7 Skills Writers Might Give Away

In another in her series of very helpful posts, Judy Cullins talked about driving traffic to a writer’s site by offering giveaways.  I’ve thought a lot about this and have decided I’m two things:  a true bashful Canadian and a reluctant marketer.

Canadians are famous for self-deprecation.  From birth we are taught to put ourselves last in a way that seems to make us feel just a bit inferior.  As though our ideas, accomplishments and even looks may not be as good as others’.  When we travel, people in foreign lands tell us Canadians are just so nice and, whether it’s true or not, we bask in the praise, smiling in our best ‘aw, shucks’ manner.

And writers.  Well writers just mostly want to write.  We don’t want to spend weeks on promo tours, and cocktail parties can be their own personal hell, about as bad for some as sitting for hours, pen in hand, making small talk with gushing readers.  We writers are a bit shy and a lot secretive about our abilities or lack of same.

We don’t think we have anything to give away that anyone would want, so how can we attract readers to our site with freebies?

Here are 7 skills writers most likely have:

  1. We know grammar.  We can explain in great detail exactly when to use it’s and its.  Looking at life all around me, I see that this skill is sadly lacking.  How about a short primer on grammar rules?
  2. We understand about connotation and denotation of words.  None of my friends would ever describe herself as fat, but I’ve heard pleasingly plump and wrinkle free more than a few times.  Writers get that, and can easily teach proper word choice to get the effect wanted.
  3. Research is part and parcel of our writing game.  We know all the library tricks, in the actual building and online, to help searchers find what they want.  I’ve seen writers blog about amazing research sites they’ve found.  A how-to for finding such things as town plans in the 1800s or the intricacies of skinning a raccoon might be a small freebie to offer on your site.
  4. Letter writing is rarely a sought-after skill these days, but certain types of letters will always be in demand, whether they be written on paper or via email.  I’ve received several emails where nothing is wrong with the subject matter but the organization and tone of the writing leave me gritting my teeth.  Perhaps writers could offer letter templates for certain situations.  I mean everyone has to have a Dear John letter in their arsenal.  Or how about a love letter a la Cyrano de Bergerac?
  5. Writers can offer templates for tools other writers might need.  Character sheets, plot arcs and timelines are some of the rudimentary tools new writers need and more established writers are always anxious to see how someone else writes.  Try putting a link to freebie forms on your site.
  6. Writers need to develop an inner ear and an observant eye.  Write a comparison of how writers look at the world around them as compared to the way most people do.  This might be accompanied by work sheets as well, if your brain leads you in that direction.
  7. Readers love to know some of the background behind the novel they’ve loved.  Prepare a download of tidbits about your books and your challenges in writing them, and offer them to readers for free.

Of course all of these skills are marketable, if a writer has the time and inclination, but we must do what works best for us.  Check out Judy Cullins’ site as she is a great marketer.  Even if you use just one of her suggestions, you’ve moved ahead.

How do you market yourself and your books?  What is the hardest thing you’ve had to do as a writer to move ahead?  Consider leaving a comment to add to the discussion, especially if you have more suggestions to add to my list.

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15 thoughts on “7 Skills Writers Might Give Away

  1. Excellent post, thank you, and very apt as my first tween book just released today! I’m Scottish and I think Canadians must be very similar as far as promotion goes. On my general blog and history blog, I post information for other writers, and host authors on my main blog – that seems to help a little!

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  2. Great tips, Elaine. Superhappy Jen’s (you remember from the retreat) mother is a well-established writer of children’s books and she wrote a similar blog on how writers make money at writing related activities. Things like running a writing retreat!

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  3. Hi Elaine,

    Very good information and it is something that I need to work on. I can identify with being shy and always putting the others first. I learned that at home. Reading your article made me realize that I need to get a project started on my own website that should have started in January.
    Oh well, it is never too late.
    Thanks for the tips and the encouragement.
    Ciao,
    Patricia

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      • Hi Elaine,

        I have been promising my readers a novel , a chapter a month. The preview is already up but due to getting my novel ready to send off on Monday, I have got behind and the first chapter has not been put up on my site, but it will soon. I am learning that it is so important to follow through with something.
        Have a nice evening.
        Ciao,
        Patricia

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  4. Such a noble goal, Pat! You go, girl! That little tortoise had it figured out, didn’t he? I’d like to have book two written by this time next year and can hardly wait to have the research done so that I can start. You’ve given me a boost. Thanks!

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  5. Hi Elaine!
    One thing I’ve given away is a critique. I was a little nervous about it, hey, I’m not a NYT author (yet). But I have found through judging contests and working with crit partners that I do have something to say about writing (and my educational background supports it too!). So I offered the critique and I think it went well. I plan to do this again, it’s a nice prize for a writer’s bloghop or an auction. Not sure if it works to give to readers, but at this stage of the game many of my readers are authors, or wannabe authors, so it works. 🙂

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    • Such a good idea, Jessica! And budding authors as well as more seasoned ones would definitely be interested. And you make me wonder how many readers are secret wannabe writers. Perhaps that free critique might help someone step off the cliff. Thanks for your comment, as always.

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  6. I’m a children’s picture book author so my marketing opportunities are quite different from other authors. I have ‘Storytime’ with Crystal on my website where I read stories out loud and I offer free coloring pages from my current book there as well. I participate in ‘Storytime’ at various libraries as a guest reader and do school events for kindergarten through sixth. I think I learn more from the children than they learn from me. Isn’t life great that way? I write a weekly blog and try to maintain a presence on Facebook and Twitter but sometimes it feels like I have no time left for actual writing.

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    • Your ideas are excellent. I’ll bet you have loads of fun reading to the children and they probably give you new ideas for your next project. Sounds like you have this give-away thing mastered. I can learn from you. I appreciate your comments, Crystal.

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