At Monday’s Open Mic Night, SDWEG member Penn Wallace announced that his upcoming class on Thursday, July 27, at San Diego Writers, Ink would cover using your email list. He asked that I post this correction as he misspoke.
This week’s class, July 27, is on Building Your Author Brand. While not the topic he announced, he is sure that many members would still be interested in this topic.
The class on mailing lists is titled Join the Writers Community and Connect with Readers and will be held on August 3. The first part of the class in on how to join the writers’ community and cross market with other authors. The second part of the class is on how to build your mailing list and use it as your most important marketing tool.
When SDWEG member and our April presenter, Penn Wallace, mentioned at one of our Marketing Support Group meetings that his blog followers weren’t interested in reading about his writing process, I asked if he’d be willing to share a description of his writing process with us. This is the first of two posts in this guest blogger series, complete with evidence of Penn’s sense of humor.
My Writing Process
There are as many ways to write a book as there are authors. I have talked to bestselling, traditionally published authors who don’t know the plot or story when they start writing. We call these writers “pantsers” because they write by the seat-of-their-pants.
There are other writers who plot and outline the entire story before they write the first word. We call these people “outliners.”
There are dozens of degrees of each of these categories in between. Whatever works for you is the correct way to write.
Me, I’m an extreme outliner. I come from a software engineering background. During my years designing and building software and web applications for Fortune 500 companies, I learned that I wanted to know all the answers before I started coding. I didn’t like to be hit with surprises mid-project. Our axiom was “It’s cheaper to fix it in the design stage than it is in the build stage.”
The same applies to writing. I’ve known pantsers who found a glaring plot error in their story and ended up ripping out hundreds of pages and starting again. I rarely have such problems.
I bring that software engineering disciple to writing. I want to know the story, the characters, the plot and all of its twists before I start writing. That way, I prevent myself from putting inconsistencies in the story and end up with a cohesive whole.
This is not to say I’m rigid in my writing. Often times a character takes over the story in ways I never imagined and I have to make changes to my outline. When my beta readers read the manuscript and don’t understand something, it usually means I need to add another scene to explain what’s happening. Perhaps, during research on a specific item, I make new discoveries that take me off in a new direction. I go back and modify my outline to accommodate them.
The sample outline I have posted on my website is for my newest novel, The Cartel Strikes Back. If you compare the outline to the book, you will find many differences. I can’t give away the ending, but it occurred to me halfway through the writing process, necessitating making changes further upstream in the book. You may view The Cartel Strikes Back outline here.
After I complete the outline, I sit down to start writing and something magical happens. My mind goes blank. I don’t have to think about what I’m writing or how I’m writing it. The letters and words just flow from my fingers, from my sub-conscious.
At this point, I know the story so well; I don’t have to think about what I’m writing. The words just appear on my computer screen. And know what? I have the same excitement and enthusiasm as a new reader reading the book for the first time.
It’s an exhilarating feeling. I only hope you can achieve this in your writing.
Now we get to the blow-by-blow of my process. Remember: this is how I write. Your method may be something different.
My process begins with a story idea. For The Inside Passage it was the arrest of a terror cell in Canada that were all Canadian-born citizens with college degrees. They planned to blow up Parliament and behead the Prime Minister on live TV. I pondered on why such people would turn against their own country, and a plot was born.
In the new Catrina Flaherty novel, The China Town Murders, the story started with a news article about a Seattle attorney who had been arrested as a serial rapist. He preyed on illegal immigrants because they couldn’t go to the police. A perfect case for Cat.
After I have an idea, I begin the research. This could take several weeks. I need to know why the Canadians turned against their country, why the attorney became a rapist. I was worried I would have the FBI knocking on my door when I was researching The Inside Passage, I spent so much time on jihadist websites.
I copy and paste articles that I find helpful into a Word file so that I can refer to them later.
The beat sheet is a screenwriter’s tool I use to work through the plot of a novel before I start writing the outline. It helps me visualize the story before I get bogged down in details.
The beat sheet concept is adapted from Blake Snyder’s book Save The Cat! If you haven’t read Save The Cat!, get a copy today.*
You can download a sample beat sheet from my novel Bikini Baristashere.
By the time I’ve completed the beat sheet, I have a pretty good handle on how the story will unfold. I also know most of the characters that will appear in the book.
See Part Two for Penn’s process for character development and beyond.
*Editor’s note: I scoured the Chicago Manual of Style to determine if the comma in this sentence is necessary. Couldn’t find it. But I did find a reference on The Punctuation Guide that if a comma is needed after a title that ends with an exclamation point, the comma should be used. Here are examples from The Punctuation Guide:
As part of a title of work
If the exclamation point is part of a title of work or a proper noun, the comma should be retained.
His latest short story, “Don’t Make a Sound!,” is his most suspenseful yet.
After five years in the sales department at Yahoo!, he took a marketing job at Google.
SDWEG member and past presenter, Penn Wallace, shared the following information about a series of presentations he will give at San Diego Writers, Ink, beginning Thursday, July 13. The presentations will expand on his Marketing Pyramid presentation last April. Penn’s message follows.
Over the years I’ve attended lots of classes, seminars, and webinars on book marketing. They all have one thing in common. They tell you what to do, not how to do it. Then, at the end of the session, for only $495 or $3795 they will tell you how to do it.
I hate that.
I’m teaching a series of classes on book marketing for San Diego Writers Ink. I’ll go into detail showing you the steps to complete each phase of the marketing pyramid. You will walk away from each class with actionable items that you can put into effect tomorrow to increase your book sales.
The cost is $23 for members and $27 for non-members. All classes will be held on Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. starting on July 13, 2017. If you sign-up for three of the classes at one time, you’ll save 12%.
Over the years, through trial and error, and after spending a lot of money on what doesn’t work, I discovered what does work. Being a process-oriented person, I’ve developed a marketing process for my writing business I call the Marketing Pyramid.
The pyramid is built of fifteen layers. Each layer builds on the work done on the previous layer. You have to build the foundation before you can put on the roof. I will start out with four classes and if they are well received, then we will schedule classes for the remaining layers.
Penn Wallace’s presentation–Pyramid Marketing–was geared to those who want to quit their jobs and become professional writers. It takes five times of exposure before someone will see your work. You need to commit to two hours every day for marketing: Facebook, emails, tweets, going to meetings, readings, book shows, etc.
Build Your Brand: Find your target audience. Ask your readers what they want. Make a loyal fan list and get feedback from beta readers. Tailor your books to what your readers want. Become one of them. Penn was surprised to learn that 60% of his readers are female.
Start Marketing Early: Use your social media outlets to build a buzz about your book. Keep your readers involved with how your book is coming along.
Build An Author Brand: Have a collection of personality traits, attitudes, and values that your brand showcases on a regular basis to help connect with a certain audience segment. Visualize this as someone you know.
Action Items: Join the writer’s community–critique groups, online communities, publish a blog (this is where you sell your books), and connect it to your website. Keep your readers coming back with updates on your writing and with personal anecdotes. Start an email list with 100 loyal followers and build it to 1,000.
Spend Where Necessary: Hire specialists to proofread and to create an interesting cover that draws the reader in and that is relevant to the story.
Cross-Promotions: Ask for author interviews, promote others’ books on your blog, put the first chapter of similar authors’ books in the back of your book, put a paragraph in the back of each book asking for reviews and sign-ups for readers’ lists.
Wrap Up: Write a good book. The best way to market your book is to publish another book. Don’t publish the first book until the third book is done, then write like hell to finish the fourth book! Get five books on Amazon. Track your sales. Never give up. You have to blow your own horn. For a complete PowerPoint presentation of Marketing 101, go to pennwallace.com.