7 Lessons a Team of New Novelists Learned in Their First Week

My guest today is Kay Ellington, co-author with Barbara Brannon of The Paragraph Ranch. Kay is sharing lessons the two writers learned while navigating the process of platform building, writing their book, publishing it, and now using social media to market their début novel.
Please join me in welcoming Kay to the blog!

Kay Ellington, Author

divider

WIP seems to be the acronym du jour for authors. Work in Progress. That’s a pretty apt way of describing the massive undertaking my co-author, Barbara Brannon, and I are attempting— to capitalize on social media to market our debut novel, The Paragraph Ranch (Seattle: Booktrope Editions, 2014). If we’re successful, watch for the sequel next year.

For authors, our primary job—besides writing the book—is to build the platform, the audience, the fan base, if you will. But how do we do it? Here’s our WIP and the thinking behind it.

1. Rule number one, there’s only so much you can say about The Book. We knew that going in, so we picked topics and themes in our novel—creative writing, care-giving, and family—that would lend themselves to social media marketing.

We’re building our social media presence based on loyalty. At the top is email marketing. Your newsletter is social media, even if it doesn’t have a cute icon that you can hotlink. Why do you need it? To connect with your proven followers when you have something new they want to hear—and your email provider won’t let you mass-mail to a large list.  Followers who sign up for your email newsletter have a genuine interest in you and your work. We’ve both worked in publishing for decades—me in newspapers and Barbara in book publishing—and through the years we’ve collected emails as though they were rare, precious truffles and nourished those contacts, so that when the time came to launch our author newsletter we wouldn’t be dinged with spam reports.

We mailed our first issue earlier this month to 1,264 people. Our 29% open rate was pretty high by industry standards, and we had only a few opt-outs. We hope that following this intro letter, we’ll fine-tune topics to be of interest to our followers. There are many well-known solutions for email newsletters. We’ve done Constant Contact and MailChimp; we like MadMimi. It’s fun and not so technically challenging.

2. After the newsletter Facebook is next on the loyalty scale. We’re assuming that if you’re reading this post, you’re savvy enough to have your own personal Facebook page and a separate Facebook author page. The latter should avoid photos of your poodles and grandchildren, unless, of course, your book is about poodles and grandchildren. And to minimize Unlikes, make sure only 1 in 4 of your posts relates to The Book. To grow your community of loyal followers, post about the general interests contained in the book and the people you wrote the book for.

We wrote The Paragraph Ranch for writers, people who love Texas, caregivers, farmers and ranchers, and women who love romance, and we’ll post on those topics. We started at square one in May, kind of late in the game for a September pub date, but right now we’re closing in on 500 Likes. When we start having book events later this month, we think we can rachet those up.

3. Twitter. We’ve followed everyone and their dog, it seems, on Twitter. How did we choose? We started with author, bookseller, and local friends we already knew. And then we spied on their profiles and followed the influential authors, publishers, bloggers, and reviewers they knew. If we had read and genuinely enjoyed a book, we tweeted praise. If someone we didn’t yet know followed us, we tweeted thanks. And we retweet interesting bits on writing and authors we know, and interests we share.. We’ve hitched our tweets to the hashtag wagons of similar topics as well. Within the first week we expect to crack the three-digit mark. The 1-to-4 posting ratio for The Book–to–everything else includes Twitter.

4. Pinterest. Best practices say that authors should create five bulletin boards on Pinterest. We’ve been at it for about ten days, and we have six bulletin boards that range from social media for writers to Dr. Dee’s Rules for Writers, drawn from our own book. We expect followers to number in the hundreds by the two-week mark.

5. Instagram. We’ve taken Instagram pics of the book and we’ll use it to post photos at our signings and events. We were tickled pink when one of the 51 people following us asked us to provide a link to buy the book, which we promptly did!

6. Google+ We’ve used Google+ to promote our full schedule of book-signing events this fall, and we’ve tagged content in the book, and linked to how to buy information. We’ve exceeded 200 people in our circles.

7. We started this posting by talking about a long-form tool, and we’ll wrap up with another. Our blog is called The Working Writer (a nod to the fictional writing guide in our novel). We recognize that writers follow many paths to publishing. We’re working to build a community of writers helping one another with best practices to achieve the greatest success possible from their words—whether through sales or self-fulfillment.

Join the conversation at The Working Writer.

divider

A BIT ABOUT KAY ELLINGTON

Kay Ellington, co-author of The Paragraph Ranch, has spent three decades working from coast to coast in newspapers for companies such as Gannett and the New York Times Regional Group. She consults with clients on traditional and new media at MediaGarden.

Connect with Kay on the following media:
Facebook
The Working Writer
Email: ParagraphRanch@gmail.com
Paragraph Ranch
Twitter (@paragraphranch)

Find The Paragraph Ranch at these sites: Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads.

See Affiliate Disclosures.

Defining Friendship in Today’s World

Today I’m visiting with my friend, Mary Gottschalk, on her blog with a look at the topic of friendship in today’s world and how we define it within our social existence of networks, life, and more. Won’t you come join Mary and me to discuss this ever-changing definition?


Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen’s quote defines the foundation of a friendship. In looking at online definitions of the word “friendship,” they are many. Not one encompasses the qualities necessary to move from “being friends” to a true and lasting friendship.

The definition found in Urban Dictionary is worth reading and understanding as it relates to today’s ever-growing cybernetic society:

“Something that is much underrated in our society. Friendship is actually a form of love (here I’m not talking exclusively about erotic love). It’s not a lesser form of love than erotic love, only a different form of love. In fact, the ancient Greeks had a word, “phileos”, more or less equating to fraternal/brotherly love (friendship). …” [read more here]

With the birth and exponential growth of social media, we use new words to define or describe friendships and how they are created. As the 2000s rolled by, social media networks burgeoned and we began to meet new people online.

(Read the rest here …)

5 People and 2 Sites You Should Follow

Writers and bloggers need resources to aid in getting their ideas into context attractive to their followers. In order to find these resources, we could spend hours surfing the Internet to find those people most helpful to our brand, blog, or book. The following five individuals and two sites are resources I follow consistently. I hope you find something helpful among them.

1. Frances Caballo of Social Media Just for Writers

Frances Caballo
Frances Caballo

“Social Media Just for Writers was named as one of the top 30 websites for independently published authors by Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.”

“This website will help you to get your writing in front of more readers who would love to know about your books. You’ll learn how to use social media efficiently and effectively, and you’ll learn about new applications, best practices, and tips that will help you reach your marketing goals.”

(quoted from About page of Social Media Just for Writers)

2. Dan Blank of We Grow Media

Dan Blank
Dan Blank

“I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of writers, helping them share their stories and connect with readers. Some of these folks are bestselling authors, with millions of books sold, while others are first time authors, and many more are somewhere between those two points.”

“…I’ve worked with hundreds of authors, and some of the most amazing organizations that support writers.”

(quoted from About page of We Grow Media)

3. Gretchen Louise, Connoisseur of Words and Code

Gretchen is a treasure trove of tech tips, social media tips, suggestions for maintaining an easy-to-work-with inbox, and more. Read some endorsements I found on her site:

Gretchen Louise
Gretchen Louise

“I like to think I’m fairly computer savvy, but there are some aspects of WordPress that really freak me out! Gretchen took my vision and was able to make anything I wanted happen. All I had to do was ask!”
-Kalyn Brooke, Creative Savings

“I really can’t say enough good things about Gretchen…she is professional, helpful, kind, and a coding superstar! She customized a theme for my site and it looks amazing. I felt completely confident that she would make my site look beautiful and work flawlessly, and I was right! She is a wonder.”
-Kelly, The Pretty Bee

4. Angela Ackerman and Rebecca Puglisi at Writers Helping Writers

Writers Helping Writers, formerly known as The Bookshelf Muse, is hosted by co-authors and co-bloggers, Angela Ackerman and Rebecca Puglisi. Together they have written “bestselling triplets, The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, and The Negative Trait Thesaurus.”

From their About page, “Our mission is simple: offer help and support as much as we can. This site has many different tools and resources for writers, editors and teachers, so poke around and enjoy!”

5. Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer

Joel Friedlander
Joel Friedlander

Joel Friedlander, better known as The Book Designer, offers practical advice to help writers in producing better books. The following quote sums up Joel’s philosophy:

“Writers change the world one reader at a time.  But you can’t change the world with a book that’s still on your hard
drive or in a box under your bed.”

Joel’s blog is filled with resources and tools to help you decide how you want to publish your book and to teach you the ins and outs of self-publishing should you choose to follow that route. The author of many books on the subject of publishing and with a background in the field, Joel’s expertise is priceless.

6. Writer Unboxed

In 2006 aspiring novelists Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton collaborated to dissect complex books and movies. After their second rejection, they decided to create a site where they could state their opinions with no possibility of rejection, except possibly from readers. Writer Unboxed was born. With a list of contributors too long to share here, the articles posted in Writer Unboxed always bring something to the reader useful, educational, and resourceful. It is a site I recommend to all aspiring writers.

7. Writers Digest

writers digest
writers digest

Writers Digest, the site, is a one-stop shopping experience for the writer. With everything from books, magazines, downloads, conferences, workshops, classes, webinars, tutorials, blogs, competitions and resources, this site is like an online shopping and educational experience rolled into one. Writers of all genre will find something to suit their needs and competitive spirits. With a subscription to the newsletter, you’ll receive a list of 101 websites for writers, more than I’ll ever be able to list here. (That doesn’t mean you won’t need to continue to read my blog! Or subscribe to my newsletter.)

These are some of the folks I rely on for information and leads as I write my book. Of course, there are many others as well. However, I encourage you to take some time to visit each of these if you haven’t already. I think you’ll find something valuable.

What about you? Do you have favorite sources of information online you could share with us?

Impact of Social Media Withdrawal

The following post first appeared at Sowing Seeds of Grace and recounts the results of my one-week withdrawal from social media a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to share this post here because it also relates to my writing life.


During the week of June 30th, I joined with Margaret Feinberg and others to log off and shut down with respect to social media, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere, and enjoy a week of silence.

Our hope reached to the edges of seeking to hear God in the silence when free of iPhones, tablets, laptops and other devices connecting us to a world filled with frenzy and constant news from family, friends and the world at large.

Today I am sharing what I heard in that week of silence.

Most of all, let me tell you: It. Was. Awesome!

My days felt free and my own. No “keeping up with” everyone posting on Facebook or Twitter.

Don’t get me wrong. I love connecting with family and friends and learning what’s going on in their lives. But I don’t really need it 24/7, nor do I need to sit down at the computer and before anything else, check in to see what’s new in social media.

Save Time on Social Media by Using Shortcut Keys

Via Flickr
Via Flickr

Using social media can lead to a love/hate relationship.

We love social media for its ability to connect us with others with like minds and interests.

We hate social media when its allure mesmerizes us into wasting time better used for something else.

Time spent on social media can be made more efficient through the use of shortcuts, or keyboard shortcuts, or as some call them hot keys. Whatever their name, they can increase your efficiency while you try to make the most of your social media connections.

The first step in using these magical shortcuts is finding out what they are for each social media outlet or software you’re using.

Yesterday I spent some time researching these little secrets, and although some of you may have found them already, there are those of us who may be a bit behind the curve or who need a refresher.

Let’s start with social media shortcuts:

The following infographic was created by Quintly, a professional social media analytics service. This infographic includes only Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+ shortcuts, so I will follow the infographic with links for social media outlets.

Via Quintly
Via Quintly

Following are links to shortcuts for the social media outlets listed:

If you know of other social media keyboard shortcuts, please mention them in the comments below so others can benefit from using them.

Now a quick look at other keyboard shortcuts that will make using your computer more efficient:

Once again, if you know of other software keyboard shortcuts, please mention them in the comments below so others can benefit from using them.

Without experience using Apple’s Mac systems, I did not delve into researching keyboard shortcuts for social media or software.

Hoping this information will help you cut down the time you spend on social media, offering you an opportunity to spend more time writing.

An April Reflection

Sue Mitchell, The Memoir Muse at An Untold Story
Sue Mitchell, The Memoir Muse at An Untold Story

During the month of April, I challenged myself to carry out two major constructive changes in my writing.  First, I signed up for the A to Z Blog Challenge , a challenge which requires 26 posts during the month of April (every day but Sunday) on any topic you choose.  I chose to write about the development of a character’s emotions and feelings.

The second challenge I took on was to write at least ten minutes each day before looking at emails or social media.  My hope was to break a habit. Research has shown that it takes 30 days to break a habit, and that same 30 days can train a new habit.  This challenge had its genesis with Sue Mitchell, writing coach at An Untold Story.

The last letter of the alphabet, Z, is written and posted, and the 30th day of April has come and (almost) gone.  I survived both challenges and I’m a better writer for it.

Writing blog posts for 26 out of 30 days kept me on my toes and my fingers tapping.  Of course, some of my posts were written ahead and scheduled to post, but some days I wrote more than one post, or about 1,000 words.  Just think if those cumulative words had been for my memoir.  A few more days and I could complete my first draft!

With each letter and post, I could feel my writing skills improving daily.  I suppose you could say I felt I was finding my groove!  And I met some incredible writers and bloggers widening my writing community.  A win/win.

The real high comes from the fact that after 30 days (OK, almost 30 here in the Pacific NW) I no longer sit down at the computer and head first for emails, Facebook, Twitter or anything other than to WRITE FIRST. Priorities have shifted.  Oh, yes, they have!  I feel more in control now.  And if I don’t make it to Facebook or Twitter until later in the day or at all on a single day, I’m comfortable with that.

So, I challenge each of you to think about what I’ve accomplished in 30 days.  I know many of you don’t struggle with these issues of managing time for writing, but some of us do.  And when you get a handle on it, you just can’t help but brag a bit.

Q4U: What are you doing to make the most of your writing time?  I’d love to hear how you manage your time and challenge yourself to stay above the fray of everyday life.

Click on images for attributions.