Social Networking

Be Prepared

The Boys Scouts’ motto is “be prepared.” But I failed several times this year. What about you?

With the recent release of Ruth Ann Nordin’s and my anthology, Bride by Arrangement, published by Parchment and Plume, I realized I was not prepared.

(The anthology includes two novellas – Ruth’s The Purchased Bride and mine She Came by Train. The story is where two women meet on a train traveling from Virginia to Lincoln, Neb., in 1876. They live separate lives but keep in contact. The Purchased Bride is a mail-order bride story. Who is this quiet man Ada is to marry? Janet’s character, Opal, becomes a governess of a widower’s two children. Two men vie for her affections. She Came by Train will she return that way?)

But writing She Came by Train took many late nights and wee morning hours to finish. Because of this, I did not update my social-media sites before the anthology was released in e-book. I failed. My only salvation is all will be completed before the paperback Feb. 1 release.

Thus think ahead. If you have a book coming out, update your social-media profiles BEFORE your book is released. Doing so, acquaints people with you, your book and its cover, such as our anthology.

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One good thing I learned from Ruth is to publish excerpts of your work-in-progress on your blog and post on social media. Readers become acquainted with your work, and it entices them to purchase the product once done. This is an excellent marketing tool.

Also, respond to blog comments. In this way, you show you value the commenter’s input. Remember online interactions build relationships as do  personal ones.

How else can you be prepared? Goals help. Some people do longterm goals, such as when a book will come out and more. I do a little of this but not as intense as others. I will sit down in January and incorporate realistic expectations in completing my Cameos and Carriages, a prequel novel to Lockets and Lanterns, which was released in 2012.

However, more valuable to me is my short-term list. What do I wish to accomplish this week? A weekly planner (another great Ruth tip) sits beside my computer.

The small calendar allows you to see a week at a glance. I jot down my daily entries in pencil. Using a pencil is a great idea since if the day goes haywire you can erase and move that entry to another day. My entires include when to submit stories, join or rejoin organizations, write blogs, post work-in-progress excerpts and re-examine certain e-mails to better digest their contents.

How do I know what e-mails to re-examine? I star them in my e-mail system. There are days, as everyone of you knows, where you do not have time to study a confusing or lengthy e-mail. By placing a star beside it, you can return to it on a date where you have more time. I do this also with Facebook birthdays. If I do not have time to wish a person a Happy Birthday, I can return to it a day later as long as it does not pass their birthdate.

Well, I think I have said enough. Remember to be prepared. However, also remind yourself that you will fail at this. You are human by the way. Have a great new year and may the Lord richly bless you in 2014.

Categories: Blogs & Websites, Book Covers, Book Promotion, General Writing, Marketing & Promoting, Social Networking, The Reader, The Writer & Author, Writing Partnerships | Tags: , , ,

What I Learned at An Empowerment Breakfast About Running a Business

Quick note: I wrote this back in September 2012 and never published it.  I’m going to do so now, but I don’t have time to reply to comments since life is hectic at the moment with published deadlines staring me in the face.  I’ll keep comments open if anyone wants to have a discussion, but I can’t reply to any of them.

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I attended an “empowerment breakfast” for local businesses in my area over a year ago.  Since my author friend was one of the speakers, I decided to go along (and I could since as an author, I am representing my business).  I went because she didn’t know anyone who was going to be there, and for those of you who’ve been in that awkward situation, you know how nice it is to have a friend to talk to.  :D

Overall, it was a huge waste of time.  Maybe not for some businesses, especially those that had something in common or could use the other’s services.  But I thought the whole mingling thing was pointless.  People were rushing around to hand out business cards or sign up people on an emailing list.  I kept thinking, “This is what a lot of authors do.  They run around in a haphazard fashion, pitching their book to everyone without bothering to check if that person is even in their target audience.” These business representatives were assuming that because I breathe, I must need their services, and that simply wasn’t true.  Just like some authors assume that their book is the perfect fit for people ages 0 to 100, male and female, of all religious beliefs, of all economic classes, in all countries, of all backgrounds, etc.

It’s like throwing out a bunch of darts and hoping one will stick.  That’s the way these business representatives were acting today.  I asked them, “Do you like to read?” All of the ones I talked to said no.  Then I asked them, “Do you like to write?” I had one guy who said yes but would never do anything with it.  So I didn’t bother pitching my books or this blog.  I have business cards set up for my books (these go to historical romance readers) and this blog (these go to anyone who is considering self-publishing and would like to have some guidance).  I did hand out two business cards because the person asked for it, but I knew the cards would end up in the trash because they didn’t even like to read or write.  And likewise, a lot of authors get ignored because the people they’re pitching to have no interest in their type of book.

However, the main speaker was worth going to the empowerment breakfast.  She spoke to entrepreneurs (and as self-published authors, that’s what we are), so she offered some insight that I found useful and wanted to pass along.

Things that will kill your business:

Lack of focus.  Doing too many things at once.  While we might have a ton of things we want to do, it’s best to narrow it down to a couple of manageable tasks.  I think you need to designate how much time you can sit at the computer to just write.  Word count goals may or may not work.  My rule of thumb is no distractions and 500 words per 30 minutes. But if the story isn’t coming (and sometimes, it’s not), I revert to one hour at the computer with no distractions.  Then regardless of word count, I quit.  Social networking needs to have a limit, too.  Pick a certain amount of time you will spend answering emails, writing blog posts (if you have a blog), and updating Twitter, FB, etc.  You need a life outside of the Internet.  :D

Not enough of your own money to invest into the business.  When you’re using other people’s money, it’s harder to “care” about the outcome, but when it’s your money, it’s personal.  This is so true.  My husband and I fought debt for years even though we had some help along the way.  But when we had to use our money to pay it off, we haven’t been back in debt since (except for our mortgage payment).  So make sure you have enough of your own money on hand to cover expenses (editing, cover art, computer/word program, stock photos, website fee, copyright fee, taxes, etc).  I never think it’s wise to go into debt to publish a book.  If you can’t afford to pay someone to make a cover, learn to make one yourself.  If you can’t afford an editor, find someone who excels in editing and offer a trade–you’ll do their cover if they edit.  There are creative ways you can do this without spending a lot of money.

Not investing in yourself.  This is a hard one, but it’s the foundation for which makes our business possible.  Without us, there are no books (unless you have a ghostwriter).  We need to be well enough to write the book. We need good sleep, to exercise, and to eat right.  Yeah, I know.  Basic, common sense stuff.  And yet, it can be hard to remember.  (I struggle more with this than any other issue when it comes to running my business.  I have the workaholic tendency.)

Not setting realistic goals.  Know your limitations.  Things to keep in mind is that writing books is a marathon (not a sprint).  It takes a lot of time and hard work.  There are no shortcuts if you expect long-term payoffs.  And everyone’s situation is different.  Don’t expect your situation will be exactly like someone else’s.

Not setting any goals.  On the other hand, you don’t want to go out there without any goals.  Every author’s goal can be different.  There’s no reason why your goal can’t be as simple as publishing a book for your enjoyment.  You don’t have to write in order to reach others with your book, and you don’t have to be a huge seller to be happy.  Or maybe you want to teach others how to do something or entertain.  This isn’t a one-size fits all endeavor.  Maybe the goal is to have the book you want to read.  Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s wrong to have that kind of goal.  It’s your life, not theirs.  On the flip side, you can set goals to make money, too.  Some authors may want spending money, some to pay bills, or some to make a living.  Whatever your goals are, writing down a plan on how you’re going to get to the goal.

Not meeting your target audience’s expectations.  If you are writing in hopes of selling your books, you need to think about your target audience.  Have a focus.  What will your target audience expect?  (Hint: bestselling books in your genre of choice can provide you with key themes that attract your target audience.  See the post about Will Smith for more details.)  The key is to know what your audience is expecting and be sure to deliver it.  Most 1-star reviews occur because the book didn’t deliver the experience promised to the reader.  In addition to the story, this experience includes book length, level of heat or violence, and price.

Categories: Book Promotion, Business Plan, Marketing & Promoting, Schedules & Routines, Social Networking, Writing as a Business

How to Edit Your Twitter Profile (with screen caps)

I’ve gone back and forth about doing this post because, while so many authors use twitter, it isn’t  integral to the publishing business. But, after having to explain how to set wallpaper to yet another person via email, I decided there was a need for it.

(Click on any of the images to make them bigger)

How to use Themeleon

Near the upper right corner of your profile is a little gear icon. Click it and a drop down box will appear that allows you to access several things. The only thing we’re worried about is the settings option.

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A new screen will load and you’ll want to click on “design” in the left hand pane. This will change the options on the right side, and you’ll be greeted by several default thumbnails. If you want, you can use any one of these, or you can try the interesting plugin called Themeleon.

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A new page will load that will look something like this. There’s a dialog box that you have to scroll down in order to see

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Scroll down and click the sign In button

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You’ll have a new pop up asking you to authorize Colourlovers to “use” your account, meaning the app can change things like your wallpaper etc. If you don’t like apps cancel out now and scroll down to the next option (How to upload your Own Wallpaper). If you do like apps  then go ahead and click authorize app. (I have used Themeleon for about a year now and never had any issues such as it hijacking my twitter.)

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You may or may not have to sign in again (I did, but this may be because I took so long taking screen caps etc.) But you will eventually come to your profile editing screen.

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At the top are some pre-made themes (more on those in a moment) and in the second half of the toolbox are the “make your own theme” tools. As you can see it starts with a background pattern, which you can scroll through.

What’s the difference between the pre-made and the DIY? Unlike the do it yourself set, the theme’s wallpaper tends to be a single large image, like more traditional wallpaper, instead of a tiled pattern. You can also upload your own image, if you prefer, but it’s easier to do that through twitter itself.

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As you’ll notice when you click on the themes you get a preview, not only in the toolbox, but if you scroll down your profile also “tries it on” so you can see how it’s going to look.

If you’d rather start from a pattern, go down to the background option. There’s a drop down box with choices but I’ve never bothered with it and usually just scroll through the available backgrounds by using that little arrow button we mentioned earlier.

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Don’t let the colors fool you – you can completely change them. For instance you can see that the pattern above looks very tropical, but with a few color swaps it now looks… well, the colors are different, anyway. How did I do that? Underneath the pattern preview are colored boxes, each representing a color in the pattern. Click the color you’d like to change and you’ll get a snazzy pop up. Move the circle around on the color chart, as well as the sliders, to change the color to something you like better.

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As you can see, sometimes changing the colors can make a big difference in what the pattern looks like:

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Once you have a pattern you like, it’s time to tweak your layout. There are several pre-created palettes you can choose from by using the arrow key. The colors you are choosing now change the color of your links, such as where it says “Following, Followers” etc. as well as links in your twitter stream.

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if you don’t like the pre-made palettes you can make your own. Click on the colored squares to get a pop up color picker. Move the circle and the sliders until you find the colors you want.

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When you have it the way you want, click the “Save Profile” button

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You’ll get a pop up trying to encourage you to add more things, but just click the “I’m all Creatived out” button to skip it.

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And now bask in the glory of your new profile!

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How to Upload your Own Wallpaper

if you have your own wallpaper – maybe it’s your book cover, or your characters, or just a snazzy photo – then it is really easy to upload it to twitter.

You’ll need to go back to Settings > Design like we did previously, then click the “Change Background” dropdown and select “Choose existing Image”

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You’ll get a pop up. Navigate to the folder that your wallpaper is saved in, click on it and choose open. Jpegs work better than pngs.

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If the wallpaper file is “acceptable” the words under the “Change background” button will reflect the file name.  Then it’s time to set where the wallpaper goes. you can have it left aligned – meaning it is “sticky” on the left side, so that the left side of the image will always be on the left side of the screen – centered, and right aligned (which does the same as the left but on the right). You can also choose whether to tile your image or not – play around with the options until you become familiar with the differences. Though unlike themeleon, your profile will NOT reflect changes until you save it.

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As with Themeleon, you can change your link colors and your background color. Click on the colors to get the pop up color picker. When you’re done, hit “Save Changes”.

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and check out your new profile!

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How to Change Your Twitter Banner

On your profile page click the Edit Profile button that is just below your “banner area” – if you have no image here it will be a black-ish box.

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Hover over it and a little pencil will appear in the top right corner. Click on it.

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A little box will pop up that lets you upload a photo, remove your photo or cancel. We want to upload.

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You’ll get another pop up. Navigate to your banner image and choose “open”.

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You’ll get a “preview” with a slider underneath it. You can use the slider to zoom in and out of the image. Once you have it the way you want, click “Apply”

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How to Edit Your Profile Information

While we’re there, let’s edit our profile information. If you’re starting here, then click on the “Edit Profile” button underneath your banner image.

Your profile information is highlighted in black. To edit it, just highlight what you’d like to change.  I’m going to change the About.me link:

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And then I am going to just type in my wordpress address, like you would in a document. If you’re finished click “save changes”

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How to Change Your Profile Photo

While we’re there, let’s edit our profile photo. If you’re starting here, then click on the “Edit Profile” button underneath your banner image.

If you hover over your photo you’ll get a little pencil in the top right corner. Click it.

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A little menu will pop down with the choices to upload a photo, take a photo, remove photo or cancel. For this tutorial we want to upload, though if you have a webcam and a good hair day you might try the “take photo” option and let me know how it goes.

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Clicking upload gets you a pop up box. Use it to navigate to your photo and click open.

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A new box pops up that has your photo of choice with a slider bar underneath. You can drag it to zoom in closer to the image, essentially cropping it down. When you have what you want, hit apply.

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If you’re all finished make sure to hit the Save Changes button.

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And that’s it!

Bask in the beauty of your new twitter profile! and, if you’re feeling especially inspired, add me (@Joleene_Naylor) and say “hey, come look at my cool profile!”

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Categories: Blogs & Websites, Social Networking, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

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