Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Do Writers Make Money?

Don't ask me why, but money seems to be on the minds of many this week. All figures quoted are in US dollars.

First up, Rachelle Gardner warns prospective authors that landing a publishing contract won't solve your financial problems (given that most advances are below $10,000, you'll be lucky if the first half pays your credit card bill after your agent and the friendly tax department have taken their share).

Then self-publishing guru Joe Konrath hosted Harlequin author Ann Voss Peterson, as she lamented that she earned just $20,000 on a book that sold 179,000 copies since 2002. (This was also linked to by Passive Guy, Scott C Eagan and Steve Laube. Agent Scott C Eagan posted in defence of Harlequin, but deleted his post after being roasted by Passive Guy commenters. Joe Konrath was tempted dissect Eagan's views, but instead challenged Steve Laube's.)

Christian author Eric Voss (author of the novelisation of the Fireproof movie, as well as several other Christian novels) shares how he earns only around $22,500 p.a. through writing - the reality of publishing is that it is not a get-rich-quick scheme, as he could have earned twice as much staying in his corporate role.

Finally, historical romance author Courtney Milan shares her Tale of Two Royalty Statements, in which she finds that she spent more money promoting her trade-published novella than she did promoting her self-published novel - but she earned more from the self-published work.

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Marketing Basics Part 5: Promotion

Promotion is the third of the four P’s of marketing, after Product and Price, and it is a big issue for authors. Without promotion, no one will know to buy your books.

I have to admit that I have been struggling to write these next posts, because there is just so much information available on the ways businesses should be promoting themselves online that I was just getting lost in the detail.

Then inspiration struck: yes, there are many ways to promote. But the central question is: Why? Why do we promote?  What is the purpose of promotion?

To connect with customers and potential customers, to raise awareness of you and your product (your book) in order to influence them to purchase.

How do we connect with customers and potential customers? That depends on who they are and where they are. If they are on Facebook, connect on Facebook. If they are not, find another way to connect. If your customer is teenagers, then Facebook and Twitter are important. If your customer is middle-aged or retired people, then Twitter might be less important than a blog, an email, or even a snail mail newsletter.

Basically, the way you promote has to reflect who your customer is. You have to know your customer, and be where they are. You don’t have to be everywhere online – just be the places that your customer is, and places where potential customers are likely to see you and connect to you.

Over the next few weeks, we will look in more detail at the practical details of blogging, and the use of other social networks to build a platform.

Just don’t try and do it all at once. You’re supposed to be writing!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Blogging for Beginners: Why Blog?

I have been asked 'can you tell us about blogging?'. I'm no expert, but this post begins my attempt to explain the what, who, where, when, why and how of blogging for writers.

What (is a blog)

Blog is short for ‘weblog’, an internet-based diary or log.

Who (writes blogs)

Everyone. Students, parents, grandparents, authors, agents, publishers... any category of people you can think of.

Writes and authors who want a publishing contract, especially in non-fiction. Agents and publishers want to see evidence of a  ‘platform’ (which is a circle of influence, not a type of shoe). This means social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads) and a personal blog.


The two main free sites are Blogger and WordPress. I currently use Blogger, which is pretty easy, but it does take time at the beginning to familiarise yourself with all the features (and when you think you have worked out everything you need to know, they update it).


Bloggers probably need to post two to three times per week. Less often, and you might be ignored. More often, and your readers might get overloaded (unless you have something really good to say). Examples: One Christian author I follow sometimes posts five times a day, and that is over the top, because most of her posts are about her and her life (and would be better suited to a social networking site like Facebook). Passive Guy also posts several times a day, but his posts are links to and comments on other blog posts about publishing, and sometimes news moves pretty fast in that area, so his are more likely to be relevant interesting (to me, at least).

You can schedule posts on Blogger, so that you can write a post and schedule it to post on a defined day. So, for example, you could write three or four related posts, then schedule them to post over the course of a week or a month.

Some bloggers make a big deal out of checking their stats to see which posts attract the most attention, then planning their schedule around that. Personally, I don’t have enough visitors to make that relevant! However, if this is something you are interested in, you would be advised to link your site to Google Analytics, which (apparently) gives more reliable statistics than the Blogger site.

What (should you post)

It depends. You need to think of what the focus of your blog is. Ideas:
  • Reviews of books you have enjoyed
  • Recommendations of good books/resources for writers
  • Interesting facts from your research to whet appetite for your book/novel
Whatever you decide, it should be you, but a slightly sanitised version of you. Your future agent or publisher will be checking, so no rants about incompetent agents, rude publishers or even how annoying your neighbour/spouse/child is.

Why (why I blog)

I started my first blog, a reviewing blog, to get free Christian books. I blog for several book blogging programmes, who offer free ebooks in return for me reviewing them on my personal blog, Amazon, and other consumer websites (I also review on ChristianBook in the USA, and Koorong in Australia).

I started my editing blog to promote and market my editing services by providing Christian authors with information on writing, editing, publishing and marketing.

I should also start a third blog/website for my ‘day job’ as a self-employed management consultant, but am wary of over-committing myself!

Why (you, as an author, might need to blog)

  • To build a platform for your writing
  • To find out what is happening in your target market – one of the features of Blogger is the ability to follow other blogs of interest, and have their new posts come up automatically on your dashboard (which is just like the dashboard of a car – a single screen with all the important information).
  • To connect with other writers and authors (received wisdom is that you need to connect to others so that they will also connect with you. Also, comment on other blogs with your own blog address, so people can track you back and follow your blog).
The how will follow!