Writers Mill Minutes October 15th
On October 15th 2017 the Writers’ Mill celebrated its 10th birthday! There was cake! Two delicious gluten-free chocolate cakes, with candles – Thank you Jean! And there was a great speaker, Walt Socha sharing his expertise in creating, publishing and marketing books. Around 25 members were there to enjoy the experience. For the rest of you, Walt’s notes can be found in two downloadable files at http://www.waltsocha.com/WM./ – a private page that you won’t find just by going to his website.
Sheila took orders for 111 copies of the Writers’ Mill Journal during the meeting, at $3.25 each. The copies should arrive in good time to be handed out at our November meeting on November 19th. If you need your copies sooner, please contact Sheila directly. And if you need more copies, be ready to order and pay for them at November’s meeting. The cost may be slightly higher as the postage will be shared among fewer copies. Or you can buy them from
- Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Writers-Mill-Journal-2017-Journals-ebook/dp/B076JVV2DG/
- or https://www.amazon.com/Writers-Mill-Journal-2017-Journals/dp/1974506460/
Members will also be able to order copies of Matthew’s Carl and June: Tales of Two anthology at our next meeting. Sheila hopes to upload a pdf file to our site soon for you to peruse. Price is still to be determined. Both anthologies will be on sale through Amazon, and proceeds from Amazon sales will go directly to the library.
Karen handed out awards for the Hidden Deep Inside contest – her awards hid their own lights deep inside as well! First place went to Carolyn for her poem “Other People’s Houses.” Sheila took second place with “Joe’s Toy.” And third place went to Karin for her story “Perceptions.”
Upcoming contests can be found at
- and http://portlandwritersmill.org/contests/upcoming-contests/
- November: Richard’s prompt is Out on a Limb. 1200 max words. Send to Contest@portlandwritersmill.org by end of Nov 5th
- December: Our special 100th anniversary contest! EVERYONE SHOULD ENTER THIS ONE, even if you’re only hungry for me to stop pestering you. The prompt is Hunger. Send to Contest@portlandwritersmill.org by end of Nov 22nd (earlier than usual because, EVERYONE SHOULD ENTER and we’ll need more time to read and vote). If you only enter one contest this year, we are hungry for your words and this is the one for you.
- January: Sheila’s new year prompt it Why are you here? 1200 max words by Jan 7th
- February: Carolyn’s prompt: What the heart wants. 1200 words max by Feb 4th
Library staff left a birthday card for us next to the birthday cake; also a periodicals display, highlighting periodicals which might help us with our writing. If you didn’t pick up a leaflet, ask at the library desk for one! Then check out the 808s. We’re very grateful for the library’s support for our group and for writers in general.
Next meeting Nov 19th, Carolyn Martin will be back by popular demand with another great talk on poetic words and a writing workshop. And Sheila will hand out lots of journals.
Notes from Walt’s talk
Walt will continue his presentation in December. Meanwhile here are notes from his talk on October 15th
Don’t forget to download the official notes from http://www.waltsocha.com/WM./
Firstly, whether or not you’re entering January’s contest, ask yourself “Why am I here? Why am I writing? Why should anyone read what I write?”
Walt was here speaking to us as a long-time member of the group who has “been there, done that” and most carefully researched “the other.” He has downloaded webinars, added his name to mailing lists, followed long strings of blogs – all things that we should do and never find time to do. You can find the details in his notes at http://www.waltsocha.com/WM./
The next question might be “What am I writing?”
Even if it’s non-fiction, we humans are geared to learn from story, and there’ll be some kind of story-arc content. Know what patterns stories in your genre follow. We’ve evolved to read that way, so follow the path and create a great book. Then try to sell it. How?
If we’re going to sell our books, we need to be seen. If we’re going to be seen, we need to be on the internet. We need
- a website (use your name rather than your book name – you might write a sequel; if your name’s already “taken” consider adding author, or childrens-author, or using a pen-name – your choice),
- a Facebook page (use the same name!),
- a pinterest account (mostly for women, maybe, but there are groups looking at maps and history—check things out before rejecting them).
- A way to present that book we want to sell. (But limit yourself – it’s better to be great on just one site than invisible on many.) Then we need something to present.
Our great stories need great covers, and great web-page headers featuring great covers to catch people’s eyes, and great blurbs (back cover or Amazon description) describing (in 100 words or less) that work of staggering genius advertised by the cover.
And then we need a call to action for our readers, so they’ll find more readers for us because word of mouth (or internet) is invaluable – please write a review, please buy more books, etc…
And – that internet thing – we need an ebook too. Professional formatters would love to create our ebooks for us, but they’ll charge lots of money (say $400) and blame us for anything that goes wrong. Alternatively get a good program (Vellum costs around $250) and format the book yourself, then you can fix things that go wrong. (Alternatively, upload word docs or pdf files to Amazon’s kindle page – they say they’ll convert your book for you, but you’d be well advised to use their previewers and check what they really did to it – pictures can and do create disasters!)
All of this adds up to your brand – how people think of you if they’re looking for you. It doesn’t have to be you, but it’s the public you.
How do you want people to think of you? Be helpful! Curate content your readers might like to see, provide information, tell them why you’re writing, what you’re discovering, why they might like to follow you… Maybe even give them a free short story, free ebook, free kindle book. Free kindle books, if they get reviews, can push up your Amazon rating and tempt people to buy more of your books. They’re great to offer new subscribers on your mailing list too. Do you have a mailing list?
Mailchimp is a good place for an easy free mailing list. Your website sits in a world of a million websites and is easily ignored. Your emails go to someone who really signed up, who has a built-in interest in receiving them. But getting people to subscribe to your list can be hard. Check back with Walt later and see how it’s going. Better still, sign up for his list. Go to his website to find it. http://www.waltsocha.com/
Which leads to the obvious question, short of selling more books, how will you know when you’re “getting there?” Try googling yourself. Do you own the links that appear on the first page – first two pages – first three…? The more stuff you have on the internet, the more visible you will be… the more stuff you have that doesn’t stay the same… which leads to blogs.
A blog is just a part of a website, a rapidly changing part.
A blog is where you write stuff, where you try to be relentlessly helpful so people will follow you and read your books. A website is a name and some stuff (including that blog) that’s hosted somewhere. Rent your name. Choose your host. Ask google and see which company you want to go with. But avoid being hosted by your cable provider – what if they stop hosting sites – what if you move and they don’t supply your new home? You don’t want to lose your website.
WordPress is a great program for creating your site. You don’t need to learn complicated html and magic incantations. You just need to get some simple software and play with it – much like you play with your word-processing software. Mistakes are easily corrected. And Youtube has lots of videos showing exactly how it’s used. (But if you want free, start with a wordpress blog and play with that). Then…
Just in case you lose your site or something goes wrong, take screenshots of how you did everything and save them in a file. You’ll be glad you did.
What should be on your site?
- A media kit for any kind person who wants to help promote you. But decide what you want to share. Don’t tell the world everything about you (including answers to those dreaded password help questions).
- A landing page for secret stuff like the notes for Walt’s talk. What other free stuff might you offer? Backstories, scenes that you cut from the novel, research you did, novellas… a sample of you and your writing!
- A signup form for your email list. You want to grow that list beyond 25 people. (But be aware, when the 24th signup is someone you’ve never met, you’ll leap for joy!)
- A blog – not so good as an email list, but blogging just might get more people to look at your site. Write a blogpost once a week maybe… Visit other people’s blogs. Leave comments. Be active, and BE HELPFUL!
Find all these and more on Walt’s site. Go there http://www.waltsocha.com/
Does all this cost money? Facebook ads cost small amounts of money ($10). Coupled with your kindle page, you can see exactly how many sales each ad got for you. You can learn to tailor your ads (advertise to people who like x rather than people who like y perhaps). Then there’s the cost for website hosting (a few dollars a month), and the domain name (a few dollars per year). And the software to make your own kindle files (Vellum) costs money too. And ISBNs (yes, you can get free ones from Createspace, but they’re tied to Createspace and don’t look professional – $600 for 100 ISBNs, of which you’ll use 3 per book (print, kindle, other e-format) and you can’t sell them on because now they’re tied to your “publisher” name) But…
Putting your first book onto kindle, via amazon’s converter, is free, so do it. Collect those contest entries, including the ones you failed to submit, put them together, order them, then sign in to https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/ using your amazon account and set up your first book. The questions and answers are easy. The file upload is easy. The previewers are easy to use. And you don’t even have to publish so no one can see you making mistakes.
If you feel even braver, try logging on to https://www.createspace.com/. Create a new account. Download their templates and edit your text into the appropriate places to create a print version of your book. Again, you don’t have to publish. But you’ll get to use the online tools and see the results (even proofread a mockup of your book) online. All free! (Just a word of warning, do this with words not pictures on your first attempt. Pictures are great advertisements but they make things way more difficult!)
That’s your homework for this month. Try it. You’ll like it.
And this is the book Sheila uploaded in response to the homework assignment: https://www.amazon.com/Not-Night-Murder-Halloween-Collection/dp/1977918182/ She’ll get around to the kindle version soon, but she’s been busy with other things like the journal and Carl and June. Also she really has to work on that SEO, who’s looking for me and how can they find me stuff, so she’s really looking forward to Walt’s next talk!