Tips for a Successful Book Tour

February 10, 2017

People buy books based on the author, not on the publisher. Authors do book tours, personal appearances, etc., not publishers. My point? It doesn’t matter which publishing avenue you take, it’s still up to you as the author to get out there and sell your book(s).

Here are some tips for a successful book tour, including local television interviews, panel appearances, presentations, etc.

  • Choose clothes you feel comfortable in. For television, be sure you avoid loud prints or stripes. Be aware also that bright reds and blues, whites and blacks can take the focus away from you. Granted, we’re seeing more variety in what people wear on news shows, etc., but why risk taking the focus off of you?
  • Keep your eyes on the interviewer rather than looking into the camera (if there is one).
  • Show your enthusiasm about your topic. I say topic because you don’t want to appear to just be selling your book. People will be interested in topics more than one specific book title. Yes, you’ll want your book title mentioned, but you don’t want that to be the only thing you talk about.
  • Relate your answers to other people (audience, interviewer, viewer). Use phrases like “I think everybody has felt…,” “Have you ever done something that…”, or “Most people have…”
  • Prepare for your appearance by having three to five important points. Repeat these same points in every interview, presentation, etc. While it may be repetitive to do so to you, keep in mind that each audience is new and hearing your points for the first time.
  • Keep your answers succinct. Get your audience’s attention with phrases such as “The most important idea is…,” “The scariest thing is…,” or “The biggest joy can come from…”
  • Avoid yes and no answers because they are boring and dead end. Use words like “Absolutely” or “Never” instead of yes or no.
  • Understand that most interviewers or those who introduce you probably have not read your book. Be sure you have an “elevator speech” answer telling what your book is about prepared (that’s an answer you can give in 30 seconds or so).
  • Practice, practice, practice. Writing is a solitary activity. Appearances are not. Since doing a book tour is about as opposite from writing as you can get, it’s important you practice so your discomfort doesn’t show. People buy the author, so it’s up to you to make them want to take a part of you (your book) home with them.

You wrote the book and got it published. Now it’s up to you to sell the book. There’s nothing like the feeling of someone willing to spend money to read your writing, so get out there and let the world see you. And don’t forget to keep working on your next book at the same time because once people like you, they’ll want to read more from you. Happy writing!

What You Write First Will Need Revision

June 15, 2015

Writing is a solitary activity. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that the first words written aren’t the best words for the final piece.

I was first published in the mid-1970s and have loved words and writing ever since. Here are a few tips I’ve collected that you might want to consider when you’re faced with going back over your manuscript to see what needs revision.

  • Write simply and clearly. Beginning writers often run the risk of falling in love with their prose. Offer the reader a clear and enjoyable reading experience instead of showing off your command of obscure words/phrases.
  • Realize that every new project is a challenge. The problems you faced (whether the problems are in the story, the character, the organization, the descriptions used, etc.) in your last project differ from those you’re facing in your current project. See each project with new eyes, even though you’re drawing on experience when you work on it.
  • Show the story instead of showing off. Consider how you would tell the story to a friend and start there. You’ll write differently when you think about your best friend reading your writing.
  • Be willing to let your subconscious take over when you’re stuck on a word or searching for an idea. Some of the best things come to us when we don’t force them.
  • Accept that every writer is really two people: (1) creator and (2) editor. Allow your creator to be the person he/she needs to be to get the words out, then call in your editor to do what he/she does best (improve your writing).
  • Give yourself permission to write first and edit later. Avoid falling into that terrible trap of telling yourself something (sentence, description, word choice, etc.) isn’t as good as it could be. So what if it isn’t? You can go back and make it better, but you can only do that if you get it down first. The more fun you have getting your original writing down, the better foundation you’ll have to work on when you edit.
  • Read your words out loud. Writers groups do that because hearing the words (rather than simply seeing them on paper) can point out problems with word choice, dialogue, and can even find typos in your manuscript.
  • Read the types of things you want to write. You want to write mysteries? Read them. You want to write biographies? Read them. Self-help books? Read them. Good cooks know what makes a good recipe. Good writers know what makes a good read.

I trust you’ll find something in this collection of tips to help you. As you grow in your writing career, you’ll risk rejection and failure, but you’ll also realize reward and respect on many levels. Happy writing!

Make Better Decisions

June 19, 2014

Writers constantly make decisions as they write. They decide what to include, when they’ve done enough research, who their characters are, what their characters do and when, etc. Perhaps the hardest decision is deciding when an article, story, or novel is finished.

When the writing is done, writers make decisions about whether to self-publish, royalty publish, or subsidy publish. If they decide to self-publish, they also decide what type of book to publish–hard cover, soft cover, audio, e-book. Then there are decisions about editing, cover design, interior layout, pricing, etc.

Once published (and it doesn’t matter whether an author is royalty published or published some other way), marketing the book is totally up to the author. That means more decisions about publicity, book signings, publish parties, media coverage, web presence, etc.

Here are some questions to help you make better decisions.

  • Is this something you want, or is it something you need? Life is full of wants, but you’re better off to take care of deciding the things you need first. It might help you distinguish between wants and needs if you try to imagine life a year from now and the impact your decision will have on your writing, publishing, marketing, budget, income, etc. in a year.
  • Have you investigated all your options? It’s easy to justify a bad decision with “I had no choice.” As a friend told me at lunch this week, “You always have a choice, but every choice has a consequence. You have to decide if you can live with the consequence.” For example, if you decide to pay to publish, there are consequences involving budget and  decisions on editing and design, etc. But if you decide to find a royalty publisher, there are consequences involving ownership of your intellectual property (you no longer own it) and basic decisions about your book.
  • Are you being honest with yourself? If you’re telling yourself what you want to hear, you may not be completely honest with you. I’ve often told the story about a member of a writing group my husband and I belonged to. It was hard to follow this writer’s writing because it was disjointed, angry, and venting. Finally, after this writer was done with a reading and the room was silent because it was hard to comment on what we had just heard, my husband  asked the writer, “What are you trying to say?” As if really thinking before answering, the writer looked at my husband and said, “Good question.” The writer never came back, but he and I happened upon each other during a business call a few years later. Since we were on the phone, I didn’t recognize his voice, but when he heard my name, he introduced himself and told me to thank my husband for asking the question years earlier. It made him really think about his writing, and he was happier because he moved on to other things in his life.
  • How “right” does your decision feel? It’s hard to define what feels right, but you know it when you feel it. If you’re struggling with a decision, tune into your body. Does the option you’re considering make you feel energized or drained? The answer is a good beginning for determining how right a decision feels.
  • What would you do if you weren’t afraid? If you’re afraid of something, that fear will hold you back whether it’s a realistic fear or not. Just because an option instills fear into you doesn’t mean it’s a wrong option. Do your best to avoid letting fear make your decisions.

Consider the idea that most decisions can be changed with another decision. If you’re a writer, you’ve got lots of decisions to make. Today’s as good a day as any to start making them. Happy writing!


Create a Successful Bookstore Event

May 27, 2014

Bookstore events typically occur in the spring and fall because that’s when national author tours take place and bookstores typically give these authors priority on the calendar.

That doesn’t mean you can’t create a successful bookstore event, however. Here are some ideas to help you.

  • Know what the bookstore’s events are like and what you can expect in terms of the bookstore promoting the event, what attendance is likely to be, and who frequents the bookstore.
  • Make your reading an event. Some things to consider are a publication party with treats, an informational seminar, a demonstration (cooking, crafts, arts, music), or a PowerPoint slide show that’s really a show and tell.
  • Guard against overexposure. Avoid setting up events too close to each other in a short space of time. I set up a book signing for a romance writer in a bookstore in the northern suburbs of the twin cities. The next day she was scheduled for a book signing in the southern suburbs, a distance of about thirty-five miles.
  • Use whatever media resources you can. Include the book’s title, the author’s name, the publication date, the ISBN, the price of the book, a description of the book, something about the author, and how people can get the book. Create your own list of friends, fans, family, and associates. Don’t overlook libraries, clubs, organizations, chambers of commerce, colleges, and other groups. At a minimum, you can alert them to your event. You may even book an event with the organization since they have calendars to fill too.
  • If you’re doing a reading, practice reading aloud. Mark the place you want to read so you can easily access it without fumbling around. Read clearly so you can be heard and understood. Use inflection where appropriate to make your reading come alive for your audience.
  • Go to bookstores in which you are not having an event and introduce yourself. Offer to autograph any copies of your book they have in stock. If they aren’t stocking your book yet, offer to come back in a couple of weeks to sign them when they arrive.

People cannot purchase something unless they know it exists. You’ve written your book. It’s published. Now your work really begins. You cannot be shy about selling your book. Strive to do something each day to let the world know your book exists. Happy writing!

Marketing Your Writing is a Journey, not a Sprint

May 12, 2014

I encourage you to increase your awareness of how many radio and television guests are pushing books. I also encourage you to be honest with yourself about how well you retain the book’s title, author’s name, etc. Most of us won’t recall either one shortly after the guest moves on.

Yet, there are some books and authors we do remember, so what did they do to make themselves “famous”? One word sets those we remember apart from those we don’t–repetition.

Steps to getting famous:

  • Work up a plan for getting your name out everywhere. Consider venues that are both large and small–local shows, local print, local events can serve you, as can national opportunities.
  • Consider all the different types of media available to you in your campaign to be famous. Get quoted in print. Become a guest on radio or television. Write a guest blog post or article for online opportunities. Speak to groups. Appear at events.
  • Expand so you reach beyond your niche. Romance writers cross over into mysteries. Sales experts expand into marketing. Even Stephen King wrote a book outside the horror genre. Maybe something in your personal life will move you into new arenas you never thought of before.
  • Timing is everything. If you’re writing an article, make sure it’s relevant for when it’s being published. I’m writing this the day after Mothers Day, which means I shouldn’t be wasting your time writing about what flowers to get Mom for her day.
  • Expect you, not the media, to reach your audience. Think of the media as vehicles, but you are the driver. Fame is fleeting, but if you keep working at it, readers and editors will recognize your name, and recognition can turn into book sales, article sales, etc.

Start by brainstorming the things you’re willing to do to market your writing, whether marketing your book or selling articles. Avoid being a “also-ran” television or radio guest with a book. Work up a plan and follow it. Happy writing!

Writing Doesn’t Happen without a Start

January 22, 2014

Writers love to write, but they often can’t agree on how to get started–so they don’t. Instead, they spend precious time debating the best way to start writing. Here are the three main ideas they consider.

  1. Write with the audience in mind. If you don’t know who you’re writing for, you won’t know what to write.
  2. Write with the vision/goal in mind. If you don’t know why you’re writing something, you won’t know what to write.
  3. Write with the muse leading you. If you don’t let the muse lead you, you won’t know what to write.

While each of these ideas has merit, none of them is the one answer to getting started once you sit down to write. For example, fiction writers differ from nonfiction writers in audience, vision, and even in where the muse takes them.

I’ve written both fiction and nonfiction and fiction is much more difficult for me. I’m not good at creating a whole world and the people in it, then controlling what they do when. I’m much better at nonfiction writing.

In writing nonfiction, I do think about the audience and constantly ask these questions when deciding what to include and what to discard.

  • What is the reader looking for on this topic?
  • What can I offer to meet the reader’s desire for information?
  • What’s commonly known about my topic already?
  • What’s interesting/exciting about my topic?
  • What’s frustrating readers about my topic?
  • What’s boring about my topic?

One writing instructor I had once asked this question, “Who do you write for–yourself or the reader?” Since I was pursuing a career as a freelance writer at the time, I mentally responded, “The decision-maker,” meaning the editor with the power to decide to accept my query or not. The reality, however, is the decision-maker accepted articles the reader would want to read, so I focused on writing for the reader.

I read a lot of fiction for pleasure and find I most enjoy fiction that feels like it’s written for me, the reader. By that, I mean it addresses questions pertaining to how I might feel about the characters or their relationships or their conflicts. It addresses questions pertaining to my expectations on  plot twists. It even addresses timing, details, and what I visualize from the words I read.

What point am I trying to make in this post? Instead of spinning your wheels trying to figure out how to get started writing, place the seat of your pants on the seat of your chair and start writing what you would like to read. Writers are readers, so the idea should be easy to implement. If you write what you would like to read, chances are you’re also writing what your reader wants to read.

Avoid the trap of debating whether you visualize the reader, the goal, or simply let the muse lead you. The one thing each of these ideas has in common is you writing something you’d like to read yourself. But you can’t do that if you don’t get started!

Happy writing!

Writers Need Writers–Sometimes

December 23, 2013

Writing is a solitary activity, but writing involves being social too. You get to decide how much social interaction you want by how many writer’s conferences you go to, how many writing classes you attend, whether or not you join a writers group, and which networking opportunities you accept or decline.

  • Writers conferences typically offer successful writers as speakers. You get to select which sessions you want to attend, depending on subject matter; speaker’s reputation, fame, or following; and any other criteria you deem important. Often the speaker shares how he or she got published. The sessions are meant to encourage you to keep writing because the same thing could happen to you. Realistically, however, the chances of that occurring are minimal and both speaker and audience realize that. However, it’s still fun to go to writers conferences, meet other writers, and pick up a nugget or two of helpful insights along the way.
  • Writing classes can range from one night to a series of nights, depending on subject matter and instructor. Many writers teach to supplement writing income and most writing classes are valuable on some level. Some instructors lecture, others spend the majority of time having students write and share what they wrote, and others combine both lecture and writing exercises. I’ve done all three and find value in each one, depending on the topic.
  • Writers groups create their own rules regarding just about everything. I was a member of the Minneapolis Writers Workshop that was established in 1937 and has met ever since. They meet every Wednesday evening for two hours. The first Wednesday of the month is open read (anyone can read), on the other nights members sign up for one of the reading slots. I’ve belonged to other writers groups as well. One met every Friday afternoon. Membership was limited to five people, and if you didn’t bring something to read, you had to bring food for everyone (which worked to keep everyone writing). When you do join a writers group, make sure it’s working for you and you’re working for it. Since writers groups are usually volunteer, you’ll probably get involved at some point. That’s great if it’s helping your writing. If it’s keeping you from writing, not so much!
  • Writers should know there are two types of networking: (1) Getting to know as many people as possible in order to connect with those who can help your career, and (2) Being open to new connections/relationships if you can help the other person or if you’re willing to ask the other person to help you. I highly recommend you focus on the second type of networking because you’ll feel more free to ask questions, to offer your expertise, and to respect and be respected. The first type of networking tends to look for ways to use people to help you get ahead. The second type of networking tends to build relationships and connections while you stay in control of the time and effort you spend in the networking process.

Yes, writing is a solitary activity, but writers need writers–sometimes.

Happy writing!



Fighting Fear of Failure

October 7, 2013

Whether in our personal lives, professional lives, or writing lives, it’s not uncommon to fear failure. Oh, sure, we appear confident and self-assured, but fear lurks behind that veneer, and we stop short of succeeding. In essence, we guarantee our failure.

It’s time to stop that self-defeating mind-set and be honest with yourself. It takes a little practice to change an old habit of being self-critical or self-defeating, but anyone can do it. Here are some steps to get you started.

  1. Self-appraisal. Take a long, hard look at yourself. How do you rate your dedication to your writing? Do you write because you’re driven to it? Because you dream of being published? Because you have something to share? Once you’re clear about why you write, you’re more apt to give yourself permission to write–you’ll be more dedicated to it.
  2. Pinpoint the areas that stimulate your fear. Do you feel weak in character development, so you avoid that? Do you feel weak in description, so you avoid that? Do you focus on those writers who are wildly successful in their writing careers, then tell yourself that will never happen for you? Once you’re honest with yourself about what stimulates your fear, confront that negativity head on so you can defeat that anxiety.
  3. Analysis. This is a tough step because it requires you to separate legitimate fears from those irrational fears you generate yourself. It requires you sift fact from fiction. Granted, some fears are justified–such as if you don’t work and earn money to pay the rent or mortgage, you risk being homeless. But most things we fear don’t become reality, so do your analysis to see what’s creating your fear of failure.
  4. Action. To conquer fear, you must do something. For example, if you fear criticism of your writing, so you never share at writers group, take a chance and read at your next meeting. If you get any criticism, you decide whether you accept it or reject it. But at least you’ve broken through your barrier of not reading at writers group. Once you’ve done that you’ll probably read at the next meeting. That means you’ll have to write something, which is a good thing.

If fear of failure is holding you and your writing back, consider implementing these four steps. Fear can be mastered by modifying behavior. Instead of thinking something undesirable will happen, take some action to find out if it actually will. You may find people love your stories, your articles, or your book. If just one person encourages you with a smile or a comment, you’ve stepped onto the path to writing success and you’re closer to freeing yourself from your fear of failure. Happy writing!

Self-image and Writing

October 3, 2013

A friend of mine was over a few weeks ago, saw one of my published books on the shelf, and asked to borrow it. She called earlier this week to tell me how much she’s enjoying it. Guess what that did to my self-image as a writer!

How about you? How do you see yourself as a writer? Oh, sure, those who love us offer glowing support for our writing, but we sort of expect that. Even our writing group members tend to be kind more than critical at times. And, yes, it’s important how they see us as writers, but how you see yourself as a writer is even more important.

If you haven’t spent much time thinking about you as a writer, here are some ideas to get you started.

  • List three adjectives to describe yourself as a writer (not as a person, not as a spouse or significant other, not as a friend, etc., but focus solely on you as a writer). Are you disciplined? Are you dedicated? Do you keep your promises to everyone but yourself (that is, let everyone else claim time you could be writing)?
  • List the top four hurdles you need to get over so you can become the writer you want to be. Do you need to be more honest (not mean, just honest) with yourself about your discipline, dedication, etc. to writing? Do you need to determine what you need to change, then get the knowledge on how to achieve that change? Do you need to work on consistency in saying no to others or in saying yes to self? Do you need to budget for classes, books, travel, research, memberships, conferences, retreats, or whatever you think will help you become the writer you want to become?
  • Find thirty minutes a day for you. If you love to write so much you feel guilty about doing it while there’s other work to be done, give yourself permission to write for a short period (say, 30 minutes) every day. Writing could include anything connected to writing–research, reading, writer’s groups, editing, even writing! Find the 30 minutes (even if it’s two 15-minute periods or three 10-minute periods) to concentrate on writing. The experts say we can benefit by getting our 30 minutes a day of physical exercise in similar shorter periods, so why not get our writing exercise the same way?
  • Embrace your desire to be a writer. Too often we embrace the criticism, the negativity (even if it’s only us telling ourselves we don’t write description well, we don’t use active voice enough, we don’t…, we don’t…). There’s a place for criticism, but there’s also a place for encouragement. When you like a character you created, celebrate that success. When you get a compliment, claim it and keep it. When you’ve accomplished 30 minutes a day writing, put your writing away for the day, take a deep breath, smile, and congratulate yourself on achieving that goal.

Writers write, right? How you see yourself as a writer is important to your success as a writer, so create the best self-image you can. Happy writing!

Do You Really Consider Yourself a Writer?

June 20, 2013

If you tell someone you’re a writer, you probably get two questions.

  1. What do you write?
  2. Have you been published?

The second question implies that you need to be published to call yourself a writer. Not so. I guarantee that you cannot be published unless you’re a writer first.

Obviously being published helps validate your writing, but how many stories are there about manuscripts that were discovered and published after a writer’s death? Would you claim the writer wasn’t a writer in his/her lifetime? I think not.

So, what can you do to consider yourself a writer? Here are some thoughts.

  • Write every day. Schedule the time to write if you must, but spend some time every day on your writing.
  • Define what counts as writing. Writers do research, for example. Research involves actually doing a task, then using that experience in a scene; interviewing people; reading; web searches; observation; taking a class; etc. If, in all honesty, you’re doing research connected to your writing, count it as part of your writing process.
  • Give yourself credit for having your own writing style. Too many new writers stop trying because they think they need to write like Hemingway or Stephen King or Danielle Steele. Avoid the trap of thinking you have to match another writer’s technical ability or style to consider yourself a writer.
  • Be persistent. An old joke says, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Response: “Practice, practice, practice.” Or, as I tell my writing students, “For the most part, he who practices doesn’t get worse.” Practice requires persistence.
  • Keep writing issues in perspective. Some good writers won’t give themselves a break because they think they don’t have enough education or can’t spell or don’t know grammar well. But writing is both art and skill. Art comes naturally and skill can be learned and practiced. If you need more education, go get it. If you can’t spell or don’t know grammar well, your word processor will help with its built-in tools and you can always hire an editor.
  • Take yourself seriously as a writer. If you don’t take yourself seriously, how can you expect others to?

I hope these ideas help you become your own biggest fan as you continue your writing journey.

Happy writing!