The Wonder of a Workshop

groupIt’s been 10 years since I attended my first writer’s workshop, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was a pretty small workshop, with the three basic genres you find at most workshops: fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. The real draw for me was the faculty. One of the three was Sherri Reynolds. I had heard her speak while I was a college student, and read some of her books. I was in love with her passion and excitement for writing, and knew that I would be inspired just being around her.

I was probably an anomaly at the workshop. I wasn’t really “working” on anything, so to speak. I haven’t written a novel, I don’t write poetry, and at the time I wasn’t even trying to write short stories. But I was making a living as a freelancer doing editing and writing jobs, and I figured the workshop would be a great way to improve my writing skills, as well as serve as inspiration and also some practice for when I did find time to start writing the fiction I’d always dreamed about.

It was a short three-day conference, but the experiences I took away from it were priceless. I’ve attended a few other one-day conferences here and there, and every time I come away armed with inspiration and great feedback and advice. Here are a few reasons why I think writer’s conferences and workshops are a good investment.

  1. You get a chance to be around other writers. For most of us, writing is pretty much a solitary endeavor. And it can sometimes get lonely. Attending a conference gives you a chance to be around other writers, where you can share your ideas and frustrations with a group of peers who understand, because they’re going through the same thing.
  1. The feedback. Need I say more? Whether you get feedback from the faculty or other attendees, or both, it’s always good in helping improve your writing.
  1. Networking. If you’re working on something that you hope to one day get published, attending a conference is a great way to meet other writers and make connections that can help you out down the road. You might meet someone who knows an editor or an agent that would be helpful, or other writers who could serve as reviewers for your book once it’s published.
  1. Fresh ideas. As I said at the beginning of this list, writing is often something we do alone, and because of that it might be harder to find ways of doing what some professions call continuing education. Writers workshops and conferences are a good way to get out and find out what’s new in the publishing industry, new trends in the writing world, and even fresh ideas when it comes to style and tone.
  1. A chance to try something new. This might not be true for everyone, but it was for me. In my work I mostly write non-fiction. But I attended a workshop in the fiction genre, to experiment and go outside my comfort zone. It was exhilarating. Some people might not want to do that, if you’re a poet and need to focus on your poetry, it’s fine to stick to one thing. But the opportunity to try something new exists.

It’s pretty easy to find a conference that’s affordable enough and close enough to make it worthwhile to attend. Poets & Writers has a great database that you can use to find something near you. And if you can’t make it to a conference, you can join a local writer’s group. You get a lot of the same benefits there, free, local and on a regular basis!

Get social in just 30 minutes a day!

Tina Siadak - Wedding Shower 5-3-16 010All of us are working on so many things every day that it’s hard to carve out time to connect with our friends and followers through social media. Let’s face it, some people enjoy social media more than others, and some are just better at it. But, for those of us hard pressed for extra time, what if it’s possible to build our online conversations in just 30 minutes a day?

That’s right, begin each weekday (or whatever time works best for you) with a 30-minute social media program. You’ll find that your social network will build quickly over time and hopefully, using it will be more fun.

Use the channels that are most familiar to you and your fans. And, those that fit your demographic e.g. women ages 25-55.  For example, if Facebook is a good tool in reaching your fans – one that you use frequently — this is a good place to start. I use Facebook, Twitter, blogs and email marketing. If there are others that work well with your book topic such as Pinterest, use those in lieu of these or in addition to your preferred social media.

Here’s a look at a five-day social media plan using just 30 minutes a day:

Monday

  • Brainstorm ideas for Facebook and Twitter posts that your fans and readers will find interesting and that relate to you and your book. Remember that you want to start conversations that others will respond to. Next, draft a few. (10 minutes)
  • Begin writing a brief blog post (300-500 words) about one of the ideas you came up with (10 minutes)
  • Connect/follow with those who have connected with you on Facebook and Twitter and search out new connections. Also, build the trending topics/hashtags into your posts so that they reach larger networks. (10 minutes)

Tuesday

  • Finish your blog post and post it if you haven’t already. Definitely use a picture if you have one or can find one without copyright issues. Make sure that you include a link to the post on your social media posts to gain greater readership. (10 minutes)
  • Respond to comments from readers (5 minutes)
  • Draft an email newsletter in Constant Contact or Mail Chimp with good information about your book topic that augments the information you’ve posted on your blog and that’s meaningful to your reader community. For example, if your book is about hiking in North Carolina, include a meeting of a hiking group or a newly discovered trail. (15 minutes)

Wednesday

  • Connect/follow with those who have connected with you on Facebook and Twitter and search out new connections; build the trending topics/hashtags into your posts so that they are reach larger networks. (10 minutes)
  • Respond to any comments on your blog (5 minutes)
  • Go through your Facebook and Twitter feed to respond to those in your network – be interested in them and they’ll be interested in you! Add new posts of your own. (15 minutes)

Thursday

  • Finish and send your email newsletter and then send out social media posts with a link to the sign-up page on your blog or website. (10 minutes)
  • Connect/follow with those who have connected with you on Facebook and Twitter and search out new connections; build the trending topics/hashtags into your posts so that they are reach larger networks. (10 minutes)
  • Go through your Facebook and Twitter feed to respond to those in your network. (10 minutes)

Friday

  • Respond to anyone who’s commented on your blog post or Enewsletter. If they express interest in your book, let them know the publish date or if already published, where they can get your book. Pre-orders prior to publication rock! (10 minutes)
  • Connect/follow with those who have connected with you on Facebook and Twitter and search out new connections; build the trending topics/hashtags into your posts so that they are reach larger networks (10 minutes)
  • Add new fans to your mailing list or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database so that you can send them announcements about exciting upcoming events or happenings. (10 minutes)

Are you ready to give it a try at least for two weeks? If you get in the social media habit, I think you’ll be amazed at the results. Just remember to check your messages, especially on FaceBook. Your connections and conversations will grow exponentially but you have to keep them going. Bon chance!

 

It’s your party! 5 Tips for a Great Book Event

Burkhalter 1Here’s the awesome part! It’s time to tell everyone about your book. Hopefully, you’ve already launched your website or blog and built relationships via social media. So, the buzz has begun. Now, you can begin planning your book signing event or events. Your first step is securing your location/s. Then, begin planning for each event.

Follow these five tips for a great book event:

  1. http://thorburnchiropractic.com/2017/05/ Once you secure your location, http://tomtwomeyseries.org/page.php work with the bookstore or other retailer. Speak to the person handling the event for the store and find out what she or he will do to promote the event. Most bookstores look to their authors to bring in traffic for the event so coordinate your own efforts with those of the bookstore.
  1. Then, watch create buzz for your book(s) with press releases that dovetail with social media including Facebook, Twitter posts and LinkedIn as well as email marketing via a newsletter or Call-to-Action marketing piece letting the media and your fans know about the event. You might offer a sample chapter and author information to your local newspaper, magazine and radio station and ask for an interview before your book signing. Your community papers and local radio stations are the best media sources for getting the word out.Burkhalter 5
  1. Develop collateral materials and giveaways including postcards, posters and bookmarks. Send postcards to friends and family with a handwritten note before the event and keep them handy on your table. Several posters displayed in the store as well as one at your table are great point-of-display items that will create interest. Also, ask nearby retailers if they’ll display your information, too. Contact special interest groups like the local Chamber, arts society, your book community, or any other group relating to your book’s topic.
  1. Practice your presentation and/or reading. This helps you be more comfortable in front of a crowd especially when you’re not following a structured speech. Many authors are more relaxed when they speak less formally but it’s always a good idea to have at least an outline of what you’d like to talk about. And, if you’re doing a reading, make sure that you practice reading the excerpt aloud on your own. Most authors talk for about 20 to 30 minutes and then open up for questions from the audience. Have a few of your own handy to get the conversation started.Burkhalter 4
  2. Have a friend on hand to help. When your table gets mobbed by readers as you hope it will, a friend can hand out bookmarks and giveaways, replenish your books, ask customers to join the email list, make announcements, and take pictures of the event. You’ll want to post these on social media as soon as the event is over with a short write-up about the event. Also, send it out to the same media contacts who may run a photo or two with a caption.

There are so many great ways to promote yourself and make the most of the event.  Have fun and do as much as you can to make it successful.  You can always add special touches like food, wine and a designer cake to make the event a celebration.  After all, it’s your party!

Basics of Beta Readers

If you’ve ever encountered a beta website, chances are you’ve run into a kink while using it. The term beta means something is in test mode. In the case of beta readers, it’s your manuscript being tested, not the readers themselves.

Betas: Readers, Not Fish
Betas: Readers, Not Fish

What Is a Beta Reader?

A beta reader is someone who enjoys reading and is willing to give honest feedback on an unpublished manuscript. Beta readers are not book reviewers. While it would be nice if your beta readers left a review for you after you publish, it’s not part of their job description. Beta readers are not professional editors, either.

 

 

Who Makes a Good Beta Reader (and Who Does Not)?

Family members are the worst beta readers. Too often they either offer meaningless feedback (I love it. You’re so talented.) because they don’t want to hurt your feelings, or they cut you to the quick with their jealousy (This was the worst drivel I’ve ever read. What makes you think you’re a writer?).

Critique partners can fall on either side of the fence. Because critique partners are also writers, they understand nuances of story construction or character development that are lost on a casual reader. They can give you meaningful advice that will improve your manuscript. Sometimes, though, writers have a hard time not imposing their writing style and ideas on others’ work. Proceed with caution if asking a critique partner to beta read your full manuscript.

The best betas are readers in your target audience. If you don’t know who your target audience is, figure that out ASAP.

How Do You Find the Best Beta Readers?

Shoot to work with three to five beta readers.

Use networking connections to find content experts if you’re writing nonfiction. If you’re writing a middle grade novel, ask a teacher or a librarian if they can introduce you to students who would read your book and tell you what they think (get parental permission, of course).

Look for people that enjoy reading, know something about writing, and/or won’t be afraid to give you constructive feedback. If you are really struggling to find quality beta readers in your circles, you can hire beta readers.

Best Practices When Working with a Beta Reader?

  • Be clear about your genre, description, and manuscript length.
  • Set a reasonable deadline. Gently nudge the reader if they miss the deadline. (Side note: if they keep putting you off, chances are they couldn’t get into your book and don’t intend to read it. If you suspect this to be the case, asking directly may be your best bet.)
  • Give your beta reader(s) guiding questions to think about while reading. This will help ensure you get feedback that you can use. Explain that you want feedback on content, not on word level edits (spelling mistakes and the like).
  • thank-you-textBe gracious. If you haven’t paid for this service, be sure to send a thank you note. You may even want to include a small gift card or other treat if their feedback was especially helpful.

 

What Do You Do with the Feedback?

Wait until you’ve received feedback from all your beta readers before you make any decisions about revisions. Read through their feedback and then sit with it for a period of time to digest it. Take note of areas that your beta readers agree need revision. But maybe ignore the suggestion that doesn’t resonate. Then get busy incorporating changes.

Beta readers are a valuable part of the publishing process. Take the time to utilize them and improve your manuscript. It’s worth it.

Blind Dates and Editing Samples

There are many reasons that I’m grateful for my husband, but I’m especially appreciative that I will never have to go on a blind date again. I know some folks hit the jackpot when their friend sets them up with their roommate’s cousin’s brother. My best friend is living proof that a blind date can turn into a lifetime romance. That said, horror stories abound, like the time you faked a seaweed allergy just to get rid of a bad date, never mind the fact that you chose the sushi restaurant.blind date
Yahoo, no more blind dates for me! Except I’m an editor. And every time I open my inbox and see an email from a potential client, I’m reminded how much editing samples are like blind dates.
1. It’s a Cold Call.
Most often a request for a sample edit comes from a stranger. He found me online and liked my website. She got my name from a friend.
2. Make Small Talk.
We exchange witty emails. I try to dazzle them by sounding fun and professional. Who wants to date a boring editor? Little does the prospect know I spend ten minutes agonizing over the greeting.
3. Online Stalking Commences.
In the interim of email exchanges, we check each other out on social media. We reach out to any connections to get the skinny. Believe me, I don’t want to work with a prima donna lunatic who will leave me in the lurch when it’s time to send payment. And the prospect wants to make sure that my red pen isn’t deadly.
4. A Date Is Set.
If we’ve both passed the initial hurdles, we set a date for a sample edit. The prospect scrounges for the best material to send me. They worry that I’ll think the sample is fat or ugly or boring. I sweat over the sample, spending longer than I should. I worry they’ll think my editing style is out of shape or arrogant or cheap. We agonize over the moment of the truth.
5. If All Goes Well, We’ll Get Naked.
No, not really! But kind of. Metaphorically speaking. If the material is a good fit for me and the prospect likes my style, we dance. We agree to fees and schedules. And then we get busy. Editing, of course.
While I may never have to endure another painful meal with a stranger that I’m hoping will be my man, I do have to put myself out there with each prospective client. The next time you’re looking for an editor, remember they’re probably just as nervous as you are to make a good impression.
Be sure to subscribe to see what I have to say about the best ways to find an editor in the Wild West market of today’s publishing industry. And tell me in the comments what questions you have about finding an editor. Or entertain me with a blind date horror story. 