Category Archives: Commentary

Social Media Tips For Your Author Platform

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An active author platform can often be the difference between poor sales of your book and making a living with your writing. The main parts of your author platform are your writer’s blog, a newsletter, social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram). You will want to write proposals, queries, and manuscripts, do interviews both online and in person, and go to conventions, book fairs and other writing events. All of these activities can be overwhelming to any author, no matter if you are an aspiring author or a pro with many novels on Amazon. It is a fact that maintaining your platform takes constant work.

There is a solution to taming the platform workload. It is called automation, scheduling and following a routine.

No Wasted Ink, as of this writing, has a blog following of around 1800 and a twitter following of 25 thousand. Each and every one of these followers was found one at a time and added organically to my lists over the course of five years. I am doing the same with my new quarterly newsletter and Instagram account. Both are small in subscribers since they are new, but in time both of these new legs to my platform will improve.

I’m often asked how I built my large number of followers. It is mainly by providing consistent and quality content to my readers. No Wasted Ink provides book reviews of classic science fiction and fantasy novels, interviews new up and coming authors, has a list of writer’s articles every Monday that I curate by hand, and original articles and poetry. It is all offered up for free to anyone who wishes to follow. In addition, I have links to my writing, both free stories that are published in online magazines, and content to purchase such as novels, novellas, and anthologies that I am a part of. I consider my writer’s blog to be the cornerstone of my author platform.

I am active on social media. Every post on No Wasted Ink creates a tweet on twitter to inform my followers that there is a new post to read. I also post a link on my Facebook Author Page. This is done automatically by WordPress for me. For key posts, I will often follow up with additional tweets, one a day to my feed for a time span of two weeks. I create these tweets on Hootsuite, a free service that I use to schedule tweets and Facebook posts ahead of time.

Another service that I use to supplement Twitter is a free service called Triberr. I have joined a number of “tribes” there and offer to promote other writer’s posts in exchange for their promoting my posts. By doing this cross promotion I gain two things. An easy way to queue additional posts to my twitter feed so it is not all about me. I select articles from fellow writers that I feel would be of interest to writers or readers of science fiction or fantasy. This fleshes out my twitter feed and makes it more interesting. I also gain access to other author networks for my own posts. On average, all my interviews and guest posts gain around 60 to 80 retweets from my various network connections.

An important thing to remember about Twitter is that you need to cull your follower list from time to time. I do a culling of people that do not follow me back or who have not tweeted anything in at least six months from my follower list a few times a month. I use various third party platforms to locate these tweeps and prune them. This allows me room to add new people that might be more inclined to read my tweets and respond to my messages. By doing this, although my list of followers is large, they are all very active.

Having a Facebook Author Page is important, but I don’t view it as a platform for sending messages to followers. I like being there because most people expect you to have a Facebook presence. It also is a great place to host an online book launch, post your upcoming live events, or do a Facebook Live video. For me, Facebook has been a great place to network with fellow authors, magazine editors, and publishers of anthologies. Most of the places that I publish my short stories and poetry to have been found by networking on Facebook.

I know that all of this can seem to be overwhelming. And sometimes it is! However, it doesn’t need to be. Scheduling your time is the key to handling the social media marketing. I schedule myself two ways. The main way I do my marketing is to do a short session in the morning and in the evening, each no more than 15 minutes. Yes, I sometimes set a timer. In these sessions I will do any of the following:

* Write a blog post
* Draft an email newsletter
* Research articles for my Monday link posts
* Write a Facebook status or Twitter update
* Take an Instagram picture and upload it
* Comment on a blog post on another author’s site
* Share another author’s book, on a social media platform
* Update my website or blog in some way
* Draft a query letter to a magazine on a subject related to your book
* Create an image on Canva with a reviewer’s blurb on it and Tweet it
* Create an image on Canva of a quote from your articles and Tweet it
* Write a thank-you note to a book reviewer, librarian or bookseller
* Load up future tweets to promote new blog posts
* Write up a call for new authors to interview

I also have one other social media work session. It happens once a year in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. This is normally a “dead” week for business. All the Christmas shopping is done, people are home with their families and not all that much is going on retail wise. Yet, there is this full week of time available. I schedule this week to do my annual blog scheduling. During this week I will create all the holiday posts for my blog and schedule them for the following year. I find quotes to post on Facebook and schedule them to post for the next year. I finish setting up my editorial calendar for the next year and make sure that all my regular posts are scheduled in my Filofax with a check mark drawn in for when I complete and schedule the post. I tend to work in six to eight-hour shifts during this week, devoting most of my work time to marketing. At the end of the week, I toast the New Year and go back to my usual 15-minute sessions.

Now it’s your turn: share in the comments. What are your favorite—or most effective—quick marketing tasks in your author platform?

3 Steps of Intuitive Writing

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This past summer, I attended a speculative fiction writer’s workshop in Lawrence, Kansas. The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction was founded by James Gunn. Every June, the school hold workshops on novel writing, short stories, or could be used as a writer’s retreat to work on your own project. The attendees live in a dorm and are there for a two-week session of intensive writing and critique.

I was told by one of the instructors that the final story I submitted for review was “unique”, something that she had not seen before. A comment that I appreciated since this is one of the main goals of my writing process. This statement had piqued the curiosity of one of the workshop attendees, who was no slouch herself when it came to storytelling. She asked a question that most authors get at one point or another. “Where do you get your ideas?”

With humor, I thought to reach to her ear to pull out a coin, much as a carnival magician might, and reply, “I found the ideas in your ear.” That would be as good an answer to “where” ideas come from as any. The question is not a matter of where, but a question of how we as writers develop a method of gathering concepts and train our brains to make those unique story connections. For me, it is a three part process that utilizes my trained muse and study of story structure. Much of my process is ingrained. Because of this, I did not give an answer in the workshop, but I have been thinking about her question since I’ve returned home and will attempt to answer it here.

Gather Research into your File System

As a science fiction writer, raw material is needed to start the story process. I have created a computerized notebook system to gather articles from scientific journals and science blogs. I cut and paste the articles into Evernote and include whatever photos are relevant to the article since images are a powerful part of the intuitive process. Sometimes, I include notes that I write during panels at science fiction conventions. The panels are a great place to gather data on current day writing tropes or explain science concepts that are geared toward writers. Online science classes are another good source of raw material.

The key is to have a file system in place and to actively add new material to this file on a regular basis. You do not need to use EverNote as I do. Pocket or OneNote are great alternatives or even an old-fashioned handwritten notebook. Train your eye to observe what is going on in the world of science and have a basic understanding of scientific principals. As time goes on, you will be able to grasp what is as old as time and space and what is fresh as a supernova. Let this raw material accumulate and look over it to allow the information to seep into your mind.

You can use this same process to gather place locations, interesting characters, or plot ideas from newspapers and other types of journals. Many a thriller author has taken a stranger than fiction real life story and turned it into a tale “ripped from today’s headlines”. The key is recording these ideas into a file system and keeping the information in a manner that allows you to access it easily.

Activate Your MUSE to Create Connections

This is where the magic happens. Where the ideas for your stories develop and come to life. It is not a logical process, but one that happens under the surface of your conscious mind. Often times, the ideas seem to pop out of nowhere or come from a source outside yourself. The ancient poets called this experience “speaking to their muse”, hearing a goddess that whispered inspired ideas into their minds that they could not claim as their own.

All human beings have two parts to their mind. The Ego, or the conscious logical mind where thoughts, identity, and structure happens and the Id, a mysterious wordless place where images and information bump into each other until the moment when a solution is found and kicked upstairs to our Ego where we can make use of it. The Ego is the newer part of our brains and the Id that ancient part of the brain without the ability of language. Both are equally intelligent. Both are YOU.

Activating your muse can be difficult. For most people, waiting for that moment of inspiration to arrive is their only experience with using that ancient part of the brain. Do not wait for the muse, train it to work for you. Training your muse means that you have a closer connection to that part of your mind and can guide its process.

When I direct my muse, I pick out ideas from my research that appeal to me. I focus on those ideas I want the story to take place in. Then I literary walk away. I go on strolls with my dog. I ride my bicycle. I go to sleep. I put stress behind me. Occasionally, I might pull up the original article and reread it or look at images associated with it, but otherwise, I put it out of my mind. A few hours or a day later, an image will burst in my mind, or a new character will come forth and speak to me based on my researched material. I’ve noticed as the years have gone by, this process has become faster. My brain has been trained to work with this innate ability and control it. When you first attempt to train your muse to create new ideas, the process will be slower. It is like training skills or muscles, it takes time and repetition.

Apply Ideas into Story Structure

The final step is to gather these new connections and plug them into a story structure. I use Scrivener to create virtual index cards of all the random ideas associated with my intuitive sessions. I put the new characters, created locations, and other concepts into the program as individual files. Using a beat sheet, I organize the ideas to create a plotted structure of events as an outline. As I outline, more ideas and connections will flow in until I feel that the story is ready to draft.

This step is the one that most writing articles and classes cover. It is where the Ego takes over and applies the craft of writing to the story. As there are many different methods to create a story, I won’t go into too much detail here. Every author has their own methods that work for them. My craft process will certainly be different from others. You must find the methods of the craft that works best for you.

Conclusion

It was a pleasure to meet Mr. James Gunn this past summer in Kansas. He gave our workshop a ninety-minute presentation on the creativity behind writing science fiction. Most of the talk was on how to tap into your muse and to keep on writing one word at a time. I felt a deep connection to his words. Mr. Gunn is in his mid-eighties. He is still publishing in pro-magazines and creating top of the line novels, using his well-trained muse to fuel his stories. He too speaks of how to find ideas, not where they are. Ideas are in the wind, catching them is the key. I can’t imagine the high level of creativity that Mr. Gunn must enjoy at his age, but I hope one day to do so. I am inspired.

Author #Hashtags for Twitter

Twitter Hashtag

As an author, being on twitter is a great way to attract new readers to your blog and published books.  Developing your twitter feed is an organic process that you should attend to each day.  I personally spend around ten minutes each day going over my list, following back new followers, blocking bots and “follower sales pitches”, and looking over notifications for comments to respond to.  Over the years, my list has grown to thousands of followers and allows me to promote the authors and guest posters that come to my blog as well as drop in the occasional pitch for my books and poetry.

One of the best tools I have as an author using twitter is the use of hashtags.  It is a word preceded by the pound symbol that allows anyone on Twitter to find my post, even if they are not a follower of my twitter feed.  I try and use two or three hashtags in my posts for this reason.  Any more than that would be overkill.

List of General Hashtags for Authors

This list is some of the more common hashtags used by authors to promote their blog posts and work.  I’ve included tags for poetry too, they are fairly obvious!

Connecting with Authors

  • #AmWriting
  • #AmEditing
  • #IndieAuthors
  • #NaNoWriMo
  • #PoetTues
  • #WordCount
  • #WriterWednesday (or #WW)
  • #WritersLife
  • #WritingPrompt
  • #WIP
  • #WritingTips
  • #WriteTip
  • #WritersTellMe

Connecting via Genre

  • #Fantasy
  • #FlashFic
  • #KidLit
  • #History
  • #Horror
  • #FanFic
  • Memoir
  • #NA (New Adult)
  • #PNR (Paranormal Romance)
  • #Poetry
  • #Romance
  • #Scifaiku
  • #SciFi
  • #YA

Connecting With Readers

  • #BookGiveaway
  • #bookpost
  • #books
  • #bookworm
  • #bookslover
  • #free
  • #FridayReads
  • #iBooks
  • #kindle
  • #MustRead
  • #nook
  • #ReadingList
  • #StoryFriday
  • #TeaserTues
  • #WorthReading
  • #WhatToRead

Planetary Grand Tour Inspires Writers

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As a science fiction writer, I often derive inspiration from the planets and moons of our solar system. It is here that the next great frontier will be found. One day, tourism will be an economic factor on the planets much as it is here on the Earth. How will future destinations showcase their location to attract those tourism dollars?

One answer to this question is from NASA itself. In 2016, a series of 1950s inspired posters about various tourism locations in our home solar system were created. Photos and posters are great sources to draw on as an author. I hope you will enjoy this batch of fantastical images about various places in our solar system and how they might develop into colonies with tourism benefits.

Below are smaller versions of my favorite posters from this series. There are a few more featuring some of the larger moons in our solar system too. Download one or two for your walls for free. Maybe they will inspire you to write about the planets or even to go there one day. The days when humanity spreads into space is not far into the future.

venus-blog

VENUS is one of Earth’s closest sister worlds.  It is 9/10s the size of our homeworld and has a dense atmosphere that could crush a spacecraft.

NASA writes about this poster:

“The rare science opportunity of planetary transits has long inspired bold voyages to exotic vantage points – journeys such as James Cook’s trek to the South Pacific to watch Venus and Mercury cross the face of the Sun in 1769. Spacecraft now allow us the luxury to study these cosmic crossings at times of our choosing from unique locales across our solar system.”

 

 

 

 

 

Earth-blogEARTH is humanity’s homeworld, but ultimately not our only gravity well.  Expansion into all corners of the globe is a fairly recent endeavor, but not our only stopping point.

NASA writes about this poster:

“There’s no place like home. Warm, wet and with an atmosphere that’s just right, Earth is the only place we know of with life – and lots of it. Perhaps our perfect world is rarer than we thought and only when we travel to other worlds will we realize how precious and lucky we are to have it.”

 

 

 

 

 

Mars-blogMARS will prove to be human’s first planetary colony.  Our first efforts to live on the Red Planet will begin in a scant decade or two.  Due to its smaller size, CO2 atmosphere, and lack of a magnetic iron core, there will be fierce challenges associated with living there, but I’m sure our scientists will be up to the task of making this world habitable.

NASA writes about this poster:

“NASA’s Mars Exploration Program seeks to understand whether Mars was, is, or can be a habitable world. Mission like Mars Pathfinder, Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Science Laboratory and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, among many others, have provided important information in understanding of the habitability of Mars. This poster imagines a future day when we have achieved our vision of human exploration of Mars and takes a nostalgic look back at the great imagined milestones of Mars exploration that will someday be celebrated as historic sites.”

 

 

Jupiter-blogJUPITER is a gas giant that orbits the sun, much as a binary star might.  It has snatched 68 asteroids that now circle the mighty orb as make-shift moons.

NASA writes about this poster:

“The Jovian cloudscape boasts the most spectacular light show in the solar system, with northern and southern lights to dazzle even the most jaded space traveler. Jupiter’s auroras are hundreds of times more powerful than Earth’s, and they form a glowing ring around each pole that’s bigger than our home planet. Revolving outside this auroral oval are the glowing, electric “footprints” of Jupiter’s three largest moons. NASA’s Juno mission will observe Jupiter’s auroras from above the polar regions, studying them in a way never before possible.”

 

 

 

I hope that you have found inspiration for your own stories with these fun images from NASA. If they help ferment a few new science fiction stories for you, as they have for me, all the better.

Expand Your Vocabulary With Android Apps

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As writers, having an extensive vocabulary is a great tool in our toolbox. The right word choice can excite a sentence and shift it into nuances that can create a memorable passage. Learning new words and how to best use them comes from reading the classics and books in your chosen genre, but in our modern age of electronic learning, apps can be of assistance as well. Being an Android user for the most part, I took a look at various apps that help with learning vocabulary. The reviews are my own and none of the app creators compensated me for my opinions.

Cram
FREE

This android app brings your custom flashcards to your phone. They have an apple version too. It allows you to study your chosen subject on the go and works hand in hand with cram.com. At the website, you can find educational resources to load into the app. You can learn a foreign language, practice your math tables, or pop in new vocabulary to memorize. Memorization is a good way to bulk up your word choice or to beef up your knowledge on a subject you might be writing on. One of the fun aspects of their website is the essay topic generator. When you have writer’s block, it is fun to look through this repository for inspiration. As a blogger, I find this to be helpful.

Quizlet 
Free or Pro ($19.99 annual fee)

This is another flashcard app that can help you memorize a variety of subjects such as languages, history, science, and vocabulary. The basic version is free. You create your own flashcards using the Quizlet flashcard maker or choose cards from fellow users. Part of the fun of this app is the Match game where you beat the clock to gain the right answer. There is another function called Test that helps you prep for a pop-quiz in whatever class you are studying for. If you find you like the app, you can go pro for a small fee and upload your own images, get faster customer service from quizlet, and study ad-free. It would be easy to create vocabulary flashcards with this app and then take it on the go with your phone.

Vocabulary.com
$2.99

I really enjoy this android app. Vocabulary is learning designed to be a game. As you answer the questions, the algorithms conform the game to you as you go along to help make the learning process more fun. It can become addictive! You accumulate points, achievements, and badges as you compete with other users around the world. The app has won a few awards such as Time’s 50 Best Websites of the Year, PC Magazine’s Top 100 Websites of the Year, and more. While this is not a free app, the value it offers to expand your vocabulary is worth checking out.
Words, Words, Words
FREE

While this vocabulary builder is not as fancy as some of the others or as extensive, I like that it included audio pronunciation of the new words along with the text. This is a great aid in learning how to use the words for speaking, not just for writing or reading.

Test Your English Vocabulary
FREE

This vocabulary app is more for people learning English as a second language than for native speakers. It is geared toward helping you master language so you can pass tests such as TOEIC, GMAT, SAT, GRE, MCAT and more. It gives you the correct pronunciation and translation of the words into your mother tongue. It has word games to keep things fun. Play games such as Anagrams, Codewords, Millionaire, Puzzle and StopWord.

As a writer, it pays to become a wordsmith and develop your vocabulary. The best way to do this is to read more books, but these apps should be a great way to supplement your practice of finding and using new words as you interact with the world around you. I hope you check out the apps and find them useful.