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Posts Tagged ‘virtual events’

How can you kill two birds with one stone? Simple. Follow that cliché! Blog.

Since most of us writers don’t make a whole lot from our writing, if you are among those that do sell any books, it doesn’t take much to put you in the red. Yes, there are ways to publish without spending a penny on it, but effective publishing, and promoting, costs money.

Blogging is one way to promote yourself and your work on any budget from, “Budget? What budget? I’m dead broke.” to “Budget? Haha, yeah, I don’t even think about what I spend. I don’t worry about money. I’ve got lots.”, and you don’t even have to blog about your work. You can make your blog about anything.

Photo by Daniel Thomas on Unsplash

Just because you write a particular genre or subject, doesn’t mean that’s what you have to focus your blog on. Maybe you’d rather discuss the plight of the Pacu Fish. If you don’t know, they have weirdly human-like teeth. Personally, I suspect this is the result of some hapless person who really angered someone big time, and was cursed that they and their generations to follow will forever live as fish.

Whatever your passion is, you can make that the subject of your blog. Write it enthusiastically. Write it well. And, the most important point, try to write it on schedule.

Consistency is magical. Stay reasonably on topic. If your passion is painting burned out skyscrapers and you grow a following blogging about those post-apocalyptic symbols, your readers likely won’t be interested in your post on tapioca pudding, unless it’s pudding found in a burnt skyscraper.

Posting occasionally and sporadically won’t grow much of a following. If you are going to do a monthly blog post, try to schedule it for the same day each month. People like consistency. They want you to be reliable.

Frequent blog posts can be a big challenge, especially with daily life and other things getting in the way. If you are going to commit, make it a schedule you can likely keep. Too frequently posting could set you up to fail, and if too frequent, is also spammy.

Don’t be spammy. Nobody likes having their email clogged with spam. If I’m getting multiple notifications a day every day on the same blogger posting, I’d stop following them pretty quickly. I find one a day every day from the same blogger too much. I don’t have the time to read that and would be just deleting the email notifications and probably killing that blog subscription.

Speaking of execution, how are you committing that murder of the second ‘bird’? Blogging serves a second purpose.

Blogging is writing practice. So, not only are you working to build a following that will hopefully result in some book sales, but you are also working at practicing and improving your writing skills.

Don’t wait. Start blogging before you publish.

While the writing practice and working to develop your writing voice is a bonus, the main purpose of your blogging is to put yourself out there and build a following. Your blog is a checkmark on your writing platform to do list.

Building a following is key to building your author platform. Any potential agent or publisher is going to be a whole lot more interested in the author with an extensive following than the one with a few dozen co-workers, family, friends, neighbors, and the odd random person they don’t know in real life.

Whether you are going traditional, with an Indie or small press, or self-publishing, that following is a pool of potential buyers of your book. The bigger that pool is when your book comes out, the better your odds are at generating sales through your blog.

You want to get your followers excited about your upcoming book if you can. Get them interested enough that they are sharing and spreading the news about your book. Only a small percentage of your followers will typically buy it, so the more reach you can get them to spread for you, the more potential buyers see it, and your list of followers can grow.

How do you start a blog?

Find yourself a blogging platform and start writing articles.

Simply put, a blog platform is a service or software for managing and publishing content on the internet in the form of a blog.

WordPress is one of the most popular platforms. It has both free and paid for themes that have a range of customization ability. There are plugins that let you do even more. You have to buy a subscription to use the plugins, but you can still do a pretty decent blog for absolutely free.

There are two variations of wordpress.

WordPress.org is a self-hosted open-source software. It’s free to use, but I’m sure there’s some catch in there for them to make money off you. Self-hosted = you need a domain name and web hosting. It lets you do more than the other WordPress, but a domain name and web hosting is not included in the “free” price tag of this software. You will need to find these and will have to pay for them. This also means that you or your web hosting service are responsible for doing all customizations, updates, and backups of your blog site.

WordPress.com is what I currently use. It is a hosting service created by Automattic, so it’s got the all-in-one on providing both the blog platform and hosting service. It has options ranging from free to crazy expensive. You are more limited in what you can do than with the .org, even more limited with the free version. You can get your own domain for a price. You have to have a paid subscription for that. They plug ads on your blog to make money off you, and you cannot plug your own ads to monetize. If you max out your storage space on the free plan, you have to upgrade to a paid subscription. When that happens, I’ll likely look into the costs of getting that domain name and web hosting to switch to the .org.

What I dislike about WordPress.com is that the new editor automatically removes all extra line breaks and color in text when you copy/paste your post into it, and doesn’t allow for font type changes within the post. I write in Word, all prettily formatted, and copy/paste it into WordPress. Then I have to go through the entire post adding back in the line breaks and re-convert sub-headers back into sub-headers and re-colorized any text that I didn’t want black. Line breaks – those empty spaces – help make your post easier to read and breaks up bits that don’t necessarily go together.

Blogger is another common one. You may have heard it called “Blogspot”. They aren’t one and the same, but they do work together to provide you a blogging platform. Blogger is the publishing platform and BlogSpot is a domain service provider. Both are available for free. You can also pay to get a custom domain name.

Warning: some authors have reported having issues with Facebook flagging Blogger blogsites as violating their anti-spam rules. Apparently Facebook lately equates Blogger with spam. Hopefully they will fix this.

There are others, and also website platforms like Wix that let you do a blog in addition to the website.

Do your research before you start. Find out what blogging platform best suits your needs.

You will find that you can auto-feed many blogging platforms to cross-pollinate your articles onto other social media sites with your blog. Where they are capable of feeding to depends largely on who owns what and who set up their sites to work together. I was able to set Blogger to feed into Wix (a website platform), but had no success trying to get WordPress to feed into Wix. Blogger also fed posts into Google+ before Google shut down that platform.

This article says you can import WordPress blog posts into Wix (you have to log into Wix to read the article). I’ll give this a try later when I get around to updating and spiffing up my Wix page.

My WordPress.com blog auto-feeds posts to my author pages on Facebook and Amazon, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn. It also has a new create a podcast episode feature that lets you convert your text blog to audio. I tried it out. Cons = it sounds like a robot, tends to skip words, and will mispronounce words including names and anything that is a heteronym (same spelling, different pronunciation). There is no way to fix those errors at this time. It’s new, so hopefully they fix that, but they probably won’t be able to get it to sound human.

Vlogs are another option.

Like audiobooks, they are also increasing in popularity. Why read a blog when you can listen to a video blog while you are doing other things like ignoring the other people in the room? Right?

Vlogs have their own group of hosting platforms. You could probably get away with creating the posts on your phone, but if you want a professional feel, you’re going to have to invest in equipment, find some sound and video editing software, learn sound and video editing, and find a quiet place to record. I’m probably making it sound harder than it is.

What else are these posts on YouTube, Tik Tok, and other social media and video sites where people are essentially blogging by video if not a form of vlogging? No, not the barrage of so-called challenges and other bizarre and mindless shares. I’m talking the posters who actually use these media sites as vlogs. There are other platforms out there designed specifically for vlogging.

You also have to be capable of speaking coherently while recording yourself. I’m still working on developing that talent.

One of the benefits of the blog is the side bars and pages.

In the side bars, you can have click to follow buttons, signups for your newsletter, and photo button plugs linking your readers to buy your books and products.

Pages give you the option to set up a click away page featuring any or all of your books and products.

Readers can come for the article and see your books down the side, buy them, learn more about them, and click to follow your other social media accounts.

Keep writing my friends, and good luck on those blogs.

SELF-PROMOTION IS A FOUR LETTER WORD Posts:

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How cute you look. Dashing. Pretty. Pretty weird. Handsome. Bizarre. Tough. Tender.

What kind of appearance are you going for?

Photo by LeeAnn Cline on Unsplash

Self-promotion, in many ways, is like a Snapchat filter. Who hasn’t used one of those, right? The ‘old’ filter is fun when you’re goofing with friends, making them all see how awesome they look old. Or as one of the other wacky filters. It makes for hilarious party games.

But you see people on other social media using the Snap filters to change their appearance for the pics they put up of themselves, to make themselves look more flattering (because who doesn’t want to look better?) and it’s so obvious they used a filter.

That’s what self-promotion amounts to. The appearance of yourself that you put out there. Your public persona is the Snap filter of your real self. And that appearance isn’t really about your looks, it’s about your personality.

Whether you are going for genuine original you, or putting on a different face for your fans and followers, putting that persona out there consistently is work. And you need to be consistent. You can’t be the girl or boy next door full of sweetness and then lash out full of angry venom. You will alienate your followers that way. Don’t confuse them with different personalities on different social media platforms. Self-promotion means using multiple platforms, and trying to remember who you are on each is just too much unnecessary work.

If you are going to be a particular persona, own it. Eccentric? Own that too.

If you are going to be Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Alice Cooper, or some other character, then you have to put that act on any time you are doing anything to self-promote. Always in character. Always obvious about knowing you are a character, not real, because your followers know it. That’s exhausting.

What persona do I think works best? Just be you. The real you. Unless, of course, the real you is a jerk. Be personable, friendly, and easy-going. Be natural. Be the best and most likable real you that you can be. Although you might not be able to be all natural you. Not if, like me, you have strong introverted tendencies, are most comfortable in your own company, and feel completely awkward about promoting and talking yourself up or talking to audiences of any kind. You’ll have to fake the outgoing personality a bit then. But it gets easier and more natural feeling the more you do it. Kind of like that bike you learned to ride.

And when you get out of practice, like relearning to ride a bike (I did that), it’s easier the second time around.

Wherever and however your are promoting yourself, everyone will see through a fake façade. If you try to sound too smart, funny, or cute when you blog, when your blogging or vlogging voice just isn’t you, followers will pick up on that quickly if they meet you in person or follow you elsewhere. If you put a personal note in the front or back matter, make it real. Make it you. When you do a bio of yourself, try to put a little of your personality in it, even though you are writing it in the third person.

Here’s a secret: readers like to feel a personal connection to the author, like they know you. Like they can think of you as perhaps a distant friend or an acquaintance. I’ve listened to teenagers rave about their favorite authors and it always seems to share one common thread – they will happily tell you about something they feel is personal about the author. Something they found Googling about the author, from an author interview or article about the author, or just from following the author on social media. It might be a story the author shared about something that happened in writing or publishing a book, at a book event, in an interview, or in their personal life. That connection seems to have a bigger overall impact in that age group than the quality of the writing.

Adults seem to gravitate more to the story that enthralls them first and the author’s personality second. But if that personality fails, so does their opinion of you, and that translates to their opinion of your books.

Think before you speak. Another important tip. It only takes a single one-off offensive comment to ruin a reputation. Insulting people and making hurtful comments is not a way to sell yourself or your books. Your personal views are separate from your writing quality, but not from your reputation, and it’s that reputation you want to build. When you put respecting others first, you bring greater respect on yourself.

Do no harm. That should be first and foremost in your actions and comments. Think before putting something out there publicly that you cannot take back. You do not want to alienate entire communities of potential fans, whether it’s by being insensitive, flipflopping the public persona you put out there, or by being unlikeable.

And remember, the easiest way to not slip up on your public face is to just be you. Be nice. Be respectful. And be real.

Keep writing my friends, and think about the different ways you can self-promote you and your books.

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You hate it, but you have to do it. Self-advertising.

But what does self-advertising really look like? And why did I just call it “self-advertising” instead of the normal term “self-promotion”?

Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

The two terms mean the same. Usage may be more about where you are from than anything. The point here is to get you to think outside the normal box. Draw outside the lines. Explore new clichés, invent new metaphors, and find new ways to promote yourself and your work – preferably without annoying and alienating your would-be readers with all these clichés.

Self-promotion – Oxford languages (British) describes it as:

“The action of promoting or publicizing oneself or one’s activities, especially in a forceful way.”

“she’s guilty of criminally bad taste and shameless self-promotion”

Self-advertising – Collins dictionary (USA) describes it as (Oxford apparently doesn’t want to touch it):

“Self-advertisement in British English NOUN

The act of gaining publicity for oneself and one’s activities esp through pushyextrovert behaviour and not hesitating to put oneself forward.”

Okay, so we established that whatever your preferred term to call it, self-promotion is you being a pushy bugger, putting on your extrovert gear and promoting and publicizing the hell out of yourself and your work to as many people as you can.

Just the thought of it makes me cringe. I am not an extrovert. I am much happier alone in my happy place with a glass of wine, my dogs and family nearby, watching birds, squirrels, and bunnies, and the trees outside, while writing scenes of terror from my head through the keyboard to my screen.

“But what actually is self-promotion?” you ask?

It has many faces. That Facebook friend who keeps constantly plugging their book in their feed, in others’ posts comments, and anywhere else they can. The endless list of plug-n-dash Facebook groups for blatant self-promotion where everyone just plugs their book and pops on to the next self-promo group. (Does anyone actually get sales from the plug-n-dash groups?) Giveaways, contests, paid ads, book events, they all fall into the self-promo territory. These are just the tip of the list.

It already sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

But, like the demon in a horror, it is a necessary evil.

At some point most of us who have at any time published with a publisher have questioned why the onus seems to be on the writer to promote their own book, why the publisher isn’t doing it all, or at least more.

The simple fact is that, just like you, the publisher has a limited budget they can and are willing to spend on a book they don’t have high guarantees will sell and sell well.

If you are a very famous top tier author, maybe this isn’t a thing. Your millions of copies of guaranteed sales in the first run alone gives the publisher a nice budget to invest in widespread promotion. Your very existence is promotion too.

Even well-known authors do a certain amount of self-promotion. I’ve seen Dean Koontz (I’m a fan) promoting his own books on social media.

For most of us – lower tier authors who may have awesomely fantastic viral-worthy best-seller potential books – who are maybe published with an indie press, small publisher, medium publisher, self-published, and even with big publishing houses – self-promotion is both a case of self preservation and an expectation of the publisher.

While your publisher should be doing their part with what budget and social media reach they have, the bulk of it rests on your – the author’s – shoulders. This also means the publisher should be working with you. If you are inexperienced, they should be doing everything they can to teach you how to self-promote, what inexpensive options are out there, and what in their experience has or has not worked. They should make it clear what they can do to help and what your options with them are.

Reduced price author copies should be a given. How else are you going to sell them at book events without having to over-price them to cover your costs? And yes, you will have to buy copies of your own books, and pay for the shipping, in order to have copies on hand to do book events. Your publisher is doing this as a business, to earn a profit. But if you can get them at their cost or little more, that’s no different than ordering your own self-published copies from KDP to sell at events

But what else? What other perks does your publisher offer to help you self-promote? Are they willing to offer discount sales in conjunction with you doing a self-promotion event or tour? A freebie eBook download for people subscribing to yours and their mailing lists in the hope subscribers buy your other books?

Together we will explore what self-promotion can look like. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Blogging and vlogging. Newsletters and websites. Book signings and sale events.

These past few months I have done two self-promotion things that fall under none of these.

I won a story contest. My short story, Unknown Caller, won the Manitoba Writers’ Guild 2021 Bloody Valentine short horror story contest in a blind submission. The payment was in the form of a gift certificate from McNally Robinson Booksellers and the reach was only to the Writers’ Guild’s smallish newsletter mailing list – it was published in the newsletter only. So, the promotion gain was negligible in the scheme of needing to reach wide, but it is still promotion. Even that scattering of a few hundred email subscribers who will actually open and read the story could potentially result in a book sale or two, or even better, online buzz about your writing. (“The average email open rate for all industries we analyzed is 21.33%.” -Mailchimp).

Photo by ammar sabaa on Unsplash

I (gasp) took part as a panelist for the virtual Keycon 2021 (Keycon38): Ghosts in the Machine May 22nd with fellow authors L.T. Getty (I have read and recommend her book Dreams of Mariposa if you like steampunk vampire stories – it is not a romance despite the romancey cover) and horror author Reed Alexander, who I met for the first time on this panel. The theme for this year was horror in science fiction, two things I personally feel go well together. I was terrified of doing it. As I’ve said many times, I am not a public speaker and actually find public speaking to be dread-inducing, panic time, and really awkward. While participation in the panel was small – it was their first virtual con and Winnipeg is a small but wonderful community – I do believe they intended to record and upload these panels for posterity – and potentially to laugh at my awkwardness. But really, despite my lack of experience and zero comfort zone, I actually enjoyed it and would do it again. The organizers put in a lot of hard work to pull this off and, despite technical issues with Discord, they did a pretty marvellous job for having no real budget.

And maybe, just maybe, my appearance and participation with Keycon might result in a book sale or two, or a little online buzz, or someone remembering my name at some other point.

These are just two of the faces of self-promotion and no promotion is too small if it gets you out there before a single person who never heard of you or your writing. Except for no promotion at all. That is definitely too small.

There is no way around it. Effective self-promotion is hard work. It’s a full time job in itself. It means maybe doing things you are not comfortable with, like public speaking online where a million people potentially could see you and laugh at you. It can also cost a lot of money. And no matter how much work and money you put into it, there is no guarantee that it alone will culminate in mass sales, even a small mass.

Keep writing my friends, and self-promote your asses off.

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