How to Handle Criticism of your Writing

criticism

Up until a few years ago, I always struggled with the criticism I’d receive about my writing. Whether it was my editor pointing out grammatical or content errors or it was a bad book review panning the writing, or something else, I wouldn’t always handle it gracefully. I think most, if not all writers, go through similar struggles. Our writing is our creative expression, are intellectual children and we feel protective of it, see it as something special…and it is, but nonetheless it’s also something which can always be improved on. Additionally how we handle criticism is important, because the professional connections we have will remember if the author has acted like a prima donna or has handled the criticism in a professional manner.

Recently a professional acquaintance shared a story with me about an author who’d gotten some bad reviews of her books and had blamed everyone else but herself for the quality of writing. This person was unwilling to examine her own writing or the criticism she received in an objective manner. Instead she took the criticism personally. As a result she wasn’t actively working on improving her writing and when another opportunity came for her to feature her writing elsewhere, other people remembered her behavior and didn’t want to offer her that chance because it was clear that her writing and her attitude still hadn’t improved.

Now ideally we all want constructive criticism, which points out what could be improved and offers some suggestions to that effective. However, as writers we necessarily need to accept we won’t always get constructive criticism. And when we don’t get constructive criticism, we need to have a thick skin and more importantly be able to look at the criticism and determine if anything of value can be gotten from it that can help us improve our writing. It’s not easy to do, but what I’ve found is helpful is reminding myself that what’s most important to me is improving the quality of my writing…so when I receive negative criticism, I look at it with that lens and determine if there is any valuable insights. If so, I’ll take them and use them and if not, I’ll move on, because there’s little point in dwelling on the issues that other people have with your writing.

As a writer you need to accept that not everyone will like your writing, nor does everyone need to. As long as you can accept that, you will be able to handle whatever criticism comes your way. Remember as well that most criticism isn’t personal and when it is, it has less to do with you and much more to do with whatever reaction your writing brought up for the person reading it.

The Problem with Facebook Marketing

Facebook fail

The other day my friend  Shauna told me a discovery, which highlights how Facebook is becoming more antagonistic to small businesses, creatives etc., and also less useful. She’d been promoting a concert and workshop for Sharon Knight on Facebook and had created a Facebook event page and invited people to it. She shared it on her personal page as well as on other pages, but what she discovered is that most of her friends didn’t even see the event share in their newsfeed. The only way they saw it is if they visited her personal page directly. Then she told me how she hadn’t seen a Facebook event share I did until she visited my personal page. Further discussion revealed that if the words buy or show or something else sales related are used in an update, its much less likely that people will see the update.

If you are someone who has a Facebook business page, you already know that the business page is next to useless. You can have lots of likes, but only have a post get through to a small percentage of those likes. The reason that happens is because Facebook is trying to get you to pay money to boost the post. However even paying money to boost the post doesn’t guarantee you’ll reach a significant amount of other people you weren’t reaching before. With the changes to event sharing, Facebook is again trying to get you to pay money to get your post in front of the eyes of people. So what can you do?

I tried an experiment where I wrote about an event and posted it and then posted a comment with the link to event. Apparently more people did see that post, because the link wasn’t in the original post. That could be something to try as a way to get around Facebook metrics. However, I also think its fair to say that Facebook is becoming less and less useful for marketing purposes, and whether you’re an author, musician, artist, or small business, the reality is that every dollar needs to count in a big way if you’re going to make the most of it. Facebook marketing isn’t what its cracked up to be, so while you can do it, I recommend exploring alternate approaches as well, depending on whatever event you are trying to do. I’ve found that flyers, if used correctly, can actually do a lot to generate interest in an event, but some of that involves conversations with whoever is hosting your event.

How to work with Bookstores to Market Events Part 2

bookstore

In my previous post on working with bookstores, I shared some tips for how to work with a bookstore that can make an event successful. Since the I’ve been thinking of some other ways to help this process along. Both the author and the bookstore want the event to be successful, but in order for that to occur, there needs to be specific communication that occurs, as well as proper strategizing and implementation of marketing to make sure the event is successful. These additional tips can help you and the bookstore put together a mutually successful event.

1. Create a written contract that spells out the responsibilities of the bookstore and author. Both the bookstore and author and have certain responsibilities that need to be spelled out. Each plays a role in making the event successful, but if neither party is clear on what the expectations are, then mis-communication can occur and the event may not be as successful as a result. It’s crucial that the author develops a contract that explains what s/he will do and also details the expectations s/he has of the store. Both the author and bookstore need to sign off on the contract before anything else occurs, so that way each party knows what is expected of them. Bookstore Author Agreement.

2. Marketing calls need to occur regularly to make the event successful. Ideally you and the bookstore owners are talking once a month, up to three months in advance, strategizing over what needs to be done and checking in with each other about pre-registrations and other relevant details. The final month, you actually have a chat on the phone two weeks and one week before the event. These conversations don’t have to be long, but they do need to happen in order for everyone to be on the same page, and to make sure that if anything needs to change, it can be changed while there is still time. This also helps you and the store owners make sure that they have what they need in terms of books, flyers, etc well ahead of the actual event.

3. Double check the dates of your event to make sure you aren’t competing against other events. The bookstore owners should either know if there will be a conflict with the date OR they should know someone they can point you to who can tell you if your event might compete against another event. While it’s inevitably true that not everyone will come to your event, you increase your chances of getting people into the event when your date is scheduled if you aren’t competing against other events that locals might feel obligated to go to.

These additional tips can make a difference for your event and help both you and the book store be successful.

Ten Years of Non-Fiction at Immanion Press

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Ten years ago, give or take a month, my book Pop Culture Magick was published by Immanion Press. That was the start of the non-fiction lineup, which eventually became the Megalithica book imprint for Immanion Press. When I first wrote Pop Culture Magick, I shopped it around to the big Pagan and Occult publishers. None of them wanted the book. I was told it had no market appeal, and that the topic was considered too controversial (Ironically enough now the topic of pop culture magic is quite popular and one of those bigger publishers has published books along that theme of thought). So I took the book to Storm Constantine, who had started Immanion Press up in the next year and asked her what she thought I should do. She looked the book over and told me I should publish it with Immanion Press. While it was true that they were publishing Fantasy and Horror, she thought the book should be published and she felt Immanion Press would be a good home for it. To this day, I’m grateful to her, because she not only helped me get my first also book published, she also got me involved in the world of publishing.

A few months later, Nick Farrell asked me if Immanion would publish his book Gathering the Magic, which was about group dynamics and leadership in magical orders. Although he had books published by bigger publishers, none of them wanted that book. I passed his book onto Storm and she OKed it, but afterwards she asked me if I would like to actually head up the non-fiction line. She realized that it could grow and that people already knew me. I agreed and became the managing non-fiction editor. Shortly after we published Nick’s book, Lupa gave us her first book Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic. Later on we published Tony Mierzwicki’s Graeco-Egyptian Magick. Years later, he would tell me that he’d shopped the book everywhere and gotten tons of rejections and had just about been ready to give up, when he came across us and sent it out one last time. We accepted his book and later on that helped him open some doors with larger publishers. Since then we’ve published over 3 dozen non-fiction books on esoteric topics that are for intermediate to advanced practitioners and cover specific niches or focus on social justice issues in Paganism, and we’ve got more books on the way!

When I think back to ten years ago, I remember how excited I was to open the first box that contained copies of Pop Culture Magick. Here at last, in manifest form, was the book I’d written, ready to be shared with other people. I still feel that way every time a box of books, and not just my own books, but the books of the authors who’ve chosen to publish with us. To know that Immanion can be part of the process for the writer is a humbling experience. I feel blessed to be able to participate in the writing and publishing of the books sent to us by the authors we work with.

Happy anniversary to the non-fiction line! It’s been quite a ride up to this point and I look forward to continue that ride for many, many years to come!

How to write good workshop copy

Workshop

Whether you’re putting workshops on at a bookstore, or presenting at a convention, its important to write good workshop copy that will grab your potential audience and get them to consider attending your presentation. In the case of conventions, you also need to write good copy that will get the programming team to consider your workshop. On top of all that your copy needs to be concise and focused. The following tips can help you write good workshop copy.

1. Write at least five potential titles for your workshop. The reason you want at least 5 possible titles has to do with the fact that you want to make sure the title is catchy. A non-descriptive title will not grab people in the same way a descriptive one will and before people will even read the copy, they’ll look at the title and if it doesn’t grab them they won’t look at what else you wrote about the workshop. So come up with at least five titles, if not more, and then test them out on friends. See which title grads your friends the most. For example, one of the titles for my one of my workshops was Space/Time Magic. It’s an okay title that does kind of intrigue because of the topic, but when I changed it to Weaving the Web of Space and Time, that grabbed people a lot more because of the imagery associated with the title. People want words to paint them a picture.

2. Write a headline for your workshop. A headline is a concise statement that sums up what your workshop is about. The headline describes what the workshop is about, and what you will get as a result from taking the workshop. Here is the headline for weaving the web: “Space and Time create a web that weaves our lives into the intersection of reality and possibility. When you learn to weave your web of space and time, you learn how to manifest your chosen possibilities into reality and manifest the life you want to live.” As you can see the headline describes the gist of the class.

3. Write other salient details, such as what people will learn. By helping readers understand what they will learn you set up specific expectations about what the class will deliver. If you are writing a workshop for a program, you’ll need to keep this short and sweet, so I suggest writing one or two additional sentences that describes what people will learn in the class. For weaving the web, I use the following short description: “In weaving the web, you will learn how to work with Space and Time as distinct principles of magic that can be applied to your life and spiritual practices. You will also learn how to integrate memory, imagination, stillness, and movement into your space/time magical workings, in order to manifest specific possibilities when and where you want them to manifest.” This short description describes what people will get out of the class and helps them understand why they might want to take it.

4. Bullet points are your friend. When you are writing a workshop description for your website or for a bookstore, you can usually use bullet points, so go ahead and use them. They allow you to make concise statements about the class and help those statements stand out instead of being lost in a sea of words. Bullet points help you make specific points to grab the interest of people who might want to take your class. Look below for an example from Weaving the Web:

  • What the web of space and time is and how it can be integrated into magical and spiritual practices.
  • How to apply imagination and memory to your magical workings and spiritual path.
  • How to use movement and stillness in your space/time magical workings. What the practical space/time magic techniques are and how they can be used to manifest possibilities into reality.
  • How to use meditation to connect with parallel versions of yourself.
  • Who the inner contacts and spirits are that you can connect with to do further work with space/time magic.

As you can see the bullet points make it easy for people to discover what else they will learn in the class.

You don’t want to write long and complicated workshop descriptions. What you want to write is a snapshot of information that helps people understand why they might want to take your class. Give these tips a try the next time you put together a workshop for a convention or bookstore.

How to work with Bookstores to Market Events

bookstore

You’ve found a bookstore that will host your workshops. It’s pretty exciting, but now comes the tough part of marketing the event, plus doing due diligence on your part to make sure that both you and the store are successful. Both you and the bookstore owner need to be on the same page if your event is going to be successful and this isn’t always as easy as you’d think. The following tips can help you work with a bookstore to market your event as well as handle all the other due diligence issues that need to be raised.

1. Agree on the price, date, & workshops. Ideally you should contact a shop no later than 2 months out from the proposed date (I’d recommend 6 months so you can plan your marketing campaign accordingly). Figure out a date, time, and workshops you’ll be offering as well as what the price should be. Typically shops will make an arrangement of 70-30% split with you receiving 70 and them receiving 30. Email them your workshop description.

Now this is where a lot of authors and bookstores stop. The date has been set, the price set, and the workshops figured out and sent for the shop to put on their website…however there’s a lot more which needs to be done if you want a successful event, and both the author and bookstore need to do some work if your event is going to be successful.

2. Make sure the bookstore is going to order your books for the event. There’s nothing worse than showing up to a bookstore, with no books for your event, because the bookstore didn’t order any. Make sure the owner knows which books need to be ordered, as well as providing them the contact information for your publisher or distributor. Don’t assume that they have this information. Send them an email with suggested books they can order for the event, as well as the necessary contact information to order the books.

3. Get your marketing materials together. It’s not enough to write-up a workshop description and post it on your website and on the bookstore’s website. You need to market your event using multiple marketing channels that will help you raise awareness and interest in the event. The bookstore needs to also help with this effort, since they, like you, should have an existing audience. So what should be done:

  • Promote the event through your e-newsletter and make sure the shop is doing it as well.
  • Set up a Google Plus and Facebook Event for your workshop. Don’t use just Google Plus or Facebook…use both because different people prefer different platforms.
  • Make sure the store has a Google Plus Community and a Facebook Group for their shop. Don’t post to their business page, because the reach is poor. Having a Facebook group and Google Plus community on the other hand can be very effective reaching out to the community that goes to the store. Make sure you aren’t just promoting your event. Make sure you also are posting excerpts from your blog, which allows you to share content with people and build a relationship (To learn more, go here). Interacting with people ahead of time will generate interest in you and your workshops, especially if people don’t already know who you are.
  • Get physical flyers made up and emailed to the store so the store can have them on site for people who are come into the store. Need help developing a flyer? I recommend Shauna Aura Knight‘s services. Also if you are doing other events in the area ahead of time, take flyers with you to give to people attending the event.
  • Schedule a call with the shop owner to discuss what each of you can do to market the event and also to check in ahead of time to make sure people are signing up for the event.

4. Launch your marketing campaign. Once all the pieces are in place, launch your event. This means you post your newsletter, post on your social media, have flyers on hand, and otherwise talk up the event when its relevant to do so. The bookstore should also be posting about your event and telling their customers about it when they stop in the store.

Doing all of these activities will help you make the event successful by getting people into seats. However, it is important to get the bookstore on board and doing marketing as well. Some owners and employees will be easier to work with than others, but be persistent and if necessary be willing to provide some ideas on how they can market the event.