WITS Throwdown: Putting the “Social” in Social Media – From the Writers in the Storm Blog

The real title of this post is How To Put the Social in Social Media Without Losing Your Mind or All Your Free Time.

That’s a heavy promise, right? Social media does like to suck up valuable family time, writing time, down time. If you think about it as a big vaccuum that gives nothing back, you WILL be resistant to this whole “online social thing.”

This post is about how pick your online locations carefully and develop habits that help fit social media into the life you actually have. It’s about how to make connections during the time you choose to spend online. And of course, I share what I do to keep my love alive. <lol>

We’ve had two posts in this throwdown already. One from Fae, who pretty much detests it. One from Julie, who has found the one place in social media that doesn’t give her hives makes her happy.

Read the rest of this post HERE.

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As an Author, Are You a Good Audience Member?

When I studied music, many of my classes centered around analyzing music that has already been written and deconstructing and critiquing it. I blame these classes for my inability to listen to music solely for enjoyment. I have to either be participating in it or critiquing it.

Do you do this with your storytelling? Can you read a book or enjoy a movie without looking for aspects of the story that could have been improved?

I’ll speak for myself. I still enjoy movies and books. Since I began writing, however, I do view them differently. I look for things that I can improve in my own work. I look for techniques and trends. Mostly, I try to take off the writer hat and enjoy the experience.

It’s interesting to look to notable authors to see what they enjoy reading. It is well known that Stephen King is a fan of J.K. Rowling and her writing style.

In his New York Times review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire King said, “The fantasy writer’s job is to conduct the willing reader from mundanity to magic. This is a feat of which only a superior imagination is capable, and Rowling possesses such equipment.”

He has also been outspoken about Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight series. King compared the Meyer author to J.K. Rowling, saying that both authors were “speaking directly to young people. The real difference is that Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”

As part of my blog, I frequently review books that I’ve read. As I go back and read them, I’m hoping that I stay true to my intent which is to review them as a fan or audience member and not as an author. I try to avoid critiquing the literary style or use of passive voice, for example. I am more focused on the story and how it moved me and how it compares to other work that I’ve read.

I’ve also tried not to review books of authors that I know personally. For one thing, Amazon seems to frown on that practice. For another, I want to stay friendly with them and I can only be honest when reviewing their work as a reader.

So, now I’d like to hear from you. What kind of audience member are you? Do you take a notebook to movies and plays and critique the work? Do you put your writing aside and enjoy it as an average audience member? Are you somewhere in between?

Writing a Book – a Legacy for Your Children

daddy daughterIt’s no surprise that my love of reading as a child has turned into a love of writing. My one regret is that I waited so long to become an author. I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do.

Speaking of catching up, my wife and I had very little luck having children early in our marriage. We adopted after 15 years of marriage and then, in 2008, after 23 years of marriage, we welcomed our first infant into the world. My wife had a very healthy pregnancy for a woman in her mid-forties and we welcomed a 9-pound baby girl into the world. This event is one that has solidified our family and has been one of the best events of my life.

Our little girl is ten now and she is maturing in her reading very quickly. She has also caught onto the fact that I write books. She has been to author events with me and has been bitten by the writing bug. I couldn’t be happier.

I also have a two-year-old granddaughter that loves to be read to and loves to scribble in notebooks (fingers crossed).Lucy_s_Christmas_Miracle

A couple of years ago, my daughter came to an author event that I was participating in and brought one of my books with her and asked me to sign it. She wanted me to sign it with ‘Don Massenzio’ and then put ‘Daddy’ in parentheses. I nearly choked up when she came to me one morning and said she read one of my short stories and really liked it. The story was Lucy’s Christmas Miracle – a story about a dog named Lucy that protects a runaway child. I had a cover designed for this story and the graphic artist had never seen my daughter, but the cover he produced depicted a little girl that looked eerily like her.

stodAlso, two years ago, we collaborated on her very first children’s book, The Scary Tower of Doom. I had to talk her out of her original title, The Evil Tower of Death, and we had to tone down the people getting eaten by dragons. She has participated at book signings and has successfully sold out her print inventory several times. She has another book in the works, but this one is a longer chapter book.

As she finishes up 5th grade and heads into 6th, I’m doing everything I can to encourage her writing. Just because I started late with my own writing ventures doesn’t mean that she can’t be an early starter. I always use the example of my niece who had a book published as a child and is now a well-respected high school English teacher.

In 2nd greade, we started integrating writing with her school work. Her teacher gives her spelling and vocabulary words each week. We’ve taken her list of words and I’ve asked her to write a story using the words she was assigned. She has enjoyed this and worte several little stories.

In school she has a writing notebook and she has been diligently writing stories all year. She approached me the other day and asked if we can turn her notebook into a real book of children’s stories over the summer. Of course, I was very enthusiastic about helping her do this. It should be fun and I can’t wait to see her face when she holds that first printed book in her hand with her name on it.

When you think of leaving your children a legacy, it doesn’t have to be financial. If you can inspire them to do something like reading or writing, you have succeeded as a parent. Studies have proven that avid readers are smarter and more successful. They also make better learners. The world is a competitive place and if I can instill these literary habits in my daughter, I will be more confident about her future.

So, my fellow authors with children, take the time to inspire them and lead by example. Your children will grow up to be better people and you could not ask for a better legacy.

Exactly When Is the Best Time to Begin Your Book Marketing? – From the Writers in the Storm Blog

Penny Sansevieri

People ask me all the time when they should begin marketing book. So when is really the best time to start? Any book writing and marketing resource will say sooner rather than later. But how soon is too soon? Let’s examine this further.

First, not only is it important to understand where this advice comes from, it’s also important to understand the ways that publishing timelines have evolved throughout the years.

Most people who suggest marketing your book early are in traditional publishing because they have other factors that they need to deal with. For example, if you’re with, let’s say, Simon & Schuster, and you have a fall release for your book, they’ll probably need to pitch you to bookstores in March. You’ll have ARCs (advanced review copies) early in the year. Bookstores and other retailers like Walmart and Costco need to determine which books they will or won’t stock reasonably early since fall is one of the busiest seasons of the year.

Read the rest of this post HERE.

The Time is Now – Become a Published Author

now

Yes, It’s time for my soapbox. You may be going through the classic struggle trying to decide whether to self-publish or wait for traditional publishing possibilities.

There are many pros and cons to each and I’ve gone through many of those in previous posts. For me, the obvious choice was self-publishing. When I triangulated my age with my available time and my tolerance for rejection, it was the smart option for me.

It’s up to you do decide which path you want to take, but I want to let you know that there has never been a better time to be an independently published author. There are so many tools and favorable platforms that, when you choose the indie author path, it is a fairly straightforward route to navigate.

Is it easy? Not at all. You will expend the same amount of energy (if not more) than you would have creating and sending query letters and manuscripts when you begin promoting your work and building your author platform.

Fortunately, there are tools and tricks to help you every step of the way. I’ll briefly describe some of the ways that I navigated self publishing using short cuts along the way.

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Validation – If you’re seeking the kind of validation that you get from a literary agent or a publishing company, that’s fine. Remember, it’s usually one person’s opinion of your work. You may receive a rejection that says, “It’s just not what we’re looking for.” What exactly does that mean? We don’t think we can sell it. We don’t like your work. You’re a terrible writer. The rejections can be brutal and cold.

If you take the indie route, you can find online peer review groups. I used Scribophile quite a bit when I started writing my first novel. The cool thing about this site is that you can post your work in progress and get it critiqued by other authors. It is a quid pro quo situation in that you have to critique the work of others to get enough ‘points’ to post your own work. I found it to be good practice and there were some really great stories on the site and lots of constructive criticism to be had.

Proofreading red pencil

Editing – Edit, to some, is literally a four-letter-word in indie publishing. I’ve had authors proudly tell me that they edit their own work. Even if you are a scholar with an advanced English degree, I would argue that you’re still going to miss things. I started my career as a computer programmer and I know how easy it is to make simple mistakes in an environment where a missed punctuation mark can cause an entire program to crash. Make an investment in an editor.

You may think this is cost prohibitive, but there are options. I was very lucky. I have a dear friend that is an excellent editor. She took my work on as a favor and I was able to pay her later as sales increased.

If you’re not lucky enough to know an editor that will work under these conditions, you can find freelance editors on sites such as fiverr.com and find editors that will work with you based on the number of words you put in front of them. I’ve done this kind of work myself and it can be a good way to work. The money you pay is put in escrow and is not released until you’re happy with the work.

Book Covers – Again, this is another area where you can spend a lot or a little. Amazon has a tool for creating covers that is free. You can also use the freelance sites that I mentioned earlier. I have had great luck with them and was able to continually go back to the same graphic design artist for my covers. The most I’ve spent on a cover was $50.

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Trailers – Once again, the freelance sites can help you here. I’ve had a trailer done for each book. There are many schools of thought on the necessity of trailers. I’ve found that they work well in ads that allow them. I also have set up a Youtube channel with my trailers. Again, the cost was relatively low depending on how much you rely on the freelancer for images, copy, and music. My most expensive trailer was about $75.

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Promotion – For an independent author, this is the most painful part of the process in my opinion. I am introverted in person. I’m much more confident and outspoken online. When I have to attend an event and actually interact with other people, it is daunting. I also hate saying good things about myself. The idea of telling others what a great author I am makes me physically ill. There are ways to outsource this process. You can find a P.R. person. I did this at the beginning and found I was not getting a return on my investment. What I did, however, was to learn what this person was doing leading up to a book release and to secure interviews and issue press releases. They were things I could do on my own using my connections.

platform

Building an Author Platform – I had no idea what an author platform was when I started down the indie publishing path. I quickly learned, however, that it is a presence. This presence includes the need for a web site, a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. It also meant that I needed to establish a blog and a blog identity. This last piece is one that I was hit-or-miss with in the first year. Since January of this year, however, I have taken it very seriously and I believe that having a blog is the foundation of an Author platform. It’s a place to tell people who you are, what you know, and, most importantly for authors, what you write.

I’ve tried to do a number of things with my blog. I like to educate, entertain, interact, share my writing and pay it forward. The last item is extremely important among authors. I try to share news that other authors view as important around their new releases and successes. I also like to share important items from other authors. I also use my blogging platform as a way to tell people about the many talented authors that are part of this community.

Since I’ve been putting effort into my blog, I have seen the number of followers grow significantly and the number of views per visitor. That means that people who visit my blog are looking around at different things. That’s a cool feeling.

One thing that I’ve tried to do is make sure that my blog is identified with me, the author. An author’s name is his or her brand. You can give your blog a catchy name like Author McAuthorface, but people may remember that and not your actual name when looking for your books.

Go Your Own Way Break Split Up Broken Chain Links

Independent vs. Self-Published Author

This post has devolved into a rant about independent publishing in some regard. I make the differentiation between independent and self-publishing for a reason. I don’t do everything myself. I don’t print the books or run the website that sells my books. I simply take all of the tools that traditional publisher would bundle and I use them in a cafeteria style configuration.

Does this make me any less of an author than someone that goes the traditional route? I don’t think so. As long as their are authors like Hugh Howey, Andy Weir and Mark Dawson out there as role models, I’m going to stay on this path. I am validated by my readers, not by a gatekeeper.

Please chime in with your thoughts.

Inspiration Station: Fear As Fuel – From Rachel Poli’s Blog

It’s my pleasure to welcome Annette Rochelle Aben to my blog once again. This Inspiration Station is brought to you by her. Thanks, Annette!

Inspiration Station: Fear As Fuel | Guest Post | Creative Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

In the Kane Brown/Lauren Alaina song: What If, the duo goes back and forth siting the pros and cons of starting a relationship. Of course, it might work but what if it doesn’t. In the end, it sounds as though they are willing to throw caution to the wind and give it a go, despite their fears. Why? Because the pay-off is more attractive than giving into the fear.

Read the rest of this post HERE.

Are You a Prolific Author?

When you think of prolific authors, who comes to mind. I immediately thought of Stephen King, Dean Koontz and James Patterson. In reality, these authors are small fries when it comes to being prolific. Stephen King himself said he was considered to be prolific despite having written “only” a few dozen novels to date. He also stated that some renowned novelists have written fewer than five books in a career. His quote on this was, “…I always wonder two things about these folks: how long did it take them to write the books they did write, and what did they do with the rest of their time?”

What about you my fellow authors and bloggers? Are you trying to write the one great American novel like To Kill a Mockingbird?

I started writing my first published book five years ago. Since then, I have published eight fictional novels, a book of short stories and a non-fiction books. I guess that’s considered prolific. But I also have some secrets that helped me get there quickly. They’re not really secrets, but useful techniques. Here are some of them.

Businessman rolling a giant stone

  • Don’t struggle over writing and re-writing

My process is to create a first draft that is as clean as I can get it and then conduct the editing step very carefully. My editor goes through the manuscript with amazing speed and catches 99.99% of the mistakes. She also is a reader, so she tells me what works and what doesn’t work in her return notes. Although I write in Scrivener, I compile and rewrite in MS-Word so we can turn on comments and track changes. This makes version control quite easy. We usually finish the beta reader-ready manuscript in two rounds. Then I turn it loose on the beta readers and give them a couple of weeks to get back to me with notes. I have picked my beta readers carefully. Each has there own strengths like spotting continuity errors, noticing inconsistencies and weaknesses, etc. While they are doing their work, the book is usually put up on Amazon for pre-order. Then, if the betas spot changes that need to be made, I make them and get the book out to the advance readers. I try to shoot for a number of advance readers that is twice the number of reviews I desire on day one. I remind them a week before and a day before the release so that reviews will be there on release day. This entire process, from the completion of the draft manuscript, to the release of the book takes about a month.

Top view man working with a laptop and tablet pc. Clipping paths included.

  • Write whenever and wherever you can

I would love to be able to sit in my comfortable home office with my 26 inch monitor and natural keyboard whenever I do my writing. The reality is that much of my writing is done on a Windows tablet (until Scrivener for the iPad is available) in cramped airplane seats, sitting in airport lounges, or at hotel room desks late at night. I’ve learned to block out my surroundings and concentrate on writing. Becoming immersed in the writing process literally makes long flights ‘fly’ by. I’ve written 2-3 chapters on coast-to-coast flights.

Rules

  • Don’t be bound by the rules of the 70,000-100,000 word count for novels

Because my Frank Rozzani Detective books are in a series, I’ve found that my readers would rather have shorter books (50,000-60,000 words) more frequently than wait for me to finish an epic. I guess you could technically call these novellas. My standalone book, Blood Orange, is closer to the traditional novel length but also took longer to write.

Author signing autograph in own book at wooden table on white planks background

  • Time your releases with author events

I am participating in author events in April and October of each year. If you look at my releases, my books have been timed with these months. This gives me a little bump along with having something new to promote.

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  • Plan the next book while you are still working on the current one

I jot down ideas for future books every day. When I experience what most would call writer’s block (I call it writer’s diversion), I grab these ideas and start plotting out how they might take shape. I have found that, if I’m working on book 2 in a series, for instance, if I plan book 3 or 4, it might help me shape book 2 more effectively to get to that next installment.

So, do I consider writing 11 books in five years prolific? I guess so. I really don’t think about it. I work as a full-time consultant during the week and crank out many more pages of non-fiction (for the most part) technical documents than I do for my own fictional work. Someday I hope to write what I love full-time. I can only imagine how many books I will write when I can do it full time. Until then, my goal is to produce a book every six months or so.

Prolific typographic stamp

So what about you? Do you consider yourself prolific? Just to help you measure your output, here is a list of some of the most prolific authors in history:

  1. Corin Tellado – A Spanish author that published 4,000 novels and sold 400 million.
  2. Ryoki Inoue – A Brazilian author that has written 1,100 novels and is still writing.
  3. Kathleen Lindsay – An English romance author that wrote over 900 books under 11 pen names.
  4. Lauran Bosworth Paine – A western fiction writer that wrote 850 books under 70 pen names.
  5. Enid Mary Blyton – An English children’s writer with 800 books translated into 90 languages with sales great than those of J.K. Rowling.