Monday, September 29, 2014

Agency Lessons: A grain of salt

There is a lot of rhetoric in the publishing world these days. There probably always is, but it's easy to focus on the now and the fact that the current industry has more drama than a middle school girl's locker room.

If you are new to publishing (and possibly if you've been around forever) it can be confusing to wade through these trouble waters and get an idea of what is best for you and your career. So I have two pieces of advice today for writers at all stages of their career to help understand all that's going on.

Rule #1: Everyone has an agenda

Every single person has an agenda and remembering that can make it easier to put opinions into perspective. The author decrying the devaluation of books by self-publishers has an agenda. The Indie press claiming that publishers are only good for taking advantage of writers has an agenda.

Shoot, even I have an agenda! The more informed authors are about the industry the more realistic expectations they have when they get to me and the better queries they will write. This makes my job easier. Also, the bigger my platform, the more writers know about me and the more talented writers I have to pick from in finding more clients.

Everyone has an agenda. That doesn't mean you should automatically dismiss everything you read. But it does mean you shouldn't blindly believe it all either.

Rule #2: Success does not depend on failure

Just like an author can succeed without shoving down and stepping on other authors, so can all the publishing businesses. That's why I always get antsy when professionals start throwing dirt at each other. For example, a small indie publisher should be able to draw talented writers to their press without the need to trash traditional publishing. On the same lines, a traditional publisher should be able to push their authors' books without belittle the efforts of self-publishers.

When a "professional" talks more about how they are different and better than the other guys than what they can do for you as an author, run! Run quickly in the other direction and don't look back.

There is room in this industry for everyone and there is no One True Path to book success. Everyone will do something a little different and your mileage may vary. Don't let anyone else tell you that the road you're walking is going in the wrong direction. Stay your course and all those other road/travel/destination cliches.

There is a ton of information out there and I truly believe the online writing community is an amazing blessing to authors working toward joining the world of professional publishing. But, like everything else, the plethora of info can be dangerous if not tempered with a little common sense. Take it all with a grain of salt and you'll be doing fine.

My monthly newsletter goes out tomorrow and I'll be asking you guys to weigh in on something kinda cool coming up. So if you haven't signed up yet, what are you waiting for? Plus, you'll get a free copy of my DIY Blog Tour guidebook. I call that a win-win.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hey, Sarah: Representing the Self-Published

Today I'm talking about gorilla snot and self-published books. Yeah, you're gonna want to see this!

Friday, September 26, 2014

When Tweets Go Bad

Twitter is awesome. I love engaging with my favorite authors, learning about new books and scanning headlines for relevant info. Sadly, I see a lot of really bad tweets (and based on your responses to my random twitter poll, so do you). 
Buy links and hashtags galore can spoil a great tweet, but we all still want to use twitter to reach our readers. Right? Today I'll take 9 examples of twitter at it's worst and offer up some suggestions on better ways to use social media without turning off the people you are most trying to woo.

1. Follower Plea
Example: Only 5 more followers until 1,000! I'll do a giveaway when I get there. :) #authors #readers

Instead: My followers are awesome! How about a random giveaway to say I Love You!

Having more followers on Twitter or Facebook is not going to sell you more books. And that's because, say it with me, Social Media is not a sales platform. Social media is there to be social and engage. Your followers aren't going to feel very engaged if it seems like all you care about is numbers. Instead, provide interesting content that your readers want to enjoy and engage in random acts of appreciation. 

2. Hashtag Overload
Example: Wohoo! My book releases today! #yabooks #ebook #books #reading #readers #fantasy #nerdgirl

Instead: Wohoo! My book releases today! #yabooks

There will be some that say this tweet is inappropriate, but I disagree. You get one day to be a little book happy and that is release day. That's it. But it won't take much to push your occasional book tweet into spamville. Overloading your tweet with hashtags is a sure fire way to do it. Plus, some experts suggest that the more blue in your tweet (from @names, links and hashtags), the less likely someone will stop skimming to read it.

3. Firing Into the Wind
Example: Want an ARC of my newest book, MY BOOK? Sign up here!

Alternate tweets in this category "Want to be a part of my blog tour? Sign up here!" and "Want to be on my street team? Sign up here!"

Instead: Wohoo! Check out this shiny box of ARCs. Time to hit the post office! #Bloggers

Tweets like this are just all kinds of bad. First, it looks desperate, as if you couldn't find enough people to review your book or be on your street team, so as a last resort you'll take anyone from twitter. Second, you're going to end up with anyone from twitter. Not that you should be stingy with your review copies, but which do you think is better? Giving a copy to a carefully selected blogger in your genre or Handing one out to any Tom, Dick or Sally on the internet who wants a free book? Build up relationships with the good folks on twitter. Then provide a place on your book page for blogger to request a review copy if they are interested.

4. Random quote is random
Example: "She held him tight, but knew it wouldn't last"

Instead: Let a picture do the talking

A quote can be great, but most of them are meaningless out of context. Plus there isn't enough there to draw in a casual reader. Instead, take an appropriate quote, photoshop it onto an image that gives more meaning to the words, make it a link to your book page and post it.

5. Linkapalooza
Example: Yeah, my book!

Instead: Finally! My precious has arrived

No one said that you can never tweet about your book. But on the rare occasion that you do, don't scare off readers with a dozen different links. Instead direct readers to the book page of your website where they will easily find all the various online retailers' buy links (because you'll have them there, front and center, right?).

6. You'll be sorry you followed me
Example: @newfollower, thanks for the follow. Be sure to check out my newest book 

Instead: @newfollower, thanks for the follow. What your favorite book of 2014? 

People don't follow you on twitter to hear about your next book unless you're JK Rowling or George RR Martin. They followed you because they saw something they liked and would like some more of that, please. Don't hit them over the head with a buy link. Start a conversation and start connecting. Your website is in your bio (it is, right?) so they can find your book when they're ready.

7. Tweetchat interloper
Example: Great questions tonight! Be sure to check out my new adult suspense, GUNPOINT. #MGLitChat

Instead: Great questions tonight! Being a MG author is the best! #MGLitChat

One of the great things about twitter is that you can join in all these amazing conversations and learn so much. And people there are usually happy to have a new face join the conversation. But that warm welcome will be met with an immediate spam report if you jump into a group and start promoting your book. Make connections, be a part of the conversation and learn from others. These tweetchats are not the place to sell your book.

8. The "helpful" author
Example: Check out NEW BOOK by @MyFriend 
Followed immediately by twenty identical tweets each with a new friend and book link.

Instead: I never saw the plot twist coming. My review of  adult fantasy NEW BOOK by @MyFriend 

Writers are such a helpful bunch. We are so great about giving each other a pat on the back or a helpful hand. But your friends do not want you to spam on their behalf, regardless of your best intentions. Instead of throwing these tweets at the world. Write a meaningful review on a major site and then share those judiciously with your followers.

9. The never ending story
Example: OMG! I am so totes excited to tell you guys my really big news. I've been saving this up for the past few weeks and it's killing me...1/15

Instead: Major announcement! I just signed with XYZ publisher for my debut novel!!!

Keep your tweets to 140 characters (preferably under 100 so others can RT easily). If it needs to be longer then use another medium such as FB or your blog. You are fine to do a tweet that links to one of those platforms, but the whole story should not be a long series of tweets. Twitter is a great practice tool for writing concisely.

 Thanks to everyone for your great examples during my random poll. However, I'm sure we missed a few. Feel free to add any bad twitter behavior you've witnessed (keeping it all anonymous, of course) in the comments. Together we can all make twitter a more magical place to waste time online. :)
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