Five Things Every Writer Should Know About . . . Facebook.

When I thought up this series last year, I had a love hate relationship with Facebook, but over the last little while, between what’s happened with them in the last few months, to the fact that it really doesn’t help writers other than provide a time suck, I no longer suggest Facebook for authors, but it’s still worth a look so here are Five Things Every Writer Should Know About Facebook.

1 – Facebook is a time suck. Unfamiliar with that term? It just means you can waste hours scrolling through posts of your friend’s cat pictures, silly game promos, and the never-ending barrage of meme posts. Facebook, like all other social media platforms, does NOT sell books, and quite frankly, there’s nothing you can do on it that you can’t do on the others. The ONLY reason I’m still on it is because of the friends I’ve made.

2. Facebook does not sell books. There have been numerous posts regarding their paid post promos, but I haven’t heard anything good. Only that they got the author’s money, and the author didn’t get anything in return. I had an author page and was constantly bombarded with requests from Facebook to promote my latest post for a few dollars. I never fell for it because the information I saw from other authors who did, didn’t impress me.

3. Algorithms – Facebook’s algorithms are notorious – good and bad, but it’s the same with any program that uses them. You just have to understand how they work. It takes some time, but you can manipulate them to show you what you want, but you must be vigilant about it. One slip and you can go spiraling down a rabbit hole.   

4. Keeps you connected – the ONLY reason I still have Facebook, is to keep connected with friends. That’s it. I don’t use it for anything else. I had an author page, but I would forget to update it, or my posts weren’t being seen by the amount of people it claimed were following. This is where they make you pay to get your posts ‘seen’ in more places. Personally, if they would just put it up in the feeds of people who followed it, I’d have no problem.

5. Groups: Facebook groups are another plus for this platform. There are groups for just about everything, and it comes with it’s only good/bad points. Social media is about connection and connecting, and at the beginning of its life, Facebook was great at that, but somewhere in the last decade it’s descended into becoming one of Dante’s levels of hell. Which is sad because connection is a cornerstone for authors to sell books.

Facebook groups and connecting with friends is about the only good thing about this program, and I may just write a post on it.

Is there anything you’d like to add to this list? Some aspect about Facebook (good or bad) that I’ve left out?

Of Writers and Prose: Ten years as a published writer.

September marked a full decade that I have been published. So much has changed in the last ten years, and yet a lot has not.

I self-published The Watchtower in September of 2011 because it was too short of a story for agents or publishers. I knew that from the beginning, and I thought it would be an interesting experience to do it all myself. Self-publishing was still quite new and there were a bunch of us who decided not to go the Trad route. It felt oddly liberating to be a part of such a big change in the industry. Authors did well, some even made enough that they could write full time. Maybe that was the lure, but it seemed as though over-night the self-publishing world exploded, and everyone was publishing books.

I put out six books in five years. I experimented with paperback and distribution channels. I have publishing accounts with three different places so I could cover the most ground, and I NEVER, NOT ONCE, put all my books solely in one place. I’ve never seen it as a smart move. Why limit yourself to one market? Yes, I know there’s a Kindle app for Android, but why not just put your book in as many different places as you can? Especially when it’s free to do so?

I experimented with promotions and advertising. I remember when anyone could get into BookBub, but now you have to offer your first born to get a spot. There was the ‘first book in a series for free’ craze, bundle craze, blog hops, rafflcopter, just to name a few. There were a few nefarious schemes like ‘I’ll give you a good review if you give my book a good review’, and downright nasty practices by authors who would get their followers to gang up on another author. It’s the main reason why I don’t go onto Goodreads anymore.

I saw Traditional Publishers scoff at ebooks, then embrace them. Articles about how print books were dying off, then coming back, then dying off again. Same articles were written for ebooks as well. Ten years ago, there were the Big Five publishing houses – Random House, Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon and Shuster, Hatchet, and Macmillan. There were few indie publishers’ and self-publishing was seen by many as ‘vanity’. There are a lot more indie publishers now, many geared toward specific genres, which makes it easier for reads and authors alike to find their audience, and self-publishing is seen as a legitimate career path.

A cottage industry has blossomed around publishing. There are so many editors offering their service, graphic designers doing cover art, and with audio books, voice actors are lending their talent to the author. With an influx of hopeful authors and the possibility of making good money, there were a lot of book scams too. A few scammers would create ebooks so when you got to a certain page (usually the second or third page) it would jump to the end and count as read. These and other scams took a lot of potential money away from real authors, and that’s when I decided to step back for a while.

This is where I am now. Six years after my last release and I feel the need to put something new out. I keep talking about my novels, but I never seem to really do anything with them. I believe it’s time to change that.

Five Things Every Writer Should Know About Twitter.

This post might seem generic or even obvious, but I feel it’s good to remind people just what this platform can do, and try to make it less intimidating. One of the fastest, and most prolific forms of online communication, Twitter came onto the social media scene in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2010 that it exploded. Since then, it has become one of the main ways people get a lot their information—good and bad, and a wonderful way for authors to connect with readers and other authors.

If I had to list in order, the platforms authors should be on, Twitter would be second (a blog being first). Because it’s written, it’s the next logical step for any author who wants to build their online presence, and agents along with publishers are looking for a strong presence, but it can be contentious as well. It’s a good way to expand your author platform: For the new writer, Twitter is the first step into a very large pond. With the majority of posts in real-time, you can get an almost instant feel for the publishing world through this medium. Agents, authors and publishing houses post daily and the best thing, you can interact with them. With all the pros and cons of the platform I’ve put together things every writer should know.

1. Automated Tweets: This is a must for writers when you’re promoting your work. It’s great for when you’re at work or reaching an audience that is awake when you’re asleep. Consistency is everything and automated tweets can help.

2. It’s a simple to use: Sign up, and start tweeting. That’s it. There is a Twitter phone app that allows you to post from anywhere you are. A great thing if you want to give short updates from conventions.

3. Hashtags: Connecting to hashtags allows authors to pinpoint their audience to understand what it is that they’re looking for. Every genre has it’s own hashtag and with apps like Tweetdeck, you can follow as many as you want.

4. Can connect to other social media platforms: Along with automated tweets, being able to connect all your platforms is a time saver. Twitter can connect to most blog programs, allowing your followers to discover another side of you.

5. It’s addictive: Like all social media, you can lose track of time. Not a good thing to be doing if you have other things to do. Some people set aside a certain amount of time to scroll, which is a good idea, especially if you’re at work.

What are some things you like/dislike about Twitter, or is there anything I should add?

Of Writers and Prose: Writing fads come and go, but a good story lasts forever.

The popularity of some genre’s come and go like the ebb and flow of tides. One year vampires are all the rage, and then something else comes along and knocks them by the wayside—but only for a short time, because everyone knows that vampires are immortal, and so is the genre. There’s just one problem; you don’t have a vampire novel to publish, and therefore miss out on the popularity and sales.

Welcome to writing fads, and there’s a few problems. One is having characters exactly like the characters of other stories. Some tropes are a necessity of the genre, but you can always tweak those to make them an original creation. What is it about your characters that make them stand out from others in the same genre? What quirk about them could you explore or enhance? Do they have an interesting habit, good or bad? Small things like this can create interesting plots that could set your story apart from the others, and still be part of the genre.

Fads are something that come up rather quickly, one reason why they’re not really popular with Traditional publishers. Putting a book out with them can take months, even several years, and by the time your vampire story is ready, the moment has most likey passed. Self-publishers have a better chance with fad books, especially if you’re a prolific writer. Just remember, a bad book stays in the mind of readers just as much as a good one.

Writing to fads can be frustrating especially when you miss the current wave, or the market is already saturated, but these trends come in cycles and will return again and again, so don’t give up. Write that vampire, werewolf, or zombie novel, because the trend will return and when it does, you’ll be right there, ready to unleaseh your story on the world.

Five Things Every Writer Should Know About Blogging.

One of the first forms of social media, the blog has been a staple in social media process for nearly twenty years. You can read a short history of blogging HERE, and while articles pop up every few years or so on how blogging is dead, it really isn’t. The fact that many of the originals are still around is testimony to that, and I doubt very much that it’ll go away any time soon. Why? Because blogging is one of the easiest forms of social media, and with this in mind, here are five things every writer should know.

  1. Think outside the blog.

Blogging is a good way to connect with readers, expecially when you write about things OTHER than your work. Readers want a way to connect, either through shared experience, hobbies or lifestyle. Give that to them. You can go into as much detail as you want, but show them that there’s more to you than just a book.

  1. You don’t have to write out long, drawn-out posts.

The goal of every blogger is to have followers return again and again, and one of those ways is to keep the posts short. Several years ago I read an article that stated the average blog post should be around three hundred words, but that can be too short. I aim for anyting between 300 – 500 (FYI, this post is 498). That’s a good length, especially if you’re struggling to find something to write about. There’s nothing wrong with posts being longer, but short, inciteful post were found to be more popular.

  1. Being consistent is key, but don’t over burden yourself.

Keeping to a schule can be difficult, even with experienced bloggers. There are going to be days when you don’t feel like it, or can’t really think of anything to say. When this happens, take some time for yourself. Write fewer posts or take a break altogether. Creative burnout is a real thing and it can carry over to all aspects of your writing.

  1. Blogs are a good way to promote yourself and your books.

Look over other writer’s blog sites and you’ll see links to their work, or information on upcoming work. A blog is one of the few places that a writer can go into detail about their work to a captive audience. After all, they want to know about your books, otherwise they wouldn’t be clicking on your blog.

  1. Connect your blog to other social media to increase your message.

This is one of the easiest ways to maximise your reach. With many social media sites you can save time by connecting them together. Instagram can connect to Twitter and Facebook. TicTok can connect to Instagram and Twitter, and reaching more people with interesting content will draw more people to the places where you’re selling your books.

There you have it, 5 things every writer should know about blogs.

Of Writers and Prose: To swear or not to swear.

Like most people, the odd swear word escapes my mouth every now and then. Okay, who are we kidding, I swear on a daily basis, it’s just a natural thing for me, which is probably why most of my stories have it in them as well. For me, I feel that swearing is a part of a character’s personality, but to what degree and intensity is based on the personality traits of the individual character.

Swearing in stories shouldn’t be about creating shock value, there are other ways to accomplish that, but it should be consistent with your character’s persona. I realized this as I wrote the first draft of my magical realism story. It takes place in the 80’s, and back then, everyone around me swore to some degree, so I included it in the story.

It’s a given that the majority of the populations swears, but whether or not people want to read it in a story is another matter.

Swearing used to denote low intellegence or someone whom society deems an outcast, or someone with criminal or nafarious intentions, but that’s not always the case today. Swearing can be seen as an emotional outlet; a way for your charaacter to release anger or frustration, which begs the question, what happened to make your character so emotional that it caused the strong outburst?

Another view of character swearing; social interactions. Teens swear. Maybe you weren’t one of those when you were younger, but the majority of them do, and teen dialogue in your story can reflect that as much as you want, again, as long as the amount of swearing is consistent with the personality of your character.

As for adult swearing, you can be a little more sophisticated with them. Most adults tend to swear in a more private or intimate situations, as opposed to teens who can lack any descretion and swear anywhere they want. I find most adults swear out of frustration or anger and are less to use such words as an insult. Sometimes, it’s more of a habit than anything else, and the shock value of swearing decreases with age.

Whether or not you choose to put swear words in your dialogue is up to you, but if you’re going for realistic, it’s my feeling that you should have some. It doesn’t have to be the really ‘bad’ words, and if you’re not sure of how to go about it, listen to the flow of real conversations. More often than not, real-life examples will give you examples that you want to imitate.

Are NTF’s the Future of Ebooks?

I came across the acronym a few months back and had NO IDEA what it meant. When I did some research, the idea that this could be put to use for ebooks sparked a great blog post, but when I did more research, I found Huge Howey’s post on the exact same thing, and to be honest, his post makes it easier to understand not only what a NFT is, but how it can be used for creative compositions, and not just for ebooks. Go have a read.

The thing I like about his version is this, not only is it difficult for pirates to copy and profit, but if the book is sold to a third party, everyone in the chain of creating this ebook profits. I liken it to residuals actors/directors get from syndication of tv shows and movies. As Hugh points out, it’s not a lot, but at least it’s something.

On the down side, NFT’s are like Cryptocurrency and take a lot of energy to create. Considering how environmentally unfriendly bitcoin production can be, I’m not sure how sustainable this really is. Publisher’s Weekly did an article on it as well, and it brings some doubt as to whether this is just a fad or an investment.

I am ALL FOR any way that keeps illegal downloads from taking money from the creator, but not at the expense of the environment, therefore, I am on the fence about this.

Read the articles. What do you think?

Five things Every Writer Should Know: Social Media.

I want to continue with the discussion from a few Mondays ago about social media.

The ‘experts’ state writers are to spend a certain amount of time blogging, tweeting and Facebooking about our book(s), and that it has to be ‘organic’, especially when it comes to Twitter. Problem is, the majority of writers have other things to do during the day, myself included. Goals like this can be a little hard to obtain, but it can be accomplished if you have a solid understanding of exactly what social media is.

Social media is the umbrella term used for online programs that connect people. World-wide there are roughly 15 or so popular platforms (depending on region), that encompass three forms of media; print, video, and picture. While many writers think social media is a pain, it is a necessary evil for this industry, but it can go a little easier if you understand a few things.

So here we go; five things writers should know about social media.

  1. It doesn’t have to be time consuming. 

Did you know you can schedule your posts on a majority of platforms? Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook have options that allow you to schedule, which means you can write out a pile of posts to schedule, which allows you to be consistent with your activity. This is a wonderful tool for writers and should be used all the time and takes some pressure off.

  • Post don’t have to be long. 

 I read an article years ago which stated that the perfect blog post length is around three-hundred words. This is mainly for blog posts, as Twitter already has a character limit. The shorter post are easier on the reader, who may subscribe to dozens of blogs and only a short time to read through them all. I keep mine between three to five hundred words (this one ended up being close to 700) depending on the topic, but it’s a good thought to keep in mind for other platforms as well. I consider short posts a lesson in creativity. Trying to convey what you want to say in as few as possible is a skill on its own.

  • Only do the platforms that you are comfortable with.

There are at least a dozen social media sites on the internet and each has its pros and cons, so do some research before you make an account. What is it you want to do? What kind of content do you want to create? More importantly, how much time are you willing to put into it. Video platforms are time consuming and require a modest amount of money for equipment or programs, while blogging sites are the easiest and require very little in the way of creating content other than writing.

  • There are rules.

Yes, whether you like it or not, there are etiquette rules for social media. Remember, just because you delete something online, doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. Think about what you want the world to see. The link below will take you to a site that can explain it better than I ever can.

  • Have fun!

I can’t stress this point hard enough. More than once I’ve stopped doing something online because it became more of a chore than something I looked forward to doing. Hence the reason I haven’t blogged a lot in the last few years. All these platforms are great to connect to people, but they do require some of your time to maintain. You have to want to do it, and have fun while you’re doing it. If it starts to lose it’s appeal or you just don’t feel like doing it anymore, that’s fine. Give yourself a break from it. As a writer, social media is important. Authors need a way to get the word out about new releases, and these platforms are the only way to do it, especially for new writers. This is why I suggested in #3 to only work with a few to start with.

There you have it; five things every writer should know about social media. Join me next week when I take a deeper look at blogs.

Have fun, and stay safe.

Of Writers and Prose: Social Media for Authors.

I can hear you all groaning from here.

Social media; the bane of every writers existence, but one of those things that we all need to do, whether we like it or not.

I wrote this post based on my experiences over the last decade with many social media platforms new and old. Whether or not it’s scientific, I don’t know, but this is the conclusion that I’ve come to. Take it or leave it, it’s up to you.

Social media keeps us ‘seen’ in the publishing/writing world, the one thing that all writers need in order to sell our books. Now, don’t get me wrong, Facebook and Twitter and all the others DON’T sell books, but keeping ourselves visible whether by posting those cute cat photos, retweeting someone’s book promotion, or making that quick video about absolutely nothing, keeps us engaged with our audience and in the end, it’s that engagement we need.

Why do we need it? Because, my friends, THAT is what sells books.

When you retweet another writer’s book promo, publish a blog entry, or make that cute video, you’re creating/manipulating the algorithms that all these sites use. Have you ever noticed when you watch something on YouTube, and suddenly there’s are a pile more videos just like the one you watched? That’s the algorithm working. Content IS the key to algorithms. It’s the reason the majority of how-to sites for social media specifically state that you should post on a regular basis? Because you’re creating the algorithm that will allow a potential audience to find you.

When someone clicks on your social media site, more of your content will appear on whatever platform they are using. If you post regularly, even as little as once every two weeks, you are actively engaging with the platform and it will recommend your site and more of your content. Don’t believe me? Click on a YouTube video and see how many more of the same type show up on your feed. (I’m using Youtube as an example because that’s the one that moves the fastest.) Click one video on say ghost pictures, and Youtube will list a dozen or more other channels with ghost pictures, or more content from the channel you watched.

That’s the algorithm in action. That’s what you need to harness.

Each platform is different and it takes a bit of time to figure out how each one works. TicTok is similar to YouTube with its algorithm, but I think Facebook is the slowest. Twitter goes by who you already follow, so the key is finding the followers, but that’s a topic for another post.

Engagement is the key, not just you putting out content, but you engaging with others, and it doesn’t have to be for hours at a time either, but you need to identify what works best for your and that includes how much time you’re willing to give. Remember, it’s called ‘social’ for a reason, and yeah, I can still hear you all groaning.

Five things Every Writer Should Know. Period.

I’ve been writing for a solid twelve years, and I’ve hung around the writing community for about fifteen. A lot has happened in those years, and no matter how many things come and go, they always stay the same. Every year, new writers enter the writing world and are bombarded with things they should do, shouldn’t do, maybe should do – well, you get the picture. I’m here to tell you, with all the experience and knowledge I’ve gained in the last ten years, or more, there are five things that every writer should know. Now some of this is just common sense, but it doesn’t hurt to restate them every now and then.

  • Writing fads come and go.

Remember that vampire craze a few years back? Remember how everyone was writing about them and you couldn’t swing a rope of garlic without hitting a book that had vampires? Just replace vampires with werewolves, zombies, witches, ghosts, and it can feel like the publishing world is getting a bit crowded with the paranormal, but don’t fret. What comes around goes around, and if you have a paranormal novel with any of the above and you feel it won’t be seen, wait a few years. These tropes never go out of style and there’s a reason there are so many-because they’re popular and have a very large following. Keep writing that book, and when it’s done, do your research. If you feel the time isn’t right put it away and wait for a time when it is.

  • Never compare yourself to another writer

This should be a no-brainer, but it needs to be said. All writers have that internal voice that nags at them and tells them they’re not as talented as (insert author here), or why aren’t your books or your career doing as well as (?). I’ve fallen victim to it myself several times and it’s a real pain in the ass to ignore too, but you have to. You have to tell that little voice to fuck right off. Negativity like that can damage your creative energy. Once you start thinking you’re not as good as so-in-so, you begin a spiral that eventually pulls you away from the passion you have for not just your story, but for writing in general.

  • Agents talk to each other.

Yes, they do. Frequently. They talk to each other and about all sorts of things too; stories about how well their clients are doing, upcoming novels they’re really excited about, and authors who have decided to be assholes and harass or belittle them.  If you harass an agent, you can damn well bet that other agents will not only know about it, but be keeping an eye out for anything you send.  Agents get hundreds of emails per day and the last thing they need is some writer giving them a hard time because that agent passed on their manuscript. I follow several agents and at least once a year I see posts from them about some wanna-be author taking their rejection personally. Please, be an adult about this. If an agent (or editor, for that matter) passes on your manuscript, yes it hurts, but it’s not the end of the world and not worth being labeled. Yes, you heard me right. You’ve marked yourself right from the beginning as being hard to work with, and trust me, NO ONE wants to work with that asshole.

  • Writing is HARD.

A decade or so, when self-publishing soared into popularity, everyone decided to write a book. Nothing wrong with that, but some soon learned that being an author isn’t easy, and neither is telling a good story. I get it. Writing is hard, but the difference between a writer and an author is how you handle that hardship. A new writer may look at other writers/authors and see how effortlessly they accomplish word goals, or publishing goals, or handle promotional work, etc, but I’m going to tell you that each and every writer has struggled with all of these at one time or another. The reason it looks so easy, is because they understand the nature of the beast. Writing is more than just telling a story, and promoting is more than just putting up a link to your novel. This is a business and it has to be treated like one. Learn as much as you can about your craft and everything that comes with it. The writing community is very supportive. Hook up with like-minded people, because the information they can give you is priceless.

  • How-To Books are Guidelines

This goes along with #4. Writing books are a wonderful place to start for the new writer. Hell, even seasoned writers can gain new insight into their writing with them. I have a few myself, but I’m well aware that what has worked for the authors might not work for me. In those instances, I tweak their information to work in my situation. For example, there’s a popular advice that states you should read for 4 hours a day and write for 4 hours a day, every day. I don’t have that luxury and neither do many of my writing friends, but I didn’t dismiss this advice. Maybe I can’t write or read 4 hours a day, but I can write for 30 minutes every other day. The fact is, I’m writing. I’m creating a writing habit that will help me move forward with my stories, and guide me through those days when putting words down is difficult.

So there you have it; 5 Things Every Writer Should Know. Period.

Take care and stay safe.

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