Creating Your Social Media Platform

Welcome to the third post in the Basic Marketing for Authors series. Diving into social media, or even dipping your toes in, can be terrifying! Especially if you’re like me and grew up when face and book were two separate words.

We know social media is a great resource for connecting with writers, industry professionals, and learning tips about our craft, but it’s also a great way to reach kidlit readers, or more specifically, their parents.

FACEBOOK:  This is an extremely popular site with adults. Having an author page gives you a shareable site that links to your other social media accounts. On this page you can push your tweets and blogs giving you Facebook content without having to create anything new.

GOODREADS:  What a great site – one specifically designed for readers! A Goodreads author profile allows users of this site to learn about you, the books you’ve written, and connect with you based on books you’ve read and are passionate about. Additionally, you can sync your blog with your profile, which Goodreads will email to members who like your profile. This site is also a good place for discussions in a few of the thousands of groups available. And don’t forget about the reviews. Positive comments about your book go a long way in drumming up interest in your work.

INSTAGRAM:  This is a site for pictures and short videos and is used by middle-grade and young-adult aged kids as well as adults. This media tool is another way to showcase your personality. Post pictures of your workspace (even if it’s messy), inspirations for your books, and sketches of characters and maps. And don’t forget the fun pictures of your animals, favorite hobbies, and yummy food!

PINTEREST:  As an author, this site can be used to display your interests and grab the attention of parents with similar ones to yours, or have kids who are like-minded readers. For example, you can show your favorite spooky middle grade reads or edge-of-your-seat young adult thrillers. Along with your interests, you can post vision boards and fan art for your books, both great extras for readers.

TWITTER:  Twitter is mainly used by adults and they tweet about everything! (Good and bad) This is probably the best social media tool for making connections, not just with parents of kidlit readers, but also people in the industry. (For more information on using Twitter to connect with the writing industry, read Twitter-101-For-Writers.)

As an author, you should connect with bloggers, parents, teachers,
librarians, and others who are interested in kidlit books and have the resources to help you get yours to readers. The best way to connect is to become part of big conversations. Seek out hashtags on subjects you enjoy – or hate! – comment on them, and engage with the people tweeting. Find hashtags parents and teachers use and get yourself known in those circles. This will also give you opportunities to talk about your book’s topic and begin discussion questions, possibly creating your own hashtag.

SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS:

  1. Schedule content. Social media can seem overwhelming and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. Use tools like Buffer, TweetDeck, and Hootsuite to schedule daily and weekly social media content.
  1. Contests and giveaways. Have fans share a post or comment for a chance to win a signed copy of your book. Use giveaways to generate pre-release interest and reviews for your upcoming book.
  1. Promote events. Social media sites can be used to announce upcoming events like book signings, author appearances, and online discussions.
  1. Highlight important dates. Facebook and Twitter allow you to pin posts to the top of your profile pages, which will allow greater visibility. Use these for book releases, events, or contests.
  1. Use images. Tweets and posts with images are believed to generate more interest and more sharing. Show your book cover, a teaser quote, or even a stock photo or GIF video.
  1. Engage your audience. The more interaction you have with your fans, the more exposure you will have, as the conversations will be posted on your fans’ pages and seen by their friends.

I would love to hear how you use social media and about other sites not mentioned here. And if you haven’t read the previous posts in this series, you can check them out Creating Your Brand and Creating Your Website.

HALLI GOMEZ teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults because those voices flow through her brain. She enjoys family, outdoors, reading, and is addicted to superhero movies. You can find her on Twitter.

 

 

Four on 400: March Feedback

Thank you to all the brave souls who entered this month’s Four on 400 contest! Sharing your writing takes courage, and we appreciate your enthusiasm for our contest.

Below, we’ve posted the first 400 words from this month’s winner, along with feedback from at least four of our members. We also encourage our readers to share their (constructive) suggestions and encouragement in the comments section below.

 

HEART OF THE HUDSON

MG Historical Fiction

“When I see the likes o’ ‘im,” Mrs. Macgregor bellowed, lumbering into the kitchen and across the freshly scrubbed floor, “I’ll give ‘im a slap on the ear!”

Cara ducked her head and curled into a ball as she knelt by the wash bucket on the floor.

“When ‘e fancies showin’ up, send ‘im in ‘ere,” Mrs. Macgregor said and huffed out of the kitchen through the drawing room door.

Cara pushed herself to her feet and surveyed the trail of footprints. “Ugh,” she groaned, knowing she’d have to start over. If the floors weren’t spotless, she’d pay for it later.

The back door opened a crack and Will peeked through the opening.

“Well, speak of the devil,” Cara said, glaring at him.

Will lifted a finger to his lips, shushing her. “Where’s Igor?” he whispered, using the nickname they called Mrs. Macgregor.

“Follow the footprints,” Cara said, angrily gesturing with a sweep of her hand.

Will eased the door open, but stood awkwardly in the entrance.

“You were supposed to be here hours ago.” Cara dropped the brush into the bucket and droplets of water littered the floor.

“I lost track of time.” Will raised his arm, hoisting a line of fish in front of him. “This should make her happy!”

“Your fish don’t fool me. What have you been up to?”

Cara planted her hands on her hips and rose to her full height. She still only reached the top of his shoulder, so she narrowed her eyes disapprovingly.

“You sound more like Igor every day.” Will frowned as he stepped through the doorway.

Cara ignored his biting remark. “I can tell you’re up to no good. There’s something different about you.” She wrinkled her nose. “I could smell you before I could see you, so it’s not a girl you’re trying to impress.”

She took in her older brother’s ruffled appearance – his knee-worn pants and ill-fitting shirt that exposed two inches of forearm. Will squirmed as Cara looked him over from head to toe, like he was a prized hog at the market. Will’s curly, black hair was matted and he sported the ever present dirt smudges on his face.

Honestly,” she said. “How can a person who practically lives on the water get so dirty?”

Fear prickled along her skin. Will’s blue eyes sparkled – almost feverishly. “You’ve been out to the ship!” she gasped.

Gita: Thank you for sharing the beginning of THE HEART OF THE HUDSON with us. I love (and write) historical fiction and by the time I got to the disparity between Cara’s fear and Will’s feverish excitement over the mysterious ship, I was eager to read on. Because beginnings are so important, I’d love to see you get the reader to that point more directly. I’m curious about your choice to start with Mrs Macgregor—in particular, with her dialogue. Not only is it in dialect, but your story’s first lines are uttered by a character who soon exits the scene. My preference—both in writing and reading—is to use word choice and word order to convey dialect. For me, changing the spelling would be a last resort if I felt the character’s voice wasn’t clear enough. I’m also wondering: do you need to start the scene with Mrs Macgregor? Another option would be to see how it feels starting with your protagonist Cara, bent over the wash bucket, just before Will comes in, at which point Cara’s angry statement, “You were supposed to be here hours ago,” introduces the real action and gets us closer to the conflict. Good luck with this! Happy writing!

Laurel: I really enjoyed the strong moment at the end. I felt Cara putting the pieces together to come to a conclusion. The excitement about the ship jumps right off the page. As a reader, I’m in the moment. I want to know what’s going to happen with that ship. This line really gives us Will’s personality: “‘Where’s Igor?’ he whispered, using the nickname they called Mrs. Macgregor.” Personally, I find it challenging to begin a story with a line of dialogue. It took me years to realize that SHOW DON’T TELL doesn’t always apply to the first line of a story. A quick sketch of setting or situation is a much more efficient start. So, I say, be brave, go ahead and TELL at the beginning. And then don’t TELL anywhere else. For example: “Will lifted a finger to his lips, shushing her.” is a SHOW AND TELL. For example, “lifted a finger to his lips” SHOWS what “shushing her” TELLS. I always cut the TELL when I find these in my own writing. Two little details: who is Will trying to impress? What kind of living on the water keeps you clean? A tiny bit more of Cara’s thought process could set the reader up nicely for the realization at the end. Looks like a lively story!

 Gabrielle: Thanks so much for sharing your story! I think You’ve got some great character development right at the start, and I’m especially fond of the way Cara draws herself up to look at Will. We get a sense of both her character, and her appearance in relation to him, which is great. I agree with Laurel that it would be better not to start with a line of dialog. You can give us some more setting and sensory experience that will draw us closer to Cara before you dive into the stakes. Even a sentence or two will do a lot to pull us further into the scene. I think Igor’s (their nickname is too funny) dialect is a little too much. You can achieve the same effect, and tone it back. It’s a little distracting. I really like the twist of the last sentence, where she figures out what he’s been up to, but you defuse it by naming the emotion. You can give us a little more of her experience in the moment here, to go with her physical reaction, and then trust your reader. If an idea of where he’s been comes to her, wafting on a thick scent of mudflats and seawater–and if then her skin prickles and her stomach drops, we’re going to know she’s figured out something that scares her. I’d love to learn more about that intriguing ship!

Halli: Thank you so much for sharing your work! I love when people go for it. It’s a scary, but necessary part of our industry. First let me say I really like Cara and Will! I can see myself following them on many adventures and I don’t even know what they’re up to yet 🙂  I do like the way you really put Cara’s personality out there – by having her rise to her full height even though she’s shorter than Will – as just one example. She is definitely the more level-headed one of the two. As some of the others mentioned, I was thrown a bit by the first sentence. I read it a few times before I really got it. Is introducing this character necessary at the very beginning? The way you described Cara with the bucket and her dismay at the footprints clearly shows her position and situation. I enjoyed the last half of the submission even more and found myself trying to figure out where Will had been right along with Cara.

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Creating Your Website

Welcome back to my series Basic Marketing for Authors. In the last blog post of this series, Creating Your Brand, I mentioned there are many uses for your brand including social media, promotion material, and websites.

Today we are focusing on websites. A scary, but necessary part of your platform and career-long marketing. (Who am I kidding? It’s all scary!) Okay, you have your brand. How do you use that to create a website?

Step one: take a deep breath. 

Step two: Buy a domain.

What is a domain? It is an easy to remember name that hides the technical IP address for web pages, and the easiest way for people to find you is by using your name. For example: halligomez.com. I am fortunate to have a unique name that was available (that’s the first time I’ve ever said that!) If your name is unavailable, try a similar variation such as gkbyrnebooks.com.

Step three: Decide on which company will host your site.

What is hosting? It is the business of housing, serving, and maintaining files for websites. You rent space on a host computer which assigns an address for files to your domain so anyone can find your website on the Internet.

There are many choices and most have similar features, so it may require a little research to find which products and services best suit you. Keep in mind some products are free and some cost money.

Step four: Choose a template and theme.

What are templates and themes? A template is the layout of your website, or where you put pictures and words (think of it as walls and furniture in a house). A theme is the design of your template/website, the specific colors, pictures, fonts, and words you choose (or paint and decorations).

Before choosing the template and theme, you must decide what your website will be used for. Marketing your books with cover reveals? A calendar of events? Blogging? All three?

All templates and themes have customization options, some offer basic changes while others allow you to be more creative. There are many companies, each offering a dizzying number of templates, so take your time and find the one right for you.

Step five: You have your template and theme, you’ve incorporated your brand, now you have to decide what to put on your website. This is a list for published and unpublished authors, although not everything will apply to both.

  1. Your bio including a professional headshot (Ugh! Painful.)
  2. Links to your social media profiles
  3. A contact form for readers to subscribe to your website and for you to collect emails to send notifications of those very important announcements like your publication date(s).
  4. Book cover images and brief descriptions of your book(s)
  5. Reviews of your book(s)
  6. Links to major online retailers selling your book(s)
  7. Contact information for agent or publicist

Obviously you want your website to be a place for readers to find your books, but until you have some to offer, or before your next one is published, what can you do to engage readers? A few suggestions are promotions, giveaways, writing tips, daily/weekly/monthly inspirational quotes, games, and blog posts.

Which brings us to the question I hear the most when writers are creating a website: to blog or not to blog?

The answer has been consistent throughout the industry. If you are going to blog, you need a new post at least once a month. Once a week is even better, but a lot of writers have other jobs, families, and necessary activities such as breathing and showering (not necessarily in that order). Keeping up with a weekly blog is difficult.

No matter what format you chose for your website, it is important to remember who your audience is and will be. Before you have published books, your audience may be other writers and agents (I’ve heard some agents look for your online presence, including a website, and others do not.) When you have book(s) published, your audience will include readers, parents, teachers, and librarians.

I love to check out writer websites! Please comment and provide a link to yours.

HALLI GOMEZ teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults because those voices flow through her brain. She enjoys family, outdoors, reading, and is addicted to superhero movies. You can find her on Twitter.

Creating Your Brand

Welcome to “Creating Your Brand,” the first in a three-part series on basic marketing for authors.

BRANDING

If you are like me, a complete novice in the area of promoting yourself, this is the place for you.

In 2016, I made it a priority to learn all I could about this subject. I had one-on-one brainstorming session with a published author and marketing specialist, attended workshops with literary agents, and read A LOT! Now I am ready to share the basics. Let’s start with some easy questions.

What is a brand? It is an image, tagline, or look you present to your audience. In the case of writers, the audience is readers, parents, teachers, librarians, agents, and editors.

What is the purpose of a brand? It defines you and your work and makes you recognizable to your audience. Think about these easily recognizable examples (yes, they are on a much larger scale, but they may help clarify):

Coca-Cola
Apple

 

 

 

 

 

Where is your brand used? Your brand is used in all areas representing you. That includes social media, swag, book signings, school visits, presentations, and more.

What are the rules for creating a brand? There are no rules, but your brand should be focused, concise, and consistent. It should be clear that you understand your audience. Of course your focus will change throughout your career, so don’t be afraid to rebrand as necessary.

CREATING A BRAND

Now that we know what a brand is, it’s time to get to the good stuff. Creating one. But how does an author just starting out, without a huge advance to spend on a marketing team, create a brand? Excellent question. Before we get to that, let’s look at a few websites that clearly define the author:

Rob Sanders – His website is colorful and animated, with a banner in pastel colors of children walking in a line. It clearly shows he writes books for young children.

Kim Liggett – Kim’s website is dark with red, black, and gray, and gives you a spooky and creepy feeling. Kim is a young adult horror writer. In addition, the image on her website includes a black ribbon, which is a central theme in her first book, and clearly represents her work.

Ellie Terry – Ellie’s website is simple, yet whimsical and colorful, just the right feeling for middle grade readers. In addition, her background is consistent with her upcoming book cover and her bio picture.

Okay, so where do we start?

The first step is to decide what central idea you want to convey to your audience. Think about it like this, most writers have an alter ego. You may be an accountant by day and writer of humorous, laugh so hard you snort, stories for children by night. Will kids want to see you in a business suit with tax papers in front of you, or read your jokes that makes milk come out of their noses? I love numbers, but my vote is for squirting milk.

One tip to find your central idea is to list the types of stories you write. Do you stick with one particular age group or genre like the examples above? At first glance, your books may seem different, but if you dig deep, I’ll bet you find some similarities.

You believe you have an idea, now what?

Think of it in a visual way. Are you drawn to sleek, whimsical, black and white, color, photos, or something simple like just your name. Even a name or tagline is visual because you will want to decide on which font best represents it.

You’ve narrowed it down. You have a visual. Great! Now make it happen.

You want me to do what? How am I supposed to do that?

With a lot of researching to find what engages you, even more playing around with styles, and most of all, not being afraid to try.

At least that’s what I did.

I write for middle grade and young adult readers. Both are kids, but are far different in terms of likes, dislikes, ideas, goals, and interests. I wanted my brand to encompass both, so fun and moody at the same time.

I also write in different genres. My novels are all based in current times, but each have an element that makes them unique, such as science fiction, paranormal, mystery, own voices, and more. Based on that, I leaned toward a generic look.

The last thing I wanted to include was something about myself. An image that clearly showed what I loved best. Besides my family and superhero movies, that would be books.

So I took my ideas and sent them to my wonderful illustrator Eva Folks. She played around with a few sketches and color palettes to create my brand. And thanks to her incredible idea of listing the genres I write in the final product, whenever my audience sees my brand, they know what to expect from me. Here is the finished product:

You can see my entire website and more of Eva’s drawings at halligomez.com

Is creating your brand stressful? YES! You want to present yourself in the best possible way, but remember to play around and don’t be afraid to try.

Stay tuned for part two of the series “Your Website” coming in February. I would love to hear your tips on creating a brand. Please leave them in the comments.

 HALLI GOMEZ teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults because those voices flow through her brain. She enjoys family, outdoors, reading, and is addicted to superhero movies. You can find her on Twitter.

When An Agent Calls

The call.

You know exactly which one I’m talking about. It’s the call every unagented writer dreams of. An agent you queried punches in your digits,  gushes overth your manuscript, and says how much they would love to represent you. I had that day dream frequently. And I hoped, prayed that it would actually happen some day.

Most days my phone was silent. The email, however, was buzzing. With rejections. Over 100 for my first middle grade book.

Things looked a little brighter for my second middle grade book – a 3rd place contest win, a slot in Sun versus Snow, and a few requests. But soon after, the excitement died down. I didn’t make it in to Pitch Wars 2016, I built up sixty rejections, and most of the requests I had gotten were months before. So long ago in fact, I was sure they were lost in someone’s cloud. And of course no one understands the cloud enough to get it back.

But there was one outstanding request…

It was a query I sent out on August 30th. Thirty minutes after I hit send, the agent replied. Her email was cheery and fun. And that’s what she thought of my query, so she requested the first fifty pages. unknown

Then on September 6th, she sent another email requesting the full manuscript.

Sure she sounded excited. Yes she was more timely than the others. Still, it was one agent, and all I could focus on were the ones who had sent rejections. Or worse. No responses leaving me with a tiny ounce of hope in my heart that my head knew were no’s.

On October 1st, I had a heart-to-heart discussion with my critique partners and decided to take a break from this story. I loved it, but maybe it wasn’t the right time. I had to focus on something different. Get excited again. So for closure, I wrote a post about dealing with rejection (here), put the manuscript notes in the cabinet, and outlined a new story.

On October 6th, I was deep into the new story, a contemporary YA, or as deep as I could get lying in bed with the flu, when the phone rang. It rang several times that morning, mostly from my mom checking on me, but this was a number I didn’t recognize. Of course that meant salesperson.

But what salesperson leaves a voicemail? Um, one who wants to sell your book?

The phone call was from Kathy Green of Kathryn Green Literary Agency. The agent who thought my query was fun and had requested the full manuscript just one month ago. It was my dream, or a flu-induced hallucination. Either way, she told me she loved my story and would like to represent it.

This was the call I had been waiting for. The one I’ve dreamed about. But… I know! You’re thinking but what? Well, something had changed. I convinced myself I should focus on YA. I was sure my little middle grade light science fiction had no place in bookstores filled with fantasy and magical realism. What’s so great about a kid who doesn’t want his parents to get divorced compared to a kid who fights fantastical beasts and saves the world?

Then we talked. Kathy loved what I loved about my book. Specifically that it wasn’t fantasy or magical realism. It was a real kid with real-life problems and she believed in it. And there were other things: her agency is small, which I prefer, she’s an editorial agent, which I need. Our moms live in the same area carefully watched over by a sibling, our sons want to be chefs, we both have ties to North Carolina and New York. It seemed too good to be true.

Yes it was a dream – a dream come true! I know, corny, but so was the jumping and dancing I did after we hung up. woman-308872__180

And the way I told my family and friends I had an agent. It was like getting an engagement ring and continuously wiping the hair out of your eyes.

img_1701HALLI GOMEZ teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults because those voices flow through her brain. She enjoys family, outdoors, reading, and is addicted to superhero movies. You can find her on Twitter.