Monday, January 26, 2015

Self Promotion and Twitter

One thing writers tend to hear a lot these days is, "You have to have a platform." While that's more true of non-fiction writers than fiction, many agents want their clients to have some internet presence: whether it's a blog, a Twitter account, Google +, a Facebook author page, or whatever. Most people agree that self-promotion on social media is important. But let's talk about the line between self-promotion and being obnoxious. 

Following a few simple Do's and Don't's can help you get the most of social media. (This post is directed at Twitter, but I think the general ideas can be applied in other areas of life.)

1. Don't Send Auto DM's: One of the number one things I've seen people complain about is getting an automated direct message immediately after following someone on Twitter. "Thanks for following! Buy my book! [Links]. Since most people who use DMs do it for personal communication, it's a bit frustrating to get what looks like a personal message but is really just spam. Also, the vast majority of Twitter users don't look in their DM box at all, because it's always spam. I once found a message that was 107 days old. I don't know anyone who appreciates these messages, other than the people who use them, and many people I know will automatically UN-follow those people.

And this should go without saying, but never, ever, ever pitch your book to an agent or publisher via DM if you're lucky enough to have one of them follow you. It's completely unprofessional.

2. Do Tweet Something Other than Self-Promotion. I don't know what the magic ratio is, and maybe there isn't one, but if ALL your tweets are links to your books, I feel like I've signed up for all commercials, all the time. I don't want to be inundated with people asking me for money when I'm online relaxing. And, again, if I notice that you never tweet anything but book promotion, don't respond to @ messages, don't favorite or retweet things that aren't about your books - I'm going to unfollow you, and I'm not going to buy your books.

3. Don't Suggest Your Own Book when People ask for Recommendations: Chances are, if I know you and your book is a genre I enjoy, I've already checked it out. It's just awkward when I say "I'm in the mood to read X," and someone responds with "Hey! Buy my book!" And Tweetdeck doesn't let me delete @ messages, so I'm stuck looking at it, which annoys me more. 

4. Do Be Engaging. Be chatty. Be fun. Tweet about the types of things that people who enjoy your books would be interested in. Support other writers. Congratulate them when good things happen. Share books you've enjoyed by other writers. If you want people to read your book, do a giveaway. But don't bombard your followers with self-promotion - the only thing you're doing is alienating people who might've bought your book if you hadn't.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"The Basket Case" guest blog on Celebration Generation

In addition to books (reading and writing), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and a really good cheese, one of the things I really enjoy is baking. Cooking is fine - I can cook, if you tell me what you want to eat and hand me a recipe. It's theoretically possible that I could find a recipe if I know what I want to eat. But beyond that, most cooking is beyond me.

Baking is another thing entirely. I love it, because I don't have to improvise or use fancy techniques or know which flavors go together (Hint: Everything goes with chocolate). I love baking. A couple of years ago, I joined a dinner club to help me learn to cook new things. Surprise, surprise, I found myself signing up to bring dessert every month.

Anyway, one month, we had a great theme, but I just couldn't find a recipe to fit what I wanted to bring. So, I created my own. And as weird as it sounds, the dish turned out pretty good. My friend Marie Porter has a food blog, and she kindly allowed me to do a guest post to share my bizarre-yet-tasty creation.

Without further adieu, I present you "The Basket Case," my The Breakfast Club-inspired bread pudding:

And in case my comments have rendered you afraid to look, here's a picture. Mmmm!

Cap’n Crunch Bread Pudding with Caramelized Sugar (a.k.a, “The Basketcase”)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Consolidated Contests Post

Happy Martin Luther King Day, everyone! With Sun vs. Snow rapidly approaching, I thought I'd put some of my prior contest advice posts in one handy place for you. (Side note: This is the contest where I met Michelle Hauck, and I got amazing feedback on my first page as an alternate, which lead to revising my manuscript and eventually helped me find my agent. I LOVE contests.)

From the Contest Slush - Query Do's and Don't's. These are things I noticed while reading slush for PitchSlam and helping the contest hosts pick their teams. Many of these same themes popped up while reading slush for QueryKombat later in October.

First 250 Insights. Most of these were also gleaned from contests, although I do offer first page critiques.

Pitch Insights. How to create an elevator pitch. Although Sun vs. Snow evaluates first page and query letter, it's still good for people to know how to create a pitch in 30 words or less, just in case you happen to find yourself in an elevator with your dream agent or editor.

Here's my own post on the importance of picking a genre, which is especially true for contests. Also, Connor Goldsmith from Fuse Literary blogged about the differences between various speculative fiction subgenres, and it's a good read if you write SciFi, Fantasy, or Horror.

If you need help preparing for a contest, remember I do contest entry critiques for only $20. More information here.

Good luck, everyone!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Writer Diaries!

I'm very excited to announce that I've joined The Writer Diaries as a contributor! I'll be posting a couple of blogs a month on writing, in addition to my posts here. We also host weekly chats every Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. Follow @WriterDiaries or watch #TWDTopic to join us.

This blog will focus a bit more on my personal journey, for those who are interested, although I'll still post writing tips and advice when I'm helping with contests and stuff. And, of course, I'll still be posting pictures of my cats. Because everyone loves cat pictures.

"Why aren't you petting me?"

"You know you want to...."

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My 2015 Goals

A week after I posted my 2014 wrap-up, I thought maybe it was time to share my goals for 2015.  I do this partially because when I went to see if I hit my 2014 goals, I realized I never wrote them down. (I rewrote an entire MS, wrote and polished a second, drafted a third, got an agent and bought a house, though, so I think I did pretty well.) So, let's hear it for creating accountability!

Here's what I'll do 2015 (some of these are on-going).
  1. Even though I'm fairly introverted, staying inside and only interacting with people via the internet starts to drag on me after a while. I'll make more of an effort to get out of the house, even if it's only going to the gym or running to the mall instead of buying everything online (and hey, I'm supporting local businesses!).
  2. Tying into that, I feel better when I exercise regularly. I'll remind myself of this fact as necessary (usually when I don't want to do cardio).
  3. I will finally get my husband to finish watching Season 7 of Doctor Who with me. We have to stop falling behind.
  4. More fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Less crap. (Cookies will henceforth be considered a vegetable)
  5. Instead of constantly buying new books I don't have time to read, I'll read at least a few more of the 50+ classics I downloaded when I first got my Kindle (in 2011).
  6. I will make time to snuggle with my kitties every day. (Excuse me)
  7. There is a particular fitness thing I've been working toward for months now. This year, it's going to happen. (And when it does, I'm going to make a giant ice cream sundae to celebrate.)
  8. I will not judge myself by other people's successes. When someone else gets a book deal, that doesn't mean I never will. Instead, I'll focus on what I can do - writing the best books I can, staying healthy, being a good wife, and living a balanced life.
  9. Rest is a key part of being healthy. I will not beat myself up for taking days off.
  10. Balance. Balance, balance, balance. All things in moderation.
What about you? Goals for 2015?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Writing by Committee

Last week, I found myself completely stuck on a scene I needed to add to my work in progress. In order to distract myself, I sent out a tweet, suggesting we write the scene by committee.

 And, here's what I got from the Amazing Twitterverse (mixed up a bit):


Why? Because sometimes, when you're struggling, you just have to take a break and have fun with it. Write by committee, if that's what you need to do. Write something silly that has nothing to do with your MS. Or-*gasp*-even consider taking a day off. (I'm taking today off. It feels weird, but it's necessary. I can't possibly beat Star Wars Lego game if I don't make time to play it.)

What do you do when you're stuck? Post in the comments. (Then go follow all these awesome people on Twitter.)