Author Podcast

Want a peek into the world of writing, self-publishing and social media book promotion?

SPG author, Jill C. Baker, was interviewed by Boston marketing leader, Bob Cargill, for a podcast that first aired on March 5, 2019.

Check it out:

Here’s how it is introduced.

A Few Words with Jill C. Baker

March 5, 2019

Episode 57 – A Few Words with Jill C. Baker 

The springboard for this episode with author, Jill. C. Baker, was her Sutherland Series books, each of which is centered (according to Jill’s website “around the family of Sarah Sutherland – an average woman, a working mom, someone not too different from most of us – other than in her ability to transcend time.”

In this conversation, we talk about what has gone into the writing of these books – characterized, again, according to Jill’s website, as “historical fiction with a touch of paranormal” – as well as the marketing of them, including the use of social media.

Jill takes us behind-the-scenes of her publishing process, sharing a number of great tips and anecdotes that will interest anyone who wants to see their own book to fruition.

She also talks candidly about how much she has learned herself as a new author and the unique challenges of promoting her own work.

Later in our chat, we are joined by our mutual friend, Scott Myles, who has a lot to say about what Jill has written so far as a reader and, yes, fan.

Thanks, Scott, for adding so many good points to our discussion, including a number of tips and suggestions for increasing Jill’s book sales.

And, of course, thank you, Jill!

I know both Jill and Scott, by the way, from a networking group I co-founded in Sudbury (MA) nearly eight years ago with Phil Hollows called the Sudbury Social Tweetup, a monthly event for those interested in social media and marketing.

Share Some Love: Praise for Support Systems

I’ll admit it. I write alone. I don’t like to discuss my ideas in advance, don’t like to ask opinions until I’m ready. I don’t let myself look too much at what others are doing, for fear of inadvertently lifting something. Neither do I co-write — although I understand the value of these collaborative things.

Sure, when I’m ready, I turn to beta readers and editors, production teams and web gurus. At that point, I’m happy to share things with family and friends, and shamelessly tap the brains of those who know more than I do.

Only recently, however, have I found that I enjoy belonging to a writing community. I discovered this forum after creating an author persona: a social media identity, separate from my professional one. Some of the people in this group are accomplished writers, others are newbies, some are wannabees, and there are those trying to sell us their services. Anyone interested in words is generally welcome.

What I find refreshing is that I can engage with people in a non-political, alternate world way… a world that is dramatic, magical, frightening, adventurous and romantic … a place that exists in the hearts and minds of the imaginative. On Facebook, I post under my series name:  Sutherland Series. On Twitter, I post in my main character’s voice at SarahSutherlandBookSeries @SeriesSarah. The latter allows me to quote “myself,” comment about plot points, and provide contextual anecdotes. It also lets me promote my titles without sounding self-serving. That’s where this community has evolved.

A group such as #WritingCommunity and #Iamwriting presents a fascinating mix of people, working in a wide range of genres, many of which I would not ordinarily follow. I’ve learned about dragons and wizards, tales of survival, murder mysteries, and fantastical places. I’ve engaged with people across wide age and geographical spectrums.

Some ask advice. Some like to comment. Many post encouraging words. Most have a sense of humor. There are those who use this forum to fight personal demons; others who use it to learn about the publishing process. A common thread seems to be that most of us want to stay inspired. We aim to reach robust goals but set realistic expectations. Generally, we cheer each other on. We exchange experiences and lessons learned. We point to deserving work and helpful resources. Sometimes reviewers invite us to submit. Other times, we invite reviewers to check us out.

One of the nicest things about a writing community is that this is safe social media space. We’re basically one big mutual fan club. I have yet to see any nastiness. If anything, this has been one of the most generous and supportive environments I’ve encountered. So, while I might pound out plots and write in solitude, a hermit unto myself — I’ve found a home among like-minded, word-loving people.

If you’re a writer, publisher, or content handler, you might want to join a writing community or establish one. Chances are, if you follow fellow wordsmiths, they will follow you.

10 Tips for Working with an Editor

Working with an editor means putting your ego in your pocket.

Like most authors, I take pride in my work, but I learned many years ago that every word I write is not a pearl of wisdom. Better to think about editing like film production – where some of the best scenes end up on the cutting room floor.

I did find, however, that the writer-editor relationship is critical and can be made most comfortable through mutual respect and responsiveness. Here are a few tips:

  1. Make sure your copy is clean and readable before handing it over. Your editor is not there to decipher hand-written notes in the margin. Take the time to make those changes yourself. Always date (or if moving quickly, date and time-stamp) your versions. Label the file accordingly, adding your initials to anything you update. Insert page numbers for easy reference. (Numbers will be changed when final styling is done so don’t worry about that.) Save your files in multiple ways — desk top, external hard drive, USB stick, and email it to yourself.
  2. Talk to your editor at the outset about what you want to achieve: tell a story, cover an event, offer advice. This can help set the tone. Explain your target audience and market scope. That will influence word choice as to age, gender, and regional lingo.
  3. Use Track Changes for reviews. A good editor will flag manuscript areas that are confusing, have breaks in continuity, or lack clarity – for example, an editor might comment: “How did the couple end up in the living room when we last saw them outside? Is it correct to say, the character used a revolver at that date and time? (Check research) Didn’t your heroine have a limp in the beginning? If so, how could she sprint to the altar?”
  4. In response to a thorough editorial mark-up, the author will accept recommended changes or address each Comment. Remember, it’s OK for an author to push back, in which case, it’s helpful to provide a source link so the editor can confirm something they questioned.
  5. Tread lightly and expect the same in return. If nothing else, the process should be civilized. It’s preferable to have an editor suggest, “Might want to use the word ‘judicious’ rather than ‘careful’ to explain the lawyer’s nature” rather than say, “Find better word.” Likewise, it’s nicer to have an author say, “Great idea. Never thought of that” rather than, “No way. I did it how I wanted it. What are you talking about?”
  6. It’s a bonus when a beta-reader or story editor can catch a typo or misspelling, but that’s not their primary job. A “copy editor” will scrutinize spelling, grammar, and punctuation. A developmental editor will work at an even higher level, looking at the depth of characters and arc of the story before getting into the nitty-gritty.
  7. When stymied about how to rewrite a section or tackle stilted dialog, take a walk. Clear your head. Have a cup of coffee but do come back. It’s dangerous to get distracted.
  8. Return your edited manuscript to your editor, retaining comments in any areas you still question. Sometimes it’s good to talk about what is troubling. For example, does it make more sense for the character to ride into town or should they be walking? A decision like this can affect the pacing. You might ask each other, what is more important. Getting to the destination or giving your character time to think?
  9. Your editor can also guide you about Chapter structure. It’s easy to get caught up in writing and not think about the reading. What might be moving fast in your author’s mind could be terribly long for a reader who need a break. Unless you have a Table of Contents (as in a non-fiction book), it’s helpful to keep a list of Chapter numbers, names, and pages.
  10. Lastly, work with your editor and/or designer to envision how the book will look. Should there be a vintage map at the outset? Should the font feel classic or modern? Should there be Dingbats between sections that transition in time or place? Do you want a large, lead cap at the start of each Chapter? The more clarity you can offer in the beginning, the better the process will end.

Book Publishing Means More Than Paper

Who doesn’t like sitting in front of a roaring fire with a good book. Many of us thoroughly enjoy the feel of paper on our fingertips and the smell of newly pressed ink. We give hardbound books as gifts, leave once-read paperbacks behind at vacation destinations, for others to enjoy, and we likely have a bookshelf at home for our family favorites.

SPG loves print and has tremendous respect for book producers who make it come to life. But when conceiving and marketing a book, today’s aspiring self-publishing author must consider emerging tools and technology, as well as the fact that 70% of books sold are in digital format.

We attended the wonderful Boston Book Festival recently and were wowed by the originality of the authors who so generously shared their time, tips, and words. It was difficult not to buy ‘everything.’ However, we were disappointed in one session, earmarked to focus on self-publishing, because it skirted the proliferation of ebooks and the digital platforms that support them. Surely Amazon/Kindle, iTunes/AppleBooks, GooglePlay Books, KOBO, and Barnes & Noble should have been called out by name – not to mention those serving libraries, subscription models, and the foreign market.

We were dismayed that social media – so critical to viral marketing –was not part of the conversation. Clearly, a self-published author needs to create an online persona, separate from their personal and professional identity (assuming writing is not their full-time job). So – word of advice: set up an email account in your book title or series name, create a Twitter account for those characters, and start a Facebook page that is more about your plot than your pets.

But getting there can be daunting – not only in research, writing, editing, and design – but in file preparation and verification, sales strategy, and distribution planning – even before marketing. The process is often ‘learn as you go.’

In this same, otherwise lovely BBF session, we heard of failed PR efforts and unproductive direct mail campaigns that cost big bucks. Those, frankly, are not avenues we’d recommend in today’s tech-driven world. Through digital distribution partners like Publish Drive, and online platforms like Goodreads, new authors can send review copies to the media and encourage readers to post reviews. In this same session, we heard about the success of snagging a radio interview, and that’s great, but now authors can post their own podcasts, chime in on industry webcasts, and consider audio books.

Meet-and-greets in brick-and-mortar bookstores are, of course, exciting, but realistically, a new author isn’t going to get much shelf space. Thus, having an author website is essential. This is the place to introduce yourself, present your titles, share your motivation, and build a following. This is the place to link directly to purchase pages, encourage feedback, and capture email addresses for future communication. This is the place to use the keywords assigned to your book category for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Sampling content is also smart. Most online stores offer it with a ‘Look Inside’ feature on the ‘Buy Now’ page – but there are other options, too. A friend of ours has built technology to enable book sampling independent of bookstores. Text Cafe is an HTML-based solution that allows writers and publishers to sample their content directly through web Search, without forcing readers into their bookstore accounts. This is appealing to casual browsers who might not be ready to buy but who are intrigued by a topic or theme. These people are terrific, predisposed prospects for conversion to sale.

These are only a few of the needs and resources we’ve discovered in our first foray into commercial publishing, but we hope to have many more to share. Come back. Contribute. Tell us what we can do for you.