Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Wishing you all a safe and happy Easter! Be good to each other, laugh and be merry :)

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Under the flags

I can't help feeling, right at this moment that I'm a little bit lucky.

I work for an arts festival in one the cities in New Zealand and currently one of the other cities, Auckland, is holding their Arts Festival. My work has sent me up to view a few of their shows, and check out how their festival has been going.

I have a little downtime today, and althoguh the summer in New Zealand is drawing to an end, it is the most beautiful day in Auckland today. Blue skies, not a cloud in sight and the sun is beating down on me.

The festival I work for is going to be bringing down this incredible exhibit by one of New Zealand's contemporary artists, Tiffany Singh. Basically thousands of children participates in these workshops with Tiffany to create flags that reflect their hopes and dreams for the future. They're based on Tibetan prayer flags. They're then hung up in a mass installation so they plays are sending the hopes and dreams up to the sky.

Auckland has the exhibit as part of their festival and I am currently sitting underneath this installation of flags in a lounger with the sun streaming down between the flags.... and i'm writing my book.

This is how I define perfection. I wish you could all be filling up the other sun loungers, having a drink, listening to the music that is being played out over the square and working on your own novels.

It's days like this when I remember why I love New Zealand.

(C) Samantha's Bookshelf

(C) Samantha's Bookshelf

Friday, March 22, 2013

The buzzzz!

There is nothing like that buzz of sitting down at your computer and letting the words flow out. When you get past that block in your mind that's been preventing your story to come out, the feeling is so exhilarating. Then, of course, there is that incredible feeling of triumph you get when you finish each chapter. You deserve a pat on the back and a glass of wine!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Writers and Social Media - Blogs

I decided to combine these two topics because they're not as big as the previous two - Facebook and Twitter.


There's been a lot of debate in the past about about whether it is necessary or relevant for authors to have a blog. To be honest, I think it's up to each individual whether they want to upkeep a blog or not. It's challenging, that's no secret. It's hard to know what to write and how often to post, it's hard to find the time between the writing and for many of us, the full time jobs. One thing I would say is that if you're going to have a blog, it's important to use it. You don't necessarily need to post every week, but it's helpful if you can try to have something published on your blog every month.

For those who are committed to maintaining a blog, it's a great idea to get involved in the online writing community. I've posted in the past about how incredible and supportive they are, and there are plenty of writing and reading blog hops to participate in and you can really get to know some of the other bloggers out there and develop some great friendships. (I'm assuming most of the people reading this are already part of the writing community anyway already know how great you all are ;-) )

But what do you say on a blog? What do you write about?

Of course this is entirely up to you, but there are many ways to develop your blog, and this can depend on where in the writing cycle you are.

You can talk about books you've been reading, you can study the reading and writing news and provide a social commentary on it (almost like an editorial), you can talk about your book or your writing process, you could talk about how you edit a book or how you formulate ideas, you could talk about what motivates you and gets you in the mood. You can see what others are blogging about and provide responses or, particularly if you've had a book published, you can blog your tips and tricks for writing. A person who I think has done this particularly well is Veronica Roth, who regularly blogs with great advice about ways to write a novel and ways to edit. Of course these tips won't work for everyone because this very much depends on the type of person and writer you are. Whereas for me, Veronica's personality and creative process is very similar to mine, so when I first began to get into writing I read every single post she had published on her blog and took on board all the tips and tricks she was sharing with her followers.

Another way to use your blog is to run competitions. I've come across many writers running competitions from their blogs and it certainly is a great way to discover new writers. One person who has done this particularly well is Jessica Khoury. In the lead up to Origin being released she ran a competition through her blog (smart because you can't run them through Facebook) and she tied it in with real world events - The 2012 London Olympics. She called it the Origin Olympics. You had to complete tasks which would see those entering the competition to change their Facebook and Twitter profile picture to the cover of Origin. This meant the picture of the book cover was all of social media. She also had people tweeting about the competition - getting the name of the book and the link to the competition out there, and she had people posting about the competition and the upcoming release of the book on their blogs. Jessica is an avid Pinterest user, and she had a folder of great images which she then had those entering the contest to write short 500 word stories to go with the picture. Such a great idea. The competition spanned over all the social media sites and got Origins name out there into the great wide world of Cyberspace.

So there are various ways you can utilise your blog. Again, as with Facebook and Twitter, I would recommend you ensure you have the comment section turned on on your blog and to respond to comments that come through. It's nice for people to hear their words are being heard. Similarly, go to other blogs and comment on what others are posting about. Not only will it expand your knowledge in this industry, it will allow you to make connections and may give you some ideas of what you can write about on your blog.

There are of course other social media sites you can utilise to your advantage - Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, however they're all pretty self explanatory. Use Pinterest to develop photo boards of your story. Find inspiration from the images that come up in your photo feed. Use YouTube to post small clips of your life or you talking about your book, or answering fan questions, and use Instagram to document the noteworthy things that happen in your daily life.

I hope all this talk of social media has helped and given you some ideas of how you can run your own social networking sites!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Writers and Social Media - Twitter

Recently I posted an entry about how using social media can be a very powerful tool for marketing yourself. I talked about Facebook and the ways in which you can use it to really connect with your fans and to marketing yourself and your writing.


Now I'm going to talk about Twitter. Twitter is an interesting one because it's not as widely used as Facebook yet in a sense it can almost be more powerful. A single tweet on this social media platform can gain you huge reach. If a few influential people or organisations, or followers with many followers of their own, retweeted you, you could be hundreds of thousands of people seeing your tweet.

Twitter is also a great place to engage with your followers. If people have questions or comments about your book you can communicate with them easily, and safely. If one of your followers is a huge fan of your work, and they tweet you to tell you so, then you reply to them, you could quite possibly make their day. Heck, you could even make their year! You can use Twitter to create a real discussion within the platform and to build a real loyalty from your followers to you and your novels.

If you can get into people's twitter streams regularly, your name will be out there. You will get to the top of their list and stay in their mind. That's why frequency on Twitter is super important. When you post a tweet you may only have a minute of two before your tweet has disappeared off the feed of your followers. Especially if your followers are following hundreds of people. This is why you need to post on twitter numerous times a day. Not only do you need to post your own statuses but it's a very good idea to respond to any tweets that are directed immediately at you, and if possible, to even jump into other conversations that you see happening around you. That way you're spreading your name around, and it's quite likely Twitter lurkers who haven't heard of you before, may see your name of the feed of someone you're talking with, check out your twitter profile and then consequently check out your book.

Twitter is a great way to run competitions - especially competitions that involve retweeting one of your tweets, or that involve tweeting a message that includes your twitter handle (@author) and a possible hashtag (#thenameofmybook).

Now Twitter is a great platform for communicating with your fans and followers, but it's limited to a sense so it must work alongside other channels to deliver your goals. To do this you have to think about ways you can integrate with Pinterest, your blog and Facebook. How can you use Twitter to drive traffic to your blog? How can you run a competition between Pinterest and Twitter? These are things you can think about to really utilise your various social media platforms.

You can hold really great author Q&A via Twitter. Getting your fans to send in questions and then answering them either on Twitter or by making a Youtube video that you can post on both Facebook and Twitter. You need to figure out how active your audience are. If you ask a question, do many of them respond? If so you'll be able to do great audience engaging activities with them, to really get them excited, but if not then you need to use a different tactic - a more one sided approach.

Twitter is still a great place to give the audience "behind the scenes" glimpses - photos of your printed out manuscript, or the mess of a desk you're trying to write your story at. And in terms of what you say on Twitter, it's a great idea to use an editorial calendar again, however as you want to be posting numerous times each day you may want to have basic generic ideas and then see what happens each day.

You need to again be human and genuine. Even more so than on Facebook. On Twitter it's almost like a commentary of your life. Do not use it to send every tweet promoting your book. Talk about the giant steak you ordered for lunch that was bigger than your head, mention the crazy lady on the subway, talk about the beautiful forest walk you're going on, or the fluffy new dressing gown you can now wear while you're typing out your book. If I was tweeting right at this moment I would talk about the creepy noises that are coming from my wardrobe. It's so very human, and people enjoy that. People like to know that you're just like them. People can relate. Other people might be hearing creepy noises inside the walls of their house, or want to tell me that with a fluffy new dressing gown should also be a steaming cup of hot chocolate. People like to be involved. It creates the feeling that you're friends, and who knows, you could be. I have met so many incredible people on Twitter, and it primarily started as a few exchanged tweets. Remember, if you're friends with your followers, or at least if you respond to them and talk with them, that will create loyalty.

Again on Twitter, as with Facebook, you want to support others like you. You want to encourage other writers, and congratulate those who just signed a book deal, and talk about the latest great book you've read. You want to join the conversation, and make new connections. Help those who need it - if someone is asking a question which you know the answer to, don't be afraid to jump in there and help them out.

So, the things that work well on Twitter

·         Transparency – Twitter is all about honesty. No bull. It's a place to be honest about who you are, what’s happening behind the scenes. The more honest you are, the more followers you'll have. If something goes bad on Twitter you need to face up to it. If there is a mistake in your book that people have picked up on, just acknowledge it. If you slipped up and made a mistake in one of your tweets, don't delete that tweet and pretend it didn't happen, just face up to it. You're being honest, and you're being real.

·         Responsiveness – It’s not just about tweeting things out but you need to answer questions that are being asked and being responsive. But also being alert about what is being said about you and what is being said about your book, where people have problems and issues out there. Being responsive and on top of it. 
·         Conversation – If you have a conversation, responding, talking to people and if you have personality come through, be playful and intriguing then those things work well on Twitter.
·         Personality
·         Playfulness
·         Intrigue
·         Frequency – Twitter has such a short lifespan because the newsfeed always is moving, they see your Tweet in a feed, in a list etc just passing through so you need to be frequent.
·         Brand consistency – Very important. Be consistent with who you are, what you stand for and your writing. Think of yourself as a business. How you market and project yourself is how you're marketing and projecting your business. 

Being active on Twitter is the only way to build up your community. So the more you talk, the more you'll show up on people's feeds.

So, if you're stuck on what to write, there are 9 different kinds of Tweeting types you can choose from

1. Questions – Ask questions of your followers. What are you doing today, what are you working on, what are you reading at the moment.
 2. Information Sharing - So share content that is not created by you but your audience can benefit from. Maybe it's the top 100 YA books of 2013, or maybe it's an article about the strength of your particular genre.
3. Solve others’ problems – Find questions, look what’s coming through the feed and find a question you feel confident to answer, then hop into the conversation.
4. Opinions – Sharing your opinion, giving people a unique insight into your head. Be careful not to offend though, unless you're going for one of those 'opinionated, controversial authors' titles!
5. Link promotion – Tweeting links out to your own content. Utilise what content you’ve got going on and link to it. This means linking to your website, your blog, your facebook page, interviews you've done with others, guest blog posts you've done etc.
6. Community highlighting – Highlighting people in the community who have great stuff going on. Shows you  to be very community minded because you don’t want to just be tweeting about yourself. 
7. Conversation – Watch what people are saying in the sector and just respond to it. For example, Random and Penguin House merge - see what people are saying and respond to a couple of people's tweets. Really get into the conversation.
8. RT-ing information – Reinforces your goal, and shows that you're not all about you and plugging yourself
9. Slice of life – real human stuff, what are you thinking about right now, post a picture of your mega sandiwch and talk about how you just don't know if you can eat it all.

Most important - do not have an automatic DM saying, thanks for following me, here's a link to my amazon page where you can buy my new book. Honestly, you will lose so many followers that way.

Finally, consider using a dashboard such as hootsuite or sproutsocial or other alternatives to help you manage your feed. You can also write a lot of tweets in advance and schedule them to be posted at certain times to ensure you're not falling behind in your writing because you've fallen down the rabbit hole of social media.

So there's my reasonably long rant on Twitter. Again, if you have any burning questions, do let me know and i'll do my best to answer them for you! I hope this has helped those of you who are a little stuck on the Twitter side of things, although I know so many of you are Tweeting superstars. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Writers and Social Media - Facebook

A few months ago I was having a chat with one of my writer friends about utilising social media in the best way possible. She said she wasn't sure of the best way in which to market herself over these platforms, she never knew what to write on her blogs, and she didn't want her entire twitter feed to be an advertisement for her book.

I've been in the marketing sector for a few years now, and I've been doing tons of social media marketing. Most of the people I've come across seem to have a relatively good handle on managing their social media accounts but I thought I'd just write down a few tips for those who aren't quite sure how they should be managing their accounts.

I'm going to start today with Facebook...


Facebook is probably the most popular social media platform and if you're a writer, chances are you'll have a 'like' page on Facebook. This is a really great place for connecting with your fans, giving them updates and including them in your authors life.

Facebook fans like to feel like they're part of things, they love getting little behind the scenes glimpses and being treated to a sneaky paragraph from your new book. Facebook is a great way to develop loyalty in your fans, and the best way to do this is to not freeze them out. They want to be included and acknowledged. Use your status updates to ask them questions, respond to comments they write on your wall - obviously if you have hundreds of comments coming in by the hour that's not entirely possible, but do the best you can. If you're responding to as many as you can then your fans will see you're really making an effort.

Encourage them to get involved, involve them in the decision making process when you can. If you have two covers to choose from and your contract will allow you to ask their opinion, then go for it. Ask them which cover they prefer. If you're writing a new book and struggling to come up with a name for your character, you could enlist their help? You might get some great ideas coming through. Your fans love to be involved in the creative process. Sure your publishers might change your characters name later, but in the meantime you've had this great brainstorming process with your fans.

Don't just post about yourself, post about other topics that your fans will care about, this might be something local in the news, this might be congratulating a fellow author on a movie deal, talking about the book you're currently reading that you love... these things are more than okay to post about.

Also make sure the content you're posting on your page is varied. You almost want your page to look like a magazine when you're scrolling down the page - photos, questions, videos, general status updates, links.

Make sure you're posting frequently. For Facebook you don't want to post too often and it depends where you are in terms of your writing - if you have a book coming out soon you're going to want to increase the frequency in which you're posting. You don't want to be posting too much in that you're spamming your fans newsfeed, but you don't want radio silence on your page. I would say four times a week would be okay unless you have a big launch on the horizon.

Even on days you're not posting, make sure you set aside some time each day to respond to comments on your page, and go around other common interest pages to 'like' and comment on their posts. By common interest pages I mean other authors and pages dedicated to certain books, and then book groups like I Love YA Fiction is on Facebook. Not only does this mean you're supporting others in the writing/reading community but you're getting out there more.

Be human! By this I mean make sure you're being real and genuine. Your fans do not want to see 101 posts telling them to go and buy your book. They want to know the person behind the book, which is why they're on your page in the first place. They want to see real human updates - "I just lost everything I was writing for the last hour! Never underestimate the power of 'save" and "Oops, I accidentally ate the entire packet of cookies... sorry, not sorry". - Whatever you're saying, be real. While they love your books, and love you're writing, it doesn't mean you have to be 100% focused on posts about your writing.

Now, to help you manage all of this you want to have some best practice guidelines.

Firstly, keep your posts succinct. Aim for between 100-200 characters. Nice and short. No one really wants to have to click that 'see more' button to read your five paragraph status update. KISS - Keep it simple, sweetheart.

Create an editorial calendar. This is a really great tool to have if you're pushed for time, or if you know you're going to be pushed for time. For example if you're in the editing phases or going on a book tour. Spend a few hours ahead of time making this calendar. Decide which days you'll be posting on. Plot out any key dates that you're aware of coming up - eg. Dad's birthday, book tour launches, a certain author's book is coming out. Then go through and create status updates for each of the days. Eg.

11th March - Post a photo of my writing space with the comment "Settling into my writing cave for the afternoon"

14th March - "Today is my Dad's birthday - Happy birthday to the most incredible dad a girl could have"

17th March - Post youtube video - "Check out the trailer for Minnie Mouse's new YA book, Cats"

21st March - Heading out on book tour tomorrow! Check out the link for our locations and times, and make sure you stop by to say hi!

23rd March - Take photo of book signing and post on Facebook with "Was really great to meet you all in Neverland today!"

You get the general gist. Where possible, plan ahead, create your calendar so you can keep up with Facebook and keep in touch with your fans.  It'd make life so much easier for you and will help keep you/your brand out in front.

Post at the right time. You want to experiment with this a little bit, but see what time your Facebook followers are most active. Then try and post your updates around that time of the day. That way you'll get more engagement in your posts and your posts will be more likely to appear in your fans newsfeeds. (Facebook have changed the visibility of pages in newsfeeds, so the more you're active on Facebook, the more visible you'll be. You can also encourage your fans to hover over the 'like' button and click the "Get Notifications" so they don't miss a single post)

Monitor Facebook insights to see the reach of your posts, and see what type of post is getting the most attention. Interestingly, photo posts receive 120% more engagement than the average post, so when possible include a photo with that status!

So that's about all I have to say on Facebook! I hope that's helped a little! Let me know if you have any questions and I'll do my best to answer them!

Ciao for now :)