Saturday, July 30, 2011

SAT SURPRISE: Sketching Dicky Pt 3 of 3 #amwriting #cartoons

This is way harder than I thought it would be. It's tedious. And it's not getting finished today. Ah well. I made some excellent progress though.

I've cleaned up the shirt a little, trimmed the moustache area, tweaked his neck a bit (hmmm, wish he were real and I would! *haha*) and started to draw the easier arm/hand--as in the left one. I erased the hand and kept the arm in place to work on next time but I haven't finished shading the sleeve yet. I definitely do not like the neckline of the shirt--it's totally wrong! At least now the bottom of the shirt curls and has the tassels inside instead of outside. The Tallit Katan is worn under a loose shirt (untucked).

Hands are the hardest things for me to draw! Next time I sit down to do this, I'll work on them again with a fresh mouse-hand. Hopefully, that'll be next Saturday! To quote Emperor Gregor again:  Let's see what happens!

SAT SURPRISE: Sketching Dicky Pt. 2 (of at least 3)

Yeah, the number of times I'm going to post is getting higher each time I return to this! Argh. I can't believe I got so much done today and yet I feel like I'm making no progress. Basically, last weekend I'd started doing the face -- no hair! -- based on existing Disney cartoons (he looks very Disneyesque, doesn't he? I am pleased with that part) but I didn't have anything else done until this morning. Now I have...well, look, I'll show you because it's really starting to shape up but try to remember this is a work VERY MUCH in progress still!

And remember it's driving me insane to work on it, so be gentle if you post any comments -- but I'd love to hear any helpful suggestions. Always. The head from last weekend was all done in Photoshop. The legs today were all done on paper with pencil. Boy, does the difference show!!

I'll post this and then get more coffee, maybe twitter around a bit, do anything but look at this for 10 min. then come back and delight in how far I've gotten. I hope. What do you think?

The circle in the right hand will be the keepah if I can ever figure out how to make it look. The left arm, bent in the foreground, needs to have one of those bent back hands that says "surprise!" (it's a Saturday Surprise post, isn't it? *LOL*) You know, palm out, fingers splayed, like a stop sign. He keeps looking effeminant when I do it though. Grrr....

I've now created and deleted a new layer on top of those framework lines TWICE. Three times's a charm, right? Soon, my tweets, soon.

p.s. aren't his feet hilarious? I can't tell, are those some kind of super-futuristic sneakers or what? Hahahahahaha, I have to laugh at myself. I'm just no good at hands and feet. Eyes, yes. Hair? Check. Baggy arms and legs, sure. Six-pack abs...only with luck. I got his V shape right though, give me credit for that okay? Then you can laugh at those feet.

SAT SURPRISE #1 (of at least 2) Coming soon!

I realize now, too late to stop it, that I've just tweeted all over the place (including on Facebook) but the blog, itself, didn't get updated and yet.... posting here updates everywhere else. Argh! Gotta love automation. I'm sorry. I'll start here on the blog next time! Promise!

I've been sketching all morning--seriously, all morning, since about 7:30am! I got inspired by Lisa Scullard's art last weekend and like Lisa, I keep drawing "too much detail" to be what my Mind's Eye had envisioned. I'm not going to keep erasing. I've already gone through almost an inch of eraser stick and I have graphite all over my fingertips from rubbing (I'm using a mechanical pencil so it's not that but there's no better "blur" than a human fingertip--which is why Adobe Photoshop makes a blur tool with a fingertip icon *haha*)

I've got the legs (with his cargo pants) and the tallit katan (shirt/smock with tassels) and I've got his head twisted around, one eyebrow up in surprise, hair flying out of control. All I have left to do is the darned hands - I want one up, in one of those surprise as he's twisting poses, and one holding the keepah he was about to put on.

It's the scene in the end of Ch 20 from whence the title "Coming Home" originates. He's about to put on a keepah for the first time and has doubts about the choice, so he wonders to himself, "God, what am I doing?" and hears that voice, not his own, answering, "Coming home, at last." And he spins around to look and be sure there's no one behind him (such as Itzick playing a joke on him, the little imp!)

I love that moment in the story and have wanted to produce imagery for it, somehow, since I wrote it in 2003. I'm not sure all of that will come through in a cartoon character on a book cover but I'll know it's there. I'll be happy. Assuming I can draw these darn hands!

I've pulled it all into Photoshop to work on and hope to upload something later today. Hence, the Saturday Surprise #1 of at least 2. Keep a watch here or on twitter. I promise not to tweet it ten times again! ^_^

Friday, July 29, 2011

Submissions for Freebie Friday (5 Aug 11)

Add your book to the comment thread here to get featured next week! Now that the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale is over, I'll be going back to just 3 free reads featured each week.

If I don't get submissions--or if I get more than 3 submissions in any given week--I'll hand-pick the titles myself, based on my mood at the moment I look at your book's page. Nothing more, nothing less. It's not a judgment call, it's just a whim of fancy. If I don't pick your book one week, it is definitely possible (but by no means guaranteed) that I'll include it the following week.

The point of this Friday feature is to get everyone involved exposure to a new audience so I'm trying to pick books that are different than what I usually write, different from what my regular readers might expect of me and different than the masses of eBooks out there in the bitstream.

To get in on this, you need to have an English-language book that is free (either for one-day-only on Friday or for any length of time that includes Friday of the week in question) and is located on a web site somewhere my readers can click through to and see a preview and/or download the complete file. Your "book" must be a completed work (no WIPs or partials please) and you must be the copyright owner to submit it. Any genre--including short stories, anthologies and/or poetry--is okay to submit.

To participate, please post a comment below and either provide me with your Smashwords book page's URL (from which I can get everything I need myself) *OR* provide:
  1. your book's title and your author/pen name
  2. your book's genre and approximate word count
  3. a URL to the book's page (please test it to be sure it works!)
Please make sure the book page is "ready for prime time" viewing as that's where I'll direct readers to get your book and you may (or may not) get a lot of traffic that day. Your #1 sales tool is your book cover image (which I'll use "as is") and your #2 sales tool is your book's description (which I reserve the right to edit for readability and space considerations).

You can make your book page URL clickable. Blogger will convert your HTML to a clickable link after your comment is posted. You'll need to fill in the CAPTCHA words just to see the preview or to get the comment posted, so please don't close the popup window until you've typed in the CAPTCHA words. Also, please only use one link per comment or you'll trigger my SPAM filters.

You can submit more than one book at a time by posting multiple comments if you like but remember, I'll only include 3 books per week and would prefer not to have all three from the same author.

Please be sure to follow @webbiegrrl on twitter so you'll get the auto-tweet on Friday when Networked Blogs feeds it through to twitter. Please RT the link to the blog post so that everyone mentioned benefits from the group effort of marketing.

Thanks for participating!
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FREEBIE FRIDAY (29 Jul 2011) #FridayReads #FF @Smashwords @Goodreads #reading

As has become custom in a very short time, before I jump into the freebies, it's Friday Meme Time with Tracy over at TopCat's Booked Up. This week, she's answering the meme question "What T-Shirt slogan best describes you?"and again, oddly enough, Tracy and I have the same answer: I don't usually wear tee shirts with slogans, sorry!

I have to admit, I do have a small handful of tee shirts with insignia or "branded" imagery on them and they are, actually, particularly near and dear to me. From my days on Shuttle, I have a couple of tee shirts with night launches on the back (I got xtra lg and so I can sleep in them) and I went to SIGGRAPH for 2 yrs in a row back in the 90s when I did web graphics and got those "con" shirts. I also sleep in them. I'm not saying what else I have or haven't slept in *haha*

And now, far more interesting than my sleepwear (I hope!) are this week's free Friday reads. This is the last weekend of the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale bonanza, so if you've missed any of the great titles offered for free this month, today's your last chance to find them. All of the previous titles (which are still in the promo) are arranged loosely in reverse order of how they were submitted and/or by genre. Coupon codes/instructions on how to get the book for free are immediately after the book's description.

Our first new entry is a dark one--and not just because the cover art is dark! Samsara (approx. 95820 words) is a Gothic Romance from Sara E. Collins.

Summer James knows how temporary life is, but she is about to discover that true love can transcend death when you find the one you are destined to be with forever.

When Summer James accidentally stumbles into the arms of the enigmatic Boden Phelan on her twenty first birthday, she is unaware that their first meeting is in fact a reunion.

Once the truth unfolds, her past life collides with her present one and Summer is forced to deal with a trail of consequences and doubts before she can begin her long awaited happily ever after.  NOTE: This book contains content that may not be suitable for young readers 17 and under.

Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)


Next up is a non-fiction entry, The Directionless Son of Brain (approx. 13338 words) by Saurabh Sharma.

Sometimes there comes a time in our life when we are absolutely directionless and depressed.Sometimes we don't even know why we feel this way ? We want to do something about it but we don't know what to do ? Our Parents, Family, Friends all are there to help us but we come to a stage where we hide our true sad and directionless selves from them by pretending to be happy.  This book is an attempt to come out of that state of absolute directionless-ness.


Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)


Our third new entry this last weekend of the Smashwords promo sale is from first-time author James Watson.

The Baker Village Science Club Monthly Meeting Minutes (approx. 11465 words) is the chronicle of the meets of the most counter-productive science club on the planet in minute form, as taken by the group’s enthusiastic, yet dim witted minute taker Kevin Lane. The Baker Village Science Club Monthly Meeting Minutes presents a bizarre and expletive-laden insight into the lives of a dysfunctional and bitter group of people with much better things to do.  NOTE: This book contains content that may not be suitable for young readers 17 and under.

Although this book is not part of the site-wide promo, you can still get it for free, today only, by using coupon code SH96S at checkout.

Next up is a non-Smashwords book you can still read for free! Petra (approx. words) is an unusual (non-formulaic) Historical Romance by Letitia Coyne. It actually sounded a little bit like a romantic fantasy novel to me!


Aya grew up as a scavenger, trailing the Bedouin caravans. Bought from the arena as a young man, his new life as Sethos, the adopted son of a wealthy Roman merchant, is stained by the stigma of his past.

Jaida was raised in luxurious slavery, destined to be a virgin oracle. When the fall of a dice brings her future into question, it is Sethos who must define freedom and slavery, life or liberty – for himself and for her. He has money, strength and cunning, and she has no more than her faith.

This book is priced as FREE. In fact, it would seem that Bibliotastic only "sells" free eBooks. You simply register with Bibliotastic and you can download the Kindle (MOBI), Nook/Apple (EPUB) or PDF file in seconds.


Back on the Smashwords site-wide promo, I've selected a book myself that I thought sounded interesting. I haven't read it but it definitely is getting added to my Kindle reader home page TBR list. Kiss on the Bridge (approx. 53741 words) by Mark Stewart, caught my eye for two reasons.

One, it's set in the 1970s, which is an unusual time period in which to set a book (but was the time of my vibrant teenaged years). Second, the description (below) immediately told me the author was from Australia and I wondered how he perceived the USA of the 1970s (versus how I lived it.

Granted, I grew up in Boston's western suburbs and this book is set in America's Deep South (which I'm interested to see an Aussie interpret!) but America in the 70s was a place undergoing vibrant change. More authors of literary fiction should latch onto the period as it was a time when almost anything could (and did) happen! Oh and there's a third reason: it sounds like a really sweet, "feel good" story. Can we ever have enough of those in the world?

How would you react if a tall handsome stranger came up to you on new-years-eve and asked for a kiss? Cyclone Tracy made land fall in Darwin on 25th December 1974 at 9:55am desecrating Darwin. After Tracy had swept the state there was nothing left except this story. Out of the ruins love sparked and mushroomed between Anneli and Wade. They were destined to meet and tell their story for decades to come.

This book is currently priced as FREE and, therefore, requires no coupon code.


This short story, A Stray Hand (approx. 3700 words) by Lee Harlem Robinson will excite your imagination.

Jennifer and Kim share a house with their friend Jack in trendy Shoreditch, but they need a fourth room mate to help pay the rent. Enter Lee, who shakes up the lives of the long-term couple. Will Jennifer be able to resist the temptation?

NOTE: This book contains content that may not be suitable for young readers 17 and under.


This book is currently priced as FREE and, therefore, requires no coupon code.

Tied in with the Gay/Lesbian fiction meme, we have a coming-of-age story about a young teen coming to grips with her homosexuality in the midst of a town full of intolerance. This story highlights the important role played by those rare gems, the teachers who care more about their students than they do about themselves. Unconditional (approx. 66749  words) by Shannon "Shane" DuBey.

A small town filled with prying eyes. A high school that tolerates bullying and violence. Parents who cannot handle news of their child being different. These are the three most volatile components of any teen struggling to find their way and the mixture brews more trouble than most can imagine.

Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)

Next up, a gritty Romantic Suspense, The Trouble with Green (approx. 68985 words), by Liv James.

Josie’s life turns upside down when her earth-friendly inns get national press. Her architect husband gets a job offer on the other side of the country, the owners of her best inn disappear, and an unwanted guest drags danger to her door. As Josie is drawn deeper into her guest's twisted plan, she determines that she must fight the ghosts of her past if she has any hope of survival.

This book is currently priced as FREE and, therefore, requires no coupon code.


Our first non-fiction entry is this week's Lakeland Hunting Memories (approx. 3515 words) by Wendy Fraser. This is part one of a series.

Recollections of Lakeland hunting in the '50s and '60s. This first volume is an introduction to further, larger volumes which will be compiled from the popular web site Lakeland Hunting Memories established three years ago by Ron Black and Wendy Fraser. Here are some pages that are soon to be archived.

Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)

Back for another week, The Gods in the Jungle (approx. 125879 words) is a steampunky, alternate-world science fiction novel by Rik Roots.

The jungle city of Bassakesh holds the keys to the future of the Vreski Empire; it is the sole source of the valuable Vedegga dye. Delesse, the Governor's daughter, is marrying Loken, heir to one of the most powerful Clans in the Empire. When plague disrupts the wedding plans, Delesse, with her friends, has to fight to save the city, punish its enemies, and marry the man she loves.

Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)

Next is another scifi story, The Ultimate Choice (approx. 80249 words), a near-future science fiction dystopia by Lisa Hinsley.

In a dystopian near-future, worldwide overpopulation has led to a government dedicated to reducing citizen numbers. Suicide is legalised, food is rationed, and reproduction forbidden without the proper permissions. Cassie O’Neil broke the law, she had sex before marriage. She is sentenced to die on the game show, The Ultimate Choice, but when a contestant collapses Cassie takes her chance and runs. Staying alive is hard with no ration card and no place to hide. But she is the woman who refuses to die. NOTE: This book contains content that may not be suitable for young readers 17 and under.

This book is currently priced as FREE and, therefore, requires no coupon code.


Changing gears, we have Miss Kitty's ChickLit, Let's Do Lunch (approx. 77104 words) by K.A. Jordan.

Lindsey Bennett is caught between two men, one will tease her into telling her secrets, the other will use her; both are capable of killing. Surrounded by criminals, deceived on all sides, and catapulted from crisis to crisis, can Lindsey stay focused? Her restaurant and her life are at stake.

Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)

Staying with the meme of criminal elements let's move onto Living Hell (approx. 100530 words) by Lisa Scullard.

Kim Blackshields is Jericho's blackmailer, keeping an eye on who's doing what, or to whom, never mind the reason - so long as it pays. But even in a modern-day Satanic, small-town society rife with crime, espionage and corruption, there are still those who'll try and take advantage of the weak and impressionable. Even here, some things are frowned upon. NOTE: This book contains content that may not be suitable for young readers 17 and under.

Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)

Also by Lisa Scullard is the duology of Chick Lit/Crime/Humour, Death + The City: Heavy Duty Edition (approx. 280532 words).

Unlikely nightclub bouncer Lara Leatherstone - not her real name, she got it off an Internet Name Generator... And Pest Control sniper-turned-police officer Connor Reeves - also not his real name, how he came by his, is even less clear... Both are obliged to work their way through the To Do List of Hollywood Hit-Men, an epidemic of contract killers - erasing these pests with minimum fuss. NOTE: This book contains content that may not be suitable for young readers 17 and under.

Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)


Rounding out this week's collection are two from British author, Danny Gillan, both of which will make you smile, at least a little, and hopefully laugh--right out loud, so put the drinks down and save a screen!

Scratch (approx. 97612 words) is a comedy of the human condition by Danny Gillan.

An unexpected reminder of his past prompts Jim Cooper, a 33 year-old Glaswegian call centre worker, to make a big decision. He’s going back to adulthood ground-zero - no job, no debt, no, er, home, and starting again. Maybe this time he can do it right and get the girl. The fact that the girl is already married and living in another country and her Bruce Lee obsessed dad apparently wants to turn Jim into his latest pet are only two of the obstacles he faces.

Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)

Then top off your day with A Selection of Meats And Cheeses. Included are 12 short stories--some sad, some funny; some serious, some silly; some poignant, some pointless--wherein you'll meet homicidal Estate Agents (for Americans, that's a realtor, not an agent of an estate of a dead person but then, you never know; someone could die!), happy mendicants, inept stalkers and rubbish action heroes. NOTE: This book contains content that may not be suitable for young readers 17 and under.

This book is currently priced as FREE and, therefore, requires no coupon code.


Come back tomorrow for my Saturday Surprise and don't forget, next week, it's back to my hand-selected freebies as the Smashwords site-wide promo ends just as Shark Week begins!

Have a great weekend everyone!
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

TUES TIP: Managing Your Twitter Community #amwriting

This is the 4th and possibly final installment of my accidental Twitter Series. You can read the first 3 installments if you'd like, but that's not necessary to your understanding of today's discussion on how to manage this Twitter Community you've been working so hard to build to massive size.

If you follow everyone who follows you, your twitterstream can become so full and busy, you can't even read it anymore. My own signal to noise ratio passed into the useless range around the 50 follower mark. One solution (as discussed in earlier posts) is to only follow back those whose tweets actually interest you. The problem is, even if you only want to follow 5% of those who follow you, the relative number keeps increasing the more followers you get. Now that I've got over a hundred, it's starting to get unweildy.

Stopping the Flow at the Source

Now I'm getting much pickier about who I'll follow back. I take the extra minute or two to scroll back through a new follower's tweets for say, the last week (or month) and determine if more than 50% of what they're saying is something I really want to hear about on a regular basis. If it is, I follow them back. (Don't forget your twetiquette--thank everyone who follows you, whether you follow them back or not!)

Filtering the Flow on Arrival

Another solution is to use filters on your twitterstream. There are multiple ways to filter your followers' tweets (e.g., by keyword, by linkiness, by who they are and how you know them), but most of these will require you to get and use a specific Twitter app. What? you ask, I use a web browser to access twitter. Do I really need a whole separate application? Well, no, not just to read the tweets as they come flying in at you but to really manage your account, yeah, probably.

There's an app for that!

Let's take a side trip to talk about apps. If you already have your twitter app situation in hand, just scroll down to the next heading.

I can probably tell you a bit about most platforms. I have three of them. I have an Android smartphone (using the official Twitter app) and an iPad (using both the official Twitter app and the HootSuite app for Twitter--I tried and hated TweetDeck for iPad)

Personally, I like the official Twitter app but unfortunately, it doesn't behave particularly well (i.e., not stable) on either the Android or iPad platforms. That's why I installed the HootSuite on my iPad. I haven't yet tried out the iPhone version of Echofon on my iPad, but most iPhone apps work just fine on the iPad. I'll have to give it a whirl...eventually.

More often, I'll just go to my Win7 machine to get onto Twitter and use the Echofon add-on to my Firefox web browser. I absolutely love it!

To read tweets, I just left-click the Echofon icon and the window pops up (see screen shot at left) overlaying on top of whatever web page I'm on. If I want to  RT something I see, I just right-click and Echofon lets me choose to "Retweet" or "Retweet with comment..." as in a Modified Tweet (or MT). I can do my little multi-tasking and then go back to whatever I was doing. I can't imagine doing Twitter any other way!

The Echofon add-on also tells me whenever someone I follow tweets. It pops up a small overlay window on top of the bottom of my browser bar (or over the clock in the bottom-right corner of my screen). In  the screen capture at the right, I was editing this post (inserting the preceding screen capture) when a tweet from Marlee Matlin came in. Click to enlarge the image and see where the messages show up.

This is the single-best feature about Echofon IMO. It means I can keep track of my twitterstream even when I'm doing things offline. For instance, while I'm using MS Word to do some actual writing, it'll show me tweets without my having to go sort through them all. This is similar to the way Gmail pops up a window whenever I get a new message on whichever of my eight Gmail accounts I happen to be logged into at the moment.

None of this tells you how to filter, but it does tell you what apps and tools I'm using. You might like to use different tools. There are literally hundreds more out there for each and every platform. You have to try them out yourself and choose the one you like and can use. They don't all have the same features so don't think they all do the same thing. Try the ones that sound interesting to you.

Back to Business....

Now back to the filter discussion. Using an application like TweetDeck (or Seesmic Desktop, Destroy Twitter, and PeopleBrowsr), you can put the people you’re following into groups, so you can effectively slow down your Twitter stream, making it easier to follow specific tweets and discussions. You pick and choose who goes into what group and you can put one person into more than one group, then you choose which group's tweets to view and voila, you now have a focused, manageable subset of your overall twitterstream.

Another option mentioned by my go-to guys at Mashable is to setup a service or third-party web site to monitor your groups--or channels of users. Mashable has several links and screen shots on their filter discussion page, so I urge you to click through and check it out if you're curious but not quite envisioning this discussion.

Filtering by Content


Besides using a standalone app to filter your twitterstream by keywords or by groups of users, you can examine your entire twitterstream and determine who's cluttering up your stream with content you don't actually want to read. Maybe these are people who slipped through when you first got onto Twitter and did a follow-frenzy, slurping up dozens of followers without really thinking through the content sludge you'd have to wade through on a daily basis.

My absolute favorite tool for doing this is Tweetcloud because you don't have to install anything. You just use your web browser to go to the site, select to search by user, fill in your own username (grin) and authorize the site to access your twitterstream. Once it finishes logging in, it displays a cloud of keywords making the topics you discuss most often in large fonts, and the topics you rarely tweet about in a tiny font. You can check any user in your twitterstream now that you're logged in. Just type their username into the search-by-user box. It's very enlightening, isn't it?

I actually modified the screen capture there b/c I'd had an ongoing convo with one user, about 5 or 6 back and forths in @mentions, so that user's name was quite large compared to the rest of my tweets and I didn't want to put them under the spotlight. If you don't know whose username to put into the Tweetcloud search--in other words, you're not sure who's making all the noise but it sure seems noisy generally--just use an app to see whose tweets you follow and especially, who does not follow you back.

Mashable reviewed several other tools in 2009 (amazing how things have changed and yet remained the same!) for viewing your followers' content. One that I find more useful than nearly anything else is the Friend or Follow web-based service. I like it because (a) it's free and (b) it's easy and intuitive to use. I don't have to "remember" how it works when I use it infrequently.

As with Tweetcloud, you just log into your twitter account from the Friend or Follow web site and it sucks in and displays the data for you. (see the screen capture of my Fans--people who follow me but whom I don't follow back. Some of them I'd intended to follow back, too, so this was enlightening in a positive way!)

There are 3 tabs at the top of the screen to switch between seeing who you follow that does not follow you back (follow), who follows you that you don't follow back (fans) and who is mutually followed (friends). It shows you the avatars of the people in question and give you the net totals for each type of connection. You can sort by name, by age of their last tweet, by a few other things.

This tool will help you "houseclean" out those people who may have asked you to follow them in an exchange but then UNfollowed you the next day. This happens a lot but Twitter's site doesn't give you any way to check this sort of thing so new users rarely, if ever, even know it's going on.

Houseclean Regularly to Avoid the Spiders

And by Spiders,  I do actually mean those bots that crawl the web looking for connections between people, places and things. If you don't disconnect the noisy leeches (people who asked you to follow them but who don't follow you back and who tweet about topics you don't actually care to read), you'll end up being viewed as connected to them by the search engines because your tweets are public and your twitterstream is connected to everyone in your follow list. The search engines do actually crawl through your twitterstream as well (this is how "Trending on Twitter" is determined, you know!) Worse, you'll end up helping these leeches look more relevant and valid because you're in their Twinfluence. I don't like using those "grading influence" tools but I like it even less to think I'm raising some leech's grade.

Make a habit of going through your twitter followers and checking the content of your twitterstream at least once a month. If you follow huge numbers of people or have a particularly chatty group of tweeps in your stream, use the tools discussed here more than once a month to be sure you keep it all under control. If your twitterstream doesn't help you join conversations and connect with people, if it just adds noise to your life, then it's not working for you. You're working for it.

Lists vs. Groups

Last topic for this week is lists. This is a feature built into the Twitter site. You can use this directly from the web site or through nearly every app out there that lets you add/remove followers. Lists are a way to associate groups of people by whatever means your brain uses to associate them for you and then view only those tweeps' tweets.

Let's look at one example of my own filtering by lists. I have a list I used to call "wwwacies" for all the people I met or connected with as a result of our both being on the World Wide Web Artists' Consortium (WWWAC) email discussion list in the 90s. This list of tweeps has expanded a bit and I've just renamed that list to "webbie-tech" so I can include people I did not meet via the WWWAC list but who are in that category of producer, developer, designer and tech type.

I suppose Mashable is a good example of a tweep I follow that should be listed on my "webbie-tech" list. To add Mashable (which I follow with another 2.4 million users but Pete has not determined to add me to the meager 2,271 he follows back *yikes*) to my "webbie-tech" list I simply go to their profile and (assuming I've already clicked to follow them) pull down the person icon button that lets me access options for that tweep and select "Add to list."

If you don't have any lists yet, what will happen is another popup will appear with a single link in it saying "Create a list." Click that to make your first list. Since I have several lists already, I'm going to see mine popup and tick the box to add Mashable's Pete Cashmore to my webbie-tech list. Click the "x" to close the popup and then it's time to view your twitterstream, filtered by one of your lists!

Go to your Home screen (click the Home link at the top of the Twitter web site) and choose the Lists tab. The first group of links is to your lists, then there's a link to create a new list and that's followed by links to lists you follow (I only follow one list, Demi Moore's "end-slavery" list. I really need to follow more of my follower's lists!)

Click on a list to filter your twitterview. I'm going to choose "webbie-tech" so we can see how Mashable's getting filtered using this list. Hey, what d'ya know? Mashable dominates my twitterstream for webbie-tech related tweets. At least at 5 or 6 am on a weekday *haha*

Let's see what happens to my twitterstream if I choose to view it filtered by Demi Moore (@mrskutcher)'s "end-slavery" list.

Wow, not a Mashable tweet in sight! Yeah, that's the point. I'm viewing my tweets by topic. It makes it much easier to read things that are relevant and weed out the noise. The problem, of course, as mentioned above are all those people you're following that are adding noise without much value-added. It's useful to filter by lists, but it's also important to do regular housecleaning or you're just carrying the noise along with you wherever you go and in the famous words of Buckaroo Bonzai, there you are!

What's next?

There's one more installment I'd like to do on this series: a discussion of how to type meaningful messages in 140 characters. I'm not sure I'm entirely qualified, given I blather beyond 140 words and often into 1400 words per post here, but I'd like to give it a shot. I've noticed, in the last 4-6 weeks of my twitter usage, certain habits I've fallen into that seem to be working exceedingly well for me and I'd like to share the wealth. Plus, it's one of the hardest things for a NOVELIST to get on board with. Telling a whole story in just 140 characters sounds like a headline, not a story, so you guessed it, I'm going to try my hand at a journalistic discussion. Hah. This ought to be interesting. See you next Tuesday!

Don't forget to stop in on Friday for the very last Freebie Friday roundup of the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale Bonanza.

Monday, July 25, 2011

MARKETING MON: Giving it Away (short term) to Make Money (long term)

Anyone who knows me, personally, knows I love giving gifts. I'm broke, so I don't get to do that much these days but it doesn't mean I've lost my love for the fun of giving things away. In 1999, when I left the country, I literally gave away 90% of my worldly possessions (rather than paying to store them until I could afford to ship them) and to this day, I can honestly say, that was one of the most fun things I've ever done in my life.

My writing is no exception. I enjoy getting feedback more than money--though yeah, I'm in this to make a living. It'd be nice to be able to pay the bills with my writing, even if I don't get rich from it.

One of the most fun stories I've ever written (because of how I wrote it) is my first release Coming Home (Dicky's Story). This book is very different from anything else I've ever written--before or since--for a variety of reasons, but the two biggest reasons are that it's an inspirational (my one and only) and it's written in the first person male voice (first and last time I'll do that!)

The reaction I've received to it has been different from my genre work, as well. From the time I finished its first draft in 2003 until I decided to edit it into a RomCom in 2010, I gave away nearly 300 copies--one at a time. Via email. I have no clue how some of these people even found out the book existed, but a friend of a friend was the most-common explanation in the initial contact message. It was a fair head rush for a while there, in 2004 and 2005 when I got one email after another requesting a copy of it to read. Talk about a writer's most-fulfilling dream come true, readers actually begging for a copy of your book to read? In fact, it was part of the impetus for me to quit trying to climb a corporate ladder in IT management and just write full-time (which I did for a year and a half from 2005 to 2007).

I did not make money giving away 300 copies of Dicky's Story. Obviously. I did, however, make a lot of contacts. My best guess is that probably as much as 30% (or 100 of them) might not have even finished reading the book after I sent it to them; however, I'm guessing that as many as another 100 were converted into "True Fans" who still, today, sometimes write to my old email address (which I can't seem to force into deadness as a result!) to ask if I'd consider writing a sequel, maybe tell Itzick's Story. I have to smile. No, I'm never writing a sequel to Dicky's Story but it sure is flattering that people who read Dicky's Story want more.

In the 3 months since I've released Dicky's Story, I've run a couple of promos where I offered a coupon code to let people get a copy for free but I've only had about 10 of those redeemed. People actually seem to pay full price when I offer a discount or freebie (note: Dicky's Story is currently part of the Smashwords month-long promo at 75% off, so you can just use the coupon code SSW75 at checkout, but I've sold 3 full-price and had no 75% off coupons redeemed so far). I'm not marketing Dicky's Story at all so I'm surprised it's selling at any price, but I think the intent makes a difference. As I've said, I'm more interested in getting readers who want to read everything I write than I am in customers who want to give me all of their money. Sick, I know, but I am an artiste.

This very subtle difference in the intent of the giveaway--the genuine interest in providing the readers with something without requiring they give something (money) back--seems to be promoted as a key marketing strategy by some of the best internet marketing gurus around. It's definitely all about intent.

Jeff Walker, famous for pioneering the "sideways sales letter" insists that your most faithful customers will walk away the second they realize you're selling them something. When the customer thinks you're concerned with improving their lives, they want to show their gratitude (they pay you because they want to) and it becomes a win/win. When the customer (or reader) knows you're trying to sell them your book because you want to add the dollar and change in royalties to your coffers, well, they tend to figure their buck fifty won't make or break you so why bother?

As I said, even though I've offered my book for free, I pitch it in those instances as a really fun read I think they'll enjoy and at the very least, it'll make you laugh for a while, which is always a good thing. I don't talk about how I'm going to change your life (which some readers claim Dicky's Story has done. I claim I'm going to entertain you--and then I do. I guess in a way, of course, just mentioning my book and linking to where it's for sale is using my content as "free advertising," the way Gary Bencivenga advises.

I'm a little afraid to find out what's going to happen when I finally do get off my duff and start sending out pitch-letters to get the book some PR exposure and sell it to the niche audience for whom it really was written (the secular Jewish American community, or about 3 million people in the US; then there's a whole UK audience, not to mention the English-speaking Jews in Canada, Australia, Israel and some other areas of the Middle East).

Offering freebies is also a big part of this blog--not to earn me money, but again, to earn me readership. I decided early on that I did not want to post ads or "monetize" the blog but I might change my mind on that a year from now. We'll see. For now, I like that I can offer this blog's content in good considence, knowing it serves no one but the readers. I think that makes the content a little easier to take in and just enjoy at face value. There's no ulterior motive and even when I link to my own book for sale, I'm not pitching it so much as using it as an illustrative example.

I'm trying to create on this blog that will help my fellow authors and will attract eBook readers to their books--as well as to my own, especially as I complete and publish more titles, but I'm not just here for myself. As Sonia of the Copyblogger pointed out in her recent newsletter on free content, it's not a bad thing to be a resource for your colleagues. It can even be profitable in a sideways sort of way.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

SAT SURPRISE: Not a Snippet in Sight! Surprise :)

Yeah, I'm in a snarky mood this Saturday morning and not going to snippet this week. Sorry!

Been busy working on other things and really feeling wiped out from my day job earlier this week (had to help out with a second truck after finishing my own). I have to get up too early tomorrow and I think I need to just take this Shabbat off. It is, after all, Shabbat, as in the Jewish Sabbath when--according to Jewish Law--I should not only not be online, I should not be of the frame of mind that I have to do any work today. I should be resting, taking respite from work, recreating myself, re-energizing my spirit, reconnecting with my world. That's the point of taking Shabbat (not just reciting prayers from a book that someone else wrote).


So instead of writing, I've been doodling, trying desperately to keep myself from trying to actually draw and instead, to get a cartoon-ish little sketch of a Dicky-like figure I can use for new cover art on Coming Home (Dicky's Story). My existing cover art is so dark--even though it's of a brightly-lit window, it feels dark to me--and the story is all about the light. I want a white background cover with b/w line art. Period. Maybe I'll do the text in red or some other color for accenting but I want the cover to be simple, open, airy, light. After all, the cover art is the #1 sales tool and right now, I don't think this cover is very saleable.

Lisa Scullard did a sketch--totally self-motivated and not at all solicited, which I found to be an incredibly sweet and flattering gesture. Despite this does NOT look in the least like Dicky as I imagined him when I created/wrote him, this did motivate me to rethink the possibilities. After seeing a not-Dicky image, I decided I wanted to see an image that was him. I can't describe what I have in my head. I can see it. I just need to draw it. I have the technology. I just need the time!

I have to say, I only mentioned a few things to Lisa and she turned out this sketch--while we were emailing! I told her about the bazillion pockets on Dicky's long coat and that he had this book, The Book, a big antique book he'd had since he was a little kid; and I mentioend he had a week's beard growth and had just had his unruly hair cut 2 weeks earlier. Given all that and the fact it took Lisa about 5 minutes (seriously, we were emailing while she was doing this!) I'm fairly well-impressed. I think Lisa has a career in webcomics and she just doesn't realize it!! What do you think?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Submissions for Freebie Friday (Jul 29) #amwriting This'll be the last week of the @Smashwords promo!

Add your book to the comment thread here to get featured next week! Since it'll be the last week of the SW Summer/Winter Sale site-wide promo, this is the last week I'll be carrying forward all of those books that were participating.

To get in on this, all you need is to have an English-language book that is free (for Friday only or for any length of time that includes Friday, July 29th) and located on a web site somewhere my readers can click through to and see a preview and/or download the complete file.

Your "book" must be a completed work (no WIPs or partials please) and you must be the copyright owner to submit it. Any genre--including short stories, collections or anthologies and/or poetry--is okay to submit, though I am particularly partial to romance genre and science fiction/fantasy (SF/F) titles since I write Romantic Suspense and SF technothrillers.

To participate, just post a comment below and provide me with your:
  1. book's title and your author/pen name
  2. book's genre and approximate word count
  3. a URL to the book's page (please test it to be sure it works!)
Or if your book's on Smashwords, just give me the URL and that will allow me to go get all of the data all by myself (as well as the book's  thumbnail image and a description), but you can provide any book page on any web site that sells your book so long as the sales page is "ready for prime time" viewing.

If you'd like to make a clickable link (please do!) just go ahead and type out the HTML for a link in your comment. (Click here for the W3C's read on how to create a link in HTML). Blogger will convert your HTML to a clickable link after your comment is posted. You'll need to fill in the CAPTCHA words even just to see the preview.

Please only use one link per comment or you'll trigger the SPAM filter but you can post multiple comments if you want to submit multiple books. Thanks for participating! You get free advertising; I get free content. It's a win/win.
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FREEBIE FRIDAY (Jul 22) @Smashwords site-wide promo bonanza #FF @Goodreads #reading

Just 2 more weeks for the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale bonanza and this round up of Freebies is getting larger every week. All of the previous titles (which are still in the promo) are here, arranged loosely in reverse order of how they were submitted and/or by genre.

Before I jump into the freebies, it's Friday Meme Time at TC's Booked Up. She's answering the meme question "What's the one genre you wish you could get into, but just can't?" Amazingly, Tracy and I have the exact same answer: YA Fantasy, especially the whole vampire/werewolf fad that's so popular. I extend that further to include all "creatures of the night" stories, and especially can't buy into them being "heroes." I like my heroes fashioned after the RCMP's Dudley Do-Right, thank you! To see what Kindle books Tracy's reviewed this week, hop on through to her blog (clicking the link will open a new window for you). She's been super busy with 5 new book reviews this week.

Speaking of reviews, please remember that authors love to hear how you felt about reading their book. If you appreciated getting a free copy please consider leaving a review after you're done. That's the best "payment" you can give for their hard work. You'd be amazed how much reader reviews mean to us fragile artiste types!

First up is our very first non-Smashwords Freebie Friday feature. Petra (approx. words) is an unusual (non-formulaic) Historical Romance by Letitia Coyne.

Aya grew up as a scavenger, trailing the Bedouin caravans. Bought from the arena as a young man, his new life as Sethos, the adopted son of a wealthy Roman merchant, is stained by the stigma of his past.
Jaida was raised in luxurious slavery, destined to be a virgin oracle. When the fall of a dice brings her future into question, it is Sethos who must define freedom and slavery, life or liberty – for himself and for her. He has money, strength and cunning, and she has no more than her faith.

This book is priced as FREE. You simply register with Bibliotastic and you can download the Kindle (MOBI), Nook/Apple (EPUB) or PDF file in seconds.

Back on the Smashwords site-wide promo, I've selected a book myself that I thought sounded interesting. I haven't read it but it definitely is getting added to my Kindle reader home page TBR list. Kiss on the Bridge (approx. 53741 words) by Mark Stewart, caught my eye for two reasons.

One, it's set in the 1970s, which is an unusual time period in which to set a book (but was the time of my vibrant teenaged years). Second, the description (below) immediately told me the author was from Australia and I wondered how he perceived the USA of the 1970s (versus how I lived it.

Granted, I grew up in Boston's western suburbs and this book is set in America's Deep South (which I'm interested to see an Aussie interpret!) but America in the 70s was a place undergoing vibrant change. More authors of literary fiction should latch onto the period as it was a time when almost anything could (and did) happen! Oh and there's a third reason: it sounds like a really sweet, "feel good" story. Can we ever have enough of those in the world?

How would you react if a tall handsome stranger came up to you on new-years-eve and asked for a kiss? Cyclone Tracy made land fall in Darwin on 25th December 1974 at 9:55am desecrating Darwin. After Tracy had swept the state there was nothing left except this story. Out of the ruins love sparked and mushroomed between Anneli and Wade. They were destined to meet and tell their story for decades to come.

This book is currently priced as FREE and, therefore, requires no coupon code.


This short story, A Stray Hand (approx. 3700 words) by Lee Harlem Robinson will excite your imagination.

Jennifer and Kim share a house with their friend Jack in trendy Shoreditch, but they need a fourth room mate to help pay the rent. Enter Lee, who shakes up the lives of the long-term couple. Will Jennifer be able to resist the temptation?

NOTE: This book contains content that may not be suitable for young readers 17 and under.


This book is currently priced as FREE and, therefore, requires no coupon code.

Tied in with the Gay/Lesbian fiction meme, we have a coming-of-age story about a young teen coming to grips with her homosexuality in the midst of a town full of intolerance. This story highlights the important role played by those rare gems, the teachers who care more about their students than they do about themselves. Unconditional (approx. 66749  words) by Shannon "Shane" DuBey.

A small town filled with prying eyes. A high school that tolerates bullying and violence. Parents who cannot handle news of their child being different. These are the three most volatile components of any teen struggling to find their way and the mixture brews more trouble than most can imagine.

Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)

Next up, a gritty Romantic Suspense, The Trouble with Green (approx. 68985 words), by Liv James.

Josie’s life turns upside down when her earth-friendly inns get national press. Her architect husband gets a job offer on the other side of the country, the owners of her best inn disappear, and an unwanted guest drags danger to her door. As Josie is drawn deeper into her guest's twisted plan, she determines that she must fight the ghosts of her past if she has any hope of survival.

This book is currently priced as FREE and, therefore, requires no coupon code.


Our first non-fiction entry is this week's Lakeland Hunting Memories (approx. 3515 words) by Wendy Fraser. This is part one of a series.

Recollections of Lakeland hunting in the '50s and '60s. This first volume is an introduction to further, larger volumes which will be compiled from the popular web site Lakeland Hunting Memories established three years ago by Ron Black and Wendy Fraser. Here are some pages that are soon to be archived.

Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)

Back for another week, The Gods in the Jungle (approx. 125879 words) is a steampunky, alternate-world science fiction novel by Rik Roots.

The jungle city of Bassakesh holds the keys to the future of the Vreski Empire; it is the sole source of the valuable Vedegga dye. Delesse, the Governor's daughter, is marrying Loken, heir to one of the most powerful Clans in the Empire. When plague disrupts the wedding plans, Delesse, with her friends, has to fight to save the city, punish its enemies, and marry the man she loves.

Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)

Next is another scifi story, The Ultimate Choice (approx. 80249 words), a near-future science fiction dystopia by Lisa Hinsley.

In a dystopian near-future, worldwide overpopulation has led to a government dedicated to reducing citizen numbers. Suicide is legalised, food is rationed, and reproduction forbidden without the proper permissions. Cassie O’Neil broke the law, she had sex before marriage. She is sentenced to die on the game show, The Ultimate Choice, but when a contestant collapses Cassie takes her chance and runs. Staying alive is hard with no ration card and no place to hide. But she is the woman who refuses to die. NOTE: This book contains content that may not be suitable for young readers 17 and under.

This book is currently priced as FREE and, therefore, requires no coupon code.


Changing gears, we have Miss Kitty's ChickLit, Let's Do Lunch (approx. 77104 words) by K.A. Jordan.

Lindsey Bennett is caught between two men, one will tease her into telling her secrets, the other will use her; both are capable of killing. Surrounded by criminals, deceived on all sides, and catapulted from crisis to crisis, can Lindsey stay focused? Her restaurant and her life are at stake.

Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)

Staying with the meme of criminal elements let's move onto Living Hell (approx. 100530 words) by Lisa Scullard.

Kim Blackshields is Jericho's blackmailer, keeping an eye on who's doing what, or to whom, never mind the reason - so long as it pays. But even in a modern-day Satanic, small-town society rife with crime, espionage and corruption, there are still those who'll try and take advantage of the weak and impressionable. Even here, some things are frowned upon. NOTE: This book contains content that may not be suitable for young readers 17 and under.

Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)

Also by Lisa Scullard is the duology of Chick Lit/Crime/Humour, Death + The City: Heavy Duty Edition (approx. 280532 words).

Unlikely nightclub bouncer Lara Leatherstone - not her real name, she got it off an Internet Name Generator... And Pest Control sniper-turned-police officer Connor Reeves - also not his real name, how he came by his, is even less clear... Both are obliged to work their way through the To Do List of Hollywood Hit-Men, an epidemic of contract killers - erasing these pests with minimum fuss. NOTE: This book contains content that may not be suitable for young readers 17 and under.

Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)


Rounding out this week's collection are two from British author, Danny Gillan, both of which will make you smile, at least a little, and hopefully laugh--right out loud, so put the drinks down and save a screen!

Scratch (approx. 97612 words) is a comedy of the human condition by Danny Gillan.

An unexpected reminder of his past prompts Jim Cooper, a 33 year-old Glaswegian call centre worker, to make a big decision. He’s going back to adulthood ground-zero - no job, no debt, no, er, home, and starting again. Maybe this time he can do it right and get the girl. The fact that the girl is already married and living in another country and her Bruce Lee obsessed dad apparently wants to turn Jim into his latest pet are only two of the obstacles he faces.

Use coupon code SSWSF at checkout to get this book free (July 1-31, 2011)

Then top off your day with A Selection of Meats And Cheeses. Included are 12 short stories--some sad, some funny; some serious, some silly; some poignant, some pointless--wherein you'll meet homicidal Estate Agents (for Americans, that's a realtor, not an agent of an estate of a dead person but then, you never know; someone could die!), happy mendicants, inept stalkers and rubbish action heroes. NOTE: This book contains content that may not be suitable for young readers 17 and under.

This book is currently priced as FREE and, therefore, requires no coupon code.


Come back tomorrow for my Saturday Surprise and have a great weekend everyone!
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

TUES TIP: Twitter Skills, Intermediate (an ongoing series, apparently)

Because last week's post on Twitter Basics was so well-received, I'm doing another one. Plus I had huge amounts of resource material left over that I couldn't squeeze into last week's post (despite it being quite long).

Today's topics aren't really basic skills anyway. Today we'll discuss tweet enhancements  (twancements) that you may or may not need or want to try out. If you haven't already read over last week's post and tried out the 3 basic skills I went over, please do.

Review of the Basics

It's not hard, just take a few minutes and @mention someone. You can @mention me (@webbiegrrl) and I promise I'll @reply to you so you won't be talking to yourself in public *grin*

If you want to test out using a hashtag (#), I suggest that a really good and popular one right now will be #SharkWeek. Discovery Channel is beginning their week-long sharkfest on Sunday, July 31st. Just say something about sharks and include the #SharkWeek somewhere in your post and you'll have joined the conversation (with a lot of other tweeps!) You could try something like "I've never seen #SharkWeek - is it any good? Why? What's so gr8 about it?" and I can guaran-frakkin-tee you will be getting some replies! *hee hee* Salting the waters with chum, I am!

Intermediate Skill 1: Memes

Okay, let's assume you can figure out how to DM someone and move on. The first "intermediate" skill I'd like to discuss this week is memes. Obviously stemming from the use of #hashtags, memes might appear to be just another name for Trending Topics (which I went over last week) but actually, memes are slightly larger in scope. Memes often extend beyond twitter--or flood in from outside twitter.

But what are they? Memes are simply themed activities or topics that everyone participates in because it's fun to do so. There's no other point to it which is why a lot of people think it's a waste of time, but it's a form of socialization that, as an author, can help you break the ice with your readership. Given that writing is an isolating and solitary activity, we authors sometimes find it hard to jump in and talk to total strangers about anything other than our books. Memes are ways to guarantee a shared topic of interest. Just "fake it till you make it" as they say. You'll actually find it fun once you start doing it.

Meme, Oh Meme, Wherefore Art Thou?

How do you find memes? The answer to that's a little more vague. Kids in school definitely start them--in school or wherever. Sometimes a meme starts in an online gaming forum and bleeds over to twitter. Sometimes a meme starts among the fans of a particular musician and bleeds over to twitter. Sometimes a meme starts on twitter and bleeds over to the blogosphere. One that has done that is called "Follow Friday." Mashable has a nice explanation of it here.

Follow Friday is not just on twitter. In fact, it's been around a while, since the blogosphere really kicked up activity level in the mid-2000s. As followers of this blog's Freebie Friday posts will have noticed, Tracy at BookedUp and I cross-link and participate in the "Blog Hop" which is also a Friday meme where one hops from one blog to the next, following (or subscribing) as you go. The blog hop, or Follow Friday in the blogosphere, is a means of doing two good things:

1. hoppers find new and interesting blogs they might never have seen otherwise.
2. bloggers get new followers with little or no effort.

It's a win/win. It's taken on good faith that you will hop out of your own blog and follow someone else, though, so be trustworthy about it. It's also common as part of this Friday Follow Meme to just follow someone on twitter once you've hopped onto their blog. If they have a twitter badge, widget or "follow me" link on their blog's sidebar, this is easy. If they don't, you don't have to go searching for it. The idea is for it to be fun, not work.

If you don't find their blog interesting, you probably won't like their tweets either so only follow the blogs and twitter accounts you actually want to read. The point of all this following is to meet new and interesting people you actually want to talk to from time to time. That's why they call it social networking.

Intermediate Skill 2: Sharing Like a 2-Year-Old

Most of learned we need to share things with others back when we were two years old and claimed the entire world belonged to us. As toddlers, we were (hopefully) informed by adults around us that no, not everything is ours and ours alone. We must share so that everyone gets a fair chance to enjoy the better things in life. Then when we were three, we were told not to share things with strangers. Then by the time we're thirty, we're not willing to share everything with anyone. Maybe a spouse. Maybe. Then we get online and *wham* we're sharing everything with everyone, just like we're two years old again.

Well, as a grownup, we all know we don't want to share everything online but the funny thing about twitter is it's so easy to share the entire world with...well, the entire world, we forget that we don't want to share everything in public. I'm not even talking about the level of intimacy of your tweets. I discussed Authenticity + Twitter back in the first entry of this series in a Marketing Monday post. I'm talking about those pictures and jokes and really amazing videos we just saw featured on some talk show.

It's good to share some of them, in moderation, but don't turn yourself into a sharing maniac or you'll be as bad as a spammer. Share things that indicate your taste in art, your sense of humor, you interest in world hunger (or mine to #stophumantrafficking) Share as a means of letting your followers know something about you, as a person. Don't share things that let them know you, personally. Or not too personally. Just enough that you feel comfortable with the fact that the entire world might know this tomorrow. Because on twitter, things can and do go viral overnight. If you're embarrassed to be associated with something--a photo, a joke, a news article, whatever--don't tweet it. That's like loading the gun and handing it to your executioner. You're a grownup. Don't share like a 2-year-old.

There are several ways to share things, the simplest being to include a link to the web location where the "thing" is located. What if it's located on your computer inside your house? Don't give the address *grin*

Photos & Videos

Upload your photo to a sharing service like TwitPic or BrightKite. The number of photo-sharing services linked into twitter is about as prolific as the number of photos being shared. I personally like TwitPic best because of its simplicity. You can just login using your twitter credentials (not have to register for a new site) and the photo will be embedded in your tweet for you. TwitPic does videos, too.  If you use a different service (like Google's Flickr) you can always just copy/paste the link into your tweet and, dependent upon what client or app your tweeps use to view your tweets, they will either get the photo or the link to it. Mashable (my go-to for tutorials lately) has a great roundup of photo-sharing methods for tweeting pics.

YouTube is the #1 most widely-known videosharing service, but there are others (Vimeo and Flurl, forex) that don't have the same restrictions on the content. Then again, if you're posting a video with content that YouTube might restrict, do you really want to share it with your public twitterstream? Can you say Fahhhhv-reeeeeh. Yes, you can.

I'm going to stop with just those two intermediate skills for this week, as I don't want to pour too much into any one blog post here. I'll be sure to review some more twitter skills next week. Subscribe to the blog now to get notified of when the next Tuesday Tips blog is posted.

I'm off to work my day job now until Friday. Will you be following me or someone new this week for Follow Friday (#FF) or just coming by here for the Freebie Friday reads? Do both!
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Monday, July 18, 2011

MKTG MON: A retrospective on how the media has changed the marketing...but the song remains the same

Publishing, especially book publishing, has changed as a result of the advent of the internet. With the web-based news delivery systems displacing plain, smelly dirty-inked paper by providing clean, reusable, always-accessible words, accompanied by brilliant pictures and embedded videos, many major news reporting businesses have gone under. The ivy-covered towers of Old School book publishers are not immune, but I don't think dead tree books (DTBs) are going away quite as quickly as newspapers did. oOh, and newspapers aren't gone entirely; they simply no longer dominate the news delivery market.

So how has the fiction delivery market changed as a result of the internet making electronic media generally accessible? Well, even before the net, we had audio books, Ye Olde Books on Tape are still popular for commuters who frequently get stuck in traffic and are looking for a distraction that won't, um, actually distract you from driving (like talking on the cell phone or texting to your tweeps will do). With the advent of the internet, the music industry developed the MP3 format for sound files and the portable electronic music player market exploded. Enter the term "iPod" into the common vernacular and the term "podcast" onto the web. Oh and yes, "books on tape" is still an oft-heard term, despite it referring to a streaming audio MP3 file being delivered as a podcast as often as it refers to an actual book on an actual ...well, disc. I don't think anyone has any tape players anymore, do we? Books on CD, then.

Then in the mid-90s, the eBook market expanded. I know, I know, many of you think the eBook market didn't explode for another 10-15 years (as in now) but the reality is, there've been eBooks around since the mid-90s and many people have been buying them. They weren't even DRM'd at first. It never occurred to anyone to be so paranoid and money-grubbing. Or maybe the DTB publishers just figured this was another fad and they secretly hoped it would just go away?

Whatever the hopes of the nay-sayers might have been, by the turn of the 21st century (hee hee, I just love being alive and able to say that--and in the past tense!) eBooks were firmly planted and here to stay. In fact, I believe the eBook market began its most-recent expansion as far back as 2004 or 2005 when smartphones were first introduced outside the US. Yes, outside the US people actually did things with their phones besides talk on them all the way back in 2005! Hard to believe it took us Americans so long to catch up. We are so far behind so many curves (literacy, sadly, quickly becoming one of them).

In fact, by 2005, interactive books were beginning to be seen in the children's and early/YA markets, the 5-8 age group obviously being the most-popular target audience for interactive books, that being the age at which the young human mind is most likely to engage a flashy-blinky thing beyond a mere glance out of our cribs at the mobile swaying over our heads. One has to wonder why our minds go on vaca from about age 10 mos until 4 or 5 years. Possibly we are too busy learning to walk and talk to bother being engaged by blinky-flashies.

I'm of a mind to believe that interactive books are here to stay, and like the MP3 file format, the SWF (Flash) formatted book will find a permanent home in the children's and YA book markets, with the interactivity levels increasing. I could easily see a Harry Potter series of "movie-like books" where readers get to direct the plot's outcome to various possible resolutions being hugely popular with teenagers. Teenagers in particular are looking for some level of control over their domains and YA fiction that has an escapist element to it will always be popular. Any amount of control given to that YA audience just makes them more loyal.

So if eBooks are here to stay, and if they continue to grow more and more integrated with the medium by which they are delivered, with moving pictures for covers and plots that vary depending on the reader's whims, what are we authors supposed to market exactly? Where's the story fit into all this digital wonderment?

I believe it's still at the heart of the successful book--whether eBook or DTB, successful storytelling begins with the story, not the telling of it. In other words, despite the media changes the last few decades have seen, the bottom line has remained unchanged: have a great story with engaging characters and tell it well and voila, you'll sell books.

Well, not so fast. You still have to pitch it to let people know you've written it, to let them know what a great story it is and just how engaging its characters are. Then you'll sell books, right? If you master the art of pitching (sales-pitching or delivering an elevator pitch), then yes, you will. If you never pitch your wares, how's anyone to know you have them up for sale? Then again, if all you do is pitch, you're obnoxious and no one listens.

The hardest part about pitching a story, we authors find, is really capturing the essence of the characters in say, 40 words or less. Or worse, never mind words, try 140 characters or less. After all, tweeting about your book is a great marketing tool, right? The problem is pitching a a book in one sentence is something of an art form unto itself. Constantly trying to find that one sentence that sells the 120,000 word novel is a totally different skillset than writing the 120,000 words. Authors who write short stories or flash fiction might be suited to tweeting their sales pitches but novelists aren't usually at their best in the truncated and abbreviated world of twitter.

So what to do about it? Sorry to have to tell you but the answer is Learn. If you want to sell your books, hard as it is to speak in a manner you're unaccustomed to and unfamiliar with, it is critical you not only become familiar and comfortable with it, but you must master it. I can't, in good conscience, just say that and not offer at least one resource to help. Here's a nifty little article with 17 ways to write better, shorter, cheaper tweets.  That's 17, not 3 quick tips, not 5 basic rules, but 17 illustrated examples. You can do this. It just takes time.

And guess what? This is not new. This is not even unique to the internet and its associated platforms (twitter, facebook and the like). Nope. learning to do a 30-second pitch, or the longer 2-minute "elevator" pitch (the amount of time it takes to ride with an editor you've cornered in the elevator from the lobby to say, the 5th floor where their office is located and they can escape the crazy author who wants them to read their book) has been a critical skill since the the turn of the last century. Or whenever elevators were invented and first installed in publishers' high-rise buildings.

When authors weren't chasing editors down in their office buildings, stalking them in the lobby and trying to circumvent the slush pile submission process, authors found other ways to contact editors or agents: attend conferences (cons) and meet with them face to face (F2F). In fact, many industry cons actually have scheduled pitch sessions for editors and agents where you can sign up for a timed 2-minute bit of facetime, one on one, and do your pitch. Books have actually been sold that way. How? What's the magic secret?

Authors who are enthusiastic about their book, whose eyes light up when they mention the core of the plot, whose voice delivers emotional depth when they describe their main characters and whose 30-second (not 2-minute) pitch sums up their book in one sentence hook the editor/agent in that F2F meeting. It heralds the ability to hook readers, to sell this book, to make money off this investment. That's why DTB publishers buy a book: they can see its marketability.

As an indie author, if you are an indie author, you need to examine yourself with the same discerning measures. Are you excited about your book? Why? What one singular thing about your MC is the absolute defining characteristic that sets her or him apart from every other character in your book. What would you say--in one sentence--to sum up the goal, conflict and resolution of your plot? That was an "and" not an "or" by the way. Sum up the goal, the conflict and how they are resolved in one sentence. Sometimes, it's precise or accurate but it doesn't have to be.

The point of the pitch is not to tell the story. The point of the pitch is to sell the story.

Sell me your story. Sing me your song. You have 140 characters to do it. I'm @webbiegrrl and I'm listening. I'll even @reply and let you know how it sounded from my side!