Monday, October 20, 2014
There's a bit more to my lack of sitefulness – some of which is germane to this month's theme of social media for writers. I once had a Live Journal page. On it I blogged about my writing, my family, my work in education and mental health, and just about everything else that came to mind. There were posts made during my vigil at my father's deathbed. Posts about my youngest daughter overcoming a childhood heart condition to be on her high school's cross country team. A tirade or two on society's treatment of people struggling to overcome mental and emotional handicaps. My racially blended family's encounters with southern culture. The stresses of partnering with Child Protective Services in dealing with a toxic family – with way too many toxic families. Or my soapbox positions on theology, spirituality, philosophy, and politics. Lots of politics. I'm a political junkie. The odd piece about the publishing, gaming, and media tie-in industries. And, yes, every so often I'd wax thoughtfully on the craft of writing, the life of a writer, and lessons I've learned about both over the years.
In short, it was a personal journal, not the journal of a writer. And, on rare occasion, someone who came looking for me because of my writing, was very disappointed with what I had to say about the education and public health industries, or things they found about my family or my faith or my politics (usually my politics).
When I went full-time as a freelancer, I killed my Live Journal. It was too easy to find, and eliminating it was easier than restructuring it to be reassuring and attractive to potential clients and publishers who might Google me prior to doing business with me. (Yes, I know there are privacy settings, but excising the thing entire was easier than going through and deciding what should be available to whom on a post-by-post basis. It's not like I don't know my own opinions or can't articulate them on demand if the situation requires.)
I do have a Facebook page, but it's a pale shadow of my former Live Journal. Those of you who aren't among my Facebook friends will only be able to see are pictures of my granddaughter, human interest stories, personal anecdotes, and humor. The closest thing to political opinion pieces you'll find are posts reaffirming my unbridled support of teachers.
Could I create a site that's all about writing, particularly my writing, that's filled with articles about the life of a writer, how to build a writing career, the tricks of the craft, and analyses of great works? Could I create a site that presents me as a professional writer, that showcases my talents without being pushy while providing interesting and useful content for readers, fellow writers, and potential clients? Of course. I'm a writer, that's what I do. And when my career goals move me in a direction where such a site will serve my needs, I'll do it. Already have the domain name for it. But right now it's not a tool I'm focused on developing.
Besides, if you're interested in reading up on what I know about writing, all you have to do is click on "Kevin Killiany" here at Novel Spaces to see an archive of 80+ columns.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Ah, social media. So much fun. So much danger.
In April 2012, I wrote about the potential traps and other hazards which await you when you decide to wade into the social media pool. However, that piece focused on the more obvious pitfalls: privacy, how not to let time spent in these venues eat up your writing schedule, how to acquit yourself when in the midst of self-promotion, reacting to reviews from readers and/or critics, and so on. One thing I didn’t touch on the first time around but which I think deserves its own bit of attention is the tightrope we walk when advertising ourselves and our wares. It can be hard to find the right balance between “hanging out” on social media sites and using these venues as promotional tools.
Everybody’s always going on and on about how we as writers need to be “out there,” building a “platform” and all that. Websites, blogs, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube...all these are viewed as prime territory for attracting readers and attention to our work. X number of Twitter followers, Y number of Facebook “friends” or “likes,” Z number of subscribers to our blogs, all of these—supposedly—have weight when a publisher is considering an author’s book. Some of the “advice” I’ve read almost makes it seem as though we need to be beating our drum with every Tweet and Facebook status update, or else we’re just not working hard enough to promote ourselves.
Of course, the people who are the targets of these marketing efforts may just end up thinking we’re a bunch of annoying prats. So, my attitude with this stuff is to tread carefully.
I've spent...let’s see...an inordinate amount of time in the trenches of social media over the past several years, and I’ve seen what happens when that balance isn’t achieved. You know what? It ain’t pretty folks. In fact, I’ve unfollowed writers and other creative types who do nothing but promote themselves and their latest book, or who only post links to their books for sale or articles they’ve written for web sites or crowd-sourcing efforts they’re championing. The constant barrage devolves into an irritating drone after a while, which can really harsh my net-surfing mellow when all I really want is to see a picture of a cat who can’t spell, or a video of a guy skateboarding into a fence.
The point of social media is to socialize; to communicate with other denizens of these virtual realms, whether you’re chatting about shared interests or commenting on issues of the day or simply commiserating because Life chose an inopportune moment to kick you in the gut. When readers follow authors in these venues, they’re not interested in seeing the “sales pitch” 24/7; they want to interact with the people who write those books they love so much. They want to get to know the person, not the brand.
Now, me? I blog throughout the week, and I try to keep my choice of topics varied and (hopefully) entertaining. I tend to have more fun on Facebook and Twitter than normal people might consider healthy. Most of the followers I’ve attracted have found me after reading my books and checking out my website or blog. Others follow me because we have mutual friends, and we’ve found that we have common interests. I engage in the usual sorts of behavior you see everyday on Facebook and Twitter, such as sharing funny pictures or links to news articles, or commenting on other people’s links and updates.
Do I promote myself and my work to this audience? Of course, but as with all things, I believe moderation in this context is the key to success. Sure, I alert people that a new book is coming or has been published, but I also tell them when I take on a new gig. I give teases about the chapter I’m writing that day. Sometimes I solicit input, like what to name a character or if I need help researching some bit of trivia. Chatter usually results from these sorts of postings, and we have fun with it. Once, I even had a contest calling for readers to post photos of them holding one of my books while on their summer vacations. I got responses from Disney World, beaches, cruise ships, and other locales around the world. I turned it into a contest and readers voted for their favorite pictures and the winners received signed books. Sure, I’m promoting myself, but my goal is to seamlessly weave it in and around the rest of my online blatherings.
How do you approach social media? Do you love it or loathe it? Is it fun or frustrating? What tricks do you have for integrating promotion into the mix?
Monday, October 13, 2014
Friday, October 10, 2014
Nerissa Golden is an award-winning media strategist, business coach, and author who helps her clients accelerate their business growth by leveraging high impact communications solutions and income generating strategies. She is the author of four books: Like. Follow. Lead. Mastering Social Media for Small Business, Island Days, a collection of illustrated poems about growing up in the Caribbean; The Making of a Caribbeanpreneur: Strategies for Overcoming Fear and Building Wealth as well as Truly Caribbean Woman’s Guide to Good Love.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
I stayed away from Tublr for the longest time. Despite having a mouth like a sailor in real life I was put off by the fact that every single Tublr seemed to be name F*ckyeah (insert noun here). So there was F*ckyeahbjds, F*yeah Illustarions, etc. But when Facebook started getting cluttered with ads and autoplay videos a friend of mine encouraged me to get one.
Tumblr is very much it's own animal. It is unlike any other social media I've ever been on. An author I know once said that Tumblr, like Pinterest, is more about curating content then a necessarily useful tool for self promotion, and I would have to agree. Unless you have some sort of stunningly original content to offer, are already a well established author it's probably not going to serve you as well as another format. However, the crowd on Tumblr is young. If you write YA, diversity of any kind, or want to try connecting with a younger audience, it might be worth your time to sign up and join the madness.
Unlike Pinterest it is politically charged as well. If you don't know what a privileged able-bodied cisgender white male is it might not be the place for you. If you are a cisgendered white male then I wish you luck... Tumblr is a place of diversity and politics. There are Tumblrs like Medieval PoC, Cosplaying While Black, Black Fangirls Unite , and Writing with Color . There are a lot of resources for white people who want to write characters of greater diversity. Tumblr is not always a comfortable place, but if you can bear with your discomfort you will learn a lot about race relations, what the I and A are in LGBTQIA, and most importantly, yourself.
Now, it's not all serious political discourse and angst. I follow a TON of fashion blogs, illustration blogs, and illustrators to find inspiration for my own work. I follow my friends, and a number of literary agencies which regularly post.
Best of all, if you (like me) don't LOVE updating your Facebook every five minutes, you can post your Tumblr activity on FB and Twitter- so it looks like you're updating more than you really are. I also have my Wordpress site send all my Wordpress posts to Tumblr and I can update Tumblr from my Deviant Art Gallery!
So, how does Tumblr work? After you sign up for an account- which is free, you can pick a theme, leave it as is, or customize your page if you have the know how. Then you find other Tumblrs pf interest to follow. Their content shows up on your "home" indicated by a house icon. If you see a photo or post you like you can 'heart it' which will add it to a list of posts you have hearted. If you want to share the content on your Tumblr- the one everyone sees (which is separate from your 'home') you can 'reblog' the post. Reblogging the post will share it on your Facebook and Twitter. You don't HAVE to share them, but they are options you can turn on in the settings, and then use or not as you choose. Unlike Pinterest the posts you heart are just kept in one long list by date. So you may end up scrolling awhile to find what you want.
At the same time you are reblogging content you like, other people can reblog posts that you make, sharing said post with their followers. There is also an option for "Asks" which you can turn on or off. Asks allow anyone looking over your blog to ask questions- either under their username or anonymously. But there are also plenty of trolls looking to Ask really insulting things. But it can be a good way to answer questions from fans. Just beware. Personally I leave the Ask off on my Tumblr because I don't want to get trolled.
Saturday, October 4, 2014
Last month, LaShaunda Hoffman of Shades of Romance Magazine (SORMAG) interviewed Novel Spaces members Jewel Amethyst, Kevin Killiany, Marissa Monteilh and Liane Spicer. Here is the full podcast of the interview in which we discuss the running of a group blog--how we got started, why we do it, how we do it, what's behind our longevity, and more.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Unlike past festivals that were held at Mt Vernon Place, this one was held at the scenic Baltimore Inner Harbor, a great location for tourists and Baltimoreans alike. CaribbeanReads Publishing shared a tent with a group of teachers from Baltimore City, quite an advantage if you are selling children’s educational books.
One of the things about festivals is that you have to have something to draw people in. Think about it, all of the hundreds of tents have the same thing: books. People are coming there either for the well known speakers (Tavis Smiley was the highlighted speaker this year), or to get free stuff. We had a great activity in keeping with the theme of “ZAPPED!" Kids got the opportunity to make an edible model of an animal cell out of candy. We used that as a jump off point to promote the children’s book, CaribbeanReads newest publication: Zapped! Danger in the cell".
Now here is the dichotomy. While the kids were quite engaged making (and eating) their model cells and some of the parents were inspired to purchase books, many adults were just coming for the free candy. Some were quite rude in fact and would just grab the candy without asking and run without even glancing at the many children’s books on display. Others were quite courteous and would listen and take a flyer with the faint promise of purchasing the books online (been there –done that… I know what that means). It did not translate into windfall sales at the festival, but…
…Lynelle and I were invited to give a talk and have a book sale and signing at school in a different county, we met and established contact with local NPR affiliate, and we met several bloggers and got our information into their hands and we got our information into the hands of a coalition of libraries and librarians.
The highlight of Lynelle’s experience however came after the book festival. She was playing “Words with Strangers” at a booth adjacent to ours when a family came and purchased her book. Though we pointed her out as one of the authors, her back was turned and the person never got to meet her. The next day she came home from school quite excited. One of the girls who purchased the book was her class mate and was quite excited to discover that Lynelle was the author. And here I was looking for a way to introduce it to Lynelle’s school without putting her on the spot. Problem solved; it was introduced (unofficially).
Over all it was a great experience and I learned the power of free. A booth had books selling for $5.00 for the entire three days of the festival. That booth enjoyed a trickle of patrons for those three days, who would browse and occasionally purchase. On the last day, within the last ten minutes they put up a sign: “ALL BOOKS FREE”. I could not even get to the booth for the crowds that flocked it. People were grabbing books they would never read. Even Lynelle squeezed her small body between the throngs and got a few books that we have little interest in. Yes, there is power in FREE.
I don't know if our experience as vendors/participants in book festivals is typical, but it sure was an enlightening experience. If you have experiences with book festival do share them.