About Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt's unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and fantasy creates worlds of beauty and danger for readers. Beginning with DawnSinger, her epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, carries the reader into a land only imagined in dreams. Janalyn also writes western romance novels, and will publish in that genre under Janalyn Irene Voigt. She is represented by Sarah Joy Freese of Wordserve Literary. Janalyn serves as a literary judge for several national contests and is an active book reviewer. Her memberships include American Christian Fiction Writers and Northwest Christian Writers. When she's not writing, Janalyn loves to find adventures in the great outdoors.

Pacing in Writing

Pacing in Writing | Wordserve Water CoolerPacing in Writing

When I was a child, a piano teacher let me play to my heart’s content without worrying about such details as tempo and timing. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the best approach, which may be why those lessons were short-lived. It wasn’t until adulthood, when I studied vocal music, that I learned to pace myself.

Pacing, whether in music or writing, is one of the methods by which we organize the creative flow. Order prevents these creative expressions from falling flat and helps improve their impact.

What is Story Pacing?

It took me a while to understand the concept of pacing in fiction, but relating it to what I already knew about music made it easier. Basically, two elements of pacing work together within a story.

Every piece of music has a tempo, or base speed dictated by the type of music and its mood. This is also true in fiction. A sweet romance will have a slower overall speed than a thriller, for example. Knowing the right tempo for your story is an important but often overlooked consideration in pacing it correctly.

Your story plays out relative to its tempo, which means that the slowest scene in a lavish historical epic, for example, will be much slower than the slowest scene in a mystery novel, even though both may follow the same story pacing dynamics.

Vocalists are taught to hold back a little in the beginning of a song so that there will be room to crescendo later. In a story, the first scenes introduce the main characters, set up the conflict, and hook the reader.

As your story progresses, scenes ebb and flow at a slower, then faster, pace. This rhythm repeats, and as it does, the time between conflicts decreases. This builds tension leading up to the climactic scene.

The story then slows and, like music, resolves by returning to its tonal center. In the case of music, that is the first note of the scale. In fiction, there is usually a reference or some sort of return to the beginning of the story..

How to Speed Story Pacing

I’ll focus here on ways to speed story pacing, since that’s where most writers need help. However, many of these tips can be turned around to create the inverse effect.

Tension: Nothing propels a story along like wondering if the heroine is going to make it to the station before the love of her life leaves town forever. Or maybe your hero is being pursued by a gang with a vendetta. These are dramatic examples, but tension can be created more simply, as when Rhett Butler reveals he has overheard Scarlett’s declaration of love for Ashley Wilkes.

Unanswered questions create tension in these situations. What will happen when the heroine gets to the station? Will the hero escape with his life? Will Rhett keep the secret of Scarlett’s love for Ashley?

Action: Show, rather than tell, the story’s action in scenes written with minimal description, using a few details to evoke the setting. This is also not the place for introspection or thinking by your characters. Eliminate anything that would distract from the main action.

Dialogue: Because dialogue can be read quickly, it moves a scene along. To speed pacing, eliminate all extraneous tags and beats. Use conflict rather than agreement to give dialogue vitality.

Word Choice: Using short, snappy words will usually help you pick up the pace in a scene. Reserve longer words for those places where you want to slow pacing to allow the reader a moment to breathe.

Sentence Length: Remember that the more complex a sentence structure you use, the more time it takes for the reader to decipher your meaning. That’s fine in slower scenes, but use shorter sentences, which are more easily digested, in places where you want to pick up the pace.

Scene Length: A series of quick scenes can often move the pacing along better than one longer scene. You don’t want to chop things up too much, but this is a technique to keep in mind for the right application.

Chapter Length: Shorter chapters tend to be cleaner and more concise, which makes them more easily digested. They also act to quicken the pace by giving the reader a feeling of progress through the story.

Mastering Story Pacing

Learning to pace the stories you write isn’t easy. In fact, its one of the most difficult skills in writing fiction. Even if pacing doesn’t come naturally for you, keep working at it and you’ll improve. For a model that will help you plot and pace a novel, read Plotting a Novel in Three Acts and the related posts at my Live Write Breathe website for writers.

Marketing for the Introverted Writer

Sing Your Unique Song via Janalyn Voigt | Wordserve Water Cooler“All you need is you, yourself,” marketing expert and author James Rubart once said with regard to marketing. His comment, given at a meeting of Northwest Christian Writers’ Association, stuck in my mind because I didn’t believe him.

That’s easy for you, Jim, I thought with a touch of asperity. You are an extrovert who can walk into a book store and chat with the owner without breaking into hives. 

I am an introvert. If I had my way, I’d retire to a closet to write, coming out only to eat, sleep, and possibly notice the existence of my family. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but I really do have a closet office. My post describing it spiked visits to my website, which makes me suspect I’m not the only introverted writer. Welcome, and here are some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

  • Promoting is not nearly as hard as I was making it. Once I busted through my own resistance and consistently marketed my book, I harnessed the power of routine. I was looking at the whole marketing puzzle at one time, but we really only solve a puzzle one piece at a time.
  • I don’t have to be a social butterfly to effectively market a book. All I need is the willingness to touch people using whatever format I find comfortable. That doesn’t have to be face-to-face, necessarily. The Internet allows me to promote to those I probably will never meet. As a writer, I’m wired to be a communicator, and communicators need listeners. That makes me a people person. Who knew?
  • Marketing is not the same as going to the dentist. It can even be fun. Really. The key is to employ platforms that work well for you and that you enjoy or at least can tolerate. Your platforms can be in-person or online. Sometimes you need to compromise to attain a goal. For example, although I would rather not speak in public, if I want to fulfill my desire to teach other writers, I have to overcome my reluctance.
  • I can market with my writing. I had a Hallelujah moment when I realized I could promote my book by writing related content for magazines, book sites (like Wattpad and Goodreads), or on my website as a subscriber incentive.
  • I don’t have to be at every social site. I have better results when I specialize at one or two sites rather than trying to keep up with them all. As a bonus, I have more time for writing.
  • Keeping track of people is important. I confess. I lose people online. I don’t mean to, but there are too many conversations with so many people. List the most important people to you as an author, and then make sure you engage with them on a regular basis.
  • Push past your fears. This lesson was one of the hardest for me, and something I have to learn all over again on a regular basis. If I let fear stand in the way, I cheat myself of fulfilling my God-given calling. Not only that, but I deprive others I want to reach with my writing. In light of that, my fears don’t seem quite so compelling.

Jim Rubart was right when he said that you only need you, yourself, to market your book. Don’t worry about being someone you are not. Instead, use your talents to sing your unique song to those who need to hear it.

 

Closing The Creative Gap Between What You Imagine and What You Write

The Gap Between What You Imagine and What You WriteTrying to play the piano can be humbling. You dream of executing a Bach fugue in perfect timing, but when you sit down it’s chopsticks or nothing. Writing is a lot like that, too. An amazing scene plays out in your mind, but after your critique group reviews your rendition, you wonder how you ever thought you could write.

Welcome to the imperfect world of creative artistry. Check your ego at the door. It can’t help and may hinder your efforts to bridge the gap between what you imagine and what you can create.

Let’s go back to that piano. Even when you love playing and have a natural affinity for music, to play well you’ll probably need lessons. In the same way, studying the craft is one of the surest ways to advance your writing skills.

But studying itself won’t teach you to write any more than watching the teacher play improves a musician’s abilities. Long, laborious, tedious practice is required. Yes, there are a (very) few musical and literary geniuses in the world, but for most of us practice is what it takes to become a master. Could that be why an art is called a discipline?

At times you’ll want to bang your head against the keyboard in frustration. It becomes easier to make excuses not to practice than to face that tell-tale gap between what you can imagine and what you actually write. Are these dues of time, money, effort, and disillusionment worth paying?

Only you can decide.

Thankfully, the gap narrows with time and effort, but it never completely goes away. Living with that reality is a cost every writer continues to pay. It is also a gift that helps keep us humble.

If you persevere you may reach a comfortable level of proficiency with the pain of your early efforts only an unpleasant memory. This may result in you having less patience with beginning writers and even a feeling of superiority. The temptation to skimp on improving your abilities will be stronger. If the gap will never close, why not save your time, money, and effort and settle for doing an adequate job?

Having a good work ethic can see you through those times when you lose your desire to write with excellence. Is it worth the trouble? That’s up to you to decide, too. However, in a crowded literary marketplace, it isn’t hard to be lost in the shuffle.

It helps to be clear on why and for whom you’re writing. Whether you’re writing to make your mark, to reach a particular audience, or to glorify God, close enough is never good enough.

Writing with excellence is a self-taught skill that, oddly enough, requires you to face and accept your imperfections.

Are You a Story Crafter or a Storyteller?

Are You a Story Crafter or StorytellerIn many ways, the world of book publishing parallels that of musical performance. Both are beautiful, exhilarating, and demanding. And both can sap creativity. Where the ultimate product is art, inevitable conflicts between the needs of business and creative expression exert themselves. When it comes to breaking in those with technical brilliance have an advantage, but to rise to the top, something else is needed.

I once represented my college as the soprano member of a vocal quartet in an honors choir made up of students from colleges throughout the western United States. We prepared on our own, and then met for three long days of intense rehearsal. Yes, there was glitz and glory in our single performance, but it wasn’t that I remember most about the experience but something that happened during one of the rehearsals.

I don’t even remember which musical passage we were struggling with at the time, but our accomplished director refused to let us get away with good enough. He pushed us, irritatingly so, until in a moment of delirious harmony, glorious sound filled the rehearsal chamber. In the awestruck silence that followed tears pricked my eyes.

Our director thumped his chest. “Ever feel that?” He paced before us, meeting eyes. “You all have a lot going for you, but no matter how technically brilliant you become, the ability to feel the music is what will help you most. Never lose that.”

I have never forgotten his words. In my studies I knew students who could execute a passage of music to perfection but who lacked the passion to bring it alive. By contrast, I have seen a graying grandmother with a quavering pitch move an entire congregation to tears with her simple song. I say this not to invalidate the quest for excellence but to illustrate that feeling the music always trumps craft.

In writing, there is storytelling and story crafting. Yes, we must strive to perfect our craft and even consider our market’s wishes, but it’s even more important to tell a story that resonates on a deep level. If we lose our passion for story, we will also lose readers. It’s not enough to hone our craft until it shines. Producing a story that sings should cost in terms of creativity, drawn as it is from our very soul. It is this that separates artists from artisans.   

Because writing does not exist as art alone, however, I will add some technical tips for engaging reader’s emotions. I almost hesitate to do so, in case anyone latches onto these techniques as the way through. They illuminate the story path but are not the path itself.

Tap a universal experience.  A mother’s arms, teenage acne, and rejection in love are but a few commonalities to which we all can relate. Writing about universal experiences in an evocative way breathes life into writing.

Write to the senses.  Use taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound to bring a fictional world to life. The more vividly you imagine your story’s scenes, the easier this becomes.  

Show rather than tell. Create fully-realized scenes readers can step into. Narrative has its place to help in pacing as it skips us past unnecessary details, but most often passages of telling would be better if written as scenes. I got tired of hearing this advice given by rote with no explanation of how to do this, so I filmed the video 5 Ways to Show Not Tell in Fiction Writing for my Live Write Breathe site for writers.

Create a sympathetic situation for your main character. The reader wants to identify with and care about the main character. Provide a gripping opening scene to meet your reader more than halfway. Be careful here, though. There’s a difference between engaging a reader’s emotions and manipulating them. Being faithful to your true story will guide you. 

Have someone react. Not allowing room for reaction is a common failing, but this technique is so powerful it should never be ignored. As an example (spoiler alert), in the movie The Hunger Games, when Rue dies, the heroine grieves for her. If she didn’t, we wouldn’t feel the loss as deeply as we do. The riots that break out are also a reaction that stirs our anger at the injustice of the games.

Watch this part of the movie, and then imagine the scene with minimal reaction and you’ll see what I mean.

Hone your craft. Nothing pulls a reader out of a story faster than clumsy storytelling, so do study craft. But remember that craft is no substitute for inspired storytelling.

There will always be tension between the business and art of writing, but that doesn’t have to be bad, not when you consider that the best fiction marries fine storytelling with excellent story crafting. It is even possible to thrive in the tension between business and art.  

WayFarer Tales of Faeraven 2 by Janalyn VoigtToday, January 3rd, marks the release of WayFarer, book two of my epic fantasy trilogy, Tales of Faeraven. In celebration, for today only my publisher is offering a discount of 50% on purchase of WayFarer from the Pelican Books site. 

When I first started writing this trilogy without agency representation or a publishing contract, fantasy was a hard sell, but this was the story I felt. It’s been a rough journey to publication, but well worth it.

What about you? What story sings within you? 

Goodreads for Writers (Build a Social Media Platform)

Goodreads for writersDo you daydream about a massive virtual library where lovers of books rub shoulders and authors receive free privileges and promotional opportunities? Well, dream no more. Such a site exists. Surprisingly, many writers ignore Goodreads.

A basic membership affords even unpublished writers the opportunity to include a photo and profile information, make friends with readers and other writers, share book recommendations and reviews, create their own virtual bookshelves. and join groups and forums (including groups of readers who love books in their genres).

Published authors can add the following privileges:

Author Page

It’s likely you will find your book by title in the site’s database. If you don’t find it, it’s not too difficult to add it using the “Find Books” tab. Once you locate your book, you will find a link that asks whether you’re the writer of the book. Click that and follow instructions to set up your Author Page.

Bio

On your author page, you can include a biography and list your books, link to your website and blog, indicate your genre(s), and upload a picture. Take pains with this information, since visitors to your page will notice it before they scroll down to read anything else.

Blog

You can blog right in Goodreads or automatically feed updates from external blogs to your page and into the news feeds of your friends and fans. The whole post won’t appear, but just the first few paragraphs with a link to your blog site. This is one way to lead readers back to your website and expose them to purchase information for your book.

Events

You can list events like your release date, blog tour stops, or book signing schedule to keep your friends and fans informed.

Videos

Set book videos, author interviews, book readings, or other promotional videos from YouTube or another online video service to display right on your Author Page.

Writing Samples

If you have an author page, you can include samples of your writing and reviews of your books for others to read. 

Quotes

You can share favorite quotes from books you love, including your own! Give readers a taste of your writing and they may just purchase your book and keep on reading.

Fans

Your Author Page includes a place where readers can sign up to be your fans. You will then appear in the “Favorite Authors” section of their profiles and they will receive updates from your Author Page. 

Status Updates

Goodreads has a status update box that allows you 240 characters to comment on topics of your choice. Your update will show up in the newsfeeds of your friends and fans. Starting a discussion about an author who writes books similar to yours is a great way to engage with readers who might also enjoy your books. The update box is a little difficult to find. In the top menu bar, click “home,” and then look in the right sidebar for the text link entitled “general update” under the “what are you reading” header. Click the link and an update box should appear. 

Groups and Forums

Join reader groups and enter into their discussions to connect with readers within your genre. Remember, though, not to push your books. Engage readers by joining in the discussions at hand and they may click on your name link to go to your Author Page and find out all about you and your books.

Giveaways

If it’s still within six-months after your book’s release date, you can set up a giveaway of your book through the “First Reads” program. This gives you the opportunity to put a brief synopsis in front of those who participate.

Special Strategies

The way Goodreads is set up yields intelligence data for authors. For instance, you can find a book similar to your own, click on its title, and learn which of your friends and fans have read it. You can search for a similar book and find active discussions about it in reader groups.

Homework

If you don’t have a Goodreads account, sign up for one, upload a photo and fill out your profile information. If you are a published author, apply for your author page and schedule some time to set it up.

I’ve touched on some of the strategies available to writers who use Goodreads. Do you have more ideas? How do you use Goodreads?

Google Plus for Writers (Build a Social Media Platform)

Google Plus LogoGoogle+ offers unique benefits for writers wise enough to take advantage of them. Why do we need another social site when there’s already Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter? While these social sites are great networking tools, they don’t have all the capabilities of Google+.

Another consideration is cost. Only a fraction of those who sign up to receive your Facebook updates are allowed to see them. Facebook will extend your reach, but at a cost. Google+ lets you contact those in your circles free of charge.

Google+ is growing but has not yet reached its full potential.

Google+ has overtaken Twitter as the 2nd most popular social network in the US, according to a March 2013 Survey by Burst Media.”   | Jun 03, 2013 REPORT: Google+ Overtakes Twitter as 2nd Most Popular Social Network in US

More men than women were on Google+ at the outset, but more men tend to become early adopters. The gender stats are leveling out, according to D Erickson (JUNE 7, 2013) in Top Social Networks By Gender, March 2013 [TABLE] for e-Strategy Trends. It’s not too late to get in on the rise of Google+ to build your author social media platform. 

Interest communities can help you find readers.

One of the things that Google+ does best is to connect people with similar interests. An author. You can search for groups, start a group, and manage your groups

Increase your discoverability.

Updates you make to Google+ rank well in Google’s search engine. This puts your updates higher in results for relevant search terms. This can make you as an author more visible to readers.

Create videos, host author chats and network through Google hangouts.

Up to ten people can connect through hangouts. Through its Hangouts on Air capabilities, Google+ gives authors a free and easy way to broadcast live. Better yet, it then can automatically update your Google+ home page and YouTube account. You can also embed your videos on your website or blog. Best of all, you don’t need technical skills to get in on this. Learn more about Google Hangouts on Air.

Lets you sign up for Google Authorship.

You may have wondered how images of some authors appear in search engine results, like the one, below.

About Janalyn Voigt

Your image, tagline, and most recent update will appear in the sidebar for searches of your name. This can be an important advantage if you have a popular name. The fact that Google shows my follower count helps my credibility.

Janalyn Voigt's Google author bio

To learn more about the advantages of Google Authorship, read 10 Reasons Writers Should Claim Their Google Authorship Markup by  for Copyblogger.

Don’t make the mistake of overlooking Google Plus in building your social media platform.

LinkedIn for Writers (Build a Social Media Platform)

Linked In for Writers via @janalynvoigt for Wordserve Water Cooler

This is a pin-friendly image!

When deciding where to focus online, most writers veer toward Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Developing a presence at those sites can be a great idea. However, with 250 million users worldwide, LinkedIn carries a clout all its own. Chances are you think of LinkedIn as a network for job seekers, and while it does function in that capacity, it offers other benefits to writers.

Reach Readers

Although LinkedIn’s focus is business-to-business, don’t discount it as an avenue to reach readers. I personally experienced a spike in book sales after putting the word out on LinkedIn about DawnSinger (Tales of Faeraven 1). The link I posted had a lot of shares, which means my network kicked in to help. As members of my network shared my update to their networks, they increased its impact exponentially, creating additional exposure for my book. This is social networking at its best. Just remember that giving more than you receive will help you tap its power. (It’s also a great way to live.)

Extend Your Network

LinkedIn allows you to introduce yourself to those in the networks of your network. This can be a powerful tool for growing your sphere of influence. Be careful about approaching agents and editors this way, though. It’s best to send them a contact request after an in-person meeting.

Give and Receive Endorsements

LinkedIn lets you easily endorse people you respect for their professional skills. This also means that others can do the same for you. While you can request that others endorse you, use this tool wisely. If people don’t know you or your work, don’t send them an endorsement request.

Discover Who Views Your Profile

It’s fun to click a sidebar link and discover who has recently visited your profile. While those who upgrade to a professional account receive more information, even those who use a free plan can see a few names. As an example, recent visitors to the LinkedIn profile for Janalyn Voigt included a librarian, another author and speaker, a digital publisher, a barbershop manager, and a Los Angeles-based writer and editor. In the past I’ve also caught a film producer and agent checking out my profile. These people can represent contacts you may want to follow up with.

Link Your Blog

LinkedIn’s blog link tool enables you to feed your blog to your LinkedIn profile. This helps you brand while giving your blog additional reach.

Automatically Update from Twitter

Feed your Twitter updates to LinkedIn. Go to settings to enable this feature.

Conduct Polls

Use the LinkedIn polls application to gain insights that can help you determine what to write, how to promote, and where to find your target audience. You can integrate your LinkedIn polls to Facebook or Twitter and also embed them in your website.

Improve Your Website’s SEO

Be sure to include a link to your website and/or blog in your profile. Garnering links back to your blog from high-authority sites helps raise its visibility in search engines. A good search-engine ranking means that when people search the internet for keywords within your topic, your site shows as close as possible to the first page of their results. This is known as search engine optimization, or SEO.

Focus on Business

One of my author friends centers his online social networking at LinkedIn more than at other sites. When I asked him why he prefers LinkedIn, he answered that it’s all business. Since he’s had to break himself of an online gaming habit, this makes sense for him. LinkedIn’s business focus extends even further than not featuring games, and that’s good news for writers in a lot of ways. On LinkedIn you don’t “friend” or “follow” people, you add them into your network. Having an established network means that you can connect on a strictly-business level with (to name a few) publishing professionals (such as agents and editors), experts in fields you need to research, technical experts who design websites or make book trailers, and other authors willing to cross-promote.

Join Relevant Groups

LinkedIn is another place to connect with others on topics of interest to your author brand. You can also participate in groups of writers to talk shop. As an example, I’ve used LinkedIn groups to compare notes with other writers in an effort to discover where to focus promotional efforts. A simple search on LinkedIn will turn up groups to consider joining. If you’re new at writing, you may want to check out a post that gives details on 20 sites of interest to aspiring authors.

Follow Publishing Houses and Agencies

Use the follow companies LinkedIn feature to keep tabs on publishing houses and agencies. As a bonus, you can see how you are connected to these companies, which can give you contact leads.

How to Proceed with LinkedIn

Start by creating a free account, and then fill in your profile completely, using targeted keywords (see the section, above, on improving website SEO). Once you’ve done this, send invitations to connect with all your contacts and concentrate on growing your network in the ways mentioned throughout this post. I’m sure you’ll agree that LinkedIn is a powerhouse for writers.

Should You Be On Pinterest? (Building a Social Media Platform)

Pinterest

The trouble with being a writer is that you have to write. That would seem desirable, but the writing I’m talking about goes beyond pounding out the next scene in my novel. Since becoming a published novelist, I’ve submitted–at the request of agents, editors, bloggers, and marketing personnel–guest posts, interview responses, pitch sentences, two-sentence blurbs, query letters, proposals, sample chapters, material to use for promotion, back-cover copy, tag lines, book club questions, and of course myriad versions of my biography. Add to this the need to devise creative updates for social networks, and you begin to see why a writer might groan.

Enter Pinterest, a social media platform that allows members to network with pictures more than words. Tweet This! I love writing and (go figure) even have a fondness for words, but I find Pinterest a breath of fresh air. As a virtual bulletin board where users pin images, Pinterest frees me to express my creativity without having to hurt my brain with so much thinking. Since women primarily frequent Pinterest, spending more time on it than on other networks, it provides another benefit. Book buyers are predominantly female. (This varies by genre.)

With 4 million active daily visitors and as the fastest-growing social media site (now second only to Facebook), Pinterest is a site many writers should include in their social media platforms. Tweet This! Since I began to take Pinterest seriously, it’s moved to the number one referrer of traffic to my websites.

I won’t go into detail on how to sign up, since Pinterest makes it easy. If you want advice, visit the Pinterest Help Center and enter “how to sign up” in the search box. I suggest you set up or convert to a Pinterest business account. This will allow you access to account analytics once you verify your website for Pinterest.

Be sure and include your author picture in your profile. Also set up a branded bio. This is a little challenging since you should make it brief so it will be read. Every word needs to pull its weight. To see an example, visit the Pinterest page for Janalyn Voigt. While you’re there, take a look at my boards to help inspire your own.

Pinterest Goodies

After you’ve created your account, filled in your profile information, and verified your website, you should visit Pinterest’s Goodies page. There you’ll find instructions on how to:

  • install the Pin It button (for Google Chrome) to your bookmark bar.
  • drag the Pinterest Bookmarklet to your toolbar (click the red link under the Pin It button copy in the sentence that says: “Looking for the Pinterest Bookmarklet?”).
  • add a Pin It button to your site.
  • make a widget for your site.

Creating Your Boards:

On your profile page, you’ll be able to create boards. Here are some suggestions:

  • Name a board for your blog or website.
  • Create a board with the title of your book(s).
  • Name a board for the genre(s) you write.
  • Think up boards that will reinforce your brand.
  • Design boards to attract your target audience.

Pin Three Ways

  1. Click the Pinterest bookmarklet while at a website that grants permission to pin its images and select the image you want to pin.
  2. Under your image in the Pinterest toolbar you’ll find a dropdown menu. Click “Add Pin” to upload an image from your computer or enter the URL of a picture you have permission to pin.
  3. Use the Pin It button on a website.

What to Pin

  • Pin your own original images with a link back to your site.
  • Pin images from sites that state they allow pinning to Pinterest.
  • Pin public-domain images.
  • Create and pin your own collages using sites like PicMonkey.com and your own images.

What to Do on Pinterest

  • Follow other people. You can choose to follow all boards or an individual board. As with all effective social networking, be sincere. Tweet This! When you make the effort to follow people, some will follow you back.
  • Repin from boards of people you trust. Always verify that the link goes where the image indicates it will and that the original site gave permission to pin.
  • Like pins others post. This brings you to their attention.
  • Comment on pins. To comment, click on a pin and the comment box will be in the enlarged image that displays.

Pinterest and Copyright

First, I am not a lawyer and don’t mean the following in any way as legal advice, but here is how I handle myself on Pinterest. I’m careful when pinning images that I don’t own to make sure the website gives explicit permission to pin to Pinterest in its copyright policy. I don’t take the existence of a Pin It button as permission. I’m aware that even if I own a photo, some things like private works of art or images of people who have not signed a release for me to post their photos, for example, are off limits. I prefer to take my own photographs and create my own infographics. When in doubt, I don’t pin.

Pinterest is a relatively painless way to network that is actually a lot of fun. Tweet This! It can help you keep track of research while simultaneously drawing readers to your books.

EXCLUSIVE LIMITED OFFER FOR READERS OF WORDSERVE WATER COOLER

Solving the Pinterest Puzzle for Sidebar

Learn more about using Pinterest to build your social media platform and readership. Sign up for Solving the Pinterest Puzzle course that fellow Wordserve author Melissa K. Norris and I offer as TriLink Social Media Mentors, a bargain at just $27.77.

Related Posts

Build a Social Media Platform: The First Step May Surprise You

4 Pillars to Build an Effective Social Media Platform

Build a Social Media Platform: Your Facebook Page

To Tweet or Not to Tweet (The Social Media Platform Question)

To Tweet or Not to Tweet (The Social Media Platform Question)

twitter-bird-light-bgs

Twitter is a top social network and one of the sites a prospective agent or publisher is likely to check when evaluating a writer’s online presence. This factor alone makes it worth investigating, but there’s more. Once you understand how to use it properly, Twitter can drive traffic to your site and customers to your books.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is an information network with real-time immediacy. Trending stories often break first on Twitter. It’s also a social networking platform where people from all over the world post short updates. Tweets, as these updates are known, take little time to compose. Your wall, made up of brief Tweets, is quick to scan. On Twitter you can create lists of people and make them public or private. It’s possible to join ongoing group conversations (like #AmWriting or #WriteTip). If you have a Facebook account, this should all sound familiar. Think of Twitter as “Facebook Light.”

Because of the character limitations (just 140 characters per Tweet), you don’t need to spend a lot of time maintaining Twitter. Tweets cover, among other things, personal updates, conversations, commentaries on something in the news, interesting posts, original limericks, and even entire books painstakingly Tweeted in numbered, sequential order. When it comes to composing Twitter updates, you’re only limited by your imagination.

Tweets can be prescheduled via social media dashboards like Tweetdeck, Social Oomph, Buffer, and Hootsuite. I have used all of these at one time or another and now use them all for different features. There’s also Twuffer, which I have not tried, but many people swear by it. Which you choose is really a matter of preference. I suggest you start out with Hootsuite, since its interface is easiest for the beginner. As a bonus, you can schedule updates for Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn through Hootsuite as well. I use the URL shortener at Bitly.com and also via Buffer because these sites give me the ability to track analytics for the links I post.

Twitter’s about page is informative and even suggests various ways to use it. The brief video at http://fly.twitter.com is well worth watching. There’s also a set of instructions helping businesses learn to build a community at https://business.twitter.com. If you’re a mobile user, go to https://twitter.com/download for the apps you’ll need. Clearly, how much you get out of Twitter depends on you.

Getting Started on Twitter?

I won’t go into a lot of detail here because Twitter’s help topics are so awesome you should have no trouble finding your way. Learn how to set up your account here: https://support.twitter.com/articles/100990-how-to-sign-up-on-twitter.

For branding purposes and to present yourself as professional, I suggest you use your author name as your handle. Capitalize your first and last name for better readability. My twitter handle, for example, is @JanalynVoigt rather than @janalynvoigt.

Be sure to upload a profile image. Many people, myself included, won’t follow accounts without a profile picture because this is a telltale sign of a spammer.

Don’t be afraid to poke around Twitter and familiarize yourself with its many aspects. Third-party Twitter applications abound, but don’t get carried away discovering them or you may burn out on Twitter before you start. It’s best to start simple. Also, be careful when it comes to third-party applications. They shouldn’t need your email address or Twitter password to function. After you’ve granted permission to an application to access your account, if you don’t intend to use it again, it’s always a good idea to go into your Twitter settings through the gear icon on your profile page, select apps from the menu on the left, and revoke its access to your account.

What if you just don’t “get” Twitter?

I truly understand the confusion of not knowing how to relate to others on Twitter. It took me several years to truly grasp how to use this particular social platform. I might not have kept trying except that much of my website traffic came from updates about my blog posts that I made to Twitter. I only wish I’d discovered sooner that the character of my interactions, rather than the nature of Twitter, was the problem. Accusing Twitter for my failure to connect through it was akin to blaming a forest fire on a careless camper’s match. For those who persevere, Twitter can prove quite a powerhouse.

I didn’t consciously decide to use Twitter as an outlet to promote my writing without investing anything of myself in my followers. In fact, I tried periodically to get people to “talk to me,” but I wasn’t successful. I first had to figure out some basics, and I’m happy to share them with you.

To get people to talk to me on Twitter, I:

  • joined hashtag conversations. These sound complicated but aren’t. Twitter communications can seem disjointed, so hashtag conversations arose out of the need to organize tweets into cohesive group conversations. To see how this works, type #AmWriting (a popular hashtag conversation for writers) into the search box at http://Search.Twitter.com. (If you are logged into your account, you can just use the search box at the top of the screen.) To add to the conversation, simply include #AmWriting in your own Tweet. Taking part in hashtag conversations helps you find people who are active on Twitter.
  • paid attention to who followed me and followed them them back if possible. Several good applications for managing your Twitter followers exist, including Friend or Follow and Manage Flitter. These sites let you easily do things like follow people back and unfollow those who aren’t following you (if you wish). I don’t always follow those who follow me. Some are on Twitter to promote businesses that don’t interest me or are engaged in activities I don’t want to endorse. If we’ll have nothing in common to talk about, I don’t follow back. Engagement is far more important than large numbers of followers. 
  • tweeted blog posts written by others and included their Twitter handle (user name preceded by the @ sign–mine is @JanalynVoigt). This prevents your Tweet with a link from being considered spam and notifies persons with the handles you include that you mentioned them. Often those we do favors for will look for ways to return those favors, but I don’t do it for that reason or look for a return. I Tweet relevant links of interest to my followers to keep them engaged with me.
  • retweeted (Tweeted again) posts of interest to my niche. This helps me interact with others, feed interesting updates to my followers, and gain new followers.
  • consciously following other people I knew. I proactively searched out my friends who are on Twitter. We’re already invested in and support one another, and I know these people will talk to me.
  • mentioned people and thanked them when they mentioned me. Twitter has #FollowFriday, also known as #FF, that’s gotten a bit out of hand, but if used right is a viable way to recommend people you want to help and gain followers as others help you. Basically, every Friday people on Twitter recommend some of their favorite followers by listing their Twitter handles with the #FF or #FollowFriday hashtags included in the Tweet. Using the @ symbol before a person’s handle causes the name to become a link that takes your followers who click it to that person’s profile. You don’t have to use the #FollowFriday hashtag to follow people, though. You can mention them whenever you want.
  • when time allowed, I spent a few minutes looking over websites and commenting about them to people who interested me. This communicates that I’m interested in the person, and sometimes I find material to Tweet to my followers.
  • began scheduling regular updates. Don’t get carried away posting updates, but most people post too seldom rather than too often. I try to update my Twitter profile using prescheduled Tweets once an hour. We’ve discussed scheduling updates, but you can also automatically feed blog posts to Twitter through Twitter Feed and Mail Chimp.

There’s truth to the idea that those who aren’t using Twitter can’t understand it and those on Twitter can’t explain it. To decide whether Twitter is or isn’t for you, why not give it a try? 

Build a Social Media Platform: Your Facebook Page

Face book

As the world’s largest social networking site, Facebook is an essential plank in most authors’ platforms. However, its effectiveness depends on how it is used. Many writers try to use their profiles for business pages, a function they were never designed to support. Even if it were not against Facebook’s policies, using a profile for promotion is not effective anyway. There’s truth to the idea that friends aren’t geared to purchase from friends.

Converting a Profile to a Page

Fortunately, it is possible to convert a profile to a business page with a simple tool Facebook provides. Having recently migrated my Facebook profile to a business page, I offer a detailed perspective on this process in Convert Your Facebook Profile to a Page (A Step-By-Step Guide). Would I go back to a profile if I could? No. I’ve received more engagement and am taken more seriously. As a bonus, I no longer have to deal with unwanted game or event invitations.

Signing up for Facebook and Creating a Page

Signing up for Facebook is a straightforward matter. If you need help with this, go here: http://www.facebook.com/help/188157731232424/. Instructions for building a page are here: https://www.facebook.com/business/build. The category that Author or Writer is found under is Artist, Band or Public Figure, however if you do more than write on a professional level, you may want to choose a different category, like Public Figure (under the same category). If you create your page around your author name rather than one of your book titles, you won’t have start all over again building an audience for each new release. Also, leaving out an accompanying description (like author) keeps your options open should you want to add another professional activity (such as speaking) at a future date.

Your Facebook Page

Banner: To promote your brand, its best to post a cover image that resembles your website banner.

Profile Picture: Use a quality image for your profile picture, preferably a headshot.

Tabs: Wildfire, Tabsite and Iwipa are applications that let you install customized tabs to give you among other things a landing page, event manager, contest tab, blog feed, and even fan-gated content you post for subscribers only. To learn more visit http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/top-10-facebook-apps-for-building-custom-pages-tabs/. Mail Chimp integrations allows users to post a sign-up box for your email list right in a Facebook tab.

Content you post on your page should draw readers who will sign up for your email list. Post updates about your writing progress, appearances, author news, contests, giveaways, and book news. Depending on your brand, you may also want to post snippets from your research, recipes, book reviews, or videos. Whatever you decide, make sure it lines up with your brand and inspires some sort of action (such as entering a contest, signing up for your newsletter, liking a post, or visiting your website). Make the time you spend posting to Facebook count toward your goals.

Post Scheduler: It’s possible and desirable to schedule posts to publish at a time you specify. This can be a great time-saver. Just click the clock icon below the update window.

EdgeRank: That mysterious algorithm by which Facebook determines how many of your followers see a post is based largely on engagement. One good way to boost your engagment and boost an update’s edgerank is to post pictures or videos.

Wall: A page’s wall functions just like a profile wall. Like some other pages while posting as your page and those posts will show up in your wall feed, which you can find by clicking the Home tab in the upper right menu. 

Engagement: Commenting on other pages is an important way to gain followers for your own. A good strategy is to find other authors with similar readerships and comment on their posts. Provided you don’t self-promote and say something sufficiently interesting, some of their followers may become interested in you and follow you back to your page. Doing this actually helps the other author gain edgerank and engagement and its possible to share audiences to mutual advantage.

Another way to keep up the engagement on your page is to post consistently. Also, your followers will notice your absence and respond accordingly, so try to show up for at least a few minutes every day. You can set your notifications to alert you by email when someone comments on your page.

Analytics: In your page’s admin panel you’ll see a tab with a graph showing both your reach and audience engagement levels. Click See All to view the full analytics for your page. Pay attention to which posts have more virality and adjust your offerings accordingly, or else use the engage tips above to find people interested in what you offer. Adjusting your page’s reach to the ideal audience for you is a trial-by-error process.

Promoting from Your Page

While it is possible to promote from your page, you should do so cautiously. Spamming doesn’t work and will only cause you to lose followers. Be subtle and lure rather than pursue readers.

I received a bit of free advertising money from Facebook, so I decided to try out a couple of ads. My results indicate that the same easy-does-it guidelines apply to ads, too. The campaign I ran as an inline ad with a post of my book video did far better than the promoted posts ad with a cover of my book and a promotional blurb.

My observation is that people are on Facebook to socialize and have fun, not to be pitched to. Consider using this site as a primary outpost if you work well in that kind of environment and can promote in a subtle manner.

Please click to tweet this post.