Why marketing is all about relationships – a guest post by L.M. Merrington

Today’s post is by L. M. Merrington, an Australian writer of Gothic fiction. Take it away, Lou!

Two years ago, almost to the day, my first novel, Greythorne, was released. Because I had a contract with a digital-first imprint of one of the Big Five publishers, I (naively) thought that this meant they’d take care of a lot of the marketing. I quickly discovered, as plenty of debut authors have, just how wrong I was.

Fast forward two years and I’m about to release my second novel, The Iron Line, which is out on 4 December. A lot has happened in the intervening time – the imprint I was with closed down, leaving me with some big decisions to make. I eventually got my rights back and, rather than pursuing another traditional contract, chose to go indie. (If you’re interested in reading more about how and why I came to that decision, I recently wrote an article about it for online magazine Inside Story). In terms of marketing, this means I’m now completely on my own, but I’ve also got far more freedom than I had before.

There’s so much out there about book marketing, especially for indie authors, and especially using online tools like email lists or Facebook and Amazon ads. I don’t want to rehash that here; rather, I just want to share a few of the things that have worked for me over the last two years. I’ve discovered a lot of this through trial and error, and growing an audience for your books is a slow process. But the main thread that’s come through for me is the importance of relationships and authenticity.

  1. Build your networks

Networking has always been a major factor in my career success outside of writing, and I’m finding that it’s exactly the same in Book World. By networking I don’t mean getting up in people’s faces and selling aggressively, but rather establishing and maintaining relationships with people who are genuinely interested in what you do. These can be online, in person, or a combination of both – one of my first speaking gigs as a published author was via Skype with book club members at a public library in Ohio.

In fact, one of my most fruitful ongoing marketing efforts has developed as a result of networking. While I was writing Greythorne I happened to get back in touch with my former English teacher, who is still teaching at my old high school. I asked if she’d beta read for me, which she did, and after the book was released she invited me to give an author talk and run a writing workshop with students. Based on the success of this, Greythorne was added to the Year 8 reading list – although it’s not strictly a YA book, it has a young protagonist and themes suitable for teenagers.

The teachers also encouraged me to run a workshop at a conference for Victorian Association for the Teaching of English, and an attendee at that workshop subsequently got Greythorne added to the Year 8 reading list at her school. In addition, I was also contacted by a parent of one of the students, who had contacts in the film industry and was interested in passing the book on to them for consideration. So you just never know where things might go. I hadn’t initially considered teachers as part of my marketing plan, but now I see these relationships as invaluable.

  1. Make life easy for your audience

Over the last two years I’ve built up quite a few supplementary materials for Greythorne, aimed at libraries, schools, and journalists. These include book club notes, teaching notes, and a media kit. All of these provide extra information about the book (in the case of the notes), or about me (in the case of the media kit), and they’re all available for free on my website. Teachers and journalists in particular are very time-poor, and are more likely to engage with your book if you’ve already done some of the hard work for them. A Canberra news site, The RiotACT, recently published an article on my new release using material drawn almost entirely from my media kit.

  1. Say yes to things

Say yes to opportunities, even if they’re a bit outside your comfort zone, and you’ll be amazed where they can take you. Give talks at libraries (or schools, or nursing homes); do interviews with local media; run free writing workshops with your local community; write guest blog posts or articles; attend conferences and markets; and give your readers some way to contact you (and of course make sure you always respond). And ask the people you interact with if they know anyone else who might be interested – word of mouth is a powerful thing. When I was still with a traditional publisher, I sold considerably more books myself than the publisher did, even without access to online promotional tools. In the two months since I’ve gone indie, I’ve sold more paperbacks than the publisher did in a year.

For many authors, the idea of getting out there and spruiking your wares is terrifying, and as an introvert myself I can understand that. But I also see it as a huge privilege that people even care about my little book and want to hear more about it, and I love interacting with readers. There are also so many organisations – especially libraries, schools and local media – who are keen to support local and emerging authors, so they’re relationships that are really worth building.

I believe it’s a very exciting time to be an author – we have more options and opportunities to reach our readers than ever before. Marketing shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable or scared; you just need to find a way that works for you.


L.M. Merrington was born in Melbourne, Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in media and communications and Chinese, and a PhD in international relations. A former journalist, strategic analyst, and university communications manager, she currently runs her own business, Pure Arts Communications. She is also the author of a non-fiction book, Communications for Volunteers: Low-Cost Strategies for Community Groups, released in early 2017. She lives in Canberra with her husband, Tristan. Her first novel, Greythornewas published in 2015, and her new novel, The Iron Line, will be released on 4 December 2017. Her website is www.lmmerrington.com.

5 FOOLproof NaNoWriMo Time Savers

This November on Aussie Owned and Read we’re waxing lyrical ‘For the Love of Words’. Timely, because November for many means NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, where thousands of writers around the world attempt to write 50 thousand words in one month. Yes, you read that right, a 50-thousand-word draft of a novel in 30 days! I’ve never formally taken part in this insane hugely popular initiative, but this year I’m committing informally and have devised some foolproof strategies to help me—and you—succeed.

  1. Buy a month’s worth of undies to cut back on washing. 

weekday undies etsyLet’s be honest, sitting at your computer pounding out the words is not exactly physically strenuous. Wearing the same t-shirt and pair of yoga pants for a week isn’t going to kill anyone, so theoretically you only need 4 sets of clothing to get through the month. But I draw the line at underwear. Undies are a single wear kind of garment. For a no wash solution, make a quick trip to Target where you can pick up 4 packs of 7—the ones with the days of the week on them will help you keep track of time while you’re down the NaNo rabbit hole. Those little cottontails, plus whatever you already have in your drawer, should have you set for the entire month.

2. Pick arguments with friends and family so they don’t talk to you for a month. 

 This might sound harsh, but if you’re anything like me, you enjoy being social and like interacting with family and friends. But all this human connection takes time and therefore a toll on your word count, so it’s best to cut all emotional and social ties for the month of November. Don’t worry, it’ll all come good in December since that’s the season of goodwill and cheer—and hopefully forgiveness—so all those friends and family members you alienated during NaNo are sure to forgive and forget.

3. Petition to rename December November!

Time for some home truths—no one likes December. It’s the most stressful month of the year. Everyone’s racing to finish things up at school or uni or work, attending all the end of year functions, dance performances, farewell parties etc., all while trying to do the Christmas shopping while reggae versions of feliz navi da may drive you to commit violence against the nearest shopping mall Santa. Renaming December November would eliminate all this stress and give you double the time to get your 50 thousand words down. Win win!

4. Put a speech-to-text program next to your bed so you can capture more words while you sleep.

You know how it goes; you go to sleep and dream up a jaw-dropping story premise. The first few chapters roll off your REM waves in high definition perfection, Then you wake up and BOOM! It’s all gone. Nothing left. Your brain is so fuzzy you can’t even remember the genre of this masterpiece. But if you record what you say in your sleep, you’ll wake to a half finished novel. How no one has though of this before, I do not know! You might need to edit out the snoring, but other than that you should be good to go.

5.  Teach your dog to type.

This one is self explanatory.

If all these are too alternative for you, then by all means, try a more traditional approach and drink copious cups of coffee while propping your eyes open with toothpicks. I’ve also heard that boring tried and tested strategies such as getting up an hour earlier, turning off the internet, locking the study room door, and using a dictation app while you’re out on a walk can be effective strategies.

Do tell, what are your most successful NaNoWriMo time savers? Share in the comments!


Kat Colmer AuthorKat Colmer is a Young Adult author and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. Her debut YA The Third Kiss is out now with ENTANGLED TEEN. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

 

Fear of failing as a writer

Source: Shutterstock

Happy Halloween, dear readers!

As you’ll already be aware, this month on Aussie Owned and Read we’re talking fears. I’ve already blogged about a couple of mine previously — during our 2014 Haunting Halloween blog hop, I shared a scary (and true) story of the last time took part in a seance, and talked about my fear of unstoppable, invisible death such as plague or nuclear fallout.

So now I have to choose from one of the two things that truly terrify me. One I’m still going to nope out of (something happening to my son), which leaves the other.

Fear of failure.

It’s not quite the imposter syndrome that Lauren blogged about last week, although that’s part of it. I know that whenever anyone from work congratulates me on a book release, I always downplay the accomplishment. I’m an indie author, and I think I’m still subconsciously hankering for the validation of a big contract — even though I know that’s silly and that actually completing six novels is still a pretty big deal.

It’s more that, this year, I have written barely a word that wasn’t a book review or a blog post. I did finish the last little bit of False Awakening in January, and I spent quite a bit of time doing edits on that to get it ready to publish … but original words? Almost none.

What if I can’t write anymore? What if I’ve forgotten how?!

I’m actually feeling ashamed right now, typing these words. Like I’m sharing a dirty secret. Because — even though I know it’s silly, even though I know I’m being overly harsh on myself — if I don’t write, doesn’t that make me failure as a writer?

So that’s my fear.

My problem isn’t writer’s block, I don’t think. I described it to a friend as “writer’s ennui”. Frankly, I think I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing, and trying to return to match fitness (such as I ever had) is so daunting it’s causing all my anxieties.

I am working to overcome it. I’ve been plotting out a new book — a steampunk fantasy, which is a new genre for me — and the world-building has really slowed me down. (Urban fantasy was way easier.) In the meantime, I’m trying to write a short story at the moment, for a local anthology that has a call out for submissions. Even if I don’t get selected, it’s all about building my writing muscles up again.

So there you have it. My embarrassing, paralysing fear.


While I’m here, I’m going to be cheeky and wish a happy book birthday to one of our former Aussie Owned and Read bloggers, K. A. Last. Her newest release, the delightfully creepy The Lovely Dark, comes out today. You can read my review of it here.


Cassandra Page is a speculative fiction author — she is an author, she’s sure of it. She even has five books on sale to prove it.

Exploring genre: Suspense

I write in a lot of genres, and while suspense isn’t one of them (yet!) I absolutely love to read it. 

So what do I think makes a good suspense read? Here are my top three tips:

  1. Having a fabulous twist. A strong twist that surprises the reader can turn a good suspense book into a great one. One of my favourite YA Suspense of recent-ish years is We Were Liars by E. Lockhart for this very reason! I finished the book very quickly, but was left thinking of that twist for weeks afterward.
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  2. Having a strong element of mystery. Sounds pretty basic, right? But sometimes the mystery in a plot can become too predictable, the answers all too obvious. One book I’ve read recently that does the opposite and left me absolutely hanging out to find out who did it was One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus. What an excellent read! I loved it so much and don’t know if I’ve ever been so desperate to turn a page.
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  3. Having strong characters. You can have the best mystery in the world, the most surprising twist, but if you don’t create characters that are believable, likeable, and endearing, no one will care what happens to them and your suspense will fall flatter than a sat-upon pancake. 

They’re just a few things I think are crucial to a good suspense read–what about you? 

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Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel. You can say hi to her over on Facebook here.

So You Think You’re Funny? 3 Ways to Add Humour to Your Writing

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Image: Ryan McGuire via Gratisography

September is all about exploring genre on Aussie Owned and Read, so I stuck my hand up to look at humour. Okay, so technically humour isn’t a genre, rather more an element of style and voice which can be employed across any genre, but if you look at the genre categories in physical and online bookstores, there’s usually a humour section. So I’m sticking to my guns – or in this case, maybe water pistols.

I love reading fiction with a humorous voice, so it’s no surprise my own writing is sprinkled with good doses of humour (or so I’m told). Like most people, though, I can’t really pinpoint what makes someone else’s – or my own – writing funny. So I Googled! Don’t judge. You would have too! Why reinvent the wheel when somebody else’s wheels have come off so nicely for the sake of a laugh?

  1. Think Ks for Giggles

Words with sharp ‘k’ or ‘c’ sounds are apparently king when it comes to laughter mileage, and words with ‘g’ sounds aren’t far behind in the giggle stakes. Go figure. This phenomenon is widely known in comedy writer circles as the K Rule. Now you know why words like ‘discombobulated’ or ‘gargoyle’ and ‘goggles’ make you smile. Put them all together – a discombobulated gargoyle wearing goggles – and you’ll have readers rolling between the pages! Okay, moving on.

2. Go NUTS on the Metaphors and Similes!

Punchy metaphors and similes are a comedy writer’s best friend, which is a good thing because I love metaphors and similes like a newly washed Labrador loves rolling in garden fertilizer. A well crafted metaphor or simile can only add to the humour in your story. The trick is to keep it fresh and creative, and to avoid cliché. Apparently you can overuse this brilliant comedic tool in your writing, or so my editor tells me. We agreed to disagree – after he made me edit out a good chunk of my metaphor and simile brilliance. I’m okay bout it. Really.

3. The Rule of 3s

Patterns are generally a useful device for writers, but a pattern of three, where the first two items set up the reader to expect one thing only to be given something unexpected in item three, is a great tool when writing humour.

‘Meredith couldn’t understand why her friends didn’t want to come hang at her place on a stinking hot day like today. She had her own air conditioned teen retreat. The fridge was stacked with heaps of cold soft drink. And she had found twelve of her fifteen pet tarantulas that had escaped their terrarium that morning.’

You get the idea.

And because all good things come in threes, here are three of my favourite YA titles that do humour really well:

If you’re after more tips on writing funny, check out Four Commandments to Writing Funny by Joe Bunting and How to Mix Humor into Your Writing by Leigh Anne Jashway.


Kat Colmer AuthorKat Colmer is a Young Adult author and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. Her debut YA The Third Kiss is out now with ENTANGLED TEEN and may or may not contain a few too many humorous metaphors and similes. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

Elements of a Great Story: Editing

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Aussie Owned and Read has spent this month exploring the elements of a good story. Their awesome articles have explored ingredients such as the importance of authentic characters – by identifying their values, their beliefs, their reactions; the power of dialogue – by including conflict and subtext; the importance of pacing – how we can pick it up with action and dialogue and short, punchy sentences; and the power of setting – one that has been artfully woven through our scenes and characters. It really impresses on us the complexity and layers a good story needs to grasp readers. That’s a lot of balls to juggle…

How do you make sure the creation you’ve spent untold hours and sacrifices for has ticked all these boxes? You harness the power of editing.

Editing is the process of putting a new, very valuable and incredibly important, lens on your story. Stories are our babies. And just like our children or siblings, we tend to overlook (or plain old not see) their flaws. In our eyes, their strengths outshine any flaws they might have. With our family, that’s the way it should be. With a product that’s going out to for stranger’s consumption, we need to raise the bar. Editing creates the space you need to look at your story in a new way, find the weaknesses, and shore up the strengths. Luckily, there’s more than one way to do it, and it can be free.

  1. Self-Editing

There is a lot of information out there, blog, books and courses, about undertaking your own editing. If you want to hone the skills, then I suggest spending some time with Google. In the meantime the first step I recommend if you’re going to self-edit is to let your manuscript rest for a spell. And I’m talking at least a month. The first thing that will happen when you come back with fresh eyes is issues (that you hadn’t considered) will leap out so fast you’ll wonder how you missed them. Next, consider a lens that you’d like to elevate to next level; maybe dialogue, maybe pacing, maybe weaving setting through more seamlessly, and go through your manuscript with that filter in mind. Last, read your manuscript out loud, you’ll be surprised what you pick up.

This stage is important and shouldn’t be skipped, but it depends on you knowing your strengths and weaknesses in the craft of writing, and I’m not sure I’ve found a writer who has that level of objectivity. I know I don’t. This is why I recommend the next step as a vital part of making your story ready for publishing.

  1. Critique Partners

The discovery of my critique partners took my writing from a level I didn’t know I’d settled into, to a level I couldn’t have predicted. Critique partners are fellow lovers of the written word that have some understanding of the anatomy of a good story. As a general rule, these are fellow writers, and you exchange your work to provide honest and encouraging feedback. Critique partners can find things you missed, plot threads you’ve left dangling, characters that are hard to connect with. What’s even more rewarding, is finding critique partners that share the writing journey with you – the highs, the lows, the unexpected turns. They provide a level of support and encouragement that is impossible to quantify.

The points you need to keep in mind is being selective in your critique partners – you want a critique partner you can trust; one that is insightful, knowledgeable, discerning, and kind. Sometimes that takes more than one try. The other point to consider is that critique partners are still invested in your writer’s ego (they don’t want to hurt your feelings), which can cloud judgement and complete honesty. They also don’t necessarily have the qualifications, knowledge and experience a professional editor can offer.

  1. Hire a Professional Editor

As a developmental editor, and a writer that has had my manuscripts professionally edited, I’m a firm believer in the power of hiring a professional editor. If you hire an editor, you get the experience and knowledge I just mentioned, but more importantly, you’re paying for objectivity that values the power your story over the protection of your ego. An editor will delve into your masterpiece, pull out the gems, and shine a light on the holes. Character inconsistencies, POV issues, story structure slumps will all be identified in a constructive way. Because you’ll be given a road map on how to make your story the best it can be. And you’ll learn from it. You’ll experience ‘aha’ moments that will open a whole new world of possibilities, which will shape your future writing endeavours. In my opinion, that’s money well spent.

What’s your experience of editing your book? How did you take your manuscript to the next level?


Tamar Profile PhotoTamar Sloan is a freelance developmental editor and the creator of the PsychWriter blog – a fun, informative hub of information on character development, the science of story and how to engage readers. Come and explore it at www.psychwriter.com.au. Tamar is also a passionate writer of award-winning young adult romance. You can find out more about Tamar’s books at www.tamarsloan.com. You can connect with Tamar on Twitter or Facebook.

Ramp up that Tension!

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It’s true! But they also want a great story! And tension is a way to keep them with you all the way. 

One of the things I find when I’m judging comp entries is that aspiring authors often confuse tension with pacing or with action. Too much pace with no breaks or undulations will certainly cause tension – but the wrong kind of tension. In short the kind that either lands your book against a wall or your reader in the ER. Ditto for action. With regards to these gently,  building and appropriate placing are the keywords. And sure, while both can help maintain the tension in your novel, they aren’t the tension. 

So, how can you build tension? Below are six things I’ve used that might help.

  1. Create characters that the reader connects with.

Once your reader has formed a connection with your character, tension is already built into that relationship. Think about someone you love or care about.  Now think about something bad happening to that person. Or them being in conflict with another; a conflict that causing them great pain and anguish; impacting on their life… Is your heart beginning to beat faster? A tightness around your chest? Pressure building in your head? No,  put the phone down. You’re not having a heart attack. (I hope!) What you’re experiencing is building tension. It’s the same with our stories. If we’ve created characters the reader readily empathises with, then the more we torture them, the more the reader worries and the more tension we build.

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  1. Keep the stakes high

A simple and long held equation for ‘story’ is:

Goal,  Motivation and Conflict   or  WHAT, WHY & WHO.

Broken down this means: WHAT does your character want? WHY does your character need this? WHO (or what) is preventing them from getting it?

 Next of course we add HOW  – as in ‘how’ do they overcome this – and we have story

There is always something at stake when you write a story. It might be the achievement of a life-long goal; the uncertainty of a love relationship; protecting a property that’s in danger of being lost to the family or protecting a child or sibling – or even a parent.  It could be needing to clear your name. It could be the strength to survive or to gain freedom. It could be anything.  That’s not the main point. The main point is that it must be BIG. And it must be plausible. And not achieving it must come at a price. A huge price.  This is teetering on the edge of a precipice tension.

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  1. Raising the stakes.

Tension in your stories isn’t static. It moves. It swells and abates. And swells again. And each time it swells, it rises higher.

Ian Irvine says of tension:  You can either raise the prize for succeeding, or raise the price of failure – or, preferably, both at the same time.”

And you keep raising those stakes.  Just when the reader takes a sigh of relief because some of the obstacles have eased, ramp it up. And ramp it even higher.

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  1. The Fear Factor

Fear is a great tension builder. When I workshop young or new authors I have them do a character profile. I’m not so interested in the basics such as looks and how many siblings they have etc, as I am in what lies underneath. One of those questions they answer in the profile concerns the character’s greatest fear. Greatest fear.  Once you have that answer you have a potential part of your plot – because one of the best ways to build tension in your story is to have that character face that fear. What is your greatest fear? The one that brings you out in a sweat  or paralyses you to the spot? Think about facing it.

How much tension are you feeling now?

Everybody has those fears.  Every one has doubts. Your character has those fears – and doubts – so use them!

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  1. Add a ticking clock

Nothing builds tension faster than a deadline.  If you don’t get the ransom to the dognapper by 12 midnight, the dog bites the dust. Again, take this back to your own life. What’s it like in your house in the morning as you scramble to get out the house to get to work on time? Maybe you’re super organised – in which case skip this. But if you’re like the majority of people, it’s madness. You have one eye on the clock; you’re running from point to point. You’re doubling up on yourself because you keep forgetting things in your haste. It gets worse:  The dog has hidden one shoe. (In which case, reconsider the ransom payment?) The child has remembered the assignment is due today. You’re at screaming point. By the time you’re out the door you feel like you’ve done a day’s work. Right?

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Again, this is tension. Any movie, book or show (Twenty Four?) we watch or read, that has a deadline element has automatic tension built in. And if you do it well, the reader won’t be able to look away.

6. Match the setting to the mood

If you’re building more than emotional tension – or not – use the elements to help build the mood. Make it as difficult for your character as possible. Always. For example is there’s evil afoot or if it’s a dark scary moment, ensure your setting and weather support that for you. A problem in the daytime is a heap less scary or worrying than one at night when you’re alone. Or when it’s raining. Or storming…  Wind howling. And the shutters are rattling and the trees are scraping the windows… 

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I’m sure you could research and find a trillion other ways to build tension and – most importantly –  maintain it. But I hope these six points are of some use. I can feel my BP already beginning to rise as I await your responses…

 

kaz-profiles-043Multi award winning author Kaz Delaney has published 72 novels for kids, teens & adults over a 20 year period, many of them  published in several languages. Thirteen are YA novels and every one features a romance. Her latest is The Reluctant Jillaroo, Allen & Unwin, 2016 .  She is repped by JDM Management.