Weekly Progress Wednesday

Michael-Hague

Michael Hauge expounding his wisdoms

Writing Progress

Filles Du Roi WIP: Current word count: 7,235 (no change)

So, I haven’t done any BICHOK work on this, but I’ve been doing a lot of discovery that will give me a much stronger foundation as I move forward. I’ll talk more about that in a second.

Platform Progress

Nothing happening here! It’s been so busy with other things that I haven’t focused as I would like.

Life Progress

This weekend I went to a Michael Hauge Story Mastery workshop held by my RWA chapter. It was two days full of story structure, character development and a little pitch practice too. It was honestly pretty damned amazing. Some of the concepts were things I was familiar with, which was actually pretty great because it allowed me to focus more deeply on understanding the layers underneath what I already knew rather than trying to absorb all new things. It’s improved my direction for my WIP exponentially, and my understanding of character goals and motivations. Michael is primarily a movie story consultant, but most of these concepts cross all types of story and so they are applicable in novels as well. It’s also been a great chance for me to think about how story relates to reality. Why we read stories and what we gain from them. It’s given me a better understanding of psychology and my own growth as a person.

How many times can you say you’ve gone into a writing workshop and come out with a better understanding of yourself as a human and also your marriage? Right?

 

Tech Tuesday: What is an Author Platform?

080501-Hemingway

This guy never had to worry about an author platform! 

As I am learning about the business of becoming a writer who can get published, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about an author platform, and how to build one. So I thought I would spend a little time this week talking about why platforms are part of today’s business of publishing, what they are, and how a person can go about creating one. I’ve spent a few weeks building my social media network but haven’t really focused on why.

Back in the day when writers wrote, editors edited, and publishers promoted, an author couldn’t spend too much time worrying about their platforms. Of course, the things existed, but there was a barrier between the author who wanted to promote a book and the audience who would read it. The author could do some things, like go on book tours, do readings and interviews, sign books and make appearances, but all of that was pretty small scale compared to today. And even then, you had to be published to be able to do them.

Today, we are able to connect with each other in mere seconds and the barriers have broken down between public personas and the audience. Twitter allows people to respond to each other no matter how big or small you might be, and blogs, Instagram accounts and YouTube channels can make even the most ordinary person a celebrity.

So in this sea of social media, where millions of people are Facebooking, tweeting and posting, how can a person navigate it, or even rise up to the top and let the swell of public sentiment carry you to success?

(I’m tempted to make an Old Man and the Sea of Social Media” joke now but I’ll spare you.)

First of all, what is an author platform?

The easiest definition might be that it is an open conversation with readers and authors. Anyone can join it, and no one is obstructed from participating. This is both awesome, and daunting. Awesome because it creates connections where before there were none. Daunting because what if people are mean, or the platform is abused? Either side could potentially cause an author’s platform to tip. Readers could respond negatively and the author will most likely hear that feedback. Or, an author could behave badly, and take advantage of the voice they have been given.

But, what is the point of this conversation?

Some cynical person might say it’s just about getting as many followers and likes as possible to sell more books, and while they wouldn’t be technically wrong, it’s not the way to view a platform. Unless of course, you are just a cynic who only cares about the bottom line and doesn’t mind living a soul sucking existence. Really, it is about the consistent effort over the course of an author’s whole career to carve out a place where they can speak and be heard. And hopefully, as an author increasingly has something to say that people want to hear, this will extend their network to attract more like-minded people who appreciate the content the author is producing. This can help make the author more marketable to larger content providers, like publishers, which will in turn increase the author’s network of like-minded people.

As far as these larger content providers are concerned (and therefore we are too) a strong platform shows three things:

  • Visibility- Who you are, what connections you have, what media outlets you can use to expand your network.
  • Proven Reach- That you can actually reach the number of people you claim (one of the major reasons why buying followers is BS!)
  • Target Audience- That you can reach the kind of people who are going to be interested in your content.

A platform is not about self-promotion just to make you feel popular. It is not about hard-selling your products. It is not about being an extrovert (thankfully!). It is not about being the most active person on social media. If your network isn’t into social media but you have strong engagement through another format then do what works for you! Jane Friedman has more to say here.

Brooke Warner, over at The Write Life has some great advice that I need to keep in mind and you might too. She says: “The key is to take it slow. For writers who are just beginning, it can feel like you’re coming really late to a party that’s been going on for years — and that’s in essence exactly what’s happening. If you look at someone who has thousands upon thousands of Twitter followers, it’s likely they were an early adopter.”

But, that’s okay! You still have a seat at the table! Your authenticity and your contribution is a foundation. Slow but steady growth is healthier because it leads to a long term career. Think about all the one hit wonders you’ve seen blaze out over the years. Now think about the musicians who toured for years, and kept putting out albums, even before they were well-known and might even still be touring. You want to be Keith Richards (only with less drug abuse). In order to be Keith you need to continue producing, publishing, connecting with people and partnering with other authors. You also need to let your voice shine. Your personality, authenticity and expertise are vital parts of making you a trusted and connected voice and that’s what an author platform is really all about.

Keith

Keith has got your back! Now go forth and create!

Tech Tuesday: Google Chrome Momentum

Normally on Tuesdays I try to talk about some form of social media or technology. Today is a little different than my usual schedule because my husband called in for a “sick” day. Actually, it’s more like a mental health day. We’ve been missing each other a lot because of our schedules and haven’t spent as much quality time together as we’d like. So we stayed up late last night and he overslept today, so he called in.

As much as I really like our lazy Tuesday (I’ve taken 2 naps!!) it really makes it hard to do the things I’d intended. Case in point, I’m posting this now instead of earlier in the day. But, I’m committed to posting and I didn’t post yesterday.

did listen to one of my favorite podcasts, Dear Bitches Smart Authors (or DBSA for iTunes). Sarah’s interview with Fay Wolff, an organization and de-cluttering expert who works with creative people in L.A., made me think about things I need to de-clutter in my life, and some technology we can use to do it. Sarah mentioned she uses the Google Chrome extension Momentum, which is a great way to start off the day because it gives a beautiful image, a quote and asks you your intention for the day. If you’ve ever taken a yoga class you know they often start off with an intention, like what do you hope to get from this class today? Declaring your intentions is a powerful, empowering tool, and I’ve been trying to say what I want this year. I just added this extension and it is lovely. I encourage you to check it out!

Pinterest Tips

Yesterday I talked about how I use Pinterest, or plan to use it. Today, I’d like to give a few tips I’ve found useful to getting more function from my Pinterest account (links to the resources in the headings!).

From Social Marketing Writing:

  • Find friends from Facebook, Google and Yahoo. You can do this by going to your account settings page (the little gear) and clicking on the account. Sadly, Twitter doesn’t seem to be an option, but Outlook is, so if that’s your email server, lucky you!
  • Check out what’s popular and trending so that you can re-pin for your followers. Even if a pin is popular it’s likely that not everyone has seen it and your followers might appreciate it.
  • Add a category to boards. When you give a board a category they will appear in Pinterest’s category section and get more exposure. (I hadn’t done this on all of mine and immediately fixed it!)

From Kim Garst at Boom Social:

  • Be active, engaging and have content.
  • Have at least 4 pins per board. These 4 are what shows up on your profile page so boards don’t look sparse or empty. Kim suggests having at least 10 boards, but I don’t think this number matters as much as having boards that are curated and active.
  • Use a web browser extension so you can pin from other sites while online. Chrome, Safari, Firefox and IE all have these extensions and so do some of the media schedulers that can be helpful. This has the added benefit of linking back to the original source, giving them credit.
  • Search with key words, not hashtags. One of the things I love about Pinterest is that your search terms can be very, very specific and you will probably still get a decent result. And they show up like tags in the search bar so if you originally searched for “men’s gray cotton trousers with pinstripes” and then realize you just want to look at all the men’s gray cotton trousers with pinstripes you can generally just click on the “cotton” tag and delete it from the search.
  • Like vs. Pin: When creating and curating your boards you probably want to keep them focused so they add to your brand or products. Pinning an image adds it to a board, and these show up on your own profile, so it’s not always appropriate for your brand. But, liking a pin doesn’t add it to your profile. It does notify the pinner that you liked it, and grabs attention, possibly creating a new follower who is also interested in what you’re pinning.
  • Include your business or brand name in the pin description. Your business or brand name should be your account name, but even if it isn’t, include it in the description so that it follows any repinned images, getting your name out there.
  • Pin Videos. I find these really helpful when I’m trying to learn how to do something. I generally go to Pinterest to search for a how to because it’s more curated and I can see a variety of images and ideas gathered together quickly. But, if there is a video included, that shows me how to actually do the thing? I’m absolutely going to watch! It’s great!
  • Include mentions or send a pin to a friend. By including a mention you are sharing credit, or pointing someone to a pin they might appreciate. Use the @ symbol and start typing their name (like you do in Facebook). The only downside is that they have to be following at least one of your boards. Or, you can send them an email of the image and it shows up in their browser, even if they aren’t a user. Be sure to give a short description in the email pop-up window.

From Field Guide:

  • Set gender in your account to get more specific search results. This may or may not be useful for you or your business. But, it might be! If you set the gender and are looking for shoes then Pinterest will automatically gear the search to shoes fitting your gender. However, if you do this and then you’re searching for say, men’s watches as a gift for your husband or SO you will probably need to specify those keywords in the search.
  • Edit large boards into other boards. You, or your followers will only get overwhelmed by pages and pages of pins for one board. Why not curate them into smaller ones for easier access? If you’re really into trousers why not specify the color or fabric and separate them into different boards?

Other tips:

  • Kim Garst says to be active and engaged, and to avoid empty boards and I couldn’t agree more. Not only do sparse or empty boards disappoint a potential follower, it indicates that you aren’t very interested in the network, or are spread too thin. If you are either of these things, I’d encourage you to scale back. Stick to the networks that you like and use the most. It’s better to have a strong presence in a few important networks than trying to hit all of them and doing a poor job.
  • Move your boards around and change the cover picture. This keeps your profile from looking too stale and showcases new images in the board.
  • Fill out the About portion in your profile. This should be focused to your business or brand, but still also personable and showing who you are.

 

Instagram Tips

Instagram Icon

Instagram: 13 followers, 10 posts

Guy K.’s tips for Instagram aren’t too different than his tips for other social media, but since Instagram is image-driven it gives new possibilities and new challenges. Just like Facebook, I’ve had a personal Instagram account for a few years, but I never took a deep dive into it. It was a way to share images with friends and see their world, not to promote a brand or product. So, I was curious to try it out as someone who is trying to create a platform or brand. I’m not selling anything but I am trying to be part of the world of those who are, and might be interested in what I’m selling, when I am.

So, here is my Instagram account. As you can see, I’m keeping a consistent photo across all platforms because I want people to recognize me if they follow me elsewhere too. Looking at my account you can see I was busy in the past two days that I’ve had the account. I’ve got photos of my dogs, myself, and what I’m doing during the days. I want to focus my posts on my writing or love of books a little more, so I’ll probably keep the personal photos to a limit, but I won’t ever not post them because I know I love seeing a glimpse of the daily lives of people I admire and follow.

That opportunity is what makes Instagram so much fun. Not only do you get to hear their thoughts (like on Twitter) but you also get to see how they view the world. You get to see them as people, and that is one of Guy K’s tips: be approachable and make genuine connections.

His other tip for Instagram is to USE THE HASHTAGS! And I have to agree. That’s one of the really cool things about Instagram vs. Twitter. As you are typing a hashtag both autofills with some popular hashtags so you can get the right one. But, Instagram lets you see how popular certain hashtags are. So, you can tailor the hashtag to the most popular ones, or to the smaller ones. I’ve been going popular, but with the Powerball on my mind, I’ve been thinking statistics, and might try a few experiments to see if the smaller hashtags result in more people, since the bigger ones are probably so big that your little post might get lost among them. Also unlike Twitter, Instagram lets you hashtag it up! So, add as many as you want, don’t just do #selfie but also #selfy #selfiegram and more. Instagram shows you what tags there are as you type a tag and you can just tap to add it.

Don’t forget though, that Instagram likes, followers and all the rest are fun, but your real business is doing the writing! Try not to get carried away by checking notifications all the time. I can see this might be one of my weaknesses, so I’m mostly saying this for myself!

Here are some more posts about Instagram use for authors, so you can see some examples of what to do and how others are doing it.

Top 7 Ways Authors are Using Instagram from The Book Designer

5 Ways to Use Instagram as an Author from Jane Friedman

Instagram for Authors from DIY Author

Want to follow some literary folk? Here’s a great round up of publishers, writers and readers that HuffPost did.

Now excuse me, I have to go follow all of them.

Tech Tuesday: Twitter Scheduling

twitter bird

Guy K says that he tweets all of his tweets three times a day, at different intervals because not everyone is on Twitter all the time, and otherwise people might miss something. He compares it to why CNN repeats stories, or why commercials repeat. Makes sense right? So I’ve been testing it (and will keep testing it for a few weeks). How does he do this? With a service of course!

Guy K uses a paid app, which is great for him, but we’re not Guy K rich, so here is a great link from TwiTips with several options for free schedulers. I’ve been using LaterBro, which, despite the lame name, has some great options and an easy to use interface. It’s not on this list, but what I like about it is that I can post on both Facebook or Twitter. Most of the other options don’t have that. I might still change, though. I’m checking out HootSuite.

Facebook Tips

Facebook icon

PLATFORM: Facebook

Current Friends/Followers to date: 0!

One of the major ways we use social media today is with Facebook. Almost everyone is on it these days, and so much goes through it that I should have started an account earlier. But I didn’t! So I’m starting one now.

I decided to start a profile rather than a page because I agreed with the advice Jane Friedman gives in her post 5 Reasons to Use Facebook Profiles to Build a Platform. I’ve started by liking some of my favorite authors and favorite pages and will next focus on getting organic friends and followers (rather than fake ones). I also added the link on my Twitter account. So now you can find my profile and friend or follow me!

Here are my take on Guy’s tips for posting on FB:

  • Be aware that because of FB’s algorithm not everyone will see what you post. But, if people re-share it, more people will see it.
  • Use video whenever possible, specifically video uploaded to FB. Because Youtube is owned by FB’s rival, Google, FB has more incentive to post videos in its own media server, so these videos will be more heavily promoted by FB.
  • Add a link and FB will bring in the picture. Instead of uploading a picture, FB will insert it for you if you just paste the link in the text box (Me-Then you can delete the link so you don’t have a clunky URL distracting everyone in the text!). You can also change the picture if you like.
  • Use Facebook Insights for analytics on who you are serving and how to serve them better.
  • Pages interacting with other pages (like regular people) make your pages more powerful and popular. Pages are the business version of profiles or walls. But, they can “interact” with people or other pages just like you interact with your FB friends.

Some DON’TS

  • Don’t buy likes. You want personal engagement from people who actually like what you’re doing. Not masses of anonymous likes that don’t actually mean anything.
  • Don’t ask for re-shares or likes. No one wants to be your friend when you have to beg. They want to be your friend when you demonstrate value added. Remember the weird kid on the playground who asked everyone if they could be best friends? Don’t be that kid (even if you once were.)
  • Don’t ask why someone unfollows you. Same as above, no one wants to be grilled on why they unfollowed someone. This makes me think of those creepy boyfriend who demand a legitimate reason for being dumped. Just because! Ugh!
  • Don’t overly promote yourself or your product. Guy says the ratio should be 1:20. 20 items of value added to 1 item of selling/promoting something. Speaking for myself, I couldn’t agree more! I hate feeling like I’m being sold to when I’m just trying to catch up on my friend gossip via a FB scroll.
  • Don’t overly focus on likes or friend numbers. This one is my tip. Yes, you are there to increase exposure and gain popularity so you can make a living. But don’t make it your reason for living. So what if that one post didn’t get enough likes? Does that mean you lost value as a person? No! Just like in the first tip, you want engagement from people who actually care. If you start off small but strong, and are adding value to the conversation, you’re creating a lifelong circle of fans.

Guy Kawasaki’s Tips for Social Media

Do you know Guy Kawasaki? I didn’t really know who he was until I signed up for Lynda.com (highly recommended!) and started watching his lectures on how to properly use social media for a business. I thought that for part of my series on how I am trying to learn to “harness the power of social media” as an author, I would tell you about what I learned from him. If you want to know more I highly suggest you check him out, or buy his book, The Art of Social Media with Peg Fitzpatrick. Here are a few of his tips in general about posting on social media:

Always Add Value

You can do that in four different ways:

  • Information
  • Analysis
  • Assistance
  • Entertainment

Pass the “Re-Share” Test

Post such great content that people will want to re-share it. He gives an example of a great restaurant that you tell all your friends, “YOU HAVE TO TRY THIS PLACE!” That endorsement can be a little scary because what if your friends hate the place? Suddenly your reputation is on the line. They might not trust you anymore!

But, what if they love it? Then your reputation as a person to listen to grows. I personally love sharing things with friends and making those connections, but I am definitely hesitant to do it in a public forum. Often the things I like feel so niche that no one else will really care. On the other hand, that’s the great thing about social media, isn’t it? You can always find your people.

Use the NPR model

I got a little thrill when he mentioned NPR and some of my favorite programs. He uses them as an example because they create such great content that when they come around begging for money twice (or more) a year, people feel an obligation to reciprocate and pay back in some way. Yes, we might complain about the campaign drive, but we know we need to give back!

In addition to NPR, I personally experienced this with one of my favorite podcast teams at Storywonk. They have given me so much great information, analysis, assistance and entertainment that I felt the need to sing their praises, and show them my support in any way I can. And when they discuss their Patreon donation page I’m immediately in favor of giving them some money if they’ll just keep doing what they do!

Feed the Content Monster

When using social media you can’t pop in and out, leaving vast silent holes. I definitely find myself in this loop, partially because I don’t know what to say or share. Guy has some tips, naturally. Some people might not feel these are all genuine, but I’m going to share them any way because they give very clear answers, and maybe will help you see how others do it.

  • Piggy back off of others, using services like Alltop.comreddit.com, or feedly.com, which are aggregate services that gather popular stories on specific topics.
  • Post what’s hot on Facebook to your own page
  • Be bold. Take a stand. Show what you are interested in.

Obviously, this last one needs some clarification if you are doing this for a business. Take a stand and be bold as it relates to your brand and your company. Maybe talking about dietary restrictions isn’t right for your brand, but talking about a story about getting motivated to be creative. It depends on the angle and the topic.

Also, for those of you thinking that piggybacking is cheating, it’s not. Post what you like, and what interests you. It’s not cheating if you see a video and would also send it to your best friend and share it with your FB friends. That’s just engagement.

His last tips were a little more technical, but useful:

  • On Facebook or Google+ keep posts to 2-3 sentences
  • On Twitter, keep them to 100 characters (even though you have 140) so that others can add their two cents when they re-share
  • On blogs, keep it to 500-1000
  • Pay attention to the right size of photos so that it’s easier to view on different mobile platforms.

 

Looking Back & Looking Ahead

New Year's Eve 2015

This time of year is full of New Year resolutions that we start with such vigor and slowly watch them fade as the year drags us kicking and screaming along. My 2015 was full of transition and hard work. I worked my rear off (metaphorically, of course. Literally, it’s the same size it was last year). I worked a few different jobs trying to keep myself in the black, and trying to create opportunities where none existed before. I learned a lot. And now I find myself in a better position to take advantage of this yea of hard work, which is a really nice thing. A lot has happened.

  1. I finished my first novel, went through the editing process and pitched it to an agent who wanted to see the full manuscript. So far I’m not certain what will happen, but I’m cautiously optimistic and trying not to think too much about it as I know my success so far is a little atypical and I don’t want to get my hopes up.
  2. I completed 2.5 more semesters of college teaching and rediscovered my love of British literature and teaching in general. Even though I’ve absolutely needed the break for the holidays, I’m really enjoying my current teaching track and don’t want that to change!
  3. I’ve saved some money even though it’s been tight for us, and am grateful I’ve been able to do that. My husband started a new job that he really, really likes in September, but before that we were barely squeaking by. I may have contributed to that problem by leaving my soul sucking high school teaching job and teaching as an adjunct instead, but I’ve been working very hard to make up for it with my second job.
  4. I’ve come to better understand what I want out of life, and focused on how I can achieve it. In a vague way, I’ve always known what I’d like my life to look like, and most of my twenties involved a process of chipping away at other things to get to what I truly wanted. But now I’m clearer on the steps I need to take, and clearer on my ability to take them. I’m not letting anything stand in my way if I can figure out how to move it or go around it, and that is an empowering feeling.

So what’s next in 2016?

Continue reading

Silver Linings & Lemonade

Inspiration Quotes

One of the downsides of being an adjunct is that occasionally you end up without work. And that is where I find myself this spring semester. Partially it is my fault, because I got distracted and didn’t turn in my faculty preferences early enough and all the classes got snatched up. I work in a weird liminal space at the college which means that English classes I am eligible for are more limited than the average college, which has students who need English all year round, which is a real lemon scenario.

The silver lining of this cloud is that I will have more time in January to devote to writing. I got overwhelmed with grading this semester and did barely any writing. It’s not always like that but it made for a frustrating 16 weeks.

And, since I want to be able to both teach and write, I need to devote myself to that, and I need to also focus more on the business end. I’ve slowly been learning about being an entrepreneur this past year (which is how I think the modern writer really needs to think to be successful) and am eager to keep learning and start applying these lessons to this blog. So, as a sort of record I will be keeping track of my progress and my actions here on this blog. Maybe it will help someone else too. And thus; we will all drink lemonade in the shade, having done some good hard work to make that silver lining grow wider and wider and take over the gloomy clouds of this unemployed educator!

Keep watching for some changes in the new year!