Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Social Media Explained - The Donut Analogy

Total credit for this concise, concrete explanation of "social media" goes to a handout I received from TRTA (Texas Retired Teachers Association).

"I'm eating a donut."

"I like donuts."

"This is where I each donuts."

"Here's a video of me eating a donut."

"Here's a vintage photo of my donut."

"Here's a pretty donut recipe."

"My skills include donut eating."

"Now listening to "Donuts."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

How Writing is Like Dating

Yesterday I attended a North Central/Northeast Texas SCBWI chapter meeting with featured speakers Jan Peck, David Davis, and Carol Barreyre. Over the next few days, I'll share some of the writing insights they shared with the writers and illustrators atttending.

The hook for the meeting was a clever count-down comparison from Carol Barreyre, carol@barreyre.com: "How Writing is Like Dating." She graciously agreed to let me share her list with you.

Most of us remember what it was like to date. You put yourself out there, feel vulnerable, take risks, and sometimes get hurt. Submitting the results of our creative labors evokes many of those same feelings. It is a piece of ourselves. If we find our match, it is paradise. If our work is rejected, you feel like you've been rejected too. Here are a few tips to consider as you step out into the publishing world.

10.  You wouldn't go out on a date half dressed. So, finish your manuscript. 
Avoid submitting something that isn't complete. An agent or editor may ask for the whole thing. Hooray! But if you don't have the entire manuscript, an opportunity is wasted.
9.  It's like looking in the mirror before walking out the door. You're first draft isn't ready for querying without another look. 
Make sure it's polished (shoes shined, hair combed, spelling corrected, plot plotted) before it leaves your front door.
8.  When you're dating, you need friends. Critique groups are a must. 
I belong to two critique groups. They are invaluable! They provide you with "fresh eyes" and help you find the weaknesses and strengths of your "date".
7.  You don't hit on every man or woman out there. Be selective about querying agents and editors. 
Do your homework so you can find that perfect match. There are several great market guides out there (including one published by SCBWI). Haunt bookstores. Talk to librarians and sales clerks. Do internet searches. Stay informed.
6.  Match.com or eHarmony.com? Do you need an agent? 
Like a blind date, sometimes you need someone to help you find that perfect match. If you're not having success doing it yourself, look for the help an agent can offer.
5.  Sometimes that hottie doesn't return your call. Agents and editors don't owe you a response. 
If your book and their house isn't a good fit, if they don't connect, they you might not hear from them. You can followup with them, but don't stalk them. Don't try to force the relationship. If it isn't right, move on.
4.  You don't meet Mr./Ms. Right if you don't get out of the house. You have to own your career, make an effort, and submit. 
Nobody is going to come knocking on your door. You have to take the initiative and let editors and agents know you exist.
3.  Know yourself and your dating goals. Be honest with yourself, the agents, and the editors. 
Know up front what you expect to get out of the relationship and how much time you're willing to devote to making it work.
2.  You wouldn't skip getting dressed or being select if you didn't use Match.com. No skipping steps 3 through 10 even if you decide to self publish.
To me, these steps become even more important because you've become you're own editor.
1. We all need help. SCBWI is your lifeline to the children's publishing industry.
I've been a member of SCBWI (Society of Childrens' Book Writers and Illustrators) since 1995. They are an invaluable resource! Check them out at www.scbwi.org.

Finding a life partner can be amazing. By taking steps to ensure a healthy relationship, writing or illustrating books can be a fun, rewarding, and mutually beneficial experience for you and your publisher.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

10 Ideas for using QR Codes to Promote Your Book

You’ve seen them. Maybe wondered about them. Possibly even used them. Those cute little squares of random black and white squiggles, dots and dashes. Those are QR Codes (Quick Response Codes) and are similar to pricing barcodes. They can be created and utilized to access anything from coupons to websites to UTube videos.

You can take advantage of these QR codes to help publicize for your books.

First: Create a QR Code for your UTube booktrailer, website, or blog.  
  1. Know the web address for your UTube video, website, or blog.
  2. Do an internet search using the keywords “QR Code Generator”.
  3. When you find one (there are many to select from), follow the given instructions and paste the UTube video link or type another website address into the appropriate box.
  4. Generate the QR Code according to the given instructions.
  5. Save the code as an image file. If the option is given by the code’s website, right-click on the generated code and select Save or Save as.
  6. Repeat to create other QR codes as needed.

Second: Try some of these ideas for using it:
  1. Create bookmarks which include your code.
  2. Insert the code into a promotional flyer.
  3. Include the code on promotional postcards.
  4. Make posters for book signings with the code included. Place the posters in several places around the bookstore for people to scan to encourage them to come by the book signing table.
  5. Create book “folders” consisting of the front and back cover of the book, table of contents (images, excepts, or whatever best meets your needs) and a QR Code to the video. The folders are easy to stand up, colorful to display, and light to carry.
  6. Include the QR Code on your business cards.
  7. Create small one-page display cards (the kind that would fit in a plastic display frame) with the book title, book cover, and the QR code. Send/give them to booksellers.
  8. Create a QR Code that links to a coupon (school visit discount, free book for a booked visit, etc.).
  9. Create a QR Code that links to additional book resources (lesson plans, curriculum tie-ins for teachers, coloring pages for kids, etc.)
  10. Create a QR Code that links to a free sample chapter.

One final note: not everyone is a QR Code guru, so provide the actual link below each code displayed. Since some website addresses can be less than user friendly, use the website TinyURL to create an alternate, simpler URL for readers. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Brainstormer App for Writers

Looking for unique, exciting, unpredictable characters, plots, and settings?

Editors are, too. But it is often difficult for me to force myself beyond the ordinary and catapult my imagination to combine extraordinary elements into plausible situations that will intrigue readers and editors.

Brainstormer by Tapnik is an app designed to prick your imagination and tempt it to try something different. It features a wheel with three elements: a plot, a subject, and a setting or style. Move each wheel individually to select from the myriad of possibilities. Or (my favorite), click on the dice to let it randomly select a combination for you.

Some combinations are very unique (healing journey, undead, chef), however, I don't rule out any combination too quickly. I let it percolate in my creative juices for a while and see what happens. Even if I can't pull it together into a submittable piece, I use the combinations as a jump start for a free-writing exercise (which often does lead to a saleable piece).

Click on the settings button (the cog picture) to see three other brainstormers: Character Creator, World Builder, and Imagined Animals.

So maybe my next book will be about a majestic rhinoceros hiding in a prehistoric windmill who smuggles diamonds as part of a revolt movement.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Writer Resolutions

Every January first, I'm tempted to succumb to the tradition of making "New Years Resolutions" and pretend to plan to make positive changes in my life. These include personal as well as professional resolutions.

For example:
1. Lose twenty pounds.
2. Watch fewer "reality" shows.
3. Write every day.
4. Get an agent.
5. Get my young adult fantasy published.

The above "resolutions," although good intentioned, have a somewhat mystic quality of a wish rather than a resolution. Its as if I could dig a magic lamp out of my backyard, rub it three times, and win the equivalent of the writer's lottery: a book contract.

So this year, my NYR consists of one item:
1. Make goals that I have control over achieving instead of wishes.

So my new list includes:
1. Exercise daily.
2. Write every day.
3. Add to my blog at least once a week.
4. Write an awesome query letter.
5. Submit the above awesome query letter to appropriate agents and editors.
6. Attend local conferences to network with fellow writers, hone my craft, and meet appropriate agents and editors.
7. Read within and outside my genre.

These are goals within my power to accomplish. Borrowing an educational term, they are "measurable" instead of just "wishable." This is a list that can earn check marks as each item is completed. Most allow for multiple "checks" for an extra boost to my goal-setting ego.

And with some hard work and a little luck, maybe I will win the writer's lottery and earn a book contract in 2013, too.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fun Friday: Clueless Crossword Puzzle for Geometry

Below is a typical crossword puzzle, except there aren't any standard "definition" clues. The clues are in the puzzle itself. Each letter in the puzzle's words have been replaced with a number. Another clue: all the terms are geometry terms.

Click on the image shown to download the PDF of the puzzle and addition directions. Enjoy!