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Phoenix Festival Panel Schedule

Phoenix Festival Panel Schedule

As some of you have previously read, on Friday, May 24 (through Sunday, May 26) I will be appearing as a guest author at the Alabama Phoenix Festival. Now that I’m pretty sure it is set in stone, I’m ready to share the schedule of panels I will be appearing on. If you’re in the Birmingham area and planning to come to Phoenix Festival, you can also visit me at my table in the author’s alley.

Writing 102: Marketing Friday 5:30p 5
Writing 104: Self-Publishing Saturday 4:00p 5
Women of Words Sunday 5:30p 5

phoenixFans who visit my booth at Phoenix Festival will receive a free Olympia Heights bookmark (while supplies last) and can enter to win an 18×24″ poster print of the Royer Goldhawk cover. Also, I get the pleasure of chatting with you (unless you show up while I’m at a panel, or in the bathroom. Then you get to chat with my brother, Sam.)

If you live in the Birmingham area, I hope you’ll at least stop by for one day of the con. You can soak up some nerd-awesome and even bring your kids! I hear there will be Harry Potter trivia and a room full of Legos for the wee ones, not to mention the superhero school.

I hope to see you there!

Social Currency: Budgeting Self-Promotion on Google, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook

Social Currency: Budgeting Self-Promotion on Google, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook

piggy_bank_8881My husband once explained a theory of relationships that he got from his father:

You have a bank. You fill that bank by doing things with or for your friends and loved ones. If you’re there with coffee at the ER at midnight, that is worth more than going to see Evil Dead together. Different actions have different emotional values.

That currency is lost when you do things to hurt your loved ones. Canceling plans at the last minute costs a little of that currency. Forgetting your anniversary might cost you a lot.

The more currency in the bank, the stronger your relationship is and the more likely they are to forgive minor infractions. The more currency you have in the bank, the more likely you are to get a “loan.”It’s when you overdraft that account, when you become more hurtful than supportive, that your relationship falls apart.

Social networking is the same way.

When you share great content or make hilarious comments, you deposit currency in the bank. When you engage with people and start conversations, you make large deposits. When you show interest in others, rather than yourself, your account becomes more valuable.

However, when you promote yourself too much, you go into debt. If your account is in the negative, you might as well call it a charge-off, because followers are leaving and nobody is paying attention.

Every network has different values.

Each social network has its own pricing. You can’t just clone your content between five social media accounts and expect the same results on every site. This article will cover the four most popular and influential networks, Google, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

Twitter loves links and jokes.

twitterThe two most popular types of content on Twitter are links and 140 character jokes. Witty one-liners are worth a lot of currency. Links to great content (not just links to your book, mind you) are also valuable.

Things that cost you are complaints (people just don’t want to see negativity on their Twitter feed) and self-promotion. Repetition costs you, too, if the person has seen it before. I will tolerate a lot of self-promotion, but I will unfollow you if you post the same tweet daily.

Politics are tricky. So is religion. You’ll gain currency with people who agree with you, but you’re lose it with people who don’t. Be sparing with political tweets and make sure it’s an issue you really care about. You may lose followers, so decide if its an appropriate place (not on your corporate account) and worth it.

Google+ is about content.

googleGoogle is the best place to share blog posts. You can share your own (worth more) or the posts of others (still valuable, but not worth as much because they are not original). Once again, repetition is detrimental here. You can share an old blog months later, but make sure there is plenty of content shared in between.

Pictures are also popular. Text is usually skipped over.

Once again, political rants cost you. Links to your products cost you.

The most popular post I’ve seen on Google+ was a post asking authors to post information about their indie books; the author wanted to pick one to buy and review. This was popular because it showed interest in others and offered a service. When you are giving of yourself, you gain social currency.

Google+ has a great feature where you can choose to email notification to your followers. This feature is very costly in terms of social currency. I use it maybe four times a year. There is no faster way to lose readers than to send them an email once a week with your content. If I followed you back in as a courtesy, I certainly don’t want to get constant emails about your book.

Tumblr demands nerdiness and novelty.

tumblrTumblr’s most valuable currency is images. Doctor Who, Supernatural, and Sherlock are the most popular. Ponies, Grumpy Cat, and other hot memes are also well-loved. When you post something new and clever, you gain currency.

Tumblr’s dashboard is all about catching the eye. Links by themselves usually get skipped over. If you want to share a link, create a graphic to draw attention and you will get more social currency out of that transaction. Large blocks of text will lose you currency unless they are well-informed compositions or really, really funny. Comedy is gold on the internet. For example, a rant about your day will lose you currency, whereas an essay about gender roles in Beauty and the Beast will be well-shared.

Tumblr is a haven for nerds. Nerdy things will be more valuable. Informational things (e.g. tutorials and articles on conventions of Russian naming) are valuable. Awesome art is also well-loved.

It’s much harder to lose social currency on Tumblr. You have to really offend someone to lose currency on that network (so don’t post pornography if you mostly blog about My Little Pony). However, repetition, like with all social networks, is detrimental. We go to Tumblr to see new and interesting things, so posting the same content repetitively will turn readers away. I recently unfollowed a musician for posting the poster for his gig three times in one week.

The trap with Tumblr is the conversation system. If a user doesn’t install Disqus on their blog, the only way to comment is to reblog and hope they see what you added. If your conversation goes back and forth, your feed will end up flooded with the same post over and over. It is best, therefore, to avoid discussion or bring it to private messages. Install Disqus commenting on your own Tumblr blogs to attract comments and facilitate conversation.


Facebook has friends and feuds.

facebookI used to keep my Facebook profile open to everyone, but recently I locked it down and made an author page to protect myself from controversy with teaching (I didn’t want to get in trouble if a student tried to friend me.)

As with the other networks, self-promotion will cost you. However, as Facebook is for friends and family, you can usually get away with a little more self-promotion than you would with strangers.

Conversations are the most valuable currency on Facebook (but also can easily spiral into debate that will lose you friends). They have a special kind of value because Facebook’s system rewards content creators for engagement. If you can engage friends and Likers on your posts, your later posts will be more likely to appear on those people’s feeds. It’s good to ask for opinions, to encourage comments, but don’t ask for political opinions unless you’re prepared for war.

Images draw more attention in a sea of text. Links are also popular, so long as they are to the right kind of content. Where blog posts are more popular on Google+, Facebook prefers cat videos.


Each social network has its own quirks. Just remember that the more your share, the more your followers will trust you. Self-promotion should be used sparingly. Hook people in with great content and don’t drive them away by spamming them. If you earn your social currency by offering engagement, humor, and content, your followers will be more likely to forgive a little self-promotion and perhaps click on the thinks that really mean the most to you.

5 Widgets All Authors Should Be Using

5 Widgets All Authors Should Be Using

There are two kinds of widgets in my world. The first kind is the type of WordPress plugin that appears in the sidebar or footer of a blog. The second kind is snippet of code generated by a site that you can paste into your own web design to display remote content. I’m writing about the second kind.

Though there are widgets for everything from displaying the weather to cycling hot photos of Megan Fox, I’m going to tell you about five Widgets that you can use to promote and sell your book-based content with fewer clicks from your website.

Here are five widgets that you should be using!


1. Goodreads Shelf

It is important for writers to be constantly reading. Goodreads is a great site to help you keep track of exactly what you are reading and how you feel about it. You can go to Goodreads and register to track your reading. Authors can claim their works and have a Goodreads Author account. Goodreads is a book social network, which means that you can add other readers as friends and follow their reviews. You can see who is reading and reviewing your book, allowing you to add your readers as friends. People are very open and willing to friend you back on Goodreads, which makes it a great place to connect with readers.

As a Goodreads Author you can find codes for buttons to link to your books. As a Goodreads reader, you can place a widget on your website that shows your latest reads and their star rating. I use this widget to show visitors what kinds of books I read and to encourage Goodreads users to find me on the site. Further, when I read a book by a fellow Indie Author, I’m giving them a little bump by displaying their cover on my “Read” shelf. In the world of Indie Publishing, it’s never a bad idea to help promote a fellow writer that you enjoy!

2. Twitter Profile

Social media is one of the most powerful tools for writers trying to promote their work on a shoe-string budget. Blake Northcott, one of my favorite Indie authors, launched her book last fall to huge success and ended up with a big movie deal and a paid writing project within a year. How did she do it? Being a cute blonde in superhero t-shirts helped, but her real success comes from her constant dedication to her blog, Facebook, and Twitter streams. Northcott has a smart, sometimes scathing, sense of humor and isn’t afraid of her nerd. That, combined with genuine interaction, has given her 21,700 followers on Twitter. That’s a great audience and you can tell that she genuinely enjoys interacting with them. Her Twitter feed is mostly composed of hilarious comments and conversation; the minority of her tweets are self-promotion.

That is why the Twitter Profile Widget is so useful. Twitter has widgets for following specific topics, lists, and favorite tweets. The Twitter Profile Widget shows a stream of your latest tweets and allows you to customize it to suit the color scheme of your site. How many Tweets do you want to display? How big is your box? This customizable widget will help you turn occasional readers and search engine stumblers into Twitter followers and repeat readers.

3. Facebook Likebox

Facebook’s widget is not nearly as customizable as Twitter, but it is still a very valuable widget. Facebook has a lot of great code snippets that you can grab, such as Like Buttons and Commenting plugins. I don’t have the Facebook Likebox on this site, because I don’t use a Facebook page for myself as an author, but I do use it with my publisher, Matter Deep Publishing. Likebox displays updates from whatever Facebook Page you choose. It can be customized to display faces of likers and recent updates, and you can choose the dimensions and a light or dark color scheme.

If you don’t have many likes, yet, you can turn off faces so that your page doesn’t look weak. When you get more followers, you can always go back to change it. Though the color settings aren’t as customizable, you can set a border color, which does a lot to tie-in the widget with the site design.

This widget does require a minimum width of 292px, so if you’re using a super-skinny sidebar, you may have to forego this widget. It’s a great way to get likes on your Facebook page, and once someone has liked your page, its updates are in their news feed until they unsubscribe. Likes aren’t necessarily sales, but they are a great way to cultivate a list of people who are interested in your content and send them periodic updates on the one site they probably check seven times a day.

4. Amazon Affiliates

Amazon Affiliates are people who link content on Amazon in order to receive a royalty on any sales that result from that link. Amazon Affiliates can generate links to product pages that contain their ID number. Imagine if every time you talked-up a fellow author’s book, you got paid for the resulting sales! Really, Affiliate royalties are just a deal sweetener for me. I use Amazon Affiliates because of the widgets I gain access to for my own books. Amazon Affiliates can generate single product codes, slideshows, and sidebar widgets that display Amazon products with Buy links.

They say that every click on a website is a doorway and that every doorway decreases your chances of making a sale. It is easy to see, then, why we need to have direct links to our products right on the page. I use an Amazon tower widget in my sidebar, and embed individual links in pages where I talk about products for sale. Book Blogger Bonus: if you take a lot of guest bloggers, you can also put a link to their books in the bottom of their guest posts to profit off of their appearance.

5. CafePress Products

There are two major sites for Print-On-Demand merchandising. Cafepress is the original and Zazzle is the second. I used to love Zazzle for their great customer service for purchasers and for their variety of products, but now I am loyal to Cafepress. You see, Zazzle’s store setup isn’t always user friendly and sometimes you can’t tell where a product went after you create it.

<RANT> The part that really turned me off to Zazzle, however, was that Zazzle will take down your art based on any corporate copyright claim and will NOT give you a chance to have it put back up if the claim turns out to be bogus. A certain movie company I will not name– one that has an entire techdirt tag dedicated to its frivolous copyright claims (such as suing a perfume company for naming its perfume after a time of night (hint) and removing a song from iTunes that predates its property because its cover art is vaguely similar)– had my sister-in-law’s art removed from Zazzle. The art was a clear case of fair use parody and did not use any trademarked names, but Zazzle would not hear the argument and shut us down when we tried to email customer support. Apparently this company owns the copyright to hands holding fruit?</RANT>

So I use Cafepress. If you paid a lot of money for a really nice book cover and your contract with the artist allows it, OR if you did your cover in-house and therefore have the rights to put it on anything, this is a great way to make products available to fans. You’ll need high resolution images and you won’t get rich, but it’s a great option to have for the occasional fan who wants it. I know that I’m always annoyed when I can’t find any good products from a property I love. Most of the official Doctor Who shirts, for example, are boring. The fan-made ones are much better. Use Cafepress to put your logo, quotation, or book cover on a number of products from shirts to keychains to Kindle cases. Then, embed a widget in a page of your site so that people can browse your products without having to leave your page.


Remember that the longer you can keep readers ON your site, the better chance you have of converting sales and creating fans. Links off site are helpful as resources and citations for readers, but the more you can embed on your site, the less you will be asking readers to click away. If you can show them content without letting them leave, your site will be much more effective.
11 Essential WordPress Plugins For Author Bloggers

11 Essential WordPress Plugins For Author Bloggers

Analytics For WordPress– Many advanced themes now come with analytics built in to the theme options, but many others do not. If you aren’t using Analytics in your blog (if you’re still trying to use Jetpack to track your traffic) you are missing out on a lot of useful data. This is the best plugin. Add the tracking code and you’re good to go!

Broken Link Checker- Websites expire, content moves. This is a vital plugin for keeping your site functional. If you have a lot of posts, like I do, you’ll need Broken Link Checker to find broken links so that you can repair them. You can even set it to send you an email notification when you find a broken link.

Disqus Comments System– WordPress is known for having a lot of SPAM problems in its comment systems. Disqus, a third party application, replaces WordPress comments with its own system that tracks comments across blogs and allows users to log in with their social media profiles. People are more likely to comment when they can just use their Facebook to log in.

Maintenance Mode– If you’re like me, you like to play with your blog and you don’t want people seeing the mess while you work out the kinks. This plugin allows you to put the blog into Maintenance Mode, displaying a standard message to users not logged in as admin, so you can tinker without the whole world seeing your progress/mess.

Pinterest “Pin It” Button– Pinterest only blew up a few months ago, and tech guys are NOT the primary audience. It’s not built in to a lot of social plugins because of these reasons. However, readers (especially female readers) love it, and you should be utilizing it in any way that you can. Use this plugin to add a “Pin It” button to your posts.

Plus One Button- Google Plus is also fairly new. Some people will tell you that it is dying, but I’ll tell you this: Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton still use it. It must be worth something. Even if you think that Google Plus is a hassle, you NEED this button. Why? Google’s mystery search algorithm considers Plus Ones on Google Plus. Increase your rank with this button. You don’t even need to be on the network to benefit.

Print Friendly and PDF– This plugin adds a button to your blog that readers can click to view a print-friendly version of your blog or download a PDF of the post. Note: The PDF conversion page does have some Google ads on it so that the developer can get paid. If you don’t mind some harmless ads, this is really nice for your readers. If you plan to blog a book, it may be vital.

Quick Cache– WordPress blogs with lots of data can get bogged down. Speed is key for any site that wants to convert sales. Quick Cache caches your files so that every page load doesn’t have to start from scratch. This will speed up your site considerably.

Related Posts ThumbnailsTrap Keep readers on your blog longer by giving them pretty images and related headlines to click on.

What Would Seth Godin Do?- Seth Godin is a genius and this plugin was inspired by him. He said, years ago, that developers should be utilizing cookies to differentiate between new and repeat readers. This plugin allows you to display a message for first time (or fifth time) viewers that will not display for regular readers. Use it to welcome new visitors and ask them to subscribe to your RSS feed or newsletter!

WP Touch- We live in the age of the smartphone. If your site is a disaster on an smartphone, you’re missing an audience. You wouldn’t believe how many people don’t have a computer, but have an iPhone. And– writers– you can put the Kindle Application on that smartphone! WP Touch is free and makes a mobile friendly version of your page so that you don’t have to fret over how your site looks to those smartphone users.

Manners, Your Book Plug, and YOU.

Manners, Your Book Plug, and YOU.

Before I set out to pimp my own books, I read a very excellent marketing and PR book called The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott. I highly recommend it, as it goes over content marketing, social media, and a few cautionary tales about customer service and misrepresentation.

The most important thing that I pulled from it was the power of creating content and engaging in conversation as means of promoting your product. Some of what Scott says seems like common sense, yet for some, it isn’t. Over the years I’ve seen shameless plugs for music videos linked in Youtube comments and had strangers ask me to endorse their product that I haven’t even read. This week, however, I had to seek advice, because something happened on one of my Facebook pages that was so rude, I had no idea how to respond. I’m going to spare my usual stinging wit and keep a very serious tone here, because what was done was rude, but I’m not trying to lampoon anyone online. I’m trying to create a learning experience.

The Olympia Heights Facebook page was started last year before I published the first Olympia Heights book. My company put resources (time, money, and books) into giveaways and I put my own money (with my husband) into paying for some Facebook ads to grow the community. I’m not saying that I have an army there. 189 Likes will not pay my bills, but I put a year of constant work into promoting my work and I’m quite proud of the recent surge in Likes and sales.

Last week a girl, a child, who is self-publishing her own book, asked me to promote it. It is a relevant topic, but I have not read it. She had a nice cover and a decent premise, so I told her that I would consider promoting it after I read it. As a rule, I don’t “Like” anything I haven’t read, because that would be like recommending a book to my friends that I know nothing about. Likes show up on the Olympia Heights wall and personal Likes go on my profile. I am, by no means, a celebrity, but I follow the rule that personalities should use and like the products they endorse.

A few days ago, however, her mother– an adult woman who should know better– posted this.

As you can see, I blurred out any identifying information because I don’t want this to be about singling someone out. I want to teach other authors about what is appropriate and what is not. This is not.

I wasn’t sure what to do, to be honest, because one thing I’ve learned about online publicity is that you have to be careful not to make anyone angry. I tweeted for help and got this reply from a writer that I admire A LOT.

I followed his advice and I marked it as SPAM. The fact of the matter was that I had already told her daughter that I would consider promoting it once I’d read it, which should have made it clear not to post it on my wall until that time. If she wanted to let me know it was available, she should have messaged me in private. This woman has never participated in conversation on this page and only liked it that week in order to post a plug. Less than a week after my own book release, she used my space to post a book that could be considered in direct competition for my current release. I felt pretty used.

So, what is appropriate? Let’s go over some ground rules. You’ll find that the book linked above supports pretty much all of these tips.

  • Want someone you admire to plug your book? Send it to them for free and hope that they like it. Don’t go asking a stranger to buy your book so that they can sell it for you.
  • Create content as a means of acquiring followers. Your followers will endure the occasional plug if you provide something they perceive as valuable on a regular basis.
  • That “Website” slot on a comment form is your friend. Paste a link to your site there and then participate in the conversation as a normal human being. If they like what you have to say, they will click on it. It’s fine to leave your calling card where they can find it, it’s not fine to plug your work on someone else’s comments board.
  • Only talk about your book if it is relevant AND asked for. If someone leaves a blog post with open-ended question, feel free to answer, but don’t go on “Top Ten Books About Greek Gods” and add “Mine is great too, go buy it!…”
  • It’s only really Okay to ask someone to RT or share your Kickstarter, book, blog, etc. if you have a developed relationship/rapport with them. Sometimes it is okay if it is for a selfless charitable cause that you know they would be interested it (like asking Neil Gaiman to RT a petition to stop a book banning in Minnesota, etc).
  • Become a part of the community before you ask for favors. Making a new account the day you ask for help does not look good.

Alright, bloggers, writers, artists, and publishers, what is your advice for new authors? What common rude violations do you have to deal with? Please refrain from naming names or book titles, as we want this to be educational, not personal. Leave a comment below and continue the conversation!