Stephanie said it in her title: It's About Giving. Love it, Steph, and welcome to Seekerville!
From first grade on, I knew I wanted to write stories. When people asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always told them, “A writer.”
You know what I did not tell people I wanted to do? I didn’t say I wanted to be in sales or marketing, nor did I say I wanted to start my own business. But as you savvy Seekerville readers know, being a modern-day novelist means embracing those two roles.
When my first YA book was about to come out (Me, Just Different, Revell, 2009) I knew I needed to do some marketing stuff. So I started a blog (I posted five days a week, mostly about diapers and trips to Costco) and hired a local publicist to help me here in Kansas City. She got me on the local Fox morning show, on the radio, in my town’s free newspaper, and on the front page of the Kansas City Star. And because of those things, several area schools asked me to please come talk to their students about what a big deal I was and how I did it.
You know what happened before too long? I got so stinkin’ sick of talking about myself. (And, honestly, teenagers didn’t think it was too impressive that I was published at age 24. To their ears that seemed to sound like, “I had to wait a whole 6 years after high school before I could get my book published.”)
But something beautiful came out of one of those school visits. A very sweet girl wrote to me and said she also dreamed of being a novelist one day. She had been encouraged to hear me say that I had written as a teen and wondered if she could ask me some questions.
She asked me two. And I wrote her an 828 word response.
I couldn’t help myself! It felt so good to be talking to someone—a potential reader/buyer, even—about something besides me and my books!
And as this girl and I exchanged emails, I thought, “I would have loved this as a teen writer.” As I did the dishes that night (where all good ideas strike, I’m convinced) I thought Wouldn’t it be great if there were a place for teen writers to hang out? A place where they could learn the things they needed to know, but didn’t know they needed to know? A place where they could meet other teens who loved writing?
And then it hit me: Maybe I could make that place.
At the time I had a two-year-old daughter and was puking my way through the first trimester of baby number two. The timing was less than ideal, but I had that thing going on inside me. That thing where you’re like, “This isn’t just a good idea. I think I was made to do this.”
So in January of 2010, I started Go Teen Writers and my perspective of marketing completely changed. Until then, I thought being a great marketer was about selling to people, but marketing became much less stressful when I realized I could market by giving. The blog was not an overnight success, but the readership swelled as I began to give away whatever I could think to. I gave away not just my books, but also everything I knew about writing a novel. I gave away 100-word critiques through our 100-word contests. And through the contests, I gave away a year-long mentorship.
And the funny part was it didn’t feel like marketing, but it was. Go Teen Writers has had more impact on my sales than anything else I’ve done.
You have lots that you could give away too, and it’s a great time of year to give something away to your readers (and fellow writers) without expecting anything in return. Here are a couple ideas just to get you started:
· You have readers ask you all the time about that secondary character in a book you wrote a few years ago. What about writing a novella that carries on that character’s story and making it available for free on your website?
· NaNoWriMo just ended. Do you know any writers who might appreciate a critique of their first chapter or two?
· You just read a great book and you think your blog readers would really connect with it. Buy a copy or two to give away—you’ll bless your readers AND that author.
· You’re an excellent scrap-booker. Give away how-to tutorials on your blog.
· When someone emails you to say how much they loved one of your books, offer to send them another book (the sequel or a different series, whatever makes sense) for free.
Today I’m giving away your choice of the Ellie Sweet e-books and an e-book of Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into a Published Book, which I co-wrote with Christy award-winning author Jill Williamson. And you don’t have to do anything but say hello to me in the comments section to get entered to win.
Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. She is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into a Published Book, and the Ellie Sweet series. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog, www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrill.com