Saturday, May 30, 2009

Welcome Missy Tippens

Hi to all the Prairie Chicks! Thanks so much for having me today! Also, I’ll be giving away a copy of my new release, His Forever Love, available now from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. See end of post for details.


In talking with Anita Mae about what to post, I decided to talk a little about promotion—before and after publication. It’s a topic I love, and Debby Giusti, Janet Dean and I have done a workshop on it at RWA National. Actually, our topic was what to do to be ready for The Call, but a lot of what you can do to prepare has to do with promotion in one way or another.


One of the first things you need to do before that dreamed-about call from an editor, is to reserve your domain name and set up a basic website. I reserved mine several years before selling, and I also had a very basic one-page website where I had a short bio and a list of contest placings. I didn’t spend much money at all. And I did it all myself. Then once I sold, I was ready to make everything more professional and to expand the site to several pages.

Another thing to consider: To blog or not to blog? Blogging isn’t for everyone. But a group blog, like the Prairie Chicks, is a great way to get started! It splits the labor and is a lot of fun. And I’ve also found that my blog is easier to update than my website. I can announce a short-term contest or post my blog tour schedule. The main thing you want to consider is your readership. Do you want to gear your blog to readers or to writers or to both? You need to have a focus or you won’t keep readers returning. Oh, and you need to post regularly (yes, I’m preaching to myself here!). :)


Before publication, you have very limited funds for self-promotion. But one of the best things you can do for your career is to save enough money to attend a conference. Of course, local conference are less expensive and don’t require major travel. And they can be wonderful! But if you can manage it, a trip to a major conference is a smart investment.

Two of the best are the Romance Writers of America (RWA) National Conference and the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Annual Conference. I attended both of these before selling, and they were worth every penny. In my opinion, RWA is the very best place for attending workshops. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned through the years in classes taught by the best in the industry (in all genres). And also, in my opinion, if you’re writing Christian fiction, ACFW is the very best place to network—to meet editors and agents and published authors. The publishing professionals seem to be more available at ACFW by hosting tables at meals and taking more appointments.

So, now you’ve done all your prep ahead of time, and you’ve gotten The Call!! (I got mine on the answering machine, by the way. An editor asked me to give her a call, and I knew it had to be good news!) Then I thought I would share of few of the ideas for post-sale promotion that have worked well for me.

First, I had postcards printed at Vistaprint.com. I didn’t have a book cover yet, so I made up cards with a stock photo on the front and my photo on the back. And I gave information on my book and my website/blog address. I handed those out everywhere I had the chance. And once I had a cover for my book, I made new postcards. You can also do bookmarks, but I chose the postcards in the beginning because they were so much more economical to do. I’m just now looking into getting bookmarks made, and printrunner.com seems to be a good place to do that.

And just a quick rundown of other helpful things… Take part in book signings whenever you can, especially group book signings. Take opportunities to speak to groups (local groups are a great place to start), apply to teach workshops, offer to do programs for writing group meetings. Start a mailing list as soon as you can so you can send out promotional material when you have news. Contests/giveaways seem to be a good way to grow your mailing list and your blog/website readership. Once your book comes out, give away copies in contests or a blog tour to help get a buzz started about it (nothing’s better than word-of-mouth promotion!).

Let me also add that some writers get the heebie jeebies just talking about promotion. But I think it is necessary. And even if you shudder at the thought of speaking in front of people, you can find something to feel comfortable with. Anything you can do to help spread the word about your books will help your publisher sell them!

Now, feel free to ask questions or make suggestions! I’ll be giving away a copy of my new release, His Forever Love, today in a drawing from those who leave a comment and contact information.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
As well as being an author, Missy Tippens is a pastor's wife, mother of three and owner of a home business. Add her church activities like playing hand bells and singing in the choir and you're talking about one busy lady. Missy's first Love Inspired book Her UnLikely Family was released in Feb 08. His Forever Love is her current June 2009 release and her 3rd book A Forever Christmas is scheduled for November 2009. You can reach Missy at her website at http://missytippens.com/ and her blog at http://www.lifewithmissy.blogspot.com/

36 comments:

Captain Hook said...

Great topic, Missy. Something I definitely need to know more about. And I have a few questions.

1. How do you "reserve" a website? I am fairly dumb about computers, so I truly don't have a clue.

2. What do you do with a website if you know in advance you will be publishing under 2 different names for vastly different genres (in my case MG/YA and erotica)? I would not want them even associated on the same website, because I hope that one day when I'm published my site will be somewhere for kids, since they'll be reading my regular books.

3. How do you put your name forward to become a participant in the group book signings?

Thanks in advance for answering my questions.

ban said...

self promotion ... UGH !!! lucky for me I've got a sister with a business mind - for our clay business she does the hard stuff like ask for money - I'd give everything away if not for her :)

captain - we bought our website name through godaddy.com a domain name is like $2 a year. once you have it, no one else can use it. then, once you're published, you can look around for a website service to host your site (like yahoo) and you use the domain name you reserved. you can reserve as many as you like so make one for each alias :)

Silver James said...

Good morning, Missy. I second everything you've said. I've had my blog/web site (I combined the two with a Wordpress template - blogging on the "front" page while having bio, books in print, new releases, contests, etc. Originally, I blogged to a void and seldom updated. I did notice a spike in visits when I commented on other sites and blogs so I always made sure I had something new up before I blog-hopped. Now, with my first release upcoming (no date yet but closer than it was - lol), I blog every day and I average 45-50 visitors a day and a hard-core group who comment regularly. This makes me a very happy camper.

I, too, plan on doing postcards but I'm waiting for my release date before having them printed. In the meantime, I printed my cover on 4x6 glossy photo paper and added the blurb and contact information to the back. I hand them out when someone expresses interest.

Word of mouth is THE best sales tool a writer can have, as far as I'm concerned. Some advertising guru stated that your name/title has to be seen/heard at least SEVEN times before a buyer will check it out and buy. Just in case the guru is correct...

Hi! My name is Silver James and my time-travel romance, FAERIE FATE, will be released later this year. In the meantime, I'm checking out this inspirational author I heard about--Missy Tippens. She has a new book, HIS FOREVER LOVE, out now from Steeple Hill. I've heard it's an awesome book.

Have a great Saturday, chicks!

Christine Rimmer said...

Hi Missy. Great suggestions. I so agree, especially, with registering your domain name as soon as possible. I registered christinerimmer.com four years before I finally put up a site.

I often search for other authors' sites and have trouble finding them because they had to go with something other than simply their name and a .com. Someone else had gotten their best address ahead of them.

Most of the time, before I even Google an author, I will try their name and .com. I think most everyone does that. And some readers lose interest if they don't get the author on that first try. We all want our readers to be able to get to us in the simplest, most direct way possible.

Missy Tippens said...

I'm finally here! I attended a memorial service this morning and then had to get my roast put in the crock pot. :)

Now I can jump in and have fun with the Chicks!

Anita Mae Draper said...

My goodness you're all up early. The Chicks are still on retreat here at the abbey and we just came back from breakfast. (Karen, you're here in spirit, believe me.) It's cloudy outside and cool (11C/52F) but refreshing. I love it. I'm not taking walks amongst the lovely trees because they tick people off... heh ... we're talking major tick population. So, I look from afar and write.

I started my blogging experience in Oct 07 right after attending a Sask Rom Writers workshop where Harlequin Romance author Donna Alward talked about the Business of Writing. Her workshop was along the lines of Missy's post here and if that's what gave me the courage to 'get out there', then think what Missy's advice can do for you. :)

Welcome to the Prairies, Missy. Come sit a spell and get away from your Georgia humidity for a bit.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Christine, your comment reminded me to give you a word of warning -- it seems some domain searches 'harvest' the names as they are searched and reserve your name themself. Then when you want to use it, you must buy it from them. So, don't assume you have a 'unique' name and it will be there when you want it. If it's available now, it's in your best interest to reserve it now.

Yeah, yeah, I"m getting off the net and going to my room to write now... :) Some of the girls upstairs have Wifi in their rooms but I have to walk 20 ft to the lounge for it... good thing too or I won't get any writing done... okay, okay, I'm going...

Missy Tippens said...

Captain Hook, thanks for your questions!

1. I got my domain name through Network Solutions. It's a little more expensive, but they have a great website plan that's not very expensive and is nearly as easy to update as a blog--with easy to use templates and such. There are others out there that I've heard a lot about, too. Like Ban mentioned, Godaddy.com is one that's a better deal. What you do is go to those sites and do a search for the domain name you want. If it's available, go ahead and snap it up! Because sometimes when you search for a name but don't "buy" it, someone else will snap it up and then offer to let you buy it from them for lots of money. That happened to my cp. Someone got it before she could go back later to buy it, and then they offered to let her have it for like $1500! I have no idea how people do that, but they do! So when you search for your name, be ready to buy it then.

2. I guess you'll be writing at least one of your genres under a pen name. And sometime publishers will want input in that name, so it' hard to know what to do. I guess I'd recommend going ahead and reserving your real name in case you want to use it for one of the genres. And then just wait on the other site. I'm not sure about creating a pen name before a sale since a publisher might want to change it. Then again, if you got a big readership going (of your blog or website), then they might keep the name no matter what! So I guess it's up to you to decide on that. Or if you have an agent, he or she can advise on that. (I know that's probably not much help, but I'm not sure what to tell you!) :)

3. So far any group book signings I've done have been with fellow chapter members of my local RWA chapter, Georgia Romance Writers, through the RWA national conference, and through ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference. And I've also done a group signing that another Georgia author put together. Also one that a library held. So all of those were through getting involved in writers groups. If you belong to RWA and any other groups, you should have opportunities pop up. :)

Great questions! I hope this helped some.

Missy Tippens said...

Ban, I'm with you! My husband is my biggest promoter because I'm so hesitant about it--especially in person. I'm better at online promotion.

You know, I went to a workshop once that said to focus on what you're comfortable with. I'm trying to do that as well as to stretch myself a little. One thing I've found I enjoy is teaching workshops and speaking to groups. I never would have wanted to do that before! :)

Thanks for recommending GoDaddy. I know a good many people who have used them.

Captain Hook said...

Thanks so much for the answers, Missy. I really hope I can pick my own pen name since I already have one picked out - Josi Springs (Nickname as the first name and my pre-adoption last name).

Missy Tippens said...

"Hi, my name is Missy Tippens, and I've just heard of this great upcoming time traval romance by an author with a really cool name, Silver James. The book, Faerie Fate, has a gorgeous cover and will be out at a yet to be announced date. I hope you'll look for Silver James' book!"

There, we got two of your seven today! :)

Silver, thanks for sharing about using a blog template as a website. I have a friend who does that, which makes it very economical! Of course, I have no idea how to do it, so y'all ask Silver for info on that! (My friend, Camy, tried to explain it to me, but I never could figure it out.) (grin)

And speaking of word of mouth. I totally agree. It's why I send out early copies of my book for people to read and review. And I give a away a good many on a blog tour. I also give them to people in town who I know will talk about it at their churches or places of business. Word of mouth is a huge influence on me and my purchases. So I'm hoping it'll work for my books!

Thanks for your input, Silver!

Missy Tippens said...

Christine, thanks for commenting! You were smart to plan ahead. I actually reserved a couple of names (my legal name as well as the name I go by, Missy). After hearing Randy Ingermanson suggest it, I reserved missytippens with the .net, .org, etc. That way someone can't get my name with a different extension and put up something I might object to. And if you're worried about the expense on those, I've found the company is willing to negotiate price when you have multiple domain names because they want to keep your business. I called them to help me switch to Go Daddy, and they were willing to talk about giving me a deal! LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Anita Mae, we're sorry you had to strain with the effort to walk 20 feet to visit with us! LOL (big grin) Sorry, I couldn't resist.

I'm actually jealous! Except for the 52 degrees. After weeks of rain, we have a gorgeously sunny day and will see 84 degrees. :)

I hope you have a great time on your retreat, Chicks! Get lots of writing done!!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Missy, Anita Mae and the other Prairie Chicks,

So glad Google Alert sent me a message about this blog today. Missy always provides such great info!!! And she's a fantastic writer. Sweet as can be, too!

Missy mentioned giving speeches. Whenever I give a talk, I arrive early and try to meet as many folks as possible before I speak. By getting to know them first, I'm more comfortable once I head for the podium. They've become friends instead of strangers. Just a tip that works for me.

Okay, now I'm heading to Silver James' blog. She mentioned attracting 35-40 folks a day. That's fantastic! I need to start my own blog and would love to know how to attract visitors.

Missy Tippens said...

Captain/Josi, I love your pen name! If you really want to use it, then I suggest you go ahead and reserve it. You could always let it go later. But if you feel strongly about keeping it, go ahead and get established. Grow a readership and get your name out there. I think it'll help your chances of using it when you sell.

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Debby, so glad you stopped by!

I checked out Silver's site, too. Very nice!

Stephanie Newton said...

Hi Missy! Great post! I for one was completely(!) thrown by the time that promoting took away from writing when my first book came out. It would've been great to have some of this done in advance.

I was a little afraid, I think, that I would jinx myself if I started making a business plan...but it's the smart thing to do. I had already started writing like a selling writer (by that I mean writing every day and treating it like a job) so planning a marketing strategy would have been a logical--and smart--next step!

Steph

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Stephanie! Yes, I felt so weird when I got my domain name years before I sold. But I heard to do it while in a workshop, so I was trying to follow the writer's advice. I'm so glad I did! It's especially important for people who have name that is more common.

Thanks for stopping by. I'm dying to read your book!! It's in my TBR stack now!! (Stephanie's first Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense, Perfect Target, just came out a month or so ago!) :)

Silver James said...

Hi, chicks. Just dropping back by between errands and getting to work on the rewrite I've been talking about - my urban fantasy.

Thanks for dropping by Penumbra, ladies. When I started blogging every day, I realized I needed a schedule. After some experimenting, I've come up with what works for me, and it allows me to "preload" posts when I need to free up time for writing or travel. Saturday is brunch day - hot men to give the heroes in our imaginations a run for their money. Sunday is a youtube post, usually something romantic or really cool like dominoes falling or the cascading post it notes I found one time. Mondays is my "review" day, where I blog about the book I'm reading. Tuesdays-Fridays are whatever pops into my head - musings about the writing process, guest bloggers, bits of internet fun, tips for research...

I always make it a rule to reply to all my commenters. I want them to feel welcome and comfortable and wanting to come back to visit.

There are some wonderful tips here on the Prairie, and its really nice to meet everyone!

Silver James said...

And thanks for the plug, Missy!

Captain Hook said...

You guys made me way too curious, so I went searching. My married name and the pen name I want are available on all the different .(whatever). But my maiden name is not available at all, though I wasn't expecting it to be.

When I was a kid, there was a young lady a couple of towns over with the same name who was an Olympic medalist for synchronized swimming. I figured she would have the name for her site, and I was right.

Karen said...

Hi Missy, welcome. I'm running like crazy today. Love the topic and will be back later in the day to check out all the suggestions and advice in more detail and with more time.

Absolutely stunningly beautiful day here today!

Debby Giusti said...

Silver, thanks for the info about your blog. I've heard, as you alluded to, that writers don't need to post every day, but they do need to be consistent and let visitors know their schedule. You've got a full week: Sat, Sun, Mon, for sure and Tue-Fri as the Muse hits. It certainly works for you. Nice job!

Debby Giusti said...

Missy, any thoughts about newsletters? I need to start one and am considering a yahoo.com loop. Anyone want to comment about what you like to receive? The pretty newsletters with photos and graphics are so, so nice, but the yahoo is something I could handle on my own.

Missy Tippens said...

Debby, I just sent out my very first newsletter last week!! I had saved all the email adresses for over a year and finally did something with them.

I did a good bit of research and finally decided to go with Vertical Response. I love being able to add my blog/website photo so it'll be associated with me. Plus they have great templates. I also picked VR because:
--they give you the HTML code to put on your website/blog for people to sign up for the newsletter.
--It's an opt-in and easily opt-out service so I won't get accused of spamming.
--you can track how many people opened their newsletter and what links they clicked on. All kinds of stats available!
--I could type up all the addresses into an Excel spreadsheet and convert to easily upload the whole list to the VR site
--I can download the whole updated list after others have subscribed so I'll always have a copy should I decide to use another company.
--you can pay per mailing. I didn't want a monthly payment because I won't send many newsletters. Maybe quarterly. So it's much cheaper this way! They have a free trial. And after that, it only costs about $0.015 for each email addy.

Email me later and I'll send you a copy so you can see what it looks like. It took me a few hours because it was my first one. But I can use the old one to format any new ones I want to send out.

If anyone else is intereseted in seeing one, feel free to email me at missytippens [at] aol.com

Missy Tippens said...

Silver, I really do need some sort of schedule on my personal blog. I'm very haphazzard. I do have a regular schedule on my group blogs, though, and I think that helps.

Missy Tippens said...

Captain, that's too bad about the olympian with the same name! But I'm glad the others were available.

Karen, I hope you have a great day. Enjoy the weather!

Janet C. said...

A little late with my welcome, Missy, but when Muse wants to write - I don't stand in her way :)

Great tips - I'm so glad we started the Chicks blog (no pressure to blog every day). It has given me the confidence to do other things under the promotional banner of a pre-pubbed author. My next plan is to set up a website and I'm glad you mentioned your early site (one page bio, etc). I worried that I wouldn't have anything to put on there - but I can do a bio and I can create a link page to the Chicks blog. And I knew about domain name, but haven't gotten around to that (I will).

Ha - you all picked a great day to visit Silver's blog. Saturday brunch cheers me up to no end. I'm going to have to wait until I get home because there's lots of traffic around the guest computer here (I don't have a router with me, so no internet; therefore I'm getting lots of writing done without the distractions). I don't want to scare the monks with the feast Silver has bound to have displayed.

Thanks again, Missy (and the rest of you for visiting). Invaluable information for both the pubbed and un-pubbed. We hope you come back to visit us on The Prairies soon :)

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Janet C! There are some great photos on there today! It might be good to wait till you're home. :)

Thanks for the welcome!

Karen said...

Okay, I'm back and got a good (or bad, depending on how you look at it) red glow happening. Ah sun!

Starting on Monday I will here by be known as Karyn Good which will be my writing name and is now my domain name.

Lots of great promotional ideas happening here today and I'll be back in the future to check out and see what I should be doing.

If I do get lucky enough to do a workshop someday I really like the idea of working the crowd first. I would definitely do that suggestion.

Till then I keep writing.

Missy Tippens said...

Well, nice to meet you Karyn Good!

:)

Hope the sunburn eases soon. We've been peeling my son's shoulders for the last couple of days. He got burned on Memorial Day at a friend's house. He gets such a kick peeling off big sheets of skin! LOL

Edwina said...

Hi Missy,
Excellent article! I have already started a blog and my husband is working on getting my website set up. I guess I'm jumping way ahead of the game because I have not finished the editing of my first rough draft!! But I thought the blog and website would be 2 great ways to get my name out there. One question for you: From the time you started working on your book, until you got the call from the editor - how long was that?

I would love to win the book so my contact info is: edwina.cowgill@yahoo.com

Missy Tippens said...

Edwina, good for you for getting the blog and website going! It'll definitely help with name recognition. It's also great for giving you time to play with them to find out what you want them to look like and what you want your content to focus on. I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing with my blog! :)

In answer to your question... it was a LONG time! Over ten years. I wrote my first manuscript in 1995 (after we got our first computer). And that first sale call came in 2007. I wrote 5 complete manuscripts during that time. And I did sell a short story to BelleBooks during that time as well.

So persistence is the key!

Missy Tippens said...

I'll wait and do the drawing for the book tomorrow to make sure everyone has a chance to comment! So keep those comments coming.

Anita Mae Draper said...

I'm back home. Good friends and time for writing, I loved the retreat.

Missy, thank you so much for guesting with us. I've learned so much from your topic - good choice. You're welcome back anytime.

Missy Tippens said...

The winner of my drawing is Silver! Silver, I'll contact you through your website for a mailing address.

Thanks, everyone! I had a great time this past weekend.