Like most professionals, I spend quite a bit of time online these days. Perhaps this explains why I have less spare time than ever. The more time we spend spreading our "real" life out into our online life, the more important it becomes for writers to communicate concisely and precisely who we are and what we are all about.
If you strive, in all of your online communications, to save folks time, then they can learn all they need to know about you as they go clicking by. You might even gain someone's respect, admiration or strike up a conversation, by keeping what you need to get across short and to the point.
But if you your communications online are muddled, scattered (a little bit of info here and another little bit way over there with no links in between), and poorly composed, then you will repel folks rather than attract them. I can't tell you how many times I have become curious about someone online and then tried to follow their trail of links to learn a bit more...only to end up clicking and clicking and clicking without learning any of the key pieces of information I'm looking for.
In my book, Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow Your Author Platform (Writer's Digest 2008), I outline what every writer needs to clarify in order to make smart choices about what to communicate and how.
Your Name Let's say, because it's such a popular name, that you name is Jennifer. This means that you have one of the most common names around (It's true, I can vouch that the most popular name of moms who take my classes is indeed Jennifer.) Are you going to go by Jennifer, Jen, Jenny, Jenni, or something else? You might think this is a minor consideration but not according to search engines like Google, who will find you a lot faster and more accurately if you pick one name as your "writer name," make it as original as possible (use a middle initial if necessary), and stick with it over time.
Your Identity Remember that song by The Who: "Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?" I always think of that while I'm clicking links trying to figure out who the heck somebody is. And guess what? If I can't figure it out in just a few clicks, then I don't care anymore! What these mystery folks really need is an identity that they can spread around the Internet making it easy for someone like me to figure out quickly who they are and what they are all about.
Now some people like to substitute the word "branding" for identity, but I'm not partial to the former. Are you a writer or a pharmaceutical company? Are you a writer or a can of soda? Are you a writer...you get the idea. Be who YOU are and spread the word in a professional manner. This takes more thought than you might expect because it's part of the story that precedes you, goes with you, and lingers behind you, everywhere you go. For more on this topic, start reading on page 175 and don't stop until you figure out your Otherwise Known As.
Your Tagline My tagline is: Make the most of what you have...to author! A tagline's job is to communicate in one short line what you offer. As you can see, my tagline is even a play on the word "offer." Instead of the common phrase, "Make the most of what you have to offer," I use author instead. The substitution is intended to get your attention and spark your thinking about what you might author. Does it work?
It's challenging to produce new podcasts when you're also working on multiple projects, building your platform, and running a business. Despite the best intentions, other priorities could eclipse your show. It happens to everyone.
Do your best to sustain your podcasting momentum with these five strategies.
Editorial calendars Magazines use editorial calendars to provide focus and cohesion among articles (and advertisers). Many podcasters also find calendars helpful because they cement regular publishing schedules.
I use quarterly editorial calendars for my show. The planning process forces me to slow down and parse more advanced topics. Calendars also afford opportunities to link platform components, like blogs, articles, and classes.
Master Show List Maintain a master list of podcast episodes. It takes only a few moments to add new show titles, descriptions, and date published. Mark episodes that are most popular and add show notes. If you're working on multiple writing and platform projects simultaneously, consider listing unpublished shows too so that all of your show information is consolidated. Master catalogues serve as an organizing tool and historical record that keep your ideas fresh and content advancing.
Record Ahead Ideally, new podcasters will use their initial enthusiasm, energy, and excitement to record several episodes ahead of their editorial calendar. This is especially important early on when the risks of technical error are greatest.
Soon after I began podcasting, I had a marathon recording session with my Fix, Freeze, Feast co-author, on a rare weekend when we were together. You can imagine how awful I felt, while telling her I lost an entire show while editing! Fortunately, I was recording ahead and had plenty of time to recover and record other material.
Emergency Shows It's also smart to have a few episodes recorded, that aren't on the editorial calendar, which can be used in a pinch. Many social media experts advise bloggers of this practice, but it applies to podcasters too.
I have had to use emergency shows. They're like little insurance policies covering my busiest times. So whether I'm knee deep in another project, experiencing a technical snafu, sick, or traveling, I'm still able to deliver a new show.
Encore! Encore! Not every episode needs to be new. In fact, many podcasts periodically republish shows. The host provides a brief introduction, stating when the broadcast was originally published and the reason for repeating it. Recently, I republished 2 episodes about school lunches at the start of this school year because they're timely and among my most popular episodes. Repeating shows should not become a regular practice. But it remains a great way to introduce new listeners to past episodes while also re-engaging search engines.
Kati Neville is coauthor of the best selling cookbook, Fix, Freeze, Feast. She is a contributing editor for The Saver's Kitchen podcast and regularly blogs on The Forklift. Kati teaches cooking classes in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area. When not online or teaching, Kati enjoys writing and tasting new recipes in her kitchen.
Here's a list of 2010 events where we can connect in-person:
Digital Book World New York, NY January 26 - 27 Panelist: "Get Noticed! Earn Attention for Every Book" More info
Private Workshop: Power Up Your Platform for the Internet Age January 31st Location: TBA Time: 1 - 4 p.m. 3-hour workshop Increase your visibility and influence based on your personal strengths and balancing offline and online strategies. Info coming soon...
The Associated Writing Programs Conference April 7 - 10 Denver, Colorado The Colorado Convention Center More info
The American Society of Journalists & Authors Writer's Conference April 24-25 NYC, NY Info coming soon...
Oklahoma Writers Federation Conference April 29 - May 1 Embassy Suites Hotel Oklahoma City, OK Info coming soon...
Giveaways and conferences and my author series -- oh my!
Fall has been hopping so far, but I planned a little lull between now and the first of the year, and thank goodness! I'm going to put it to good use.
During November, I'll be posting the information about all that I will be offering in 2010 and I cannot wait. Here's the short list:
A streamlined blog/website/e-zine design
My usual classes and my new dream teams
A third book deal? (Here's hoping!)
Live events like my three-hour platform workshop in January
Cloning myself (LOL)
Okay, so cloning myself is a joke. But not really. I have a few things up my sleeve that I will announce in the New Year.
One of the challenges of growing a writing career offline and online is how to managing all the growth.
One key thing that I've learned: don't try to do everything all the time or it will hurt your health and your ability to stay focused on what you do best.
Thanks to physical therapy, I am almost 100% recovered from a pinched nerve in my neck that was registering electric-pain down my left shoulder and arm in June of this year.
The discomfort didn't initially get my attention. But the eventual pain did. And it's taken a commitment of time, energy, and money to heal. So you can expect my advice in 2010 to be a tad more moderate, balanced, and centered than before. If for no other reason, because I've learned if you ignore your body's signals, you could risk your livelihood...and a whole lot more.
I also feel like many of the social media leaders today are just plain manic and are not setting an example that most writing professionals can or should follow. Don't buy into it. Focus the lion's share of your time on building your own writing career, not merely championing other people's while yours flounders.
My promise for 2010 is that I will never ask you to sacrifice your family time, your health, or your genuine callings to keep up with a pace that is unhealthy, unnatural, or something hardly anyone could imitate.
We all deserve to write our passions and have the successful and sustainable writing careers we've dreamed about. When you build writing skills slowly and steadily and stack success upon success, career growth can be deliberate and steady and your career can mesh with a happy, healthy life.
Mine does. And I am so grateful for it. And for the reminder to keep my advice to others healthy and wise.
Make good things happen, Christina Katz Publisher & Editor
If you are an aspiring fiction writer, it might be tempting to think that, unlike nonfiction writers, that fiction writers don't put much forethought into what and how they write novels. However, when I take a closer look at novels that sell, I notice the opposite: fiction writers who write novels that sell DO put forethought and planning into their novels before, during, and after the drafting process.
So, if you are doing NaNoWriMo, writers, I suggest that you get strategic before November 1st. There's not much time, I know. But even reading one of these great fiction guides is going to make a huge difference in the quality of that draft you work on every day in November.
Have fun. Be strategic. Get busy reading!
Any/all of these guides in the right-hand column of this blog will show you how to make the most of National Novel Writing Month.
As the author of 15 books with two more due out this year, Lee Silber has been published by industry giants Random House, St. Martin's Press and more. He believes the key to landing his book deals and the sales success of each of his titles is due in large part to his willingness and effectiveness at promoting what he's written. His titles include Time Management For The Creative Person, Self-Promotion For The Creative Person, Rock To Riches, and The Wild Idea Club. Silber lives in Mission Beach, California; visit him online at leesilber.com.
Q. What can authors do before their publiction date to make a book launch more successful? A. There are three things that are key to promoting and selling a book before publication. 1. It all starts with negotiating a good deal. The more money they have invested in you, the more they will want to help you promote your book to make their money back. You also want to negotiate as many free books as possible as part of your deal. These can be used for promotion to smaller, specialty media outlets your publisher may not want to bother with. Finally, the "buy back" clause is important, if you can buy books cheaply enough, they make a better promotional tool than a brochure, and are more effective. 2. It is so easy to be overwhelmed, distracted, and discouraged when it comes to promoting a book. A simple publishing calendar with target dates gets you thinking about deadlines and should motivate you to do more promotion. It also breaks down what needs to be done, and when it would be best to do it. A promotional plan is handy, but I have also found that by simply spending 30 minutes to an hour a day (every day) doing something to promote a book is best. Use Google, past leads, look at where books like yours are being featured, contact your local media, AND set aside time for follow-up. Each one of these doesn't take all day, but the consistent and relentless approach really works. 3. Don't underestimate friends and family. Chances are they know someone who knows someone who will either buy a bunch of books or get you on radio or television. The good thing is, these people know you, want to see you succeed, and won't mind putting in a good word for you. Let everyone in your inner circle know about your upcoming book and if appropriate, ask for their help to promote it. Q. What do you like best about promoting your books? A. I love doing radio interviews. What could be better than having someone ask you about your book and having thousands of people listening who could (and should) rush out and buy it? As for the benefits of promoting a book before publication, I have found that speaking engagements are great for getting the word out because they can lead to publicity, attendees hear about the book in your bio (or you create a talk around your title), and when the time comes to give the speech, you sell a ton of books at the back of the room. Plus, you get paid to give the speech, too. Q. What is one mistake you made promoting your first book that you would recommend others avoid? A. Not focusing on the outcome you seek -- to sell books. At first it's so cool to see your name in the paper or have friends and family say they saw you on TV. After a while, you realize that feeling is fleeting and fame doesn't pay the bills. The object is to use promotion to SELL books, and build your brand, but in that order. Q. Can you share your top three book promotion tips for first-time authors? A. I think my answer to question two covers it. But here is a point worth putting out there. Keep in mind when promoting your book that it's not about you, it's about them. The entire focus of your energy is to help people, solve a problem for them, improve their business, or in the case of fiction, provide entertainment or escapism. No matter what, promotion isn't about you. This helps authors overcome the fear of promotion and it helps focus the message on what's most important and that is what your book does for others. The question that needs to be answered is this: "Why should I buy your book?" Q. Is there something you would say is never too late to do when promoting your book? A. Look for timely tie-ins. Watch the news for things that relate to your book and give it (and you) another chance to garner some good publicity.
Cindy Hudson is the author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs (Seal Press 2009). Her website, and its companion blog, feature reading lists, book reviews, author interviews, book giveaways and other book club resources. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Portland, Oregon, where she writes weekly for The Oregonian. Visit her online at MotherDaughterBookClub.com and CindyHudson.com.
YouTube may be social networking's red-headed step-child especially concerning writers. Video requires a different approach to communicating than blogging, Twittering and communicating on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Aside from YouTube, these sites rely on our words, our writing. The very things we do well. Writerly Uses for YouTube Every YouTube video comes with an information box on the right side containing information about the person who posted it, a summary (another opportunity to add a URL and contact information), category, and tags. Take care when adding tags. Some people view users adding too many tags as less credible than those who carefully select a handful of tags. Promote your book: Cindy Ray, creator of The Stapler Caper, posted a video that explains how the children's book lets the child write the story and shows pictures of the scenes and characters. Her contact information appears at the end of the video, something all videos should have. While this video is more promotional than valuable to readers, it's a way for the author to present the book beyond a text-based summary. Think of it as a movie trailer for books like Argentum from Monica Valentinelli. "I've gotten more visibility out of my first trailer in one day than I had one week," she says. Post presentations and classes: Do you hope to land more speaking and teaching opportunities? Record all of your presentations and you have an instant testimonial of your ability to present. Posting the video on YouTube rather than just your website allows others to discover you when searching YouTube. Poetics Arts Performance Project posts videos of featured poets from open mics. Mary McFarland teaches literature classes and posts videos to teach lessons such as iambic pentameter. Reach a huge audience: According to Nielsen//Net Ratings in December 2008, YouTube is the #1 Internet entertainment site and #6 largest Internet destination. Furthermore, comScore Video Metrix reports that a third of people viewing online videos went to YouTube. Promote expertise: Editor-in-Chief of K+BB Christina Trauthwein posts interviews and projects as a way to brand themselves, drive more traffic to the site, and position themselves as experts in the field. Post client work: Sometimes people doubt the credibility of text-based testimonials on websites because it's easy to make them up. A video, on the other hand, is hard to fake. "I've used YouTube to post rough cuts of corporate videos for feedback from my clients and third party participants. It's an easy and quick way for everyone involved to review videos and move forward without the inconvenience of having teams spend time at a studio," says Carla Johnson. See videos forwarded: YouTube makes it easy for people to add interesting YouTube videos to their websites with a simple copy and paste of code. Think about how you find out about good videos. E-mail? Twitter links? Facebook links? People help you by sharing their videos with their friends and colleagues. A video doesn't have to include you saying something. It can be words, PowerPoint converted to video or a how-to based on your platform or expertise. If you want to convert a PowerPoint presentation that shares your expertise, convert to video AVI format using the free E.M. PowerPoint Video Converter. This is just one application, plenty others can do the same.
Meryl K. Evans is the author of Brilliant Outlook Pocketbook, co-author of Adapting to Web Standards: CSS and Ajax for Big Sites and contributor to many others. The long-time blogger and gamer has written and edited for a bunch of places online and off. A native Texan, she lives a heartbeat north of Dallas in Plano, Texas with her husband and three kiddos. Though born in silence, she tries to show that deaf people are just like everyone else. Follow Meryl on Twitter at @merylkevans.