Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Social Media: Pain or Potential? Or, Why Twitter Is My Favorite Place to Be

So many forms of ‘social media’ out there:
and more popping up all the time

What’s a busy person (specifically an author) to do? I’ve heard speakers at writers’ conferences (see last Monday’s post) declare that the more you’re on the better. I don’t agree. One can’t do justice to them all. At least, I can’t.

I wouldn’t be on Facebook at all except for two motivating factors:
     My author page which does provide some ‘engagement’
     My personal page which allows me to keep up with friends from the far-distant past and whom I may never see again in this life
And, I regularly vow to vacate the premises at least once daily after seeing some of the sure-to-get-worse political posts. I don’t mind in the least being on opposite sides of the spectrum from someone, but I do mind hateful, hurtful, uncivil declarations. I finally got rid of those too fond of the F-word and some others, and I’m getting rid of these folks, too. Life is too short. . .

Pinterest is fun. It’s a lovely way to spent a leisurely hour or two. . .or three or four. Like anything, time spent there needs to be monitored and reined in occasionally.

But now the point of this post: Twitter--and why it’s the form of social media I like best and find most helpful. For one thing, 140 characters limits what one can say--and too many people these days need those limits. I try to follow the rule of only one personal post to four or five generic ones, mostly geared toward other writers. And, I try to do a lot of re-tweeting and “liking” in support of other writers.

I usually visit Twitter on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, when I post my blog topic, and then I spend some time cruising around. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t receive from one to three notices that someone new has followed me on Twitter. I always check them out and usually (but not always) follow them back. If we don’t share a common interest, I generally hit ‘delete’. I know, I know, the more followers the better some say. . .but I’m not convinced.

I follow many links on Twitter and find great writing tips, marketing ideas, and books to add to my wish list. In other words, Twitter is worth my time. . .and my time is my most valuable asset.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting some fantastic ‘Twitter Tips’ gleaned from around the web. Come back to see if any of them work for you!

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BigChiefTablet! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Book by Any Other Name. . .

How important is the name of your novel/story? When we were children, “The Little Red Hen”, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, “Little Red Riding Hood”, and “Cinderella” caught our attention--and we weren’t disappointed with what followed. But today’s adult readers are different--they need that hook, and it begins with the title on the cover and segues to the blurb on the back of the book. If it doesn’t zing, it doesn’t get read.

So, how do you come up with a title that ‘zings’ but doesn’t mislead the potential reader and leave her feeling she’s been duped by the time she’s thirty pages in?

Anne R. Allen gives you a look at well-known books which started out with one title and ended up with another. (I especially applaud whoever made the change from Stephen Crane’s Private Fleming: His Various Battles to The Red Badge of Courage!)

A too-long or too-short title can be a negative as can a title which doesn’t appeal to the audience you’re hoping for. You don’t want to use a title which has been used before (though that’s difficult to avoid sometimes), because you don’t want to lose a sale based on the results of someone’s inaccurate internet search.

Consider which titles have appealed to you in the past and think about why. Titles which are too generic are also problematic. Though War and Peace is still a classic, as is Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, in today’s I-need-something-to-read-and-it-can’t-take-forever world, you’d think about those tomes two or three times.

Chuck Sambuchino makes a number of good suggestions as you debate the name to give to your new baby. . .er, manuscript. I particularly like one of his ideas: titles inspired by names of songs and poems. Since those aren’t copyrighted, look around.

I’ve only been dissatisfied with one of my titles, but the rights of the book recently reverted to me. I plan to tweak the story a bit and most certainly come up with a new name for baby. Also, the ‘campy’ titles of the six book Penelope Pembroke series apparently appealed to a large number of people. The titles of the three book Dreamland Series  did not--so I re-released with new titles and new covers. Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland became Lethal Legacy in Dreamland--which definitely describes the theme of the book.

Don’t be in a hurry to choose a title. A ‘working title’ does the trick if you just have to have something to hang your hat on.

While you’re thinking about it, cruise on over to my website and browse my titles. Do any of them appeal to you? Remember--I’ll send a PDF to anyone who commits to review.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Common Sense Approach to Writers’ Conferences

I am a writers’ conference drop-out--at least, for the time being. Having been to several, I can say honestly I’ve come away with much useful information--but after a while I began to notice I came away with the same information. So, it’s time to back off, watch the conference previews for speakers/workshops offering new tools and insights, and save my money to attend more conferences.

Probably the best conference I ever attended was only one day. It moved smoothly along with a break for a delicious, well-planned lunch, and didn’t belabor the awards for folks who’d entered the annual contest. On the other hand, I’ve sat through endless awards ceremonies where there were numerous recognitions for the same contest, including honorable mentions. And, the same people seemed to garner the lion’s share of the prizes which, I believe, discourages aspiring writers to become discouraged. (I don’t enter contests, so this is not sour grapes.) 

Many conferences provide for authors to buy display tables to promote/sell their books. I’ve done this a couple of times, but I don’t like being stuck behind a table when there are interesting people to meet. If the conference is requires travel and an overnight stay, the extra packing/hauling into the hotel room/setting up/taking down so one can travel again isn’t (in most cases) worth the hassle.

Some authors find conference attendance a great way to network with publishers and agents. They prepare their pitches in advance and take advantage of every opportunity. I found the experience educational, but my most successful pitches have been online as part of the submission process. 
I’ve met some great folks at writing conferences, some of whom  I still stay in touch with. If I went back to the same conferences year after year, no doubt we’d forge a stronger bond--but hopefully not become a clique which excludes others. I’ve observed that, too. One often has to run the gauntlet of other authors and conference authorities who consider themselves pretty high on the ladder of importance. I find myself hoping they don’t have to fall too far--as everyone eventually must.

Finally, conferences can be pricey, so I weigh what I’ll earn in the way of useful information against the check I have to write. To be a “real” author, you don’t have to scurry around from one gathering to another. Writing, submitting, and eventually marketing has to figure in somewhere.

So be yourself. Do your thing. If a conference is doable (and affordable), go for it. If it wasn’t worth it, don’t go back next year.

Here’s a list of writers’ conferences for 2016. Obviously, many of them have already taken place, but bookmark the site to check what’s going on next year.

Maria Zannini recommends using this checklist to prepare for a conference, and I’d agree. If you’re going to pay for it/get there/soak up every opportunity it offers, do go prepared.