New Tricks

I’m not an early adopter. By which I mean, it takes me a while to warm to new technology and/or upgrades. If what I’m using works for me, I hesitate to throw my groove off by having to possibly learn all new modes of working.

Yet as an author I’m told I must engage in all the latest. A Facebook page, a Twitter account, Instagram, etc. And the more I use these and get comfortable with them, the more I enjoy them. (Also, they’re addictive. I’m pretty sure studies have shown that. We all want our dose of gratification served up as “Likes” and “Retweets” and whatnot. It’s just like the lab rat pushing the button to get its cheese.)

So here is an article on social media for authors (or, specifically, updates that might help authors), and now I’m wondering if I should add Snapchat to my roster. Sigh. Who has the time to write any more when there’s all this to keep up with?

Now on Facebook!

I’ve finally bitten the bullet and created an official Facebook page. Really, what I’ve done is succumbed to pressure. Everyone says you have to have a Facebook page, but I resisted because I already keep up with Twitter, and then have this site and my reviews site, and I dabble in Instagram . . . And I have an Amazon author page, and I think there’s a Goodreads page languishing somewhere . . . So much stuff! I need a staff to keep up with it all.

But anyway, I do hope you’ll join me on Facebook. I promise not to shower you with anything more than the fun, funny, and (hopefully) meaningful. Stuff for writers, and fans of mystery and YA fantasy. And occasional updates on my own stuff. That kind of thing.

Come on. You’re already on FB anyway. Just go click “Like.”

See there? I can apply a little pressure, too. 😛

DFW Con: Social Media

Okay, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of the DFW Con sessions I attended. After the opening remarks, Me Ra Koh came out to give a talk on social media. I’ll admit, I had no idea who she was. Even though I have young ones, Me Ra was not on my radar. But she was energetic, which was a good way to wake up, and she gave some nice, concrete pointers for upping my social media game.

First thing: the Amazon author page. I think I have a pretty nice one, but Me Ra said to add a video to it that gives maybe an inside look at me as an author. So be prepared, because I’ll be making a video tour of Little London soon!

And of course reviews for your books are key, too. Me Ra suggests giving away books to reviewers. Maybe promise signed copies (if you have print books) to the first few people who post a review. (Maybe I’ll give away a copy of Peter when it comes out to the first person to review “Sherlock Holmes and the Monumental Horror”?)

Me Ra said that many authors want to hide. They don’t want to put themselves out there or reveal themselves as real people. This is not a problem I have; I’m a ham. I love attention. But I can agree that it’s hard to put yourselves in the line of fire, by which I mean, it’s difficult to face criticism. And every writer will. No one gets all good reviews all the time because only the lowest common denominator of work is going to please everyone. And I don’t want to be a LCD writer.

Meanwhile, what to blog about? What to put out there as content? It can’t all be about your book. You have to be providing readers with something more than a sales pitch. Me Ra says the key is to figure out what you’re about—what is your life’s theme? She gave us a huge list of possible themes and told us to circle the ones (only as many as three) that jumped out at us.

Sample themes:
Skill versus Strength
Compassion as Heroic
The Mystery of Death
Loss of a Loved One
Social Class
Coming of Age
Pitfalls of Temptation
Dangerous Knowledge
Lost Dreams
The Quest
Death and Rebirth

The list goes on and on, and is not exhaustive. Thing is, I’ve thought about this even before hearing Me Ra’s talk because I do seem to come back to similar themes in my work, and they are the themes that also occupy my real life. Ideas of destiny and “meant to be,” and also proximity to greatness, or “almost but not quite” making it. I’m not sure how I’d turn these themes into regular blog posts or whatever, but I am very aware of their prevalence in my work.

Identity, too, is a major theme for me: discovering and embracing who you really are.

Me Ra says to blog only a couple times a week but then push those posts out to Facebook and Twitter, and always include a photo. Things to blog about include:

1. Sharing excerpts from your work
2. Personal stories and anecdotes that relate to your theme(s)
3. Extras that don’t make it into the book
4. Anything that inspires you
5. Anything you can teach
6. Talking about your creative process

But DON’T ask your readers for anything. Only post once you’ve personally worked through something and can tell a complete story, rather than dumping on your readers and asking them to deal with your bad day. Avoid negativity or else no one will want to read it.

Me Ra went on to show us some ways to get Facebook to work better for us. I don’t have an author page on FB yet, but I’ll be starting one soon, and I hope you’ll all come like me! (In the meantime you can like my Tarot FB page if you want.) She says to post 8–10 times a day (you can schedule the posts to go up throughout the day) and to share others’ content because if you don’t, Facebook limits your reach. Good to know!

This was the point at which we were out of time. But I think Me Ra gave really good tips, and I appreciate her being able to kind of, sort of wake us up. Next it would be time for me to go pitch . . . The butterflies were winging it through my stomach . . .

Winter Wonderland

Our weather has taken an uptick the past couple days, which meant the start of a new holiday tradition: mini golfing! The kids had never been before, and they loved it.

I’ve also managed to get in a couple nice walks thanks to the cooperation of the weather:

1. “Stranded on a Sandbar” by Jimmy Buffett
2. “Argue” by Matchbox Twenty
3. “If I Could Give All My Love” by Counting Crows
4. “Bigger Than the Both of Us” by Jimmy Buffett
5. “Real World” by Matchbox Twenty
6. “Mrs. Rita” by Gin Blossoms
7. “Alison Road” by Gin Blossoms
8. “If You’re Gone” by Matchbox Twenty
9. “Unkind” by Tabitha’s Secret
10. “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5
11. “I’m the Cat” by Jackson Browne

1. “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
2. “Heaven” by O.A.R.
3. “Love and Luck” by Jimmy Buffett
4. “Everything Will Change” by Gavin DeGraw
5. “It’s Not Right For You” by The Script
6. “Why Should I Cry For You” by Sting
7. “Rest Stop” by Matchbox Twenty
8. “Human” by The Killers
9. “All the Right Moves” by OneRepublic
10. “Luck” by American Authors

Yes, I know, a marked lack of holiday tunes. But for some reason “the cloud” won’t let me download my Andy Williams, and I never did upload my Bing Crosby or Jimmy Buffett’s Christmas Island. So the only Christmas song on my iPod is Rob Thomas’ “New York Christmas.” Which it played the other day in the car but otherwise has been MIA in rotation.

I do think it’s funny that I had “Fortunate Son” stuck in my head, and that was the first song my iPod pulled up today.

And my hawk friend joined me again today on my walk, too. I see him pretty regularly now. I take pictures, but WordPress is not letting me upload any for some reason, so I can’t share. Such a pain, and I’m not at all tech savvy, so . . . (I do also put them on Facebook, if you friend me there. Look me up as Amanda Langlinais Pepper. It’s a personal page, not an author page; I had an author page but couldn’t keep up with it, so I stick to this and Twitter for that stuff.)

Anyway, we’ve entered that Winter Wonder-wasteland in which one ceases to receive any email that isn’t the virtual version of a sales flyer. Sigh. I hope this doesn’t mean a cascade of rejections after New Year’s! In the meantime, I’ll try to enjoy the holiday break, even though I’m itching for [good] news.

Things We’re Sick Of

So in my last newsletter (and if you haven’t subscribed, you missed out, but you don’t have to—just sign up on the sidebar at the right) I listed a few things we all seem to be tired of:

1. Dystopian YA novels. (And the dystopian YA movies they spawn.)
2. Superhero movies. We may love some of them, but they’re all starting to look alike. They’re the fast food of film, and we’re starting to be hungry for a real meal.
3. Authors promoting other authors. It’s great that we want to help each other out, but it’s like preaching to the choir. And does having 20 blogs all reveal your cover on the same day really get you anything? Except people who are sick of seeing it after the fourth or fifth time?

Then I asked people to e-mail me what they’re sick of. The answers included:

1. Football. Even though the season has only just started! Well, and with all the bad news the NFL has been generating . . .
2. Click bait Facebook posts. You know the ones. They all end with “. . . and what happened next will amaze you!” (Or, alternatively, bring you to tears—but what’s bringing us to tears are all these damn posts.)
3. Quizzes on Facebook. Okay, I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for these things. Guilty as charged.
4. Facebook in general. Because so much of it has become ads, and the rest of it are quizzes and click bait. No one has anything interesting to say.

Honestly, I think we’ve come to a place where social media is all advertising and no content. And the advertisers are trying to make their ads look like content. That’s the latest thing. But—and I’ve said it before—the Internet has become a lot of people shouting and very few listening. It’s kind of depressing.

So, for those of you who didn’t get my newsletter or else didn’t e-mail: What are you sick of?

SFWC: Building a Web Presence

This session was run by Karma Bennett, Francis Caballo, and Anne Hill. I was hoping to learn some new stuff, but a lot of what they said seemed like common sense to me. Maybe this session was really aimed at older authors, people still trying to wrap their brains around all the newfangled technology and social media.

The first thing they said was basic encouragement: Believe you have a story worth telling, but don’t think you know everything. Be open to new information and to learning new things. Social media is meant to cultivate friendships and help you stay connected.

I don’t know if I entirely agree with that sentiment, since to me social media mostly seems like a lot of people standing in a room and each one is shouting, hoping to be heard over the others. But that’s the cynic in me talking. Certainly I have made a number of great online friends. And we’ve helped each other with our writing and in promoting each other’s work. It can be done.

The next thing the ladies told us was that if there is some kind of emergency that is going to take you offline for any length of time—if you’re going to be absent from your blog and Twitter and Facebook feeds—try to let your followers know. Because if they check your site every day, or even a couple times a week, and it seems abandoned, they’ll probably stop coming altogether. But if they know it’s only temporary, they’ll come back when you do.

And then they gave the usual spiel about how you shouldn’t only use your blog, or Twitter, or whatever social media you choose, to market and promote your work. In order to get people to read your blog or pay attention to your tweets (and maybe retweet them), you should “add value.” That’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, but it means you should have useful and interesting content on your site(s). They suggested that you only ever have about 20% personal stuff (and that includes stuff about your book) and the remaining 80% should be other content, which can include you promoting others’ works or whatever.

They all said Twitter was the best for marketing, though.

Facebook pages were badmouthed all weekend because Facebook makes it so difficult to reach fans. The algorithms are problematic; most of the people who have liked your page won’t see your posts unless they visit your page directly. This is because Facebook wants you to pay to advertise and to “boost” your posts.

It was suggested you post at least four times a day on Twitter, spaced widely apart so as to grab the most eyes. The “life” of a tweet is a mere two hours. So if you tweet something on Monday morning, consider tweeting it again come Wednesday afternoon and Friday evening. Space it out and cover a lot of various time slots. Else your tweet will just be lost.

That said, of course don’t just tweet the same thing(s) over and over. You need fresh content on a regular basis. For fiction writers it was suggested you blog or tweet about: other books, content related to whatever kind of writing you do (romance, sci-fi, whatever), pictures (but be sure to cite sources), whatever inspires your writing, what your writing process is, your characters’ backstories. You can probably think of more, but these are places to start.

Finally, be natural. Act like yourself. Don’t introduce yourself online and immediately try to sell your book. Would you walk up to someone new and say, “Hi, I’m So-and-So, buy my book!”? I hope not. Instead, get to know people. Interact. Leave regular blog comments so people start to recognize you online. Help others promote their work so when you’re ready they’ll be more likely to help you in return.

While this is stuff a lot of us may know already, I hope I’ve still “added value” to my site by sharing it—and the whole of the conference—with you!

Yea, Yay & Yeah

I just want to go over something with you guys. I love you all, but this keeps cropping up (mostly in FB posts), and it’s starting to peeve me. So let’s break down the differences between yea, yay, and yeah.

Yea (prn. “yay”) is used in the sense of it being the opposite of “nay.” Vote yea or nay. It is a formal version of “yes.” In the King James Bible, Jesus says, “Yea, verily,” a lot, meaning, “Yes, I very much emphasize [whatever it is he’s preaching at the moment].”

Yay should generally be followed with an exclamation mark. It’s short for “hooray” and is meant to denote excitement and/or pleasure at a turn of events.

Yeah is pronounced differently from the two above and is an informal version of “yes.” It also has many colloquial uses, such as in, “Oh, yeah?” (a substitute for, “Oh, really?”) and, “Oh, yeah!” (like the Kool-Aid guy says).

And as my geometry teacher used to say, “Clear as mud?” I used to laugh when he said that; all the other students just continued to look confused . . .

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve seen this error mostly in FB posts, which are hardly a bastion of good spelling and/or grammar. But I figure if we start here and spread the word, maybe people in general will become more aware of the appropriate spelling and usage of these three little words.