writers' advice weblog

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Promotion

re: Best Twitter Name Strategy?

in Promotion/Publishing Biz by

Dear Editor…

For Twitter, do people generally use their own name or come up with something catchy if they are an author?

Sincerely,
Elle

Dear Elle…

Keep things easy for readers. More important than being clever is that you be found and recognized. Twitter is a discoverability tool in your marketing toolbox, after all. Think of your Twitter handle as an extension of your author brand. With that in mind, go with a close variation of your name so that readers and industry colleagues can find you easily and learn to recognize your name as they scroll their feeds. You can be catchy within that restriction: @ElleDoeWrites, for instance. When folks retweet your catchy tweets, or reply to your great engagements, their followers will easily read your author name in the retweet. The key is to be identifiable as the author you are for the fans you do and will have.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: Is Tweeting a Must for Authors?

in Promotion/Publishing Biz by

Dear Editor…

I’m not on Twitter and wonder if you feel it’s worth it for writers? I’m on Instagram and Facebook.

Thanks,
Elle

Dear Elle…

Instagram and Facebook are great for spreading awareness of your books and yourself. If you’re using them effectively—engaging others, cheering their news while sharing your own, spending quality time there rather than just bull-horning your books—you’re already doing your promo efforts a solid. You’ll increase your discoverability by doing the same on Twitter, so if you can add it without up-ending your promo/writing/life balance, do so. Are you unpublished? If so, know this: Writers do land agents via Twitter events (#PitMad; #PitchWars). Yes, really! Bonus: Twitter etiquette says we can tweet more frequently than we can post on Facebook. As with all promo efforts, strategize first. What do you want from Twitter? What kind of tweets will you post and retweet to achieve that? What can you do besides be a tweeting billboard for yourself (which people hate)? When will you log in and engage others? “Social” media is about relationships, after all. My trick: I’ve set a phone reminder that blasts the word “Amplify!” at me three times a week to remind me to take a moment to tweet someone else’s good news or books on DearEditor.com’s Twitter and Facebook. It’s my goal with DearEditor.com to support writers by sharing info and by amplifying their voices … and it just makes me feel good. That’s the final item: What’ll make it fun for you? If it’s a chore, you won’t stick with it.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: When Is It Wrong to Use Real Place Names in Fiction?

in General fiction/Promotion by

Dear Editor…

If I’m trying to make Los Angeles like a main character in my novel, can I use real names of places in Los Angeles or should I use fake names? There are some autobiographical undertones to this story and there’s a restaurant that I wanted to use. It’s been open for eight or nine decades and has multiple locations….but maybe I should give it a fictional name?

Sincerely,
L.A. Scribe

Dear L.A. Scribe…
In most cases, real-name it. With public spaces like parks or neighborhoods, landmarks like The Beverly Hills Hotel, chains like Starbucks, getting real is a must-do when setting is essentially a character. I’m less gung-ho about real-naming small businesses or other more personal places if the setting involves uncomfortable fictional circumstances. A fictional assault in Starbucks is one thing; it’s very different in John Smith’s muffler shop. I worry about the impact on the people involved with those places. It seems invasive. Legally it’s unlikely there’ll be an issue, but fake names protect the innocent, as the saying goes. Do consider: While small places make for rich detail, they can be transitory, which dates a book. Are fake places wrong for your story? Then relocate to places you can comfortably real-name. The restaurant you cite sounds landmark enough, but why not ask? The owners will probably love having their place in a book. Advertising for them, promo event possibilities for you, fun for all!

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: When the Third Book in a Series Gets Rejected by Your Publisher

in Promotion/Publishing Biz/Self-publishing by

Dear Editor…

A few years ago I had two MG books published by a mid-sized Canadian publisher. Both books were sold separately (unagented) and are basically stand alone books in a series. Without any commitment from the publisher I went ahead and wrote a third (and final) book in the “series”. My publisher rejected it. Is there any hope for this manuscript? Should I put it in the drawer? Or is there any chance that I could find another publisher?

Many thanks…
Y.

Dear Y.…

Typically, each book in a trilogy or series sells fewer copies than the one preceding it. A publisher choosing not to continue the series is almost certainly making a sales decision. In a way, that works in your favor because then they may be willing to revert the rights for the first two books back to you, freeing you up to shop the full set to other publishers. (Those others won’t buy the third book when the first two are on someone else’s list.) Request the reversion so you can try this. If you get no bites because publishers are skittish about the books’ sales record, consider self-publishing. You’ve done all the writing work, and the first two stories are surely strong, they just didn’t sell. It happens. Hire a freelance editor for the final book to make sure it’s as strong as the other edited books, perhaps repackage the series with new, professionally designed covers, and then, when you promote, make a big deal about this being the complete series.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: Do Agents Ding International Queries?

in Promotion/Submissions by

Dear Editor…

How hesitant are agents to take on new writers from another country? Are international queries second choice when pitted against local ones?

Thank you,
Writer in a Faraway Land

Dear Writer in a Faraway Land…

I have good news, bad news, and then more good news. Good: Your location won’t stop a U.S. agent from reading your submission because if it’s a great book, they want you regardless of where you live. Bad: You have promotional handicaps. Many U.S. book awards require U.S. residency, and book awards can significantly extend the shelf life of a title—which matters to you and your publisher, so it factors into an agent’s final decision. Not just the high profile awards most of us know about, but the many smaller state awards that local teachers and librarians look to for their book lists. Also, you can’t be easily toured or sent to sign or speak at trade shows (such as Book Expo America) or conferences (like TLA or Comic-Con), which matters to a marketing department. Good: Location does matter but “great” trumps all. So, since you’re already striving for “great” with your craft, your plan of attack won’t change. Great is good, indeed.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: Is a Blog Tour Worth the Trouble?

in Promotion/Publishing Biz by

Dear Editor…

You coordinated and completed a blog tour for your book a while back. Did you feel that it was worth all of your hard work? If did it all again, would you do anything differently?

Thanks,
A.

Dear A….

Based on my 8-stop blog tour and research with authors and marketing pros, I declare blog tours an essential book promo tool. Blog tours harness the power of social media, spreading news of your book almost instantly to countless people through the virtual ripple effect of retweets and shares. Two points: 1) Blog tours are about the readers, not you. Tailor your interviews or guest posts to each site, with tips, links, or useful info about your topic, themes, or expertise. Give away books or informative downloadables. People don’t share pitches; they share useful stuff. 2) Shared spotlights are BIGGER spotlights. Give your hosts a full schedule with blog links so they can promote each other. As each tour stop goes “live,” give its direct link to hosts to promote that day. In your social media, emphasize your host sites over your book. With pre-tour promotion and post-tour thanks, you get 3-4 weeks of tour-focused online chatter. The Virtual Ripple Effect is worth the work.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: Is a Nom de Plume a No-No?

in Creative Process/Promotion/Publishing Biz by

Dear Editor…

What are the pros and cons of using a pen name? What if you are quite a private person? Is this enough of a reason to use one? If so, what are some good ways to choose one and how do agents and editors feel about the practice?

Many thanks,
The Writer Behind the Curtain

Dear The Writer Behind the Curtain…

Whenever I hear news of yet another privacy violation in this all-access world we’ve created, I get a knee-jerk “I should’ve used a pen name” feeling. But I’d already established a career in publishing under my own name, so a nom de plume wasn’t a consideration. If you’re just starting out, you’re clear to go with a pen name—and there’s no reason you shouldn’t. As long as you consistently use it in your promotional/networking/social media existence, there won’t be any confusion. Agents and editors don’t care. As for picking the right pseudonym, you’re not trying to be conspicuous a la “Lemony Snicket,” so choose a name that sounds normal so no one will question it. Consider using your real first and middle initials or your nickname, though, so that you can comfortably respond to it when you’re in a book-related encounter.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: Dump the Blog, Go Full-Tilt on Twitter?

in Promotion by

Dear Editor

A published writer friend is thinking of freezing her blog and simply posting regularly on Twitter. She says the blog takes too much time for too little feedback. I get that she wants more writing time while still having the social networking, but this seems like a strangely backward idea. If I wanted to open a discussion, Twitter would be my last choice. What’s your opinion? Which will agents/editors prefer to see? How do YOU write a successful blog, keep tabs on the triplets, write books, and run the vacuum cleaner? or feed the dog? or put your feet up for a simple moment of peace and quiet?

Anon.

 

Dear Anon….

Actually, your desire for “discussion” can be met on Twitter via chats, hashtag threads, and replying to others’ tweets. Plus, good tweets are retweeted to thousands of people, who may then reply, retweet, and “follow” you. Major networking and promo potential! But participating in Twitter on that level takes time. I respect your friend’s choice to go all in. Editors and agents know the potential of a strong Twitter presence. I hope she doesn’t “freeze” her blog, though. Readers seek out authors through their websites, and a dead blog makes a site look abandoned—a negative impression. Keep a blog current with minimal effort by blogging one of your tweeted items every weekish with a sentence or two expanding on it. (BTW: We have hissing cockroaches instead of a dog. Far less work.)

Happy writing!
The Editor

Guest Editor Melissa Wiley re: Facebook v. Google+ as Author Tools

in Guest Editors/Promotion/Publishing Biz by

Dear Editor…

My New Year’s resolution is to get active in social media and start “building my platform.” I don’t think I have time to be active in both Facebook and Google+. A friend says Facebook is established, so choose that. (I do have an account there but haven’t really used it.) Another friend says Google+ is the future, so choose that. I’m stuck. Advice?

Thanks,
R.

 

Dear R.…

If you have to pick one platform, Facebook is probably your best bet for now. With over 800 million active users a month, Facebook is where you are most likely to connect with your audience. You’ll want to decide between maintaining a personal profile—where you can choose to make some posts visible to the public, and others visible to your Facebook friends only—or a fan page, or both. Either way, you can share updates, links, and photos, as well as engage in conversations with your readers. If you do go the Facebook route, you’ll want to do a bit of online research to bone up on the platform’s privacy policies. The privacy settings can seem complicated at first, but there are many how-to guides on the web to help you navigate. Two great sources of info are GeekMom (“Lay-Geek’s Guide to Facebook Privacy” by Patricia Vollmer) and Mashable (“Facebook Privacy: 10 Settings Every User Needs to Know“). (Disclaimer: I’m a contributor at GeekMom.)

Google+ is growing every day, and it’s an appealing platform with a lot of flexibility. At this point, however, Google+ users tend to be early adopters and tech-lovers; it’s a smaller audience and you may find it harder to connect with readers there. But a point in Google+’s favor is that Google has reconfigured its search algorithms to give priority ranking to G+ posts! Nonfiction writers especially may find that a solid Google+ presence helps topic-searching users find them more easily.

Best,
Melissa Wiley
Guest Editor

Melissa Wiley is the author of more than a dozen books for children and teens, including Little House in the Highlands and other novels about the ancestors of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her middle-grade novel, The Prairie Thief, will be published by Margaret K. McElderry Books in the fall. Melissa blogs about her family’s reading life at Here in the Bonny Glen ( melissawiley.com/blog ) and is a contributing writer and social media manager at GeekMom.com. You can find her on Facebook , Twitter and Google+ .

re: Do You Have To Be Published To Do Class Visits?

in Promotion by

Dear Editor…

A former teacher of mine is teaching a creative writing class to high school seniors and invited me to speak to them—basically offering that they would read a few chapters of my ms (which has an agent offer) and then we could have a discussion. While a part of me would love to do a school visit (and start building my reader platform), I’m not sure if the timing is right since I don’t have published book yet. What do you think?

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous…

First, congrats on the offer. Second, visit the class. It’ll be great experience for you. When you do have a published book, you can do another visit with that teacher’s class—which will be full of entirely different students anyway. No need to turn down this opportunity because the book isn’t pubbed yet. You can expose this group to the writing/publishing process and to your work . . . and it would sure be inspirational to them. Bonus: You would get in some presentation practice when the stakes don’t feel so high. You’ll have plenty of events in the future for which you’ll worry about having books on hand; for now, get your speaking feet wet in a friendly setting.

Happy writing!
The Editor

 

Blog Tour: Katie Davis on Promoting Books (Book Giveaway!)

in Giveaways/News/Picture Books/Promotion by

Dear Readers…

Author/illustrator Katie Davis is a tireless promoter whose 9 children’s books have sold over 250,000 copies. Today at DearEditor.com she’s sharing what she’s learned about promoting—and she’s giving away a free download of her new eBook How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks and Secrets to Create a Bestseller.

What I love about Katie Davis is how she can make even hard work fun. This attitude is on full display in her new eBook How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks and Secrets to Create a Bestseller, 30 chapters of practical advice about things like plotting your strategy, using social media, growing your mailing list, and using videos in ways beyond book trailers. I edited the book (disclaimer!), so I know there’s great info in it, from Katie as well as the 60 authors she interviewed for the book. Katie visited DearEditor.com as a Guest Editor last year to sort out the benefits of podcasting versus adding video to your website. Today she answers readers’ questions (and my own) about promoting books. At the end of the Q&A are instructions for entering a drawing for A FREE PDF DOWNLOAD OF HER BOOK.

Katie, you’ve got a lot of on-going promo tools such as your weekly podcasts. When you have a new book coming out, how far ahead of your pub date do you start book-specific promoting?

My mind can wander, imagine, plan and think of specifics while I’m finishing up the art (not the writing—I can only think of the story when I’m writing). With Little Chicken’s Big Day, every time I had a new idea, I added it to The List. Then once I turn in the art I can pay attention to that list, anywhere between 18 months to a year before the book comes out.

How do you balance your writing and promoting time?

Last year I did not do well on the balance thing! So far this year I am getting up early, doing a little social media action over coffee, and then I turn everything off and write in the mornings until lunch. After lunch I do other kinds of things, like my podcast or email answering, blog writing, etc.

Will the promotional strategies in your book work for novels, too?

Actually, it would work for any kind of book—including adult books. And in fact, the basic principles would work for any kind of promotion, though the examples are specific to children’s books.

And now a few questions from DearEditor.com readers…

I love your trailer for Little Chicken’s Big Day! What’s one effective way to use a trailer? —Anonymous picture book writer

One? Just one? Sorry. Can’t do that! Here are many things to do with your great book trailer:

  • Upload it to YouTube (you can use up to four different titles in order to upload four times, broadening your reach)
  • embed on your site
  • upload to other video sites like teachertube.com, booktrailersforall.com, and kidlitbooktrailers.ning.com/video
  • include the YouTube URL in your signature
  • create a QR code and include it on your business card
  • enter it in trailer competitions like the Moby or SLJ Trailee Award contests

Does it make sense to send free promo copies directly to teachers, as a contribution to their classroom libraries?BrickToyNut, MG fantasy writer

It would certainly be nice of you! It makes sense if you want to thank a particularly supportive or helpful teacher. However, if your goal is to generate word of mouth in the teaching community, I’d recommend holding a giveaway. Then tweet, blog, and Facebooking it to teachers would be far more effective. If your goal is to generate sales, it might be better to send support materials to tempt them to use the book in the classroom. You could do other things to be helpful, like offer “value added” services to make it worthwhile to purchase your book. Offering a free Skype Q&A to the class after they do an author study would be a great example of that. To connect with teachers for this kind of promotion, check out http://skypeanauthor.wetpaint.com/ or http://www.katemessner.com/authors-who-skype-with-classes-book-clubs-for-free/.

How important is it to create a teacher’s resource guide to go along with the book?BrickToyNut

It depends on the target age of your reader. Picture books should have activities or puzzles, or anything that extends the impact and value of your book. Middle grade and young adult novels should absolutely have a resource guide. You can offer it as a digital download on your site and other sites that sell your book, and if you have it printed you can make it available at book fairs, festivals, and school visits. I have one for a middle grade novel I wrote that did not do well, but I’m glad I have it because the teachers I’ve given it to love it!

Out of the many suggestions you have on how to promote a book, which one would you say has the highest success rate?Kurt Chambers, YA fantasy writer (whose first novel, Truth Teller, pubbed last week!) 

Congrats on your debut!

Genuine reciprocity is the best way to live online. It’s the thing I emphasize most in How to Promote Your Children’s Book. That means:

  • give before you get
  • support others
  • follow blogs not because you hope they’ll review your book but because you like what they have to say
  • engage in your community and connect

What does that look like?

  •  Tweet someone’s blog post because you like it
  •  Tell others about a great site
  •  Blog about something that will help other people

I wanted to make this tour worth it for anyone who would help me so I bribed enticed my hosts to join in the fun work by gifting them their own copy of the book. There is also promotion for them because they’re each linked on every blog I’m visiting, as well as on my own site. As hokey as it sounds, the thing that works best for me is to always try to give more than I get. It feels good to help others and if it feels good, you’ll be more likely to keep up with your promotional efforts, too.

How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks and Secrets to Create a Bestseller: PDF / For kindle / For Nook /For iPad, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

Follow Katie’s blog tour for more promo insights & giveaways:

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post by midnight Wednesday, Feb 8, to be included in the random drawing for a free pdf edition of How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks and Secrets to Create a Bestseller. Winner to be announced Thursday, Feb 9.

Katie Davis has published nine books and appears monthly on the ABC affiliate show, Good Morning Connecticut, recommending great books for kids. She produces Brain Burps About Books, a podcast about kidlit, a blog and monthly newsletter. Katie has volunteered in a maximum-security prison teaching Writing for Children and over the last dozen years has presented at schools and writing conferences. She’s a 2010 Cybils judge and has also judged the Golden Kite, smartwriters.com, and Frontiers in Writing awards. Recently Katie was selected to be on the Honorary Advisory Board for the Brooke Jackman Foundation, a literacy-based charity. For more about Katie and her book, go to www.KatieDavis.com.

re: When Is the Best Time for a Blog Tour?

in Promotion by

Dear Editor…

When is the best time for a blog tour? Before the book comes out? After? Anytime to get buzz on the book?

Thanks again,
Natasha

Dear Natasha…

The best time for a blog tour is during your pub month. For one thing, your book will be available for purchase. More importantly, syncing the tour with your book launch makes each stop a celebratory event and provides a “reason” for touring. But don’t stop there. Tour on your book’s publication anniversary or to coincide with events related to your topic or themes. Got identity theft in your book? Then tour in October, which is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Bloggers and readers alike will appreciate the relevant theme, and it gives you something to talk about besides yourself. Folks like learning about new books, but they don’t necessarily want to hear the author toot her own horn the whole time.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: How Do I Set Up a Blog Tour?

in Promotion/Publishing Biz by

Dear Editor…

I really enjoyed your blog tour, and now that my picture book biography, Cixi, The Dragon Empress, will be released in October by Goosebottom Books, I’d like to know how I would go about setting up a blog tour.

Thanks,
Natasha

Dear Natasha…

Understand this: Bloggers are swell folks, but that’s not why they’ll agree to host your tour. They’ll host because you’ll offer their readers info and/or entertainment, along with cold, hard stuff. Readers come first, so Step 1 is identifying what take-away you can dish up. In addition to a promo item or book to give away, offer every blogger on your tour the choice of an interview with you or an article you’ll write just for them on a topic that’ll interest their particular readers. If the blogger chooses interview, answer their questions with a bent toward enlightening readers, not tooting your own horn. Let the blogger choose from a set range of tour dates, and specify how you’ll promote the tour. Organized, responsive authors have smoother, more successful blog tours.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: Free 15-Minute Consult with Publicists!

in Promotion by

Dear Readers…

I’m breaking from my regular format to tell you about this chance to win a FREE consult with the renowned publicists at Blue Slip Media. You only have till midnight tonight!

Dear Readers…

I can’t say enough about the experience, professionalism, insight, and all-around loveliness of children’s book publicists Sarah Shealy and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media. Their team-up is long and legendary in the children’s book world, from back in their days with Harcourt Children’s Books to now, with their own agency.  Today, as part of Darcy Pattison’s fabulous “Random Acts of Publicity” campaign, you’ve got the chance to win a FREE 15-minute consult with Blue Slip! But you’ve got to enter by midnight tonight. What a great opportunity. Good luck.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: Hidden Hassles of Pen Names

in Promotion/Publishing Biz by

Dear Editor…

I write both adult novels and books for children. Should I use a different pen name for my adult fiction than I use for my children’s fiction? I’ve asked people this before and most just scratch their head and say, “Interesting that you can write for such a wide audience.” I know I am not the only one in this situation.

Sincerely,
Haley

Dear Haley…

This isn’t a simple name recognition issue. Yes, use a pen name if readers will be negatively impacted by knowledge of your books in other categories or genres (as with kidlit authors pubbing romance). The risk of losing out on positive name recognition in one category if the other does well isn’t big since such audiences won’t likely cross over in big numbers anyway. But think beyond that: You’ll be managing 2 professional personas. Will you need 2 websites? 2 blogs? 2 Twitter, Facebook, Google+ accounts? How will you handle 2 personas at your events? Your promo is mostly on you—can you build reputations for 2 “people” and maintain/promote them forevermore. If risk management isn’t an issue, stick with one name and make your life a whole lot easier.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: Social Networking Prior to Book Release?

in Promotion/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

I have an upper middle-grade novel about a boy struggling in the sport of gymnastics due for release this fall. With the Olympics coming next summer and an Olympian backing my book, how should I begin to get the word out there?

Thank you,
Christi

Dear Christi…

There’ll be Olympics book round-ups galore—and you have unique opportunity for mainstream promotion. I happen to remember you and this project from a conference critique, so I know you’re raising a gymnast and you’re a teacher. You can pitch major online, print, and TV/radio media as an expert/ real mom with insight into raising Olympic hopefuls, an angle that’ll be in high demand. Your book will get plugged in the process. Work that angle in home schooling networks since Olympic hopefuls are often home-schooled. Do blog tours there and in other blog communities such as sports and parenting. You even have time to pitch and write articles for magazines with their long lead times. Blog and tweet about all these, gaining followers. Work that Olympian backer in where you can.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: Thank you. Now Have a Free Webinar.

in Promotion/WYAFFD Blog Tour/WYAFFD Virtual Book Launch by

The Editor’s month-long party celebrating the publication of Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies may be ending with today’s final stop on her WYAFFD Blog Tour, but she’s got one last grand finale event for writers: her eye-popping, info-laden FREE webinar tomorrow with high-energy author/illustrator Katie Davis….

WYAFFD cover

Dear Readers…

I’m excited to team up with Katie Davis tomorrow, July 27, for “Translating Rejection Letter Lingo: What To Do about a ‘Flat’ Story.” I hope you’ll stop by to hear my tips for pumping up flat fiction and to take part in the listener Q-and-A. With Katie’s fab visuals, you’ll be as entertained as you are informed. [Register here.]

Phew! A week-long virtual book launch, an 8-stop blog tour, a free webinar, book and ‘free edit’ giveaways, and a dozen interviews, podcasts, and guest posts on others’ blogs. . . . It’s been a busy month, but I believe every new book deserves a party. I sure hope you’ve enjoyed mine.

Thank you, and happy writing!
The Editor

re: Leave Self-Marketing to the Young?

in Promotion by

Dear Editor…

Can you be too old to write for kids? I’m older and I finally have time to write. I have lots of experience with kids, my stuff is funny, and editors have good things to say. But I’m afraid I’m seen as too old to help market a book effectively, especially by young editors.

Sincerely,

Margery

Dear Margery…

Heck no! You’re never too old to write—for kids or anyone else. Lots of successful writers got their starts after their kids left the nest or after they retired and could focus on publication. There are plenty of marketing opportunities that don’t involve physical travelling, if that’s your concern. You’re already online—promote yourself through social networking and online writers forums, create a website and blog, write guest blogs for other sites, write articles for magazines/journals/newspapers that target your audience…. Savvy authors self-promote right from their writing nooks. This game is about passion and willingness, not age.

Happy writing!

The Editor

Guest Editor Theresa Stanton re: Author Blogsite v. Website

in Guest Editors/Promotion by

Dear Editor…

I read an interview where you refer to your website as a “blogsite.” How does a blogsite differ from a regular website? Should authors have a blogsite instead of a website?

Sincerely,

R.

Dear R….

The Editor asked me respond to your question because I’m her “web guru” and set up this site as well as her blog at deborahhalverson.com. You are correct in referencing this site as a “blogsite”, but before I answer your question as to what that is and how it differs from a “website”, we should first establish what a “blog” is.  (Don’t worry, it’s just a few sentences of semi-techie stuff.)

The term blog came from shortening the word “weblog”, which in essence is an online journal. The beauty of journals is that they are date-based, so sifting through archives is easy. The main difference between a blog and a website is that a blog is organized into dates or category archives whereas a website does not have to be. On top of the organizing aspect of a blog, the dynamic nature of allowing visitors to comment on journal entries makes blogs much more interactive than a standard website. Websites (which are usually written in html language) are by nature static, or non-changing. By contrast, you don’t need to know html to use a blog. The CMS, or content management system, that “drives” blogs uses something called php language scripting, which frees up bloggers from web programming and gives them a user-friendly interface in which to write and publish posts and pages. Sure, there are template programs out there for creating websites even when you don’t know html, but all those are really good for is creating static pages.

So we have a blog and a website. What is a “blogsite” then? Well, a blogsite is a blog made to function as a website with the added benefits of archiving and commenting. Instead of the visitor going from a website then to a blog to read the latest news from their favorite author, they just go to one all-inclusive blogsite that contains pages AND blog entries.

As a writer, would you benefit more from a blogsite than a website? Absolutely! I encouraged Deborah to add the blog aspect because I knew a) she’s a great writer and b) if there’s anyone who would find blog functions useful, it would be her. How much of your writing you put “out there” through your blogging is up to you. You don’t want to go and publish entire books on a blog, but “teasers” certainly entice readers to purchase your new novel. I can go on and on about the positive aspects of blogsites, but in terms of readership and “creating buzz” for your writing, being able to set up a subscription system and other plugins (i.e. social networking buttons) to drive the buzz are just some of the things you can easily add to your blog to make it function and work for you. Once you start marketing your book, a blogsite will help streamline the flow of potential fans, as well as streamline your thoughts and the organization of information on your site.

Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress, Blogger, and Typepad are just a few sites that offer free blogs for those just starting out, but if you want to create a real brand for yourself, you can register a domain name like “deborahhalverson.com” or “blogsforphotogs.com” and have it hosted with a web hosting company so that the CMS can be installed and run independently on your hosted site. Running CMS this way gives you (and your web designer) full control over the source and design files. Many hosting companies offer “one-click” WordPress installations and there are literally thousands of free themes or skins out there that you can use for the look and layout of your blog with minimal or no coding experience necessary. For more specific design and branding needs, you can hire a web designer like myself to build a theme or customize an existing theme for you. Once it’s all set up, you have full control over your blog and are free to do what you do best, which is writing.

Happy blogging!

Theresa Stanton

Theresa Stanton is a web designer and photographer with a background in architecture. Her blogsite www.blogsforphotogs.com is geared toward building blogs for photographers but she has also built blogsites for a wide range of businesses. Her portraiture work can be found at her photography blogsite www.designfocusstudio.com.

Guest Editor Katie Davis re: To Podcast or To Video?

in Guest Editors/Promotion by

Dear Editor…

I’m thinking of including either podcasts or videos on my blog. Is one better for an author blog than the other?

Michael

Dear Michael…

The Editor asked me to answer your question because I create videos for my site on a regular basis and produce a podcast called Brain Burps About Books.

You ask which is better, videos or podcasts. But “better” could mean anything! Would one be better for your time input than the other? Better for SEO (Search Engine Optimization)? Better for your readers? And what kinds of video would be better? What kinds of podcasts? I’ll try to cover it all here and hope you didn’t mean just “better for my Aunt Sadie’s enjoyment!”

One thing before we begin: while podcasts can be audio or video, most people think of them as audio. For this discussion, I’ll be referring to audio podcasts.

Podcasts

The Black Hole Time Suck Info: Depending on whether you’re interviewing someone or just sharing information, your level of experience, and how long your episodes will be, a podcast can take anywhere from 60 minutes to more than four hours to produce, starting with interviewee correspondence to writing show notes and the accompanying blog post to recording the thing, editing, tagging, uploading, and promoting it.

Cost: It varies greatly, but if you plan on creating a lot of episodes, you’ll need to pay for a server, as audio files are approximately 1.5mg per minute. I use Liberated Syndication and find them very helpful and supportive whenever I have a problem.

Benefits:

  1. Podcasting is a great way to help people by sharing your expertise, they’re terrific passive marketing, and they entertain.
  2. Podcasts are portable, which means people can listen to them while they do other things. (Listeners can subscribe to podcasts via iTunes or download an app that will load the podcast automatically into their mp3 players.)
  3. There are many outlets for podcasts, so you can attract a global audience very quickly.
  4. Podcasts are easier to record and edit than videos.
  5. You can tag podcasts for SEO, just like videos.
  6. Podcasts add regular content to your site, which you want because it affects your ranking.
  7. One of my personal fave perks because I interview a lot of authors and illustrators: I receive books for free!
  8. And the best part: it’s fun!

Negatives:

  1. The word “podcast” confuses many consumers. They’re unsure of what one is and when, where, and how they can hear it, so they run from them. I usually describe “podcast” simply as a “homemade radio show accessed via the internet.”
  2. The internet is a visual medium; podcasts don’t really take advantage of that as well as videos.
  3. It’s hard to listen to a lengthy show that has really terrible audio quality, so you need good audio equipment if you want people to subscribe. Though sites such as BlogTalkRadio seem to be quite popular (I assume because they’re free), I personally have a difficult time listening to them because of the tin-cans-connected-by-a-string sound.

Suggestion: You could do 15-minute jobbers and not include a blog along with it. Design podcasts to work for you, your readers, and your purposes.

Videos

The Black Hole Time Suck Info: Videos can take an enormous amount of time if you want to produce a quality product. Obviously, there are many low quality videos out there that have gone viral, so I may know absolutely nothing! Still, the virals have something in common: mass interest for one reason or another. Therefore, you will want to consider your subject matter and what you want to put out there (see suggestions, below).

Benefits:

  1. You don’t have to commit to creating them regularly the way you do with podcasts. Though if you start creating helpful weekly videos, your visitor numbers will start growing, as people will begin to expect them. A podcast is, by definition, a series. People don’t think of videos as a series so you can do one-off videos. (You can certainly provide a video series, such as my video F.A.Q.s which I recently started hosting on my FAQ page as well as my Youtube channel.)
  2. Most people, by this time, know how to watch a video on a computer.
  3. Again, the web is a visual medium, so video is a natural way to show things like your writing process, who you are, where you live, etc., which many fans love to see.
  4. Properly tagged, videos are great for SEO. I suggest reading this or listening to this podcast with Darcy Pattison, author of The Book Trailer Manual.
  5. The longer a visitor stays on your site, the better (search spiders love longer stays), so watching a mesmerizing video increases the chance he or she will stay.
  6. You will get a lot of new readers through Youtube (because you’ll post your videos on your personal Youtube channel which will lead back to your site).

Negatives:

  1. You need video equipment. Luckily, equipment is much more available these days, what with cell phone HD video capabilities, iSight, etc.
  2. A video podcast is less portable, so your audience must find the time to sit and watch it.
  3. Talking heads are boring. Set your Bore Alert on high!
  4. One can easily be tempted to make long videos, which will then fall into the I-Have-No-Time-To-Watch-This category and then production time is wasted.

Suggestions: There are many ways an author can include videos on his or her site: book trailers, animotos, interviews, Skype visits with kids or teachers, informational videos, funny videos parodying books…the list could go on for many virtual pages. The one thing I advise, no matter the subject, is that you make the video short. Personally, I think three minutes at the extreme outside is the way to go, although there are those who think a five-minute video, if it’s instructional, hits the sweet spot. Make sure you create a Youtube channel, which will bring in more people from a completely different venue.

I’ve given you two sides of the story because you asked as though there were two sides to this decision. Michael, my question to you is, why chose one over the other? There is a reason the phrase “content is king” is ubiquitous. The more you put on your site or blog, the better you will be serving your readers and fans, and the more people will be coming to see what you’re offering. I do both, and so can you! And by the way, everyone who sees your videos probably won’t also be listening to your podcasts and reading your blog, so you’ll be covering different groups, potentially.

Suggested Reading: Blog post: Are YouTube Videos and Podcasting Worth the Effort?

Good luck, and I hope this helped!

Katie Davis

Katie Davis is the author/illustrator of nine books for children and is the producer of “Brain Burps About Books,” the #1 kidlit podcast in the iTunes store under Children’s Publishing. She also appears monthly on the ABC affiliate show “Good Morning Connecticut,” recommending great books for kids. Visit Katie’s website to get more tips and to sign up for her monthly newsletter filled with great information and chances to win stuff.

re: Scared of Skyping

in Promotion by

Dear Editor…

Thanks to your readers for the suggestion about doing Skype author visits to self promote. The only problem is, I’m a dunce when it comes to technology. What others say is “simple” is NOT so simple to me.  I’ll try it, but . . . what kind of camera should I get for Skype????

Thanks again,

Mimi

Dear Mimi…

If your computer is new enough, you don’t need to buy a separate webcam because a video camera is already installed. If you do need a webcam, basic models are cheap ($20 to $50) and available at any electronics store or even Wal-Mart. Check them out on online stores like Amazon.com, paying special attention to the customer comments to find out about their ease of use and quality. Skype’s video conferencing software works with any webcam.

As for Skype itself, it really is simple. Just go to Skype.com, choose “Join Skype” to set up an account and then click on “Download Skype” and just follow the directions. Then, to enable your installed webcam or your separate one, go to “Tools” “Options” “Video” and then indicate your camera choice. You can test your webcam there. Get a friend to sign up, too, and do some practice calls to get comfortable with the steps. You’ll always do test calls with your schools prior to your visits, too.

On their end, the teachers should contact their tech staff to check their districts’ ability to access Skype. Some districts block that site, requiring techies to change the settings on the teacher’s computer to remove the district filters and allow access to Skype. They may also need to set up a computer network camera for the teacher and a microphone to use on her computer, and she may need to have a personal Skype account. Actually, a lot of teachers are already up to speed with this because with today’s economy, Skype’s free video is often the only way to bring authors into a classroom. The bonus is, Skyping saves you travel time, enabling you to do even more author visits.

Happy writing!

The Editor

re: Promote My Own Book? How???

in Promotion/Publishing Biz by

Dear Editor…

Ok. So, I’ve published my book. NOW, HOW TO PROMOTE IT???? The publisher has some publicity but not enough . . . they have a hundred books to promote. I’d like to help my book. So what can you suggest???

Thank you,

Mimi

Dear Mimi…

It’s true that with so many books to promote, publishers focus their efforts on a few key titles each season even as they do basic marketing for the others. Luckily, there’s plenty that authors can do to self-market. I dedicate 33 pages to self-marketing alone in my Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies (final revisions of which go to my publisher today; do you smell a DearEditor.com “celebration free edit giveaway” in the air?). Alas, authors can’t do it all any more than publishers can. So copy their model with your efforts: Focus on three key marketing items for your self-marketing campaign. You can grow from there later. Your three choices will depend on your particular expertise, time, resources, and goals. What’s your best medium—blogging, podcasting, appearances, social media? What are you promoting—you the Expert on Something, your book, a specific aspect of your book’s topic, your genre or literacy in general? What can you give people to earn their attention and make them spread the word for you—free books, free information, free bonus material or study guide downloads, free exposure for their books in exchange for exposure of yours? You must strategize all of this before you take any specific action or create specific materials because catch as catch can is not an effective marketing campaign. Above all, stop thinking of yourself as an Author Who Wants to Help; appoint yourself Self-Marketing Manager and drive a focused, efficient, and effective campaign that’s tailored to your strengths and abilities.

Happy writing!

The Editor

Guest Editor Darcy Pattison re: Virtual Book Launches

in Guest Editors/Promotion by

Dear Editor . . .

I’m looking for suggestions and ideas on how to pull off a successful virtual launch party for a self-published book.

Sincerely,
Michael

Dear Michael . . .

You’re all ready to launch your book by doing a variety of online activities: webpage, Facebook page, blog tour, email blast, book trailers, etc. What are the two most important things you should know?

1) Consistency. Be consistent in your visual image across all your efforts. Make sure you “build your brand” carefully by consistently using the same author photo, the same logo, the same cover image. Don’t confuse the message you’re sending by being too creative with the images. Certainly, photos from a brick-and-mortar signing are fun to look at, but don’t use these photos in your publicity. Readers should see the same image everywhere, so they start to associate a certain book/image with you. If you do want to show other photos, create an album on your Facebook page and link to it. Better yet, use those photos in an updated promotional book trailer.

2) Call to Action. You should be very clear about what you want people to DO as a result of your efforts. Here are some ideas: buy a book, write a review on Amazon, tell a friend about your book, download and read a sample chapter, sign up for your newsletter, or enter a contest for a book giveaway. Be consistent across all your efforts and ask viewers/readers to do one thing. Only one thing. Be sure to ASK for the action you want them to take; if you don’t ask, they won’t do it. And make sure it’s very easy for people to do, or they won’t do it. Track the results of efforts by tracking how many times that one action was taken. Did you get 25 Amazon reviews? Fantastic! That’s a successful virtual book launch!

Darcy Pattison, Guest Editor for the Day

Author and teacher Darcy Pattison (www.darcypattison.com) writes about how to improve your fiction, DIY book publicity and book trailers (www.booktrailermanual.com). Watch a trailer for The Book Trailer Manual
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rogq93aYvkQ.

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