Friday, November 29, 2013

Coping with Windows 8



This may indeed be the incorrect way of doing screenshots, but the image illustrates what I want to do to my PC after uploading Windows 8. 

I've had my PC, which came with Windows Vista, for several years now.  Prior to Halloween a writer friend of mine offered her e-book for free for a few days and then on sale for less than $2.99.  I wanted to support her work and get the book, but the problem was I didn't--and still don't--have a digital reader.

Prior to the end of the sale, she announced you could still buy the book even if you don't have an e-reader, provided you have Windows 8.  About the same as my friend's book sale, I noticed my Windows Vista-based programs on both my PC and laptop were acting "clunkier" than ever before, despite doing regular virus scans, disk cleanings and defraggings.

After thinking about it for a few weeks, I figured it was high-time to upgrade.  However, I wanted to "test the waters" first by uploading the program on to my PC, before I upgrade my laptop.

I'm glad I held off upgrading my laptop.

I've been dealing with glitches and hiccups every time I turn on my PC. 

My friend Dale later told me on Facebook, that Windows 8 was primarily designed for touch-screens.  Since my PC isn't a touch-screen this could explain a lot.

Here's just an off-the-cuff list of the issues that have plagued me:

Right off the bat, a program called PCSmartFix popped up during the upgrade process.  I thought it was part of the Windows 8 package.  After the upload was completed I clicked on the desktop icon, which sprang to life and announced that I had 8,142 items wrong with my computer.  PCSmartFix could fix it all and make my PC run like new--for $29.99. 

I e-mailed the group  saying no thanks and initiated the uninstall sequence.

Windows 8 also came with some type of browser program (I think) called AVG Guard, which automatically added another tab.  I uninstalled this too, because it was seriously hindering my web browsing.

However, with AVG gone, my screen sprouts pop-ups like it was infected with the measles.  My friend Adrian suggested I adjust my pop-up blocker, which I did.  But the only setting that seems to work is "high," in which case I have to click the "allow once" button that pops up everytime I move to another page.

Another annoyance is having to scroll to different pages to do anything, rather than clicking on a desktop icon.

The biggest problems for me right now thoughis :  I'm not able to directly upload all the photos I recently took for my webcomic.
And when it comes to blogging, I'm not able to type anything within the main body area of the Blogspot program.

Some of these issues may be unrelated to Windows 8 and just happen to erupt now.

Then again, this could all be "operator error."

Whatever the reason(s) though, it's delaying my writing projects and seriously trying my patience.

(Image from mdjunction.com)
 


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!



Best wishes to all of you and your families this Thanksgiving Holiday.
 
Thank you for your support!

Monday, November 25, 2013

NW Bookfest '13 Workshop Review #10: Get Published, Stay Published

 
(Image from:  Publisher's Weekly Blog)


For the final workshop of NW Bookfest '13, I chose to attend Get Published, Stay Published; hosted by Terry Persun.

No matter what genre you're writing, how much you write, or whether it's fiction or non-fiction; chances are Terry has experience writing it.  So you can't go wrong attending any seminar or workshop he's a panel member of, or hosting.  (He was part of the sci-fi panel I discussed three NW Bookfest posts ago).

Terry can talk fast, but don't worry because he usually has handouts--which he provides AFTER his class.  This is to prevent folks from merely snagging handouts and slinking out of the room.  Besides, reading handouts after a lecture reinforces learning.  Right?

 
Anyway, here's the gist of Terry's advice on getting and staying published--
 
--Learn the business
--Learn to write (well that is)
--Commit (set aside time to write every day, if not at least regularly)
--Data mine everything for ideas (work, hobbies, interests, travel, etc.)
--Build your repertoire (keep writing)
--Be courageous (keep submitting your work) and finally--
--Know yourself and what kind of writer you are.
 
Terry divided writers into two general categories:
 
1. Product Writers--write anything and everything according to the market.
 
2. Process Writers--write only what interests them.
 
What camp do you pitch your tent?  (I'd consider myself a process writer, because I feel I'd have a hard time writing about topics I have no interest in).
 
Terry considered the following to be Five Key Elements for maintaining your publishing momentum:
 
1. Account for your work.
--Establish a production goal.
--Have several projects going on simultaneously in order to limit the effects of writer's block.
--Circulate your finished work.
--Be organized.
--Have samples of your work handy.
 
2. Conceptualize your work.
--Make sure your copies are clean.
--Check spelling.
--Spell people's names (as in agents and editors) properly.
--Respond--positively/politely--to rejections.
--Send out groups of submissions, not just in single shots.
--Don't shortchange your clients.  Send them what they want and do your best work.
 
3. Create a Community of Equals.
--Find people who understand what you do.
--Ask for help (but be sure to provide help when asked)
--Stay in touch.
--Share your success.
 
4. Live the life of a writer.  (No this doesn't mean drinking yourself into a stupor).
--Go to writers conferences.
--Market yourself.
--Let readers know about your projects.
--Support the business you're in.  Buy books from your author friends.  (Besides this could be a tax write-off).
--Market your friends' works.
--Promote reading/literacy in general.
 
And--
 
5. Treat writing like it's play.  Have fun! 
 
Remember, if you're bored with your writing, your readers will be too...

 
 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

NW Bookfest '13 Workshop Review #9: Best Practices and Formatting For Self-Publishing

(Image:  Gutenberg's Printing Press from The Renaissance Connection)
 
When I first started attending writers conferences several years ago, self-publishing had a less-than sterling reputation.  Self publishing was viewed as a last resort or act of desperation.  Not to mention the opinion that your book is lacking in quality.
 
Since then, opinions--and quality--of self published books have improved.
 
Oh sure, there's still a lot of self-made slush out there, but more authors are turning to self-publishing in order to maintain firmer control of their work--and keep more of their profits.
 
But self-publishing isn't a one-size-fits-all process.  In this penultimate workshop I attended for this year's NW Bookfest, Gerri Russell explained some of the pros & cons of self-publishing.
 
 
On the sunny-side, self-publishing is on the rise.  According to Gerri--
 
--Self-publishing has increased 287% from 2006-2012.
--87,201 e-books were self published.
 
What does all this mean?
 
The number of books self-published is now outpacing the traditionally published boo
Every self-published author is also a publisher (and all the associated headaches that go along with the title).
Books aren't primarily sold in bookstores anymore.  There sold via--
--online retailers, like Amazon, or
--downloaded on to gadgets like iPads, Kindles, Nooks
 
The Big Question to ask yourself, then:  Is self-publishing for me?  (Especially if I'm a newbie author).
 
Ironically, 40% of self-publishers are "old hands" that have books published via traditional means.  And 60% of self-publishers have been writing for 10+ years.
 
I guess old dogs can learn new tricks--at least in the publishing business.
 
Anyway, the Next Big Question is:  Can you earn a living self-publishing books?
 
Gerri's findings were--
--average income/year is $10,000
--mean income was $500
 
So don't quit your day job right away.
 
Who earned the most?
 
Writers with agents earn 3 times more money.
 
(Image from:  The Avengers)
 
Unfortunately though, not from these kind of agents.  Instead, believe it or not, writers get more earning power from people like this...
 
 
Romance writers earn 20% of the average income, while sci-fi, fantasy and literary writers earn 38%, 32% and 20% of the average income, respectively. 
 
An even bigger reason not to quit your day job.
 
However, being previously published helps writers earn 2.5 times more than those who haven't
 
So with all this dire news, should you still self-publish?
 
Yes, if you feel it's right for you and your book(s).  But "self-publish" doesn't mean going-it alone.
 
You will need the following assistance--
 
--an editor (for narrative continuity)
--a copy editor (to check for proper grammar & syntax)
--a proof reader
--a professional cover artist

The fact of the matter is, readers expect more from an indie author than a traditionally published one.  You have a reputation to build and flawed books won't be taken seriously.

So from additional tatistics Gerri unearthed--

--getting professional editing provides a 13% increase in earnings
--while a professional cover design increases earnings by 34%

You may not be able to judge a book by it's cover, but from a marketing standpoint, you can certainly sell more.

The bottom line is:  Prove to your readers and critics that you value your book.

The rest of Gerri's seminar was a quick run-through of various formatting procedures used by the following companies:

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
iBooks
Nook Press
Kobo
Smashwords

What ever method you choose, be sure to buy your ISBNs (International Standard Book Number) and spread the word of your book release through social media.


Here's to your success in getting published!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Happy 50th Anniversary to Dr. Who!

(Image:  Dr Who montage)

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the BBC's sci-fi/cult classic Dr. Who.  The Wikipedia entry says Dr. Who holds the record for the longest running sci-fi TV series in the world.

While Wikipedia is known for playing fast and loose with facts, I believe this one.  I remember my sister Rox watching Dr. Who, then played by Tom Baker, as avidly as I watched Star Trek.

I must admit though, while I'm familiar with the series--especially the arch enemies--the Daleks--

 

--I never really followed the show.

But even though I'm not a fan, I'd like to extend a Happy Anniversary to all my "Whovian" friends and family.

Enjoy the celebration!

(Image from: Dr. Who Series Seven) 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

NW Bookfest '13 Workshop Review #8: Podcasting for Writers

 
(Image:  Apple's podcast logo)
 
My sister "Rox of Spazhouse," has been a member of Weekend Justice for several years now.  Subject matter on the bi-weekly show usually revolve around sci-fi movies and TV shows, but also include music, technology, writing and pop culture in general.
 
While Weekend Justice bills itself as the "Internet's #1 Audio Trainwreck,"  there are other "cataclysmic" podcasts rampaging through cyberspace, covering as many topics as there are...well...topics.
 
Podcasting has even become popular within the wargaming community...
 
(Image from Boardgamegeek)
 
...okay, maybe it's a tad too popular.
 
Anyway, while I haven't made up my mind about following in my sister's footsteps, I'm intrigued with the idea of podcasting.  So the Podcasting for Writers workshop was another "must attend" item on my NW Bookfest list. 
 
 
The seminar was hosted by sci-fi author Cat Rambo, whose works can be found on The Escape Pod.
 
First off, what exactly is a podcast?
 
Cat's non-Wikipedia definition was:  An audio file that can by played or downloaded onto a computer or mobile device.
 
The benefits of podcasting are--
 
--Introduces a new set of readers to your work.
--Narrating your own podcast build confidence in public speaking and appearances.
--It's good exposure.
--When authors narrate their own work, it tends to improve sales.
 
What do you need in order to conduct a podcast?
 
A computer.
A good microphone.  (Cat recommended Snowball microphones).
And appropriate software, like--
--Audacity and
 
What do you podcast about?
 
Pick a story to read aloud.
Humor is often well received.
If you pick a tear-jerker, make sure you can get through it without sobbing.
Pick a story not heavily relying on dialogue, unless you can do voices.
Select a spot without a lot of ambient noise.  Don't do it in a large room.
Be sure to feed pets and children before you begin your show.
You can record other people's stories--if you have their permission.
 
Basic podcasting involves recording, editing and exporting in an MP3 Format. 
 
Some helpful hints that will make the process go smoother, included--
 
--Listen to your recording afterwards.
--Clap or shout when you make a mistake, so you can spot it on the audio track.
--Use only license-free music.
--Eat a slice of green apple before casting to help keep your mouth and throat "crisp."
--Keep drinking water handy.
--It often takes 2-3 times longer to edit than it does to do the initial recording.
 
How often should you podcast?
 
--This depends on what you're comfortable doing.
--Pick a schedule and be consistent.
 
You can even make a video podcast using Google Hangouts.
Up to 10 people can be hosted on a video call.  The session is broadcast live and can then be pushed to YouTube.
 
For more info, along with technical support, check out--
 
--or even take one of Cat's online classes.
 
Okay folks, that's a wrap!
 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

NW Bookfest '13 Workshop Review #7: Sci-Fi & Fantasy Open Panel Discussion

 
 Since my webcomic falls in the science fiction genre, I considered this workshop a "must attend" for this conference.
 
It was conducted as an open panel answering various questions from the audience.  There were suppose to be five panelists, but two went MIA (missing in action).
 
 
The three who did make it were, from left-to-right in the above image, were: 
 
 
Science fiction, or sci-fi covers a broad spectrum, as does fantasy
 
While both genres differ in many ways, the key element needed in both is extensive worldbuilding
 
Which was the subject of the very first question...
 
What are the challenges to worldbuilding?
 
Nicole (N): 
Where a place is often determines how characters make decisions.
The world should make sense and be consistent--it's a character and readers will spot inconsistencies.
Writers can often lose themselves in the details of their constructed world.
(She writes epic fantasy and often uses Earth's history and geography as a springboard for ideas).
 
Elizabeth (E):
Consistency should be refined during the editing process.
(She writes urban fantasy)
 
Terry (T):
Determining how much is familiar and how much is different.
Characters don't know everything about their world, just like people don't know everything about the real world.  (No data dumps!).
If you take the "science" out of your science fiction story and it falls apart--it's not science fiction.
 
How do you keep the middle of your story from sagging?  (A problem in every genre)
 
E:
Have other people read your story.
But keep in mind--people are usually right about what's wrong with your story, but not always right about how to fix it.  (I love this comment!).
Remove any scene that doesn't move the story forward.
 
T:
Look at climatic points.
 
N:
If you feel like your story is lagging and you're getting bored, your readers will get bored.
Try to put a back story [in any given scene] in one sentence. 
 
 
N, T & E:  Pantster.
 
What do you do with your short stories?
 
N:
Send them to magazines.
A short story is essentially a scene.
 
E:
Take poetry classes or workshops to improve writing short-form.
 
Do you recommend indie, or traditional publishing?
 
T:
Both, but for different reasons.  Have to love writing.
 
N:
Publishing is a business.  You have to decide what's right for your book.
 
How important is it to read material in your genre?
 
E:
Read books you love, good writing is good writing, no matter what the genre.
Don't just read for fun, but to understand the craft.
 
N:
Read within the genre you're writing in order to understand it's structure and form.
 
T:
Buy new books in this genre to support authors.
 
How do you find readers?
 
T (whose day job is in marketing):
Word of mouth, especially among friends.
If you plan on publishing independently your work must be very good because you're competing with published authors.
 
How much should magic impact the story?
 
E:
Don't have magic solve everything.
 
N:
There has to be a limit.
Using magic must come with a price.
 
How self-critical are you of your work?
 
T:
"I kick out my self-critic while writing my first draft, but invite him back in during the revision."
 
N:
"I write best in the morning while my self-critic is stil asleep."
 
E:
"I quit being a writer four times a day."
 
How have you evolved as a writer?
 
T:
Read!
Write first, then read about writing.
 
N:
Read & write everyday.
(She reads and takes notes on a 3x5 card).
Attend writers conferences.  (Like NW Bookfest).
 
E:
There are many ways to learn how to be a good writer.  Writing is a craft.
 
And with that, it's time for me to craft the next blogpost.
 

Friday, November 15, 2013

NW Bookfest '13 Workshop Review #6: The Advent of On-Line Magazines


Since my work is entirely on-line, I thought The Advent of On-Line Magazines would be an interesting and beneficial workshop to attend for the second day of NW Bookfest. 

The seminar was hosted by Nicholas O'Connell, publisher and editor of The Writer's Workshop Review a--what else?--on-line literary magazine.

Magazines have undergone a seismic shift due to the internet.  Printing costs keep rising, while on-line costs continue to drop.  Newspapers have been especially hard hit and some magazines have gone out of business altogether.

Some general characteristics of an on-line magazine include--

--Having smaller budgets, but operate with less money and reach a larger audience
--Distribution is simpler
--Literary magazines are often the stepping stone for fiction writers
--Such magazines are looking for new writers
--Often no set publication schedule for the literary magazines.

Literary magazines are a lot like blogs except they're more formal and articles can be longer than typical blogposts.  By "formal" I mean there's an editorial board of sorts that "curates" the magazine. 

Narrative was the first literary magazine to go entirely on-line, while Slate was the first one to turn a profit. 

Operating funds usually come from the writers themselves.  A magazine might charge $15-20 to anyone wishing to submit an article.  This slush fund is then used to pay the writers whose works get approved by the editorial board.

Sort of like an entry fee to a writing  contest.

What type of articles/stories get published?

It depends on the magazine and the audience can often determine the direction.

In Nick's case, he often gets stories about Ireland (due to his last name being Irish) and the Pacific Northwest (since the magazine is produced here in the Seattle area).

Good stories sustain a magazine, which often needs some prestigious writers to submit articles.  Otherwise, it's hard to attract the attention of new readers.

If you're thinking of submitting to an on-line magazine--

--Look for magazines that publish the kind of stories you like to read
--Read the magazine to get a feel for it.



Earlier, I mentioned how some magazines went out of business altogether.  This has been acutely felt by the table-top gaming community.  Some of the magazines we use to read here in the US were:  The Courier, Wargamer's Digest, The General and Strategy & Tactics suffered the same fate as the more mainstream publications did.

But now gamers can read--and maybe even write for--newsletters and on-line magazines, such as NHMGS's The Citadel and Warning Order

Wikipedia currently maintains an index of wargaming magazines, a few which are still in print.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

NW Bookfest '13 Workshop Review # 5: Author Platform 101--Baby Steps Count

 
(Image:  Implementing Ideas--Baby Steps by Innovationmanagement.se)
 
After "passing my sanity check" from the previous workshop (maybe), it was back to the same small room for the last seminar of the day:  Author Platform 101.
 
This was a panel discussion hosted by:
 
Abigail Carter  and her Writer.ly partner,  Kelsye Nelson, along with
 
Amy Raby and Ksenia Anske, moderated by Mark Hennon, President of the Seattle Free Lances.
 
 
 
Mark ran the workshop as a Q&A session for the young ladies forming the panel.
 
How much time should an author spend on marketing and social media?
 
--Start marketing now because it's too much to do later.
--[But] If you spend too much time on social media and marketing, it will cut into your writing time.
--If you're not happy on social media, people will sense it and steer clear of you.
--The best way to make money is to write your next book.
 
What is the best way to turn followers into readers?
 
--Connect with folks without always promoting your work.  (No one likes pushy salespeople).
--Give your followers something (free book/download, etc.).
--You should take and give on at least a 1:3 ratio.  That is, every time you ask something of your followers, you should return three "gives" no related to your book.
--A personal touch seems to draw a larger crowd.
--Be sure to respond in some way to comments on a post or tweet.
 
What is the most important platform?
 
The panelists agreed these were, in rank order:
 
1. A website, which should have your books on your homepage.
2. Facebook, but this may not be true for everyone.
3 Google+.
4 Twitter.
5. Pintrest, which is the #3 ranking social media site, but #1 for converting views to sales.
 
The hottest commodity is time, not money, which is why posting pictures is important.  Otherwise, as mentioned in a previous NW Bookfest post, followers will pass by your site.
 
Focus on looking for and building your audience.  While connecting with other writers, especially in your genre, will help develop your craft, it won't build your readership.
 
What mistakes were made or what didn't work?
 
--Trying to "be someone else."  Each writer's voice is unique, don't try to mask yours by mimicking others. 
--Moderate your site.  Don't be afraid of deleting comments by internet trolls, or other denizens lurking in cyberspace.
--Keep personal and author accounts seperate.
--It's your on-line account(s), so there's no real wrong way of marketing yourself.
 
What are some of the social media sites you like?
 
 
 
 
 
YouTube and
 
 
And so I managed to keep my sanity on Day One of NW Bookfest
 
It was a good time to spend indoors because a wind advisory was in effect for most of the day.  Fortunately, the storm didn't affect the conference, especially since I heard of some localized power outages.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NW Bookfest '13, Workshop Review #4: Staying Sane in the Digital Age

 
(Image:  Red Pill Blue Pill by Pencilshade1)
 
 Remember in my NW Bookfest Overview, I mentioned the writing community was spit over how involved authors should be in social media?  Well, looking back on the first day of this conference, I noticed that the very pro social media workshops were scheduled in the morning, while the afternoon seminars were hosted by the more casual social media users.
 
Starting with this one.
 
Staying Sane in the Digital Age was hosted by:
 
 
 
 
I was only a minute or two late for the workshop and found the small room packed to standing-room-only capacity.  (My recommendation to the organizers of next year's NW Bookfest:  Any workshop with the keywords "digital" and "sanity" needs to be held in a larger room).
 
None of these young ladies were of the all-social media-all-the-time variety.  While they recognized the importance of having an on-line presence, they valued their writing time even more.  So they suggested--
 
--Have a website and make yourself available to your readers, but protect your writing time.
 
If you find maintaining a blog siphons-off your writing time, then you can guest-write on other blogs.  Keep in mind some (many?/all?) of them are by invitation only. 
 
While we've heard the mantra of "write everyday," this is not always possible.  Because of her teaching job, Katherine for instance, does all her writing in August.  Kinda like a one-woman, summer NaNoWriMo.
 
Bottom line:  You don't have to do every bit of social media or on-line activity to be visible to your readers.
 
That pretty much covered it.
 
The rest of the workshop was spent discussing various writer tools, such as--
 
--MacFreedom and
 
 
While some of the sites they recommended were--
 
 
 
 
 
Unlike other time-suck websites, at least when you troll around the ones mentioned above, you're bound to learn something.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

NW Bookfest '13, Workshop Review #3: Creating Memorable Characters

 
(Image:  Partial book cover to Flashman)
 
Denise Frisino knows how to captivate an audience.
 
She should--she's an actress, along with being the author of Whiskey Cove, a novel set largely during the Prohibition Era.
 
Denise deftly blended her acting and writing experience while discussing character development.
 
How do readers first see your main character?
 
Think about "entrances and exits."  That is, give your character a good entrance, something memorable.
 
Think about how your characters look--not just standing in place--but how they move.  Incorporate body language, especially what characters do with their hands.
 
Think visually.  Why do characters dress the way they do?  If you're writing a period piece, rent a costume or dress the part.  This will familiarize yourself with the clothing characters move around in.
 
And speaking of movement:  If your character doesn't move your story forward, you'll lose readers no matter how compelling the plot is.  Characters need to change over the course of the story, but many of their traits should remain consistent.
 
Along with moving the story forward a character interacts with other characters in the story.  What are the relationships the main character has with the others?  These are not always the same, or equal.
 
Character interaction is often illustrated by way of dialogue.  Give your dialogue motion and avoid the "he said/she said" as much as possible.  Pay attention to patterns of speech so everyone in the story doesn't sound the same.  
 
Unless of course, they are the same...
 
(Image:  Clone troopers)
 
Anyway, in addition to character development, Denise offered several tidbits of writing advice--
 
--Keep index cards on each character.
--Add details of your character's life throughout the story--don't do a data dump!
--Stay on track with your research.
--Don't edit as you go.  Get the story down and keep moving forward.
--Know your audience.
--Choose a perspective and make it very strong.
--Ensure the storyline isn't "flat" but contains ever-rising tension.
--Create additional problems for the characters to overcome along the way.
--Make endings believable.
 
And with that, I believe I'll start writing the next blog post--in a day or two.
 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

NW Bookfest '13, Workshop Review #2: Increase Traffic to Your Website Now!

(Image:  Social Media Facts from Viralblog)
 
This workshop was hosted by Sean McViegh, owner of 425 Media, an internet marketing company headquartered in Bothell, WA--within the 425 area code.
 
Sean normally presents this seminar to clients over several hours, but managed to condense a lot of info into our allotted 1.5 hours.  Since this is a briefing he normally presents to customers, I'll just give you the highlights here.
 
First of all:  Why do, as an author, or some other entrepreneur for that matter, need a website? 
 
--It's your place on the internet
--It's not limited
--There's no fixed rules
 
Your overall strategy should be to engage and build your fanbase.  But is your site ready for traffic?
If so, it must be--
 
--Responsive and capable of being seen on mobile devices
--Easy to use and understand, otherwise people will get confused and leave--permanently
--Optimized for search, otherwise known as "Search Engine Optimization" (SEO).
 
Basic website components should include--
 
--Book cover and log line
--A contact form
--An "About You" page
--Social media icons
--Excerpts, testimonials, reviews and awards information
--Ability to purchase your book
--Newsletter sign-up form, and most important of all--
--Your blog
 
Blogging not only provides content for your site and engages readers, but it keeps search engines from considering your site inactive.  But what to blog about?
 
--Book releases
--Book signings
--Book reviews
--Conferences/conventions/shows you'll be attending
--Sample chapters
--Current events/news
 
Demonstrate to your audience you're a subject matter expert (SME) and know the top 20 SEO key words for your site and use them at every opportunity.
 
Among the content you provide, be sure to include an appropriate image--and give credit to anyone else's work.  According to Sean, 80-90% of people will pass by a post if there's no image.  He also said not to have more than two to three links per blog post.  (Okay, I'll have a hard time with this one, since I tend to go link crazy).
 
Since Sean runs an internet marketing business, he's aware of some of the scams & rip offs--
 
--Hosting fees should be more than $10/month (as of now--be aware of standard pricing)
--Get a detailed plan from anyone claiming they'll do a Search Engine Optimization for your site (this could cost $20-$200/hour and you may not see any improvement afterwards).
 
And while the various social media platforms are essentially good things, they're also what Sean called "walled gardens."  That is, they want to keep you within their cyber-confines--so they can market to you.
 
The biggest walled gardens are--
 
--Facebook with over a billion users
--Google Plus
--YouTube, it's the world's second largest search engine
--Twitter and finally,
--Pintrest, which is small in comparison to Facebook, but growing.
 
So, where to start?
 
Your priority should be to start a website.  Then get on the following on-line platforms--
 
--Facebook
--Google Plus
--Twitter and
--YouTube
 
As for me, I've been blogging for five years now.  That counts as having a website--doesn't it?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

NW Bookfest '13 Workshop Review #1: Connecting Authors & Readers via Alternative Digital Platforms

(Image from:  storycentral DIGITAL)
 
 I chose to attend this workshop because I'm not writing a traditionally printed book, but a webcomic.  I figured since I'm working directly on-line, I might learn something about connecting with more readers.
 
This was a panel discussion hosted by:
 
 
 
 
and
 
 
These ladies discussed the various on-line sites that can help writers promote their work.  One of them, and I'm afraid I can't remember who said it, summed it up best: 
 
The internet is the new slush pile
 
But merely adding more slush isn't an effective way of marketing yourself.  Serena had the following advice--
--Plan your promotions carefully
--Have a purpose to your promotion
--Know what you write and know your target audience
--Build readerships (this takes time) and finally,
--Ask other authors for help, review their advice and pass it on.
 
Christine added--
 
--Have a specific goal
--Get a mailing list set up, if your website doesn't have this feature then use Mail Chimp or Tiny Letter
--Make this mailing list something special for your avid fans
--For every 20 people contacted via marketing outreach, two may develop into readers/fans
 
And speaking of marketing, women along with YA (young adult) are different readers/buyers than men.  Women are very loyal and want a more continuous and personal relationship with the author.
 
Not a "one of and move on" experience like guys do.
 
All of the panelists agreed that having a website is crucial to your success as an author, along with the importance of blogging.  The typical blog topic is a recently published book, but what if yours isn't on the shelves, or in an app yet?
 
Serena had the following suggestions--
 
--Feature other authors and their works
--Post odd and/or personal stories about you
--Upload deleted scenes  (I also just read adding character sketches and backstories is another plus)
--Add some interesting research details that you didn't add in your story
--Images, people love pictures.
 
Finally, Lyn added writers should do book give-aways, which on average attract 800 readers, along with discussing some of the aspects of Goodreads.
 
But for anyone looking for something to actually read, rather than checking  out the ratings, all of the panelists talked about Wattpad.
 
I've certainly heard of Goodreads, but I haven't gotten around to singing up for it.  Wattpad is completely new to me.
 
Looks like I have some on-line catching up to do.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Stage is Set

 
I really like my new desk. 
 
However, earlier this week I started working on new backdrops for my webcomic, Breakout from Bongolaan, when I discovered I needed more space to do such project.  At first I used the dining room table, but I was constantly worried I'd stain it, or scratch it--like I did to my old kitchen table. 
 
After completing the first three backdrops, I brought up one of my small banquet/gaming tables from the shed.

 
It's the cleanest of the two. 
 
This arrangement worked well for the past couple days as I assembled several more backdrops. 
 
The process involved:
 
Taking downloaded images to the local printshop and having copies made.
Pasting the copies to foam white boards and trimming as necessary.  
 
Once that project was done and out of the way, I planned on shooting some pictures, but realized this arrangement wouldn't work.  I needed to place the table next to a wall somewhere in order to  prop-up backdrops and build scenes for each photo shoot.
 
So, I came up with this:

 
I had to move one of my foot lockers, but had enough room under the table to keep the second one, especially since I don't plan on doing much sitting at the table. 
 
This arrangement may not be in tune with Feng shui, but it is functional.  I can replace the floor lamp with one of my studio lights, or at least remove the shade to provide better illumination. 

 
Now that the "stage is set" so to speak, I'm ready to resume my photo work, which I plan to start next week.

Monday, November 4, 2013

NW Bookfest 2013 Overview



Over the weekend I attended Northwest Bookfest, a writers & readers conference held at Northwest University.

This was my first time attending the event, which was housed in the Health & Science center within the university's campus.

 
The directions provided on the website helped me navigate, as I drove hell for leather the posted speed limit up to and through Kirkland. 
 
As I zoomed past cruised up to the main gate, I spotted these helpful signs...

 
This year's theme was "Navigating the Digital Age."  Wifi was provided, of course I forgot to bring my laptop--on both days. 
 
Despite the digital theme, there were plenty of hard copy books available for purchase...

 
 
Vendors and exhibitors lined the halls...


 
...of both floors:

 
During the course of the two-day event, I managed to meet some of the local writers I know, like:
 
 
 Deborah Schneider (who I think organized the festival)
 
Terry Persun and his daughter Nicole.
 
I also managed to make some new acquaintances with:
 
 
 
Abigail Carter  (I even bought her book for my mom)
 
and
 
 
There were ten workshops writers could attend, five each day and a few of them were free to the public.  The ones I attended will be blogfodder for upcoming posts.  The main thrust of the most of the seminars dealt with building and maintaining an on-line presence so readers can:
 
a. find you--and--b. buy your books. 
 
However, the writing community seemed to be divided into two tribes.
 
The first tribe advocated getting on every social media platform in cyberspace:  Facebook, Pintrest, Google+ and even YouTube.  Funny though, MySpace was never mentioned.
 
The second tribe wasn't against all on-line activity, only against anything that made you feel uncomfortable, or siphoned off your most valuable commodity--time.  Time you need to write your books.
 
What both tribe did agree on is that writers need to have a user-friendly website.
 
Upcoming posts under the NW Bookfest label will be about specific workshops and what I learned (and what I've done/still doing wrong).
 
So stay tuned!