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SPAWNews Newsletter – February 2012

by SusanDaffron on February 1, 2012

For contributions to the newsletter and Letters to the Editor, please email the editor of SPAWNews: editor@spawn.org.

Those of you who are SPAWN members, be sure to visit the Members Only Area to read this month’s Market Update. Go to http://www.spawn.org and click Log In. You will be asked for your username and password.
If you are not a member, join now online: http://www.spawn.org/join.htm

From the President

Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!

Over the years, I’ve noticed that the less I write, the more difficult writing becomes. I think that’s true of almost any creative pursuit. The last time I visited my mother’s house, I sat down at the old piano, and realized that after so many years away, I can’t even read music anymore. (Yes, that was a depressing moment.)

If writing has become challenging, ask yourself how much writing are you really doing? (Tis the nature of writers to procrastinate, after all.) In my case, this week I started work on a huge writing contract, and to be brutally honest, my brain hurts. But I’m finding my other writing tasks are going more quickly than they have in quite a while.

It sounds obvious, but that tired old saw is true: practice makes perfect. Or if not "perfect" at least practice makes things easier. That’s why I’m also taking a drawing class. It’s been years since I’ve done much with art and the class is a lot of fun.

Your creative muscles need to be worked. If you’ve been feeling like you’re in a slump, I encourage you to get out there and practice whatever it is that you love to do. Whether you’re into writing, art, illustration, photography, or something else, simply doing more of it may be just what you need to get your mojo on the go again.

Susan Daffron (susan@spawn.org)
President & Webmaster, Small Publishers Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN)
http://www.spawn.org
President, Logical Expressions, Inc.
http://www.LogicalExpressions.com

Editor’s Note

Here we are, well into another year, and I still haven’t started that blog I promised myself. One part inertia, one part lack of focus on just what I’d say, equals no blog. Below you can be inspired by reading articles by those whose thoughts are better organized. If you decide to start your own blog, let us know and we’ll mention it in the Member News.

Once you get the hang of blogging, try a blog tour. Earl Staggs tells you how his tour went—and now that he’s rested up from the travels, he says he’d do it again.

January seems to have been an odd month for a lot of people—was it for you too? I had writing assignments, which was a good thing, and good sources, but a definite lack of time as each and every mechanical thing around me tried to break or just flat-out up and die. I didn’t need that time or money to be gone and I sure could have lived without the aggravation and distraction. How do you deal with stress while trying to write? Read Ingrid Shaffenburg’s article on where to start, and Kristen Lamb’s ten tips for blogging (Is it ten? Take a look.)

Give blogging some thought. In spite of dire warnings that blogging is just ‘so yesterday,’ thousands of blogs are started each day. Decide what you want to say, prepare, and take the plunge. You’ll find benefits you never imagined.

 — Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, editor@spawn.org

SPAWN Market Update

by Patricia Fry

The February issue of the SPAWN Market Update features contests galore for writers, for authors with manuscripts, and for authors with published books. Take time this month to sit down at your computer with the links we provide and study some of those massive contest directories. By this time next year, you might be considered an award-winning writer or author. In this issue you’ll also find new publisher listings and some useful resources you may not be familiar with. Would you like to learn more about computer lingo, for example? How would you like to subscribe to a magazine focusing on your favorite social media site—Facebook, Twitter, etc.? As a bonus, we include Susan Daffron’s article, Are Writing Conferences Worth It?Wonder no more as Susan gives you the information, perspective, and resources you need in order to make that determination and choose the right conference for you.

Join SPAWN at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (LATFB) is billed as the nation’s largest public literary festival, attracting around 140,000 people last year.

It wasn’t always this big, and some of us here at SPAWN remember its beginnings. The LATFB launched in 1996, the same year that SPAWN did. SPAWN has had a presence at this now-gigantic event almost every year since.

The LATFB will be held at the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles again this year on April 21 and 22, 2012. SPAWN has secured two booths to accommodate our members. The fee for selling your books from our booth is $200 per day. (Three titles per member, only.)

We also are offering those who can’t attend the LATFB the opportunity to display a copy of their book(s) in the SPAWN booth for $20 each title. For an additional $35, members can list their books in the SPAWN Catalog of Member’s Books and Services, which will serve as the brochure for all participants. Everyone visiting the SPAWN booth will walk away with one of our beautiful full-color print catalogs. The absolute deadline for having your book included in the SPAWN Catalog of Member’s Books and Services is March 15, 2012.

Visit http://www.spawn.org/latfb.htm to read about all of your options, and sign up today. The LATFB opportunity is open to members only. If your membership has expired or you haven’t joined yet, this is a good time to take care of business. If you want a major bookselling opportunity and incredible exposure for your book, sign up to join us in the SPAWN booth—first come, first served. Learn more about the LATFB here: http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks   

Questions? Patricia@spawn.org

IBPA Pub-U and SPAWN

IBPA’s 28th Annual Publishing University will be held March 9-10 at Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.  No matter what stage of publishing you’re in—an author-publisher, a beginning publisher, a more experienced publisher—IBPA Publishing University, in a  new location on the west coast for 2012, brings you hands-on tools and techniques to succeed.

Here are a few highlights:

  • 20 breakout sessions including the hottest how-to topics in publishing led by industry experts
  • General sessions featuring the movers and shakers of the industry
  • The opportunity to “Ask the Experts” in your own private consulting session.
  • Formal and informal networking with colleagues and future mentors

 And much more!

SPAWN members receive special IBPA member pricing at a $100 discount on full tuition!

Simply register at www.ibpapublishinguniversity.com. Choose “Member Registration” and when  asked for a user id and password, enter SPAWN2012 for both  to register for member pricing at a $100 discount. Call or email the IBPA office at 310-546-1818 or info@ibpa-online.org with questions.

NOTE: A scholarship is available for SPAWN members. Every year IBPA offers scholarships to Publishing University to their affiliate groups. SPAWN is one of those affiliate groups, and if you’re a SPAWN member, you are eligible. Susan Daffron has the application forms, so if you’re interested, let her know – susan@spawn.org

At SPAWN, we need to collect all the applications, pick our recommended candidate and send all of the applications received with their recommendation to IBPA by or before February 7, 2012.

Ask the Book Doctor:

About Blogs, E-book Reviews, and Poetry Chapbooks

By Bobbie Christmas

Q: Maybe I’m too old to understand all this new technology, but what on earth is a blog?

A: The term “blog” is a blend of two words, “Web” and “log,” and in general is a personal journal published on the Internet. Bloggers (those who write blogs) can write journal entries whenever they feel like it and post them to the Internet for anyone to access or for limited access to people who sign up to read the posts. Most blogs cover a specific subject, such as writing, editing, cooking, traveling, or photography. Many authors use blogs to gain a platform—a following of readers who might then buy the authors’ books.

Q: Is it worth my time and money to write a book that will mainly be my whole blog? People may want a hard copy of the Web site information so they can use the resources, reference information, and worksheets.

A: Many books have been published that were the contents of a blog. If you have good information that people need, some will access it on the Internet and some people will prefer to buy it in book form. In writing the information into book form, you may very well discover more information you need to add to both Web site and book, in that way enhancing and expanding both.

It sounds as if you want to self-publish, and if so, you can promote your book in your Web site, as well. It gives you a sales outlet for the book as well as an added source of income. In that case, reserve some information to put into the book, added content exclusive to the book, to entice people to buy it.

If, however, you hope to sell the book to a publisher, be aware that some publishers don’t accept books that have already been published in any way, and posting on the Internet is considered publishing. Not all publishers feel that way, though, so be sure to employ a method to count the number of people who access the site. If you get a good following on your Web site or blog, some publisher may very well be interested in buying the book.

Q: How can I send copies of my e-book to reviewers without making them pay for the copies?

A: Each reviewer will have specific preferences on how to receive books for reviewing. Check the guidelines of each reviewer. One safe way is to send the e-book as a .pdf attachment. Do be sure to include the link where the book can be purchased, so reviewers can embed that link in their reviews.

Q: I plan to compile a poetry book using my own computer and a desktop-publishing program. I can use photos, make my own cover, and have as nice a book as most of the small presses, plus I can keep all the profits. I plan to sell the book online, at readings, and when I teach classes. I have no further aspirations. I am sixty-eight years old, and I don’t want to wait forever for some publishing house to accept my book. If I self-publish, will my book be considered as worthy in literary circles as those who have been published by a small press or those whose books were published by Lulu.com? My poetry has been published in many journals and magazines already.

A: Many chapbooks of poetry are self-published. It’s been that way for a long time, even before the early 1960s, when I helped a friend prepare his first chapbook. South Carolina later nominated him for poet laureate and didn’t care that he had self-published.

If you have a following or buyers at readings and classes, produce a good-looking product, and keep your costs down, you will no doubt make a profit on your poetry chapbook.

The highest literary circles do not have a lofty regard for self-publishing of any kind, and even Lulu.com is simply another way to self-publish. Poetry, however, does not have a huge market, so few publishers buy it. Poetry lovers do not care if a book is self-published. They just want to own the works of the poets they like.

Instead of concerning yourself with the reputation the book will give you, create a collection of excellent poetry in a well-designed and polished book, and enjoy the thrill of selling copies to followers and pocketing the profits.

Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too.  Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more "Ask the Book Doctor" questions and answers at www.zebracommunications.com.

Book Review

by Patricia Fry

How to Get Your Book Reviewed: Sell More Books by Using Reviews, Testimonials and Endorsements for Book Promotion by Dana Lynn Smith, the Savvy Book Marketer

Now here’s a book many authors need and some of them aren’t aware of how important this topic is. Every book is conducive to being reviewed—in magazines, newsletters, e-publications, on the Web, in blogs, and even in organization, alumni, club, etc. bulletins. As Smith points out, there are also online review sites, customer reviews, and professional endorsements you can use to get more exposure and credibility for your book.

According to Smith, “Book reviews are powerful marketing tools for books of all types. Book buyers learn about books by reading reviews in newspapers, consumer magazines, professional journals, newsletters, book review Web sites, online bookstores and other blogs and Web sites.” And readers also discover the books they want/need through reviews.

While she says that there is no guarantee that reviews will translate into sales, “they certainly increase the odds.” I agree and that’s why I recommend that, if you are not familiar with the concept of book reviews or you haven’t spent much time trying to generate reviews, you take time to read this book.

Not only does Smith outline the book review process and what you can expect to gain from getting many reviews, she provides a plethora of links to book reviewers in many categories.

But wait, one reason authors neglect to solicit book reviews is because they just don’t know how or they don’t want to give away books in order to get reviews. Smith addresses these concerns, as well.

I especially like that she has included case studies to illustrate common scenarios. And she provides sample press releases to use in soliciting reviews.

Chapter Four focuses on potential pitfalls with book reviews. According to Smith, this might include such things as, the reviewer doesn’t accept self-published books, the reviewer doesn’t review e-books, etc.

What about negative reviews? Yes, they do happen. Smith suggests that rather than toss that review out and lose sleep over it, consider it and “think about how you can improve your book.”     

I found her information about specific review opportunities, such as at amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com, helpful. And she lists dozens of review sites and blog sites that publish reviews as well as plenty of other resources for authors seeking book reviewers.

One highly neglected area of book promotion among authors is the book review. Most books on book promotion include sections about book reviews. But this is the first complete book I’ve seen on the topic. I believe authors need several good books on book promotion in their home library, and this is one I would recommend.

The Biggest, Bestest, Boldest Blog Tour Ever

by Earl Staggs

The invitation to take part in the Mystery We Write Blog Tour of 2011 came as a complete surprise. I had never done a blog tour before, so I was a little intimidated. When I looked over the list of other authors who would participate, I became a lot intimidated. These were authors I either knew or knew of, but I knew some of them had been around the blog tour block a time or two. These were well-known, well-published authors.  See for yourself.  Here’s the list:

Anne K. Albert, Beth Anderson, Ron Benrey,  Pat Browning, John M. Daniel, Alice Duncan, Wendy Gager, M. M. Gornell, Timothy Hallinan, Jackie King, Jean Henry Mead, Marilyn Meredith, Mike Orenduff, and Jinx Schwartz

This was not going to be your everyday, run-of-the-mill blog tour, but the biggest, boldest blog tour ever. Fifteen authors blogging every day on different sites for a solid two weeks. This would also be the biggest book giveaway ever. More than sixty books were given away.

Tim Hallinan gave lucky readers a set of all four of his Poke Rafferty hardcover books, plus one each of his Junior Bender books. Mike Orenduff gave away fourteen copies of his highly praised book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy.

Every day from November 25 through December 8, I hosted one of the other authors on my blog site. That seemed easy enough. Then came the hard part. On each of those days, I was a guest on the site of one of them. That meant I had to write fourteen different blog articles.

Now, I’ve had my own blog site for several months, but I don’t blog on a regular basis, only when I feel I have something interesting to write about. Doing one blog a month is a lot for me.

And now. . .fourteen!

We had some wiggle room as to what we could blog about. We could discuss some aspect of writing. We also had the option of doing an interview or posting excerpts from our novels.

I came up with what I thought would be interesting.  I asked the others to send me a piece titled “The Best Thing I’ve Ever Written.” It was fascinating to see what they thought was the best out of all the volumes they’d written.

The rest of the world did not stop while I worked on this project. A short story of mine called “Where Billy Died” was doing well at the Untreed Reads Store. This happens to be one of my favorites of all the stories I’ve written. In the story, Jack, a modern-day bounty hunter, travels to a tiny town in Texas to bring back a young bail jumper named Billy. While there, Jack learns he’s not the only one looking for Billy. Jack also gets caught up in a local legend about another young outlaw named Billy from the Old West. Past and present collide and result in an ending that will please anyone who, like me, enjoys the mystery and myth of legends.

At the same time, plans were finalized with Untreed Reads to re-publish a story of mine called “The Missing Sniper.” This story was the first appearance of Adam Kingston, an investigator with a special gift. Response to the story was so enthusiastic, I featured Adam in my first mystery novel, Memory of a Murder.

(Both these stories are now available for all electronic readers at http://store.untreedreads.com )

Getting the blog tour organized and set up was a massive endeavor, but it went off without a hitch. I know the other authors involved were as pleased as I was with the comments left on the sites. Visitors enjoyed what they read each day, and those who won free books were ecstatic.

For the writers who participated, it was fun and rewarding. Writing is not a group activity like a bowling league or a knitting circle. We write in our solitary caves with nothing but a keyboard and a screen hungry for words. An opportunity to mix and mingle with other writers is a welcome respite. That’s one reason writer’s conferences are so popular. When you add an opportunity to interact with mystery readers through blog comments, it’s even better.

Yes, it was a lot of work and a hectic two weeks, but if I had the opportunity, I’d jump at the chance to do another blog tour. All I need is a little time to recuperate from this one, and I’ll be ready to go.

Derringer Award-winning author Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. His novel Memory of a Murder earned a long list of Five-Star reviews. He served as managing editor of Futures Mystery magazine and as president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. His column “Write Tight” appears in the online magazine Apollo’s Lyre. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery. He hosts writing workshops online and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups.  Email: earlstaggs@sbcglobal.net   Web site:  http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com

Blogging?

by Pat Eby

Blogging. I didn’t take to blogs right away. They seemed self-indulgent, a little too spontaneous, and untrustworthy. I wondered why people would read blogs, much less take time to write posts.

The blogging bug bit, however, when I found Tara Frey’s 2009 book Blogging for Bliss at a local bookstore. The cover proclaimed it a “guide for crafters, artists, and creatives of all kinds.” The lush photos wowed, and the straightforward how-to information delivered in Ms. Frey’s graceful prose made me think blogging could work for me.

Most importantly, by following the links to blogs she featured in the book, I learned how good writers build trust with readers. I decided to give blogging a whirl.

Typepad, my platform of choice, made the nuts-and-bolts of design, content management, and tracking simple for me. Photos and illustrations load with ease. Customer support comes through in short order, too, when I have a problem. I pay a monthly fee for saving my time and my sanity, but you can blog on other platforms without spending a nickel.

As a freelancer, my writing time is tight. My columns, articles, shorts, and recipes that appear in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Feast StL Magazine focus on food and cooking. My first blog, Pat Eby, Thoughts on Managing a Creative Life in Uncertain Times, allowed me to expand my writing beyond food. The response from readers to the blog helped boost my confidence. When two travel articles I pitched were accepted by the Post-Dispatch, I saw an indirect monetary value in blogging.

Today I’m using my second blog, Pat Eby, A Food Writer Skinnies Up, to learn health and wellness writing. I stay focused to lose my excess weight, too, when I write about the experience. The blog motivates me to learn and lose, a winning combination. 

I’m not a blogging fanatic and likely won’t go blog-crazy anytime soon, but I enjoy the blogs. I work on my writing with each post, choosing language and structure that works in this new-to-me form. The recipes are tested and photographed, sometimes in steps. Before going live with a post, I preview and check each link. A good blog takes work, but the work pays off when a reader comments or subscribes to the blog’s feed.

Try blogging. It’s fun, fast and immediate.

The Foundation of Our Dreams

by Ingrid Schaffenburg

We are all capable of more than we believe, but sometimes we buy into the idea that we’re not good enough, so we settle for less. Our belief system that resides within us must always be filled. So either we believe the goodness and strength within us and surround ourselves with people who support that, or we allow the outside world to convince us we’re worthless and incapable. It’s a choice.

Thoughts lead to Beliefs

Beliefs lead to Feelings

Feelings lead to Action

Actions create Habits

Habits create your Destiny

So the determining factor in whether or not we reach our dreams all comes down to thought. It’s as simple as that. Thoughts are the foundation of our destiny. You wouldn’t build a house unless you had a solid base. Architects go to great length in studying the lay of the land before they ever attempt to level it and pour concrete.

“But I must suffer in order to create great art!”

Yes, there is an element of sacrifice and pain of self-discipline that artists must endure. But we still must have a solid belief system or we could end up like Van Gogh and cut off our own ear.

So throughout your day, pay attention to your thoughts and ask yourself: Are my thoughts supporting my dreams or tearing them apart?

We must examine our thoughts in order to make the changes we want to see in our life. Like T. Harv Eker says in Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, “No thought lives in your head rent-free. Each thought you have will either be an investment or a cost. It will either move you toward happiness and success or away from it. It will either empower you or disempower you. That’s why it is imperative you choose your thoughts and beliefs wisely.”

So just some food for thought: What thoughts are taking up mental real estate in your mind? Are they mostly positive or negative? Creative or destructive? Take inventory. Write them down if you must. Because let’s face it, the only way we can improve our life is to first improve the way we think.

Ingrid Shaffenburg writes the Threadbare Gypsy Soul blog. Her post, “Knowledge is Power,” lists some of her favorite blogs to read. http://ingridschaffenburg.wordpress.com/

Ten Tips for Blogging Awesomeness

by Kristen Lamb

Thanks so much for having me here as a guest. For those who might not yet know me, I am not a social-media expert; I am the social-media expert for writers. Big difference. I focus on teaching writers how to make the most of every second spent online. Every effort must serve building an author brand. This leaves more time for the important things, like writing books.

Often I hear social media being demonized. Oh, heavens! Writers are spending too much time on Twitter and not writing. They are missing deadlines because they are too focused on blogs. Down with evil Facebook!

This lack of focus is not social media’s fault. Too much time on social media (aside from a lack in self-discipline) is very often the result of a writer not taking a time-efficient approach to social media. This is why I am here. We don’t have to choose between writing great books and having a solid platform. We can have both. Here are some general tips for author blog housekeeping. If our social-media platform is a tidy, neat, efficient machine, then that leaves us more time to write amazing books.

1)  Make your background easy on the eyes. 

If your background is dark, change it to a lighter background. Dark backgrounds with light lettering look cool, but they are really hard on the reader’s eyes and they will do terrible loading on a PDA. Here’s the thing: people aren’t coming to your blog to look at your snazzy background; they are there to read your brilliant writing. When we have a light, simple background free of clutter, this encourages people to subscribe, to hang around and read earlier posts, and to even read posts on the go.

2)  Break up large chunks of text.  

If you have blogs with large blocks of text, break them up. Most readers, if they see huge chunks of text, move on. I read at a computer all day long and that is hard on my eyes. I guarantee you our readers will feel the same way. Try to put no more than three to six sentences in a paragraph. Readers will forgive a long blog if it’s a) interesting and b) easy to absorb/read.

3)  Insert bolded bullet points to break up text.

This makes blogs easy to scan. Remember that a lot of people read blogs on the go. They are often reading from an iPhone or smart phone. Make life easy and they will love you for it.

4)  Remove unnecessary clutter.

This is a problem with a lot of Web pages. There is too much stuff so the reader moves on. Less is more.

5)  If possible, pick blog titles in a way that will engage and spark debate.

One of my most popular blogs to date was titled: What Went Wrong with the Star Wars Prequels? I gave my two-cents worth and then asked others what they thought. I have almost 200 comments! But the title just posits a question that BEGS to be answered.

The best blogs are not information; they are conversation. Notice there really isn’t a right or wrong answer, but it sparks some fun discussion. Also, if this title were posted on Twitter, people would want to know the “answer.” Titles can be key when it comes to driving up stats and creating a loyal following.

Additionally, this type of approach takes our blog from talking “at” people and inserts us right into the heart of a healthy discussion. Now we are speaking “with” others. When we create enough discussions, we form friendships, which create community. This activates people’s innate sense of loyalty.

6)  Make sure your NAME is the blog title.

Few things are more frustrating than when I try to do a mash-up and I have to hunt down a name. There is simply no sense in blogging if it isn’t building our author brand, which is our NAME. This is working smarter, not harder. If I am contributing 2,000 words a week to the Rainbow Fluffy Kitten Dreams Blog, that means nothing unless I want to change my name to Rainbow Fluffy Kitten Dreams. Our blog is a powerful tool to build our author brand, which is: NAME + GOOD CONTENT + HAPPY EMOTIONS = AUTHOR BRAND

Name recognition alone will not compel people to part with cash to buy our books. They must recognize our name AND feel good about the images and content that bubbles to mind. People buy from who they know, and more importantly, who they LIKE. This is why spamming people on Facebook and Twitter is a BAD idea. Yes, we recognize this dude’s name…but the emotions are negative because I recognize him as the dude who kept crapping up my Inbox with form letters.

7)  Insert widgets for others to follow you on all your other platforms.

A blog is all about customer service. If you are also on Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, LinkedIn, Technorati, and Goodreads….I will first tell you that you are doing too much social media. Get back to writing before I take away your G+. Ah, but after that, I would advise that you insert widgets so others can hang out with you on their platform of choice. Hey, we need to take advantage of the warm happy feelings our readers have after reading our nuggets of brilliance.

8)  Make sure you embed widgets to help others SHARE your content on other platforms.

Even if you don’t Tweet, make sure your readers can. Embed a widget to help readers share your content with their network. Information needs to be portable to go viral. This is one of the few times the word “viral” is good. We want our genius wordsmithery to infect the planet and make them our fans.

9)  Make sure you embed a widget to SUBSCRIBE to your blog and also to get the RSS Feed.

RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication and it delivers your blog to a Web feed for your reader. This is all about serving the customer—the reader. It’s like pizza delivery. We dig yummy awesomeness magically appearing in our news feed. Also, make sure readers don’t have to go hunting for the ‘subscribe’ button. Make life easy. We dig easy.

10)  Go through your posts and look for personal pronoun infestations.

If we use a lot of “I, I, I, I,” “me, me, me,” “you, you, you” it turns people off. We sound at best like we are lecturing and at worst like we are full of ourselves.

11)  Yes, okay ELEVEN tips. I lied.

Make sure you have questions at the end of each post designed to spark discussion and encourage sharing.

When we get good at enticing conversation, our blog becomes the cool place to hang out and chat. Blogging is less about great writing and more about being a good host/hostess. I see some really wonderful writers who have crappy blogs. Hey, I was once one of them. I am here to here to help.

Kristen Lamb is the author of the #1 best-selling books We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. In her free time, Kristen trains sea monkeys for the purpose of world domination….when she isn’t trying to saw through her ankle monitor.

Why I Look for an Author’s Blog

by C. Hope Clark

Seeing your name for the first time on a book in Amazon’s ranks is an adrenaline high. You think your work is out there, for all the world to see. Frankly, that’s not enough for people to find you, or even to buy the book once they find it. You might even be alarmed at the fact that many readers today will seek the blog of a writer before buying (unless the book is free). With so many authors in this publishing competition that consumes us, we shouldn’t be surprised that a blog is fast becoming mandatory to attract the serious reader, or even more so, keep a reader coming back.

Readers want a part of authors. Why not? The Internet is in everyone’s home. They don’t have to go to a reading to get a feel for an author. They can Google one, study his YouTube videos, watch her trailers, read his posts. And considering the limited entertainment dollar in everyone’s shrinking budget, why wouldn’t readers search to determine if an author is worth the purchase?

Word of mouth is the best way to sell books. That’s a proven fact. However, I’ll still bet you that half the people who hear about a new author, quickly hop online to study the author before ordering the book. I do. Readers want to know facts like where the author is from, how old he is, how many books she’s written, and how he found his way to this point in his career. What made the author write the book? Who else has read the book and left testimonials?

On the other hand, what if the author has a political stance you don’t agree with? What if she’s arrogant and presumptuous? What if he’s self-published and you prefer traditional, or vice-versa?

That’s where the blog comes into play. A new author has to sell himself as well as his book. There’s so much excellent writing available that we have to sift through it via other means to make a determination to buy. A blog lets us peek into the background, opinions, and personal life of the writer. We want to tip-toe around her world, snoop in her closet, so to speak. We crave to be inspired and enamored by magic, or genius, or simple determination over mile-high obstacles, so that we feel part of more than a story. We want to aid a cause—the growth of new talent. We want to have made a difference, even in a small way.

Wow, suddenly a blog assumes tremendous responsibility. It’s like inviting readers into your living room for tea, for a drink, or for a game of pool. They get to watch you, to sense better what makes you click. You become as much of a commodity as your book. 

Now readers watch your performance along the way weekly, if not daily. They don’t have to wait so eagerly for a book, because they can savor bits and pieces of you in your posts. Those extra tidbits of your writing keep them connected to you, as you fight to churn out another story. The better your blog, the more likely readers hang on, giving you chances to thrill them in dribbles with posts, dropping bread crumbs so they’ll follow until you can gift them with your next release.

A writer without a blog risks losing readers to other authors—to those who seriously take the time to entertain their readers, on a steady basis.

C. Hope Clark is founder of FundsforWriters.com, a Web site and family of newsletters selected by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Web sites for Writers for the last eleven years. She is also author of A Lowcountry Bribe, the first in the Palmetto State Mystery Series by Bell Bridge Books, due out in February. www.bellbridgebooks.com

Should You Have a Web Site or a Blog?

by Helen Gallagher

Busy writers often neglect to update their Web site. In the rapid pace of information flowing on the Web, people expect fresh content. If you have a five-page site and update the first page only every few months, you and your followers might do better with a blog.

Blogs are generally free. Both blogger.com and wordpress.com have stunning templates and there is no fee to start a personal blog. If you already have or want a domain name, you can point it to your blog, for an easily recognized Web address, such as iwriteforyou.com, instead of iwriteforyou.wordpress.com.

Since blogs were originally called Web logs (based on shipping logs), they take the form of a diary with newest material always at the top. That allows visitors to find something new each time they visit. You’ll notice Facebook and Twitter work on the same principle, as do major news sites. Every big news site now has blogs. In fact, you likely won’t get hired to write for a blog if you don’t already have blogging experience. How’s that for motivation?

People don’t dig deep for information. If you are promoting a book, hosting an event, announcing an award, or seeking contributors for an anthology, that info needs to be front and center. By tagging your posts with keywords such as “agents,” “events,” or “poetry,” the blog creates an index of all related posts, for an easy way to find related material over time.

Of course you can do both a site and a blog, as I do, for different purposes. More often, though, people are choosing to blog and walking away from Web hosting and design fees.

Blogs are easy to modify. You choose an initial template with a color scheme and layout that appeals to you. To edit, log in at a dashboard where you can add, delete, update, post graphics, and add audio files, video clips, and widgets. Widgets are clever add-in programs designed by the blog host staff or contributors. Adding a subscriber button is an example of a widget. I recently added an Amazon shopping widget to my writing blog, to test the earning power of book recommendations on my blog.

You may want a blog so your social-media sites can link back to a home base so people can learn more about you than just what they see on a profile. Creating a free vehicle to showcase your work is not a bad way to start the year.

Helen Gallagher hosts several sites and blogs. Her writing site is www.releaseyourwriting.com  and its companion blog is at www.releaseyourwriting.blogspot.com.

No 1 will 4get U

by Bonnie Myhrum

Writing a blog? Fabulous! You can use your blog to emote, journal, market yourself, get yourself “out there,” position yourself as an expert in a field, and/or whatever you want to do.

However, you’re not going to look professional if you aren’t careful about how you present yourself. If you are meeting with someone you want to impress, I’m pretty sure you don’t arrive with messy hair, teeth not brushed, and wearing a sweatshirt and ratty pajama bottoms. This is pretty much a no-brainer.

Also a no-brainer is that before you post anything on your blog, you read it aloud or ask someone else to proofread it. Spellcheck doesn’t replace proofreading. Embarrassing “typos” can pop up anywhere…even in YOUR blog. Don’t be lazy and assume you couldn’t possibly have an error in your writing. You’re not going to look very professional or position yourself as much of an expert if you’ve created carelessly written posts, particularly if they are consistently so. Read (aloud) and re-read (aloud), every time, so your reputation will be a good one, and no one will forget you.

Bonnie Myhrum is owner of Professional Secretary, LLC. She is an editor and proofreader who types just about anything when she has nothing else to do, and loves to read when she doesn’t want to work. You can find her Web site at www.professionalsecretaryllc.com

Member News

Sandy Murphy’s short story, Sweet Tea and Deviled Eggs, is now available at Untreed Reads and Amazon. Look for it and Superstition by searching by author’s name.

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C. Hope Clark, editor of FundsforWriters.com, just completed an assignment for a chapter in the 2013 Writer’s Markets, published annually by Writer’s Digest Books.

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Helen Gallagher is a contributor to Bylines 2012 Writer’s Desk Calendar, and was surprised to win first prize and $100 for her essay about quiet writing time in a gazebo. The Bylines calendar features fifty-three essays each year and is open to everyone. This year’s issue includes writers from twenty-five states in the US, plus the UK. An excellent essay market and a motivating calendar dedicated to writing goals, with added material to track markets, submissions, etc. http://bylinescalendar.com/

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Patricia Fry’s latest book—number thirty-five—was released by Allworth Press/Skyhorse in January 2012. Publish Your Book, Proven Strategies and Resources for the Enterprising Author is a revision and update of her hallmark book for authors, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book (Matilija Press 2006-2007). Read the endorsements by Brian Jud, Debbie Allen, Jeff Herman and Scott Flora at http://www.matilijapress.com. Order page is also at this site. $19.95

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Dallas Woodburn says, "The book I edited and published, Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today’s best youth writing, was featured on “Tina’s Book Reviews” as The Saturday Spotlight! http://www.tinasbookreviews.com/2012/01/saturday-spotlight-featuring-dallas.html. I was also honored with an Excellence in Teaching Award from Purdue University, where I teach undergraduate creative writing and composition classes." 

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Tami Dever says, "The ladies of TLC Graphics will be presenting at Pub-U this year and I’d love to meet fellow SPAWN members! Please let me know if you’ll be there or look me up on the class list when it’s posted. This conference is invaluable to people in the publishing world, especially for self-publishers."

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