Social Media and Book Promotion

Mindy Halleck speaks to Seattle writing classes of The Writer's Workshop.
Mindy Halleck speaks to the Seattle writing classes of The Writer’s Workshop.

In my Seattle writing classes, I teach students the full range of narrative writing techniques as well as how to get published, including social media and book promotion. Now, obviously you have to write at a high level to get published, but you also need to be savvy about promotion. Mindy Halleck, an award-winning author and social media master, gave a superlative talk to my spring Seattle writing class about book promotion and author platform. These are subjects many writers would love to avoid, but as Halleck pointed out, you have to know something about them if you want to succeed as an author.

“If you want to be published,” she said, “you’ll want to learn what I have to say.”

Halleck insists writers need a brand, a website and a social media presence. She advises people to start small and build from there. While many people say this, usually publicists, Halleck’s opinion carries considerable weight because she’s also an author, who has to balance the need to write with the need to publicize her work.

“You need a platform if you want to sell books,” she told my Seattle writing classes. “You need an assortment of ways to engage your target market. The platform is the way you connect with readers. This matters whether you’re self published or traditionally published.”

Halleck is an award winning fiction writer, novelist, and social media and writing instructor. In 2014, after many years as a non-fiction author she released her debut novel, Return To Sender, a literary thriller set on the Oregon Coast in the 1950’s. In talking about social media to my Seattle Writing classes, she brought a refreshingly practical and pointed perspective to the discussion. She offers tips on all of this if you subscribe to her newsletter at

For more on book promotion and narrative writing, please consider signing up for my summer Seattle writing class, Writing for Story.


Seattle Writing Class Explores Memoir Writing

Seattle Writing Class
MFK Fisher and Seattle Writing Classes.

My winter Seattle Writing Class, Follow the Story, will explore a number of writing genres, including memoir writing. Memoir is especially useful in treating questions of identity, a particularly American dilemma, as this is a country without strong classes and social norms. Identity often has to be negotiated, explored as a mix of ethnic, social, economic, psychological, and other dimensions. The fluid nature of American society leads many writers to pose questions such as, Who am I?  Where do I belong? What does it mean to be American? These are some of the topics we’ll discuss in my Seattle Writing Class.

One of the crucial tests for a memoir is finding this larger issue. What does this life illustrate? What has  the narrator learned from his or her life? Without a larger point, a personal memoir can easily lapse into boring, repetitive, poor-me stories. Humor is an especially effective antidote to this, showing that a writer has a perspective on his or her life. This sense of perspective helps give the memoir a point, avoiding the trap of what Joyce Carol Oates called “pathograpy”, memoirs that uncover disease, disaster, and sickness and revel in it, without trying to give a sense of how such a condition can be transformed.

For many Americans, discovering their identity comes from travel. Over the years Europe has Writing Memoirs   For many Americans, discovering their identity comes from travel. Over the years Europe has been one of the most popular destinations in this regard. In Map of Another Town by M.F.K. Fisher, she discovers a sense of herself when enduring trying circumstances while living in Aix en Provence. Fisher went on to become the dean of American food writers and much of what she learned came from her experiences, both good and bad, while living in France. Fisher has to struggle to discover who she is within or outside French society. Struggle is essential to a good memoir. Without it, there’s little suspense and little sympathy generated for the writer.

For more on memoir and other genres, please consider signing up for my Seattle Writing Class, Follow the Story.

Seattle Writing Class Discusses Travel Writing

Seattle Writing Class
The scallop shell, symbol of the Camino de Santiago, a portion of which we’ll walk during the Travel, Food and Wine Writing Class.

My winter Seattle Writing Class, Follow the Story, will focus on genre in narrative writing. We will discuss travel writing and many other genres during the eight- session class. Here are some tips for the would-be travel writer:


  • START WITH FAMILIAR, GO TO THE UNFAMILIAR – Good travel stories meet the reader’s expectations about a place, but take them a bit further. Good stories take the readers as they are, and in the course of the journey, bring them to someplace new.
  • STRUGGLE – Don’t forget to struggle a bit as you travel. If you fly from destination to destination without a hitch, you’re going to tell a BORING STORY. Conversely, if you have to work to get through your vacation then chances are you’ve got some drama to provide interest and suspense in your story.
  • FOCUS ON PEOPLE as well as the place, especially people who are characteristic of it. Ever notice how the folks you met along your journey conjure up the strongest memories? It’s the same with readers. They want to be introduced to the folks that made your trip special. Add QUICK CHARACTER SKETCHES of the most memorable folks you met.
  • ORGANIZE STORY AROUND SCENES – Don’t include every event that happened, just the important, lively, funny, fearful, memorable ones. This is one of the techniques I’ll discuss in the winter Seattle Writing Class.
  • GENERALLY SPEAKING, USE FIRST PERSON POINT OF VIEW – Make yourself a character in the story. Filter the place through your point of view. Describe how it impinges on you.  In first person point of view the “I” is the focal character and it selects, colors and shapes the material related in the story.When I write in first person, my feelings, thoughts, impressions are added to descriptions of the actions, so that the reader gets a sense of how they affect me, but the “me” is a very selective one, because I understand that readers are looking for a surrogate in the story and that my job is to fulfill that role without boring, irritating or putting them off

Seattle Writing Classes: Breaking Writer’s Block

Seattle Writing Classes
Seattle Writing Classes help you overcome writer’s block.

One of the best things about writing for a daily newspaper is that it either permanently cures you of writer’s block, or it convinces you to pursue another profession.

When I worked on the Ellensburg Daily-Record, a small daily in eastern Washington State, I had to cover a wide variety of topics, not all of them especially captivating–the Ellensburg Rodeo, the Kittitas County Weed Board, country and western concerts, and an eccentric old lady who won the Halloween Contest by dressing up in a dog food bag.

During the time I worked there, I developed a method for quickly organizing and composing stories. It was the only thing that allowed me to survive with my love for writing intact. I developed this method by trial and error, mostly by error. Early on, like many of those who sign up for the Seattle Writing classes, I would obsess about the lead, spending three or more hours on it. As the deadline approached, I had less than an hour to finish the rest of the story.

I needed to find another way. I discovered that if I postponed my instinct toward perfectionism to later in the writing process I could produce a better story. First, I got black on white, quickly typing up the rough draft, and then I went back over it and tinkered with it. The key to avoiding writer’s block was postponing perfectionism.

Over time, I refined this technique. I would arrive at the office, organize my notes, find an angle around which to structure the piece, and then type away. After finishing the rough draft, I would go back and polish it from the lead forward. By postponing my inclination toward perfectionism to the end of the process, I was able to turn in a stronger piece.

This is one of the topics we’ll over in my fall Seattle Writing Class, Revising Your Life. Let me know if you’d like to sign up!

Seattle Writing Class Hosts U.W. Press Editor

Regan Duff of the University of Washington Press speaking to my Seattle Writing Classes
Regan Huff of the University of Washington Press speaking to my Seattle Writing Classes.

In my Seattle writing classes, I always provide a detailed explanation of the publishing process. As part of this, I like to invite editors to speak about how they publish books and stories. Last week, we had the pleasure of hearing from Regan Huff, the senior acquisitions editor of the University of Washington Press who spoke to my summer Seattle writing class about the changing role of university presses, which have become to the go-to source for many books that once would have been published by larger houses.

“We’re non-profit so we can do books for a mission-driven reason,” she said. “We can keep books in print forever. We care about how books are designed. We care about authors.”

Most of these presses are attached to a university, so they do publish scholarly books, but in recent years they’ve branched out to more general interest topics and readerships. “We publish a lot of books on Asian and environmental issues,” she said. “We’re publishing a first-time author who is a pilot and engineer.”

Regan explained that the U.W. press publishes authors from all over, but they are focused on the Pacific Northwest region as subject material as well as other fields.

“If you are considering pitching a book, ask yourself, have we published something like your book?” she explained to my Seattle writing class. “Most presses are interested in books related to the current list, or a particular field. Go to the website and see what they have published recently.”

Make sure that your manuscript is a good fit for the press before submitting. This entails considering how the press will market it as well as the quality of the manuscript. “Look for a fit rather than holding your work up to be judged,” she told my Seattle writing class.

When you submit your manuscript, make sure that your pitch letter and book proposal reflect this understanding. “What is your book about and why is it interesting?” she said. “Who will read the book?”

Good advice for those looking to get published!



Travel Writing Marketing

Nick O'Connell speaking at the Travel Writing Marketing Workshop.
Nick O’Connell speaking at the Travel Writing Marketing Workshop.

I had the pleasure of speaking at Roy Stevenson’s recent Travel Writing Marketing Workshop. I’m including below a guest blog post from Roy about how to market your travel stories, including some very helpful books and articles:

The majority of travel writers struggle with marketing and selling their articles to print publications. Most of us just want to write, but the stark reality of travel writing is that if you can’t sell your stories, you don’t get to write them.

My books address this dilemma by presenting travel writers with a suite of manuals and guides that show exactly how to go about pitching, querying, and selling your stories to travel editors.

  • The Complete Guide To Query Letters For Travel Writers

Everything you need to know to craft compelling query letters. Includes 20 sample query letters that were actually used successfully to get assignments.

  • 100 Print Magazines That Want To Publish Your Travel Articles

Save yourself hundreds of hours of time and accelerate your travel writing career with this travel magazine distribution list.

  • Fifty Websites That Want To Publish Your Travel Stories

50+ quality travel websites, along with ten pages of advice on getting published online.

  • How To Land Press Trips And Fam Tours

How to leverage travel assignments for free or discounted travel, meals, tours, accommodations, and entry to museums and tourist attractions.

  • How To Break Into The Luxury Travel Writing Market

Break into the luxury travel market faster because you’ll know how to do it right. This 130-page book includes a listing of 55 print magazines and 21 travel websites that publish luxury articles – sales leads that will save you time and get your story ideas out to editors faster.

  • The Complete Guide To Marketing And Selling Your Travel Articles

Everything you need to know to sell your travel articles: how to select story ideas that are enticing to editors, how to pitch your ideas the right way, how to find magazines that will be interested, and much more.

Please feel free to check out these guides and manuals at:

While you’re at my website, please sign up for my free weekly freelance marketing eZine. If you haven’t signed up for it yet, you’re really missing out on solid, actionable advice about selling and marketing your travel stories and landing press trips. And you’ll get insider discounts on my eBooks, coaching, and upcoming workshops. Please sign up here:

Follow the Story: Winter Creative Writing Seminar

follow-the-storyFollow the Story will explore the genres of fiction and nonfiction. The eight-week course will introduce you to a wonderfully diverse mix of writing–personal essays, memoirs, profiles, travel stories, short light pieces and short stories. What are the “rules” and conventions of each genre? How can you use genre to deepen and enrich your own work? How can genre help you hit all the right notes in your writing? You’ll also learn essential techniques of narrative writing–dramatic scenes, dialogue, characterizations and scene by scene construction. The Seattle writing course will run January 13 to Feb. 24 on Wednesday evenings and one Monday evening, (Jan. 25) from 7 to 9 p.m. in Room 221 of the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford (4649 Sunnyside Ave. N.)

In addition to the classroom work, I’ll schedule individual conferences with each of you. This will give me a chance to go over your story or book chapter with you one-on-one and suggest ways to improve it. There will be six assignments: a 150-word story idea or book concept statement, a 250-word scene, a 250-word genre exercise, a 1500- to 2500-word story or book chapter and its revision, a publication report for your story or book. The cost will be $625 per person. Texts: Follow the Story by James Stewart; Best American Essays of the Century edited by Joyce Carol Oates. Both titles are available at the Elliott Bay Book Company.

To enroll, send a check for $625 to Nick O’Connell, 201 Newell St., Seattle, WA 98109. The course is limited to 15 participants and usually fills several weeks prior to the start of class. For more information, contact me.

Phillip Lopate Speaks About First Person Writing

Anyone who has laughed out loud while reading Against Joie de Vivre by Phillip Lopate would have enjoyed his talk on Feb. 27 at the AWP Conference in Seattle. He credited Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground as an important early influence. He says of his writing, “I was not a great thinker but I enjoy contrarianism and have the desire to do some mischief in writing.”Check out his personal essays. They are some of the funniest and most insightful around.