Tagsocial media

Life, the Universe, and Babies

Oh man, so much has happened since I last posted! I’m not even sure where to begin. As I’m sure you’ve all probably figured out, I had my baby at the end of April. It was a boy! 7 pounds, 8 ounces of squishy baby goodness.

He’s seven weeks old now and starting to come out of his “potato” phase. But up until this point we were on a steep learning curve because it turns out the little guy is allergic to a protein in milk. So this means he was rashy, itchy, colicky, and due to all that didn’t sleep well. Of course, that meant we didn’t either. His first week or so of life he was a fairly content, easy baby. [I seem to have a trend of getting good sleepers that sleep six hours at a stretch right off the bat.] But soon he became this inconsolable mess that barely slept. Once we figured things out and got him on the right formula [Read: the most expensive one on the market!] he’s been a different baby. He sleeps through the night again! He is happy and content! He doesn’t scream like his existence is torture! The downside is that it took five weeks to diagnose and I was so sleep deprived that my body now thinks two hours is a fantastic amount of sleep to be getting. I need to retrain it to not think that because despite what it thinks, two hours is not nearly enough sleep to make rational decisions or be creative on.

As for me, the end of my pregnancy was miserable, but his birth was uneventful–quick, even! However, I ended up back in the hospital for three days–I got postpartum pre-eclampsia again. So this means we are done having babies because almost dying a second time was really not on my list of things to do. Ugh. Then within my first week of being discharged we all got sick.  I ended up with the flu [despite getting a flu shot!] and pneumonia. Somehow I was able to keep from passing it to the baby, who just had a cold. If you’ve never dealt with a sick newborn, count your blessings. It’s miserable.

Now that my health and the baby’s well-being have been sorted out I’m able to finally get back to working on volume 3 of Atlantis: TVC. [Which I stupidly thought I would have done before I delivered. Very naive of me…] My issue with not getting it done is that so much more is going on than I had originally thought: scenes that I thought would be a few pages at most are ending up being entire chapters; scenes that I was excited for and looking forward to writing turned into plotting nightmares… so the word count is going much higher than I had initially planned. In fact, I’ve had to restructure the original end of the book [by moving some scenes and plot elements to volume 4] to help control the length. I’m already over my 55,000 word minimum and I’m only two-thirds of the way done! Since returning to writing, I’ve completed two chapters. It may not seem like much, but you have no idea how stuck I was on a certain scene. A critical exchange needed to happen between two characters and I didn’t want to screw it up. I like it the way it is now, but that’s not to say it won’t change during edits. [So much stuff changes during edits…]

On a final note, if you follow me on social media, then you already know that while I was on hiatus someone did a video review of volume 1! I always get nervous when there is a review done of my work; however she had nothing but good things to say–so that was a relief! Writing is such a personal thing, and despite the fact that when people review your work they’re reviewing your work and not you as a person, you still feel like you’ve failed somewhere when someone doesn’t like what you’ve done.

I’m gonna pull a Hermione here though and state for the record that it’s pronounced “Ah-chi-nay”. But the reviewer had a wonderful accent, so all is forgiven. :p

P.S: I love hearing from readers! If you’ve done a review of one my books, or have made a piece of fanart or anything like that, please drop me a line and I will check it out. [I might even showcase it on this blog!]

You May Have Noticed…

…a strange silence that isn’t quite like me. I usually try to put a post up every three weeks or so, but as I said on Twitter back in September, life has delivered me some pretty impressive hiatus-forcing moments these past three months.

But like any good story, some of them were positive things! At the beginning of August I started medication for my HS, and it works. The difference was like night and day–even with the first set of shots! I cannot begin to tell you what it feels like to go from being in constant, excruciating pain to feeling something like a normal human. In fact, the medicine even helped to improve other things I had long term issues with, like my chronic back pain from a car accident almost 10 years ago. [Herniated L5/S1. Boo.]

But then it helped with an issue I never in a million years thought it would help with: my unexplained infertility. I became pregnant after the first set of shots.

Now as you know, we already have a daughter. We have no idea how we had her. Seriously–we were undergoing all kinds of exams, tests, and procedures when I became pregnant with her. It took three years to get her, and that was after we started with interventions and had several miscarriages. We still have no idea what combinations of treatment worked. [We were about to move onto IUI/IVF.] After she was born we tried for a second kid almost right away, afraid that we would miss our chance due to how long it took to end up with our first.

If you’re good at math, daughter is four now, so we were even more unsuccessful this time than the last. In fact, by the time we received a diagnosis for my HS we had put our plan of a second kid on the back burner until after we figured out how to stop my immune system from trying to kill me.

This new baby is unexpected, but desperately wanted. I’ve never even imagined having a “surprise” pregnancy because of how difficult it was to conceive our first! We are over-the-moon excited about this, though I have not had an easy time so far. [Unexplained bleeding, lots of emergency ultrasounds, etc.] I’ve been a basket-case because I’m always scared that the Universe will swoop in and destroy our happiness. [I have some anxiety issues, yes…]

I’m almost in the second trimester now, and once that hits, I hope to get back to writing. I’ve been poking at it, but between feeling sick, tired, and nervous, I’ve been preoccupied and unable to focus on it. My goal is to get Atlantis: TVC volume #3 finished before next March so that I can take time off to spend with the new baby. [And maybe write some short stories. Who knows?] There is a lot of stuff we have to think about now too, like whether or not we should move to a larger place. [Do I even want to move while pregnant? Ugh. No.]

At any rate, I thank you all for your patience during this time! I have had a few people message me privately wondering if something happened to me. I’m not dead, I promise! Just getting to a point where I feel better, and focused enough to start writing again. rainbow

The Masks We Wear Online

Yep, this again. Another post about social media.

I have three main social media pages I try to keep updated: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter–mostly in that order. I have found considerable positive traction on Instagram [of all places!] and I am gaining a little ground on Twitter now, which I honestly didn’t expect. It goes to show that if you throw yourself at something long enough, eventually something will stick. Though now all I have in my head after typing that is a mental image of me beating the hell out of Twitter like it’s an old console TV on its last legs.

I’ve considered a YouTube channel for a few months now, but that also involves the artistic side of my light novels so it gets backburnered easily. [And we all know what the comments section is like over there…]


Roughly, yes.

Social media has been my bugbear for a while now, but you already know this. I’m a private person by nature, and it’s been difficult for me to come out of my shell while lacking that magic confidence anonymity lends people. As Oscar Wilde said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”. Despite this being stated a century before the internet would even become a thing, it seems to be more true now than when it was originally coined. Human nature doesn’t change much, and with the exception of a few outliers, we all want to be liked and accepted. It gives people a sense of value to feel like others appreciate them and their ideas.

Creators put the intimate workings of their mind on display for people to pick apart and dissect–whether it be music, writing, or artwork. Social media makes two things easy: putting your ideas in front of millions of people the world over all at once, and allowing them to judge it–and you–from behind the safety of their own mask.


Sometimes multiple masks at once…

I don’t like taking off my mask. It’s not that I am secretly a cruel or unpleasant person, [Though I feel that I am much more amicable online than off…] but that I feel my discomfort and worry bleed through my words. I’m scared. I hesitate. I re-word, erase, and refine: “Will they like this? What if someone thinks it’s awful–what if it goes viral for being terrible?” [Like that last one? I always jump to worst case scenarios.]

But to be a writer–nay, an author–you have to have a thick skin! That means you can’t be afraid to take off your mask. You can’t be afraid to put yourself and your work out there! You need to handle criticism and praise with equal parts grace and aplomb. If you even hint at uncertainty, your peers will repeat this as if it is a magic incantation that will remove your doubt. I even find me telling myself this sometimes, which is awkward.

So what is a writer to do when they need to be honest and real on social media in order to connect with others in an authentic way, but find themselves full of anxiety and fear? They either stop writing, or do the exact opposite of what they are instructed to do: they create a new mask.

But… the goal was to not have a mask, right? Well, we see what happens when famous people use social media without their masks on–it doesn’t work. They alienate people, and quickly; a few of them even lose fans, and access to their own accounts for it. So you end up creating this half-mask, like the Phantom of the Opera, where you are both open and honest, but also guarded. Telling people how they should feel is stealing their agency–if something someone says about you or your work bothers you, you have every right to be upset about it! But the way you wear your own mask when others are watching says more about you than any thinly-veiled rant or tear-stained tweet ever could.

Ultimately, the magic author incantation is a lie. You cannot follow it as written. There is no way you can completely turn off your ability to care what others think about you, even if you try to convince yourself otherwise. We’re only human, and fall easily back into old habits… we trade one mask for another. It’s not a bad thing; this way we can fulfill the spirit of the incantation while being honest to both ourselves and our followers.

I believed in it for too long. I tried to bend my own feelings to fit it, trusting that it was right despite it feeling all wrong. I should know by now to listen to my gut, even when it contradicts what seems like solid advice. I took an impromptu trip to visit family recently, and had a lot of time to think about my online presence while not having much of an outlet through which to curate it. I didn’t pack my laptop, so I had what I could reach with my phone. [It was mostly Instagram, and it was largely pictures of the forest around my parent’s place in Missouri. It was… quaint… and you didn’t miss too much. Just some lousy photography of trees, flowers and my poor, misplaced-but-well-taken-care-of cats.]

I worried about leaving it quiet for so long, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. Now that I’m back and updating, having had this revelation about masks, I am seeing a better response to my posts and tweets. It’s kind of magical in its own sense, but I know that it’s because I learned from my past experience, and was willing to go against what I was initially told to do.

The lesson in this is: Don’t be afraid to be yourself online, but don’t forget to protect yourself either. Remember that we’re all wearing masks out here–even when at first glance it may appear that some of us aren’t wearing one at all.

The Self-Promotion Hat

If you ask about promotion or marketing as a new self-publisher, people usually say something vague like: “As a self-pubbed author, you need to wear many hats!” as they direct you toward social media, or paid book promotion services, and… well, that’s it. “Here’s a link to Twitter, and another one to Goodreads. Now go forth–and don’t forget to wear your marketing hat! Even traditionally published authors have to do this now.” Others will recommend that you have a nice cover and tell you to try to utilize word of mouth. Barring that, you’ll get told to pay someone else to do it. No one is wrong, but no one is telling the full story, either. To market successfully, you need to use everything available to your advantage. Things like:

A Finished Book

  • Eye-catching cover that instantly conveys your book’s genre
  • An edited, polished manuscript beneath that cover
  • Intriguing back cover blurb that introduces the main character and asks more questions than it answers

The actual book is half the battle, but it’s the most important thing you can work on. This is the end product. Everything you do after you write it will be designed to lead readers to it, and when they leave, they should feel at best satisfied–and at worst, neutral. They should not feel tricked or offended by taking time from other tasks to look at your work.

Your Audience

These are the readers you had in mind when you wrote your book, and the ones you will need to keep in mind as you build your campaign. Who do you think would like your story? Ask yourself questions like:

  • What type of stories do they normally read?
  • What element of your story would pique their interest?
  • What other authors would they read?

The more questions you ask, the closer you will come to seeing your ideal reader. Once you have your ideal reader pinned down they are who you want to aim for as you plan your ad campaign.  Any marketing you do should target them, and anyone else you may catch will ripple out from that center.

A Social Media Presence

  • A blog branded with your name or pen name*
  • A Facebook Page
  • A Twitter Page
*= If possible you should start this before you finish your book

This is the bare minimum for social networking. I highly recommend buying your author name as a domain and having it direct to your blog if you do not open a website. I also advise you to join a third social media of your choice, this one visual. Pinterest or Instagram are great choices, though I have personally found great success with Instagram–especially since it cross-links so easily with Facebook.

That’s another thing–if you are more comfortable on one type of social media than another, there are resources that allow you to make a single post on your preferred platform and send it to others, maximizing your exposure. [This is a great article detailing the most popular options available to you.]

Speaking of exposure, there are several different ways to achieve this. Simply putting yourself on the web will not sell books! You would be surprised at how many authors stop here and wonder why they couldn’t sell to people other than friends and family. The web is a vast, busy place. You have to make yourself visible. You have to make yourself and your book stand out. There are several ways to do this:

Visual Aids

People are visual creatures. First impressions are important–some readers won’t even read your back cover copy [or your back blurb, as it is sometimes called] if they hate your cover! With split-second decisions like that being made, you’ll need to have cover art that can work double time for you in advertisements. If you are going to market your book, you’ll need a few visual aids:

  • A high-resolution copy of your cover art
  • A high-resolution copy of your final book cover
  • A photo of yourself that is not a selfie [Author’s Headshot]

These should all be at least 2000 px in height, and 600 dpi; preferably saved in a lossless format, like PNG or TIFF. The cover art is what you are going to use whenever an ad requires a picture, and the image of the cover whenever you want to display an image of your book. [Such as in banner ads] Your author picture will be used when you create an official profile for yourself. You should have one on any website you sign up for, and display it on any “About” pages you have the chance to fill out.

If you wish to get creative and make banner ads, or advertisements with text on the images, I highly recommend paying someone with more experience to do it. It works out well to do it by yourself when you’ve spent the last twelve years freelancing as a graphic designer [like I did], but if you are planning on using any kind of template tool or paint program to create your images, you’re probably going to have a bad time. This is the one point in the self-publishing process where I would err on the side of caution and hire someone. If you can’t afford it, do text only ads. It is so difficult to overwrite a bad first impression. It can be done, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Advertising Yourself and Your Work

Free Options

  • Social Media Hashtags
  • Word of Mouth
  • Getting cataloged by webcrawlers

Don’t underestimate the power of hashtags. Put them on all your social media statuses! Make them relevant to what your book or series is about, but don’t forget about vaguely-associated ones, like the platform you sell from [Smashwords, Amazon, etc.] or the cost of your book–especially if it’s free or on sale! Word of Mouth is another powerful, free tool–especially if friends and family are buzzing about your book! And if all else fails, a webcrawler will eventually catalog your blog or shop page. It could take several weeks or months for that to happen, though.

Paid Advertisements

Social Media

Social media can work for you despite having a small initial reach or audience.

  • Promoted Status Updates
  • Promoted Website Links
  • Promoted Pages/Profiles

These are done through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can set your own budget per day, and set the number of days the promotion will run. These are most effective when used with a sale or giveaway.

Ad Networks

These are low cost options that reach many people, and are great for an author who has just launched their first book, or a seasoned author with a slim advertising budget.

I ran an ad campaign simultaneously with Google and Facebook. You can read about my experience here.

Concierge Advertising

This is for authors trying to break into the big leagues! You are set up with a consultant who will tailor an ad campaign just for you. Unfortunately, these services come with strict qualifications and/or a hefty price tag–some starting at a couple hundred dollars. These services target readers specifically, and if you have a large amount of positive reviews that can drive sales, then using a service like these can catapult your book into a bestseller slot.

Book Promotion Newsletters

These can be a low-cost option for promotion, and can start as low as $10. But they usually have strict guidelines your book must fall within in order to participate.

Most of these require your book have at least 10 reviews and a 3.5+ rating prior to submission.

Special Promotions

Giving away your book free for a limited time is a great motivator to pick it up, especially if it’s new and doesn’t have many reviews. If you are writing a series, your first book is a good candidate to offer for cheap [or even free] whenever you can–this drives people who like it to pick up the remaining books in the series, and is known in marketing terms as a Loss Leader. [But it only works if you have two or more books released for the series.]

  • Contests
  • Giveaways

The chance to win something is a great motivator! People love free stuff, even if it’s a copy of your book. You can offer a simple lottery-style giveaway, or you can require certain terms for entry. On Facebook a popular strategy is to offer a single chance to win for a “like”, and a double chance if they share the contest status. This spreads your message organically, encouraging others to enter while promoting your book or page. How much that prize costs is up to you–a free e-book doesn’t even cost you shipping! [Note: Make sure you read the rules of the sites you plan on running your contest on so you can make sure it doesn’t accidentally violate one of them!]

Other Writers

These two options are great if you are willing to do some legwork, and are often free! Don’t be too discouraged if people don’t get back to you right away–they often have large backlogs of requests to go though, so a reply time of several weeks isn’t unheard of.

Summary

As I said earlier, using all of these will drive sales; but for some self-pubs things like concierge advertising are a pipe dream. That’s okay–there are plenty of free and low-cost options here that will help you out! Mix and match the ones you feel will work best with what you have, and you will still bring readers to your book!

I know–this was a long, serious article. Have a cute kitty for your patience!

The World of Social Media

I know I touched on this topic a bit back in this entry, but I want to revisit it again now that I’ve had the better part of a year to explore different platforms.

Right before Christmas the fan on my heatsink died, and I couldn’t find a replacement for it. I had to special order a new heatsink, a new fan, and wait two weeks for them to be delivered. Since the screen on my laptop is broken, and my desktop was dead–I was officially computer-less.

So I turned to the last option I had left–my phone. Just the two of us, out there in no computer-land.

Now, browsing the internet on a phone is an okay thing, provided it’s done in small amounts. If you want to write on it, you’re out of luck. Trust me, I tried. I tried several times, but it just didn’t work. And drawing? Well, typically I’d say forget it, but I have a Galaxy Note, and drawing is totally feasible on one… but I wasn’t inspired to draw at all for those two weeks. So, in a fit of… I dunno… curiosity, boredom–maybe both–I decided to set up an Instagram account.

[I’m poking fun at myself, because my first post was of cheese. I like cheese.]

I originally stayed far away from Instagram because of the failure that was my Twitter [More on that in a bit] and because it’s a visual medium. I didn’t think it was a good fit–until the computer died. Then I thought, “Hey, light novels have pictures. I have a lot of images of my characters, actually. Maybe this could work…”

Within fourteen days of starting my account, I have tripled my monthly sales, and all I did was post some pictures–sketches, some previously unseen completed artwork, some pics of stuff from my day-to-day life–a random smattering of things. I don’t even have that many followers. I really regret not utilizing it sooner. Something I was neglecting to take into account is that people are highly visual these days, and they are often browsing social media quickly between tasks. You only have a small window to capture their attention–and as the saying goes, pictures are worth a thousand words.

PICTURES!

Authors–self and traditionally published ones alike–have to do their own promotion nowadays. For new or aspiring writers, this can be a tough task! It is difficult to sell yourself and your work, but having the right platform to do it through can make all the difference. This is what I have gathered from my personal experience with Social Media:

-Facebook-

Age of Account: 1 year+

Pros:

  • Large, diverse audience
  • Your page can be “suggested” based on other things people have liked [it’s like a free targeted ad]
  • Ads are cheap
  • You can schedule status updates

Cons:

  • Sometimes smaller pages and posts get lost if you don’t tune your page settings
  • Audience tends to be older
  • After a certain amount of free “reach”, you have to pay to stay in people’s newsfeeds
  • When posting links, preview pics seem to be pulled at random

-Twitter-

Age of Account: 1 year+

Pros:

  • Large, diverse audience
  • Able to post images

Cons:

  • Difficult to gain followers
  • Unless you post often you are lost in the crowd
  • Hashtags eat into your character limit
  • If your posts don’t fall under “trending” tags, then they are rarely seen
  • Pictures use up a portion of your character limit
  • Cannot schedule tweets unless you pay
  • Character limit

-Tumblr-

Age of Account: 7 months

Pros:

  • Highly visual
  • Younger audience
  • Able to categorize posts with hashtags

Cons:

  • User base has infamous reputation
  • Hashtags are abused
  • People heart and reblog, but don’t really interact with or comment on your stuff
  • Difficult to build a following

-Instagram-

Age of Account: 2 Weeks

Pros:

  • Extremely visual
  • Easy to use app
  • Hashtags actually bring people to your work
  • Ads work just like on Facebook [same parent company]
  • Small image size [keeps image theft down]

Cons:

  • Only able to update through a phone
  • Random tags from spammers
  • So. Much. Random. Porn.
  • Small image size [Hard to show large-scale artwork]

In conclusion, if I was forced to choose only two social media accounts, then I would pick Facebook, followed by Instagram. The others have [sadly] been useless in driving people to my work, or even encouraging people to engage with me. Those two outlets, combined with this blog and the natural mysterious powers of Amazon, have been the driving force behind my sales. For standard authors, I don’t think Instagram would be as useful, but because light novels are visual it works to my advantage. But this is just my opinion/experience. I know of many authors that have gained traction and sales on Twitter, but had poor luck on Facebook. Your mileage may vary.

PS: Follow me on Instagram!

Beaches and Daydreams

My mother, my aunt, and I took my daughter and my nephew to the lake on Saturday. I’ve been stuck for a while on a particular scene in volume #2, so while my mom and I were bobbing out by the swim boundary of the cove I decided to see if she had any ideas for me. I gave her a quick run down of the scene, what was supposed to happen, what I was stuck on [I needed a consequence for an action] and why it needed a cost. Here were her top suggestions:

  • Destroy the current world timeline even though time travel isn’t involved and the rest of the series is about fixing it.
  • Everyone dies. Just… everyone. Dies. End series.
  • Kill the current main character, and change a side character to a main character.
  • Time skip to a thousand years in the future after the incident. [Everyone is dead]

I love my mom, but WTF? Apparently she likes death and screwing up timelines. I thought she liked whodunnit mysteries but apparently she leans Sci-Fi and has no clue.

I never suspected my mom was secretly Mallory Archer…

Anyway, while I was busy going “WTF” it did give me a solution to not only the current problem of a consequence, but also facilitated a future story piece I had planned but was sketchy on how I would pull it off. Consequence is that something is now easier for the antagonists to do. It all fits nicely, but still…

WTF Mom?

A while after that, while sitting in the water by myself, a small brown fish started nibbling my hand. For whatever reason I wished I had my camera so I could take a picture, but then my mind jumped a million miles away to a “what if” scenario where my books had a huge following and actually were pop-culturally relevant and there were articles online about them. I don’t write for fame or fortune, but it would be nice to know that I’m not the only one who likes my stories. Maybe some day…

Bugbears and Naked Cannonballs

Social media is a bit of a bugbear for me.

While I get [and enjoy] Facebook, and like keeping a blog, I find something simple like Twitter just baffles me. I mean, I understand the base concept–say something meaningful in a limited amount of words. Abridgment. I totally get that.

I don’t understand how it applies to engaging with my audience. I have a twitter account. I follow people. I post on it.

Nothing happens. Silence. Crickets.

Maybe I’m too old for Twitter. *laughs*

But in all seriousness, when I launched my page on Facebook I got a few likes and follows right off the bat. So far I’ve been on Twitter a few weeks and… nada. It makes me question why it’s one of the major things guides mention when they talk about how you need to self-promote. It’s usually #1 or #2 on most lists! Part of me wonders if it’s worth it, but I’m going to give it a while longer and see if it’s just a late bloomer. [I’m still really confused at how stagnant it is, and I’m still confident that I’m doing it all wrong, but just letting it wander about unchecked feels like the right thing to do here.]

How often am I allowed to use this?

I’m actually fairly introverted, and find it hard to be social, so “social media” is a bit of a hurdle for me anyway. My default is to be sitting on the sofa with a cup of something [soda, coffee, whatever.] and a book, TV show, or video game, and a cat or two, not having to worry about whether or not the person I am speaking to is fascinated by what I am saying–or if they’re staring intently because I have something on my face. [During the conversation, I’ll think I nailed it; after I’ll always assume there was something on my face.]

It feels a lot like this, actually…

I used to help run a few social media accounts for a website I worked for, and strangely, I didn’t feel as uncomfortable then as I do now when I post something to Twitter. Of course, that site had a built in audience, and I was anonymous, so that probably helped.

Now I’m being… me; all strange and boring, putting my weirdness and uncertainty out on the internet for everyone and their future children to see. At first I wasn’t sure why I was detailing this as a blog entry. I don’t want to feel like I’m whining about things, or feeling ungrateful for the following I do have. In the end I realized that there are probably others starting out, scared to dip their toe in, [Dipping toes is so not the case here. I feel like I stripped naked and did a cannonball right into the deep end.] but the point is this:

I am scared.

I am scared, but I know that I am not alone–and you, the author fresh on their feet–I want you to know you are not alone either. For better or for worse, we are putting ourselves out here, and even if we fail, it’s better than not trying at all.