Resources for Writers: Snowflakes in a Blizzard

Have you sold a novel for a seven-figure advance? Yes? Then this post is not for you.

Still here? Skedaddle. Go write something. Yes? Okay.

Now that we’re all alone, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Karol Lagodzki, and I have recently joined Streetlight Magazine’s staff as an outreach coordinator. I see my job as that of a conduit between writers and what they need. You will hear from me about our writing contests, free or inexpensive marketing and craft resources, and those writing conferences which represent good value for the cash-strapped among us (ahem, all of us).

Darrell Laurant shares our vision, and I had the good fortune to make his acquaintance several months ago. I asked him to share the marketing platforms he operates with the Streetlight Magazine community.

Karol Lagodzki: What prompted you to start Snowflakes in a Blizzard?
Darrell Laurant: Actually, it came from my own experience of publishing a couple of books over the last two years. With the first one, a novel titled The Kudzu Kid, I was quite proud of my new Amazon page and waited eagerly for the orders to pour in. And waited. Finally, it occurred to me that because I was a relatively unknown (OK, completely unknown) author, the odds that someone might randomly stumble across my page were infinitesimal. Why would they?

Shortly after I had this epiphany, I was watching a snowstorm from the living-room window of my house in Lake George, NY and thought: “Getting noticed for an author these days is like a snowflake trying to stand out in a blizzard.” By the end of that day, I had started the blog.

K: What exactly is it?

D: Snowflakes in a Blizzard (snowflakesarise.wordpress.com) is a blog that features three books every Tuesday, each with its own individual page. That page includes a template filled out by the author, a photo of the book cover and another of the writer. I try to use colorful art and slightly larger print to make these posts eye-catching, and I also post a Monday “Weather Report” to preface what will be featured that week. The blog now has more than 1,600 followers and has accumulated over 11,500 Internet clicks since it was launched in May of last year. Each featured post is permanently archived, and can be accessed by clicking on that writer’s name on the site’s Author page.

K: What makes it different from a thousand other marketing sites?
D: With more than 15 million books currently featured on Amazon, the biggest problem most writers face today is simply getting their work noticed. Snowflakes in a Blizzard attempts to address that by sending individual posts to blog members who, in theory at least, want to receive them. This gives the writer the opportunity to make what amounts to a one-on-one pitch to each of these people individually. It might not result in sales, but at least that author gets his or her foot in the proverbial door.

The template is also geared to interacting with readers, containing the answers to questions like “What is the back story behind your book?” “Why did you pick that title?” and “Why would anyone want to read it?”

Snowflake
Feb 06 by Jessica Lucia. CC license.

K: How successful has it been?
D: At the risk of sounding evasive, it’s impossible to tell, because people don’t buy the books featured on Snowflakes through the site. However, several authors have reported an uptick in Amazon sales after being featured.

K: Why don’t you charge for it?

D: Partly because I’m having so much fun with it that it almost seems wrong to charge. Moreover, collecting a fee would increase the pressure on me to sell books for the participating authors, which is something beyond my control. In a way, I’m like a dating service—I can set you up with a date, but I can’t guarantee that it will lead to anything.

K: What criteria do you use to select the works to include in Snowflakes in a Blizzard?
D: I find a lot of writers by going to the sites of small publishers. This enables me to read a little of the book and check on Amazon as to how it’s selling. It also means that there was at least some professional editing. Obviously, this is not a service that would probably appeal to John Grisham or J.K. Rowling, so my cutoff point is an Amazon ranking (and yes, I know those mean nothing) above 500,000.

I tend to shy away from “fast food” books like vampire tales or the more formulaic romance novels—which is not to say I would automatically reject a romance or a bloodsucking character if they were presented with some originality.

I like to mix in short story collections and poetry, and I feel one of our niches is to highlight books that might have a little age on them, yet are still relevant and readable.

While I think it’s necessary to maintain a certain standard for the sake of our collective credibility, I don’t want to set myself up as just another gatekeeper, so I try to be flexible.

K: How do interested writers get their books featured?
D: All you need to do is ask (my e-mail is writersbridge@hotmail.com). As a general rule, I try to stick to books that are posted on Amazon, although self-published is fine. I just want to avoid telling readers “You might like this book, except that you have no way of buying it.”

K: Most writers are idea-rich but starved for resources. What other craft and marketing resources for thrifty (and/or poor) creatives do you recommend?
D: Social media can be useful, if used in the right way (I’m still learning). There are also hundreds of review sites, many of which are free (or at least quite reasonable).

K: What are your ultimate goals for Snowflakes in a Blizzard and beyond?
D: I’m not sure I have a goal, except for this: The more writers, the better. I’d also like to greatly increase the number of followers, since that’s what drives the whole project.

K: You are a founder of The Writers’ Bridge. Briefly, what is it, what resources does it offer freelancers, and at what cost?
D: The Writer’s Bridge was an attempt to bring some order into the chaotic business of freelance magazine writing. One of my services was coming up with potential ideas for articles, but I soon discovered that most of the members weren’t following up on these ideas, no matter how enthusiastically they received them. That, and the fact that that I could never figure out an equitable way to charge for this, led me to put TWB on the shelf last year. I may revive it at some point.

K: Are there any other thoughts you’d like to share with writers and the readers of Streetlight Magazine?
D: I’m an incurable optimist, and I don’t see myself—or any writer—as being in competition with other writers. We are all given the gift of uniqueness. No one else has your exact ideas, attitudes, influences and experiences, and you can use them to produce a unique piece of writing. Don’t try to be somebody else.

Thank you, Darrell. And thank you, everyone, for sticking with us through a long blog post.

Until next time,

Your Streetlight Magazine Outreach Coordinator.

Author Darrell LaurantDarrell Laurant began his writing life as a weekly newspaper reporter (his first by-lined story was about a giant squash), then moved into sports writing with South Carolina’s Charleston News & Courier. After a two-year stint editing a statewide magazine, South Carolina Sports, he took a job with the News & Advance in Lynchburg, VA, where he remained for 36 years, the last 32 as the paper’s four-times-a-week local columnist. He has published four books — Even Here: A Small Virginia Community, a Violent Decade; A City Unto Itself: Lynchburg, VA in the 20th Century; The Kudzu Kid (a novel) and, most recently, Inspiration Street: Two City Blocks That Helped Change America. He is currently finishing The Last Supper League, a novel about a fantasy baseball league.

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