Friday, June 28, 2013

We're On Hiatus - for a GREAT reason!

It is with giddy, gleeful, joy that we make the following announcement:

We are under contract, with a tight deadline, to publish an:
 Author Marketing 101 Guide & Journal!

We will post more details and new content in August. For those of you new to our site, please take a moment to visit our "How to Use This Site" page.
Therese & Morgan

Friday, June 21, 2013

Short Stories for Discoverability

Why I write short stories   By Sarina Dorie

For the last fourteen years of my life I have been submitting novels to agents and editors. After a couple hundred rejections (per novel), I started to feel frustrated. Okay, maybe I felt frustrated after the first rejection, but for some reason, I kept going. Determined to become a better writer, and tap into a different market, I started researching short stories. Then I started writing short short stories.

If a short story falls under a thousand words (1500 words in some markets), it is considered “flash fiction” or “micro fiction.” With a number of new markets out there publishing flash fiction: Penumbra, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online being a few among many, it is a plentiful market to send to. Because writing short, succinct stories is a skill I wanted to develop, there is a high demand for flash fiction, and it takes less time to write flash fiction than a long story (in theory) I decided I wanted to take a stab at it. Plus, I hadn’t sold any of my novels and I thought the short story market might be easier to break into.

When Daily Science Fiction opened about three years ago, Wordos, my speculative fiction writing critique group in Eugene, Oregon decided to dissect flash fiction in order to hone our skills and see what makes a short, short story work. It isn’t surprising that because of our critiques and dissections, quite a few writers from our critique group went on to sell flash to Daily Science Fiction and other markets.

What we noticed about these stories is that they were tightly written, limited details, often had an interesting idea, a twist or punch line at the end, were emotionally powerful or shocking or funny. The form of these stories were sometimes written as though someone was telling a story to a friend, might be in the form of a letter or letters in an epistolary fashion, were written like a fable, joke or essay or used some other unusual writing device to tell a story. Many of these stories weren’t even traditional stories in the sense that there was a character arc, plot or conflict. Still, there was something that happened in each “story” that made it a catchy, edgy or worthwhile. These are just my observations, as well as some that I remember from members of Wordos. My advice to someone genuinely interested in breaking into the flash fiction market, or a specific short fiction market is to read and analyze lots of fiction and decide what it is about each piece that made the editor choose it.

As a result of studying the market and trying to think in the “short” mindset, I wrote about twenty flash fiction stories in a few months. Some of them I submitted to my critique group and got feedback on, some of them I later turned into slightly longer short stories, and some of them I left unfinished because there wasn’t enough there to create a story—but I didn’t feel guilty about not finishing because they were so short and I considered them experiments. Though I had been submitting stories to magazines for several years, it was my flash fiction stories that first sold. The four pieces I first sold in 2011 were “Zombie Psychology” to Untied Shoelaces of the Mind, “A Ghost’s Guide to Haunting Human’s” (which won the Whidbey student choice award, “Losing One’s Appetite” to Daily Science Fiction and “Worse than a Devil” to Crossed Genres. From there I went on to sell slightly longer short stories as well as more flash. One of my favorite flash fiction pieces, “Mr. Kick-Ass Werewolf President” was in last July’s politics issue of Penumbra. From there, I have sold twenty-five other short stories to a variety of anthologies and magazines.

How to get started:

1. Read short fiction.

2. Surround yourself with people who have similar goals as yourself. Critique these stories with others. Think about what works and why they might have been published.

3. Write. Set a reasonable goal for yourself like: “I will give myself one hour a day to write a flash fiction story,” or “I will write two short stories this week under a thousand words each. If I fail, I won’t allow myself to eat chocolate for a week.” Just kidding. That latter part would never work. At least not for me.

4. Use submission engines like and to find calls from magazines and anthologies. You can look up magazines and anthologies by payment, genre or the reading periods they are open. (By the way, if anyone knows of other search engines you want to share with others, please let me know. These are the only ones I know.)

5. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines of the markets you are submitting to. There are anthologies out there looking for specific niche stories and if it matches something you already have written, that is a good anthology to submit to. If an e-zine identifies itself as science fiction, don’t send fantasy or contemporary romance.

6. Manuscript format for short stories differ from novel format. See the following link for an example:

Be aware, some magazines and publishing companies have different guidelines. The best way to see what they want is to read their directions. Once. Twice. Every time you submit.

7. Use a submission tracking system or keep track of your own submissions in an Excel file.

8. Be patient. Most magazines get back to you in a few weeks or months. And then they reject you. Just like publishers. And then you send it out again. And again.

9. Remember why you are writing. If you are doing it for the enjoyment of the process, don’t worry if it takes a while to sell your first story. That long wait makes the first sale so much sweeter!

As a child, Sarina Dorie dreamed of being an astronaut/archeologist/fashion designer/illustrator/writer. After years of dedication to art and writing, most of Sarina’s dreams have come true; in addition to teaching, she is a writer/artist/ fashion designer/ belly dancer. She has shown her art internationally, sold illustrations to Shimmer, Bards and Sages and Penumbra magazines. Sarina’s novel, Silent Moon, won second place in the Duel on the Delta Contest, second place in the Golden Rose, third place in the Winter Rose Contest and third in the Ignite the Flame Contest. The Wrath of the Tooth Fairy won first place in the Golden Claddagh and first in the Golden Rose. She has sold stories to Daily Science Fiction, Cosmos, Bards and Sages, Neo-Opsis, Flagship, Allasso, New Myths, Untied Shoelaces of the Mind, Penumbra and Crossed Genres to name a few.

Now, if only Jack Sparrow asks her to marry him, all her dreams will come true.

You can find more of Sarina Dorie’s work online at the following webzines:

 UPDATE: As Sarina completed this article for our readers, she got word that her novel was accepted by Soul Mate Publishing. Congratulations, Sarina!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Persona vs. Brand: What's the Difference?

Most, if not all, of the marketing information targeted at authors tout the necessity for an author to develop their "brand" and "platform".  One of the main reasons we started this website is our strong conviction that this advice is WRONG.

CORPORATIONS and businesses have brands.  Politicians and activists have platforms.


So, what's the difference between a "brand" and a "persona"?

Let's take a moment to examine one of the most successful brands in existence today: Coca-Cola. Aaahhh, quintessential Americana at its best, right? The company name alone conjures images of summer cookouts, cute polar bears, curvy bottles, and that scrolling logo. All of these feelings, images, and emotions are branding at its best. You see their logo and you immediately have a full understanding of the experience you are going to have when you buy their product. And guess what.....Coca-Cola's brand manager is probably skipping with glee, because of your response. As a company, Coca-Cola has invested a ton of time, money, and energy into cultivating their consumer brand. This isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's a GREAT thing.  Stockholders are happy, jobs are created, and goods are sold.
Note: One company can own multiple brands. For example Estee Lauder owns: MAC, Clinique, Coach, Michael Kors, Aveda, Tommy Hilfiger, with their original Estee Lauder brand and associated products, among others. Each brand has its own target audience and is promoted accordingly. From a shareholders perspective, Estee Lauder is considered to be a 'diversified' company.
In the publishing world, each publisher has a brand that includes multiple lines and imprints. Harlequin has its Carina Press, HQN, MIRA, LUNA, and Kimani Press lines, to name a few. Regardless of the line or imprint, when you hear the name 'Harlequin' you immediately think 'romance'. And this is exactly what Harlequin wants you to think. However, each imprint is marketed with different banners, colors, and fonts on the book covers to reflect the style of the story being promoted to the audience.

Each of these companies employs scads of marketeers to plan and promote their brands. Though legally a corporation can be treated like a living entity, it is not a human being.

So what do authors market? Their books? Yes, but on a bigger picture level authors are marketing themselves or rather their 'writer' selves - also known as their PERSONA. Through their Author Persona they promote their books. 

To paraphrase Carl Jung, a persona is our public face or the mask that we wear in our day-to-day social engagements.  For an author, a persona is the hyper-realized self that you use to interact with your readers via your website, in person, and through social media.  While in your persona, you do NOT air your dirty laundry, discuss the details of your latest ailment, or rant about your significant other - UNLESS one of these issues is somehow related to your BOOK!  Your goal should be to cultivate a persona that represents you and your books well.  

Remember, you want your readers to become raving fans of your books and the worlds that you create.  How do you build a raving fan base? Create a positive customer (reader) experience and consistently produce great stories / books.

Some examples of authors who have successfully cultivated a distinct persona:
From Stephen King's spooky horror with a sci-fi twist to Charlaine Harris' paranormal southern gentility, each of these authors have a consistent look, feel, voice, and attitude present in their books and marketing.

Questions for you to ponder:
  • When a reader picks up your book or sees your name, what images, feelings, emotions, and thoughts would you like to see spring into their minds?  
  • How are you cultivating your persona to plant these thoughts and images so that they are associated with your books?
  • How is your Push, Pull, and Point-of-Purchase marketing reflective of your persona and your desired reader experience?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Include All Media in Your Marketing Plan

Writers often want to engage in debates over the merits of Twitter vs. Facebook, Goodreads vs. Amazon author pages, and 'what is this Google+ thing?'.  The reality is only two questions need to be considered:

  1. Where will you find your audience?
  2. Which media outlet do YOU like and will FREQUENTLY use?
Remember, Media is the TOOL and Marketing is the CONTENT.  A well thought out marketing plan will provide the roadmap for how you are going to connect with your audience.  Through these touch point connections, your ultimate goal is to build interest and SELL more books.

To quote Seth Godin:
"Marketing, like all forms of art, requires us to learn to see. To see what's working and to transplant it, change it and amplify it.
We don't teach this, but we should. We don't push people to practice the act of learning by analogy, because it's way easier to just give them a manual and help them avoid thinking for themselves."
There's no magic button.  Good stories, in tandem with good writing, will rise to the top now that we are in a digital world. Our new "shelf-life" means we are all well preserved. It's a good thing for stories to stand the test of time. Social Media is exciting and should be explored, but it may not be the nourishing dietary supplement readers and writers need for long term health and happiness. Or it could be the magic key to the kingdom.  Our point is that the social media portion of your marketing plan should be designed to be appropriate for your audience, but first you must observe and know your audience.

Morgan says:  I write both adult and YA novels.  When I am ready to start promoting my adult books, I will focus my efforts on Facebook and Google+.  When my YA books are ready, Twitter and Instragram will be my social media focuses.  The outlets I enjoy and my audience will dictate where my persona will be active.

Until you know what works for you and your connection to your audience there are other media options that have been, and still are, valid, like short stories and poetry. Don't limit yourself to blogs and tweets. If you're a poet, research poetry and song writer markets. If you're a novelist/story teller, consider the Art of Writing a Short Story.

Therese says: Short stories can be used to reveal back story that didn't make the final cut of your manuscript.  They can also be used as additional content on your website.

To get you thinking about Short Stories, we've got a post about short stories in two weeks. Utilizing short stories is a Finer Points Marketing technique. We're whetting your whistle about Short Stories and making you wait as well. Anticipation.

Until then, go on your own journey regarding the diversity of short stories.

Short Story Markets - From Cindy Myers Market News

Other Advice...... We're all about Marketing Myth Busting, so here's some Creating/Publishing Your Books Myths To Bust!
From Writers Digest: 5 Lies Unpublished Writers Tell Themselves (And The Truths That Can Get Them Published)
From the delightful Wise Ink Blog : Why Your Book Isn't Selling Part One - and Part Two

Other TIPS:

Social Media is still an awesome tool - especially for connecting with Your Audience that Uses Social Media...  Doing the Linky-Link

Also think outside of Book World for fun cross-marketing - Eye shadow party and book launch!
Get a Modernized Glam Look of the 20′s with Born of Illusion Shadows!