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.

 

My Trivial (and not so trivial) Pursuits of Summer

Summery

Though I was disappointed that summer classes weren’t available in my degree program, it’s still been a pretty great summer.  I still accomplished a lot, and used some of my time somewhat wisely.  The list below pretty much sums up the season for me (so far):

  1. Binge watched the entire series of “Medium” on Netflix (I’d missed the last season, so I started with it, and worked my way back).  It’s where I got the idea of including a little note in my child’s lunch (as soon as she’s old enough to read them).
  2. Participated in the Writer’s Digest “Poem-a-Day” challenge for the month of April.
  3. Made my first live television appearance on “The Daily Brew” with my friend, Mandy, who also participated in the challenge.
  4. Writing my third Harlequin novel (the first two haven’t been picked up yet) for the “So You Think You Can Write” contest.
  5. Mastered mouse-moving dexterity with my left hand (no more carpal tunnel in my dominant hand).
  6. Became a volunteer article writer for the Gulf Coast Kid’s House.
  7. Enrolled in a creative writing course at the local college.  I could only get into one class this semester (everything was either full, required a pre-req, or it wasn’t offered during the fall term).  I used this delay as an opportunity to take a class that excites me.
  8. Finally accepted that I will never like bananas (unless they’re in a dessert).  Same goes for sweet potatoes and avocados.
  9. Submitted my collection of children’s nursery rhymes, “Golden Stars and Silver Linings” to Wordsong Press.
  10. Learned how to have fun for fun’s sake.  Not everything has to be a learning opportunity for my two-year-old daughter.  Making memories and having fun is a big part of childhood.  I learned from an occupational therapist that a child’s job is to do just that:  Have fun.
  11. Became a quarter-finalist in the Mary Ballard Poetry Chapbook Prize contest for my collection of medical poetry, “Complexities”.  (Final results are still pending.)  Whether or not I win, I will still have completed a large body of work in a relatively short amount of time.  I am determined that every piece of writing I’ve deemed good will eventually find a home.  Every rejection is an opportunity to make a piece better.

Networking for Introverts: Breaking the Ice

Since this post got the most likes (or any likes, for that matter) on LinkedIn, I will share it with you today.

The Internet has been a blessing for introverts like myself. Speaking from personal experience, the Internet has changed the way I’ve communicated tremendously. I’ve made many friends first through Facebook (through friends of friends and local political groups), some of whom I’ve met in person. I’ve found that the awkwardness of “first dates” is dissolved when two people have chatted online prior. I’ve met wonderful, like-minded individuals through Facebook from around the country I would have otherwise never known.

Gina, a woman whom I met through a political candidate group she founded, was also a member of a local writing group here in Pensacola (https://writeonpensacola.wordpress.com/), which led me to meeting one of my closer friends, not to mention connecting with other writers and artists who’ve been a wellspring of information on how to promote myself and my work, and instilled within me encouragement–a powerful motivator. Gina also recommended me as a committee member for the Gulf Coast Kid’s House, for which I wrote a couple of articles.  (As of November 2016, I am the volunteer writer and designer of the online newsletter for the Panhandle Warrior Partnership:  http://www.panhandlewarriors.org/).

I’ve used our WriteOn! Pensacola Facebook page to share information with members on publications, contests, conferences, and more. It’s easier for an introvert to have a voice online than it is in person, especially being a writer, because I like to edit my thoughts before submitting them. If I always spoke my mind, I’d be in trouble all the time. (I get in enough trouble sharing certain things on Facebook.)  I prefer written communication over the oral (with the exception of facetime), as I don’t have to have a mobile device on my person at all times (no one but my family has access to me 24/7, and should not expect to). I can drop a chat on Facebook and pick up where I’ve left off at a later time, which I could never do on the telephone.

LinkedIn has given me a platform to showcase my writing ability to possible future employers. I always list my online presences on my resume, including my WordPress blog. Now that I also write for the student newspaper, I will be adding my online portfolio.

The Internet has made communication, and life in general, less anxious for wallflowers like me, giving us a chance to “break the ice” first.

*scholarship essay for sonomacountysatellite.com, edited 06 Dec 2016

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Phoetry: Words and Pictures

My husband and I recently watched a movie called “Words and Pictures”, and it was mildly entertaining.  I am always interested in checking out a flick if one of the main characters is a writer, but you can’t beat “Misery”.  However, “W&P” was different.  The plot was about a male English teacher, and a female art teacher at a preppy high school, who start a war over words vs. pictures, which is more important?  Of course, there’s the whole “A picture is equal to 1000 words”, and an asinine love story (only thing I liked about it was that the woman was disabled and the man, though highly intelligent, was otherwise an average Joe).  It was one of those movies that focused more on creating quirky characters than characters you felt for, related to.  It was supposed to answer a question which no one asks because we all know the answer to it:  They are both equal, but different (like men and women).

I’ve just refreshed my Twitter account (according to most publishers, you need to have a strong online presence with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter), and this movie (and this scholarship opp:  http://www.1800wheelchair.com/scholarship/) gave me an idea.  I would combine photography with brief poetry; while my photography is nothing to brag about, it gets the point across.  I do this because we are visual creatures and a phopoem (a poem on a photo) will catch a Twitterbug’s eye more than just a tweet.  I’ve already posted a few plain photos of poems (see:  https://twitter.com/SarahLeaSales), but this is my first “poetic thought” with a background.  I do believe it provides a nice contrast (I’ve always liked newsprint, etc., as a background).

Mightier than swords

What I Learned Last Writers’ Meeting (from an honest-to-God publisher of books)

So I belong to a local writer’s group called WriteOn! Pensacola.  Last week was the first time we had a guest speaker (Dan Vega, from Indigo Publishing).  I not only had a blast, but I learned a ton about what publishers are looking for (this one in particular).  I learned that I am totally okay with forfeiting my rights–I still win.  I get my book published, make money, a movie based on it is made, generating more book sales, and I make even more.  However, if it is a bestseller, then it’ll be the one and only time I’ll do that.

I learned that this is a lady to check out:  http://peggymccoll.com/, and you must be involved on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter).  I consider this blog a bonus.

Some tips for submitting to a publisher:

Figure out your target age range within a 15 year mark (such as age 35 to 50 years old). Is it more male than female? Go as narrow as possible at first. (Really.)

Find out why people should read your book, so you know how to market it later.

How is a person different after reading your book? (You have to have a “vision” for your book.  This was really hard.  The only vision I’d had before was that it’d become a bestseller.)

Readers today want shorter books (we have 12 seconds–the attention span of a goldfish–to hook a reader).  Books between 125 and 175 pages Paperback, 8.5×11 Or 6×9 in size are recommended.

Self-help books, biographies, business books are easier to market than novels.  Cookbooks and children’s books are a bit harder to sell because of more time and less profit margin involved.

~

So, I attached my novel, “Because of Mindy Wiley”, to an e-mail to Mr. Vega and his staff at Indigo River Publishing, with these notes:

Genre:  Southern Gothic Horror

Word count:  220,000 (Book is naturally divided into three parts, so I would be willing to publish it as a series).

Audience:  Female, between the ages of 20-35; those who enjoyed “Flowers in the Attic” and “Peyton Place” would like “Because of Mindy Wiley”; also, former Mormons.

Vision:  To provide pure escapism while bringing awareness to how rigidly aligning with any religion can improve or diminish one’s life or the lives of others around them.

Online presences in which to promote book:

  1. Facebook account
  2. LinkedIn account
  3. sarahleastories.wordpress.com
  4. twitter.com/SarahLeaSales

The end.

Of course, I always think of something I should have included after I’ve hit send.  Though my book is primarily a Southern Gothic horror, there is also a light touch of magical realism (think Alice Hoffman) to it.