Peeling the layers:  What I learned from Scott Dikkers, co-founder of The Onion, about publishing

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“Ready, fire, aim.”  Don’t be a perfectionist.  My problem is that I spend way more time writing than I do editing, so my project this summer will be to finalize the edits on my novel, Because of Mindy Wiley (https://sarahleastories.com/because-of-mindy-wiley/).  This will mark my seventh time editing it. I’ve put off finishing it for years–partly because I wanted to wait till I had a Master’s in English, but also because every time I went back to my book, it was like reconnecting with an old friend.  Since I never read anything I write (once it’s in print anyway), I think a part of me feared parting with it forever.

Publishing e-books for Kindle on Amazon is worth it.  The large publishing houses take 70% in royalties while Amazon takes only 7%.  Of course, with self-publishing, you have to do your own marketing, but all you need for that is an internet connection and an online presence, and I’ve already been branding myself for years (it’s the whole reason I started a blog)

Don’t skimp on the cover.  If you’re not familiar with InDesign, you’ll want to hire a designer to create your cover and lay out your book.  (Now I wish I had taken the time to learn how to lay out the newspaper while I was on The Corsair.) I will either have to wait till I get my degree in graphic design or wait till I can cobble together the money to get my book professionally done–whichever comes first.  Of course, there’s always Kickstarter.

Don’t spend the money getting your manuscript professionally edited.  I had seriously considered doing this through Writer’s Digest or inquiring my professor friends to see how much they would charge.  Dikkers said he caught all his mistakes just by reading his book aloud–only 225,000 words to go!

If you want people to notice your book, you need to have popular keywords in your book’s description (and don’t forget to test those keywords).  It’s basically the same principle as a hashtag. You get seven of them, so use them wisely (and remember that each word can be more than one).

Send press releases of your book to blogs.  There are many online tutorials that show you how to write in this medium.  I’ve thought about writing a mock press release as a blog feature.

There needs to be “reader magnet” in the book, such as a free first chapter, novelette, novella–basically, a hook to get your reader to buy your next book.  I already have visions of a prequel dancing in my head.

My book goals:

⦁ To sell enough copies to not only get on the New York Times Bestseller List but also enable me to fund a recurring creative writing scholarship at my alma mater.

⦁ To be turned into a TV-series for HBO.

⦁ And finally, the best of all:  For my name (or the title of my book) to be the answer to a “Jeopardy” question (or a “Wheel of Fortune” puzzle).

 

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12 Ways to Build Your Writer’s Platform

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Being a writer is a full-time job (though most of us only work at it part-time because we have paying jobs).  It’s been said that we should spend 80% of the time (normally spent writing) engaging others, and the other 20% creating content.  I confess I am backwards in this, because I never feel like I get enough writing done as it is; it is also quite easy to spend hours online, posting, tweeting, retweeting, commenting, reviewing, etc., and feeling like I get very little response back, besides a “follow” or a “like”.  (Retweets are what I am after.)  And often, I have discovered that one only follows me because they want a follow back, so never follow someone back unless their page interests you.  (“Ain’t nobody got time for that!”)

So I was searching for sample “killer” query letters because I’ve had a novel I tailor-wrote for Harlequin romance (never heard back, even though I’ve heard they read every submission).  I believe in the project, so I went to http://agentquery.com/ to pitch it to other publishers.  Though I already had a query letter prepared, I wanted to make sure it was the best it could be; I started doing my research, and found two great posts that helped me with that:

The Complete Guide to Query Letters That Get Manuscript Requests

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries

However, I realized that I needed to reevaluate my writer’s platform.  What inspired me to start a blog in the first place was an article I read in “The Writer’s Digest” more than two years ago about this very thing.  Only within the last several months have I stepped it up by joining Twitter, which I think is a must for any writer.  I’ve started promoting myself on there by having every WordPress blog post immediately publish to my Twitter page (in addition to my Facebook account, and once in a blood moon, LinkedIn); I strive to make all my tweets entertaining, rather than just self-promoting, which gets boring (author Amanda Patterson tweets great stuff).  I will never spam people by private messaging them on Twitter, asking for them to download my e-book, etc.–that is what your newsfeed is for, and yes, sometimes things get lost in the virtual shuffle, and so I believe it is perfectly acceptable to retweet such a request no more than twice a week (the minimum number of times we should blog to be considered a serious blogger, according to most).

When I first started Twitter, I was tweeting snippets of poems, usually a screenshot, but didn’t add any hashtags (don’t do that; I add hashtags in the reply box).  I’d also read that every blog post should have an image (we’re such visual people), but I rarely use any stock photography.  I think most of it looks bad, cheap, and unoriginal (and the high-quality kind, like Shutterstock, is pricey).  Try to take your own pictures.  I, personally, do not believe we need images to make a post come to life.  That is what the headline is for.

I got a lot of great ideas on how to promote myself/build my writer’s platform, some of which I’m already using.  I revitalized my LinkedIn account by posting my college essays and publishing some of the scholarship essays I wrote (not the Zombie Apocalypse one, though; LinkedIn is supposed to be a professional site).

So I’m doing the social media blitz, even publishing the novelette (about an apostate Mormon missionary) that inspired my novel, “Because of Mindy Wiley” on goodreads.com (see:  https://www.goodreads.com/story/confirm_explicit/405523?chapter=0).

Here are some of the 12 ways of author promotion I found the most useful.

  1. Monetize.  I had never thought of repackaging old blog posts and selling them as an ebook, and I’m not sure why someone would buy something they can get for free, but it’s a thought.  If you’ve published a lot of poetry on your blog, this might be for you.
  2. Create a resource page.  Share your list of resources on social media and with your email list.  I do this on my Websites for Writers page:  https://sarahleastories.wordpress.com/websites-for-writers/
  3. Learn and use appropriate Twitter hashtags.  Here’s a great resource by Caitlin Muir at Author Media: http://www.authormedia.com/44-essential-twitter-hashtags-every-author-should-know/
  4. Set up your YouTube channel.  According to Robert Lee Brewer, the “poet laureate of Writer’s Digest”, poetry is almost always better when read aloud.  My brother wrote a melody to Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee”, and I could just imagine adding some desolate beach scenes to the audio.
  5. Invest in yourself.  Find courses, books, conferences, and people that can aid in your learning and success.  I am taking a Creative Writing class at the college right now, and will be investing a little money into getting a short story critiqued through Writer’s Digest before self-publishing it on amazon.com.
  6. Pitch a guest post.  I’ve already pitched a motherhood/lifestyle article to the Huffington Post (no pay, but great exposure), and there are a few others I am considering.  The main thing for me is posting at least twice a week on my own blog.  If you do get published on a guest blog, you will want your reader to have something worthwhile to link to.
  7. Create some link love.  People love being mentioned or quoted online.   Take the time to email the author or blog owner and let them know they were mentioned in your article.   They might possibly share a link to your article with their followers.
  8. Be everywhere.  Or at least be wherever your ideal readers are. Consider incorporating one or more of these social media networks into your platform building strategy:  Goodreads, Wattpad, Amazon Author Central, Pinterest, and Google+.
  9. Set up a social media schedule. Schedule time for activity on the social media platforms you are active on.  I have found that just checking my notifications is enough Facebooking for the day (still working on making this an everyday reality); as for Twitter, set up a special list, just for writing, so you don’t miss valuable tweets (like calls for submissions) because someone else you follow loves to tweet (and retweet) a lot.
  10. Start commenting.  If you already have a blog, you know how difficult–and how rewarding–it is to get comments on your posts.  Take the time to add insights, ask questions, or provide feedback on other author blogs.  A reblog is always nice, too.
  11. Create your Facebook Author page.  I don’t believe I am quite ready for this.  I feel I need to wait till I get something published to justify an author page (I could be wrong), and that means getting paid cash for my work, not just getting published.
  12. Setup your professional website.  Having a .blogspot, .WordPress, or .Typepad in your domain name denotes amateur status.  Before the end of the year, this is my goal.  It doesn’t cost very much ($18/yr.), and if I can’t design it so it looks more professional, I will hire someone.  I am quite frugal, so it has been hard for me to come to the point of paying for something I can get for free.

Source:  http://www.yourwriterplatform.com/actions-to-build-writer-platform/

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #324, Theme: Spectacular

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This Spectacular Age

We are the Age of the New Millennium—
the New Age of Identity,
where you can be anything you want to be,
even if you aren’t and can never be.
We are the Age of Information Technology
that flows at the speed of sound,
depending upon the connection.
We are at the Spectacular Age,
for never before has mankind
seen such leaps and bounds.

The spectacular camera
captures images
that would have been lost in the haze of memory.

The spectacular camcorder
captures a shot of a birthday,
a child’s particular laugh,
a political gaffe.
The camera holder is the apostle
who records the story from his or her perspective.

All is recorded for posterity,
for herstory,
for history.

The electric light drowns out the darkness,
keeping us awake,
aware,
so that we can have pizza
in a brightly lit parlor at four a.m.
Candles are now a novelty—
like a flame of the past.

Books can be downloaded,
uploaded,
and never go out of print—
the words of the authors living long
after they have gone.

I can Skype someone across the globe,
and I don’t even have to wait for a plane,
for I’m already there—
the sights and sounds come through loud and clear.

The feel of newsprint between my fingers
has become a fleeting memory.

Like a Luddite, I go to the bookstore
to open a book the old-fashioned way.
I savor the feel of the slick, embossed cover,
admire the gilt-edged pages,
and delight in the crisp black-and-white.

The clatter of flatware at the dinner table
is drowned out by the clicking of buttons—
the furious sounds of texting.
Conversation is a casualty.

The information superhighway is becoming faster,
like a New York minute—
with so many stops along the way.

I log onto Facebook,
where I go to hang out with friends,
where only those I want can become part of my world.

Then I log on to Twitter—
sending and receiving open telegrams
in 140 characters or less.
I am blitzed by information
that would have taken hours to look up before.

LinkedIn is where my qualifications outshine my shyness.

YouTube is where I watch and listen—
where I can learn everything
and nothing at the same time.

But WordPress—
that is where I tell the world my story,
so that to my descendants,
I will not be a mystery.

I look up from my phone
to find you standing right in front of me,
only to see you looking down at yours.
You do not even know I am there.