The Practice of Creativity

Archive for the ‘creative writing’ Category

I’m thrilled that author and friend, Jessica Yinka Thomas has stopped by to share her recent, and super successful, crowdfunding experience for her forthcoming thriller, How Not to Make Friends, a sequel to How Not to Save the World. Crowdfunding is often an overlooked and underappreciated opportunity for authors to raise their profile, engage with an audience and raise money for their passion projects. I’m inspired by what Jessica has accomplished and excited to learn from her!

 Crowdfunding To Launch Your Next Novel

 “I will publish my second novel by the end of 2018.” That’s the goal I set for myself back in April of this year. I began thinking about the best way to raise funds to self-publish How Not to Make Friends and to publicize the book. After consulting with numerous friends, including fellow authors and entrepreneurs, I came to the conclusion that the two goals could be combined through a crowdfunding campaign. Running an effective crowdfunding campaign is a lot of work with many pitfalls along the way. But, I found it to be a very effective strategy to raise $8,000 in 30 days while strengthening my fan base.

My initial goal was $5,000, enough to break even, covering the costs of the campaign, professional editing, cover design and the initial print run. I was very fortunate to raise that goal several times over the course of the campaign. I think a huge part of my success was having an existing fan base and incredibly strong support network based on the success of my first novel. Knowing that I would be primarily speaking to existing fans and friends made it a lot easier to reach out and ask for support. If you’re considering putting together a crowdfunding campaign to launch your next book, here’s what I learned from the process.

Build your network

The platform that I used, iFundWomen, estimates that about 2% of your potential backers will actually make a contribution. When I combined my personal contacts who might be interested in the novel (500), the mailing list I built from publishing my first novel (800), personal social media contacts on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn (4300), social media contacts through my novel Facebook page (1000), I had about 6600 potential backers. The estimate of 132 backers was pretty accurate, particularly considering the overlap in the various contacts. Every last one of the 103 contributors to my campaign were friends, fans or friends of friends.

 

Don’t depend on the kindness of strangers. In my experience, very few, if any of your contributions are likely to come from strangers who are browsing the crowdfunding campaign platform that you select. Before getting started, make sure you’ve built a strong network of friends and fans on social media, through your blog or website and in your email distribution list. Give your network a heads up that you are planning to launch a campaign before it kicks off to begin to generate some excitement.

Select the right platform

Picking the right platform to launch your campaign is critical. Kickstarter is the largest crowdfunding network out there but it has an all or nothing model. If you don’t raise your goal amount in the time frame you’ve set, all the funds are returned to the contributors. Kickstarter charges a 5 percent fee on projects that reach their goal. Indiegogo, one of the larger platforms gives you the option of all or nothing model or a flexible goal. Keep in mind that if you reach your goal, Indiegogo takes a 4 percent cut; if you don’t, the fee jumps to 9 percent. Most sites charge a credit card processing fee that’s around 3 percent.

I decided to go with iFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform for women led startups and small businesses. iFundWomen provides a supportive platform with a rich set of free resources from expert coaching to in-depth campaign management tools. Not only can you make your goal flexible, but they have excellent customer service where you can change the closing date or even the goal amount of your campaign with a quick email. Every month the platform reinvests 20 percent of their standard fees back into live campaigns. I was fortunate to be one of a handful of campaigns to receive funding from the platform back in September. iFundWomen charges a 5 percent fee.

Pick engaging rewards

For a novel crowdfunding campaign, there is a pretty compelling reward, the actual book, once it’s published. I offered several different versions of my new novel at different price points: $10 for an EPUB version of the book, $25 for personalized autographed copies, and $50 for personalized autographed copies of my first and second novel. I was pleasantly surprised that the most popular reward was at the $100 level, an opportunity to be listed in the acknowledgement of the book along with autographed copies of both novels. I used the themes of friendship and international exploration from my novel, naming the reward levels after translations of the word “friend” in different languages represented in the novel.

 

 

One of the rewards was a book club bundle, 8 autographed copies for a $250. I was surprised that no one selected that reward, but later realized that it would be tough for a supporter to get their book club to agree to read the book during the brief campaign period.

The reward that I was most excited to try out was the opportunity to name a character in the novel. I was thrilled that 5 people select this option at the $500 level.

Market the heck out of your campaign

The crowdfunding campaign is your opportunity to tell your writing story. It’s an opportunity to share what motivates you to write and what you hope your readers take away from your novel as a way to engage and inspire your network. Once you’ve got your campaign in place, it’s helpful to send it out to a few close friends, both to get feedback and also to secure a few key initial donors. You want to demonstrate some initial momentum when you first share the campaign with your broader network.

After that, the challenge is finding creative ways to regularly reach out to your network via email, social media, text and yes, even phone calls, during the campaign period. iFundWomen has a comprehensive tool that is an end-to-end campaign planner from putting together your pitch, to mapping your network map, to laying out your campaign goals, to planning each week of the campaign. iFundWomen’s coaches playbook was essentially my business plan for the campaign.

Don’t’ discount the importance of the video as part of your campaign. I resisted putting together a video for several weeks, thinking it would be too much work and wondering who would watch it anyway. I spoke with several friends who had completed successful campaigns along with the coach from iFundWomen who stressed the importance of the video. Some people prefer to watch a brief 2 to 3 minute video, others will scroll through your campaign text. It doesn’t have to be complicated. I worked with a fantastic local videographer through Iron Worx Media, to pull together a series of photos capturing my writing journey, overlaid with an audio recording. I got some great feedback on the video during the campaign and now it lives on my author website.

Follow through

The campaign turned out to be a very effective commitment device. I had 103 people expecting to receive copies of my novel before the end of the year! The campaign also provided me with the funds to move forward with two rounds of professional editing to polish up my novel. I had the opportunity to work with The Book Smugglers on development editing and with Lystra Literary Services on content editing. I was able to work with the very talented Jen Rhoton on the cover design. And I’ve now published the novel on lulu.com, my favorite print-on-demand publishing company.

The result was a beautiful product I have now been able to share with all of my crowdfunding campaign supporters. Last weekend, I autographed almost 200 copies of my first and second novel, over a long weekend, in the middle of a snow storm. I’ve started to see posts on social media from delighted fans and friends who have now received their long-awaited rewards. I can’t wait to hear what they think!

Jessica Yinka Thomas

Like many superheroes Jessica Yinka Thomas leads a double life. By day, she teaches social innovation and sustainable business at the Poole College of Management at NC State University. By night, she is a social justice novelist, author of the How Not to Save the World series. Jessica’s writing highlights her twin passions for technological innovation and for creating significant social change through entrepreneurial ventures.

Jessica’s iFundWomen campaign: https://ifundwomen.com/projects/how-not-to-make-friends

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessicayinkathomas/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jyinkathomas/

Website: www.jessicayinkathomas.com

 

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Got a speculative fiction lover on your holiday list? Consider this new anthology by Book Smugglers with my story in it!

Look at this awesome cover!!!

I was so exited to receive my complimentary copy of the NEW Awakenings Anthology from Book Smugglers. The six stories span the gamut of fantasy and science fiction and many have a young adult theme.

Last year, Book Smugglers solicited short stories about ‘awakenings’ of all types in the speculative fiction genre. I submitted my manuscript “Nussia…I Said Her Name Like Mine” to them on Dec 31, 2017 and found out in January that my story was chosen for publication.

Nussia debuted in July.

Here’s a description of the collected stories: An unlikely volunteer in a magical war. A young African American girl who “wins” a competition to host an extraterrestrial. A girl with ice in her heart, and another with an ancestor on her back. A cybernetic detective, and an Empress facing the first Choice of her life. Awakenings collects six short stories of different revelations, including:

  • “When the Letter Comes” by Sara Fox
  • “Nussia” by Michele Tracy Berger
  • “The Girl With The Frozen Heart” by Y.M. Pang
  • “Running” by Itoro Udofia
  • “Phantom Limb” by Reiko Scott
  • “Timshala” by Leah Cypess

I’m so honored to be with this group of writers and I’m loving everything I’m reading. Additional perks of the anthology include a brief ‘Inspirations and Influences’ essay and an author Q&A that follow each story.

(*click on small cover image above to purchase paperback)

*E-book: Awakenings

*links are to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

A few weeks ago, I was a guest on the wonderful podcast Black and Read, hosted by Terry Brown. Each week Terry and his guest discuss a work of literature from the unique perspective of a person of color. I talked about my journey to publication, finding your writing mojo, finding a creative process (and sticking with it), and the state of speculative fiction. Plus, I did some old school reminiscing about how Star Wars, and the T.V. shows The Bionic Woman and Lost in Space (the original) shaped my early love of sci-fi. Terry was a great interviewer and the conversation flowed easily. I loved being on the show.

The episode was released this week and you can hear it here.

I’ve appeared on radio and television before, but I am relatively new to appearing as a guest on a podcast. Being featured on a podcast is a fantastic way that authors and creators can share insight into their work. I’m also a huge fan of podcasts, especially those devoted to writing. If a guest is compelling, I’ll look up their work and consider purchasing it.

In thinking about what makes a guest compelling and reviewing own recent performance, I have complied these tips:

-Come Prepared

This sounds obvious, I know. But I can’t tell you the countless times that I’ve listened to a podcast and it’s clear that the guest has never listened to the show and doesn’t know the format. Being prepared means a few things: listening to several episodes prior to appearing on the show and understanding the format of the show (i.e. does the host ask different questions each time or is there a familiar script? Are there special segments to the show?). Also, your preparation should include having your elevator pitch about your creative work ready to go along with some compelling vignettes that reveal your process as a writer, approach to storytelling, etc.

-Give Us the Energy!

You don’t always have control over when you will be interviewed. It may be scheduled during a time of day that’s not your ideal in terms of peak energy. So, if you know you are not a morning person and you are to appear at 8am, then by all means make sure you are well-rested, caffeinated and ready to sound your best. We need you to sound engaged, excited to be there and eager to connect with the host and listeners.

-Know Your Verbal Tics and Work On Them

In listening back to the podcast I used several verbal tics including, “I would say” and “I think”. Everyone has verbal tics, but we should try to minimize them during an interview. Role play with yourself and imagine the kinds of questions you might be asked. Record yourself and notice how you ad lib and may use verbal fillers, like “um”.

-Create an Ideal Environment

You want a quiet environment during the time that you are being recorded. This might mean putting the dogs or cats in another room with treats so that they don’t bother you, working out a schedule with roommates, a significant other, children, etc.

-Tell Us Where To Find You

If listeners get curious about your work, they are going to take a peek at your website and social media. Speak clearly and slowly when telling us where to find you online. I did just that but, I didn’t tell people how to spell my name, so they may find Michelle Burger instead of me. Luckily, in the show notes, the title and cover of my book (which has a funky spelling, so can be hard to find) is listed.

Do you have other tips about being a guest on a podcast? I’d love to hear!

 

Happy holiday weekend! It’s that time of year where our thoughts turn to gift-giving. Looking for ideas for voracious readers on your list? Looking for diverse authors? Looking for something for yourself? Check out poet Li Yun Alvarado’s holiday list–it’s got a GREAT list of recommendations and I’m honored to be on it! This list has something for everyone, including recommendations for poetry, memoir, literary and genre fiction. Li Yun and I were buddies at the AROHO residency in 2015. She inspires me in so many ways–as a writer and creative entrepreneur.

https://www.liyunalvarado.com/blog/2018-books?fbclid=IwAR3VH7o0gTQggBK_KJo7wtjPkBx5juyumQwpKPbmHK2Jq97cZ6d51MN-19w

In my recent newsletter, I wrote about how fun it has been to break some WRITING RULES during the month of November. You might want to consider breaking some writing rules, too.

I’ve been taking inspiration from Durham author and podcaster Mur Lafftery. She is creator of the delightful podcast called I Should Be Writing.

Like many folks, I am working on a NaNoWriMo project and juggling other writing projects, work and life. Also, like many folks, I recognize that we’re moving into a time of the year where it can be harder to get creative work done due to holiday travel, holiday plans, increased expectations about spending time with family and/or friends, etc.

I won NaNoWriMo in 2014, but I used an outline and prepared for months. This year, I don’t have an outline, so I’m “pantsing it” and to boot my NaNoWriMo project is an urban fantasy novel co-written with my sister. Complicated!

Mur typically does a special NaNoWriMo series on her podcast. This year, she’s been posting daily using the metaphor of The Purge (which was a series of horror movies). The NaNoWriMo Purge suspends and breaks “all writing laws/rules” in service of getting more writing done.

These movies look scary!

Hearing her encouragement on breaking writing rules has been a lot of FUN and given me PERMISSION to try new things. A writing rules purge every once and awhile is probably good for us. It builds a sense of excitement and rebelliousness when we come to the page.

So, here are some writing rules to consider breaking—just for the month of November, because well, you know how this month goes. You might be doing NaNoWriMo and trying to get more words written or you just might want to get writing again. Anyway, without a bit of fortitude it’s cold turkey sandwiches, sticky leftover cranberry sauce, the last slice of pumpkin pie, a retail headache and a lot of regret by November 30th.

Writing Rules to Break in November according to Mur (with my interpretation)

Write every day. Nope! Now usually this is a good rule to have because it helps with our consistency. Well, as Mur notes, a major American holiday intervenes in the midst of November which usually includes lots of cooking, eating and retail adventures. You can break this law! Instead think about what writing might realistically fit in your schedule. Plan to be interrupted. Find time to steal. Maybe you will write in the car (assuming you aren’t driving) on the way to Thanksgiving dinner. If you are used to doing a specific word count, consider what it would take to write just a little bit more when you can—so plan to make your word count up over six days, knowing that you will probably not be able to write during the holiday weekend.

Don’t write dream sequences. Nope! Many writers are absolutely terrified of putting a dream sequence into a novel. OK, sometimes they are overused, but that’s not always the case. A dream sequence can be just what you need to get your writing juices flowing—it can always be cut later. Put on your Freudian or Jungian hat and write a dream sequence. Use it to foreshadow an event, get into your characters’ subconscious, and show us their desires or their fears.

Don’t head-hop. Nope! So the rule goes don’t go head-hopping between characters in the same scene. You can confuse the reader and it is not as common in literature as it once was. Though as Mur points out Agatha Christy did this within in a scene and even within a paragraph! So, head-hop all you want. Tell us what Janelle thinks about Damon and then tell us what Damon thinks about her. Tell us what the server in the restaurant that is watching them thinks. Give us all the points of view possible in the very same scene!

-Don’t start a scene with dialogue. Nope! This is one of my additions. Common writing wisdom frowns on starting with dialogue as it disorients the reader. Readers need context. I think it depends on what the characters are saying. Read the fantastic mystery writer Walter Mosely, and you’ll find that he often starts his scenes off with dialogue and trust me, you are immediately hooked. I would have never finished my first NaNoWriMo if I stuck to this rule. Starting with dialogue can be a way to get the reader quickly involved into the emotion of the scene.

Can you think of more writing rules that you’d like to break? I bet you can.

You can listen for free to the first of Mur’s NaNoWriMo Purge series here. The rest of her series is available through her Patreon page. Patreon is a platform that lets you directly support artists and creators.

Break some rules, people! It’s really fun. We will return to our writing law-abiding selves after November. Promise.

 

I’ve attended two conferences during the past two weekends. Last week, I attended the North Carolina Writers’ Network Conference. I hosted a NaNoWriMo meet and greet on Friday night and then a ‘Shut Up and Write’ session on Saturday where writers could come and just write for an hour and half. Both events went very well and I managed to get close to 2,000 words completed on Saturday.

This weekend, I attended an academic conference. I had hoped to get a lot more writing done but only managed to squeeze out about 1,000 words one day.  I also conducted some useful research. My current NaNoWriMo project is a continuation of a novel concept that my sister and began last year. Although I thought I had a decent outline to work with, I find myself unsure about characters, character motivations, plot threads, etc. Not a great position to be in when trying to write fast. I’m way behind where I should be which is 18,000 words. However, I’m not panicking quite yet. I’m about to employ a secret weapon– which is dictation software.

My Groovy Amazon Link

There has been a ton of buzz about writers (especially indie writers) using dictation software and drafting their novels in a matter of weeks. Podcaster and author, Joanna Penn has had several writers on her podcast to talk about using dictation. I invested in Dragon Naturally Speaking last year and really love it.

I have used it to draft talks and lectures I give and when I feel stuck on a project. It takes a little while to train the software to your voice, but it is worth the effort. I use the headset in conjunction with my laptop. Some people use the app on their phone and dictate while taking a walk.

I’ll start using the dictation software this week and I think it will help my word count. Why? Well, some people think that we tap into our ‘inner storyteller’ when we tell our story aloud. I feel like I get into a natural creative rhythm speaking aloud after just a few minutes.

In my writing workshop just three weeks ago (whew! it’s been a busy few weeks), I encouraged my participants to try dictation as a way to bring some more play into the drafting process. Also, if you use the app then you can get more walks in which most us desperately need.

Maybe dictation might serve you well, too, for drafting new material.

Until then, I will just

 

There are lots of discussions about how to use social media as writers, but little discussion about how all our instagramming, tweeting and facebooking impacts our creativity. Come hear me and several other writers discuss this timely topic next Sunday at Quail Ridge Books and add your voice to the mix!


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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