December Mini-Edition: Reaching Out + Favorite Reads of 2020

Marketing reach and personal reach, book recommendations, reading challenges & seminars for the new year

Hey y’all, I’m testing out affiliate links, meaning if you buy anything using one of my links with an asterix (*), I earn a little something. All earnings from affiliate links this season will go to the Carl Brandon Society, supporting speculative fiction writers of color and greater diversity in the genre. I also encourage you to buy from your local indie where ever possible. TY!

Greetings readers & writers,

In October, I was thrilled to see a sudden spike in new subscribers. Had my recent post on newsletter growth gained unexpected traction? It was hard to tell. In fact, the more I looked into these new subscriptions via Substack’s analytics, I noticed oddities: subscriptions at weird hours of the night, from no particular promotional link, with none of them engaging with any content.

You guessed it: spam.

Even as I cleaned up my email list, it stung: could a bigger list be better, even if not all the emails are “clean”? Could the appearance of a bigger reach be just as good as the reach itself?

Reach is defined as the number of unique individuals who have seen your content and, you guessed it, is part of what defines an author’s ‘platform’. Most writers think this means you need a huge social media following or email list to be noticed. But in truth, that reach is valued more so in engagement rather than in impressions, i.e. views (though all metrics have value, depending on your goal).

Engagement is about developing a relationship with your audience. It’s about cultivating and maintaining a readership and community for your work. Sharing specific, interesting content; offering giveaways or ask-me-anythings; asking and responding to questions; providing a space for conversation.

You see where I’m going here.

The problem with trying to manufacture a following is that those engaged fans — the ones who will read and share your work, buy your product, and come back for more—don’t choose you because you have a million follows or because you bought their email from a vendor. They choose you because they love what you do and how you do it. Your work has value to them. A small, highly engaged email list is far more powerful than a large, disinterested one.


“Fear has a very concrete power of keeping us from doing and saying the things that are our purpose.”—Luvvie Ajayi

Reach has another meaning too, doesn’t it? It also means stretching oneself beyond one’s comfort zone, hands outstretched towards a goal or aspiration.

Much of this year has not been about reaching, but just trying to hold on. 2021 seems to hold a sparkle of promise because heck, at least it’s not 2020, but it is still rife with uncertainty.

I’ve been re-revising Ghost Roads this year. It has been very slow going. I used to think I was stalled out, burned out, but I also think some of the slowness has been a kind of holding on, the comfort of a familiar story and world as a defense against a the real, unstable one. It’s what I needed. Maybe it’s what you needed too.

But I also think that idea of reaching gives hope and purpose. So for 2021, I’m reaching for new projects to sustain me; maybe a new novel or short fiction or a new class. I’m reaching for getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and continue working to expand my world-view, listen, and be an accomplice for change.

Below are some of the books I read this year that reminded me why I love to read and write, plus some challenges to push oneself into new areas. I plan to read (and write) harder in 2021. How about you?

What are you reaching for?

P.S. Want to give back this season? Here’s a list of organizations that are working tirelessly to make stories heard that could use your support.

You still have a chance to win a free $10 gift card to an indie bookstore! Help this newsletter reach greater heights by sharing what’s kept you coming back, plus what other awesome content you’d like to see by filling out this short survey! I’ve extended the survey/prize drawing to the end of the year.

New to Books, Marketing, & More? Hi! Here were some of this year’s top reads:

Top Newsletters of 2020

  1. Resources for writers on racism, diversity, & inclusion in writing and publishing

  2. So your book launch has been cancelled. Now what?

  3. Virtual promotional opportunities you can do right now

  4. Growing a Newsletter, Giveaways, Resources, & News

  5. Book Recommendation Thread - what are you gifting this fall?

Books, Marketing & More Archives!

Writing the Other: A Practical Approach by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward
I revisited this book at the beginning of 2020 and have carried its lessons with me throughout the year. An accessible and highly relevant intro to writing identities outside of one’s lived experience, it features common missteps, exercises, and examples. This slim volume should be on every writer’s shelf.

The Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells*
I consistently stayed up until 1am to finish these novellas and Wells’s new, glorious novel. So much to love: a cranky cyborg (the eponymous Murderbot), hacking, fast-paced heists, space adventures, humor, robot angst, and lots of genuine characters who are concerned about each others feelings, much to Murderbot’s perpetual dismay.

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders*
Stunning and evocative. Taking place on a planet without rotation, it’s inhabitants living at the dangerous edge of Day and Night, this novel is still an intimate interrogation of time and place, of finding family and identity, of growing beyond who we once were and what comes after. Also some pretty cool aliens.

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz*
This was sold to me as “radical time traveling feminists going back to prevent misogynists from destroying the timeline, set against a backdrop of 90’s punk rock” which it is and it’s excellent and also it has one of the coolest time travel conceits I’ve ever read.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by Tj Klune*
Six magical children, their intriguing caretaker, and a beautiful, sun-kissed island. A bureaucrat sent to check on them who thinks there must be something more to life than rain and file folders. Reader, he is right. This is a love story, in all its forms; funny and tragic, wholesome and lovely.

The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series by Caroline Carlson*
A High Society girl sets her sights on becoming a pirate, despite the fact that everyone, the Pirate League included, consider it “improper.” These middle grade books are fabulous, hilarious read alouds and Hilary is confident, kind, resourceful and determined. Light peril, lots of intrigue and humor, plus a genuine, entertaining voice.

A Blade So Black by L.L. Kinney*
When Alice stumbles upon a Nightmare monster and the enticing Addison Hatta banished to this side of Wonderland, she takes it upon herself to become a Dreamwalker to combat her own demons and protect her friends. Heart-pounding, vulnerable, and fierce.

For more favorite reads, check out my Bookshop!

Reading Challenges to Get You Reaching

Here Wee Read has put together the fun and motivating Mocha Express Reading Challenge for the winter season! While aimed at kids, I’d argue it’s for readers of all ages… who doesn’t like to read books while drinking hot cocoa? But it also pushes readers to explore traditions or subjects that might be new to them. Plus, it’s a coloring sheet with artwork by the very talented Briana James.

Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge for 2021 is up! This list, divided into two challenges per month, includes book recs and aims to push readers out of old reading habits and into exploring authors, genres, and subjects beyond one’s comfort zone.

New Year Virtual Seminars:

Events are remote and require registration unless otherwise noted!

Need some one-on-one marketing a/o manuscript attention? I’m still doing consults!

Book a consult today!

Congrats to Susan Catalano, the second winner of October’s consult giveaway. Susan is the author of the Timeless Story duology (witches! time travel! romance!) and a soon-to-be-published fantasy trilogy. Stay tuned in 2021 for more free stuff!

Keep reaching and supporting each other and your communities. Always happy to boost any projects, resources, or new books you’re working on!

All the best,

Writer & Marketing Coach
Keep Writing, Keep Connecting! Twitter | Facebook | Newsletter | Website

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