Writers and Marketing – What Makes Sense?

paris clockA couple of weeks ago, I shared a tally and breakdown of the average number of hours I spend each week on non-writing, marketing-related activities. Though my estimates were rough, the bottom like was that I typically spend between six and eleven hours each week on tasks that range from writing blog posts to posting on social media to meet-and-greets with potential clients.

That’s a lot of hours.

At least, it is in my world.

While I was writing that post (and suddenly realizing just how many hours I actually dedicate to these various pursuits), I began to question what – if anything – I was gaining as a return on the investment of my precious time. After all, time is the most valuable commodity for any writer. It is not something to be squandered. I have often lamented how little time I have to write, and yet here I discover that I have this cache of more than a full day’s worth of time hidden in plain sight, tucked away in a few minutes here and an hour or two there.

It was a sobering realization.

I couldn’t help wondering what I might accomplish if I spent those hours working on my writing. What if I took an entire day each week to focus 100% on my fiction projects?

The prospect made me take a closer look at the value of my marketing activities. Here (so far) is my assessment:

Reading and Retweeting Blogs: While I do not see a lot of interaction with my tweets, I do feel I get a lot of value out of reading the blogs. Though I may not put what I learn into action immediately, it’s important to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the publishing world. I also enjoy the aspect of discovery that is such a big part of reading blogs. I have unearthed  new authors, books, resources, and other valuable references through my blog reading. I do, however, think that there is some dead weight in my blog reader.

Next Actions: I am going to give my Feedly lists a thorough once over and unsubscribe from any blogs that aren’t delivering stellar content. I’m also going to investigate automated ways of finding new content outside my usual stomping grounds by setting up search alerts and other tools that will bring the great content to me instead of me having to spend so much time filtering through everything to find the good bits.

Writing My Bi-Weekly Column: This isn’t a paid gig, but (as I said in my original post) it is a great creative exercise and a deadline that forces me to get the writing done. In addition, I have some fuzzy  plans to eventually self-publish a collection of these essays in a calendar or day book format.

Next Actions: To get the most out of this activity, I’m going to get a bit more focused and intentional about my essay topics and formats. I’m going to think about each piece as part of an eventual whole so that I can make strides toward building a body of work that will make sense as a collection.

Blogging Here at Live to Write – Write to Live: Again, not a paid gig, BUT I get so much in return for the time I spend here. For one thing, the posts are yet another deadline that keep me writing on a regular basis. In addition, you guys (our readers!) are so supportive and provide so much inspiration. And, finally, I love publicly exploring my relationship with writing and the writing life.

Next Actions: While I love simply publishing posts to the blog, I am also looking to find other ways to connect with readers. Email is an often overlooked but powerful tool, so an email newsletter may be in the mix soon. (Stay posted!)

Commenting on Blog Posts: Last year, a number of top-name blogs removed comments from their blogs all together because it was becoming too much of a burden to respond and they weren’t seeing any benefits from that effort. I hope I never reach that point. Engaging readers in conversation is valuable to me not only in terms of strengthening relationships, but also in terms of inspiration. The comments you guys leave are full of great insights, ideas, and questions. Great stuff!

Next Actions: Not much to change here except that I hope to be able to respond to comments in a more timely manner.

Business Networking/Prospecting: Though these activities (including basic social media participation and networking, coffee dates, etc.) can take up a lot of time, when I looked hard at the source of my current revenue, I could trace almost every dollar back to an interaction that falls into this category. (No, I’m not kidding.) As a freelance writer, my network is an important asset to my business. Each person I meet, work with, and connect with on social media is a potential link to my next gig. Does it take time to create and nurture these relationships? Yes. Is it worth it? Hell, yes.

Next Actions: I do think there is some room for improvement in this category, namely I’d like to be more organized and intentional in my approach to networking. To do that, I need to gain some additional clarity about exactly what kind of work I hope to do more of, and then focus my efforts around the people and organizations who can help me achieve those goals.

Future “Vision” Planning: As I mentioned in that first post, I don’t do nearly enough of this, and it handicaps me in terms of gaining that all important clarity that I wrote about in last Saturday’s weekend edition.

Next Actions: I will be setting aside some time (maybe a half day each month) to do nothing but look at where I am, get clear about where I want to be, and work on a plan that will get me from Point A to Point B.

Writers are plagued by the constant guilt that assaults us whenever we’re not writing. Sometimes, all this marketing stuff can feel like nothing more than procrastination, one more thing to keep us away from our Real Work. But, it’s important to remember that in the same way developing our writing craft takes consistent practice over time, building our marketing muscles also requires a dedicated effort.

Ultimately, you need to find a viable balance between creating your work and marketing your work. The two activities may seem to exist on opposite ends of the spectrum, but in truth they are two sides of the same coin. (Apologies for the mixed metaphor.) When you finally have work that you want to share with the world, you will be much better positioned to do so if you have been engaging in at least some basic marketing activities along the way. Audiences and support networks are not built overnight. Ever.

The key to ensuring the highest level of productivity (and your sanity) is to focus your efforts, streamline your processes, and check in once in a while to make sure that the marketing activities you started doing a year ago (or last month, or yesterday) are still working for you today. It’s all about experimentation and being able to adapt as your situation and environment change.

What’s your experience with marketing yourself and your writing? Have you found certain things that work better than others? Have you ever gotten stuck in a rut? What do you discover when you think about your marketing  and networking activities in terms of the value they deliver?

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition (a fun post and great community of commenters on the writing life, random musings, writing tips, and good reads), or introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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New Hampshire Writer’s Week

NHWP writers week - logo 2Hard on the Heals of NaNoWriMo comes New Hampshire Writer’s Week, an initiative spearheaded by the New Hampshire Writer’s Project (NHWP). NWHP is a non-profit organization that supports the development of individual writers and encourages an audience for literature in New Hampshire. On November 12th, Governor Maggie Hassan made it official declaring November 30th to December 6th 2014 New Hampshire Writer’s week.

According to the NHWP web site the goal of Writer’s Week 2014 is to

“celebrate our rich literary heritage while also putting a spotlight on the diverse writers living and working in our state.”

Events are scheduled statewide in bookstores, libraries, and cafes. There will also be special announcements scheduled for that week, such as the opening of nominations for the upcoming NH Literary Hall of Fame and the release of a list of NH authors available to appear at book clubs in 2015. A detailed listing of all the events associated with Writer’s Week can be found on the NHWP web site.  One of the events will be a special Writer’s Night Out on Monday December 1st. Writer’s Night Out is a casual networking event for writers. To find a WNO event near you visit the event list.

Are you an author living in New Hampshire? It’s not too late to participate in the festivities, but you have to act fast. Visit the Writer’s Week page at NHWP for details on how to participate.
Not a published author, but still interested in supporting the New Hampshire writing community?  You can help!

Are you going to participate in New Hampshire Writer’s week activities?

 

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She is currently a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors. Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.

Conference Burn Out

Last week I shared tips about managing the excitement of attending conferences and that I had four conferences to attend in an 8-day period.

One conference was 3 days, the other 3 conferences were single days, but back-to-back. I wouldn’t recommend doing it and I knew I shouldn’t have attempted to for several reasons:

  • It’s too much time to be “on” – mixing and mingling with people, trying to forge new relationships, trying to absorb all the information.
  • It’s too much time away from the office – the work doesn’t stop coming in, nor do I ever want it to, and even with an assistant there is always going to be the game of “catch up” once back in the office.
  • It’s physically exhausting – with a multi-day conference there’s a good chance of finding quiet space (preferably a room for a nap), but with a single-day conference there isn’t any downtime. If you aren’t in a session, you have a break and breaks are where the networking happens. There is the travel to and from the conference and depending on distance, this could mean getting up early and driving more than an hour. It all contributes to ‘too much.’

NetworkingBubblesThese were 4 conferences I wanted to attend, and had attended in the past — it just happened this year that they were scheduled within the same week of November.

Two had the livestream “digital pass” availability and next year I’ll use those options.

I’ve found it’s just as time consuming to attend a conference virtually and just as, or even more engaging, since social media is usually involved (networking is done through Tweets and Chats), but at least there are the benefits of no commute, attending in comfy clothes, and taking bathroom breaks without waiting in line, and no line for lunch either!

Have you ever attended multiple conferences in the same week?

Have you experienced attending a conference virtually, yet?

I ended up attending the full 3-day conference; I left the 1st 1-day conference early; I stayed for the entire second 1-day conference; I didn’t attend the third 1-day conference at all – I started to attend virtually, but my brain had had too much 15 minutes into the first speaker. I’ll be able to watch all of that last conference at any point in the future, though.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

The Ups and Downs of Attending Conferences

I just got back from a 3-day mystery writer’s conference (Julie mentioned it last week), and am now looking forward to 3 day-long conferences to attend this week.

I go through highs and lows when attending conferences, so I thought it’d make for a nice topic of conversation.

Whenever I’m set to go to a conference, the excitement builds as the start time gets closer. The weekend’s conference was mostly for fun — I love hanging with other mystery writers and readers and hearing about what everyone is interested in. The day-long conferences this week are mostly business-related, so I’m looking forward to mixing and mingling with professionals and learning new ways to enhance and build my business.

Each has (or had) the excitement build up.

Then when at a conference, there’s the peak high while settling in, saying ‘hi’ to people I recognize and introducing myself to people I don’t know yet.

Next comes the thrill at the ‘official start’ and through the first workshops, panels, and presentations.

Breaks and food are much needed throughout the day. Staying hydrated is important, but those bathroom breaks can be a bit crazy!

The excitement level wanes a bit as the afternoon progresses, but it’s still there. Learning and socializing can be mentally exhausting to different degrees.

At the end of the conference, there’s a mixed feeling (for me, anyway!) One that combines the realization that it’s officially The End (a bummer) and Oh-Good-Back-to-the-Routine and my own bed (uplifting). The mixed feeling can be delayed if carpooling or traveling with others part of the way, but it hits at one time or another.

Once back home, in order to recover and get back to real life, I find it’s important to rest. Naps are my best friend. 45-90 minutes can go a long way to resetting the body and mind. The challenge is shutting the mind off from thinking over everything that just happened, but it’s worth the time to decompress and get back to ‘normal.’

Most important of all, though, is to not lose track of people or details to follow-up on after a conference. I put those on the top of my desk as soon as I walk in the door.

Follow-up is very important, especially from business-related conferences. Letting connections fall by the wayside defeats the purpose of attending a conference.

There may be the emotional/energy roller coaster with attending events, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m never disappointed to learn something new or meet new people.

Do you find your energy levels going up and down when you go to conferences? 

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Networking for Introverts

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Introvert merchandise at the link!

Last week I posted a T shirt on my Facebook page that said “Introverts Unite. We’re Here. We’re Uncomfortable. We Want to Go Home.” My message was “I need one of these.” I got dozens of “likes” and several comments, most of which were “me too!”.

Now, if you saw me in action, you wouldn’t think I was an introvert. I lead a extroverted life, teaching, running meetings, and being “on” at events. Last weekend I co-hosted a workshop called “Networking for Fun and Profit”, and it made me think a lot about skills introverts can develop to help them navigate the world of networking. Networking happens at conferences, at book readings, at workshops, at meetings. It can be informal (like at the post office, or after a service), or formal. It can be work related or completely social. It can be planned, or accidental. You should always be prepared, and for introverts, that may take a little extra effort. Here are some of my tips:

  • Make an event plan. Can you make a goal for yourself? Meet one new person? Get one business card? Talk to three people about your project/job/writing? Make the goal achievable. And try to get it taken care of early on.
  • Fake it till you make it. Literally look at your networking self as a role you need to play. Dress a little nicer than you need to. Always default to smiling. Work at eye contact. After a while it gets easier, but it is never easy for us introverts. So you play the part.
  • Work on the small talk, and talk to everyone. Networking is about making connections. Sometimes those connections can come from expected quarters. But in other instances, connections could come from unexpected places. The person you chat with about the stuffed dates–maybe she is best friends with someone you should meet. If nothing else, as a writer, talking to everyone is research.
  • Have your tool kit ready. I have a stash of business cards (writing and my day job), bookmarks (for Wicked Cozy Authors, Crime Bake, and Sisters in Crime New England), stickers, and buttons in my bag at all times. If you don’t have a business card, have one made. Even if it has your name and email and nothing else, it gives people something to take with them after you meet.
  • When you get a business card, write down how and when you met the person on the back. Send them a note, or an email, as a follow-up. Don’t be a pest, but keep in touch.

These are some tips. There is technology that can help (LinkedIn, for example), but nothing replaces in person meetings. So get out there, and network. Then go home, and take a long nap.

BOSTON BOOK FESTIVAL: Are you going to the Boston Book Festival this Saturday? I am moderating a panel called “The Whydunnit in Crime Fiction” at 10AM. If you’re there, make sure and say hello!

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J.A. Hennrikus writes short stories. Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery Series. Julie Hennrikus teaches and runs an arts service organization.

Be My Guest: Oct 11 Event for Mystery Writers and Others

There’s a fun day on tap this coming Saturday, and if you’re somewhat local to Concord, MA and this is of interest, make sure to register today, Monday, October 6.

Fellow NHWN bloggers, Diane and Julie, and I are part of a mystery writers group called Sisters in Crime. We also both belong to the New England chapter. And it’s the chapter that has pulled together a wonderful mystery-focused event this Saturday.

Here are the details:

Sisters in Crime New England Presents

History, Mystery & Murder!

Saturday, October 11, at Concord’s Historic Colonial Inn

11 a.m. Guided Walking Tour (optional)

12:15 p.m. Luncheon & Author Panel

What happened when two Puritan ministers and a fur trader wandered into the wilderness? What was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s shocking and grisly encounter? What’s so memorable about Major Pitcairn’s boo-boo or Tildy Holden and her chickens?

This easy-going, 60-minute walking tour of downtown Concord and Sleepy Hollow covers a bit of what you’ve read in history books and a whole lot that was left out, including tales of witches and shoemakers, drunken barbers, and the almost unbelievable story of Frank Sanborn, “possibly the coolest dude that ever lived in Concord”.

Afterward, enjoy a luncheon at the historic Colonial Inn and a spirited author panel on writing one of the hottest properties in our industry, Historical Mysteries.

Moderator Leslie Wheeler and award-winning authors M.E. Kemp, Ben and Beth Oak, Tempa Pagel, and Sarah Smith discuss how to make the past come alive while spinning an exciting tale for contemporary readers.

SinC/NE is covering most of the cost of this unique chapter event for members and their invited guests.

Register as my guest at these rates:

Tour & Luncheon/Panel: $25

Luncheon/Panel Only: $15

Reserve your tickets now/today (this is the last call for RSVPs) at http://sincne.org/history-mystery-and-murder

It should be a fun time on a beautiful New England fall afternoon… as long as no headless horsemen appear, I’ll be just fine.

 

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Let’s Get Back to Real Interactions: Commenting vs. ‘Like’-ing on Facebook

Of all the social media platforms, Facebook is the one I’m on the most. I can get drawn in by cute cat videos, spectacular b&w photography images, fun with puns, and the variety of posts my friends share.

I admit to being a bit heavy-handed when it comes to clicking the ‘Like’ button. I sign on, start scrolling through posts, when I see something, I like it, I click ‘Like’ to let folks know I was there, and move on.

But now that has changed.

The other day, a friend posted an interesting article that has led to this post.

The article is “I Quit Liking Things on Facebook for Two Weeks. Here’s How It Changed My View of Humanity.” I hope you’ll read through it.

FB_likeThe first item that jumped out at me was that each ‘Like’ becomes part of an algorithm that will throw certain posts in my feed. That’s annoying. I like thinking for myself, thankyouverymuch!

The  second item, the one that got me thinking was about building relationships. I’ve clicked ‘Like’ to let friends know I saw their post, was happy for what was posted, that I truly liked what was posted, that I simply saw the post and was acknowledging it…basic things.

But after reading the article, I see the value in comments more than Likes, although sometimes there are just times to click the Like – such as when someone comments on a post I’ve made – clicking the Like for that response can sometimes be enough. Otherwise, there might be a battle to who is going to comment last, right?

After sharing the post on my wall, I had a few comments, but also had some private messages. And Wow! Private messages are ‘real’ conversations with real people in real time! How great! It felt strange, too. I mean, social media is fast-moving – you click, scroll, keep moving – who has time for an in-the-moment conversation any more?

I found that I did and I enjoyed it. I’m trying to limit my ‘Like’-ing now on Facebook and commenting on posts that catch my attention instead.

Of course commenting does take more time out of the day than a fast click of the ‘Like’ button, but overall, I feel I’ll be more satisfied with the result.

If you’re on Facebook, what do you think about ‘Like’-ing versus commenting, emailing, and messaging?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She likes a lot of things on Facebook, but is going to give commenting (instead of hitting the Like button) a chance. You can connect with her on Twitter, FacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.