by Mary Tod
I’m glad to welcome Mary Tod back for another visit to The Book Designer. Mary, a novelist and blogger, wrote about How Self-Publishing Changes the Bond Between Readers and Writers in January.
Today she accepts a challenge I made to her and meets it with grace. This is an informative article that can stand as a great example to other writers of one way to approach establishing themselves online. Enjoy.
Joel has kindly invited me to guest post again, this time with a focus on how I have used, or plan to use, the industry analysis I’ve done to change the way I work. A kind of ‘physician, heal thyself’ challenge.
For those unfamiliar with One Writer’s Voice—most of you, I suspect—I’ve been posting about authors as entrepreneurs. Many writers are on this path implementing blogs, self-publishing, doing virtual book tours and so on but when I began, I was a total neophyte with only a smattering of industry knowledge. I had written two books and been rejected by many agents. The path seemed steep, rocky and full of unexpected crevasses.
My son said, you need a blog. A friend who’d been in publishing said, you need a blog. The agent who took me on said, you need a blog. Who was I to argue? I decided to post on the business of writing because it gave me a way to use my consulting background to explore an industry in profound change.
Below are titles for various posts and the main diagrams I’ve developed to date. Alongside each diagram are actions I have taken or plan to take – in other words, implications for my own little writing business. (PA) indicates planned actions.
1. Put six chapters of each novel on my blog as a way for readers to sample my writing and for agents and potential publishers to check me out.
2. Develop a blog of my own. I began with two blogs, One Writer’s Voice (www.onewritersvoice.com) and another called FoundDiary. However, maintaining two very distinct blogs was more difficult than I expected. FoundDiary is in hiatus with the possibility of reviving it in concert with a publisher for Lies Told in Silence.
3. Provide an electronic version of my novel to any friend who asks for it. Initially I gave printed copies and the written feedback was extremely helpful. Electronic copies are one way to build readership and future recommenders.
So Many Options – What’s a Writer to do?
4. Buy a Kindle to understand more about the selection process, the reading experience and options for authors.
5. Find an agent with a forward thinking business model.
6. Last year I joined two Facebook groups, one focused on expat writers (because I lived in Hong Kong for three years and wrote about the experience), the other focused on e-books and the changing world of publishing. My participation has been close to zero. Going forward I need to find effective ways to participate in Facebook. (PA)
7. After reading his book, I signed up for Mitch Joel’s blog feed which I read quite regularly and occasionally muster up the courage to comment. I follow and comment on four or five other blogs.
8. Create more ‘snackable’ content for readers by varying the size of my posts. I have a habit of writing long posts particularly on the business of writing. (PA)
9. Use visuals to attract interest and questions at the end of posts to solicit feedback and an opportunity for conversation.
Smart Investors Require a Business Plan
10. I have read lots of competitive fiction to understand what works and consider how to position my novels. This is an ongoing process. I also watch movies in my genre, both fiction and non-fiction.
11. Create a focus on historical fiction, specifically WWI and WWII. I have stopped two other book projects because they were not historical fiction.
12. Develop an overall strategy and an annual plan for my writing. Choose where to allocate time. Create weekly ‘to do’ lists. Update plans as required.
13. Measure my progress both monthly and annually. (PA)
14. Develop a relationship with my agent that creates value for both parties.
15. Look for an opportunity to engage with a younger audience and understand their interests. (PA)
16. Plan a series/sequence of books. My first two books have intersecting characters and I have a plan for two or three more. I want agents and publishers to believe I am worth the investment of their time.
It’s Not Just E-Books, It’s Technology
17. Because I do so much historical research, I plan to investigate web annotation software and consider other technology solutions to make writing and research more productive. (PA)
Interpreting Mike Shatzkin and Mitch Joel
18. Find ways for my blog to be meaningful to an audience of potential readers. I believe my posts on the business of writing are useful to other writers but not relevant to general readers. I also post on historical fiction. These two topics are incompatible so I need to decide how to adjust. (PA)
19. Develop a strategy for audiences beyond North America. (PA)
New Writer-Reader Relationships
20. Figure out a way to survey readers of historical fiction in order to understand and engage with potential buyers. (PA)
21. Increase my activity in the communities surrounding WWI and historical fiction. (PA)
Tracking an Author’s Career Path
22. I have signed up for a summer writing school, the first writing course I will take.
23. I am also looking for a writer’s conference to attend. (PA)
24. Explore reader forums like Goodreads and determine one or two to engage with. (PA)
25. Find a curated niche willing to feature my writing. (PA)
Is there a conclusion, you might ask.
This past year of blogging, analyzing the industry and thinking about writers as entrepreneurs has changed my thinking and prompted me to take action on many fronts I might otherwise have ignored. Developing this post made me step back to examine what I’ve accomplished as well as consider the many tasks ahead. And I think the thesis—writers need to think of themselves as entrepreneurs—stands up to scrutiny and, for me at least, provides a way to plan what I do and how I work more comprehensively.
I’ve worked with diagrams for most of my business career. They help me see the interconnected bits as well as the dilemmas more clearly. I hope that a few of the twenty-five points might spark an idea or two for you.
Mary Tod writes historical fiction with a focus on WWI and WWII. Her novel, Lies Told in Silence is under active agent representation. While The Secret Sits is a completed companion novel with intersecting characters. A third novel, Blind Regret is in progress. Mary posts frequently on the topics of historical fiction and the business of writing on her blog, One Writer’s Voice.
Photo by spaceamoeba