Thursday, February 12, 2009

 

An Addition to Jan Lundy's Blog Tour

Sometimes we get bloggers who come onto the tour a little after we send out our newsletter announcement, so I thought I'd share the stops we have today with you all. ;o)

Today Feb 12:

New!
Jan Lundy
will be visiting Jo Ann Hernandez' blog, BronzeWord's Blog, to talk about "Journaling: A Balm for a Writer's Soul." A topic that I'm sure all writers will appreciate. Stop by for a chat! http://bronzeword.wordpress.com/

Kim Hix will be visiting Mary Jo Campbell's fabulous blog, Writers Inspired, for an exclusive interview! Visit: http://writerinspired.wordpress.com/

Annette Fix will be stopping by Rebekah Crain's blog, Bookish Mom, to talk about memoir writing. Annette's posts are super, so be sure to stop by. http://www.bookishmom.blogspot.com/

Ruth Hartman at Deena's Bookshelf for a surprise guest post! Visit: http://www.deenasbooks.blogspot.com/

We are adding new events and stops all the time, so to keep up with the latest, be sure to visit our Events Calendar. We'll keep your days filled with things to do! Happy reading and writing.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

 

Annette Fix: Author of The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir Launches her Blog Tour!

The Muffin welcomes Annette, Senior Editor of WOW! Women On Writing, on the first stop of her blog tour! I’m happy to have the chance to talk with her about her humorous and gut-wrenching debut book—The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir.

The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir is the candid and intimate story of a 30-something single mother and aspiring writer who is working as an exotic dancer, searching for Prince Charming, and trying to find the perfect balance between her dreams and her day-to-day life as Supermom.

This debut author's quirky voice and her fairytale experience provide a true alternative to chick-lit fiction as she shares the humor and pathos that accompany heartbreak and seeking the road to happiness.

***Ladies, Annette will be happy to answer any questions about her book, relationships, or memoir writing as well as respond to comments. Anyone leaving a comment or question will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir.

WOW: Welcome, Annette, thanks for launching your blog tour on The Muffin. Your memoir shares a lot of personal, honest, and gut-wrenching moments with readers. How have they responded to your honest portrayal of a break up?

Annette: My readers have been great! So many of the women say that after reading The Break-Up Diet, they feel like we’re friends—especially those I’ve met in-person at book signings and fairs. We end up chatting for hours about relationships. At least a couple times a week, I receive email updates telling me what’s going on in their romantic lives. I think sharing candid stories about lost love tends to form a common bond. I don’t think I could ever become an “ivory tower” writer who is unreachable. I enjoy connecting with readers too much.

WOW: That is so great that your readers are feeling a personal connection with you. I think almost every woman can really relate to some of the dating experiences that you had. It definitely takes another woman to understand those experiences! What was the most difficult scene for you to write?

Annette: I think “5 Hours in Purgatory”—when my ex came to pick up his personal belongings from our shared house--was probably the most difficult scene to write. I began writing the book soon after the break-up—within a week or so—and that meant I had to re-live the scenes on the page while they were still so raw and immediate. There were times while I was writing that I was crying so hard I couldn’t see my computer monitor. If anyone were there to witness it, I’m sure it would’ve looked like the scene in Something’s Gotta Give where Diane Keaton is wailing and typing at the same time.

In hindsight, that image is funny, but I think still being in that emotional place really helped me capture the intense, visceral feelings and translate them into words on the page.

WOW: Yes, your words are so real and do express such strong emotion. There were times when I teared up while I was reading the book. I know what a wonderful, bright person you are, and I just didn't want to see you go through such a terrible time! But I had to keep reading to the end to find out what happened. You had me hooked! So, what are you most afraid to have readers, friends, and family discover about you and your break-up, if anything?

Annette: I’m completely naked in my memoir—emotionally, and sometimes even physically. (laughs) And I’ve actually joked with my in-laws and told them they’re not allowed to read my book. But, honestly, I don’t have any regrets and won’t make excuses to anyone for choices I’ve made or things I’ve done. I am who I am. And there’s a certain amount of fearlessness that comes along with that attitude. I refuse to pretend I’m perfect. There is a lot of freedom from feeling guilty or worrying about being judged when you own your choices.

WOW: I think those are important things women can really learn from your book--to make choices and stick with them--and especially that none of us are perfect! :) Even though most of the book is about a very difficult emotional time in your life, I found myself often laughing out loud at some of your thoughts about the dating scene! Did you make a conscious effort to include humor in your book?

Annette: It wasn’t a conscious effort. Anyone who has spent time with me, on a personal rather than professional level, knows I have a sarcastic streak and a quirky view of life. And, as part of my sense of humor, I love coining colorful phrases that make me laugh. It’s a bonus if it makes other people laugh, too. My friends who’ve read The Break-Up Diet say it “sounds” exactly like me.

I think the offbeat humor lightens the emotional weight that goes along with grieving over lost love and yearning to find a soul mate. And it helps put everything in perspective when I can find something in my life to laugh about!

WOW: The voice in your book is so real. The humor is never forced, and it does help "lighten" such an emotional topic. Do you feel like your book could or does change the way women look at relationships? Why?

Annette: I don’t consider my memoir a life-altering, self-help relationship book; it’s just my story. More than anything, I hope after reading it, women come away with a feeling that it’s okay to believe in happily-ever-after, it’s okay to want the fairytale—the loving mate who is not perfect but is a perfect match for them. And that they understand that having exactly what they want in life really can happen. That’s the whole point of me sharing my story.

Because of my personal situation at the time (single mother/aspiring writer/exotic dancer), I was the least likely person to be in a position to find relationship happiness. But, even after a devastating break-up, I never gave up on that possibility. It’s far too easy to settle. Women do it every day in big and small ways, in relationships, and other aspects of their lives. My one wish would be that women realize it doesn’t have to be that way.

WOW: Those are words of wisdom, Annette! "It's far too easy to settle. . . My one wish would be that women realize it doesn't have to be that way." I know so many women who could really benefit from realizing this, and I'm so glad you wrote your book to share this message with the world! What has been your best experience or best reader response since you have published your book?

Annette: I’ve had so many wonderful responses. But, I’d say my favorite was a reader who emailed to say she keeps my book on the nightstand beside her bed with Angela Bassett’s book (Friends: A Love Story) and the Bible. After I joked that I hope she doesn’t get struck by lightning from having my book too close to the Bible, she said, “Your memoir gives me hope.”
That was incredibly humbling, and it really gave me a sense of joy that my message touched her. For a writer, it doesn’t get any better than that.

WOW: Thanks for sharing your story with us. We are so glad you joined us today, Annette. Ladies, please check out Annette’s websites: http://www.thebreak-updiet.com/ and http://www.annettefix.com/.
To purchase a copy of The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir, go to: Amazon.com or your local independent or chain bookstore.

If you would like to read more about Annette’s publishing journey, check out Angela’s interview with her on WOW! http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/18-FE3-AnnetteFix.html

Stop by and comment at any (or all!) of the blogs on her tour:

Feb 6 @ Hell or High Water - Topic: Memoir Writing
http://hellorhighwaterwriter.blogspot.com/

Feb 9 @ The Virtual Wordsmith - Topic: Independent Publishing
http://virtualwordsmith.blogspot.com

Feb 11 @ Reading, Writing, & Stuff that Makes Me Crazy - Topic: Book Promotion
http://www.reading-writing.blogspot.com/

Feb 12 @ Bookish Mom - Topic: Memoir Writing
http://www.bookishmom.blogspot.com/

Feb 13 @ The Daily Blonde - Topic: Relationships
http://dailyblonde.blogspot.com/

Feb 16 @ The Urban Muse - Topic: Memoir writing
http://www.urbanmusewriter.com/

Feb 17 @ Confessions of a Book-A-Holic - Topic: Interview about The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir
http://stephaniesbooks.blogspot.com/


Feb 18 @ Momma Said - Topic: Q&A about The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir and “Housewife Awards” Story Contest & Book Give-Away
http://www.mommasaid.net/index.aspx

Feb 20 @ Day By Day Writer - Topic: Balancing writing and life
http://daybydaywriter.wordpress.com

Feb 23 @ MomECentric - Topic: Following your dreams
http://www.momecentric.com

Feb 26 @ A Blonde and Her Blog - Topic: Homeschooling
http://ablondeandherblog.blogspot.com/

Feb 27 @ Sybil Baker.com - Topic: Interview about the Writing Process
http://sybilbaker.blogspot.com/

Feb 28 @ Clever Girl Goes Blog - Topic: Q&A about The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir
http://www.clevergirlgoesblog.com/


Mar 2 @ Betty Confidential - Topic: Relationship Break-Up Stories Contest & Book Give-Away
http://www.bettyconfidential.com/

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

 

Establish Effective Writing Goals

Lately, it seems we've been talking a lot about goals and accountability.

One of the biggest struggles freelance writers and aspiring novelists face is establishing a daily writing schedule.

In the the workforce, an employer assigns a time that the workday begins and ends, as well as the time and length of lunch and breaks. Work-at-home writers have the luxury and curse of defining their own schedules. It's often difficult to carve out the time to write when juggling traditional employment, domestic responsibilities, and caring for children.

The best way for a writer to meet her daily word count is to set effective writing goals. It's not enough to say: "My goal is to be published by the end of the year." Goals need to be measurable, meaningful, and attainable.

Attainable. It's always great to dream big. The NYT Bestseller List. Oprah's Book Club Selection. Appearances on the Tonight Show and Good Morning, America. There is nothing wrong with dreaming. Post those images on your Vision Board.

The distance between where we are and where we want to be often seems insurmountable. Establishing effective goals can help close that perceived gap. Baby steps. Bird by bird. There are a number of ways to describe the same concept of taking manageable and doable steps toward reaching our goals.

If your dream is to become a self-supporting, full-time freelance writer and leave your day job, make an action plan to get you to your destination. Outline each individual step. Take a business course for freelance writers, so you know how to properly set up your new business. Examine your knowledge base and decide what markets you want to pursue. Join something like Premium Green--a resource for information and market listings and an organization of supportive women freelance writers on a private listserv.

Perhaps you're a freelance writer and you've always wanted to write a novel. Take the steps: take a novel writing class, come up with your premise, outline your story, do any necessary research, join a local or online critique group. Give yourself a challenge to get moving: join other aspiring novelists and participate in National Novel Writing Month. Each individual step you take brings you closer to attaining your dream.

To set attainable goals, you must be realistic about what you are able to achieve. If you set goals like winning next year's Oscar for Best Original Screenplay before you've taken your first screenwriting class, you are setting yourself up for failure. Make the goals do-able.

Measurable. It's always good to want to become a better writer and be successful in your writing career, but those aren't measurable goals. You can only gauge your progress toward your goals by using concrete and measurable results.

Define your goals in terms of time and number. "I will write X number of pages this week." "I will submit five queries by Wednesday." Don't get bogged down by over-scheduling yourself. You won't feel any sense of accomplishment if you pile too much on your goals plate. Take those cliche baby steps one-at-a-time. You have to crawl before you can run, grasshopper. It's best to have success at a few incremental goals than failure with a lot of big ones.

Meaningful. The most important point I can make is to remind you to run your own race. Set goals that are meaningful to you. It's not about keeping up with other writers. There will always be someone who has received more accolades, achieved greater financial success, or acquired more publishing credits. In the end, reaching your writing career goals should be personally satisfying to YOU.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

 

Write Now!

It's not often that inspiration shows up on my mental doorstep, insisting I stop whatever I'm doing and indulge the urge to spill creative juice all over the page.

As a matter of fact, I haven't had a creative writing burst in years. Sure, I've penned articles, interviewed authors, and blathered about one thing or another in blog posts, but I'm talking about the act of storytelling--the writing process that makes my heart sing.

I miss the early mornings when I dove headfirst into the first draft of my memoir, The Break-Up Diet and the next time I looked up from the screen it was dinnertime and my husband was standing over me asking, "Have you eaten or had anything to drink today?" It always felt like waking up from a dream and realizing the world was still functioning outside of my writing bubble. I don't think I've ever been quite so content as when the images were forming in my mind and the words were filling the pages.

A couple days ago, inspiration showed up. The scenes of a new book flowed through my head: the settings, the characters, the dialogue--it all came in a rush like water over a broken levee. I stared at the ceiling of my bedroom and it continued from 1:30am to 3am when I finally willed it to stop, promising I would get up and write it all down in the morning.

But I didn't.

When morning came, there were too many other things that needed my attention. Duties. Responsibilities. The never-ending, daily To Do List. I've always honored my commitments to others before my needs, but I can't help feeling a little slighted--even when it's my own doing.

So, I've decided I'm going to give myself permission to write because it makes me happy. I've promised my muse that I will enter NaNoWriMo this November. And it's a promise I intend to keep.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

 

Bits and Bites of Book Promotion Advice

by Annette Fix

Recently, I attended a panel discussion about book marketing and promotion because it's always good to consider tips from other authors and marketing professionals. You never know when someone might share an idea you haven't thought of, or will say something that resonates with you in a new way.

Here are some of the suggestions I've gathered:

Write about something you have a passion for.
Hopefully, this was something you considered before you began writing. It's definitely something to keep in mind. You'll be working on writing, publishing, and promoting your book for a long time--many years, so make sure it's something you will have a tireless passion for.

Connect with your target audience. Craft your marketing copy for the visual impact that will appeal to your demographic. Ask yourself these questions: What do they want? How do they communicate? What media do they use? What are they reading? Where do they live? Make a visual board of whom they are and write/promote to that visual.

Don’t rely on someone else to do your publicity. No one knows your product better than you do. Don’t ever give up. When you are contacting media outlets, if you get turned down, realize that “No” is only temporary—it just means “No right now,” not “No forever.” Make the contact calls to radio stations and create a relationship with the show producer or assistant. Don’t ask, “Are you busy.” They are always busy. Call with a specific point to make and explain to them how your information will entertain or inform their listeners.

Always give out postcards and leave them places—you never know who will pick them up. Nothing is ever too small—go to everything and promote, promote, promote. Set Google alerts and follow up with journalists who write articles about your topic—introduce yourself and offer to be a source for any of their future needs. Connect with a charity that ties in with your book. Keep your mind open to any marketing possibilities that arise.

Maintain a blog. This has become standard piece of advice, but you'd be surprised how many writers have still not taken the plunge into the blogosphere. Once you do, pursue opportunities for blog tours. There are many ways you can promote your book online. Join social networking sites and get involved in the groups. Create video trailers. The internet is moving toward video everything.

Use Amazon to your advantage. Read the popular books in your genre/topic, go to their book pages on Amazon and post a review. Use "Author of __your book title_" in your signature. Create a Listmania list of books in your topic/genre—and include your book. Align yourself with the bestsellers.

A book is only one part of your platform. Your platform is everything you do that goes along with your book that you can sell. Information is the most important commodity. You can have a book for $10 and offer a course for $99. Think of all the other possibilities of things you can create related to your product. An author of a humorous relationship book about not kissing frogs created toad bags, frog shirts, frog notes, etc. You can go to a licensing show to sell rights for other merchandise related to your book. She is now shooting “frogisodes” for downloads on cellphones. Continually ask: what other things can I provide?

Repurpose your content any way you can. People want information in a variety of formats. You can conduct teleclasses, in-person workshops, and webinars about the info in your book, sell special reports or tips booklets. The more ways you can find to repackage your content, the faster you will be able to grow your business and reach your readers.

Get proper speaker training. I received a call a few days ago from Mark Victor Hansen's office (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and during our discussion, his marketing assistant mentioned that Mark's philosophy is that speakers should be writers and writers should be speakers. So, if you are following this growing trend and you plan to speak on your topic, don’t speak without training. Mark has a seminar coming up November 7-9 that can start you on that path. You can look into training opportunities with The National Speaker's Assoc. (NSA). Some of their local chapter have a program called Pro Speak. You can also join a local Toastmasters to help hone your skills.

Post an audio excerpt on your website. Audio Acrobat is a $19.95 mo. service that has the ability to create audio messages you can place on your website, blog, and emails or newsletters. Check out the way it’s used on www.speakerservices.com. Speakers need audio on their site. No one is going to hire you without some sort of demo.

Become a shameless self-promoter. Understand that what you are doing is valuable. Tell people about your book because you know your information may help them. Connect with what you have to offer and believe in it. Consider your return on investment--for your time, effort, and money--in everything you do to market your book. Put together a marketing plan and be diligent with following it. Stay focused. There is only so much time in a day, but you need to be flexible enough to change your plan if you need to. Look at what is most strategic for your goals.

If you are selling a story instead of information, ask: What is in this memoir or novel? Where is it set? Target the individual audience of the kinds of characters, careers, sports in your book. Tie in to trends. There is no time window when a book becomes old. Jane Austin is still selling books.

Keep your eyes on the news. No matter whether you've written fiction or nonfiction, if any news ties in to topics or themes in your book, you can use the current event to renew interest in your book. Timing is everything. If you see something, jump on it immediately. Tie it to an event or a holiday. Find gift shops or organizations or companies—think beyond the bookstore.

Don’t let your books sit on the shelf. Do whatever you can to move them! It’s never too soon to begin marketing your book and building your platform. And it's never too late to get started.

On your mark, get set--PROMOTE!

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

 

Are You Twittering?

The question of the day: What are you doing? It's simple enough to answer--but you can only use 140 characters to do it.

That's the premise behind a growing social networking phenomenon at Twitter.com.

The posts are called "tweets" and they allow you to let friends and colleagues know what you are doing at times throughout the day (or night). It's fast and easy microblogging that is much like an instant message that can be sent from your computer or your mobile phone.

But, what is the point of adding just one more thing to do to an already overflowing social networking calendar? That's a question you will have to answer for yourself. There is only so much time in the day to research, write, market, pursue publication, and...oh yeah, have a life.

What can you do to make Twitter a productive social networking choice for you?
  • Meet and network with fellow writers.
  • Follow posts about topics or people of interest.
  • Promote your own book, blog, or articles.
  • Post mini lessons or tips that help establish your brand.
  • Keep track of trends.
  • Reach out to your audience.
And my personal favorite: keep yourself accountable for what's on your to-do list. Nothing will keep you on task like announcing what you are working on to the entire list of your followers!

Take a
peek at who is saying what on Twitter. Go to Summize.com (bought by Twitter). Type your topic into the search field and you can see who is talking about writing, blogging, book promotion, parenting, cooking, gardening, relationships, etc. It's a great way to have an immediate finger on the pulse of your topic.

Some Twitterers to follow:
Peter Shankman - HARO/Help A Reporter - http://twitter.com/skydiver
Seth Godin - Unleashing the Idea Virus - http://twitter.com/SethGodin
Penny Sansevieri - Red Hot Internet Marketing - http://twitter.com/Bookgal
Denise Wakeman - The Blog Squad - http://twitter.com/BlogSquad
BloggersBlog - News and Trends in Blogging - http://twitter.com/bloggersblog
Pete Cashmore - Mashable - http://twitter.com/mashable

If you sign up, look me up: http://twitter.com/AnnetteFix
I'll be the one talking about Jen's cat's banana addiction.



Tweet to you later...

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

 

Grammar: Slips, Trips, and Falls

by Annette Fix

When it comes to grammar, word usage, and the finer points of writing (or speaking) the English language, there are so many rules to remember--and so many opportunities to make mistakes.

Here are a few basic tips to help you understand the more frequent causes of slips, trips, and face-plant falls in your writing.

Lie/Lay/Lain and Lay/Laid/Laid
This is one of the top 10 most common mistakes.

INCORRECT: I like reading more than laying around watching TV.
CORRECT: I like reading more than lying around watching TV.

PRESENT TENSE Lie/Lay
Lie means to rest. (The dog lies in the yard.) It's an intransitive verb and doesn't need a direct object. You can't lie something; however, you can lay something.

Lay is a transitive verb and means to place or to put. Use lay when you can substitute the word set. (She lays the book across her lap.)

PAST TENSE Lay/Laid
The past tense of lie is also lay. So, this is what those sentences would look like in past tense:
The dog lay in the yard.
She laid the book across her lap.

PAST PARTICIPLE Lain/Laid
The past participle of lie is lain.
The dog has lain in the same spot in the yard for a week. (Yes, she's still alive, it's just her favorite spot.) ;-)

The past participle of lay is laid.
She has laid the book across her lap at 3pm every day since Sunday.

The best way to avoid making a lie/lay mistake is to memorize how the two verbs function:
Lie/Lay/Lain
I want to lie on the beach. I lay on the beach last Saturday. I have often lain on the beach.

Lay/Laid/Laid
Lay the book on the table. She laid the book on the table. She has laid the book on the table many times.

Subject - Predicate(Verb) Agreement

There are 12 different rules of subject/predicate agreement, but I'll only cover the most common rule that trips many writers.

INCORRECT: The cost of basic necessities such as gasoline and groceries have risen exponentially.
CORRECT:
The cost of basic necessities such as gasoline and groceries has risen exponentially.

It's common to mistakenly pair a plural predicate with a singular subject (or vice versa) when the the subject and predicate are separated by a phrase containing singular and/or plural nouns.

In the sample sentence above, the cost is the subject that has risen exponentially. Always
keep your eye on the subject.

Who vs. Whom

INCORRECT: Whom shall I say is calling?
CORRECT:
Who shall I say is calling?

This rule is easy to understand when you take a minute to mentally rearrange the sentence and exchange the who with she and whom with her.

Who = she
Whom = her
The correct choice is who because she is calling.

It also works with whoever/whomever.
INCORRECT: Tell the story to whoever you want.
CORRECT:
Tell the story to whomever you want.

Whoever = she
Whomever = her
The correct choice is whomever because you want to tell the story to her.

Between You and I vs. Between You and Me

INCORRECT: Everyone overheard the disagreement between you and I.
CORRECT:
Everyone overheard the disagreement between you and me.

The first sentence may sound correct, but between is a preposition and prepositions must be followed by an object. (Remember the preposition tree from grade school? A preposition can be in a tree, on a tree, near a tree, under a tree, over a tree, for a tree, etc.)

I is a subject/nominative pronoun (as are he, she, we, and they).
Objective pronouns: me, you, him, her, us, and them follow a preposition.

INCORRECT: Everyone overheard the disagreement between you and they.
CORRECT: Everyone overheard the disagreement between you and them.

Me vs. I

I know... You thought we covered that confusing usage in the last example. Well, not quite. Some people automatically assume that if the sentence sounds more formal, it must be the correct word choice. Wrong.

INCORRECT: He brought pizza for Angela and I.
CORRECT: He brought pizza for Angela and me.

Again, think about the preposition tree. In this sentence, Angela and me are direct objects.

Another grammar slip often occurs in sentences when than or as is used.

INCORRECT: She is smarter than me.
CORRECT: She is smarter than I.

In a comparison using than or as when the last portion of the sentence is dropped, just tack on the missing words and the proper word choice will be obvious.

She is smarter than I am.

With a little practice and a true love for the written word, grammar really can be fun!

I had an early start. On Saturday mornings, in between my favorite cartoons, the 1970's Schoolhouse Rock! commercials took my Generation X mind on a musical grammar train with songs like "Conjunction Junction," "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here," and "Verb: That's What's Happening." As a matter of fact, I remember having quite a crush on Verb Man.

But I'll save you from listening to me reminisce while singing the lyrics; instead, I'll share a list of 31 random writing tips emailed to me by a fellow scribe. I'm sure it's making the rounds like the urban legend about the tourist's missing kidney.

Enjoy:

1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.

2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.

4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

5. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They're old hat)

6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.

7. Be more or less specific.

8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

10. No sentence fragments.

11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.

12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.

14. One should NEVER generalize.

15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

16. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

17. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

18. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

19. The passive voice is to be ignored.

20. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.

21. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.

22. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.

23. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas.

24. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."

25. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.

26. Puns are for children, not groan readers.

27. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

28. Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

29. Who needs rhetorical questions?

30. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

And the last one...

31. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

Now, get on that grammar train!

And for a fun grammar resource, check out Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips Blog.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

 

Fill Your Writing Well

As writers, we internalize the sights and sounds around us and use them to create the images that move our readers.

But, when the crispness of these images fade in our own minds, it's time to leave our quiet, secluded writing room and venture out to collect more sensory detail to fill our depleted well.

Our setting, characters, and dialogue depend on our ability to recall the visual details of locations, behavior and emotions of people, and nuances of human interaction.

10 Ways You Can Restock and Refresh Your Image Well:
  1. Spend a warm, sunny afternoon people watching from the patio of a sidewalk cafe--make up stories about their lives.
  2. Take a walk along a trail canopied by large trees--inhale the scent of mossy piles of fallen leaves.
  3. Go to a petting zoo or pet store--touch and play with the animals, notice the feel of their fur/feathers/scales, their scent, and the feelings they evoke.
  4. Stretch out on a blanket in the grass under a tree in the park--watch the way the sun peeks between the leaves and feel the breeze lift your hair.
  5. Build a sand castle at the beach or collect shells--feel the texture against your fingertips and breathe in the smell of the salted air.
  6. Walk around an outdoor marketplace or farmer's market--listen to people talk to each other and the shop keepers.
  7. Get on a bus and watch the city go by--look at the design of the buildings, the different types of cars and their drivers, and the people on the street.
  8. Go to a fair, pier, or amusement park to ride a roller coaster, ferris wheel, and carousel--tune in to the feelings these rides evoke in you.
  9. Attend a live music event--let the sound move through you and dance with joyful abandon.
  10. Build a bonfire and roast marshmallows for s'mores--feel the warmth, watch the flames dance and blacken the logs, smell the tang of burning wood, taste the sticky sweetness of the marshmallows.
In addition to filling your well, these jaunts remind you to enjoy your life--outside of your writing room.

What are your favorite ways to gather sensory details?

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Friday, June 27, 2008

 

Writing Through Summer Distractions

Summer is here and there are a million reasons not to work on your novel. There are tide pools to explore, trails to hike, sprinklers to run through, lounge chairs to recline in, and picnics to pack.

This is, arguably, the most difficult season to stay focused on your computer screen while the sun and outdoor fun beckons.

To reach your set daily word or page count, it takes unwavering discipline--or at least a solid schedule to keep you on track. Neither of which I have, so I won't be handing out kernels of wisdom on those topics. But, what I will say is that somewhere, someone is waiting to read your story: the adventure you write about may be the only vacation a reader can take.

I grew up in a semi-rural, low desert area where the average summer temperature was 110-115 degrees before noon. During my 16th summer, I read 43 books in 2 1/2 months. Every day, I sat on a lounge chair in front of a whirring fan with a bowl of frozen grapes in my lap, and I went on a trip. I was an auburn-haired girl named Tori, sailing with a cute boy at my family's vacation house in Nantucket. I spent months on a deserted island riding a beautiful black stallion. I slipped into a wardrobe and was transported to a magical land where animals spoke. I had so many amazing adventures that by the time summer ended, I was exhausted (and exhilarated) by all my travels and adventures. The experiences were so clear and full that I felt I had really been there. It was the only summer I remember now, 25 years later.

So, if for no other reason, carve out time to write for your reader. Use that as your motivation.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

 

HARO - A Great Resource

Today, I want to share a great resource with you. Some of you may be familiar with Profnet, a service reporters use to post their calls for expert sources and a service that sources pay for to receive these calls.

As an author, you are the expert they want to connect with. It gives you the opportunity to be quoted in articles or even featured in stories. However, it's rather pricey to sign up for this service.

But there is a new service in town (play appropriate Western music here).

You'll want to tell the PR people, marketers, publicists, editors, and journalists you work with about it too, because it's all about them and their needs.

If you're not already using www.helpareporter.com, check it out. It's a service much like ProfNet, but it's free. Yes, F*R*E*E. It used to be on Facebook, but grew too large for it. Once you subscribe, you receive about three to four emails a day with reporter, editor and freelance writer queries compiled in it, written so you can quickly and easily scan the topics for relevance.

If the topics do not apply to you, just hit delete. If they do, you may contact the reporter or editor directly, as instructed.

Note that Peter Shankman, the list facilitator, is very strict about helping out these reporters. Respond only if your information is relevant and on target. If not, you'll get bumped off the list. Quickly. I've seen it happen. So, don't pitch off topic to the media journalists. It's a great resource and you don't want to risk blowing the opportunity to use it.

Peter's a big believer in good Karma, and he’s also quite funny, and tends to also include a link to a fun site, or a funny story about his day in the emails. It's a nice refreshing change from the boring, non-funny emails we usually deal with daily.

Not only can you sign up to receive these source calls, but if you are writing a book or freelance article and need expert sources, you can submit a call to the HARO members. Peter just announced this week that membership hit 11,000.

Reporters/source seekers can post queries at www.helpareporter.com/press. Sources can sign up at www.helpareporter.com to receive the calls for submissions. As I said, it's free. Peter asks that if you find it useful, then you make a donation to any animal rescue charity or animal hospital.

You can forward the queries to others who are a fit, but do not post any queries (or the editor/reporter contact info) on any blogs or public websites. I received permission from Peter to blog about this, since this is a private group and I'm helping to spread the word to both subscribers and media to sign up.

The more people who use HARO, the better it becomes. Sign up, check it out, use it responsibly, and spread the word.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

 

Do You Have Excuses or Reasons?














by Annette Fix

There is a difference between reasons and excuses. It's a fine line, but when you apply the concept to writing for a living, it becomes clear which is which.

Do you write every day? Are you doing everything possible to seriously pursue a career as an author or freelance writer? Do you invest time, effort, and money to collect and use book and online resources, attend workshops, critique groups, and conferences to study the craft? Do you consistently seek out new information to learn more about writing and the business of writing? Is writing your passion above all other things you could be doing for a living?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, go read someone else's blog today. If you answered no to any of these questions, read on and let's see if you have reasons or excuses for not following your dream and taking your writing seriously.

Reason or Excuse?

"I just don't have time right now." = Excuse.
One word: Priorities. Unfortunately, there is only so much time in the day. With other responsibilities like working a day job, higher education, parenting, and domestic duties, there will always be things lined up to consume every hour of your day. If you wait until you have time to pursue your writing career, it'll never happen. You need to make the time.

When you decide your writing career is a priority in your life, you will find opportunities to spend that precious time working on something just for you. Decide your writing is important, make it important, and realize you deserve to spend your time on it. As women, we know sacrificing for others is viewed as noble, but we also tend to overlook the fact that all martyrs end up dead. And that's a sure way to guarantee your writing career will never get started.

"I don't have enough money." = Excuse.
We've all heard the cliche that it takes money to make money. But the key word missing is easily. It takes money to make money easily. Sure, it would be great to have enough money to pay for the newest computer technology and software, a luxury office with all the amenities and a personal assistant. With that kind of money, you could hire private tutors to help improve your writing skills, and pay services to do everything from typing to submitting manuscripts for you. But then you would miss the journey of growing as a writer, working toward and earning your knowledge and experience of the craft. It doesn't take money. You can begin your writing career with a pen, a notebook, and public library access. Determination is the most valuable thing you can have and it's free.

"I don't know how to ___________." = Excuse.
Not web savvy? Unsure about how or where to start a blog, create a website, or dive into the social networking pool? Don't know who to query or how to query? How to write good dialogue? How to structure an article?

You're not alone. No one is born knowing how to do these things--everyone must learn. Don't feel like you are too far behind everyone else, too old, too young, or too anything. There are books and online resources that can teach you anything you want to know about the craft or business of writing. Enroll in low-cost community college and adult education classes, join local groups made up of people who are interested in the same topics. There is certainly no shortage of information resources available. Seek out these resources.

"I'm not an expert about anything." = Excuse.
We all know that nonfiction writing--whether it's an article or a how-to book--requires expertise in the topic. You may not think you have expert knowledge about anything, but everyone is an expert at something. As women, we often undervalue the experience we have. But it's important to realize that 95% of the people seeking the knowledge we have to offer know less about it than we do.

As an example: I was a single mother, sole support and care of my son from 0 to 15 years-old without any financial support or help raising him--and boy did I learn a lot. Everything from juggling work and parenting responsibilities, dealing with the structures of the public school system to homeschooling to team sports, advising him about developmental changes and sexual activity and relationships, guiding his education and shaping his values, teaching him life skills like common sense, money handling and budgeting, cooking and cleaning for himself; I taught him how to drive and how to defend himself--and the list goes on and on. I don't particularly think what I know from experience is remarkable in any way because it was just part of my life; however, to the new single mother who is bringing her infant home from the hospital--I have a ton of valuable knowledge she will need and benefit from.

Take a close look at everything in your life--your job, education, culture, lifestyle, hobbies, experiences, etc., and you will discover topics you can write about that will provide answers for someone with questions.

"There are already so many people writing about _______." = Excuse.
The last stats I heard: approximately 150,000 new books are published each year. And with the technology that brings publishing to the people by way of subsidy and self-publishing, you can pretty much bet that number has more than tripled now. With the internet providing millions of websites for information consumers, the number of writers and amount of written material is staggering. It's intimidating and overwhelming, so why bother becoming a professional writer? Simple answer: because you have something to say, you believe in your message, you want to help, inform, encourage, or entertain people, and you really, really, really want to do this.

There is only one viable reason for not pursuing your writing as a career: someone is reading this blog post as a eulogy at your funeral right now.

Don't let your life pass without pursuing your dream. Just do it.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

 

21 Key Traits of Best-Selling Fiction

by Annette Fix

There are certain things readers want when they invest their precious time reading a novel.
So many things compete for their leisure time and attention: family and friends, other activities like watching television and movies, participating in sports, tending hobbies, and traveling. It takes something special to make a novel stand out and propel it onto the bestseller lists.

But what is the key to making your book a bestseller?

Give readers what they want.

So, what do they want? And how do you go about giving it to them? Fortunately, James V. Smith Jr., the author of The Writer's Little Helper, has the answers and provides a comprehensive list to help you unlock the secrets of successful fiction. He explains how you can start by analyzing and understanding the 21 key traits that exist in current bestselling fiction:

Appeal to the intellect. To you, the writer, these keys refer to how you research, organize, and structure your story. These are the large-scale mechanics of a novel.
  • Utility (writing about things that people will use in their lives)
  • Information (facts people must have to place your writing in context)
  • Substance (the relative value or weight in any piece of writing)
  • Focus (the power to bring an issue into clear view)
  • Logic (a coherent system for making your points)
Appeal to the emotions. These are ways you engage the reader to create buzz. Do these things right, and people will talk about your novel, selling it to others.
  • A sense of connection (the power of personal involvement)
  • A compelling style (writing in a way that engages)
  • A sense of humor (wit or at least irony)
  • Simplicity (clarity and focus on a single idea)
  • Entertainment (the power to get people to enjoy what you write)
  • A fast pace (the ability to make your writing feel like a quick read)
  • Imagery (the power to create pictures with words)
  • Creativity (the ability to invent)
  • Excitement (writing with energy that infects a reader with your own enthusiasm)
Appeal to the soul. With these traits, you examine whether your writing matters, whether it lasts, whether it elevates you to the next level as a novelist.
  • Comfort (writing that imparts a sense of well-being)
  • Happiness (writing that gives joy)
  • Truth (or at least fairness)
  • Writing that provokes (writing to make people think or act)
  • Active, memorable writing (the poetry in your prose)
  • A sense of Wow! (the wonder your writing imparts on a reader)
  • Transcendence (writing that elevates with its heroism, justice, beauty, honor)
Now, that you have all the keys, it's time to unlock the doors to fiction success and give your readers exactly what they want from your novel.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

 

Tips for Attending Book Expo America

If you are an author and you haven't heard of Book Expo America, it's time to crawl out from behind your computer and attend the largest international publishing trade show this side of Frankfurt.

Most years, the show is held in NY (as it was last year), but this year, it will be in Los Angeles. BEA will be back in NY in 2009,
D.C in 2010, and Vegas, baby in 2011.

Angela and I attended last year and we will be on the convention floor again this year, promoting WOW!, visiting with the agents and publishers we've met over the last two years, and looking to connect with our readers. If you plan to go, drop us an email--we'd love to meet you.


I have a few tips for those of you who plan to attend the show to seek an agent or a publisher. These are little things I noticed at the event last year. I'll refer to the people you will meet at BEA in the big house booths as publishers through my list of observations; although, many of the people there are from the marketing department, sales team, acquisitions editors, etc.

First thing--if you want to be taken seriously by the publishers, don't look like a walking billboard for your book (or your manuscript). Dressing like your main character--waaay too much. Book cover t-shirts--too much. Book cover buttons--borderline too much; although, certainly not as bad as the previous two ideas. It makes you stand out like a desperate writer and doesn't draw the kind of attention you want. Treat the experience like you would if you were trying to meet an agent at a writer's conference--be casual, but professional. Think of it like this, if you had a meeting at their office, you wouldn't show up wearing a body bag to promote your murder mystery.

Take more business cards than you think you will need. After you get a business card from someone you meet, step away and write notes on the back about what was discussed. This is crucial. By the end of the trade show, you won't remember unless you take notes.

Don't monopolize the publisher's time when you approach them. Have your elevator pitch boiled down to 30 seconds (and I seriously mean, 30 seconds). If you talk for longer than that, they will be looking over your head for a way to escape. Think of it like a party full of popular people. They want to be talking to the in-crowd, not a boor who is droning on and on about the plot to their story. You want to pique their interest. If they are interested, they will ask questions. If they aren't, they won't. Either way, get in, get out, and thank them for their time.

Find out who you should be talking to before you launch into your elevator pitch. You may be talking to a receptionist. Although, from what I noticed, many of the people wo-manning the booths are in filter mode, no matter what department they work in. They will determine if you have anything of interest to the right people. If you do, you'll get the introduction, if not, you'll get the brush off.

Your goal should be to get them to request that you send your book/manuscript to them. That being said, it's highly unlikely they will. The majority of publishers don't want to waste their time on an unknown writer (whether self-published or seeking traditional publishing). They will tell you to submit to them through an agent.

If you have already self-published your book and are looking to have it "picked up" by a major house, have your important facts on the tip of your tongue--how long it's been out, how many units you've sold, what kind of reviews it's getting, any awards it's received, what you are doing to market it, what kind of platform you have, etc.

And here's the catch 22 of the whole thing--most publishers don't want to talk to you on the first day. It's an industry trade show--they are catching up and networking with their peers from other houses and also promoting their recently released list and upcoming releases. On the second day, most publishers don't want to talk to you then either. They are conducting serious business* and most are completely booked with meetings. *If you see people sitting at a table in the booth chatting, DO NOT approach them. That is a meeting in progress.
On the last day, it's pretty settled and much quieter--the initial excitement has died down, everyone has gotten a chance to see and talk to everyone they wanted to. The booths are at half-staff and there are considerably less attendees.

Have a plan. Get a map of the convention floor and target who you want to talk to. But don't forget to wander around and check things out at the different booths. I found a great vendor for novelty items in the small press area. So, keep your mind open to meeting people who you can work with or use the services of at a later date.

One observation about the small press area. While walking down the aisles in Siberia, Angela and I felt like fresh meat that had just wandered into the lair of starving cannibals. It's the only place in the trade show where people are leaping into the aisles, grabbing your arm, and trying to get you to take their book or postcard or bookmark. Sadly, that is the way most writers approach the publishers too. I watched that happen all around us in NY.

You may be tempted to collect every advance reading copy and recent release being handed out. Trust me, there will be a ton. And they are all free.
My personal rule--I don't take a book unless I'm totally interested in it and plan to write a review. I picked up one book last year. Some people collect them and they try to sell them on Ebay. (Please don't be one of those people.) And a comment about the women you will see loaded down with bags of books--most of them are librarians picking up books for their libraries. It's a wonderful opportunity for them to get things they don't have a budget for.

Bring a Cliff bar or other energy bar to tide you over. There is so much going on that you may not want to take a break to eat. You may even want to tuck a sandwich into your bag. The food lines are long (as are the lines for the restrooms) and there are few places to sit, so you'd better be ready for a marathon day on your feet.

Speaking of feet... WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES. I can't stress that enough. It was hot last year, almost stifling, so I wore sandals and was very glad I chose a pair of cork wedges with soft straps.

Overall, it's a great experience, even if you only go for one day to check out the action. The floor is buzzing with conversation (it's deafening in there); it's wall-to-wall people, and everyone is excited about what they are promoting. It's a place to see the trends (keep an eye out for great marketing ideas), be seen (make a good impression on everyone you meet), and network (meet as many people as possible). BEA is not a place to sell; it's a place to make connections for future business.

Have fun with it!

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

 

What He Said/She Said About Attributive Clauses

By Annette Fix

I'll be the first to admit that when I was a newbie writer, I was guilty of using (read: overusing) busy attributives, and I had a bad case of the wrylies. When I look back at some of my early prose, it's completely embarrassing.

You know your dialogue is infected with wrylies if your novel has attributives like these:

The handcuffs clicked around his meaty wrists. "I am not a criminal!" he shouted loudly.

Sara ran around the room waving the lotto ticket. "I won! I'm rich! I'm rich!" she shrieked excitedly.

"Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom," the toddler jabbered incessantly.

"I got fired on Friday, so I guess that means I'm not busy on Monday," she commented wryly.

Focus on the "wrylies" in the sentences above--the use of adverbs explains how the dialogue should be interpreted or how it was uttered.

And there are attributives that use a variety of verbs to convey the speaker's emotion or physical action:

"Your place or mine?" he chuckled.
"You wish," she snorted.
"No one will find out," he smiled.
"I'll tell your wife," she warned.
"You're cute when you're angry," he winked.

Busy attributes try to pack too much into a sentence:

"He broke up with me. And now I'm falling apart," sniffed the attractive blonde as she wiped tears from her clear blue eyes, knowing she would never find another man like the rich doctor she married two years after leaving the leper colony where she grew up.

Take all the dialogue samples above as examples of how NOT to write your character's attributives. "Keep it simple," she said.

Using the "simple said" is the best way to make your attributives invisible to your readers. It won't distract them from the flow of your story. And if you craft your narrative and dialogue well, you won't need to be showy in your attributives.

Trust your readers to pick up on the nuances and tone in the interaction and dialogue between your characters. Don't hit them over the head with overwritten attributives.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

 

Tips for Promoting Your Book at a Book Fair

Spring and summer are the best seasons for book fairs and festivals. Whether you have a book to promote or just want to spend a great day surrounded by other bibliophiles, check out this link to find an event in your area. http://www.loc.gov/loc/cfbook/bookfair.html

A few weeks ago, I promoted and signed my memoir at my first festival. I spent the weekend with 140,000 book lovers on the beautiful UCLA campus for the L.A. Times Festival of Books.

It was a great experience to find out what you do and don't need for a successful book fair event.

Here is my list of recommended items:

Collapsible luggage dolly
You're going to need something to transport your books, sometimes quite a distance from where your car will be parked.

Box of books
I was overly optimistic for a debut author. I took a case of 32 and left two more cases in the trunk of my car. Lesson of the day: Some people will buy on-site, most will wait to buy on Amazon to get the discount and free shipping.

Tote bag (large enough to hold your supplies)
I found a great 20 x 12 x 10 zippered rolling bag at the L.A. garment district for $20. It's best to get a bag with wheels, so if you need to take it separately from your dolly of books, you can drag it instead of lug it.

Vinyl Banners
I had two 18 x 27 vinyl banners printed. They were very reasonably priced ($23 each) and well made. The banners roll up and transport easily, and also have grommets for hanging. You want to make sure you choose a banner size that is large enough to be seen from a distance. Have one printed of your book cover, and one of you with your name.

Easel
You'll need an easel to hold your banners unless they will be attached to the booth. Place them as close to the front of the booth and near the walkway as possible, so they can be seen by people passing by.

Tabletop display stands
I chose wrought iron to avoid the displays being knocked over by the afternoon breeze. I found a great set in the picture frame section of my local craft store for $5 each. I used one to hold my book and the other to hold a 14 x 16 "Meet the Author" foam-core poster printed at Kinko's (the same image used for the vinyl banner). It's important to have a tabletop "Meet the Author" image because otherwise passersby assume you are just selling the books and don't realize you are actually the author.

Theme item(s)
I use a cute recipe box on my table to hold the bookmarks for my memoir: The Break-Up Diet. You can use any object, functional or decorative, to draw visual interest to your table.

Promotional bookmarks or postcards
You definitely want something with your book cover image, the ISBN, and your book website address on it. Not everyone will buy your book at the fair and if they have something to take home, it raises your chances of making a sale later. If you include something funny or informative on the back of the bookmark or postcard, something that ties in with your book, you'll have a better chance of people keeping it. I included a humorous recipe on the back of mine.

Material table drapes
It looks nice when you decorate your signing table. I went to my local fabric store and chose a couple yards of two contrasting colors (the same blue and black as my book). But I'm not exactly Betty Homemaker, so I also picked up some double-sided, iron-on hem tape to finish the edges.

Review cards
Go to Amazon.com and pull your best reader reviews. Print them onto a single sheet of colored paper with enough reviews to fill both sides. Laminate the page at Kinko's, so it stays neat from the handling it will receive. It's a great sales tool because it gives your potential reader the opportunity to see how much other readers have enjoyed your book.

Cash box
I chose a cash box that was small, but also had the features I wanted. I didn't want to mess with a credit card machine, so the cash box worked out well. Don't forget to bring your reseller’s permit, a sales tax table for your selling area, a calculator, and money for making change.

Receipt book
This is the best way to keep track of your sales and inventory. Trust me, you'll be talking to so many people that by the end of the fair, you won't remember how many books you've sold until you go through your receipts.

Guest book
Ask the visitors who come to your booth to sign your guest book and include their email address for the chance to win a drawing for a free book. This will help you build your opt-in email database, and your lucky winner will be excited to receive a copy of your book!

Signing pens
Bring a fine point Sharpie; I had several teens come around wanting their book fair posters autographed. I use a comfortable grip gel pen for signing my books; it doesn't bleed through and the gel doesn't hang up on the page like a ballpoint pen. The cushioned grip and slightly thicker base helps if you have carpal tunnel like I do.

Give-away candy
This works very well to bring people to the table. Who can pass up a Hershey's Kiss or Jolly Rancher hard candy? Most people won't grab and go, so while they are unwrapping their candy, you can tell them about your book.

Now for the personal stuff:

Sun protection
Don't forget your sunblock, sunglasses, and a hat (especially if your table is uncovered). One of my girlfriends dropped by with a little spray bottle of water--it was great for a facial spritz to help with evaporative cooling.

Water & Snacks
Like most fairs, the food and drinks were astronomical ($5 for a cup of lemonade), so do yourself a favor and freeze some bottles of water the night before, as they thaw, they'll provide the hydration you'll definitely need. Pack a lunch and/or some granola bars to get you through the day. On a side note, bring a travel bottle of anti-bacterial gel for your hands to help clean up before you eat.

Jacket
If you think it might get cool in the late afternoon or evening, it's better to have a light cover-up than not.

Camera
Of course you'll want pictures to post on your blog!

The best thing to take to a book festival is your smile. Have fun with the day. Enjoy meeting people and telling them about your book. It's the best PR there is.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

 

Guest Blogging: Writing in Someone Else's Space

Today, I am guest blogging at Maggie Marr's blog. She's the author of Hollywood Girls Club and Secrets of the Hollywood Girls Club.

Pop by, check her out, and leave some WOW! blog love.

Writing in Someone Else's Space
Guest blogging can be a great way to get your name out to a new audience. It allows you to promote your product or service, and helps build your platform as an expert in your field. Hosting a guest blogger can add variety and interest to your blog, provide new information to your readers, and give you a break from having to create your own content for a day. Overall, it's a win-win situation.

When you receive an invitation to appear as a guest blogger, there are a few things you need to do to make it a good experience for you, your hostess, and her readers.

Ask Your Hostess
Just like the etiquette for attending a dinner party, find out if there is anything you can bring for the table. Does your hostess want you to write about a topic of her choice? Is she planning to send you a list of interview questions to answer? Is she giving you free rein to write whatever you want?

Research the Space
Read at least one month of previous blog entries. See what your hostess talks about. Is her tone humorous or serious? Does the blog focus on providing entertainment or information?

Who are her readers? Read the comments sections of the most recent posts to get a feel for what motivates her readers and gets them engaged in responding.

What about the use of language? Is it academic, casual, or trendy slang? How long are the posts? Does she include resource links, pictures, or video?

Taking the time to assess her writing space will help your turn out a post that suits her needs and promotes you well.

Content Content Content
This is where you put your fingers to the keyboard. Of course, what you write about will depend on the arrangement you make with your hostess. If you are answering interview questions, keep your answers brief and interesting. If you are promoting your expertise, provide some solid take-away information for her readers. If you have carte blanche, try to find a way to incorporate your promotion with that of your hostess. Using an anecdote to relate your story to hers in some way will help you stay close to the theme of your hostess' blog.

Dos and Don'ts for a Guest Blogger
  • DO let your personality shine through in your blog post.
  • DO check and recheck for typos and grammar errors in your post prior to sending it to your hostess.
  • DO monitor her blog during your guest day and respond to any comment posts.
  • DON'T get into a flame war with any of her readers.
  • DO promote your guest blog day on your blog and to your list.
  • DON'T forget to thank your hostess for the opportunity.
  • DO reciprocate and invite your hostess to guest blog on your site.
Most of all, have fun with it!

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

 

41 Blog Success Tips You Can Learn Today

Blog days. They are a great opportunity to put your voice and your thoughts out into cyberspace. Some writers are so excited to connect to their readers that they blog daily and sometimes more than once a day. For others of us who haven't yet hit our blog stride, blogging seems more like a pesky morning chore with one looming question, "What the heck am I going to write about?"

If I ever figure out the answer to that question, you'll be the first to know.

While I continue trying to work that out, I'm always on the lookout for tips to help make blogging easier and more effective--which
is good for you because I love sharing when I find good information and inspiration. Today, the tips come from Susan Gilbert, AME's Search Engine Marketing Expert and the Web 2.0 company owner of http://www.JoomlaJump.com, who provides Social Networking websites and services.

Susan offers up some great ideas to boost your blogging success...

41 Blog Success Tips You Can Learn Today
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1. Read - The more you read the better writer you will be. Being a blog reader helps you understand the mind of the blog reader. What they want, how they like information to be presented, what turns you off. Read good blogs and note your thoughts.

2. Take one step - Chunk it down. Don't be overwhelmed, take one step at a time and keep going.

3. Be interesting - Readers want to find fresh, valuable, entertaining, remarkable information. Make an effort to deliver more than just facts. Make it about them, not you.

4. Get your point across - Style, grammar, spelling all count for nothing if your audience doesn't get your meaning. Make sure you are understood.

5. Deliver the goods - Being valuable is more important than following any rules.

6. Be consistent - You are only as good as your last post.

7. Prioritize quality over quantity - Fewer kick-ass articles are better than many so-so posts.

8. Develop expertise - You might not be an expert now but you can be. Dive into your subject and become the go-to person.

9. Hold on to passion - Keep the fires burning, don't let your subject turn into a chore.

10. Communicate fascination - If you love your subject then let your readers know, share your enthusiasm, make it contagious.

11. Write better - All of us can improve our writing but it takes effort and motivation.

12. Grow your experience - Do new things, broaden your horizons, stretch yourself.

13. Share your experience - When you learn something new, tell your readers about it.

14. Explore and experiment - Keep trying new things, never stagnate.

15. Be unique - If you are the same as everyone else, why would anyone visit your blog?

16. Look good - Appearances count, both in terms of your blog design and your posts. Make your content zing!

17. Make a great first impression - Do new visitors know what your blog is about in under 10 seconds? Can they navigate easily? Where is your best content?

18. Build momentum - Keep pushing every day, do not be content, it takes less effort to keep going than to stop and start over.

19. Optimize - Keep tweaking, continuously improve.

20. Write with focus - Don't squander your readers' attention, give them what they came for.

21. Build your reputation - Know what you stand for and deliver it consistently.

22. Go for keywords - Find out what your readers are looking for and write about it.

23. Write compelling headlines - Get attention, promise a benefit, provoke interest.

24. Offer full feeds - Attention is more important than page views.

25. Interview - Supplement your knowledge by interviewing experts.

26. Break news - Be first to a story, let everyone know and see the links flood in.

27. Run contests - Contests are fun and build awareness.

28. Research, survey and poll - Research results are newsworthy and differentiate.

29. Toot your horn - Celebrate successes, send out press releases.

30. Monitor your stats - Stats tell you the health of your blog. Where is traffic coming from? Can you do more of what works? Is your blog growing or sliding? There are many free services.

31. Comment and answer comments - Nurture your audience, make them know they are valued. Comment on other blogs.

32. Link generously - If you want links then you have to first give them.

33. Join forums - Break out of your bubble, meet people where they are.

34. Give stuff away - You get what you give. Free downloads get rewarded with links and traffic.

35. Make friends - One of the pleasures of blogging and also a route to success.

36. Guest blog - Write brilliant content for other bloggers and see your brand grow.

37. Ask questions - Curiosity is a virtue.

38. Twitter - Constantly communicate and get to know people. Anything too short for a blog post can be delivered in 140 characters.

39. Stumble - Train yourself to discover, recognize and share brilliant content. What you can identify you can imagine, what you can imagine you can create.

40. Rebel - Break the rules, go against the flow, zig when others tell you to zag, do your own thing your own way.

41. Enjoy - Keep doing what you do until it stops being fun. When it is no longer fun, bring the fun back and your energy will be infectious.


Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com

Share your blog link and/or links to some of your favorite blogs in the comments section. We'd love to check them out!

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

 

Roller Coaster Reviews

No matter how serene and unaffected you think you'll be, when the reviews of your debut book start rolling in, you need to be ready for a wild emotional ride. I don't think there's a roller coaster theme park in the world that can match the highs and lows.

As many of you know, my memoir, The Break-Up Diet launched on Valentine's Day. Over the course of the first month, I watched Amazon like the future of my writing career depended on it. It was a lot like waiting in a long line for the best ride. The anticipation. The excitement. The waiting. Then...

Woo-hoo! Readers say the book is "compulsively readable," "clever and entertaining" and they use words like "superb," "witty," "fascinating," "endearing," and "terrific."

You're in the front car, front seat, with your hands in the air, on The Slingshot--rocketing toward the stars with the wind in your face, laughing, flying, and about to take a second lap around the moon.

Then, before the exhilaration cools, more reviews come in: "disappointing," "not much substance," "forgettable."

Welcome to The Death Drop--where you are the only rider aboard, frantically trying to brace yourself in a seat with a broken safety buckle. The car is pushed to the edge of a precipice and you find yourself free-falling with your stomach lodged in your throat and no chance to catch your breath.

And so it goes on The Yo-Yo ride. Up and down: happy, sad, elated, depressed, confident, worried, thankful, irritated--until finally, you decide to trade in your E-tickets and climb on the Whatever Tram. It's not an apathy ride; it's smooth and Zen-like in its simple acceptance and understanding that you can't please everyone.

All you can do is put your story out into the world. Some people will embrace it, others will not, and that's okay. You have new stories to tell and your characters need your emotional attention.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

 

Pushing All the Right Buttons

As women, we already have a corner on the emo market. Actually, if you are anything like me, you can pretty much set a clock (or at least a calendar) by exactly when your mood swings are about to reach E-ticket carnival ride proportions. Something someone says, something you read, something you see, can trigger an emotional response. The key is to find a way to understand and use your emotional hot buttons. Once you recognize what stirs your thoughts, your ire, your passion--then you can begin to craft those emotional hot buttons into your stories and use them to create the same feelings in your readers.

The same technique with a slightly different angle can be used when you apply it to marketing. Analyze the things that make you respond positively and negatively to things like advertisements and book cover copy. Once you figure out what makes YOU want to purchase or read a book, then you'll be able to craft your marketing materials to appeal to other readers in the same way.

Marketing expert, Penny Sansevieri explained it well in a recent article that I will share with you.

Tapping into Emotional Hot Buttons
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I talk a lot about "tapping into emotional hot buttons"--so much so that in a recent class I taught an author stood up and said: "Ok, enough already! Everyone talks about emotional hot buttons but what are they?" Good question and I suspect it's one many of us in marketing forget ourselves from time to time. So let's look at some of these emotional triggers. What makes people buy, read, or join whatever it is we're selling.

We want what we don't have. This is pretty basic. We want what we don't have. We want more money, we want to be fitter, healthier, sexier, smarter. Some of us (ok, most of us) want more time. We also desire to be popular (come, admit it, even the most modest of us desire popularity). We want more security but we also want to have more fun. We want to be smarter and with all the data out there, we want to be "in the know."

We want to keep what we have. Once we have whatever it is we desire, we want to keep it. Books on keeping relationships strong, keeping marriages working, staying on your diet, keeping the weight off, keeping your job, whatever it is—these thousands of books are a testament to the fact that once we have what we want, we don't want to lose it.

We want to avoid stuff we don't like. Let's face it, we've all 'copped out' at some point or another. We want it the way we want it and the icky stuff, well, let's avoid that altogether. How can you help someone avoid doing stuff they don't like? Thousands of books have been written on this topic. Everything from reframing, to repositioning a particular topic, even less painful ways to end a relationship.

We want to be liked. It's a pretty standard human emotion. We want to be liked, or at the very least respected. Being 'in the know' makes us liked, doing and saying the right things in social situations makes us likable. While some would argue "I won't sell my soul to be liked," it's still a very strong thread in our culture. From buying the right shoe, to purchasing the right house. We want to be liked or rather, like everyone else.

We want to be unique. On the heels of the above statement this may not make sense, but in a world of sameness we also want to be unique. Not so unique that we're walking down the street with pink hair (with all due respect to my fabulous hairdresser who from time to time dons a pink-do), but we want to be seen as individual, and independent. You'll see a lot of this in car commercials. The next time one of the car manufacturers is trying to sell you a car on TV, watch the ad closely. In not so subtle ways they'll tell you the car is what everyone else wants or has, and yet at the same time it has your own personal thumbprint of uniqueness.

So now that you know what emotional hot buttons are, how to do you tap into them? Well, first off find out what your book does for the reader. Whether fiction or non-fiction it doesn't matter. There's always an emotional trigger that gets someone to buy something. We all buy from emotion, it's that simple. So figure out what the emotion is (and there might be several), and then tap into that emotion. You can tap into an emotion through engaging words on your website, through blog postings, ads, a video trailer of your book, whatever it is, if you're not pressing their buttons you're probably not making the sale either.

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com

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