginnings." First prize is a $100 gift card to Amazon.com plus credit for 3000 words of professional editing service from Elite Editing. 2nd place is a $50 Amazon.com gift card. No entry fee, but it looks as if you need to become part of the Scribophile critique community AND post some critiques first before you're allowed to enter. Deadline is March 31, 2010. For more info, see the contest info page.
Chuck Ingwersen is a freelance writer and cartoonist who posts his "cartoons, short stories and bad poetry" on his humor blog, Words And Toons. You can find Chuck's greeting cards at http://www.zazzle.com/chuckink. How did you get into greeting card design? I've created funny greeting cards for family members for as long as I can remember, and it's been my goal for years to become a published greeting card writer and artist. After more than 20 years as a newspaper writer, editor and page designer, I made the leap into the freelance world in 2007, and I'm happy to say I've have had some success in the greeting card field. In 2007, Gallant Greetings started a new line of humor cards, and I submitted dozens of my creations. Gallant bought 16 of my cards from those submissions. Since then, I've sold a good number of my cards to Shoebox (Hallmark's humor line), Oatmeal Studios and It Takes Two. How do you come up with your ideas? Do you sit down and have brainstorming sessions? Do you carry and notebook and write down ideas as they come? I'm constantly brainstorming throughout the day, and if I get what I think is a good idea I'll grab the notebook and jot it down. A notebook next to my bed is a must, since many ideas come just before I fall asleep. I also set aside blocks of time a couple days each week in which I'll write in a stream-of-consciousness mode, letting ideas flow without much editing. I love going back later to polish those scribblings into fully formed ideas. What made you decide to sell your own cards? I was intrigued by the Print On Demand model and where online sales might be headed, so I decided to test the waters. It's great to have cards online not only for the opportunity to sell them, but to get feedback and to be part of an artists community. How many cards do you sell a month? The number of sales varies wildly by month and by season. I had terrific sales from my Zazzle store in November, selling roughly 2,000 cards (plus a good number of other products featuring my artwork). Of course, most of the cards I sold were Christmas cards, and many of those sales were bulk sales. The largest bulk sale was 800. Obviously, Christmas purchases make November the best month for sales, by a wide margin. By comparison, I sold just over 200 cards from my Zazzle store in October. How much do you make selling cards a month? Or if you'd rather not share that specific info, approx. what percentage of your total income per month comes from the cards that you sell on sites like Zazzle and Greeting Card Universe? Percentage of total income is fairly small, but the arrow is going up for online sales as I continue to add new designs. Which site do you prefer: Zazzle or GCU? (and why) What are the pros and cons of using each? Zazzle has become a clear favorite for me. It offers a wide variety of products to work with, good store customization and promotion tools, the ability to set your commission percentage and a very active community. For creators who focus strictly on cards, GCU is a good option and provides a fair commission structure. I have to say that both Zazzle and GCU do a tremendous job with their printing. The quality of the printed cards is first-rate. Why don't you also sell on Cafepress? I felt like I got lost in the enormity of Cafepress, and didn't have much success there. I found it less inviting a community than Zazzle. After CP changed its commission structure (to the detriment of artists) not too long ago, I closed my CP store. How much marketing do you do? The short answer: Not enough. I do some promotion on my cartoon and humor writing blog (wordsandtoons.com) and my webcomic ( http://captainscratchy.com ), as well as Facebook. Twitter is still on my to-do list. What advice do you have for beginning card designers? Besides "do better marketing than me," here are a few tips: 1) It all starts with creating high-quality content, and that starts with having a passion for the art/writing. Without the passion for the work itself, it can get discouraging when online sales are slow or when the card companies reject your submissions. 2) You'll really have an edge if you find a niche that isn't being filled — something that makes you stand out in a crowd. But make sure it's something you love to do. Don't try to "play to the market." Do work that pleases and inspires you, and the joy you put into it will be evident. 3) Hone multiple skills. In my case, my writing skills often give me an edge over people who are better artists than me. Some people are excellent marketers, which might give them an edge over a great designer who is marketing-challenged. Some people get the edge by having superior tech skills. My point is that even if you're a great designer, learning other skill sets can make a huge difference. 4) Be able to take rejection in stride, and be persistent. I've had some success in a relatively short time as a freelancer, but I've also had plenty of my submissions rejected by various card companies. That's a given for a freelancer. The competition is fierce and budgets have gotten tighter. Rejection doesn't mean your work isn't good. Rejection just means you have to dust yourself off and prepare to send out the next batch of submissions.
Copyscape is dedicated to protecting your valuable content online. We provide the world's most powerful and most popular online plagiarism detection solutions, ranked #1 by independent tests. Copyscape's products are trusted by millions of website owners worldwide to check the originality of their new content, prevent duplicate content, and search for copies of existing content online. Copyscape provides a free service for finding copies of your web pages online, as well as two more powerful professional solutions for preventing content theft and content fraud.I've heard mixed reviews about this service -- has anyone used it? I tried it with pages from my site but didn't have much luck because of my site layout: because I have navigation sidebars that repeat throughout the site, Copyscape kept picking up that text so the results always gave me my own site pages. I was using the free service, however, so was only seeing the first 10 results. Anyone else have luck using this service?
I interviewed Christina Katz last September about her book, Get Known Before The Book Deal. During the interview, I was astounded at the number of projects Christina has on the go. Christina graciously agreed to do a second interview, this time focused on how she manages her time. What's your typical workday? I try to get up early so I have a couple of hours to work before my daughter needs help getting ready for school. That process takes about an hour. Then the dogs need me for about a half hour. After that I’m free to work my brains out until it is time to pick my daughter up from school with the occasional short break. The afternoon is a negotiation between my work needs and my daughter’s needs. Luckily for me, she can often use some down town after a busy, social day at school and she’s quite good at keeping herself busy drawing, playing imagination games or (last resort) watching TV or some other kind of screen time. Samantha also has regularly scheduled activities like dance, swimming and Brownies, which makes those days a bit more hectic. Often in the late afternoon, when she doesn’t have activities, we do errands together. Then it’s time to make dinner and have some family time. Thankfully, even though my husband basically has two jobs, one as a high school teacher and the other running the theater department, when he’s home we share the chores. That’s a thumbnail of the rhythm of my days. As far as what I do in those hours when I work, it’s never the same because I write articles, blog posts and books. I administrate, I travel, I run classes, and I create presentations. Lately, I’ve been innovating new products and services and I want to do more of that. I am also busy with social networking, platform cultivation and maintenance, pitching myself and goofing off. I keep in regular touch with a small tribe of writer moms and go out for lunch with a writer friend once in a while, when I’m not too busy. Believe it or not, within all of this variety, there actually is a rhythm to how I work. But it’s one that is constantly evolving. I find if I try to pin it down or force it, then that same rhythm that once worked, no longer works. Occasionally, in my blog, I discuss a particular tool that helps me keep all the balls in the air. Basically, I just do it. Whatever “it” happens to be. How do you balance your writing time with everything else you do? This is an easy one. I’m a morning person, so my most productive time is in the morning. I can sketch out an idea in the afternoon by hand or jot notes but I write fastest and best in the morning. So regardless of the rest of the day, I get my writing done early. Here’s something that might be interesting to writers: since I’m an author and I wrote two books back-to-back, I can write a lot faster now. Also, I don’t hesitate before I write something. When I was a beginner, and even when I was working as a journalist, I would often hesitate before I wrote. I think it was that moment of perfectionism anxiety where I’d think: what if it’s not good enough? So even though I generally think of myself as a fairly slow writer (compared to some people I know who are so fast you would not believe it), writing 1,000 words now is a lot easier than it used to. I wrote 60,000 words in a row, twice. So what’s 1,000 words? Nothing I can’t handle. What advice do you have for writers who are "time management"-challenged? I’d tell them there is no such thing as time-management challenged. What we are probably talking about is that most left-brained time-management techniques don’t work for right-brained people. So people are not actually “time-management challenged.” They are likely right-brained trying to live in a left-brained world. What I think what we’re dealing with here, Debbie, is a classic permission issue. If a right-brain person is waiting to be more like a left-brain person before they can master time, they are going to be waiting for a long time. But if they explore and experiment with what works for them within their current work context, and strive for their own definition of time-management success (assuming it harmonizes with those around them), they will start to thrive and be more productive. I’ve read that more Generation X & Y companies are allowing their employees to follow flex-time techniques that work for them and are creating a higher rate of productivity with less sick days. That’s what I’m talking about. I’ve heard and read a myth that left-brained techniques work for right-brained people, if we’d only use them. But I’m pretty sure that’s the road to misery and frustration for anybody right-brained person, who buys into that myth. What are your current and upcoming projects? My most exciting current project is The Prosperous Writer blog and e-zine. I am thrilled about both of them because they are the fruition of many months of preparation and planning. What I’m trying to do is set a positive example of what it means to be a prosperous writer in these rapidly changing times. I’ve already accomplished one of my primary goals with the e-zine, which was to get readers blogging about the topic of prosperity in their blogs. I think this is going to create a fascinating, growing movement about what true prosperity means in the new Web 2.0 world we are living in. The blog is the public mouthpiece and the e-zine is strictly for my fans. I don’t plan to make it public. Therefore it’s a safer, more private context and the only way for the ideas to get out into the public eye is when readers respond to them. I love it when they do! As far as the future goes, I think, for me the new living-out-loud lifestyle means revealing only the most manageable amount of news about where I am headed. If I reveal a lot and then don’t follow through or change directions at the last minute, I risk coming across as flaky. So, I’ve learned that when I’m dreaming and visioning the future, I’m much better off, except for a very few close, personal friends, keeping my plans contained until they are ripe and ready to blossom. So what’s coming up in my future? A lot of really cool stuff! And that’s all I can say…for now. Here are just a few of Christina Katz's current projects: Nonfiction Writing-for-publication Classes From Beginner to Book Deal http://christinakatz.com Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Strengths to Grow an Author Platform (Writer's Digest Books, October 2008) http://getknownbeforethebookdeal.com/ http://getknownbeforethebookdeal.typepad.com/ Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writer's Digest Books, March 2007) http://thewritermama.com/ http://thewritermama.wordpress.com/ Writers on the Rise E-zine http://writersontherise.wordpress.com/ The Northwest Author Series http://northwestauthorseries.wordpress.com/ Sponsored by the Wilsonville Public Library, The Friends of the Wilsonville Public Library & the Wilsonville Arts and Culture Council Created and hosted by Christina Katz Christina on Twitter: http://twitter.com/thewritermama Christina on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/people/Christina-Katz/716153807
Review Fuse sponsoring a Poetry contest and are accepting entries until February 28th. Details: Title: Review Fuse Poetry Contest - February 2010 Prize: $100 Cash Entry Fee: $0 (must register for free Review Fuse account if haven't already) Length: 50 lines or fewer Theme: Open More Info: http://www.reviewfuse.com/blog/2009/11/poetry-contest-february-2010/ Deadline: February 28th, 2010 Contact Info: email@example.com To enter: 1. Sign up for Review Fuse (it's free) 2. Upload your entry and choose "Poetry Contest" as the category.
Great minds think alike, Debbie (or fools seldom differ – take your pick!) – I’ve recently started doing exactly this. For me the catalyst was FaceBook – because friending is mutual, I tend to be a bit more cautious about who I connect to. So I reserve it for family and real-life friends, and I use a “personal” twitter feed to update my status. I also use the personal twitter account to follow family, friends and a handful of celebs. Then I have a “writing” account, which is my original @annelyle username, for following writers, agents, podcasters, etc. I mostly tweet writing stuff, though I do put the occasional personal thing in if I think it would interest/amuse my followers. This feed also goes onto the homepage of my writing-oriented website – another reason to keep it writing-focused. Finally I have a “chat” account which I use for #writechat and similar – I don’t want either FaceBook or my website cluttered up with disjointed chatter! I manage all these using groups in Seesmic Desktop, usually in the evening here in the UK since I’m more likely to coincide with my US friends then. On my iPhone I prefer Tweetie, which I have used to tweet “live” events such as my research trip to the Tower of London and the British Fantasy Society Awards. This might seem like overkill since I only have a few dozen followers at the moment, but I like to think that I’m building a good foundation for the future.From Sarah:
Interesting to read your reasoning. I blended my accounts to reflect my policy of personal transparency. You’ve shown me transparency doesn’t have to mean throwing my work, life and sexual secrets into a big Googleified blender. (NOW you tell me?!) With only 500ish followers and very few @ or RTs (despite relevant content…more often than not), it’s much easier for me to streamline accounts than it would be for you. And thanks for giving me an option for how to handle it when I hit the four-digit follower mark Cheers, Sarah
Congrats to Kevin McGill of Dallas, TX for being the 1000th person to put @inkyelbows on a Twitter list. Kevin wins a US$20 Amazon.com gift certificate. For those that don't know, Twitter lists to organize the people you’re following on Twitter, or find new people. Here's Mashable's guide for how to use Twitter lists.
For those who want to keep track of their story submissions on their iPhone and iPod, Andrew Nicolle has just updated his Story Tracker app for writers. I have the app on my iPhone but haven't had a chance to really check it out thoroughly because I'm not submitting short stories/articles right now. According to the Storytracker Web site, here's what you can do with the app: - Check the status of your stories, markets, and submissions at a glance. - Use the index to jump through long lists of stories and markets fast. - Add or remove stories, markets and submissions with ease. - Add details for each story, including title, word-count, genre, and notes. - View total income earned for each story. - 'Trunk' stories to hide them from the story list when creating submissions. - View the submission history for each story, sorted by date. - Add details for each market, including title, genre, editor and more. - Use the embedded web-browser to quickly check on market websites. - Launch email or phonecalls directly from market details. - Log whether a particular market is open or closed to submissions. - Closed markets are hidden from the market list when creating submissions. - Quickly check whether you already have a submission at each market. - View submission history for each market, sorted by date. - View response times for each submission. - Add details for each submission, including story, market, and sent/response dates. - Log whether a market has rejected, bought, or published a story submission. - Store income earned for each submission. - Statistics show totals for: stories, markets, and submissions, stories that have never been submitted, or have been abandoned (ie trunked), submitted stories still out to market, rejections, sales, and publications. - income earned. - Always remembers what screen you were looking at last. - Saves changes on exit, or when interrupted by a phonecall. - Database backup, restore, import and export over WiFi to your computer's web browser. Found out more at: http://andrewnicolle.com/storytracker/
Don't know about the rest of you, but I have a tendency to let my e-mail pile up...or at least I did. This year, I'm determined to keep better control over my e-mail Inbox (or Inboxes, since I have more than one e-mail account). What I'm finding: bad e-mail organization/handling results in wasted time (time that could be spent writing) and missing important messages. Here's a list of things I did toward achieving a better e-mail system, in case any of you want to try the same: 1. Did a mass search for certain senders and subject header phrases to make it easier to list messages for mass deletion. I've been getting notices from Twitter about new followers, for instance. I use Gmail, so I clicked on the "Show Search Options Link" to the right of the search field, specified that I only wanted to search mail in my Inbox, entered the phrase "is now following" in the search subject field, then hit SEARCH: Once you get a list of all the messages, then click on SELECT ALL: Click on "Select all conversations that match this search" to also select the e-mail results on other search results pages (else you have to repeat the process): ..and then DELETE: 2. Unsubscribed from as many e-mail lists as I possibly could. I had initially subscribed to various mailing lists with grand dreams of being able to scan all of them, but I'm realizing that there is just NO WAY I can keep up. The messages inevitably start piling up, and more important e-mail messages get lost in the mix. Instead, I read the lists on the Web whenever possible (bookmarking them in my To Read list -- browser bookmark organization is another topic I probably should cover sometime). And I'm going through each of these e-mails in my Inbox and taking the time to find the "To unsubscribe, click here" link. If there IS no link, I go to the source Web site and look for it, e-mailing the administrator if I have to: Some companies make it a real challenge to get taken off their their e-mail lists, counting on you giving up before you manage to unsubscribe. DON'T GIVE UP. Just think of how much time and hassle you'll save in the future by making some effort now. If there are lists whose mailings you'd really like to keep, filter them into a separate folder/mailbox. You'll have to remember to check this separate mailbox but at least it gets them out of your Inbox. As for improving my e-mail system, I'm trying to get into the habit of NOT CHECKING E-MAIL SO MANY TIMES THROUGHOUT THE DAY. Or at least not feeling compelled to drop everything I'm doing and responding immediately. This is going to take some self-discipline, but I'm already finding that it's paying off. Part of this is also training my regular contacts to my new system as well, that I may not be able to respond to all messages right away. What about the rest of you? What does your e-mail inbox look like right now? Any other tips or ideas to share about improving your e-mail system with the goal of getting more time to write? I may post a Part 2 for this topic, depending on responses. Related Resources: 4 ways to take control of your e-mail Inbox Fifteen Practical Tips for Managing Your E-mail : more for lawyers, but includes some useful tips. 7 Ways To Manage Your Email Like An Expert Tips for Mastering E-mail Overload: also includes tips on how to send better e-mail.
I joined LinkedIn years ago when it first launched, but then deleted my account because I made the mistake of accepting a connection request from someone I knew only vaguely through a few e-mail exchanges. Because of that decision, I started accepting similar connection requests. Often these were from people on LinkedIn with hundreds of connections. Then I started receiving requests which were passed down through my connection links for favours -- either referrals or information or requests for me to suggest where they should send their manuscripts. At that point, I realized that I had made a mistake in accepting that first connection to someone I didn't really know. The purpose of LinkedIn, after all, is to establish a network of trusted business contacts. After I quit LinkedIn, I kept hearing good things from some of my friends and work associates about LinkedIn, about how they were using it and how much it was helping them. I decided to give LinkedIn another chance, but this time I added the following warning in my profile:
PLEASE NOTE: I only link to people with whom I have worked or know personally (e.g. have had at least one meaningful conversation). A single e-mail exchange, being members of the same LinkedIn group, and being a Facebook/Twitter friend is not enough for me to add you to my network, nor is just being familiar with each other's blogs. Either we've met in person and know each other personally, or have had a longterm working relationship. Thanks for your understanding.I recently got a request from someone I've never met in person but with whom I had interacted a few times by e-mail. I declined and explained my reasons: that I hope she understood, but I always figure I should be able to explain each connection to anyone who wants a business referral for that person. Her response:
Actually, no. I don't understand. You didn't seem to mind the free publicity you got for the [--deleted by me--] site I set up for you, which took hours to create and also promote. I didn't get a thing out of it, personally or professionally. Now it's just too embarrassing for you to add me in case some idiot asks why you are connected to someone? Never mind. I get it. Thanks anyway.Ouch. I admit I was pretty baffled by the site she described. Also felt terrible...I had forgotten that this woman had offered to enable people to send each other some of my cartoons (Nanowrimo comics, maybe?) as greeting cards years ago, but at the time, I had assumed the architecture was already being used by the woman for other purposes -- had she really created an entire SITE just for me without asking anything in return?? How could I not have noticed, either through traffic or e-mails? As soon as I got this woman's message, I went searching to check but I can't find any reference to the site anymore. Whatever the case, I wish she had reminded me about our connection before sending me the second message above. :-( I've apologized and tried to follow up, but haven't yet received a response. But to those using LinkedIn right now, I'm curious. Have you ever declined a LinkedIn invite? Do you have any policies for what kind of connections you will and will not accept?