7 Ways to Get More Exposure on Social Media Daily

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Picture of two teenage girls smiling and making funny faces while sitting on a couch.
“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic.” – Seth Godin

 

“I don’t know how to get people to see my [fill in the product] on social media.”

Nope. Sorry. I cut off anyone who starts a lament to social media with this phrase. Especially authors. There are dozens of ways daily to gain exposure on social media. Not just from fellow writers (although don’t discount them entirely, they read too) but from honest-Abe readers. Take Twitter.

To tweet or not to tweet

The question really is: To Twitter Chat or Not to Twitter Chat. And it is absolutely to Twitter Chat.

A quick exercise. Open another tab in your browser (don’t do this in this one or else you will lose all my beautiful pearls of wisdom and have to back click and that just sucks). Go to Google. Type in “book chats Twitter.” I don’t know about you but about six Twitter accounts revolving around ‘book chats’ or ‘book marketing’ or ‘book readers’ came up. To top it off, a link dedicated to List of Regularly Occurring Bookish Twitter Chats by Book.Blog.Bake. came up. Hint: those would be good places to start.

Seriously. Click in and follow those accounts. Scroll through their feed. See if they host or participate in a Twitter chat that seems to be somewhat stable, regularly occurring, and something you’re into.

On average, I know of and participate in at least four Twitter chats a week. I’m not always the most regular at participation since, well, life. But I make it an effort to pop in sometimes and be seen, build relationships, learn stuff.

The bottom line is there are Twitter chats being held every day of the week, multiple times a day. Hence the title of this article. There are seven ways to get more exposure on social media daily because there are seven days in a week. And that’s just Twitter. Facebook has groups for readers; even Google+ does.

If knowing there are seven days in a week isn’t enough for you, here is my list of seven ways to get more exposure on social media daily:

  1. Know your demographic. Do some research. Know who you want, and “readers” is too generic. Do better.
  2. Decide where to spend your effort. You can’t be every at once unless you decide to quit working, never write again, and just be online in your jimjams. And then nobody wants to talk to you anyway.
  3. Commit to it. Engaging on social media takes commitment. If you have issues with that, you might want to rethink a profession that requires engagement and consistency and social ability.
  4. Engage. And I’m not just talking Picard here. You have to actually want to talk to people, not just hock your product. Be real. Be authenticate. Don’t be a douche.
  5. Karma Reach-Arounds. Give props to the chat organizer, and not just during the chat. Don’t get all stalker-y or anything, but make sure to thank them for organizing/moderating the event. Chats take time and patience and dedication. Thank them for that, and while you’re at it give ’em a little reach around no and again when you aren’t getting somethin-somethin out of it.
  6. Know when to take a break. It’s the ‘you’ show. If you don’t know anything about a topic and really don’t have an interest in the topic, don’t participate in the chat that week. Doesn’t mean you can promote it a little and say “Hey, this is some good stuff over here.” But know when to take some time off.
  7. Don’t be a hog. Are there literally dozens of chats on Twitter alone seven days a week? Duh. I already said this. Point of reiteration is to mention that while you can participate in every single one of them all the time, you shouldn’t necessarily. This goes back to #6. It isn’t the ‘you’ show. Give your audience a break sometimes. Remember putting yourself out there on social media to engage readers and hopefully get them to like you well enough to care to read your book/blog/song lyrics/whatever. You won’t endear nobodies if you are the annoying song on the radio that plays on every channel non-stop (we’re looking at you Titanic Celine).

“Why, BC, what Twitter chats do you like?”

Well, I’m glad you asked. I like these following people:

  • #K8chat – Publishing-related chat for readers and authors. Every Thursday from 9-10pm Eastern. Host: @K8Tilton
  • #StoryDam – Come talk about writing stories! Held every Thursday from 8-9pm Eastern. Host: @StoryDam
  • #litchat – LitChat is for book lovers. All books. All the time. Mondays and Wednesdays from 4-5pm Eastern. Host: @LitChat
  • #indiechat – Indiechat is a Twitter chat designed for indie and self-published authors. Every Tuesday from 4-5pm Eastern. Host: @BiblioCrunch
  • #NextLitChat – If you are a new adult author, reader, or curious as to what new adult is, this is the chat for you! Held every Thursday from 9-10pm Eastern. Host: @NextLitChat

Image of a redheaded woman in a black leather jacket. She has her hands held up in the American Sign Language sign for 'I love you.'BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.

Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction ◘ Quixotic: Not Everyday Love Stories ◘ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

 

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Author’s Book Marketing Guide: Month 1 Pre-Release

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One month to go. You are almost there with comprehensive pre-release strategy that will have your book come out of the proverbial gates a-swingin’! To date we have broken down what to do each month leading up to your book’s launch date, including media kits and contact procedures, arranging for public speaking events, internet presence with social media, organizational methods, graphic design and branding, and interpersonal relationships.

There is no easy way to say this, even with all the hard work you’ve put in so far, the months right before, during, and immediately after your launch are absolutely critical for your book success. History has shown in the traditional publishing industry that book sales are strongest in the first 90 days after release. It will be your measuring stick; and it has also proven to be the time when most books reach bestseller status. Even if that isn’t your goal, it certainly can’t hurt and, when dealing with traditional publishers, can show a strong presence enough to get your book on limited shelf space in stores.

In this section, to make sure you have as strong a start with your book release as possible, we will cover the following:

  • The media blitz
  • Tour scheduling
  • Street teams

The media blitz

You have a strong media list curated if you’ve followed Parts XXXXXXX on my blog. You have the press release polished and snazzy. You have your one-two punch media pitch. Now it’s time to put it all into action. Pitches and press releases should be sent out approximately four to six weeks before your launch date. While we know the world works in lightspeed paces, it takes real time for a reporter to cover a story, including working with their and your available schedules. If you start at the six week window, I recommend follow up reminders and additional releases weekly to keep on their radar.

Radio/Podcasts

Hosts often plan their guest appearances a few weeks in advance. This includes podcasts. They’re busy people, and they have their own marketing pre-release they have to account for. You will most likely need a combination effort with emails and phone calls to get a guest spot. I’ve found it often takes six or more contacts before you get the host’s attention without being too annoying.

The prep work for radio and podcasts is easy. Make sure your voice is well modulated; if you’re a heavy breather or throat-clearer, make sure to avoid doing so. It’s okay to have someone record you in advance like a mini-interview and then listen to yourself so you don’t sound awkward. Since I’m profoundly hearing impaired, I’ve had friends record me and listen to the recording on my behalf to make sure I don’t do things I might be missing. The same feedback can be helpful for normative hearing people too. Every little bit helps. The best audio tip to give about doing a radio/podcast interview is to remember to smile. It will make your host more comfortable with you (if you are in studio) and will make your voice sound open and friendly. The best preparation tip I can give is to have your top two or three points written down in front of you. Radio (and often podcasts) aren’t long, and they often have multiple guests. You may not get a lot of time to talk so make sure you get the most out of your time with the most important information.

TV

Television can seem daunting. The camera is terrifying to many. Especially writers who are often introverted by nature. But you can use the fact that television is visual to your advantage, even if you don’t like the spotlight.

Find visuals that relate to your book. Depending on your book’s nature, you might be able to do some sort of “show and tell,” have photos or illustrations. For instance, if I was to write and promote a book around my blog posts 8 Tips for Shopping Thrift Stores and 5 More Tips for Shopping Thrift Stores, I could have models demonstrate the “do’s” and “don’ts” of thrift store-found fashion. Just ensure that you clear everything in advance with the production team and host who will need prep time to set the stage and react.

Even if you don’t have anything more to go along with your book, being an engaged and enthusiastic guest is good TV. Read a little on how best to dress for the program (or ask the stage manager), and then just do what you do – tell a story, only the story is how entertaining or impactful to others’ lives you and your work will be.

Tour scheduling

Again, you’ve done the work: media lists and scheduled interviews, set book signings, and planned for live events – now it’s time to promote them! Check with radio stations/podcasts about advance promotion of events; many will. Most bookstores promote who is going to be there well in advance with in-store signage; maybe you can even get them to put you on their marquee out front along the roadside. In addition, many bookstores air or publish their own press releases, send newsletters, and do special promotion to VIP members. Conferences and conventions always promote on their websites, even if you’re not a big name celebrity, in the program, and on advance PR.

Let’s face it, like authors, some venues promote better than others. Some do virtual zero promotion. You must remember to ask what promotion efforts they have planned. If they don’t have press releases planned, offer one you’ve written. Tell them they’re welcome to use it on their website and social media as well. Do you have a blog following? Promote there. Keep your signing and speaking schedule posted on your website’s homepage, put it on social media, send it to relevant websites before, during, and after your events. Get your street team (that we’ll be discussing shortly) to get involved however they can.

Keep media releases of different lengths. You want one that covers your whole engagement schedule. You also want short announcements for each event. The media isn’t likely to pick up every event, unless you’ve made some sort of impression on them, but overall odds are good that many releases will get some level of coverage.

Friends who blog? Ask them to mention your upcoming events if their readers are in your target audience. Keep the upcoming events in front of your own readers by making them part of your regular newsletter. Keep it relevant on social media by updating frequently. Post it at places like Shelfari and Goodreads on your profile. Certainly have it available on your Amazon or Barnes and Noble profiles.

At every interview, mention where you’re going to be next. I always mention my next event and the one following that, especially if the first date is close to the interview air date. That way people have two chances, and someone who goes “Darn. I’m not available on such short notice” will have a second option that is further down the road to attend. Keep those interviews linked on social media, website, and blog. Helping to drive continual traffic to the host’s or reporter’s site by posting your interview links is an easy and good way to thank them.

Remember to set up Google Alerts to let you know when your name and book title are posted anywhere on the web. It will be important to know how your information is getting out there and beneficial to see who is the most effective at distributing it. Doing so will allow you to streamline your communications going into the future. That’s not to say to cut out traffickers that weren’t the best, but you can reach out to them later and prioritize your go-to promoters first.

Street teams

This is an older term that stems from radio. Radio stations used to have interns flood the market with flyers and promotional items. Don’t we just wish we had that kind of manpower and budgeting? Well, in part, you do. At least the manpower.

Do you have a handful of good friends and supportive family members that can be counted on? Who had read your manuscript before it was published? Often times an author can count on their beta readers as the basis for their street team. From there, you can build outward. But first you have to take a little bit of time to train your street team on what it means and how they can help you.

Establish willingness

“You must always ask; never assume.” Just because a beta reader had time to read and critique your manuscript prior to publication doesn’t mean they will have time to join your street team. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. To incentivize street team members you can always offer something: a signed, advance-review copy of the book is often appreciated, a small gift that relates to your book, even tee shirts. Sometimes the team members just likes be the “first to know.” Every team is different.

Establish tasks

This is what you need. Typically, it’s best to ask street teams to complete easy, inexpensive tasks like:

  1. Ask local stores to carry your book and contact you for a signing;
  2. Request their local library branches purchase your book;
  3. Write early, positive reviews of your book on Amazon or favorite online seller, submit reviews to relevant blogs, and post to social media;
  4. Put up advanced flyers and posters about upcoming events at coffee shops, universities, or other popular hangout places;
  5. Attend your events, often acting as a “plant” to ask questions, start conversations;
  6. Invite people, especially their friends, to your events;
  7. Call in during radio or podcasts with questions;
  8. Suggest your book to local book clubs;
  9. Provide a gift of your book (maybe one that you provide to them) to influential people they know;
  10. Talk your book up with people they know!

Some people balk at the concept of “plants” in an event’s audience, but there is nothing unethical about having people who genuinely enjoyed your book in the audience at events. Thinking of it from the big marketing point of view. Companies give out free samples and trial sizes all the time in hopes people will talk up and also buy more of their product. That is all a good street team does in essence: they talk up your product and get people buying!

 

Okay. So we have covered what to do in the month prior to your book launch. If you’ve followed the steps each month then you should have a comprehensive book marketing strategy that will blow the roof off your book release.

 

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
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Author’s Book Marketing Guide: Month 2 Pre-Release

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Photo: Notebook with checklist and hand checking off the list.

The countdown is getting close! Are you able to breathe? Hopefully with the homework we’ve laid out in Months 6, 5, 4, 3 of the pre-release plan, the only nervousness you feel is the excitement of your new book almost ready for a booming and successful start! This month is all about “priming the pump” so to speak for advance sales.

This month we’re going to concentrate on:

  • Article directories
  • Press Releases
  • “Push” pages

Article Directories

Remember that in order to catch peoples’ attention, you have to be visible. The best way for a writer to increase their visibility (not to mention increase inbound links to their website, therefore increasing search engine results) is to have name recognition everywhere. That means contributing articles online. You can easily capitalize on any membership sites you belong to. Doing so increases your membership’s community library and helps establish yourself as an expert. (Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be about writing or publishing. Any expertise can be linked back to your website, which will promote your book when it releases.)

There are also a number of articles directory sites. Articles directories are super easy ways for your articles to find their way into blogs, newsletters, and other sites. With these directories, you retain full attribution and gain links to your websites. Posting your articles for free is sometimes the quickest way to have people pick up on your material for redistribution among their blog, newsletter, or website. While the effort won’t be directly compensated, the exposure to different networks can be amazing. Most directories allow you to track your articles so you can ensure the poster does properly attribute you and provide a link to your information (like your website, book link on Amazon, etc). Sometimes your articles can even end up in publications around the world, increasing your visibility and establishing your expert status.

If you’re like me, the thought of writing “how-to” articles as a fiction writer was daunting. But, as you can see, as a writer, no matter that genre, you are an expert in writing, at the very least. From my own trials and errors (many, many errors!! Oy vey!) I learned how to market myself and my books better, and a lesson learned is something that can written and submitted!

 

Press Releases

All right, the time has come to put together your book’s press release. I recommend completing on main release, then all you need to do is tweak the first paragraph a bit here and there for other releases. The “tweaking” allows you to tailor it specifically for types of publications you want to target.

But I’m a fiction writer! you’re thinking. No worries. So am I, but a press release is easy. Think of it as backwards storytelling. In fiction we start with the broad and tailor down to the specifics. In press release writing, we start with the specifics and supply the filler information. So your “who, where, when, what, and why” information is at the top. Make sure to include a headline and lead sentence to “hook” the readers, just like you did when writing your back blurb. (Example: New Book Provides Step-By-Step Book Marketing to Authors). Don’t make the mistake of focusing on you as the author (example: BC Brown Launches New Marketing Book). The writer isn’t as important in the headline as catching the reader’s attention. The first sentence needs to hook the reader with what is new, original, or hmmm….weird about your book. Then hit ’em with the book title, release date, publisher, and author name. Head into the next paragraph with a one-line recap of the book’s content. The best is if you can focus on how to book solves a problem or introduces a useful process. If the book is fiction, then you need to highlight how your book is different or original from the others on the marketing, and your one-line recap should be a plot summary. Then add on your credentials.

You head into the next paragraph with any special launch events, media appearances, and book tour signings. Don’t forget to give accolades to your publisher or distributor (if you have one). I tend to give my editor a little shout out here also. Definitely include how your book is available – online, in bookstores, and/or through your website. If self published, it’s best to not mention that fact. It’s unfortunate and unfair but a lot of stigma is still tied to self publishing. Although many indie authors are making strides toward bettering the image in quality of work and expertise, it isn’t quite there yet.

Last paragraph should include your website information, push page (which we will discuss next), and contact information so interested stores or media outlets can follow up with you. Successful press releases are limited to around 200-300 words. Keep sentences short, use active verbs, and keep the focus on what the book delivers for the reader, not on the book itself. Your credentials should always show how your experiences is beneficial to the reader. Make sure to double-check for typos. You wouldn’t believe how many press releases have come across my desk with errors in the email or phone number for an author – yikes! (A useful hint is to read your press release backwards, starting at the bottom of the document and reading it one line at a time to the top. The break in continuity will keep your brain from “filling in the known gaps” and glaring errors should present clearer.)

Traditional media outlets are still sticklers for what they consider “professional submission guidelines.” And let’s face it, the traditional media outlets still dominate the landscape for news. Make sure you follow the traditional press release format. Here is the example I used for my novel, A Touch of Darkness:

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Glorious Bastards Press 555-555-5555

A Touch of Darkness Revitalizes Gritty Noir with Dark Humor, Realistic Police Procedural, and Touching Humanity

     Mattoon, IL—A Touch of Darkness, An Abigail St Michael Novel, the newest title by fantasy author BC Brown, catapults into the modern-day, alternative reality of mysticism and madness with Abigail St Michael, former cop and psychic consultant.

A Touch of Darkness opens in the midnight world of psychics and serial killers with the death of a child, washed in the shadows of night and the alternating red and whites of police lights. Abbey St Michael is forced to confront an evil on her doorstep that may be closer than she ever realized. With her unique brand of dark humor and sarcastic wit, she struggles to catch a killer while not getting caught herself.

BC Brown’s first work, the dark fantasy Sister Light, Book One: Of Shadows and published under the pen name BB Walter, burst onto the sci-fi/fantasy scene first as short fiction and then expanded by request of fans for a full-length printing. Sister Light then went on to repeated sold out signings while on book tour and earned high praise from reviewers and readers alike. In A Touch of Darkness, Brown has brought all the sweeping vision of epic fantasy to contemporary paranormal mystery with an added noir grittiness and realism evident in its market pre-sales.

A Touch of Darkness is published by Glorious Bastards Press, a new author collaborative imprint. The Abigail St Michael Novels are distributed in the U.S. by Simon & Schuster. Learn more at www.bcbrownbooks.com.


When submitting your press release make sure to embed it in the body of your email. Do not attach it as a document. Understandably reporters are uneasy about opening attachments for fear of viruses. Many firewalls are built to keep out attachments for that reason. You should always include a personal note to the correspond in an effort to build personal relationships. Keep it brief however. I usually start with a line or two about one of their recent articles I’ve read. Just remember to be sincere, actually read the article. Then wrap it up with a polite note asking their consideration for your release.

Don’t forget about all the paid and free press release distribution services. The paid ones range in price. I’ve seen them go from inexpensive to costly, depending on their presence and distribution, plus bonuses that can be added. I’ve used PR Newswire in the past. Free sources I like to use are OpenPR and 24-7PressRelease. There are numerous others, and I suggest doing a little websurfing to see one that fits you best.

Why press releases? Every release that gets picked up online will drive traffic to your website and the push page we’re about to discuss. It also helps boost search engine results, creates buzz about your book, and builds visibility about you as an expert. Don’t forget to use your press release when emailing bookstores too. Their PR person will be able to use it in their marketing when setting you up for book signings and events. Always notify media personally of events when you’re going to be in the area as well. And don’t forget about capitalizing on the “homegrown” aspect – let local professional association publications, alumni magazines, community event publications – know about your book and who you are. You’re a celebrity now!

Push Pages

A push page is an industry term that allows for online pre-sales of your book. This can be done even if you are self publishing by creating a pre-order button on your website.

Most commonly used in non-fiction, push pages are becoming popular in genre fiction work as well. Typically push pages (for fiction) use pre-ordering by offering bonus materials, such as a short story in the same genre etc. It can be anything really (audio recordings, swag, etc) from the author. The point is an incentive to commit to and purchase the book prior to its launch. Another fun way to market (and grow your audience and author network) is to ask other authors to cross promote with you. You can ask them to offer an excerpt or downloadable chapter, article, discount (anything) to your launch. Just remember that you want similar content without competing messages. This can work especially well if you and an author friend have opposite publication schedules. Also, ensure you have a way to fulfill the cross-promoted material (or the material you are providing) so everyone gets what you’ve promised.

To recap: this month you should be working on article directories and submissions to them, press releases to be sent out, and push pages for pre-release sales. If you haven’t yet, you should make sure you have bookmarks, business cards, posters, and book “fliers” designed and ordered. Send out your press releases and review copies. Contact bookstores to schedule those important signings. Start scheduling conventions and conferences for speaking opportunities and signings.

During all of this, make sure you update your spreadsheet with notes as to who you’ve contacted, when, and responses received. This includes media, reviewers, and book stores. Make notes about personality, outcomes, and overall experience. You can work with those who are willing to work with you instead of against you by keeping accurate notes. And it will save you a lot of time in the future! I also consider what “swag” I will be giving away at future events. In the beginning, I suggest keeping it small: bookmark with some type of giveaway (I suggest a short story download), maybe pens or magnets, candy). Keep it simple and small at first. Find ways to tie it to you or your book when possible.

Okay, well that wraps up your 2 month pre-release. You are well on your way to a successful launch if you’ve followed the steps laid out. Remember, by following each of these little by little you save yourself a lot of last minute stressing and initials sales that may be discouraging, to say the least.

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
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Author’s Book Marketing Guide: Month 3 Pre-Release

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Let’s get ready to rumble!

Okay, we’ve covered what to do in months 6, 5, and 4 prior to book release. We’re halfway toward your release day. In this post you should start to see all the hard work you’ve put in so far pay off. This month, we’ll focus on: 

  • Website content creation
  • Blogging schedule
  • Utilizing social media for pre-launch excitement
  • Mailing out review copies

Content, baby!

All knowledge is worth having.” (Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey)

Knowledge is one of the most valuable resources in today’s world. As a writer, that is especially applicable to you. Every time you write, you turn what you know into content for others to consume. A good writer knows how to go one step beyond their book however. But don’t worry about having to do a ton more work. You can take what you already know – how to write – and repurpose it into content. For example, I’m using my own marketing fumbles, bumbles, and jumbles to help you take an easier path while on the road to book marketing. In the end, it’s

Author Book Marketing Plan, Month 3 by BC Brown @BCBrownBooks - Photo Credit: Eric Rothermel. Source: Unsplash

a win-win for us both. You get the benefit of my knowledge, and I get you reading my blog and learning a little bit more about me and my writing.

 
I’m bloggin’ it! Your website and subsequent blog are amazing opportunities for you. Combined with social media, you get to share your expertise with the world. Using your website and blog to put out valuable content is important. It’s makes you more than just a spammy spammer shouting “Buy my book!” at everyone. Think of it like this, your book is like your business card to the world. It tells people you’re here and you write. Your website and blog are your pitch, which you should remember from Month 4 Pre-Release. The media pitch is your chance to sell not only the story but yourself as an expert as well.
 
Your website is also a great place to offer readers a “sneak peek” at your book. Offer them a free chapter to get them hooked on your story. I mean, a little honey goes a long way. You can include interviews, a Q&A session for readers, and audio and video chats. You can tie in current events with your books. For instance, if you write a paranormal series about witches based around Salem, Massachusetts, even if it’s fiction, you could write historical tidbits about the Salem Witch Trials, or expand out a series of articles for the week leading up to Halloween or El Die de Los Muerto (The Day of the Dead). 
 
Feel free to invite other experts on your website too. Cross promotion between writers or other artists can only improve your traffic and broaden your reader base.
 
Be a social butterfly. Social media is a great opportunity to grow your network into a global audience. The trick is having interesting content to add to social media, keeping it updated, and participation, participation, participation!
 
Many writers make the mistake of only adding their website or book content to social media. It’s a big neon sign of “Look at me; look at me!” And then they vanish until, lo and behold, the next “Look at me!” moment gets posted. Social media takes a little time and commitment, but it is well worth the effort. It’s true that every time you post any content on social media, you make it easier for search engines to find you. Which, as an author, is important. You want those clever little searchbots seeking you out. What you want to avoid however is them only finding the same, boring things over and over. 
 
I spend a great deal of time on social media, surfing and chatting, sharing and liking information out there. Yes, a lot of content I share is writing-related, since that topic happens to interest me. But I also make sure that for every article I share I am careful to be conversational on my social media channels. I include content that isn’t just writing or book related. Essentially, you need to be a person – multifaceted like the characters in your books.
 
I can’t stress how important it is to have a regular presence on social media. Don’t set up profiles on a dozen sites, slap up some introductory promotion, and then abandon the sites until your next blog article hits and you want the promotion. Do you have to be on there every minute of every day? Certainly not. Not if you plan on putting in your due diligence writing your next book and promoting your current and upcoming ones. Then, of course, there’s always that whole family and friends thing you should put a little time in on. Oh, and a job if you have one of those. Keep your presence on social media active and load it more heavily with you as a person than you as an author. Just don’t forget some of the author gig too.
 
It’s time to fish. Now that you’ve got your media pitch and reviewer letter all squared and polished, it’s time to cast them out there, baby. This can get overwhelming quickly, especially if organization isn’t your forte. I recommend keeping this to a manageable amount each week. I tend to go with 3 media pitches and 3 reviewer letters per week. That gives me a dozen by the end of the month. Fairly respectable. Some times reviewers and media people will have comments or suggestions for reaching out to them or how to better pitch. Take the advice and adjust as needed. Continue doing this routine each month right up launch day and even after. 
 
So basically, what we’ve established this month is you getting social media accounts squared away. Do your research and find out where not only authors are but where readers seem to be. Get those accounts set up right away. Remember to keep it small at first. You can build your social media network gradually as you get more comfortable.
 
We’ve also talked about getting content going for your website. I recommend writing and having a minimum of two months worth of valuable content ready for your blog in the pipe at all times. For me, I come up with a list of topics I want to cover and then take one afternoon to get them all written and ready to post. Keep in mind that the key to being valuable to your reader is keeping your content high quality, interesting, and consistent.
 
And, lastly, it’s time to send out your media pitches and reviewer letters in small batches. You have 3 months left until your book launches. That’s a comfortable amount of time to get booked on a few radio, TV, or podcast spots, still toss in a few newspaper interviews or spotlights in the local “hometown news” sections, and get a review or two back from established reviewers. 
 
If you’ve been tackling each month as I’ve written about it then you are well on your way to a bombastic book launch.
 
Photo: Author BC Brown
BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.



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The Writer’s Pack: Flagstaff Arizona

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Writing is…ruff.

And sometimes all a writer needs a little headspace adjustment to get over the obstacle that is “being a writer.” For me, nothing works better than pulling myself bodily up a mountainside with my canines: one plowing forward and blazing the trail, and the other nestled comfortably in her baby carrier modified sling. An old dog’s little bones just can’t do mountains anymore.

Recently, I headed north to the mountains of Flagstaff to a small camping area just on the outskirts of town limits. The day was a beautiful Arizona brisk with sunlight dappling through the canopy; the nights were a chill Arizona shock requiring three base layers and my winter bag for comfortable sleep. But the hike…oh, the hike!

The Shepherd, the Squeaker, and I decided to tackle a small section of the Arizona Trail that cuts past Flagstaff, directly through the campsite I’d picked. As we hadn’t been able to be out for a while, I decided to keep mine and the pack’s hike a little short, down to 10 miles, and it was good. Until the fickleness of nature reminded me that I was in Flagstaff, the snowy region of Arizona, and not Phoenix. 

The sleet and hail that hit was immediate. The pack and I were fortunate we were already on our way back at this point. While the Shepherd was starting to flag, I think, had the weather remained beautiful and brisk, she would have held up the last mile of the hike. However, with the freezing rain and the small but stinging hail against her backside, my normally robust and energetic hiker ended up being soothingly coaxed verbally up the last rise to our camp, her tail between her legs. In the meantime, the old lady that makes up the other half of my hiking buddies was chilled and being pelted and squeaking her indignation, trying to squirm from her carrier. 

My hiking pack cover suddenly became a blanket for the Shepherd, although it did nothing to abate the hail hitting her and her moans. And my jacket was turned around to cover the old dog riding angrily on my frontside, letting my back and pack get soaked through. After far too long to hike only one mile, the pack and I made it back to the campsite. But we weren’t given the opportunity to rest or change clothes as the Doctor (for those of you just tuning in, the Doctor is what I call my partner who resembles Doctor Who’s 11th Doctor, Matt Smith) took a tumble in a mountain bike ride and needed me to get the truck and fetch him.

After another 30 minutes spent shivering and wet (our truck has no heating system), we finally made it back to camp and into dry clothes, sleeping bags, and cups of hot tea. But I can’t complain too much. Among other reasons for retreating to the north of Arizona during the “winter,” I went to clear my head as a writer, to gain perspective on the latest fantasy I’ve been writing called Light Falls. All in all, if cold and wet and stung with hail, it worked, as time spent with my Writer’s Pack almost always works. I wrote this:

His boots squelched in the mud underfoot as his body weight drove him down into the soft ground. Clutching the wound at his side, the crimson of his blood dribbled down and mingled with the frigid rain puddling beneath his squat form. Breath plumed into the early evening air. The woodgrain of the shed’s planks scratched at his cheek and chin pressed against them. The beasts’ clicks echoed in the distance. But not distant enough. He needed to move, but where? He’d retreated as far back as he dared from the skirmish, but Kijack surrounded him. The wind had shifted and brought the flat odor of death on its wings. He supposed he should be thankful for the season. The cold offered him respite from the carrion stench of his fallen militia three days cut down in the field. It also spared him the putrefaction he knew must have set into his wound by now, the rusted metal of the beast’s makeshift lance still protruding from his gut. 
He was going to die out here. He knew it, and the crows who circled and stalked his movement, often giving away his position to the enemy, knew it. If the infection didn’t kill him, then the days without food or water or rest would do it. Or surely the cold, a chill that permeated his leathers and drilled into the marrows of his bones and triggered the rasp of his lungs.
A twig snapped on the other side of the shed. David tensed. Pain seared his side, spreading from his gut. Pain and numb were the only two sensations he had left, and the Duc of Mervar clung to them both knowing they still meant life. 
Knuckles screaming, he curled his knife around the dagger in his belt sheath. He might die out here, but he’d make the Enemy’s beasts take him instead of giving into the hurt and the cold. 
Ay Lady be it ever so cold though.

I think the Writer’s Pack was successful, no?

Photo: Author BC Brown
BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)

Upcoming: Karaoke Jane

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Step-By-Step Self Publishing on Kindle: Book Basics

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Book creation is as easy at 1, 2, 3.

We talked about foundation of your Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) adventure in my previous post Step-By-Step Self Publishing on Kindle: Getting StartedThis week, we’re talking about individual projects and the steps needed to getting a finalized product on the digital market. You’ll go through this process with each ebook you intend to upload, so we might as well get started.


Your Book. Ok, so the basics who who you are and how to pay you are out of the way. It’s time to start in on your actual book. Each New Item uploaded will require data input for the Product Description. Here are the basics:
  • ISBN: If you’ve purchased an ISBN, you can enter it here. However KDP will automatically generate an ISBN for your work if you have not taken that extra step. Personally, I let KDP generate my ISBNs. A friend of mine bought a lump of ISBNs for her work a few years ago. She uses them to organize her different series with similar ISBN numbers in both ebook and print. Just a small detail that helps keep her organized during inventory and accounting.
  • Title: Enter the whole title of your book.  You can and should utilize the subtitle category of this process if you can. We can go over that in more detail later however. If there is a volume number to your book, also put it in the Title Category. Anything and everything that is useful to a successful search option should be considered for the Title Category.
  • Description: Oh boy. Descriptions are hard. We’ve just written a book and blurbs are hard. I mean, if we could have wrapped up the whole story neatly in 300-500 words, we would have just written it that way, right? Here are a few things to remember when writing your description:
    • Professionally written. Don’t let an unprofessional description undo all the professional work you put into the book itself.
    • 70,000 foot view. Only include the highlights and most important details of the book.
    • Don’t over-exaggerate. Building up the reader’s hopes and not delivering on the expectations will get you nothing but negative reviews, which can hurt your sales.
    • Concise writing. This sort of goes back to the “professionally written” part previously stated. But I can’t stress enough the fact that the blurb is a teaser for your book. It has to be short and sweet to hook the reader’s information without giving away the plot. Also KDP limits you on the number of characters you can use in your Description.
    • Generalized comparisons. Many authors make the mistake of comparing their books directly to famous books currently on the market. I’m not saying you shouldn’t compare, but avoid things like “This book is the next Harry Potter,” unless specifically taken from a review. You can say something closer to Readers who lived and loved the magic of the Harry Potter series will enjoy XYZ Title.
  • Publisher: Author name or imprint name. And, again, I stress the importance of making sure
    Photo Credit: Alejandro Escamilla

    you don’t steal another imprint’s name. Google is easy, it’s fast, it’s free. Trust me, a lot of writers have been super clever before your clever need.

  • Language: Fairly easy. Select your native language. If you have had the book professionally (and I emphasize professionally) translated then you will need to create a separate New Item for each translation. If you publish in one language but want to point out the work is published in multiple languages, do that in the Description Category.
  • Publication Date: If this is the first edition of this book’s publication, enter the release date. If the item has appeared in another format somewhere, enter the first date it was published.
  • Categories: These help sort your books for readers searching Kindle. Remember, you are allowed a maximum of 5 categories. Take the time to read through the whole list; you might find a category you hadn’t considered. For example, in my paranormal mystery novel A Touch of Darkness once I started looking, I found there is a category specifically for ‘African-American Female Heroines.’ For my Abigail St. Michael Novels that category is perfect. Amazon searchbots are also incredibly clever to use the keywords within those Categories to optimize search results.
  • Author: Seems a duh moment to most authors, but you also have the chance in this area to add Co-Authors, editors, illustrators, narrators, photographers, fore words, introductions, prefaces, and translators. Doing so can link you with those individuals’ accounts (if they have them) and help you leverage their established networks. Plus, it’s just plain right to properly attribute anyone who helped work on your book that wants to be attributed (always ask first). And it’s just another way to get those clever searchbots in on suggesting your work to readers when they’re looking.
  • Keywords: Categories along are not enough to deliver your book into the search results of readers with their fingers at the keys. You need keywords. Typically 5-7 descriptive and relevant keywords is the preferred target range. Is it a rule? No. Sometimes it’s okay to have a few more to make sure your book’s topic/s gets covered properly. For example, for my paranormal mystery A Touch of Madness I used the following keywords: psychics, serial killers, magic, fantasy, dark humor, interracial romance, romance, and science fiction.
  • Product Image: There is nothing more frustrating than a pixelated or blurry Product Image when shopping on Amazon. It’s no exception with KDP. Images uploaded must be either JPEG (.jpg) or TIFF (.tif/.tiff) and 72 dpi to meet Amazon’s minimum threshold for thumbnail Product Images. When you purchase your cover art, ensure the artist/designer provides you with multiple DPI quality images to use on the print book, promotional material, and online.
  • Edition Number: When dealing with books that have been revised multiple times, it is important to include an Edition Number in each new upload. It does a number of things like tell the readers there is updated information or corrections in the book, as well as tell those clever Amazon searchbots to push out an updated version of your book to readers who have already purchased it. Some authors will go so far as to list each edition and when it was published.
  • Series Title: Readers like a series; authors love a series. When completing work in the same series, make sure to include your series title. For example, my paranormal mysteries A Touch of Darkness and A Touch of Madness are both part of the An Abigail St. Michael Novels series.
  • Series Volume: Mostly this works for magazines, journals, or any title issued in a series. However there are instances where an author has chosen to put out a work in serialized form. Notable was Stephen King’s The Green Mile.
  • DRM: Stands for Digital Rights Management, and there are only two options 1) Enable DRM, or 2) Do not enable DRM. Personally, I always enable DRM. It’s an extra step to go through but it ensures that I have the opportunity to shift my uploaded document to match KDP’s format specs perfectly. It also gives me a preview of the document as it will be seen on ebook readers. This preview step can help save you from weird formatting and possible negative reviews from it. A lesson I learned from the first edition of my paranormal mystery A Touch of Darkness.
So there you have it. The basics leading up to uploading your book to Amazon Kindle for self publication. After this point, it’s only a few more quick steps to having your book self published on Amazon for millions to buy.
BC Brown
BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
 

Upcoming: Karaoke Jane                                                                   

 

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Author’s Book Marketing Guide: Month 4 Pre-Release

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T-minus 4 months until launch. 4…3…2…

So far we’ve broken down the book marketing process by Month 6 and Month 5 pre-release. In this post we’ll discuss what steps you should be taking toward in Month 4. We’ll be looking closely at:

  • Writing your media pitch, reviewer letter, and press kit; and
  • Setting up speaking engagements or book signings.
Pitch it good. A well written or scripted media pitch is what you offer to radio or podcast hosts, TV shows, and reporters or interviewers in order to book you as a guest on their show. A typical media pitch is approximately ten seconds and it has to reach out and grab the attention of a busy reporter or host. Make it interesting, use humor (although keep it light, many people are humorless), and focus on what you can do for their listeners/viewers. Do it right from the beginning with a catchy headline. (If you need examples, just take a listen to the nightly news or common radio programs and how they pitch their headlines to hook a listener/viewer.) When possible, try to tie your topic into current headlines. There is nothing like being relevant to a story a journalist is already working on. Shoot, anticipation of a few key questions with snappy answers are good to have on hand.
Just remember that hosts and reporters are busy. I mean, like above and beyond busy. A good host or reporter has to keep their fingers on the heartbeat of everything going on in the world because they never know when or where the next big story might come from. A friend of mine is the booking agent for a local A.M. television show and she said it takes (on average) 5 phone calls or emails to catch her attention. Persistence counts here, but remember to be polite at all times and give a sufficient amount of time between emails and phones and follow up emails and phone calls. No one wants to get a phone call about the email they just received two minutes before that.
A pre-release review is like a bird in the bush. Or something to that end. Seriously, having reviews of your book in anticipation of its launch is a feather in your cap. Ensure you have ARCs (Advanced Review Copy) of your book for those reviewers who prefer a print book, and specific ARCs of your ebook to send out to reviewers. But, before all of that, you need to write and perfect your reviewer letter.
  • Step 1: Personalization. Your letter should always been personalized to the reviewer and publication/site you are sending it to. Make sure in has your publication information (title, ISBN, publisher/imprint name, release date, and distribution), and includes a 75-100 word recap of the book. Make the fact you are submitting the book for review very clear; many writers use bold type. Personally, I include a brief 100-or less word bio and any details of upcoming book tours or media events. Do not include these last two items unless you actually have a tour and events booked. End the letter with a thank you, something personally and not generic. Offer to send cover art or any other information they might like to have. And make sure your contact information is easy to find and read if they have questions and need to reach you.
  • Step 2: Follow Up. Don’t be surprised if, with your first book, you don’t hear back. Consider a polite follow up phone call or email to ensure the book arrives. Keep a list of everyone you sent the ARCs to, dates you sent them, and (when you follow up) keep track of how you are received: excited, noncommittal, rude. Cross off the rude one.
  • Step 3: Due diligence. Most reviewers will not contact you when they review a book. It’s easy to set up Google Alerts to notify you whenever your name, book title, and/or company are mentioned anywhere online.
  • Step 4: Thank you notes. Not all reviewers are going to like your book. They may not write a positive review. Even those that do like your book will always point out a flaw or weakness in an effort to appear balanced. When you receive a positive review, send a polite and short thank you letter. When you receive a bad review Stop. Take a walk to vent. Do not contact the reviewer. If the review seems unusually harsh, make a note in your spreadsheet and don’t send that reviewer future books. I used to send a polite thank you note to even the reviewers who disliked my books. However I learned quickly that while your intent is to thank them for their time, politeness can be misconstrued for snarkiness or bitterness. It’s better to avoid that possible misperception.
Important people have press kits. And you are now important. Or at least you are on your way to being important, so you better have one ready. Press kits contain:
  • Author bio, in varying lengths
  • Book summary, in varying lengths
  • A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page
  • Concise interview with you as an author
  • Short book review.
Step 1: Author Bio. Already covered in my Author’s Book Marketing Guide: Month 5 Pre-Release, so we will go straight to the book summaries.
Step 2: Book Summaries. Reporters live for things to be easy. The simpler you make it for them to describe your book by pre-writing a summary of it for them, the happier they will be. Typically, I include a page with a 1-sentence summary, a 50-word summary, and a 100-word summary. I know of authors who include a 200-word summary. The bonus is that, while these are great for media, they are super quick ways for you to grab a brief description for program books or enhancing your bio when needed.
Step 3: FAQs. Every wish an interviewer asked you a specific question? The FAQs gives you a chance to ask all the fun, interesting questions you wish people would ask about you or your book. Maybe you want to let people know what an expert you are at something, or why you decided to write about that topic. Maybe you just want someone to ask about your personal quirks like your unmatched sock collection or your collection of grotesque artwork in your home. Whatever it is, you can include it in the FAQs. Just make sure you can tie it back somehow to your work. You can even use this time to drop story ideas for future work. If you’re lucky, sowing those seeds early with lead the media to promoting future books by mentioning upcoming new titles. Again don’t mention anything that isn’t concrete. If you haven’t even written the future book, don’t mention it. If you’re in the editing phase, then it’s probably safe to mention.
Step 4: Self Interview. Yeah, it seems and feels weird. But a self interview can be a gold mine. Small town newspapers and magazines may pick up the article and print it word for word. Keep the interview limited to one page (500 words) and make sure to include all relevant data about the book including future books and any titles you have in your library.
Step 5: Book review. A ready-made book review can also be a big help to a reporter who is crunched for time. Focus on how original your story is and use positive (again don’t over exaggerate) language. Some authors feel the need to point out weaknesses in order to seem fair, but remember that not all reviewers do that so you don’t need to either. This is, after all, your book. You want to put all the good upfront to catch the reader and the reporter. Keep the reviews to one page (500 words).

Remember to include your press kit on your website, and always customize your pitches to individual reporters and reviewer letters to specific reviewers. 

Photo: Author BC Brown
BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every bad deed in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)

Coming soon: Karaoke Jane                                                                 

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The Best/Worst of Phoenix Karaoke: Bridgett’s Last Laugh

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Karaoke Queen back at you again with another local karaoke joint right here in Phoenix, Arizona. Bridgett’s Last Laugh, like the other two places I’ve written about previously here and here, is one of the 7-nights-a-week karaoke bars the metro Phoenix area has to offer. 

Let’s get down to it.

Pros:

  • Food. Bridgett’s has one of the best after hours menus I’ve run across. A little above the standard bar fare of fries and burgers, the prices are incredibly reasonable, the food well prepared and served.
  • Atmosphere. Since Bridgett’s hosts many karaoke contests and events on a regular basis, the average bar crowd blends seamlessly with the karaoke crowd, is positive and upbeat, and appreciate a good singer/s. The crowds fluctuate between large and nearly deserted.
  • Selection. They’ve recently upgraded their equipment from CD cassette loaders to a laptop and the quality is much improved as well as the speed of getting the next singer up in the rotation. While they do not have a lot of new songs yet, the host has been steadily adding new music over the last several months. Plus, their selection of older songs is full, including some off-beat tracks like I prefer.
  • Rotation. The host is a stickler for maintaining the rotation. If you’re hoping for favorite playing or to bribe your way into a better spot in the rotation, you’re looking at the wrong joint. As someone who appreciates a well maintained rotation, I put this in the Pro column.
  • Hospitality. Hands down, a friendly bar. On my first trip there (or anywhere in Arizona for that matter), the host noted I was sitting alone and invited me to his table of karaoke regulars because, as he said, no one is allowed to be lonely at his karaoke. Since then I’ve been back several times and now consider many of the karaoke regulars as friends outside of karaoke.
Cons:
  • Alcohol. While I’ve never required alcohol to make me “brave enough to sing” I know many do. The alcohol selection at Bridgett’s is pretty standard fare with no frills. For that, their prices are a touch on the higher side (unless they’ve changed that recently). 
  • Bartenders. Don’t get me wrong, Bridgett’s has had some wonderful bartenders. They’ve also had their fair share of cold and distant ones. As I often go on random nights to get an accurate sampling of the place, it’s been a crapshoot as to what kind of bar staff will serve me.
All in all, I give Bridgett’s Last Laugh a favorable rating for karaoke in Phoenix. Located in north Phoenix, it might be a trek for some but I’ve rarely been on a “dud” night. Even when there have been very few singers and crowd, the host/s have managed to keep it entertaining and lively.

BC Brown Photo
BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)

Upcoming: Karaoke Jane (2016)                                                                   

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Description for Writers: Detail Work

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The devil is in the details.

Every decision you make as a writer, the length of your sentences to the point of view you choose, crafts your story’s description. It’s easy to write “Beth sat in her car.” It describes an event. Concise and clear. But “Beth wept and leaned on the steering wheel, her tortured breath pluming in the shadows and fogging the windshield” is full of all sorts of jazz. 

Instinctually, writers jazz up their sentences all the time. It makes us good storytellers. But it is that instinctual jazz that turns a plain declarative sentence into a descriptive sentence. For

Neil Gaiman quote credit

instance, the fact that your character’s breath is “pluming” tells us the atmosphere – cold – and possible season – fall or winter. That same “pluming” may even draw an association from your reader as chill or uncomfortable, which describes you scene and ties back to the fact Beth “wept,” as well as the detail that she “leaned.” And both the “steering wheel” and “windshield” describe a vehicle without implicitly stating she is in a car. 

In essence the second sentence you wrote described the same event as your first one. The second sentence however gave your readers more detail, set your mood and your scene. 

It is important to understand that you needn’t change your natural writing style to accommodate details. There are many writers who have a more minimalist nature. They use spare, economical prose that leaves a story open for reader imagination and conclusion. Well placed details (a burnt but unlit cigar, an echoing silence, a flickering light) can serve a writer better to express a character or setting. Other writers tend to the dramatic, the flamboyant, with description. Some readers are versatile, comfortable to slip into the author’s personal style easily. Others prefer certain styles only and tend to stick with writers who embody those preferences. Myself, while I am (generally) a minimalist reader I am a flamboyant writer.

The telling detail. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to shine the light on a character in your story. These one or two illuminating finds are “telling” details in fiction, going beyond simple observations to enlarge a reader’s sense of character or place. A woman’s carefully tended or touched up heels show she is low on means but cares about her appearance. The teen’s greasy hair projects an outsider mentality. The dog’s laid back ears indicate uneasiness at a situation. The sheen of patina on a dining set indicates the restaurant is more upper class and well maintained.

Detail like this makes fiction more than your typical what’s-next storytelling. It becomes more an accounting. Carefully choosing your details at the right times during your story give the reader an intimate access to the inner truth of person or place. It is one thing to tell a reader your character seeks love and intimacy and quite another to show them leaning into an individual during conversation or smiling dreamily at a person as they speak. 

Sensory input. As authors, we often get caught up in describing a person or place, we forget to tell more than just what we see. While a carnival is a feast to the eye, as well as great fun to write about the sights, we mustn’t forget there are four more senses to explore: sound, taste, touch, and smell. The carnival being a riot of color rocketing around the open field is fine and good, but it might serve the story better to know that the air dripped with the acrid odor of burned popcorn and the ears rang with the tinny, shrill blast of games and barker’s calls.

Simile and metaphor. A strong simile or metaphor can be the wind in the sails of a good descriptive fiction. Without them, a writer tells only a bare bones story rather than showing a fleshed out one. When used sparingly, simile and metaphor can give life to a story. But keep in mind that overuse of either can drown it just the same. While assuming most writers know the difference, I’ll include a brief explanation of simile and metaphor.

  • Simile. A direct comparative feature. A figure of speech and usually introduced with like or as comparing one thing to another thing.
    • Janet’s hair was as soft as fleece.
  • Metaphor. Metaphors are less direct. A figure of speech that leaves a reader open to continued thought or comparison after the initial descriptor.
    • “Jonathan?” Matt asked. “He’ll be okay. He’s just a wet hen right now. Give him a minute alone, then we’ll head out. It’s a long walk to Atlanta, and I don’t want him pecking and scratching the whole way.” 
Learn some restraint. Curbing your impulse to include every detail playing on your mind’s mini movie reel is a smart move. Writers are immensely imaginative. That’s why we do what we do. But a reader and a story can get lost in the details we provide. Keep in mind that too few or too many details will derail your story just the same. Once a reader is lost, your run the risk of them putting down your book and never picking it up again.

That’s a wrap. Details can save or sink a story every time. When you choose to write your next piece, remember that one well placed detail can save you a page of exposition – ahem, extra work. Telling details can be both unintentional in the drafting phase or intentional, with considerable thought, revision, and editing.

Keep in mind your senses. We don’t live in a vacuum of one of two senses. Go back over previous passages and keep an eye out for one sense you’ve listed, then consider if that is the right sense or if another would serve the story better. Once you’ve done that, does the passage need a supporting sensory detail? The sight of blood and gore kicks you in the gut, but the scent of copper and urine will twist the gut and drive the imagery home.

Simile and metaphor breathe life into writing. But there is a fine line between strong comparison and over comparison.

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
BC Brown
Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)

Upcoming: Karaoke Jane                                                                  

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5 More Steps to Shopping Thrift Stores

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Photo Credit: Toa Heftiba

It’s cool to be cheap.

Especially in today’s “hipster” culture of upcycling, vintage revival, and shabby-chic. I have been dubbed by many of my friends to be the Queen of Thrift Store shopping. While I don’t think I’m queenly in my thrift shopping, I freely admit that I am damned good at it. As a matter of fact, 85% of my wardrobe comes from thrift or resale/consignment stores. I went through some basic information in my post 8 Steps for Thrift Store Shopping. Today I will touch on 5 more steps you can use to pair down expenses by shopping at thrift stores for your wardrobe.

Be a label queen. To tell you the truth, I never paid attention to fashion labels until I grew up and had to spend money – my money – to look good. Some very talented designers make inexpensive clothing lines but, let’s face it, it rarely holds up after repeated wearings and washings, even if it’s been professionally dry cleaned. Knowing the higher end designers and fashion labels can help you sort through the dreck at the thrift store.

  • “Wal-Mart” labels – These would be any clothing line that the Walmart chain stores would carry. They are inexpensive and produced in mass quantities. But they do not hold up to multiple wearings and washings. Avoid when possible. Examples are:
    • George
    • Faded Glory
    • No Boundaries (NOBO)
  • Midline Labels – These are labels that are slightly higher quality materials and production value. There are some excellent midline brands that, while they won’t last forever, are good purchases for your wardrobe. Examples are:
    • Old Navy 
    • Ross
    • Burlington
  • High End Labels – These are exactly what you’d expect. While they are rarer to run across, you will still seem them in thrift stores. If you live in a particularly affluent, or near an affluent area, they will appear more frequently. Especially with Goodwill stores that circulate their stock among the branches based on how quickly they sell. The most common examples of higher end labels I have seen in thrift stores are:
    • Anne Taylor
    • Vera Wang
    • Trademark
To alter or not to alter. Alterations are a pain. Finding a good tailor is time consuming and can be expensive. It’s important to go into any thrift store shopping with a clear understanding of whether or not you will be able to afford altering a specific piece you find, or if you won’t. Personally, I only alter pants and suits and jackets. Shirts, no matter how well made or higher end quality, cost too much per item to alter and just aren’t worth it compared to the cost of the shirt to purchase. But I’ve seen individuals who spent the whooping $5 for a shirt at a thrift store shell out $20-25 to have it tailored to fit them. Still probably cheaper than buying it brand new, especially if it’s high end stuff, but for me it isn’t worth my time.
Accessorize, baby, and work it. Quality jewelry is illusive. Since it’s a large investment, many people don’t end up donating it like they do their clothing. Stylish jewelry can span decades in the fashion world. What you’re most likely to end up finding in thrift stores is cheaper, mostly gaudy jewelry. But there are a few things to check to see if something that catches your eye is worth the buy.
  • Check links and clasps. Do the links of the chain on a necklace bunch and knot? Cheap metal. Does the clasp gape? Cheap metal. Is there visible glue holding the stone in socket or bracket? No brainer…cheap and move on.
  • Street sense. Have you seen other people wearing similar fashion on the street? Current style and a possibility. Have you seen the same similar style at a Walmart or other chain store? Warning; danger, Will Robinson.
It’s all the latest rage, darling. Everyone wants to be fashionable, to wear the latest styles. But knowing the difference between what’s trendy and has longevity and what’s just trashy trendy is important in thrift store shopping. Be aware that, since you won’t be getting the trendy thing the moment it hits shelves (people have to get sick of wearing something before they give it away), you’re going to be clinging to the idea that cool item that’s now on the thrift store rack is still “in.” Take caution that the item that finally hits the rack is still fashionable. Then you have to take a further step back to consider if the item is likely to stay fashionable for a while longer. Otherwise you’re just throwing away money, even if it is only $5.99.



Work it…play it. Thrift store shopping should give your pocketbook a little more wiggle room when it comes to a work wardrobe and a play wardrobe. But, if you’re like me, you’d rather spend whatever you are spending by shopping thrift stores on more important things – ahem, books! Those other things are going to cut into any savings you’ve garnered from shopping thrift. So it’s important to make sure a majority of your pieces selected can be used for either work or play.

  • Jeans. I don’t often get to wear blue jeans for my day job. It’s mostly suits and business casual. But, when we are given the opportunity, I can’t afford to buy (nor do I want to house) too many jeans. Instead I own 3 pairs – one pair of black jeans (always dry cleaned and never washed to maintain their color), one pair of dark blue jeans, and one pair of fashionable “grungier” jeans (the last pair I owned had the trendy style of strategically placed holes). I obviously can’t wear the last pair for my day job, but I can wear the other two for work or play.
  • Shirts. While I own several high end button down blouses for work, they aren’t likely to be a part of my weekend or evening wardrobe. However, by pairing a breezier and less quality top with a suit jacket, you can wear it during the day at the office and take the jacket off later to go out with friends or wear it on the weekend with a pair of jeans.
So there are 5 more steps to shopping thrift stores that will come in handy at the racks. Again, it’s possible to save a ton of money by doing the bulk of your shopping there. Personally, I like the freedom of updating my wardrobe yearly for only a few hundred dollars instead of thousands. Plus there is the added benefit of knowing how little you spent whenever someone compliments your outfit or tells you how good you look.

BC Brown
BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate other writers through humor and simple instruction.
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