Must Read Monday: Finally, a Writing Book for Pantsers!

 

*I put a sticky tab on any page with a point I wanted to type into my notes. Look at that rainbow, people.

I know I usually tackle fiction when doing a Must Read Monday, but I read a writing craft book this weekend that was just so fabulous that I wanted to pass it along to those of you who are writers.

As most of you know, I'm a bit addicted to reading books about the craft of writing. (Yes, I'm an unrepentant nerd.) But most of the time, those books are all about different ways to plot your book. And I like learning those techniques because I'm a pantser with plotter envy. Writing without an outline can be an anxiety-ridden process, writer's block can pop up often, and the unknown is freaking scary (especially when you're writing under a deadline.) But no matter how hard I've tried to alter my process, I can't seem to get away from my pantsing (writing by the seat of my pants) ways.

And a little part of me has always been afraid that if I was successful at plotting ahead and outlining that I would lose some of the "magic" of my writing process. Like two weeks ago, this happened when I was happily writing a story. I had a general direction in mind and then got hit with a big twist that I had never ever considered or planned. It changes what the rest of the book will look like, but I think it's the correct (and much more interesting) way to go. If I had been writing to an outline, would that had ever come to me? And if it had, would I have been willing to ditch the whole second half of the outline to go in this new direction?

That kind of "a-ha" discovery happens with every book. The big twist in Crash Into You that most people have told me they never saw coming? That was because *I* didn't know it was coming until I was 70% of the way through writing the book. The big thing that happens in Kade's backstory in Need You Tonight that explains so much about who he is now? I didn't know about it until I was halfway through the book and it hit me--wait, THAT'S what happened!

So let me tell you, it was hella refreshing to finally come across a book that doesn't just tolerate pantsing as a way for people to write but actually recommends it. AND gives tips on how to overcome some of the struggles, anxieties and pitfalls of writing without an outline. Because, Lord, I would love to be less neurotic during my writing process.

So here's the book and my review from Goodreads. Pantsers, go forth and enjoy!

Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules by Steven James

 

My Review from Goodreads:

Finally, a book for pantsers! And not just one that mentions pantsing but validates the process as a legitimate (he even ventures to say superior) process of writing. I have long been a pantser with plotter envy because it seems like every book on writing I read talks about "organic" writing as the immature/impatient process and plotting as the panacea, the "professional" way. Of course, that always makes plotting sound like this lovely method that is going to take away the constant anxiety of working in the unknown and the pitfalls that come along with that (writer's block, chasing bunny trails, rereading your previous pages constantly to get back into the mindset, etc.). But after reading this, I feel like I can take a deep breath and find a place of acceptance with my pantsing ways. Yes, my method causes me anxiety, but it's also been a successful one for me, so why am I always trying to change it?

And with this book, there are methods that may even help with the anxiety involved in "flying into the mist" when writing. There are questions to ask when you get stuck or come across a plot problem. There are guidelines on what needs to be clear in each scene and how to keep the tension up. There are pointers on how to include twists. And some of the character stuff--questions to ask about their secrets, shame, fears, etc--was brilliant.

I have five pages of notes from the book and put sticky flags on way too many pages because there was too much great stuff to hold in my head all at once. I'm kind of a junkie when it comes to book on writing and can be hard to please, but I have no qualms giving this one five stars. I know I'll be referencing it often.


*I was not asked to give this review. I bought this book on my own.

My Promise When I Review or Recommend Books

Photo via chicagogeek (Flickr CC)Mondays are usually reserved for Must-Read Mondays, but today I wanted to talk a little bit about a related topic. There was a post last week on Dear Author called When the Personal Becomes the Professional and was about how authors approach giving negative reviews of other books. Some argue that it's professional courtesy not to tear down another author's book. Others feel that authors should be able to review like readers do and that the author on the receiving end of the feedback shouldn't get personally offended.

I'm of the school that anyone has the right to review my book and have an opinion about it. If another author posts a negative review about my book, I'm not going to think that author is being unprofessional. I can take it. However, having said that, I don't post negative reviews or talk bad about books publicly. Why? Well, frankly, it's not worth the drama--having an author take it personally, seeing them at the next conference and it being awkward, looking like you're being jealous or spiteful by panning a book in your genre, or offending readers who thought that book was the best book ever.

But, there's also this thought out there that if someone only does positive reviews, that their opinion is somehow not valid because they "like everything." But I disagree with that. I don't like everything--believe me. If I don't like something or have neutral feelings on it, you'll just never hear about. The books I recommend on Must-Read Monday or rate highly on Goodreads are books I honestly loved. I'm not going to "be nice" and give something a high rating or recommendation because I know the author or whatever. There are authors who I really like as people but I just don't connect with their writing. I'm not going to pretend I do just to be friendly.

So I'm saying all this because I want you to know that when you see me talking up a book, that means one thing--I, Roni the reader, loved the damn thing. I looked back at Must-Read Monday posts for this year. Almost all were books by authors I've never met or interacted with. None of them were given to me for review. They are just books I bought as a reader and enjoyed. Just because I don't post about the ones I didn't like doesn't make that any less valid. So you can feel confident in knowing I'm not blowing smoke or trying to sell you something on a friend's behalf. If I say I loved it, it means I loved it. : )

I'm curious, how do you view authors reviewing or recommending other authors' books? Do you assume they are just helping their friends if it's positive? If you're a writer, how do you feel about the debate on whether or not to post negative reviews?

 

The Writing Life: Knowing When to Say No and When to Say Yes

How can you resist saying yes? (photo via Dean Wissing - Flickr Creative Commons)First, a quick apology that I've been absent from the blog for the last few weeks. I hit one of those crazy stretches where I received copy edits on book 4, had to write teaser chapters for book 5, and got macro edits on the 8 parts of the e-serial all within a two week time period. And, of course, during that time, my kidlet got sick and had to stay home from school for three days. So needless to say, things got a little hairy over here. But I got it done (yay!) and it got me to thinking about what our personal limits are.

For all of us, no matter what we do for a living, there is a need to learn how to strike the right work and life balance. And one of the things that's most important to know in order to find this balance is when to say yes and when to say no. I'm notoriously bad for not knowing when to say no. Or knowing I should say no and saying yes anyway because I want to be nice/helpful/friendly. But if you keeping saying yes to things, it will crowd out the things you really need to be focusing on. And that helps no one.

But on the flip side, if you're too rigid and protective of your time, then you may miss out on opportunities that could've made a difference in your career or life in general. So how do you know when to say yes and when to say no?

Here are some things that help me decide.

How to Know When To Say No and When To Say Yes 

1. Is this request something that is purely for the benefit of someone else?

There are requests that you'll get that involve doing something for someone else and not getting any real benefit beyond feeling good that you helped out.

Examples: Can you critique my unpublished chapters? Can you donate a critique to this contest/charity/event? Can you hold a volunteer position in this writing group? Can you review my book? Can I do a guest post on your site even though I've never interacted with you before and you have no idea who I am?

How to answer: These are the requests that are lovely to say yes to IN MODERATION. It feels good to offer things in the spirit of giving and volunteering (and it can also build friendships and connections and community). However, say yes to too many of these and you'll be spending large chunks of your work time on someone else and losing valuable time you should be dedicating to your own writing and career. I've had to learn this the hard way. I said yes to too many things and ended up overwhelmed. Now I carefully evaluate each of these requests and the time it would take if I said yes.

 

2. Is this request something that could offer mutual benefit to both sides?

These are requests that may involve some of your time but could offer some opportunities or benefits (even if they aren't immediate ones.)

Examples: Can you teach a workshop at this conference? Can you do a guest post for this blog? Can you donate books to this contest? Can you offer a cover quote for my book? 

How to answer: These are ones that you can easily overwhelm yourself with because it's so tempting to say yes to it all. I *try* to say yes to as many of these as I can (and I used to say yes to all), but now I look at my schedule and time first. I almost always will say yes to doing a workshop at a conference because (a) I like giving workshops and teaching, (b) it exposes my books and blog to new people, and (c) I'm a whore for writers' conferences. But if I got too many requests, I'd have to reel myself in because these are big time suckers if you have to develop an entire workshop.

Being asked to provide cover quotes for books is super flattering. And it's often coming from writers who I already know online or have met, so I *really* want to say yes and help out. I know how hard it is to go out and ask other authors for quotes, and I've had some fantastic authors take time out of their schedules to be kind and read my books for quotes, so I want to pay it forward. But saying yes to too many of these can be an issue. You often have a due date to read the book by and inevitably, your own writing stuff will blow up right around the same time and then you're drowning. And it can get sticky if you end up not loving a book and not feeling comfortable quoting it. Hello, awkward. So I've learned to only say yes in a limited way and only for books that are solidly in my wheelhouse so that there's a high chance of me liking it.

As for guest posts, this is something that will come up quickly in your writing career. First, you're searching for people who will host you, then it flips and people are seeking you out. It's a good problem to have, but say yes to too many and that's all you'll be writing. Say yes as much as you can because exposure is great, but don't drown yourself in guest obligations.

 

3. Is this request going to directly impact your writing career?

These are usually the requests coming from your publisher or agent. 

Examples: Can you squeeze in a novella between this book and that one? Can you work under a shorter deadline? Can you try this experimental format? Can you change this element in your book? Would you be willing to write something in this genre?

How to answer: Yes, if at all possible (and in the case of changes, as long as it doesn't interfere with your vision for the book or your career.) I know this seems like a "duh" answer. Especially if you're not published yet, you're probably thinking, "Of course I'd say yes!". But when you get buried under deadlines and doing promo and trying to take care of your family and all of that, one more thing or project can make you feel like running. You may think, "I can only write a book every six months. If I take on this project, I'll be late on both and it will all be a mess." Well, maybe. BUT, have you really evaluated what your capabilities are? If I can give any advice, it would be this: Know your limits, then realize those are not static. 

When I first started writing, a book in six months was a feat. If my editor would have asked me when I sold my first book, hey can you write 3-4 books a year for us? I would've curled in a ball. How could I ever do that? But guess what? When I ended up with a tight deadline on books 3 and 4, I did it. And when my editor said, "Hey we have this new e-serial format we're trying. We'd like you to write one for us, but it means squeezing it into your already tight deadline schedule and there will be no wiggle room to be late." I said yes first and figured out how to do it later. And was it crazy and stressful? Yes. Did I have to say no to some other things from the first two categories to get it done? Yes. Did I do it? Yes.  Which means I was capable of more than I thought. But I had to say yes to force myself to find that out. And I'm so glad I did because now I have another great opportunity to get another story out there. If I had said no, the opportunity would have been passed to someone else. And if I had said yes to everything in category one and two, I wouldn't have had time to do this. 

So you need to protect your time like a big, burly bouncer standing at the door, but you also need to be flexible to take on those things that "move the needle" (as my hubs would say). Yes, doing things for nothing in return is wonderful and you should continue to do them, but no one should feel obligated to say yes all the time. Because oftentimes saying yes to others is saying no to yourself and your own goals (and family time for that matter.) Find the balance that works for you, and on the flip side, don't sell yourself short on what you're capable of.

Do you have trouble saying no? Have you found it hard to balance your own goals and career needs with the pull of others' needs? What have you said yes to that you're so happy you did? What have you said no or yes to that you regret?

Should You Write That Potentially Controversial Scene?

Photo by CarbonNYC (Flickr cc)Writing any story is a risk. You're putting your heart there on the page, and people may hate it. And, of course, we want everyone to love our stories, right? But here's the thing: it's an impossible task. There is no book that is going to resonate with everyone. Even the greatest works of fiction have their critics.

So when you sit down and are writing your story and you hit that scene where you think--should I go there? Will this offend/freak out/piss off this A/B/C group of people?--do not cower. If it's right for the story and those characters, then write it. 

Inevitably, in each of my books there is THAT scene--one scene that divides my readers between two camps. Some of my more traditional readers think the scene went a little too far, and then my more seasoned romance and erotic readers declare the scene their favorite. It never fails. What one side hates, the other adores. Though, I do get a lot of converts over from the traditional side with each book, lol. *evil grin* But regardless, there's always that scene. In STILL INTO YOU, it's the scene with my married couple and Ian. In MELT INTO YOU, it's the scene between Andre and Jace. And now with FALL INTO YOU, it's a scene involving a "make me" role play between the hero and heroine.

Do I know these scenes may push some buttons when I'm writing them? Yes. Do I still put them in? Yes. Because that's part of what makes the story interesting. It's not controversy for the sake of controversy, but it's those scenes that make the reader wonder in your next book and keeps them guessing. If I always wrote the safe way, then you'd know exactly what to expect in each book. Who wants that? That's why I love Tiffany Reisz's books so much because I know she's willing to go wherever the hell she wants, lol. So as a reader, it keeps me on my toes. And recently, I read Reflected In You by Sylvia Day. I'm not going to give away the ending, but what she did there at the end made me go all 0.0  I was like--oh, she WENT there. And I loved that. It made the book so much better because she didn't shy away from a truly risky move.

So when you come across that controversial scene in your own book, don't worry about what will so and so think. Put on your big girl (or boy) underoos and write what fits the characters and the story. That's your job. 

Have you ever worried about a scene being too controversial in any of your stories? How do you feel when you run across those scenes in the books of others and it pushes you out of your comfort zone?

Most Popular Posts of 2012 and Introducing Must-Read Mondays

Putting 2012 in our rearview mirror (kidlet does this with a cape)Happy New Year!

First, before I get to today's post, I want to say thank you to everyone who helped me celebrate FALL INTO YOU's release yesterday even when you were busy doing your own holiday thing. *hugs* I hope those of you who bought it, enjoy it, and those of you who didn't--come on, get to it. Don't let those book gift certificates waste away! ;)  But seriously, I'm always indebted to each and every one of you who read my books. You rock. Thank you.

Now, on to today's post..

It's that time of the year to look back and evaluate what has gone right and wrong so we can decide how we want to move forward in the bright, shiny new year. So I thought it'd be interesting to see which posts were the most popular here on the blog in 2012. And though I knew which one would be number 1, the rest were a bit surprising. So here's what the numbers look like and what I'm going to do about it. :)

 

Top Posts of 2012

 

1.  Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog - My Story - Yeah, this wasn't a fun situation, but the post went viral and seemed to resonate with a lot of people. So, though I'd prefer not to have gone through it, I'm very glad it helped all of us learn how to do the right thing with regards to pics on our blogs.

2.  What to Read If You've Read 50 Shades of Grey and Want More BDSM Romance - Not too surprising considering the 50 phenomenon, but I was surprised that people found their way here considering the glut of info about 50 out there.

3.  BDSM Romance: What To Read If You've Never Tried It Before - This one is probably here for the same reason as number 2.

4.  Want Private Inspiration Boards? Alternatives to Pinterest - I did this post before Pinterest implemented access to 3 private boards. Clearly, it was something a lot of people were looking for (especially after my photo debacle.)

5.  What Will Make An Agent Gong Your Pages - We all want to know, don't we? :)

6.  Zang...Best American Idol Performances Ever #atozchallenge - This one surprised me. It was kind of a random post.

7.  Readers Face the Slush Pile: A Few Hard Truths - This one talked about how readers are now going to have to sift through the slush since it's hard to tell what is good and what isn't now that the indie movement is so big. (I wrote this last May and since then, have read many indie books. I've discovered that how I sift through the slush is simple--I wait for recs from friends and reviewers I trust before I buy a book. And I read samples on occasion.)

8.  Author Websites: Layering Yours With Sticky Extras - I think this one was popular because sometimes we focus so much on our blogs that we forget that readers (especially non-blog-readers) might want a little more on your author website.

9.  Kink & BDSM 101 - What It Is & Why It's So Popular In Books  - I probably have to credit 50 Shades on this one too.

10.  Because Good Smut Should Be Shared...Book Recommendations

11.  The New Adult Genre: Here To Stay This Time? - This genre is on fire right now, so I'm not surprised a lot of people stopped by.

12.  Finding Your Novel's Theme and Your Universal Theme 

 

So what was pretty interesting to me in this list is how it's changed so much from years before. Usually, my writing posts have been the big winners each year. This year, after an effort to balance my site a bit more so that I could provide content to readers and not just writers, it seems to have shifted. I was surprised at how popular the book recommendation posts were. 

Therefore, since I love doing the book rec posts, and y'all seem to appreciate them, I'm going to continue those this year in a more structured way. I'm making Mondays - Must-Read Mondays. Now, if I don't have something to recommend, I won't do a post. But generally, I'm reading enough that I always have a good book to share. And this will NOT be a place for other authors to solicit me for reviews/guest posts/etc. I'm happy to host people on occasion on other days, but I don't accept books for review. Anything I review, I picked up on my own. Plus, I want y'all to know that if I'm recommending a book, it's with no ties or strings or author-is-my-buddy bias--it's just me loving a book as a reader and wanting to pass along the word.

Now for the rest of the days on the blog, I'm still going to cover writing and social media topics when I come across something I haven't covered before. And I'll continue Fill-Me-In Fridays where I round up all the best links. However, those round up posts may be spaced out instead of every Friday because I've been too busy with writing lately to surf the web and have enough links to share each week. Also, I'm not sure if people are still loving the round up, so let me know if it's something you want me to keep around. 

I'm still working on some other features, but that's what I'm changing for now.

Now, go buy FALL INTO YOU, and enjoy your New Year's holiday! ;)

Are you making any changes to your blog this year? What posts are you most likely to stop by for here?

A Year Of Book Buying in Review: Did Social Media Influence My Choices?

What does a year say? Today I was reading Janice Hardy's blog about having too many Twitter followers (and I agree, go read it. It's a great article.) But she linked to an older post by The Intern on author social media presence and if it makes a difference. Does all that tweeting/blogging/spinning plates in the air really effect book sales? 

I've talked about the topic before from my own perspective as an author. However, I thought it would be interesting to look at my own book buying habits as a READER over the past year to see if all that social media book buzz made me buy books. 

*Now, the caveat here is that since I am in this industry, I am dialed in to social media and the world of authors, book bloggers, editors, and such. Readers like me are probably a very small segment of the book buying population. But I still thought it'd be interesting to look at my personal stats.

So here's a look at my 2012:

Format...

 

Number of ebooks (not including free) bought this year: 80

Number of print (not including free) bought this year: 23

Thoughts: Wow, I've definitely become an ebook junkie. But this is probably less about a preference for ebook than it is the sale factor. All those ebook sales get me. Plus, I get LOTS of free print books from conferences so I only have so much room.

 

How'd I find out about the books I acquired?

 

On Sale (not including free): 35

Discovered Online through someone other than the author (book blogger, twitter rec, etc.): 22

Free ebooks: 17

Favorite Authors/Auto-buys: 16

Heard About Online Directly From Author: 14

Random purchases: 5

Free print books: A lot, probably at least 50.

Thoughts:

-On sale is clearly an effective strategy for me BUT there were a lot more sales I passed up. Often those sales were paired with an online mention/rec by a book blogger or someone I know. So the sale alone is often not enough.

-Yes, I discover most of the books I buy from online soures, BUT it's rarely directly from the author. It's more word of mouth via other authors, readers, and book bloggers.

-The authors who I bought based on directly hearing about their book from them are almost 100% people I've already built relationships with online. So they are friends. These were not purchases from random authors who I've never chatted with who just happened to put out a "buy my book!" tweet. That absolutely is white noise to me. I don't pay attention at all unless I already know the person.

 

Now, those are the books I've bought, what about the books I've actually READ?

 

Books discovered via online recommendation by someone other than the author: 17

Books by Favorite/Trusted Authors: 13

Books bought on Sale: 10

Books I heard about directly from the author: 4

Random: 2

Free ebooks: 0

Free print books: 2

Thoughts:

-So even though books on sale got the most buys, they didn't get the most reads. Why is this important? Because a sale gets an author their first buy, but a read gets an author their NEXT buy. And the only FREE books I've read this year are two print books that I got at a conference. I've read 0 of the free ebooks I've downloaded.

-Online recs from book bloggers and online friends I trust clearly are effective for both what I purchase and what I read.

-Favorite authors get moved to the top of the pile for reading. I bought 16 of these and read 13. And the three that are unread are only unread because I just got them. So this is stil the strongest bought to read conversion.

 

Overall: So it looks like YES, my book buying is highly influenced by my online connections. It's the thing that most gets me to buy books because even the sales are discovered via social media. BUT I discover new books and authors through other people not through the author herself. The only books I've bought directly from my connection with the author are people I'd already developed a friendly relationship with.

So what does this mean for authors on social media? 

In my opinion, it means that you should focus on building genuine friendships with people. Trying to sell your books directly to your followers is probably not going to be very effective. But if you build real relationships with people, entertain and help with your blog/tweets/etc., then maybe those people who have gotten to know you will be the people to spread the word on your behalf. And THAT buzz is what actually gets me, as a reader, to buy...and probably many other people as well. But also realize that many, many readers are never going to dial into the online book community, so it's still a small lake in a big ocean. So don't kill yourself trying to be the social media master. Do what you can and write more books.

 

What are your thoughts? Where do you find out about the books you buy? What's your biggest book buying influence?


Facebook vs. Twitter: Where The Readers Are

Photo by Ed Yourdon (flickr cc)Facebook or Twitter? It's a question that people seem to have definite feelings on. Most people prefer one strongly and see the other as a pain. In the past, I've made it no secret that I'm a Twitter girl. I like the fast pace and the simple interface. I like that I can follow a bunch of people and get a little nibble of everything. And frankly, I use it as my blog reader now since I never seem to have time to keep up with my Google Reader.

However, over the last two months or so, I decided to put more effort into my Facebook presence. Many established authors swear by Facebook for connecting with readers, and I know that people are way more likely to be on Facebook than Twitter.

So I begin to put focus on FB and not just by copying tweets over there. FB and Twitter are inherently different in the kinds of updates that "fit." I also made the point of keeping FB more reader-focused than writing-focused. Twitter is filled with my fellow writers who don't mind hearing about word counts or craft-related things. But FB seemed to be getting more pure readers, so I didn't want to bore them with the technical side of writing.

And you know what? Yesterday, the difference in "crowd" became noticeable.

I posted a question on both Twitter and Facebook asking what I should put on a stamp I'm going to use when I send out signed bookplates. One option was my tagline "For the Fearless Romantic" and the other was "Greetings from The Ranch."  For those of you who aren't aware, The Ranch is the BDSM resort in my series.

So the results were very telling. Almost every one of my Twitter followers said the Fearless Romantic one. Then on Facebook, every vote was for The Ranch. It was amazing how divided it was.

And then I realized the difference. My writer friends were going for the one that spoke more to "author brand". We've been trained to think that way, to have that marketing hook. But my READERS who are already fans of the books were thrilled at the thought of having "Greetings from The Ranch." One line is meant to "sell" the books to new people. The other serves to entertain people who love the series already.

So, it was an easy decision. Anyone who is asking me for a bookplate is already a fan. Therefore, this needs to be for them. It's not about selling someone new on the book. If this were for promo material at a conference or something, the fearless romantic line would be the better fit. So it was a lesson in knowing who your audience is for something.

BUT, back to the point, this also showed me the clear distinction. Twitter is where my writer friends hang out. Facebook is where more readers are. (At least from my own anecdotal evidence and what I've heard from other authors.)

So which one should you do? 

Short answer: Both

Longer answer: If you don't have time for both, do which one you enjoy the most because that's the one you'll probably thrive at.

But here are some things to consider and make a good case for cultivating both...

Why Facebook Is Important?

  • It's the most likely place fans will look for you besides your website.
  • Not everyone is a social media addict (like we writers are). Your every day person may not read blogs, have a google plus profile, a Twitter account, or a Goodreads account. But even the most social media averse person probably has a Facebook page. My grandparents have one, my parents have one, my high school teachers have them. I'm hard pressed to think of someone I know who DOESN'T have one.
  • It allows you longer updates because not everything can be said in 140 characters.
  • It gives you the chance to put up exclusive content and sneak peeks to give your readers something extra for following you and reading your books.
  • You only have to post an update one or two times a day. So there is more opportunity for interaction about one topic.
  • It's easy for people to share you with their friends.

 

Why Twitter Is Important?

  • There is an incredible writer community on there. Writing is a solitary business. Hanging out on Twitter is like the office water cooler. You can go there for gossip, encouragement, or just to vent to each other. 
  • Some readers do prefer Twitter and that will continue to grow.
  • It is a wealth of blog link love. Like I said, it acts as my blog reader these days.
  • It's more casual than FB in my opinion. Since you can update throughout the day, each update doesn't have to be super profound. : )
  • It's easy to share things via Twitter.
  • It doesn't have all the restrictions like FB. And your followers see your updates--you don't have to pay extra to "promote".
  • You don't get a crap ton of emails anytime someone comments on something.
  • It's less of a commitment for someone to follow you on Twitter. Most people won't "Like" a FB page unless they are a fan already. But many people will follow you on Twitter just to check you out and see what you have to say. So it's easier to introduce yourself and your books to new people.

Each obviously has benefits and drawbacks. But I think if you can manage both, you're going to find you have a more well-rounded online presence. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to find you and connect with you.

So, if you aren't already there and want to hang out with me, you can find me on Twitter AND Facebook. ;)

What do you think? Do you have a preference? To those of you on both platforms, do you find a difference in the "crowd"? As a reader, do you seek out authors on any particular social network?

Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Writing Links of the Week

Cave Silhouette

Photo via NeilsPhotography (Flickr CC)

*peeks out from writing cave* *blinks* Wow, there's light out there. And people.

Writing Update: How is it Friday already? I think I missed a couple of days this week. I've been trying to write with the Fast Draft mentality this week (not true fast draft of 5k a day, but writing without obsessing and going back constantly to fix stuff.) It's definitely not my natural state and I get walloped with the anxiety of it all at least once a day--what if I'm going in the wrong direction, what if I'm writing all these words that won't be used, etc. Ack. But so far, I haven't gone back, and in the last three days I've written about 7k words, which is a decent pace. Hopefully they're mostly the right words. We'll see.

Book Update: There will be official announcements coming soon, but I did get a couple of good news things this week. All I'll say for now is that it looks like you'll be getting stories from The Ranch for a while to come. : )

All right, now on to the best links I've come across this week...

 

On Writing/Publishing: 

 

 

On Social Media/Promotion:

 

 

What You May Have Missed Here:

 

 

For Gits and Shiggles:

  • 2012 BTCA finalists <--Want to know what crazy deep-fried concoctions have finaled for this year's Texas State Fair? I think the deep-fried cinnamon roll with bacon is going to be the one I get in line for.

 

 All right, that's what I've got for this week. How has your week been? Hope y'all have a great weekend!

3 Reasons Why Coercing Readers Into Newsletter Subscriptions Is a Bad Idea

Image via opensourcewayWhen it comes to marketing our books, all of us want a captive audience. We want to know how to find the readers who love our books and the readers who COULD love our books. And we want to be able to reach out to these people so we can connect with them, build relationships, and at some point let them know when we have something new out. And one of the traditional ways of doing that for authors is the newsletter. 

Talk to any marketing expert and they'll mention the importance of building your "list". The list being that group of people who have voluntarily signed up to listen to you. And this list is so important because a) This is your captive audience and b) It's something that can't be taken away like Facebook or Twitter (Remember MySpace? If you'd built all your following there, you'd be in trouble now.)

So that's why you'll see so many writers running contests that give you points or require you to sign up for their newsletter or blog in order to enter. You can give away a Kindle and get that ever-precious list to grow to hundreds, thousands! Whee!

Yeah. And guess how many of those people ACTUALLY give a flip about the kind of books you write? Exactly. They wanted to win the contest and jumped through your hoop, but they are not your target audience. But, but, but... you say. But they COULD become my readers when they see my kickass newsletter in their inbox. But they know my name now and name awareness is everything. But, but, but...

Here's the thing...

This is what typically happens when I've signed up for a newsletter in the past just to enter a contest or get something:

  • I see it in my inbox, don't recognize the author, I delete it.

Everyone gets enough email, and we're accustomed to deleting spam and advertisements without even opening them. Newsletters are great when it's someone I'm truly interested in. But if I'm not a fan already, no newsletter has ever converted me into one.

  • After I delete it a few times, I start to get annoyed and I unsubscribe.

So now, not only am I not interested, I kind of have a bad taste in my mouth. I feel like I was coerced into this subscription and now I have to waste my time to unsubscribe.

 

Why Coercion Doesn't Work

1. Email is a higher level commitment these days.

If I sign up for a blog, it's easy enough to scroll through my blog reader and skim past posts that don't interest me. But you do have a chance of catching my eye and maybe getting a new fan if you write something interesting. But if subscribing to a blog is like smiling at a guy across the room to let him know you could be interested, signing up for an email newsletter is like giving him your phone number and agreeing to a date. It's a bigger commitment. You don't want to date everyone. You hand pick those people.

2. It doesn't foster true connection with your readers or potential readers

When we sign up for something just to be entered for a contest, it's pretty clinical. Okay, what do I have to jump through to win this thing? Sign up for newsletter--check. Tweet the contest--check. This isn't introducing you to new readers necessarily. It's not giving them a reason of WHY they should WANT to follow you and get that pretty newsletter.

3. Newsletters are typically very fan-focused so play to a different audience than the group you coerced.

There are exceptions, but in general, newsletters are set up to play to that captive audience--your current fans. But if I'm not already a reader of your books, what do I care about exclusive excerpts or the cupcake recipe your character used? *delete* This goes deeper into what you should put in a newsletter. I personally think author newsletters are meant for current fans and blogs/twitter/facebook are better for attracting new people to try your books. But feel free to disagree with me on that one.

 

Can you tell I got one too many newsletters in my inbox this week? ;) I think newsletters are a fantastic feature to have added to your website. Many readers are NOT daily blog readers and like having a newsletter come to them to remind them that you have a new book out. However, I think newsletter sign-up should be truly voluntary. It's called "opting in" for a reason. And it's fine if you offer some freebie for signing up--an exclusive chapter, a free ebook, whatever. But have it be something that encourages interest in your books, something that plays to your target audience.

Don't just build a list to build a list; make it a meaningful one. One hundred true fan subscribers are better than a thousand people who really just wanted to win a gift card and have no real interest in you or your books.

So what do you think? Anyone else get annoyed by the newsletter thing? What newsletters do you love to get and look forward to reading? What audience do you think an author newsletter should be targeted toward--current fans or potential readers?

Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Writing Links of the Week

Hurricane Isaac makes landfall.

Hurricane Isaac Makes Landfall 

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class R. Jason Brunson) 

Hope everyone has had a good week. It hasn't been the best week on my end. Hurricane Isaac made its way through Louisiana and my parents' house (the house I spent most of my life in) was flooded. Luckily, they evacuated before the storm, but their house which they literally just spent two years completely remodeling from top to bottom is going to be ruined. :( And because it was only a Cat 1 storm, they didn't even bother to take things like photos and such with them. They've lived there twenty years, through Andrew, through Katrina, and never even had water on their street. Then this one comes along and wham. : (  So send prayers to Louisiana and anyone who's been affected by this storm.

All right, now on to the links for the week...

Favorite Link of the Week: The Publishing Process in GIF Form | Nathan Bransford, Author <--so funny AND true

 

On Writing/Publishing: 

 

 

On Social Media/Marketing: 

 

 

For Gits and Shiggles: 

 

What You May Have Missed Here:

 

That's all I've got for you this week. Hope everyone has a lovely weekend. : )

Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Writing Links of the Week

  

 Fave photo of the week: My haul from RWA *pets*

How is it the end of the week already? Wow. All right, so those who may new to the blog, on Fridays I do a links round up of the best writing and publishing posts (along with a few fun posts thrown in) of the week. Since I was at RWA last week, I skipped a week, so this list will be a bit chunky. :) 

On Writing/Publishing:

 

On Social Media/Blogging/Promotion:

 

For Gits and Shiggles: 

 

What You May Have Missed Here:

 

All right, that's what I have this week. Now I'm off to hopefully write two winning book proposals. I hope y'all have a great weekend! :)

The 5 Emotional Stages of a Book Launch

This week at RWA Nationals I was on a panel called The Girlfriend's Guide to Debut Authorhood. And in the presentation I referenced this post. So since I'm still buried after coming back from a week away, I thought it'd be a good time to rerun this post. And let me tell you, these stages don't change much. I learned a lot with my debut release, but the release of MELT INTO YOU still came with many of these stages too. 

On to the post...

From January 2012:

I've almost made it through month one of my debut release. The month has been an exciting, exhausting, and emotional whirlwind. I have lots of blog post ideas spinning through my head about the experience, what I've learned, and what I'd do differently.

But first I thought I'd give you a brief overview of what my debut month looked like.

 

The Five Emotional Stages of a Book Launch

 

A Big Smile
Photo by Anil Mohabir
Week One: Book Release Euphoria

You're so damn happy, you can't feel your face anymore because you're smiling so much. Your book is out there! People are talking about it, blogging about it, authors you're a fangirl of are tweeting congrats to you. You walk into your local bookstore and there it is--your book on the freaking shelf! You vacillate widely between wanting to cry and wanting to break out into song in public. You're so busy, you're lucky if you remember to eat and sleep.

facebook engancha
Photo by Olga Palma
Week Two: Obsession

You're guest blogging like a mad woman, responding to comments, tweeting about your blog tour, and trying to do you normal writing too. But that's not why you're at your computer. Nope, you're there because now you're obsessed. What's my Amazon ranking this hour? What are reviewers saying? How many ratings do I have on Goodreads? Ooh, is that a new review? What are people saying about me and my book? I need to google myself again. Must. Check. One. More. Time. It's maddening.

Geo Burn Out-1
Photo via gb_packards
Week Three: Burning Out

This is when the flip side of weeks one and two rears its ugly head. In all your obsession, you've realized not everyone thinks you're made of awesome and sugar cookies. It's inevitable. We anticipate that. Hell, we're writers. We're built on rejection. How much did we see to get to this point? But anticipating it and seeing it on the interwebs are two different things. Rejection up to this point hasn't felt personal. It's been more like structured feedback or the general "no thanks" from the agent. But online, people have no qualms about making it personal, saying mean things, or even making assumptions about what kind of person you are. Maybe one day that stuff just rolls off, but at least for me, I found it affecting my mood and distracting me from whatever I was supposed to be working on. (I'll blog about this in more depth another day.)

Felix hiding under the covers
Photo via Tracey Adams 
Week Four: Collapsing in Exhaustion and Cocooning

You're tired. Really bone tired, but also creatively and emotionally drained. You crave to get back to your routine and your life. For me, this meant a bit of cocooning or insulating myself. I stepped away from the week two obsession. If someone brings my attention to a review, I'll read it. Otherwise, I don't need to go out and see everything anyone has ever said about me or the book. And I don't need to say yes to everything.

 
Balance of nature
Photo by James Jordan
Week Five: Finding Balance and Re-Focusing on Why You're Doing This In the First Place

You realize the reason why you're doing all this stuff is because you love to write. You would like to make a living doing it. So you back away from all the hoopla and get back to your keyboard and your story. I'm not totally here yet, but I'm hoping by next week I will be, lol.

So those are my thoughts after four weeks, about 50 blog posts (counting guest posts and my own blogs), comment answering, completing copy edits on two books, plus trying to draft another with a tight deadline. *downs a shot of tequila* 

So what do you think? If you're published, have you experienced any of this? If you're hoping to get published, what do you think will be your biggest challenge during your book release? 


A Bright Side - Writers Building a Photo Sharing Community

Wow, it's been a crazy weekend here at the blog with my copyright post this last Friday. I had to close comments finally because things were starting to spin into the name-calling direction. But before that, there was a vibrant and impassioned discussion in the comments and I appreciate everyone who chimed in with things that added to the discussion.

And clearly based on the shear volume of visitors and attention the post has I gotten, I wasn't the only one confused over the Fair Use laws. So I'm glad that even though this wasn't a fun thing to go through, the word on the right way to use photos is getting spread. That's good news for bloggers AND photographers.

One benefit that came out of this was bloggers and writers getting inspired to create their own photos and to share them. Kristen Lamb, founder of WANA International and the blogger/author behind the #myWANA (We Are Not Alone) hashtag on Twitter, even started a group on Flickr where we writers can submit our photos for free sharing with other writers for blog use. Already I'm astounded at the gorgeous pics some of the WANAs have submitted to the group. I guess I shouldn't be. Writers are a creative lot. : )

And it's definitely made me start looking at random things I could photograph for blog posts. On today's agenda was kidlet's toys. Here are some photos I've taken. (I think kidlet had as much fun as I did with the process.)

USA map puzzle

His favorite puzzle

 

IMG_0204IMG_0205

For back to school posts

 

IMG_0207

Recreating the Jurassic Park scene for my Plot-Driven post

 

IMG_0209

Yes, I violated kidlet's dolls to create a pic for my Sexual Tension post. Let's ignore that they're technically brother and sister. I was just channeling Flowers in the Attic.

 

Kidlet's creation

Kidlet's creation.

 

So I'm a person who always tries to find the positive, the bright side, of situations. Life's too short to stew in negativity. So that's what I want to do in this situation as well. One obvious positive thing that has come out of this is awareness in the blogging community and a swell of people changing things now that they know better. But also seeing writers get together to help each other out warms the cockles of my heart. 

I hope the creativity and the desire to make things better continues.

Now just a heads up--I'm going to be attending the RWA conference this week so my internet access is going to be limited at best. I have the lovely Tori St. Claire guest blogging here tomorrow, but the rest of the week, I'm taking off from the blog. I hope to come back from RWA with lots of great new information to share.

I hope you all have a fantastic week!

How has learning about the copyright rules changed how you're going forward with your blog? Are you more motivated to take your own photos?

Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Writing Links of the Week

 

Favorite Photo of the Week: A.J. of Lit at Billy Bob's this past weekend. Yes, a rock band at a the world's largest honky tonk. It was like walking into a scene from Urban Cowboy but then they were playing Nine Inch Nails on the speakers. o.0

 

This week's list of links is going to be a little shorter than usual because I've been holed up in the rewriting cave under a tight deadline. I'm still in there, but I can almost see light at the end of the title (ha, that last word was a typo, but I think I'll leave it as stands, it's appropriate). That concert (above) is about the only relaxation I've had this week, so I'm looking forward to getting this book sent off so I can breathe. Well at least until I start drafting book four next week, lol.

So here are some of the best links I've come across this week...

 

On Writing/Publishing:

 

 

On Reviews (since that seems to be the BIG topic this week, with lots of kerfuffleness going on) 

 

 

On Social Networking and Marketing:

 

 

On Other Stuff: 

 

 

What You May Have Missed From Me This Week: 

 

Alright, that's what I've got this week. How has your week been? What's your weekend looking like?

Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Writing Links of the Week

 

Signing MELT INTO YOU at B&N

Whew, it's been a whirlwind week. MELT INTO YOU released (thanks to everyone who's bought it so far!) and I've been staying with my parents, so I've felt a bit off balance all week. I haven't written, and I've barely managed to blog. It's been a fun two weeks away from home, but boy am I ready to get back to my routine.

And though I haven't been able to surf articles as much this week, I did find a few can't miss posts that I wanted to share with you.

On Writing/Publishing:

7 Ways You Give Away Your Power – and How to Avoid It | Rachelle Gardner

The Luxury of Having Options | Mystery Writing is Murder

See How Easily You Can Write A Novel Using The Snowflake Method via BubbleCow (This idea gives me heart palpitations, but it may work for you.)

Between Fact and Fiction: Allow Yourself To Think Of Alternatives

For writers: Steps to deal with book piracy « Stephanie Lawton

25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing via Chuck Wendig

Bisy Backson: The Unsung Value of Idle Time « Writerland

Cheryl Rainfield » Evernote: A Great Free Tool For Writers

Successful Fiction Begins With a Great Concept - via Kill Zone

Protecting Your Writing Time – And Yourself via Writer Unboxed

 

On Social Networking/Promotion:

6 Rules of Facebook Engagement via Lisa Hall Wilson

Blogging Basics: 10 Places to Find Images That DON'T Cost a Penny via Amberr Meadows

Cat's Eye Writer Blog | Judy Dunn - Pencils, Pens and Writing - The Beauty of Low Tech Blogging

Authors online–good or bad? via Carina Press

 

For Fun:

Top ten myths about introverts – Basically a breakdown of me. | Chris Conner

ME AND MAGIC MIKE | TheRomanceMan <--a guy's perspective

 

What You May Have Missed Here:

Hats, hats, hats...

5 Signs You're Having a Blog Identity Crisis & 8 Ways To Fix It

 

That's all I've got this week. Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! My blog will be back to "normal" next week since I'll be back home again.