2014 is going to be our year to shine!

As we prepare to start a new year, I thought a crash course in my inky efforts might be useful. As I’m sure you know, one of the primary goals of Ink & Alchemy and More Ink is provide a place for writers and artists to network and show off their stuff. Another of my goals is to teach by example. I work diligently on my platform and hope that by doing so, each of you will pick up some useful ideas for strengthening your own platform.

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As I reflect on 2013 and consider how to improve I&A and MI in 2014, one fact keeps swimming to the surface. We haven’t used this platform as effectively and consistently as we could have. Much of this is my fault and I have an incredible number of ideas floating around in my brain aimed at improving in the future.

I don’t mean to point fingers here, but some of this is also your fault.
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There are many ways that you can take advantage of the free marketing I’m offering, but many people don’t. This surprises me. People are downright desperate to get their work out there, and I don’t blame them a bit. So am I. The market is tough and it’s hard to make yourself heard above the roar of the crowd.

This blog post is a friendly reminder of myriad of ways that you can take advantage of the promotional opportunities that I offer in the upcoming year. Let’s work together so that we’re more successful than ever before.

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  • My website has lots of free resources, including lists of recommended sites and a reading list, links to help you promote your ebook during your free KDP days, and a PDF describing the basics of building your social media platform.
  • I offer Featured Artist and Featured Writer programs. Submit your work. There is no cost to you and the bottom line is increased exposure for your work. Use these enthusiastically. When I feature you, you should re-post that link far and wide and comment when you can. Leverage every single bit of exposure for all it’s worth.
  • A tip about features: I do my best to give everyone a fair shake, but the bottom line is that if you regularly frequent the page, interact with others, or share my links, you’ll likely get featured more often. Reciprocity. It’s just the way it works.
  • If you have an upcoming event (book release or signing, exhibition opening, etc.), send me the info. I’ll do my best to post it throughout my platform. You can increase your odds of being promoted by sending me a well-formatted blurb complete with links and an image. Copy, paste! How much easier can it get?
  • Along the same lines at the previous bullet – I offer guest blogging or features on a regular basis but people seldom participate. This is a win-win. Fresh content for me that I didn’t work very hard to get and content for you that you can smear all over cyberspace. You can wax poetic about how incredible you are and blame it on me if you like! Just send me a piece that is publication-worthy (with links and images). Please, please, I beg you – do not send me poorly spelled and punctuated ramblings. Because I’m basically a nice person, I spent way too much time correcting and editing this kind of thing in 2013. New year, new rules. In 2014, I will do light editing, but I don’t have the time to re-write submissions.
  • Sometimes people apply to be featured and then shoot themselves in the foot. You really need to have a website or at least a FB or blog page that is regularly updated. I can’t promote what doesn’t exist. If you’re still starting out and building your platform, consider submitting a guest blog. See previous bullet.
  • I’ll admit that I like to control the content at Ink & Alchemy. It’s kind of my baby and I’m a little protective of it. Every once in a while, I open it up for link sharing (like today RIGHT NOW), but for the most part, I curate this page. More Ink is another story. You may feel free to post useful links, events, and anything else you think will energize us to greater creativity! Think of More Ink as ourpage, yours and mine. If you’re a part of Ink & Alchemy, you should probably also frequent More Ink. It’s a less formal, more open forum and I’d love to have you!
  • My platform reaches far and wide and isn’t just limited to the FB pages. Try to branch out in the upcoming year and use a new medium. How about Vimeo, Behance, or Tumblr?

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If I were going to summarize what I think successful promotion looks like, I’d say this:

Consistency

Content

Reciprocity

Cross-linking

What do I mean by cross-linking? Imagine that networking is…well, a gigantic net. Every single interaction that you have in cyberspace is tiny potential thread in the larger mesh. You can’t build a strong, reliable network by rushing or using a shortcut. It’s not quick because you have to earn the trust of your followers. Every little thread should be carefully placed and secured. How can you do this? The best approach is to consistently post quality content. Regularly interact with others. Be patient. Be genuine. Your network will build itself slowly. I’ve talked about this in many other places (like here, here, and here), so I’ll spare you the details.

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I encourage you to take your platform seriously. Take action in 2014. Come up with a plan and hold yourself accountable. I recently started a new series designed to help you become a (social media) badass. My plan is to post practical, useful actions throughout the year that you can take to learn how to better manage your platform. Try it and let me know how it works.
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Join my mailing list or check out the archives. You’ll find lots of links and information to help you with promotion.
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This art knocks your eyeballs around a bit, doesn’t it? I adore the work of Jaeyeol Han. He’s a Korean artist who works primarily in oil bar on canvas and is part of the I&A Featured Artist Program.Pay him a visit at his website by clicking here or on any of the images in this post.

Need a creative kick in the ass? 

Pop over for a quick art or lit fix.

P.S. Wanna hear something fabulous? Sheila Cameron has made my day. She is one of my favorite artists (not to mention just a terrific and kind-hearted person) and has created a very special discount today in celebration of Ink & Alchemy.  I am beyond honored.Go to her Etsy store and enter coupon code: INKANDALCHEMY for 20% off. But you’d better hurry, because I’m heading over now and I can’t guarantee that I’ll leave anything for you.

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Share your shiznit Sunday (plus download my book for free).

Today is share your shiznit Sunday on both of my FB pages. This is a great way to build your networks and make new connections. If you have pages/sites/blogs that you’d like to share, hop on over and paste your link as a comment to my invitation on the appropriate page. If they’re relevant, you’re welcome to comment at both pages. We’d love to have you!

Art related links: Ink & Alchemy

Writing & Lit related links: More Ink

Everyone gets 5 free days on KDP and mine start today. So, download at will and then do me a huge favor – drop me an honest review at Amazon and/or Goodreads.

You can download the ebook for free at this link or just click the cover above. Oh, and please pass this link along to others.

Thanks! Happy weekend!

Stupid questions to ask self-published authors

“Did you use a real publisher?”

“Is it a real book?”

I’ve heard these questions and other similar queries many times, and not just from those dissociated with the writing and publishing industries. What kinds of people ask these questions? Traditionally published authors. Struggling writers. Non-writers. Friends and family. The guy at the bus stop. Basically anyone.

This is rude and thoughtless. It’s akin to walking up to a set of new parents, gurgling baby in arms and asking, “Can you trade it for a real one?” “Will it get any cuter?” Inherent in those questions and especially in the particular phrasing which uses the word real is the assertion that a self-published book isn’t valid. Dead wrong.

Self-publishing is a perfectly acceptable way to get your book into print. It’s quick and inexpensive. What it isn’t, however, is easy. It still requires the same hard work. You still need to write on your lunch hour and burn the midnight oil. You still need to write, write, and thump on that manuscript until it doesn’t make you want to choke with embarrassment. Then, you need to find a trusted cadre of readers brave enough to give you true and harsh feedback. Rewrite again. Find an editor. Rewrite again. Proof that sucker multiple times.

The process of writing hasn’t changed a bit.  It’s still really hard to do it well and terribly difficult to find success. The good writing will hopefully get noticed and the bad writing will sink to the bottom. Note that this  is just a general rule and isn’t necessary true in all cases – see  The Cuckoo’s Calling and 50 Shades of Grey.

You finally drag your tired carcass across the finish line with this raggedy-ass manuscript in hand and guess what? More work and lots of it. You either need to hire someone to design your cover or get very familiar with GIMP or Photoshop. You need to navigate the idiosyncrasies of .mobi files versus .epub. You must slay the dreaded auto-indent that lives in KDP-land.

I’m not saying that every self-published book out there is a sparkling, beautiful gem, just waiting to be discovered. Sub-standard work exists and the fact that anyone can publish pretty much anything they want means that the publishing world has drastically changed. We need to change with it. We need to accept and understand the new paradigm and begin to strengthen it.

What I’m saying is a self-published book doesn’t suck simply by virtue of being self-published. It very well might be poorly written and ill-imagined, but you must read it before you make that determination.

Self-publishing isn’t new, it’s e-publishing that’s new. Proust paid his own bill in order to get Swann’s Way published . Many familiar authors such as Walt Whitman, Edgar Allen Poe, Benjamin Franklin,  and Edgar Rice Burroughs (among countless others) utilized some form of self-publishing.

So your manuscript is finally ready. You go through the steps required to turn it into an ebook and then a physical book. Are you finished?

HELL, NO. You are not even close to being done.

Now you must market this thing. You must network and promote. And lest I be misunderstood, let me clarify something here – when I speak of marketing and promoting, I mean you will spend months, maybe years, building a platform and maintaining it.

This process is not for cowards. It isn’t going to work for those who lack initiative, follow-through, or tenacity.

So – have some respect, please. The next time you speak with someone who just self-published a book, think about the tremendous amount of perseverance, hard work, and sheer heart that it took. Congratulate them on their huge accomplishment. Give that author a big old bear hug from me!

If you wish to have an opinion on the book, you will need to do one of two things:


1.) Go buy the book and read it.

2.) If you don’t want to buy the book, ask the author if you may receive a free copy in exchange for an honest review. I guarantee every single author will agree immediately. Now go home and read that book.

Finally, go to AmazonGoodreads, and B&N and review the book. Be kind but give them your honest opinion. These reviews are invaluable for several reasons. Remember I said anyone can publish and they do? This means that the market is glutted and one of the important ways that authors differentiate themselves is using reviews.

Yikes! I can hear everyone out there clamoring and shouting questions about the current state of book reviews.


 Are they trustworthy? Can one pay to get a review?


Answers:  I don’t know. Yes, I suspect so.


This is a topic for another post and I will table it for now and come back to it at a later time.

Let’s just focus on HONEST REVIEWS. If you can deliver them with clarity, honesty, and specificity, they can serve to help the writer better understand her readers. That is worth it’s weight in gold. If you have something to say that might seem a little harsh to just toss out there into the cyberworld, limber up your fingers and send that author a kind but honest review of his book. This is a kind and generous, and something that most people don’t take the time to do for writers.

Criticizing or diminishing the efforts of self-published writers weakens the industry. Instead, let’s take a positive approach. Encourage and applaud self-published authors. Review. Refuse to give anything but an honest review.

By the way, most of these principles also apply to indie artists who are trying to make their way. Let’s lend support and love to all creative people brave enough to put their work out there.

P.S. If you choose not to read the book, you only have one option. Kindly shut up about it until you have something informed and useful to say.


These gorgeous collage pieces were brought to you by one of Ink & Alchemy’s Featured Artists, the talented Emilia Elfe. Clicking any artwork will take you to her website.

As always, thanks for spending time with me. If you wanna hang out some more, visit my platform.

Please stop doing this.

You keep hearing that you need to establish an online presence in order to promote yourself, right? This is absolutely true, and while it might seem that there are no rules and that anything goes out there in the insanity that is the cyber world, I think there are some things that you should avoid.

 

This post is about what not to do while you’re out there trying to pimp yourself on the internet. Don’t…

 

  • Take things personally.  Understand that when you post things online, your potential audience is enormous. It’s unlikely that everyone will agree with you all the time. Sure, you can engage in intelligent conversation and debate, and in fact this is strongly encouraged, but be aware that there is very a fine line between enthusiastically disagreeing and becoming angry or antagonistic.The latter is unprofessional.

  • Announce your numbers. No offense, but I really don’t give a rat’s ass how many fans or followers you have and neither does anyone else. Yes, yes, I know that oftentimes FB giveaways and the like are predicated on your fan page making it to the big 500, etc. I also know that in the desperate scramble for something to post, this seems easy and it’s so tempting. Stop doing it. I can think of a thousand better reasons to give something away. It’s Tuesday. The sun is shining. Just because you want to. All of these are better reasons than making promotions or giveaways hinge on your numbers. In fact, I will go so far as to suggest that all of us should be focusing much less on our numbers and far more on engaging with our existing fans and producing useful content.

  • Assume some contacts are better than others. Networking is a fabulous and mysterious creature. Don’t make the mistake of judging any interaction as “good” or “bad” based on stereotypes or incorrect assumptions. I deem all interactions on my page (and in real life as well) as super freaking fantastic and so should you. Anytime a person takes the time to visit your sites, you should be flattered right out of your boots, and if they go really crazy and like, share, or comment on your posts, you should be doing a happy dance. Don’t worry about if you sold anything to them. Don’t worry about if you will ever sell anything to them. Understand that people have no shortage of things vying for their attention, and just getting people to your site is a tremendous accomplishment. Revel in it and then nurture those contacts. Every single one of them is a real person and is valuable. They may change your life by encouraging you or causing you to think outside of the box. They may lurk and never do anything terrific on your page. They may share your page and eventually lead to a sale or a new connection. They may actually buy your book (settle down over there, crazier things have happened). The point is you don’t know, so you should treat every single contact as a VIP.

  • Steal content. This is just bad form and in some situations, it’s illegal. Of course it’s fine to re-post and share the work of others. That’s a huge part of this whole networking thing. But be very careful to give credit where credit is due and ask for permission if you are at all uncertain.

  • Constantly toot your own horn. Yes, I know it’s your platform and it should be centered around you, you, you, but take my word for it – if you constantly post sales links and rarely interact with others, you’re whistling into the wind. Chances are, no one is even listening any more. I know you want to sell your stuff, but this is the tough part. This is where so many people fail. You need to cultivate relationships, not become the cyber equivalent of a door-to-door salesman at dinnertime.

  • Publish poorly edited work.  This is self-explanatory. It reflects poorly on you and your business when you publish things with errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Typos slip by even the best of us, and if you’re producing a lot of work, the odds of missing a mistake increase, but do try.

  • Be negative. Nobody likes complaining or whining. Life is hard enough. Try to be the bright spot in someone’s day. Aim for uplifting and encouraging.

  • Try to promote a business using a personal profile. This applies to all venues, but especially Facebook. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. FB pages are free and are so much better suited for a business. If you’re using your personal profile, you are requiring people to send you a friend request in order to interact with you. If you are doing this, stop immediately. I guarantee that you lose many potential fans because of this. It also becomes problematic if you decide to participate in Adsense or other promotion and affiliate programs because the whole process gets convoluted. More on this in a later post, but suffice it to say – it is prohibited for your friends and family to click your ad links. Adsense has bots which can detect term violations, and if you have customers/clients on your personal profile, it can appear as if you are in violation. Take my word for it – if you don’t have a FB page, stop reading right this second and go create one.

  • Expect immediate results.  This is a big one. I should have placed this one first, or maybe just written about this one all by itself. Promoting your work using networking via social media is not fast and it’s not easy. Why? It requires a constant, consistent push. On top of that, everything is constantly changing, and so must your approach if you want to to keep up. Finally, if you don’t offer genuine, useful content, you’re dead in the water. It takes time and  intention to build a strong platform.

A quick reminder that I’ll be leading a workshop at Southwest Writers in August. It’s called The Basics of Building a Social Media Platform and it will be jam packed with good, practical information to help you get up and running in the cyber world. I’m working on the syllabus and will post it to my website soon.

The art in this post was brought to you by Angela Petsis, one of Ink & Alchemy’s Featured Artists. Click here to visit her website, or here to check out her Etsy shop.

We’re also writing and reading up a storm over at More Ink. I’d love for you to join us!