Wednesday Writing Tip – Engage

Navigating social media as an author can be tricky. If you’ve not already accumulated a good friend-base on any given platform, starting up new ones with the sole purpose of selling your books is hit and miss. So, why does this marketing strategy work for some, and not for others? I think Bobbi Holmes nailed it today. Before I go on, and add to what she’s already said, read her post FOLLOW ME, I’LL FOLLOW BACK – IS THAT TWITTER? 

Did you finish reading it? Good. Plan on reading it later? Okay, I’ll summarize: Bobbi, like myself, is a writer (check her out, she’s awesome). And also like myself, she’s been trying to navigate the Twitter scene for several years, trying multiple ways to make a place for herself and her readers. She’s recently cleaned up her follow list in order to see what she wants to see in her feed, and be more able to properly engage with her followers. Makes sense, right?

I agree 100% with Bobbi that engagement is key. And I’ll break down each site I  use to explain why and how this works for me:

FACEBOOK

Admittedly one of the most popular user-friendly social media outlets where real online friendships can be formed and kept, Facebook leads the charge for me in my marketing endeavors. Not necessarily because I want it too, though. I despise how our Timeline feeds are adjusted by the automated FB bots, not by ourselves, which limits what our own friends, family and followers actually see in their feeds. Marketing on FB is harder, with stricter rules, and harsh consequences (I doubt there’s an author on FB who hasn’t heard of another that was locked out of their account due to breaking or abusing FB’s posting guidelines). Not to mention there is absolutely ZERO Customer Support. Those with business pages, like myself, are now forced to pay for posts if we want more than a teeny percent of our followers to see our posts. But the numbers don’t lie, and compared to all of my other social media platforms, FB takes the lead with engagement and actual marketing success. Plus, FB is full of real people, who truly want to interact with friends, family coworkers and their favorite actors, singers, and yes…authors. I’ve met many amazing people via my FB author page. Engaging with my readers is very easy to do here. A warning about FB – it’s a massive time-suck for writers (pfft, for everyone, right?) and is why I now schedule my FB visits and even removed the app from my phone. A year ago.

My Recent FB Stats: Author Page Likes – 2,441. Post Reach for this week – 1,090 (Best individual post reach today – 123). Post Engagement – 72 (Best individual post engagement – 18). Reach this week is down 58%, Engagement is down 44%, Page Likes are down 25%.

TWITTER

Unlike many others, I don’t go to Twitter specifically for news, but news spreads like wildfire on this platform. Which means there is no shortage of celebrity drama. But it’s a fabulous place to find all sorts of discussions about current events – be them about the latest controversial Kardashian selfie, or the current US political debate. There’s what I’ll call an ‘epidemic’ of auto-following here and a never-ending race to get the most followers, even if this means you have to follow thousands of strangers to make that happen. There’s a lot of spamming, which makes the occasional marketing post get lost almost instantly. And the place can be overwhelming. But there are real people on Twitter too, and often times those readers of mine that don’t FB, find me on Twitter. It’s easy to share content on Twitter, a simple RT, which means that if a post is favored, the ability for reach can skyrocket. But, as Bobbi mentioned in her post, there’s little follow-through without consistent engagement, which is really hard to achieve when the Twitter Timeline flies faster than Superman. This is when ‘Lists’ come in handy. Engaging with my own readers is possible, but difficult. Engaging with other authors is no problem at all, because there’s a trillion of us on Twitter. A warning about Twitter – once you tweet it, you can’t delete it. I mean, you can delete the original post, but unless you did it instantly, and only have five followers, if it’s at all juicy, or controversial, chances are it’s already been RT’d by the time you say, ‘Crap’ and possibly even shared on other platforms. In other words – don’t drink and Tweet, people.

My Recent Twitter Stats: Followers – 10.8k. Following – 9,947. Recent Tweet Impressions – 5,710. Mentions – 7. Tweets Linking back to my page – 16. Profile visits, Mentions and Impressions are all down 20+ percent this week.

PINTEREST

Pinterest is a photo sharing site mainly designed to filter traffic back to business websites that sell a product or link to a blog or website article. Think DIY, How To’s, funny memes and Etsy listings, recipes, stores, just to name a few. I am a Pinterest addict. There’s something cathartic about pinning hundreds of hair styles I don’t know how to do, clothing styles that won’t support my bust, and meals I’ll mostly drool over because I don’t often have the right ingredients to make them.

But as for marketing, I love my Bookish board. And I have an inspiration board for each of my book series. All authors should do this. Why? Even if you are like me, and your most popular pin of the week is a piece of jewelry that has nothing to do with anything you write, your readers can get an inside glimpse of your fictional worlds, which makes them connected to your work in a unique way. Plus, a lot of people are visual. Book covers are a wonderful thing to Pin, and many readers do this themselves. It’s a fun thing to find new pins of your books uploaded onto Pinterest by your readers. It’s marketing without having to do all the work yourself. But…a word of caution…Pinterest can take over your life. Pin carefully.

My Recent Pinterest Stats: Followers – 2.4k. Following – 1.3k. Profile Likes – 15.6k. Average Daily Impressions – 9,559 – up 39%. Average Daily Views – 5,708 – up 12%. Average Monthly Viewers – 128k – up 2%. Activity via Pinterest to my website – 157 Daily Impressions and 131 Daily Views.

INSTAGRAM

Like Pinterest, Instagram is a photo sharing site, but more personal. It’s like a public version of your home photo album. Anyone from your neighbor’s hair dresser, to your mum’s dog, to Taylor Swift, can upload shots of their personal experiences here…all with the help of beautiful editing filters. I enjoy Instagram more for myself and my family, then for anything else, but readers do find me here. It’s easy to hashtag on Instagram, and the more creative the tags, the more fun. Whether it’s pictures of lunch, the dog sleeping on the couch, the child jumping off a cliff into the ocean, the local science fair, stumbling into a celebrity at the SDCC, or the cover of your newest book, people will see these photos and if they like them, they’re more likely to engage than on a place like Pinterest. A warning about Instagram – I know personally there is a rise in online bullying between kids on Instagram, which sucks. Also, unless your profile is private so only your approved followers can view it, keep in mind that your pictures are out there. In other words – keep your clothes on. Please.

FPetcoPark

My Recent Instagram Stats: I don’t have many numbers because there’s not much available to share. Followers – 1181. Following – 1295. Most recent post – 54 likes, 3 engagements. Most popular photos seem to be of my meat-free meals, or my kids doing strange things, like trying to taste the air. 😉


 

Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc…I’m on, but not active on a marketing standpoint. I know some who have great stats from these places, though.

If I was to take all four of my main social media platforms above, and pick the one with the best statistics, that would be Pinterest, no question. But when it comes to selling books and engaging with readers, FB is #1 and Twitter takes the #2 spot. These are the places I’m most active on, author-wise, so this makes sense. But I think these two places make it easier to converse with anyone, to engage with freedom, and to share the info your readers need to grab up your stories.

If selling a book was my only priority for every hour of the day, then I suppose you would find me hanging out on FB all day long. But since I have over 42.2k pins on my Pinterest account, it’s safe to say that I’ve other interests outside of writing. Like the perfect tiny tattoo that I will one day proudly display. The perfect beach I will one day lay on. The perfect ratatouille recipe to go with the perfect vegan brownies or protein bites. The perfect homeschool activity for a rainy day. The perfect midi ring set. The perfect derping dog face. The perfect fairy garden. And all of those things definitely share space with the perfect face for Riley, Piper, and A’ris.

PinterestProteinBites

It really comes down to which platform you feel comfortable being yourself on. And that’s what I think we need to be, in order to get that engagement – be ourselves. Be you. Share your work, but show off your humor, your fears, and your interests too. Because writers are real people too, and readers want to know about that.

Thanks, Bobbi, for your post today. It sure got me thinking again about how I approach my platforms and readers. I’ll be doing better, I hope, at practicing the art of engagement, and focusing less on the number game. *wink*


 

So, what are YOUR favorite social media platforms, and why? I’m interested in this!

 

Wednesday Writing Tip – Speed It Up

I’m not the fastest of writers, but I’m not as slow as I used to be. And I don’t mean the speed of my typing (which for a book, averages about 1.5 – 2 thousand words per uninterrupted hour) I’m talking about the entire process, here.

After high school I started so many ‘projects’ that it’s almost embarrassing to go back and look at all the unfinished WIP’s hanging out in my file cabinet which are now birthing millions of little dust bunnies. But as I work on the eleventh book to be published, I now understand why it is I didn’t finish those stories when I was younger.

I got hung up on the little things.

Seriously. I freaked myself out about the process: the spelling, the grammar, the type of comma I should use, the plot, the outline, the spacing and paragraph settings on the computer or the paper I was writing on, the pen I picked, etc… Basically, the entire project seemed like one red flag after another the more I thought about it. My mess of scattered thoughts and worries destroyed the projects – every time.

All the little things strangled the starving artist inside me. I became a creativity killer.

Fast-forward almost two decades (relax, I’m not that old) to my first ‘completed’ full-length project that I started in 2011 and published just over six months later, I HOPE YOU FIND ME. I didn’t worry about any of the things I mentioned above because I just started typing, in fact, the only thing I changed in the Word document initially was the line spacing (I made it 1.5 because at the time, single spacing made me feel ‘cramped’ and double spacing made me feel like there was no end whatsoever). Now, IHYFM isn’t the best written book, I know this. I mean, it was my first. But I learned so much from that book about how I’d write the rest after it. The process itself is of course different for everyone, but when starting something new, especially a book, the more you try and figure it out before hand, the harder you make it on yourself.

So here are my tips for writing faster

  • What do you do before you start writing? If you’re the outlining type, keep it simple and to the point, and save the creative time for the actual writing. If you aren’t using an outline, still take a moment to jot down a few words about the characters, beginning, middle, end and a few climatic moments you’ve already thought of so you have some direction to go. Eventually, the characters take on a life of their own anyway.
  • If you are typing in a Word document (or equivalent) take one minute to adjust your paragraph settings and styles. Seriously, only one minute. Anything more than that might drag you over to the OCD side. Like I mentioned before, I prefer to write with  1 or 1.5 spacing, the first line indented or hanging at about .3, no extra spaces before or after paragraphs. All other formatting options can (and probably should) wait till the end.
  • Simplify. While writing a first draft, the font you use is NOT important as long as you can read it without distraction. Setting up all your headers ahead of time isn’t important (unless you want your chapter headings to all look the same right out of the gate). Times New Roman or something similar (I’m using Liberation Serif size 12 for my current WIP) are perfectly suitable fonts. Boring? Yep, but if you’re actually writing and not worrying about these things, the font becomes a teeny-tiny issue. Seriously – don’t overthink. Keep it simple in the beginning.
  • Use page breaks between your chapters. After you hit the last enter/return of your current chapter, insert a ‘page break’ so you are automatically moved to the next page. It’s a lot easier than hitting the enter/return button 100 times to move to the next page. That gets old REALLY fast while editing through the first draft. Plus, extra spaces are something you’ll have to remove anyway if you create an ebook.
  • Ignore the ‘page’ numbers of your document and pay attention only to the word count. Mine is displayed at the bottom of every document (currently using LibreOffice) but in some programs you might have to seek out your word count from the Tools section (or equivalent). The page numbers don’t matter for a few reasons: If you are writing double spaced, single space or something in between, the page number of your document will not be an accurate indicator of the length. Font type, paragraph styles and size of your text impact the length of your document. Telling yourself you want to write one more page might be deceiving if down the road you change any of the above things. Telling yourself you want to write 500 words (or 5,000) is the most reliable way to look at it. You can change everything about your document’s looks with a few clicks, but the word count will still be the same.
  • Don’t let grammar or spelling bog you down while you write. There’s a reason why editing your first draft takes time. But if you stress about the little things, then edit later. I see writing and editing as two totally different jobs, which take up different sides of your brain. You’ve got the analytical side for editing and the creative side for writing. Trying to cram both processes together for your first book might make your brain explode. Okay, maybe that’s dramatic, but seriously, you’ll write faster if you concentrate on writing first. If you come across a word, phrase or paragraph you aren’t ‘sure’ of, then highlight it and move on. If you stop the creative flow to constantly edit as you write, you’ll slow yourself down. Think of a snail towing a tractor trailer. Don’t let that be you. Spelling and grammar skills are expected from a writer, but it’s totally okay to have Thesaurus.com up in the background while you write (or a nifty diagram like THIS from Pinterest – check out my Writing Love board for more awesome writing tips). Use whatever tools will make you a better writer, so that editing is not as painful. For me, because there are gaps in my writing sessions (I have kids, my entire life is one big interruption) I’ll go back and read either the previous chapter, or the last few paragraphs I wrote before I start the next to refresh my thoughts, but that’s it. I never stop writing in the middle of a chapter unless it can’t be helped. That’s a personal style, but it sure makes it easier for my brain to flip the right switch when I sit back down at the computer.
  • Just write. If you’ve been a writer for a little while, you’ve read this and heard this elsewhere probably 100 times before today, but it’s so totally true. Just write – every day and every hour that’s available. If you have a story to tell, then for the love of chocolate, tell it. You can edit the manuscript and play with the fonts and format the paragraph styles and create your cover page after you’ve finished the story. That’s called editing and formatting and they are entirely different monsters, which leads me to the next suggestion…
  • Outsource what you can’t or don’t want to do. If you are self-publishing your book, chances are you need help with editing, formatting, cover design, etc…so outsource for it. There are a ton of writer groups online (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) where it’s easy to seek out the people that can do what you can’t or don’t have time for. Check references always, to make sure your investment in these people will produce a polished final project. And, before you release your work to the general public, have a few trusted people beta read for you (beta readers read the unpublished work first). They’ll be able to spot errors you might have missed, and any plot issues that might need clarifying. Beta readers rock.

So, there you have it, folks. If you follow those tips above, or even just tweak a few, chances are pretty high you’ll speed up the writing process and maybe even avoid a few bouts of writer’s block.

Writing can bleed a person dry, but you know what, it’s totally worth it in the end.

Happy Writing, y’all!


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Wednesday Writing Tip

It’s been a while since I’ve thrown up a Writing Tip!

Today’s tip will be a personal observation I made after much trial and error on my part. See, my house is a busy one. We have three dogs (two still in their puppy stages) and a cat, and both of my children are home all day because we homeschool. In other words – it’s NEVER quiet here. In the past, I’ve drowned out the noise by wearing my headphones, leaving the TV on, etc…so there was constant background noise that would drown out everything else while writing, but that doesn’t seem to work long term. I know because I’ve been doing things this way for two years.

With all the distractions from television, music, family, cell phones, social pages online – you know…life – we are constantly inundated with SOUND. Surely this has an impact on our writing. So how about simplifying. To simplify means ‘to make easy’, to ‘cut down’, to ‘reduce’, to put something in ‘order’. And what better thing to do for yourself, and your writing??

So here are my tips on how to ‘simplify’ your writing time:

  • Write on a schedule, if at all possible. Yeah I know, some are saying ‘I can’t do that, I never know when I’ll have time to write,’ or ‘But my creativity isn’t on a schedule, so how can my writing be?’ Honestly, it is TOTALLY possible to create time in your day when your younger kids will be resting, or asleep, or when the older kids are at school. Or during soccer practice, or lunch, etc… There IS time. And if you schedule that hour or two every single day when things are at their calmest around you, you’ll find more time to sneak in quality writing time. And even if you don’t think your muse will show up at 1pm every day, if you get in the habit of showing up yourself, the story will follow.
  • Write an outline, even a basic one. Some of us write by the seat of our pants, with no regard to outlines. This might work on the first book, but it won’t work as well on the third of a series. ‘Did Jade have green eyes, or blue?’ ‘Did that guy in the market steal the wallet, or was it that guy standing on the corner?’ If you confuse facts from your story because you didn’t jot down the basics on an outline, not only can you piss off readers that might actually remember the color of Jade’s eyes, but you leave out the potential for great plot twists, or forget to tie up loose ends. I hate outlines, but I do them now – even if it’s only one page about the beginning, the middle and the end. And maybe one more page that lists the descriptions of the characters. It could take you five minutes or five weeks to work on an outline – but either way is going to make things easier down the road. And remember, a story is organic and quite possibly will change as you write it, so adjust that outline here and there, too.
  • Write now, edit later. I used to edit each prior chapter before starting on the next and even though I do find it helpful to read what I’ve previously written, editing takes up a lot and eats into writing time if you try to do both together. Write the story, fix only what must be fixed as you go along, and then edit the heck out of it later. It keeps your brain in writing mode longer and when you only have short bursts of time during the day available for writing, this is a much easier way to go.
  • Write everything down. You’re at lunch with friends and the couple next to you is having a heated discussion, one of which you don’t mean to be privy to, but you can’t help overhearing them and it sparks a story idea. You tell yourself to remember it later, and of course, you’ll forget it. Or a powerful dream wakes you in the middle of the night. You’re covered in sweat, trembling, thinking to yourself, ‘Wow, that was crazy/scary/intense,’…but you roll over and tell yourself you will jot it down in the morning. When the suns rises, that dream has nicely implanted itself in the dark corners of your subconscious, no longer dancing through the forefront of your thoughts. The mistake is telling yourself that you will remember those random thoughts, dreams or ideas, and NOT writing it down. It doesn’t matter if it’s a few sentences or keywords on a napkin or a half-awake email you send yourself from your cell phone in the middle of the night – the point is, if you write it down somewhere, you can organize it later. One day you might write a story from those ideas that becomes your best book.
  • Write comfortably. By this I don’t necessarily mean lavishly strewn about the bed with dozens of pillows…though that doesn’t sound too bad. 😉 What I mean, is make sure your writing area is comfortable and accessible to your needs – a chair that won’t hurt your back, a desk at the right height, something to put your feet up on if you need it, a stash of chocolate or a mug of coffee within arm’s reach, the phone, a notebook, etc…you get the point. If you have to stop writing to organize your space, or search for something, that scattered state might follow you into the story.
  • Writing must be backed up. Either use a flash drive, or an online back up like Google Docs, but make sure to do this not just often, but seriously, all the time. It will simplify your life if you have back ups when you NEED them. If you have your work saved in one location and something happens to that lap top, computer or notebook – then what? Yeah, you’re screwed.
  • Writing takes time, have fun with it. Some people write to hit a certain word count goal for the day – others take their time. Regardless of how you write, have fun with it. If you don’t like the story your readers sure won’t be all that interested. Writing what you know is great, but research can be fun too.

Obviously, to each their own. No two writers are alike, but if you find yourself overwhelmed or struggling to get your writing time in, hopefully something on this list will help you!

Happy Writing!

What’s the secret to selling ebooks?

1000sales

This week I hit a monumental milestone that I will never forget: I’ve sold 1,000 books this month, and it’s not over just yet. This is mind-blowing and beyond exciting, but also humbling, because next month I could drop down to 100 sales. I’ve been asking myself, ‘What is the secret to selling ebooks?’ You might be wondering how I sold 1,000 copies this month, and I could list all the things I’ve done over the last year to get to this point, but would it help you? I’m not sure.

The reason is this – each author and each of their books are different. We all have our own schedules, and marketing expertise. Books don’t just need to be of good quality to sell, they need to be promoted properly. I know what I’ve done the last three months that has worked for me – but will the same things work for you? Maybe, maybe not. But I can tell you what I think every author should do:

  • Write. This sounds simple but it’s not. Write, write, write…and then write some more. Write until your manuscript is as close to perfect as you can make it. And then go through and re-write the weak points.
  • Hire an Editor. An actual Editor, by the way…someone who gets paid to edit manuscripts and can be brutally honest with you. Their job is to make sure your work is the best it can be.
  • Know your audience. If your book is about an 18yr old heroine, marketing to the YA or NA crowd will get you more dedicated readers than marketing to the Adult Contemporary crowd.
  • Master Social Networking. Why? Because you can meet thousands of strangers online that might want to read what you have written – and unless you hit the streets, stopping all those thousands of people who might fit your audience, networking online is the best way to go. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc…all great places to meet new people who like to read. Be careful with this though – there is a fine line between sharing your books and spamming your followers.
  • Brand yourself. Make your name something people will remember by labeling it the same way on each book, using hashtags with your name, and having places you can send people to online for more info. Websites are great, blogs are wonderful, Author pages are mandatory. Be reachable, and readers will find you.
  • Listen to your readers. Do your biggest fans want a follow-up to your last book? Do they seem interested in you combining genres or would they love to read something different from you? In the end, the writer is in charge of what they write, but if you know what your biggest supporters would love to see, it can help steer you in a direction that makes your current fan base happy and brings in a new audience.
  • Keep writing. So you released a book and it is doing well, what now? Well, it’s natural for a book to have a peak time, and eventually that book will taper down and if you don’t have a new release, or the promise of a new release for your readers to look forward to, your sales will slow or even, worst case scenario – stop. Market what you have out, always, but keep writing. Putting fresh books out there keeps your biggest supporters reading, but also continues to bring in new readers.
  • Make friends. Yes, writing is an isolating job at times. It’s super easy for us to hide at our desks all day and perfect the art of being an introvert. But everyone needs friends. And that includes writers. Find a group you can relate to locally, or online, and surround yourself with them. They are your peers, your inspiration and your support. They are your people.
  • Love what you do. If you don’t love writing, it will show in your work. If you aren’t in love with your book – who else will be? Writers are their harshest critics, so don’t let that fool you – writers are usually NEVER 100% satisfied with their projects. But, that being said, you have to be able to look at your story and say, ‘I like this. I would read this’, otherwise your chances of anyone else saying that are pretty slim.

Like I said, what works for me today might not work for me tomorrow and it might not work for you at all, but all of those tips up there have led me to where I am today – helping to pay the bills and making awesome friends along the way. It’s possible. I’m proof. 🙂

 

Happy Weekend!