About My Quasi-Digital Sabbatical…

I had thought about taking a quasi-digital sabbatical during the month of September, just so I could focus better (without interruptions) on my writing. Well, I’m going to have to take a one-year sabbatical from that kind of sabbatical, because today I was appointed the Publicity Director for LDStorymakers and it’s imperative that I stay very hooked in and online.

There is no way I could fulfill these new responsibilities without email, blogging, web design, tweeting, you name it! Wish me luck. And if any Storymaker out there would like to serve on my committee (I’m already blessed to have two–Marion Jensen and Deanne Blackhurst)…and if they’ll allow me to have more help…you’re more than welcome!

Originally posted 2010-08-31 19:26:45.

Help With Social Networking

Last week I promised to share information on Social Oomph, a website designed to help save you time and effort in your social networking efforts. Originally, it keyed in on Twitter (and, in fact, used to be called Tweetlater, I believe), but now it’s set up to help with Facebook updates and Google Buzz (though the latter is in its first stage of development), as well.

I happened to run across mention of it when I was researching Google Friend Connect etiquette (which, by the way, still hasn’t been addressed to my satisfaction) on this blog by marketing guru Matthew Neer. If you’re not already familiar with it, it’s well worth a look.

If you’re a Twitter beginner, like me, and feel as if you’re setting foot on foreign terrain every time you tweet, Social Oomph provides a type of passport, as it were, easing your way into Twitterland and allowing you to set some automatic responses for new followers who come your way. After all, one of the worst things you can do on Twitter is not acknowledge new followers…you’ll lose them fast if they’re more diligent than you about checking in on a regular basis. As authors, that’s the last thing we want. We need to KEEP our readers, not lose them.

Also, as this video by the same marketing blogger (Matthew Neer) demonstrates, you can point new followers automatically to your FB site, your website, or your blog…as long as you don’t act like you’re selling anything.

There are several YouTube videos posted by others that also address how to work with Social Oomph, and you may want to check them out, as well.

Basically, the free website allows you to do several things, including the following:

  • Schedule tweets (plan for the day, set them, then forget them)
  • Track keywords (especially helpful if you’re into a particular niche)
  • Extend your Twitter profile (promoting yourself more)
  • Send DMs to new followers (automatically)
  • Track your clicks
  • Follow those who follow you (automatically)
  • Vet new followers (semi-automatically)
  • View @Mentions and Retweets
  • Purge your DM Inbox
  • Secure Twitter and Buzz access

There is an alternative to Social Oomph. It’s called HootSuite, but according to one reviewer, they are really complementary programs and he couldn’t recommend one over the other. In his opinion, Social Oomph has “awesome automation abilities” while Hootsuite offers “customization, tracking, and user-friendly features.” I haven’t checked it out yet, but since he recommended both, I may have to give it a look (particularly because they have an iPhone app).

I would love to hear from any of you who have had experience with either sites.

Originally posted 2010-05-24 09:44:14.

Try the Unexpected or Unusual

Present word count of WIP:  45,249

I’m a day late with this post, but yesterday was so chock full of items on my “to do” list and then my son came home with a time-consuming piece of homework from his Creative Writing class. How could I say “no” to helping him on that? Besides, it made me more aware of my own writing.

The assignment: take a page from one of your favorite novels, photocopy it, and analyze it for sentence length and variation, paragraph length and variation, literary or figurative devices, any unusual punctuation or grammatical devices, and anything else that stood out as far as the writer’s style. I think it’s a good exercise for any of us who write. It keeps us from getting lazy. Sometimes our final version isn’t as “final” or “perfect” as we may like to think.

Buckbeak's response to Malfoy's rudeness

(By the way, the novel he chose was J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, with a page from the first scene with Buckbeak.)

Now, Seth Godin’s next bit of Advice for Authors:

15. If you want to reach people who don’t normally buy books, show up in places where people who don’t usually buy books are. Media places, virtual places and real places too.

First of all, you have to understand something about Mr. Godin. He’s more about spreading ideas (and he writes mostly non-fiction) than he is about making money. Of course, he can afford to be because he’s already made a name for himself and has a huge fan base. So, he’s always looking to expand that fan base. That’s something we should all be doing.

But this tip got me thinking. Where do non-book lovers gather in the real world and online? I know they’re out there, because I came across one several years ago–a woman in my church who, while helping in a service project to stock the shelves of a new school library, admitted that she never read. “Why?” I asked. “I just don’t like reading.” I know. It’s baffling to me and my kind, but they do exist.

So, where do they hang out? Movie theaters? (She didn’t care for movies, either, by the way.) I, personally, love movie theaters…but mainly when they’re not crowded and going when no one else is there kind of defeats the purpose of trying to gain new readers. Still, could I force myself to do a book event at a movie theater? Let’s say the protagonist of my novel has a significant scene involving a particular movie. If it’s a popular enough movie, would it be worthwhile to rent out a theater for my book launch and show that movie? Hmmm. Perhaps.

Where else in real life? My aforementioned non-book-and-non-movie-loving friend was all about the outdoors. I’ve got people gathering every morning at the base of the small mountain behind my home simply to hike up to the top. Granted, they’re probably the same people every day, but maybe I should set up a small table at the foot of the trail one day and offer discounted (or even free…since they might not be carrying cash) copies of my latest book. (Of course, it would help if my story involved hiking.)

The idea is to think outside the box both in everyday life and in virtual reality. Drop into a whole new Facebook group (say, for instance, Mothers Against Pedestrian Crosswalks…just made that up, but I haven’t checked…there could be such a group) or online forum and make some new friends then gradually reveal that you’re a writer. If they like you, they’ll probably ask about what you write. If they really like you and the kinds of comments you make, they may buy your book.

What has worked for you? Have you tried the unexpected or unusual and seen it work?

I’d love to hear about it.

Originally posted 2012-03-06 08:29:46.

ANWA Writers Conference and Blogging

Present word count of WIP: 39,556

The one place it’s difficult to get any writing done is at (believe it or not) a writers conference. No matter. This has already been a success for me and it’s only been the first day! I sold all my books (of course, I only brought three since I was flying Allegiant and was trying to avoid any extra charges), had two successful pitches (Jane Dystel wants the full of Laps and Lisa Mangum wants me to send her the full of School of Guardians when it’s finished), and…most exciting…Linda Mulleneaux stopped by my book signing to tell me she had started reading “Laps” the other night and LOVED it! I’ve got an appointment tomorrow with her, so I think I may have some more news to share soon (hopefully). I also have a pitch appointment tomorrow with April Mumm for SOG. Wish me more luck!

Now on to Seth Godin’s next piece of Advice for Authors:

12. Blog mentions, on the other hand, matter a lot.

That’s certainly been attested to at this conference. An author’s online presence is very important to agents and publishers on everything from social media to blogs. If you can luck out and get a great review or even a mention from a blog that gets a lot of traffic, your name (and your work) becomes that much better known.

So, I’m on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, LinkedIn, and I have another blog along with this one on my website. The trick is learning to manage it all without cutting too much into your writing time.

I blog Mondays and Fridays, post to FB maybe 3-4 times a week, tweet a few times a week, and try to update on Goodreads once a week. I’m honestly not doing much with LinkedIn…yet.

How do you manage balancing online presence with your writing?

Originally posted 2012-02-24 21:09:12.

The Buzz About Blurbs

Present word count of WIP:  39,288

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

10. In case you skipped it, please check #2 again. That’s the most important one, by far.

Rather than point you back to my blog posting about that one, I’ll just reiterate it was about the necessity to build a reputation, a blog, a following and connections about three years BEFORE you come out with your masterpiece. Nice, if you have the gift of prophecy as to which of your manuscripts will be the true masterpiece…but, in any case, developing a following and connections is, indeed, a must.

That is one of the big reasons why I go to writers conferences like the one this weekend down in Mesa, AZ — the ANWA “TIME OUT FOR WRITERS” Conference. Many of these fellow authors I’ve only dealt with online and it is definitely time for some face to face interaction.

11. Blurbs are overrated, imho.

I’m not sure what to think about this. I can be swayed by a good blurb. What do you all think?

Originally posted 2012-02-20 22:05:18.

Why Do Authors Always Do It Backwards?

Present word count of WIP:  23,516

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

2. The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you’ll need later.

So, basically, he’s saying we need to think about selling long before we have a product to sell. Of course, most authors do it backwards. They build the product first and then think about how to sell it…when it’s probably too late to get the most for our efforts.

Then, again, we don’t pick up pen and paper (or type away at a keyboard) in the first place to make money. We do it for the love of writing and storytelling. But if you’re in this business to make a lot of sales, then it might be best to heed his advice.

With rare exceptions (like J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer), it takes most authors a good 5-6 books to begin to have a real following. Why? Because it simply takes that long. Not only is each novel generally improving in quality, but over time more readers are added to their fan base as word spreads from friend to friend.

You might argue that Godin writes nonfiction, and for the nonfiction writer, platform is everything. These days, however, I’d argue that platform is becoming just as important for the fiction writer.

That’s why I’m going to keep blogging away, friending on FB, tweeting (though I need to get a lot more consistent there), writing reviews on Goodreads, Amazon and other places online, and taking every possible opportunity to attend/present at conferences and retreats (as long as I can afford it, that is).

If Godin’s right, then I can expect to be published by 2015 (traditionally, that is…of course, I’m actually hoping for some time this year with Laps). And by then, I should have at least three more manuscripts ready and available for the audience I will have built.

But, then, by 2015 who knows what publishing will look like in America? And on that note, what do you think of the new iBooks Author?

Originally posted 2012-01-20 17:07:18.

Keeping My Head Down

Present Wordcount of Current WIP: 17,196

While fellow authors are discussing e-rights, submission processes, marketing ploys, etc., I’ve decided that the best thing I can do right now is to keep my head down and continue to churn out 1,000+ words a day. So far, so good. And as I’ve pushed myself to increase volume, my story has taken on interesting twists. I love the creative process that takes over as I let my fingers fly.

This is not to say that I’m unaware of the importance of online presence and platform. I particularly appreciated 5 big ideas for writers put forth by Seth Godin in an email I got today from his Domino Project.

I’ll post more in detail about his advice on Friday.

Originally posted 2012-01-09 19:53:49.

The Balancing Act

When I set out to write I didn’t give much thought to publishing, let alone marketing. Now agents everywhere say your online marketing is an essential aspect of your professionalism as a writer. Many won’t even consider your work unless you have a significant online presence.

I can understand their point of view. After all, if the publishing house is no longer going to spend the time and money to really promote their beginning and midlist authors, who will? Certainly not your busy agent, beyond a tweet or a FB mention here and there. However, all this concern for marketing has gotten in the way of my writing. It has blocked my writing in ways I never envisioned.

It was so refreshing, then, to read Dean Wesley Smith’s take on keeping your writing first and foremost in answer to a comment on this excellent post:

There are a lot of promotions that are just a total waste of time. The best way to sell a book is write another one and then another one and make each one better. It won’t sell a lot of copies instantly as is the produce model of thinking, but over the long haul, you’ll make a ton more money and be a better writer.

I suggest most promotion be simply your web site (I am failing on this at the moment because of links, but fixing that), your publisher’s web site (we’re about to get WMG Publishing web site actually up and running), an occasional facebook post and an occasional twitter post. I don’t do either, really.

There are other things that do work a little. For trade paper books, WMG does catalogs to send to bookstores and we are making nice money that way. And sending out proofs, both electronic and paper, for major reviews of new books tends to work if your publishing house looks professional and your book looks professional.

But the rest is pretty time-wasting for most writers. They would be much better served in a five year plan to just write more work and get more readers. Let word of mouth spread the news about your great books. But again, that takes time and you can’t expect it to happen in a few months or even the first year.

I’m going to realign my social media efforts and put them back on the back burner where they belong. I can dip into Twitter 2-3 times a week, and maybe stir my FB status once or twice a week. I’m fortunate that Google+ hasn’t yet swallowed me up (and when it beckons, I’ll have to relegate it to the back burner, as well). What I can’t afford to do is get so sucked into internet surfing that I forget the main course–my writing.

Originally posted 2011-07-15 15:19:14.

Marketing a Must

One of the things I realized coming back from this writer’s conference was that I can’t afford to sit on my heels with my website, blog, and social media accounts. Sara Megibow made it very clear that even if she likes your writing she won’t take you on unless you’re already acting like a professional. I can see her point. I’ve been on Facebook and LinkedIn for years, and I’ve blogged off and on for years, as well. I created my first website back in 2008 and then updated it this past year. I’ve also had a Twitter account for a couple of years, but now I’m determined to get comfortable tweeting and doing a whole lot more on the marketing end. I may only have one book out, but it’s a pretty good book (if I do say so myself) and it’s about time a lot more people knew about it.

My first purchase after the conference was this book: Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs. You can bet I’m going to be up late nights devouring its pages.

Originally posted 2011-05-12 12:49:14.

What a Trip! What a Conference!

I’m ready for human cloning (on a temporary basis, that is). I think writers need to have clones so that their writer self can remain at the keyboard creating while their marketing and student selves go off to conferences to learn, network, and pitch to agents and editors. (If you’re a writer, I know you agree with this.) The only drawback to the 2011 LDStorymakers Conference was that I couldn’t be in several places at the same time.

But first, the trip. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. Sure, I could have used a clone or two to help me drive for 9.5 hours straight (other than gas, food and potty stops). Still, it was great weather and at the end of the day I got to meet up with three old friends from my junior high days and compare notes over dinner. I hadn’t seen one of them since 10th grade. It was amazing to see how our lives had turned out thus far. Good fodder for a novel…but not right away or they’d get mad.

I roomed with the fabulous Liz Adair and Thursday morning was spent assembling folders and binders for the conference. Then, while everyone spent much of the day in Boot Camp, I got to drive down to Provo and have lunch with my beautiful daughter, Allison. Afterward, we lucked out and got into the Carl Bloch exhibit at BYU’s Museum of Art. He could tell an entire story with one painting or even one etching. I think my favorite altar pieces were those of Christ with the child and Christ at the Pool of Bethesda (particularly since it relates to my newest novel that I’m pitching). I arrived back in SLC that evening in time for a quick dinner and then a fun “Meet and Greet” with fellow Storymakers. The interviews conducted by Tristi Pinkston, Frank Cole, and Terri Ferran had me wiping tears from my eyes because I was laughing so much and I can’t wait to upload them to the new website. (I’ll keep you posted on that.) Stephanie Fowers and her sister were invaluable in taping the interviews. Warning: they’re in high def, so don’t be too judgmental on appearances. After all, some of these interviews were done at 10 pm after a full day of Boot Camp!

Friday and Saturday were a blur. This is when I really could have used a few clones. In between helping Liz with door prize giveaways several times each day and grabbing meals here and there, I attended great presentations by Becca Stumpf (on pitching), Marion Jensen (on Social Media…but I missed the last half because I was scheduled to pitch to Sara Megibow, a terrific agent–I don’t know how she did it, but I wasn’t nervous at all; I felt so at ease talking with her and she expressed interest in Laps), Sara Crowe (on synopsis writing, which turned out to be the pitch portion of your query letter rather than a full synopsis…not what I was expecting but still helpful), Josi Kilpack (on launching your book), Dave Wolverton twice (on habits of successful writers and on using resonance to make your writing sell), Bob Conder (on Screenwriting), and the energetic and funny Sara Megibow (on acquiring a literary agent). I also attended a speculative fiction panel featuring James Dashner, Rob Wells, Dave Wolverton, Julie Wright, and Howard Taylor. You might wonder why since my fiction thus far has been solidly grounded in reality, but about two weeks ago three fascinating ideas for novels hit me–all speculative (one YA semi-historical, and two dystopian). I know. I should have attended Rob’s on Dystopian Fiction, but hey–that would have required clones.

Anyway, the Whitney Awards Gala Dinner was terrific as always and some of my favorite people won, besides. I’d invited my daughter and a guy she’s dating, Bryan Beus, to join me since he’s an illustrator (he did the covers and illustrations for James Dashner’s first two installments in the 13th Reality series) and a soon-to-be-published author. He ended up knowing as many people there as I did!

My last comment on cloning: it might help de-stress your pet cats. Every time I go away for a short trip and then return, Peach and Anastasia have to get re-introduced to me. It’s as if they can’t believe it’s really me walking in the door. Of course, if they were to encounter more than one of me at a time, they’d probably go nuts, so that alternative won’t work…for them, anyway.

If we can’t have cloning at next year’s conference, maybe we can at least have an option to buy DVDs or CDs of the presentations we missed. What do you think?

Originally posted 2011-05-09 12:47:24.