Das Kapital for Writers: Part Three
This is part three of my four-part series on writing and money. To start at Part One, go here.
In this post, I’ll be looking at expenses you’ll incur as a writer, taxes, whether or not to pay for that MFA, as well as what things you should agree to do for free and which one’s you should only do if you’ll be compensated to your satisfaction.
My friends, PLEASE learn from my mistakes. When it comes to this, they are legion and I want you to avoid waking up one morning to realize that you’ve spent your entire advance in a matter of months.
Here’s a few things to NOT do:
Don’t spend your advance when you get it. Sit on it for a while. As long as you can. See what it feels like to be in possession of money someone paid you in exchange for your words.
Don’t assume there’s more where that came from. You might get a huge, badass advance and for a little while there, you think this is how it’s always going to be when you have a new book. And it might! But it might not. Remember what I’ve been saying about uncertainty? You have to make your advances last. Use them wisely. Make sure they can nurture you as an artist and provide the time and space you need to create. I’m sure you have a laundry list of things you want to buy. Just…wait. Buy yourself a little something, have a good dinner and a bottle of champagne, and then get back to work.
Don’t pay thousands of dollars for a fancy website. If you do the research, you’ll see that most companies charge anywhere from 2K-7K for a professional website. Of all the things I’ve spent money on in my entire life, but especially in my writing career, I regret paying for a website. You can make a badass one in an hour for free on Tumblr, then just pay the ten bucks to register your domain name. Change the tumblr page’s address (you can figure out how to do this on Tumblr’s help page) and BOOM. Website for free—okay, maybe you paid $40 for a cooler template, which I’ve done before. But, seriously, that’s all you have to do. If you want a few modifications, you can find code people on Etsy. I found a guy who charged me $12 for every few changes. I paid a graphic designer on Etsy $25 to make me a header. It cost me less than $100 to have a customized Tumblr template.
PLEASE don’t spend your hard-earned money on a site. Even if you got a huge advance. Even if you think it will make you super legit. I got caught up in looking at other author’s pages and thinking that the key to looking like I knew my shit was to have a baller site. And, I will admit, my site is a gorgeous piece of original art, but it was and continues to be, a bitch to get help from my designers, who charge me by the hour for changes I need to make. It’s complicated to navigate from inside the system, there’s always glitches…And at the end of the day, has it helped me sell more books than a nice, clean one I made myself would have? Just. Please. I could have traveled to South Africa, gone on safari, and gotten drunk every night I was there on that cash. Or I could have paid off one of my student loans. Or given my mom a really fucking awesome Christmas gift. You get the idea.
My dumb ass did this all by myself: I spent hundreds
and I bet that stuff just got thrown away by the bookstores
The only swag you should ever, ever, EVER buy is bookmarks and bookplates (and the bookplates are pretty optional, but fun to have when readers request them. (For bookplates, I would never get them for an individual book. Have someone design a nice one that has your name or something on it that you can use any time you get a request). Friend, do not get into the buying swag frenzy that has taken hold of debut authors over the past years. Don’t listen to them and don’t be intimidated when other authors around you have shitty T-shirts and wrist bands and pins and pens and jewelry and all manner of inconsequential crap made in China with their book’s name on it. NOBODY WANTS THAT STUFF. I know bloggers occasionally get excited, but part of that excitement is that they can turn around and give it away to promote their site. I love bloggers, but I can’t afford to support their business financially. Instead, it’s a reciprocal relationship where I give interviews and they promote my book and I promote their blog. That doesn’t cost anyone a dime. I spent SO MUCH money on pins and wrist-bands and custom art and swag bags and charms and fucking incense to give to readers, as well as personal gifts for bloggers. It is UNREAL the amount of stuff I bought and that was only a fraction of what other authors are doing. And here’s the rub: I have friends whose books are doing way better than mine who only do bookmarks. Swag doesn’t sell your book, honey, it just doesn’t. The only swag you should have is if your publisher provides it, which they probably won’t. Because they know it doesn’t sell books and less it’s super fancy and give exclusively to bloggers and reviewers by the publishers themselves. That kind of swag sends a message. Here’s my go-to girl for bookmarks and other design. She’s swell, talented, and reasonably priced.
Gorgeous, but expensive art I had created
for Exquisite Captive postcards nobody really cared about...
Avoid doing giveaways unless it's your publisher who is sending out the books to the winners. I'm telling you, the giveaway thing can get mad expensive and I really don't think it does anything major for book sales other than perhaps adding to the general excitement about your work during pub week, if there's a giveaway for each of your blog tour stops. This your publisher will cover. I talk about this later in the post, but just don't agree to giveaways with bloggers (who run the giveaway, but then ask you to provide both the book and pay the postage to send it to the reader) unless they've been extremely supportive of your work and you want to do them a solid every now and then. I wish I had the resources to jump on board for all these things, or host cool giveaways myself, but I've never seen that it's worth it. For example, I did a summer giveaway that included one of my books and a beach towel and heart sunglasses and a tote and the people who won didn't even contact me to say thanks! I've done T-shirt giveaways, book giveaways...it's just not worth it. You'll hear other opinions on this, I'm sure, but I hope you take my adivce. Save your money!!
You don’t need business cards. I got them and have literally never given one out. Your bookmarks serve the same purpose, as you have a contact tab on your website that makes it easy for people to get in touch with you, right? And your website is on your bookmark, so…
PR. Don’t get into that mess. I never paid a PR person because they are literally $20K per campaign for the good ones and if they’re not good, then why are you paying them? You will be assigned a publicist from your house. You may or may not be happy with the job they’re doing. You will definitely feel like they’re not doing enough and you will be sad when you don’t get into any major publications or festivals and conferences. Your PR person in-house may or may not be pitching you for all the stuff you want them to. This is just the way it is—there is only so much money, so much time, and there are way too many authors. Basically, paying a PR person isn’t going to help you. They’d be covering the exact same bases as the person you’re getting for free in-house. I did pay for someone to manage my blog tour once. I wouldn’t do that, either, unless it’s your first time out the gate. If it’s your debut book, then pay someone to do it—no more than a couple hundred bucks, though. And you need to curate the list. Do the research and only have bloggers with a good reach, otherwise, what’s the point? Once you’ve had a book out, you can just contact bloggers directly. They’re really nice and usually excited to be on board.
Signing at BEA, such a thrill!
Me with my adorable agent Brenda Bowen (left) and
superstar editor Donna Bray (right) at BEA 2014
Don’t pay to go to big conferences like ALA or BEA unless you’ve really got cash to spare and are simply going to see what it’s all about, with no other expectations. I did it once and it was a great experience, except that it cost me over $1.5K in travel expenses. Luckily, one of my publishers paid the $400 conference fee and some of the other ticketed events, which isn’t common. Even if you’re a great networker, you going to ALA isn’t going to help you much as an author unless you’ve been invited. If you’ve been invited, then you should absolutely go. This means your publisher will be promoting you: you’ll be doing signings and will be on panels. They’ll be getting you into mixers with bloggers and other people in the industry (and they’ll likely pay for you to go). BEA is something you should do at least once, because it’s super cool. Plus, you get lots of free books and you can get your publisher to put you on the list for their parties, which are a blast. I’ve made good writer friends at BEA and had the chance to connect with a lot of bloggers—overall, I think it was a good networking opportunity. But I live in NYC, so BEA didn’t cost me anything. Still, networking can be huge in that connecting with other authors can open all kinds of unexpected doors for you. We like to help each other, but we can’t help you if we don’t know you.
But, listen: At the end of the day, the way you get noticed as a writer is by writing awesome books, having a nice web presence in social media, and networking with bloggers and other writers online. If there are nearby events, like panels or launch parties or whatever, then do those. They will cost nothing, or far less, and you’ll accomplish the same thing. (Side not: I think there are probably a lot of authors who would disagree with me on this. So, take my advice with a grain of salt. I just know that I can say almost for sure that going to ALA—which I wasn’t signing or presenting at—was a waste of money, albeit a cool experience). Oh, I’ve never done a big SCBWI conference—I think it can be worth it if you get agents or editors to read your work and offer a critique, but you have to pay extra for that.
Events that you aren’t getting paid for that cost you to travel to—don’t do them. If you’re invited to a library or bookstore or school (or festival or conference) and you have to get on a plane or take a long journey that includes hotels and such, it is not worth it unless at least your travel is provided for. You will get invited to many things. Cool things, wonderful things. But it really takes up a lot of time and money to participate. I’ll talk more about this later in the post, so don’t book those plane tickets just yet, okay?
Buying your writer friend’s books: use your best judgement. I happen to live somewhere that is home to a lot of other YA writers. Many of you are part of debut groups and such with tons of members. I think it’s wonderful when we support one another and buy each other’s books, but the fact of the matter is that it gets REALLY expensive to buy hardcover books all the time. This is where the stuff I talked about in the last post about how you use your money really comes into play. If you decide to quit your day job, or go part-time, you’re not gonna have the scratch to throw around. Promote your book on social media and feel free to send a mass email on pub day. And definitely invite people to your launch parties. But don’t be offended if your friend comes to the party, but doesn’t buy the book. A hardcover is a lot for artists to spend money on, especially when it seems like someone they know has a book coming out nearly every week. Yes, support them. It means the world to me when my writer friends come to my launches and give me shout-outs on Twitter. But I don’t expect them to buy the book. Of course, you want the bookstore you’re having your launch at to invite you back and they might not be too excited to do that if you don’t sell any books (see my advice about this below). Buy your best friend’s books. Buy the books you love and are dying to read. Then bust out your library card for the rest. There are loads of ways for you to support your author friends without spending a dime. Seriously, don’t sweat this.
The treats table at my Exquisite Captive launch
Books of Wonder, NYC
(Here, you can see wine we made, a cuff we were giving away,
pins, bracelets, you name it)
Classical Indian musicians at the Exquisite Captive launch.
Yes, it wasn't cheap.
Launch parties—to spend or not to spend? So, I went all out for my first two books. I hired musicians, got fancy cupcakes and liquor and had favors. It was SO MUCH FUN and I felt super supported by the community and by the wonderful Books of Wonder here in NYC. I saw it as a party, a way to celebrate these huge accomplishments and that was how my agent told me to see it. Everyone—from my editor to my agent to my fellow writer friends all made it clear that launches are for you. They’re not really gonna push your book too much, unless the bookstore is really promoting your book. It was totally worth every penny I spent on those two big launches (for Something Real and Exquisite Captive). But you can’t do that for every book, at least, not if you’re publishing with regularity. First, it gets expensive and you’ll have to up the ante all the time if you want to do it right. My suggestion is to organize a panel with a few other authors that will happen during your pub week. You can go into it together, chipping in for a case of wine and some homemade treats. And then you’re good. Don’t have an event without alcohol—that’s just cruel. But two-buck Chuck will suffice. Group events are great, because they increase your exposure and it takes a lot of pressure off of you. I think they are very much worth doing.
Me with my mentor,the great Rita Williams-Garcia
Books of Wonder, NYC
Advertising is something you should avoid if you have to pay for it. Visibility comes through doing panels and bookstore events and having a strong online presence, as well as an easy-to-navigate website. Write a blog, try to connect with people at HuffPost and the like, do interviews and guest posts. None of that costs money. Don’t pay to advertise unless you feel like the reach will be really big, and if you can handle the cost. We’re all inundated with so much shit, honestly, it will be hard to stand out. Write good books and pray the rest will take care of itself. I know someone who literally spent tens of thousands of dollars promoting her book and, from what I can tell, it hasn’t done much for her sales. Good Lord, that’s a lot of money to see go down the drain. I think in our current DIY media culture, we feel like because we can design something ourselves and reach out to all these different places, we should be doing all this fancy advertising stuff. It only really works if it’s your publisher doing it. They are a major corporation and know how to get noticed and have the Benjamins to ante up. You can’t compete with that kind of exposure publishers are giving their star authors. Yes, there are always the grassroots success stories, but those are few an far between. Another thing: the people I know who are doing all this crazy promo stuff themselves by and large aren’t writing a lot. Just write and do the social media you’re comfortable with and let the chips fall where they may.
Epic Reads Fall Tour 2014
Me, Anna Carey, Madeleine Roux, Sephora Guy (he was super helpful!),
Andrea Portes, and Amy Ewing
Going on tour is something I’ve only done when my publisher paid the bill. And that was AWESOME. But I will say this: if you organize a tour, make sure other authors are on board and be wary of spending a ton for someone to organize it for you. Also, just know that it’s really hard to get even twenty people to come to a bookstore event unless you’re Sarah J. Maas or someone like that. When I did my Epic Reads tour with four other stellar authors, we only averaged about thirty people per event. Yes, it gets you some exposure in a targeted regional area, but, again, I’m not sure how that’s translating into sales. If you do a tour, consider going to places where you have roots and have developed relationships with that community. Or do an event at Books of Wonder in NYC, where there are tons of writers and publishing people. Then you can kill not two, but three birds: do an event, meet with your agent / publisher, make new writing friends.
Signing books on tour in AZ (you can my Dark Caravan Cycle
wristbands on the table - the ones nobody took and I spent hundreds of
I don’t think you need to spend money on a lawyer to have them review your book contracts (unless you don’t have an agent, but you really need one). Your agency employs lawyers to do that for you. Since your agent stands to make more money as you make more money, she’s not going to screw you over. HOWEVER. Read your contract. Ask questions. Then sign and wait for that sweet, sweet cash.
I’m sure there are things that are missing from this list, but it’s a good start. Just don’t get into a manic stage with all this stuff. Proceed with caution and get advice from authors who’ve been doing this for a while.
And breathe. That helps, too.
Things To Invest In
Yes, you should splurge on a great computer. Don’t feel guilty about that. Yes, it’s worth the extra rent to have an extra room that’s just for you. A place to work, to meditate and ruminate and CREATE. Having a room of one’s own is one of the greatest gifts an artist can have.
Yes, you should occasionally go on writer’s retreats and travel—this is how we fill our creative wells. It’s important to get together with your tribe. And it’s important to see the world—this is a business expense, no doubt about it. You should also not feel bad about taking the occasional class or workshop.
My grad school, VCFA, has an annual auction to raise money. One item was lunch with Katherine Paterson, another item was dinner with M.T. Anderson. I gladly splurged for both (below, I'm with one of my besties, Lisa Papademetriou, who came along). Sometimes, you've gotta treat yourself. It's good for your writing heart and soul to be around the greats and to learn from them. I still can't believe that's me with Katherine Paterson. Jacob is one of my favorite books of all time. She signed the copy I had as a kid. That little girl holding the book had no idea what her future had in store for her - but she sure had big dreams.
Yes, you should get a membership to SCBWI if you’re a kidlit writer. It’s a great community with loads of events and resources. Agents also like to see that you’re a member, too, and it really can help you get published. The networking and manuscript critiques have been vital to a lot of people’s careers.
My good friend Lisa Papademetriou and I at graduation
Should you get an MFA? I did and I don’t regret it. But I got for my own edification and to boost my teaching resume. I already had a two-book deal when I started school. I also went to an amazing institution that has provided me with creativity boosts and support for life, as well as a top-notch education: Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. But, friends, that cost $40K, so don’t do it if that debt is going to ruin you. You don’t need an MFA to get published and it MAY help you become a better writer, but there are other ways of doing that. I thought it was interesting that most of the faculty DIDN’T have MFAs of their own—clearly it’s not the most important requirement for writing teachers. For me, though, it was one of the best experiences of my life and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I love school and I got really lucky to have been put with a great cohort of writers who will be friends for life—I would pay $40K just to have them in my life. But you have to go with your gut on this. You may never make enough money from writing to pay for it. It may keep you from going part-time so you can write more. Then again, YOLO.
Yes, you should invest in ergonomics—writing full time has totally jacked up my back. Get a good desk, a really good chair, and consider investing in a standing desk or treadmill desk, as well. This is no joke, people.
Yes, you should invest in self-care—more on that in the next post.
Yes, you should get an accountant. Taxes are lame to do if you’re just a normal working person, but they’re a HUGE pain when you work from home. As a writer, you need to learn the phrase BUSINESS EXPENSE. So much of what you spend money on is linked to your writing - and this is tax deductible! This means you save money. Yay! Also, you will want someone to help you make sure you pay your taxes properly - you’ll be getting big hunks of cash throughout the year and it’s best to have a plan with an accountant on paying your taxes quarterly so that you don’t have a big-ass bill from Uncle Sam come April. (I’m just telling you right now, between your agent’s commission and paying the Man, you will be amazed at how decreased your advances are - take this into account with your financial planning!).
Yes, you should have some kind of financial planning, especially if you’re writing full-time. You get these big chunks of money and then you have to make them last until the next chunk, and sometimes you don’t know when that’s coming in. In fact, you never know. Maybe you’re supposed to get some money after you turn in your manuscript, but you discover you have to re-write the whole book like your’s truly, and, suddenly, money you thought you’d be getting in September you won’t be getting until February - or later. You have to be really, really, really careful with finances. I recently discovered Mint, which is amazing. Check it out and see if it works for you - it’s free, so yay!
Finally, yes, you should spend a little money to celebrate your accomplishments. A writer friend of mine told me that her mentor advised celebrating for all kinds of little things. When you get a book deal, yes, but also when you get a gorgeous cover and when you make a list and when your editor loves your revision—things like that. Sometimes writing can be a long, lonely road and there are many disappointments along the way. Don’t forget to be kind and treat yourself—there’s always a little extra cash stowed away somewhere for pats on the back.
WHAT TO GIVE AWAY FOR FREE AND WHAT TO CHARGE FOR
Requests For Free Books
As you become more well-known as a writer, there will be many requests coming in. All sorts of things, from writing guest posts, to visiting a school, to joining an online YA scavenger hunt. The thing you’ll most typically be asked for is book donations, and this I take on a case by case basis. For example, a shelter for women and teens in Oregon asked for some copies of I’ll Meet You There for their library, as it deals with issues of poverty and hard-living. I was more than happy to provide them. But when I get requests from readers abroad who can’t find my book or afford it, I simply have to say no. I only have so many copies of my books, for one, but also because it costs over fifteen dollars to send a single book abroad. It’s just not sustainable. That being said, you might get a particularly meaningful request from a reader that makes your heart want to send the book, so listen to that and get to the post office. It feels good to be generous, so I try to be as often as I can.
As I mentioned earlier, you will also get many bloggers who are hosting giveaways for your book contacting you and asking for books for the giveaway, which you're also expected to mail (and sometimes abroad). If this is in conjunction with a blog tour you’re doing or it’s for a particularly well-known blog, forward the request to your publisher and they will more often than not take care of that for you. Again, your copies of books are limited and it takes quite a bit of postage money and time to get those things sent out. I mostly refer all requests from bloggers and reviewers to my publicist. I’m honestly not sure (and I don’t think anyone is) how effective these giveaways are to actually promoting your book (which is the whole point). Right now, there are waaaaaaay too many advanced copies being given out to bloggers and readers by publishers and then these get passed on and on so that most of the people who would have bought your book—the die-hard YA readers who are in the know—have already read it and have no reason to go out and purchase it. You DO want your books to sell, don’t you?
Above is a giveaway I did, regifting some BEA swag:
total waste of time and money for postage
And resist the urge to create your own giveaway with custom made jewelry or other cute Etsy things. That is going to cost you SO MUCH time and money. I know it seems cool and fun, but it will leave you drained and broke.
Requests For Swag
I always send signed bookmarks and bookplates to readers who ask, including international readers (an international stamp is, like, a buck). It’s such a nice way to show your appreciation to your readers and it takes very little time. I don't send anything else, though. If you must have swag, save it for your events. (But you know how I feel about swag).
This, for me, is often the most stressful kind of request. It’s a no-brainer to do an appearance if you’re being paid for travel expenses and a decent stipend or writer’s fee (you have to decide what that amount is…talk to your writer friends and publicists. This number will likely go up as your career goes on). I will often do something if there’s no fee, but the travel is paid for and it’s a cool event that is sure to be well-attended and worth my time. Sometimes it’s an event that’s about promoting one or all of my books, like a festival. But other times it could be an invitation to speak at a teacher’s or librarian’s conference, which is a super cool way to really be a voice in the community. It also gives those teachers and librarians an introduction to you, which could result in them ordering books for their institutions or asking you back to speak to the kids in the future.
For the most part, people will ask you to come to their bookstore or library or school or festival, but they will not be able to pay your expenses or offer a fee. Then, you really have to decide if it’s worth it.
If it’s local, I will often do it, especially if it’s a school visit. I see school visits as a way to give back to the community. Of course I want to be paid, but if they don’t have the money in their budget, I totally get it. I’m in the inspiration business and it’s hard to turn down an opportunity to inspire kids in Brooklyn public schools. If it’s a local festival or bookstore event I go, because this is New York City and it’ll be well-attended and a great chance to meet other writers and people in publishing. I have a few friends who are real hustlers (and I mean that in a good sense) who have strong beliefs about never doing school visits and such for free because they know that big authors get standard fees upwards of eight-hundred bucks or more (!). And I totally get the idea of believing that you are worth that. And you are! So if that’s your stance, more power to you.
Bookstore event in Salt Lake City
(Those chairs eventually filled, but still,
I sold a handful of books, despite it being a great event)
I will say, I took this advice to heart and got burned. When asked, I gave a fee that to me seemed crazy high, but that my hustler friends insisted was totally kosher and what many people were paying authors. Just not this one. The organization decided to go in another direction - my fee was too high. I should have gone with my gut. Maybe my gut was saying that this organization really didn't have those kinds of funds. I know some of us have a hard time knowing what we're worth and we're so grateful to be recognized that we say yes to everything. I think there's a healthy balance that can be achieved. Do your research, come up with a fee that you feel is fair, and be willing to reconsider that fee based on who's asking. Then offer to go lower if they say that can't swing that. That is, of course, if you want to do the event in the first place.
Try to suss out whether they have a budget or a grant to cover these visits (they often do—but they’re just trying to get as much bang for their buck). Politely explain that you’d love to come and that you’re willing to work with them for a fee they can afford. They might say no and if they do, then it’s up to you. Does it sound like a cool school and a fun thing to do and will it light you up inside to go hang out with the kids? Then do it. If not, if it’s going to stress you and take away tons of writing time and be a bitch, then just say no. That doesn’t make you a bad person, promise. We all deserve to get paid for our work. The teachers at those schools get paid, so why not you?
I think there’s a huge problem in our society where people expect artists to give away their time and talent for free. Time is money, people. Is no pay or a few hundred bucks worth the writing time you're going to lose and the stress this event might cause in your life (having to arrange sitters, etc)? Again, go with your gut.
The Epic Reads Tour
Me, Amy Ewing, Andrea Portes, Maddie Roux, Anna Carey
I don’t do bookstore events anywhere other than locally, unless I’m on tour (in which case, my publisher is paying) or I’m going to be in an area anyway. You definitely want to cultivate relationships with booksellers in your region, so it may very well be worth it to you. I find it to be super time-consuming and expensive in terms of travel and often the attendance is poor and I sell only one to ten (ten being a lot) books. What it really comes down to for me, though, is that I find bookstore events really anxiety-inducing. Like, to the point where a Xanax is in order. It freaks me out when there are only a few people (or none!) there. I’m the type of person who can totally rock speaking to large crowds—I love it! But just a couple of people and I suddenly feel super self-conscious. If you’re not like that, then you might be more into doing bookstore events. Or maybe your friend is putting something together and you want to do it for them. This is all really up to you. I think you are well within your rights to ask bookstore event organizers questions about what kind of attendance they usually get and finding out how they’re publisizing the event. Also, make sure you know how the event is being organized. Is there a moderator? What are they expecting of you. Go in prepared.
I do festivals when I can, because there will be lots of other authors (so it’s fun) and the attendance will be good—if it’s a well-established festival. I don’t do small festivals because I’ve had the experience where hardly anyone shows up and it’s poorly organized and I don’t even know why I’m there. But I’ve done some fabulous ones—YallWest is freaking amazing, for one—and those are well worth it. I try to only go to festivals and events where there will also be big-name authors because the crowd will be bigger, hence more exposure to readers. I know lots of writers who say yes to everything. I haven’t seen it help their numbers much and it leaves them with very little time to write. Saying no--a lot--is one of the reasons I’ve had four books come out in two and a half years—the writing comes first.
Okay, the above event was pretty cool. This is a sketch of me (left) and David Levitahn
(center) and another author (who?!) at the B&N in Union Square - they had an artist there sketching us!
We were doing theatrical readings of ourwork for the NYC Teen Author Festival. So much fun and so well
attended (didn't sell loads of books, though).
I almost always say yes when there’s a request for a Skype appearance, whether it’s a bookstore, classroom, library, or book club. They don’t cost you anything and are great fun. If you do something like this, you’re guaranteed a captive audience and they often ask really good questions and are just super cool. You also control a lot of the event because they usually want you to do a little talk before the Q and A.
It’s so fun to connect with readers all over the world and this makes it so easy. I’ve done Skype-Ins for college writing classes, a bookstore in Puerto Rico, a lock-in national library event, a writing group, a friend’s book club, and more. Sometimes you get paid for these and sometimes you don’t. Of course, you have to decide what kind of time you have, but I say these are nice things to do either way. If you are getting a crazy amount of requests, then simply set what your limit is in terms of how many you will do. I only ever get asked to do a handful a year, so it’s no big deal for me.
Invitations To Do Guest Posts, Interviews, or Blog Events
You do these for free, but your will get many, many requests, so choose wisely. I say yes to big blogs that have a nice-sized readership. I always say yes to media like Huffpost and USA Today (duh!). Guest posts take a while, so if given the choice, I often go with an interview. Sometimes I’ll do an event like the bi-annual YA Scavenger Hunt, but only if I have time. I don’t do podcasts because those are time-consuming and don't usually have a lot of exposure. I, of course, say yes to doing stuff for friends and for bloggers I've become close to, regardless of their reach. Pay it forward, yo.
A lot of this is about going with your gut and remembering that everything you do is going to take time away from your writing. Try not to get into the frenzy of feeling like you have to be promoting your book 24/7. The fact of the matter is, I was doing everything and my book sales were crap. Then I did less and my book sales were either the same or better. Nobody really knows if any of these things help sell your book or keep you on readers' radars. The only thing that really gets books flying off shelves is when the publisher is super-behind it, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing and promotion. And, of course, when your book gets made into a movie or wins big awards. Don’t invest too much energy into this stuff. Don't forget: you're a writer, not a PR executive, not a marketing manager, not a sales rep. We're often expected to do way more than our job description calls for, especially with all this technology. Say no, darling. Say it often, say it loud, say it proud. Do what you can, but don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. I was incredibly stressed and exhausted after my debut year and it resulted in crippling depression, a creative desert, and self-doubt.
Which leads me to the final post, which covers publishing, negativity, and self-care. You can read that here.
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