Writing & Marketing

All posts in the Writing & Marketing category


Published November 4, 2014 by Loulou Harrington

The problem with publishing any book anywhere is getting it in front of the readers. Even with a major publishing house, unless you have a name and momentum, your question is: How do I get readers to notice me? With ebooks, you have the same problem, only more of it.

Without something to propel your book title and author name from the bottom of the ocean and onto the beach, you will not only never sell–you will never be seen.

There are various ways to create a presence, and there is some debate as to the effectiveness of each. I have combined research, discussion, and personal observation to come up with what appears to be the primary methods to put yourself, and your books, in a position to be seen.

And, no, most writers don’t really want to do all of this. Writers want to write. When they’re not doing that, they want to read. Most are loners, or they could never tolerate the solitary hours spent staring at a blank page (okay, screen). And to spend what will amount to hours each week (no way around it) on Facebook, Twitter and blogging from your blog and/or website, is really not what most of us want to do.

So just kept asking yourself: Do I want to sell a book? To more than my immediate family, a few coworkers, and supportive friends?

If the answer is “Yes,” then you’re just going to have to put on your big person pants, suck it up, and at least go through the motions. If you’re shy, use a pen name. Take a publicity picture in the winter, with a scarf and a big-brimmed hat shading your face, or hide half your face behind your dog or cat. Don’t have a pet? Borrow a friend’s.

Create a Twitter account and Facebook page under whatever name you are writing under. I will pause here to suggest that you have a notebook during the initial stages to write down the names, internet addresses and passwords you use for each account. Also, it is a good idea to have an email account just for your writing-related activities. There will be notices of followers and comments and eventually readers who will need a place to contact you, and for efficiency if nothing else, you will want it separate from your personal email.

At this point, some of you are starting to panic. I know I did. Stay calm. These things can and should be done one at a time. Virtually no one is an overnight success on the first book. Building a social media presence, just like becoming a bestselling author, is an incremental thing. So take a deep breath, keep your notebook handy, and put a month or so between each new step if you need to.

I personally fought all of this every step of the way. I postponed, hemmed and hawed, set up accounts and then ignored them, and  built everything very slowly. Because it can be overwhelming.  I JUST realized the importance of having a Facebook Author’s page, something I will leave for a future post.

To summarize: THINGS YOU WILL NEED EVENTUALLY (but not all at once)

  • An email for writing connections
  • A Facebook page
  • A Twitter page
  • A website
  • A blog (website and blog can be combined)
  • Pinterest (highly recommended)
  • A Facebook Author’s page
  • A Google+ account (some blog groups want this to connect)
  • Amazon account
  • Goodreads (more later)
  • Online writers groups (networking connections)

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now. Most of this, I discovered one step at a time. And I will go into all of this in greater depth, one piece at a time, in future posts. And not everything listed above is necessary. But there are reasons why each of them could be beneficial.

If you are writing under a pen name, it can be a little confusing. But even if you are writing under your own name, you will probably want your personal accounts like Facebook and email separate from your writing, or publicity, accounts. I know one writer who uses a middle name on one and no middle name on the other. Some people just integrate the personal and professional and don’t worry about it. Some don’t and regret it later.

As I mentioned earlier, I will be going into greater detail on everything in future posts. But to start with, as a writer on Facebook, you will want to cultivate a “friend” base of other writers. Among the main reasons are that:

  1. You will learn from other writers.
  2. Writers are readers, and some of them will buy your books.
  3. It is a way to network, and writers can be extremely generous.
  4. You can see how they go about promoting themselves and their books.

You will also want to join groups–writing groups in general and groups specific to your genre. You will want to friend and follow bloggers and reviewers and their sites. You will need bloggers and reviewers as much as you will need other writers and writing groups.

And there’s more, but I will leave that for later. To stay connected to readers and other writers, the top four bullet points above are the most important and are the ones I recommend you start with.

Your comments, feedback and questions are welcome, and I look forward to hearing from you. Until then, happy writing, and I hope this is of some help.



Published October 22, 2014 by Loulou Harrington

Base of Eiffel Tower at Midnight

Base of Eiffel Tower at Midnight

I began posting blogs on this site just before embarking on several lengthy trips, confident that I would continue to blog while traveling, even outside the country. After all, there are Starbucks and McDonald’s everywhere, and don’t all hotels have WiFi available now?

So, in case you haven’t jumped to the punch line already, I was wrong. There are familiar fast food/coffee places available, but they’re not everywhere. And I discovered that foreign hotels frequently provide free WiFi in their lobby area, but not in their rooms. Which makes blogging possible, but not easy or convenient.

Having spent some time outside U.S. borders, I knew I would need an international package for phone calls and texts. But I was hoping to avoid one for data. Wrong again. Next time I’ll get the data package, too.

Each phone carrier has its own version, and international charges are not worth risking. (The accidental download of eight emails before I could get my data turned off again cost more than $100. The beginning data package is around $30, and would allow you a reasonable amount of usage. Well worth having.)

I would suggest doing the time-consuming, formative part of your blog on a notepad, or somewhere offline. Maybe from a park bench while your friends are taking pictures of statues and hand feeding sea gulls by a fountain. Short notes or pictures posted to Facebook and Twitter are quick ways to stay in touch, especially when you’re too busy even to think about a post.

Because, let’s face it, when you’re someplace like Paris, where the sidewalk cafés are still hopping at 10:00 pm, the Eiffel Tower is still lit up and rocking at 2:00 am, and the tour boats along the Seine are just shutting down for the night, are you going to be sitting in a hotel room working on a blog? I don’t think so. I know I wasn’t.

So try to be prepared. Remember to keep track of your data usage, and log on to free time when you can. Then, relax and have fun! Travel is for learning, living, and creating the memories you’ll want to write about later. After all, isn’t that what blogging is really about? Sharing with others?


Published July 20, 2014 by Loulou Harrington

Not so long ago I was reading a post in an online writers group I belong to. It was from a young American living and working in the Orient. He was a writer wanting to connect with other writers and reaching out through the best avenue he had–social media. He reminded me of how lucky I had been when I had accidentally moved into a state with a thriving community of writers. In a year’s time I went from being someone who had written steadily for a decade, receiving praise from teachers but knowing no other writers, to someone who was given a roadmap to achieving the professional writing success I had dreamed of.

And what I had been given was people–people with the same dreams and ambitions as I had. People who taught writing and wrote what they taught. Journalists who wanted to write fiction. Talented amateurs who formed critique groups to help each other develop our skills. Writers groups with meetings and speakers and contests. State-wide groups with yearly conferences, where professionals–agents, editors, other writers–came to speak and offer advice. National conferences and groups who offered bigger and better opportunities and advice.

But most important of all were the friendships formed, the working together to help each other grow and hone our skills. Writers, as a group, are the most generous professionals I have ever met. They offer their knowledge, their encouragement and their assistance freely.

So to anyone out there, at almost any stage in your development, the best advice I can offer is to reach out to other writers wherever you find them. Listen to each other. Talk. Share. Form a critique group and offer objective, constructive criticism. Some of the most successful writers I know were not technically good writers in the beginning. But they worked, and they learned, and in the end, perseverance will accomplish much more than raw talent ever will. Anyone can work. Anyone can learn. And anyone can create something that will sell.

Of my original critique group of eight, all but two became selling writers, all of full length books, all with major publishers when print was all there was. This group broke into smaller groups that continued to incorporate new writers who continued to become selling authors of full length books sold to major publishers. This is not a fluke. When writers pull together to help each other become the best they can be, it works.

I Learned Something Today

Published July 18, 2014 by Loulou Harrington

I learned something today as a result of something else I had already figured out: It’s good to network. I know–you already knew that. But it’s one of those things that it’s okay to repeat. In a post today in an online group for writers and readers, a member explained the importance of using the “like” button on a writer’s Amazon Author’s page, i.e., that the more “likes” an author gets on his page, the more attention Amazon pays to promoting him or her.

Now this may not be news to you, but I’m sure it’s news to somebody besides just me. Did I mention that I’m one of “those people” who likes the feel of a book between my hands? You know, a “real” book with those annoying paper pages that you have to actually turn, and that you can’t read in the dark without a light on, and that take up room in your luggage when you travel? See, I know all the downsides, and I still love them.

I resisted actually purchasing or reading an eBook, or buying something to read one on, or even joining Amazon, until long after I had finished the manuscript for my first mystery, began my second AND made the decision to market them as eBooks rather than to spend years finding an agent and then a traditional print publisher. So I not only have a lot to learn, I have a lot to unlearn, and a whole new way of thinking to absorb.

And the rest of what I learned today is that besides the “like” button, there are other things you should do every time you buy a book through Amazon or probably any other seller. You should also post that you just bought the book and then submit a review of the book after you’ve read it. It doesn’t have to be a big, glowing review unless it really moved you. A simple sentence, preferably a simple, kind sentence, is all that’s necessary, because, once again, the more reviews a book gets, the more promotion Amazon will give it.

It all counts. All those things I wasn’t paying any attention to count. I was buying the books of friends and shortchanging them because I simply didn’t know that sales aren’t the only thing that matters. And now I know–because someone took the time to post an explanation and reminder to the authors and readers in a group they belong to.

Which is the main thing I learned today–that it ALL counts. Sharing. Helping. Paying attention. And passing on information. Even if some people already know, others won’t. When someone extends a hand, take it. When you move up a step on the ladder, reach back to the person below you and help them move up. That’s networking. That’s how you not only build success, but how you share it. It’s how you grow as a writer, and as a person. And THAT is real success.

Vague Beginnings

Published July 16, 2014 by Loulou Harrington

The beginning is always frightening. Where will this go? How will it sound? How will it look? And does it really matter, because, most of all, will anyone ever see it?

I am a writer of books. I once wrote for a major publisher where I created the manuscript and they did the editing, the publishing, the marketing, pretty everything else, while I started on the next book without giving the rest of it much thought.

There are still a few writers who do that, but the numbers are diminishing. For better or for worse, there are more and more writers who are choosing the more direct route of the ebook. Whether they are self-published or use an ePublisher, the writer now bears most of the burden of editing, proofing, and marketing, as well as creating. And with this, they are truly taking their own fate into their hands.

I am now beginning this journey myself. Knowing next to nothing about social media or marketing, I am a writer in search of readers, and I’m not sure how I will find them, or they will find me. I believe in myself as a novelist, but that is only part of success in this new world of publishing. And as for the rest, I am only beginning.

Come journey with me and maybe we can learn together, if only what not to do and how not to do it. New beginnings can be frightening and frustrating, but without risk there is no success. And I believe in success.