In recent conversations with writers, I've been asked a particular question a few times: "I have an idea for a book, but I'm not quite sure the direction I want to go and don't even know if there is a market for this topic. What do I do?"
My answer was this: Use your blog! This is just one of the many examples of the fact that a blog is a critical weapon in the writer's armory. This is where you connect with your readers (your tribe) instantly. You can blog about the topic on which you're considering writing a full length book and gauge the response you get.
Even if you aren't sure the direction you'd like to take with a topic, or even what the scope of the book should be, this is where you can work those things out. Let your readers' feedback be your guide to what they want to hear more about. If you are writing a business book on How to Grow Your Market Share, for instance, you'll want to know the specific areas in which most business owners are looking for advice. Your blog readers, probably primarily made up of business owners, will tell you exactly what they are looking for and your book will be all the more relevant.
You don't believe me that your blog readers will buy a book filled with information they've already received on your blog?
Here's an example: Platform by Michael Hyatt. This book is based on information he shares very generously for FREE on his blog. But, it was packaged differently, new information added, and several freebies were offered when he launched it. Platform became a NY Times bestseller in 2012.
Blogging a book works for fiction as well. If you have an idea for a novel but are having trouble with character development or the plausibility of the setting you've created, blog a short story using those characters and setting. You can get feed back right there that will help you in when you are writing your novel.
Some novelists are even publishing an ebook of the first chapter of their novel as a short story, getting feedback through their websites and reviews, and then making changes before they put out the next chapter. That takes to the next level, don't you think?
So take your idea to the people. You'll have a better book in the end and may sell a few "pre-ordered" copies along the way.
On Saturday, the Center for Women here in Charleston, S.C., held their monthly Womens Writers Forum. The guest speaker was David Symonds, General Manager of CreateSpace, the self-publishing arm of Amazon.com.
First of all, let's just say more often than not, living in Charleston doesn't allow for access to people like David. Typically, companies (large and small) in the publishing world aren't located in South Carolina.
New York? Yes.
Charleston? Um, no.
CreateSpace, however, is located in North Charleston, S. C. I was thrilled at the opportunity to hear from David without travelling to a conference to ask him my questions directly.
David and his colleagues were informative, knowledgeable, and willing to answer even the toughest questions to the best of their abilities. First, he reviewed the process of publishing a book with CreateSpace from start to finish. Then he discussed royalties, and finished with a Q&A session. Needless to say, tough topics came up like the Indie bookstores' boycott of Amazon products, the lack of returnability of CreateSpace products, and lack of access to Amazon Canada, just to name a few.
Here are my takeaways:
1. CreateSpace is just about as easy as it gets for new authors to upload a book, create a cover and hit publish. Now we all know that ease is not the most important thing when it comes to self-publishing, but for someone like me who has used other Print on Demand companies, ease is a welcome change. Who doesn't want easy?
2. CreateSpace (print books) and Kindle Direct Publishing (ebooks published for the Kindle) are NOT the same thing. While they are both owned by Amazon and work together, an author must create an account with both companies and upload your document to both companies. Definitely a downside when you are looking for a streamlined service.
3. Amazon Canada is not part of the distribution options when you publish with CreateSpace, yet Amazon Europe is. Is that a big deal? I think so.
4. Expanded Distribution is optional for $25. This means Amazon will make sure you are listed with Ingram and Baker & Taylor. But, let's face it, the chance that a bookstore will pick up your book when it's not returnable (and CreateSpace is not), is small at best. Unless you are the next Amanda Hocking, they will go with something else to fill that wild card spot on their shelf.
5. There are many different options when it comes to ISBNs through CreateSpace. The options range from the simplest (you are assigned of their ISBNs for free) to publishing as your with your own imprint and purchasing an ISBN at $99. This is a convoluted topic. Do your research before making a decision.
Overall, I was impressed with CreateSpace's software, their commitment to making publishing easy for everyone, and the fact that they recognize they may not be the perfect publishing route for everyone - but they're ok with that. They strive to do the best they can for the authors that choose them.
Finally, here was the Quote of the Day summarizing one attendee's take-away:
"You don't have to pick one way or another (traditional, hybrid publisher, or self-publishing); you just have to have quality content."
When was the last time you paused from your writing and
thought, “Who is my audience?” It seems like a simple question and one with an
immediate answer. But when you really stop and think about it you may find the
answer is more fuzzy than you thought.
Whether you’re writing blog posts, magazine articles, a book
or website copy, you have to know the audience for your words. Answering that
question will help you through the research, writing and editing phases of your
For example, I’ve written a large number of articles for businesses
magazines and newspapers. I know the audience is a business crowd – educated people
with an understanding of phrases like “ROI” and “succession planning.” I don’t
need to waste words explaining these concepts in great detail.
Sounds like “writing concepts for dummies,” but we can get
so caught up in our writing we tend to forget who we’re writing for and who’s
reading our work. Gardner points to “engagement” as a critical component of
your blog. That means getting people to not only read your blog once but come
back time and again. The same could be said for books, articles and other forms
of writing where were want to develop an audience – a group of people who truly
want to read what we have to write.
If you’re struggling to determine your audience, take a look
back over your work and see what generated the most response. This is easy to
do on a blog where you can measure hits and comments and certainly if you’ve
published a book you’ll know if people are buying and reading. What blog post,
for example, had a lot of comments? Did something in that post resonate with
your target audience?
Maybe you write simply as a hobby, a way to express yourself
creatively. That’s OK if the audience is you. Most of us, though, want readers,
people who will engage with us on this writing journey, but they can’t engage
with you if you’re not writing for them.
Do you struggle with determining your audience? In what ways
have you answered this question for yourself?
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an
opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your
endurance has a chance to grow ~ James 1:2-3 NLT
I don’t know about you, but when things aren't going my way I
don’t consider it an opportunity for great joy.
In fact, I consider it quite the opposite.
I've had a great deal of trouble in my
life. I grew up in a pretty tumultuous
household. My mother unknowingly married a man after my father that was sexually abusive.
My father spent the most impressionable years of my life in prison. I made some pretty outrageous choices in my
young adult life that lead to disastrous consequences for both me and my
children. I’ll spare the details. That could turn into a whole book…
Ten years ago, I found myself crying out to God: Why? Why has my life been so awful? Why can’t things seem to go right for
me? Why do I keep making the same stupid
choices? God, I need your help!! I quickly discovered that He had been waiting for me all along. Waiting for me to turn to Him. Waiting for me to let Him take control. Once I did, He turned every test into a testimony,
every mess into a message. Every ounce of trouble that has come my way, he has used to shape me into the woman I am today. He is using my past to help others who are
struggling with the same things.
What about you? Are
you facing trials? Are you in the middle
of something you are certain you cannot endure? Would you consider making
it an opportunity for great joy, trusting that God can use all of it for His
glory and for your testimony? Now, suffering
with joy does not mean that you don’t feel pain; it
simply means that you choose to trust him in spite of your pain. You choose to proclaim your love for Him in
spite of your circumstances. His word
says that He works ALL things out for good for those who love him! Will you choose JOY today?
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever
you face trials of many kinds,because you
know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
Heavenly Father, thank you that you are with us when we face
trials and trouble. Give us the strength
we need to choose JOY. Allow our pain to
be used for your glory and while we are in the midst of it, comfort us and
bring us peace that passes all understanding.
In Jesus Name, Amen!
By Allison Herrin, Founder and Executive Director of Maia, an organization dedicated to the advocacy of single moms and their children. Alison blogs at www.heartabandoned.org. Follow her on twitter at @allisonherrin.
When I was applying for internships and my first newspaper
job, I spent hours trying to get my published articles photocopied. It’s not
easy to shrink a full-size newspaper down to a readable 8 x 11 sheet of paper.
Then I made copies of my resume, created a customized cover letter and put together
a packet of information to mail to prospective employers. It was time consuming
– and expensive.
Fast forward, er, just a few
years later and a majority of my clips are online. Now I have a website and
online portfolio where I add links to my articles. If someone wants a sample of
my work, I can simply forward a link to my website.
In fact, most editors don’t want that big envelope of
newspaper and magazine clips. If you’ve even seen an editor’s desk you know she
has more than enough stacks of paper. Today everyone wants to see your work
online – it’s much easier.
That means it’s critical for writers to have an online
presence. That could be a blog or a professional website where people can learn
more about you and your work. Even a blog needs an “About” tab and another page
to showcase work you might have had published elsewhere.
Keeping an updated LinkedIn profile is another good way to
highlight your professional experience.
In a recent
issue of Inc. magazine, I read
about three products that allow you to quickly and cheaply create a personal
webpage. These don’t give you a space for adding a portfolio, but it’s a good
start if you don’t have an online presence and at least want a bio and photo on
Here are Inc.’s
RebelMouse for a
collage type site for your social media posts. Free for a basic account.
About.Me for a one-page site
with your photo, bio and social media links. No place for creating a portfolio
but a good start if you don’t have any online presence. Free.
Vizify for an
aggregate of your social media accounts presented in infographic form. Free.
Now to go a step further and create a true online portfolio,
for creating a space for your resume, published work and bio. $8.99/month.