Monday, December 23, 2013

Don't Give Up! Inspirational Books, Blogs for Writers




A round-up of brain food and whip-ass for the holidays and new year.


I) Books


A lot of touchy-feely stuff, but worth a read. My favorite corny line: "Jump and the net will appear."

Nuts and bolts about how to train your brain to perform. Whomever said "inspiration for amateurs" must have been channeling this book.

- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Another good kick in the ass for whiny, namby-pamby writers (like me)

A lot of stuff you already know, but the chapter on taking manageable risks is particularly interesting. Yeah, we have to make a lot of big decisions without having all the data we'd like.


II) Blogs and Links

Great guest post on Chuck Wendig's Terrible Mind's blog. 

A reality check for those (like me) who think that finding an agent and a big New York publisher is going to change your life. What really happens? You're flying high for a week. A year later, you've sold a few books. Guess what: you're a published author, but nothing has really changed. Get back to writing.

A published author says what most of us think but are too afraid to say -- on

- The Holstee Manifesto (double-click image to enlarge)


Tired of all this inspiration hoo-hah? Want to watch some mindless youtubes from my one-man show? (please click: I need the traffic)


- One Day in Front of the Medicine Cabinet or What Do Unemployed Writers Have for Breakfast?

- Why I'm still single: The Chronic Single's Lament

- Romance on a Greek Ferry: "You've got a great arm," I said as she tossed her purse into the Mediterranean.  

Art credit: Image at top of blog from Damon Butler's Haute Draws blog.


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Monday, November 18, 2013

Pinterest for Writers: Another Way to Waste Time with Social Media?

Looking for another way to waste scarce writing time with social media? Look no further than Pinterest.  The claims: It's easier to use and less time-consuming than other social media tools. It's a great way to find women readers. But other experts claim Pinterest is a waste of time. This article offers a quick overview and brief guide to getting started with Pinterest

I) Pinterest for Writers: Pros and Cons

1) Easy to Use
- I created a profile and started adding images from my blog pages and Youtube within 15 minutes. Yes, it's pretty quick to get started. After you add images, you write short descriptions of them -- no blogging or Tweeting.

2) Less Time-Consuming: Hmmm
- Pinterest has a free browser button/add-on called Pin It, which lets you surf the Web and pin Web pages. A time-saver.
- But, I could not find a free tool that lets you preschedule posts, or Pins, as a Pinterest calls them. A prescheduling tool called Viraltag has a 14-day trial period but then costs $5 a month. (Facebook has a prescheduling tool for business pages and a tool called Hootsuite provides free prescheduling for Twitter and Facebook and Linked In.)

3) Popular: If women are your audience
Pinterest has a large user base and experts claim they spend on average more time on the site (16 minutes) than Facebook users (12 minutes) or Twitter users (3 minutes.) Youtube visitors spend the most time of any social media platform (more than 16 minutes).

4) Popular with Women
- Pinterest: 84% women
- Google+ 70% male
- Linked In is also dominated by men.
*source: same Business Insider article cited above as well as Pinterest's own numbers.

5) Other Gripes
- You can get sued for appropriating copyrighted images. (Common sense suggestions for avoiding the slammer down below.)
- If men are your audience, this may not be worth your time. When I asked Pinterest to suggest content for me, it was mainly women's clothes, cookie recipes, and advice for raising children.

Content Pinterest recommended for me, a single, bald guy on a low-carb diet.

II) Getting Started


How it Works:
Pinterest is a digital scrapbook that lets you post images to a page you create on their site. First you create a profile. You follow people. People follow you. You can post images from your own blog or other people's sites.

Creating a profile was quick, but for some reason Pinterest could not verify my Website, even after I followed the instructions.

Installing the free Pin It button on your browser can save time populating your Pinterest page.

Setting up my page and adding Pins (links) was pretty quick. You'll want to add captions to your Pins. Pinterest captures links to pages you've pinned. I've divided my Pinterest page into different topics, or Boards.

III) Strategies for Writers

Here are a list of tips and strategies that seemed worth trying. For writers, tips tend to be focused on posting great stuff. Note: I have not tried these out and cannot vouch for their effectiveness.

1) What to Pin
- Your own: photos, blog posts, Youtube videos, audio, Powerpoint presentations saved to Slideshare. More on this.
- Other peoples' images etc: As with all social media, people will tune you out if you're just flogging your own stuff.

2) Don't Pin Hundreds of Things at once
Unfortunately, I couldn't find a prescheduling tool, so you'll have to spend some pinning images regularly.

3) If you Pin a book cover, get the image from a page selling the book or a page with a review of the book. More on this. Pin your own book covers -- if you have a book. And create a Pinterest page, or Board, for your friends' books.

4) Create a Pinterest Board for writers similar to yours The old, "if you liked these folks, you'll like me."

5) Create a Board for characters in your novel, destinations mentioned in your travel blog, other background you've used in your writing.

6) Use Powerpoint to create slides that include original tips that link back to your own blog posts.

IV) Copyright Issues

If you Google "Pinterest," you'll find scary articles written by lawyers. If I get sued, I don't have much worth taking, except for maybe my vintage car.

The babe magnet

You may have more to lose -- and you're a writer, so respecting the rights of other artists is worth a little effort.

Some common sense:
- Use photos and images you've created
- Use photos of actors, book covers, and other publicity seekers, particularly if the images are popular online.
- If a site has a button encouraging your to pin or embed their images, you should be OK.
- If you're using other people's art, include a link to the artist's site or the original piece of art. (Be sure to find the artist's link -- not just the link to a site that stole it from the artist.)
- In my blog, I use images from Creative Commons that are free for public use. I always include a link to the artist. For Pinterest, I'll cite the artist and include a link in the Pin's description.
- A clever way to attribute the image: "I found this picture on (artist's site) and it reminded me of (link to something you've written or want to promote)

Mercifully short, plain English discussions on Pinterest and copyright.

- From Possesocialmedia

- From Jane Friedman

V) More Pinterest Tips

- 12 Pinterest Tools

- 12 Tips from Writer.Ly

- Pinterest Strategies from The Book Designer Web site.

- Tips from agent Rachel Gardner

- Tips from an agent's guest-post on

- My barren Pinterest page

Top image attribution: By Pinterest-Anti-Christ (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons




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Monday, November 11, 2013

Video, Youtube for Writers: The World's Shortest Primer

comedy show The Chronic Single's Handbook

Video is a great way to attract an audience, drive traffic to your blog, and pitch yourself as a reader at libraries, literary events, and book stores. This short article offers simple advice for getting started with Youtube and covers: taking, editing, uploading, and sharing video clips. It is geared toward novices with some basic computer skills. If you already have a digital camera or phone that takes video -- you may not need to spend anything to create useable video.

I) Equipment: A Camera (External Mic and Tripod Optional)


1) Quick and Dirty Option: Use Your Digital Camera

Most inexpensive digital cameras can take 5 to 10 minutes of video and save it in a format you can edit with software already on your computer. I haven't posted any videos made with cell phone, but it might work for you)

Here is a short video made with a low-end, Nikon S210 pocket camera I bought several years ago. Cameras like this cost about $150. Note: the video quality isn't great -- and neither is my performance -- but it's been good enough for 270 views on Youtube. I had a friend sit in the front row, point, and shoot. (Note: all my Youtube videos start with a short ad -- sorry!)

2) A Step Up: Low-End Camcorder

For another $100, you can get a real video camera/camcorder that takes better, longer videos. Here is a clip -- shot by the same friend who is not a photographer -- with a low-end $250 Sony video camera similar to this one. The video quality is better, the audio quality is better, and we were able to shoot an hour of video. (note: the camera moves around, there is some distracting zooming in and out -- but it's been good enough to get me readings and 850 views on Youtube.)

3) Even Better: Camcorder with Mic and Tripod

This past weekend, I spent $440 on:
- a low-priced video camera ($270),
- a microphone that attaches to the camera for improved sound ($86), and
- a 16GB SD memory card ($27) that I can take from the camera and pop into my computer for editing.
- $30 on miscellaneous adapters to affix the microphone to the camera.
- One other thing you should buy if you're going this route: a tripod. I bought a cheap one for $30 last summer. (You might want to spend a little more for something sturdier.)
- Note: I am not a camera person: I went to a local camera store, asked for their video exeprt, told him what I wanted to do, and what I wanted to spend.

With this rig, I can shoot an hour of high-definition video, which you'd want to create a DVD. The price includes some adapters for attaching the microphone to the camera.

II) Video Shooting Tips

If you're shooting in a public venue, you may have limited control over lighting, etc. But here are some basic tips:

- Shoot from the side, a 45 degree angle works fine. (If you can help it, avoid shooting straight on, especially if the reader is at a microphone, which can block their face.)

- If you are reading off a page, don't obscure your face with the page. Print out the page in a large font and hold the paper away from your face or at least below it.

- Have the camera operator zoom in as close as possible to your face and upper body.

- If possible, shoot with good light coming from behind the camera.
(Unfortunately, in many situations, you will be reading with light behind or above you -- not the audience or camera operator.)

Tips on reading your work in public.

III) Editing


Transferring video from your camera to your computer can be time-consuming. If you camera stores video an SD card and your computer has an SD slot -- winner, you'll save time. Otherwise, you'll be transferring files with a USB cable, which is slower

For editing, consider the software that came with your computer. These programs let you easily cut extraneous junk off the beginning and end of your videos, and save the clips in a format, such as MP4, that's easy to upload to Youtube. You'll also be able to add a credits page to promote yourself, your book, and to thank the venue.

For Mac products, iMovie is highly-rated for ease of use.

For Windows users with Windows 7 or higher, Windows Movie Maker is great.

Youtube also includes tools for basic editing of your video after you upload.

For basic videos like mine, you'll only be trimming and saving the files.

IV) Uploading to Youtube


This can take a lot of time -- hours. For longer clips, I often set them to upload over night. (I have Verizon's basic DSL, which is cheap but sucks.)

Uploading is pretty simple:

- Set up a Youtube account.

- Enter info about your video (In the description, include links to your blog, Web site, book page on Amazon, etc.)

- Click the upload button

- Go about your day (or night)

More detail than you want on the process.

V) Sharing the Video


 Once your video is uploaded, Youtube provides two main sharing options:

- "Share this video," which produces a Web link (the Share this video button below)

- "Embed," which produces HTML code you can copy and paste into your blog. The code produces the nice video player show above. Ideally, you want to use this option to send people to your blog instead of sending them to Youtube. (For a blog created with Blogger, click the HTML button next to Compose on the Blogger menu bar, then paste the code, and click Compose to see the finished product. WordPress has a simpler option for adding video to a blog post.)


More Self-Promotion Tips for Writers

Photo credit for top image of me performing at a fringe theater festival in Washington, D.C.: Copyright 2013 by Paul Gillis Photography

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Facebook for Writers: Do You Need an Author Page?

Maintaining a presence on Facebook is time-consuming. First, you need a personal Profile Page and some friends. Then you'll want to connect with potential readers in Facebook Groups interested in topics you write about. In addition, you're supposed to create and maintain an Author page. Or maybe not. This article discusses the Pros and Cons of Author Pages, recent changes to Facebook and how they affect writers, as well as tips for getting the most out of Author and Profile Pages.

Author Pages 101

Benefits of an Author Page

- Promote your writing on your Author Page without spamming friends and family who follow you on your personal Profile Page.

- Some publishers consider an Author page with lots of fans a sign of professionalism. (No snickering, please.)

- Schedule posts in advance to save time.

- Profile Pages limit the number of Friends you can have. An Author Page doesn't. (To get around the limitations of a Profile Page, see "Using Your Profile Page as an Author Page" below.)

- If you are operating your Profile Page as a business you are technically in violation of Facebook's rules. (Not sure this is an issue for writers.)

- See statistics on your Fans (Age, sex, where they live)

A Facebook Author Page provides demographic information about your fans -- information that maybe useful in a book proposal.

Drawbacks of an Author Page

- Adding Fans to an Author Page is more difficult than adding Friends to a Profile Page. With a Profile Page, you can basically send a friend request to anyone you want. With an Author Page, you can't view a person's Profile Page, send requests directly to them, or even comment on their posts -- even if they've Liked your Author Page.

- Facebook continues to limit the Reach, or number of Fans who actually see your posts. (See "Tips: Reach More Fans with Your Posts" below)

- Upcoming changes by Facebook might make Author Pages even less useful. For example, the proposed addition of a Follow button on your Author Page means someone could Like your page without receiving your updates.

- Personal Pages offer some of the same features. Adding the Follow feature to your Profile Page, allows more people to see your public Posts. (See "Using Your Profile Page as an Author Page" below for more on this)

Tips: Get More Followers

- Visit your Author Page from your Profile Page and invite Friends listed there to Like your Author page.

- Ask friends on your Profile Page to Like your Author Page.

- Pay up: Buy and ad or pay to Promote an Author Page post to people who don't already follow you. Caveats. (My unsatisfactory experience with paying to promote a post.)

- Add lots of Friends to your Profile Page and then convert it to an Author Page. (After you do this, you'll need to create a new Profile Page to interact with Facebook groups.)

- Post a Like button on your blog and in e-mail signature. Unclear if this works.

- Other tips of questionable usefulness.

Log into your Profile page, visit your Author Page, and "Invite Your Friends to Like This Page."

Tips: Reach More Fans with Your Posts

- From your Profile Page, visit your Author Page and "Like" some posts. Yeah, this is sleazy, but it works.

- Upload photos or videos to Facebook instead of just posting links that take readers off of Facebook. Maybe I'm cynical and paranoid, but it seems that posts that don't lead visitors away from Facebook, reach more people.

- Pay for an ad or promote a post to your Fans that explains if they want to see your posts, they need to Like or comment on a post on occasion.

Tips for Book Authors

Instead of creating an Author Page, authors may want to use their Personal Page for interacting with Fans and create a separate page for any books they've written. This is also another way for people searching for you or your books to find you on the Web. Here's a Book Page created by author Jenna Blum, who also has a Profile Page with almost 4,000 Friends.

One of Jenna Blum's Book Pages on Facebook

Jenna Blum also has a Profile Page with 3,900 "Friends."

Using Your Profile Page as an Author Page

To get the most out of your Profile Page, you'll need to turn on a feature called "Follow," which lets people you don't know -- or even like -- follow posts you designate as "Public." These folks will not see Posts you want to share only with "real" friends. This feature is similar to the Follow feature on Twitter.

Why Bother with Follow
 - You can maintain just one Page, your Profile Page, on Facebook.

- If you've befriended a lot of people you didn't know before, you can Unfriend them and they'll see only your Public Posts

- It saves time: If someone sends you a Friend request -- you don't need to respond and they'll still see your Public Posts.

Some good posts that explain how to activate Follow on Facebook.
- Instructions from Facebook
- Instructions from a smart blogger (other than yours truly)
- Add a Follow button to your blog.
- Five Reasons to Use Your Profile Page Instead of an Author Page
(thanks to Paula Krapf ofAuthor Marketing Experts for this last link)

More Articles on Facebook

Social Media for Writers: Facebook Is Not Your Friend 

Book Marketing: More on Facebook Ads and Promotions


Top of Page Art attribution: Steindy, 16 September 2013 via Wikimedia Commons  

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Monday, October 7, 2013

18 Months of Social Media: One Writer's Progress Report

For the last year and a half, I've been trying to develop an audience for my writing and a platform for a novel I've yet to finish. I followed the advice of book marketing bloggers and published authors. I drew on my experience with online marketing and Web publishing. I devoted one day a week and a couple of hours most other days to this project. Here's what I have to show for my efforts: It's not impressive.

Exhibit A: The Ugly Truth

My stats:
Monthly Blog traffic: about 3,000 page views
(I blog about 3 times a month)

Social Media connections: 8,400
(Linked In, Facebook Fan and personal page, Google+, Twitter)

E-mail addresses: 700
(includes blog sign ups, addresses I've collected over the years and recently contacted, addresses I've collected at readings and lectures I've given. I use to manage much of these names)

*What it would take to wow an agent:
Monthly Blog traffic: 50,000 views
Social media connections: 50,000
Email addresses: 100,000

*Source: a 2012 Writer's Digest article, but I can only imagine expectations getting larger not smaller.
Worth noting:
- One agent in the article said she would be impressed with 10,000 social media connections.
- Another agent blog said that for fiction, having a big platform is less important than it is for writers of non-fiction.

Of course, there  is an easier way to impress an agent with your social media numbers.

No time for social media, but lots of money? Buy followers who will ignore all your posts and never buy your book. But hey, you'll have an impressive platform.

Exhibit B: What Worked


1) Blogging regularly
But there also seems to be a point of diminishing return -- and I have other work to do.
- My blogs tend to be long: Better to be long and thorough, than short and useless, particularly if you want people to sign up for your blog.
- I've also noticed that some literary agents who used to blog daily are now blogging less frequently. I blog most Mondays.

2) Inserting a sign-up box at the end of each blog post
- Like many blogs, mine has a sign-up box in the right-hand column. When I started to manually add a sign-up box to the end of each blog, my sign-ups jumped ten-fold. (I used to get maybe one sign-up a month. Now I get 10 to 20 and have a total of 290 subscribers.)
- Getting people to sign up, to give you their e-mail address, means you can communicate directly with them. With social media, the sites own the e-mail addresses and  can hold them hostage from you. (more on this below)

3) Posting links to blogs in social media groups and on Web sites frequented by people interested in my topics.
- This is more effective than having thousands of Twitter followers and Facebook Fans who never look at your stuff.
- A recent blog post with tips on posting to groups

4) Public Readings
- You don't need a published book to read at bookstores, literary events, poetry slams, story slams, public libraries, writing centers, adult education centers, etc. Once an agent approached me after a reading and said she wanted to see my book when it was done. (That was two years ago. Will she remember me?)
- Be sure to ask folks to leave their e-mail addresses if they want to get on your e-mail list.
- Tips on reading your work in public
- My recent experience assembling my work into a one-hour reading and performing it at a fringe theater festival.

5) Lectures
- Again, I don't have a published book, but in writing my novel I've developed some areas of expertise, including world travel and social media.
- I've given travel lectures at local adult education centers and at a local store that sells camping gear. I sent a pitch to a local hostel.
- I've been on panels talking about my experiences using social media.

6) Serendipity
- If you're out there, you'll more likely to bump into people
- On Linked In and Twitter, I've met other writers and influential people in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Florida. (I live in Boston) If I ever did a book tour in those areas, these people might invite friends.

7) Guest blogging
- Some blogs have reposted my blogs, which has driven traffic.
- Those blogs include a Boston writer center and blog carnivals.

8) Monitoring blog traffic
I use a free tool called Statcounter, which is much easier to use than Google Analytics. Also, Statcounter actually has tech support. Google doesn't. I use the traffic monitoring tool to:
- See which blog posts and topics draw the most visitors. (I have a seven year-old post that generates almost 25% of my traffic.)
- See where people are coming from to determine which social media platforms are most worth my time. (Linked In has been best, Twitter has been the worst.)

Exhibit C: What Hasn't Worked

1) Having lots of followers on Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter
- Again, most of my traffic comes from posting links and communicating with people in groups and forums interested in the topics I write about.
- Twitter hashtags have produced little traffic.
- One caveat with Twitter: I have two Twitter pages. One is for book marketing and promotion. The other is for a chonically single people, a theme in my novel. The chonically single page does generate some traffic -- and it has a tenth the followers of my book marketing page. So, your Twitter results may depend on your audience.
- I continue to be active on Twitter because it boosts Klout score, a number is considered important by some agents, publishers, and employers. All about Klout scores in plain English.

2) Facebook Fan page
- Facebook continues to limit the number of friends and fans who see your posts. I have 2,000 fans, most of whom used to see my posts. In April 2012, Facebook began showing my posts to only about 500 of those people. In September 2012, that number was reduced to about 200. Now the number is about 100. To reach all 2,000 of my fans, I have to pay Facebook.
- Facebook experts claim that posts that receive a lot of "Likes" and comments will reach more people. Maybe, but I'm not convince.

3) Paid Facebook Promotions
- I once paid $20 to reach all 2,000 of my fans plus 8,000 of their friends. Most of the people who saw my post were non-native English speakers living in developing countries. More on my experience.

Other Things I'm Going to Try

1) Pinterest

2) Blog carnivals
I found a Web site that allows you submit blog posts for posting on other people's blogs. For book marketing, I've used The Book Designer's Carnival of the Indies. But there are other blog carnivals for other topics.

3) Finding more Web sites -- non-social media sites -- where I can post blog links and communicate with potential readers. This is time-consuming and involves Google searches on topics related to my novel (travel, single people, relationships) and this blog (self promotion for writers.)

Attribution for top image: By Employeeperformance (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Had Enough Book Marketing for One Day?

- Vicodin, Klonopin, or Heineken: What Do Unemployed Writers Have for Breakfast?



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Monday, September 30, 2013

Social Media for Writers: Facebook Is Not Your Friend

When you post something to Facebook, only a fraction of your Friends or Fans actually see it. For your Personal/Profile page, it's been estimated that you reach about a third of your Friends. For an Author/Fan Page, you may reach 10 percent of your Fans. Want to reach more of your people? Facebook wants you to pay. (Yes, even to reach your Friends.) As with all social media, writers need to ask themselves: Is this a good use of my time? (It may not be)

This article discusses the ins and outs of Personal Profile Pages as they apply to writers and authors. A future article will discuss Fan/Author Pages and Groups Pages.

Personal Profile Pages: Where Your Friends Are

A Profile Page is your personal page, typically used to keep in touch with "Friends" and family. Many writers use their Profile for keeping in touch with readers. Either way, you need a Profile page to join, comment, and post links to groups. Groups are like online clubs for people with similar interests. Connecting with group members is one of the best ways to find potential readers on Facebook.

How Many Friends See Your Posts?

According to a recent study, when you post something on your Profile page, about a third of your Friends will actually see it. If some Friends "Like" the post or comment on it, 35 percent of your friends may see it. If no one Likes or comments, the percentage can drop to 29 percent. (This may be significantly higher than the number of people see Posts on an Author Page. More on this in future articles on this site.)

Profile Page Terms:

- Newsfeed: The constantly updating list of posts from friends and Pages that you follow on Facebook. Your Newsfeed includes status updates, photos, videos, links, etc. Friends can choose how much of your stuff appears in their Newsfeed. (and vice versa)

For example, go to a Friends profile and click the Friend button (top red arrow in screenshot below). You will see a list with the following options that prioritize posts from Friends:

- Close Friends: You'll see all of their posts in your Newsfeed. You'll also be notified of their activities when you log into Facebook. You can even be notified via e-mail or even text message. Click on Settings and you can specify what types of posts you'll see. Label someone an Acquaintance, and you'll see fewer of their posts.

Settings for a "Close Friend's" Profile Page, discussed above

Note: You can also prioritize what you see from Author/Fan Pages you've Liked. Below I've Liked actor Jack Black's Page. By default, I will see his posts in my Newsfeed (see the checked item in upper right-hand corner of screen below). 

By clicking Settings, I can choose whether I want to see All, Most, or Only Important Updates. By default, I will see Most of his updates. What "Most" means, is one of the sweet mysteries of Facebook. 

Note: If you have an Author page, these settings affect whether your Fans are seeing your posts.

Settings when I Liked Jack Black's Fan Page discussed above

- Notifications:  Click the little down arrow in the upper right hand corner of your Facebook Profile Page. The result will be the following list of options:

To adjust your Notifications: Click little down arrow in upper right-hand corner to produce this menu. Then click Settings.

 Then click Notifications and you'll get the page below. Here, I've chosen the following options:

- Under How You Get Notifications, "On Facebook" I've selected to receive "All Notifications, sounds off." Facebook notifies you different ways: The little globe in the upper right-hand corner (below) and with onscreen pop-ups (see arrow in lower left-hand corner in screen above). "Push Notifications" sends an alert to your cell phone. For the e-mail options, I've selected Most Notifications and receive a periodic e-mail letting me know my friends have added updates.

- Under What You Get Notified About, I've chosen to receive e-mails about "Close Friends Activity."

- Note: for some reason there is no general option for receiving updates to Author Pages I've Liked. I have to adjust these settings for each Page I Like. (See Jack Black slide above)

Notification options in your Settings menu dictate how you'll be notified of updates from Friends and Groups.

Paying Up

Want to reach more of your Friends? Click the "Promote" button under a recent post and you'll get the following:

Note: Paying to promote a post means it will appear higher in Friends' Newsfeeds, but Facebook does not list how many people will see it. Also, the post will labeled as "Promoted."

Profile Page Instead of an Author Page?

Some authors use a Profile page instead of an Author Page. Others use both. Some use a Profile page as their main base in Facebook and create separate Pages for their books. If you're just starting out, you may want to build up your Profile page before you consider an Author Page. (Also, you can convert a Profile Page to an Author Page at any time.) Better yet, you may want to focus on connecting with potential readers in Facebook Groups. (If these people like you, they'll ask to become Friends.)

Pros of using your Profile Page to promote your writing
- It is easier to add people than it is with an Author or Book Page
- You need a Profile anyway to post in groups.
- It appears that you reach more of your people than you do with a Author Page.
- It's one less page to manage and post to.

Cons of using a Profile Page
- In the past, you could only have 5,000 Friends. But additional people can "Subscribe" to see your Posts.
-Fan/Author Pages have analytical tools for measuring the popularity of your Posts, which types of Posts reach the most people, and some demographic info on your Fans (age, sex, location).
- Supposedly, Profile Pages are not for businesses.
- Some people consider an Author Page more professional.

Next Week: Facebook Author Pages

More On Facebook for Writers:

Book Marketing: Is a Facebook Fan Page Useful?

10 Quick, Dirty Facebook Tips for Writers

Attribution for top art (Facebook logo): By Veluben (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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Monday, September 23, 2013

Social Media for Writers: One Thing That Works

One of the best places to connect with potential readers is the groups -- essentially online clubs -- offered by social media sites. Groups lets you to post comments and links to relevant Web articles, including those you've written. However, posting links willy-nilly is a type of spamming known as "link-dropping"  and can get you banned from the group, or even the site. This article includes both basic and more advanced tips working with online groups. (Advanced folks should skip to "Posting," sections III and IV, at the bottom of the page.)

I) The Basics

Facebook, Linked In, Google+, and Goodreads provide some form of group feature that allows people interested in a particular topic to congregate. Twitter doesn't have groups per se, but instead uses a feature called hashtags that lets users follow a particular topic. Likewise, many popular Web sites include forums and discussion groups to which you can join and post links.

How to Find Groups

Search for groups by entering your topic of interest in the social media site's search bar. If you're writing about travel, search for groups related to travel. If you join a writing group, you probably don't want to post links about your travel.

Once you join the group, you can begin commenting and posting links. As with most social media features, this is trickier than it sounds because the sites keep changing their rules.

For Linked In
- Enter your topic in the search bar (top red arrow below)
- Then narrow your results to only groups (second red arrow)
- Note: Linked In only allows you to join 50 groups at a time.
- Note: Linked In is a business site, so their groups are generally for people who work in a particular industry. For example, a search on "travel" will not produce a lot of travelers, but will produce a lot of people who work in the travel industry: travel agents, travel bloggers, etc.
- See "Tips" section below before you begin posting. Linked In added a feature that allows group owners to black-ball you from posting in their groups or other people's groups. (Yes, it's very screwy)

Linked In

For Facebook
- Enter your topic in the search bar (top arrow below)
- You'll get results that includes groups, pages, and people.
- Narrow the results only to groups (second arrow)
- Note: Some Facebook Pages created by businesses will let you post comments and links to your blogs. I have not found this useful for driving traffic.
- Note: Facebook will allow you to join up to 300 groups.
- Note: You must use your Profile page to join a group, to comment, or to post links for group members. You can't do this from an Author, Fan, or Business page.


For Google+
- Go to your "Home."
- Click on "Communities" and search by topic.
- Note: I'm not sure if Google+ limits the number of Communities you can join.  I belong to 46 and can still join more.
- Note: Google+ has a lot of oddball groups. If you're having trouble finding relevant groups on the other sites, give Google+ a try.
- Note: You can join and post in Communities from a Google+ business page. (If you don't know what a Google+ page is, don't worry about it.)


For Goodreads
- Similar to the others.

Web Sites in General
- Search Google for your topic
- Look for Web sites that have a "group" or "forums" option.
- For example, my novel-in-progress is about a chronically-single guy. I searched for dating and singles sites. Here's one I found that has forums. I joined and post links to dating scenes in my book. (I have not gotten any dates, but I'm getting some traffic.)


II) Now What?

 When you find groups of interest, weed them out by considering the following:
- Number of members
- How active the members are (Are the posts recent? Are posts from different people, which is good, or from just one person, which is bad.)
- Content: are people making intelligent comments or are the posts spam for products and services unrelated to the topic.
- If you are looking for readers don't spend time promoting your work to groups for writers.

A word about Twitter:
- With Twitter you can post to groups of people interested in a particular topic using hashtags. One way to find appropriate hashtags is to Google: "best hashtags for <insert your topic>" For example, you might Google: "Best hastags for travel" 
- For this blog, I have found Twitter virtually useless for enticing people to click my links and visit my site. Maybe I'm doing something. Maybe I'm an idiot. Maybe for topics related to this book marketing blog, Twitter is a waste of my time.
- I have a fair amount of followers on Twitter (4,000), some of them retweet my stuff -- so I'm getting interactions, but few of my followers visit my site. But my Twitter activity is responsible for much of my Klout score of 54. I assume that my Klout score will of interest to an employer or publisher, so I keep using Twitter.


III) Tips for Posting Links to Your Blog in Groups

As mentioned earlier, joining a group and then immediately posting links to your blog, can get you banned from the group and maybe even the social media site.

Getting Started

- If the owner of the group, posted rules of engagement, read them. (Some groups on Google+ do not want people posting links to blogs.)

- Spend some time commenting and reading other people's posts. "Like" good posts. Re-post good ones to your followers on Twitter, Facebook, or Linked In.

- See what other members are doing. Are they posting links to other Web sites and their own blogs? Great, you'll be in good company. Is the group very chatty and informal? Then make your posts chatty. For example, instead of just posting the link, lead in with a comment. For a chatty travel group: "Here are some travel sites that I thought were cool" then add a link to your blog.

Formatting Your Blog Posts

Format posts appropriately for social media: Include a simple image at the top of the blog followed by a summary paragraph describing the content of the blog. Cutesy, clever, or complicated images and leads won't cut it because group members only see a snippet of your article.

Here's what they saw on a recent post I made on Linked In

And on Facebook

Note: Google+ recently changed it's rules and no longer pulls any text from your blog -- you should add it manually. You can even include the first few paragraphs of your blog as I did here:

IV) Posting Problems

 1) Linked In made some changes that make it easy for you to get black-balled if you piss off the moderator of one of your groups. If you are posting on Linked In and your posts -- and even your comments -- produce a note that says something, like this, you've been black-balled.

This note means that many of your posts will sit in a Pending folder until a moderator approves them. Your posts may eventually go live. Or they may not. But it's easy for you to check. In the past, I've sent a nice note to moderators and asked if my posts were Pending because I had done something wrong. Most said "no" and my post went live. Others didn't respond. Read more about this issue. There is even a Linked In group about this problem.

2) Sometimes, Facebook will fail to grab the top image from your blog. In that case, look for the little pointers next to the image -- you may be able to choose another image.

 3) Wasting too much time on this? It's easy to measure whether you are connecting with readers in social media groups. 
- Are you getting positive comments from other group members?
- Are people visiting your Web site? Signing up for your blog?
- Are group members asking to be your Facebook friend or Linked In Connection or adding you to their Google+ circles? 
- Some groups will work for you, others won't. Leave the groups that don't appreciate your unique genius.

4) Social media sites change their policies constantly. Be sure to verify that your posts are going live.

More Self-Promotion for Writer's Articles

Attribution for image at top of this blog: By RRZEicons (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  




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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Social Media for Writers: Confusing Twitter Terms in Plain English




Confused by even the most basic Twitter terms? Me, too -- and I've been using Twitter for five years. Twitter Help was only of modest help. This article took several hours to piece together. Comments and corrections appreciated. Also, the end of the article includes links to sources I used.


Twitter Terms:

Home timeline (Little birdhouse icon in image at top of this blog post)
Twitter inbox. (First thing most people see when they sign in to Twitter.)
- Tweets from people you follow.
- Mentions of people you are following.
- Mentions of you from people you are following.

@ Connect
(see image below)
- "Interactions," all of your activities, including Tweets you favorited, plus any mentions of your Twitter handle. (see Mentions below)
- "Mentions": Mentions of your Twitter name and replies to any of your Tweets. I have this set up so that any Mentions of me on Twitter are forwarded to my e-mail inbox

Me (Little icon of a person's head and shoulders)
(see image below)
- Your profile page, which includes your bio, photo, and list of any Tweets you've sent. (your Twitter sent or outbox)
- Generally, anyone who looks at your profile can see Tweets you've sent.
Note: be sure to fill out your profile with a professional-looking photo and descriptive words and phrases about your writing and topics of interest.

Putting it All Together

Normal Tweet:
- In the "Compose a new Tweet box," you include a description of something you wrote with a link to it, and then click Tweet to send it.
- A copy of the Tweet is stored on your Profile page and Home timeline.
- The Tweet appears in the Home timeline of anyone who is following you.

- A Tweet that mentions another person's Twitter name, preceded by the "@" symbol.
- For example, You might create a Tweet about this blog post that mentions my Twitter name, rsquaredd:
Hey, @rsquaredd, great post about Twitter! Can I send you some money?
- A copy of the Mention is stored on your profile page. Anyone looking at your profile can see this.
- The person you mentioned (rsquaredd) will see this Tweet under their @Connect tab, in their Interactions and Mentions. Depending on how they configured Twitter, a copy may also be sent to their e-mail inbox.
- If the person you mentioned is following you, the mention will also appear in their Home timeline.
- Anyone following you (the sender), will see the mention on their Home timeline.

- You receive a Tweet and click the "Reply" command under it.
- This creates a Tweet that begins with the sender's Twitter name. For example, if I sent you a Tweet linking to this blog post, you might click the reply command and write:
@rsquaredd Great post! Can I send you a check for all your hard work?
- As with a normal tweet, a copy of your reply is stored on your profile page.
- The recipient, @rsquaredd, would see this in Interactions and Mentions. If they are following you, they will see it in their Home timeline and possibly their e-mail inbox.
- Anyone following both the BOTH the sender (you) and the recipient (rsquaredd) will also see this in their Home timeline.

Tweets that Begin with Someone's Twitter Name
- If you visit someone's Twitter page, whether you follow them or not, you will see a little box that says, "Tweet to…", the @ sign and their Twitter name.
- If you write something in this box, it will behave similar to Replies above. (The recipient would see it in his Interactions and Mentions.)
- A great way to connect with someone who is not following you, such as big shots who normally wouldn't give you time of day, much less their e-mail address.
- Example:

- When see a Tweet from someone else -- whether you follow them or not -- you have the option to Retweet it to your followers. (Hover your cursor over the Tweet and you're see the Retweet option)
- The Retweet appears in your follower's Timelines, like a normal Tweet you created.
- If you Retweet something from one of your followers, say, a Tweet you saw in your Home timeline, a copy will be saved in your Profile.
- If you Retweet something from someone you are not following -- say, you were perusing Big Shot Author's profile and saw something your followers might like -- a copy will be saved in your Home timeline and your Profile.

Advanced Tip: .@
- As noted above, if you send a Tweet that includes someone's name, preceded by the @ sign (@rsquaredd), they will see the message in their Interactions and Mentions. People who follow both of you will see this message in their timelines.
- Using .@ instead of just @ before the name means that all of your followers will see this post in their timelines.
- Impractical use for .@  Say, Mr. Big Shot Author tells you not to contact him again? You could respond to him using .@ and all of your followers would see your response and know what a bastard he is.
- Example:

 How to Use This Stuff to Brown-Nose and Stalk People

- Offer shout outs to people you don't know by including their Twittter handle in your Tweets. This includes Big Shot Authors and other people with some juice who may be able to help you out in the future.

- Retweet posts from people you want to butter up (whether you follow them or not).

- Some experts say you should be posting seven posts promoting other people's content for every post that promote's your own. (Not sure where the "seven" came from, but you get the idea -- promote others and maybe they'll promote you.

- Don't be afraid to ask someone with whom you have Twitter rapport to Retweet your stuff. (Don't over do it!)





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