Twitter 101 for Writers: Building Your Twitter Writing Community

Twitter 101 for writers, Building your writing communityBack in February, I wrote my first post in the Twitter 101 for Writers series. That post covered the Twitter Writing Community hashtags writers can use to find resources for every stage of the writing journey, from getting words on the page to finding a literary agent. At that point, I had the idea that Twitter 101 could be a series, but wasn’t sure what to cover next. Then I met Abby Matthews, who was new to Twitter but trying to get up to speed fast so she could publicize her new podcast Mom Writes, featured on this blog last week. Abby asked me questions about Twitter and as I answered them, I came up with material for several more posts. This first one will be about Building Your Twitter Writing Community.

Abby’s question:

“To me Twitter is a lot of it is SNIPPETS of stuff. That’s where it loses me. I always feel like I’m eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation and it makes me totally uncomfortable. Plus, the vast majority of people I follow on Twitter are total strangers. So I’m like, WHY? Why would I want to listen anyway? I’m great at Facebook, but I think because Facebook was initially geared towards people you actually know in real life, I always felt more comfortable there.  

How you turn the Twitter Writing Community from a bunch of strangers writing snippets to a group of friends who will help you along your writing journey is a complicated question. Some of my friends on Twitter I’ve met in real life and that certainly helps. Others, I’ve met through in-person or online writing conferences and we had that connection, but they would probably be gone from my life without Twitter. Then there are people who I really met through Twitter. And there’s the Winged Pen which is a whole other thing. I think the best way to show how I created my Twitter Writing Community is to give examples of how Twitter helped me build relationships of different types.

Twitter 101, Building Your Twitter Writing Community
Karin, Gita Trelease and I got books signed by Kwame Alexander at the NESCBWI conference!

Karin Lefranc is a writing partner I met through SCBWI critique groups when I was moving to the U.S. from the U.K. She lives in the next town over from me. I already had an online critique group, but I planned to attend the New England SCBWI conference for the first time and didn’t want to walk in without knowing a soul, so I joined her local critique group. We went to the conference and learned about the Twitter writing community, and both joined. Karin and I meet for lunch and email all the time but on Twitter, we do things like “like” and retweet each other’s tweets, forward each other links to posts on writing topics that will help with our writing, and cheer for each other when there are things to celebrate, like the launch of her picture book: I WANT TO EAT YOUR BOOKS.

Karin is busy and not on Twitter a ton. We would still be pals without a much different relationship without Twitter, but for getting the word about her book out there, it definitely helped that we were Twitter friends because you can only Tweet about your own book so much. It helps to have friends to boost you.

Marty Mayberry, on the other hand, I met via Twitter. We were both following Pitch Wars four years ago. I was querying my first book without success and really needed help trying to figure out what was wrong. We met chatting about sci fi on the Pitch Wars hashtag and exchanged queries and first chapters so we’d be ready to sub to the contest. Then we exchanged entire manuscripts because we liked each other’s work and critiques. Then we exchanged subsequent manuscripts, so really, this is a Twitter friend who turned into a critique partner.

Marty has since gotten an agent and become a pitch wars mentor. She’s writing more adult and romance and less sci fi so we don’t exchange manuscripts now, but she’s killer with synopses, so I asked her to help me with one recently. I support her on Twitter by letting Pitch Wars hopefuls know that she’s awesome, and boosting Tweets on other contests she mentors (Nightmare on Query Street is coming up soon!)

I’ve never met Marty in person and because our writing has drifted apart, we would probably not have kept up our relationship without occasionally seeing each other and waving or high-fiving with likes and retweets or conversations on Twitter. For us, it’s like the water cooler for people who work in different departments, a place to bump into each other occasionally and see how each other is doing so the relationship doesn’t die.

Then there are the people who I met at WriteonCon. Marty dragged me to WriteonCon, an online writing conference that is a whole lot of things, but that year it was mostly forums where you could post your query and/or first page and/or first five pages and let people critique them and go and critique theirs. It was both crazy and a whole lot of fun! You could tell the people who were “your people” b/c they overlapped in genre or category and b/c their words and critiques spoke to you. After WriteOnCon, Julie Artz, suggested we form a Facebook group, The Fellowship of the Winged Pen. Members of that group later started this blog.

Even though we all email each other manuscripts for critique and have a private Facebook group to chat behind the scenes, we all chat on Twitter too. We celebrate getting agents and book deals, we boost Tweets to get them noticed, we send out links to posts that are relevant to our writing, and we just chat about topics that are trending. Some of the folks are agented and mentors for Pitch Wars, so they need to be “out there” growing a following, and it’s easier to do that if you are not just pushing your own content, but by sharing stuff you think is interesting and have friends who boost your reach.

Then, there are people like Jennie Nash, the founder of Author Accelerator, a Book Coaching company, whose posts I’ve retweeted because I think they are well written and relevant to other writers on the journey to publication. I read Jennie’s newsletter, and one day she asked for people interested in helping to get the word out about a new podcast she was involved in, Mom Writes (bringing me full circle to how I met Abby!) I never expected my relationship with Jennie Nash to extend beyond Twitter, but it’s cool that it has.

The key thing is that if you are just Tweeting out into the universe, it will feel like a black hole where no one is listening. But if you tweet things you think are interesting or that will help your Twitter Writing Community (even when it is still small and “community” might feel like an exaggeration!), it helps all of you and helps you grow your community.

This takes time. Time reading posts and figuring out who knows what they are talking about. But taking this approach of building my Twitter Writing Community helped me meet the people who wanted to create this blog, which I could never have done on my own. And it gave me the base of 3000 Twitter followers (of Winged Pen, not me), so I could offer Jennie and Abby help getting the word out about their podcast and add some more cool folks to my Twitter Writing Community. So serendipitous? Or a natural outcome of finding your community on Twitter and being willing to help (and get a good story for your blog!)?

To sum up, here are my tips for Building Your Twitter Writing Community. Look for people who:

  • Write in the same category and/or genre who you might want to exchange manuscripts with,
  • Share advice that can help you get to the next level in your writing journey, and
  • You’ve met in person and might not otherwise be able to stay in touch with.

Keeping in touch with these people on Twitter and off will all add up to a writing community to help you get where you want to go, boost you when you get rejections, and celebrate when you get wins.

DO YOU HAVE OTHER SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO BUILD A TWITTER WRITING COMMUNITY? OR QUESTIONS ON HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF TWITTER AS A WRITER? If so, leave them in the comments below!

Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She on Twitter at @RebeccaJ_Allen and her website is writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

 

How to Sell to Libraries

You might believe that traditional publishing will give you access to bookstores and libraries. The problem is few publishers offer a sales team. As far as indie authors are concerned, they are left to approach libraries on their own.

In order to figure the details out, I meet with Tamar Kreke (Adult and Technical Services Coordinator) and Kay Webster (Youth Services Coordinator) from Greene County Library. First of all, I would like to say that Tamar has the most amazing collection of glass vases. They fill her office. And I am grateful to Kay for stopping by. They both graciously took the time to answer my questions and send me links. Librarians rock!

Tamar receives about 25 pitches per years, but Kay, who is in charge of children books, rarely gets any attention.They are happy to receive postcards with pitches from indie authors.

There is one thing to keep in mind. In order to approach librarians, you need to understand what they do.

Librarians’ job is to find the best book available to attract more patrons to the library because the more patrons visit the libraries, the more budget they get. You might not see them as such, but libraries are businesses.

No acquisition manager welcomes authors walking in because they feel on the spot.

Also, authors have just a few seconds to pitch their book. Librarians are very busy people.

Do the librarians want to hear how much your book is entertaining? No.

They want to know if your book serves the demand in their branch. They want reviews and third party recommendations to check if people are buying it.

They want to be able to check the book and order with ease. They want to know if your book is available at regular wholesalers like Ingram, Baker & Taylor or Bertram and a hard cover is a plus.

If you can throw in a marketing campaign, your approach might be even more effective. It could be an article in the newspapers or a local radio where you mention your book is available in the local libraries.

You do not need to pitch each library individually though. Reach for the main library’s administrative office, the acquisition staff, or the collection development staff. A postcard with your book, email, a link to Amazon, and tons of reviews are the only things you need for a first contact. The last thing they want is an author dropping off his book or mailing it to them.

 

RESOURCES:

Derek Doepkerd. <http://ebookbestsellersecrets.com/blog-articles/>

Amy Collins. <http://realfastlibrarymarketing.com/>

Marketing to Libraries. 
<http://www.ala.org/tools/libfactsheets/alalibraryfactsheet05>
 9 Profitable Reasons to Sell (or Rent) Your Book to Libraries. 
<https://publicityhound.com/blog/9-reasons-to-sell-to-libraries>

 “Six Strong Benefits of Supporting Your Local Author Community
 in Your Library.”
<http://self-e.libraryjournal.com/>

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Read Sussu’s articles at Novel Without Further Ado or Join me in August for my FREE writing challenge, at: http://sussuchallenge.weebly.com/

 

 

 

Book Marketing Part 2: Your Mailing List

Last month, I talked about how to build your platform: http://thewingedpen.com/book-marketing-p…re-your-best-bet/. This month, I will talk about how you can bait your readership further.

A sale funnel will turn an indifferent audience into a warm audience. Your audience is made out of readers and writers like you. Think of your future audience not as potential buyers, but as a group of people who love the same things as you, as people from your tribe and your community.

Be of service to them before you push a price tag into their hands.

Your readers are waiting to discover you. They are! They would love to discover the next best writer. They are waiting to read amazing novels. They are ready to invest in the series they love.

Your funnel sale will help readers not only discover your books,.but also know more about you and ultimately develop a trust.  

 

Think about it. Free books get downloaded 100 more than $0.99 books. You want your first book to be downloaded as many times as you can. The more downloads, the more chances people will read your stories and become your fans. 

Free books: You can give away a “reader magnet” that will be only 30 pages long. It could be a short story that will only take one day to write. It could be a prequel that will explain a lot about the series you are trying to sell.

It’s your hook.

Set their expectations.

Introduce them to your world.

You can also offer a permafree (permanently free) book, the first book in the series, or a novella in order to get people to subscribe to your mailing list and to give them a taste of what you write. It is a good idea to have a trilogy to start with.  You will leverage the free book by developing your fan club. But make sure you collect email addresses while doing so.

 

You need to collect email addresses in exchange for any free book.

Give one book for free to get people to buy the rest. Thousands of books are given for free every day, so readers do not expect to buy blindly or take chances.

They expect to sample.  

It might be hard to admit or hurtful, but it’s true. Readers want to sample your writing. They want to know if you’re a good fit.

Building your email pool is very important because it will tell people who you are and what you have to offer as well as what series you are planning to write in the future. Remember, shoot for the 1,000 true fans.

What to put in your emails:

First, register to an automatic delivery email service so that you do not have to keep track of your emails. Over a period of several weeks, you should have a series of emails with actionable steps.

This is what author, teacher, and coach  Bryan Cohen advise to do:

#1 email: Deliver your audience their freebie.

#2 email: Check-in about the freebie a week later, saying something like, “Did you have a chance to read my book?” Reintroduce your book.

#3 email: Ask to connect on social media.

#4 email: Pitch your next book/series.

#5: Finally, you can invite them to your VIP site or your Beta readers program. Tell them they will get your books for free. They will post reviews for you and cheer you on.

When talking to your audience, tell them about something interesting about you. Some writers show pictures of their families and how their families influenced their book. Some writers tell a story about the conception of their novel. Some authors include freebies from programs they have joined. Think of something new readers (not yet fans) would be interested in. Discuss what you care about, your values, and what part of yourself they will find in your books. Think of it as a first impression. Open a two-way communication route. Let them ask questions and answer them, let them be part of your tribe. And good luck.

 

Resources:

Buroker, Lindsay. “Newsletters 101: Email marketing for authors.” <http://lindsayburoker.com/book-marketing/newsletters-101-email-marketing-for-authors/>

Tim Grahl’s Book Marketing Resources.<https://booklaunch.com/resources/>

 BM075: How to Build a Powerful Author Platform to Be More Visible with Alinka Rutkowska. <http://bookmarketingmentors.com/author-platform/>

Bryan Cohen’s Selling For Authors (Bryan is an incredible and generous mentor). <http://bryancohen.com/>

 Kirsten Oliphant’s Create If Writing. <http://createifwriting.com/podcast-and-show-notes/>

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If you liked this article, consider reading Sussu’s articles: “Writers Get organized” at Novel Without Further ado: http://novelwithoutfurtherado.weebly.com/

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Book Marketing Part 1: Fans are Your Best Bet

Whether you are a traditionally published, or an Indie author, or a hybrid author, you will be in charge of marketing your novels.

Many authors do not realize that they must treat their writing as a business. As an entrepreneur, your job is to make sure you have a constant source of income.

Just to be clear, by a traditionally published author, I mean someone who probably hired an agent, signed a contract, and received a four to five-figure advance from their publisher.

By Indie author, I mean someone who decided to publish on their own, who mostly offers e-books, and who earns their income directly from what they sell, minus the cost of the platform where the books are launched.

By a hybrid author, I mean someone who does self-publishing on the side and is also traditionally published. Today, I will talk about building your platform.

 

Having a platform is essential for any writer.

It’s usually a website you use not only to present your work, but also to offer goodies. Your platform not only tells your reader what you have to offer and where to buy it, it helps you connect with your fans and develop fruitful relationships.

Because you are facing a lot of competition, you have to offer something better and connect more.

First, focus. Write in one genre, one age group, and write series. Change your pen name when you write for different audiences. Fans like to stay as long as possible in the worlds they love. They like to know more about the characters they have admired. They like you to write the same kind of books they have enjoyed so that they can keep coming back for more.

Second, build your platform. Publishers will not take another chance on you if they do not see progress in sales. Sales do not depend on them anymore. They depend on you and how you present yourself. You can also chose to invest time in social media. Focus your energy on Facebook. Forget about Twitter. Make yourself available online for school visits, library events, and website tours.

Third, build your fan club. Some authors’ websites just display their books and where to buy them, but others offer a wide range of experiences. Some websites offer board games or video games to entertain their visitors and keep them coming. Others have a forum. Most forums/chat rooms nowadays have moved to Facebook groups, which allow much more freedom such as the use of live events.

EXAMPLES:

Games/Movies/Artwork: 
Brandon Sanderson: https://brandonsanderson.com/
Kit for educators: 
Brandon Mull: http://brandonmull.com/

Art gallery:
Chronicles of Alsea: http://www.chroniclesofalsea.com/writing-whoops-the-silencer/

Q&A: 
Books of Ember: http://www.jeanneduprau.com/answers.shtml

Mysteries included in Books: Spirit Animals: http://spiritanimals.scholastic.com/

Videos/trivia: 
Percy Jackson: http://www.percyjacksonbooks.com/

Note that some of those links use the name of the series rather than the name of the author. 

What you might offer:
  • Something for educators (novel guide or deal). 
  • A VIP password-accessible for loyal fans. 
  • Cut scenes, novellas, prequels to your stories. 
  • Maps, genealogies, charts, symbols. 
  • Drawings of characters & their clothes and food.
  • Fan art gallery.
  • Free novels in exchange for beta readers.
  • Talk about your writing process, where you write.
  • Be creative…

Engage the dialogue with your fans and answer their questions. Some people say 1,000 true fans are better than 10,000 sales. True fans will allow you to make a living while occasional buyers will come and go. To get the best fanbase, prefer connection to income.

Many Indie authors admit that they developed their fan base only after the third book, and they still have to write four or five books a year to maintain this fanbase.

If you are a traditionally published author, you might have to wait for years before the next book gets published, so a website is even more important for you to stay connected with your readership.

As a hybrid author, you probably can afford to wait a few years to get your next novel released in the market while you are offering novellas on the side or give a gist of your next world to your readers while they wait.

No matter what you do, build a strong platform. The more (long term / right kind of) work you put into it, the more successful you will get.

Trust me.

 

RESOURCE:

What Do Publishers DO? 
http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/288447.html

Oliphant, Kirsten. What Is Platform and How Do You Build It?

What Is Platform and How Do You Build It?

If you liked this article, consider reading Sussu’s articles: “Writers Get organized” at Novel Without Further ado: http://novelwithoutfurtherado.weebly.com/

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Behind the Scenes: My Experience as a Cybils Judge

This winter, I was able to serve as a judge for the Cybils, an award for children’s and young adult authors and illustrators. Established by bloggers, the Cybils recognize work that combines literary merit with popular appeal.

I’d been following the Cybils for a few years, and knew that it was a well-respected award. I’m a book blogger, too, at Kid Book List, and when I saw the call for judges, I thought I’d give it a try. I hoped it would be a good opportunity to discover some great books and meet new people in the kid lit community.

It was both of those in spades. I was chosen to be a second-round judge in the Poetry category. Lucky me! I am a big fan of novels in verse and kid poetry anthologies.

Anyone can nominate books for consideration in any of the categories; the only requirements are that they have been published in the United States or Canada in the year under consideration. Each Cybils category has first round readers who go through all of the nominated books. They narrow the nominations to a group of five to seven finalists for the second-round readers, who then choose a winner.

That’s where the fun began for me. We had a fantastic and incredibly diverse set of finalists in the Poetry category, which made our task both exciting and difficult. Our finalists were:

BOOKED by Newbery Award winner Kwame Alexander, a middle grade novel in verse about a soccer-obsessed boy whose parents are separating;

FRESH DELICIOUS, written by Irene Latham and illustrated by Mique Moriuchi, an upbeat and colorful poetry anthology for the preschool and early elementary set, celebrating the joys of the farmer’s market;

GARVEY’S CHOICE by Nikki Grimes, a spare and lovely middle grade novel in verse told from the perspective of an overweight boy who struggles to win his athletic father’s approval;

GUESS WHO, HAIKU, written by Deanna Caswell and illustrated by Bob Shea, an adorable picture book in poem form centered on a barnyard;

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY by Laura Shovan, a middle grade novel in verse told from a remarkable eighteen perspectives and in an array of poetic forms, about the last year of a school that will be torn down;

TO STAY ALIVE: MARY ANN GRAVES AND THE TRAGIC STORY OF THE DONNER PARTY by Skila Brown, a young adult historical in gorgeous and unflinching verse;

WHEN GREEN BECOMES TOMATOES: POEMS FOR ALL SEASONS, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Julie Morstad, a beautiful anthology for early elementary readers that celebrates the garden through the seasons.

Once the finalists were in, we got to work. First we gathered the books from the library (or our bookshelves!), and a few that we couldn’t get in time were sent from the publisher. Our reading load was lighter than the first round’s, and I was able to get it done in the time we needed without too much trouble.

The great sweep of books in this category made it challenging to compare them, but after some email discussion, we decided that Laura Shovan’s THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY was “the most appealing in its diversity, its capturing of the emotional lives of children on the brink of adolescence, and its poetic acrobatics.” See here for our write-up about why we chose it, and to read about the winners in all of the categories.

You can find out more about the Cybils here. If you’re interested in nominating a book, the deadline is generally in October. And if you want to apply to be a judge, the application is due in September. Follow the Cybils account on Twitter to make sure not to miss any announcements.

I’m so glad I was able to participate in the Cybils process. I discovered some fantastic books, analyzed what makes for a successful book of poetry for children, and met other dedicated readers of poetry and novels in verse.

Katharine Manning is a middle grade writer who spends her lunch hours reading poetry. She blogs here and at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors. You can also find her on her websiteTwitter, and Instagram