Author Etiquette - Social Media Management: Before Your Release

by Jennifer 30. August 2017 08:47

I keep saying on this series that being an author is a lot of work. Quite a few people don’t understand that. The perception is, once a book is written, it gets published, and then people buy the book and the money rolls in. But that’s only the very basics of what happens. There’s a thousand other steps in becoming a published author. And one of those is managing your social media.

 

Most of us are very familiar with social media. We use it to connect with old school mates, co-workers, and family. But social media can connect you with even more people than just your close circle. It can connect you with people all over the world. Many of which could be potential readers. It is a tool that you can use to increase your readership, which is very important for any author.

 

But how do you manage it? Do you just blurt out your news every hour of the day? Do you set up some kind of schedule? Do you have to be online ALL DAY?

 

Well, it all depends on where you are at in your publishing schedule.

 

There are three main phases of social media management: before your story comes out, during release, and maintaining your presence after the release. While some of the steps overlap, there’s some definite differences in how you approach social media during those time.

 

Today we are going to discuss what to do before a release.

 

Getting Started

Before you have a release out, you need to make sure you have a social media presence in the first place. What this means is, you have accounts set up, you are actively using them, and you have followers. This can be a very difficult step for some authors but it helps tremendously when you are trying to promote your work.

 

First, if you do not have any social media presence at all (which I have encountered before), open up a free blog (if you don’t have a website already) and sign up for the most popular social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are a few of the most popular for authors. Look up friends, family and some popular authors and friend/follow them. Join some groups. Interact with other people on the internet. This will gain you a presence in the platform you are using.

 

Next, if you haven’t already, create a professional page on Facebook. Lots of reasons to do this but some of the most important are:

  • Keeping your private and personal spaces separate

  • No limit on followers

  • The ability to promote your work without being slapped on the hand by Terms of Service issues.

Lastly, use them. Social media is useless as a tool if you are not posting and connecting with people. Post something on your blog once a week, even if it’s an update on writing progress or a photo you took with your phone. At least once a day post something on Facebook and Twitter, even it’s liking a few posts or retweeting.

 

Now that you have those setup let’s take a look at some of the things you need to do before a release.

 

Before

Every author should maintain a social media presence, even if it’s a minor one. This assists you in a variety of ways, but mostly it’s to attract attention to you. If you have no presence at all, you are fighting an uphill battle to get noticed by readers as well as publishers. And in this day and age agents and publishers look to see if you have a presence on social media channels.

 

So what do you do before your book comes out?

 

Simple. Interact with people. While you are writing the book, post about some of the pitfalls you’ve encountered. Join some groups that discuss promotion ideas. If you have other hobbies, join and interact with those as well. Go ahead and announce when you write “The End.” Grumble about edits and how you didn’t notice that HUGE plot hole the beta readers caught. Post photos of your pets or what you saw on your daily walk. Be a person, however you might define that.

 

When and if you get an acceptance, contract or representation OR decide to publish your work yourself, announce it (if you are allowed to, please read through your contract carefully!). And THANK the people who respond. Then you need to think about your game plan to help promote your book.

 

If you are self publishing your work, you, alone are responsible for promotion. If you have a publisher, they may or may not have a publicist to handle promotion. If by chance, your publisher has a publicist, talk with them to see what plans they have for your work and then …

 

Promote your work.

 

Do not depend on a publisher or publicist to promote you. They may put forth only a minimum effort. Sure, they might have connections that you don’t have and might get you spots for guest posts and interviews, but in the end, they are only going to do so much for so long. It’s up to you, to keep the ball rolling. And that means you need to have a game plan.

 

Your game plan for social media  should consist of things like content, when to promote, how often and where.

 

Content

Content is the things that will attract people to your site. It can include things like updates, press releases, cover reveals and personal posts. But this doesn’t all have to come from YOU! You can gain some excellent content by appearing as a guest on someone else’s blog, appearing on a postcast or video and answering questions in an interview. By planning ahead and putting forth a little bit of effort, you can have some great content leading up to your book release. Contact book reviewers, friends, other authors and even family to see if they’d be willing to help out.

 

When to Promote

The next thing you need to do is decide how often to promote your work. If you are a few months out, you probably don’t want to post too often about your work but as release time gets closer, you will want to pick up the pace.

 

If your work is 2-3 months out, posting once or twice a week about it keeps things fresh in your reader’s minds. But don’t just post a “BUY ME NOW” plea. Mix it up with updates on revisions, publishing deadlines, and when you’ve seen the cover. Some important things you can post about include:

  • Receiving edits

  • Returning edits

  • First peek at the cover

  • Cover reveal

  • Announcing final publishing date

As your publication date nears, you’ll want to post more often, and include links especially if you have a pre-order going on. Hopefully once you reach the during phase, one to two weeks before release date, you’ll have content in the form of guest posts, interviews and spotlights lined up to attract even more interest.

 

How Often

If your social media feed is full of “BUY ME NOW” posts twenty-four hours a day, more likely you are doing things wrong. Depending on where you are in your promotion cycle, you will have crests and troughs in how often you promote your work, but it NEVER should fill up all of your feed. If you are a few months out, posting a few times a week is about all you need to do. That can be easily scheduled on your professional Facebook page or by using a social media manager.

 

As you move towards your release date, gradually increase your promotional posts. By two weeks out, you should be posting at least once a day about your upcoming release. But you still need to keep a balance of one promotional post to ever four regular posts. Do make sure you vary your message. Don’t annoy people by privately messaging them or tagging them in promotional posts unless they have something to do with the upcoming publication.

 

Where

In social media there’s lots of places to promote your work. Do a search on Facebook for promotion and you’ll come up with a huge list of groups. Go ahead and take a peek at them and join them if you think your work will fit with the genre or theme of the group. Do read the rules and descriptions as to when it’s okay to post promotions. Many will ban you if you do not heed them.

 

You can also make good use of hastags (#) in your posts. This will help your entries show up on searches in many social media streams. You’d be surprised at how useful hastags can be.

 

Be sure to utilize your Professional Pages. Try to post new content there first then use your personal page to boost the signal.

 

You can even create character accounts on social media platforms such as Twitter or professional pages on Facebook. It is more work, but it works really great for some authors especially if they have a long running series.

 

If this seems like a lot of work, it can be but it can help you gain readers. And that’s what what promotion does. By working ahead of a release date, you’ve given readers a head’s up about upcoming releases, hopefully attracted new readers, and increased potential sales.

 

We’ll be discussing what to do during your release and after in upcoming posts so stay tuned!

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Author Etiquette - There Are No Shortcuts in Publishing

by Jennifer 26. July 2017 15:01

Today we are going to talk about something the more experienced writers already know; however, there’s a lot of new authors out there who desperately need to hear this.

 

There’s no F’n shortcuts in publishing.

There’s no magic formula for writing a bestseller. No easy way to make it to the top of the list. There’s a lot of work, time and effort involved in creating GOOD stories.

 

And there are however a lot of people trying to scam you out of your hard-earned money.

 

Take for instance, a publisher that guarantees your book will be accepted and placed in bookstores across the nation, for the low price of a few thousand bucks.

 

Or the Fiverr “editor” who does a few simple find and replace of a few things, has it back to you in just a few hours, then tells you that your work is ready for publication.

 

Or the “How I Earned $40K On One Book” instruction manual that someone put up on Amazon. Sure you bought it for $100, but it’s filled with stuff you can find on the internet for free.

 

Or the “graphic designer” who charged $50 for a book cover, that either doesn’t look right now that you’ve inserted it into (insert self pub venue here) or you discover it’s an exact copy of someone else’s cover.

 

Or … You get the picture right?

 

But it isn’t just publishers, editors, and artists that scam people. There’s a lot of authors who run scams out there too.

 

Like the author who copies someone else’s book, does a few find and replace name swaps and some minor plot changes then tosses it up on (insert self pub venue.)

 

Or the ones who use click farms to increase their page reads.

 

Or the authors who fill the first few pages with a somewhat decent story then you discover what amounts to cats sitting on keyboards.

 

Or the authors who give presentations on how to do X (usually something to do with publishing), but it’s really just a 30 minute pitch to buy their book.

 

And so on and so forth.

 

News flash. Publishing is work, and if you are going to succeed, you need to accept there’s no fast way to get to the top.

 

There are a few authors who seem very successful from the very start. They get lots of professional sales seemingly right off the bat, but what you don’t know is they’ve been writing stories for nearly twenty years, or have studied creative writing for the past ten. Or that they’ve got a stack of rejections and false starts taller than a house. They just hadn’t been published in some of the higher ranking publications before.

 

A vast majority of the writers out there start at the very bottom with poor grammar, purple prose, and wandering verb tenses. They have cardboard characters and the stories they write are probably very similar to the first few that you’ve written. And they too probably thought that what they wrote was excellent, and worthy of publication. But if you ask any of them now, they’d probably cringe and tell you that those stories sucked. And they probably do.

 

Becoming an author is a process. It’s a lot of learning, research, self-reflection, doubt and, hopefully at some point or another, success. It’s not something that you can learn out of a book in just a few days. It’s also not something that’s going to make you loads of cash right off the bat. It’s a series of growth spurts—sometimes quite painful—that pushes you forward with each story, critique, professional edit, and class and helps make you someone that writes something other people would like to read.

 

And I admit, it’s scary and long and hard and complicated. Having your work torn apart by a better writer is heart-wrenching. Seeing the flaws in your grammar, characters, and plot structures can be disheartening. Knowing that you are probably going to have to completely rewrite a story that you love, because it stinks, can put out the creative fire in even the most hearty soul.

 

But your next piece will be better for all of that. The story itself stronger. The characters more relatable to your readers. There are things that even the newest writer out there can do to help make them more successful.

 

Learn the Rules of Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation.

This really should be a no brainer, but it is. Even if you did poorly in school, it doesn’t give you an excuse not to learn how to use words, how to spell them, and to use proper punctuation. Start with the simple stuff like basic noun-verb sentences and build up from there. Learn when to use commas, periods and exclamation points. Spell-check can be your friend, but it can also cause you to use the wrong word. Some great places to assist you are Purdue OWL, Butte.edu Tipsheet, and other sites.

 

Get a Thick Skin.

Publishing, especially at first, is round after round of rejection. It’s not personal when an editor turns down your story. It’s not personal when a beta reader or editor finds a dozen plot holes in your novel. It’s not personal when a reader only gets through the first few chapters before putting a book down, saying “It’s not for me.” Have a few tears if you really need to, but either resubmit that story to another market, or write something better. Don’t sit around moping because those rejections, critiques and reviews are there to help you become better.

 

Research - Get Used to It.

You may not want to spend hours or even weeks researching particular elements of your story or novel but for accuracy’s sake you had probably resign yourself to the fact that details are important. And if you are writing certain genres, those details can be very, very important. Editors will point out inconsistencies and so will readers. You really don’t want to be on the wrong end of readers picking apart your story because of either science or historical details that can easily be found out with a bit of research.

 

Not only that, but you have to research markets, editors, publishers and even contracts. Don’t ever take anyone at their word, even if it’s your best buddy. Remember that the only person who can protect you and your work IS you. Make sure that any publishers you consider submitting to are legit. Check the credentials of an editor that you hire. Short story markets open and close regularly so be sure to read the guidelines. If you want to take a class, be sure that lecturer is someone you want to learn from and has professional credits to their name.

 

Always Remember Yog’s Law.

Money should always flow to the writer (Yog’s Law.) Except for instances where you contract out work such as cover creation, editing and formatting (mostly for self publishing), publishers should always give the author money. If a publisher asks for money to cover printing, distribution and publicity costs, DO NOT SIGN WITH THEM. This is a common scam, even if they are offering the moon on a silver platter. Many an author has spent thousands of dollars on a book and received only minimal if any returns.

 

No One Owes You Anything.

You have to make your own way in the publishing world. Sure you might be besties with award-winning authors and editors, but it doesn’t mean you can use that as leverage. Unless said author personally urges you to submit to their publisher or agent, it’s a big faux-pas to use Big Author’s Name for favors. This includes getting other people to read your work, trying to elbow your way into projects, or getting people to grant you special favors. If you work hard and are polite, people will begin to notice you on their own for your own merits. This creates much stronger friendships which could lead to open doors later on.

 

I know this is a let down to newer authors, but it is the truth. Becoming an author takes time, effort and sometimes money (as in taking classes). It’s not something that happens overnight. For most authors it takes years.

 

So be patient, don’t take shortcuts, and learn all you can, because it will make you a much better writer in the end.

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Author Etiquette - How to Take an Extended Break

by Jennifer 29. June 2017 07:28

Welcome back to Apocalypse Ink Products. It’s summer and you know what that means: VACATIONS! Time to take some time to relax and have some fun.

 

Yeah right.

 

If you are like many authors, you’ve figured out that the work on creating books and stories never ends. There’s the thinking up part of our creative endeavours. Then there’s the writing part. Followed by the editing and wanting to torch the whole thing phase. If you think you are finished you don’t know much about publishing. Next up is the submission phase and all of those nervous habits tend to come out and play. If you get accepted great! If not, then lather rinse repeat that submission phase until either you get accepted somewhere, decide to self-publish or trunk that puppy.

 

Oh and hey, if you do get accepted, awesome! But then you might have a few (or a hundred more edits) before your story or book is ready for reading. Except, unless you put on a publicist hat, no one’s going to know you have books out. And then here comes the mad rush to get interviews, guest posts and reviews along with pleas to purchase the book.

 

And that’s just if your work is published by a legitimate publishing company (large or small.) For those of you who self publish, you need to add in cover art, design, formatting and proofing.

 

Some of this happens quite slowly, at times over the course of a year or more. But other times, this is a fast paced bullet train that takes just a few months.

 

And it doesn’t even include book signings, online events, conventions and guest speaking engagements.

 

No wonder some authors get tired, sometimes feel as though they are burnt out, and get writer’s block. They never take time to rest. And that’s not good.

 

Even the most steadfast of authors realize they’ve got to take a break. Mostly because it’s for their own well being. Creative wells run dry. Exhaustion and it’s many complications can put you at risk. Sometimes you have to take a break because of outside matters.

 

Breaks can be short or long, depending on the circumstances. A short break is easier to deal with. A day, two or even a week, can help an author feel refreshed and ready to hit the word mines again.

 

But what happens when an extended break is necessary?

 

That’s where things get a little more complicated.  

 

There’s an unspoken belief that taking time off can have a devastating effect on their income. If they are not actively writing, editing, and promoting themselves, their name and books can fall in sales. And it’s kind of true. Newer authors and authors with indie presses often feel as though they are rolling a boulder up a hill in order to get their name “out there.” As they become more well known, the boulder seems to get smalleror maybe it’s just that they are getting stronger. But a break, especially a long one, can find them back at the bottom with an even heavier burden.

 

So what do you do if you find you need a long break, but still want to keep your name out there?

 

First, take a look at how long of a break you are going to take. A week? A month? Longer?

 

If you are able to plan how long you are taking a break, you can alert friends, family and fans that you will be either gone entirely from the internet or will have limited access for a time. Plan things to do that have nothing to do with writing, promoting, or editing. Go experience life outside the writing cave. For a lot of people, this can revitalize their creative well and give them a much better outlook on what they are doing.

 

Next, decided if you are going “cold turkey” on book related things or are you going to be working a little bit. Prioritize what HAS to be done against what you’d like to do.

 

Say you are on a deadline, and the novel you are writing is due in 6 weeks, but you feel yourself stretched too thin. Drop the social media, the interviews, the promotion and finish the book. DO NOTHING ELSE. On the other hand, if you don’t have something pressing. Dropping off the face of the earth (not really) for a couple of weeks or month can be very refreshing.

 

Third, see if anyone can take over some duties, automate your promotion, or hire someone to take a load off.

 

If you really need a break, but find you just can’t let go of some of the duties, figure out a way to do them until you get back. Give someone admin rights to your professional page so that updates can be posted regularly. Use a social media manager program to automate promotional posts. Even better, hire someone to take over some of the duties you must have done while you are gone.

 

No matter how long you decide to be gone, it’s a good thing to notify your close friends, family, and professional contacts such as your editor and your publisher, that you will be gone for a little bit. This way, if something important comes up, they will either know how to contact you or will be able to handle things until you get back. A quick note on your website or professional pages will alert fans that you are unable to respond but will get back when you can. But don’t put out personal information such as where you’ll be, or if you will be gone from home. A quick note saying you are deep in the writing cave and unable to respond until project x is complete is fine.

 

Taking a break is necessary for everyone. Don’t be fooled into thinking you are weak or irresponsible for wanting to just drop everything and walk away. Everyone feels like that on occasion. Realize that breaks are healthy, especially for creatives who tend to overload themselves with various activities easily.

 

Take care of yourselves out there. Have some fun. Then, when your vacation’s over, get back to work refreshed and revived.

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Author Etiquette - Social Media: Whats, Whys, and Hows

by Jennifer 30. May 2017 12:11

Welcome back to another edition of Author Etiquette.

 

No one ever said being an author is easy. On the production side you need to come up with stories, edit them to the best of your abilities, cringe at what your beta readers tell you, edit again, and then try to find a publisher. If that isn’t enough, most authors have to gain the attention of readers in a way that will lead to sales and reviews.

 

While in person author-reader connections are awesome (and should never ever be discounted), a great deal of author-reader connections are online, namely social media. Social media are online platforms that people use to connect with each other. They can have a variety of features or be very simple. The most common are Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr. There’s also other platforms out there. Some are video based, some photo based, discussion based and so on and so forth.

 

The main reason for people to use these social media platforms is connection with people. Who hasn’t felt alone even in the middle of a crowd? Who would like to talk with people who share the same interests? Social media provides people with a way to connect with the gaming community, other writers and readers.

 

The Whats

As said above, social media platforms are used to connect with people, but each has it’s own way of doing things.

 

Facebook is the most used social media platform in the world. It allows people to post photos, carry on discussions, announce events and create business pages. By using professional pages, using your promotion wisely and growing a fanbase, many authors find Facebook to be a very useful tool.

 

Twitter is probably the second most used platform used by authors. Unlike FB, all posts are limited to 140 characters. This greatly limits (and challenges) the user. Ideas and discussions are possible, although it’s often broken up into several posts.

 

Instagram is a photo sharing platform. While you can manage Instagram on your computer, the program is optimized for phone and tablet use. Photos taken with smart devices can be directly posted and then sent to other platforms for sharing.

 

Pinterest is another image sharing program. Unlike Instagram, Pinterest allows you to post images (including photos and scanned or created images) to your account and place them on different walls. Authors sometimes use the pins for character or setting creation, research, or finding a great recipe for chocolate cake.

 

Lastly, Tumblr is another platform that like Facebook and Twitter, allow users to post ideas and brief discussions along with photos. Unlike the other two, Tumblr users often post short segments of what they are doing. It’s not uncommon for an artist or author to share a segment of what they are working on currently. It’s also a great place for a short serial.

 

The Whys

So now that you know a little about some of the social media platforms, next is reasons to use them. Some authors cry foul at being asked to promote their books. After all, they are too busy writing right? In this day and age, even large publishing companies require authors to do a certain amount of promotion.

 

Social media is an inexpensive, fairly easy way to promote your work. Most platforms offer free accounts. They provide a platform for your work. Many also give you the opportunity to run ads so that you can reach more people. You don’t have to go anywhere in particular to use the platforms—your only requirement is access to the internet. And, for some people this is really important, you don’t have to actually socialize.

 

Social media also allows you to find people who are interested in your work. Not everyone is able to go to conventions or able to make a trip to a bookstore across the country for a signing. Your book might not even be available in a brick and mortar store, which lessens the chance of people finding you. However, on social media, a user can run a search on space opera, or vampires or steampunk, and—if you’ve set up your pages right—find you.


That reason right there is worth the sometimes annoyance of having a social media account.

 

The Hows

Now that you know a little about some of the social media platforms and why they are useful, we now need to move to the how to use it category. Each social media platform has different rules. To learn them, either find a quick guide or look at other people’s feeds and see how they are using it. Pay attention to the professionals in your field. If they state that some behavior is inappropriate, LISTEN.

 

While you may be eager to promote your book, don’t be in a hurry. Spamming, or posting mostly “BUY ME” posts, isn’t going to help move your books—most people will simply block you. The best thing for your promotional plan is to be you. What this means is post about your pets, interesting articles you’ve found, and ideas you want to share. Post only a promo once every 5-7 posts or 2-3 times a week.

 

Why? It’s simple. People are not on social media for advertisements. They are on those platforms to connect with people. They want to like you. Your books are just a bonus.

 

If you are new to social media, find one platform that you think you’d like to try. Make an account. Find people you know and begin gathering friends. Join some groups. Participate in discussions. Be you for a while before you start promoting. If you’d like, join a few other platforms and see if they fit you. You do not have to join everything (although it’s occasionally useful) or be active on every account.

 

I hope that you’ve found some insight on social media in this post. Remember that the most important thing is to be you, have fun, and don’t hurt other people.

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Author Etiquette - Professional Writer Organizations

by Jennifer 27. April 2017 08:39

Welcome authors, editors, and other publishing professionals to another Author Etiquette.

Beginning authors often concern themselves with putting their stories on the page, but as they grow and network, hopefully they begin to learn there’s more out there than just a bunch of writers struggling on their own.

Writer groups abound. You can find them online and even in your own home town. Some are simply loosely grouped people with the common goal of writing. But others are chapters of higher level organizations with rules, regulations and a hopeful roadmap that leads to the future.

Today, we are going to look at professional writer organizations, what they are and what they represent as well as how you can join them.

What is a Professional Writer Organization?

Professional Writer Organizations are groups that have clearly defined rules and regulations and are there to help authors of all types. They can be large or small and cater to a narrow band of authors or have a very general appeal. Many professional writer organization organize under the rules of not-for-profit status. This means that they have to follow a set of strict guidelines to keep their business license and follow certain guidelines.These guidelines provide the basic structure for organization, governance, and growth.

One of the most important guidelines of these organizations is to protect the interests of the profession (which would be writing), further the interests of those involved (authors) and connect with the public on behalf of the profession. This means that the goals of the organization is to promote conditions which is beneficial to authors, publishers, and to our readers.

They are often run by a governing body that can consist of boards and officers. While the governing body does make many decisions, they must still follow the rules and regulations, and the collective will of the membership. To become a member you must fill out an application and usually pay some sort of fee. Those fees then go into different services that help authors.

What does a Professional Writer Organization Do?

As said above, a Professional Writer Organization promotes conditions which is beneficial to authors, publishers and readers, but what does that mean?

Depending on the organization, a Professional Writer Organization can have many different responsibilities. Some promote a standard of pay for professional grade publications. Some provide educational opportunities. Still others provide guidelines for contracts. An organization can provide some or all of these and perhaps many more services to its members.

No matter the size of the organization they all provide a few basic things. First is a way for members to network. Being a member of a Professional Writer Organization opens up the opportunity to speak with other members, either through forums, emails, or face-to-face meetings at yearly events. This can allow authors to find mentors, get advice, and even coordinate on new projects. Networking usually helps increase exposure for your work. It can also open up opportunities that you might not otherwise have.

Another thing a Professional Writer Organization does is provide education. Education can be as simple as a column in the newsletter or it can be as complex as a week long seminar. The topics can range from publicity to contract negotiations. Organizations can even arrange online workshops for their members, or have specific speakers during conferences. Educational opportunities strengthen the membership and help promote better conditions for all authors, even if they are outside the organization.

And lastly, Professional Writer Organizations offer warnings about publishing gone wrong, and can help authors resolve issues. I’m sure that all of you have heard horror stories about authors who were trapped in contracts that were exploitive, or publishers who didn’t pay. These predatory practices harm all authors. Many Professional Writer Organizations have clear guidelines on the standards of qualifying markets. Those standards can include pay rates and other standards such as on time payment. If problems arise, then issues can be brought up for mediation, maybe saving both sides from lawsuits.

Oh, I almost forgot. What organizations would be complete without awards?  Many Professional Writer Organizations organize and coordinate some sort of award. Some are limited to members, but others people outside the organization can win. Watch for information throughout the year as the award cycles don’t always correspond to a certain time frame such as the beginning of the year.

How can You Join a Professional Writer Organization?

Depending on the organization you want to join, it could be as simple as filling out an application and paying your fees, or as difficult as proving you earned $X in the previous year on your writing. Different organizations have different guidelines on who can join. And almost always, there’s a fee involved.

 

Many Professional Writer Organizations have different levels of membership. The full members (sometimes called Active Members) are usually those who have met all of the qualifying criteria. It could be a number of short story sales to professional publications or that you sold your novel to a qualifying market. Some limit full membership to only professional markets while others welcome self published and indie market sales.

 

Other levels include Affiliate and Industry members. These are often members who have a professional involvement with authors. Affiliate members include publishers, editors, illustrators, and publicists. Industry membership covers libraries, schools, and film organizations. Often these members have less privileges than full members.

 

Most organizations also welcome family members and have special rates for seniors. For those who have served the organization for a number of years, lifetime memberships are also granted.

 

Professional Writer Organizations are essential to the world of publishing. Without them, professional standards of publication would not be possible. They provide the structure for much of our current market and push for improvements. They allow members to network and provide warnings if necessary. They educate not only authors but the public as well on many matters that face authors and publishers. They welcome a variety of industry professionals into their membership so that a wide range of ideas can be found.

 

If you would like to know more about some of these organizations, please feel free to look at the links below.

And there’s many many more.

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Author Etiquette - Keep the Professional and Personal Separate

by Jennifer 29. March 2017 08:34

Welcome again to another Author Etiquette. We created this series to help authors navigate the highs and lows of the publishing journey. There’s lots of pitfalls, and we’d like you to survive and thrive.


Being an author is tough. There’s way too many things you never knew you needed to learn.The instruction book that gets you from the bottom of the slush pile to the best seller list somehow got lost in the mail. If you want to get noticed, you will have to do some promotion on your own. Any advice that you get, you need to have second and third thoughts about because, while it might work for one author, it might not work for you. Add the need to keep the professional and personal sides of your personality separate in correspondence, and things can become a mess.


Wait...What? Keep your professional and personal separate? That’s a thing?


Yes. Keeping professional conversations separate from personal ones is important. Whether it’s email, phone, voice, or video conversations, it should be clear who and what position you are talking from. This way, things don’t get confused and streams don’t cross.


Now for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain.


When you email someone, you are either speaking as an individual (YOUR NAME) or as (YOUR NAME) author/editor/creative. And while most of the time these things go hand in hand, when it comes to business, you might have to set one part aside for a bit.


It’s easy to make great friends in the speculative fiction community. There’s a lot of great people out there who are friendly, smart, and charismatic. They are easy to be friends with. These are the people you share their posts, and congratulate them when they receive a sale, or something good happens. They often return the favor.


However, many of these people also wear other hats. They may also be an editor or a publisher or artist. They might have to make decisions based not on you but your work. It might not always be in your favor. (Please, please realize that rejections and business decisions do not always correlate to you as a person.)


For instance, when you as an author talk to your publisher about your contract, no matter how much you like the person, sometimes you will have to make decisions that makes sense for you as an author. This is a professional decision and all discussion in an email or on the phone should reflect that.


On the other hand if you are talking to the same person about cats, then those discussions are personal. You and the other person are no longer speaking about business--unless it happens to include cats--and have stepped into a personal discussion. 


See, professional and personal conversations. Everyone following? Good!


The biggest issue is keeping it separate


We are human, and we don’t always keep things separated like we should. When we don’t, it can lead to confusing situations such as an author giving the impression they are speaking for a publication, or miscommunicating important information. Things like that can get messy quickly.


How do you keep professional and personal conversations separate?


We’ll discuss emails first, then go to phone and voice/video conversations next.


Emails. When you receive an email from a person who could be wearing either a personal or professional hat, first decide what the email is about. Is the email discussing a story, edits, submissions, or other professional items? Or, is it a friendly email on personal issues? Or, is it both?


If it is a professional email, then answer or discuss the matter, but keep the discussion on topic. If there’s something else to discuss that isn’t professional—meaning pertaining to some sort of business—then make a note to start another email.


Yes, start another email with the personal discussion or opinion.


The same with a personal email. Keep the email in the personal sphere. If things drift towards professional or business make a note and again start another email.


If the email you receive is both, inform the other person that you will be separating the business and personal that way things don’t get confused.


A mixed email could look something like this:


Dear Jane,

Would you mind changing the main character of your story into a toad?

Also, I was thinking of getting a dog and your little precious is so cute. Could you tell me more about this breed?

Sincerely,

Publisher


Jane would be very smart to reply to this email and separate the professional conversation—changing the main character to a toad—and the personal conversation—talking about dogs—into two separate emails.


Making distinct separations in emails helps you in a number of ways. First, you will be able to search out that email (or file it) in relation to what is being discussed. Second, there is no confusion as to who you are speaking as. Whether it be (YOUR NAME) or as an author, editor, or artist. Third, there’s no confusion in the conversation. There is no crossover of personal conversations and business matters.


Phone, video, and voice chats are a little different.


There’s a flow to a conversation where you hear someone else’s voice and it’s a lot easier to change gears from professional to personal. Unlike emails though, you don’t want to end a conversation and then call back. You can continue the conversation; however, you should always be aware and make sure all other parties are aware of the change.


Most of the time, once pleasantries are out of the way (this is the hello portion btw) most conversations move on to business first. It could be a long or a short discussion depending on the subject. Once all of that is out of the way, then the conversation can move to personal topics. Simple phrases such as, “Now that business is taken care of,” or “Now on to personal matters,” signify the change in mode. No matter what signal you use, always remember: make sure that all parties are aware that the professional or personal discussion is over. If it happens to switch again, (which hopefully it won’t) again be sure that all parties are aware of what is happening.


Remember, it’s in your best interest to keep personal and professional matters separate. It makes things easier to track and helps keep you out of some sticky situations. Don’t cross the streams!

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Author Etiquette - Rolling the Dice: Taking Chances and Improving Your Odds

by Jennifer 28. February 2017 10:58

Hello again and welcome to another Author Etiquette.


Being an author is never easy. First you have to learn the rulesyou know those pesky things like grammar, punctuation, and spelling that (hopefully) you learned in school. Then you have to understand things like plot arcs, the difference between a protagonist, antagonist and anti-hero, why subplots don’t usually work in a short story and how to tie everything up at the end. And only when you finally understand all of that, you must learn to break the rules, but do it in a way that makes sense in the story you are writing. And all along there’s pressure to be published.


It’s no wonder that people feel like imposters and talk about writer’s block. There’s just so much to this business, that it often overwhelms you. This is why sometimes you need to change gears.


You write stories, send them out, collect a pile of rejections. Then suddenly, you realize you are stuck. Your stories are dull and read like a checklist. Your protagonists are very much the same type. Even your villains seem lack luster.


Or maybe you are doing well in your writing field but want to write something different. Thoughts of how your fans will take the news of you changing gears keeps you up at night. After all, they’re the ones buying your books right?


Perhaps you aren’t worried about those things but want to try something else. Your fondest desire is to work in the gaming industry or write a tie-in book for your favorite TV show. Your focus wanders more and more into a world that isn’t your own.


It may be time to roll the dice and take a really big chance.


Taking a chance is scary. Even established authors are a bit nervous about taking the plunge into a new venue. Whether it’s a new series, working in a different field or working in a different format, everyone gets the jitters, especially when it’s not a sure thing. But there are things you can do to reduce your risks.


Research

First of all research your new venture. Don’t jump in blind. If you are changing gears from writing hard science fiction to romance, reading that genre would be a great idea. If you want to get into the gaming industry, play some of the games that you’d like to write for. The same with writing tie-in. Watch the programs and get familiar with the world.


These things give you a basis in the worlds you are going to write in. Familiarize yourself with the common tropes and stereotypes. Learn about the fans and what they like or dislike about the genre. Learn more about the companies that produce such works.


Talk With An Author

It’s not difficult to find an author that writes in the field you want to take a chance on and most of them are pretty open about the work they do. They may not be able to talk about specifics (non-disclosure agreements), but they might be able to give you some advice.


Advice from an established author could be insight on the market or what they think the “next big trend” will be. They could drop information on who to work for or not work for and even introduce you to others in the industry. Having an established author vouch for you can sometimes lift your name to the top of a very long list.


Do Your Homework

After you’ve researched and talked with a few authors in the field you want to try out, next you explore the possibilities and find out what the submission requirements are. Changing genres means you need to write a few things in the new genre you are exploring. For game writing you might need to write up a Curriculum Vitæ (CV) to show your writing experience. Tie-in markets might want to see writing samples and question you on how well you know the series.


Seek out several companies and publishers and compare guidelines. Some are by invitation only while others welcome new authors. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to get your foot in the door by doing smaller works before you can move on to larger ones.


Follow the Instructions

This is perhaps the most important step in any writing submission. READ and FOLLOW the instructions. Your submission, CV or writing sample is the only opportunity for you to show editors that you are a professional and can work to specifications. A sloppy submission or writing sample with lots of errors, won’t give you a vote of confidence. Neither will a CV with very little writing experience. Make sure you have the right experiences for the job or are at least heading in the right direction.


Double check your work. Have a fellow author look at what you want to submit. Remember that you won’t catch all of your mistakes, having another set of eyes could catch something embarrassing. Before you submit, recheck to be sure you have included everything requested in your packet. And just to be sure, check it all again before you hit send.


Be Patient

Like everything in publishing, hearing back from your submission could take a while. Your best bet is to continue writing, researching other venues and sending out more work. This will help keep your mind off of decisions you aren’t involved with. Not all companies will have a response time listed so it could be months (if ever) before you hear back. For the most part, don’t send out queries unless you’ve been instructed to.


Don’t Be Angry If You Aren’t Chosen

Even if you’ve done everything right, you might not get accepted. That’s a fact of publishing. Perhaps your work is too similar to someone they’ve already hired. Maybe they’ve filled their writing stable for now. Whatever the reason, don’t be angry about it.

 

Don’t give up either. There’s plenty of time to learn and grow as a writer. Another company might have an opening that’s perfect for you. Heck, that story you’ve worked on for the past year might be the thing that opens up the doors that seem closed right now.

 

Every author has at some point taken the plunge and tried something new. Sometimes it’s successful, and sometimes it’s not. But research, following the instructions, and being patient can improve your chances in gaining a spot in another writing field.

 

Wishing you all the luck in your next venture.

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Author Etiquette - Your Stories Matter

by Jennifer 31. January 2017 08:53

I had to think long and hard about writing this, but with the current events unfolding, it’s more important than ever to say it.


Write your story; the story only you can tell.

Edit it to the best of your ability and get it out there.

Then start another, something better.

 

We’ve arrived in a new round of turbulence. It’s a growing pain of sorts, where we can either set back the clock 50 years or once more progress. It takes energy, protests and force to push through the darkness that has descended. Every day might seem darker, the oppression more solid, but there are others out there fighting with you.


Not everyone can be on the front lines. Major protests happen in larger cities, it’s often a long drive for many. Phone calls (most effective) and emails only take a few minutes. Donations take even less. I do cheer at those taking steps in becoming elected officials, but that’s not for everyone.


Then what do you do with your time? Fret over the latest kerflunkle? Watch newsfeeds explode with more bad news?


Or do you focus that anger, insecurity and tension into something else. Something constructive. Something that could either give comfort or entertainment or plant seeds that changes someone’s mind.


As artists, we have a very unique power. We are the things that people fall back on. When they need a rest, they may pick up a HEA (happily ever after) book such as a romance. When they need to see the possibility of what’s to come, they may pick up an apocalyptic horror. And when they need to find the strength to carry on the fight, they might look for a fantasy or science fiction book that features heroines and heroes fighting back against injustice.


These stories don’t just come from thin air. They come from from what’s inside. That fear you have about clean water in the future? That’s a SF novel set on another world where industry is poisoning everything. Problematic legislature? There’s a fantasy short story that involves a council judging someone unfairly. Alternative history? Well there’s too many current things to point out.


Write the story then edit it

I know it’s hard. The fear and frustration that twists your gut and makes you want to run screaming out of the country is difficult to get control over. It kills your desire to write. But you can fight through it. You can focus. Take it a few words at a time. It gets easier.


Sure it might be a hot mess of a first draft. But once it’s on the page, you can fix what’s wrong. You can make it better. You can select words to clarify what you mean. Eventually you’ll have a story you can be proud of. It’s ready for the rest of the world, if you want to share it.


Submit that story

If you do decide to send it out into the world, you will probably find writing may not be the hardest part. Sending it out is possibly even scarier. But that’s where you have to stand true. Find markets that are open to your particular genre and style. Research, follow guidelines and then submit. If you get rejected, find another market. Keep sending it out.


Beware of fallout

Authors introduce things through a non-confrontational media to anyone who reads or looks at our work. With a book or poem, there’s no one to immediately argue with. This is why at some points in history artists of all types were regarded as dangerous. Art challenges and changes ideas. Not everyone likes having their ideas challenged.


I won’t lie, it’s very possible that people will post negative reviews, try to discredit you, make you afraid. However, you won’t be alone. There are other authors right now, writing these types of stories. Right now there are people getting threats because they wrote something that challenges someone’s worldview. You might feel alone, but you aren't.


Is it political?

Currently there’s a lot of discussion about whether certain subjects are political in writing. Women’s rights, QUITLBAG characters, environmental changes and more mirror concerns in our current society. Your story may not be about politics but if they contain certain views, there could be push back.


Accept that writing about these things IS political, even if you feel as though it shouldn’t be. It’s going to be clear from your work that you support progressive or conservatives causes. And that’s fine. Your stories are your world. Not everyone is going to agree.


Stand together

Other authors are already putting their emotions to good use. Their work is out there but it can’t just be one story out there that begins the process of changing people’s minds, it has to be many. I’ve been seeing the movement for a while now, more inclusiveness of QUILTBAG characters and main characters with mental illness and disabilities. I’ve found more stories that aren’t set in European settings. More foreign stories.


Each one opens up our world to new and unique ideas. And those ideas eventually changes the worldview of our readers. Changing the worldview changes the world. Hopefully, making it better for everyone.


Don’t worry about the genre. We all need a HEA at times. Sometimes a grand long adventure. Other times, a dose of horror to put things into perspective. Just write it. Help change the world, one reader at a time.


So take a few hours.

Write the story.  No excuses.

Edit it to the best of your ability.

Send it out.

Write another.

~The Shadow Minion

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Author Etiquette - It’s Okay to be a Weird Kind of You

by Jennifer 29. December 2016 09:43

“Today you are You,

that is truer than true.

There is no one alive

who is Youer than You.”

- Dr. Seuss

 

I love that I can look on my Facebook wall and see a variety of posts from all of my friends. I see artwork, thoughtful discussions, silly posts and questions on various topics. Photos range from beadwork, to book covers, what’s for lunch and cat photos. Everyone has a unique personality, style and tone. Some can be a bit harsh but the topics they touch on are the ones that really open my eyes.

 

And even though I see all of these people owning what and who they are, there’s still hesitation on my part to open up that weird sideyou know the one who geeks out about science, and brightly colored beads, and (insert favorite author)’s new book. It’s not because I’m secretive but because I want to feel normal, like I belong. It’s sometimes hard to do that when you feel more like a square peg.

 

I know, it’s a silly thing. Our genre is full of people who have learned to speak Klingon, dress up as their favorite video game character, or spends a weekend on a single D&D campaign. Geekiness is our calling. We love the weird and call it wonderful.

 

But there’s always this voice that says loving (insert character) is a bit over the top, because most people like this other character so much. Or maybe you might seem suspicious if you talk about the blood splatter patterns you researched for eight hours to get a writing scene just right. (not that I’d ever do that…) There’s always this fear that our (or at least my) geeky tendencies are a little too weird even for the speculative fiction community.

 

But there’s one thing that I am learning. We all have that hesitation. Whether it’s hiding the fact that you spend a few minutes a day looking at the model data for the future weather forecast, or found some vintage toy you played with as a kid at a thrift shop, it’s always a toss up on whether you are going to have a good or negative experience when you reveal your geekery. There’s always some arsehole who is going to try to toss a wrench into what makes you happy.

 

Why? Hell if I know and, truthfully, I don’t want to.

 

I won’t make excuses for people who don’t accept that there are all sorts of people with all sorts of views. So long as it’s harmless to everyone else, who cares. I’ll like the photos you took of alien encounter sites on your vacation. If you post a photo of a bug or a bird I might just know what it is. And as to crime scene investigation, I’ll probably read every post with rapt fascination. I’ll be happy that you are happy, so long as you can accept my own weird little quirks.

 

I’ve become more accepting of my own geeky delights because of my kids. One is an artist with a strong sense of justice. I’m proud that his artwork features odd characters with their own little geeky quirks. My youngest is the musician and muscle car fanatic. He’s got his own style and lots of dreams. Both of them have helped me see how important those little geeky loves are for everyone.

 

I’m going to try to let more of my geek out this year. I’ve got my eye on some hoodies and t-shirts that endorse some of my current interests. Maybe talk a little more about some other interests on my blog. Make more art and, gasp, maybe even try my hand at some fan fiction. I’ll find out more about some other things that have tickled my interest of late.

 

And I encourage you to do it too. After all, the world would be a very boring place if everything was the same right? Let’s celebrate the things we love, and try to make the world better.

Be the youest you.
~Shadow Minion

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Author Etiquette - Promotion in Times of Turmoil

by Jennifer 29. November 2016 09:20

Welcome again to another Author Etiquette. We are glad you have joined us. Author Etiquette is a column where we discuss various things that come up in publishing. We started this little series because we love authorswe wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t. But authors are human. Sometimes they make mistakes. Whether you are a new author or a seasoned pro, we hope this column will give you some perspective on issues and help keep you out of trouble.


As we’ve said many times before, very little in publishing moves quickly. Publishers plan things months and sometimes years ahead of time. Book launches, membership drives, and big publishing events take lots of preparation, work, and coordination. For the most part, things run on schedule and things are successful. But you can’t always count on long terms plans when turmoil arises.


Turmoil, whether it’s a natural disaster, sudden illness or death, or other upheaval, isn’t something most publishers plan on. No one looks at a calendar for the upcoming year and says, “I think I’ll wait to launch (NEW BOOK) for another month because there’ll be (insert your favorite flavor of chaos).” Instead, a publisher selects a launch date by making sure a new acquisition has plenty of time for edits, formatting and cover art adjustments. Authors try to start a crowdfunding project at a time when they can dedicate time and effort into the project. Conventions and subscription drives are usually the same time every year.


And yet, no matter how hard you plan and how ready you are for a project, there’s always a chance that chaos can arise. And when it does, authors and publishers are caught in the middle of a sticky situation.


The question then becomes what do you do? Can you suspend a book launch or crowdfunding project? What do you do if you can’t?  What do you do?


No one wants a project to fail. Launching a book, crowdfunding project, or a subscription drive during turmoil will often negatively affect your success. There are some steps you can take to help minimize the damage and even turn it around into a bigger success.


First of all, be realistic.

Being realistic means that you are aware that the turmoil going on will have an effect on sales and participation. It might be lower than expected or not succeed at all. Disappointing as it may be, people’s attention will be focused on the situation, not on your book.


Suspend your promotions.

The first 24 hours of a disaster is critical for several reasons. Many people use social media to contact friends and family or spread information about what’s happening. Attention is going to be focused on whatever turmoil is going on. Whatever promotions you have, delay or suspend them for those critical hours. People appreciate a feed free of promotion when they are hurting, scared or just trying to figure out what’s going on.


Be an ally.

Being an ally means that you are signal boosting verified information, support and understanding. If you’ve got a large public following, the messages you send will go farther and reach more people. Do check what you are sending out though. Misinformation can be as harmful as whatever is going on.


Delay or suspend a launch.

We know you’ve worked hard to make sure your book is ready for the masses, but when turmoil strikes, not everyone is going to be in the mood for your new book. Talk to your publisher about what options you can use. While you might not be able to delay the launch, you might be able to take advantage of a soft launch.


You can use the soft launch approachwhich means pushing back your main promotions for short time. This allows some time for things to get back to normal before you push your book. A week or two should long enough for things to settle down.


If you have a launch party scheduled, speak with your guests on how to proceed. They might agree to push the date back, use the party as a signal boost platform, or have connections on pairing up with an organization involved that needs a platform.


If you have a crowdfunding project launching or about to launch, see if you can delay it for a few days. Trying to compete with turmoil will not help your project and a successful launch needs a lot of attention in the first few days. If your project has already launched, try to be low-key for a couple of days. If it’s ending soon, try not to jam up the feeds if possible.


Don’t be “THAT” guy/gal.

Two things that will get you muted or unfriended on lots of social media feeds. First, if you hop on and begin blasting promotional material when most people are focused on a disaster. Second, go on other people’s feeds and try to argue with them. Neither of these are going to gain you any friends or support of a project. In fact, it could very well have a negative effect with future projects.


And PLEASE don’t use the turmoil to boost your promotions. Having a “Fire Sale” during wide scale wildfires is crude at best.

Even though disasters strike, it doesn’t mean that everything has to stop. You can promote your book/event/whatever, but do be subtle. Here are some tips to help you promote your work in times of turmoil


Pair up with support organizations.

Pairing up with an organization that assists those affected by the turmoil helps both parties. Having profits go to one of these organizations on any sales helps you and them. It also allows people to do something to help, and get something in return. Just make sure that the organization you pair up with is legit and you hold up your end of the bargain.


Subtle and quiet is best.

After that first 24 hours, you should get back into the promotional groove. But you don’t want to go full blast. A few posts, a blog update and background work should be the most you should send out for a few days. This gives people a gentle reminder that you have something going on, but you aren’t pushing them.


Delayed launches.

Even if your book launched, you can delay a celebration to a more appropriate time. A few weeks or even a month after is plenty of time for people to recover and appreciate your newest project. Plan some fun events and giveaways to help attract people to your event.


The biggest thing to remember when you are promoting a book, event or anything is to be aware of what is going on around you. If people are concerned with current events, they aren’t going to want to celebrate your newest work. Their brain power is going to be concentrated on friends, family, and information.

By freeing up the social media feeds you are allowing a distraction-free feed. And while most people won’t realize that you have cleared up this space in the virtual world, those of us who do know greatly appreciate it.

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