In Florida, spring is an underappreciated blessing. After all, we don’t have the dead time between Christmas and that first glimpse of grass in the back yard. We don’t turn on spring training games as much to see people on actual grass as to see the baseball. We don’t have cabin fever here.
But spring is all about rebirth (it’s not a coincidence that Easter is a spring holiday).
Today’s exercise is to write about the rebirth that comes with spring. What you write should, ideally, be set in spring. It should also include a first hint of rebirth–not only the possibility that things won’t get any worse–but the idea that it’s going to get better. It’s about the first hint that your character’s gonna make it.
And, of course, there’s the FWA Collection (First Steps). For more information, click here.
Time limit: 30 minutes
Can new visitors to your website tell within a few seconds what it’s all about? If not, and if you can’t attract their attention immediately, they’re bound to be gone in a quick click. Use your site’s sidebar as a place for key content that will help visitors learn about you and take important actions easily.
- Short bio. If you check your stats, you will probably see that your “About” page is the most visited page on your site. People want to know who you are. In the sidebar, give them a brief intro along with your photo and a link to your full info.
- Mailing list signup. Email is still the most effective way to reach your fans and potential bookbuyers. Social media sites are in control of how you’re being seen by your followers, and they’re looking out for their own interests, not yours. Facebook is clearly reducing the number of posts that are seen in an effort to encourage marketers to buy promoted posts (ads). Don’t rely solely on social media to communicate with your audience. It’s crucial that you build and mail to your own contact list.
- Your book cover. Include the image along with a great book review snippet or two and a buy and/or a more information link that leads them to another page with full information deeper in your site. Your books are the reason you’ve created the site, right? Don’t hide your goodies.
Put your social media follow buttons at the bottom of your sidebar. It is more important to build your contact list, sell your books, and have visitors learn about you, than it is to increase the number of social media followers.
And here are some items that probably shouldn’t appear on in your sidebar. When is the last time you clicked on a blogroll, recent post or recent comments listings, a tag cloud, or calendar archive of posts on someone’s site? I thought so. It’s not likely that many people will click on yours, either. Often they appear in the default version of a site’s template, and people don’t think to remove them.
Keep your website’s sidebar lean. Don’t clutter it with boring text lists. The more choices you offer for links to click on, the less likely visitors will take any action at all. Feature what’s most important for your visitors to know and what’s most important for them to act upon.
And please, let there be white space.
Mary Ann de Stefano is the editor of The Florida Writer, the official magazine of the Florida Writers Association. She is also a writer, editor, and organizer of writing workshops with 30+ years experience in publishing and writing consulting. Besides working one-on-one with writers who are developing books, she designs author websites and advises on e-marketing. Mary Ann does business at MAD about Words, named as a play on her initials and love for writing.
It’s a hard truth, but it’s even more true when you’re talking about social media. While it seems like a huge waste of time that takes away from your writing, there are some benefits to social media. I know people who met their agents there. A Facebook friend was my connection to my publisher. I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends who have been a huge source of support, information, and laughs that make getting through a tough round of edits that much more enjoyable.
But what happens when the rug is pulled out from under you?
Recently, there’s been a lot of buzz about Facebook and its ever-changing algorithms. People with pages that were hopping are suddenly lucky if they get even a couple dozen people to see what they’ve written. That’s when it’s time to adapt. How have I been handling these changes? There are several ways.
- Stats are key. With all issues and complaints, there is one good thing that changed on pages. We now have the ability to track the performance of each post. For a long time, my most-seen posts were text statuses. Now, some pictures I’ve shared are getting more action. The point is to see what is working for your page and strive to produce more of that type of post, whether it be text, photo, or links. If you see things are starting to stagnate, change it up some and try a different type of post.
- Groups are your friend. This is a tricky one. A lot of Facebook groups are great, and I’ve been lucky to find many with active bases who post great topics. Other groups are little more than collections of “buy my book” posts. The latter will not help you much, so be sure to carefully vet any group you are thinking of joining to make sure there is actual discussion and interaction. Through these groups, I have been introduced to great online workshops and free content relevant to my interests, people to guest blog for, and, most importantly, great friends. Don’t t just go to writing groups or groups for readers… what other topics are you passionate about? What is the subject matter of your books? What are you favorite non-writing hobbies? These are great questions to ask when deciding what groups to join.
- Branch out. I know, I know…. Google Plus is hard to keep up with at times and it’s difficult to remember to post. Still, remember that saying about putting all your eggs in one basket. The more active you are on Google Plus, the more you will rank in search results and who doesn’t want greater visibility? Don’t forget Twitter, Pintrest, and others.
- Utilize lists and Hootsuite. Another author I met through social media, Rachel Thompson, introduced me to the concept of making twitter lists and using the free service hootsuite to schedule social media posts. Basically, you find your favorite tweeters (aka-the ones who actually post more than book links) and put them in lists to make your twitter feed more manageable. Through hootsuite, it is possible to set up several days worth of posts and replies to others in a short amount of time. I personally was able to do so in an hour or less for all the accounts I manage.
By using these tips, you will be able to expand your platform, meet great new people, and worry less about any changes that may happen on any one network. Are you using any of these tips already? Are there any questions you have about these I can help with? Comment, and they shall be answered. Until next time!
I read a story recently about a CNN anchor named Zain Verjee who suffered from psoriasis. From the neck up, she was a vision, but the rest of her body was riddled with what she calls “fish-like scales, tiny red islands floating on the surface of my skin.” She developed them when she was eight, and has only recently been able to overcome them, primarily through a tightly controlled diet.
She spoke of dressing in the dark, and the fight she constantly fought with the rest of her body, of the shame that existed under her clothes, of the massive battles of self-doubt she fought as she wondered who would ever want her like that.
Today’s writing exercise is not an attempt to trivialize the condition that Ms. Verjee struggled with (and millions of others continue to struggle with). But as we write characters with problems, one of the things we have to do is portray these problems realistically, starting with the emotional effect they have on the people who suffer from them.
Your exercise today is to write a character dealing with a problem similar to Ms. Verjee’s. It could be psoriasis or any other condition or struggle that brings private shame. The scene should be about their individual struggle. It could be a public event, like when someone asked Ms. Verjee to leave a public pool, or a private event, like going on a date and pushing him or her away because of what’s under the clothes.
To help, here’s the link to the CNN article. Some of the comments may be useful, too.
Time limit: Because there’s reading involved, 60 minutes.
Good morning! Peggy Miller has sent another prompt that will hopefully get the pen moving (or keys tapping). Enjoy and please feel free to share with us if this moved your muse.
We all carry maps and memories in our heads from childhood, and our dreams might even contain rooms, sometimes jumbled, from our childhood homes. Write a poem about one room in your childhood that you remember well. What do you remember of the room? You may imagine or remember something happening there. Keep your poem short, 15 lines or less, and focus on a single image and the mood it evokes.
About Peggy: Peggy Miller is a poet. She has an MFA in creative writing from American University. She serves as one of the editors of the Comstock Review, a longstanding poetry journal. Peggy leads poetry workshops. Her books include What the Blood Knows and Stone Being. A new book, The Science of Silence, is forthcoming through FootHills Publishing. Peggy was a research assistant working in biochemistry for the USDA. Her poetry is often inspired by the sciences, the fascination evoked thereof,the transcendent spirit in everyday lives.
By Joanne Lewis
WHEN: MARCH 29, 2014, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
WHERE: SHERATON SUITES, 311 NORTH UNIVERSITY DRIVE,
I am so excited. Finally, South Florida—with its bevy of famous authors (Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Michael Connelly, Carl Hiaasen, to name only a few) and multitude of somewhat less famous authors (all the rest of us!)—is getting it’s own FWA mini conference.
We’re calling it:
SPRING BOARD: WRITER’S HELPING WRITERS REACH NEW HEIGHTS
The conference will be divided into three tracks. They are:
1. Writers Helping Writers
2. Independent Publishing
3. The Mechanics of Writing
In the upcoming weeks, I will be posting about the different tracks, presenters, the presentations and more. The cost is $69 for FWA members and $89 if you’re not a member. It includes a continental breakfast, lunch and snacks. And just like the big conference in Lake Mary each year, there will be agents and publishers available if you want to set appointments.
Writers helping Writers, indeed. Together, the sky is the limit!
Joanne Lewis is a devoted FWA member and the author of murder mysteries and historical novels. She is also a writing and publishing coach. Visit her website and email her at email@example.com.