Category Archives: Facebook

Twitter and Me

I’m not very good at Facebook.  I’ve connected my blog to it, so that every time I write a new post, it automatically loads on my author Facebook page, so I should have something new up at least once a week.  Occasionally, I’ll post some great writing advice I find online, and when my publisher asks me to promote a sale or new release, I do.  But that’s about it.  I’m worse at keeping track of my regular Facebook account.  I can lose a lot of time there, scrolling through all kinds of people and news I don’t know.

I do better at this blog.  I try to write a new post every Thursday, and recently I’ve started putting up a Muddy River snippet every Monday and a Jazzi snippet every Thursday, but I haven’t decided if that’s worthwhile or not.  It’s too soon to tell.  On my webpage, I used to put up free books or short stories, but I ran out of those.  So…I’m trying snippets.  I do have two short stories to share in October, and two more in December.  I’m tinkering with a Thanksgiving one, but I’ve had too many things interfere to give it the work it needs.  I didn’t get enough feedback on the one I did for Labor Day to decide if that’s worth the time and effort.

I know every author is supposed to be serious about branding, but I don’t think I’ve nailed that yet.  I really enjoy twitter.  It’s quick and easy to scroll through some of my favorite writers and to find some interesting tidbits and pieces of writing advice.  If I like it, I usually retweet it, so other people can enjoy it, too.  I’m not overwhelming the world with followers with this approach.  But it makes for a fun ten minute break when my brain’s drained of any words, and I need to recharge it.  Often, when I finish writing a scene, and my little grey cells are spinning for a transition and the next scene, I zip to twitter for a fast refresher.  And if I see something I like, I retweet it.  Often, it’s something about writing.  Sometimes, it’s about cooking.  (I love to cook).  I’ve even retweeted Tarot card meanings.  They intrigue me.

I’ve noticed most other authors don’t retweet as often as I do, though.  If they like something, they mark it with a heart, a “like.”  Maybe that’s so that they don’t dilute their own brand.  They keep their tweets mostly concentrated on their own news.  And maybe that’s smart.  It’s something I should probably think about.  But for now, twitter is like a playground for me, a place to play before I have to get back to work, writing another scene, another chapter.  And if the scenes are like pulling teeth, I spend more time on twitter than I should.  That’s called stalling.  I don’t want to leave my chair because if I stand up and wander off, it’s even harder to come back and get in gear.  But my brain can wander away while I sit in front of my computer if I flip to twitter.  And even I, the queen of distractions, can only take so much of the people who scroll past me.  So, before long, I’m headed back to my WIP.

Someday, probably sooner rather than later, I need to rethink what I post.  But for now, I enjoy posting news about my favorite authors.  I mean, if I enjoy them, other readers might, too.  I enjoy posting snippets.  And I’ll never get tired of recipes and pictures of food.  (But I could argue that IS “branding,” since I have Jazzi and Ansel cook together.  So do Hester and Raven.  Or is that stretching it?)  Any ideas?  Is there a smart way to tweet?  I read somewhere that an author should write five original twitter posts a day.  That’s hard.  Interesting retweets are easier.  I do know, though, that I’ve come across some authors that I want to retweet, but I can’t find anything original from them.  So there needs to be some original tweets mixed with the others.

Things for me to ponder.  In the meantime, if you happen to be in Columbus, OH, I’ll be at the mini-con for Kensington writers at Pierogi Mountain from 11:00 to 1:00 on Saturday.  And as always, happy writing!

Blog/webpage

A while ago, I blogged about trying to keep up with writing a blog AND a webpage.  At the time, I was behind on my writing and sweating a deadline, AND my publisher had sent me pages to proof.  I felt buried, but thanks to my awesome critique partners, I got everything done on time.  And I started rethinking what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. And, once again, I decided I like both the blog and the webpage for different reasons.  I’m not toting this as something any sane writer should do or even telling you that it will increase readers or boost sales.  I’m just saying that I like it–for me.

When I write my blog, I think about the craft and business side of writing.  When I first started working on the blog, I shared writing advice that worked for me.  But let’s be honest.  You can find writing how-to tips online from Chuck Wendig (http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/), K.M. Weiland (https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/), and occasional articles by Stephen King (https://smartblogger.com/stephen-king/), so I feel a little out gunned.  Now, I don’t even pretend to be an expert, I just share what’s happening with my writing–the good, the frustrating, and the ugly.  I figure other writers can relate to most of it.  At the  moment, my third Mill Pond romance just came out, and I’m working on the sixth one in the series. My goal is to finish it, turn it in, and then squeeze in enough time to try to write a mystery. I have the mystery all plotted out, and I’d like to start working on it in January.  I’m thinking snow will be on the ground, temperatures will be cold, and I’ll be in the mood to hibernate and pound on my keyboard.  It sounds good on paper, doesn’t it?  My worry? When I write a romance, I have at least 40 plot points (or chapter ideas) to move the story and come up with 70,000 words–if I’m lucky. For my mystery?  I came up with 23 plot points, but they’re more involved, and I HAVE to have 70,000 words.  Will that work?  I sure as hell hope so.

When I go to my webpage, I switch gears.  When I write my webpage, I think of readers, not writers.  And it’s sort of my “spill” zone, where all the random, little ideas I have for characters or series that I can’t use in a book, spill out of my head.  For instance, when I wrote Wolf’s Bane, I fell in love with Wedge and Bull, the two werewolves who help Reece and Damian protect Bay City.  But they’re always supporting players, so I wanted to write short stories that featured each of them.  But what would I do with those stories?  Easy.  I’d put them on my webpage.  And sometimes, I put snippets from the novels I’m working on on it, too.  I even posted my one and only YA witch novel–The Familiars–on my webpage, because–why not?  Sometimes, I use my webpage as a place to experiment with writing techniques I’d never dare try in a full novel.  For Perdita’s Story, I wanted to write a story where the protagonist made one bad decision after another until the end.  I’d never do that for a book, but it was fun to play with for a short piece.  For Mill Pond, I introduced characters that would never get a full novel of their own, but I liked them and wanted to give them a happy-ever-after, so I did–in a short story.  Another thing I like to do on my webpage is introduce fellow writers whose work I like and think they might like, too.  In my  mind, when I go to my webpage, I think of readers more than writers.

As for marketing?  Well, I do my best, but I’m no wizard, so I post any new news on my author Facebook page or twitter.  It’s not the most efficient system, but it makes me concentrate on different areas of my writing:  fellow writers, readers, and marketing. Marketing, right now, is probably my weakest.  I still haven’t learned how to do rafflecoptors and give-aways, and I think I did better when I tried a blog tour and paid for advertising, but I’ve never had a publisher before, so I’m learning as I go.  One step at a time, right?  Hope you’ve found what works for you.  Happy writing!

My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

twitter:  @judypost

 

Writing: to market, to market…

I’m feeling pretty happy with myself. I finished the rewrites for Magicks Uncaged, my third book in the Wolf’s Bane series. Now, I’m waiting to see the cover, and then I’ll wait for it to be formatted and put online. But MY part’s done. At least, on the writing scene. The next “to do” on my list is marketing–not my strongest skill. And the sooner I start, the better.

A long time ago, I did a post on marketing. I haven’t gotten more brilliant at it, but since I’m at that stage again, I thought I’d mention it. In my writers’ group, there’s a wide variety of approaches to promoting books. Some–the more serious, literary writers of our group–pen beautiful, wonderful fiction, try to find a market for it, and then do very little to promote it. I think they feel that it cheapens their talents to hawk their own products. But unless you have a publisher, famous friend, or agent who works his fanny off to sell you, you’d better come to terms with the fact that you need to do it yourself. Readers won’t know your work exists if you just put it out there and let it die. Even publishers expect authors to market their work these days. Some look at a writer’s blog, twitter followers, and social media before accepting his work. So…here are some thoughts.

In the group of authors I know, there are those who think they’ll only succeed if they market their work to find an agent and a publisher. If you’re looking for a big, New York publisher, you have to have an agent. None of the big publishers, except Harlequin, look at unsolicited submissions these days. Getting an agent is no easy task. Sometimes, you can get one because you know an author who’ll recommend you. Even then, you might get turned down. Agents are as subjective about what they like and don’t like as anyone else. They have specific things they’re looking for. Another way of finding an agent is to join twitter and participate in some “pitch” sessions. (Use the hashtag “pitchwars” or “nestpitch” and follow the leads). If you don’t want to go that route, go to a bookstore and look at the acknowledgements in books similar to yours to see if their agent is listed. Then look the agent up online. OR type “agent” in the search engine of your computer and follow the leads. And do your homework. Find out what clients the agent has and how well he’s sold them. Even with an agent, you might not be able to tempt a big publisher. That’s why some of my friends have turned to smaller publishers. And they’re happy with them. You don’t have to have an agent to submit to most small presses. And if none of those appeal to you, you can self-publish through smashwords or Amazon, etc. If you go the self-publishing route, though, you’re in charge of EVERYTHING. You need to write the best book you can write, make sure it’s clean of any errors, find a topnotch cover, format it, load it, and promote it. And remember. A book cover is usually the first thing a reader notices. It gives a “feel” of what the book’s about, but you don’t have to pay a fortune to get a good one.

No matter what you do, you need to be willing to promote yourself. You need a webpage, a blog (on your webpage or separate), and you should be on twitter and facebook. I have a friends’ facebook page separate from my author’s facebook page. And there are theories about the best way to use all of them. I’ve found #MondayBlogs useful on twitter, but there are more writer twitter hashtags. Paula Reed Nancarrow (whose blog I love for many different reasons) did a survey on twitter and blogging and wrote a few posts on the results. Here’s one of them: http://paulareednancarrow.com/2015/03/23/twitter-bloggers-and-communities-of-practice/

Another blog I always recommend for marketing is Lindsay Buroker’s. Most of us won’t have the success she has (she knew marketing and blogs before she started writing), but she’s happy to share what works for her and what doesn’t. http://www.lindsayburoker.com/amazon-kindle-sales/my-self-publishing-thoughts-after-50000-ebook-sales/ I’ve learned a lot from her blogs. Here’s another one of hers I found useful:
https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/4318779-how-do-you-establish-a-fan-base-before-you-launch-your-book.

Can’t think of anything to blog about? Try Molly Greene’s link: http://www.molly-greene.com/101-blog-topic-ideas/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=evergreen_post_tweeter&utm_campaign=website But remember. When you blog, you’re trying to build an “author platform,” to “brand” yourself. Another blogger I recommend for marketing is Rachel Thompson: http://badredheadmedia.com/2013/12/06/branding-101-authors/. A second, good post on branding by her: http://www.bookpromotion.com/brand-author-book/. She’s worth following.

Just to give you a checklist, these are good for marketing: twitter, facebook, a blog, and a webpage. Most experts suggest blogging at least once a week. Some authors use blog tours to promote their books before they come out. I’ve never done that, but I know authors who’ve had success with it and some who haven’t. If any of you have tried it, I’d be curious if you liked it. I can tell you that I’ve been happy with some of the paid advertisements I’ve used to promote my books and novella bundles. I can recommend kboards and Ereader News Today. They’ve worked for me anyway. And many of them aren’t that expensive. Most have a variety of packages. Anyway, I’ve run on enough for one post. Good luck with whatever you’re working on!

twitter: @judypost
webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
author’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy

Writing–Before Your Book Goes Online

I’m mostly an indie author.  Not exactly, because I have an agent, who’s wonderful.  And an agency, which is awesome.  So I get to skip some of the steps that 100% indie authors do.  Which is fine by me.  So I can’t tell you how to format, because Sharon–who’s an e-book wizard–does it for me.  And I can’t tell you about working with a publisher, if you have a book coming out in hardback or paperback, because I’ve never done that.  All I can share with you is what I know or what I’ve tried.  But here are the steps I go through to get a novel/novella online:

1.  People keep saying it, but they’re right.  Write the best book you possibly can, because there are a LOT of books out there–some good, some bad, but you want yours to be the best it can be.  So don’t slap words on a hard drive and share them with the world.  Edit them.  Have a few beta readers (who don’t tell you you’re wonderful and shouldn’t change a word) critique them for you.  Then decide what you could do better and fix it.  Now, I’ve had several friends who would be happy to NEVER send their book out into the cold, cruel world because they’re never going to be satisfied with it.  They can always see one more thing to fix, one more thing that will make it shine.  You have to find a happy medium here.  But don’t rush your book either.  When you send it out, make sure it’s good.

2.  Have someone who knows his/her stuff copy edit your work.  I notice misspellings, bad grammar, and the “sprinkle method” of adding commas.  (I had a friend once who told me that she didn’t understand commas, so she just “sprinkled” them on the page so that they looked good).  Aaargh.  Grammar and spelling are the basic tools of writing, but none of us finish writing a manuscript with no mistakes.  And we can’t always see our own mess-ups.  Make sure your manuscript is clean before you offer it to the world.  (My biggest weakness is hyphens.  Hope one belongs in mess-up???)

3.  Once your manuscript is ready to go, it’s time to format it for whatever site you’re going to load it on.  Most of my writer friends pay someone to do this for them.  A few take the time and effort to do it themselves.  I’m lucky.  (And I know it).  Sharon does it for me.

4.  Books need a cover.  I’ve been lucky enough to work with Michael Prete.  I love the covers he’s created for my novels and novellas.  (And for the first time, he’s told me he’d like to do more covers, so I can share his name and web page: http://vertex10.com/.  He usually designs web pages, so his site only shows his professional work as a web designer, but if you like any of the covers on my work, he’s done all of them, and his prices are reasonable!!).  He’s also been kind enough to let me find images that I think fit the story/tone that I’m trying to create.  Sometimes, I only use one image for a cover.  Sometimes, I combine them.  I just copy the links of what I like and send them to him, and he works his magic.  But whatever you decide to do, your book cover is what makes people notice your novel.  Don’t kid yourself.  People DO judge books by their covers.  Here are my two favorite sites to find images for Michael to work with: http://www.canstockphoto.com/  and  http://www.shutterstock.com/.  Be warned, though, once you start flipping through all of the images, you can lose a few hours without noticing.

5.  And last, but not least, once your book is ready to go, how are you going to market/promote it?  What have you got in place to help people find it?  I’ve already shared a few great marketing sites in previous blogs.  A good one is http://www.lindsayburoker.com/.  Another is https://twitter.com/BadRedheadMedia.  I had great luck with Book Bub ($90), but it’s getting harder and harder to get your book listed there.  I had okay luck with http://www.ebookbooster.com/ ($40).  By okay, I mean I had over 3,000 downloads of my free book with ebookbooster.  Not bad, but nothing compared to the 18,000+ downloads I got from Book Bub.  Later this month, I’m going to try out the parajunkee site to see how that works for the release of my 2 new novella bundles.  I’m experimenting, looking for a mix of sites that help readers discover my work.  I’ve been lucky enough to have several bloggers feature my books.  I still haven’t been brave enough to try a blog tour.  Twitter makes a difference when I tweet about a new release.  So does Goodreads when I self-promote in Making Connections or Nexus.  But an occasional paid ad has proven pretty effective, worth the money, (but only because I have more than one book online).  All that I’m saying is that not many people are going to stumble on your book amid the thousands or millions of novels on amazon and Nook unless you help them find it.  You can twitter (but do it right.  Don’t just list your book over and over again.  People stop reading your tweets).  You can join Goodreads or Facebook.  Or start a blog.  But whatever you do, do something!

P.S.  Just because I LOVE this cover and I mentioned Michael, this is the cover he created for the first Babet/Prosper bundle that’s going online Sept. 23–and this one happens to be FREE when it goes up.

cover_27_thumb

My facebook page (but it’s mostly the blogs you’ve already read): https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/JudithPostsurbanfantasy

Writing–Enjoy the Words

I love my writing group, Summit City Scribes.  We get together twice a month and critique each others’  manuscripts.  We mention what we find strong and wondrous in each piece and what we think might make it better.  We bully and encourage each other, and eventually, most of us end up being pretty darned good writers.

And then it’s time to figure out what to do with what we wrote.  This isn’t a how-to about selling books.  It’s not practical advice, but from the heart.  Some of us in Scribes have been writing for a long time.  I remember the days when a writer could send a query letter directly to an editor at a publishing house.  True, the editor might never look at it, but some poor underling or slush pile reader trudged through each submission, and if it was deemed worthy enough, a writer could get a reply from the editor. These were  considered “good” rejections.

A few of us at Scribes have managed to survive “almost” deals, where an editor asked for a manuscript, held it to publish, and then the deal fell through.  Twice, editors held novels I wrote for future lines their companies meant to start, and then, for whatever reason, decided against trying.   Frustrating?  Yes.  But not nearly as frustrating as today’s world of traditional publishing where no editors or slush pile readers even accept unsolicited manuscripts.  In today’s world, an author has to find an agent, and only an agent can submit manuscripts to editors.  In the “old days,” publishers had a strong stable of midlist authors who might never reach the Top Ten lists, but sold consistently.  There were lots of places to submit and sell short stories.  A new writer could “cut her teeth” and learn as she got better and better at her craft.

Things have changed.  I have a writer friend who claims that finding an agent is easy.  It is for him.  He’s well known in the publishing world.  For the rest of us?  It’s blood, pain, and tears.  I was lucky enough to get an agent who’s anything and everything that I’d ever hope for an agent to be, but I still didn’t have any luck selling my books. I have a habit of writing cross-genre that I find exhilarating, but publishers aren’t so fond of.  I also have a tendency to write for markets that are already full or starting to sag.  So I bugged Lauren to let me put my writing online.  She warned me that sticking a novel on amazon and Barnes and Noble, etc., would be no trip to overnight success.  And boy, was she right!

Before she’d even put my work online, she had a list of to-dos I had to complete.  I needed 50 followers on Twitter, I needed to start a blog and join some kind of internet group–I chose Goodreads and love it–and I needed to be on Facebook.  None of these are any best kept secrets.  There are lots of posts on how to create a “brand” as a writer these days.  But what Lauren was making sure of was that I’d at least TRY to market myself and promote my work.  No one does it for you these days, unless you’re a big name author who will make a publisher lots of money.

Writing is hard work.  So is marketing.  And what’s frustrating to me is when a new author shows tons of potential in our group, and she asks, “What should I do now?,” more often than not, the answer is, “If you want to try to find an agent and publisher, go for it.  But if it takes forever and it doesn’t look good, put your work online.”  Thankfully, Scribes has Melissa, our computer guru, who can whip up a book cover, format a book, and put it on Kindle in the blink of an eye.

The sad news, to me, is that it’s so hard to get a traditional publisher to take on a new writer these days.  The good news?  E-books have taken the place of midlist author slots and pulp fiction magazines that used to serve as practice grounds that gave writers time to learn and grow.  But going the e-book route, an author has to market and promote to get her work any attention.  The only exception that I can think of, off the top of my head, is Harlequin romance.  Editors there still welcome writers and work with them.  A writer doesn’t have to have an agent to submit to one of their lines.  More places might exist, but I can’t think of them.

In a way, it’s so easy to put a book online these days that there’s no filter to assure quality of writing.  There are so many books online that it’s hard to stand out.  So my advice to writers?  Enjoy putting words on paper (or computer screens) and write the best books you can, because that, for me, is the luxury part of the job.  The business part is necessary, and I’m not saying it’s not without its joys, but it takes a new set of skills.

What Makes You Write

This blog might meander more than most.  And be a bit longer, so be warned.  But people write for different reasons.  I belong to a writers’ group, Summit City Scribes, an eclectic mix of people whose main focus is to make our writing better.  After we discuss active and passive verbs, repetition, characterization, or pacing..etc., we might discuss a market for whatever was read.  The point is, we put writing first, marketing a dismal second.   I’ve gone to other groups that flip the two.  Selling is the major focus, and what to write that sells is the main discussion.  They talk about writing too, but it’s more about making the perfect product that will catch an editor’s eye.  And to be honest, I think more people sell in those groups than in ours.  Why?  Because they’re better writers?  No, because they’re more realistic.  They don’t just sit down and write whatever strikes their fancy.  They look at the market, study it, and write for a specific publisher.  They write smart.  Does that mean I wish our group would change?  No, because our group encourages writers, whether they’ll ever sell or not.  But if you want to sell, you should know the markets.  Study them and tailor your novel or short story or article to them.

I’ve said before in this blog that I never thought about writing until my husband enrolled me in a class called Writing For Fun and Profit.  My girls were still in diapers, and it was a gift from him (he babysat each week so that I could go), a time for me to get out of the house and away from being a Mommy.  The teacher liked one of my articles enough to encourage me to try to sell it.  She even suggested a market for it, Byline magazine.  So I sent it with a little note and didn’t expect much.  I got a letter a month later offering me $25 for it.  And I remember being thrilled and telling my husband, “I think I’ll write more.  This is easy.”  And I wrote and I wrote, and discovered that NOTHING about writing is easy.  I’d had beginner’s luck, and the rest of the process was tricky business.  But by then, I was hooked–an addict, so I wrote anyway.  Writing for some, like it was for me back then, (probably is even now), is an outlet–a spigot that offers release when too many thoughts and energies build up and gush forth on paper.  Only I couldn’t just stop at journaling or scribbling in a diary, I wanted to control those words and jostle them into stories.  And then I wanted those stories to be more powerful, and I began to take writing very seriously.

I’ve known people who read hundreds of romances, sit down and KNOW the rhythm and internal rules of romance enough, to whip off a forty, sixty, or eighty thousand word manuscript and sell it on the first, second, or third try.  I am not one of those people.  I’ve never thought of myself as a race horse or thoroughbred.  I’m more like a pack mule or a work horse–the tortoise instead of the hare.  I’m the type who dips my toes in the water, works my way up to my knees, then my shoulders before I take the plunge.  Some people dive right in.  They start by writing novels, gong to conferences, making connections.  I started with short stories, sold some to small anthologies and got paid in copies, before I sold to major magazines and anthologies.  Then I started thinking about novels.  And I had a unique knack for writing what no one wanted to buy.  “Sorry, cozies are a glutted market right now.  Good writing.  If you write something else, please keep us in mind.”  And did I take the hint?  Stop writing cozies?  No, not me.  I thought the pendulum would surely swing back, and then I’d be sitting on a treasure house of the stupid things.  See what I mean?  Marketing matters.  I was a slow learner.

A person joined our group once, came for a short while, and then quit coming because he told us, “I don’t want to waste my time writing unless I’m going to be paid big money for it.”  And we told him, “Good luck.”  If you think you’ll get rich by writing, I hope you ARE one of the lucky ones.  It still hasn’t happened for me and most of my friends.  I do have a friend, who writes romances for Harlequin, who’s selling like crazy.  But she’s also a marketing whiz, one of those rare writers who’s good at writing AND good at selling herself.  Another friend put her book on amazon and was at the right time with the right thing and sold lots of copies.  But the general rule?  It takes a lot of work and time to make a name for yourself.  The writers I know who write for money do nonfiction and are regular contributors to magazines, work for businesses, or write “how to” books, or teach classes on how to write.  They write fiction on the side.  I’d be living on the streets if I had to live off of my writing.  Right now, I’ve spent more money putting my stories online than I’ve made off of them.  My agency doesn’t pay for them, I do.  But when my agent sent out each novel, it took a year before I heard back from big publishers, all rejecting it, and my agent wasn’t interested in small publishers…and I got restless.  I wanted to try e-books.  I think of it as an investment.  Hopefully, someday, people will discover them and buy more of them.  But that hasn’t happened yet.  Many, many writers’ blogs say that it takes time to be an “overnight” sensation.  I can’t tell you.  It hasn’t happened to me yet.

Anyway, the good news is that Lauren just approved four more of my novellas that I can put online.  I love writing them.  I love urban fantasy.  I have all kinds of freedom to try new things.  I hope one or more of them strikes a chord with readers.  Once they’re up, then I need to start marketing them, because marketing IS a part of writing these days.  You need to blog.  You need to twitter.  I made an author’s Facebook page and joined Goodreads.  You should too.

I didn’t write this blog to discourage anyone.   I love writing, but a few people have asked me questions about marketing and selling, and a few new people have joined Scribes, and I can tell their expectations aren’t very realistic.  So I hope you guys are smarter than I was.  But if you’re not, I hope you enjoy every part of writing as much as I do.  And good luck to you.