A Starter’s Guide For Fiction Writers Trying To “Establish A Social Media Presence” Part 3

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Part 3: Short-Form Social Media and Hashtags

Two weeks ago, I shared my descent into social media and my guiding philosophies for interacting with others on the internet. Last week, I discussed the generals about creating a website and starting your own blog.

Now? Let’s talk about the rest of the social mediums.

ALL OF THEM. Or maybe I’ll hit 2000 words before I’ve finished with Facebook, and Twitter, and Hashtags, oh my!… Looks like there’s gonna be a Part 4 after all.

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Facebook

The granddaddy of all social media these days. With ‘friends’, ‘followers’, and everything in between.

What is Facebook

In case you’ve been living under a rock: For Facebook, you sign up, and your “profile page” shows all your “posts”– anything you want to share from 1 liners to links, to long-form notes. You ‘friend’ people and they friend you back.

Your ‘feed’ consists of what you and your friends post. It’s often sorted by ‘Top Stories’ – i.e. things that others have been commenting or ‘liking’ (hitting the thumbs up button on) a lot. But, you can switch it to show the feed in chronological order as well.

Groups and Privacy

There are privacy settings of ‘public’, ‘friends only’, and you can create your own custom lists, or share in groups.

Groups are facebook pages with members and their own privacy settings. You can search for groups based on your interests, or just wait for people to invite you. If the group is private, the posts can’t be shared externally, and can’t be seen by other people.

This doesn’t mean people can’t screenshot them, though. So be considerate of what you post.

Your Facebook page is where you can announce things to everyone you’ve ever known and their 2nd cousins. (Unless they’re under 13.)

One Thing. Teens are catching on about that whole object permanence thing. They’re moving off Facebook, to places their parents don’t supervise. To places where the message is erased right after they send it.

How to use Facebook and Improve Your Visibility

Personally? Most of my followers, writing groups, and blog share hits come from Facebook. Despite the teen-flee, it’s still super useful and a great way to connect.

However, if people don’t interact with you, Facebook will stop showing them your posts. Especially blog links or Patreons, assuming they’re all spam.

So how do you make Facebook show your friends and followers your posts?

Don’t just talk about your writing! Post things from your life, upload pictures, share memes (stock images, with quippy text).

If you have pets? The internet is 50% cat pictures and videos and people still love them.

You can share personal information without sharing private information. You’ll see me talking about my life and interactions, but only rarely do I discuss details or name names.

Facebook Pages?

These are sort of like a Group but typically owned by one person or a business. They’re for professional use only.

If you’re an author, it’s reasonable to establish one. But, don’t count on anything here being seen unless you have a large group of active followers, or you pony up some cash. They have the lowest priority in Facebook feed because Facebook wants to earn some money off you.

Another way to get seen more is to post videos or pictures. Facebook prioritizes these. Especially facebook videos, but I’m not quite ready for live-streaming…

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Twitter

This one can be very polarizing. Some people love it, some people hate it. A lot of it is in how you use it and what sections of twitter you hang out in.

This is one I’d REALLY advise caution when wading into socio-political issues.

What is Twitter

Here, you chose a username, add a brief description, then share text or images, up to 280 characters long (it used to be 140 characters).

Remember to think about brand consistency. You can change your profile name, but the username, i.e. the ‘@whatever’ part will stay the same FOREVER.

How To Use Twitter

There are no ‘groups’, per se. And everything is shown on your feed chronologically. Which means, after you’ve followed a couple handfuls of people, it can be hard to keep up.

I like to create lists. Mostly based on why I followed them (agents/publishers), or where I know them from (Writer support group A or Support Group B). That way, when I see a comment in my feed, I can associate it with the right people.

I have to admit, unless your profile picture is of you, or your name is in your username? I have a hard time keeping track of who is who on twitter. And… I kinda don’t even try.

If you like a post, you can ‘heart’ it.

It’s perfectly reasonable to respond to a tweet directed at you with a GIF–and Twitter has the GIF library to support it (before facebook!)

If you want to share a post, so your followers can see it – it bumps it in THEIR follower’s feed so they have a better chance of seeing it. You can either ‘Retweet’ or ‘Quote Retweet’. Quote retweet lets you add your own comment to the reshared tweet, and means they won’t get notifications for everyone who comments on it.

Why would they get notified? When you @mention someone in your tweet, so it shows up on their notifications. Just type @[their username] and they’ll be notified.

Confession?

I spend a lot more time tweeting and looking at my notifications than I do looking at my main twitter feed.

When I do want to see what my friends are saying, I’ll go to specific lists and look. The rest of the tweets? I only see what Twitter suggests as “your friends are liking this post” or “did you miss this” from people I interact with a lot.

Why Writers Should Consider Twitter

Twitter offers a lot of opportunities:

  • A writing community
    • I like to check out writer hashtags, and, after making sure I’m looking at the ‘Latest Tweets’, not the ‘Top Tweets’ tab that’s the default, I’ll go cruising through the tweets looking for people to follow.
  • Twitter Pitch Contests:
    • Essentially, boil your Manuscript’s pitch down to about 240 characters, add the relevant hashtags
      • The contest name: #pitchWhatever
      • Your manuscript’s genre: #f (fantasy) #r (romance), #litfic (literary fiction), etc
  • Twitter Contests:
    • Some are for Mentors:
      • #AMM – Author Mentor Match
      • #PitchWars

      Some are for query critiques

      • #sunVsSnow

      Some are for first page/chapter reviews

  • Some are for query critiques
    • #sunVsSnow

    Some are for first page/chapter reviews

  • Many agents and Editors are active on Twitter.
    • #MSWL (Manuscript wish list) can help you find agents who are looking for your manuscript.
    • Looking at their feed can give you a good feel for their personality, and if they’re a good fit.
    • WARNING: Do NOT go back 5 years worth of tweets, gleaning for every crumb you can, liking all their posts. That’s creepy. Just look a couple weeks back, or look at a specific tag.

Hashtags

I just referenced a lot of hashtags, but they require their own discussion.

Twitter is one of those places where hashtags are important. Hashtags often give context to a post. But also, they can be ways of finding related discussions, or groups. And are useful for searching a person’s posts, for a specific topic.

Just because you’re a member of a group, doesn’t mean all of your tweets are related to that topic. But if you hashtag it with the group’s hashtag, everyone can find it.

NOTE: DO NOT MISUSE HASHTAGS

You will annoy people, or get remembered…for the wrong reasons. People use hashtags to find related posts and if you use them improperly, the search will be cluttered with off-topic posts.

Hashtag Do’s

  • DO participate in Twitter Pitch Events such as: #PitchSlam, #pg70pit, #pitmad, #SFFPit, #PBPitch, #FaithPitch, and #IWSGPit
    • An agent “like” on a twitter pitch during these contests is ONLY a request for a query. Add the contest hashtag to the subject line of your query and submit as normal, unless the agent has previously tweeted that you should do otherwise.
  • DO read the #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) tag is for agents (and Editors of publishing houses) to share what they’re looking for.
    • If they’re looking for something that’s a VERY CLOSE fit to the manuscript you’re actively ready to query, go to their agency website and submit while adding a reference to the #MSWL item to your query.
  • DO join in on weekly hashtags like:
    • #1linewed – there’s a theme each week, search to find it
    • #WIPjoy – Work In Progress joy – a line that makes you happy that you recently wrote
    • #FF – follow Fridays, where you tag friends or writers you’d recommend others follow
    • #mondayBlogs
  • DO use hashtags like #askagent to communicate with agents
  • DO use hashtags like #amwriting, #amediting, #writersLife, #writeTips, #writingTips, #5amwritersClub, #9pmwritersClub, and #nanowrimo to connect with other writers!

Things To Avoid

  • DO NOT pitch directly to agents. Outside of twitter pitch contests, Twitter is NOT for pitching.
  • DO NOT ask an agent if they like the sound of your novel.
  • DO NOT DM (direct message) them.
  • DO NOT stalk and act like you’re suddenly besties.
  • DO NOT tweet on #10queries, #tenqueries, #MSWL, etc. These are for AGENTS and Editors of Publishing companies
  • DO NOT flood weekly hashtags with a stack of tweets.
  • DO NOT use #askAgent for anything google can tell you in 2 minutes.
    • Don’t ask what genres they represent, take 2 minutes to look at their literary agency website.

When you go to add a hashtag, on the app (unfortunately, not on the computer), it’ll show you the hashtag’s frequency. It can be 250 tweets in the last hour, or day, or ever. The more popular a hashtag is the more people who might see your tweet. Or, it might get lost in the crowd.

If enough people like or retweet your tweet, your visibility will skyrocket. If not, it can sit there in obscurity. The #trending tab can show you what a lot of people are actively talking about

Personally? I like to go for regularly used hashtags, that aren’t currently over-saturated.

But the funny thing about social media? You can get insta-famous for something you tweeted 3 years ago if it goes viral.

How to Get Followers

Check out posters on hashtags you like.

Follow them.

It’s as easy as that.

Many people auto-follow-back anyone who follows them.

If you get added to someone else’s list, and you like the company you’re in? Click on the list, find the ‘view members’ option from the menu tab (the 3 horizontal lines), and then click ‘follow’ on all of them.

Interact with your followers. Twitter loves GIFs and has a button and a library to add them to tweets. (I like to caption stuff so people who can’t see the image know what’s going on) And they did the GIF thing LONG before Facebook did.

DO NOT be the person who Direct Messages everyone who follows you, many of us hate that and want to unfollow people who do that.

When people follow me, I like to vet them. I don’t like people who are all advertisements or click-bait for 2 full screens. I’m picky. If I don’t see an original tweet from them for 2 full screens, or if their profile picture is empty and they seem to be adding only pretty girls, I back away slowly and pretend I was never there.

Although, if someone DMs me their website or whatever after I follow them? I’ve started sending mine back at them.

Tip: If you’re curious when someone followed you, your followers’ list is in order from most-recently-followed down to your first follower.

WARNING: Some people will go around following tons of people and, after they follow back, unfriend them!

ANOTHER WARNING: You can only follow a certain number of people a day, and you can’t follow significantly more people than people who follow you. The limit goes up as your follower list goes up. But, I think it maxes at 250 people in a sitting.

All-in-all, twitter can be a great place to connect with other writers, editors, agents, and people involved in all stages of publishing. It can be a great place for indie-authors and small publishers.


One Last Thing

Make sure to keep your brand consistent from site to site. You don’t have to reshare everything from Twitter onto your facebook, but you should still feel like the same person.

Check back next week, where I’ll take on Tumblr, Instagram, and more.

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A Starter’s Guide For Fiction Writers Trying To “Establish A Social Media Presence” Part 2

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Part 2: Creating Your Author Website and How To Start Blogging

Last week, I shared my descent into social media and my guiding philosophies for interacting with others on the internet. Now, I’m going to discuss creating a website and how to start blogging.

Your Author Website

Your website can stand alone, or it can also be your blog. Even if you don’t care to blog, having a landing page, with your name, and links to any books you’re selling, can be useful and help when people are googling you.

Where To Get A Website

For those unfamiliar, a domain name, i.e. “www.amazingwriter.com” doesn’t come with much, other than the address. You still need to create a website and find a host for it. A host is a place you can save the files that make up your website and lets the internet know where they are so people can find you.

  • If you can afford it, try to buy a domain name.
    • Suggestions: Your name or motto
    • Caution Against: Book titles
      • Publishers often change these
      • You’re not planning on being a one-hit wonder, right?
  • WordPress, Blogger, and Wix are the main ones I hear about these days
    • Even if you’re NOT blogging!
    • Also, Tumblr, but that’s a different style of social media
    • I use WordPress, the free edition
      • I may be a software engineer in my spare time, but that doesn’t mean I want to give up valuable writing time fussing with a website. I let the perfectly nice pre-existing ones work for me and roll with it.
      • Back it up regularly
      • Choose a clean theme that doesn’t have too many bells and whistles
      • Remember that YOU are your main product, you want people to buy your books when you publish because they like the way you write when you AREN’T trying to sell them something

Setting Up Your Website

Step one:

Design or Pick a layout. More graphical or fancy layouts are typically more for photographers or social media gurus. This is about your writing, let your writing do the talking, not all the fancy gimmicks.

Step two:

Create some pages.

  • A contact page, with your email, etc.
  • An about page, with your biography.
    • Profiles with photos do best, so make sure to have a writer picture of YOU here. Use the same picture on all your social media–YOU are your brand, and you want consistency.
  • A page to share links to all your writing (either online or to the store selling your work)

Blogging – [Wordpress]

If you’re going to blog, pick a style of blogging and try to stay consistent. You can choose a theme (it doesn’t have to be writing!).

Blog Theme

  • Writing Tips
  • Short Stories
    • Note: This counts as first publication, so DON’T do this without a password protection screen if you intend to sell these shorts
  • Hobbies
    • Do you run? Curl? Do woodwork? Sing? Travel? Belly-dance? You’re a writer, if you want a following, you should be able to make your hobby sound interesting, even to non-hobbyists
  • Book Reviews
    • NOTE: This can get tricksy as a writer. As a general note, it’s best to only share the books you loved and leave the criticism to readers and people who can’t be mobbed with 1-star ratings by resentful fans.
  • Writing historical fiction? Share your research!
  • Pets
    • People LOVE pet pictures and stories
  • NOTE: You can mix in all of these and more. Set up a schedule and manage your readers’ expectations.

Blogging Frequency

As recommended by Anne Allen, slow blogging is better than fine. Your blog is here to support your writing, not the other way around!

  • If you do short to medium posts? Once a week is plenty!
  • If you do long, heavily researched posts? Once every 2-6 weeks is perfectly acceptable!

Images

A blog post should always have an image associated with it. Preferably, more than one. Maybe you’re setting a ‘featured image’, or maybe you’re including it in the posts.

You can always set a default image for your website: that will get displayed in search results for your website, or when you share links to your blog when that post has no image associated with it.

Many bloggers like to include GIFs on their blog, and WordPress now has a library of common use images you can use to spice up your post.

I like to try to create my own images, but sometimes I don’t have the time to make them look the way I need, or I just don’t have images that work for the post.

I sometimes struggle with images that look good in all 3 layouts (computer, tablet, phone) because they resize and clip images as needed and sometimes that distorts the image poorly. For me, it’s a work in progress.

Sharing Your Posts

Most of my views come from Facebook. Some from Twitter and the WordPress Reader. (And, for one page, search results.) So, sharing my posts on those spaces is pretty key.

You’re going to need to come up with a quippy tagline for your post, that’s honest, engaging, and less than 280 characters long. Oh, and especially on twitter? You’re gonna need some hashtags.

Personally, I struggle to find the right balance between engaging and sounding like lame-o click-bait.

I usually hashtag with the twitter tags I use the most, that are relevant to my topic. If you go to twitter, you can type in hashtag ideas and see the hover-text, letting you know how many other people used that hashtag. Sometimes it’s “250 people used this hashtag in the last hour” (or day), and sometimes, it’s “25 people have used this hashtag.” (Ever.)

Remember, you can share the blog post link more than once.

I know it feels super uncomfortable, selling yourself and spamming your friends and followers. If it makes you feel any better? Only 10% of your Facebook feed even sees your posts.

I share in a couple writer-themed groups (according to their rules), I share when it goes up, and again around 5/5:30pm on Twitter, when people are commuting and maybe checking their feed again. (Social media gurus say you should tweet like 6 times a day, but I don’t like spamming up my feed that much.)

I usually reshare my posts on Monday, on Twitter, with #MondayBlogs.

I’ll go more into hashtags next week.

Finding Followers

Resharing your blog on your personal, pre-existing social media is a great way to get started. Be excited, be personable, don’t make us feel like you’re selling us tupperware*!

But honestly? The best way to get followers without spending money, (short of going viral), is to follow other bloggers! And add quality comments on THEIR posts.

  • Be kind and contribute a thought or suggestion (if appropriate) that adds to the conversation at hand

Letting others reshare your blog is a great way of getting more readers.

Letting others post your blog post on their own site is a little trickier, but can have good value.

  • Check out their site first, being posted there is an implicit approval of their blog! There are a number of things you should assess
    • Quality of posts
    • Frequency of posts
    • Ad usage (both on the site and otherwise)
    • Post topics

And that’s it. Now you know what is expected of a writer and/or writer-blogger.

Get a domain. Pick a theme and schedule and keep to it. Use images and share your posts on social media.


If you have a website or blog, what am I missing? What challenges did you run into?

For the rest of you? Best of luck!

*If I don’t capitalize it, that means I’m not referencing the brand, right?

A Starter’s Guide For Fiction Writers Trying To “Establish A Social Media Presence” Part 1/3(??)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Part 1: Becoming A Good Internet Citizen – As A Writer

If you want to be a writer, the ubiquitous “they” tell you that you need to “Establish a Social Media Presence”, but so much of the advice out there is aimed at Non-fiction writers.

Non-fiction writers sell books based on establishing their expertise in a particular area.

Fiction writers? We sell books based on the story, the writing, and word-of-mouth.

So how do we make social media work for us?

Morgan’s Approach To Social Media

Once upon a time, I finished drafting my first novel, editing it, and sending it off to beta-readers. While I awaited their feedback, I started researching “the next step”, and everywhere I looked said I needed an author page. At the bare minimum, I should have a website landing strip to get my name out there.

Morgan Gets Herself a Website

I bought my own domain name for Branding (you’re gonna hear that word a lot in this essay) and set up a WordPress site. I might be a coder by day, but I’m not about to spend my limited writing time coding.

But, an empty website with just my name on it seemed a bit barebones and half-um…tushed. So, I figured I’d put up three to five posts so there would be some content there.

That was in April of 2015.

I followed the suggested “slow blogging” approach, starting off posting at least twice a month, until the second-half of February 2016. And I haven’t missed a week since then. (Although, I *did* do one rerun when I was out of the country).

Somewhere around May of 2016, I was reading a blog, I can’t remember if it was Kristen Lamb‘s or Anne R. Allen with Ruth Harris‘s that suggested it, but. The blog suggested, even if I’m not planning on using a social media, I might want to reserve my name.

Why Reserve Your Name on ALL the Platforms?

  • Trends may change, my friends/followers might move to a different platform
  • jerks might try to reserve your name
  • Using the same ID is helpful for Brand Consistency

Suddenly, I had a Twitter, a Tumblr, a Goodreads, a Reddit, an Instagram, a Pinterest, a Facebook Author Page, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something. Oh right, a you-tube channel, like where you can watch me ramble on this very topic…

The article on reserving your brand said I didn’t need to do anything with them, just pick my favorite one or two and ignore the rest.

Well…I can’t leave well-enough alone. I couldn’t just leave them empty. *facepalm*

The problem is, none of these social media networks work the same way, and figuring them out is tricksy! [I’ll cover Blogging in Part 2, and the other social medias in Part 3. Probably. Unless Part 2 gets too long…]

Where Is Morgan Now?

My personal stats aren’t amazing, but they’re solid and steadily growing. I’ve been blogging regularly for 3 years and am relieved when my new posts get over 25 views on the first day, pleased when they get over 50, and THRILLED when they get more than 75 views.

I saw most of my other social media as supporting the blog and that’s how I’ve been treating them. But just because I like blogs and RSS feeds doesn’t mean that’s where my future audience is hanging out. And that doesn’t mean that’s what they’re looking for in social media interaction.

Especially since I write YA. So, I’m trying to go where the teens are.

But, before we can talk about how to actually get started with social media, you need to know what sort of behavior is respected online.

CAVEAT: If you don’t care if Agents, Readers, and my mom respect you, feel free to stop reading now.

Morgan’s Guiding Philosophy For Interacting With Others On The Internet

You are still yourself, you have a personality, opinions, and preferences. And that’s okay! You’re allowed to do all that.

BUT.

You’re also creating a brand, (yep, there’s that word again).

I like to think I’m pretty WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get), but I have a filter. And what I post online is stuff I’m okay with my future agent, my future fans, and my mother seeing (hi Mom!). Both today and in fifteen years when Google unearths my archives. Nothing about what I post or write is inauthentic, I’m just channeling what I feel is my best self, focused on writing in general as a theme, and in a professional manner.

How To Interact Online

  1. Be polite
    • Even if someone is being a complete jerk. If you’re struggling, just contemplate how smug and good it will feel to be able to claim the moral high ground.
      • P.S. Don’t be afraid to walk away. Turn off comments. Disengage. Your job is not to argue on the internet.
  2. Be patient
    • You see aspiring writers who have yet to finish a chapter asking for feedback on their first page, social media newbies who don’t know how threaded comments work or missed the directions for the site/twitter contest/whatever.Remember that you were new once, too. Be patient, or direct them to someone else who has the patience for that.
  3. Be supportive
    • It’s a good thing when other writers succeed. Most of us are here because we love to read. And with the heavy competition, hopefully, that means better writers are rising to the top, which means better books to read!Plus? The more writers you encourage and are supportive of, the more people out there who are also rooting for YOU.
  4. Be kind
    • There are enough jerks out there, why join them? Before you bash someone, remember:
      • You don’t know what they’re going through
      • You don’t know how hard they’ve worked to get where they are now
  5. Praise publically, admonish privately
    • If someone does something awesome, share it! Spread it!
    • If someone messes up, tell them privately and give them a chance to fix their mistakes.
      • In this day and age of Call Out culture, mobs can be started for accidental misunderstandings
      • In this day and age of #MeToo,
        • if someone crosses a boundary, but it seems accidental and is minimally damaging? Tell them. In person, in an email, whatever makes you feel the most comfortable. It’s okay to bring a friend. (Or send a friend)
        • if someone crosses a boundary, but you know it’s on purpose or it’s very damaging? Escalate as you deem appropriate, but gather a support network for yourself. Too often we see dismissal or excuses. Find people you trust to help you through whatever actions you decide to take. (Preferably ones that aren’t actually felonies…)
  6. Vent in private
    • THIS IS A BIG ONE.The publishing industry, especially the traditional publishing industry moves SLOWLY. But the publishing industry, as a whole, is very small.

It can be aggravating when you’re wracking up form rejections, or personalized ones that totally didn’t get your story. It can be frustrating, when manuscripts you’ve scoffed at turn into best sellers, while yours still sits on your computer and flies in your dream. Or when agents keep either asking for niche books you can’t write, or stories that look just like yours, after they rejected your manuscript.

We all need to vent sometime. But be aware of who you’re venting to.

Many writing groups have people who intern with agencies.

Many writing groups have people who have agents or will get agents, in the near future.

Many writers have friends in publishing and editing.

People talk.

Be careful where and to whom you choose to vent.

  • Optional: Politics
    • Personally, I’m not above liking a political post, or the rare comment here and there. But, my public social media is for my writing and politics distracts from that.
      • Bonus? By avoiding politics on my public social media? Most of my feed is about books, writing, and cute pets.

      If you want to use your social media as a platform for your politics, you’re not alone. There are plenty of issues out there that could use more support. But, just keep in mind that your politics will influence what audience you get.

      • Warning: You need to be prepared for a potential backlash. One misspeak, or unpopular opinion and you might find yourself facing trolls, doxing, or even death threats. Only you can decide if your beliefs are worth the time and emotional energy.
  • If you want to use your social media as a platform for your politics, you’re not alone. There are plenty of issues out there that could use more support. But, just keep in mind that your politics will influence what audience you get.
    • Warning: You need to be prepared for a potential backlash. One misspeak, or unpopular opinion and you might find yourself facing trolls, doxing, or even death threats. Only you can decide if your beliefs are worth the time and emotional energy.

Summary

Now I’ve addressed my approach to social media and shared the philosophy that guides my online interactions. Tune in next week while I get into the methodology behind my blogging.

Why You Should Consider An Agent If You’re Hoping To Publish Traditionally

You can only spend so long revising and editing a novel. Somewhere between revision 3 and revision 12, you’re probably going to be done with your book. But now what?

If you want to get your novel traditionally published, you’re gonna need to query some agents. But why?

(*Tinder, not Tumblr)


To publish your manuscript, you have four options:

Four Types of Publishing

  1. Traditional publishers
    • Is well established
    • Has its own Editors and printers
    • Has reach for getting your novel stocked in stores and online
    • Has marketing influence for getting your novel in front of reviewers and in the public eye
  2. Small publishers
    • Have their own Editors and printers
    • Have some reach for getting your novel stocked
    • Sometimes have some marketing influence for getting your novel in front of reviewers and in the public eye
  3. Indie publishers
    • Lets you direct and design, while facilitating the creation your print and/or ebook
    • Sometimes connected to traditional or small publishers, this is a different branch but has some of their support
    • Minimal gate-keeping, great for very niche books
  4. Self-publishers
    • You’re in control
    • No gatekeeper
    • You’re responsible for everything from line-edits to covers to marketing.

Each branch of publishing has its own fans, some more fervent than others. But, the only one that almost requires, and works best with, an agent, is traditional publishing.

1. Why Would A Person Choose To Try Traditional Publishing?

Besides the resources and access that you can’t get without being in the industry?

The biggest reason someone chooses to go ‘traditional’, is because you only get one debut novel. Once you’ve published something, either on your own or with a smaller agency, you’re now an established author.

Which is great! Right? You’ve got credentials!

Well, if you liked the results and the people (if any) you worked with, this is great and there’s no problem.

BUT. If you think you might ever want to go Traditional, they’re gonna look at the book sales of everything you’ve published. And if they’re lack-luster, that can sway them against you.

You can always query agents and, if you have no takers, decide to go with any of the other publishing options. As there are fewer Traditional Publishers, and they tend to go for less risky novels, the chances of being able to publish are much higher (and 100% for self-publishing) without them.

It’s easy to work your way from larger, traditional companies, down to smaller companies. It’s a lot harder to do that in reverse.

2. Why Not Just Query Publishers?

Isn’t an agent just a middleman? Why query them and wait for THEM to query Editors at publishing houses when I can just query the Editors myself?

First off, for those who are unaware, Editors and editors are two different things.

  • Lower-case editors are people who do some sort of manuscript editing:
    • Developmental editing – dealing with plot, pacing, and characterization
    • Copy-editing – dealing with word choice and phrasing
    • Line-editing – dealing with grammar, formatting, and punctuation
    • Etc… (there are a lot of types of editing)
  • Upper-case Editors are heads of Publishing Houses or branches and decide (often with Marketing’s approval) if your novel should be published. Things they consider:
    • Quality
    • Marketability
    • Brand – is it in line with the types of books they typically publish
    • How saturated that genre-market is right now

Secondly, many Editors only accept submissions from agents.

Third, with both agents and Editors, once you’ve queried and they’ve said ‘no’ unless you’ve DRASTICALLY changed your novel and spent quality time (like months or years) revising your novel, you can’t re-query.

I mean, nothing’s stopping you, but it’s considered rude, ignorant, and can get you black-listed (and/or sent directly to their trash folder).

Which means? Even if you get an agent later, your agent won’t be able to query that publisher again. And that agent might have known a way to pitch your manuscript in a way that would appeal to that Editor, or know the right edits you needed to make your story appeal to marketing. You’ve basically given away your chance to work with that Editor.

Once you decide to query…

3. Why Would Agents Reject Your Manuscript?

Agents aren’t just there to skim money off the top of your sale. They’re there to see how far they can take you and your book! The better you do, the better for everyone. And many of them work on commission.

When they take on a project, they have a lot of things to consider:

  • Of course, they’re considering the quality of your story
  • Different people like different things, they’re looking for a story to fall in love with
    • They need to be as in love with your manuscript as you are if they’re going to have the drive to sell it to a publisher
  • How much work your story needs
    • Even if they love it, if it needs a lot of edits and revisions to get it ready for the market, they might decide they don’t have the time to commit right now
  • How full is their current workload
    • If they took you on, but then didn’t have time for their pre-existing clients, things will start to slip through the cracks
  • How similar your manuscript is to their current clients’ active submissions
    • They don’t want to be competing against their own clients for publishers!
  • If the market is buying novels like yours right now
    • Even the best book can be skipped if the market isn’t right
    • If this is the case, try shelving it and querying again in 1-5 years

With such tough odds to get an agent, why bother?

4. What Are The Benefits Of Having An Agent?

  • They know the market
  • Many of them have contacts at publishing houses
    • Knowing the right person doesn’t get your book published, but it does mean the submission is tailored based on their knowledge of the Editor
  • They know how to read contracts– so you don’t need to also hire a lawyer
    • They can recognize a good contract
    • They know common loopholes to watch out for
  • Some agents are editorial-agents
    • They’ll give you revisions and edits to make on your manuscript before it ‘goes on submission’ (i.e. the agent queries publishers)
  • Some agents want to nurture your career
    • They’re not just here for the one book, they want you to grow and learn and get better. And write more stuff that they can sell. They want a long-term relationship.

The benefits sound good, but there’s one big question.

5. Where Do You Find An Agent To Query?

Not all agents are made equal. Same with publishers of any brand. Always do your due-diligence before querying someone.

Sites to check for the legitimacy of an agent, agency, or publisher:

Warning Signs:

  • You should never pay a reader-fee
  • Vanity Anthologies – publishing credits, but no pay, and minimal editing…
    • Do you really want writing credits from a poorly edited, cheaply made, anthology?
  • ‘Contests’
    • There are many honorable contests, there are many more small or online contests that have none-to-poor reputations.
    • Some charge large entry fees and publish all entrants
  • Solicitations, especially with poor English
  • High commissions
    • 10-15% is the standard commission for domestic sales
    • 20% for foreign rights
  • Fixed fees

Now that’s out of the way, where do you look?

5 Sites and books with literary agents and their desires:

So now you can find a list of agents and make sure they’re legitimate.

6. How Do You Pick An Agent To Query?

Just because you’ve found an agent to query on a list, doesn’t mean they’re the right one for you. There are still a few things you need to do before querying and this means going to their website and/or their agency’s website. When in doubt, defer to their personal website.

  1. Make sure they represent your genre–and age range
    • Otherwise, you’ll be rejected out-of-hand
  2. Make sure they’re currently open to queries
    • Agents often close for holidays, vacations, or when their backlog gets too long
  3. See how much experience they have and where
    • Less established agents can be good for several reasons:
      • They often have more time so you have better response times
      • They are actively building their lists–so more queries are requested
      • If they’re at an established agency, they can draw on their mentors and coworker’s agency knowledge and connections to help submit your novels
    • Established agents can be good, as well:
      • They have connections of their own
      • They’re experienced at recognizing what will sell and how to sell it
      • And they just plain have experience
  4. Decide if you want an editorial-agent
    • Some agents submit your novel in its current form with little-to-no edits
    • Some, more editorial agents, will give you marked up manuscripts and ask for you to revise before they submit your manuscript to an Editor
  5. Read their wishlist and biographies to see if they appeal to you
    • Maybe you like their voice, even if just in a bio or a tweet
    • Maybe you think your story is a good match for their list of favorite books
    • Maybe you’re a fan of the novels that they’ve agented and feel that your manuscript is a good fit for those

Just be careful that you don’t decide one agent is perfect for you. It can take dozens of queries before you get an agent. Steel your heart and treat it like Tinder, wait for that agent who swypes right on you.

7. How Do You Keep From Getting Form Rejections?

If you’re querying and all you’re getting are form rejections and no-answer-means-no-thank-yous, it’s time to look at submission package.

  1. When you’re first querying, send out 5-10 queries at a time. If all you’re getting are form rejections, you need to revamp your query and first chapter.
  2. If you’re getting form rejections on partials, look at your pacing and character development.
  3. If you’re getting form rejections on fulls, look at your ending, make sure it lives up to the promise of the novel.

Now you know why someone might choose to try traditional publishes, why they need an agent, and how to find the right one.

Let me know if you have any questions and good luck, getting your story out into the world.

Types of Writers and 10 Tips For Joining A Writer’s Group

I’ve heard myths of writers who produce amazing works from within a vacuum.

Writing can be very solitary work. You, the keyboard, and the depths of your imagination. It’s easy to feel like you’re locked away from the world (or perhaps escaping from the world) while you craft the story you want to tell.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

In this day and age, writing groups are all around us. Even if you live in the middle of no where, as long as you have semi-regular access to the internet, you can find people on their journey to become a writer.

The Many Types Of Writers You Can Find

  • You can find the dreamers, who dream of becoming an author, with their whirl of ideas–struggling to find the time or fearing the reality won’t be as great as the novel in their heads.
  • You can find the beginners. The ones who’ve written a few chapters, who are fiddling with their plots or their characters or their world. They tinker and craft based on inspiration and their own motivations. They’re learning the discipline it takes to finish their story, to fight the duel masters of perfectionism and completism.
  • Next are the amateurs. The ones who’ve finished a story or ten, who’ve started querying agents and publishers, and have been through the editing doldrums. They’re getting the hang of the hours and dedication it takes. They’re journeymen on their way to mastering the craft.
  • You can find the debut authors: some self-published, some hustling with their small publisher, some with the fabled traditional publishers, all dealing with the modern publishing world and learning the marketing tricks and tribulations on the road to making a name for themselves.
  • You can find the established authors, the ones who, if they’re very good or very lucky, are able to make this their day job. They’ve practiced their craft and know what works for them.
  • And then? Then, there are the run-away successes — the ones who got rich and who have fans like a world-class athlete or actor — the ones everyone hopes to become. Most of us know it’s a pipe dream, but hard work, talent, and luck can combine to make it happen — why not for me?

Do you know where you can find all of these people? Online! In libraries! In classes! A coffee shops! At Cons! Doing NaNoWriMo! Not all of these places, not all of the time, but some of the people, some of the time.

There are hundreds of groups for writers at EVERY stage of their career.

  • A good level of group to join is the one that’s half-a-step ahead of you. They’ll push you, challenge you, and encourage you to grow. They’ll be there to help you answer plot questions, or editing questions, or pacing questions to the best of their abilities.
  • Having a support group at the same stage you are gives you a sense of not-being-alone. Knowing you aren’t the only one with these struggles can be reassuring.
  • Having a mentor a stage or two ahead of you is great, if you can find one. Writers tend to be friendly and encouraging so don’t be afraid to ask. (DO take no for an answer, you know how hard it is to find the time to work on your OWN projects)

Personally, I help run 2 facebook groups, help administrate another, and am just a member in 2 others, I’m a member of several twitter lists/groups, have this blog–and follow many others, made a google circle group, have a tumblr, an instagram, and a pinterest. I saw a few reddit groups when I followed a tweet this afternoon. (Can you tell I’m not exclusively an introvert…)

No matter where you want to hang out on the internet, there’s a group there.

It’s not enough to join a group though, you need to be the type of person people WANT in their group.

How To Get The Most Out Of A Writing Group

  1. Spend a session (for in person) or couple days (for online) listening. Find out the group dynamics, read the linked resources (if any), get a sense for if your writing style and critique/support style are right for the group.
    • Are they all super encouraging, while you like to analyze every word? This might be the wrong group.
    • Are they in your genre? A non-fiction group or women’s lit group is probably going to follow different rules/tropes than a science fiction story. It’s good to learn about other genre’s, but if you don’t feel they have the knowledge to properly critique your story, you’re going to ignore their feedback.
  2. Follow the group’s rules
    • Take the time to ask if they have any, read them, and see how they enforce them.
    • If you have questions, ask. If you’re still not sure, don’t.
    • Even if there isn’t a rule, if you think people might think it’s wrong, DON’T DO IT.
      • Yes, sometimes writing deals with tough issues and situations. Bad things happen to good AND to bad people. If you want to share a writing question or sample that contains questionable things, make it an opt-in situation, not an opt-out one, with a fair warning.
  3. Be supportive
    • You don’t have to flatter everything you read. But be positive where you can.
    • If you hate something, you can simply say that style’s not for you.
    • If you feel someone’s work has a long way to go, try to offer high level advice, don’t delve into every issue you see.
  4. Contribute more than just your work
    • Don’t be the person who always asks for edits/critiques, but never gives feedback on other people’s work.
    • If you say you’ll read something, do so in a timely manner — or send your apologies and bow out, don’t just leave them hanging.
    • Remember, reading other people’s works-in-progress helps teach you how to see those issues — and fix them — in your own work. Reading only published work and your own stuff can blind you.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, though!
    • You joined this group to help with your writing! If you find yourself spending all your time helping others, or feel your questions are foolish… this might be the wrong group for you. Or, you might need to step back for a bit, to focus on your own work.
    • It can be very hard to share your own work. So much time and effort has gone into it. But, you have to start somewhere. If you’ve found the right group, then take a deep breath and just go for it!
  6. Take advice respectfully
    • Edits/critiques/etc can hurt, they can crush you. If you think you might be reaching your breaking point, you can ask them to stop.
      • “I think you’ve given me plenty to think about, let’s stop there for now.”
        • You can say this if you think they’re right, wrong, or so wrong they’re right. You can say this if you think they’re picking on you. You can say this if you plan on burning an effigy of them with all their criticism on it. It’s honest, it’s polite, and it should end the advice there.
      • If you can shut down comment threads? Make a note like above and do-so.
    • My standard take on critiques is 1/3rd are easy fixes/clarifications, 1/3rd illustrate how badly the other person misunderstands your world/setting/characters, and 1/3rd are those deep-routed issues that you’d patched over and hoped would go away.
      • Yes, these percentages can change, but give it a few days, reread the critique if it’s not total garbage, and think it over.
  7. They are NOT there for you to market to
    • Yes, they want to celebrate your successes (I’d hope!)
    • Yes, networking with other writers can be amazing for your career
      • But remember to treat them as people, not contacts! No one wants to be used. You should be looking to make friends, NOT setting up career moves
    • Yes, you can share your books/blogs/other products
    • BUT! Make sure it’s a 7 to 1 ratio at least — contribute and support more than you sell.
  8. Take a break if you need one
    • Burn out happens, emotions happen — if your group starts to feel like drama or work, it’s okay to take a step back. Just don’t flounce.
      • “flouce” – – To leave an internet group or thread with exaggerated drama; deleting posts, notifying mods and or group users, and cross-posting on other groups to draw attention to the drama.*
  9. Shop around
    • You don’t have to commit to the first group you join. They may be wonderful people, they may be brilliant amazing contacts, but if you don’t feel comfortable, you don’t have to stay.
    • You can join more than one group:
      • One for the support and cookies
      • One for the critiques
      • One for the querying tips
    • Remember why you joined the group — to grow as a writer. If you feel like you’re not growing, if you’ve stagnated or dynamics have changed, you can move on.
  10. Be gracious
    • The writing community is small and people talk, people remember. Make sure they remember you for the right reasons.
    • The internet is forever, people can screenshot, reshare, reblog anything. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to come back and haunt you.
    • The world can be cruel, why not be the kindness you want to see in the world. If it’s got to start somewhere, why not with you?

kindness


Where are you in this journey?

*  Urban Dictionary: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Flounce  May, 3rd 2017