How a Blue Bird Can Save You Time

bluebirdI love Twitter.

Yes, it’s true – a year ago, I said I would never get on Twitter.

Just like I said “no Facebook,” the year before that.

The truth is that as an author, if you’re not on the social networks, you’re missing the boat, and while I’m still learning the best ways to use social media, I’ve found a surprising, but HUGE, benefit to spending time every day on Twitter: it’s my go-to source for content.

Content – the endless supply of information you need to share – is one of the things you have to manage on social media, and for me, it was one of the most intimidating. I barely eke out enough time to work on manuscripts between book marketing, my part-time teaching job, mothering, housekeeping, and walking the dog, let alone to come up with bright new pieces of information to post on my social networks every day. Effective social media marketing requires new content to keep your followers interested in what you do as an author; if your audience doesn’t hear from you in a while, they’ll move on to someone or something new, which defeats your whole social media strategy.

On top of fresh material, I also have to find/create the right spin on the content I collect to make it appropriate for my social networks. My readers expect humor, which isn’t nearly as simple or easy as it may sound; all authors – no matter what they write about – have to somehow personalize the content they curate to reflect their own signature brand.

Enter Twitter – tiny snippets of titles on anything and everything. It’s like an overflowing cornucopia of trivia, which is exactly what I like about it – I can skim through my Twitter feed and if some title catches my eye and strikes me as funny, or inspires a witty response in me, I can open the link and immediately bookmark it into a folder on my laptop. (Keeping a bookmarking folder dedicated to raw social media content has been one of my better ideas.) Then, when I’m making the rounds on my social networks and need new content, I can open that folder and retrieve the snippet for instant material. I’ve discovered that in just a few minutes a day, I can find enough tweets on Twitter to provide me with ideas and quick posts for a week, which frees up more time to write.

The danger of wasting time on Twitter was originally one of the reasons I didn’t want to use it, because like all social media, it pulls you into engagement that is hard to escape. (How many times have you told yourself, “I’m only reading one more post,” and then, an hour later, you’re still on Facebook?) By mindfully turning my Twitter time into content development time, I’ve made it a more productive and focused task that actually reduces the amount of time I need to spend on creating posts for my other networks. And that makes me tweet with happiness! (And you can join me @BirderMurder!)

What are some of the creative ways you use one social media to assist you with another one? 

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Tomorrow is Another Day (for Publishing)

Cover illustration, Harper's Weekly September 7, 1861

The one constant in the print and digital publishing business these days is change, and change isn’t easy. Isn’t that the crux of most novels—thrusting your protagonist into unprecedented circumstances to change their world forever? I relate to strong heroines in those novels—Scarlett O’Hara being a favorite. While I don’t think the publishing landscape is doomed to resemble post-war Atlanta anytime soon, I can imagine when all is said and done, there will be those sitting around shell-shocked, sipping mint tea among burning embers, and those who will thrive with the flurry of a lumber mill during reconstruction.

One thing I’ve learned for seizing opportunity amidst upheaval is to apply basic principles of change management. 

“I can’t think of it now…I’ll think of it later.”1

As much as I enjoy Scarlett’s character, indulging in such thinking could be dangerous. The publishing business is changing, whether you take notice or not. If you don’t want the road to Tara to be riddled with potholes, it’s important to arm yourself with information. Fortunately, lots of people are talking about what publishing changes are in store, and you can follow any number of blogs for an understanding of the essentials or simply pose a question to a trusted writer’s loop and see what personal experiences you stir up. Do anything but ignore change. It’s not going away. 

“It’s better to know the worst, than to wonder.” 1

Expect to grieve a little. Change has a life cycle that passes through phases, including ‘loss’. Think about why you want to be published. This doesn’t have to be the answer you’d give anyone else, but be honest. Is it for the recognition? Because you have a compelling message to tell? Whatever the reason, with that need for being published in mind, ask yourself what you would lose if your choices no longer made sense.

Through the traditional print publishing route…would you lose time waiting for publication? Could your genre be overdone by the time you hit the shelves? Could the physical shelves be long gone by then? Could you lose out on the higher author cuts from e-publishing? And what about the e-publishing route…would you lose big name industry reviews? The satisfaction of seeing your book in print? Store placement to drive sales? Ask yourself if your expectations around what you have to gain or lose are realistic to begin with. What good is a higher e-publishing royalty if you can’t figure out how to move the books? Do you need ‘big name’ reviews if hundreds of GoodReads fans are singing your praises?

When you figure out what you really stand to lose, start brainstorming replacements. Can you hire PR to promote your book or join a group where authors help each other market? Can you fill down time waiting on publication by working on a new novel or building a platform? There is no easy answer here. Loss is painful, but coming to grips with it sooner than later frees you to move through the cycle and gets you thinking about moving forward.

“Now you are beginning to think for yourself instead of letting others think for you. That’s the beginning of wisdom.” 1

Success still resides at the crossroads of opportunity and preparedness. Recognize you have choices. You can go down the traditional publishing route today and find success, and you can go down an e-publishing route and find success. Or both. The choices mean you have some control over your fate. Treat your career decisions with as much careful planning as your circumstances will allow. Once you know where you want to go in the changing landscape, set milestones to mark your progress to keep alert to progress and risks along the way.

“In the end what will happen will be what has happened whenever a civilization breaks up. The people who have brains and courage come through and the ones who haven’t are winnowed out.” 1 

Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

What about you? How are you coping with the changing publishing landscape?