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Promotion & Time Management for Unpublished Authors – Finding a Balance
Saturday, June 12th, 2010 ♦ Leave a Comment »

Chassily Wakefield, Writer and 1st Turning Point Cabin Girl

Chassily Wakefield, Writer

by Chassily Wakefield
Copyright © 2010 Chassily Wakefield

*This post first appeared on 1st Turning Point

I suck at time management.  No, really.  That’s the lesson I’ve learned over the last two years, ever since I decided to (finally) take my writing seriously, but you can learn from my mistakes.

Writing for publication is all-consuming, even if you work another part- or full-time job and have a family.  I knew that would be the case, in a cerebral way, when I first started out.  Living it was another thing entirely.  I discovered I’m not as much of a multi-tasker as I like to think.  The laundry piles up to the rafters while I’m absorbed in my story world (or, if we’re being brutally honest, my email loops.)  I’ve given up any pretense of housework, and my kids have taken over the cooking to ward off imminent starvation.

I dove into creating a “writer’s life” with both feet.  I picked up piles of how-to books, registered for a million newsletters, took online writing classes by the hundreds (despite a degree in Creative Writing, which should have prepared me for some of this).  I joined a slew of writing organizations, including online sub-chapters, and gratefully soaked up the incredible depth of knowledge generously dispersed by fellow members.  I volunteered for positions and activities, and was flattered to be approached for others.  I threw myself into it all with unbridled enthusiasm.

Through it all, one message was repeated with distressing regularity: the need for authors to promote themselves—whether they were already published or not. Huh? How can we promote ourselves before we have anything to promote?

As it turns out, there are all sorts of ways to increase name recognition before having books on the shelves, many of which are frequently written about on 1st Turning Point (check the archives!), in the hopes that doing so will increase sales once we finally get The Call.

Luckily, I was already doing a lot of the recommended promotional items, such as joining groups and volunteering.  They were activities I enjoyed and gravitated to naturally.  But there were plenty more to consider, from getting a website to maintaining an author blog (yes to the first, not so much to the second – note the sporadic postings – but I *am* trying, I swear!)  I was determined—when I sold my novel, I’d be ready.  I’d be a promotional dynamo and knock the Jimmy Choos off my future agent and publisher.

There was just one problem.  Finishing the novel.  I’d gotten so caught up in doing everything I’d heard was important for my career that there was no time left to write.  I spent hours on email loops, volunteer activities, going to meetings or author events, reading all those how-to books and articles, following author and agent blogs, and taking online classes, which also provided networking opportunities.  Any free time had to be devoted to my family, or I would have had a mutiny.

As new authors, we’re overwhelmed with everything we’re supposed to know, do, be. The learning curve is steep.  There’s so much more to writing than sitting down to write a book.  But if we don’t protect the writing time, none of the rest will matter one whit. If we don’t protect ourselves from burning out through over-involvement, stretching ourselves and our time too thin, the writing won’t matter one whit, either, because it will be incomprehensible.

Even worse, we may learn to hate the new life we’re trying to create, missing out on the very thing that used to bring us so much joy—the writing—and any hope of seeing our finished books in print.  This is where effective time management comes in.  Key word: effective.

Effective time management and a little self-discipline can avert this disaster-in-waiting. If you’ve neglected your writing in favor of promoting the career you don’t have yet, try following these steps to achieve a better balance in your work and in your life.  I know I’m happier for it, and I hope you will be, too.

  1. Map out a 24-hour day and a 7-day week.  Sorry, that’s all you get.
  2. Block out hours needed for sleep, non-writing work, exercise, preparing/eating meals, bill paying, whatever HAS to get done, plus a minimum of 15 minutes daily for NOTHING. No writing, no reading, no family, no chores.  Keep it sacred. Fill it with something mindless if you want, like TV or Spider Solitaire (set a timer!), or sit silently and de-stress.
  3. Be realistic!  If you know it takes three hours to get through a Walmart run, don’t schedule two.  Allow for unexpected interruptions.  Don’t forget time with the people who love you.
  4. Add up the hours you have left.
  5. Now you know what’s available for writing and can make an informed decision about how to spend those hours.

Say you have 14 hours available per week.  You’ve committed to writing two hours every day, Monday through Friday, leaving four hours per week for promotion and writing-related activities.  You have an RWA (Romance Writers of America) meeting which lasts for three hours, including dinner.  You’re down to one hour for the rest of that week.  Did you include drive time to the meeting?  Half-an-hour.  Uh-oh.

How can you reclaim some time?  Can you attend the RWA meeting, but skip dinner and buy back an hour?  You’ll lose the chance to socialize and network.  Is it worth it?

The choices get tough, but they have to be made.  You can cry over that half-hour per week, but it won’t change the fact that you only have half-an-hour.  Maybe you’ll cut your daily writing to an hour-and-a-half and free up 3 ½ hours per week.  You’re the only one who knows if the tradeoff is worthy.  If you commit to using those 3 ½ hours for promotional activities, volunteering and learning craft, they could be valuable hours. Three hours of Spider Solitaire?  Nope.

Maybe you actually only need one or two hours per week for promotion.  Funnel the extra time back into your writing or some down time.  The choice is yours.  Whatever choice you make, you will be in control of your schedule again, hopefully happier, and more relaxed.

You’ll also be practicing important time management skills for after you do get The Call. Published authors require a lot more promotional time and have to be even more dedicated to their schedules. Learn how to manage yours now, and you’ll be ready! Good luck!

And for your viewing pleasure (when you have the time…), take a few minutes to put yourself or your story inside this gorgeous photo. Where does it take you?

Cannon Beach, OR ~ photo by Mark Lemon

Cannon Beach, OR ~ photo © by Mark Lemon

1st Turning Point: Captain’s Log—March 2010
Friday, April 16th, 2010 ♦ One Lonely Comment »

Chassily Wakefield, Author & Pirate Queen

Chassily Wakefield, Author & Pirate Queen

By Chassily Wakefield
1st Turning Point Cabin Girl
www.1stturningpoint.com

Ahoy, mateys! Winter squalls are fast becoming sprightly spring winds wi’ a promise of smooth sailing fer 2010. Put yer Pirate Hat on an’ prepare to parlay wi’ the 1st Turning Point Crew. Get ready fer a purely profitable year of Piratical Promotion, sailing upon the open Seas of Publication.

Fer the uninitiated Pirates ‘n Parrots amongst ye, 1st Turning Point is a place where authors ‘n artists teach, share, and learn all about promotion. Published or unpublished, we don’t care – come aboard, tour the ship and sail away with us while we all improve our promotional skills. Sign on to become a subscriber—or Parrot, as we like to call our motley bunch. To learn more about 1st Turning Point, check out our About page.

Mark your calendars now for Saturday, May 1st, our one-year anniversary! Lots of doings are planned, and you won’t want to miss the fun. It’s been quite a year, but we’re just getting started!

Be sure to note the 1st Turning Point article, Beat the Promotion Learning Curve—Before the Call, in the latest edition of the Romance Writers Report. It’s the latest of many exciting ways Cap’n Jacquie Rogers ‘n Cap’n Ann Charles are getting the word out about 1st Turning Point and all the strategies the site can help you learn for the best methods to promote yourselves and your work. Our venerable Cap’ns also gave their “Get a Jump Start on Your Writing Career” workshop for the Rose City Writer’s Retreat in Portland in February, for writers who have yet to develop a platform.

Read on for an overview of the latest exciting developments on 1st Turning Point:

Our Current Schedule ~ Learn Marketing & Promotion Skills from the Best!

Sundays: Book Video Reviews

Mondays: Instructional Articles

Tuesdays: Featured Artists and Special Guests

Wednesdays: Reviews of Publishing Industry Books

Thursdays: Special Features

Fridays: More How-To Articles

Saturdays: Website Reviews

New for 2010: Make special note of our latest Saturday offering, Website Reviews, which debuted February 13th to wild acclaim. Interested in finding out how your own website rates? Send the following information to crowsnest@1stTurningPoint.com with WEBSITE REVIEW in the subject line:

  • Your author name
  • Web designer name
  • Website URL
  • Plus an optional short paragraph on where you are in your career and a few items about your website that might be of interest.

What else is new, you ask? How about a sparkly new Forum! Cap’n Ann spent hours ‘n hours chained in the bowels of the ship to get the forum up and running January 1st. It’s a place for the Parrots to come together and share their wisdom, ask questions and have some pirating good fun. Be sure to stop in, sign up for the monthly contest, and stay awhile. There are always new topics and new Parrots to squawk with.

We love to share our Parrots’ ‘n Pirates’ GOOD NEWS on our Good News page, such as:

Amber Scott’s entry, Deuce Bigalow: Elf Gigolo, won an Honorable Mention in the Save the Cat! Last Logline of 2009! contest at http://blakesnyder.com!

Laurie Ryan won 1st Turning Point’s January forum contest. Laurie won a CD from January’s guest artist, Fiddlehead; a $5 giftcard to Starbucks; and an article slot for May on 1st Turning Point. Keep an eye out for her article in a few months. Congratulations, Laurie, and thanks for entering the contest! See you in the forum.

Deborah Schneider took part in two big events: a St. Valentine’s Day Victorian Tea at the Bellevue Library, along with Megan Chance and Anthea Lawson, and the Romance Author Mash-Up at Parkplace Books in Kirkland, with Megan Chance, Rebecca J. Clark, Anthea Lawson and Shelli Stevens.

We’ve rounded up some new Crew members over the last several months, including Norman W. Wilson, Ph.D as Forum Moderator, and Diana Coyle for Website Reviews. Christina Arbini joined the ranks as a columnist, and Kris Tualla has been impressed into service –er, has signed on as well. We’re delighted to have them aboard! You’ll be seeing lots more of them in the coming months.

There are now a whopping 35 of us on ship, not counting frequent guests who swing by to share tales of their promotion and marketing adventures. If you’d like to come by and have one of your articles published, check out our Article Submission Guidelines page for instructions. We love new faces! We’re well over 1000 Parrots strong now, so if you’re not a Parrot yet, stick a feather in yer cap and fly on over. This is the best place to roost in all the seas!

Guess what? 1st Turning Point is looking into offering online classes! The first class is planned for May. Be one of the first to help us launch this new part of life aboard ship.

Upcoming Classes:

How to Build Your Platform

Location: 1st Turning Point Forum

Instructors: Jacquie Rogers and Ann Charles

This interactive workshop is FREE! Attendees will be chosen through a drawing, to be announced soon, so keep watch! To enter your name in the drawing, send an email to crowsnest@1stTurningPoint.com with PLATFORM CLASS as the subject. It is designed for those who are serious about building their platforms. This class involves one-on-one interaction, and each attendee should leave with a plan to help themselves along the journey to publishing success.  Class size limited to 12. Stay tuned for more details.

Are you into podcasts? Meet the Parrots, hosted by Jacquie Rogers, is an hour-long, once a month round-table discussion on topics related to promotion and marketing for authors, musicians, and artists, by those who’ve learned from experience. Our latest podcasts:

You’ve Got It, Now Flaunt It: Creating Website Content

(December 16, 2009)

Rowena Cherry, Robert W. Walker, Ann Charles discuss how they determine the most beneficial content for their websites as they go through various stages of their careers.

Booksignings For Fun and Profit

(January 20, 2010)

Guests include: John Foxjohn, Deborah Schneider, Ann Charles and others.

Co-Promotion: If One Is Good, Is Two Better?

(February 17, 2010)

Guests include: John Klawitter, Eilis Flynn, Wendy Delaney and Ann Charles.

Chassily Wakefield, Author & Her Handsome Pirate Lord

Chassily Wakefield, Author & Her Handsome Pirate Lord

And that’s not all. What else have we been up to? Check out the treasure chest for a listing of all the fabulous articles we’ve published, and see below for the ones posted since December:

Internet Promotion:

Reviews (Books, Book Videos & now Websites!)

Marketing:

1st Turning Point has a new plug-in at the end of the articles, making it easier than ever to Tweet, Facebook and otherwise share article info with your friends and fellow writers. Feel free to help us get the word out!

Looking for more Pirate fun? On Facebook? Join our 1st Turning Point crew there, if you haven’t already. You can also follow us on MySpace, Ning, Twitter, LinkedIn and shop Zazzle or CafePress, where you can find the latest Parrot Gear.

Remember, whether you write novels, short stories, lyrics, or poetry, we’re here for you, and artists in all media, too. Come on board and take a look around, read some of the helpful articles, see what online and live classes/workshops are coming your way soon, check out the beneficial list of resources, and share some of your own experiences and wisdom with others via comments and the new Forum.

We have big plans for 2010! Cap’n Jacquie reminds us: “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” (American poet T.S. Eliot, 1888-1965) Come visit and find out just how far you can go. See you there!

Chassily Wakefield, Author & Cabin Girl

Chassily Wakefield, Author & Cabin Girl

Bio: Chassily Wakefield holds a degree in Creative Writing/English Literature from the University of California at Riverside. She writes Mythic Romantic Fantasy and lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three kids and three crazy kittens. She loves being 1st Turning Point’s Cabin Girl, volunteering as Membership Chair for GSRWA, and staying active in the many writing groups in which she is a member, including PNWA, RWA National, OlyRWA, and several online chapters.

*This article first appeared in the Emerald City Romantic Quarterly Newsletter, the official newsletter of the Greater Seattle chapter of RWA and is reposted here with permission.