Monthly Archives: May 2010

Lonely Goth Hearts: 5 Minute Writing Challenge

writing challenges

Here’s your 5 minute writing challenge, a little earlier this week because I’m not in the mood for blogging. But it should keep you busy for a nano-second and give others a laugh.

What I’d like is for you to write a lonely hearts ad for your monster. It can be a well-known fiend or one you have created.  Here’s my less than subtle attempt (I bet you can’t guess who???) to give you an idea:


Pointy toothed loner seeks true love.
Me: Well-read night lover, favourite colour red.
You: Virgin looking to explore eternity
Must be willing to relocate.

As usual, write your attempts directly into the comments section. If it’s one of your own characters, please feel free to put a link to where readers can find out more.

Now, GET WRITING!!!!

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How to write a blog that gets people rushing to your site

write a blogI get around 70-100 hits a day on my blog, mostly through Twitter. And to be honest, if I didn’t have my magic iPhone then I probably wouldn’t Twitter half as much as I do.

I wrote a blog yesterday on the character traits of authors. I then sent out a message on twitter. By the end of the day there had been 323 hits on the page. It shook me out of my normal slumber and begs the question, why that blog entry?

Why was it so popular? How do you write a blog that gets people rushing to your site?

Within a couple of hours of it going up there were 10 comments posted. So the entry obviously struck a chord. It was intended to be slightly contentious, humorous, nothing really special (or so I thought). I didn’t really put much thought into it, I just needed to get something up on the site re: the first rule of blogging – put up regular posts.

Had I unwittingly stumbled on the right formula for a successful blog?

Of course, the main reason for the success was not that I had written a brilliant article or put up some ideas that would change the face of writing forever. It was that certain key twitter users liked it enough to recommend it to their followers.

And that’s the point.

I had a gander at the people who had retweeted me and there were a couple of key ones with around 3,000 to 4,000 followers. The truth was that my blog had unwittingly fallen into their category of the kind of thing they recommend to other users.

And that’s why my hit count shot up so much.

Which got me thinking about why people retweet. It’s that word of mouth thing – what spreads and what doesn’t depends on the kind of people you’re talking to, or twittering to. And people will retweet for a variety of reasons:

  • Because you’re a friend of theirs or part of a community
  • Because you’ve retweeted them in the past
  • Because they like what you’re saying and think their followers will like it too
  • Because it’s funny/interesting/new/contentious

Part of the reason why I run this blog is to experiment – find out what works so I can use it in the future to sell my novels. I’ve concentrated so far on Twitter to help me build up a following that feeds into my blog because, at first glance, it ticks all the boxes for me. It seems more interactive and more user friendly than, say, Facebook. You get more of a sense of community and, more importantly, you can pick and choose the people that you want to have a deeper interaction with. It’s a valuable tool.

The question is this: How do you use social networking intelligently?

I think the bedrock of any social networking device is to use it with a sense of community. I’m a writer and I want to communicate with other writers – it helps me remain focussed on the job at hand and gives me positive feedback that feeds my writer’s ego. I hope that, in return, I can provide that same service for those within my community (despite what I said in the last blog).

But there is also the need to use the blog and twitter to sell my wares. At several points, this desire conflicts with that idea of being part of a community, mainly because it’s a selfish thing. I want to sell. I want you to buy. But I also want you to be my friend.

As writers I think this is the balancing act we have to be most aware of. I should not be selling myself at the expense of my bedrock notion that I am part of a valuable community who deserve good and useful content.

That means I would never dream of signing up to affiliate programs that DM horoscopes or the latest iPod bargain. First of all, I wouldn’t earn any money out of it, and secondly, I think it would annoy the hell out of my followers. Besides, you can bet your house that if I turn into a demon salesman then people will start pressing that old unfollow button pretty quickly.

So here’s my plan for good blogging and networking for writers:

  • Support writers in their struggle, take the time to read their stuff and comment on it (positively). In other words, take part in your community.
  • Write interesting and regular blogs that get people involved – it’s no surprise that my most successful blogs are the 5 minute writing challenges and the one’s where I offer a “contentious” opinion. They invite readers to take part.
  • Retweet the good stuff and find out what the top retweeters are passing on to their followers – then put some of that in your blog.

So, as usual, now it’s your turn.

What methods have you used that have proved more successful than others and how do you find the balance between what you want to achieve and what your readers want to read? Let me know in the comments section below.

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9 unsavoury character traits of real authors

character traitsFirst of all, let’s clear one thing up: You’re mad.

There are already millions of books out there, pre-prepared for just for you in a bunch of different genres. And what do you want to do? You want to go and write one of your own.

What makes you think the world needs another novel about vampires struggling with puberty and their own blood lust? Why should we listen to your tragic tale of the Mafia boss who only wants to be loved but keeps the mummified heads of all his victims in the closet?

Since the rise of the internet, it’s become apparent that the world is full of wannabe writers. Every other person and his/her disaffected, half-wit offspring has a blog declaring their writing in big, bold HTML.

And every one…every last one of you feckers is mad as Norman Bates. Here are some of your more endearing character traits:

  • Writers are delusional. You want someone to read your endless rants and so you write them down. Sometimes, someone who is equally delusional will agree with you or laud you and this reinforces your writing behaviour, making you pick up your pen and write even more. It’s all a self-perpetuating lie – a slow, painful spiral into the dark pit of despond – and you don’t care. Because your head is wired up wrong.
  • Writers hate the real world. You hate the drudge and banality of it all. The way the seconds slowly tick by towards an empty and meaningless death without so much as knight in shining armour to make it seem worthwhile. It makes sense to create your own world and live in it. Nut jobs do it all the time, so why shouldn’t you? Except that it’s not real. It’s just you daydreaming out onto paper and it doesn’t change that dumb world you live in one iota.
  • No one understands writers except other writers. And other writers are far too selfish to be really interested in your work. We are self-obsessed creatures at best. And the rest of the world doesn’t care much either. People might be initially impressed that you write but watch their eyes glaze over when you start talking about your beloved work – you get the same effect when you pull out your holiday snaps at work.
  • Writers hate criticism. You hate constructive criticism even more. It stabs you. It gouges a bloody wound in your heart. As a writer you believe you have been born whole and with a purpose into this world, armed with perfect penmanship and a few neat ideas. How could anyone think that your work was faulty in some way?
  • Writers love the shiny-shiny things. You are easily distracted, let’s face it. Ohh! What’s that over there? The big wide world is forever trying to drag you away from your computer and sometimes you are too powerless to resist. This comes from that nugget of self-doubt deep in your writer’s soul, the one that reveals who you really are. That’s why you find it so painful to look at the empty page and why that thing over there by the window is such an easy distraction.
  • Writers are bipolar. One minute you’ll be buzzing and the next you’ll be staring at the bread knife with a self-indulgent fit of depression, thinking hideous things and tearing at your hemp t-shirt with “you don’t have to be mad to be a writer but it helps” emblazoned across your back.
  • Writers have over-inflated egos. Some of you keep up the pretence that you are mellow beings, altruistic to the core. But it’s all a lie. Only a consummate egoist would think their words were vital to the future and well-being of mankind and the planet.
  • Writers hate the successes of other writers. It’s true. You think: But…but that should have been me!!!! You put on that fixed smile and type a congratulatory post, but you are burning inside (see 4 above).

All of this goes to prove one thing. That maybe I shouldn’t drink red wine and write in the afternoon. Maybe I should get on with my novella and get it finished and stop making the lists of things that I think are wrong with me. Maybe I should shout my writey-ness (obviously made up word) from the top of the nearest mountain, declare it to the unwitting world. And maybe I should just shut the hell up.

Self-doubt is a terrible thing…

So, what’s your worst writing characteristic? The one you hide from everyone. Let us know in the comments section below.

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Music to get the creative writing juices flowing

creative writingI’ve been shying away from the PC recently. Sure, I’ve been thinking about writing, you know, making up those neat little scenes in my head, putting together an imaginary ten point plan to fame and success, even scribbling down a few notes about scenes and stuff.

But as for actual head-down time, these last couple of days? It sucks. Maybe it has something to do with this mini-heatwave Manchester is experiencing…Or I’ve just got an attack of the lazies.

But all is not lost, dear reader.

I rushed to my ‘puter this morning, got my bacon sandwiches (sorry all you veggies out there) and my cup of tea and I’m raring to go.

But wait, I can’t eat and type at the same time….

May the Lord deliver me from procrastination…I know what I need, some music to set my mood, to get those fingers clicking on the keys. Something that blasts away the cobwebs and gets me in the literary groove.

That gets me to thinking what people use music-wise to get the creative writing done. Here’s something like the list I would choose:

  1. Ain’t no grave by Johnny Cash
  2. Back to black by Amy Whitehouse
  3. Back in black by AC/DC (see what I did there!!)
  4. Black dog by Led Zeppelin (yes, it’s coincidence)
  5. For a few dollars more theme by Ennio Morricone (for when I reach those writing blocks)
  6. Nostalgia by Emily Barker
  7. Maxine by Traveling Wilburys
  8. Child in time by Deep Purple
  9. Wish you were here by Pink Floyd
  10. Dog days are over by Florence and the Machine

But then I asked the question on Twitter and @VariantVal suggested Momento Mori by Flyleaf…so that’s my ‘thang’ for the day as I forge onwards with a target to finish the first draft of The TOWER (see I procrastinated enough to play around with a cover design as you can see above). I’ll make another cup of tea first, get myself settled…mmmm what’s that over there.

Anyway, all this got me wondering what YOU listen to when you’re writing, or what kind of music gets you in the ‘zone’. Let me know, as usual, in the comments section below…

Damn, now someone’s drilling – how in hell is a genius supposed to concentrate round here!!!

UPDATE: Just to let you know, I got through 10,000 words yesterday…so HAH! to procrastination…

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Does Freelance Writing Pay? By Monica Marier

freelance writing

“What’s it pay?”

I cringe every time someone asks me this. I’ve been doing freelance writing for over three months now and it’s a lot like an elementary experiment in stone-age economy. There’s a different currency on the internet and sadly, it’s not recognized by Tesco. Online the currency is “promotion”.

I do “The Fat Diaries” column and comic on obesity for a prestigious online newsletter whose meager profit margin comes from donations and their vanity shirt store. They don’t make money, they get publicly lauded by celebrities and politicians (like Stephen Colbert). Their goal is to post their ideas and get people to listen to them. So needless to say, they don’t pay me and they aren’t alone in this.

More and more these days the web is becoming a media phenomenon that has 10 times the power and capability of the nineties internet bubble, but with only a fraction of its net profit. Guest writers and regular writers get paid in pennies or not at all. Even the most accomplished of journalists are forced to host giveaways and all of them have that gaudy yellow paypal button.

So the big question is if there’s no money, WHY DO IT? This of course brings us back to my first statement about currency. It’s for the promotion.

My bosses aren’t paying me a cent, but they’ve promised to promote my book that’s coming out this fall. Other sites I’ve written for host links to my webcomics and blog. My publishers promote my site, and their authors promote me, while I in turn promote them.

It all seems middling sometimes, but each fan, each pre-order, each site that tells everyone that “Monica Marier is a great author/artist/person and you should buy her book/read her comic/give her money” is advertising I didn’t have to buy! It’s the old “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” bit, warts and all.

I do have my dark days where I toss my hands up, pull at my hair and moan, “what’s it all about?”

That’s when I step away from the computer and go for a walk, or play with my kids or do anything other than write. Eventually the need will seize me, or the deadline will remind me that people are counting on me, and I get to work again. This is a job. A REAL job, even if I’m not being paid physical money right now.

And I’m so lucky that I get to do the job I love, even if occasionally it drives me bonkers.

It’s not easy, as I’m sure you all know, but hell, if I was going to pick an easy life, I’d have gotten a job folding shirts at the GAP store.

Monica Marier is a caffeinated stay-at-home mother of two. She writes and draws 3 comics for Tangent Artists and writes “The Fat Diaries” a weekly comic/article on Obesity in America for FrumForum. Her first published novel “Must Love Dragons,” a Fantasy comedy, is being published this fall by Hunt Press. Monica lives in Washington D.C. with her husband Joe.

You can follow Monica on twitter @lil_monmon and her visit her blog.

Do you have experience of freelancing? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Hard copy books: Exit stage left

hard copy booksImagine it’s 30 years from now.

A mother is with her son in the Apple-Holographic-Museum-Of-Almost-Everything-That-Did-Exist-One-Time-Or-Another. The bratty little tyke is walking round a display, scratching his pimply head.

“What is it Ma?”

“Says here, it’s a book, son.”

“What’s a book, Ma?”

“Well, people used to read them, like turn the pages and stuff.”

“Turn pages?”

“With their fingers.”

And then they fall about laughing a bit like the Smash aliens (remember them?) until they go onto the next exhibit which is an exercise bike and a stuffed penguin. Whether you like it or not, this is the final resting place of the book.

I hear you scream. Yes, I do. From the confines of my ivory tower, I hear and feel your pain.

So, all you hard copy book lovers, here’s the kick in the teeth and the proof. Bookshops are ALREADY beginning to disappear and soon they will be no more. It’s true. The time is fast approaching when you will be unable to visit your favourite bookshop and browse for hours on end before leaving with your precious copy of the latest Bill Patterson.

Their time has come and we should wave bookshops goodbye with a tear in our eyes and try to retain some of our dignity.

So where does that leave books themselves? I don’t mean books in that sense, I mean the physical entity with its pretty cover and nicely printed pages? You know, those things that fill your BOOKcase. The hardcopy.

Well, they’re going too.

The rise of the electronic book

I know some of you are scoffing already. You, the ones who sit in front of the fire with your trusty copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. Yes you. Don’t scoff. Think on this future possibility:

  • Bookshops have gone. Nowhere left to spend your rainy lunchtimes
  • Places like Amazon are the only place you can browse for and buy books and you have to do it online
  • It costs money to store and send these weighty tomes
  • Amazon and other companies think it would be pretty neat if we could have the book at home already (eg, Kindle, iPad) and then they could just send the damn thing over to you for half the cost via the digital superhighway

They are going to decide that we no longer need physical books. And publishers will see the outlay to produce real books as an unnecessary expense. Don’t believe me? Think people will be resistant to electronic books?

Don’t be too sure.

Think of all the trees you could save.

There are a couple of things that will finally signal the death knell of the physical book and that is the price of readers coming down and the agreement of a set format (ah, bring back the days of BETAMAX). Both of these things will, eventually, come to pass.

Once these issues are behind us, the hardcopy book will be at the point of no return. Unless the digital world crashes and, you have to admit, that’s as likely as a worldwide banking crisis, the end is, most definitely, nigh.

But don’t mourn the demise of the real book. It opens up a strange new world for us authors, and while it will take a little getting used to, will provide us with brand new opportunities to have our voices heard.

We just won’t be sitting at a book signing in Waterstone’s.

And in 30 years time we may be sat toothlessly grinning at our grandchildren and boring them about how we used to carry around big wads of paper with stories on them.

And what’s inside is going to change too

The rule is that if a thing is around long enough, sooner or later it’s going to become extinct. And this, my friends, is the case for the content of the book too. It’s about to be hammered into extinction and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Your screams grow louder…Nooooooo!!!

But Apple are already talking about embedding extras in electronic novels – you know the kind of thing, videos, voice-overs…I kid you not. The novel format will change and that’s pretty scary. Because once you start messing with the old formula, sooner or later you’re going to end up with something totally different.

A novel that suddenly breaks into song? Writing that links to additional background information about the characters? Interactive forums that decide the outcome of the book? Advertising embedded in the text?

Just as we are all beginning to believe that we have a chance – that the high ground has been wrestled away from the demagogic publishers and agents – the rules are about to change.

You will need a brave heart.

Change is happening quickly. There is another seismic shift on the way. You can resist for a while, but there’s nothing you can really do to stop it. You will need to be adaptable. You will need to keep your eyes on things.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll come out the other side and blink at this brave new world and come to believe that it is good.

So what’s your take on the creative revolution? Is it going to change anything? Does it scare you? Excite you? Let the world know in the usual way. Go to town on the comments section below.

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Ziggy’s Horror Haiku Challenge

haikuOkay, so here’s your 5 minute challenge for the week. Let’s all produce a bit of Haiku. For those who don’t know what that is:

A Japanese lyric verse form having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables.

Now, I don’t want to be too prescriptive, so let’s say your little poem should have no more than three lines and 13 words AT MOST and should instill a horror emotion such as fear, terror or despair…yes, I can feel all you haiku aficionados turning in your very tiny coffins…please don’t take too much offense.

Here’s my very quick effort:

Endless corridor
Dark scream spears heart
Follow blood trail

Okay, what are you waiting for. As usual, post your scary poems in the comments section. Good luck!!!

BRILLIANT efforts so far!

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Giving it away by Jonathan Pinnock

jonathon pinnock

First of all, many thanks to Ziggy for inviting me in to talk about a subject that is currently very dear to me: why should an author give their work away? It’s a fair question and one that’s been on my mind for the last six months, for reasons that will soon become clear. However, the more I think about it, the more it becomes clear to me that the question is posed the wrong way around. Why on earth shouldn’t an author give their work away?

Let me tell you what’s changed my mind.

A year or so ago I was faced with a dilemma. I was writing – or rather trying to write – a book called “Mrs Darcy vs The Aliens”. The high concept behind the book was gloriously simple: a sequel to “Pride and Prejudice” with added aliens. Well, what’s not to love? I’d even got an agent interested in it.

The only problem was that just as I was getting started, a juggernaut moved into the space that I was attempting to mark out as my own: a bloody great juggernaut laden with zombies. Almost overnight, the “Mrs Darcy” concept went from being a brave, marginal venture into cross-genre fiction to an apparent exercise in bandwagon-jumping. There was a brief nanosecond somewhere in the middle where it was bang on the zeitgeist, but I hadn’t written enough of it at that point to capitalise on the opportunity, of course. I almost gave up writing the thing, much to the despair of said agent.

But I struggled on and it came to the point where I was actually beginning to enjoy it. It was starting to take on a life of its own, and I was beginning to have more ideas than I could actually cram into a single book. Believe me, I had never experienced anything like this before. I can do short fiction, but when it comes to novels I usually get to a chapter and a bit and then pack it in. This was completely unprecedented. I desperately wanted to get people to read this. So what was I to do?

Some time around November last year I had an epiphany. I think what happened was that all those pieces that Cory Doctorow had been writing in BoingBoing about his approach to marketing his work had somehow percolated through to my conscious brain. I decided to serialise my book for free, on its own dedicated blog. The thinking behind this was simple. If I could somehow use the serialisation to build up an audience who could see for themselves that it was something a bit different, I could use that as a lever to help my agent get me a proper book deal.

I now wish I’d done this a whole lot earlier. Let’s consider what I’ve achieved.

First of all, I have indeed built up a substantial audience of regular readers. Of course, you’ll say that it’s because it’s free. However, I’m willing to bet that a considerable percentage of the regular readership will have made a sufficient emotional investment in the serial that they will want to buy a physical token of it if such a thing ever gets published. Not only that, but they’ll buy copies for their friends and they’ll also be the ones who will be first to write reviews on Amazon.

Secondly, it has been the most wonderful way of motivating myself to carry on writing. For one thing, it’s fantastic to get feedback from complete strangers. I also have a schedule to keep up (one 600-700 word episode every Wednesday and Saturday) and I haven’t missed one yet. I’ve come close, although the curious thing is that some of the episodes that I’ve scribbled in desperation at midnight on a Tuesday or Friday have turned out to be amongst the best.

Thirdly, I have learnt a phenomenal amount about marketing. It’s not enough to give something away, if it’s something that involves an investment of time by the person you’re giving it away to. You still have to sell it even if it’s free.

When I started publishing “Mrs Darcy”, I already had a reasonably well-read blog and a Twitter account with (at the time) a couple of hundred followers. I was also active on several writers’ forums, such as The Write Idea, Café Doom and Slingink. This gave “Mrs Darcy” her initial footprint, but I needed to build on this.

Before I started publishing, I set up a separate Twitter account called RealMrsDarcy (MrsDarcy had already gone, but I kind of think that RealMrsDarcy has more of a celeb feel to it anyway), and used that to hunt down anyone who looked as if they might be a Jane Austen fan. (The thing that I didn’t do until much later on was to set up a Facebook page for her. This was a mistake, because I’ve had a whole new set of readers appear since then via Facebook who are completely unknown to me.)

I also did the rounds of various steampunk sites as well as Jane Austen fan sites. I had mixed reactions from the latter at first, for reasons that I can entirely understand. If it suddenly turns out to be open season for any clumsy idiot to wander in and trample over the legacy that you hold dear, you can be forgiven for not welcoming them with open arms. However, I did manage to break down the barriers eventually by putting together a couple of YouTube trailers that have been a fantastic tool for spreading the word. This is also the kind of thing that people will remember if and when the dead tree version comes out, and it will make the marketing task for that so much simpler.

So what’s the downside? Have I lost any potential future sales? Almost certainly not. Have any publishers turned the book down because it’s being serialised for free? Definitely not. What else could go wrong? The only possible thing that I can think of is that someone will steal my work. But hold on a minute. Is anyone really going to manage to publish a book now with remotely similar content, when most of the key players in the target communities already know about this one? I’ve established ownership by putting it out there.

As I said before, I really do wish I’d done this earlier. The whole experience has been 100% positive for me and I would recommend it to anyone. Oh, and by the way, did I mention that the book’s called “Mrs Darcy vs The Aliens”? It’s forty-odd episodes in, but you can still catch up without too much difficulty. It really is the most fun you can have with a bonnet on.

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Writing horror is punk rock by R. Van Saint

writing horrorR. Van Saint is a New Yorker living in Austin, TX. She writes dark/sci-fi/weird/pulp fiction. An avid blogger. A new media nerd. Soon to be podcaster.

I’m learning that writing horror is pretty damn punk rock.

Chances are you have a favorite black t-shirt. Something with a band logo perhaps. Or maybe it’s just a plain black shirt. You’ve probably worn this shirt beyond it’s expiration date. It’s probably looking ultra grungy at this point, has a weird smell, with parts of it fraying and possibly random holes where there shouldn’t be any.

Where am I going with this? Well, surely you have an old paperback from your favorite author. Something you bought back when you were 12 because it’s cheaper than a hardcover. You carried it around on the bus, the train, tossed it in your backpack. It’s filled with dog-eared pages and the spine has more wrinkles than your grandma.

Now you’re a little older and you write your own stories. That’s freaking awesome.

As a writer you need to instill in yourself (if you don’t already possess it) that punk rock DIY work ethic.

It’s one thing to write the story. But it’s another thing to spread the word about it.

Design and distribute fliers/covers or have a pal do it for you.

Tell people why your words are worth their time.

Of course these days our fliers are in the form of Tweets, Facebook announcements, blog posts, e-mail lists, podcasts, etc.

Same idea, different method of delivery.

Old school punk rock music is pretty fast, straight forward, raw, and loud.

So should your marketing campaign as a writer. Most folks are very busy and have the attention span of inebriated gnats. So whatever it is you’re trying to say, you better be concise, and make an impact. Less is more usually. And, no it’s not always about you. It’s about putting out the best work you can and entertaining people with your tales.

The punk rock community is pretty close-knit.

As someone who is trying to build an audience, you should make an effort to surround yourself with like-minded people and reach out to those who may be interested in reading your stories and supporting you in your endeavors. This is easier said than done. Just be yourself, be genuine, and don’t be an ass-hat.

The punk rock culture has always been synonymous to the non-conformist image.
As a writer, you should be willing to try new ideas out even when nobody else seems to be doing it. Be a trail blazer, start something different. Experiment – to see what works and what doesn’t. Then adjust your game plan according to the results.

Punk rock is in your face.

Writers of horror, be bold. Get your work out there. Give some away for free. Publish it yourself if you want. Don’t make excuses. Don’t hold back and second-guess yourself. I know people who are stuck in perpetual revision stage; “It’s not done yet, I have to work on it some more…” After the umpteenth revision you either write or get off the pot.

So get off your asses and do something. Make some noise and leave your mark. And don’t forget to wear your favorite black t-shirt.

Wanna know more? Follow her adventures and experiments at www.zerotorockstar.com
Don’t forget to join The Hooligans.
Twitter: www.twitter.com/zerotorockstar

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How to win friends and influence people – 10 tips for online authors

online authorsOnline authors: Be selective about the work you put out there. Don’t just give your audience any old crap and hope they’ll be impressed (even if you ARE the greatest writer of all time). A few good stories are better than a hundred drunkenly forged entries.

Don’t be a me-me-ME kind of guy/gal. Most social media is about INTERRACTION. If you’re going out into the big, bad world of Twitter or Facebook or any of the available networks, you are going to have to converse with people. It’s not just about you. You’ll have to demonstrate a hefty level of altruism to get on. That means making REAL friends.

Build your following/fans SLOWLY. Don’t rush to follow or join other people’s networks just for the sake of numbers. Join the right people. Communicate with the right people. Take some time to think about who they are. You’ll have a lot more fun and feel a lot less isolated.

Be nice. Even if someone has a go at you or says something nasty – be nice. It pays in the long run. You are, in effect, on public display. You can always block or ignore bad people. Don’t be too critical of other people’s work in public – try to be supportive and find good things to say. IT PAYS TO BE NICE.

Leave comments (again, good ones) on other people’s sites. Read their stuff properly, don’t just scan it. If you’re not interested in them, how can you expect them to be interested in you? Invite people to do guest blogs on your site, write guest blogs for other sites also. Don’t be afraid to promote their stuff at the expense of your own.

Make your blog as interactive as possible – don’t just talk AT people, get them involved. Raise questions, have competitions, be creative about it. Your comments section (and you should all have one) should be longer than your actual post.

Use something like Google Analytics to check the popularity of your web page. It’s easy to install and lets you monitor how many visitors you have, how long they stay, which pages are popular and where those visitors come from.

Post often and well. If you’re blogging that means at least a couple of entries a week. If you’re tweeting, at least 4 or 5 a day. Keep lists of things to put out there and try not to say anything banal or worthless (e.g., I’m just having a cup of tea or I’m just at the supermarket). Being STATIC will kill your chances of networking effectively.

Be selective on the social networks you use – don’t jump onto every band wagon. Just because it’s out there doesn’t mean you have to use it. It’s useful to settle on two or three areas and develop those, get to know them and build your network before expanding (remember, you only have a limited amount of time in your life to network).

Don’t over-sell. Okay, so you want to get people to buy your book or read your stuff. That doesn’t mean you have to force it down their throats. Subtlety is a virtue (despite what SM experts will tell you). Remember, they can choose to ignore you as well if you start to look like a crazy spammer.

What are your best tips for developing your social network and selling your goods? Let me know in the comments section below.