Wait, Does RSVP Really Mean “Respond, Dammit?”

Remember learning that RSVP meant “répondez s’il vous plaît?” And, if you learned that as a kid, do you remember how cool and
sophisticated it made you feel? I sure do. Not only was it French — the most romantic of the romance languages — but it was like I had been given yet another key to open another secret grown-up door. And, in this case, I was picturing a very swanky, high-class door. How cool was that? All I had to do to become part of the club was to communicate. Usually in writing. Even better, am I right?

All I had to do to become part of the club was to communicate. In writing. Click To Tweet

Do You Care About Getting Your Stuff Read?

So what does RSVP have to do with writing? Not much — if you don’t care about having your stuff read. But if like many of us, your goals include getting your beautiful book babies in front of readers, then you are probably engaged in far more marketing, outreach and networking than you ever dreamed possible. You may still not be seeing the connection but, trust me, I’m getting there.

You post on Facebook and Instagram. Or Pinterest and Twitter. You interact with readers and other writers. You re-tweet and re-post in support of good people, products, or ideas but, when it comes to your own work? You’re frequently committing professional malpractice.

I’m going to break one of the cardinal rules of online communication. I’m going to (virtually) shout at you. Ready? Click To Tweet

And, to make sure you don’t miss it, I’m going to break one of the cardinal rules of online communication. I’m going to (virtually) shout. Ready?

When someone offers you an opportunity for increased exposure? RESPOND, DAMMIT!

What forms of increased exposure, you ask?

  • You’re offered an interview? RESPOND.
  • Someone asks for your author photo? RESPOND.
  • A reviewer has requested a copy of your book? RESPOND
  • A Twitter chat leader invites you to co-host and needs a bio for the promos? RESPOND
  • And what do you do when one of your contacts asks for a high-resolution copy of your book cover? Let’s hear it from the tenors, now: RESPOND.

And, for the hundreds of other opportunities that might come your way? Let’s hear it in unison, loudly, for the people in the back… RESPOND DAMMIT!!!

And Here’s a ‘Respond Dammit’ Don’t

And here’s what you shouldn’t do: DO NOT WAIT.

Believe me, I am well-aware of how busy a solo practitioner (aka indie author) can get. And, I promise you that I’ve dropped the ball on more occasions than I can count. That’s probably why I get so agitated about it: I always hate to waste a good mistake.

What no longer works is an e-mail auto-responder — or slotting these things for “later, when I have time.” You’re not going to have more time later — and email is not where many of the requests will come from. (It is, however, useful for longer communications, such as the Q&A for an online interview, but more about that in another post.)

Believe me, I am well-aware of how busy an indie author can get. And I've dropped the ball too many times. Click To Tweet

But… HOW to Give a Fast Response?

So how does a busy, perhaps traveling, author make sure she’s able to respond? The answer, my friend, is in the cloud. Not only do I keep author photos, bios, and book covers on my desktop, I’ve got them stashed in various locations in the cloud: on a private page of my website, in a documents folder in my iCloud, and in the DropBox folder that comes with my Amelia Indie Authors membership! (shameless plug).

Why does a fast response matter so much? As stated before, you’re busy. We know that. But so are the people making the request. And the longer it takes for them to assemble the pieces they need to reference (or feature) you, the less of a priority you — and your beautiful book — become. And, if you sit in virtual limbo for long enough, the initial idea becomes untimely. Or irrelevant. And it takes more work to figure out how and what to do with you. You’ve gone from being an interesting addition to a mildly annoying loose end. And that’s surely not your intention. Or your wish.

So how about looking at those requests as invitations? Invitations to a more grown-up, professional place in the writers’ community; invitations that come with an RSVP.

How about you just RESPOND, DAMMIT?

Merci beaucoup. 

 

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Not only does Andrea Patten speak French, she is our Director of Operations, currently tasked with keeping all of the plates spinning. In her “spare time,” she does her level best to keep up with her dogs — and her own writing.

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Does an Indie Author Need a Personal Brand to Reach Readers?

How can you create a personal brand and use it to your advantage?

Just as corporations build brands to promote specific products, you can build a brand based on what do you love, why do you do what you do, and the values and aspects about that connect you to your audience.

Your Personal Brand Communicates a Strong Identity

The structure of a personal brand is much the same as corporate branding. First, a strong identity is developed that represents the entity and suggests black and yellow ringed target with dart at the centerthe value a customer would want. If the entity commits to that value and consistently delivers it, customers learn to recognize and trust the entity. Over time, the symbol of the entity can by itself trigger a feeling of trust. And trust, in turn, generates more business.

Corporations typically generate many products. They may have whole families of brands that fall under one overarching brand, like Microsoft or Kraft. As an author, you also may be selling multiple products, but in truth, you are always selling yourself—who you are. You are the creator, the manager, and the face of your brand.

As an author, you may be selling multiple products, but in truth, you are always selling yourself. Click To Tweet

How can a personal brand help you?

Selling books is not easy for independents. You need to reach a lot of people. As much as you might want to or try to, you can’t physically meet thousands of customers and talk to them directly, right?

Your personal brand helps communicate who you are more quickly, broadly and efficiently to the people you do meet. It also makes it possible for your brand to go places you cannot: a poster in a window, an ad in a magazine, your business card, your website and all across the various social media accounts.

When readers approach you at a book signing or book festival, they won’t ask about your book so much as they will ask about you. Maybe they’ll ask why you chose your genre or settings, what led you to write, what is your work style, your inspiration or heritage. They may try to find something quirky in your personality. This is your brand persona, and what readers are looking for to make a personal connection.

Selling books is not easy for independents. You need to reach a lot of people. Click To Tweet

On the basis of your values and personality, and the qualities you bring to your work, readers might give one of your books a try. If they like it, they may buy anything published in your name to continue reading your voice, your style and your command of storytelling. The next thing you know, they’ll be asking you when the next one’s coming out. It’s the consistency of quality that will keep them coming back because they trust that you will deliver.

Personal Brand: it’s not about a logo

Personal branding does not mean that you sit down and design a logo for yourself. I know, designing a logo seems like the fun, easy part of branding. But believe me, good logo design is not easy. What makes a logo effective is the meaning that is embedded in it. The design comes only after the meanings are clearly defined, understood and supported.

The imagery of your brand should be based on serious soul searching and groundwork. Click To Tweet

The imagery of your personal brand should be your last consideration. When properly developed it will be based on serious soul searching and groundwork. Once that is done, the rest of your brand elements fall into place more easily and naturally. You will have a basis on which to make solid decisions and follow them consistently.

And in truth, for an author, your name is your logo. You may choose a pen name, and you may choose a special typeface to consistently show your name in a recognizable way, but remember, it is always yourself you are selling.

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Nancy Blanton’s award-winning handbook, Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps, will guide you through the process of creating your own personal brand. She also provides occasional author workshops and presentations.

pink neon sign says, "discover, embrace, be you."

Hashtag WritingCommunity: Emma Lombard on Building an Author Platform

 

Photo of writer Emma Lombard in her post on social media and followers

When I ventured into the Twitterverse, I was terrified. Having witnessed how quickly situations could turn toxic on social media, I didn’t want to involve myself in this world. But a huge part about being an author is putting yourself out there and social media plays a big role in that these days.

I resurrected my Twitter account in 2018 (dormant since 2010) and I most fortuitously tripped across the #WritingCommunity.

Tentatively Venturing into Social Media

I spent months fumbling my way around Twitter, feeling insecure and unsure about what to do – or more importantly, what not to do. I didn’t want to step on any Twitter toes. I started posting Twitter Tip threads that garnered a lot of thanks and praise from those still learning themselves. I ended up with so many Twitter Tips threads that I decided to put them together as my first blog, TWITTER TIPS FOR NEWBIES. It has turned out to be a big hit with folks, as have my follow-up blogs in the series.

I’m no expert in social media, in human relations or in the publishing industry – I have a little more knowledge than some folks and a whole lot less knowledge than others. I share my own experiences. Sometimes, all folks need is to know they are not alone on their journey and that others are experiencing similar challenges.

Sometimes, all folks need is to know they are not alone on their journey. Click To Tweet

 

Figuring Out How Social Media Ticks

I research blogs and online marketing sites for advice. Social media is an evolving platform, so I figure that reading the most up-to-date news about its functions from those in-the-know is the way to go.

Interestingly, I found some marketing websites better and easier to understand than Twitter or Facebook’s help sites. The best sites for me are the ones with pictures or videos. Bless all those guys and gals who know how to record this info and upload it!

One thing I like to do on Twitter is to boost those who have fewer than 1,000 followers. I don’t do this to encourage folks to play the numbers game. I do it because Twitter analytics don’t seem to give any traction to the posts of those with fewer than 1,000 followers. This came from my personal experience – I found that once I tipped over the 1,000 mark, I popped up on people’s feeds and they interacted with me more.

One thing I like to do on Twitter is to boost those who have fewer than 1,000 followers. Click To Tweet

 

Taking Care Not to Be Overwhelmed by Social Media

pink neon sign says, "discover, embrace, be you."

One huge job for me is screening new followers on Twitter to decide if we’re compatible. I don’t blind follow (I made that rookie mistake in the beginning). As part of my daily Twitter housekeeping, I do a quick screen for bots – they’re easy to spot – and I block them instantly. For everyone else who’s a real person, if they interact with me on my feed and I see that they are following me, I screen them for compatibility and if we’re a good fit, I follow back.

This process keeps me supporting and following new folks while not being overwhelmed by a large number of followers. I realise I’m in a fortunate position and I can only thank the lovely peeps in Twitter’s #WritingCommunity for making this happen.

I’ve taken my time about building my author platform, only extending myself into new areas once I was comfortable with a certain niche. I began with Twitter, then branched out to blogging and my most recent endeavour is my Facebook author page.

 

Should Writers Have a Large Social Media Following?

Hoo boy! This is a loaded question with so many varying opinions, including from editors, agents and publishers! From my understanding, it is essential to have a decent social media following if you are planning to self-publish or if you are going down the traditional publishing route with non-fiction. The jury is still out in my court whether a large following is essential if you’re planning to be a traditionally published fiction author – some agents say you do, some say you don’t.

From my understanding, it is essential to have a decent social media following if you are planning to self-publish. Click To Tweet

I think folks need to do what they are happy and comfortable with. Not everyone is comfortable with having thousands of followers because they don’t feel they can connect with that many people, while others feel it’s important to have that broader base to work with when it comes to their marketing strategies.

barefoot person sitting on a big pile of books readingHowever, I will add that I’ve not yet seen a hard-sell marketing campaign on Twitter succeed in any sales; but I have seen dozens and dozens of books bought by folks who have a relationship with authors. The key factor, whether you have 100 followers or 100,000 followers, is positive engagement and interaction, which is integral for building those relationships.

 

Lift Others Up

Genuinely engaging with folks online (aka, your potential readers) takes time and energy but if you are planning on building a supportive following, you need to put the work in – it’s like anything in life really. If you are only in it for the numbers, most people will spot you from a mile away. I believe you earn your true followers through engagement. Having thousands of empty followers isn’t going to make people buy your books, read your poetry or sign up to your blog.

Genuinely engaging with folks online (aka, your potential readers) takes time and energy but if you are planning on building a supportive following, you need to put the work in. Click To Tweet

I’m not on social media to compete with other writers, I’m here to share in their journey and share mine with them. By lifting other writers up in Twitter’s #WritingCommunity, I have been lifted, supported and loved tenfold by so many wonderful folks.

 

What the Pros Have to Say

That’s my rookie two cents’ worth. Here’s what the publishing pros have to say about building your social media platform as a writer:

  1. A great Twitter thread from Megan Manzano (@Megan_Manzano), YA Editor & Book Blogger – Agent Apprentice @CorvisieroLit – 1/5 of @WriteCraftQuest and #Pitchwars Mentor: tips and tricks to help build your social media platform
  2. A one-hour-long vlog from @WriteCraftQuest – A collective of #editors supporting writers on their publishing adventure @Maria_Tureaud @SouffleLumiere @Megan_Manzano @Justine_Manzano: Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Writers

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Emma Lombard was born in Pontefract in the UK. She grew up in Africa – calling Zimbabwe and South Africa home for a few years – before settling in Brisbane, Australia nearly 20 years ago. She writes historical fiction and keeps platform-building authors on their toes as the #WritingCommunityMum

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silver-colored letters spelling 'dream', a white notebook with a grid cover, pen and laptop on a wooden surface. hand on laptop.

What Happens When You Follow Directions?

By Dr. J.

a writer's workstation featuring letters that spell dream, a white lined notebook, laptop and a pen

When you begin a new part of your life like writing, and it involves everything you know nothing about, what do you do?

If you are the former academician like me, you begin research. Learn about what you want to do. Find experts. Get guidance. Make a plan. Execute. Let’s see what happens when you follow directions. That’s what I did.

LEARN ABOUT IT 

I attended a local writers’ group where I met Andrea Patten. When I talked with Andrea, I was days from completing a basic writing course with a New York editor for my writing genre erotica and erotic romance. The editor suggested I use three specific websites where I could share my work and become known in the writing world. 

What did that mean? 

First, it meant I’d be writing for readers. And second, I needed a website to link my stories to the other locations. How do you get all of this up and running? Andrea consulted with me to lay the ground floor of my author platform. That makes an author visible to the world

Andrea consulted with me to lay the ground floor of my author platform. That makes an author visible to the world. Click To Tweet

CREATE THE WEBSITE

The first part of the plan was securing a website. Even though I knew it was essential to have a site, I did not understand how to go about creating it. A guide is vital. There are things they know I didn’t. Frankly, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. Andrea broke down my needs in bite-size portions. 

You can’t learn everything at once. For me, this was a world I had never lived in before, not writing, not IT, and not, social media. As a retired sex therapist, I had steered clear of all social media locations.

The first step in securing the website was to buy my website domain name-DrJAuthor, a combination of my pen name and my new identity. Given my writing content, it was helpful to learn that some hosting sites were better than others for my needs. I settled for HostGator and their built-in Weebly Website Template. Andrea had recommended Bluehost and WordPress, but I liked what I saw with HostGator. Notice, I didn’t follow directions. 

After that, I created a picture that would be my visual recognition, my avatar, to be used on my website and other places. Once the website was in place, social media platforms were next. I learned that my name and my avatar needed to be consistent across all locations in the digital world.

That was my smooth start until it wasn’t smooth anymore. A year and a half into my website, HostGator did not renew its contract with Weebly and I lost a way to create my website content or access my old content. Luckily in a short time, I made many author friends talented in many areas. One such person is Mischa Eliot who in one weekend, rebuilt my site in a WordPress location. If only I had followed the directions of my author platform guru.

But the good news is, even if the names aren’t available, your avatar will identify you for readers. Click To Tweet

CHOOSE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA

After the website, I tackled four social media sites. It seemed overwhelming. Check out my names. Facebook: DrJAuthor; Twitter: DoctorJAuthor; Instagram: drjauthor_; and Pinterest: drjauthor. I put those forward specifically to show that sometimes even with your best efforts, it doesn’t go as planned. What did you notice? The ideal would be to have the exact name match — then it is always easy for folks to find you. But the good news is, even if the names aren’t available, your avatar will identify you for readers.

a person writing on a piece of paper with a notebook, phone and cup of coffee nearby

If I had a full list of all the digital places I would end up, then I could have checked them. But sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. If you are good at planning, you can secure all the names at the same time for the future. Notice I only listed the ones I started within my first year. I continue to grow my platform to other places.

LET IT WORK

There is so much to share. While Andrea Patten has been the spectacular guru on “all things start-up,” I attended Nancy Blanton’s workshop on Author Branding. Did you notice my purple essence? It’s always about learning more. My branding will be my next discussion.

Follow the directions. Five things created. The website and four social media places. Do the work. Write blog posts. Be social. Make friends of readers and writers. Click To Tweet

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author photo of Dr. J, Author

Dr. J. arrived at her writing career after being a condom packer, sex educator, sex therapist, and finally a college professor of human sexuality. Using her vast knowledge and experience of sexuality and the mind, she continues her education efforts to integrate positive sexuality into the human experience through her stories. She writes romance and erotica. Living the island life, Dr. J. plays petanque, knits, and supports all the visual and performing arts of the area.

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flowers, keyboard, pen, journal in geometric arrangement on white background

Scattered I Was – A Blog is Born

by Trienah Meyers

blog desk with pink rose, above a white laptop keyboard sitting next to a teal notebook and post-it, along with a golden pen

I don’t remember why, but I decided to try writing blog posts. Scattered I was. I had three streams of ideas but the first one, I think, was about my now-deceased dad and his penchant for wandering our home without his pants. This gave rise to a stream of being the “sandwich” between parent and child, all needing care. And I started writing blog posts about Torah portions because I had been writing them for presentation in temple at a time when we didn’t have a full-time rabbi. And of course, there was food. So clearly, scattered I was. 

And then there was the election of Barack Obama to his first term as president. There was a veritable storm of commentary by the “losers” that their votes didn’t count. As a constitutional democracy geek, that was just not ok. So I wrote an op-ed piece which became a blog post.  It inspired me to write randomly about all manner of things that had meaning to me.

As a constitutional democracy geek, that was just not ok. Click To Tweet

These streams, sometimes active and sometimes defunct, either through laziness or life intrusions, stayed separate and random.  This made it very hard to get people to follow my blog or be interested in my posts. This was dispiriting and sometimes made it difficult to go on writing unless something specifically inspired me greatly.

blogger's golden metal fountain pen

And then the magic happened. I reconnected with an old friend who, miraculously, was mentoring authors. She also happened to be a social media wizard. She shepherded me through creating a single website that contains all my blog posts and people can search the site for whatever they are most interested in.

And then the magic happened. I reconnected with an old friend who was mentoring authors. She also happened to be a social media wizard. Click To Tweet

Then, after learning how to create a Facebook “author” page (rather than a personal page) I learned how to connect my blog to my social media. Finally, I’m learning to use Twitter in a way that increases my presence – this is an ongoing process and my resistance has been a bit high.

The bottom line is that I went from a being good writer with no focus and no following to a blogger with a good website and pretty good social media skills, all thanks to Amelia Indie Authors.