Friday, July 19, 2013

Breaking up is hard to do

So, this is a difficult post to write. If you received my newsletter earlier this week, you'll know that I'm making some changes. The website is having a makeover next week - new look, new feel, new fun. For no other reason than that a change is as good as a holiday. I'm pretty excited about that.

One of the things I'm doing (or, actually, the lovely Kelly from Swish Design is doing... because, as we all know, I am technologically inept) is integrating my blog into the website. A little housekeeping, just to make things a bit more streamlined. Part of my whole 'work smarter, not harder' resolution for this year.

But that means, deep sigh, that the Fibro is going. Not so much a renovation, as a complete knock-down and rebuild.

When I first started blogging and had to name my blog, I thought for all of five minutes about what I would write about (life) and then thought, 'okay, that's boring, add more' (in a pink Fibro). Write what you know, they say. And it all worked out beautifully for two and a half years.

Then I moved house. And was no longer in a pink Fibro. But my reasoning was that, well, it didn't really matter - though I did confess that perhaps I should have put more thought into naming my blog.

Fast-forward another year and I've realised that it's time to let go of the Fibro. Much as I love it.

I'll still be writing about life, and writing, and ... whimsy...  but my blog will simply be part of the Allison Tait website, out there under my name, probably much as it should have been from the start. Over the next week, all the content will be migrating its way over to the new space, keeping it all together and under one roof. Cosy.

I hope you'll all still come and visit (it should all be up and running again by July 29).

I'll leave a light on for you.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Social Media for Writers #4: Google+

When I first visited Google+, I felt as though I was wandering down empty hallways, bleating to myself. It was hard to work out who to follow, who to talk to, what the whole circle thing meant and how it worked.

In essence, why would a person bother with this?

But the more I read about it, the more it seemed to me that it's worth persisting with Google+ because... Google. If you want people to find your books, your blog, your...self, it makes sense to make friendly with the biggest search engine on earth.

Around about that time, I began discovering the Google+ communities and, after a few false starts, I wandered into the Writer's Discussion Group (current membership: 13,116) and suddenly Google+ began to make sense. As a place for sharing resources, information and ideas, Google+ communities are amazing.

But can a writer best use Google+?

Who better to answer that question than John Ward, manager of the Writer's Discussion Group, as well as a community devoted to the Urban Fantasy genre. John hosts two podcasts for his communities and is a frequent guest on a third podcast devoted to self-publishing.

Will Google+ help me to sell books? How?
JW: "There are thousands of books published every year. Regardless of your genre, you are facing a lot of competition. Forget about your blurb, your cover, and whether your book is written well or not. Ask yourself this question, "What are you going to do to get someone to even be aware that your book exists?"

I'm not talking about buying your book. I'm just talking about communicating that the book is available. You can hope and trust in Amazon's algorithms if you like. Perhaps you're going to spam Twitter every half hour with a "Buy My Book" tweet. Maybe you will have a launch party on Facebook. There have been authors who have succeeded by using all of those methods.

I believe that Google+ offers a better chance of success because of the way it allows you to identify the interests of different members. Are you writing a romance novel that is similar to a book or series written by Nora Roberts? Google+ allows you to do a search for Nora Roberts. Unlike other platforms that will restrict that search to the names of individuals, Google+ will also provide you with a list of results for people who have posted about Nora Roberts. In this hypothetical situation, they would be good candidates to circle.

I don't think that Google+ will help you sell books. I do believe that Google+ can allow you to connect with a target audience who will at least give your book a chance. If you use the platform well, I believe that you can at least get people to read your book description, look at your cover art and maybe try a sample of your book.

I believe Google+ can help you overcome the discoverability obstacle that faces every author."

How exactly do I set myself up to make the most of G+?
JW: "The most important thing to do is to fill out the About section of your profile. This is the area that people read when they are trying to determine if they want to follow your profile or not. The second most important thing is to decide on a few topics and post about those topics on a regular basis. The reason this is important is because after someone has read the About section of your profile, they will then look at the type of content that you are posting. If you limit the type of material to a few topics, it allows people to quickly identify your interests. After you have done that, look for people who interest you. Start participating in their posts and take an interest in what they have to say. Google+ is different from most social media platforms in that people really value engagement and conversation."

Do I need huge numbers of friends/followers for it to work?
JW: "A huge number of followers is good, but not necessary. If you are able to connect with someone who already has a large number of followers, then that person may plug your books. Obviously, they will have to enjoy your book. Sometimes, having a stranger sing your praises is much more effective than anything you could say about your own work."

Top three tips for making the most of G+
JW: "Follow at least 250 people. The big mistake that many people make on Google+ is that they will follow only a few people. Restricting the number of people you follow will make Google+ a boring place because it doesn't provide enough variety in your stream, it limits your reach, and it doesn't expose you to the people who are really using the platform well.

Connect with other people. Choose 5 people every month and read their streams on a regular basis. Comment on their posts and really take the time to get to know them.

Search for people based off of shared interest rather than their name. Google+ really clicked for me when I realised that I didn't have to know the name of individuals that I wanted to connect with. I could just do a search for "Writer" or "Author" or whatever term I wanted to query and if that word or phrase appeared in their About section, they would show up in the search results. This is extremely powerful because it allows you to target specific groups of people. You don't have to restrict it to occupation either. You can do a search for science fiction or romance or whatever term you feel would help you identify the demographic with which you are trying to connect."

Biggest mistakes authors can make on G+
JW: "The biggest mistake I see authors make over and over again is that they don't post their content on Google+. Instead, they will simply post a link to their blog and assume that people will just visit it. That doesn't work.

If you absolutely insist on holding your content hostage on your blog, then, at least take the time to write a lengthy (300- 500 words) introduction to that blog post. This introduction should be a teaser to tempt people to click on that link to read what you have to say.

The absolute best thing to do is to simply copy and paste your full blog post into Google+ and post it here. If you do that, people will comment on your thoughts and respond to your message. The question that authors fail to ask themselves is whether they are trying to get people to be a fan of their work or a fan of their blog.

If you post your content directly on Google+, it allows people to read it who would never visit your blog. Some of those people will enjoy your message and become a fan of YOU. Once they are your fan, they may very well become a fan of your blog as well, but it has to start with being sold on you and your message. That can't happen unless they see your message. The best way to get people to see that message is to post it on Google+."

Five authors you think are doing G+ well – and why
Lacerant Plainer is a science fiction author. He uses Google+ to connect with individuals who are thrilled by the latest in science news. He has developed an enormous following of people who share his passion. Is it any wonder that many of those same individuals may be intrigued by the stories he writes based on those scientific articles?

Ben Guilfoy loves film and episodic storytelling. He channeled his love for these areas into a ten part serial he wrote called The Weirdo Company. Each installment reads like a monster movie. He uses Google+ well because he frequently shares his thoughts on movies and books that strike his fancy. People who enjoy those type of movies or books will also enjoy his series.

Chris Reher is another science fiction author who uses Google+ to connect with like-minded individuals. However, she does so with a twist. Whereas, Lacerant shares articles and science-related news, Chris uses Google+ to connect with actual scientists and frequently taps into their collective knowledge to make her books stronger and to ensure that the ideas in her books are scientifically sound. What a great way to use this platform!

Mike Spinak is a photographer. He has self-published one book of his photographs and is working on several others. He uses Google+ well because he is very generous with his knowledge and experiences. Some people may argue that simply sharing your knowledge with others won't help you to sell books, but I believe that this attitude is short-sighted. When sharing his knowledge, Mike shares his experience. That allows him to talk about his successes and his failures. Making that knowledge available to others allows people like me to single him out as a resource for other authors. That helps him connect with people who would not otherwise find him. Once he has connected with them, he has a chance to turn that person into a fan of himself and his work.

Aaron Crocco uses G+ well because of the way he will crowdsource attention. He has an on-going series of posts devoted to the topic of Authors Helping Authors. By involving several authors in his posts about helping indies, he generates excitement and attention. This interest comes not only from the authors themselves but also from the public at large because he is able to get so many people talking about the event. This causes many people to take interest in his initiatives and as a result, it draws attention to his books.

Get to know John Ward at Google+, say hello on Twitter or check out his website.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy Social Media for Writers #1: Blogging; Social Media for Writers #2: Twitter and Social Media for Writers #3: Facebook.

Are you on Google+? How do you use it? (Say hello to me here!)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Last day of the holidays

It's the last day of the holidays. Already my thoughts have moved from lazy, slow mornings and meandering afternoons to an overflowing To Do list and a slew of deadlines.

It's the last day of the holidays. We are baking a cake. An oozy, gooey, chocolate cake. The boys are supposed to be helping me - which means they are watching Batman DVDs and emerging infrequently to lick the bowls and spoons.

It's the last day of the holidays. The school shoes have been tried on - and found wanting. Sigh. Little boys have feet with a habit of growing bigger and bigger. Judging by the size of my sock-matching pile, little boys also have about 100 feet each. I am living with a family of centipedes.

It's the last day of the holidays. Part of me can't wait to see them head back to school. Part of me is missing them already.

It's the last day of the holidays. I wonder what the next term will bring.

Is it the last day of the holidays at your place? Are you excited or ambivalent?

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Weekend Rewind... now playing at Maxabella Loves

Have you met Maxabella? You'll love her. I do. The fact that we're related is entirely coincidental...

Anyhoo, the fabulous Weekend Rewind now has a new home with her. New look. New feel. New blogs to visit. New fun to be had.

It's even easier than before - you can simply link up your favourite post from the past week. How simple is that? The aim is to create a linky that brings together all the best blog posts into one spot. To make reading and visiting blogs a pleasure.

I'll be linking up each week and visiting as many blogs as I can. I'm looking forward to reading all your blogs - and finding some new ones too!

I do hope you'll join me over there!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Social Media for Writers #3: Facebook

Love it or hate it, there's no doubt that Facebook is an integral part of our lives these days - which is why writers can't really afford to ignore it (much as we may wish to do so).

I've had a complicated relationship with Facebook over the years. I got on to it just to see what it was all about - and then promptly lost interest. When I started my blog, however, I received a lot of 'friend' requests from other bloggers and readers - and had to make a decision about how much I wanted to share with the world.

The answer, in my case, was 'not much'. So I made another decision (phew, so many!) to set up a page for the blog so that I could connect with my cyber-friends there and keep my profile page set to 'so private it's hard to find'. The trouble with the page, however, was that it was a Life In A Pink Fibro page... which made it hard for people who were looking for 'Allison Tait' to find it.

Cue: the Allison Tait Facebook page was born.

For several months I faffed about with both, but it became increasingly hard work. So I made one final decision (please, let it be over soon) to consolidate onto one page - Allison Tait - which was agony because I had built a lovely number of likers at the Fibro and had to, really, start all over again.

The pain.

But I'm still there at Allison Tait, feeling comfortable, loving the fact that I can 'chat' to people about all manner of things, from writing to tv shows to, well, one of my most popular comment threads ever was about washing in cold water, but we won't talk about that.

Anyhoo. To me, Facebook is about the 'club' vibe that you get when a whole lot of people come together. And I love that. But I thought I'd ask an expert about the best way for writers to use Facebook to actually, you know, sell books.

Nathan Bransford is the author of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow (Dial, May 2011), Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe (Dial, April 2012) and Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp (Dial, February 2013). He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. and is now the social media and programming manager at CNET. He lives in Brooklyn - and, you know, knows his stuff.

Fortunately for me, he's also very friendly - and happy to answer random questions!

Will Facebook help me to sell books? How?
Nathan Bransford: "Yes, definitely. Facebook (and social media in general) isn't going to be the difference between selling zero copies and being a bestseller, but it is a very good avenue to help readers feel more connected with authors and for people to discover new books."

Do I need an author page as well as a 'profile'?
NB: "This really depends on whether you want to keep your presence as an author completely separate from your presence as an individual. Authors can either choose to have a totally separate Facebook page, which can be a little challenging because you have to get people to like it, or allow people to follow your public posts on your personal profile. I personally chose the latter. I find it easier to manage one presence.

"One thing I would recommend, however, is having a Facebook page for your individual books. When people will like these they will show up in people's list of likes, which is a good way of spreading the word about your books."

Do I need huge numbers of friends/followers for it to work?
NB: "It certainly helps, but in order to find a huge number of followers you have to start somewhere!"

What kind of content should I be posting?
NB: "This is totally up to you, but I find that the things that work best are the types of content and announcements that your friends and followers find genuinely useful. Yes, occasionally you have to self-promote to get the word out about your work, but otherwise it's better to think about what you can do for your friends and followers and not what they can do for you."

Top three tips for making the most of Facebook
1) Be authentic
2) Don't ever make people feel spammed
3) Have fun with it

Biggest mistakes authors can make on Facebook
NB: "The absolute biggest mistake is viewing it as simply a way of blasting out your books and your reviews. If all you're doing are self-serving announcements people won't find much value from your feed and they won't feel connected to you personally. Instead, look at it as a way of providing value and interacting with people."

Five authors you think are doing Facebook well – and why
1) Tahereh Mafi: She does a great job of providing a mix of behind-the-scenes looks of her tours along with great images and personal updates.

2) Cynthia Leitich Smith: Cynthia is an example of an author who provides incredible value for her followers. Her Facebook page is a mix of blog posts, events and things that any aspiring author would find valuable.

3) Gretchen Rubin: Gretchen really "gets" Facebook. She asks questions and engages with her followers with a mix of links and photos.

4) Kami Garcia: Kami does a great job of mixing it up with advice, news, photos, and much more.

5) Nicholas Kristof: Nicholas Kristof is more of a journalist than a traditional author, but he sets the gold standard for a Facebook presence. It's a terrific mix of commentary, interesting links, and glimpses into his travels.

You can find out more about Nathan and his fabulous books for kids on his website - and you should definitely say hello on Twitter and Facebook!

If you enjoyed this post, don't miss Social Media for Writers #1: Blogging and Social Media for Writers #2: Twitter.

What are your thoughts on Facebook - love or loathe?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Does anyone understand Linked In?

John Birmingham, whom I admire and enjoy greatly as a writer, shared a piece this morning about Facebook - specifically, about how he's breaking up with it. Because it used to be cool, and now it's not. And because it's stalking him. Sending message after message. And he can't really see the point anymore.

Well, I feel the same way about Linked In.

Only I can't really even begin to pretend my relationship with Linked In ever even got started (and, seriously, it was never cool, was it?). I signed up (why?), put up some basic work info (why?) and then promptly forgot the whole thing.

Except I can't forget it. I can't. Because Linked In takes up more room in my Inbox than anyone (or anything) else. People who want to connect with me. People that Linked In thinks I should connect with. Random emails about other people's jobs. Occasional emails to let me know that someone has changed jobs. Endorsements and connections and who knows what the heck else. It's like being at one of those awful business networking evenings where people throw business cards at you and then run off to talk to someone more interesting.

To me, Linked In is that annoying guy in the open plan office. You know. The one who constantly pops his head over the partition for an inane conversation about something you have absolutely no interest in. You want to hit him over the head, but you know that, somehow, it might be a career-limiting move. And so you don't.

Why am I there? Why are you there?

How can I break free?

Are you on Linked In? Can you explain it to me?

*In other news, the new book for the Pink Fibro Book Club has been announced. This month, we're reading The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell. Join in the fun!
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