Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bumfuzzled Blogging

Bumfuzzled. I looked it up. It means confused or perplexed. That perfectly describes the look I see on the faces of new writers who have been told they should have a blog. Bumfuzzled.

Been there. Done that. So today I decided to share what I’ve learned about blogging. Not just any blogging. Blogging for the author… For the writer who wants to take the next step in his or her career… The person who wants to improve the craft or broaden that ever elusive platform.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on blogging. I have listened to experts on blogging, though. I am more of an expert in being bumfuzzled. But I’m working through it and happy to take you along on my journey.

Why blog? Initially, I thought blogging was a forum for people who needed to rant or “wax philosophical.” Yeah, right. Not me.

For authors a blog is more.

·      It is a place to practice the craft of written communication.
·      It is a place to build a sense of community with other writers.
·      It is a place to gain readers who like your style of writing.

Getting Started
When I was told I needed to blog, I didn’t have a clue about what to write. “Write about something you know about,” people told me. I had written Breathing on Her Own so I thought I should write something about the book. Let’s see. I could write a synopsis and maybe a character sketch or two. That gave me two posts. Maybe three.

Figuring out what to write about may be the hardest part of blogging. Ultimately, I decided to write about writing. I decided I was still close enough to the “first work” experience, I could share what I was learning. I also decided to draft my second novel as part of the blog. The blog held me accountable.

To get started I read everything I could about blogging and signed up for a free blogging course offered by +Jeff Goins. (I told you I knew some experts.) I began posting short paragraphs on my Facebook page on a regular basis to get used to the idea of weekly writing. Baby steps, yes. But steps in the right direction.

Finally, today I want to offer you some rules for blogging all authors should follow.

6 Rules (not guidelines) for Authors Who are Blogging:
1. Take Time with the Title- A title or book cover is the first look a reader has for your book. The same is true for your blog. It needs to be catchy, interesting, fun, and tweetable. Yes, tweetable. Your blog is a great place to practice pulling readers in with a title.

For example, a post I titled “Sidestepping Hoopla and Ducking Monkey Wrenches” received more hits and was tweeted and re-tweeted more than an earlier post called “Making the Calendar Work for You.” Enough said.

2. Proofread & Edit- I cannot emphasize this enough. I’ll not say my posts are always without error, but I do my best. If you are a writer, you should always proofread writing you intend to publish. Blogging is publishing. You don’t know who will read your post. Check your spelling. Check your grammar. I write my post in a word document and read it through carefully before I cut and paste it to my blog.

3. Maintain Consistency- If you are going to write a blog, plan to post at least once a week. I see a number of blogs with two or three posts a year! If you were hiring a worker, would you want someone who shows up so inconsistently? In effect, when a publisher gives you a contract, you have been hired. Be consistent. And remember, without that commitment, you will not be able to build a following.

4. Tell People You’re There- Invite readers to visit your blog. They can’t read it if they don’t know you are writing it. Announce it on your Facebook page. Tweet about it. Invite people from your email list. This is not self-promotion. This is simply telling people you know about something you’re doing. If you do a good job, they’ll decide to stick around. And they’ll tell their friends.

5. Share the Space- Invite other bloggers to post on your page. They will invite you to post on theirs. You will both benefit. You will both gain readers and name recognition for when you release that novel you’ve been writing. You can also review books for other authors and interview other writers. It’s not all about you. It’s about building community.

6. Engage Others in the Conversation- I have to admit, I am not the world’s best at this. I’ve been told to end each post with a question. I don’t always do that. I’ve had people email me with comments. I’ve had comments about posts made on Facebook. I don’t know if the comment section on this blog is awkward for some to use or if I need to adjust my writing.

Let’s experiment: What part of this post did you find helpful? Leave your comment below.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Useless, Broken, & Random

Remnants of Kendall's room.
Yeah, I know. She's over 30 now.
For the past week I have been involved in the process of purging every room in my house. Okay, actually one room in the house. But I have a plan for the rest. The room I chose to attack first we still refer to as “Kendall’s room” even though she is married and long gone.

Several years ago, I claimed it as my craft room. A craft room with a bed for when my grandchildren spend the night. Then I moved a table in to serve as my desk for writing (not ergonomically correct, but functional) and placed a large bookshelf in the space for my reference materials and extra supplies.

Over time, the room that once held dolls and stuffed animals and the giggles of a little girl has become a craft room/office/guest bedroom combination. In addition, the closet in Kendall’s room is where I store gifts and wrapping paper.

A bookshelf for writing.
The gift closet.
My writing table.

We intend to sell our house. I doubt anyone is in the market for house with a craft/office/guest room/gift closet combination. So I am purging. Out with the useless, broken, and random. And out with the stacks of paper.

I told my daughters I had items they may want.

When I offered my oldest some notes I had taken from a book on Attention Deficit Disorder, she was interested. But her reply? “Scan it, Mom, and send it. That way you get rid of the paper and I’ll have it on my laptop to use.”

When I suggested to my middle daughter I had books she may want for homeschooling my grandson, she had me read the titles and selected only a few. Obviously she didn’t inherit the book junkie gene.

When I informed my youngest, I had a few things for her and her daughters, she wisely asked me to run them by my oldest daughter first. “If I see them, I’ll want them, Mom. Let Allison take a look and see if this is something I need or will use.”

What does this have to do with writing? Everything. My writing is cluttered with useless descriptions, broken sentences and words, random thoughts, and reams of sentimental, hard-to-let-go-of words.

Last week, my guest author, R.A. Giggie, pointed out the need to edit our work carefully. If we cut words out of our manuscript, we don’t need to consider them lost. We can put them in a digital file to bring out later as needed.

As writers we need to be selective. We need to keep only our best words. Those that keep our story moving.

We can select a third party to help with the edits. If you see the words, you’ll want to keep them. Let someone else weigh in on whether or not you need them.

And in keeping with the theme, I came across a paper I had saved years ago. I thought it was clever. I’ll offer it here. Here alone. Then I’ll trash the paper. It’s part of the process of purging.

18 Rules for Good Riting
(taken from The Old Farmer’s Almanac, 1975)
            1. Each pronoun agrees with their antecedent.
            2.  Just between you and I, case is important.
            3.  Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
            4.  Watch out for irregular verbs which has cropped into our language.
            5.  Don’t use no double negatives.
            6.  A writer mustn’t shift your point of view.
            7.  When dangling, don’t use participles.
            8.  Join clauses good, like a conjunction should.
            9.  Don’t use a run-on sentence you got to punctuate it.
            10.  About sentence fragments.
11. In letters themes reports articles and stuff like that we use commas to keep a string of items apart.
            12. Don’t use commas, which aren’t necessary.
            13. Its important to use apostrophe’s right.
            14. Don’t abbrev.
            15. Check to see if you any words out.
16. In my opinion I think that an author when he is writing shoudn’t get into the habit of making use of too many unnecessary words that he does no really need.
17. And, of course, there’s that old one: Never use a preposition to end a sentence with.
            18. Last but not least, lay off clich├ęs.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Renee-Ann Giggie: Learning as an Indie Author

Today's post is by guest author, Renee-Ann Giggie. I first met Renee-Ann at a writing conference. We have remained friends via the internet. Her first novel, Stella's Plea is a quick and engaging read. Renee-Ann decided to enter the world of self-publishing, also known as independent or in the trade as "indie" publishing. For today's blog, I asked Renee-Ann to share her experiences as an indie author.

Meet R.A. Giggie

As a teen, in the mid-seventies, I wrote for fun. Fast forward to 2010. Still writing just for fun, I decided to enter the NaNoWriMo challenge (National Novel Writing Month).
I wasn't a published author, nor was I planning to become one. Little, did I know, where this journey would take me. I fell in love with my characters, and wanted to do something with my story. After working with a professional editor, I ended up self-publishing Stella's Plea (2012). This brings me to my first point:

  • Never do all the editing on your own. As we edit/rewrite several times, we stop seeing the typos, grammatical errors, and sometimes even the discrepancies. If you don’t already belong to a critique group, join one.
  • Ask people to proofread your work. Learn not to take a critique personally. They’re not saying it’s bad, simply that it can be improved.
  • Do your homework before you decide to go traditional or indie. I chose self-publishing for different reasons, totally ignorant of the road ahead of me. It can be rewarding, but extremely demanding and time-consuming.
  • If you choose to take the indie road, you need to know how to market your book, otherwise it will be a long journey.
  • Don’t wait until your book is published. Learn to how market, even if the release is only six months away. Start promoting now.
  • Here’s a book to help you get started, especially if you’re new at this. It might be the best tool you ever invest in. It certainly was for me. How I Made Over $42,000 in 1 Month Selling My Kindle ebooks by Cheryl K Tardif. It is available as an eBook on Amazon.

Now let’s talk about Social Media/Networks
Available on Amazon. Click HERE.
  • Facebook and Twitter: Create an author page aside from your personal page, one that promotes/talks about your book, and where other writers can find you easily. Some writers add the word author or writer at the end of their handle to make it easier for others to find them. I used the name of my novel for my Twitter page, though I didn't know it wasn't recommended. It’s easier to find people with their name.
  • G+, Pinterest: People should be able to find you easily in these as well. I don’t spend as much time on these two sites, but try to keep them up to date by sharing writer-friends’ novels on Facebook, Twitter, G+ and Pinterest. Word of mouth goes a long way and what you do for most, they’ll do for you.
  • LinkedIn: I’m still getting used to this one, keeping it up to date, and conversing with other writers.
  • Author page/Blog: Your blog/website is one of the most important pages you will create, and it can also become the most influential if you use it right. It’s important to keep it current. I try to post once every week. The frequency depends on each writer. Those who work full-time (like me) may not have as much time to post weekly as those who get the luxury of staying home. (I wish!)
  • Read/Follow writing blogs, and leave comments. Not only will you learn a lot from them, but they will most likely do the same for you.
  • I saved the best for last! I can’t stress this one enough. Attend as many writers’ conferences as you can. Depending how close/far you live, and if there are any in your State, this can get costly. The good news is these costs are tax-deductible. I call them writing universities. You can’t put a price tag on education, or the strong bonds of friendship you’ll develop. Two great conferences I highly recommend are:
1.       Write to Publish, usually the first week of June, Wheaton College in IL.
2.    Mount Hermon in Felton, CA, is at the end of March/beginning of April.
There are many others all over the USA. These are an important part of our journey. We need to improve our craft. Because of the ever-changing world of social media, and technology, we need to keep up with the times.
Writing is hard work, editing is harder, promoting is hardest. But once you establish your name, and your readers like your books, they’ll be coming back for more.

P.S. Grab a copy of Stella's Plea on your Kindle reader Wednesday & Thursday (May 14 & May 15 for only $1.99. Buy it now. CLICK HERE to go to the page. Don't forget to leave her a review when you finish. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Don't Sell Yourself Short: Part 2

Previously: You have an agent. You have a publisher. You don’t need to market your book, right? Wrong. Even if you are with a large publishing house, you need to market your book. Or if freelance is your gig, you need to market yourself.

Today I’m sharing five more strategies I’m using in marketing Breathing on Her Own. These aren’t new and exciting. They are tried and true. (For the previous five see last week’s post dated April 30, 2014)

Giveaways- Giving away a copy of your book stimulates interest. So far I have offered two giveaways. The first was when I received my first shipment of books. I took a picture, posted it on FB and asked people to repost it to their friends. Was it successful as a marketing tool? I think so. According to my calculations over 7500 people not on my friend’s list learned about the book through this strategy. I drew one person’s name out of the hat (literally) and sent her an autographed copy of the book. I included a sheet of paper with ideas of ways to share information about the book. The woman who won the book, in turn, posted a picture on Facebook of the book when she received it in the mail with a comment and ultimately, put a review of the book on her blog. Pretty cool. What would I have done differently? For an even broader audience, I should have posted the giveaway on my author page and with some of my other Facebook groups. I’m learning.

The second giveaway was on Goodreads. I’m still learning that social media site for authors, but after the giveaway I know I gained several followers. I went from having fewer than a dozen close friends marking the book as a “want to read” to nearly 250 people I don’t know. I also received personal messages from people who entered the contest who didn’t win, but told me they were going to order the book anyway. I was fortunate to have someone from my publishing house who knew how to set up the Goodreads giveaway, but it is something any author can do alone.

Postcards- I thought about creating postcards around the same time I decided to have my daughter design the bookmarks. I wasn’t totally sure how I might use them. Then, a few weeks ago I received two postcard mailings from real estate agents in our community. Both had great pictures on the front and information about how to contact them. Both featured homes on the market in our area. One agent, however, took the time to write a personal note. All she said was “If you should decide to sell in the near future, I hope you’ll consider me to represent you.” She hand addressed it, too. Okay, maybe she had a party of friends or coworkers writing them out, I can’t be sure, but having the more personal message did the trick. It told me she already knows where I live. She cares about me. She’s not pushy. I like her. I saved the card. I don’t have my postcards yet. When I get them, I won’t be doing a mass mailing. But I do think sending a personal message to a librarian, a book club, or a small group who may be interested in my book is worth the postage.

Have guests sign-in for your event.
Personal Appearance Events- By events, I’m talking about book signings, speaking engagements, a book club meet and greet and so forth. I have held one such event and have several scheduled. It may sound old fashioned to some, but I know me. I am a people person. I like interacting with other people. I’m convinced that people I personally meet will be some of my best word-of-mouth advertisers. My evidence? Four of the events have been organized by people who know me, read my book, and are excited to help. They set up these events for me.

What I’m doing to make sure this is effective? I’m asking people to sign-in at these events, giving me their name and email address. I’m sending them a thank you for attending. I’m asking them to “like” my author Facebook page (You can, too, by the way…I’m listed as RebeccaWatersAuthor), and I’m offering them guidelines on how to write a review.

I’ve only had one such event to date, but it was successful and garnered several book purchases, reviews, and more importantly, created a buzz about the book. Tonight, I will be at a second event at a community called “The Farm” in Myrtle Beach. I also have two booked at libraries and one at a church. Several others are in the works.

Website- I was encouraged by my publisher to have a website. This is way out of my range of knowledge, skills, and abilities. I could learn. In a year or so. I could have prevailed on my husband to give it a try, but there would still be a learning curve with which to contend. I put the word out on social media that I needed some advice. It turns out I have several friends who are into web design. Who knew? One of them volunteered his efforts. Yes…VOLUNTEERED. I won’t say it is complete, but it is usable and is developing. We decided to put it out there and learn as we go about what it needs to help market books. You can check it out at

Interviews-Guest Blog Posts-Blog Reviews-One strategy to gain new readers is to work with other writers and readers who have blogs. These can take many forms. For Molly Jebbers’ blog, it was an on-line interview. I was the guest author for Tamara Lynn Kraft’s blog, Word Sharpeners. And Susan Baganz, whose book review blog is called Silygoos, featured a review of Breathing on Her Own around its release date. Each type of post gives readers a chance to get to know me better and to hear about my book. My personal goal is to have at least four such posts each month for at least the first six months.  So far, so good. I was the featured author for a week for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) site, I’ve had several reviews, and several opportunities to guest blog.

And of course there’s this blog where I shamelessly self-promote Breathing on Her Own available now through AMAZON or BARNES & NOBLE.

Yes, I know. That’s really 11 ways to market a book…but who’s counting.