Monday, September 28, 2015

What is a Launch Team?

by Alycia W. Morales

Does your forehead wrinkle when you hear the words "Street Team" or "Launch Team"? Do you want to hide in a cave when someone mentions that you may need to help market your book?

Publishers don't have the extensive marketing budgets they used to have to help sell your novel. Although some do still assist with marketing, they also expect their authors to sell their own books. So what's an author to do if they don't have marketing experience?

Think of your book like you think of your baby (we already do that anyway, don't we?). When our children come into the world, what do we do?

First, we call everyone. Word of mouth is the best marketing tool out there. "Hey! Come celebrate with me! I just gave birth to this beautiful boy/girl/book!"

Then, we post pictures to our social networks. We blow up Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with proof that our newest addition is so darned cute we can hardly stand it. (Think memes.)

Some of us create photo announcements and mail them to our friends and family. Then they put them on their refrigerator doors so their friends can see them. (Think bookmarks, postcards, etc.)

Can you see the similarities?

There is one tool that many authors use to launch their books that not everyone seems to know about. Today, I'd like to share that tool with you. It's called a launch team. Launch teams are also known as street teams. You may have heard the term and thought, "What on earth is that?"

A launch team is a group of about 100 people who are going to help you make your book famous. Why 100? Think of it this way: When you host a "party" at your house, the hostess will ask you to invite 10 people for every 1 person you expect to show up. It's the nature of the thing. Of the 100 you invite to assist you, maybe 25 will be your key team players. The rest will still help, but they may have things come up that prevent them from being as active as another. Give them all grace. This group is going to be made up of family, friends, co-workers, faithful readers, bloggers, and more. Think smart when you choose your team. Here are a few things you want to look for in people who are going to participate:
  • A platform of some sort. They can have a large blog following, a thousand Facebook friends, or tens of thousands of Twitter followers. Or maybe not. Maybe they ...
  • Have a career that has something to do with your novel. Do you know a medical doctor who gave you advice on what to do when your character was pushed off a cliff? Do you know an FBI agent who gave you advice on an investigation procedure? These are people to consider asking to help you promote your book because maybe they're in your acknowledgements.
  • Is your neighbor's daughter your biggest fan girl? Maybe you have a follower across the world who is constantly commenting on your social media posts. That's a good person to have on your team, because they're going to blow up their social media feeds with your book.
  • Maybe you wrote a non-fiction book and need someone to help promote it. Have any study groups given your book a practice run and had life-changing results? They would be good people to ask to help you promote it.
Think outside the box. Yes, your mom will always be your biggest fan, and she's more than welcome to participate. But try to come up with people who can get word out to people you may not think of otherwise.

Once I have my 100-person team organized, what are they going to do for me?
Me Reading Firewall by DiAnn Mills
  • Read the free copy of your book that you or your publisher will provide them with. This can be in e-reader format (usually a PDF) or an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy - a print copy where edits are not finalized yet) or a copy of the final print version of the book. (Note: if it's a final copy and you are sending it out, it's always a blessing to the reader if you autograph the book before you send it. It's a great place to include a thank you.)
  • Blog about it. If your launch team member is a blogger, they should put up a review post on their blog with links to a variety of places the reader may purchase a copy of the book, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributor (CBD), Parable, etc.
  • Post author interviews on their blogs. You can create a simple list of questions you're willing to answer, or they can come up with their own. You could even provide them with the entire interview so all they need to do is copy and paste it to their post.
  • Give it 4+ star reviews on the various book seller websites (see above list).
  • Review it on GoodReads.
  • Tell their friends and family about it. (Word of mouth is the best advertising ever!)
  • Give their local book store post cards or bookmarks that you will supply them with. Some publishers will design these for their authors. If yours won't (or you self-publish), you can design your own at VistaPrint. When the launch team member visits the store to drop these off, they'll check to see if your book is being sold there. If not, they may request that the store order copies for their shelves.
  • Many authors I've worked with have had their launch team assist them in creating an additional study guide for their readers. The launch team members have pulled information they've found helpful in the book and come up with a question or two or three for the author to expand on or offer as a reflection journal. 
  • Pray for you. Don't be afraid to ask them to pray for your success. Most are happy to do so.
  • Blow up their social media feeds with news of your book.
Again, think outside the box. What else could they do to help you spread the word? If your book is a novel, maybe they could recommend it for their book club. If your book is non-fiction, maybe they could recommend it for their women's study group or cell group study. Maybe you have someone super creative who loves your character so much they want to write a fan fiction piece to post on Tumblr... There is so much you can have them do to promote your book.

Here are a few more ideas for social media promotion:

A Meme I Created for Mary DeMuth's Everything Launch
  • Give your team a document they can copy and paste from. Create Twitter posts (140 characters or fewer), Facebook posts, and Google + posts.
  • Provide links to a bunch of free photos they can create memes with. Make sure you have permission to use the pictures. Maybe you're an amateur photographer and have some of your own they could use. Have them pull their favorite quotes from your book and create the memes to share on Instagram and Pinterest.
  • Have them create a special Pinterest board to share things related to your novel. Be sure they include your title in the creation of the board.

Finally, what am I going to do for my launch team members? After all, they are super amazing and helping me sell my book so I can earn my royalties.
  • Share your goals with them. Are you shooting for a best-seller list? Are you submitting for awards? Is there a certain number of books you want to sell in a period of time? Keep them posted so they can celebrate with you when you achieve these things.
  • Run contests for them to win prizes. Just like you would for your readers. Again, think outside the box. Amazon and Starbucks gift cards are great. We love those. But so are little handmade goodies that go with something in your novel or non-fiction book. Do you make jewelry? Knit? Paint? Draw? Do graphic art design? Be creative with your goodies. There is a lot you can do with little time and work involved that will be a huge blessing to your team.
  • Offer to answer their questions. Maybe they are dying to know where your character's name comes from. Maybe they want to know how to find the time to write 1,000 words a day. Your team doesn't have to be all about business. It can be relational as well, and that will keep the members motivated to help you.
  • Pray for them. Ask what they need prayer for once a week. This allows them to pray for one another, as well. 
  • Offer a copy of the book for them to give away on their blog. Many bloggers love to run contests for their readers.
  • Return the favor when it's their turn to launch a book.
Again, think outside of the box. What else can you do to bless those who've helped you?

Mom and Me With Our Tea Cups Promoting for Jessica Dotta
The key thing to remember is to treat others the way you would want to be treated. Communicate with your team. Let them know your expectations up front, but give them grace as well. If you do, you're bound to have a successful launch team.

Once you've successfully launched your book, be sure to follow up with your team every now and then. Let them know how things are going, what you've accomplished with their help, and when they can expect future projects to release with another opportunity to participate.

Finally, where would you center this team? The two formats I've seen used most are to either have a Yahoo Group for the launch team or to have a private Facebook group for the launch team. Personally, I like the Facebook groups better. It's easier for people to post and for me to find documents that have been uploaded and made available to the group.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below.

What is a "Street Team" for #writers? {Click to Tweet}

Launching a book? A few pointers on creating a successful launch team via @AlyciaMorales. {Click to Tweet}

Monday, September 21, 2015

Writer, Do Your Homework

By Andrea Merrell

I just got back from a five-day conference at the beautiful Cove in Asheville, NC. After participating in a variety of conferences over the past ten years (both as an attendee and workshop leader), I can assure you they are wonderful and necessary events for writers. But they can also be a bit overwhelming, especially the larger ones. In order to get the most out of your experience,  it’s important to be prepared.

Before attending my first writers’ conference, I was given
advice about certain items I needed to bring. The advice was great, but I went a little bonkers and was actually over prepared. The huge three-ring binder I carried around for five days—along with all the other paraphernalia I thought I needed—was heavy and so full I could hardly find what I needed at any given time—especially when meeting with editors and publishers.

My roommate (also a newbie) and I would make plans to discuss everything we learned throughout the day before we went to bed, in order to reinforce our newfound knowledge. Instead, we were so exhausted each night, we fell into bed with hardly a word.

Conferences are costly, especially if you have to travel far. You want to get the most out of your investment and doing your homework—before and after the conference—can make all the difference. Here are a few suggestions.

Before the Conference
  • Invest in business cards with contact info and a photo. These are fairly inexpensive and a must-have for networking.

  • Create a one-sheet for your project with a short synopsis (think back cover copy), your photo, and a bio.
  • Make sure you have a sturdy over-the-shoulder or roll-around bag you can keep with you.
  • Always have a pen, pad, and highlighter handy.
  • Check the conference blog or website and study the schedule, presenters, and classes. This will be a big help when it’s time to choose which will be the best fit for you.

During the Conference
  • Don’t be shy. Step out of your comfort zone and meet people. Some of them will become mentors, critique partners, and lifelong friends. Remember that there are other people who are just as nervous as you are, especially if this is your first conference. I’ve found the best way to overcome my own nervousness is to make someone else feel at ease.
  • Have your business cards ready at all times. Offer one every time you meet someone, and be sure to get one from them in return. Make a note on the back if there’s something special you want to remember about that person.
  • Don’t feel locked-in to a class if it’s not right for you. Ask God to direct you to the classes and workshops you need to attend.
  • Realize you don’t have to do everything. There will be constant activity, scads of people to talk to, materials for sale, sights to see, and places to visit (especially if you are at a conference center). I decided my second year that it was okay to skip a class or general session if I was exhausted and needed a power nap. Believe me, it helped me stay alert the rest of the time.

After the Conference
  • Give yourself a couple of days to rest and decompress. You will have a lot to digest and it will take time.
    Conferences can be tiring, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally.
  • Pull out your notes and any handouts you received. If you’re like me, you may even have a to-do list: websites to visit, people to contact, thank you cards to send, and contests to check out. Get everything in order. Go over your notes and file what is important so you can find it when you need it.
  • Go through the business cards you collected. Touch base with the new friends you made. Add their info to your contacts. Check out their blog or website and subscribe to their posts. Connect with them on social media. This is how you network.
  • Most importantly, apply what you learned. When you sit down to write (or rewrite) think about the tips and techniques you learned that can take your writing to the next level.

What suggestions can you add to the list? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of Miles, artur84, Photokanok, and anankkml.)


Monday, September 14, 2015

Watch Out for These Sneaky Prose Killers

Today I'd like to welcome Aaron Gansky to The Write Editing. Aaron has recently released Hand of Adonai, an exciting YA fantasy.

by, Aaron Gansky

Some time ago, I sent in an early draft of the first book of my Hand of Adonai series in to my agent. I’d expected a rave review; instead, I got a disappointed e-mail. “It’s too telling,” she said. “Your characters are too passive.” She sent me a list of these words and suggested I comb through the draft looking for these sneaky prose killers. Of course, the manuscript was riddled with them. Since then, I go through each of my drafts and look for these. It’s perhaps the longest stage in revision for my writing process, but it’s also the process that best benefits my prose. Here’s a list of the words and when and why they’re bad.

Watch/notice/observe/look: These weak verbs usually mean inactive characters. What’s more boring than watching paint dry? Reading about someone watching paint dry. “Notice” is often used to call reader’s attention to important information through the eyes of the character. But if we’re already in the eyes of that character, it simply becomes a superfluity. 

Just: A sneaky adverb. Okay in dialog (rarely and sparingly), but virtually never in prose. Seldom is the word necessary, and it can be eliminated in most cases. 

Then: While sometimes necessary, most prose will benefit if it’s eliminated. Especially bad when paired with other no-no words (i.e. “He walked toward her just then” contrasted with “He walked toward her”). 

That: Another tricky one that is allowable in dialog sparingly. (i.e. “It’s not that bad.”) Most commonly, the word is used to introduce a dependent clause. Common grammarians will tell you to eliminate it in these cases (i.e. “He wanted her to know that he loved her” becomes “He wanted her to know he loved her”). 

Feel/feeling/felt: These verbs are weak for the same reasons that watch, notice, and observe are. It indicates passivity and oftentimes creates a voice that’s more telling than showing. While a certain amount of telling is necessary to move the story forward, too much of it will get your novel thrown in the recycling bin. Instead, consider an action that shows the feeling. “She felt sad” becomes “She folded her arms and turned her head from him.” 

There: While necessary in some cases, this becomes prosaically offensive when followed by “is” or “was” or “were.” This construction indicates a sentence in the passive voice. Editors seldom appreciate the passive voice because it feels very telling. “There was a chair in the room” becomes “Oliver walked around the lone chair in the room.” 

Knew/know: Again, indicates a passive character. Sometimes necessary, but could be indicative of a needed change. 

Maybe: You’ll see this pop up in dialog, but it should be avoided in nearly every instance of exposition. The word weakens the power of the prose by making it wishy-washy. Most often, writers use this while establishing interior monolog. “Maybe he was mad at her” (passive). “He had no right to be mad at her” (active). Both reveal the inner workings of the character's mind, but the latter carries a stronger emotive context. 

See/saw: See notice/watch/observe. “He saw Lauren smile” becomes “Lauren smiled.” We know the characters saw this, so the introductory clause is superfluous. 

Hear/heard: See above. “He heard a shrill whistle of a train deep in the foothills” becomes “A train whistle shrilled deep in the foothills.” The reader understands that the character hears this, so the set up of “he heard” becomes unnecessary. 

Could/couldn’t: A word that generally accompanies see, notice, hear, etc. “He could see the tops of her slippers” becomes “Snow and ice crusted the tops of her slippers.” The elimination of this word provides more opportunities to show rather than tell. 

“-ly” adverbs: Adverbs, especially those that end in -ly, weaken your writing. They're a sign that the verb you're using isn't strong enough on its own. Rather than having to use an adverb to prop up a verb, find a verb that's strong enough to stand on its own.

Also, adverbs tend to call attention to themselves and away from the rest of the sentence, away from the rest of the story. You want the attention where it belongs: on your characters and plot. Not on gaudy, tacky words. As a general rule, the fewer adverbs you have, the stronger your writing will be.

(For more on adverbs, click here.)   

Was/were: Generally indicate passive voice, which you know by now is a no-no.

For fun, go through your current project and do a word find on these. Which of these do you abuse the most? If I had a dime for every time I used “just” or “that,” I could quit my day job. 


In addition to being a loving father and husband, Aaron D. Gansky is a novelist, teacher, and editor of The Citron Review, an online literary journal. In 2009, he earned his M.F.A in Fiction at the prestigious Antioch University of Los Angeles, one of the top five low-residency writing schools in the nation.

He is the author of the novel The Bargain (2013, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) as well as Firsts in Fiction: First Lines and (along with Diane Sherlock) Write to Be Heard. Currently, he is writing a YA Fantasy series called the Hand of Adonai. You may follow him and listen to his Firsts in Fiction podcast at

Monday, September 7, 2015

What Do I Cut When I Have Too Many Words?

by Alycia W. Morales

How long should a novel be?

Most posts I've researched give the following guidelines (these are averages, so books could go a little shorter or longer, depending on various aspects):