The Weird World of Being Published

The Weird World of Being Published

Published?

I suppose, in the back of my mind, when I was first starting to write (age four or five or thereabouts), I had an idea about becoming a published author. I also wanted to, at times, be a cowgirl, a veterinarian, an archaeologist and other things. Becoming, for real, published, makes up one weird world.

Let me tell you all about it.

The Weird World of Being Published

Origins Story

No, I was not bitten by a radioactive spider.

For probably any aspiring author, the road is a long one. When I first started writing, it constituted what you’d now refer to as graphic fiction. I was a child and so I would draw little figures in addition to a few words. As I got older, the words began to dominate, and I have never written, as an adult, a graphic novel.

I wrote fan fiction for a while and then began to migrate over to wholly original fiction. Furthermore, I had wanted to write for NaNoWriMo back in 2012, but I did not have a decent idea that year. I also wanted to make what I wrote wholly original fiction. In 2013, I was fortunate enough to come up with a great idea and so Untrustworthy was born. I submitted it to a contest held by Riverdale Avenue Books and was lucky enough when they chose me as the winner in February of 2014. My thanks, of course, goes out to the wonderful people there, particularly Lori Perkins and Don Weise.

The Start of the Wild Ride of Publishing

I took a few months for things to really start clicking along. Lori was busy, other submissions came in, plus of course they had a business to run. I was in school at Quinnipiac and so, while I noticed the time passing, I was okay with it.

In November, Lori contacted me and we started to get down to the nitty gritty. This included editing the manuscript. It also included getting together a blurb about me and getting an established person in the business to review my book (a thousand thanks to Cecilia Tan!), and deciding on a cover. I felt that the aliens in my novel would be too difficult to draw, and making up a model like them would be costly (such things are at issue if you’re a first-time author, folks) and wouldn’t necessarily evoke my vision.

Hence I instead suggested an image of broken glass. Adding to that effect were the concepts that (a) the moon, Wecabossia, would be nearly the same size as Caboss, so it would be rather large in the sky and readily observable during daylight hours, and (b) the Cabossians breathe methyl salicylate, or wintergreen oil. Those gave the cover designer (the incomparable Scott Carpenter) some design elements and ideas to work with. I truly love the cover and how the huge moon gives a sense of foreboding as the one broken window amidst a mass of perfection is a nagging hint that something’s not quite right.

Nuts and Bolts

A ton of strange things happen when you are published. For one, you need an Amazon Author page! But you can’t make one until your book is actually for sale on Amazon, in any format. Furthermore, Amazon’s many domains have different rules. You can make author pages on Amazon.com (the US), Amazon.co.uk (the UK), Amazon.fr (France), Amazon.de (Germany), and Amazon.co.jp (Japan). Amazon Author pages exist on Amazon.ca (Canada), but you can’t change them! For Amazon.it (Italy) and others, there are no Author pages. I hope Amazon makes this feature more uniform across the board.

As for what to put into your Author page, you need a good recent headshot of yourself (mine comes from four years ago; I could use a newer one) and links to things like your Twitter stream and your blog RSS, if any. For works available in countries with non-English native tongues, you might want to have a trusted friend help you with translations (or do them yourself, if you’re able to). Trusting Google Translate is not in your best interests. Get a native speaker.

Autographing

Dealing with autographing books is interesting when someone hundreds of miles away asks you to do this. I’ll pass along this tip from New York Times bestselling author Dayton Ward: arrange it all through PayPal. For him, the best way to take care of this means to collect the cost of the book and two types of postage: one goes to his home or a post office box, and the other goes to the fan’s location.

I’ll add to this – if it’s a person you know, and you don’t mind giving out your address (or if you have a PO box I suppose your relationship with them would be moot anyway), have them have Amazon (or Barnes & Noble, wherever your book is available in dead tree format) ship the book directly to that location. Then all you need to collect is return postage. Conceivably, someone who doesn’t want to work with PayPal could even supply a money order and slip it in the mail to your PO box.

Reviews are gold and you need them. How do you get them? If your friends are buying your work, once they say they’ve finished, ask them to write you a review. Reviews can be short – a five-word sentence is better than nothing. There are also book bloggers. Do your research and find some that are (a) semi-available, (b) write decent, unbiased, honest, and constructive reviews, and (c) read your genre.

Upshot

It’s all rather satisfying but also a tad freaky. Every now and then, I just want to run around screaming – I’m a published author!

‘Cause I am, you know.

Are You Promoting Your Writing With Social Media?

Promoting Writing With Social Media

Promoting Writing is important! So let’s say you’re an amateur writer. You know you should be promoting writing with social media. But how do you get started?

Not to worry; I’ve got you covered, whether you’re looking to sell your work or just get your unsellable fanfiction noticed.

My Background

I have my Masters’ degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University. I blog, tweet, and go to Facebook pretty much every day. And I did all of that for grades and now for work.

Promoting Writing With Social Media
English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Furthermore, I have been in the social media space for years, long before the term was even so much as coined. I go back to Usenet.

Getting Started

So it may be tempting to just plunge right in and start hyping your work on Facebook or Twitter or the like. After all, everyone else is doing it, right? It seems so easy. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s free. But I want you to take a step backward because we are going to do some basic strategizing. It’s called the POST Strategy.

P is for Personas

A persona, or a buyer persona, is the person who would typically buy your work. This is demographics, generally including gender, age range, and race. It can include highest educational level attained. It can also include marital status or sexual identity, time zone, and sometimes household income.

I know you don’t have the bucks to hire a team to build a demographic profile. That’s okay. You’re more or less covered online, if you don’t mind some vagueness.

In 2013, Pew Research investigated who in America is reading. You can also pull related data, such as this study on gaming. Google, as is often the case, is your friend.

Once you’ve got your general demographics together, write a short thumbnail sketch of a biography of them. E. g.

Steve loves science fiction as he enjoys the escapism elements. He’s in his thirties and lives in a small town where he has a technical job. Unmarried, Steve wants to escape into the strange worlds that are a staple of science fiction. Because Steve is bi, and he’s in a small town where that might seem strange to his neighbors, he is semi-closeted. He wants to read about people like him or more or less like him. He enjoys action and adventure but doesn’t mind some romance in the storyline so long as it’s not dominant.

This is a description of your ideal reader. That person might be a lot like you. They might turn out not to be. Plus you might find more than one persona. That’s okay, too.

O is for Objectives

We’ve all got pie in the sky notions, where we want to be recognized for our art, published, get an agent, make a mint, and hobnob with the best writers we can think of. Or maybe that’s just me. But you’ve got to be realistic here.

What’s realistic? Breaking even, on a first novel, is probably not realistic. But selling at least one copy to someone you do not personally know? That’s a good, attainable goal. It may not sound like a lot, but you start this way.

And do some measuring, in order to know you met your objectives. Amazon shows sales data, and many places show read counts even if you aren’t publishing for $$ at this time. I personally use spreadsheets but I’ve got a data analysis background so this appeals to me. You don’t need to go nuts! You can get by with just vague ideas, such as to see that sales have gone up, or you haven’t broken 1,000 reads, that sort of thing.

S is for Strategy

What’s your plan? First of all, allow me to suggest one thing right off the top – get HootSuite or Tweetdeck or Buffer or some combination and learn how to use their scheduling features. Don’t be tweeting in the middle of the night. So schedule stuff. Trust me; scheduling will save your offline life.

T is for Technology

So now let’s start thinking about platforms. And do some more research (Pew is awesome!). Where is your buyer persona going online?

Our mythological buyer persona, Steve, is fairly young and male. I bet he likes Tumblr and Twitter. Plus he’s on Facebook because many people are. While he might be on Pinterest (it’s not 100% female), the likelihood is greater that he’s elsewhere.

So what’s your mission? To post your promotional links where Steve is. Maybe Betty. Or Lakeisha. Perhaps Hong. Or José. And change up to reach whoever your buyer persona is.

Want to know more about POST Strategy? Go to the source!

More Information

However, this barely scratches the surface when it comes to promoting writing. Because there’s a ton more to know! Where can you get started? I just so happen to have a book for that. And it also just so happens to be free. Ask me anything, here or on Wattpad in the comments for that book. Am I missing something? And do you want anything updated or clarified? I gladly take requests to update the Social Media Guide.

Now go out there and knock ’em dead!

Social Media’s Seduction AKA Oops, Did I Do That?

Social Media’s Seduction AKA Oops, Did I Do That?

Seduction is usually a good thing. Hmm. Instead, this post riffs on Seduced: For Lawyers, the Appeal of Social Media Is Obvious. It’s Also Dangerous, which is a post on ABA Journal Online.

The Background

Free speech doesn't mean careless talk^ - NARA... Seduction
Free speech doesn’t mean careless talk^ – NARA – 535383 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So here’s the scoop. An attorney named Sean Conway wrote a blog post, about a perceived injustice going on in the Florida courts. According to him, “Judge Cheryl Alemán was asking defendants whether they were ready for trial only about a week after their arraignment”.

Okay, so far, so good.

Except Mr. Conway decided to use inflammatory language in order to get his point across. However, he did go through normal channels initially, and got no satisfaction. Because the problem with the one-week prep lead time is that the lead time, apparently, is normally some four or five weeks. Hence Mr. Conway felt there was an injustice being perpetrated, e. g. the right to a speedy trial.

Over the Top

In addition, he apparently referred to the judge (who is now deceased), as follows:

  • “evil, unfair witch”
  • “seemingly mentally ill” and
  • “clearly unfit for her position and knows not what it means to be a neutral arbiter.”

Now, let’s see. I can go along, perhaps, with unfair as a descriptor, particularly if other defendants, perhaps in other area courts, were being given more lead time. However, after that, Mr. Conway, what the heck are ya doing????

Seriously. So why did he have ever believe that this sort of overly inflammatory rhetoric would be acceptable, at any time, ever? Now, I am not, specifically, suggesting a Bowdlerization of language, or of using softer words to describe hard actions. But we’re not talking about genocide here! Furthermore, we are not describing babies being pummelled or any other awful image you’d like to conjure up (I leave this to your own devices, Gentle Reader). Rather, it is a difference in lead prep time of three to four weeks. And it’s nothing more.

Yet is it a Civil Rights violation? Possibly. I’ll even give him that one, although neither he nor I are the arbiters of same (er, that’s why we have courts in the first place). Rather, the over the top language is just, well, it’s a very, very bad idea.

Alternatives

Because surely the point could have been made with far less negativity. Conway feels that the invective was necessary to get the point across. According to the article, “[t]he Florida Bar, however, concluded that he had violated five ethics rules, including Rule 4-8.2(a) (making false or reckless statements regarding the qualifications or integrity of a judge) and Rule 4-8.4(d) (engaging in professional conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice). However, Conway argued that his actions were protected by the First Amendment, but the Florida Supreme Court rejected this. Finally, in the end, Conway acquiesced with a public reprimand and a fine of $1,250.”

The Real Issues

No one said he couldn’t talk or write about this. It’s just the overly inflammatory rhetoric, truly, at issue here. Although, by making the statements, possibly without too many supporting materials, he could’ve still been dinged on Rule 4-8.2(a), the “false or reckless statements” clause. However, truly, the very stuff that he added to try to make his post stand out (e. g. the over the top statements and name-calling) were, most likely, the very things that made the Florida Bar not only sit up and take notice. Those statements probably also made the Florida Bar ding him an amount that, for some people, equals close to one month’s worth of mortgage payments. It’s not a huge sum, but it’s not a small, one, either. Because clearly the Florida Bar was less than pleased.

So, what have we learned here? To my mind, it’s two things. One, we’ve got Free Speech! Yay! Awesome! And, two, that doesn’t mean we should be reckless with it. Because, certainly, if we’re gonna make accusations with our free speech, we might want to do some research and back up our statements well.

Oops, we’ve also, I hope, learned a third and fourth thing as well. Three, Social Media is actual speech and it’s pretty dang permanent. Therefore, we might wanna think twice before putting stuff out there. And four, yeah, we’ve got free speech (yay!). However, it doesn’t mean we have to be jerks about using it.

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Social Media: Hope, Hype or What?

Social Media: Hope, Hype or What?

Hype? Hope? Now, this subject has probably been done to death but, here I will do it all over again. Perhaps (hopefully!) my perspective will be fresh and/or of some value.

Social Media Marketing Hub and Spoke Infographic Hype
Social Media Marketing Hub and Spoke Infographic (Photo credit: DigitalRalph)

First of all, this post is inspired by The ABA Journal’s take on Social Media. As in the online magazine for lawyers. And they went on about Social Media, much like I have and others have, as well.

It Feeds Itself

And I can’t help feeling that that, in and of itself, is feeding the ole hype machine. Is Social Media hyped? Well, let’s put out an article about just that, and we’ll rev up the hype machine and get the word out and and and …. Suddenly, there’s hype about the hype.

Ai chihuahua.

However, there is, perhaps less of a hype issue than there is one of unrealistic expectations. I suspect that most people, if they give Social Media more than a passing glance (and, in particular, if they need to touch on it for business), take one look at it and think: free. Ooh, goody! This marvelous free thing will supplement (and perhaps eventually supplant) all of the things I have to actually pay good money for! My wealth will increase, in an incredible and exponential manner, because I can put my advertising and marketing dollars elsewhere, outside of traditional (read: expensive) channels, and instead shove it all into some investment that catches my eye. Llama ranching, perhaps.

Traditional vs. Social Media Marketing

Okay. Let’s back up. The real thing is, Social Media marketing isn’t really an apples to apples comparison with traditional marketing. It’s more like holding a town hall meeting and seeing what people have to say about your product. Or like doing community outreach (e. g. having your company send people to work at a soup kitchen or build a house). It’s like a million networking events. In short, it’s that dreaded, over-used term: relationship building.

And creating relationships is hard. And messy. Plus it’s not necessarily terribly free, at all.

A Sense of Entitlement

Because I have seen, in many instances, when software on a website changes. And in particular with community forums, people tend to freak out. They have a mislaid proprietary interest in a whole lotta sameness. Or they want the site to be the same from day to day, because that’s familiar to them. Hence moving the post button from the left to the right, or changing its color, is akin to moving their cheese. So it tears at them.

But, ultimately, they figure it out. And they give it a chance and come back, and pretty soon, so far as they’re concerned things have always been the new way, and were never the old way. Because for them, it’s not about the tools; it’s about the people.

And the same thing should be true for you – and that should knock the hype right out, and for good. It’s not about the tools. It’s not about Twitter, or Facebook, or Foursquare, or Groupon, or Yelp, or MySpace, or LinkedIn or StumbleUpon or Snapchat or a billion others. Instead, it’s about the people.

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The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott, A Book Review

The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott

The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott was a fascinating book that I had as required reading for Quinnipiac University’s Social Media Platforms course (ICM522).

The Premise

World Wide Rave Spotted In Ireland David Meerman Scott
World Wide Rave Spotted In Ireland (Photo credit: Krishna De)

First of all, the premise is, like a lot of other books about the Internet and social media marketing, that marketing has become less of a one-size-fits-all/push system. Instead, it has instead evolved into a far more balanced bilateral conversation.

And perhaps the most interesting part of the book consists of the rules themselves, which are in Chapter 2, on page 31 and are as follows –

The New Rules

The New Rules of Marketing and PR

  • First of all, marketing is more than just advertising
  • In addition, public relations is for more than just a mainstream media audience
  • You are what you publish
  • And people want authenticity, not spin
  • People want participation, not propaganda
  • Instead of causing one-way interruption, marketing is about delivering content at just the precise moment your audience needs it
  • Furthermore, marketers must shift their thinking from mainstream marketing to the masses to a strategy of reaching vast numbers of underserved audiences via the web
  • In addition, public relations is not about your boss seeing your company on TV. It’s about your buyers seeing your company on the web
  • Marketing is not about your agency winning awards. Instead, it’s about your organization winning business
  • And the internet has made public relations public again, after years of almost exclusive focus on media
  • Furthermore, companies must drive people into the purchasing process with great online content
  • In addition, blogs, online video, e-books, news releases, and other forms of online content let organizations communicate directly with buyers in a form they appreciate
  • And social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn allow people all over the world to share content and connect with the people and companies they do business with
  • Finally, on the web, the lines between marketing and public relations have blurred

Because customers are talking back.  And companies and their marketing departments had better start listening.

Rating

Review: 5/5 stars.

Getting inspiration from music

Getting inspiration from music

Inspiration from music

Music is a rather common pairing with writing. Some people cannot write without it. Others are inspired by it. Still others are haunted by it.

Lyrics

Sometimes, it’s the lyrics. For me, personally, I pay a lot of attention to lyrics. As a result, I have a lot of trouble listening to tunes while writing or even editing. I have to shut it off, as I am unable to concentrate.

But I do listen when I go outside or offline. For a fan fiction piece, I created a kind of bad girl character. However, she did not come to life until I listened to Amy Winehouse’s You Know I’m No Good.

It’s not just the words, though. And it isn’t just the video. The bass line did it, too. As a result, the character snapped into sharp focus. I could not stop listening to the song until I finished the piece.

Sound

For a genius character addled with ADHD, I wanted his mind to be going about a thousand miles an hour. The best way to do this was to listen to fast-moving songs. This one was a must.

The song itself is kind of silly. The words are somewhat nonsensical. But the beat is fast. It’s not rap, although speed rap could have worked as well. Either way, the sound was discordant. And that was the idea. With so much clanging going on his head, the character was simply incapable of concentrating.

Creation

For those who need songs to write, playlists are a must. You can find several on YouTube by searching on writing playlist. However, that might not work for a lot of people. Writing is a personal thing, just like musical taste is. If I prefer disco, and you prefer country, we’re both right, so long as we keep writing.

Takeaways

If you need it, then by all means listen to tunes while writing or editing. If you don’t, then don’t. And don’t let anyone tell you their way is somehow better. It’s hard to find anything more subjective than this.

Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics 2.0, a Book Review

Avinash Kaushik‘s Web Analytics 2.0 – Yeah, I’m a Fan

Web Analytics Matter!

We Go Way Back

First of all, the first book that truly caught my eye and made a huge impression on me was Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity.

Avinash Kaushik's Web Analytics 2.0

As a (hopefully) former data person, I can relate to the idea of needing analytics. E. g., the measurements of how your website does. Why do you want to measure? Why, you need to see whether your message is actually going anywhere.

For e-commerce sites, the ultimate test is, naturally, whether you’re getting sales. But it’s hard to tell – particularly in a complex organization – whether the website drives sales or offline marketing efforts. And even measuring orders via these channels may not tell the entire story, as customers may see offline advertising and then come online to buy, or they may do the reverse and buy in-store after researching a product online. Or they could just be coming online to think about it and compare and mull it over and could convert to a paying customer days or weeks or months later. Or never.

What if You’re Not in e-Commerce?

And what about sites (such as my own) where nothing is offered for sale? My ultimate customer becomes, of course, someone to hire me, either permanently or temporarily. And this would mean as a consultant or a partner or a founder or a director or whatever, but that might be months away. What happens in the meantime? I might be able to dope some of that out with SEO and seeing where I am in search engine rankings, but just because people can find my site doesn’t mean they’re going to convert into hiring me or are even in a position to do so. My mother (hi, Mom!) can find my site and read it, but she won’t hire me any time soon. Unless I want to come and clean the gutters or something.

How do you or I know what’s happening?

Enter analytics.

It is, admittedly, still an imperfect science. But Mr. Kaushik breaks it down and describes the reports that you need to understand what’s happening with your site. He talks about what is essentially a Trinity strategy: experience, behavior and outcomes.

User Experience

It’s not enough to just track sales (outcomes). It’s also about user experience and behavior. This is much like in the offline world, if you think about it. Going to a restaurant is an experience and many of them are packaged as such. But it is a far different experience going to a McDonald’s or a Chik-Fil-A versus a Bertucci’s. And that experience differs from going to Legal Seafood‘s which in turn is different from Blue Ginger (celebrity chef Ming Tsai‘s restaurant). You can intake the same amount of calories. You might even be able to get in the same quality and types of nutrition. And you might enjoy a Big Mac as much as you enjoy one of Chef Tsai’s specialties. Aside from price, what are the differences?

What Sort of User Experience?

When you go to a McDonald’s, a part of the price is wrapped up in the experience. For chain entities in particular, it’s about sameness and predictability. If you find yourself in rural Oshkosh and have never been there before, you see the golden arches and you realize what to expect. For Bertucci’s, even though it costs more and there’s table service, there’s a similar vibe. You go there because you can depend upon it to be a certain way. And Blue Ginger is also dependable in the sense that it’s very upscale so you know you are going to be treated a certain way and it will look a particular way and presumably the food will taste in a way that reflects that kind of investment, both by you and by Mr. Tsai and his team.

Enhanced User Experience

Mr. Kaushik shows how understanding analytics can help you to enhance user experience.  And this, ultimately, drives user behavior. While conversions (sales) are the ultimate in user behaviors, he doesn’t forget about other valid behaviors.

Hence for the e-commerce site, product research is a valid and valuable behavior. So is printing a map to a brick and mortar store. Or comparing prices.

And for a non-e-commerce venture (again, I’ll use myself as an example), valid user (reader) behaviors are things like reading my writings and getting to know me. I put myself out there in order to be known, because that’s a piece of the hiring puzzle (why are there interviews — it’s not to know about skills, which should already be known. It’s to see if there’s a personality and a culture fit). Plus it enhances networking. Know me, think I’m worthwhile (at least, I hope you do) and you might think of a place where they might need me, or someone I should meet. And I do the same, in turn, for you. And cosmic karma gets us both into better places.

Back to the Book

But I digress. Let’s get back to the book.

The book has a lively, engaging style. It’s long but I sailed through it. And Mr. Kaushik (who is very gracious and seems to be very approachable, by the way) is clearly having fun and loves what he does. It’s a refreshing joy to read a book where the author is constantly delighted.

Read his book. Learn about analytics. Make the web a better place.

May your bounce rate be low, and your conversion rate high!

Rating

5/5

The Power of Social Media (Neurotic Writers’ Edition)

The Power of Social Media (Neurotic Writers’ Edition)

Chicken Scratch

Neurotic Writers. I know aspiring writers.

You probably do, too. There are lots of people with a Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Neurotic Writersmanuscript out there … somewhere. Perhaps it’s just in a hard drive. Or maybe it’s been uploaded to a fiction site. Or perhaps it has gotten a little exposure by having a chapter or a tantalizing fragment tossed onto a forums site. It might take the form of a blog (Gee, I wonder if I’m doing that …?). There are some that are typed (Remember that?). Others are only in long hand. And still others are locked away in brain form only.

Attention Monsters, All

Neurotic Writers
Social Media Iceberg (Photo credit: Intersection Consulting)

Whatever form it has taken, there is one thing I have learned about aspiring writers (And this includes fan fiction writers, by the way. Don’t dis ’em; they care about what they do, too!). This may also be true of established writers as well. I’m not even so sure where “established” starts happening. If it starts when you’ve gotten a check for writing, then count me in the established camp. If not, well, then it might be that I am still waiting for my established writer card. But I digress. What have I learned about aspiring writers?

It’s that we are all attention monsters.

We all crave attention. But it’s more than just “Look at me! Look at me!” Instead, it’s more like, “Please oh please oh please read my stuff and leave detailed feedback so I know you really read it and don’t forget to tell me how kick-bun awesome I am!

Er, yeah.

Now, pretty much everyone on the planet adores hugs and positive attention and love and happiness. For aspiring writers, though, it’s poured onto a page. The soul is naked, for all to poke at (Erm, that wasn’t meant to evoke an NC-17 image. Shame on you for thinking so. And now that’s all you can think of, am I right?). It is scary and it is daunting. And it is exhilarating when you get even a scrap of positive feedback.

Enter Social Media

For aspiring writers with a backbone and a somewhat thicker skin, social media can be a way to get some of that craved feedback.

How?

The first and probably most obvious method is to have a Twitter stream dedicated to your writing. I doubt that most people want to read about writer’s block, so you need to have something going on. Perhaps you could write about inspirations, or earlier works, or how things fit together in your universe.

Hence I am also talking about a blog. You can blog about writing. The creative process can be fascinating for people who are into it. Maybe you’d like to review your own work, and comment on what you’ve learned, and how you’ve grown as an author. Put both of these together, and you’ve got a pretty dynamic combination. You write, you blog about it and then you tweet about your blog posts and your writing.

Plus writing begets writing. Even blog writing (which is a rather different animal from book-writing) can help keep writer’s block at bay. It helps to exercise these muscles fairly regularly.

Another Option?

Post on social sites. Hence for fan fiction, there is Fanfiction.net. And for purely original stories, they have a sister site, Fiction Press. Or try Wattpad. In addition, plenty of more specialized fiction and fan fiction sites exist. Google is your friend!

Be aware of scams; they do exist. Furthermore, putting your work out there does not guarantee that you retain full rights to it. And this is despite the laws in your own country. In addition, understand there’s a lot of plagiarism and downright theft out there. So remain as cautious as with any other information you put online.

Understand, too, that if you neurotic writers are going to submit to a traditional publisher, they often don’t want you to have posted your story elsewhere beforehand. Because this has to do with the full rights to your product. Hence you might want to put out your smaller or less important works, and save your really big one, if you are ever planning to submit to a traditional publishing house.

Competitions

Yet another option is competitions. Here’s one, at America’s Next Author. Because the inspiration from this blog post came from learning that a friend had a story in this competition. The competition ran as a pure social media experiment. Hence, while good storytelling and story-crafting matter, so does publicity. Like with any other social media site, “likes”, comments and popularity all play a role. For my friend, and for others trying to make it, putting the link onto Facebook or Twitter is essential to getting the word out. Even this blog post is helpful (FYI, and just for the record, this post is my own idea and she did not request or suggest it).

The Reader End of Things

The community of aspiring writers is, truly, a community. And that means give and take. What kind of give and take? The kind that goes along with reviews and comments. Because for those who are trying to write for a living, commenting and reviewing should be a part of that. Readily and cheerfully provide constructive criticism, if desired.

Aspiring neurotic writers write for exposure. And often they get exposure from fellow aspirants. What better way to forge a sense of community than to read one another’s works, and comment thereon?

The Upshot of It All

For those of us neurotic writers who put it out there every day, who bare ourselves and our souls with prose or poetry, fiction or nonfiction, fan or wholly original, short story or multi-novel series, we all have a major issue in common – we want recognition. We don’t even necessarily want to be famous, but we want to be the one at the fireside who spins a yarn as others sit, enraptured. And with social media, we hope, there just might be some people listening.

Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter, a Book Review

Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter

Joshua Porter had some interesting ideas.

Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter was recommended to me by Kevin Palmer as a good read about the fundamentals of creating and perfecting online communities and social software.

Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter

Not How, But Why

The book is less of a how-to and more of a why-to, if that makes sense. If you’re looking for code examples, look elsewhere. Instead, the book covers theory and explains how and why certain tasks need to be done.

Essentially, any social site, whether in the shape of forums or something else, faces the following user hurdles:

  1. Pay attention – users need to have an idea that they want your software, product, services, etc.
  2. Decision to sign up
  3. Input personal information
  4. Pay money (if applicable)
  5. Decide for someone else (if applicable)
  6. Give up the old way of doing things

Back Up a Second

Frankly, there’s even one item before #1, call it #0 if you will: the potential user must understand that he or she has a need. And, hand in hand with that, the potential user also needs to decide to fulfill that need online. Hence if a potential user, say, decides that they want support because they’ve just gotten a cancer diagnosis, but they further decide to only get their support via an in-person group and not an online board then, so far as you’re concerned, it’s game over. After all, not everyone “gets” the social aspect of the web.

Get Over Those Hurdles

Joshua Porter covers the handling of some of these basic hurdles, such as designing to favor signing up and hanging around. One main point he makes is: don’t make signing up too arduous a task. And its corollary: don’t ask for information you don’t need. Far too often, sites ask for what ends up being ludicrous levels of granularity of detail. After all, when was the last time that anyone, really, needed your middle name for you to apply for a job? Yet sites ask for this trivial piece of data. And, even if they don’t require it, that begs the question even further. Why is the field even there in the first place if the site so openly acknowledges that it’s just plain unnecessary?

Eight Seconds to Impress

Porter makes the point all too forcefully: the decision to sign up for an online service is made in eight seconds. That’s an awfully short window of opportunity to convince a potential user that his or her time and attention should be paid to you and not your competition.

The book abounds with these kinds of helpful nuggets, and is also chockful of references to blogs and books to support the author’s recommendations. The generous sprinkling of citations was helpful as it was a clear signpost suggesting online readings. It can seem counterintuitive to learn about designing for the web by reading a completely offline book. Porter’s work bridges the gap back to the web and lets the reader in on where to find more information situated a lot closer to where the reader is going to be placing new social software or services.

A Quibble

Finally, Designing for the Social Web does not seem to draw an overall conclusion. Rather, the book instead seems to simply run out of gas in the end. It’s as if the author had run out of what to say. Hence a final upshot or even some words of encouragement would have, I feel, helped. But that’s a small issue with an otherwise interesting and eminently practical work.

Rating

4/5

A crash course in copyright law, part 3 (exceptions)

A crash course in copyright law, part 3 (exceptions)

What are some exceptions to copyright infringement cases?

So, when is it all right?

Purdue University offers a terrific and very readable summary of the main known exceptions to copyright infringement claims.

Note: the law changes in every area. This blog is no substitute for talking directly with an experienced copyright attorney!

Fair Use

For the fair use defense, Purdue outlines four basic factors:

Purpose and character

Some specifics favor fair use. These include nonprofit, educational, and personal usages. Plus there are those representing a potential tipping point. These include teaching, research, scholarship, criticism, commentary, and news reporting. And there are those which favor needing permission. These include commercial, entertainment, and for-profit uses. That is, a nonprofit’s research is more likely to be fair use than a for-profit enterprise’s commercial use. Hence the for-profit enterprise should seek the copyright holder’s permission.

Nature of work

To favor fair use, it should be a fact and/or published. But to favor needing permission, it should be a fiction and/or unpublished. E. g. It’s more likely to be fair use if you repeat a published fact about dinosaurs. Whereas you more likely need permission when it’s an unpublished novel about vampires.

Amount

Small and insignificant instances of copying are more likely to be fair use than large ones representing a work’s heart. As a result, those are more likely to require permission. That is, if I copy the character of Millicent Bulstrode, then the character is minor and small. However, this does not necessarily mean JK Rowling won’t sue me. Copying Hermione Granger is another matter entirely.

Market Effect

You’re more likely to be in the fair use realm if:

  • Licensing/permissions are unavailable or there is no major impact,
  • There is limited/restricted access to the work, or
  • The user or institution owns a legal copy.

But it’s different if there is a major impact, or licensing/permissions are readily available. Or the work has worldwide availability, or there is repeated or long-term use. Then the scale slides to requiring permission. Profit and sales are not an element to this cause of action. Although selling the copied article, particularly multiple instances of it, can place the act into the ‘requires permission’ camp.

Face to Face Instruction

According to Purdue,

The traditional classroom or face-to-face instruction is when the instructor and the students of a nonprofit educational institution are in a place devoted to instruction and the teaching and learning take place at the same time. In this setting all performances and displays of a work are allowed.

Requirements:

  1. All materials must be legally acquired.
  2. Teaching activities must take place in a classroom or a similar place devoted to instruction.

Virtual Instruction

Similar to the face-to-face instruction allowance, virtual instruction generally gets a pass, according to Purdue University. However, there are some specifics, such as the class must be a regular offering in the curriculum.

What about Parody?

The American Bar Association notes the United States Supreme Court treats parody and satire separately. But the ABA feels it’s a distinction without much of a difference. Both are mockery. However, satire is often more like commentary than outright mimicry. For the ABA, and particularly when a work has both elements, the difference matters less. Although copyright holders might be more inclined to license satire rather than parody. This is because parody is pretty much a knockoff by definition.

Commentary generally falls under fair use. That commentary can be amusing or not, satirical or not. Copying generally isn’t fair use, but amusement and exaggeration blurs that line.

The best advice I can give you is: don’t make your work into a copyright test case.

In other words: be original!