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SUNDAY INSPIRATIONS: Read, read, read.

Sunday Inspirations. Send us your favorite quote, image, poem, idea … anything that has been helpful or inspirational to your writing process. If we love it, we may use it as is, or take the inspiration and modify it in some way. Give us a link to your website or blog and we’ll be sure to give you credit! Email inspiration@writemarketdesign.com or post your suggestion in the comment section below!

Here’s today’s inspiration: “Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”

Faulkner - read everything

Laura

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What are 3 biggest new author mistakes?

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Exercises in Observation

My family used to tease me that nothing ever escaped me. If someone got new tires, I noticed. Rearranged a small piece of furniture, I saw it. I spotted every new ‘do or piece of clothing. When I was in college, I worked at the local newspaper. One of my friends was an assistant sports editor who routinely shaved his beard the first day of baseball season, when pitchers and catchers Open  your eyesreported for Spring Training, and then stopped shaving the day after the World Series. Before I became familiar with his schedule, I remember seeing him about 4 in the afternoon the day after he’d shaved and noticing his beard was gone. He told me I was the only one who’d noticed. “Several people asked me if I’ve lost weight, though,” he quipped cheerily. “And someone else told me they liked this shirt I’ve worn about a thousand times.” How could you not notice a full beard missing from the face of a man you saw nearly every day?

Observation is an essential skill for a writer. It’s also a really useful one for a book marketer. How can observation enhance your writing? Well, what are you paying attention to? Ideas, details, suggestions, comments that could become lines of dialogue, problems people are trying to solve – all of them surround us daily. If we pay attention, we can incorporate them into our work – both fiction and nonfiction.

EXAMPLES

1. The front page of the January 16, 2015 Arizona Republic had an article titled “8 amazing things from the records at Yuma prison.” The story contains interesting details about prison life in the Old West. “In the days before statehood, Yuma Territorial Prison was the official slammer, and guards there kept copious records. So we read them – tattoos, missing teeth and all.” I thought immediately of an author I know who writes Arizona-based Westerns. Maybe these details aren’t for her – but they would likely be important to some author of Westerns looking to authenticate the setting of a novel in the works.

2. A few days ago, I heard a story on NPR about Walter Brinker, a Vietnam vet who now offers free roadside assistance to stranded motorists up and down the North Carolina highway system. The report explained how, with more than 2,000 free roadside assists behind him, Walter has amassed decades of experience in quick solutions to help people get back on the road without having to call AAA. He’s even put his knowledge into a book of his own, Roadside Survival: Low-tech Solutions to Automobile Breakdowns. That story just conjured images for me that could make for a transformative scene in a contemporary work of fiction. It might also find its way into the next version of my own nonfiction book, Practical Philanthropy: How ‘Giving Back’ Helps You, Your Business, and the World Around You.

3. The main character of my novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World, is on a journey of self-discovery via world travel. It was an audacious undertaking to write a book about many places I’ve never been – thank god for the Internet generally, travel blogs and YouTube specifically. One of the 28 countries Stan visits is the Philippines, where he is struck by the abject poverty in which many Filipinos live. In writing this section of the book, I recalled a Facebook post I’d seen about an amazing project called A Liter of Light. You’d better bet the details of this amazing project to bring light into millions of homes without the use of electricity made it into my novel. This also may be another useful example for Practical Philanthropy.

liter of light

4. Several years ago my sister, my husband, a friend, and I embarked on a screenplay that has been put to the side for now. One of our characters, however, was modeled after a man I met at a gas station. With his carrot-orange hair, a full beard, and missing quite a few teeth, he approached me to ask if I would like an unopened bag of red licorice. “Can’t eat ‘em,” he said, motioning to the absent pearly whites. A woman had offered the candy to him, and he was now offering it to me. In the process of our conversation, I learned that he’d lost his wife about a year earlier, subsequently fell down on his luck, and was now homeless – temporarily, he assured me.

All of these observations were incorporated into my writing projects. But the need for observation is not limited to the writing aspect of the publishing process. The same is true of book marketing opportunities. If you remain vigilant, they show up everywhere.

MORE EXAMPLES

5. The Summer Author Event (Aug. 2014) and Holiday Author Event (Dec. 2014) came out of my noticing some grumbling in the Phoenix Publishing & Book Promotion Meetup about the lack of opportunities for authors to connect with readers. Evidently, Elaine Mays had the same awareness before she began the League of Local Authors, a group that is constantly on the lookout for book signing opportunities. Currently, members participate in several Phoenix-area farmers’ markets a few times a month, and the appearances will certainly expand soon.

6. Robert Scanlan, author of Tigers Under My Bed: Life Lessons Tamed During Three Organ Transplants, put his book in front of several renowned transplant surgeons shortly after its release in May 2014. Now, it is being considered as an ancillary textbook in both the USC and UCLA medical schools.

7. Diana DeLugan wrote a book of ghost tales from the American Southwest. In her efforts to do some research for a second book, The Otero Arizona Land Grant Documentary, she went down to Tubac, Arizona. There, she connected with the proprietor of a hotel and parlayed that connection into a book signing event over Halloween weekend. Great timing for a book of ghost stories, isn’t it?

Good books are the easiest ones to market. Details make for good books. And observation – of people, situations, voids that need filling – is one of the most significant keys to successful marketing.

Open your eyes. Listen up. Get nosy about people. If you’re not great at meeting Mr nosypeople, practice! Try Toastmasters, where you’ll hear (and occasionally have to give) speeches on myriad topics. Read everything. If you typically read only computer magazines, expand your horizons and pick up a copy of Atlantic Monthly. If your politics fall firmly on one side of the aisle, occasionally do some opposition research: read op-eds from writers with opposing views; listen to talk radio shows of people whose opinions you “hate.”

Then, have a way to capture the details as they come in. Use the digital recorder on your smartphone. Carry a notebook with you. Text yourself. Once you begin to discover the wide, wide world around you, you’ll wonder how the small things ever escaped your notice before.

Here’s to seeing with new eyes, hearing with new ears, and writing with new zest!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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We’re one month into 2015 — are  you READY? If you haven’t yet 2015 Goalsmapped out your book marketing efforts for the New Year, it’s time to get started! Sit down with Laura – in person or via Skype – and review your book marketing plan. We’ll evaluate: what’s working, what isn’t working, and which new strategies you may want to implement for the new year (or your newest book). Regularly $150 for a 45-minute session. Marcie Brock special: $99 for the first five who respond. mktg@WriteMarketDesign.com

 

 

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October is National Book Month – how will you celebrate?

Woo-hoo! Book lovers, unite! The National Book Foundation has declared October as National Book Month. They’ve got some excellent information about getting your school or library involved, getting your family involved, suggested reading lists, and almost 60 years of National Book Award winners. There’s also a quiz where you can test your knowledge of modern American literature.

Here are 10 great ways to celebrate National Book Month:

1. READ that book you’ve been meaning to read. Whether it’s a novel, self-help book, or the latest Hollywood biography, get and read that book you’ve been meaning to read.

2. Start WRITING that book you’ve been meaning to write. We’ve all got at least one book idea in us. If you’ve been thinking about, planning to, meaning to write a book for a while now, why not finally get under way?!

3. Join a BOOK CLUB. Meetup.com is a fantastic resource for finding a book club near you. A recent scan revealed all kinds of themed book clubs:

  • Heard About It on NPR Book Club
  • Science Fiction Book Club
  • Let’s Talk About Romance Book Club
  • The New York Girl Books Club
  • Bestsellers Book Club
  • Paranormal and Supernatural Book Club

4. Start a BOOK CLUB. If there doesn’t seem to be a book club for your area of interest, start your own! Host it at a local library, bookstore, or coffeehouse.

5. Read with your SPOUSE or CHILDREN. What better way of generating family intimacy and connection than reading together?

6. READ OUT LOUD in a public place. OK – this one requires a bit of a quirky personality. But you probably remember the mall preachers on your university quad. The University of Arizona in Tucson has actually put up a “Preacher’s Corner” sign to designate a specific area for these folks to share their messages. Why shouldn’t your message be a passage from your favorite book?

7. Buy yourself a book at your favorite INDIE book shop. That’s right. Step away from the computer, lay off the Amazon addiction, and get thee to a real book store. Support your local indie shop while you’re at it.

8. Start a BOOK SWAP. If you buy a lot of books and your bookshelves are at the bursting point, consider starting a book swap with other bibliophiles. Check Meetup.com for already existing book swaps in your area.

9. Sign up for BOOKCROSSING.COM. If you’ve ever thought about posting a message in a bottle, this is the same idea, but of a literary bent. Take a book you’ve finished that you’re sure you don’t mind giving away. Go to BookCrossing.com and sign up. Then, get a code for your book. Write BookCrossing.com, the code, and a message about the book inside the front cover of your book. Leave the book in a public place. Check back in a week or so to see if anyone has found your book and decided to play along.

10. Turn your Halloween party into a BOOK PARTY. Have everyone dress as their favorite literary character.

It’s National Book Month, so read! Tell us what you’re reading in the Comments Section below. I’ll start!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Two things you can do next: (1) Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page and “LIKE” it if you like it. (2) Visit Laura’s other blog.

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Phoenix Book Consultant Issues 5 Contests to Spur Interest in Banned Books Week 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:   Judy Corkett
(602) 518-5376 or Judy@WriteMarketDesign.com

MEDIA RELEASE

Phoenix, Ariz., 22 September 2011 Remember those book reports from grade school? They’re finally going to come in handy, as the first of 5 contests sponsored by Write | Market | Design to commemorate Banned Books Week 2011 (Sept. 24-Oct. 1) is the review of a book by an author who was recently banned/challenged in the U.S.

“Every year I see the articles about Banned Books Week and shake my head at some of the reasons given in defense of censorship. This year, I decided to do something about it!” says book consultant and Write | Market | Design founder, Laura Orsini. “I was taken with the concept of the word FREADOM on one of the Banned Books Week websites, and thought contests would be a good way to raise awareness that we still ban – and BURN – books in the United States of America in the 21st century,” Orsini continues.

The 5 contests will start each consecutive day, Monday through Friday, of Banned Books Week. They include:

  • Contest #1: Write a review of your favorite book by an author from a list of banned authors.
  • Contest #2: Make a picture, poster, or other graphic representation of a book by an author from a list of banned authors.
  • Contest #3: Create a short video of yourself doing a mock interview with any author from a list of banned authors. Ask them to respond to the news that their book has been banned.
  • Contest #4: Have someone take a photo of you reading a book by an author from a list of banned authors in a public location while you hold a sign that says, “A book by this author was banned in __[year]__.
  • Contest #5: In 500 words or less, explain what “FREADOM” means to you, and why you oppose censorship.

Full rules and instructions for participating in these contests can be found at BannedBooksWeekContest.com. All winning entries will be posted on the site. Winners of the daily contests will receive an attractive t-shirt; the Grand Prize winner, chosen from the 5 daily winners, will receive a $25 Amazon.com gift certificate.

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Two things you can do next: (1) Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page and “LIKE” it if you like it. (2) Visit Laura’s other blog.

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You an EXPERT? Leave the public domain works alone and write your own stuff.

OK this is just my opinion (as is most of what you’ll read on this blog), but I think co-opting public domain* materials to create your own books or info products is a cop-out.  It’s not illegal, but it is a lazy shortcut that shortchanges the reader, the person whom you, as a writer, want to be keeping at the forefront of your focus.

“Wow – those seem like fightin’ words, Laura!”

I suppose they do, because I am adamant about this. And here’s why:

I believe that whether we acknowledge it or not, we each have an area of expertise. It doesn’t have to be business related, but there’s probably something in your life that you do better than most people, even if it’s just taking the time to chat with Grandma and Great-Aunt Edna when they come to visit. If you’re writing a book you plan to sell, owning that expertise is crucial.

The question to ponder is: How did you develop your expertise? Perhaps you studied, read, researched, interviewed, and/or put in lots of hands-on time and effort developing this specialized knowledge. The fact is, now you have that knowledge, and that’s what people are paying you for.

By the time you get to the point where you are willing to commit to writing a book, I honestly feel that you should have enough experience, opinions, and knowledge to craft your OWN book. That’s not to say that you can’t and won’t use other experts’ knowledge as source material for your work, but in writing your book, you are publishing your thoughts, your opinions, your expert point of view.

On the other hand, reading a public domain book, rearranging a few words, and putting it forth as your own do not make you an expert. If you’re honest, you’ll admit that  this amounts to nothing more than a cheesy get-rich-quick scheme, and we all know where most of those wind up, don’t we? If making money is your only reason for writing a book, you might want to rethink that.

I encourage you: If you want to write a book, write a book. But put in the work, time, energy, effort, and money to become a REAL expert. Your readers will thank you, and it will pay off in your business.

Laura

* Here’s a great explanation of public domain and the accompanying questions of copyright.

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Two things you can do next: (1) Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page and “LIKE” it if you like it. (2) Visit Laura’s other blog.

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The Art of Captivation: What makes us LOVE that book, movie, song…?

You probably have one of your own. That CD or MP3 you’ve listened to 1,000 times. For me, it’s the first 3 songs from U2’s Joshua Tree (Side A for you old-school vinyl enthusiasts). I’m not sure what it is about The Edge’s primal guitar beat that is so captivating, but it is as intoxicating to me as any drink. I hear the intro to “The Streets Have No Name” and I want to climb inside the music. Add an open car window on the freeway at midnight, and I’m in heaven.

Right now, you might be relating, or thinking I have terrible taste in that overblown Irish quartet. The point isn’t that you agree with my taste, but that you can relate to the concept of music you absolutely love.

 

These passionate responses are not exclusive to music. What about that movie you’ve watched dozens of times? The painting that mesmerizes you? The book that’s falling apart, you’ve read it so many times?

What makes them so special? Although there are general success indicators, the answer to that question is personal to each of us.

For example, the music industry has distilled the prediction of hit records (primarily from new artists) down to a science. Ever wondered why so many hits have such a similar sound? It might be related to the fact that music researchers in labs hook up test subjects to electrodes and measure their responses to numbers of beats, rhythms, and tones. The studios then generally take risks only on those artists whose music meets the standards predicted by the research.

Similarly, a guy decided to research what makes an Academy Award-winning movie. He got copies of 25 years’ worth of Oscar winners, watched them, and dissected and recorded the similarities between them. Then, he turned his research into a screenwriting class for which he charges thousands of dollars. Not surprisingly, many of his students sell their scripts and see them made into films.

Even with these behind-the-scenes “manipulations,” not every song the studios release becomes a hit, nor does every screenplay from this man’s class become a movie. They are indicators, though.

One thing I’ve observed about most popular art forms is that they’re usually of decent quality. Of course, every now and then a lousy book or movie finds a cult following, but more often than not, the things we like as a culture are pretty good. However, even the most popular books, movies, and music will never appeal to everyone.

As a personal example, it’s just in the last 15 years that I’ve begun to like the Beatles. And to this day, I’m still not a fan of one of the most popular bands of all time, The Rolling Stones. Both inarguably quality artists, but one appeals to me much more than the other, and even that one took some time to grow on me.

What does all of this have to do with you and marketing your book? A few quick reminders:

  • If you want to sell books, make the best book you can.
  • There are success formulas; one of them may work for you.
  • When it comes right down to it, taste is individual. Some readers will resonate with you; those are the ones you want to find and cultivate.
  • Even if you hit a home run with your book, there will be some people who don’t like it.

Study the movies, music, and books you love; pay attention to what about them captivates you. Are there hints you can glean about developing and capturing a similar passion in your readers?

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Two things you can do next: (1) Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page and “LIKE” it if you like it. (2) Visit Laura’s other blog.

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If bookstores were properly categorized…

Oh, how I wish I could take credit for this one! Here is a delightful excerpt from Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. Book lovers near and far will be able to relate to this!

Sections in the Bookstore

  • Books You Haven’t Read
  • Books You Needn’t Read
  • Books Made for Purposes Other than Reading
  • Books Read Even Before You Open Them, Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written
  • Books That if You Had More than One Life, You Would Certainly Also Read, but Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
  • Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
  • Books Too Expensive Now and You’ll Wait ‘Til They’re Remaindered
  • Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback
  • Books You Can Borrow from Somebody
  • Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s as if You Had Read Them, Too
  • Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages
  • Books You’ve Been Hunting for Years Without Success
  • Books Dealing with Something You’re Working on at the Moment
  • Books You Want to Own So They’ll Be Handy Just in Case
  • Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer
  • Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves
  • Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
  • Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time to Re-read
  • Books You’ve Always Pretended to Have Read and Now It’s Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them
  • Books You Love but Wouldn’t Be Caught Dead Holding on the Subway**
  • Books You’ve Lent to Someone, but You Can’t Remember Who**
  • Books to Inspire Your Own Writing**

This is a pretty thorough list, but if you have any to add, please do so in the comment section. The double-asterisks (**) are my own additions.

Happy reading er browsing, and then reading!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Two things you can do next: (1) Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page and “LIKE” it if you like it. (2) Visit Laura’s other blog.

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