Saturday, March 03, 2018

Full scheme ahead

For the last year I have been running writing workshops (through a writing organisation) to earn some "writing dollars". I've had great feedback and recently I've had a local bookstore approach me about running writing workshops at their store. I'm not sure how many dollars this would generate (probably not many), but I know if I was published this would be a great opportunity for marketing, if nothing else. I'm sure there is still something I could do to make the most of this opportunity (money aside) and wondered what sharkly advice you could offer?


I'm not sure you want to think of the writing workshop students as a target audience. Nothing makes writers crazier than being pitched books by someone they're paying for something else.

And if you really want to see writers froth at the font, ask them how they feel about agents pitching "how to query" books at the bottom of a rejection letter.

As for making the most of this opportunity, you can't plan for it. Seize opportunity when it knocks, don't go chasing it down the street, tackling it at the intersection and handcuffing it to your pogo stick. Opportunity gets quite fretful when abused like that.

Keep your eyes and ears open, and when someone offers up a crackpot idea, think about it before saying no. Some of my best ideas started out as harebrained schemes.

21 comments:

CynthiaMc said...

Every time I say I'm taking a break from acting, directors I like message me with a script. Do I say yes? Absolutely (especially if they've written a part for me).

If the offer makes your heart sing, take it.

Ellen said...

Hi, OP. I'm an author who teaches creative writing to continuing ed students, and I agree with Janet that it's not a book marketing opportunity. However, you may find that it opens other financial vistas, as former students may approach you for editorial help on their manuscripts.

Also, it never hurts to have a good relationship with your local bookstore. One day, when you're published, you may want to approach them about doing a book event there.

Good luck!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I too teach a creative writing workshop at my school district now and then. My main function is writing software for the district so not at all for marketing, not about me at all. I enjoy getting the children to express themselves, and hopefully to read more and find their own voices. Some of them are absurdly talented. It’s almost as if not knowing the rules frees them to create at a much higher level.

Anyhow, not for marketing. I doubt my students know I write as I don’t use my own work in my instruction. I use theirs and stories or books the students have loved to teach what works and what doesn’t and why. Which I also let them figure out for themselves. They are all quite bright.

Kathy Joyce said...

I'm feeling absurdly happy to read about Reiders teaching others to write. Do any of you do flash contests with your students?

Lennon Faris said...

Something to consider though: if I were spending time and money at a writing workshop, I would at least want to know I liked the workshop teacher's writing. (Probably doesn't come into play with elementary kids!) So maybe it wouldn't hurt to mention any published works, at least in introduction or off to the side.

Happy Saturday, folks!

Ashes said...

I wonder if the question is being interpreted incorrectly?

This part: "I know if I was published this would be a great opportunity for marketing..." made me think the writer was asking more about how they might be able to take advantage with an "in" at a bookstore, rather than how they could market to their workshop students.

Ask where they order books from? Ask if they can put you in contact with any local book clubs? Ask how an author might get their book on the store's website or featured on their Facebook page? Ask if they do author signing and who organizes them? I honestly have no idea. But I thought these are the sort of question the OP was seeking.

My critique partner self-published her first book while she was working at Chapters Indigo (Canadian Barnes and Noble). I'm not sure if they stocked her book, but I know her connections there made it possible for her to get her self-pubbed title listed on their national website, and allowed her to host a book signing.

That's what I think the OP meant. How do I take advantage of this new connection for potential future marketing?

Dena Pawling said...


>>I've had a local bookstore approach me about running writing workshops at their store. I'm not sure how many dollars this would generate (probably not many), but I know if I was published this would be a great opportunity for marketing,

I agree with Ashes. It sounds like OP is asking about opportunities for marketing because the local bookstore is interested. I'd definitely talk with the bookstore owner about what they're looking for in the workshops, advertising the workshops, etc. Then get a workshop up and running. Other bookstores will learn of it (and presumably how much extra foot traffic you're generating), and you can start the process at another bookstore too. Once you're published, you'll have LOTS of contacts that love you =)

Amy Johnson said...

"... handcuffing it to your pogo stick." Thanks, Janet, for my first chuckle of the day when I read that around seven o'clock. And thanks for the advice.

My apologies, writer pals, for being so quiet in the comments section lately. I've been busy with writing and plotting my MG series. And with yard work. This is our first almost-spring in our still-kind-of-new-to-us house. Big discoveries are being made, and major mysteries will soon be solved. Like, wow, we have crocuses in the backyard! And what color will the flowers be on the azalea bush by the front door? What's that line of leaves poking up along the side of the house? Irises? No, looks like tulips. Very exciting stuff. Hope those of you who enjoy the outdoors get some outside time today!

Kate Higgins said...

I always have a few bits of advice running through my 'hare' brain. They keep me from going down the path MOST traveled as I figure out what I want to be when I grow up. (I'm 65)

The counsel that slows down in the gerbil wheel in my head:

1) "You do not have to accept or reject any idea, advice or opinion ever."
But you should always consider it, where it comes from and how it might affect your life.

2) "You can do anything thing you want to in Life...anything!"
However you must accept all the consequences of your decision and actions

3) "Find as opposed to Seek."
If you seek you may miss the one thing you need to find.
Thank-you, Hesse (Siddhartha).

4) "Ideas themselves are often the answer to your own questions."

5) "See, don't just look."
As an example; Look at the shadows of a snow-covered mountaintop. What color is the snow?
White, you say? No, the color you see is the reflected color of the sky; the shadows are same blue or gray or midnight indigo color as the sky.

6) And from my cat, Cedar,
"Everything must be explored, contemplated, experimented and/or played with.
Or ignored if it proves unworthy"

Panda in Chief said...

All good advice here. I agree, it seems more like OP is talking about her relationship with the bookstore, rather than selling to students.

Another issue to consider is "opportunity cost". As a visual artist, I've occasionally taught classes and workshops. While it's nice to get immediate money from a paid teaching gig, it usually has come for me as a substitute income for the loss of work created during the time I am teaching instead of painting. Sometimes it comes as an over all reduction in income.

If your writing time is scarce, and carefully accumulated between your day job and real life activities, I would think long and hard about giving up that writing time for the teaching gig unless you really enjoy teaching and feel like it is a good investment. It may come too far up the road to publication to give you any cosmic credit with the bookstore owner.

I do enjoy teaching and articulating what is going on with a student's work is a useful exercise, so there's that aspect too. Good luck with making a decision that works for you. At the very least, give yourself an escape clause so you don't get trapped in a time suck that doesn't give you what you need from it.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

E.M. Goldsmith, you sound like an awesome teacher (maybe not even just for writing). Shame I cannot join your class ;).

Lennon, I kind of agree. It could be important.
Also, I was direct-messaging with a writer on Twitter yesterday and the day before. She's going to self-publish her debut romance novel this weekend (I don't read romance but wouldn't say I'd never do it) and probably liked to get me interested which is fine :).

Then I googled her and found that she has published lots of erotica so far. Oh my God, really strong stuff! I mean REALLY.

What am I gonna do if she tries to get me interested in that, too, now that I got 'involved', ha ha. *Blush blush*

BJ Muntain said...

The place for marketing in writing workshops that are not based on a writing book is in your bio. During the workshop, though, you might also use particularly good examples from your own writing - just be sure to use examples from other places as well. And make sure whatever examples you use really do illustrate what you're trying to teach. James Scott Bell will sometimes use examples from his own books, but tends to use movies more than books, simply because more people will have watched a certain movie than read a certain book.

As for bookstore contacts - those could be good once you're published. You'd probably do best to get to know whoever deals with ordering books or with the manager. They'll probably be more likely to stock books from someone who regularly appears in their store and brings in people, and thus it becomes beneficial for both. As you become more successful, they'll get more people coming in to your events. It sounds like a good partnership to have.

BJ Muntain said...

One of Us: I'm sure your Twitter friend will understand. There are many flavours of romance, and not all romance readers are interested in all flavours. If the book she's self-publishing is less erotic than her other novels, you may be more interested in that. But I know a number of readers - especially of fantasy - who have been turned off a favourite author because her books became too erotic for them. It's up to the author to find the right audience. It's not up to the audience to change their preferences in order to continue reading an author's books.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Thanks, BJ Muntain :), cause there is NO way I'm going to read that.
Not sure what the definition of erotica is but the description of her books (actually, they're described on Amazon as 17-pages-or-fewer-things) sound more like... you know what I mean ;).

Joseph Snoe said...

I'm fortunate enough to have several bookstores near me. One I've never been to but have been meaning to visit is the Alabama Booksmith. Its slogan is "Every book in the store is signed." I know many authors appear there for book signings, and he offers monthly selections for people who sign up for it. Not sure why I've been intimidated from stopping there (it's in an out of the way location. You have to want to get there.) I think I'll stop by this week. Maybe I can find a writers group through him.

Joseph Snoe said...


Please excuse my rambling, but I just checked the Alabama Booksmith website. Right now, as I type, Tim Dorsey (The Pope of Palm Beach) is speaking there. Later this month Anthony Ray Hinton (The Sun Does Shine) with Bryan Stevenson (Mercy Me) interviewing him; and also this month Katherine Clark (local writer who has written a book about Pat Conroy, and has co-authored a book with Pat Conroy), and Jonathan Miles (Anatomy of a Miracle). I need to take advantage of this bookstore.

Notable authors who have visited the little store in the past few months include Robert Gandt, Wiley Cash (a favorite), Lee Roy Jordan, Rick Bragg (famous son of Alabama), Robert McCammon (who used to live here in Homewood but moved to Vestavia Hills), and Liza Mundy (Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II). I feel so stupid for missing out on this - Like I can walk to this store! (but I’ll probably drive).

roadkills-r-us said...

My initial reaction was more in line with Ashes' and Dena's, in part because that's a question I have as well.

As for this: "As for making the most of this opportunity, you can't plan for it. Seize opportunity when it knocks, don't go chasing it down the street, tackling it at the intersection and handcuffing it to your pogo stick. Opportunity gets quite fretful when abused like that."

I quoted this on my author page (and therefore twitter account, as well).

Maybe your site should read, "Janet Reid, Literary Agent and Brilliant Writer"!

Craig F said...

Not terribly long ago, in geographic time, a friend asked something of me. She asked if I could immortalize her as a character in a book.

I took up the banner of that epic quest to be published. I looked around for some help. I found a creative writing class at a local outreach center for life enrichment.

The teacher looked good on paper. Published, former associate professor and so on. His teaching was based around his one book, which he tried to sell at the same time. It was a literary thing that was like Chinese food, not quite lasting nourishment.

I did try my best to understand but it wasn't really my kind of literature. Eventually he pissed me off and I walked away before it could damage my quest. At least that was my hope, the quest is an ongoing thing.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Thank you, One of Us Has To Go. That is kind of you to say :)

Donnaeve said...

I've just spent the better part of an hour catching up on comments. What. A. Week!

I agree with Ashes and Dena in the interpretation of OP's writing gig at a bookstore. I see it as an opportunity in the future for having personal connections with the store. Booksellers are notoriously choosy when it comes to authors they like and support in the selling of their books. It's a business, so they have to be particular in that regard. I can't help but see it as a good thing for OP - meaning, hey, if the bookstore thinks they're qualified to teach, they there's a good chance they might believe they can write a good story too and will eventually support a book signing event, etc.

It seems I've missed a LOT while I've been away. I do my best to at least get out here a couple times a week, but honestly, I've struggled to do that. And I used to be here every single day - trying to snap up the first commenter award. Haha. I was happy to read from others who'd been incognito for a while too.

I was head down working on the fourth book proposal which was (finally!) sent off a couple weeks ago to my agent, and I'm now hoping to hear back from my editor so I can get cracking on it. Working title, SHINE MOUNTAIN. Wonder what that's about... :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

In my writing workshop, every time we get a new person, I make the whole group do introductions. I figure it's good for everybody, me included, to be able to concisely talk about themselves and their writing in such a situation.

I am forever grateful for the group I have ended up with. They are kind, thoughtful, and welcoming. They acknowledge that we're each having our own writing journey, and have to figure out what works for ourselves. They know people have different goals. And if there are new publication successes, or any successes, many of my writers will ask (unprompted) "where can we read that? where can we buy that?"

And they DO read it! They come back and say "Oh Jen, I finally read "Daddy's Girl and..." or "Tori, I bought your book! You have to sign it for me!" It's awesome and I love it, and I run the workshop as a part of my library job and have not been invited to facilitate elsewhere. But I'd work like hell to end up with a similar environment, where it's supportive because people want to be and not because anybody's marketing.