Archive for the ‘ Business of Writing ’ Category

How to Build an Author Platform in 30 Minutes a Day

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

I tried Grammarly’s¬†plagiarism checker free¬†of charge because my cat thought I was ripping off his diction. Can has verb disagreement now?


Recently, an old friend, who’s a fiction author, asked for advice on how to build up his name as an author in advance of sending a fiction collection around to publishers. On a related note, I received a Facebook message from a Philadelphia-area author, asking a similar question. In the writing business, we call that building your author’s platform: in other words, building up a network of potential readers, as well as building up a sense of who you are as an author.

While I have a lot of potential growing yet to do, I’ve been actively working on building my author’s platform for a couple years now. As regular readers know, I am also a work-at-home mom, which means I have to work my writing and career-building efforts into a day already packed with child care and housework. If you follow the advice in this post, you can begin building an author’s platform in 30 minutes or less a day.

Planning App

Reminders can keep you on schedule. I know I find them invaluable. I use GTasks (Google Tasks), primarily through the app on my Droid phone. It has a simple, no-fuss interface and allows you to schedule recurring tasks, such as “Post blog entry” for every Wednesday.

Author’s Photo

Alyce Wilson with ravenTake or have someone take a decent photo of you to use for your author’s sites. Rather than just taking an Instagram selfie, opt for a camera with a timer that you can use to take a variety of shots. The best author’s photos both look professional and show something of your character. I participated in a photo shoot for a friend at Edgar Allan Poe’s Philadelphia residence. She needed to work on portraits for her photography class, and one of my favorite recent photos shows me with the statue of a raven in the background. I’m going to be seeking another photographer friend’s help soon, since I’ve lost 20 pounds since that photo was taken.


Author’s Site

If you don’t already have an author’s site, your first task should be to create one.

Alyce's Web site

Remember: a Facebook page is NOT a substitute for your own author’s site, in part because its functionality is limited and always subject to change. At minimum, an author’s site should include: a bio page that includes highlights about your writing career and relevant tidbits about you, including a contact email (you should designate one e-mail for writing correspondence, ideally one you can access readily when you’re on the move, such as with a smart phone). You can also include a page with links to your online writings and/or samples or your work (although it’s fallen out of favor to include a complete resume, for security concerns). If you have any published books for sale, include links to them.

Nowadays, it’s also important to include a blog or bulletin board, which you can update at least once a week with thoughts on your writing, personal observations, or links to interesting articles. Keep in mind that anything you post will help to form your public persona, so try to refrain from such impulsive posts as complaining about a specific reviewer, for example.

One of the best places to start an author’s site is on WordPress, which offers free hosting if you don’t already have a hosting company. You can also sign up to get your own domain (which should be either your professional name or something that connects to your writing style or genre). To do this costs only $13 a year.

I use WordPress for this blog as well as for my BelatedMommy blog and online literary magazine, Wild Violet. In addition to the large variety of templates, which allow for almost any format, I love the ability to schedule posts in advance and to incorporate plug-ins to allow readers to share posts easily or subscribe to the blog.

WordPress is the best choice for people who have some familiarity already with creating web pages and blogging. For those with fewer Web skills, check out Wix.com or Biz.nf to create a professional-looking free website. While I haven’t tried their website creator, I would also point you toward Bravesites by Bravenet.com, which offers free websites created through templates. I’ve used Bravenet’s free mailing list manager for Wild Violet for many years and have had nothing but good experiences.

Setting up your author’s site may take several days, if you stick to the 30 minutes a day goal. However, once it’s set up, you can schedule one weekly update (preferably on a weekday) that will take you 30 minutes or less to write.

Social Networking

So many social networking sites exist that it can be decide where you want to spend your time. Which ones should you utilize, and how can you avoid becoming overwhelmed?

Alyce's Facebook page

A Facebook page is a good idea, simply because so many people are currently on Facebook, so it can be a good way to reach people like college buddies, family members, and new fans all at once. The process of creating a page is fairly simple; just read Facebook’s guide to creating a business page. Once it’s created, remember to post something at least a week. I primarily include links to my online articles and writings, but it’s also a good idea to post polls or other interactive posts. Facebook gives your posts higher priority on people’s feeds if they have interacted with you recently.

Alyce's Twitter Page

Twitter, with its microblogging — or instant update — platform, can be a valuable tool for connecting with writers, publishers, magazines, and others. For this reason, it’s worth joining. Read through Twitter’s Getting Started Guide for some tips. My advice: download an app like Tweetdeck, which makes it easy to schedule tweets in advance. Spend a few minutes in the morning scheduling tweets, keeping in mind that, just like conversations should be 50/50 listening and talking, you should retweet other users’ tweets or share links to articles and other web content at least as much as you share or promote your own work (and probably more). You ever have that blind date with someone who talked nonstop about him or herself without letting you have a word to talk about yourself? Don’t be that person! Some authors even schedule a whole week’s worth of tweets in advance, scheduling at least four tweets per day, including both links to interesting articles and promotions for their own work. I’d highly recommend following @Mashable immediately and reading their many articles about social networking and Twitter.

LinkedIn can be a good way to connect with other writers on a professional basis. You can do this by searching for LinkedIn groups that connect to your writing specialty. Make sure you read through the recent posts to see if a given group really connects with your interests. The best advice for this site, or for similar networking communities, is to spend 99 percent of your time interacting with people on a personal basis. Offer feedback on writing when asked; participate in conversations; pose writing-related questions. These connections will then be far more interested in your writing endeavors than they would be if you simply jumped into a conversation and shouted out, “I have a new book out!” That would be annoying at a social function, and it’s just as inappropriate here. Here’s a guide to how to use LinkedIn effectively. Stop in at least once a week to read and comment on the groups where you’re a member. You can also post links to your writing via your LinkedIn feed using apps such as “AddThis” ¬†plug-in, available for multiple browsers. I use it with the Google Chrome browser and love its easy functionality.

Other social networking sites that you might consider using include Tumblr, which is primarily a blogging/link sharing platform; Google Plus (Google+), which has become sort of the “anti-Facebook” and is therefore a way to connect with people who aren’t on Facebook; and Goodreads, which is a reader/writer site that ¬†allows you to list and promote your own books, as well as share reviews of other books and participate in communities. If you are maintaining a blog, either a personal blog or an author’s blog, seek out writing communities. Remember, though, that you’ll only get out of it what you put into it: you need to both post and comment on other people’s posts if you want them to remember you. This is why it’s best to schedule some time once a week to actively read and post on your preferred networking sites.

Don’t feel that you need to join all of these sites. Spend your time on the sites where you feel the most comfortable and build connections. You can always add more sites later if you want to broaden your reach.

Submit Your Writing

Of course, one of the best ways to build your author’s platform is through having your work published. If you want, you can buy a membership to the excellent writing markets produced by Writer’s Digest (Writer’s Market, Poet’s Market, Novelist and Short Story Writer’s Market, for example). Keep in mind: you can write that off as a business expense on your taxes (as you can any expense related to your writing career, such as web domains or the cost of postage for submissions).

For some free markets, visit: Poets and Writers, Duotrope, Ralan.com (SF), and WritersWrite, which are among the best comprehensive free guides. You may also want to join a free mailing list or two, such as offered at FundsForWriters.com and WritingForDollars.

You might also find it useful to put a short story or a handful of poems up on Smashwords as a free ebook, which could attract new readers.

Summary

Building your author’s platform takes time. My best advice: remember that it’s a gradual process and that whatever small steps you take can help you build more connections and introduce your to more potential readers. In order to keep from getting overwhelmed, set just one major task for yourself each day. After you’ve gotten your site/blog set up and have joined the social networking sites you wish to join, set a timer to spend 30 minutes or less on the site(s) where you’re focusing your energy that day.

Over time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how opportunities start to come your way, thanks to the foundation you’ve built.


This post was sponsored by Grammarly.com, the automated proofreader and personal grammar coach.

31 Queries in 31 Days: #11, #12 and #13

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Since Friday, I’ve been working on a few personal writing projects, but I haven’t forgotten about 31 Queries in 31 Days. Since the whole point of the project was to make specific efforts to earn money from my writing, I’m including:

11) Wrote and submitted an article about “Sleepy Hollow” to the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

12) Accepted an offer to participate in an interview for a client who contacted me via ODesk about a marketing/blogging position for a new organizational app for moms.

13) Submitted a proposal via Elance for a job proofreading a personal blog.

31 Queries in 31 Days: #10

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

I am trying to stay ahead of the game this month with the 31 Queries in 31 Days project, in case I have to take a few days off at some point.

I’ve had a busy day: I wrote an entertainment article for Yahoo! News, did a little cleaning in the kitchen, played a game with my son involving balled up recycled paper, sorted through some old poetry, and wrote a quick post on my personal job. In addition, I just visited Elance again:

10) Submitted a proposal and article idea via Elance to a British ezine looking for art and culture writers.

Update: I got an e-mail stating that my proposal was declined for the job writing essays for a new app in development. This, incidentally, after the client had told me that he was putting me on his list of potential writers while he finished developing the app. Given this sort of abrupt reversal of his decision, and the apparent uncertainty about the development of the app — he actually has already changed the business name — I’m actually glad I haven’t been tapped for this project. I suspect it would have given me trouble when it came time to getting paid.

31 Queries in 31 Days: #8 and #9

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

While working on my 31 Queries in 31 Days project, I’ve actually begun looking for poetry-related jobs via Elance, because it’s easy to do through their search function.

8 ) Submitted a job proposal via Elance for a job crafting a Halloween poem for an advertising firm.

In addition, I also sent out some poetry:

9) Submitted five poems to FIVE Poetry Magazine.

31 Queries in 31 Days: #5, #6 and #7

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

I spent much of my weekend working on the Monty Python trivia game promoting Dedicated Idiocy. However, I visited Elance and applied for a couple jobs to stay on track for the 31 Queries in 31 Days project:

5) Submitted a job proposal via Elance to create a 20-page e-book based on posts from an orthodontist’s web site.

6) Submitted a job proposal via Elance to format an e-book for publication.

7) Submitted a job proposal via Elance to write creative “stories” to accompany product descriptions for an online retailer.

31 Queries in 31 Days: #3 and #4

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Yesterday wasn’t exactly a day off from the 31 Queries in 31 Days project. Rather, I was doing some brainstorming for my next query:

3) Submitted a proposal to Bitch magazine for a series of blog posts titled “Ms. Mom.”

Then, I sent out some poetry:

4) Submitted six poems to Miracle literary magazine.

Update: I got a message from the client who was looking for people to write thoughtful pieces for a new app, saying he was putting me on his list of potential writers. He is going to complete development of the app and contact me about the project.

31 Queries in 31 Days: #2

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

I took the time to do some writing today. I sent a new essay, about material possessions and motherhood, to the client who was looking for essays for a new lifestyle app. I’m not counting that towards my total for this month, however, since I’d already applied for that job.

2) Completed and submitted a personal essay and photo to VoxPop at Metropolis, which is looking for pieces by Philadelphia-area writers.

Then… almost immediately, I received an automatic response saying that Metropolis has folded, so not to be deterred, I sent the essay instead to Brain, Child magazine.

Update: The Elance jobs copyediting a novel and formatting a PDF/ebook have been awarded to other freelancers.

30 Queries in 30 Days Ends / 31 Queries Begins

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

So, my 30 Queries in 30 Days project ended more with a whimper than a bang: with 21 queries/submissions/job applications submitted during the month of September.

Not one to give up easily, I’m resetting the clock and starting over. In my 31 Queries in 31 Days project, I will attempt to send out 31 submissions/queries or job proposals in the month of October, beginning with:

1) Submitted four poems to Poetry literary magazine.

Wish me luck!

30 Queries in 30 Days: #19, #20, #21

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

I’m finding more intriguing prospects at Elance.com by searching under the “Creative Writing” filter:

19) Submitted job proposal and writing sample via Elance.com for a job writing thoughtful essays for a new app.

20) Submitted job proposal via Elance.com for a job converting podcast transcripts into PDF and ebook formats.

21) Submitted job proposal via Elance.com for a job copy-editing a novel.

30 Queries in 30 Days: #18

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

Looked through some writing ads on Donanza.com and found another worth applying to, originally posted on the New Orleans Craigslist:

18) Sent a cover letter, poetry samples and a CV to Interactive Picture Books, which is looking for ghost writers to create children’s books for the iPad.

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