Since I went to the trouble to write this presentation for my Sisters in Crime chapter, Heart of Texas, (I presented it Sunday, April 11th), I thought I'd make double use of it and post it here. This is my script, which I more of less stuck to. An hour long presentation is LONG!
This starts with basic publicity, so if you already know how to publicize yourself, feel free to go to the next blog on your list. I included a handout with illustrations and some links, which I am not posting tonight, but may later.
Here's my talk~~
GETTING YOUR NAME OUT THERE
April 11th, 2010
HoTx SinC meeting
Hi. I'll introduce myself in case some of you don't know me. I'm Kaye George, but not really. I have worked hard getting that name out there, though. And I think it may be beginning to pay off. I've recently learned that some people have actually heard of me!
I was asked to speak today on getting your name out there. I'm no expert, but I can tell you what I've done in the hopes that some of it might work for you. I'll also tell you about what some others, who are much better known, have done.
The first thing you need, in order to get your name out there, is--well, your name.
If you're thinking of using a pen name for any reason, that's your first decision. Pick a name and start using it. (Google the name you want and look for that name.com while you're deciding. I'll say a little more on that later.)
Create an email address with your name, the one you're going to use. You can use a free email service like gmail or yahoo to do this.
You want your email to be your name, and obvious. Don't use Kevin's Mommy or Mystery Writer or Agatha Christie fan, stuff like that. It's good to be able to tell who the email is actually from.
USE YOUR NAME
Now that you have settled on a name, start to use it.
If you belong to online writing groups, sign up with that name. If you're already a member with another name, announce that you're changing your moniker, then join the list with the new name. Get people used to seeing it.
BUILD A WEBSITE WITH YOUR NAME
You'll need a website if you don't already have one. If you can get the domain for your_own_name.com, do it.
If your name is taken as a domain, you might think about using a different one. Or, you can tack writer on the end: my_own_name_writer.com or my_own_name_author.com. Don't tie yourself down to the name of the book or series you're currently working on, or your current main character. If you never get that book published, you might get a totally different one accepted.
When you have a domain, put up at least a temporary message that a webpage is coming soon.
When you get around to designing your site (or having it designed if that's not your thing), keep in mind what you want to accomplish, what you want people to see when they visit. What is the most important thing about you that you want visitors to know?
Here are some suggestions: before you're published, you can offer your bio, some facts about you if you'd like, pets, kids, family, some pictures, what kinds of projects you're working on, organizations you belong to and links to them, and links to other writers' sites and blogs (and to your own blog).
After you're published, you'll need, front and center, information on how to buy your books. Include where you'll be appearing, approximate release dates of upcoming books. Some readers like to visit their favorite authors' websites and they'll even dash out to buy the next book as soon as it's available. Make that easy for them.
Here's another tactic you can use. If you have a hobby or interest that's related to your writing, you might want to start a separate webpage for that, or maybe you can use part of your writing page, like a separate tab. Maybe a gardening webpage if you write about a gardening sleuth--draw in people who love gardening; or a site devoted to Maine Coon cats if your mysteries feature them. You can gain a following, from these interests, of people who just may eventually buy your books. People like to buy books from writers they know something about.
That parallel interest ploy can work with blogs, too, in fact even more so there.
This has worked well for a horse racing fan whose book is coming out soon, Sasscer Hill. Her book is called FULL MORTALITY and it will be out in May by Wildside Press. It's something you'll like if you like Dick Francis and Sue Grafton, according to her publicity. Her blog has been devoted to the horses she breeds and to horseracing and she's now using it to promote her upcoming release.
Back to websites and getting started there. Look around at other people's websites and see what you like about them. Dark, bright, background colors, etc.
Choose some that have the feel you want and try to emulate that in yours. You can contact the designers of the websites you like to see if they're available to design yours. If the name of the designer isn't displayed at the bottom, you could contact the writer to ask for the web designer's name. Sometimes it's a husband or daughter, or the writer herself. But, if you're having someone design yours, you'll want to give them an idea of what you want and pointing to an existing webpage that you like is a good start.
I have listed a few that have very different looks to them in my handout.
You want your name to show up when someone searches for it on the internet, and the more places you have a presence on the web, the more likely your name will show up near the top of the list. I've heard that if you have interconnections, it puts you higher in the search engine hierarchy. You want to be found when someone searches for a subject relating to you, too, not just for your name. Periodically search for your own name and see how many of the results on the first page are actually you. The more the better.
There are articles, even courses, on how to move your name up with search engines if you want to dive whole hog into this. I'm happy if I show up on the first page, and ecstatic if I show up at the top. On Thursday, 5 of the first 6 were me on Google, 3 out of the first 4 on Bing, and 5 on the first page of Dogpile. And 5 out of 6 on Yahoo. So, Yahoo! Something's working.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA
These days you have to use social media. There's no avoiding it.
BLOGGING - This is a way to get your name out there. You can blog on writing, on your life, on your interests, on anything, really. Visit some of your favorite blogs and see what works for you, what you can make work. Decide what draws you in because you can't write about something you're not interested in, and make it fascinating.
Decide where to aim your blog. At writers? At readers? At friends and family? At complete strangers who don't know you and stumble across your blog?
Be sure and use the labels feature so someone can come across your blog when they google topics you've written about. If you're using Lisa Scottoline as a example of something (as I did last week) ,put her name in the label section of the blog so people searching for her, and her readers will have an opportunity to check you out. I'm not sure if this feature exists on other blog sites, but blogger, or blogspot, which I use, makes it easy.
Other blogging topics: Book reviews and interviews are good. They'll draw fans of the books and authors you're using. The more popular and high profile the book and author, the more hits you'll get.
After you've blogged for awhile, maybe a few weeks or a few months if you're posting once a week, step back and reassess. Are you drawing in the readers you want to? If not, revisit your favorite blogs and try to see what you could improve, what they're doing that you're not. I love blogs with pictures so I take care to find what I think are cute or interesting illustrations of my topics. I also try to pose questions some readers might want to answer, or have opinions on.
Groups blogs are easier because you don't have the burden of making all the posts. This will also increase your reader base. Each blogger will draw in their friends and fans.
There are blogs about blogging and some of them give great advice. The most important thing you can do, after blogging regularly, they'll tell you, is to let someone know you've posted a new blog.
Do this on lists you belong to, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, or whatever you communicate with. It works better to try to engage people, too. You can post that you just blogged about mowing grass. Ho hum. Or you can ask people if they have solutions for grass problems. What do YOU do about weeds, bald patches where grass won't grow, shady lawns, lawn mowers that balk? Are riding or push mowers preferred? What's the best way to hang the hammock when you're done? You might get more visitors if you can prompt them to read the blog and, better yet, to comment on it.
Unfortunately, I get a lot of people who comment about my blog on Facebook, not on the blog.
I have also listed a few blogs I like to visit, ones I think are successful.
Then there's Facebook. I started on Facebook when my son in Arizona told me that, henceforth,
all his children's pictures would be loaded there instead of being attached to emails or put up on snapfish, like he had been doing. It was with much reluctance and dragging of feet, well fingers I guess, that I dove in, but I soon found lots--I mean tons--of people there to connect to. A colleague I worked with 10 years ago found me and my masseuse from when we lived in Dallas. And I started dialoging regularly with my relatives that I usually only see and talk to once every year or two. I really like some of them, too!
My son has loaded grandchild pictures once. I think this is a common tale for people my age.
There's a limit to how many friends you can have on FB. I think it's 5000. After that you have to create a Fan Page, but don't ask me how to do that. I'm not nearly there yet.
This is from my friend, Krista Davis, author of the Domestic Diva mysteries:
Random Observations about Facebook
1. It takes about two weeks of consistent work to reach 3,000 friends.
2. There are a *lot* of bored people in this world.
3. A surprising number of erotic romance writers live in Utah.
4. There are millions of writers out there.
5. People have strange ideas about what kinds of pictures they should
use. Why is an otherwise normal woman, who is not an erotic writer,
posing so that she gives the appearance of being nude? Why would
someone use a photo with hair combed down into her face? Why do
people use pictures of children? I don't know if it's a cute picture
of the person as a child, if it's a picture of the person's child, or
if (heaven forbid anyone think I'm an evil Facebooker) I'm asking a
child to be my friend.
And there's MySpace, of course. This is completely unknown territory for me, and I've heard lately that it's not the best place for a writer to promote herself. But if you're already there and you have a lot of connections, use them, by all means.
And the newest one, Twitter. My friend, Krista Davis, insists that Twitter is different, and better than, Facebook. She says it's because it's viral.
Krista guest blogged for Cozy Chicks on April 3rd and her topic was Twitter for Authors, Part I. The next day was Part II!
I've put the urls for these blog entries in the handout. They're worth reading if you're new to Twitter.
I haven't ventured into Twitter yet myself, except to submit some Twitter short stories that were rejected. Krista says she initially joined and was disappointed. It seemed to be another Myspace or Facebook. Her screen was filled with messages from people she didn't know, talking about things she didn't care about. But she says now she treats Twitter like a Times Square billboard. Some people will walk by, some will be too busy to read her post, but some will stop and look.
A subject, or topic, is designated by the number sign, #. These two, #writer and #books, are topics that a lot of people follow and pay attention to. So if your tweet contains either of those, quite a few people will see it. When someone sees a good topic (usually the tweet takes you to a blog or website), they will retweet it, their followers will retweet it and, voila--viral.
HOW TO MAKE USE OF OTHER PEOPLE'S BLOGS
Leave thoughtful comments and make sure your name is displayed. Leaving comments on other people's blogs will encourage them to leave comments on yours, that is, to visit and read it. This is part of the interconnections that will make you easier to find on the web. You can also become a follower of another blog in hopes they will follow you.
Almost everyone who runs a blog is delighted when someone wants to write a guest column. It gives them a day off. Some people solicit for guest bloggers and, for sure, respond to those. This is a golden opportunity. Other bloggers may draw admirable traffic that you'd like to get in on and you can offer and see if you'd be permitted to guest blog there. Be sure you blog about something relevant to that blog and clear your subject with the owner of that blog. Refer, of course, to your own blog discreetly somewhere.
Lorraine Bartlett writes the Jeff Resnick mysteryes and, as Lorna Barrett, the Book Town series (which made the NYTimes bestseller list!). She has Pet Peeve Thursday on her Dazed and Confused blog and often wants guest bloggers there. I've even done it. Lorraine is a master of self-promotion, by the way, and someone to study if you want to know how to do it right.
GETTING A SMALL START BY STARTING SMALL - WRITING SHORT STORIES
This has worked for me and for others. But I love to write short stories. If you don't write them, of course, it won't work for you. There are many more outlets for shorts, many more possibilities for publication, than there are for novels. Some ezines even take everything submitted to them. I'd avoid these and concentrate on those with editors who screens submissions, who turn pieces down as well as accept them. It gives you more credibility. Also look at who is being published in the magazine and, if you see names you recognize, that's a good sign it will do you some good to get accepted there. Study the stories being published and see what you have that would fit, or what you can write that would fit in.
If you don't write short stories, you can still get yourself known by having short pieces published--articles. These can be articles on writing, reading, book reviews, interviews, or life essays, if you're so inclined. If you're featuring a Jack Russell terrier in your novel, see if you can get an article accepted in a dog magazine.
Volunteer to write articles for newsletters for the organizations you belong to. If you live where there are small local publications, see if you can write articles for them.
Our own Karen MacInerney wrote a serial short story that was featured in a bed and breakfast magazine to publicize her Gray Whale Inn bed and breakfast mystery series. Very clever!
Beth Groundwater is the author of two series, one featuring Claire Hanover, gift basket designer, and another starting next year with Mandy Tanner, river ranger. She also has just published a science fiction book called THE EPSILON ERIDANE ALTERNATIVE. She started out with short stories, her first in an anthology. She also got one accepted by an airline flight magazine, "Wild Blue Yonder" the inflight magazine for Frontier Airlines. That gave her tons of exposure. I would never have thought of submitting there.
Search out unusual places for articles and stories. Look around and see where you can stick your foot in.
You can put your poetry out, too, if you write that.
GETTING YOUR NAME OUT AT CONFERENCES
The best way to get known at a conference is to be on a panel. Some small conferences will put you on a panel without much in the way of credentials. Larger cons require some sort of publication.
The first panel I was on wasn't planned. A conference in Plano that is, alas, defunct now, had a panel coming up and some of the members hadn't shown up. A friend insisted I'd be able to speak on the topic, Religion in Writing, or something like that. I said I couldn’t, I'd never done a panel before. She practically shoved me up onto the platform and into the chair.
It went amazingly well and, after it got started, I relaxed and was able to say things that, I think, sounded coherent. I also resorted to drawing out answers and clarifications from other panel members, especially the one who had forced me onto the panel. Cindy Daniel. She writes the Death Warmed Over series, and has also written a book with her daughter about her experience with breast cancer.
After the panel, several audience members wanted to talk to me! I was astounded.
I've been on panels at every conference I've attended since then, as a short story writer. Every con seems to have one short story panel.
After a short story panel at Malice Domestic, I even had one person ask for my autograph on her program, since I didn't have a book to sign. I was sitting next to Carol Nelson Douglas, so it was nice to get a fan.
The easiest job is moderator of the panel. All your work is beforehand. You get up a list of questions, or ask the panel members for suggestions, and get that all worked out by email ahead of time. At the time of the panel, you merely introduce the members and ask the questions. They do all the work.
Also, schmooze at cons. There's usually a gathering place with iced tea, sometimes more. This is the place people put bookmarks and fliers at some cons. Don't be shy about sitting with someone you don't know. You'll be wearing a name tag and you'll meet interesting people.
If you do go the short story route, contests can be your entre to fame. Or at least to being able to say you're an award-winning writer. The Short Mystery Fiction Society is a place you can sometimes pick up names of publications. Take note when others get stories accepted in them. Many conferences have short story contests also.
Volunteering to judge contests, such as the Derringers (SMFS) and the Daphnes (RWA) can be a way to get your name known, and appreciated.
Here are some I belong to, or have belonged to in the past:
Sisters in Crime, of course, national, local, online chapter, Guppies
Mystery Writers of America, national and local
Writers' League of Texas
Short Mystery Fiction Society
Crime Scene Writers is a huge group where your posts will be seen by hundres
You should post on the lists of these groups occasionally to get your name known to the other members. It doesn't do you any good to join a group and lurk. No one will know who you are unless you speak up occasionally.
Put it in your signature line. Then every post will remind people of an award or acceptance, or upcoming appearance or publication. Also make sure your website and blog addresses are in your signature line.
When you get a story accepted or win a prize, or just present a talk at a Sisters in Crime meeting, you should make an announcement. Some of the places to announce are (and these are other reasons for belonging to these groups):
SinC, local, national, Guppies
on your blog
yahoo lists you belong to
STUFF I DON'T DO, BUT OTHER PEOPLE DO
GoodReads - I belong to this but don't participate yet. You report on the books you're reading and see what others are reading. I know a lot of writers are there.
You can have your own blogtalk radio show - do interviews, and so forth. Sylvia Dickey Smith has had great success with this.
Anything you can do to interact with other writers and, eventually, readers will get your name out.
A WORD ABOUT BEING NICE AND ABOUT RECIPROCATION
Warren Bull, author of ABRAHAM LINCOLN FOR THE DEFENSE and many short stories, has this to say about authors helping authors:
The owner of a local independent bookstore helped me a lot;
offered a signing, found a reviewer etc. when I first had a
book out. Book store owners and staff can recommend your book
and sell one copy at a time. So buy your books from the people
who can help sell yours. You can establish a relationship before you get
[ME: I certainly do this, buy my friend's books. And I feel it's my duty as a writer to recommend the ones I like to others.}
Warren again: Also you can ask friends family and other authors (such as Guppies)
[can] to write reviews for you on Amazon.com You can do favors for
fellow Guppies by writing reviews for them before you have anything published.
People remember those who are helpful and friendly so ask if you can set up
chairs for signings, publicize the store etc.
Writing reviews for other writers is important to them and it's something I don't do enough of. But has anyone thought of helping at another author's signing as a means of exposure? I haven't.
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS FROM THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE FENCE
Here's a comment from Elaine Douts, a friend who is an unpublished mystery writer, when I asked her thoughts on self-promotion:
Geez Kaye-this is one topic I don't do well. In fact, I don't do [it] at all. I know that I should, but until I get published, even a short story, I'd feel like a fraud doing self-promotion. I've been told that my attitude is short sighted, but I just know that if I start self-promoting before I get published, it's fait accompli that I never will get published-just because the gods like me to make an ass of myself. [Hope you get questions because I can't contribute-but then,] perhaps this topic is [just] what you need to discuss. Yeah-there's the how to, but then there's the question why-[why] when no crystal ball says you'll ever get published.
This is a lot of stuff.
Only do what you have time for and are comfortable with.
If you've never done any of this, start with one item at a time and build until people begin to know who you are. Well, actually, keep going after they know you so they don't forget who you are.