Friday, April 30, 2010

Guidelines to Online Networking

Please help me welcome C.J. Redwine to Once Written, Twice Shy. C.J. writes edgy urban fantasy with a side of comic relief and is repped by Holly Root of the Waxman Literary Agency. She runs a fun and fabulous blog where she writes about ninjas, awesome books and Zombie Goats, and teaches online query writing workshops and is a "professor" at Romance University.

Here's C.J.--I have a confession to make: I’m an outgoing introvert. This means I can comfortably hold my own with strangers if I must, can make conversation with anyone if called upon, and don’t mind sometimes being the life of the party. As long as the party doesn’t last too long.

Unlike an outgoing extrovert, the time I spend with people drains me. For every one hour I spend being “on” around others, I need at least an hour to myself to recharge unless I wish to treat the world to the spectacle of a girl waltzing into her local Ben & Jerry’s with a sketchy plan to abscond with all the inventory or go out in a blaze of glory trying.

I’m an introvert, but I’m also a writer trying to effectively brand herself online using the free platforms of blogging and social networking. Sometimes finding the balance between building community online and hoarding my scant time to myself can be difficult. So, how do I connect with others effectively without losing what’s left of my sanity? By following a few simple guidelines.

C.J.’s Guidelines To Online Networking
Or
How To Not Commit A Felony At Ben & Jerry’s

Set Time Limits: Let’s face it. As introverts, every interaction costs us something. Often, we pay the price willingly because we’re interested, we’re friends, or we know it’s something we need to do. But add up all those small interactions and before you know it, you’re exhausted, and Ben & Jerry’s starts to look like heaven, or close enough. I’ve found a good way to handle social interaction is to check in two or three times a day. The same goes for my email account and my blog comments. By setting aside times to handle all of the necessary interaction, I give myself permission to unplug for hours at a time.

Narrow The Field: Blogger. Live Journal. Wordpress. Goodreads. Facebook. Twitter. Myspace. The options for social networking are myriad, and trying to be an effective participant in too many forums will not only drive you batty, it will devour time better spent writing. I choose to spend my time on my blog and with the community I’m building with writers and readers on Twitter. I have a Facebook page, but only check in once a week for less than ten minutes. I find by having only two sites requiring my focus, I’m able to more effectively network and build my brand.

Know Your Boundaries: I’ve found that being accessible is one of the fastest ways to build community online. The problem, of course, is that I don’t want to be too accessible. It’s bad enough I just admitted to considering committing a felony over ice cream. Do you really want to know the things I’ve chosen to hold back? I didn’t think so. I dealt with this by setting boundaries for what I would and would not share about myself and my life online. I don’t have to be an open book. I just have to be accessible to the degree that I’m welcoming and interactive with others. I’m fiercely private about the things I’ve decided not to put out there for public consumption.

Keep A Notebook Handy: Let’s face it. As introverts, some days we want to crawl under the covers, grab a pan of brownies, and watch a Harry Potter marathon rather than say one word to anyone. It can be a problem when your I-sort-of-despise-the-world day falls on the same day you need to post a blog, update your Twitter feed once or twice, and interact with others without strongly suggesting they move to Antarctica and leave you and your brownies in peace. I’ve found that keeping a notebook with me at all times (I carry a small one EVERYWHERE) is my lifesaver. Any time I see or hear something funny or interesting, I jot it down. When I hit an I’d-rather-stick-a-fork-in-my-eye-than-blog day, I pull out my list, grab an item or two, and start writing. Having a ready supply of stories or interesting things to say takes the pressure off!

Cut the Crazy: Social networking attracts all types, and some people out there will ping your inner crazy meter. Really. You’ll run into those people who just drain the life out of you. Who demand things that cross your boundaries. Who make you feel like you need to back away. There’s no need to spend your emotional reserve on someone who causes your left eye to twitch. You don’t have to network with everyone who wants to. I’ve learned to be respectful but firm. My priority is to remain energized for my family and my writing. An online acquaintance who jeopardizes my ability to do so no longer gets my attention.

So, there you have it. Some basic guidelines I use to make my online interactions interesting, easier to handle, and—dare I say it?—fun. Step away from the ice cream case, and enjoy social networking on your own terms.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Productive Social Networking for Writers


Please help me welcome my sister and fellow romance author Laurie London. A graduate of Western Washington University with a BA in BusinessAdministration and a former tester/programmer for a Fortune 500 company, Laurie now writes from her home near Seattle where she lives with her husband and two children. Her debut novel, Bonded By Blood, A Sweetblood Novel, releases February 2011 by HQN. Embraced By Blood, the second book in the series, releases July 2011. When not writing, she can be found running, reading, or riding and showing her horse. Someday she hopes to qualify for the Quarter Horse World Show – that is, if her horse doesn’t get hurt again. You can learn more about Laurie at her website, on Facebook and Twitter.

Here's Laurie:
Thanks so much, Becky, for inviting me to talk about Social Networking. One of my favorite topics!


Social networking is THE perfect way for shy writers to network. Where else can you meet new and interesting people, reconnect with friends and acquaintances, come across as fun and engaging (hopefully), and edit yourself before you say something you’d regret—all while wearing those PJs and fuzzy slippers you have on right now?

Why should you care about social networking? After all, it’s writing the best book you can possibly write that really matters, right?

Well, you know what? I totally agree. Before I sold, I did not have a website, blog, author Twitter account, or author Facebook page. For the exact reason I rarely play video games any longer, I knew that I’d get sucked into the world of social networking, and I wanted my writing to come first. With a finite amount of creative energy inside me each day, I didn’t want to spend it all on social networking, when what I really wanted to do was write a book.

This isn’t to say I didn’t do any social networking prior to selling. I did have a Facebook page and Twitter account under my real name, but I tried to limit my time so that I could write every day. When I sold, I felt comfortable with these methods of communication and was able to jump right in with my author name.

In this interview on Murderati
, Neil Nyren, Editor in Chief at Penguin Putnam, says word of mouth is an essential ingredient in selling books and the author plays an important role in this process. He goes on to say, “As a writer, you are the CEO of your own business. You should make it a point to learn that business and to do whatever is necessary to make that business succeed.” But then he adds you need to write a good book which is tough to do if you’re spending all your time on promotion.
So what’s a writer to do when you want to do both?


Seven Ways to Make Social Networking More Productive and Spend Less Time Doing It
1. Don’t waste your time posting something boring. I know this sounds blunt and mean, but social networking is all about making connections and providing good content. Unless you’re someone famous, no one, except maybe your mom, wants to read on Twitter that you’re having your second cup of coffee ten minutes after you posted that you were having your first. If you really want to tell people, then try to make it interesting. If not, stay offline and write instead.


2. Know who your readers/followers/friends are and provide content for them. Becky does a great job at this. I doubt she’d let me blog about my horse or my bathroom leak. You don’t come here to read about that. When I find an interesting article online, one that I think my followers or friends would enjoy, I twitter the link or post it to FB. Always ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” and post accordingly. That’s not to say I don’t tweet about my horse or my bathroom leak, but I try not to do it too much.

3. Observe those who do social networking well and copy them. (Conversely, when someone says something that makes you cringe, make a mental note not to ever do that either.) One thing that totally impresses me is when people who have a lot of followers take the time to comment on something others have said. It makes me feel special when that happens, so I try to do the same for others. If someone retweets something I’ve said or comments on my FB page or blog, I always acknowledge it. If someone thinks you care about them, they’ll keep coming back. Conversation matters.

4. Pay attention to what makes you click one person’s link or comment on their status, and try to do the same. On Twitter, don’t just say “Interesting blog” and post the link. As a follower, I want to know if it’s worth my time to click. My opinion on what’s interesting may be different than yours. For instance, if I tweet about guest blogging here today, I might say, “Social networking for shy writers” or “7 ways writers can make social networking more productive” and give the link. It makes it easy for people to see if they’d be interested or not. Sure, I might also post, “I need your help. I’m hearing crickets on this blog. Please come visit me.” But what I won’t do is link only the URL, thinking someone will click through just because. Conan O’Brien has Just Because status. I don’t.

5. On Twitter, take advantage of hashtag topics to connect with like-minded people and see real-time publishing information. One of my favorite people on Twitter, Debbie Ridpath Ohi (@Inkyelbows), has a great list of hashtag topics for writers on her blog. (
http://tinyurl.com/lzp9w8) In fact, check out her blog for loads of other Twitter tips. I’ve learned a lot from her (see items 3 and 4 above). If you’re posting something that pertains to a particular topic, use the appropriate hashtag. That way even people who don’t follow you will see your tweet. I’ve met the nicest people this way. Also, many agents post what kinds of manuscripts they’re currently looking for under #pubtips.

6. Build your followers/friends list with people who have similar interests. Don’t just limit yourself to other writers. I like wine, horses, and cooking, so I’ve sought out other people on Twitter and FB who like the same things. As far as I can tell, people who like wine, horses, and cooking also read books. ;-) Take the time to read their blog if a post sounds interesting and comment if you have time. Don’t forget to track back so you can tell if they replied. I love it when people comment back on a blog post or comment I’ve made.

7. If you link your Twitter and FB updates, don’t link every tweet. Facebook isn’t as real-time as Twitter and it will just look strange to your FB friends when you use twitter-speak.

Since seven is a nice number, I’ll stop there. Do you have any tips you’d like to share about social networking for writers?


Friday, April 16, 2010

Coming Out of Her Shell



Please help me welcome romance author Anne Marie Novark. Anne Marie is a Texas girl, born and raised. Romance is her passion. She loves to read and write about men and women falling in love, overcoming life’s obstacles, and living happily ever after. She writes spicy contemporary novels, usually involving a cowboy or two, as well as Regency historicals. You can visit Anne Marie at www.annemarienovark.com. Her most recent release is Chasing the Moonlight. You can buy the digital copy here, and the paperback copy here or here.


1. Do you consider yourself shy/introverted?
Yes, I’ve always been on the shy side and very introverted, although as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come out of my shell just a little. And I have found if I ACT like I’m not shy, I sometimes can trick myself into being more outgoing as the occasion warrants.

For example, at my local RWA Chapter meetings when I was on the board (coerced, no less), our president told us we had to meet and greet new members and visitors. This was difficult, but by acting out the part, going forward and making myself be friendly, I forgot my shyness and met some really neat people.

2. In what ways does this or has this hindered you as a writer?
When it comes to pitching a new novel to an editor or chatting up my latest book, it has hindered me a lot. I get all tongue-tied and nervous and stressed. Not good for promoting myself or my book.

3. In what ways does this or has this helped you as a writer?
Being shy and introverted, I tend to sit back and observe. I learn a lot from other writers who can talk glibly about their books. I also get many ideas for characters and plots by listening to people.

4. Are you shy/introverted one on one or in crowds or both?
Crowds are my nemesis (nemeses?). One on one, I’m pretty good unless it’s an editor and I’m pitching. In a crowd, I get flustered and want to melt away into it.


5. What's your biggest fear/obstacle as a shy writer? Tell me why. And tell me if you've tried to face this fear and what were the results?
Speaking in front of crowds scares the bejeebers out of me. I’m not very eloquent, I stumble over my words, my mouth can’t keep up with my brain and I’m all over the place when explaining my plots, books or anything, for that matter.

That’s the reason I love the Internet! With the power of the backspace and delete keys, I’m able to compose fluent articulate sentences and look like I know what I’m talking about, instead of coming off as a jabbering idiot.

But I must say this has not kept me from speaking at writers’ conferences and presenting workshops to my local RWA Chapter or holding book signings. Sometimes, you gotta do, what you gotta do. 


6. Tell me about a time recently that you stepped outside your comfort zone as a shy person, whether in your writing or personal life.
Last year, I was asked to give a workshop for a small writers’ conference. They were paying a nice fee, waiving the conference registration, and feeding me lunch. The opportunity to promote my new book and network with other writers was just too good to pass up. I gathered my courage, wrote a one-hour workshop on writing romance, and practiced, practiced, practiced.

Standing in front of the room before all of those people, my heart pounded and I broke out in a cold sweat. But they were writers wanting to learn and I jumped right in and did it! I admitted I was nervous, and they were supportive and encouraged me to forget my shyness. It turned out great and gave me confidence to do it again later in the year. It still scares me, but I do it anyway. I feel like it’s made me a stronger person and as Calvin’s dad (Calvin and Hobbes) says: It builds character.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Non-Writing Stuff is the Hardest Part


Please help me welcome romance author Terry Odell. Terry was born in Los Angeles, moved to Florida, and now makes her home in Colorado. An avid reader (her parents tell everyone they had to move from their first home because she finished the local library), she always wanted to "fix" stories so the characters did what she wanted, in books, television, and the movies. Once she began writing, she found this wasn't always possible, as evidenced when the mystery she intended to write rapidly became a romance.

When she's not writing, she's reading. She also volunteers for the Adult Literacy League in Orlando, training new tutors. She used to do a lot of needlepoint, but ran out of wall space in the house. Terry is a member of Romance Writers of America, as well as the Kiss of Death Chapter and the Central Florida Romance Writers chapter. She also belongs to the Mystery Writers of America. Her contest successes include the Suzannah, Gotcha, Jasmine, Molly, Great Beginnings and Finally a Bride, The Lories, The Gayle Wilson Award Of Excellence, Aspen Gold, and the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.



Here's Terry: Thanks for inviting me to be a guest here today.

As writers, we tend to be solitary beasts, sitting at a keyboard, usually blocking out intrusions. Even those who write in public places manage to get into their own zone. I started writing more for fun, for myself. It was a challenge, and a creative outlet (since I'd run out of room for needlepoint on my walls). I never thought beyond the creative process—until I met a friend at a meeting, and she said she was writing too. She introduced me to a critique group, and I began picking up a lot of knowledge of the craft.

Eventually, I finished the novel. I don't know what I thought came next—I was content to start writing another, but my crit group insisted I start submitting. Assuming someone would knock on my door and ask if I happened to have a novel lying around wasn't the way things wo
rked.

Dealing with submissions, rejections, more submissions, more rejections wasn't something I'd considered, but it was still a solitary ordeal. However, I did get published with The Wild Rose Press, Cerridwen Press, and Five Star Expressions. Had I but known how much "non-writing" stuff accompanied being a writer, I might not have ever started.

If you're not a big name with a big NY House, you have to promote. A LOT of promoting. Now, I'm not shy about speaking in public. I spent many years as a teacher, and I love doing things like giving workshops or talking about the writing process. What I don't like is having to initiate contact.

Last year, at the Romantic Times conference, author Barry Eisler was a panel speaker. He was in the room well ahead of time, and instead of sitting behind the table, he was in the middle of the room, introducing himself to every person who entered, handing a business card (as if anyone at that conference didn't know who he was!). I'm not sure I could do that.

I've done book signings, but always in groups. I'm not confident enough to approach a book store and ask if they want me to have a solo signing. I'm not comfortable enticing people to my table. Ask me to wander around the bookstore handing out bookmarks? Not me. I did get brave once, and offered a bookmark to someone who was reading a book at Panera. She said, "No, thank you." Devastating. I mean, how hard would it have been to take it and throw it away when I wasn't looking?

Even the more "anonymous" promotion bugs me. I've got the Social Networking sites. I've seen authors who reply to every friend request with a "thank you for friending this author of [insert name of book]". To me, that's intrusive, and I can't bring myself to do it, although I'm sure it's effective for many. If it bugs me to see it, then I don't want to do it.

Had I known how much self-promotion was involved in writing, I might have had second thoughts. Right now, I'm supposed to be asking published authors if they'd be willing to read my manuscript and provide cover quotes. And of course, they want well-known authors or the quotes aren't going to sell the book. I know lots of "much bigger than I" authors, but I'm reluctant to approach them. They'll be put on the spot. How to decline politely. Or what if they do read the manuscript but don't like it?

For me, writing is fun. But trying to get the word out about ME isn't. Which might be why I'm willing to bet very few, if any, of the people reading this post have read any of my short stories or books, despite positive reviews.

Meanwhile, I'll keep writing. Because not writing is like not breathing.

To learn more about Terry and her books, visit her website and her blog.