Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Twitter 101: Creating an Account

The regular Wednesday segment, 5 Easy Questions with..., will return next week.

Susan J. Reinhardt of Christian Writer/Reader Connection suggested a post on Twitter basics. Since I regularly receive e-mail and comments with questions about blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, I realized a post on this topic could benefit many people unsure of how to tweet.

Twitter Profile

Photo by rosaurachoa

Twitter is a fun, non-threatening, quick way to meet new people. Some of the manners we use in everyday life do not apply on Twitter. It's okay to jump into conversations with people you don't know, and you can follow anyone and not be considered a stalker. On the flip side, it's fine to not show up for days at a time, and if you never feel like saying a word, you don't have to. However, you'll find the experience more rewarding if you check in regularly.

Twitter excels at bringing together like-minded people for jags of conversation. It's easy to use, non-exclusive (you don't have to send a request to follow someone, and you don't have to follow anyone back), and full of information. People show up under their username, which always has an @ symbol before it. You would see my tweets under @jillkemerer. If I mention I desperately need coffee, you could tweet me back with a quick, @jillkemerer Here's a cup of joe!

All correspondence must take place in 140 characters or less, so think short and sweet. You can also link blog posts, websites, and any online article. Go ahead and create lists for friends, agents, publishers, even cat-lovers (yeah, I watch Must Love Cats and found a slew of people like myself; someone tweeted me "Whiskertastic!" and it's become my new favorite word).

Sounds good, right? But how do you get started?

I will take you step-by-step through creating an account and setting up a profile. First, head to Twitter. It's linked through a pop-up window for easy reference back to this post.

1. On the top, right-hand side, you'll see a New to Twitter box and a button to sign up.

2. Click on the Sign Up button.

3. Fill out the information: Full name, Username, Password, E-mail, and click on the terms of service agreement. Then click Create Account. **If you are a writer, use your author name as your username. This will help people find you from your other social sites. If you're already published, readers will search for you by your author name. Make it easy on them! If your name is taken, consider adding a middle initial or "author" to the end. Example: If jillkemerer had been taken, I could have used jillrkemerer or jillkemererauthor. Or I could have included underscores, Jill_Kemerer.**

Congratulations! You have an account!

Now I'll walk you through setting up your profile. At the top of the screen, you will see a search box, Home, Profile, Messages, Who to Follow, and your username. Click on Profile.
A new screen will appear. Click on the Edit Your Profile link.

1. An account page will show up. Read through and modify it to your taste.

2. Next to the account tab is a page to change your password if you desire.

3. Next to the password tab is a mobile tab to set up your phone to tweet. This is optional. I do not tweet from my phone, so I never filled this out.

4. Next to the mobile tab is a notifications tab. This determines which information you will be e-mailed about. If you want an e-mail to let you know you have a new follower, check the new followers box and so forth.

**Mine is set up to only notify me when I get a direct message. This keeps my in-box from filling up with needless information.**

5. Next to the notification tab is the profile tab. Click on this.

a. Upload a photo or gravatar of yourself in the Picture section. Don't use the generic egg--many spammers use this.

b. If you're comfortable including the region you live, add it. If you have a blog or website, add the URL. I linked my website because anyone can get to my blog through it. But if your website isn't updated regularly, you may be better off linking to your blog instead.

c. Fill out your bio. Think casual. This isn't a business profile. You want people to see what you're about and that you're a real person. Mine reads as follows:

Author of sweet, emotional, sparkling inspirational romance novels, encourager, coffee guzzler, obsessed with fluffy cats, and addicted to magazines


d. Click on the Save button at the bottom of the screen.


6. Next to the profile tab is the design tab. Choose the background you would like for your profile. You can also upload a custom background if you click on Change Background Image. Click on Change Design Colors to modify them. Save the information.


7. Next to the design tab is the connections tab. This will show any sites you've allowed to access your account. For instance, I have my blog posts fed into my account through Twitterfeed, so Twitterfeed shows up in this area.


Guess what? You're done! Now you can start using Twitter!


Tune in on Friday for Twitter 101: Beginner's Tips.


Have a terrific Wednesday!

Monday, March 28, 2011

In Defense of Traditional Publishers

For the past few weeks, news of self-publishing success stories have permeated the Internet. In between talk about Amanda Hocking's brilliant foray into self-publishing (check out her honest blog post What I Can Say Right Now) and Barry Eisler's no-thank-you to $500,000 in order to self-publish (I came across his story via Jane Friedman at There Are No Rules. You can read her summary and find the full interview at Bestselling Author Turns Down $500K Deal to Self-Publish), the cry that "traditional publishing is dead," or "traditional publishing is broken" runs rampant.

Glass
Photo by chicoer2001

Traditional publishing is not dead. It's not broken either.

When something is broken, it does not function. A broken glass cannot hold water. A dead clock will not tell the correct time. If traditional publishing were broken or dead, books would not be published each month. They wouldn't arrive in book stores, grocery stores, or supercenters. Books simply wouldn't be available.

Let's face it, the publishing industry took a massive hit with the economic downturn, similar to the auto industry and housing industry. The housing market still hasn't turned around, and prices for staples such as gas and food continue to rise. Most of us have less money to spend.

Some of the success of self-published authors can be traced to the prices of their books. They typically offer bargain prices--99 cents to $4.99. Readers don't mind spending a few bucks on a new author, much like homebuyers don't mind buying foreclosures. The benefits outweigh the risk.

Can traditional publishers work on their e-book models? Yes, but that's not the point of this post.
Publishing houses aren't witches to burn at the stake, nor are they empty, greedy middle-men. Traditional publishers provide valuable services to authors like top-notch editors, talented artists, detail-oriented copyeditors, and experienced marketers. They offer authors a percentage of profits, and, if an author sells tons of books, the author makes more money.

I don't have a problem with self-publishing. Authors who have honed their craft, are savvy about marketing themselves online, and who are willing to devote a large portion of their day to promoting their books may find self-publishing rewarding and profitable.

Writers unwilling to self-assess their work or who see success stories and have glitter in their eyes about getting rich quickly will be disappointed. Just because we have a product, doesn't mean we'll be able to successfully sell it.

What do you think--do traditional publishing houses provide value to their clients? Can anyone simply plop an e-book on a website and expect it to sell without spending enormous amounts of time marketing it?

On a side-note, Amanda Hocking recently signed a four-book deal with St. Martin's Press for an estimated $2 million. Read about it at L.A. Times, "Amanda Hocking, Self-Publishing Star, Finds 4-Book Deal." Congratulations, Amanda!

And traditional publishing is dead? Hmm...

Have a terrific Monday!

Friday, March 25, 2011

2 Different Atmospheres: Twitter and Facebook

Last week, my agent, Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Agency, wrote an eye-opening blog post about Twitter and Facebook, Taking Advantage of the Times: Marketing. She shared the following statistics:

The Huffington Post reported these statistics on Twitter for 2010:

•Twitter now has 105,779,710 registered users.
•New users are signing up at the rate of 300,000 per day.
•180 million unique visitors come to the site every month.
•Twitter users are, in total, tweeting an average of 55 million tweets per day.
•Twitter’s search engine receives around 600 million search queries per day.
To view the original blog post (with more stats), click here: http://huff.to/huffington-twitter-stats

Here are some Facebook statistics taken from Facebook’s page:

•More than 500 million active users.
•50% of active users log onto Facebook in any given day.
•Average user has 130 friends.
•People spend more than 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook

Rachel went on to give smart tips about how authors can use Twitter and Facebook to promote their writing. My opinion? Easy to use, socially acceptable sites with hundreds of millions of users? Perfect places to network with readers and writers!

Obviously, I'm biased toward social media sites. I enjoy them. My main goal in blogging, Twitter, and Facebook is the same--to build relationships. I read and cherish every comment on my blog. When someone retweets my post or shouts my name out for Writer Wednesday or Follow Friday, I'm extremely grateful. I feel close to my friends when I read their Facebook status updates.

Twitter and Facebook have different atmospheres. You might feel more comfortable in one over the other, but give them both a try with the following in mind.

Facebook, for me, is like a family reunion. I learn about my friends' triumphs, their illnesses, the animals digging in their yard, how their workouts are going, and anything else going on in their lives. I sit and chat at the table with my first cousins and grandma (close friends), but that doesn't mean I ignore great aunt Sally or the third cousin walking up the drive (new friends).

Twitter is more like a relaxed party with my friends. We talk about writing, share virtual coffee and chocolate with each other, and discuss information. Since I love meeting new people, I regularly follow anyone who interests me on various hashtags such as #amwriting, #amrevising, and #writers. I also follow people who share similar interests, like my obsession with fluffy cats. The party isn't invitation only--we encourage new people to stop by. We'll throw a soda in your hand, shove a plate of brownies your way, and join you in conversation.

Bottom line: I enjoy the family reunion as much as I enjoy a relaxed party with my friends.

If you enjoy Facebook, Twitter, or both, do you think they have different atmospheres? Do you prefer one over the other?


Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Constance Phillips

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or a best-selling author--all have made an impact on my life.


Thank you for welcoming...

Constance Phillips!

I met Constance three years ago at my local RWA chapter. When she generously invited me to join her and a few other friends for coffee, I jumped at the chance. We still have Friday coffee dates, and we both still love our MVRWA chapter--so much that she became president and I serve as vice-president. Constance is a talented writer of contemporary and paranormal romance. I'm thrilled to host her here!

1. Beverage of choice?
If it's before noon, or late in the afternoon I'm reaching for a deep, rich coffee with just a touch of cream. Any other time of the day, and it'll be a Diet Coke I'm craving.

2. Any pets?
We're dog people in this house. We have four of them. A terrier mix that is my baby and a yellow lab that belongs to my son. Then, there are the best known members of the family, Lily and Rose our mom and daughter Olde English Bulldogges.

3. Dream vacation?
I'm not too picky, but it would have to be a "beach vacation." A warm tropical beach!

4. What are you listening to right now?
It's one of those rare moments I don't have iTunes or Pandora on. I have one ear on an episode of American Pickers playing in the other room. I love all the shows about collectibles on the History Channel.

5. What's for dinner?
It's beef fajitas tonight.

Constance, just a touch of cream? I dump half the jug of flavored creamer in mine! I can't stop watching the History channel's line-up either, but if I could tear my eyes away from Pawn Stars, I would hop on a plane and join you on that beach vacation. March in northern Ohio can be rough! Thank you so much for sharing with us.

So here's my question for you...what are YOU having for dinner?

Active in RWA (Romance Writers of America) and the president of her local chapter (MVRWA), Constance is actively pursuing publication for her paranormal romance and contemporary romance novels. Her other passions are her young-adult children and their equestrian hobby, which is why she's also active in USPC (United States Pony Club).

Music is an integral part of life, which makes sense since she is the music editor at Blogcritics.org. It's a rare moment that she won't be listening to or writing about some sort of music. There's a special place in her heart for retro-pop, but you're just as likely to hear the newest alt sounds, blues or jazz emanating from her speakers.

For more information about Constance, check out her blog and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, March 21, 2011

What Do You Read?

I popped over to the online version of New York Times, scrolled through the entertainment section, and clicked on "Newly Released Books" by Susannah Meadows. After a quick scan of the six books listed, I sighed in disappointment. No romances.

books.
Photo by stacymbass

Two of the books did interest me, but I've got to be honest with you, my favorite genre to read is romance. Contemporary and historical top my list. If I'm not reading a romance novel, I'm probably reading a classic--I printed out a top 100 books list ten years ago and am still working my way through it. For the record, Ulysses and I did not get along, and we never will.

Have you tried to read Ulysses? Could you make it past page five?

Non-fiction features highly in my reading pile too. Various topics catch my eye, especially authors who make me view the world differently, like Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers and The Tipping Point. I'll often bring home several books with photographs of English gardens, because the Regency period makes me swoon.

Enough about me, though. What do you like to read? Do you have a favorite genre? And if you read non-fiction, what topic would you most likely bring home?

Have a terrific Monday!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Using Dropbox to Share Articles on Your Blog

You've written a terrific article, formatted it with pictures and links, and you want to share it with your blog readers. Except...how can you link an article from your computer when you need a URL for it?

You scratch your head, play around with your blog service, and finally paste the thing into a new page where you lose the formatting you carefully created. Frustrating, to say the least.

Nature Antarctica 02
Photo by christianrevivalnetwork

Since I have a website, my articles are hosted there, and I can easily grab the URL and link them. But what about writers who don't have websites? Do they have other options?

I discussed this recently with Constance Phillips and she gave me an excellent idea. Use a file-sharing service such as Dropbox.

Dropbox is a free service that offers up to 2GB storage. If you need more storage, you can purchase it. It's simple to sign up with--only a valid e-mail address and password are necessary. Naturally, you do not have to use Dropbox; you can use any file-sharing service.

After downloading the software, you click and drag files from your computer to your Dropbox account. If you place them in the Public Folder, you can Copy the link, and link them anywhere, including your blog or a widget on your sidebar. (To link one of your articles, type the title of the article in your blog post, highlight it, and use the link button to type or copy/paste the URL.)

Remember, not everyone has Microsoft Word or whatever word processor you use. For a universal way to share your work, consider converting your file to a .pdf file. Plenty of free file converters, like PrimoPDF, abound on the web. A .pdf file allows anyone who downloads Adobe Acrobat to read your work, and Acrobat is a universal, free program.

Type the URL of your blog, your name, and copyright information into your footer. This allows readers to click back to your blog (be sure to include http:// before the link), reminds them who wrote it, and discourages theft of your work. Your footer would look something like this:

http://jillkemerer.blogspot.com/ Jill Kemerer. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved

Do you have a genius method of sharing your articles online? I'd love to hear it!

Thanks!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Cindy R. Wilson

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or a best-selling author--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming…

Cindy R. Wilson!

When I first found Cindy's warm, welcoming blog over two years ago, I never dreamed we'd become critique partners. What a blessing! I consider Cindy and our critique group vital to my life and my writing. Welcome Cindy!






1. Beverage of choice?

Sweet tea with lemon.

2. Any pets?

No pets right now. I love dogs but kids take up enough of my time to feel like I could really care for an animal like they should be cared for.

3. Dream vacation?

Road trip to the East Coast (all the way from Colorado). I'm pretty enamored with the history of anywhere further east than the mid-west, and it's an adventure my hubby and I have been dreaming about for years and years.

4. What are you listening to right now?

The television is on some random movie in the background as I keep busy this morning - I caught a glimpse of Kevin Costner, though :)

5. What's for dinner?

My hubby went out and specifically got French bread to make ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches just like we had them in France when we went after we got married. They use half loaves of bread there and it's so fresh, we probably won't get quite the same result, but it's worth the try. Now I just need some carbonated lemonade and I can be temporarily transported back to Europe!

Cindy, thank you for letting us peek into your life today. We recently lived in Virginia, and I would gladly tag along on your East Coast trip. We couldn't get enough of the history! And stop making me drool with all this bread and France talk, not to mention Kevin Costner. :) Thank you so much for sharing with us!

Cindy R. Wilson writes contemporary inspirational romance, glorifying God through stories of faith and love. She has spent time learning the craft while writing more than a dozen novels. She has also been a member of ACFW for over a year and blogs about life and writing at her personal blog and a group blog for aspiring authors. To learn more about Cindy, stop by her blog or friend her on Facebook.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Migration and Writers

It's bird-a-palooza around my home. A Bald Eagle landed in our backyard last week, and waterfowl daily return. Two Bufflehead ducks, a pair of Merganser ducks, and a Great Blue Heron swam or searched for breakfast in our neighborhood this week. Obviously, despite the endless rain and dull gray skies, the birds have returned for summer.

Solo Merganser
Photo by ingridtaylor

What did they do over the winter? What did they see? Did they head to Mexico, stop in Georgia, or fly over DisneyWorld? And why did they choose to swim in the front retainage pond in my sub-division as opposed to a river or lake nearby?

I want to migrate. The endless rounds of buying groceries, tackling laundry, paying bills, and other tedious duties drag on each week. Where's the migration in that?

But maybe migration exists in my life. Our basketball season ended this weekend with three days of tournaments. Goodbye winter. Track and baseball will soon begin--hello, spring and summer. And my latest book? Almost done. Another exciting project awaits.

Writers migrate whether we realize it or not. The tiny idea for a book may be spring, the first draft summer, the initial revisions fall, and the final revisions winter, but eventually, writers migrate back to another tiny idea and start the process over again.

Now, the laundry, groceries, and what-not are here to stay. Sorry about that. Wish we could migrate from them too! But at least we have some areas of migration in our lives!

Do your projects feel like migrations? Or does everything feel like the same old thing?

Join me on Wednesday for 5 Easy Questions with...Cindy Wilson!

Happy Monday!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Do You Need a Website?

Websites.

Do unpublished authors need them? Do published authors need them?

Spring Tree Blossoms
Photo by allenmcgregor

In my opinion, published authors absolutely need a website. Readers like me love learning about our favorite authors, and we need a way to find their back-lists, new releases, and scheduled appearances. We also devour author biographies, and we e-mail authors to let them know we loved their books. Readers are flocking to the Internet to purchase e-books, so it makes sense for authors to make it easy to find information about them and their books.

I also believe unpublished authors can benefit from having a website, but it's not essential. Unpublished authors who want a website can either hire a designer, design their own site, or they can use a blogging service to create a website. When I started blogging over two years ago, Blogger didn't have many of the exciting features it currently does. One fabulous improvement is the ability to create static pages to make your blog look and function like a website. You can also direct your blogspot URL to a custom domain. (Wordpress offered both of these features long before Blogger, but I chose Blogger for a variety of reasons, one being the ease of following, finding, and linking to other blogs.)

Anyone can simply set up a blog, create static pages, and have an instant website--for free.

The drawbacks to creating a simulated website through a blog service include less freedom with overall look and design, and less support. Most web-hosting services offer 24 hour support, e-mail addresses, protection from hackers, and tons of online storage, whereas your blog account can get hacked and deleted, support exists only in forums, and you won't have access to many features a web-hosting service offers.

Still, I think creating the look of a website through a blog service is a terrific way for aspiring authors to promote themselves and their writing.



Here are essentials for an unpublished author's website (in no particular order):

1. Easy navigation.

There should be links to every page in the site and the navigation bar should be in the same spot on every page.

2. A biography with a good picture.

Keep the biography engaging, list your credentials, tell why and what you write. The picture does not have to be professional, but do wear a tasteful outfit and have someone take the best picture possible.

3. A page about what you write.

This could be as simple as stating the titles, genre, and word counts of completed books, a short story or article, or back-cover-like blurbs for each book. I don't recommend putting up sample chapters. Sample chapters belong in a requested submission, not on an unpublished author's website.

4. Links to your social networks.

Only include those you're active on. Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Goodreads, and so forth.

5. An e-mail address to contact you.

I understand wanting to maintain privacy and block spam, but there is no good reason for an author to withhold a contact method. Create a dedicated e-mail under your author name. I regularly e-mail authors of blogs, but if there isn't any way to contact them, I can't.

Published authors should publish a website before their first book is published. Good author websites make the reader want to buy an author's books. They also give numerous options for the reader to connect with the author through signing up for a newsletter, following the author on Twitter, Facebook, or other social networks, and by clearly stating upcoming appearances and when the next book will be released. Book covers should be linked for easy purchasing.

Here are essentials for a published author's website (in no particular order):

1. Easy navigation.

There should be links to every page in the site and the navigation bar should be in the same spot on every page.

2. A detailed author biography with professional picture.

Readers want to connect with the author, so include a picture. Franchises such as Portait Innovations offer business packages for around $70.oo and this includes copyright releases of certain poses to use online. The biography should be engaging--less business-like, more friendly.
3. Clearly stated achievements.

If the author won a prestigious award, made it on a best-seller's list or any other fabulous achievement--this should be prominently shown throughout the site. You're not bragging--you're simply informing anyone who stops by that other people like your books. The implied message: this author's books are good so buy one.

4. An updated appearance schedule.

Speaking at a library? Having a booksigning? Include the place, date and time. This shows you're actively promoting your books and that you encourage readers to interact with you.

5. A page dedicated to your books.

Feature book jackets, reviews, blurbs, and a link to purchase the book. Include a complete backlist. Readers like me are salivating to read every book by the author, and we do buy backlists.

6. Contact button.

A pop-up to e-mail the author should appear. A page with other contact information such as a P.O. Box can be included if desired.

7. Newsletter sign-up.

There are many great newsletter services. It's up to the author how often to send a newsletter, but most of the authors I sign up with produce them quarterly.

8. Blog.

If the author blogs, this should be either incorporated into the site or linked on every page.

9. Social media links.

Every page should have buttons for readers to connect with the author on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Linked-In, Shelfari, or whatever sites the author is active on.

10. Press kit.

This is for members of the media to easily access information about you and your writing in the event they want to interview you. Need an example? Check out Alley Blake's Press Release Page.

I only touched on the basics of websites today. I'm full of opinions, right or wrong, on them and will gladly share my thoughts if you have any questions.

Is there anything you would like to know about author websites?


Have a terrific Friday!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Wendy P. Miller

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming…

Wendy P. Miller!

I found Wendy's fabulous blog over two years ago, and we instantly connected, so much so that we and two other bloggers became critique partners. When I had the idea for a fun, weekly feature to promote authors, I begged my critique group to be my guinea pigs! Without further ado, here are Miss Wendy Miller's answers.



1. Beverage of choice?

Sweet tea in the day. For a night on the town I’ll go with a pomegranate martini and if I’m in the mood to bring on the fat, a thick chocolate shake.

2. Any pets?

Our old incontinent (but loved to pieces) Samoyed.

3. Dream vacation?

Mykonos, Greece

4. What are you listening to right now?

I’d like to say something more mood-inspiring, like an earthy jazz, but I can hear an episode of Wild Kratz in the other room and O.A.R. Crazy Game of Poker on Pandora.

5. What's for dinner?

Turkey meatballs, noodles with a pasta sauce I doctored up with fresh basil (love that smell) and mushrooms.

Wendy, I will join you for a chocolate shake in Mykonos, Greece anytime, sister. And your dinner activated my taste buds. Yum... Thank you so much for sharing, Wendy!

Wendy Paine Miller writes upmarket women’s fiction imbued with literary elements. She’s deliberate about exploring the richness and complexity of her characters. Her novels are interwoven with tension, gripping emotion and life as you know it. She loves writing stories infused with hope, stories spliced with colorful characters that inspire readers to see the world in a new light. Her greatest desire is to encourage readers to think anew by unlocking previous ways of viewing life and relationships. To learn more about Wendy, check out her blog, Thoughts that Move, and find her on Facebook, and Twitter.

Have a terrific Wednesday!

Monday, March 7, 2011

My Own March Madness

My mini-dachshund, Sophie, rolls on her back, arching and writhing in joy. Winter, spring, summer or fall, that little dog is happy. She ignores the forecast and takes the changing weather in stride.



(Yep, that's Sophie in a Disney Princess bed. Don't ask!)

I wish I could be more like that. The subtle shifts affect me lately, like knowing basketball season is almost over while baseball and track will be starting up. Petty details prick the recesses of my mind.

I'll have to buy spring clothes for the kids soon. Don't forget baseball cleats. And new socks. Wow, what do the kids do, gnaw holes in each one? I could always wait until Easter. What are we doing for Easter? I should shop for Easter baskets. But first, there's a birthday coming up. Do I have a birthday card? Wait, this weekend...basketball tournaments. Do we have Gatorade? Would it be wrong to bring a book to read? Speaking of books...

My brain jumps from one thing to another. It's my own personal March Madness. Emphasis on madness.

Thankfully, I'm addicted to magazines and caught this wonderful article in Woman's Day by Heather Lende "Real Life: Clearing Mental Clutter." I could relate to everything she described (except living in Alaska). Hope and happiness bubbled up. I'm not crazy. I'm not alone. And I will get over this in a few weeks. Life will return to normal, I will buy socks, and I'll try not to eat all of the Cadbury Mini-Eggs I buy for the Easter baskets.

Do you ever find your mind skipping through random future chores? Does it drive you crazy? And please, if you know when spring will come, please tell me!

Come back on Wednesday for a new feature: Five Easy Questions with...

Every Wednesday I'll ask a writer the same five questions. I hope you'll stop by and learn how my fabulous critique partner, Wendy P. Miller answers!

Have a marvelous Monday!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Twitter Limits

I've been banned, railroaded, stopped.

When I checked my Twitter account yesterday, it wouldn't allow me to follow any more people. *Gasp!* Really??

Wild West Railroad: Pecos Texas
Photo by davidw

Apparantly, my follow limit is set at 2000. After spending a few minutes learning more about the rule, I learned I could weed the accounts I follow to get below 2000 which would free me to begin adding people again. Or I could wait until my followers, around 1600, grew closer to the 2000 mark. Twitter adjusts the thresholds as the two merge.

Well, I knew I'd had a brief period where I'd followed back many accounts without checking them out, so I scanned my list see where I could make some cuts.

Twitter Disclaimer: You Do Not Have To Follow Everyone Who Follows You!

I went in with a clear agenda, and I quickly made my own set of rules on who to unfollow.

Jill's Red-Flag List of Tweeters to NOT Follow:

1. Random Businesses. I'm building a network on relationships, and I'm not going to have a relationship with a fish market. I will build a relationship with a reader who owns a fish market though. And I love Taco Bell, so I still follow it.

2. Anyone who doesn't tweet in English. Sorry, I don't speak many of the languages of people who follow me. I wish I did. However, if you tweet in French, I might follow you regardless, because I adore the way French appears.

3. Anyone who's profile contains the following: Network marketer, home business coach, optimization specialist, "help me help you," Twitter secrets, SEO guarantee. You get the idea. I'm not interested in whatever they are selling, yet I'd blindly followed about 50 of them because I wasn't paying attention.

4. Anyone with a profile picture of a. an egg (usually spammers) or b. someone in skimpy clothes or overly sensual (usually nasty spammers). It's not hard to upload a profile picture. It can be of anything--a cat, a gravatar, a flower--I don't care. Just avoid the egg. And put on an extra layer of clothing.

So who didn't get cut?

Real people. People who had taken the time to fill out a personal profile. I follow oodles of writers, both aspiring and published, along with industry professionals. I also follow publishing houses, news sources like the Wall Street Journal and Publisher's Weekly, and various artists. If someone follows me but has no ties to the writing industry, I follow them back because I'm interested in personal interaction.

Do you ever blindly follow back fellow Tweeters? Or do you have your own set of rules on who to follow? Care to share your rules? I'd love to hear them!

Have a terrific Friday!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Self-Assessing Our Work

In the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy section, I ran across an interview "'Memento' Star Guy Pearce Knows How Good (and Bad) He Is" and one of the questions/answers made me stop and nod my head.

Brorfelde landscape
Photo by stignygaard

Todd Gilchrist, the author of the piece, asked, "How eager are you then to revisit or deconstruct your performances after you’ve finished them?" And Guy Pearce responded,



Well, the first thing is that when you watch the film, is [you want to know] am
I in the right movie? Did I land tonally where I should have landed? And you
either do or you don’t, and then if you don’t, you’ve got to sort of assess why
that happened – it might just be bad communication between you and the director,
or you may have been pushing for something that isn’t right, your personality
was stronger than the director’s, or the director kind of got it wrong and they
guided you in a direction that wasn’t right...


As writers, we hear how important it is to have outside eyes on our project, how we need objective input on our manuscripts. I agree, but I also think we need to self-assess our work.

For aspiring authors, this might mean analyzing our queries if we aren't getting requests to submit. Is the tone of the query accurately reflecting the genre of the book? Is the query blurb too vague or generic? Or if the book is getting requested, we can save the query as an example of what works.

If after being requested, the book ends up being rejected again and again, we're wise to try to pinpoint areas our book suffers. Pretend you're a reader who has never read a novel in your genre before. Try to see it through new eyes. Write down your impressions and mentally tuck away this information. Any insight we gain will help us.

If you're certain the book couldn't be improved, consider other reasons it might be getting sent back. Maybe the writing shines but the genre isn't selling well, or it's set in a time period no publisher wants. Publishers don't want to gamble. They want books they know they can sell.

For published authors, consider taking a few hours to think about what worked and what didn't in your previously released book. Did any reader comments resonate that you can either incorporate more of or avoid in your new book? For example, the readers consistently raved about your heroine or mentioned how much they loved the setting. Use this to build on the success of your last book.

Do you take the time to analyze what is working and what isn't in your writing? Do the results surprise you?

Have an amazing Wednesday!