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The Number One Marketing Strategy For Writers

Everywhere we turn we find advice about what we should do to market ourselves and our books. Some of it's confusing, even contradictory.

One agent might say, "Every writer serious about publication should have a blog." Perhaps another says, "If blogging's not your thing, then don't worry about it."

Book trailers, branding, websites, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, twitter, facebook, linked-in. . . the list keeps getting longer. And we keep getting more and more overwhelmed.

What really works? What should we do before publication? Where should we focus our limited energy and time?

These are the questions I've mulled over for some time now. And so, when I sat down with the Bethany House Marketing Team during my recent trip, I was very interested in getting their perspective on what an unpublished author like myself should do to help in the process of promoting myself and my book.

In other words, if we're unpublished but looking to begin building a name for ourselves and our future books, what should we do?

Of course we all want to help in the marketing process. None of us are under the illusion "good" books automatically generate their own sales. We're competing with millions of other "good" books along with the ever-growing electronic industry which threatens to pull readers from books altogether.

Therefore, it goes without saying we must be active participants in our own marketing. We can't afford to sit back, twiddle our thumbs, and hope our books sell. If we want to give them the best shot at succeeding, especially after investing so much of ourselves into them, we have to be willing to do whatever is necessary.

The problem, however, is that we often jump head first into the marketing frenzy. We try to do it all--keep up with our writing projects, blog, twitter, facebook, make a book trailer, update a website, etc. It doesn't take long before we find ourselves sinking in the murky marketing waters--overwhelmed, confused, tired, disillusioned, and ready to head back to the safety of shore.

Many of us are crying out, "Help! I'm drowning! Just tell me what I REALLY need to do to have a successful writing career. What's absolutely necessary? What will help my marketing efforts THE most?"

In the next post, I'll attempt to answer these questions. But for today, I want to end on an encouraging note, something Bethany House Marketing reiterated to me: Make sure our primary focus always remains on writing great books.

If we're not keeping our writing THE priority, then maybe it's okay to doggy-paddle back to shore, drag ourselves out of the marketing frenzy, and give ourselves a break. Perhaps for a time we need to focus only on writing and editing, without all of the distractions and pressures of blogging, facebook, twitter, etc.

I admire some blogging friends who've done this very thing. They've either stopped blogging or cut back in order to make their writing more of a priority. It takes courage to pull out of the waters, dry off, and rest from the sidelines. I'm sure when they wade back in, their writing will be better because of the break.

I personally didn't enter cyberland until my writing was ready for querying. I stayed on the shore and watched for quite a while. I protected my writing time, honed my skills, and learned self-discipline. When I finally took the plunge, I knew I was ready for the next phase of my writing career.

The number one marketing strategy is writing a book that can captivate the hearts of readers. Without that, we won't get too far, even if we do everything else right.

Have you ever been overwhelmed and confused by all of the demands placed upon writers today? How do you keep from sinking? And how do you keep your writing a priority?

58 comments:

  1. I have felt overwhelmed at times. When that happens, I try to look at my priorities and what's making me feel that way, then I cut out what's not necessary. I use to belong to a few online groups and I just had to quit them because I wasn't participating and having so many e-mails got to be overwhelming. Sometimes the blogosphere overwhelms me too. :-)
    Looking forward to your next post!

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  2. I'm certainly guilty of letting the internet (blogging/twittering/facebooking, etc) distract me - and I'm not even ready to market myself! I am in it to connect with other writers and be encouraged on the journey. But you are right...our job is to write...and write well. Thanks for the reminder!

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  3. Yes, I feel the pressure all the time. I find it hard to juggle writing time with blogging time. That is why I cut back to just 3 days a week.

    Thanks for the post.

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  4. Oh man! Great that you bring this to my mind now. I have been GUILTY of letting a day go by and didn't get to write because of blogging and facebooking and the like. I am OVERWHELMED. I have been thinking of cutting back on blogging. Not stopping, but maybe going to two or three days a week. I think you just helped me to make that decision. I am going to go to three days a week. I'd miss everyone if I stopped and reading your posts helps me in my writing. So I need that. Plus the prayers for my son. I need them.

    Thank you Jody. For helping me to finalize in my head what I need to do. I know God sent me here early for a reason. I visited both you and Katie earlier than I usually do. God knew I needed to see both your posts today. Early. Before home-school. While I could pray and think on this with no distractions. =)

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  5. I'm totally with Sherrinda. It's more guilt than anything. I'm a "big" girl and like to take on EVERYTHING... but I don't have the time to. I cut down to blogging 3 days vs 5 days a week, and even that seems like a lot some weeks. It LOOKS like I"m on Facebook a lot, but that's because my twitter status feeds into it, and my hubby likes to log on and play farm-ville under my account, ha!

    I go through spurts. I might have a month where I get a TON done writing wise, and really knock it out of the park. But then I have a month where I'm good to write a 1000 words.

    So for me, I don't think it's as much marketing getting in the way, as it is my own hectic life schedule.

    Jody, can't wait to see your perspectives on what's most important! You bring such awesome insight... THANKS!

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  6. To answer your question...YES! I do. Hubby and I were talking about this very thing. I have such internal conflict about blogging. I both love it and hate it at the same time (great for fictional characters, not so great for me)

    We were talking and trying to figure out what's got me feeling overwhelmed and what to do about it.

    You definitely nailed it on the head though...nothing matters without a great book. That's my primary focus.

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  7. Good morning,
    Today I start back to work fulltime. SO for me, I know something will have to give if I want to write as much as I do now. I'm already trying to plan a schedule that will work for me and still allow me to do as you said--write a good book. I only blog now twice a week and that will continue but I may not get around as much as I do now. I facebook very little and Twitter only once a day or so.
    Good for me, my husband is gone on Sat. and we have agreed to make that day sacred for writing:)

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  8. Once again another amazing post! I would say that I remind myself I am a writer first and foremost. It is up to me to make the time to write, and I enjoy it so I do make sure it is first on my list of priorities. Though sometimes I do find myself overwhelmed, I remember to step back from certain things. Other bloggers understand if I don't write, or if I don't comment on their posts, I have to think of myself and my struggles with writing first!

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  9. Thanks, Jody. Like you, I stood on the sidelines and watched for quite a while, just reading agent blogs. I didn't start my blog until after I'd accepted representation. For me, that writing time w/few distractions, was key, even though I often feel like I am playing catch-up now, climbing a steep learning curve.

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  10. To be fair to blogging, sometimes I get some great ideas for a character or for some unique interplay between characters from blogging. But you're absolutely right. Writers need to write!

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  11. I can't wait to read your answers! I suppose it's all about balance. It doesn't matter how accomplished or struggling a writer we are, each of us gets the same 24 hours a day to work with. No more, no less.

    And we each have a unique tolerance for intrusions and multi-tasking, so we need to be aware of what kind of environment we need to be successful.

    I, for one, can't handle FB and Twitter on top of blogging and have a prayer of getting any writing done. It's too much distraction. Perhaps in the future I'll have to slice my 24 hours differently, but for now I'm at peace with the mix.

    Looking forward to hearing about what you learned from BH.

    Happy writing,
    Kelli

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  12. yes, overwhelmed. I have begun to feel myself stretched far too thin. my writing and relationships and career stuff and kid stuff and marriage stuff.. and the other stuff.. has really been suffering because I just want to retreat behind the veil of anonymous blogging. A little is ok, but I think, for me, it has taken over too much of me. I have to let go and step back in to real life.

    I'm so glad you posted this.

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  13. Just a tad. ;) I recently concluded I enjoy blogging more than twitter (although I'm glad to be on there, but it does eat my time and I protect it viciously). I need to carve time to write (and edit). Blogging is a bonus and all the rest come after if I have time.

    It was just a matter of mental sorting for me.
    ~ Wendy

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  14. Wise words here, Jody. We can literally blog, Facebook and Tweet all day long, but at what cost?

    I think as a fiction writer you've benefited from not needing as much of a platform initially. But for nonfiction writers, platform is an absolute requirement, so I'm sort of juggling the writing and the platform-building at the same time...no easy task.

    How do I keep my writing a priority? By posting on my blog only once a week, tweeting for short periods of time only, and not checking FB as often as my inner social butterfly would like. But mostly, I guard my writing time like the precious gift it is, and I pray, pray, pray.

    Thanks, Jody, for helping us to remember to keep the main thing the main thing. :)

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  15. It can be overwhelming, can't it? At this stage, I'm still experimenting with what to focus on in the long run. I've become a Twitter-addict, only use my Facebook page occasionally, and blog a couple times a week. None of them are very effective for me yet, but with each entry, I feel like I'm getting a little better at it.

    Great blog, Jody. Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

    - Liz

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  16. My own writing is always my priority, so I choose only one social networking right now, blogging. It keeps my online time focused and effective, but as I'm sure you know, it can be very time consuming. So I do schedule regular breaks into my schedule, and that helps to keep things fresh for me.

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  17. We're not authors w/out the books...so this is a great reminder to keep our eye on the purpose of our journey and not get lost in the fun sideline things. Though, I have learned things through blogging that have significantly improved my writing.

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  18. Patrice KavanaughFebruary 08, 2010 9:44 AM

    I try and write FIRST thing in the morning and leave my afternoons free to handle my paying job. This doesn't always work (esp. when my job demands increase) but that is my goal.

    Thanks for writing these posts, Jody, about what goes on at a publishing house...and lifting the "veil" on what seems so mysterious to those of us still on the outside, waiting to be invited in! Patrice

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  19. Doggy paddle back to shore--I love it! I always try to tell myself that I need to spend more time actually writing than any other activity done on the computer. Otherwise, what's the point? Great post :D

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  20. Wonderful advice...and something I need to repeat to myself alot. "Make sure our primary focus always remains on writing great books."

    Thank you.

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  21. I really enjoy reading blogs, being active on Twitter chats (like YAlitchat, for example), and running my own blog, but all of those things can be time wasters if I let them. I try to spread them throughout my day, but then when I sit down to write, I write. Maybe I'll pop over on Twitter if I have a breakthrough to celebrate my success, but then it's right back to writing. There are some things that I think would overwhelm me (like making a book trailer), but I just won't do those things. I stick to what I have fun doing, and connecting with other writers online has honestly helped me become a better writer and learn more about the publishing process.

    You're right, though; if you ever start to think your social networking or online stuff is getting in the way of writing, you need to step back.

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  22. I was and still am completely overwhelmed. I've narrowed down my marketing to blogging, Facebook, and a few online groups I participate in. It's all I can manage and still live my life.
    Karen

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  23. I started the new year by cutting my blog posts from 5 per week to 3 per week, and that may get reduced at another point just so I can focus on what's most important. I've kept up with my writing goals, but I find that my family time gets cut out then...definitely something I don't want to do! Look forward to your other posts this week!

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  24. At times I do think I jumped into the marketing aspect too soon. I'm still learning and writing first draft, ages away from being ready to query.

    What I believe has happened is that blogging has developed my writing habits, tightened my prose, and developed lasting relationships. All the things that make writing enjoyable.
    There are plenty of reasons that I haven't branched out to Twitter and Facebook. I don't want anymore distractions from my writing.

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  25. Good reminder. There are so many things that one could be doing, but I have to agree that writing better has got to be number one.

    Hope you'll join me for how "Cupid Shot Me" day at my bog www.dianeestrella.com :O)

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  26. I'm involved in soc. networking for several reasons - to keep a finger on the publishing biz, to make and maintain contact with other writers, and to get my name out there before I start trying to sell books. That said, I've always felt it's my personal choice rather than something I *have* to do - if I keep myself out there, it will give me a better chance at selling more books someday. If I don't, I'll probably sell less. My choice.

    So I join and explore soc. media sites and figure out how to hook them together as much as possible so I can use them efficiently. If I can't, I move on.

    It's pretty rare though that I use my writing time for any kind of soc. networking (aside from the occasional twitter post to #writegoal & #amwriting). My soc. networking takes place during times I can't or wouldn't write anyway, so there's not really much of a conflict there.

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  27. I feel overwhelmed by all the demands sometimes. But I recently realized that I don't have to do EVERYTHING. In fact, at this point, simply keeping up my blog is enough for me. For that reason, I haven't started using twitter, I don't use Facebook often, and I even try to keep blogging to a comfortable minimum.

    It's always so refreshing to hear that writing the best book possible is the number one priority. I look forward to the rest of the posts on this topic.

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  28. Jody, great post. Yes, it's all quite overwhelming at times. For me I focus on that Audience of One and ask Him which things should grab my time. Setting that daily page or word goal helps with prioritizing.

    Can't wait to read more this week!!!

    Patti

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  29. Donald Maass in his "Writing the Breakout Book" says the best pr for your novels is what is between the pages of your book. One can get drowned!Even with all this craziness, it's the book that counts most in the end!

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  30. When writing needs the time, I take a week off blogging like I did last week in preparation to query. I completely agree that the writing has to come first.

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  31. Yes, yes, a resounding yes! Thanks for your honesty here. It Does get overwhelming; I often feel like I am sinking beneath murky waters. I love the actual blogging -- I think it's making me a better writer in some ways -- but it's the commenting that bogs me down. I feel compelled to respond to all the comments I get (and I don't get many!) -- it's become a complete, maddening addiction! Add in Twittering, and facebooking and trying to publish as a guest blogger or at other online publications...and it makes my head spin.

    I really look forward to reading your additional posts on this topic! I need the advice!

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  32. I have felt overwhelmed before when I think about it, but then I figure it all sort of falls into place as you go. I'm not a big worrier and I think becuase I love writing so much, I even okay if I never get published. So I don't feel panicked and I learn from tips for marketing from various agents, writers, etc. and try to put as much into practice as I can. But eventually, I just figure I can do what I can do and beyond that, it's all just a journey of adventure! :)

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  33. Yes-last week! And then I realized that I had a wrong definition for my dream of writing. Once I defined it, it was much more manageable. Though I can't control all of the demands on me, I can define the specifics and therefore cut down on certain things. It might not be realistic, but it's making me better able to breathe right now.

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  34. I don't always keep my priorities straight, but I'm trying! It does get a little overwhelming sometimes. Right now I'm really trying to focus on writing, but there are times when my writing has taken a backseat to blogging--and I think that's okay, as long as it doesn't happen too often.

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  35. I felt so overwhelmed in the beginning trying to read all the industry blogs, tweet, and write blogs myself to the point when it came time to finally write on my novel I was exhausted. It's information overload in a bad way.

    I had to start canning most of my blog posts. I'd write most during one big marathon a few times a month. Half the time this means I don't write on current topics but oh well. Sanity is nice! School full time leaves me writing on novel for the weekends, and twitter is all I can handle daily...some days I still want to throw my hands up in defeat. Some days.

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  36. Overwhelmed? Confused? Have you been reading my thoughts again, Jody? You always seem to post just what I am needing most. Bless you! :-)

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  37. It can be overwhelming. We have to take time to notice the effect our networking is having on us personally. I think whatever we eventually decide to do will be a compromise between the ideal effort and our need to live satisfying lives and create worthy copy.

    Compromise. It's not such a bad word, once you understand that it's your life boat. :-)

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  38. Yes times like, a million. I constantly feel overwhelmed. Maybe because of the sheer number of blogs I read. For me, I keep my nights from 9 - 11 open for writing only. No blogging. No blog reading. No nothing. Those are my writing hours and I'm determined to make sure I'm working on my own books during that time. Because it is all about the writing.

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  39. My DH swears all this online activity is addictive and I think I agree with him.

    I like Kelli's comment that "we each have a unique tolerance for intrusions and multi-tasking." Writing is the main reason we're here, and it's important that we each preserve the time we need for it. As our writing moves into the realm of a career our focus will have to shift to include the marketing aspect. For most of us, however, I think blogging, Twitter and Facebook, etc., are only for social interaction and support. We may like to rationalize otherwise, but I don't think they really serve a promotional purpose. IMHO the time we spend in this kind of community needs to be metered to ensure we keep an appropriate balance with other more important commitments.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post, Jody. I'm looking forward to the next one.

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  40. Oh, Jody. I'm so thankful you posted about this today. I have spent MOST of my writing career feeling overwhelmed, and I'm sure that's not the Lord's will for me, when Jesus died to give me His peace.

    What it boils down to in my life is this: who am I listening to? Mr. Marketing expert and Miss CEO of largest book publisher, or the Holy Spirit?

    You may laugh, but I pray about whose blog to go on each day. I pray about the chapters in my book, who to hire to edit it, how to manage my time each day, everything.

    When I'm not praying, I'm stressing. If I pray and obey, I keep calm.

    Francine Rivers said, "Don't look at the market. Look to the Lord and He will make you successful." I think she knew what she was talking about.

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  41. Jody, yeah, I do. And because of that I will be changing up my blog a bit during Lent. I will be taking a Twitter break. I will be quieter on Facebook. I am turning off comments to focus on my message and to allow readers a break from feeling they must comment. I am looking forward to seeing what the Holy Spirit will reveal to me in this quieter time. I didn't start a blog to build an audience for my books. I started it to have a place to put my extraneous thoughts about parenting, mainly, as a result of my monthly parenting column gig. I can't imagine stopping it but I do wonder sometimes if I need to pull back a bit. I've really appreciated all your encouragement throughout this process. And on a sidenote: I'm so glad you saw the photo of the football feet. There are times I post things relating to our family of seven and I am thinking in the back of my head, "I hope Jody sees this one." :) I had a feeling you'd be able to relate. Blessings in the rest of your day!

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  42. I'm one of those who has cut back. When I first started blogging, I was writing 5 posts/week. I realized soon it was getting in the way of writing, so I've gone down to three posts and recently down to two as revisions are my priority.

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  43. I really focused on this statement:"Make sure our primary focus always remains on writing great books." Have you noticed that everything we do in life takes more than just the action to do that "thing". Sometimes we forget what the focus needs to be.

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  44. I am so overwhelmed, but trying to take it in stride. I did open a website and a blog, though I'm not actively querying yet because I do other stuff as well.

    I have also found that blogging forces me to mind my grammar and spelling right off the top. I'm also trying (hopefully doing it) to make what I write clear and understandable and a blog is good feedback.

    I know followers are typically supportive, but if someone responds “Huh?” I know I have not met my goal! LOL

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  45. Hi Jody -

    I can't wait for your next post. :)

    While I've worked out a plan for writing blog posts, visiting other blogs takes a lot of time. If I'm not careful, I can bop around for hours.

    I've linked my blog to Facebook, which has taken some of the pressure off posting there. Twitter will have to wait.

    Blessings,
    Susan

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  46. Excellent advice on keeping the focus on the writing.

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  47. Jody, your insight into the publishing industry is incredible. You have such a way with words. You encourage, yet tell it to us straight. I'm already looking forward to your next post.

    Your career is definitely hitting exciting milestones! Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  48. Looking forward to seeing what you have to say in answer to these questions. Of late, I have felt more overwhelmed with trying to keep up with everything. I'm working to prioritize...
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  49. Jody,
    This post couldn't have come at a better time. I'm so grateful to you and am looking forward to your next post.

    I have a publisher interested in my book which is great. It's nonfiction and so platform is very important. The book isn't even finished, but I've had 2 conversations about marketing already, and she wants to talk to me Thursday again about what I can do marketing-wise.

    I started to blog just as a means to improve my writing and hopefully bless someone in the process. I do agree that commenting and responding to comments can be a huge time-suck so I must be proactive to keep it in check. I'm on fb, but rarely check it and am not on twitter yet.

    But there's more to marketing than social media. I feel the need to have more speaking engagements, and to increase that ministry is overwhelming to me. Yesterday, I asked a friend who agreed to help me with publicity.

    I know I should also write articles, but I just can't take writing time away from my manuscript.

    I am really looking forward to your next posts about this. Thanks so much for your willingness to share your experiences.

    Blessings,
    Susan

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  50. I've stumbled upon your blog and I'm really enjoying it! I'm just beginning to dip my feet in the world of writing and I've already learned so much by reading a few of your posts!

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  51. Hello Jody. Yes, I'm sinking. Fast. I'm editing till my fingers bleed, and I don't see and respite until March at least. I'm thinking of putting together a proposal very slowly and I think the marketing portion will be nothing short of a clever trick. I need to give honest report of how I will be marketing my work and really I don't have that much ammunition. Send prayers my way if you can think of it! I'm sending them your way for sure. =)

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  52. It certainly is overwhelming with advice. I've found many blogs and website offering good advice only to find even more elsewhere, and then my head hurts!

    Great to have found you via Twitter.
    CJ xx

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  53. My favorite contradictory statement is when one agent says something about the design of a blog which contradicts another agent. I began twittering last summer. It is with a sigh of surrender that I twitter. At first, I was going crazy and then, I realized I wasn't making time for writing with all the work to market myself. So now I market at work or on the weekday nights, but the weekends are for writing. It seems to work.

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  54. You're singing my song today, Jody. Overwhelmed at times. Afraid my first novel won't make it out of the gate. And as a debut novelist, I DO want to hold up my end in reverence for God's favor in my life and gratitude to my publisher for taking a chance on me (reference to your post yesterday).

    And oddly enough, I read about your post on Twitter when I really need to be editing my second manuscript. See you later!

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  55. I often feel both overwhelmed and confused. It's so helpful to hear (again) that I can't go wrong by focusing on my writing. I find that taking classes helps me keep my writing front and center on the priority list.

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  56. Jody,
    Fabulous advice. The best thing we can do to help our marketing is to continue to write well. Think of the successful writers before the age of FB and blogging. How did they get word out? I'm sure they did some city by city tours, some of them. But most of them just continued to write well. Good post.

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  57. I have an award for you at my blog today, Jody! :-)

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