[Guest Post] On Why Marketing Plans Fail

While I was at GenCon, I published an article over at the How To Write Shop that addresses why marketing tactics and plans fail.

Over the past, few years I’ve talked to a lot of authors experimenting with marketing using tools like: blogs, newsletters, social media, direct mailers and bookmarks, convention appearances, etc. When something doesn’t work? They abandon it. Sadly, some of the tools they’re leaving behind have real, tangible value. Newsletters, for example, take a long time to build but have a potential financial reward that can be directly correlated to its design and content. — SOURCE: The Number One Reason Why Marketing Tactics Fail

This article is tightly focused and was written with authors and game designers in mind. I know many, many people who do their own marketing, so I hope you’ll check it out.

Day 74 of 100: Reinforcing Silence

Today’s post will point you to an article on the SFWA.org blog that I feel is extraordinarily relevant to being creative. The author, Leo Babauta, spoke to several writers, actors, musicians, etc. on the value of solitude and what it can do for you. Then, he goes on to explain how participation is also crucial. You can’t have one without the other and, if this social media sabbatical has taught me anything, I am finding that to be the case in my own life.

Here’s a quote from the article:

I’ve reflected on my own creative habits, but decided I’d look at the habits that others consider important to their creativity. I picked a handful of creatives, almost at random — there are so many that picking the best would be impossible, so I just picked some that I admire, who came to mind when I thought of the word “creative”.

This was going to be a list of their creative habits … but in reviewing their lists, and my own habits, I found one that stood out. And it stands out if you review the habits and quotes from great creative people in history. — SOURCE: The Number One Habit of Creative People

There’s several great quotes in the article and it does offer quite a few tips. The Number One Habit of Creative People is definitely worth a read if you have your time.

Great Article about Trunk Novels

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the hard question for new writers, where I suggested that maybe, just maybe, it’s not a good idea to focus on what the rest of the publishing industry is doing if you haven’t honed your craft. Then, I followed up with a post about ditching the ego in favor of the basics, where I mentioned that it’s okay to write trunk novels and stories to pay attention to those skills.

I was doing some research for an upcoming article when I came across this article from S.V. Jones about trunk novels and the value of patience. In it, she writes that:

You have to know your temperament, and you have to block out the voices of your friends and family who constantly yell at you in passing, “This ebook thing is really taking off! Why haven’t you published your work yet? Hurry up and put something out there!”

Yeeeeaaaaah…no. I’m going to publish when I’m damn good and ready. I know that most of my work up until recently just ISN’T READY, and even the project I’m working on now will need lots of outside critiquing and revisions before it’s ready for prime time. — SOURCE: Author S.V. Rowle on Trunk Novels and the Value of Patience

I really enjoyed this take on the subject because Rowle and I share similar experiences. I have an undergrad degree in Creative Writing as well, and the program focused on a particular style of writing as opposed to ripping apart genre. (e.g. More geared toward literary storytelling as opposed to popular fiction.) Since I was able to create my own courseload, I really got a lot out of my program, but I still wish I had the time to take small business-related courses that are so sorely needed in today’s environment.

If you have doubts about how you’re doing, give the article a read.

Fighting the Seriousness of Writing with Silly Stupid

I don’t know about you, but I get serious’d out. Yep, there’s absolutely no other phrase for it. Just out. I was reading some of my old posts the other day, and I was laughing at how oh-so-very-professional they were. To some extent, they had to be due to what was going on at the time, but I’m straying from that and mixing it up a bit.

Just as one example of how I’m getting serious’d out, is when I think about the publishing industry. The only thing that I’ll ever bet money on, is that you never know where an artist — including yourself — will end up. It’s impossible to bet on what will happen in terms of success, because you don’t know. Even then, it’s all relative. Even then.

One of the ways I’m coping with the uncertainty of the industry, is to simply sit back, ignore the news and laugh when I can. I feel there are so many serious discussions, so many things people worry about, it’s not healthy to stress about it so much that it creates writer’s avoidance behavior. The news has no bearing on my work. The only thing that changes for me is my path, and I’m always adapting/shifting/changing/growing. Always. What I don’t lose sight of, however, is the next story.

I was going to offer sage advice, but instead I will offer you two things: an XKCD strip that’s extremely relevant and Sushi Cat for some silly stupid fun! Because really, silly stupid fun is a good remedy for super seriousness.

Sushi Cat is a blast if you haven’t played it. You guide the cat through sushi-filled goodness to ensure he’s got a full belly. Along the way, he falls in love with a stuffed kitty and faces his nemesis: Bacon Dog. There’s the original Sushi Cat, Sushi Cat: Honeymoon and Sushi Cat 2. It is addicting, but the levels move pretty quickly.

By the way, here’s the strip I mentioned. Note the last panel. I defer to XKCD‘s wise, wise words of wisdom which are applicable in any field, for any man, woman or child.

Marie Curie Sage on XKCD WebComic

Ditching the Ego in Favor of the Basics

One of the things I’ve been doing, is nurturing my inner artist. It’s something I haven’t done in a long, long time. Not because I didn’t make room for it, but because I was hung up on something. I was never sure what that was, until a few weeks ago.

My ideas are sophisticated, but I feel like I could never “get there.” I used to be in graphic design, but I’d reach the point where I couldn’t advance, and then I’d stop. Either out of frustration or because something else, something more important came along. Then I’d meet someone, as I often tend to do, who’s very sophisticated in their craft. Either online or off, I get drawn to people whose styles I enjoy. Drew Pocza. Echo Chernik. John Kovalic. Leanne Buckley. Jeff Preston. Liz Danforth. Michael Whelan. Alex Ross. Keith Haring. Mike Mignola.

And the list goes on.

When it comes to my own artwork — whether that be calligraphy or jewelry making or whatever — I’d freeze up because I’d see these very. awesome. people. do very. awesome. things. Only, I could do those things, one day, if I had the time to practice what was already there. What I had already started to do, but abandoned because I wasn’t “good” enough to move forward.

To get around that? I’ve been going back to the basics. I’ve been focusing on technique and learning about new materials as opposed to worrying about this amazing idea for “X” that’s in my head. I’m not selling it or sharing it or doing anything other than worrying about those fundamentals. So far, I’ve started with jewelry making, but I will be expanding out from there. Each technique I learn I’m gradually moving into more advanced ideas to progress from “simple” to “complex.”

Applying This Principle to Writing


This morning, though, it occurred to me that a lot of writers experience the same thing. You have this awesome idea in your head for a novel or whatever, but you’re worried about the execution. You don’t know how to get the words to flow right on the page, so you write halfway through a story and you stop. Or you become the perpetual fan of another author, admiring what they do, because you don’t think you can do the same thing.

The thing is, dear readers, you can. You really, really can do whatever you want — provided you have the patience to learn. While creativity often has roots in natural aptitude, it’s also about having the right mindset and allowing yourself to be creative in a non-judgmental environment. That frame-of-mind requires you to remove all of your objections, all of those people who told you “I can’t” or “You’re dumb” or “You’ll never be…” and focus on the work. Or, as Christine Merrill once told me: protect the work.

Even if you’re not an experienced author, you still have work to nurture, to protect. It may be unfinished work or developing work or learning-how-to work, but it’s still yours. It’s still your baby. If you can’t write a novel right off the bat, don’t beat yourself up. Would you write a symphony if you just learned how to sing? Sure, you could be a prodigy, but most authors aren’t. Like pianists, practice makes perfect.

Instead of making excuses or apologizing for what you can’t do: remove your ego. Remove the idea that just because you can’t do something, means you’re a failure. You are not. Just get that out of your head. Think of yourself as a student and try working on the basics instead. Grammar. Punctuation. Sentence structure. Action scenes. Love scenes. Description. Etc.

And don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. Not right now, not when you’re learning. Accepting criticism, dealing with editors/agents/publishers, revising and applying comments to a story is part and parcel to being a writer, but that comes further down the road. For now? Fall in love with the words. After all, if you don’t love to write, then whatever else happens next is meaningless, because in your heart — you’ve already set yourself up to fail. You’ve said: “I can’t do this because I’m not good enough.” Instead, I’m recommending that you say: “I’m new, so I’m allowed to make mistakes. One day, I will tell the story that I want to write, but right now, I’m going to focus on learning how.”

The nice thing about focusing on my artwork, is that I’ll have examples to share with you further down the road. It’s a lot harder to explain that with writing, which is one of the reasons why I highly recommend you pick up Nascence by Tobias Buckell. If you want writing advice, this is the book to get because it does something that most writing advice books don’t — show you his failures on the story level when he first started out. That, dear readers, is invaluable because that is something that’s not easy to teach. That’s something you often have to learn.

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