I Gave Up Facebook for Lent & Found Me

It was a spur of the moment decision. On February 9, the day before Ash Wednesday, I decided to give up social media (excluding WordPress and any postings I do for work) for Lent. I did it for lots of reasons, chief among them being I wanted to finish writing the sequel to Baby Grand, a project I started back in December 2014. I knew I was spending too much time on social media, but I just didn’t know how much. It was a lot. At first, I was perplexed by all the oodles of free time I didn’t know I had, but soon I found new activities to fill the void, as if I were a starfish whose amputated limbs were regenerating: I wrote quite a bit (the sequel is nearly completed, and I also found time for other writing, including this essay that appears in today’s Newsday) and charged through my daily to-do lists like nobody’s business. I also found myself calmer, serene. Turns out, while I was busy scrolling through posts, my thumb double-tapping images almost absently, I had been missing out on a lot of something that was important to me: me.

 

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A #1lineWed Aha Moment

So there I was, minding my own business last Wednesday, when I stumbled upon the trending #1lineWed on Twitter. For those who don’t know, #1lineWed is when authors choose one line from their works in progress — the page from which that line is culled is determined that day (or maybe the day before, not really sure how it works) — and post it for the world to see.

Ooh, sounds fun, I thought, and I eagerly opened my current manuscript and scanned the designated pages for a fun line to post.

I scanned.

And scanned.

And scanned.

What the…????

Why couldn’t I find one single line?

I wasn’t looking for anything uber-cool or witty. Just something interesting. Why wasn’t there anything?

I began reading other pages, thinking I’d cheat and pull a line from there. Still, I had nothing.

Turns out, the more I looked, the more I thought the manuscript that I had deemed almost perfectly polished had a looong ways to go. The magic wasn’t quite there or where I wanted it to be.

So I’m going to set that puppy on the back burner for a while and let it simmer, let my creative juices keep flowing, think about what I want this book to be. I know I can make it better. And when I do, I’m hoping #1lineWed will be just one of my book’s triumphs.

#PitMad

Hey, authors, it’s that time again!

Twitter is having another pitch party! If you’ve got a completed manuscript you would like to pitch to agents and publishers, head on over to Twitter TODAY between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. EST. You’ve got a mere 140 characters to get them interested in your stuff. You are only allowed to pitch the same manuscript two times per hour, and be sure to vary your pitches, because Twitter might not let you tweet the same tweets again and again. Also, be sure to include the #PitMad hashtag as well as the category of your manuscript (Young Adult, Adult, New Adult, Nonfiction, etc.) Good luck, and may the words be with you!

Giveaway on Facebook! Today Only!

It’s been a terrific year for Baby Grand! To say thank you to all of you who have supported my debut novel this year, I’m running a Christmas giveaway over on my Facebook author page. To enter, all you have to do is comment on the giveaway post with your favorite holiday song. Yep, that’s it. The winner will be randomly selected and will receive this BELIEVE tag and silver ball station chain (a $22 total value) manufactured by Origami Owl.

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Why BELIEVE? Because it’s Christmastime, of course, and also because BELIEVING IN HERSELF is something Baby Grand’s hero, Jamie Carter, must do in order to foil the bad guys’ plans and save the governor’s daughter. (Does she do it? I’ll never tell!) You must be over 18 years of age and a U.S. resident to qualify, and (legal mumbo jumbo) this promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. (In other words, it’s mine, mine, all mine!) Contest ends Monday, December 23, 2013, at 9 p.m. EST, and the winner will be announced soon thereafter. Click here to go directly to the post. And feel free to spread the word to your friends and neighbors. The more, the merrier! Good luck!

Marketing Tip #6: Vendor Fairs

Yesterday, I took part for the first time in a vendor fair. Several of my author-friends have done fairs before, and the feedback I always get is that they’re hit or miss, either you sell lots of books or you don’t — and I should qualify that when I say “lots” I mean maybe three an hour. Since my local high school was hosting the fair and the money raised would be going to a scholarship fund, I thought I’d give it a try. And lo and behold, I sold lots of books!

There are things you can do to make your vendor fair appearances more successful. Here’s what I did:

1. Publicize the event. On social media in advance (if you like) and on the day of.

2. Create signage. I have a bunch of really cool plaques that I’ve made in the past regarding various contests that Baby Grand and I have placed in, but I needed some signs specific to this event. Keep in mind that your signs don’t have to be state-of-the-art. Mine were rather rudimentary. I created them last minute on Microsoft Word — I couldn’t access InDesign for some reason — and made them in, seriously, five minutes, but they worked: fair_signage

3. Bring with you the following items: table (be sure to know the size of your selling space and whether or not you have access to electricity), chairs (at least two — even if you’re alone it’s nice to have an additional seat, either for an unexpected friend or for your arm or purse to rest on), clean solid-colored tablecloth, sign-up sheet for your mailing list (even if folks don’t buy books, they often sign up, either out of interest or pity), a bunch of books (I brought 30), several Sharpies, a camera, and perhaps something to keep you occupied when things are slow (I brought my Kindle, although it never left my purse).

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Marketing Your Novel WITHOUT Social Media: Press Releases

Although I’m a HUGE proponent of social media with regard to successfully self-publishing a book — seriously, there is no other marketing tool that lets you reach so many people so affordably — in the class I’m currently teaching at Hofstra University there seems to be some (gasp!) resistance to the idea of using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. to market novels. Is social media the ONLY way to market a book? Of course not. Is it the BEST way. I say yes. However, I put together some non-social-media tools that novelists can use to boost their visibility and help increase sales. Here’s one of them: the press release.

What is a press release?
A press release is a “news story” that you write about yourself — it is written in a professional manner and in third person. The goal of a press release is, first and foremost, to gain editors’ or reporters’ attention so that your news will be placed in their publication or on their website. You do that by conveying newsworthiness, which means your press release should include the five Ws and one H:

•    Who is this news release about?
•    What has happened that is newsworthy?
•    Where did the newsworthy event take place?
•    When did this happen?
•    How is this newsworthy?
•    Why should I (or my readers) care?

How are press releases sent?
Nowadays, most press releases are sent by email, but you can also use snail mail or fax.

What is the proper press release format?
There are various acceptable formats, but all press releases should include a header, dateline, a paragraph or more of news, and contact information.

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8 Tips for Building an Audience for your Blog

I was honored to be asked to participate in a panel this morning at Briarcliffe College in Bethpage, N.Y., as part of Fair Media Council’s Social Media Boot Camp. The topic was “How to Blog Like a Pro.” My fellow panelists included William Corbett Jr. of Corbett Public Relations and Judy Smith-Bellem of SMM Advertising. Tim Vassilakos of North Shore-LIJ Health System moderated. Here’s a photo of all of us, courtesy of Rich Kruse (that’s me sitting on the left — notice how focused I am!).

I distributed a tip handout to the group, and I thought I’d post the tips here as well. As we discussed at the panel, there are no rules for blogging, but there are definitely things you can do to generate readership and engagement. Here are eight:

  1. Don’t blog unless you have something to say. There is so much noise on the internet today, and readers’ time is limited, so don’t post for the sake of posting. Post only when you have useful and actionable info.
  2. Write in a professional, yet conversational tone. Blogs are popular because readers feel like they are getting to know you personally, so keep the corporate-speak for your press releases.
  3. Engage readers. Whatever the topic of your post, try to get a conversation going with readers. Try ending your posts with a question that readers can answer in the comments, or you can offer giveaways or discounts to commenters.
  4. Pay attention to your blog’s appearance. Let’s face it: Many times, we judge a book by its cover. So make sure your blog is easy to read and navigate and that your domain name is memorable and accurately represents your company (if you have a stand-alone blog).
  5. On your blog’s homepage, show several blog posts/excerpts, rather than just your last post in its entirety. New visitors like to skim your homepage to see if your blog is for them. If you can show a variety of post examples, one of them is likely to make a connection.
  6. Keep the Me, Me, Me to a minimum. No one’s going to visit your blog if all you do is talk about yourself or your product. Even though you are blogging for promotional reasons, your blog has to be about Them, Them, Them — your readers. What takeaways can you offer your readers? What can they learn from you? How can you save them money? Treat blogging like a service that you offer your customers, rather than a press release.
  7. Blog regularly. You don’t need to blog every day. One, two, or three times a week should be sufficient. But whatever frequency you choose, your readers will become accustomed to it, so stick to it.
  8. Promote, promote, promote. (But don’t over-promote). Every blog post should be announced on whatever social media you participate in. Although your blog subscribers will get a notification, everyone else — your future subscribers — will hear about it through Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest. Keep in mind, though, that your blog promotion should only represent a small percentage of your social media interactions–on Twitter, my rule is one promotional post for every seven informational ones–or you risk the dreaded unlike or unfollow.

There are lots of ways to build an audience for a blog. What are some of yours? I’d love to hear them!