Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Branding 101: Promo and Marketing for Writers, Part One

I just had a wonderful long-weekend retreat with writer pals Caryn McGill and Kathy Weyer. We even looped in Sandy Bremser for a “writer gals” lunch. There is something about focused, concentrated time with other writers that is a good contagion. One’s excitement about current and future projects infects the others. One leaves such an engagement with a renewed commitment to write and publish.

But, for a professional writer, that’s not enough. One must also have a business plan, a marketing plan, and promotional activities developed and implemented. That was the focus (though not the whole story) of our weekend together.

At my first writing conference (I’ve shared this before), I didn’t have a clue what a “platform” was. My only connections to “platform” were shoes and train stations. Clearly, that was not what these writing instructors were talking about.

I’m not stupid. I did “get it” pretty quickly, but the individual components of the platform still were unfamiliar to me. The underlying purpose for the platform is branding. You want people to see your name and recognize what you write. They might even buy your books if you’re lucky! lol

So what does a professional writer do when confronted with expectations? She learns what she must, and she implements that learning as quickly and deeply as she can. It’s sort of a spiral with me. The range at the top of my spiral was pretty small, very narrow at first. Then it widened and went deeper. I now have multiple intertwined spirals. And I know I am not done.

I was told, and went home to learn about and implement, that there are four basics or essentials to your writing platform. Get those going, and you can deepen and extend from there.

The four are:
1) Author website,
2) Blog with regular posts (at least once a week),
3) Twitter with regular posts (at least once daily), and
4) Facebook author pages and membership/participation in FB affinity groups.

Check. Check. Check. Check.

Of course, for me, having multiple genres and pen names to brand and market, I ended up with one website with descriptions of my genres, three blogs, three Twitter accounts, and four author pages on Facebook as well as membership in more than a dozen affinity groups.

I will be coming back to this topic in the coming weeks to elaborate these four basics and then how to extend your reach.

If you are interested in how to find me in a variety of places, check out my website and poke around on the links there: Sharon Arthur Moore, Author  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Karma of Tweeting Book Titles

I have a burn against people who continually hawk their books but never even click on others’ hawked books to check them out. And do they buy someone else’s book? I don’t think so!

Indeed, if we each bought just one book a week that someone tweets, all of us authors would be better off. And if we only wrote one book review a month for a book title that was tweeted (and then broadcast that), we would have a bunch of happy, not-so-desperate authors.

I did a very unscientific survey on Twitter and Facebook asking authors if they also bought tweeted book titles. I had an abysmal response rate. Pathetic, even. Very few people said they did. One person said he/she would buy but nothing sounded interesting.


I suggested he/she might want to follow different people. There are tons of titles/topics out there. If you don’t see any, find people writing what you do like.

Take a kind of selfie right now: How does it make you feel when someone tweets they bought your book or tweets they just left a review? How do you look, inside and out?

Well, share the love. Do unto others blah blah. Get it?

I probably buy a half-dozen tweeted books a week. (Okay, you’re right. I probably should seek professional help for that.) But my point is, I am trying to support people, and I entertain myself in the process.

Sure, lots of the books are not-so-good and some are awful.

But there’s also some great stuff the tweeps are making available. And it’s little money you are expending. Heck, I spend less on tweeted books than you’d pay for a Caramel Macchiato several times a week! AND I made somebody feel good!

I truly believe that if you expect others to buy your books, you have an obligation to buy some of theirs. Not all. Not even close to all. But click on the link of enticing tweets. Read the blurb. Sound like what you like to read? Buy it. Read it. Leave a review.

Karma is an interesting thing. What goes around, comes around. Do your bit to spread good karma.

Just in case you want to get your karma revved up, here are the three books I have published. I’d love to hear what you think!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Guest Post: "Feeding Your Inner Muse" by Katherine Ramsland

I am delighted to have the talented, prolific, and knowledgeable Katherine Ramsland today at Write Away. I have her excellent "The Criminal Mind" from some years ago. Her post today may help you view creativity and productivity in a whole new way. Welcome, Katherine! Thanks for sharing your expertise with us today.

You know the feeling: You’re at an impasse with a character or plot point. You’re frustrated. It’s going nowhere, but you’re on a deadline. You’ve run out of ways to spur your muse.

Consider this: Don’t work so hard. The less you push, the better your chances of getting what you need. Your brain needs some space to do its best work. In other words, relax and trust it.

Isaac Asimov realized this. Whenever he experienced writer’s block, he knew it was useless to force the issue. So, he’d go to a movie. He’d let his subconscious process the material in its own way. Once he returned, he invariably had new ideas. (I did this once, and got ideas before I even sat down to watch.)

Many writers, inventors, scientists, artists, and mathematicians have discovered the same thing. When they’re focused on something else, or on nothing, the idea they need arrives – aha! –seemingly from nowhere.

But these insights seem so random. We think those people just got lucky.

According to recent neuroscience discoveries, that’s not true. Insights arrive with preparation.

Any of us can harness our resources to produce flashes of genius that will move our writing along. With a little work, we can prime our brain for “aha! moments.” Better yet, we can get them on a regular basis.

I call them “snaps,” because the aha! that really counts is insight plus momentum – it snaps us toward action. It makes us drop everything and run to our desk. It might even get us out of bed in the middle of the night. Sound exciting? It is!

I learned a lot about this experience from a 19th century mathematician, who described it to a group of psychiatrists. After reaching an impasse on a series of problems, Henri PoincarĂ© went to the seaside to relax. When he went for a walk one morning, the idea he needed for resolving his impasse struck him at once. It was “immediately certain.” Upon returning, he got back to work, but there was one part that remained stubbornly mysterious. He worked on it day after day, to no avail. Again, he went on a trip, and while walking along the street, the solution hit him.

Comparing unconscious ideas to atoms, PoincarĂ© said, “During a period of apparent rest and unconscious work, certain of them come unhooked from the wall and put in motion. They flash in every direction through the space where they are enclosed….  Then their mutual impacts may produce new combinations.”

Conscious work was necessary, he said, but it could go only so far. “We think we have done no good because we have moved these elements in a thousand different ways in seeking to assemble them,” he stated, “and have found no satisfactory aggregate. But after this shaking up imposed on them by our will, these atoms do not return to their primitive rest. They freely continue their dance.”

In a more modern frame, neuropsychiatrist Nancy Andreason suggests that the brain is a self-organizing system of feedback loops that constantly generates new thoughts, sometimes spontaneously. Using PET scans, she found activity in the association cortex, where information from diverse parts of the brain gets integrated.

The association cortex makes it possible to gather a lot of information in one place. Thus, it creates the conditions for novel associations. It makes sense, then, that when sudden insight occurs, the idea seems to arrive fully formed. It is! We don’t realize it because we don’t “feel” the brain working the way we do when we focus and concentrate, but it does.  

While we’re not looking, our brains have the chance to mix and match all the ideas we’ve absorbed.

Here’s the formula: Scan, sift, and solve. First, you work: you do your research. Be diverse. Gather lots of different types of data. Immerse in your field of expertise, but also read something new to you. This “idea stew” forms your knowledge base. This is the scan stage.

Now, for the fun! Read through the material on which you’re blocked and then go do something else. Relaxing your left brain releases your eager right brain to sift through and reshape the data into new patterns. There is a lot of good research to support how this works.

Then, let your brain solve your problem.  Stop clenching. Give your brain room to play. Then, when you least expect it, an idea will pop.

Consider these other examples:
·      Jonas Salk was working on a cure for polio in a dark basement in Pittsburgh. He failed time and again, so he traveled to Italy to wander in a monastery. There, he experienced a rush of ideas, including the one that resulted in the polio vaccine.
·      Martin Cooper was watching Star Trek when he first envisioned the cell phone.
·      Math professor Darren Crowdy let his mind wander while listening to a lecture and he suddenly “saw” the solution to a long-unsolved math puzzle.
·      J. K. Rowling was on a stalled train pondering the plot of an adult novel when she snapped on a child wizard. “I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed) hours,” she said, “and all the details bubbled up in my brain.”

Start now to learn your rhythms. After working, walk, take a shower, throw a stick for your dog: do something that relaxes the cognitive load. This gives your brain the energy it needs to merge data you’ve supplied and switch on your inner green light. Once you’ve learned what works, set up the conditions for doing it on a regular basis. You’ll be amazed by how often your brain will surprise you.

Katherine Ramsland is a writer and professor of forensic psychology and criminal justice. Among her 58 books are The Murder Game, The Mind of a Murderer, and Snap! Seizing Your Aha! Moments. She has published over 1,000 articles, is a #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller, and blogs for Psychology Today.


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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Twitter for Writers: Keeping It Going

Maintaining the momentum to post day after day, month after month, year after year is daunting. Good intentions slide away. I have been tweeting, from my first account, since 2011. Yet, it wasn’t until 2014 that I was consistently tweeting (from three accounts at that point). Like all of us, I let pieces of my platform rise and fall depending upon what was happening in my life.

I realized that I had to be consistent if I were going to build my follower base, and I had to provide content they would want to read and retweet. So that’s when I got serious, and like the newly converted, I became an advocate for Twitter and blogging.

It paid off. While my numbers are not in the tens of thousands, across my three Twitter accounts, I connect with almost 10,000 followers. I have seen my page views for my three blogs rise to more than 3000 per month with me blogging just once a week. If I put up more content, I’ll bet I’d get even more page views.

Name recognition is what it’s about. Do I sell a bazillion books? Nope. Can I trace book sales to my tweets and blog posts? Nope. But I know me as a reader. If I know the name, have seen it a lot, I am more inclined to buy that book. Just ask Dan Brown and Stephen King if that name thing isn’t working for them.

So, how did I turn the corner on consistency? I came up with a system. I’ve already described parts of it:
1)   I create two or three tweets for each blog post (which I can use on Facebook, too).
2)   I collect content of interest to my followers by reading news items/articles and create tweets from them. One article easily equals five or more tweets.
3)   When making tweets about your book and how to buy, think of the tweet as a tiny book hook. Engage, intrigue, question, provoke so they click on the link.
4)   I retweet others, follow back those who fit my Twitter focus, and use hashtags to bring attention to my content.
5)   I arrange each day’s tweets in advance (I can do several days at once) and divide the list into two or three segments for tweeting at different times of the day.
6)   I attend Twitter parties like @StoryDam on Thursday evenings which allows me to share blog posts and interact with people who are also attending.
7)   Create your own Twitter party and invite people to attend. For example,  “You’re invited to a Twitter #mysterywritersparty Weds. 6-7pm MST. Bring questions/ideas/blog posts. Topic: Murder weapons you’ve used” That’s a commitment you are making, but ask some other mystery writers to co-sponsor it with you.
8)   I go back into my other two accounts and re-tweet my other accounts. My three alternate tweets about a blog post now I have been tweeted two more times. 3 tweets is multiplied as in the table below. G2T = @Good2Tweat; RR = @RomanceRighter; RG = @RiverGlynn

Tweet A version
Morning post
Tweet B version
Mid-Day post
Tweet C version
Evening post
G2T; RT by RR/RG
RR; RT by G2T/RG
RG; RT by G2T/RR
G2T; RT by RR/RG
RR; RT by G2T/RG
RG; RT by G2T/RR
G2T; RT by RR/RG
RR; RT by G2T/RG
RG; RT by G2T/RR

Not even close to all your followers are on at the time you’re posting, so when I post three times a day, one tweet gets 27 chances for viewing. It’s the multiplicative effect. But, if you only have one Twitter account, you are still posting the link to your blog three times. Three is good! And if you’re using hashtags, someone else is helping you by re-tweeting.

Some Tweeps use services like HootSuite to schedule and post their tweets. That doesn’t work for me. I want to interact with my followers when I see an interesting post or I find things I want to re-tweet. Since I’m at the site anyway doing those things, I can find the 8 seconds per tweet it takes me to put them up.

Well, I’m done talking about Twitter. I hope this series has helped you to navigate the system you may have been avoiding. Remember, you only have to spend as much time as you allocate. Set that timer and tweet away!