COM0015 – Blog #4 Out of the Box

It’s so easy to get comfortable in our little box. It’s the perfect size, we’re familiar with it’s limits and can move around in it with very little difficulty. It fits us and best of all it’s safe. Boxes can be both comforting and exceptionally debilitating.

Because while we are safe in our little box, there is a universe of bigger boxes and smaller boxes and transparent boxes just waiting to be discovered. Inside one of those boxes might be the answer13697927_alt02 to the question we’re looking for, or better yet, it holds the audience we’ve been looking for who. The audience who’s been waiting for exactly what we have to offer.

There is nothing scarier then trying to jump into a new box and learn the rules. Really the best we can do is try to keep our hands and feet in as many boxes as possible, like a twister board.

I’m very comfortable with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but I’m always looking for something new. Recently, I found Litsy.

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It’s designed as a mobile app rather than a website. According to their page its…

Litsy is a place to share and discover your favorite books with your favorite people.

The Litsy community is a groundswell of passionate readers, authors, celebrities, and more. Share bookish moments with Quotes, Reviews, and Blurbs. Measure Litfluence to discover your “bookprint” in the world. Explore recommendations from readers, not algorithms.

Oh yeah, want to organize your reading list? Our app has stacks for that, too.

It’s fun.  It’s simple.  It’s all about the book. Sign up and get a little Litsy.

Authors can contact Litsy and have their accounts validated as real authors and books can be linked to them. I find it like a combination of Instagram and twitter and a knitting site called Ravelry.

The drawback right now is it’s small because it’s only launched a few months ago but it’s growing. I’m still learning how to navigate the app and how it works for me. But so far, I really enjoy it. I’m looking forward to seeing how they grow and discovering what connections I can make through this unique app.

 

 

 

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COM0015- Blog Post #3 – Professional Networking Now and in the Future

Networking as an author is vital. It’s an ongoing, never ending task that can mean all the difference in the world. The most difficult aspect is that the vast majority of authors are complete introverts that spend most of their time behind a computer writing or with their nose in a book reading. Two tasks that are not conductive to reac13267798_476584559204667_8165996869769485884_nhing out to meet people and promoting their books.

So how do we do it?

Being active on social media sites like Facebook and Litsy is a great start, especially for introverted personalities. It’s always easier to talk to strangers in an organized Face book chats/events from behind your computer screen. Also there is the added bonus of being able to stay in your t-shirt, leggings and brushing your hair is completely optional. Trust me, for an author, this type of comfortable uniform is vital.

While online events can be effective there are days you have to break out the hairbrush, do some laundry and venture out into the public eye. Because the best way to network and meet people is still face to face.

This is where Book Signings and Book Conventions come in. My personal favourite is RTC. Romancing the Capital in Ottawa, Ontario. It’s a three day event which allows a lot of meet and greet between authors and readers but also there’s lots of time for authors to meet each other and network. I’ve been fortunate to be included an a few projects which were directly the result of getting to know my fellow word wizards at book conventions.

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Saturday Booksigning in the ballroom

One of the best networking opportunities is being a part of a panel. This is something that allows a smaller group of people the chance to ask questions of authors and get a chance to know them better. I was part of the LGBTQ author panel at RTC last year with Elizabeth Lister and ‘Nathan Burgoine. Two authors I highly respect, and I love their writing.

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LGBTQ panel with Elizabeth Lister, Me and ‘Nathan Burgoine

It looks like there will be a new convention in Toronto next October called Kalicon. While there are lots of events in the US, Canada is really under-serviced in this aspect and I’m really hoping we have more events crop up. So far events like this are what I’ve found to be the most effective way to network in my industry.

 

 

COM0015 – Strong & Weak Organizations

I’m going to discuss a couple of case studies with this post. First off a couple of what I feel are strong social media presences and then one that needs help.

Dove

Has anyone not seen this video? (If you haven’t then you need to watch it!) A few years ago Dove exploded onto the social media scene with this short film “Evolution”.

Drawing massive attention and views, (the original post has over 18 million views.) Since then they have created dozens of videos all focused on empowering people to love themselves and their bodies. Their tweets and facebook posts are retweeted and shared constantly. Their YouTube channel has thousands of comments. Even their website focuses on their media stories before showing your their product line. They’ve built a platform around caring about people first and sales second.

Charmin

Decades beforemr-whipplee the term “media presence” arrived Charmin had one of the strongest marketing platforms. While millennials may not have any idea where “Don’t squeeze the Charmin.” came from, I vividly remember Mr Whipple and his commercials from my childhood. Even now in my 40’s when I see their product, that tag line still goes through my head.

Nowadays, Charmin is continuing to claim a lot of attention with their TP wielding bears living in the woods and their cute twitter polls and tweets. They’ve encouraged communication with hashtags like #TweetFromTheSeat and #EnjoyTheGo Focusing on families instead of the “women of the house” they have evolved with the times and are building a platform around trust and longevity.

One organization I feel need to adopt a stronger social media strategy is

Autism Ontario404793_334359653266544_1908464792_n

This organization is near and dear to my heart as my daughter is on the spectrum. I would love to see Autism Ontario be the place that tho
selearning could go for information but their platform just isn’t strong enough.

You can almost hear the crickets on their Twitter page. The most interesting posts seem to be from people who have tagged them. There are dozens of retweets instead of one central “voice”. There are lots of followers (almost 9K) but very little communication.  It’s not somewhere I would recommend a parent or caregiver go for information.

Their Facebook page tells a similar story. There  are a lot of shared articles but no real communication unless it’s between people visiting the page.

It’s not easy, I get it. They are non profit and rely on a strict diet of donations that never seem to be enough. But if they were to strengthen their social media platform and open up some communication then they may find that their donations increase as their exposure does.

  • Choosing solid hashtags and using them consistently would be a good start. Interviewing people using the “Live Feed” on Facebook and answering questions during the interview would help to encourage a flow of communication. Set up some easy
  • Polls on Twitter encouraging more communication. Find out what the community really needs information wise and then pass all that information down to the local chapters.
  • YouTube videos on what to look for/fillout/find for taxes and write offs
  • Tweet/Post during fundraising events encouraging attendance or showing how much fun everyone is having so that next time attendance is greater.
  • Blogging about anything and everything to do with Autism

All of these would be a good start to create a platform as long as they follow through with concise monitoring and listening afterwards.
Keeping tabs on what worked and what didn’t. Acknowledging suggestions by those in the community and welcoming any and all volunteer help.

Autism doesn’t discriminate between age or race and their are so many people out there searching for information that this organization is the best to provide it. But they need to yell louder and farther to be heard.

 

COM0015 – Post 1: Tool & Sources

Be a Good Listener To Do List Reminder Hear Learn Understand
Can you hear me now?
I fully admit that I, like many people, struggle with the listening part of social media.  At first I tried everything all at once and ended up bombarded with tons of information. Far too much and most of it duplicated to the point that it overwhelmed me and became completely redundant. It was like trying to listen for a single cello, when the entire orchestra was playing.
There are hundreds of listening sites out there and all of them are very similar and have their pros and cons. The better sites you have to pay for but that it out of my media budget so I stick with the free ones.
Google Alerts is good but getting a few dozen emails every time you look at your computer is a little frustrating. It’s a lot of extra work to sort though when you’re alert is set up to something generic about your business. Having them all flow into a central RSS reader like Feedly makes it easier to sort them out. You can skim the digest and ignore the ones that don’t really pertain to you. Be prepared though because it takes time to set all these alerts up. The trick to everything is figuring out your hashtags and what “monitoring” words work best.
I really like Hootsuite, I find it a bit more user friendly and organized. It’s free for two user profiles, I chose Twitter and Instagram since I’m active on both of them but not constantly. But, you can upgrade ($$) to monitor more accounts, like Facebook, Google+, WordPress or Linkdin. Everything is laid out in “streams” and I can quickly scan and see if I need to comment or address and questions.
The trend right now in my business is a need for one on one communication. Readers what to know what you are working on and when it will be done all in real time.  I’m on Facebook all the time so there is no need to monitor it because I see the noEye Peeking Through Binary Codetifications right away and I don’t have to worry about missing something.
Those are only two monitoring sites. There are tons more and a lot are free….at least 69 to be exact. This link will take you to a long list to explore and see what works best for you and your needs.

Digital Communication – Personal Reflection

 

We all know the point of blogging. We can to convey information to our readers, gain insight and hopefully in turn build our businesses. The storytelling aspect is so important because it’s the difference between stereo instructions and personal connection.

Advertising concept with smartphoneEveryone is bombarded with advertising every single moment of every single day. There are thousands of companies out there trying to get the general public to spend their money on their product. It’s at the point that we are almost desensitized to the mindless drone of sales pitches. A commercial comes on and we start channel surfing looking for something else to watch.

So how to you stand out from the endless stream of ads?

Business Advertising. Stand Out. Business concept.

By making a personal connection with your audience. Telling stories that they can connect to. Communicating with them so that they don’t feel like they are a nobody. Assuring them that their voice is heard, that they concerns or praise is validated.

As an author staying in close communication with my readers is vital. They want to know the background to my story. Hints about what inspired certain scenes and conversations that sparked the backstory for a series. Also by sharing the story of how a book is created it helps me stay in touch with what my readers want to read. If there was a secondary character that they really want to get his or her Happily Ever After or which character really infuriated them and they’d like to see thrown to the dogs or dragons or out an air lock deep in space. I being an author.AdobeStock_101546959.jpeg

 

Porn. Erotica. Erotic Romance. Yes, there is a difference.

Every business has a challenge, that’s life. In the literary romance world, especially when you step into the erotic side of things we all seemed to get pained with the same brush and that’s a big challenge. Often erotic romance books are waved off as “porn” or the newest one “mommy porn” (ugh) when in fact there is a distinct difference between them. What the industry needs to do is help educate the readers so they know exactly what they are looking for before they go looking and for the distributors to categorize the books appropriately.

XXX neon sign illuminated over dark backgroundPorn: A book that is focused on incredibly descriptive sex scene after sex scene after sex scene, without any plot, character development or really anything else. It’s whole reason for existence is titillation. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not romance. And as many a meme has stated: It gives an unrealistic belief in how fast a plumber will arrive at your door.Erotica neon sign illuminated over dark backgroundErotica:Hot and descriptive sex in this category. No closed doors, not hold barred. But the massive difference between Erotica and Porn is story (there is one), plot and character development. The sex is front, center and the focus of the book and the story rotates around it. Rule of thumb, when in doubt, put another sex scene in. There are lots of amazing books in this category and something for every kink out there. Romantic neon love sign at nightErotic Romance: The sex is hot and descriptive in this category as well BUT the sex is only part of what drives the story; it works together with the plot and story arcs. Intimacy between the characters always pushes the plot or character development forward. If there isn’t a valid reason why your characters are having sex then they shouldn’t be.

IMOHO, it doesn’t matter what sub-genre of your book or the sexual orientation of your characters, it’s the story (or lack of) that dictates which of these three categories it belongs in.

 

“I saw this and thought of you”

The moment someone puts something on social media and tags you with that statement, you know you’ve branded yourself.  That’s exactly what branding is, equating yourself with something that causes people to remember you. I can honestly say, I branded myself quite by accident.

photo 3My best friend bought me a large beautiful peacock as a present when the first book in my Peacock Terrace Apartments series came out. I was going to RTC the next month and thought it would be fun to bring him, not knowing that I was making the smartest decision to date.

Since last May I often have peacocks appear on my facebook wall or twitter feed from friends and readers who remembered my “Lolly”. Because he sits so high I’ve been told a number of times that people scan the room looking for him in order to find me.

That is the trick to branding. As an author it’s easy to get lost in the waves of new releases and new faces. I tried for years to find my “thing”. Many authors stick to a single genre and build their brand off that, creating a logo surrounding the specific flavour of books they write.

But, I never know what I’m going to write next. Sticking with one genre has never appealed to me because I find it too confining. My muse is all over the place, which is the kiss of death when it co
mes to trying to build a fan base and brand yourself.  But, I’ve been told by my readers that they like my writing “voice” and most don’t mind the cornucopia of genres I bring to my backlist. Good thing too because I’ve got an entirely new book on the horizon which is going to put my name in a new genre.

So if you’re ever at a book convention and spot my vain peacock come over and say hi. You’ll know where to find me.

 

B2C Case Study – Evernight Publishing

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Guarding Midnight by Kacey Hammell

No one said writing a book is easy…but dealing with the business side of it can be even more daunting than getting those words down on a page. Long gone are the days of publisher funded book tours, and large promotional “endcaps” in book stores. Authors have to promote themselves and spend their own money on swag and promotional merchandise. Because of this many authors have chosen to go the self-publishing route.

It’s a personal choice, both have their pros and cons but with the upswing in self-pubs I think that Publishers are realizing that they can’t sit back anymore. They’ve realized that the best success is when author and publisher work together to promote. evernightpublishingI’ve been watching  Evernight Publishing for a while now for this very reason and this blog gave me a great opportunity to do some further research into them.

Evernight is a Canadian publisher (whoot!!) who’ve been around for almost six years. According to their twitter page they are “Publisher of romance, erotic romance, and urban fantasy”

EvernightThey have an active Facebook page with 13,059 likes, an active Twitter account  with 6,312 followers and a monthly Newsletter . They also maintain an active blog with 290 registered followers and a Facebook Reader’s page with 767 members

For a small publisher these are great numbers. From everything I’ve read their authors are happy and proud to be a part of this company. There are lots of interactions between the publisher, authors, editors, and readers spread across the different media outlets.

Personally I think they are a good example of a publishing house that is trying to interact with their audience and stay on top of what their readers are looking for.

Should I or shouldn’t I submit to them at some point in the future isn’t really a question for me anymore. Now, I have to get back to getting those words done and get a story finished.

 

COM0014 Blog #3 – Where are my peeps?

Finding your target audience as a novelist harder than one might imagine. You can never make assumptions about who might be reading your book because you’ll probably be wrong. (For example, did you know one of the largest demographics for gay novels are actually straight woBeautiful woman peeking behind the bookmen over the age of 25?)

What changed the book selling world forever was the invention of the e-reader. It didn’t just make carrying around you entire personal library possible but now people could read anything they wanted without having to worry about the covers showing on the other side.

For authors is made finding out who was reading their books that much more difficult. In order to discover their target market, an author has to take time away from writing books and interact with their readers. Facebook, Goodreads, newsletters, blogs anywhere and everywhere you can strike up a conversation with a reader is the best way to discover who is purchasing your books.

Through these and other similar venues, authors can set up quick little questionnaires or polls. Keep it short and ask your readers to answer what their favourite sub-genre is or what social media site they like the best. Questions like where they read and/or when they get to read will tell you a lot about your demographics, are they Commuters? Moms? Grandmas? Do they prefer to be left alone to read or do they like interacting on Tsu, Reddit or Tumblr?

Also one of the best ways to discover your readers is to get out and meet them. Conventions like Romancing the Capital in Ottawa the offer an “open to the public” book signing is a priceless opportunity to learn who is attracted to your work. It gives you a chance to meet your readers face to face, and learn what is important to them. What are they looking for in a story? From there you can sharpen your work and focus on what your demographic wants.

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Because in the end if you don’t know where to find your peeps…how will they find you?

 

 

COM0014 – Storytelling and Communication Styles

The inverted triangle is very different from how I’ve learned to tell stories and at first I couldn’t wrap my brain around it and planned to blog why I felt it was incorrect. But, after letting it percolate on my mental back burner, the logic behind it became clearer.

Roller coasterIn blogging, you have less than a thousand words to capture their attention, keep them on your blog and not lose them to something more exciting. You have to hit your reader in the face with all the good stuff right off the top. Think of it like riding a roller coaster. You grab your reader just as you crest that first mighty hill and ride screaming down the hill. The bottom isn’t as exciting as the top but you caught their interest and they enjoyed the rush you gave them.

Writing a novel involves tens of thousands of words and Corkscrew roller coaster at duskis very much like your heartbeat while on the roller coaster. Those first fluttering beats of anticipation build into a pounding mix of excitement as you ride up that first hill. But, no good roller coaster had only one hill, so there is more conflict and then a twist or three and then another hill.  You need your reader to keep turning that page until you reach the climax of the story and everything is resolved.

sexy_smoking-39

 

And in the case of the Erotic novels I write…it’s time for a cigarette…but to keep with my metaphor we’ll gently ride back into the station.

 

One guideline isn’t better than the other, both forms have their advantages. It’s vitally important to understand why they are both effective when used properly.  Which do you prefer? That single hill rush…(maybe think of it as skydiving) or the ups and downs of a roller coaster. Do you think that both styles can be used when blogging?