Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blog Awards

Last week I was honored to receive the Versatile Blogger award from Michelle Fayard of The Bird's Eye View. It's taken a week but I'm now ready to complete the rules.

Here are the rules for accepting this award:

1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
2. Pass the award on to five newfound blogging buddies. 
3. Share seven random facts about yourself.
4. Contact the winners to congratulate them.

I've met so many new amazing bloggers this past month and it was so very hard to pick five to pass this award on to, but here's who I finally settled on.

  1. Sarah Pinneo I met Sarah at Querytracker (one of my obsessions) and always appreciated her comments there. Then her awesome blog's name Blurb is a Verb immediately drew me. Sarah's blog is a great companion to mine as she addresses publicizing of books, sharing tales from those who are already doing it.
  2. Emily R. King Emily's blog is beautifully designed and easy to read.  I particularly like her Mentor Mondays where Emily highlights other bloggers. Speaking of which, I will be featured there myself on August 8th. You know you want to go check it out. It's a great one stop source of blogging and querying info. 
  3. Madeline Bartos First, Madeline's teenage viewpoint is an asset to all of us old folk.  But more importantly, I adore Madeline's complete rants about everything she comes in contact with. At a young age, she does more right than a lot of more experienced bloggers.
  4. The East Coaster I so admire the goal of the East Coaster to be published in a year. This blog spotlights the real inside journey of a year in the life of a querying and self-publishing author.  
  5. Gennifer Albin Gen is another I met through Querytracker.  She's an experienced Mom-Blogger and it shows.  Her story from query to agent is AWESOME; ask her to tell it sometime.  Most exciting though is her blog's support to mommy writers through WraHM - Write at Home Moms.  See the badge over there to your right? I'm pretty sure her upcoming book is going to Rock the World. And she's cute and humble, too.  
Whew. That was hard.  Now for the seven random facts about myself:
  1. I originally started out in acting and singing.  I got my BA in Musical Theater and had been accepted into the Master's program at the New School (you know, where they film Inside the Actor's Studio), but I got distracted by a boy. Who I later married. So it's all good. 
  2. I'm an only child.  
  3. I can't tell time on a digital clock.  True story.  I find it easier to judge how much time I have before something else by looking at the amount of pie that's left on the clock.  Like if I have to be somewhere at 10 and it's now 9:30, I see I have half a pie before I have to be wherever.  When I have a digital clock, I translate the time to pie amounts before I really grasp the time.
  4. I also tell "time until" in tv show lengths.  So if I have a full day in the office, that's 8 hours of Lost.  Or my husband will be home in half an hour, that's 1 episode of How I Met Your Mother.  Or I only got 4 hours of sleep, that's 1 Breaking Bad, 1 Mad Men, 1 Walking Dead, and 1 Project Runway. Yeah, I might have a tv watching problem.
  5. I'm always late. For everything. I wonder why.
  6. I have three daughters, one dog, and a husband. My baby just turned two yesterday! Happy Birthday Emmalyn :) 
  7. I am the music director for a church.  I oversee 6 choirs, and direct 5 of them: 2 adult choirs, a youth choir, a children's choir, and a bell choir.
So now you know more about me and the blogs I love lately.  Go check them out.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Facebook Friday: Hootsuite

Wednesday we talked about Google Reader saving time for reading blogs.  Today I have to share another time saver, this time for Facebook as well as other social networking applications: HootSuite.  If you don't know about HootSuite, then it's time you learned.  HootSuite is a social media dashboard.  In other words, it's a FREE application you can download on your desktop or phone and then manage several social media networks from that one place, such as Twitter, Facebook, 4Square, and LinkedIn. If you've used TweetDeck, HootSuite is like that, except so much better (I'll get to why in a minute).  
I must pause to tell you right now how I love HootSuite. I so love HootSuite.  When I first discovered HootSuite for use with my clients, I think I did an hour long happy dance.  So what is it that I love so much about HootSuite? Well, let me tell you five reasons:
A screenshot of HootSuite 

  1. One place to do all my social networking. Like I mentioned before, I only have to log in to one place and I can see all my social networks at once. TweetDeck does this as well, but it doesn't allow updates of Fan Pages and that's crucial. At least it didn't the last time I checked it out which was a year ago now. Though, to be fair, TweetDeck looks cooler.
  2. Can manage multiple accounts without having to sign-in and out. Once I downloaded the app to my phone and my desktop, I could do it all with one sign-in.  This is probably not relevant to many writers, but I can also see other accounts.  For example, not only is my Facebook page on my HootSuite deck, also several clients Facebook and Twitter pages are there.  You can also use HootSuite with multiple users and share management of an account.  So if a bunch of people are part of a Writer's Group, for example, you could all you HootSuite to manage one Twitter account for the group. You can also use HootSuite to automatically feed your blogs to all your social networks.  As I've mentioned before, I use RSS Grafitti for my FB page, but I use HootSuite to get my blog posts to Twitter.
  3. I can write a message one time and post it to multiple places at once.  This feature is awesome. Especially when managing many accounts.  Also, if you drag the Hootlet to your toolbar, you can VERY EASILY post pages you are reading to all your social media accounts.  Seriously! Does it get awesomer than this? Actually it does. Read on.
  4. Great traffic stats reports.  I'm in marketing.  I'm into looking at the stats of my accounts.  Who came where from where and when they did it.  All that's cool to me.  HootSuite offers 30 different analytic modules to create your own reports including Google Analytics.  Downside here is that you have to upgrade to the Pro version ($5.99 a month).  So I still log-in to Google Analytics on my own, but I love that HootSuite could do it if I wanted it too. 
  5. and the best reason of all, I can schedule posts for the future. This is why I truly love HootSuite.  TweetDeck does not offer this feature, by the way, or it may have swayed me with its eye-catchiness.  I can schedule posts anytime in the future for any of my social media accounts. I do this for clients - I schedule posts a month out at a time.  You know, not the spur of the moment kind of posts, of course, but things like "Two Days until the greatest contest of all time!" and that sort.  Maybe my book is being released at the end of the month.  I can do a countdown everyday on my FB and Twitter accounts, which could be a real pain in the butt if I didn't have it all entered in at one time and scheduled through HootSuite.
Try it. Love it like I do.  And yes, this isn't really a post for just Facebook, but HootSuite makes Facebook so much easier so I felt it was valid to include it here. I promise. One final thing to note about HootSuite: I don't even use the program to a quarter of its potential.  It is an amazing app. Truly.

Did I convince you to give a Hoot? Do you already use it? Are you a TweetDeck fan instead? Is this the first time you've ever heard of this apps? I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Following Blogs: How Do You Keep Up?

Oh, me, oh, my, I'm sure posting late today.  It's been a crazy week with my jobs that pay.  All my real work is keeping me from reading and writing!

And that leads me to my post for today.  It's actually a question for you awesome followers, and I seriously want feedback.  How do you keep up on the blogs you follow?  I'm not talking about the blogs you just say you follow, I mean the ones you actually read.  What are your methods for keeping up and sifting through?

Now I have my own method of blog sifting, which I'm happy to share: Along with following a blog, the ones I really want to make sure I don't miss I subscribe to through Google Reader. Not familiar with Google Reader? From their website:

Stay up to date
Google Reader constantly checks your favorite news sites and blogs for new content. Whether a site updates daily or monthly, you can be sure that you won't miss a thing.

Simplify your reading experience
Google Reader shows you all of your favorite sites in one convenient place. It's like a personalized inbox for the entire web.

Discover new content
Millions of sites publish feeds with their latest updates, and our integrated feed search makes it easy to find new content that interests you.

I have Google Reader on my computer and my phone.  They link together so that when one updates, so does the other. Whenever I find myself waiting in line or with my kids at the playground, I can sift through a couple of blog posts. I skim through posts until I find things I'm really interested in. If I love a post, I star it as a favorite.  I'm pretty happy with this, but I'd like to hear from others.

Now your turn.  Do you have a better method? How much time do you spend reading blogs? I would love to hear what it is.

Also, congratulations to all the finalists in Deana Barnhart's blogfest first 200!  While I'm sad to not be a winner (boo hoo) I was sincerely impressed by the talent I saw in the other excerpts.  If you haven't had a chance to check them out, please do.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday FAMP and Blogfest First 200 words.

Today I'm going to write a very contradictory post. Don't say you weren't warned.
I am participating in Deana Barnhart's fourth week of her month long blogfest.  This week's assignment is to post the first 200 words of a novel.  I am posting from my WIP because, to tell you the truth, I am kind of over the book that I am currently querying agents with. 
Now here's my contradiction:  From a marketing perspective, blogfest and contest posts can often turn off your followers. I know. Insane, right? But it's true. Yes, blogfests can build followers, which is awesome. And contests can help connect you with other and help get your work critiqued, again, awesome for the aspiring writer. 
But, depending on your message (remember you gotta have a message?), a follower who comes to your blog to find advice for themselves and frequently finds you are instead posting only self-interest posts such as critique my first 200 words, well, they may get bored.  You may be the best writer, and your first 200 words may be AMAZING, but let's face it, we're all a little self-involved. And sometimes readers see you've posted your query, or first page, and say to themselves, "Um, what's in it for me?" True story.
I'm not telling you not to participate in these fests, but do so in moderation.  Be aware.  Remember your readers and try to keep in mind what they want and what they're getting.
All that being said, I am very much enjoying Deana's blogfest and am continuing with my entry below. 
Laura Barnes
middle grade fantasy 
First 200 words
Mina hated waiting, and even her mother’s best Patience spell was not enough to keep her from aimlessly pacing her room. In less than an hour, she would celebrate the thirteenth hour of her thirteenth birthday, and her magic would finally flow from her fingertips showing once and for all that she was not a weirdo in the world of witches.
Mina moved to the Mystic Revealer again. To any outsider this would look like an average girl staring endlessly into a mirror, but the object showed more than her reflection; it showed traces of magic. She searched the outline of her image, like she did most mornings, looking for any sign, small as it may be, of her magic leaking. This time she truly expected to see something different – a glint of what was about to come, a shimmer around her reflection – but the Mystic Revealer didn’t show anything but the same old Mina. Today, she told herself. It’ll be there.
“Mina? Time to go!” her mother’s voice sounded as if it was in the room with her thanks to the Close-Call spell, but she knew her parents were already in the garage. 

I welcome any comments. This is still a work in progress and I need the feedback.  Even if you aren't participating in the fest, your thoughts are welcomed.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Toot Your Own Horn

If you've followed my blog from the beginning you know that I have trouble patting my own back, but it really is necessary when you are building your image.

So as uncomfortable as this is for me, I am also very super excited to announce that I have been given my very first blog award!

Michelle Fayard of the Bird's Eye View gave this award stating:

Laura Barnes arrived on the scene just last month, but already her blog is causing some serious buzz. If you're looking for tips about how to work your social marketing faster and/or better, Laura is your go-to contact.

Thank you so much, Michelle, for passing this award on to me. I am truly honored to have met you through the blog-o-sphere.  Michelle was given this award herself recently, I might add.  If you haven't checked out the Bird's Eye View, I highly recommend it.

Do you have anything to toot about today? Tell us in comments.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Facebook Friday: Getting Past 420

Considering how most of us are writers, I'm sure there is more than one of us that sometimes find 420 character limit on Facebook just a little too short to get out our full message. 

Guess what. I have a solution.

Ok, this is such a simple solution, it's probably not even worthy of a full post.  But I have to tell you I am embarrassed how long it took me to learn this which is why I'm so eager to share.

First, in case you don't know what I'm talking about, let me show you. If you try to post a status that has more than 420 characters (it's longer than Twitter at least) you get a message that looks like this:

To get past that, all you have to do is load a photo - any photo, though preferably one appropriate to your post.  Once you load the photo, type your status in the box that says "Say something about this photo. You can talk forever. Go ahead, try it. Of course the bottom will have a link that says "See More" but that's ok, right? Here's what I mean:

When this could be useful as a writer: Maybe you want to post an excerpt of your book. Or maybe a book review.  Maybe you don't have a blog or you don't want to post your book review or excerpt on your blog. Or maybe you just have a long status update. Whatever your reason, sometimes you just have more to say. Try this trick and let us know how it works for you.

And what are your thoughts on the Facebook 420 bypass? Did you already know that trick? Have you ever had trouble with the status limit, or is that just me?

In other news: Deanna Barnhart's Week 3 Blogfest was a blast. There were many great queries and I was honored to be a top ten finalist! Thank you to all who helped me tweak my query.  And congratulations to Lisa Ann Chikos who had the winning query. Woot! Woot! If you haven't checked out her blog, I recommend you do; she's got a good one.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Be Alert

I am far from alert at this moment as I am in a household of sickness.  Everyone of us, except my husband who is usually just the one carrying the bug, has come down with strep throat.  Boo.

So I am only giving a quick tip today, but one I am very fond of: Google Alerts.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Google Alerts, here's a blurb from the Google website about what this nifty function does:

Google Alerts are emails sent to you when Google finds new results -- such as web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs -- that match your search term. You can use Google Alerts to monitor anything on the Web. For example, people use Google Alerts to:
  • find out what is being said about their company or product.
  • monitor a developing news story.
  • keep up to date on a competitor or industry.
  • get the latest news on a celebrity or sports team.
  • find out what's being said about themselves.
Here's how it works:
  1. You enter a query that you're interested in.
  2. Google Alerts checks regularly to see if there are new results for your query.
  3. If there are new results, Google Alerts sends them to you in an email.
For general queries like football ], you can get a summary of the new results every day. For specific topics, likecardiovascular atherosclerosis ], you might not get an email every day, but you'll find out when something new and relevant is published.

If you aren't using Google Alerts, please do!  It's the best way to track your image through the web and find out what people are saying about you. You can track as many terms as you like with this tool, even your competition or things you just like to follow. I recommend you at least follow your name or author pseudonym and your book title(s). Maybe you also want to follow your agent or editor, up to you. Sign up for your alerts here.

UPDATE TO THIS POST: From some of the comments I think I better mention that you can specify how often you receive alerts. I usually get them once a day or once a week depending on if I'm monitoring something for myself or a client. When I get them, I receive one email per alert term with a list of everything that the internet found for that time period grouped in type of item (Twitter, web, etc.). It's easy to scroll through or just ignore any time I choose. Plus you can end your alert at any time. Hope that's a helpful addition to the post!

How do you use Google Alerts? Has it been helpful for you? 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Deana Barnhart's Blogfest Continues

Remember how participating in blogfests can really help increase followers?  Well here I am participating in the next part of Deana Barnhart's Blogfest.  This week, we post our queries and ask for feedback, so here goes mine. Feel free to comment even if you aren't in the fest.

Dear Agent, 

Mina Bevins hasn't leaked any magic like the other girls, earning her the status of weirdo in the world of witches.  When her thirteenth birthday passes, and she still lacks any power, the Coven Seer looks into the past for an explanation: Mina’s not really a witch at all; she was switched at birth with another baby in the mortal world hospital.  

Somewhere there’s a young witch leaking magic all over the place, exposing the witch world.  Secrecy is essential to keep the coven from persecution and the only way to ensure it remains safe, the coven decides, is to track this girl down and remove her powers. 

Having just learned that she will never come into the power she so desired to possess, Mina thinks stripping someone of her magic on purpose is horrible. Together with the help of her friend Porter, a male witch, Mina uses the limited power available to them to find the other girl and warn her before the coven takes away her magic life too.

At 45,000 words, sWITCH is middle grade fantasy adventure that brings to life a matriarchal world of witches hidden among humans.

I am a marketing consultant and maintain a blog that gives advice to writers as they build their platform.  I am a member of SCBWI.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. 

FAMP: You Gotta Have a Message

All right, I'm not trying to dog all of you out there who like to blog about whatever you feel like. Personal blogs are great. I enjoy reading them, I know many of us enjoy writing them.

But today's From a Marketing Perspective post says: If you want consistent followers, you've got to have a consistent message.

"A consistent message" is marketing speak for make your blog be about something and then be consistent. Now there are some topics that are going to attract a wider audience than others, but really, your message can be anything you want as long as it's consistent.

Maybe you want to blog about advice for authors.  Or you may want to review books.  Or maybe you're a writer housewife in Oklahoma and you want to show people what your typical day looks like. Or you like to write and you also collect salt and pepper shakers.  Whatever it is, pick your subject and stick to it. There's a blog I read often that is about writing and knitting. It works because the author, Jodi Meadows, picked her topics and she sticks to them.

Here's what doesn't work: Saying you have a blog about your journey as an author and then including a post about your awesome day at the beach and doing nothing to tie it in to your writing.

When you are deciding on what your blog is going to be about, the best thing to do is try to imagine who it is you want to read your blog. Since my blog is for writers that want to be published or who are published, I'm going to suggest that your blog have something to do with writing or, even better, something to do with what you write about. For example, if you write historical romances and you don't want to blog about writing or reading, then maybe you blog about great romances throughout history. This will (hopefully) pull the same audience as your book. I use this example because I don't want writers to think that their blog has to be about writing and books.

Now what about all of you who want to blog as a journal rather than about anything specific?  From a marketing perspective, that's not the greatest choice, but if that's the route you want to go, at least make that clear to your blog readers. There are a few blogs that have become popular just because of the personality of the author or because the author's daily life was interesting enough for readers to want to return. Dooce's popular blog comes to mind. For the most part though, the blogs that get people to return are the ones that are:

  • unique
  • informative
  • reliable
  • updated frequently
  • funny 
I'm going to admit something that will probably make me wildly unpopular: writer's blogs that tell me they are about writing and then throw in a post about the author's personal life turn me off. I unsubscribe. If I think that I am going to the blog everyday to get one thing and then something else is in its place - no matter how well written - I get annoyed. You can still be a writer and throw your personal life in your blog if you choose, but make it fit your message. I've used her blog before as an example, but again Elana Johnson does this very well. I know a lot about her personal life from her blog (she loves bacon!) but she never fails to incorporate these tidbits into stories directed at the literary world, which is what her message promises to do.

Since I am writing this blog at 4 in the morning, I am beginning to wonder if I am adhering to my consistent message...

What's your message? Do you blog just to write? Do you get turned off by mixed inconsistent blogging messages? 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Facebook Friday: RSS Grafitti

I'm so excited to write this post because I get to talk about my absolute favorite Facebook tool: RSS Grafitti.

See, I'm a busy woman.  I have three daughters (8, 6, and 2) and a husband.  I have one full time-ish job and two part time jobs.  I am working on completing my MBA with a marketing emphasis.  And, when I have a minute, I write books.  So believe me, I know how insane it is to try to manage an image and I look for any tool I can to make the job easier. RSS Graffiti does that for me.  It's the bomb.

What it is:  From the RSS Graffiti page -

RSS Graffiti is meant to take the fuss out of keeping your Facebook friends and fans updated with the latest news from your other sites.

What it does:  Again, from the RSS Graffiti page - 
RSS Graffiti periodically checks the RSS/Atom feeds that you specify and posts any new entries it finds to the Facebook Walls that you specify.
You can get any feed written on any wall (Facebook Profiles, Fan Pages, Groups, Events and Application Profile Pages). In fact, multiple feeds to multiple walls. You choose the combination.
How I use it:  Let me count the ways -
  • To automatically post my blog posts to my FB wall.  This can be done on both your profile page and your fan page if you have one.  
  • To automatically post your Tweets.  Lots of tools can do this, but RSS Graffiti can post it to several places on FB (your profile and as many fan pages as you like).
  • To pull a feed from other cool sites.  
    • This is how I use it for clients.  For example: say you work for a local movie theater and you have a fan page.  By using RSS Graffiti, you can pull movie reviews from one of your favorite sites to automatically post whenever they come out.  
This is how you could use it as an author:
  • Pull your blog and Twitter feeds automatically.  Technically, you'd never have to physically go on FB and you'd still have wall content.
  • Pull info from someone else's blog.  Like your agent, for example.  Or your publisher.  Or your crit partner's blog.  Or someone who always gives amazing writing tips.
  • Pull book reviews from a local or national newspaper. 
  • To add concept to your fan pages. Say you have a fan page for your YA book which is about a Boston Red Sox fan.  Use RSS Graffiti to automatically bring in the Boston Globe's sports feed.
Really, the possibilities go on and on.  Be creative.

How to get it:  
  1. Come here while logged into FB and click the icon that says to "Add RSS Graffiti".  You have to do this individually on each FB page you want the app on.
  2. Click Add Feed
  3. Enter the RSS feed or blog address that you want to feed to your page
  4. Fill in the blank that says Source Name.
  5. Click on the tab that says schedule. 
  6. Choose how often you want your wall to update and how many posts to pull at one time. 
  7. Check out the other tabs and see if there are options you'd like to change.
  8. Hit save.
  9. Your done!
What happens now? Your wall gets updated with posts from your source based on when you set them to add  and how often the source updates. It's totally awesome. If you want to see an example of it in action, go to my facebook page ( and look at my wall.  I have it set to retrieve my blog posts once a day so sometime mid-day you should see this post show up.  Or scroll down and see yesterdays post.  You can set it up to retrieve more often, btw.

Your turn.  How do/will you use RSS Graffiti?  Are there other RSS feeds to FB that you like better?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Overcoming the Terror of Twitter

This was the scariest Twitter image I could find.
Last week, YA author Elana Johnson (who is married to an old high school friend, and the sister of another) posted a great article about Being Brave. (She also wrote a great book, Possession, and I highly recommend you check it out.)  Then yesterday, a teenager bravely honestly commented on my blog post that she finds Twitter scary.

With those two great examples of author braveness, I have to respond to that comment yesterday with this confession: 

Twitter absolutely terrifies me.

Here's what I find scary:
  • Twitter's fast. This is really the issue. Since I started composing this I've received 32 tweets. How can I ever keep up?
  • Twitter's real-time. It is meant to be responded to and acknowledged immediately. 
  • Twitter comes to you.  Twitter isn't like a blog that you visit at your leisure. It is a stream of very short blogs that come to you one after another.  
  • Twitter explodes. Facebook can explode a little as well, but Twitter is actually designed to make it very easy to repeat (retweet) what someone else says and possibly have it cross the entire universe within a matter of minutes.
  • Twitter can be a snob.  There are rules and if you mess up, you can get very openly mocked.
All that being said, there is one simple understanding that will make Twitter manageable: 

You don't have to keep up.  

Think of Twitter like a very crowded stadium.  The largest stadium you've ever seen.  Your house, as well as everyone else who hangs out on Twitter, opens up to this stadium. When you feel like saying something - to anyone, to everyone - you open your door and shout into a megaphone "Blah, blah, blah, listen to me in 140 characters or less." Then, you have a choice to stay and listen to other people's shouts, even respond to them, if you like, or go back in your house.  If someone wants to respond to your shout, or say something that they are sure you will hear, there will be a knock on your door (turn on notification for direct messages and mentions in tweets for this to happen).  While you are inside your house, you do not have to keep up with everything going on outside, nor are you meant to.  Twitter's real time.  When your door is open, you participate, when it's closed, let life go on.

The other problem that occurs with Twitter is getting stuck.  My twitter feed has now had 95 tweets since I started writing this.  I'm not going to read them all.  I might browse them if I feel like it later. How do I know if there might be something good that passed by?  

Here's what I do:

  1. On my Droid, I use Tweetcaster. My favorite function on Tweetcaster? Zip it.  So that I am not constantly notified while I'm mobile, I have zipped everyone except the few people that I have to hear from all the time.
  2. I use Twitter's List function. Lists can be used for many things, but I use mine for the people whose tweets I can't bear to miss; the people that I know have something to say even though I wasn't around to hear it. I simply flip through the list, read the tweets I missed, and then I'm caught up. I can still browse through my regular feed whenever it suits me, but if I don't have time, I didn't miss anything I can't live without.
There are many more and different tools to make Twitter easier to handle and I plan on sharing some in the future. But this is a good start.

Does this make Twitter any less scary? What do you use to manage the beast? 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

So What Are We Doing With Twitter?

I have to say right now that Twitter for an author is much different than the way I've used Twitter with my clients.

Generally, my clients tweet (or I tweet for them) as a business, not as an individual.  You know what I'm talking about, like the businesses you follow so you can get exclusive awesome deals.  Or the other businesses that give you good solid information. Those types of Twitter accounts don't have to worry about saying anything cute or cool or responding to people or building their own list of people they follow.  For these accounts there is a rule of Don't Follow Everyone Just Because They Follow You. For the schools of thought associated with this, read here.

While I subscribe to the rule above for most businesses, I do not for individual writers. I believe in the etiquette of following who follows you.  And so do many other people.  Therefore, if you want to build your followers, then one way is to  follow, follow, follow.  Not automated people trying to sell you things, of course, but humans.
Oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself.  First, you need to decide how you plan to use Twitter as a writer. Some suggestions:

  • To build a huge following so that if (when!) your book comes out, you have people to tell.
  • To stay up on contests and agent advice.
  • To learn from fellow writers.
  • To hear general buzz about books and the literary world.
  • To socialize.
  • All of the above or any combination of the above.

Here's my marketing advice: if you are planning on writing a book that you will one day have to publicize, then build followers.  Now, following others is not the only way to build followers yourself.  Another way is to have great, original, useful, etc. tweets.

Over the next few weeks I will give you some tools to help you find and manage your followers, but for now the goal, for myself at least, is start following.

If you aren't using Twitter:  I've said before that only 20% of adults use Twitter.  That's a low amount, but still, it's still 20% of adults you can reach with a FREE tool.  Also, Twitter can give a ton of exposure.  Read this.

Note: Do not buy followers.  Ever.  Ever, ever.  I don't think I need to explain why.

Are you using Twitter?  If so, how? Who are you following? If you follow me, I'll likely follow you :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Blogfest Follow-up

Just a quick note following up on the results of followers from last week's blogfest:

Before the blogfest I had 8 followers.  After I had 38!  (That deserves an exclamation point.) And that doesn't include people who signed up to follow by email or put the blog in their googlereader, etc.  I think that's pretty good results from one little fest.

This is probably a good place for me to mention something about followers in general. I usually do not put a ton of emphasis on followers when measuring blog popularity.  I tell my clients to pay more attention to their stats and page views.  That doesn't mean that followers aren't important - they're your loyal customers and deserve lots of love (Love to you, my awesome followers!).  Anyway, other people also put a lot more emphasis on how many followers you have than they should.

Example: A new reader comes by and wants reads your fabulous blog post. They then decide they are going to blog about your awesome blog post but they look over and see that you only have (gasp!) 12 followers. Oh, no! they think. This blog is obviously not worth my time.

People really do base a blog by its followers, sad to say.

Because of that, I will often recommend that if you don't have a lot of followers (less than 200), it's not a bad idea to leave that off your blog template. Your blog should stand on its own, not on how popular you are. But if you are popular, take advantage of the fact. Tell people, "Hey, I'm popular, why aren't you following me?" Believe me, it works.  For myself, the only reason I am including my followers is because this blog is all about transparency and seeing how I grow through media.

And you - have you grown through blogfests? Do you show your followers? Are you influenced by popular blogs? It's ok if you are, we won't judge.

Monday, July 11, 2011

From a Marketing Perspective: Stop screaming at me!

With the blogfest last week, and just because I have been searching out new blogs, I have seen many great and wonderful blogs.  I've also seen some that, from a marketing point of view, have something to be desired.  I would guess that most of those bloggers have no idea what their blog "says" about, well, about everything.  So today I am introducing a new series of posts called From a Marketing Perspective (FAMP).

Initially, this Monday series will focus on specific things I see in blogs that are positive or negative, always from a marketing perspective.  Eventually, though, I'd like to offer blog critiques, so polish up your blogs and get ready for a call for submissions.  Let me take this moment to really emphasize one thing: All of my comments are from a marketing perspective and have nothing to do with quality of writing or personal likes and interests.  I don't want hurt feelings about some of my comments, I'm just giving a marketing opinion.  More specifically, my marketing opinion.

First up for discussion: Those wonderful, dreaded exclamation points!!!!

Ok, I love exclamation points as much as the next guy, and I don't care how much you use them in your individual comments or emails or your novel (though, you shouldn't use too many there either) but the general rule for exclamation points in marketing and design is DON'T USE THEM.

I'm not kidding.

Ok, I'm kidding a little, because really I mean use them sparingly. And yes, I was a little tempted to put one on the end of DON'T USE THEM! Because look how good it looks there.  But really, it's not necessary.

So how do you express something very exciting without using that punctuation mark?  Well, that's where font, color, and choice of words come in. Here's an example:
This image tells us Huge Sale! without using any punctuation.

All right, we can't put an image like that in our titles of our blog posts, but you don't need it.  The bold typeface and the fact that the title is above the body of your post already say, "Look at me!" and that's really why you use exclamation points, right? So people will look at your message?

If you have the right marketing message, and the right presentation, you should be able to say what you want to say without them.  Particularly in your titles and slogans.  An occasional ! in the body of your writing, now that's not so bad, but really think about each and every one. Otherwise your reader feels like they are talking to a really hyper cheerleader type. No offense to really hyper cheerleader types, just tone it down when you are presenting. Because that's what blogging really is - presenting.

Another article that has some great points (pun intended) about exclamation, and is rather funny at the same time, can be found here.

Are you an exclamation point abuser? How do you feel when you come across that happy punctuation mark? What do you do to draw attention to your words?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Facebook Friday: To Be 2 or Not To Be 2

Today's Facebook Friday asks the age-old question (well, as old as FB is, anyway): should you have two Facebook pages - one for friends and family and one for your writer persona.

There is no right or wrong answer to this. Some of my clients do have two pages and they should because their personal comments should never be seen by their customers, if you know what I mean. But for other people, that's not always the best idea. Here are a few things you should consider when making your decision:

First, in favor of one page -
  1. Two pages is twice the work. Seriously. The tendency with two FB pages is to give most of your attention to your personal page and unfortunately your second page may get neglected.
  2. Your personal friends and family are your readers too. This one is a hard one for some people (like me!) who want to hide behind their characters. We sometimes tend to think our books are for strangers - the people we don't know. It's easier to share with strangers, right? But truthfully, readership begins with your personal friends and family. Keep them involved.
  3. Your friends and family might get confused. I'm not kidding. They don't know which page is your real page and which page is your fan page and for some people, that's really daunting. And when you don't accept their friend request because they friended the wrong page, they might get hurt. I'm just sayin'.
  4. Readers like to know the real you. If they like you enough to friend you, they want to know you. They feel close to a celebrity that way. Look how many people follow Ashton Kutcher or other famous people. It's all about feeling like you have some inside knowledge. Yes, the inside knowledge can be read by everyone and their dog, but it feels like inside knowledge.
In favor of two pages -
  1. Some things should not be shared with your readers. If you are the type to make off-color remarks or if you spend a lot of FB time talking politics or religion, this isn't the appropriate thing for readers of your books to view. And if you're playing Farmville all day, every day - well, no one needs to see that.
  2. Some people should not be shared with your readers. If you have a friend that likes to drop an F-bomb on your wall at least once a week, maybe you should consider starting a new page.
  3. You don't want to piss off your friends with endless self-promotion. This is valid. But what is FB, though, except a platform to endlessly self-promote? Think about it...
  4. Work and Play should be separate. I'm not one of the people who believes that because I'm a bit of a work-a-holic, but some people actually enjoy taking time away from work. And for many, FB is one of the ways they do it.
Other considerations
  • Make an author fan page. This can give you a place for your fans. But again, you have to manage it. If you get really popular you can hire someone to manage it for you (actually, that's what I do for some of my clients! not authors, mind you, but businesses). Or you can get a fan to run it.
  • Make a page for each book. Again, more work. But if you are the type of person who likes to put things in nice little compartmentalized boxes, this is a perfect way to divide your work even more.
  • Managing two pages doesn't have to be impossible. You can use a handy gadget like hootsuite or tweetdeck to help you do it. Don't know about hootsuite or tweetdeck? Well, that's a whole 'nother post for the future.
I am keeping one FB page. Like I said, no right or wrong, but this is the right choice for me. Maybe in the future I'll make an author page. For now, I'm sticking with this.

How about you? What's your right choice? How did you decide? Have you had any problems? Let us learn from your mistakes and achievements!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Going on Vacation

It's the time of year when people travel and take time off. There are several ways to handle your blogging when you are on vacation.
  1. Blog while you are vacationing. This is probably the best choice if you are building readership. Remember how I stressed consistency and routine? Especially in your early days. Most anywhere you go these days you have access to internet so take five to fifteen minutes and post as normal.
  2. Blog ahead of time. This is another great option. In fact, this is preferred, because taking some time off can be very healthy for any writer. This is not recommended, however, if you expect lots of comments on each post that might require you to respond.
  3. Get guest bloggers. Guest bloggers can be awesome. Having guests on your blog has a whole bunch of benefits that we will talk about in a future post. Right now the benefit I am emphasizing is that you can take some time off while your blog still works for you.
  4. Tell people you are taking time off. If you don't have time to blog before hand and you won't be able to or don't want to post while away, just tell your readers what's up. As long as people know why there isn't a new absolutely fabulous post as usual they will generally return when you tell them you will be back.
  5. Do all of the above! Schedule some posts, post while you are away, have a guest, and tell people everything!

I will be on vacation Wednesday through Sunday. I scheduled this post in advance, will be available to respond to comments and am telling you right now that I am going on vacation.

What do you do about your blog when your on vacation? Any suggestions not mentioned here?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Participate in Blogfests

Today I am participating in my first blogfest. Isn't that exciting? That's not my question for the blogfest, by the way.

This blogfest asks each participant to ask a question regarding writing, then we all get to blog hop and answer each other's writing questions. Participating in blogfests is an AWESOME way to connect to new people, build your readership, and just find out what the heck is going on out there in the blog world.

Here's my question: How do you decide if your query letter is working as well as it could?

Please feel free to share, even if you aren't participating in this blogfest, but then for you my question is: why aren't you?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Respond to Comments

Have you ever had a conversation where someone asks you something and then they don't wait for your answer?

That's kind of what it's like when you ask a question on your blog and then never refer back to it when people comment.

But you see that all the time, you say. That's true. Here's some tips for when it is and when it isn't ok:
  • When you are building readership and have, say, two followers, you should always respond to their comments.
  • When you have hundreds of followers, you do not have to respond to each and every one - they are usually commenting on each other.
  • Do respond if a comment contains a question or complaint directed at you.
  • Do respond if you said you were going to respond.
  • Don't respond when people are having a debate. Let them work it out themselves while you remain unbiased.
  • Don't respond when you can't remain calm in your comments. It's the old addage: If you can't say something nice, don't reply to a comment.
  • Do respond if you are genuinely moved to respond.
Are there other do's and don'ts of comments and responses that I missed here? Share your valuable insights!

How to Schedule

After yesterday's post I got asked, "How do you schedule a blog post?"

Good question! If you are using blogger: while your post is in edit mode, click on the "post options" button below the post box. Then change the Post date and time to something in the future. Hit Publish Post. This will take you to a list of your posts and you will see that any scheduled for the future say "scheduled" by them.

Totally easy.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July! or How Holidays are Not Days Off

Suggestion: Take the major holidays off from blogging, but the minor holidays I recommend not.

Most people do have today off. That means, of course, that they are BBQing and lighting or watching fireworks and spending time with family. But not in the morning. Days off always shows a boost of posts on Facebook - have you noticed? People like to leisurely start their vacation days and often that includes surfing and social media.

Use this to your advantage. Post an article or event on the morning of the minor holidays (the 4th of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day, etc.). Make sure you are connected to automatically post on FB as well, and you'll hit your readers.

Oh, and you can still take the day off. Just write your post in advance and schedule it to go up automatically.

How are you spending the 4th? Do you surf the internet on the holidays? Tell us in comments!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Facebook Friday: Name Your Page

It's Facebook Friday and I bet you're dying to know this week's Facebook tip:

Suggestion: Change your Facebook username.

For example, my page is named: If I didn't change it, it would still say something like That's not a very easy name to remember, is it?

Tip: Now I've had my account for awhile so I already had named my page, but if I hadn't, I would choose something more like my actual name. The point is to make it easier to direct people to you. They will remember it better if it is as close to your name as possible.

In case you don't know how to do it, let me tell you. It's super easy:

  1. Login to your Facebook account.
  2. Located on the top of the page, on the right side, you will see an “Account” box. When the drop down menu appears, click the “Account Settings” option.
  3. The second menu item should be “Username.” Click the “Change” button on the right side.
  4. Enter your new name choice, and hit the “Change Name” box.
  5. Facebook only allow this change ONCE EVER! Which is why I can't change it now to something like LauraB.
Ok here's some terminology for you: your Facebook address that you changed is called a vanity URL. In general, a vanity URL is intended to link to something with a name that is easier to remember than the randomly assigned URL you would normally have.

Have you changed your vanity URL? Did you know how to do it before today? What's the silliest vanity URL you've come across? Here's some to inspire you:
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