As promised from my prior blog post, here is Part 3 which dives into my final day at the Midwest Writers Workshop. I wrote this post for readers who are curious about my journey and for fellow writers who would like a greater insight into the business of being an author. This is my experience and not heavily weighted in note taking.
My all-day intensive session with Jane Friedman was aimed at published authors and my best guess at how many authors came together to hear Jane teach was, oh, about forty authors.
Rather than a variety of break-out sessions in this workshop as before, this was bootcamp with Jane Friedman, an author and industry leader. I’ve been following Jane in her blog posts and social media sharing since the early days of writing early drafts to my memoir, now published. I had first met Jane in person when attending a writer’s conference, here in Cincinnati. For anyone who is aspiring to connect with their readers, I can’t recommend her enough.
For starters, she had us break up into small teams, each team to a table. Teams were based on genre or the category we write in. At my table, were three other creative nonfiction authors. Going around the room, we had teams in sci-fi, self-help, inspirational/religion, young adult, mystery, romance, children’s, and a few more. With much of our work for the day being dependent on writers helping writers, teaming up with authors in our same genre worked well.
In teams, we discussed the SWOT analysis. SWOT is the acronym for strengths – weaknesses – opportunities – and – threats. I was already somewhat familiar with this business tool, having learned it when in a work-related training at my job place, the public library.
Jane takes this acronym one letter further: SWOTF and no, I don’t think I can pronounce that acronym, although she did, somehow. In SWOTF, the F is for fears. It’s a framework for taking an inventory to identify and analyze the factors which can impact the viability of a project, product, place or person—or an author’s book and outreach to readers.
We discussed the importance of having a landing page for readers to discover us and our books. For me and many others, the landing page is our website. Jane asked for three volunteers to share their website. I was the first volunteer. On an overhead projector screen, we watched her go through my website, discussing the strengths in navigating it. From her analysis, I learned where and how I could either improve or change things up. Slowly but surely, you may notice some changes in my website and some, as subtle as they are may go unnoticed.
For one, I removed the huge (huge!) picture that my website template defaulted to when setting it up. This gets rid of clutter and moves you, the website visitor directly into what I want to share.
It was suggested I use a pop-up window for inviting people to subscribe. I might do that. As it is now, it is a bit obscure, found under my Contact and Media Page.
It was suggested that on the menu for my blog, I give a detailed blurb of what my blog is about and why I blog. I plan to do this—once I learn how the techy hands-on work to create that.
I updated my bio as found under the About tab.
OUTREACH and LISTENING
Jane shared the many ways we can engage with readers, from on-line to in person. And taking it further, we discussed how to share and what to share, especially when it comes to a world of strangers on the internet.
Regarding listening, our readers are who we care about. Before anyone read my book, I could describe it, but my words of kudos no longer hold their weight. Rather, it is what readers have to say about my book and their words are the most important tools I have for sharing with those who haven’t yet read my book as to what people think of it.
Going a step further, we discussed who comparable authors are. I kind of already knew this, from when I was looking for a publisher— that’s one of the things publishers want to know—who can we compare you to? One of my comp authors is Brianna Karp, author of The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness: A Memoir. Jane took us through some online exercises, which in part had us look at what readers of comparable books are saying. This information can be helpful in broadening our outreach.
Jane also shared hidden gems with us, from helpful links to other resources. Again, watching on the overhead projector, we followed along as she took us through tools we can use to amp up our exposure as authors.
Learning from professionals in our chosen craft, whether our craft is writing or another art, is an excellent way to continue our education and improve our knowledge and skills. This means getting out of zone, which is often one of solitude or at best small with only a handful of other like-minded friends. It means showing up to a workshop, convention, conference, or the like and meeting new people.
Look forward to Part 4 of this five-part blog series, coming next weekend. In Part 4, I will share my experience in the logistics of getting into the rooms with others. Then, Part 5 will be a wrap-up.
To get out of our zone and into the rooms with others is an invaluable way to build upon our strengths. Together, we can create a better community. Please share in the comments any suggestions or experience you have for joining others in a common goal and what this connection can or could mean to you.
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