Thursday, January 31, 2013

What an author has to do

Source: via Kathy on Pinterest

Universe, I'm telling you now, I want to do this full-time. This meaning writing, publishing, and marketing my own books. It's not at a level where it replaces income from my day job, but I want it to. Soon. Because if this were my day job, then my nights and weekends would be proper slacking off time.

One of the ways to make this happen is to do my own marketing, make sure people know I'm a writer and find out how to buy my books. What has worked for me:

1. Mailing list - It's opt-in, so I know that these people who sign up actually WANT to hear news from me. So I give them first dibs on everything, from cover reveals to freebies to discounts.
2. Author blog - It looks like this site is where I dump my thoughts on anything and everything, but it's also where people find out about me, see interviews I've done, and get links to buy my books. I also try to post stuff here about the books so people can get a feel of my writing style and themes, in case they're still deciding whether to buy or not.
3. Twitter - This is where I interact with the most number of readers and other writers.
4. Instagram - I haven't actually done any marketing on Instagram, but I noticed that readers were taking pictures of my books and sharing it to their followers. I'm now on it to thank them for the love. :)
5. People - I've discovered that one happy reader can be responsible for more new readers and sales than a fancy ad. I try to get to know who these people are and thank them as best I can. I've given cupcakes, free books, shirts... whatever I can get my hands on.

The way I see it, it's all about access and recommendations. Once someone's curious and wants to try my books, I'll do what I can so she gets the book in the format she prefers, and thank her for telling her friends about it.

It sounds like work. Shouldn't this be my actual work? Universe, you hear me?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My awesome day at Philippine Normal University

This week I was invited to speak about literature for teenagers to an audience of future English and Lit teachers at the Philippine Normal University, and I realized something.

Every author should get to spend time with future English and Lit teachers.

Haven't tried it? You should. It's awesome. Imagine being in the company of people who don't just read, but love it enough to embark on a career that will have them share this love to kids, fully aware that it's probably going to be thankless and financially unsatisfying.

Anyway, so this is apparently what happens when you hang out with future Lit teachers:
- The 9 copies of your books that you bring along are sold out in minutes. (Am used to bringing books along just for participants to leaf through, seriously. Didn't think teenagers would actually pay for them.)
- Someone says "...where I found a Nick Joaquin book for 1 peso" and people are like "whoa!"
- The introduction to you is so well-researched that you don't have to talk about yourself.
- You mention the books you grew up reading and people nod and say "yeah!"
- You show a slide of the top ten books from last year and they know and have read probably eight out of ten.
- You say "the first chapter's title would have been Absentation" and they nod.
- You retrieve that smile you last used for the gazillion pictures taken on your wedding day.
- You reschedule a lunch meeting so you can hang out with them some more.
- They have to tell people to stop lining up for book signing and photos already because lunch is coming up.

So of course I had a great time. Even though I kept telling them, I don't think they realize how fun this was for me. Seriously, every author should try it!

The bouquet from the students that I had to bring with me to the mall, and my next meeting. Ha!

First speaker was children's book author Rhandee Garlitos.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Yes you're writing a Contemporary Romance novella this year

I will not be writing a straight-up contemporary romance this year, but maybe you are.

Wait, what? Well, I'm trying a different genre (still with some romance and hot guys, but not just) so I think I should focus the thoughts on that. But I don't want to leave the genre entirely, so I floated this up to the Twitterverse this morning.

It's now 11 AM and I have about 20 takers, so we're officially on. :) How exciting! Read on and see if this is what you'd like to do.

Free Mostly-Online Course: Yes I'm Writing a Contemporary Romance Novella
1. The goal is to FINISH writing a contemporary romance novella of about 30,000 words
2. The course is free, with monthly assignments and meetups, but everything else will be online
3. Open to Philippine residents (those far from Manila can participate online and skip the meetups)
4. Online component will be via a closed Facebook Group called "Yes I'm Writing a Contemporary Romance Novella"

Contemporary romance = Set in current time or recent past, main plot is romance, "happily ever after" is encouraged but not necessary.
Novella = Less than 50,000 words

I will be sharing a formula for writing contemporary romances, and each assignment will be based on sticking to this formula. My goal is to help you FINISH writing one, and I think the best way is to introduce you to the formula, the elements that my editors look for, and what readers usually comment on. Even if you learn eventually that the formula is "not your thing," ideally you can use this as a starting point.

Some anticipated questions (with answers):

Can I go into the course with a story already written?
Yes, but it may have to be revised to follow the formula.

Does the work have to be in English?
No, but I'm fluent only in English and Filipino. (So I can't help you if it's in French.)

Can I join the group but not submit assignments?
For now let's say I'll prioritize the people who want to finish a book. But let's see how it goes.

Is it too late to sign up?
Sign up and join at any point, as long as you can catch up!

I want to try this! How do I try this?
Add me as a friend on Facebook (search or Mina V. Esguerra) and I'll add you to the group. Assignments, meetup skeds, and other details will be posted there.

Let's do this!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What traditional publishing does best

It's funny that I even thought of this post, because I'm sure everyone is like "Well duh, traditional publishing is tops!" But I've had such a wonderful experience with going the indie route with my books (see more of my publishing adventures here) that I may be giving the impression that I don't like traditional publishing all that much.

Guess what: I do!

When I say traditional publisher I mean the companies that accept manuscripts, publish books, and handle its distribution and marketing. I got my first break via a traditional publisher -- Summit Books -- and that gave me the confidence to keep writing, which eventually led me to decide to independently publish.

I recently gave my traditional publisher Philippine print distribution rights for my self-published stuff, and these are the advantages to that:

1. Access to a new pool of professional editors and designers

I work with professional editors and freelance designers when I self-publish, usually my friends and people I know, but it helps to have the book be read, worked on, and designed by people who move in totally different circles. The stories of Fairy Tale Fail and Love Your Frenemies didn't change much, if at all, but I did enjoy their different takes on the covers and the back cover blurbs.

2. Bookstore presence and visibility

"I can't find [insert self-publish book here] in the bookstores." I get this a lot. The huge gap in my own indie publishing operation is that I don't work with local bookstores to place my books there. I just see it as a lot of work, and I haven't found a way to do it quickly and simply just yet.

And this is where traditional publishing absolutely works for me, because they make sure that their books are present in as many bookstores as possible. We can discuss Philippine readership and whether books should be marketed more and whose responsibility is that, but this I know -- I get more readers in the Philippines when I have a book on the shelf of a bookstore.

3. Advertising in traditional media

This was an ad in the December/January issue of Candy magazine, which I would have never been able to manage on my own. I have to say, Summit really has a handle on the market for my books, so I appreciate it whenever they do something extra to reach out to readers.

As it is now, I actually decide on traditional vs indie one book at a time. And sometimes, I don't have to decide at all, because even books that I've "made indie" were picked up by a traditional publisher. I feel absolutely blessed/lucky/fortunate to be in this position, but I think that the indie mindset has also helped -- knowing that I have to work on a book as if I were publishing it has maybe made it easier for a traditional publisher to find something to like about it.

What does that mean, by the way, to write a book as if you're publishing it? I think that deserves its own post.