Word of Mouth and Other Marketing Options

I see this statement on the back of business cards all the time now:


“The finest compliment I can receive is a referral from my friends and past clients.”

Personal referrals are definitely (the most?) powerful when it comes to  building a business. And when referrals become the driving force that brings you new business, well, it might be time to have a staff!

However, word of mouth marketing can’t start until you’re established, so having it be your only method of marketing probably won’t work well. I mean, people can’t refer you until they know you can deliver what they need when they need it, right?

So, what other marketing options do you have? You want to use the best method(s) for getting the word out about your writing service that enables people to get to know, like, and trust you — with the goal of them deciding to work with you.

A great place to start is to think about a recent purchase you made – especially for a service – how did the business owner attract you? What captured your attention enough to pursue picking up the phone (or e-mailing) for more information? What did you find most important and particularly appealing?

  • Website
  • Newsletter
  • Blog
  • LinkedIn / Facebook / Twitter / Other social media
  • Print ad you received through the postal service
  • You met and spoke with the business owner at an in-person event
  • Article you read written by the business owner
  • A webinar or other online event you participated in
  • A book you read
  • Business card

You can also look at a competitor to see what marketing methods they use for attracting business. Ask yourself these questions and how they relate to your target market:

  • What is it that I like about what they are doing?
  • What is it that I don’t find particularly appealing?

These are just some overall questions to ponder and ideas to consider to get you started in marketing your business.

It’s insightful to realize what pulled you in enough to ‘make a purchase’ — and a great way to start connecting with your market, since what you find attractive is probably what your target clients will find appealing.

What is one of your go-to marketing methods that works well for you? (mine is LinkedIn)

Lisa_2015Lisa 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 Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

How Julie Writes A Book, aka Our Summer Vacation

red-hands-woman-creativeOn Sunday night I had the great good fortune to be a guest on The Writer’s Chatroom, hosted by our own Lisa Haselton aka Lisa Jackson. I loved answering questions about my writing process and the publishing business. Though hardly an expert, I do know a fair amount. Right now I am deep in the weeds of writing book #3 in the Clock Shop Mystery series (working title, Chime and Punishment). It is due to my editor at Berkley on July 15. Book #2 in the series, Clock and Dagger, is coming out August 2. That means I need to get blog posts prepped for guest spots, work on a social media campaign, and possibly plan some public appearances.

I am so, so fortunate to have a publishing contract. But with that good fortune comes the pressure of producing a book a year for three years in a row. Though at this point in the process, the pain of forcing those words out of my brain onto the keyboard is real (my friend Hallie Ephron said it is like putting a log through a meat grinder) I’ve done this twice before for this series, and three times before for books that haven’t been published. I know I can do this. It may not be pretty, and I may not sleep for the next five weeks, but I can do this.

This summer I am going to write about my book writing process. I won’t make it genre specific, though I can write a post about that if it is helpful.  Posts will include how I plot, writing a series, the editing process, pitching your book, and promotion. What else would you like to know more about?

I post every other week, so two weeks from today we’re going to talk about plotting. I am a plotter, not a panster, and I’ll walk you through my process, how it helps get the first draft done, and what’ I’ve learned by putting it into practice.

Your homework, should you want to play along, is to think about the story you want to tell. Think about these questions:

  • Who are the main characters in your story?
  • What launches your story? “A Day in the Life” can be dull. “A Day in the Life After XYZ Happens” is a novel.
  • What is the overall theme of your story?
  • What else happens?
  • Where is it taking place?

Over the next two weeks, mull your story over. Think it through. Write ideas down. We’ll tackle plotting in the next installment of this simmer series.

Happy to hear any ideas you might have!


ClockandDaggerJulianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mysteries. Clock and Dagger will be out August 2.

Friday Fun – A Few Book Promotion Tips

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: We recently asked you what questions you’d like answered in our Friday Fun post. Today, we’re answering the following reader question:


JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: Hi, Maria. Congrats on finishing your first book! That’s very exciting. As Lisa and I mentioned in our responses to your original comment, this is a Big Question that requires more space than a Friday Fun post. The mechanics and dynamics of book promotion are complex and vary greatly depending on the type of book, audience, etc.

What I can offer as a starting point is a series  of posts I wrote on the writer platform:

I hope this is helpful. Good luck!

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: My advice is to do more than simply tell people your book is available for sale. Enter into conversations (or start your own) that relate to the subject matter  of (or in some way to) your book. Let people get to know you and your thoughts around the topic(s) and then it will become natural to offer the book.

You can also have a link in your email signature line – have the title of your book hyperlinked to your Amazon page (or wherever you want people to go to to purchase). On your Facebook page, you can have “Author of name-of-your-book” as part of your profile that appears on the left side of your personal page. Also include details about it on your “About” page on Facebook. In other words, have the information visible at every turn, but avoid saying “buy my book.”

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: Hey Maria, congratulations on publishing your first book! Go, you! Unfortunately, I’m not a published book author, so I don’t have a lot to add. I will say that I plan to be a published book author in the not-too-distant future, and I started my life coaching blog, Healing Choices, hoping eventually it would become a part of my author’s platform. That’s still the plan. 🙂 I’m also planning to follow Lisa and Jamie’s advice. 🙂 🙂

On book tour with my first novel in 2010. Photo courtesy of Phillis Groner

On book tour with my first novel in 2010. Photo courtesy of Phillis Groner

Deborah Lee Luskin: Congratulations on writing and publishing your first book. I hope it was a joyful process, and that you’re pleased with it. Now the hard work begins: Marketing. There’s lots of good information out there about marketing (and also a lot of people who will do it for you for a price). No one can market your book as you can, and unless you have high-volume sales or other money to invest, no one else can market it for you, either.

Part of the agreement with the original publisher of my novel, Into the Wilderness, was that I’d be responsible for the marketing. It was a Mount Everest of a learning curve, and for most of a year, it’s what I did: reviews in any newspaper, magazine, or blog that would run one (often at the cost of a hard-copy of the book, plus postage), over fifty author events (bookstores, libraries, historical societies, book groups, wherever I was invited). I drove 10,000 miles in one summer; even in a Prius, the gas and time added up.

I invested in a website with web-extras: the backstory to writing the novel (including a video of me), a playlist for the music the characters listen to, links to reviews and praise from readers.

In return? I sold a lot of hard copies, and the book won a national award before I ended my relationship with the publisher and the book went out of print. Since I’d retained the electronic rights, I was able to bring out an electronic copy, which is still for sale and still sells a few copies a month.

I no longer market the book, but I do still mention it whenever it’s appropriate. (Here, for instance.) There’s still a page for it on my website. Best of all, I still hear from new readers who write to me and tell me how much they enjoyed reading it. That’s the best.

Good luck!

Building Audience

ITWplain           My first novel was published three years ago, my second novel is not yet published, and my third novel isn’t yet finished. So when I was invited to join a panel of Vermont Authors at this year’s Bookstock – a three-day literary extravaganza held in Woodstock, Vermont – I didn’t see the point.

I told my friend, author and marketing maven Beth Kanell, that Into the Wilderness was currently only available as an ebook. The hard copy has gone out of print, and frankly, I didn’t see the point in spending a summer Saturday working if I didn’t have any books to sell.

Beth said, “Go anyway! Talk about your next book! Keep your audience interested.”

Beth Kanell, author photo

Beth Kanell, author photo

I did a 180, and accepted the invitation with enthusiasm.

Beth’s right, of course. I have readers – some of whom regularly ask me, “When’s the next book coming out?”

I tell them, “I don’t know. Stay healthy – and stay tuned.”

So even though a part of me wants to do nothing but hole up with my imagination, another part of me knows that it’s good to practice my lame social skills. And it’s always a thrill to meet my audience. In fact, it’s good to be reminded that there is an audience, and I’m not just writing novels as a form of personal exorcism. And it’s also good to practice dressing up and speaking in public. Because I know once the next book does hit the shelves, I’ll have to dress up and travel to promote it.

Marketing my work and my self is not my favorite part of being a writer, but meeting my readers has been an unexpected pleasure. Nor is audience building the only reason to attend this literary festival. It’s also a chance to meet other writers.

Bookstock_Logo-3-125-e1364325761425            At Bookstock, I’ll be part of a panel of three writers of Vermont fiction. One of them is my neighbor Castle Freeman, Jr. whose Go With Me is one of those absolute gems of narrative fiction. He and I are carpooling, and I’m looking forward to talking shop on the drive. The other writer on our panel is Steve Delaney, a veteran journalist whose voice was familiar one on Vermont Public Radio for many years. We’ll be completely unscripted as we talk about writing in and about Vermont. Should be fun.

I’m looking forward to arriving early and staying late, so I can hear some of the other writers whose work I know and admire (like the poets Donald Hall and Galway Kinnell) and to hear the work of writers I don’t know (like Joan Wickersham, a National Book Award Finalist). There will be over twenty regional writers at this fifth annual literary event. And just as I’ve jumped on to the local food bandwagon for all its nutritive, socio-political, and environmental benefits, I’m a great believer in local stories – and local audiences. It’s great to have a home base, and I’m looking forward to becoming reacquainted with mine.

Bookstock runs for three days, starting on the morning of Friday, July 26, and ending late Sunday afternoon, July 28. My panel goes on at 1 o’clock on Saturday. If you come to the festival, please stop and say hi.

photo: M. Shafer

photo: M. Shafer

Deborah Lee Luskin’s novel Into the Wilderness has been called a “love story to Vermont” and recognized by the Vermont Library Association for its “sense of place.” Readers most frequently say, “I didn’t want it to end but I couldn’t put it down.” It has been hailed as “a fiercely intelligent love story” and “a perfectly gratifying read” and was awarded the Gold Medal for Regional Fiction by the Independent Publishers in 2011. The book is currently available in electronic format.

What type of writing do you do?

At networking events, I most often introduce myself as ‘a writer’ or ‘a business writer.’ Both lead to one of two  inevitable questions: ‘What do you write?’, or ‘What kind of writing do you do?’

Then I take a deep breath and try to explain myself in 30 seconds or less, (even typing this, I took a deep breath.) I’m interested and have experience in a lot of different types of writing. For my business, I can write marketing collateral – and that in itself can be an arm-long list of different things from success stories to business profiles to solution profiles and product briefs.

Then there’s ghost blogging for businesses, web content, press releases, content for newsletters, interviews, process guides, and more.

I’ve found that my business card is a great ice breaker, however. My business tagline is “Your Lisa Jackson business cardwords, only better.” And I constantly get a lot of compliments on that phrase. Business folks who are intimidated by writers, especially, smile at that and visibly relax. That’s when they’ll share a bit about their insecurities or concerns with their own writing.

I’m also realizing that if I can find out what type of business the person I’m meeting is involved with before I answer, I can give examples that he or she can relate to.

  • For instance, many businesses have websites that have existed for 5 years or more and never been updated – I can talk about my web copy experience.
  • Or if the person mentions sales letters that have resulted in zero inquiries, I can talk about how I can write marketing and sales pieces that catch attention.
  • Social media scares a lot of business owners – they don’t know how to even approach LinkedIn or Twitter for business. If I know this is what they’re thinking about the most, I can talk about how each has a different goal and therefore the writing has to also be different. I can mention that it isn’t rocket science, but it is a skill, and I’ve been writing professionally for more than 25 years.

Empathy goes a long way, and I love it when someone gets inquisitive about the art of writing. For me, asking questions about their business is natural – I need to know more in order to be able to write for them and keep their ‘voice.’

It’s probably not best to reply to ‘what do you write’ with ‘whatever you need,’ but in most cases, it’s true. I love working with words and helping others express what they need to in their own words, only better.

How do you answer the question, ‘what type of writing do you do?’

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a New England-region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She loves working with words, and helping others with their own. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on LinkedInFacebook, or Twitter

All Roads Lead To Rome

I have a coaching colleague who likes to say: “All roads lead to Rome.” By this, she means that no matter what you start talking about with a client, the real issue will soon show up.

I feel the same way about free writing. It’s one of my favorite tools to explore my own creativity. There are many different ways to use this tool.

Basic Free Write

I usually start with my pen and paper in hand. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and then open my eyes, letting my eyes fall on whatever object that is in my line of sight. Then I start writing, using the object as my starting point. Then I just keep writing, usually for 5 minutes. If I can’t think of what to write, I write “I can’t think of what to write” until another thought comes. I glance at the clock to know when to stop.

For example, a free-write might begin like this:

I see the stool that Joey sits on when he helps me make pancakes in the morning. I hope he’s feeling better tomorrow than he is today.

While this is not earth-shattering stuff, it does show how quickly one can go from a mundane object to whatever is at the front of one’s mind. If my son wasn’t sick, I might have continued to journal about the stool and mentioned how my son calls the ground coffee he spoons into my coffee funnel “coffee crumbs.” Again, not earth-shattering stuff, but memories I will be thrilled to re-read at some point in the future.

Fiction Free Write

I use the format of the Basic Free Write, but I start with the perspective of my character. How might my character view the stool? Or, if I already have a setting picked out, how would my character describe it? The most important rule is to keep writing. Do not let the pen stop moving (or the fingers stop moving on the keyboard) or you will lose that momentum. It feels silly, but only for a short time, before I’m lost in the world of my character.

Nonfiction Free Write

When I have a speaking engagement, or need to write nonfiction for a particular audience, I have found that doing a Nonfiction Free Write really primes the pump. I start by closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, and asking myself a question, such as: “What do I want my audience to know?” What do I have to say about this topic?”

The short time limit and the need to keep writing without stopping give me a structure that allows me to write to my audience in a very authentic, intimate way. After the free write time period is up, I usually put it away for a while and then go back and mine it for nuggets that I can use in my actual presentation or article.

Do you Free Write? How does it work for you? What other techniques do you use to get your creativity flowing?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, is currently a full-time mother, part-time life coach, part-time writer. She is a Master Certified Life Coach, trained by Martha Beck, among others. She is passionate about her son, her writing and using her mind to create a wonderful present moment.  Find her life coaching blog at http://www.dianemackinnon.com/blog.

I’m hosting a One-Day Writing Retreat on September 15th at the Rodgers Memorial Library in Hudson, NH. I’d love to have you join us! For more information and to register, please click here.

An essential for freelance writers – the business card

Business cards are just one essential tool freelance writers should have in their marketing toolboxes.

Business cards can be a way to start branding yourself. The colors, fonts, and designs are just a few ways to start discovering yourself as a business.

Think of how you’d react to these examples – plain white cards, no images, standard horizontal placement:

Business Card A is entirely in blue script (cursive) font.

Business Card B is entirely black Arial font.

Without know anything about either cardowner – you already have an impression about each one, right? So when you design your card, play around and find what feels right for you.

As for what to include on your card, here are a few recommendations:

  • Your name
  • Your business name (if you have one for your freelance writing business) or a tagline that says “freelance writer”
  • A business telephone number (I use a Google Voice number so I don’t have to share my personal phone number)
  • A PO box address (instead of a home address) if a mailing address is required for your business
  • Your e-mail address

[You never know where your business card may end up, so keeping your home address and personal phone number private are ways to stay safe.]

I use Vistaprint (and am in no way compensated by anyone for saying that). Over the years, I’ve found them to be the most reliable, reasonably priced, and of consistent good quality. It also doesn’t hurt that even when I ask for ‘standard shipping’ (up to 2 weeks), I always receive my order much sooner.

Where do you hand out your business cards?

  • In-person networking events for business owners, chambers of commerce, industry-specific organizations, and so on
  • Bulletin boards in places where your target market visits
  • Speaking engagements
  • Conferences
  • Basically, wherever you meet people you want to work with or who may be able to connect you with someone you could work with

And, remember, just because you hand someone your business card, doesn’t mean you’re done marketing. People need to get to know you a bit before hiring you. So make sure to develop (and follow) a process for following up with people you meet – that is, if you truly want to build a career as a freelance writer.

What do you think about using business cards as a freelance writer?

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a New England-region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She has several business cards to suit different needs. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter