Tag Archives: social media

Take the Plunge: See beyond the stigma of “self-published”

man standing on brown rock cliff in front of waterfalls photography

How to convince a reader to take that leap of faith into your book? Photo by Oliver Sju00f6stru00f6m on Pexels.com

I get it. I’m old enough to remember vanity presses. I remember the indie-publishing phenomenon of The Christmas BoxRemember how quickly indie publishing grew after Richard Paul Evans’s little treasure was discovered by mainstream publishing? Vanity presses became independent presses and developed into KDP and Smashwords, providing a voice for authors who either can’t make it through the gatekeepers of traditional presses or, like me (I like to think, anyway), lost patience with the hoops you must jump through.

I’ve had three books published by two different traditional publishers. In all three cases, I enjoyed the experience of having professional cover designers, editors and book designers. It was invigorating working on a deadline. But at both publishers, my editors eventually left, putting me back at square one of trying to sell my book to another editor.

I’d rather sell it to you, my readers. But finding you is another process. Gaining your faith is yet another. I’ve been doing this for eight years now. My first book, Secrets of the Lotus, was published by Lyrical Press (now the digital first arm of Kensington Press) on July 5, 2010. I started this blog around then, too. Eight years, fourteen books, and countless blog posts later, I’ve got a few devoted readers. They’re the ones who’ll take the plunge no matter what I put out.

So I better make it good.

I think I’ve managed to improve both my writing and my publishing skills. I edit my own work now, but I have worked with enough professional editors so I have pretty good idea of how to find the holes in my own plots. I put all my manuscripts through a thorough proofreading at least twice by me and I have some beta readers who’ll look over drafts for me, too. I’ve learned a lot about the formatting of both ebooks and print. My self-published books look good now. Clean and pretty with clearly delineated breaks and chapters. And my covers are almost always professionally designed.

Now, I’m working on the marketing. That’s the really tough part. That’s the final push every author—traditional or self—must somehow summon to convince a reader that their book is worth reading. That’s why we query book reviewers and write blogs, why we spend hours writing guest posts for online book tours and tend to all our social media sites from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and Goodreads.

It’s all to push you, dear reader, over the edge of a cliff and into the world of our writing.

Go ahead. Jump. If you don’t, you might miss out on the next self-publishing phenomenon.

 

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New Year: My Love/Hate/Like/Respect Relationship with Social Media

I was first introduced to social media at my 20th high school reunion. “Are you on Facebook?” is the second most important question I remember being asked.

“Are you pregnant?” is the first most important.

I wasn’t.

In fact, my daughter who was just over a year old was with my two boys at my parents’ that night. My father called me about two hours into the event to tell me she was running a fever. Happy to get away from schoolmates I’d never really fit in with but still longed to impress, I fled the scene in the ill-fitting dress that had led to pregnancy question.

The next week I looked up Facebook, started a profile, friended every old Facebook_like_thumbschoolmate I could find and posted a flattering picture of myself, very obviously NOT pregnant. Facebook was a lot of fun!

I’ve had a hilly relationship with social media since then. When I started publishing romance novels, it was useful for getting the word out. Hey, look what I did! But I can’t honestly say it’s resulted in a spike in sales at any point beyond release days. And to be honest, constantly posting and tweeting saps any creative energy I might have, cutting dramatically into my writing time.

I’ve used social media, especially Facebook, to brag about my kids, to post funny pictures, to share articles about politics, education, writing, child-rearing, etc. I’ve been guilty about bragging about the places I travel to, special achievements, and wonderful experiences.

Last October, I read an article about the darker side of social media. People who post the good stuff and leave out the bad. A mother who posted pictures of her beautiful children, loving husband and perfect home–found dead of a drug overdose. Another mother who posted loving comments about her toddler’s accomplishments and growth–discovered disposing of the child’s body. Teens who maintain two profiles. One that shows a perfect life, the other full of angst and worry that they’ll be found out to be much more normal and less…perfect.

Is this what social media turns us into? Is it really just another way of keeping up with—or besting—your friends and neighbors? Since reading these articles, I’ve been more thoughtful about what I post to the point of almost posting nothing. What if something I post makes someone else out there feel unworthy or like a failure? That’s not what I want.

Facebook currently has a feature letting me know what my “memories” are from that date in the past. Sometimes I force myself to look. They are mostly drivel and nine-tenths of the rest are not worth sharing with the world or even good friends. The only truly worthwhile ones are pictures of my kids, and maybe I should never have posted those anyway.

Which has led me to my New Year’s resolution. I’m going to use social media and the Internet in a more thoughtful way. I’ve been going over and over what this means and I’m still not totally clear about it. I know it means to think twice before posting, to consider carefully what the effects of my posts might be. I don’t think I’ll stop using social media, because I do like and enjoy it for the most part, but I will respect it more.

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“What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?”

In the course of Googling something else the other night, I ran across an article on a blog that intrigued me. The blogger devoted his entire time to tearing down a very successful author, whose name I shall not mention. In a nutshell, the blogger said she loved this particular author UNTIL she started following him on social media where said author made a number of missteps. Her main complaint, however, was that he never offered anything to the aspiring writers who clustered about him waiting for a morsel of genius to fall on them.

Instead, the author in question would fill his Twitter feed with his daily word counts, bits from his new books, or his favorite quotes from his old books. Why doesn’t the author just be himself? the blogger asked.

(Ahem. Possibly because he might not be his actual self. Lord knows, if I ever get to the point he’s at, I’m going to hire someone to handle social media for me. It’s part of the job of being a writer, but if you can afford to pay someone else to do it for you so you can keep doing what you really enjoy doing—writing—well, who can blame you…much?)

But I digress. This article got me thinking. Have I ever gotten any actually useful advice from a successful published author? I’ve seen several speak. Some tell stories about how they became successful. Sometimes you can glean some bit of something useful out of that, but for the most part, you’re left wondering, Why couldn’t that happen to me? Every now and then, though, somebody says something that sticks with you, that really helps.

Unfortunately, I honestly can’t remember who said the most useful writing tip I ever got from a published writer. I think it was a man, and I believe it was while I was in college. Other than that, I’m at a loss. At any rate, what he said was, “Tell you readers your secrets.”

That startled me. My secrets. He was talking about writing fiction. Novels. Not true stuff. Why would I tell my secrets? Real stuff. But I’ve found over the years that he was right. If you mix a little bit of reality into your fiction, it makes it live and breathe in a way that purely made up stuff could never do. And the great thing is, you don’t have to tell your reader what bits are true. You just write from the heart, mix in things that are true with things that you wish could be true or you fear ever coming true and what results is so much more than fiction.

Here’s a bit of writing advice from me, a published, if not yet successful, author. Don’t expect too much from your heroes. No matter how successful they are, they’re caught up in a balancing act, just like the rest of us. They may not have to make ends meet financially (well, the top 1% don’t, anyway), but they are trying to balance marketing and social media and family with what they really probably still want to do—writing. So don’t expect too much, but listen when you’re lucky enough to hear one speak. They might just give you that tidbit you’ve been waiting for.

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