How do you go about starting a Twitter stream? Should you plunge right in, or hang back?
You need a name! Let’s say you’ve taken my advice (or decided this on your own), and gone with an account just for writing. If you want a personal account, you make a second one.
Fine, but you need a name. How about a word like writer or author somewhere in there? You can’t go beyond 15 characters. Fortunately, you’ve got both letters and numbers, so you could conceivably add wr1ter or auth0r if you liked. Go as short as you can while remaining coherent and unique.
Settings are important in Twitter as they are with every social network. Twitter moves them on occasion (every large site does beta testing, where they experiment with different layouts and looks to see what you’ll click on more often – this is normal); currently, they are under your profile image. Add a profile image and make it a head shot or at least a picture of the cover of your book, if you have one. Don’t keep the egg!
A background image is nice but not strictly necessary; Twitter has some pretty decent generic images if you are unsure of how you want things to look.
Who do you follow?
Spend a little time chasing hashtags. #amwriting, #amediting, #PitMad, and #MSWL are great for getting started. Know an author you like is on Twitter? Then follow him or her! Publishers and agents are also good choices, as are your friends from NaNoWriMo or Wattpad or the rest of the writing community, even the fan fiction writing community. Follow people who put words together into sentences and stories. Applaud their efforts and read what they have to say. It matters.
How can demystifying Facebook help you, the independent writer?
There are no reviews yet. Be the first one to write one.
It’s not just for Candy Crush anymore.
Demystifying Facebook for Independent Writers
Like other small business persons (for that is what an indie author is, right?), you have two separate lives on any social network. One is as an individual. You have friends, you have opinions. You might play games or write about politics. Or you might post memes or videos. You have fun, you express support or sympathy. And, let’s face it, you give and receive attention.
Your other life is as a writer. A writer who might need help marketing. Maybe a writer who might to bounce ideas off other authors. A writer who might need some help with a plot, or at least a sympathetic ear. You might want to talk to others who have been where you are. Plus you might want to connect with people who can help you improve your craft. Those are beta readers, cover artists, and editors. They might be writers you admire, or even publishing houses which interest you.
Demystifying Facebook and Socializing
As a writer, there is no reason for you to stop socializing online. On Facebook in particular, hanging out with other writers is a great idea.
Because writing is, by definition, a solitary pursuit. Even collaborators and co-authors don’t trade the article for the noun for the verb for the adjective for another noun, or sentence for sentence or paragraph for paragraph. Instead, collaborators will generally write their own portion of a work and then give it to their partner, as the partner does the same. They beta read for each other and combine the pieces, whether those are chapters or sections or the like. The details may differ, but it’s pretty inefficient to hang out together for the actual writing process (although they may get together to discuss plot).
Hangouts for Indie Writers
For independent writers, you have a few places on Facebook where you can hang out.
NaNoWriMo group online – if you compete to write 50,000 words in November or April, then this is your scene. The group is large and generally friendly, although there are sometimes stretches of people stepping on toes. It’s best to hang back at the start and see how things go before you plunge in. There are also groups for local NaNo groups.
Wattpad – if you belong to Wattpad, check them out on Facebook. While this is a games page, you can still get a handle on who is who. Befriend fellow Wattpadders? Why not?
Queer Sci-Fi and other specialty genre groups – do some research; these can have varying activity levels.
Services trading groups – your mileage will vary. Some are more active than others. And some might be more spammy than others.
Advertising groups – these tend to be bottom-feeding. If they are just a bunch of ads, and no one is liking or replying to the ads, then you know how effective they are.
Have I missed any groups? Add them in the Comments section!
Of course there is a lot more to demystifying Facebook. I’ll get to it soon. Stay tuned!
So giveaways can be helpful when you are first starting out. Because people do not know your writing, they might not be inclined to spend too much on your work. Rather than pricing down to nothing, do one better: give your book away as a prize.Amazon, in particular, makes it easy. And on GoodReads, this kind of a promotion costs you even less.
A lot of the internet is gamified these days. So, what do I mean by that? Essentially, instead of simply telling you that your LinkedIn profile needs work, that site gives you a completion percentage. And it also pits you against your fellow job seekers. So never mind if they have your qualifications. The competition starts even if you don’t want it to. And this kind of competing tends to spur people to action.
Hence you can provide your work as a prize for really anything. I provide it as one of the prizes for the 24 Hours of G & T Fundraiser, and I’ll even send a signed copy if the winner is in the United States (where the shipping costs less; otherwise, I try to order my work directly through whichever Amazon applies to them and then pay the exchange rate). So if you have some sort of event, there’s no reason you can’t raffle off your book. Do it for charity, even. Just, get it out there, and into the wild. The more copies out there, the better.
Advance Review Copies
Now, Amazon has been cracking down on this a bit so proceed with some caution. However, no one is stopping you from giving away your book for free. The issue arises when writers provide a copy of their work in exchange for a review (generally referred to as “an honest review“, as the intention is to get the truth out of the reviewer and not bribe them to shower you with unfounded praise). Hence instead of doing an even exchange, your best bet is to simply provide a copy and ask that someone review your work if they see fit.
Spoiler Alert: for most people, if they have a free copy of your book and they liked it at all, they’ll usually leave some sort of a review. This is even if it’s just in the form of stars.
Furthermore, you can always give things away on an impulse. Or during the promotions day at various writers’ Facebook groups, I will offer my book for free. All a person has to do is show me their receipt for purchasing another group member’s work. To make my life easier, I limit the time, usually to just one week. I ask if someone will review both our works if they want to. And then I send the book and leave it. By the way, I’ve gotten three reviews this way. That might not seem like a lot, but I have also made some friends. And that helps in ways that go far beyond promotions and marketing.
Consider opportunities for giveaways, prizes, and gamification of your work. Yes, yes, I know you want to make money from your work. I get that; I really do! But sometimes you need to lay out some of your own funds to make it all work. Don’t be cheap about this. When the time and conditions are right, give away at least a few copies of your work. Because nothing builds goodwill and relationships better, or faster.
PitMad is a quarterly pitch session on Twitter. So essentially what you are doing is tweeting about your work, but it is only on specific dates, and agents and publishers are watching.
In addition, it happens in March, June, September, and December.
Getting Ready With PitMad Hashtags
So do yourself a favor, and create your tweets now. As in, today. You want to know what to tweet, and you want to be able to fit both the #PitMad hashtag into your tweet, but also the hashtag specific to your genre. So, according to Sub It Club and Brenda Drake, the hashtags are as follows:
So, per the Pitmad site, you must use an age category. And here they are:
#A – Adult
#C – Children’s
#CB – Chapter Book
#MG – Middle Grade
#NA – New Adult
#PB – Picture Book (this is the youngest age category)
#YA – Young Adult
Added Hashtags (Optional)
#DIS = Disability subject matter
#IMM = Immigrant
#IRMC = Interracial/Multicultural subject matter
#LGBT = LGBTQIA+ subject matter
#MH = Mental Health subject matter
#ND = Neurodiverse subject matter
#OWN = Own Voices
#POC = Author is a Person of Color
Older Hashtags (Not Sure If They Are Still Being Used)
#AA – African American (might not be used anymore?)
#CF – Christian Fiction (might not be used anymore?)
So there do not seem to be particular hashtags for Zombies or Vampires or the like, but that may change in the future.
What Are The Rules?
Per Ms. Drake and PitchWars (run by the same people), the rules are:
You can only pitch complete, polished manuscripts. This means, no works in progress allowed!
So, you can’t pitch anything already published, no matter how many changes have been made to it.
Keep the feed clear, so don’t favorite your friends’ pitches. But you can always retweet and even add commentary to the original post with the #PitMad hashtag.
Also, don’t tweet agents or publishers unless they tweet you first.
Plus be courteous and professional, of course.
In addition, if you can’t be there, use HootSuite or TweetDeck to schedule your pitches.
You can only pitch three times during a dedicated #PitMad day. And the tweets have to differ somehow, even if it’s just a difference of a period.
But if you have more than one MS to pitch, you get three tweets per MS.
Finally, if you are invited to submit a manuscript, be sure to put PitMad Request: TITLE in the subject line of your email when sending your request. Plus, of course, follow all other submission guidelines for the requestor.
What is the Schedule?
It’s March, June, September, and December. Times are 8 AM – 8 PM, Eastern Time.
Have you tried advertising on Facebook? It’s easier and more affordable than you might think.
Keep in mind that Facebook is constantly A/B testing (e. g. checking to see if any new layouts or color schemes, etc. will make you click more), so these instructions might be a little out of date after a while. This has worked in the past. It might not any more. Caveat emptor.
About half the time, Facebook will just come to you and suggest you start advertising. I can’t say what their algorithm is for selecting a post to promote, although they usually suggest a popular one. If they are not suggesting a post you want to promote (e. g. you would prefer to promote another one), or you are new to promotions and there are no suggestions, or you just want to see how to start one from scratch, go to your Author Page and go to Publishing Tools, then, on the right, pull down on Help and click Advertiser Support. This will get you to the Facebook for Business page. In the upper right corner, click Create Ad.
For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll choose Boost Your Posts as our campaign.
Selecting an audience for a post
Audience is important; you do not want to just send to everyone, as even failed clicks are going to cost you money. You will do a lot better with targeting as that will help assure a greater percentage of your clicks are meaningful and helpful. Click Set Audience and Budget. You can choose an audience from demographics, or from preferences or from lookalikes, who are people similar to those who like your page. If you are just getting started, and a greater percentage than normal of your likes come from friends and family trying to help you out, do not use this option!
Select a location by navigating around the map and dropping a pin in your preferred location. The age ranges are also pretty self-explanatory. You can even exclude some people.
Setting a budget
Start small. You can always add. The minimum is generally $1/day. I prefer what Facebook calls a Lifetime budget, which sets a total. It’s a lot easier to rein in than a Daily budget, I believe.
Go to your analytics and take a look at when more people are on than usual. Select those days and times for your ads! Next click Select Ad Creative. I recommend allowing everything unless you absolutely know your targeted audience is not in a particular area.
Choosing which post to promote
Choosing a post to promote (if Facebook has not done so for you) is easy. Select a popular one, representative of your brand. If you have a limited time offer, that could be perfect. Just make sure your ads don’t run after the offer has expired.
I am EJ Roberts, the reviewer for A Drop of Ink Reviews. So let’s sit and talk about what all of this entails and how it affects the indie author.
First off, I’ve been reading since I was four. I made my family teach me how to read when I couldn’t get anyone to read to me often enough to keep me happy. And I have been devouring books left and right ever since. I honestly can’t get enough of the written word. Though it wasn’t until about 2009 that I began to have an inkling that such a thing as an “indie author” even existed and could be viewed in a good light.
I used to think I wanted to be a writer.
And I have some skill at putting words together, but the idea of exposing yourself as an author and facing the rejection and judgement of others – that scared me to death. I eventually came to the realization that I could use my skills in writing for something else entirely.
I frequented a writing group on Facebook that featured mainly indie authors. There were a few traditionally published writers in the group, but not many. However, their lament was all the same. They couldn’t get reviews for their books. So, in 2015, A Drop of Ink Reviews was born.
Why Reviews Matter
Reviews are incredibly important to an author, and more so for an indie author than one traditionally published. The reviews tell other potential readers that someone took a chance on this unknown author. The more reviews there are, the more the book gains recognition. Indie authors don’t have advertising and marketing budgets. They have to do all of the work themselves, so each and every review is precious. It’s free marketing and helps propel their book further.
How She Got Started
Until that moment, I’ll admit I’d never written a review. I looked at a lot of review websites out there to see how others were doing them. I then created my own idea and ran with it. Before authors would trust me with their books, I had to essentially audition for the right to read and review them for free. I started with a few books I had on my shelf and off I went. It wasn’t long before I was swamped with requests for reviews.
How to Get a Review
Most indie book reviewers will do this free of charge. The only thing being they are given a free e-book. Each reviewer will have their preferred genre, so it’s always important to pay attention to their submission guidelines. Think of it as trying to get an agent. You have to pay attention to their guidelines or your book will be tossed aside. Personally, I’m quite open about what I’ll review. I do avoid horror, LGBT, non-fiction, poetry, and erotica. I joke that I’m a prude and don’t even want excessive scenes in a book. If they’re important to the storyline, that’s one thing. If they’re thrown in for shock value? Please don’t bother. I’m also fond of Young Adult and Middle Grade books. A lot of reviewers won’t touch those, so it’s important to pay attention.
The Indie View
But how does one go about finding these elusive reviewers? There is an excellent list out there called The Indie View. They sponsor a list of active book reviewers. They also list what genres the author will and will not read so you can eliminate a lot of guesswork. This is not a comprehensive list as indie reviewers must submit themselves. I was on there at one point, but have since been removed. That’s okay though as I have a steady stream of people still interested.
It’s Just an Opinion!
One super important thing to remember about a book review. They are all the opinion of a single person. Once, I posted a 2 star review on my site. I rarely post those, but I was one of the few of hundreds of people who’d read it and gave it a low star rating. I figured the readers of my blog would still be interested and it could bring more readers to the author.
About four people told me they were going to buy the book and read it themselves. That was until the author approached me about removing the review from my site and I made the mistake of doing so. From that moment on, an entire wave of people vowed to never read anything that author ever wrote. While your feelings might be hurt by a review, let it stand. Don’t say a word. You never know when that negative review will actually bring readers to you.
The Joys and Occasional Downsides of Being a Reviewer
Being a book reviewer I’m put in a unique position. I’m handed someone’s pride and joy and they wait anxiously to hear my opinion. I take this position seriously. My greatest joy is when I can put a 4 or 5 star rating on the book and recommend it to everyone I can think of. I have actually come across a few authors that I will buy their books as soon as they’re released because of my review site.
Unfortunately, along with the fun of discovering a great new author comes the pain of having to tell an author their book wasn’t ready for publication. I do not review those. I quietly give the author a review in an email and point out the flaws. Then there are the books I cannot read for whatever reason. That hurts the most. Though I believe there is an audience for everyone, sometimes I’m just not it. I am not in a position to review the book if it wasn’t written for me.
As I continue to review, I am finding I’m growing a small list of pet peeves. I’m fairly lenient because I still dabble in writing on the side and I know I have my own flaws. However, the longer I dwell in the indie book world, the more I’m finding less excuses for what are obvious errors. One being not taking the time to proofread your book. A ton of typos drives me nuts. The author cannot see them. He or she has been looking at the book too long. It requires another person to do it. Have a friend who’s picky as all get out help you. Your other option is to pay someone.
When faced with this decision, keep in mind you are investing in the future of your book. I have had the privilege of watching a book blossom from a new cover and editing services. It went from being dead in the water to netting the author a decent little income. Never underestimate the power of editing and cover art.
One Book, Though ….
In the past year and a half I’ve been reviewing, I have come across a single book where I could get past the fact it wasn’t edited. A single book. I have 77 reviews on my site. I have read over a 100 books. Only one book. Think about that. The storyline was so incredible and amazing I could overlook the typos, and there were a lot. Do not think your book can do that. Do not make that mistake. It takes an incredible author to pull that off and they’re a rare breed.
I love what I do. I love reading new books and sharing my opinion with others. And I love that I can shine a light on unknown indie authors and convince people who’d never think to look at an indie author to give one a try. Indie authors break the rules. Sure, there are a lot out there who will still follow the same worn paths as traditionally published books, but the rule breakers are here. The ones that are carving out the new genres are alive and well in the indie world. I’m glad to be a part of it.
Reinvention is such a lonely word, isn’t it? We are so used to being one way, and the world is used to it, too. But then there we go, screwing it all up.
I mean, changing it up.
Oops, I mean, improving ourselves.
For quite a while, Adventures in Career Changing ended up somewhat stagnant. At the same time, I ran a blog for independent writers called Lonely Writer. The numbers for that other blog were not so great, and they fell off dramatically after I graduated in the summer of 2016. Furthermore, it was costing me some bucks. Hence I decided to simply not allow that URL to renew when it came up again.
Instead, I decided to combine the two works, back here, on Adventures. Because career changing, for me, has also been about writing.
You may have noticed me making some housekeeping changes. There is a lot more color. The theme is considerably livelier. But beneath the surface there is another change, and it is not merely a cosmetic one. For these changes also contain adding the Lonely Writer videos, updating what I post here, and what I put on Facebook as well. And Twitter (or Twitter here). Plus of course there is still a YouTube channel, although I may eventually figure out a way to rebrand it.
Some things cannot be changed (such as the audio in preexisting YouTube videos). But for the most part, I have changed anything that can possibly be changed.
These transformations are folding Lonely Writer into my professional social media brand.
But please do not worry! What is free is still free! Rather, I want to introduce you to what I can do. So, that is another purpose behind this particular blog post, okay?
I can blog about virtually any topic. I can create WordPress sites, and I can develop and manage them. See, I can get you started on social media platforms. And I can help you with SEO.
As a freelance blogger, my job is to write about maritime law one day and ad retargeting the next, and then about real estate a few days later.
In the old, pre-Internet days, people like me would put out a shingle.
The future? Well, more specifically, I mean the future of the Lonely Writer website.
So as some readers may recall, I started this website as my capstone project at Quinnipiac University. I needed the project in order to graduate with a Master’s in Science in Communications (social media). Well, graduation happened in August of 2016. However, I had paid for the domain until the end of March of 2017. It seemed silly to try to cancel early.
But now it’s March of 2017.
Hence I want to change things up. My life has gotten considerably more busy since I graduated. I currently work four part-time work from home jobs, all centered around various tasks having to do with blogging. I also podcast every month and I blog for that podcast and for its parent podcast. Furthermore, I still blog about social media and even about fan fiction.
In addition, I still write and still work. I always try to get more of my work published. As a result, I just plain don’t have the time for yet another domain. Most noteworthy, I’d also like to save a few bucks. This project does … okay. Yet Adventures in Career Changing does better.
Therefore, I realized: I should combine the two.
What Will Happen?
The Lonely Writer YouTube channel and Facebook groups will both live on. And the Twitter stream won’t be going away, either. They do not require as much work as a separate blog. Plus, they are also free of charge. I am only talking about this domain and the blog posts.
So, where are they going? Why, they are off to Adventures in Career Changing! As a result, the blog URLs will change, and the blog posts themselves will be removed for later re-posting. I will change them up, too, so they will be more up to date. That’s all. So don’t worry, okay? This advice and this work will not be gone. It’ll all just move down the street.
Independent writers can sometimes be rather lonely indeed. You can feel as if it’s just you in a sea of promotions, prompts, social media, and writer’s block.
I’m here to help you. I am getting my Master’s degree in Communications (social media), and this is my capstone project. Yeah, I’m being graded for this! I might just continue after graduation. Furthermore, I can see there is a need out there, for a sharing of this sort of expertise.
I am also a published author. I write or do something regarding writing every single day. Plus, I just so happen to be a retired attorney, and I used to work in databases and even voice recognition. My resumé is rather eclectic.
I seem to have a pretty balanced brain, in that I am not too far over on the artistic side (right) or the analytical side (left). However, I tend to split the difference. Or maybe it’s just my genetics. Because my father is a retired engineer and an inventor, several times over. And my mother is a retired reference librarian. This stuff is in my DNA.
So with such an odd and varied background, I have become what you, too, need to be:
Open to all sorts of possibilities
I know you need some help, or maybe just a sympathetic ear. And believe me, I know! Just between you and me, we have to wear a ton of hats. Writer. Marketer. Accountant. Lawyer (or at least paralegal). Editor. Cover artist.
Fortunately, you are not alone.
And I am more than willing to share my expertise and my experience. So let’s explore, together, how to navigate the waters of being an independent (no agent yet) author, whether published or not. I’ll provide videos and cheat sheets for you to refer to, so you’re no longer in the dark.