Friday, August 29, 2014

So You Want to Know ... More About Social Media

So I was perusing my blog's most-read items and noticed my posts about social media seem to be popular among readers. In fact, my most popular post for the month of August was about Facebook an social media. So it seems social media trumps True Blood. All right so I have learned everything I know about social media marketing via hands-on experience. I am by no means an expert per se. I am an expert on marketing, public relations and communication -- and these days social media plays an integral role in getting the word out about your business.

The most common complaint or more like "whine" I hear about social media is that it's a time-suck vortex. I give this simple advice on how to manage your social media activities. First, I don't want those of you caught in the vortex to feel guilty. It's easy to get sucked in. I advise users with basic rules to apply.

15/15 Rule--only devote 15 minutes at the beginning and end of your work day to social media. If you have to use a timer, so be it. The larger your following the harder it is to track everyone. Just make it a daily habit. I believe routines make life much easier to get more done in your day. I have specific routines I follow. Positive habits and routine make it easier to keep moving and be productive.

Community Participation--it's not all about you on social media (what? How can that be? LOL). Devote some of your 15/15 time to reviewing and commenting in the news feed (for Facebook). You increase exposure to your brand. Participation attracts more attention to your page.

Provide Content--don't make lame or stupid jokes no one cares about. My husband and I were reviewing this one's users posts and all she did was joke about this and that. It was useless, not very funny (well, not funny at all), and honestly this person started to look ... well, weird. Friends unless you're "Weird" Al Yakovic you do not want people to frown and think you're weird. The idea is to attract business not repel people. Even if you're trying to find a significant other on social media, I don't think weird comes across as sexy or appealing. You DO want to give information, maybe entertain (in a positive way), and help others. Valuable content through great links, insights, and real content like that is provided through a blog attracts business.




Thursday, August 28, 2014

Social Media Image Management: What About that Glass of Wine?

We all assume that most people with manners know that social media can be either a positive or negative marketing tool. In terms of personal image management, social media plays a critical role in sculpting impressions of what people perceive about you. Unless you close off your privacy settings, which in business is unproductive, you have to manage your image carefully.

We were talking about this subject in my writers' group. One of the members mentioned many people do not realize that now employers are looking at your page. They do not realize in the competitive race for a great, often-coveted position, employers scrutinize everything including your social media.

Something (and seemingly as harmless) as being photographed with a glass of wine or cocktail in your hand can send a message you don't want an employer to see. Those social media users who also notoriously are photographed with that glass of wine at social events might think, "What's the harm? It's a social gathering?" Problem is all your pictures are at "social" events and at almost every one you are holding that now-famous (and consistently photographed) glass of wine. What do you think employers are thinking now? Alcoholic? Problems with alcohol? Even worse, maybe being an alcoholic couldn't be further from the truth? You only drink occasionally at social events (for real)? Now that same employer looks at your competitor's page. He/she doesn't have a single glass of wine in his/her hand. He/she is NEVER photographed drinking. Do you see the problem. It's merely a "perception" but this impression can actually become a deciding factor during deliberations.

Ask yourself, do you want to squander an opportunity over something so basic and not worth it? So my advice: watch everything you post on social media. No photos of "adult" beverages or even cigarettes. Employers don't have to tell you they don't hire smokers. They can just make a mental note -- end of story.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Three Must-Have Marketing Items for Book Festivals

Promo Sheet/Flyer--your promo sheet should be loaded with great quotes from reviews about your book. If you don't yet have professional reviews, use testimonials. Put an image of your book on the sheet. Use it to hand out to prospective readers. Stand near your sales area and direct those readers to your sales table for actual purchase.

Bookmarks--nice bookmarks with brief information about your book. Bookmarks take the place of business cards and should have your URL and general contact information along with where to purchase the book.

Large poster board of book cover image--an enlarged poster-size image of your book cover created on a cardboard of foam-core backing to protect it. Do not date anything on the image so it can be easily reused from event to event. Bring a sturdy stand to put it on.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to Write Likeable Flawed Characters

Flawed characters are more interesting than vanilla heroes or heroines. Flawed characters have chinks in their armors. They do things that push the limits of black and white/right and wrong. They do things some of us wish we could, but know that while it tastes sweet going down the aftertaste is bitter. When you write flawed characters, though, remember it's easy to make those flaws so deep they turn from good to purely bad. So how do you write a great flawed character without making him/her unlikeable?

A tortured soul--the tortured soul is good at heart but his/her pains of the past have created demons. These characters will stop and help the little old lady cross the road and yet end up at the bar at night drinking and yelling profanity at the bartender. They will help the bad guys (inadvertently) because they are driven to self-destruct, but in the end their humanities always win.

Sweet, funny, endearing but doing bad things anyway--they aren't intrinsically bad people, they just do weak or bad things. Maybe they are on a journey and seek to be a better person, but they don't know how. Maybe you need another character as their reflection -- someone in the story to reflect the inner flaws and provide light or guidance for them to make changes.

Selfishly driven to what they want even though it's not right. We're all selfish to a greater or lesser degree. Flawed characters try to achieve a means to an end. They may feel a selfish desire to have something or someone, but they know in their hearts it wouldn't be good for them. They get sucked into the moment and give in based on that selfish desire.

To keep them likeable, make sure you show their inner world of thought. The motives and reasons they do what they do. Make them understandable. Show your character compassion. Reflect back on them through the prose and their inner thoughts that they are confused and misguided, but they ultimately want the right things. The drive to do right in any situation almost always redeems a flawed character.

Monday, August 25, 2014

True Blood: Season 7, Episode 10 - Series Finale

In an unevenly paced and poorly written season, one of my favorite series came to an end -- True Blood created by Alan Ball. I was completely disappointed in the finale. It dragged, lacked any action, and the closure was disappointing. We got a sappy happy ending for one of the campiest, funniest shows around that produced such great lines as "Sookie's precious fairy vagina."

The show established Bill as Sookie's true love (huh? She had way more chemistry and emotional resonance with Eric), and then showed how he really "loved" her to want to set her free and give her a vampire-free life. They had "kind of" tied up the feelings with Eric in the previous show, but instead of letting the two characters truly wrap it up when Eric saves her one more time they just skipped it. What happened to the love triangle and Sookie loving them both? Those loves scenes from Season 4 all went for not. In the books, Eric and Sookie had the passionate love affair. Bill was just another suitor.

Notes on other story lines: the Hoyt/Jessica wedding was stupid. It wasn't romantic. It was just another disappointment. They turned their relationship into the central true love story. Again,  huh? Why not give Sookie the happy ending in love? The show was about her after all. We (spoiler alert) see her end up with a nameless, faceless guy with a beard. Huh?!

Sorry Alan Ball. You are a great show runner, but this episode and finale just sucked! And I don't mean that as a double entendre.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Five Ways Bill Doesn't Improve my Life

A funny Help a Reporter Out (HARO) query presented the story "Five Ways Cats Improve Your Life". My cat Bill is my nemesis. So as you can see I wrote the opposite. Here are the five ways Bill doesn't improve my life.

1. The trashcan isn't there to knock over and bat around garbage -- although Bill thinks it is. Any kind of trashcan within claw's reach is fair game. Whoop! All over the floor. Who picks it up? Oh yeah, I do.

2. Just because I liked it. My favorite purse. One bite and the leather strap chewed through in one place. Tied it back together. I said to my husband, "The little shit did it because he knows I love my purse." A day later: not only did he chew both ends of each side, but he severed them. Oh by the way: it was a new purse.

3. Scars on my ankles. For some reason it's A-okay to run past me and swipe my ankles. The last time he did it he left a red, bleeding slash. I think he's a serial-kittier. 

4. Scratches on my feet. What's more fun than making the bed and having a paw leap out from beneath the dust ruffle and scratch the top of my foot?

5. Cup-tipping. "Oh! There is a cup of coffee on her desk. What will it do if I just take my paw and ... push!" At one point I had so many stains around my desk the carpet was brown.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

The 10-Minute Blog

The 10-minute blog results from a full morning schedule of back-to-back meetings. It's the one you do when you already woke up early (and you're not an early-riser) and now you have 10 minutes to write and you don't know what to write. The 10-minute blog is designed to keep your blog readership consistent, posting regular, and writing fresh. Well, fresh is relative when you have 10 minutes and nothing to say. I could, though, prove that I type really fast in 10 minutes ;). Daily blogging is important. It keeps the search engine optimization on the "labels" or keywords out there being picked up by the search engine crawlers. It keeps Google alerts alerting. The ideal is to blog every day. At the same time, don't kick yourself if life gets in the way. Or just do the 10-minute blog.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Puddle of Life

Today's blog is personal. Several friends have been going through some hard times. After I had my own front-row seat on the show called "Hard Times" I've learned a thing or two. The worst cliché in the world that no one wants to hear turns out to be the truest truth: Time heals all. No one wants to hear that kind of platitude when they're hurting. What good does that do right when you're feel terrible? Most of us would prefer an instant-fix-it-now pill. Sitting in the puddle of our pain and disappointment as we wait for it to evaporate is a wet proposition. You can't dry until it evaporates. In the meantime you get to soak it all in -- good, bad, painful, real and present. Can't make it dry any sooner than it will dry. Can't escape the feeling -- it still is wet. And while this next piece of advice doesn't make it any better it's simple truth: sit in it, feel it, soak it in, and accept it. Yes, you're going to feel it for sure, and it's uncomfortable. But the uncomfortable "wet" spot won't evaporate and get better just because you siphon it off and make a puddle elsewhere. The puddle will still be there just moved. This description is my esoteric and metaphoric way of letting you all know the platitude, the terrible cliché no one likes is true. After a while; after the puddle dries you will feel better. So here is a great idea. Sit and splash in your puddle. Swim in it. Laugh about it. Study it. Understand it. And then when you're ready, get up, look at it, and let the sun dry it up.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Proud Mental Case

Britney, 3L Publishing's copy editor, recently said this about writing vs. authorship. She said, a writer loves to write. An author sits down and professionally writes a novel. I've been asked that question many times. I never distinguished the difference the way she described. Although I've written five books, I didn't give the title of author much thought nor did I consider whether or not I was a writer or an author per se. I typically say "writer," and I've used that moniker to describe myself for decades. I've done so many different kinds of writing including screenwriting and magazine writing that I feel it fits best.

These days as a publisher, though, I am prone to neglect my own books. Writing at various times becomes a difficult creative process. I find that I sometimes even avoid it. I can write easily enough (e.g., see this blog), but I can spend days or even weeks rolling thoughts about story around in my mind. Everyone has their own creative process. I don't write on note cards or create cast lists or write down anything except the story. My mind works that way. I arrange it mentally. My husband says I am up in my head almost all of the time. Being up in my head means I sometimes miss what goes on around me. People can talk to me, and it goes right through me. I have this perhaps rude ability to tune out and not hear a word that is said to me. At times I even get agitated because I am thinking, darn it! Don't interrupt my thoughts! ;)

If you spend at least 70 percent of your time in "la, la" land AKA your creative mind, you are reading this blog and thinking, "Yeah! She gets it." I bet a large percentage of intellects completely understand what I am saying. If someone were to call me a "mental case" I wouldn't disagree. I'm being slightly facetious, but in every joke is almost always a grain of truth. So here I am! A proud mental case.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Days of Yore in Publishing

Today's question from an author is a common mistake and misnomer. If you want the new rules of style in terms of word processing and digital printing, invest in the book The Mac is Not a Typewriter.

Today's question: do you still put the double space after the period? 

Old rules of business writing and even academic writing suggested we use the double space. Today the computer does it for us, and there is no need. Word processors put the right spacing in for the user. Older writers unfamiliar with the change in the rules still add the double space, which is unnecessary and removed during editing. The double space was used in typesetting methods where typesetters physically put the "plates" together with the words and used the spacing to distinguish between the end of the sentence and the start of the new one. Since the computer can now automatically do it, and the new digital printing methods don't require plates, it's gone away.

Underlining titles now works the same way. The underlining used to be applied because we could not italicize words with a typewriter. Since we can italicize, underlining is no longer used. In fact, underlining is distracting and messing looking. Specific style rules apply to italicizing vs. quotation marks. For example, names of songs use quotation marks. Names of albums or whole works use italicize. The New York Times features an article on "Proper Grammar" by Michelle Gamble.

There you have it! Today's style lessons.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Little Bear Who Wanted to Fly

Children's Picture Book
Author: Carol Shaver
Illustrator: Rachel Smith

This enchanting new children's book from my company 3L Publishing was an absolute joy and pleasure to publish. The sweet author who is full of moxy and passion wanted her precious story about a little bear named Cubby who dreamed of flying taken from her imagination to the page. She was able to achieve her goals by working with the incredible talents of Rachel Smith, one of our favorite illustrators.

The book's theme is simple: no dream is impossible! All children's books should be distilled down to simple concepts. When you can distill your story thematically down then the story becomes focused and clear to the reader. For children a simple idea is the best.

This book is also uniquely different because its size is 11 x 14, which means it's tall and wide. Carol was thrilled with the idea so that little eyes and fingers could take in the vibrant action depicted on the pages. Turning the pages would be slower and give kids time to ask questions. I had not thought of it that way, but then I loved the idea. If you would like to buy your own copy of The Little Bear Who Wanted to Fly, please click here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Word Crimes

This video is perfect from "Weird Al" Yankovic! Reminds me of Saturday morning cartoons where I learned things like "conjunction, conjunction what's your function ..." Yes, I just gave away my age, again! Enjoy the video and maybe learn something new like what is the Oxford comma. We don't like the Oxford comma around here, but other strict grammarian have a love affair with it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Endangered Species: People with an Old-Fashioned Work Ethic

I was chatting with 3L Publishing author Jason Kraus about his forthcoming book Late Bird. The subject of work ethic came up in the conversation. Jason admitted he chose 3L Publishing to create his book for two key reasons. He had watched my posts on Facebook to observe my viewpoints on key social and political issues, and he noted that I had an amazing work ethic. Without digressing into my stand on social issues, which I really don't spend much time revealing on social media but I guess I showed enough, I'll address the work-ethic discussion.

What happened to good-old fashioned work ethic? I've asked that question many times over the years? Without making sweeping statements, I'll give examples. The younger generation, which I'll suggest is from about ages 20-30 give or take have some perspectives that baffle me. My operations manager who is in this age range says this generation thinks they are all "special snowflakes" -- and honestly that made me laugh. I could see a teacher tell five-year olds, "You're all such special snowflakes." You know in that sweetly voice, too.

So we'll call this the "Special Snowflakes" syndrome. Special Snowflakes are taught that everyone gets a trophy for "trying". Everyone is special in his or her own way. Hard work and excellence are on par with mediocrity and effort. Kids are not rewarded for being the best. They are not acknowledged for working hard. When every Special Snowflakes gets an "A" for showing up this instills the belief system that to just be there merits something special. It dilutes competition. It kills the desire to be the best. Its like milk toast for excellence.

What's the fallout? Now I'm going to give you specifics. I've had not one, not two, but three personal assistants in this age range who thought nothing about work ethic. One girl didn't think calling in sick or calling in at all to let me know she wasn't coming was a perfectly acceptable work behavior. Another girl thought that if she didn't want to do it or she didn't "feel" like doing it, that worked as a reason to go home. I'll never forget being out on an errand and my assistant called about the Quickbook work. She said, "I don't like this. I'm going home." I about fainted from shock. Since when is it okay to tell your boss, "Um hey! I don't like this job. I'm leaving." AND still expect to be employed the next day.

When I started my career I never thought it was okay to not show up on the job. I didn't think I could object to work I hated doing. In fact, I just did it and got it over with. I felt fortunate to have a job. I was happy to be employed. I wanted to succeed. I wanted to rise to the top. Competition in my opinion is a good thing as long as its healthy. I want to strive for excellence. I want to be proud of my work. I want to stand out. A healthy work ethic, discipline, hard work and excellence all go hand-in-hand with success. It's time to stop telling kids "we're all special snowflakes" and encourage them to reach for the stars! And no, my son didn't need a trophy for every car race he "participated" in! It is the ones he got for first place that he still has! The rest went into the recycle bin.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's Amazon!

Before we publish any book, I always have to have the "talk" with authors. No, the talk isn't about the birds and the bees or "It's not you, it's me." The talk is about what I'll refer to as "Amazon World". In Amazon World all the rules of customer service and effective communication are obsolete. In fact, Amazon World has no such rules or cares to have them. You have to think of Amazon as this other planet where the laws of gravity do not apply. In Amazon World, the sign "Out of Stock" hangs on the doorknob to turn customers away. The irony is the more sales your book attracts, the longer the signs hangs. The ugly outcome is the same sign also repels sales, too.

I give authors the Amazon World talk. I warn them. I explain, "It's not us, it's them." But no matter how many times I give the talk, the authors' frustrations ultimately override my words, and I always receive "the email". The email is almost always the same: Dear 3L Publishing, what can I do to remove the Out of Stock sign on my Amazon page? Can you call them?" My response is always the same because the system never changes, "We can submit a Help Ticket." Submission of said Help Ticket will not propel orders any faster or get the Out of Stock sign off the site. It might make the author feel better for all of a day or two only to discover that the sign is back (if it's a hot seller) within days.

I know it stinks! I agree. But as the headline aptly says, "It's Amazon!" Amazon on one side. Boutique publishers on the other side. You can tell who "weighs" more. Do we like it? No. Do authors like it? No. Do we all want to start a war with Amazon World? I'm thinking I might be vastly out numbered LOL ... so all you author warriors sign up and let's go get 'em. ;)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mistakes on Professional Signage

The perfect picture and view from the historical site lakeside. 
Style, usage and grammar mistakes galore. Where did I see these mistakes? In a casual email? On a text? On a sign somewhere? No, not exactly. I saw these mistakes "littering" the historical signage sprinkled along a trail in Tahoe City to celebrate the town's 150th anniversary. At the end of the tour, I noticed that the local rotary club got credit for the signs. At that point I realized the "road to messed-up signs is paved in good community intentions but weak grammarians." Now to the average eye the mistakes wouldn't necessarily leap off the signs, but to the well-trained eye the errors flew off those plaques. Misused commas in strange places, no hyphenation on words that should have been hyphenated -- those two mistakes were the most common. I can only imagine how many corrections a professional editor would have left behind on that copy had one only had his or her hands on it. I imagined one of those papers the English teacher would hand back with a look on his or her face. Grammar Girl would not be smiling either.

What's our lesson for the day: always, always, always hire a professional editor. Always, always, always hire a professional editor if your writing will be out on public display -- especially for years to come. Silly tourists just like me will come through, read your mistakes, and blog about it. I have a saying that aptly applies to all writing: if it's wrong today, it's wrong tomorrow (printed).

If you need to hire a copy editor, feel free to check out my company's information at www.3LPublishing.com or call 916-300-8012.

Friday, August 1, 2014

This BLOG is CLOSED for a BREAK!

Every blogger needs a vacation! I'm giving my ole typing fingers a rest. I'll be back chatting you up on August 11.

Cheers!
Michelle