by LuAnn Schindler We're not quite half way into the first month of the new year, so if you haven't taken time yet to develop a list of writing goals, don't worry. There's still time. But instead of procrastinating (do writers do that?), take a good look at what you accomplished last year and where you want to direct your energies this year.
Unsure where to start? Here are a few ideas I implemented last year and a couple I plan to complete in 2010. Consider it a productivity map.
Submission / Time Tracker: I used to keep track of submissions and queries by creating a folder in the document section on my computer. Sure, it showed who I sent it to, but I wanted to be able to use a tracking system so I could list experts and interviewees, possible publications for submissions, type of submission (feature, how-to, FOB), time spent on research and writing, and publication and payment info. I revamped a query tracker previously posted on Premium Green (WOW!'s premium subscription newsletter) and it makes my life so much easier! I've used the system to come up with new article ideas based on information from experts, which increases the bottom line. It's a win-win! How do you keep track of submissions and amount of time spent on each article or work?
Data Backup: I need to work on this one. Do you? I have CDs filled with photos and flash drives loaded with documents. Now, I need to get it all in one place. Thanks to the data backup program that came with my laptop, I will now be able to keep all my files safe and accessible. What do you use to backup photos and writing files?
Project Deadlines: Do you have a large project that seems like you'll never complete? Don't worry. You're not alone. Unless we writers set a deadline for major projects, we'll likely let them continue throughout the year. That's not healthy for a writer's bottom line. Set deadlines, whether it's writing a set amount of words per day, a certain number of pages, or a certain amount of time. Use a planner or calendar to mark the deadlines. The brain makes a stronger connection and gives a stronger sense of urgency to those tasks we note as being important. How do you track deadlines?
Network: Establishing relationships with other writers and editors is important. It's also important to continue to make new contacts. I plan to send three queries to new markets every week in 2010. I also plan to step up my social networking campaign. How will you build or increase your network?
Website: Do you have a web presence? About four years ago, I started a website, but I wasn't happy with the design and eventually, I quit adding material to it. And then, I got married and I never updated the site to include my new last name. In 2010, I will create a new website and keep it updated. I'll keep my blogs updated, too. Do you have a website to promote your skills and expertise? If so, what's one new element you can add to market your skills and reach new audiences/clients?
Skills: As a teacher, I have to update my repertoire of skills and learn new methods to reach students. As a writer, I have to update my repertoire of skills and learn new methods to reach editors and readers. I'm enrolling in a one-hour credit class for web design and animation. I'm also teaching a writer's workshop for a local community college. How will you improve your skills?
Fresh Ideas: Ever feel like all your articles/blog posts/storylines are the same? Challenge yourself by tackling a new subject, writing from a different perspective, or trying a different genre. I've already written a piece and submitted it to a market I never would have considered before. But, once I saw the potential for earning money, I decided to try. And guess what. I enjoyed it! How will you challenge yourself in 2010?
Having a road map for the new year will keep you on the "write" track, push you to try new ventures, and make you accountable for your successes and failures. Set goals for a productive 2010.
It's hard to ignore all the press e-mails and social networking I have been getting into the last few weeks. There's the governor from South Carolina, who is in hot water over e-mails to his mistress. Recently, Governor Sarah Palin is back in the news over some e-mail exchanges with John McCain's staffers on the topic of her husband, Todd's involvement with the Alaska Independence Party. Supposedly, he belonged for seven years, and this party's chief goal is Alaska's succession from the United States. Oh boy!
One of the worst social networking mistakes happened recently on Twitter with novelist Alice Hoffman. When she read a bad review of her latest book in the Boston Globe and she thought the reviewer gave away too much of the plot, she voiced her frustration on Twitter. She went too far when she publicized the reviewer's e-mail and phone number. She's had her publicist release an apology, and Hoffman no longer has a Twitter account. You can read the full story here.
In the last year since Facebook has taken the world by storm, there have been reports of employers checking Facebook and MySpace pages and basing employment on things they have found there.
So, what does this tell us? We should learn from these other people's mistakes. We should learn from history. Here are a few tips when dealing with social media and e-mail. Remember, you are a writer, who is trying to build a platform for your work! You don't want to be in the middle of a controversy and ruin your career.
When you are angry, DON'T e-mail, Twitter, use Facebook, or any other sort of social media. Don't blog until you calm down. You can still voice your concerns and opinions and frustration, but you are more likely to do it in a composed manner once you've cooled off. It's similar to arguing with your spouse. It goes much better when the two of you calm down.
Anything electronic can be leaked and seen. You know the age-old advice--if you have a secret, don't tell ANYONE if you want to keep it that way. The same is true for e-mail (especially), social networking, and blogging. If you don't want what you are writing to be leaked out to the press or your neighbors or your family in any way, then don't write it and send it. Sure, right now, you may be working for $20 an hour as a freelance writer, and you feel no one cares what you have to say. What happens when you write the next Harry Potter novel? Everyone cares what you have to say.
Never reveal other people's personal information (or YOUR OWN) on social networks. Alice Hoffman made a huge mistake. She should have NEVER given out the book reviewer's personal information. And we all know that. The same is true for your friends and family also. If someone writes on your Facebook wall asking for a phone number, don't respond on your wall. Send the person a private message. If a writer asks you for contact information for an editor and you aren't comfortable giving that out, then don't. GO WITH YOUR GUT! Personal information has a way of leaking out. As soon as you get the reputation that you cannot be trusted, then it will be hard to change that reputation. You can always contact a person for someone else to avoid giving out e-mail addresses and phone numbers
PHOTOS--Not much to say on this except it is fun to post crazy photos, sure, but you have to think about who is going to see these!
I think social networking and e-mail are our friends, but we have to respect them and be responsible, just like with our human friends. If not, they can easily turn into foes and cause us a lot of trouble.
Jacket Flap: A Social Site for Children's Writers and More
If you write for children or young adults, you may want to check out another social networking site called, JacketFlap. The JacketFlap homepage states: "JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for children and young adults." So, if you are on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, or even Twitter, JacketFlap may be another site you'll want to check out if you write, edit, or illustrate for kids or teens.
What is special and useful about JacketFlap?
Besides networking with professionals in the children's book industry, you can also find and read over 700 children's book-related blogs (and list yours!), search through a database of over 900,000 children's books, read book reviews, look through over 20,000 book publishers, and join for free! The "About Us" page states: "JacketFlap is a comprehensive resource for information on the children's book industry. Thousands of published authors, illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, and publishers visit JacketFlap every day." So, if you're a children's writer or illustrator, then this is definitely one of the social networking sites you want to take advantage of.
Just like other social networking sites, you create your profile and find friends. On your profile, you list key facts about yourself such as where you live, your company name, age, and occupation. You also write a short bio. You can link your blog right to your JacketFlap page. For high tech social networkers, you can add video to your profile and upload some of your work.
Like all social networking sites, JacketFlap will take time to learn and to use. One of my goals this summer is to use this one more. Recently, an author contacted me on JacketFlap who wanted to submit to the same company, White Mane Kids, that is publishing my book. She wanted some information about the company, and we have now become JacketFlap and Facebook buddies. These are the types of connections you can make on specialized sites. If you are a children's writer, you can find other writers who may have information to help you or you to help them. It's like belonging to your own on-line children's writers' group--for free!
Check it out--and if you do, look me up (I'm either luvboxers or Margo Dill). I'd love to learn and build JacketFlap with you.
I Get By With A Little Help From My Twitter Friends
by LuAnn Schindler
OK, I'll admit it. I'm a social networking junkie. Especially Twitter. And OK, I'll admit that sometimes it get carried away and check out too many links that my friends post. But I can also say that I believe I've grown as a writer, a journalist, and a digital citizen. And yes, I'll thank my Twitter friends for shaping me and for keeping me on task when I really need to be.
As a journalist, I see the value of tweeting. I've watched a regional newspaper use Twitter to increase its circulation. Sure, this publication has a strong web presence, thanks to a fantastic Web Editor who isn't afraid to take a chance. I've witnessed breaking news story coverage. I've discovered new ideas. For me, the Twitterverse is an infinite inkwell. I'm always coming up with new ideas or twists to old notions.
As a Twitter member, I can follow anyone I choose to follow. I've made it a point to follow industry professionals who offer a birds-eye view of the publishing nest. Agents, fellow writers, print journalists, broadcast journalists, and publishers share their thoughts and opinions, and I'm soaking up their knowledge and insight and putting it to good use.
As a digital citizen, I'm learning what should and should not be posted in a worldwide forum. Yes, I would like for millions of citizens to read my work and discuss it. But I also realize that I need to be careful about what I say because, let's face it, sometimes those 140 characters can be misconstrued. Tone can't always be developed in a handful of words. Or people read how they want to hear it and form a judgement. It's a tricky tightrope to walk, but the lesson should be learned by everyone. Be careful what you write and wish for.
And finally, I appreciate that I can type 'Hey, I can't get motivated today' and I can count on my friends, especially Jennifer, to tell me to get to work! Twitter can be an excellent motivator, especially when following other writers and seeing how much they accomplish in a day.
I've heard a lot of people say they don't have time for a social network, but isn't it time to put that network to good use? Isn't it time to network, meet other writers, and promote your work? We're in the midst of an economic downturn, and let's face it, we have to work hard to make those hard-earned dollars. Promoting our work and developing a strong network is one avenue writers must be willing to pursue. Otherwise, what's the point?
After lurking about for a while, I made the decision. I’m joining Inked-In.
Not to be mistaken with Linked-In, the social networking site geared more towards professionals, Inked-In is tailored for writers, musicians and other artists, and is the social network of The Burry Man Writers Center, out of the British Isles.
You can expect many of the same features of other social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and the rest. With The Burry Man’s focus on providing resources for over a decade, established and emerging writers definitely have a place on Inked-In.
As I surfed my way through the site recently, I found someone looking for a poet to write liner notes for their CD. There was a encouraging post for writers dealing with ever-present rejection letters. Event notices came from cities around the U.S.
Of course, you can’t forget the numerous groups to join, such as ‘NaNoWriMo Participants’, ‘Indie Ink’, ‘I Write Because I Have To’ and ‘Fumbling Towards Discipline’, to name only a few.
Hmm, might have to give that last one a serious look.
Inked-In’s reach is wide-reaching. One my last visit, I noticed another new member from the Baltimore, Maryland area--Dundalk, to be precise. Only a short distance from me.
And in the end, it’s about community. An important--and necessary--aspect of the often-solitary life of a writer.
Go check it for yourself. There might be a place for you too.
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.
I knew about the social networking site StumbleUpon, but I didn’t know about the tremendous traffic it could bring. In the past two days, we’ve seen a huge number of referrals—close to 8,000 MORE Unique Visitors than normal. Well, that definitely caught my attention!
You may be wondering, how did you do that?
Actually, I didn’t have anything to do with it, but it sure did make me want to find out what people were looking at. From what I gather, one of the members of StumbleUpon added a page from our website to their favorites, and their friends checked it out, and so on. And while that’s fantastic and all, if I didn’t take the time to figure out why this was happening, it wouldn’t teach me anything.
Are you in the same boat? Have you noticed traffic to your website/blog from StumbleUpon and didn’t know where in the heck it was coming from?
I don’t know about your stats, but I use awstats, an open source standard, and the only thing I could see from the referring address was: http://www.stumbleupon.com/refer.php. If you follow that, it ends up going to a page that pushes for advertising sales.
Follow that link (above) and enter the specific URL that is getting the highest traffic and referrals from StumbleUpon. Then you can track who recommended that page, why, and see all their friends, their profile, and whom you are going to need to connect with if you want to keep getting that kind of crazy-awesome traffic.
How StumbleUpon works:
When you discover (or stumble) websites that you like, you vote for them or give them a review. Other users who have similar interests connect to your votes and/or pages and follow those links. You either “discover” pages—meaning you visit websites directly (on your own) and rate them—or you “stumble” on pages—by hitting a button that randomly takes you surfing to a website and you get to choose whether you like it or not. It’s that easy!
STEP 1: Join StumbleUpon
- Go to the StumbleUpon homepage - Click the Join StumbleUpon Link - Enter your email address, birth date, and choose a username - Verify and click on the Join and Download Now button - Install and restart - Go to your email and click the verification link - You’ll see the toolbar and you’re ready to start stumbling
The Toolbars look like this:
STEP 2: Customize Your Interests
- Click on the Home tab - Click the Preferences link in the sidebar - Click My Interests underneath the Preferences Header - Select subjects that interest you and hit save (for instance: writing would be under the “Media” category tab on the left-hand sidebar) - Click Save My Interests
STEP 3: Drive Traffic to your Website/Blog
Make sure you fill out your profile and add your website/blog URL. This will be displayed above your main image (your icon, picture of yourself, logo, etc.) and identify you as the owner of that website/blog. This will also help identify you to others when you are recommending them. Get it? Be nice. Get reciprocation.
When you visit a website that hasn’t been voted for before, then you “discover” that website. You hit the “thumbs-up” icon in your toolbar, and a box will pop up asking you to fill out a review for that site. Your review then appears on your profile.
TIP: don’t vote up your own sites—as much as you’d like to, that’s pretty obvious! So, vote on other sites where you really, truly like the content and the good karma will come flowing back to you. Trust me! By choosing great content, you are driving people to your profile because they know you have good taste.
You can also find websites by clicking the StumbleUpon icon. You then find sites according to your interest categories and can vote on them, or write a review. Of course, you don’t have to give it a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, you can simply hit the StumbleUpon icon again and keep cruising. But the more sites you vote on, the stronger your profile will become, and the more reliable you will become when you vote on sites that are relevant and popular with others.
Pretty soon you’ll have a network of sites that you recommend, or don’t, and have a preference list that matches your choices and your target audience. From there, you can enter groups of like-minded individuals—writing groups, blogging groups, etc.—and connect with people who share your interests.
Why is StumbleUpon different from other social networking sites?
Unlike myspace.com or other networking sites, you don’t have to ask for friend approval. You simply add friends if you like their content. You can also import friends from your email address book and ask them to join. You will find out all the options after signing up with their site.
Now, this isn’t a comprehensive guide by any means—it’s simply just my findings through research of a new phenomenon that has been gracing our website in the past couple of days. So, I’m going to share with you some great links to explore further information: (Bits & Pieces of this post have been gleaned from these wonderful sites, or some of them are just sites that have great information I haven't covered!) Be sure to check them out if you're interested.
One thing I’ve discovered about StumbleUpon is that it’s an incredibly fun site! By tapping one button, you move from one site to the next and get to share your opinion with others. It’s inspirational and a unique venue for exploring content on the web. Even if you aren’t interested in traffic to your website/blog, I urge you all to take it for a spin and see what you find! And if you like one of our articles or blog posts here on The Muffin, or on WOW! Women On Writing, hit that little link at the bottom of the post to submit it to StumbleUpon. I bet you’ll have the favor returned.
Happy writing, blogging, and social network-swarming!