Writing Seminars and Why I Hate Them

We have all been invited to attend a writing seminar in some form or another. The glitzy brochure in the mailbox offers “secret” advice from Author experts, or “exclusive” consultation with an “award-winning author”, etc. Meanwhile, a quick Google search will reveal that these so-called experts have barely sold 1,000 copies of their self-help book, with no real experience to offer the attendees of their overly expensive conference in a cheap hotel.

So why do people shell out hundreds of dollars for this obvious con? Simply because they aren’t willing to do the hard work themselves. It’s much easier to have an “expert” stand on a stage and give you a step-by-step process to becoming a successful author, even if they’re sharing the most obvious of advice. But because you paid $125 for this ticket, you believe that it is exclusive.

False.

I’m not saying that every single writing seminar is a fraud, but what I am saying is that all the information you need is readily available for FREE. I hate Writing Seminar’s because they are a way for little known author’s to con desperate writers into giving them money in exchange for “wisdom”. I’ve been to several such seminars, and they all repeat the same basic information. But if a $150 seminar is what it takes to get you on your feet, then more power to you. In the meantime, here’s a few articles I’ve found extremely helpful on my journey to the Editor’s desk:

Ten ways to become a Successful Writer:

http://www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/16077/writing/ten_ways_to_become_a_successful_writer.html

Be a Happy and Successful Author:

http://www.squidoo.com/happyandsuccessfulauthor

15 Practical Author Tips:

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/a-guide-to-becoming-a-better-writer-15-practical-tips.html

Become an Author: http://www.ehow.com/how_2308324_become-author.html

Finding a Literary Agent: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-find-a-literary-agent/

There are many, many such articles with wonderful tips on becoming a best-selling author, writer, journalist, etc. The point is, avoid writing seminars at all costs. Save your money, put your research skills to work, and educate yourself on the world of literature.

Creating your own Book Cover Art

If you’re the kind of person who likes doing everything yourself, then you’ve probably already turned down all of the art concepts that your publisher has sent you. They more than likely just weren’t quite what you’ve envisioned gracing the cover of your novel. Lucky for you, there are free programs and software tools at your disposal to help you create the perfect cover, and you don’t have to take a single computer course to learn how to use them.

The program I use is a free design software called G.I.M.P(www.gimp.org). This is basically free Photoshop, with a similar interface, usability, tools, brushes, etc. It’s easy to pick up, and there are many tutorials available to help you learn the basics to get started. My favorite instructionals came from Youtube, and a quick Google search will bring up hundreds of others. There are guides on how to make planets, houses, people, animals, etc. Nearly every sort of artistic scenario you can think of has a tutorial associated with it.

The learning curve for using G.I.M.P is relatively small, and within a week, if you keep a steady schedule of practicing and watching tutorials, you’ll be able to start working on your first cover. If you have an artistic background, you can shorten this time nearly in half. My suggestion, for beginners, is to start small. Create something similar to a tutorial you’ve watched, but not so similar that people liken your image to the original. Embellish it, and let that be your first picture. Then, using your new found knowledge of how to create a picture with G.I.M.P, work on your first original design.

Make sure you use a template that’s big enough to shrink if needed, but not so small that it shows up pixelated when you turn it into a cover. 1600 x 1200, and 1024 x 768 are great templates for a cover image. You can turn it into a poster to sell at Book Signings, use it on your website, create a desktop background, and more.

Sometimes a simple picture tells more about your story than a complex design ever could. Think about starting with a basic one-color background, and then use the text tool to make an extravagant book title. If the font you’re looking for didn’t come installed with the program, you can always Google search free font downloads, and find the one you want.

Be careful not to make a cover with too much going on. It will distract from your title, and sometimes turn people off from your book. Try and get as much feedback on your picture as you can before sending it to the publisher for review. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc. A great website for showing your art and receiving feedback is Deviant Art (www.deviantart.com). You can create a profile and upload your photo’s instantly, and by commenting on other pictures on the site you can draw attention to your own.

Before I made my own cover, I contacted various artists and companies to see about having them create a cover for me. But what I found was that most will charge in between $200-$500 just for one picture. It was then that I realized I could make my own cover for FREE, I just needed a little patience. So I did my research, and the advice I’ve provided above is everything I followed while saving money and creating a photo that I felt was perfect for my book.

If you have the money, but don’t have the time to make your own photo, then check out 99 Designs (www.99designs.com). You can set the amount of money you’re willing to pay for a picture, and then designers will bid on your project and upload pictures for you to choose from. Whichever picture you like the best “wins” the contract, and just like that you’ve got a picture you enjoy, for the price you’ve set.

How to plan a Book Tour

For authors, a Book Tour is something we have only dreamed about. Going from bookstore to bookstore, travelling across the country or state with a pile of freshly printed novels in tow, and sending our creation out into the world. But not everyone has the luxury of their publishing company setting up the Tour for them. For many, the mere thought of planning such a Tour by themselves causes a headache, as they groan at the thought of spending money they don’t have, contacting people they don’t know, and wondering if it’s all even worth it. I hope to dispel these rumors with this post.

As I write this, I am hours away from a scheduled Book Signing on my first Book Tour. I organized it myself, contacted the stores I needed to, and set the dates I wanted. It wasn’t easy, nor was it completed on one day. I was met with rejection, and most stores required that I send them a copy of my book before they’d even hold another second of conversation with me. This was difficult, because at the time of the Tour planning, my book was still a few weeks away from being available for purchase.

I’ve learned a lot about organizing, and the following tips are some of the tactics I feel have been the most helpful along the way.

Tip #1: Start with the stores closest to you. Don’t look out of state right away; try and keep it close to home and then expand from there. The reason is, it’s more cost-effective, plus you’ll receive a better showing from people who know you, rather than a store several hours away in a city you’ve never heard of.

Tip #2: Before you call any stores, write a quick dialogue to use as notes during the conversation. Think up a nice intro(ex. “Hello, my name is _______, I’m an author, and I’m interested in setting up a Book Signing at your store.”) Keep it simple and professional. Have your book with you to use as a reference in case they ask for the ISBN number, back cover text, etc.

Tip #3: If your book isn’t available yet, offer to send the store a PDF copy of your manuscript. You should have this, since you wrote the book. If for some reason you do not, ask your publishing company to email it to you. Most stores will accept this, and be sure to attach the file of the book’s cover photo, if you can.

Tip #4: Don’t just look for stores to visit; contact Universities, Library’s, and other places relevant to your book’s topic.

Tip #5: Once your Tour is completely scheduled, send promotional material(posters, bookmarks, stickers, etc) at least 2-3 weeks before your signing. Advertise on the local radio station, newspaper, Library, etc. If haven’t done so already, create a Facebook page for your book, and promote yourself on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, etc. The more ways you can spread the word, the more efficient your ad campaign will be.

Have fun with this, and don’t stress yourself out. Always schedule your Tour 2-3 months from the moment you begin contacting stores. This will give them time to prepare and find an open day for you to visit. Plan for a weekend signing, and ask the store what hours they receive the most traffic, and schedule the signing during that time frame.

For new authors, don’t forget to check out my posts for beginning writers, and follow this blog for more tips and advice!