Writers' Forum - March 2021






The Big 5 Become the Big 4

It’s been in the works since late last year, but it looks like now it is official. Penguin Random House will acquire Simon & Schuster for $2.2 billion. (You may remember that Penguin and Random House merged back in 2013, reducing the big 6 publishers to the big 5.) The other three are Macmillan, Hachette Book Group, and HarperCollins. Kirkus has a comprehensive article on the merger. There’s plenty of reasons for concern about this merger--many of which are detailed in this medium article by Melissa Gouty.

HarperCollins (Newsday) Acquires the Trade Division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

In additional merger news, Newsday will acquire the trade division of the education publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) and operate it as part of HarperCollins. HMH will continue to focus on “school text books and digital products.” “HMH’s trade division’s backlist includes more than 7,000 titles. The catalog includes J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth novels, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, and a number of Curious George books.” HarperCollins also attempted to acquire Simon & Schuster but lost out to Penguin Random House.

5 Author Side Hustle Ideas

Are you trying to expand your revenue potential, Daniel Parsons gives you five solid ideas for using the skills you’ve already acquired as an author in his article for Mark Dawson’s blog. You probably assumed that editing and proofreading would be on this list, but there are other interesting skills you might not have thought were as equally marketable. See if these ideas can bring in some extra cash: https://selfpublishingformula.com/5-author-side-hustle-ideas/

The Green-Eyed Monster: Jealousy in the Time of Quarantine

Nancy Stohlman acknowledges that it is normal to feel jealousy of others’ writing successes, particularly those who seem to be doing so much with their quarantine time. We ALL feel jealous sometimes, but she gives a great list of suggestions to help us out of this mindset from self-care tips to learning a new task and more. See if these will help you get out of a rut (jealous or otherwise.) https://www.janefriedman.com/green-eyed-monster-jealousy-in-the-time-of-quarantine/

Mary Kole - publishing partner shout out


I met Mary Cole years ago at an SCBWI Fall Conference here in Wisconsin when she was still an agent. She’s a powerhouse in the children’s literature world with her Kidlit.com earning top honors as one of Writers’ Digest’s 101 best websites for writers every year. Subscribe here. Her site GoodStoryCompany.com provides exceptional advice to writers—much of it free. The paid services she offers are well worth the investment. You’ll notice that I share at least one article from her or one of her Good Story Company colleagues each month in this space. Thank you, Mary!

Read more about Mary: https://kidlit.com/about/



Unconventional Writing and Fiction Rules

And, not surprisingly, here’s an article from Mary Kole taking on writing/fiction rule breaking – as in when you should and shouldn’t break them. We can all point to different books that have successfully broken rules, but she explains that these rules exist for a reason. You need to learn them and, perhaps, you may want to break them , but be prepared to explain why you are “making these storytelling choices for a compelling reason, rather than due to not being fully informed about the market.” You will likely need to defend these choices. Read her full article HERE.

Beware of Chapter-by-Chapter Book Critiques

Uh-oh! Given this is how my critique group operates, I was clearly drawn to this article by Lisa Cooper Ellison for Jane Friedman’s blog. The main problem she points out is one that we combat in our own critique group. When there are weeks between reading individual chapters in a work in progress, it is easy to lose the thread of the full story arc or plot. You can forget details and offer advice that doesn’t mesh with advice you’ve forgotten you gave for previous chapters because of the time lag. See how Ellison suggests you avoid those pitfalls.

Beware of Hollow Opening Lines (Query Critique)

Author Nathan Bransford provides excellent query letter critiques (and more!) In this blog post he shares how easy it is to fall into the trap of offering an empty opening line when you begin describing your book. I love his insight and really think we all can benefit from this type of advice when we’re in the querying stage.  Read it here: https://nathanbransford.com/blog/2021/03/beware-of-hollow-opening-lines-query-critique

Are You a Mom Writer Thinking of Quitting? Read This First.

This article is for everyone – not just moms. This is a resiliency article about facing the querying process and eventual rejection like a pro. You’ll love this matter-of-fact querying advice from Denise Massar and the tips on how not to take any of this personally. 







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See my full list of courses and services at www.LostLakePress.com


How to Build an ARC Team to Launch Your Book

Have you heard of an ARC (Advance Review Copy) Team? What about a Beta Team or a Street Team? Dave Chesson defines each of these teams and then dives into how to establish and organize your Advance Review Team, along with the tools and services you can use to make everything work smoothly. This is some of the best advice I’ve seen on this topic. Thanks Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur.com. 


$0 to $10k Month: Author Marketing Training -- Part Six: Your Guide to the  “Big Three” Ad Platforms

This is an excellent introduction to BookBub, Amazon, and Facebook ads. I’m often recommending these or creating these types of ad campaigns for clients, but if you’d like to learn how to do it yourself, this is a great starting point. https://www.yourfirst10kreaders.com/seven-days-to-1k-part-6-fghf/

3 Book Marketing Tactics You Can Ignore

How nice to have a reverse ‘to-do’ list. Sandra Beckwith notes three things that you don’t (necessarily) have to do . . . but there’s always some fine print. You might benefit from an Amazon pre-sale campaign, but you should learn why you might not. And the same goes for running ads on Amazon immediately after your launch your book. This might not be a good idea if you haven’t gotten enough reviews. Her final advice; don’t chase after the newest thing is always good advice. . . . we can waste a lot of time and energy unnecessarily doing that. Read the full article: https://buildbookbuzz.com/3-book-marketing-tactics-you-can-ignore/

Photo by Nico Smit on Unsplash

30 Ways Authors Use Videos to Engage with Readers

Everyone is watching videos . . . Leila Hirschfeld on the BookBub Insights blog gives us 30 ways to reach your audience with video. This could easily have been placed in the social media section on this page. After all, that is likely where you are going to post these videos. My favorites are announcing contests, sharing tidbits about your book topic or writing inspiration,  talking about writer problems, or sharing writing tips. So many fun ideas . . . great jumping off point if you’re just getting started with video.

New Hope for Old Books

Is there a point when it makes sense to quit promoting your books? The answer from Sandra Beckwith is no. The main takeaway here is that readers don’t care about publication dates—they only care whether the book is good or not. So while you may feel like you are on a time clock with your promotions, you can take an evergreen approach here and know that unless your topic is extremely time sensitive, you can and should plan ongoing promotions. https://buildbookbuzz.com/new-hope-for-old-books/


Blogging Versus Email Newsletter: Which is Better for Writers?

I get asked this question a lot by authors at the beginning of their publishing journeys, so I was very grateful for Jane Friedman's post. So what’s the answer? Should you write a blog or a newsletter? The answer: it depends on your goals. Newsletters are great tools for communicating with your followers but aren’t great for reaching new audiences. Blogs take a while to get going and more time consuming, but they are better tool for finding new audiences. There’s a whole host of other advice in this article that may help you decide which to do. And you might decide to do both like I do. Great advice: https://www.janefriedman.com/blogging-vs-email-writers

What a High Converting Blog Page Looks Like

Speaking of blogging . . . Bakerview Consulting brings us this fab infographic that shows us the elements we ought to include on our blog page if we want people to hang out there. How does your blog page shape up? I realize I don’t currently do number 6 or 8 and should begin incorporating those. (What a lousy teaser, huh? . . . okay, I don’t have a call to action at the bottom of my post and I don’t have related articles listed below each post either.)  

How to Comment on Blogs

Sandra Beckwith has some popular advice this month . . . here she is again with tips on how to comment on blogs. Being part of the blogging community is not a one-way street. You need to engage with other people on their blogs by commenting. But can you do this wrong? Yes, you can! Do not comment to self-promote and get your own book title out there—that’s bad form. Genuinely engage in the conversation and share useful information. All the same rules of conversation apply here . . . use your manners, don’t be pushy etc… Quick, worthy read:  https://buildbookbuzz.com/how-to-comment-on-blogs/


6 Ways to Get More Social Media Traffic to Your Website

This article was from late 2020 but is still relevant. We often link our social media accounts to our website and hope that visitors to our website will follow us on our socials. BUT, you also want it to go the other direction. You want social media folks to come on over to your website and hang out. You can facilitate this if you remember these six easy tips … do you use a call to action in your posts or on your social media banner images? This is valuable real estate. 

30 Days of Social Media Content Calendar

You’re not alone if you’re not sure what you ought to be posting on social media. It’s hard to know which content can be interesting, informative, and fun. If you need some prompts, this is fun 30-day Calendar of ideas may help you out.

Additionally, one of the fun content ideas is to share can be quotes from your book, review excerpts, or other testimonials. Sandra Beckwith gives a tutorial on how to create these fun quote graphics to jazz up your social media content and bring attention to your book(s).

Happy Writing (editing, marketing, and more!) - Valerie  

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