Self-Promotion

One of the modern author’s best tools is the ability to self-promote. Here is a list of tips to help you gets started int eh right direction.

1. Create your own website. This website can serve as a place for people to learn more about you and your books, and can also link your readers to websites where they can purchase your books. See Joanna Penn’s article on creating a good website for some excellent tips.

2. Have a weekly newsletter. This will allow you to connect with people who have already identified themselves as people who like your books. In addition to giving you a space to publish your thoughts on the world, a weekly newsletter will allow you to advertise your new books, and alert your most devoted followers to any specials you may run. For programs that handle the mechanics of running a weekly newsletter, see SendBlaster or MailChimp.

3. Plan your travel well. There is no reason to go no a book tour if the tour itself will cost more than the sales you generate. Instead, focus on local events that you can attend, or events that have a theme that is related to the genre you write in.

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Rejection Letters

No one likes getting rejected. It’s a feeling that is encoded into us, one that we try to avoid at all costs.

Unfortunately, in a creative field rejection is almost certain to come at some point. Even Stephen King, a man who has sold more than 350 million copies of his books, initially wrote stories that were rejected over and over. In his autobiographical text, On Writing, he talks of having so many rejection letters that a large nail he would pin each rejection on became completely full.

Is this a reason to become disillusioned? No!

Take a moment and think about math. If you missed every question on a math test, would your teacher assume that you are terrible at math, or that you haven’t taken the time to learn how to do the math problems correctly? The latter, of course!

Rejection letters are a good indication that you have written something, and that you are on your way to becoming a good writer. But it takes determination and a high level of stick-to-it-iveness. Perhaps you’re trying the wrong journals or publishers. Maybe you haven’t found your ‘real’ style yet.

You can’t let the rejection letters get you down, and you have to keep writing if you want to one day receive an acceptance letter.

Self-Promotion and Writing

The Great Recession of 2007 hit every industry in a different way, but in the end they typically came out leaner and meaner than they were at the start. For example, many newspapers fired older journalists who were unwilling or unable to do both electronic and print stories, in favor of younger, cheaper journalists who were trained in both.

In the book publishing industry, the path to slimming down ran through the advertising and promotion departments. In the past, publishers would arrange the pre-launch media campaigns for their authors, but that era is coming to an end.

Increasingly, authors are being asked to schedule and pay for their own book tours. Additionally, a new, major part of selling a manuscript to a publisher is providing a list of ways that you can promote your book without their help. Social Media, like Facebook and Twitter, is a good place start.

But how should you go about it? Jeff Goins has a great article on self-promotion, in which he identifies two kinds of self-promoters: the sleazebag and the magician. The magician reads the audience and waits patiently for the right moments to complete the act, while the sleazebag begs and whines for attention.

One of these two is going to sell a lot more books. It won’t be quick, but with practice patience in marketing can become less painful than it seems upfront.

How to Build Meaning Through Description: Thoughts on “Show, Don’t Tell”

Beginning writers are often given the advice “Show, Don’t Tell,” meaning that the writer should utilize the five senses, sight, smell, sound, taste and touch in descriptions. This typically works very well, except for the times that it does not.

We’ve all read those pieces where the writer has taken this idea too far. Long sections of description break up the narrative, and ultimately wear out the reader. So, what has gone wrong?

In my opinion the difference lies in the meaning that lies behind the description.

A reader doesn’t need to be told that a general’s military uniform has medals or shiny buttons. A reader can safely infer that from their past experience with military uniforms. On the other hand, the lack of shiny buttons or medals, or the general’s wheezing cough, could be more meaningful to the reader and the story as a whole.

In short, your descriptions should be driven by a deeper meaning that can be inferred by the reader. Your descriptions can be symbolic in-and-of themselves.

And don’t forget the other four senses! While smell, taste, touch and sound are senses that are more passively used, subtle changes in these environmental conditions can be very meaningful to your readers.

Story Arcs

Everyone has heard of story arcs, known more formally as “The Dramatic Structure.” They have become a staple in our classrooms, as they serve as a nice way of understanding a text. Invented by Joseph Freytag (Fry-TAK), the Dramatic Structure has 5 parts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and dénouement (DEY-noo-mah). This should all sound very familiar.

However, what your teachers didn’t teach you is that Freytag’s Dramatic Structure is only applicable to stories that have 5 acts, such as Shakespeare’s plays, or Greek epics like The Odyssey. So, is it a hard and fast rule for all fiction?

The easy answer is no. Very few modern authors sit down with the intent of writing a 5-act story. Some authors think the story arc is secondary to the plot, or the characters themselves. There is no particular right or wrong way of looking at it, though it would be safe to say that most modern stories, like Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, do not adhere to this format.

These days, using the 5-act structure for your story will make it come across as a more formal and traditional piece. This is neither good nor bad by itself, but is dependent on the effect that you’re trying to create.

If you’re currently in the middle of a piece, this is not something that you should worry about too much. You just need to know that you aren’t tied down to the formula your teachers taught you in 7th grade.

Oklahoma Christian University Student Founds Off-Campus Art Studio

Oklahoma Christian Universtiy student Christopher Sartin adds his work to a community mural at Sumner Brock's art studio.
Oklahoma Christian University student Christopher Sartin adds his work to a community mural at Sumner Brock’s art studio.
  • Oklahoma Christian University cut funding to the art program, resulting in a loss of studio space for students.
  • In response to these cuts, student Sumner Brock has founded an apartment Art Studio.
  • Brock hopes that his studio will give students a place to work, and will bring glory to God.

Oklahoma Christian University cut funding for its art program for the 2014-2015 school year, due to budgetary constraints, which led to a reduction in available studio space for art students. In response, junior graphic design major Sumner Brock, 20,  rented an apartment, and spent two weeks turning it into an appropriate studio space.

Many Forms of Inspiration

“I felt really good vibes here,” Brock said about the apartment space. “I like the idea that art is a light, so we’re shining light, through art.”

His decision to found his own art studio was inspired in part by an experience he had over fall break, in 2014. While undertaking a short internship at a wood-block letterpress in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Brock was inspired by the community and hospitality that the artists there shared with him. After this experience, he had a desire to create something similar for the visual art students in the Oklahoma City area.

But what really convinced him to embark on this project was when the author of “Blue like Jazz,” Donald Miller, gave a speech at Oklahoma Christian University.

“Donald Miller [said] you need a project to go work on, and you need to do it,” Brock said. “It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Money and Aesthetics 

Brock’s choice of an apartment was not a snap decision. He considered renting professional studio space, and small warehouses, but after consulting with friends, family and his art mentors, he decided on establishing his studio in an apartment. In addition, he hoped that the casual nature of the apartment would help the artists who came to relax and form a community.

But ultimately, the decision largely came down to money.

“I’m cheap, and other places were really expensive,” Brock said.

Some students who see the value in the art studio, even if they are not art majors themselves.

“This place is really cool,” said Micah Holland, 20, a sophomore psychology major at Oklahoma Christian University. “I don’t do art, but if I did, this would be the place I’d want to go.

Not Everyone Values the Space

Other students don’t see the loss of studio space the same way Brock does.

“I haven’t been affected by the budget cuts,” said Luke Libby, a junior animation and design major at Oklahoma Christian University. “But most of what I do is on the computer.”

So far, he and a small cohort of friends have hosted a meal every Friday evening, hoping to attract new artists, and help to create friendships between artists who used the space.

The decor Brock has managed to find lends the space a spartan but creative feel. Posters, whiteboards and canvases line the walls, and the floor of the main room is covered in a painter’s drop-cloth, and the mismatched furniture lends the place a certain artistic charm.

“I hope that our art can become amazing, show God’s light and show that Christians can actually make good art,” Brock said. “I don’t care what [the studio] looks like, as long as there is community, good art and God dwells in it.”