Friday, July 1, 2011

Using Social Media Strategy To Promote Your Writing

Blogging and promotion is part of the new job description for the today’s author. Getting your name known in cyberspace. Setting your *brand.*

It either scares the bejeebies out of a writer or they feel at a loss as to where to start. They want to use their time to write, not *play around on the internet.* I was the promotion/marketing director of a small Indie press. I heard variations of this daily.

So many books. I want to look for you, why?
My answer? You can do both. How are your readers going to find you if they don’t know your name and what you write? Books don’t just magically sell because your name is on it. And many writers don’t start that process until they have a contract or a book published, which puts you at a disadvantage of racing to catch up.

Yes, you need time to write but you also have to invest the time to get your work in the hands of your target audience—your readers. So, if blogging and promotion is a must, then learn how to blog in a way designed to gain readers and build a platform of future fans.

My guest is Laurie Creasy. She has graciously agreed to share her expertise to help one get started and how to use social media to promote your work. 

This will be part one of a three part series. 

It’s never too early to plan a strategy for using social media to promote your writing.

More and more, traditional publishers rely on authors to promote their books. In e-publishing right now, you are author, marketer, and sometimes even editor and designer.

To promote what you write effectively, you’ll need momentum.  Here are five ways to build it.

Blog. As a new writer, this may be the most important thing you do in social media. A blog anchors everything else you do – it gives you a place to explain or extrapolate, to test ideas.

Don’t tell me you have nothing to say. Of course you do. If you really had nothing to say, you wouldn’t be a writer. Right?

So write about something you love – something that also touches what you write about. Adore steampunk? Tell us about the clothes, the foods, and the buildings.  If you write fantasy, give us some tips on how you build worlds from scratch.

Not only are you giving your readers great information, you’re building an audience for your stories.

Experiment. I started a Tumblr blog several months ago and floundered until I began taking photos of flowers. Suddenly my blog took off (in a small way). Who knew?

If things aren’t working, try a different angle – maybe steampunk clothes are just too, well, done -- or try a different tone for your posts.

If you don’t do well with a traditional blog, try something different.

Tumblr ( is fun, and it’s an excellent way to show off photos and artwork.

A new service, Pinterest, lets you create the virtual equivalent of a bulletin board for things you’re interested in. (Pinterest is in beta, but you can request an invitation at

You may also find that you work well with Storify (, which allows you to tell a story through tweets and Facebook status posts. Unlike a blog, however, Storify creates standalone pieces.

Play around until you find out what works best for you.

Help and share. Your job as a budding author is to build relationships with everyone, not just big name authors. It’s what your mother always told you: To have an audience, you have to be an audience.

This means you can’t just post to your own blog and ignore everyone else’s. Get in there and comment, question, and even disagree on other blogs.

Yes, it takes time. Yes, you might spend that more productively by writing, and writing is your future.

Let’s be blunt: Selling your writing is your future, unless you like starving in a garret and achieving renown only after you’re dead. The time you put into building your social media presence now is an investment in your writing.

Analyze. What works on a blog doesn’t work on Twitter. What works on Twitter doesn’t work on Facebook.

Figure out what’s best for which platform and why. My job involves maintaining a Facebook page for a large university. I can tell you right now that our audience loves photos of campus, news about our sports programs, news about our research in health, and news about our astronomy research. Any of those will draw likes and comments for us, and on Facebook, likes and comments are the name of the game.

If you have a Twitter and/or a Facebook account, begin experimenting now to find out what mix of content will work for you.

Stop worrying about numbers. Millions of Facebook fans, tens of thousands of Twitter followers – stop right there.  Just stop, OK?

You’re going to buy a friend’s book, or you’re going to buy a book by someone you feel as though you know. If you like that book, you’ll tell others, and if they like it, they’ll tell even more people.

That’s the point of social media, to build friendships. Not only do you want to get to know the people who will buy your book, you want them to get to know you.

After all, readers aren’t really investing in any given book. They’re investing in a relationship with an author they’ve come to trust.

  • What strategies have you employed? What have you found to work?

  • If you have any questions be sure to ask and Laurie will do her best to answer them.

At age 53, Laurie went back to college for a master's degree in Human-Computer Interaction. Her younger classmates introduced her to social media, and she has never looked back. She leads the team that maintains a university Facebook page with more than 200,000 fans -- an increase of 130,000 fans since she began her work in early 2010. 

She has won national, regional, and international prizes for poetry, fiction, and reporting, including the RWA's Golden Heart award for romantic suspense, and has taught creative writing classes.

You can find Laurie: Facebook and her blog

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Investing in Your Writing

Everyone is gearing up to go to writing conference this summer. Some have been and are trying to absorb all they've learned and apply it to their writing.

Conferences are a great place to network--you meet agents, publisher reps, other authors. You do learn a lot even from those seminars that don't quite fit what you're looking for. I've found some good info bits in some of them.

A writing buddy of mine, James Rafferty  recently attended a writer's conference shared some of it with me.

Recently I attended two conferences, one for my work in telecommunications and the second for my work in writing. The conferences were in very different fields, but I observed several common themes that applied to both events. At the conferences, I invested time in learning new things, networked with other professionals in the field and promoted my current projects.
I'm not a newcomer to conferences. I've probably attended 4-5 telecom events for the past 15 years. My participation in writing conferences is mostly much more recent. I attended a few SF conferences as a reader and fan many years back, but my participation at Boston area conferences the past two years has been as a writer. Why should writers attend conferences?
I view conferences as an investment. It's a chance to step out of the normal day to day routines and find out what's going on in the rest of the world. Publishing is undergoing a sea change which has much in common with the changes the high tech industry experienced during the past ten years. Business models are changing, there are new ways of getting products to the market and the roles of industry participants are shifting before our eyes. In this kind of environment, it makes sense for individuals to study up on the new trends, perfect one's own areas of craft and expertise and make contacts with the shakers and movers of your industry.
    Muse and the Marketplace, sponsored by Grub Street of Boston, offers a breadth of possibilities for              aspiring writers. The conference took place over a weekend and I chose to attend the Saturday portion of the event. From among a plethora of sessions, I decided to focus on a mix of craft, marketing and promotion.

Boston-based author Gary Braver conducted a session on ten essential elements for writing thrillers. A key point was that the mission of the thriller writer is to establish an atmosphere of dread and then build up tension throughout the novel. I'd previously read Braver's book Flashback and really enjoyed it, so he was a credible source for this kind of information.
Next up, I attended a session on promotion, which was useful, but tending toward being repetitious. The key point was an emphasis on the need for author to be ready to promote their work at all times and along the way, builds up a platform. Most of this information was familiar for me and the leader offered a useful reminder that we needed to be ready with an elevator pitch on our projects.
One of the unique parts of Muse was the chance to participate in their Power Lunch. For a reasonable fee, we could choose a lunch table and chat with four members of the publishing industry. I chose a table with two agents, a publisher and an editor. Three other conference attendees joined me at the table and we all had chances to talk with everybody at the table by changing seats a couple of times. I found this to be the best part of the day. My fellow authors and I each pitched our current projects and I even had enough time to chat a bit about a work in progress with a couple of my lunch mates. I put the prior session's emphasis on the elevator pitch to immediate use and got enough interest so that I've got a couple of action items to pursue in the wake of the conference.
In the afternoon, I shifted gears and went to a session called Agents on the Hot Seat. Agents are the gatekeepers for the traditional publishing industry and tend to be very knowledgeable about the market, so getting a chance to listen to four pros talk about how they chose authors to represent and how the agent's role is evolving was enlightening.
I concluded my day by participating in a Manuscript Mart session. This is another unique feature of Muse, since an author can prepare a submission in the form of a query letter, synopsis and a 20-page excerpt of one's work, and then get detailed feedback from an agent or editor. In my case, I submitted an excerpt from my first novel, Growing Up Single. The agent I chose had done her homework and offered a detailed review of both the query and the excerpt.
I had several takeaways from this session. One key point was to sweat the details on the query. The agent really wanted to get a clear idea about the book in just a few lines and offered her thoughts about whether I'd accomplished that. She'd also done a line by line review of the excerpt and gave me her take on what worked and what didn't. When I had a chance to take a fresh look at her feedback a couple of days later, I found myself agreeing on some points and not on others, but felt the overall critique was useful in giving me some direction on where I'll go with this project.
James Rafferty
By the end of the day, I felt like this day had been an excellent use of my time and that I'd learned a few things that will help me progress as a writer. I also had some great positive reinforcement that will help me to stay motivated on these projects. And I had those action items that will keep me busy for a while.

  • If you're a writer, what steps are you taking to advance in meeting your goals?

  • Do you feel conferences are the right investment of your time and money, or would you recommend a different approach?
You can find James on Facebook or on his Writer's Notebook blog

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Musings: How Important Is Having Editor?

This week Over Coffee will be about different aspects of our writing careers, whether it's procuring a good editor, investing in writing conferences, or building a online presence.

Most authors come into contact with editors. There are all sorts of editors from acquiring editors to copy editors. They have all have an important role in an author’s career and the quality of their writing. They work with non-fiction and fiction authors and these professionals edited everything from articles to books.

Although I know several editors and their roles in publishing a good book, there was much I didn’t know. So I researched. With so many opting for self-publishing, or working with small indie presses, the need for a good editing is vital for your finished product—your novel.

In a publishing house, the acquiring editor is the liaison between authors, staff, and readers. They act as project managers. Their job is to make sure your work the best it can be. They take into consideration the overall picture of your story.  They contemplate your genre, writing style, and the demands of the market. All this involves a lot of ripping, tearing, and rebuilding of the manuscript. It’s not an easy process for authors or editors.

Once you sign your contract, the editor will read the whole manuscript. These editors read for story structure and may come back with a list of changes of necessary for your manuscript. This may be commenting on your setting, characters, conflict, pacing, plot, and word choices. You, the author, then revise your story according to these comments. It may take several revisions before both you and the editor come to agreement. Once all that is worked out the manuscript moves to another editor.

The copy editor is the one we usually think of when we think editor. Copy editors get the manuscript and read or *proof* it for grammar and punctuation, word usage, spelling and typos. They also check for consistent formatting of chapter headings, and more. This process may take more than one pass to get everything correct. Then it’s sent back to the author to do a final edit. Meanwhile THE editor finalizes all the pieces farmed out to various staff members (the design editors, the copywriters who might write the back cover blurb, the publicity department) approves it and now it’s off for publication.

There are a lot of extra steps in this simplified telling. I just hit the high points. One thing I have learned, not all editors are created equal. I found this out by letting a good friend who was a newspaper editor read one of my first stories. She’s very good at what she does for newspaper editing but it’s a different form of editing. Suffice to say, if ever I decide to self publish, I will be utilizing a fiction editor who has a good copyeditor around, or she can wear both hats well and I’ll be asking for references.

No wonder so many authors gush over their editor in their acknowledgements. A good Fiction Editor is worth having. They make the difference between an okay story and a great story.

  • As an author, what have been your experiences with editors? 
  • Would you put out a book without one?