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Friday, September 28, 2012

Are We Shooting Ourselves In The Foot With Our Blogs?

As authors, are we prone to shooting ourselves in the foot? I would say yes, in some ways we are. Creating and keeping up a Internet presence is one thing that we can tend to put up because we are told that we need to, so we do, but we may not know exactly what to do with it.

That Internet presence, in my way of thinking, consists of our web sites, our blogs, and our presence on social media sites, such as Twitter, Face Book, and Google +. This is all time intensive, and, quite frankly, somewhat confusing. Several of my friends are backing out of one or more social media sites, so that they can focus on one or two sites that they feel comfortable navigating, and that they feel they have a foothold in. I think this is a good idea – they can always recreate their presence on whatever sites they have chosen to leave.

We are told that to develop an Internet presence, and a following, we need to blog. And we need to blog on a consistent basis, creating content that is relevant to what our work is, and to the audience/clientele that we wish to attract. It is not hard to get a blog up – there are several free blog Content can be created in several ways – by talking about what we are working on, by talking about the process we are going through to get our work out there, and by adding small tid bits of personal information that make us seem more real, more approachable.

Blogging helps us to build our platform, to firm up our “voice”, and the brand image that we wish to project to the public. Blog under the name that you want to be known by, not some cutsie, made up front that you look like you are hiding behind. Include a bio, with a pic that people can relate to. Include information on where people can contact you, and include it in a place where it is easily accessible. If people cannot find what they want right away, they will move on to someone else’s blog!

Make best use of your blog page, and include information about the work that you already have out there, as well as what you are currently working on. Back this up by placing links to wherever site visitors can go to purchase your work. Remember to place a link to your professional site – you want your site, blog, and any published work, to be connected to each other for easy access to site visitors.

Allow your visitors to comment on your blog. Moderate the comments if you want to, but a better idea, IMHO, is to allow people to post, and to remember to check your comments frequently. You do this so you can respond to whatever comments are left, and to delete the infrequent comment that just does not belong there.

Last, but not least, make your blog clean and easy to read. I hate the word “monetize”, and I will not stay to read a site or a blog that has been “monetized” with ads. I am getting older by the day, and do not want to waste my time on that!

Have fun creating your online presence. Make sure it represent who you are, the work that you do, and that it will appeal to the audiences you are trying to reach. Life is too short to have to keep redoing things!

© September 2012 Bonnie Cehovet

Friday, September 21, 2012

Conferences - Yes Or No?

I love conferences! I really do! I like the travel involved, I like meeting new people, and I like learning new information. I have been reading recently about what effect the Internet might have on conferences. At first I was irritated at this thought, and didn’t see why one would not want to attend a conference, and meet people face to face that they have known on the Internet. Then I read more, and thought more.

The pro’s as I see it are:

• You get to meet people in person that you only know online. • You sometimes get the chance to pitch your work to an agent. • You get a more personal feel for the writing industry through conversations with other writers, editors, and publishers. • A short time away from the people and issues in my life.

The con’s as I see it are:

• The cost – of travel, lodging, food, and the conference itself. • Time away from family, and perhaps from a 9-5. • The pitch sessions to an agent can be an added fee.

Each writer as an individual has to determine for themselves whether a brick and mortar conference is for them. Some things to consider are:

• The cost – can you afford it. • What do you hope to gain from the conference? • Is the conference relevant to the work you are doing? • Is the agent pitch session worth it? • Is going to a conference in any way going to help you get published? • If you are going Indie (self-publishing your own work, or going with a small press), how relevant are conferences? • How do you learn best? Can you learn from a book, a video, or a webinar? What is the best use of your time and money?

Where do you find conferences? Through national writing organizations (usually by genre), through strategic locations in big cities, regional conferences, and specialty marketing conferences.

I plan to do a combination of the above – attend webinars, local conferences, as well as big city and national conferences – if they are relevant to the work that I am doing. I will plan where I want to go at the beginning of each year (actually, I will probably do t his the year before, as soon as the information about a conference is out to the public)., and make sure that it fits into my budget. I will have to prioritize the conferences, but that is what life is all about!

Continuing education … meet and greet … networking … however you look at it, while we write in solitude, we do need to get out there and mix to hone our craft!

© September 2012 Bonnie Cehovet

Friday, September 14, 2012

Author Bio

Words that I hate to hear – “We need a short bio with that.” Now, I have bios written – long and short. Different bios reflect different parts of my life. It doesn’t matter – I hate to write about myself! So … where do we begin with these lovely bios? We do need them to be done well, reflective of who we are, and interesting to the reader. We need to come across as knowledgeable and accomplished, because we want our readers to have trust in us, and in our work.

Even if you don’t have work ready to go to an editor at the moment, take the time to write a bio - actually two or three. A long version (for editors), and short version (for bylines), and a version (long or short) for your Internet site (yes, you should have an Internet site!). You can fine tune them as you go along, until it reads as well as your written work. It is also a good idea to have a professional photo taken to go with your bio’s.

The first thing to consider when writing your bio is the correct tense. To avoid the appearance of talking about yourself, write in the third person, using your name, rather than saying “I”.

Keep the short version to under 300 words. You want the style to read like that of a book jacket, something that will peak people’s interest. List where you live, perhaps any organizations you are associated with, any previous work that you have published, and something that sets you apart, something that makes you unique. You have one paragraph here to create a vibrant you!

If you are creating a bio to be included in a query letter, the rules change a bit. Write in the first person, stick to the facts (leave out the personal history that makes you unique), and list only significant professional credits.

Things that you might want to consider adding into a longer bio include work history, schooling, life experiences, hobbies, writing credentials, contests or prizes that you have won, and your online presence.

Still at a stalemate? Look at other author’s bios. What do you like about them? What don’t you like about them. What makes you relate to specific author’s? How do they inject humor into their bio’s so that they seem more human and approachable? What is their “voice”? (Above all, you want your bio to carry the same “voice” as your work. You need to essentially “brand” yourself so that your readers have something to follow.)

Remember, your bio is your chance to let people get to know you. State the facts, but remain humble. Choose you best, most relevant publications/achievements to list in your bio. For me, writing my bio’s is an ongoing process. They evolve as I evolve. You may find that this holds true for you as well.

© September 2012 Bonnie Cehovet

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cozy Mystery Defined

I thought that today I would muse about what a cozy mystery is, since this is the genre that am writing in, and hope to make a living from! The mystery part is a given – mystery stories are made up of puzzles that need to be solved. So … what sets a cozy mystery apart from other mysteries? No blood and guts. No violent scenes. No explicit sexual scenes. No cursing. The character solving the crime is an amateur sleuth, not a professional. They often stumble across the crime, or become involved for personal reasons – to help a friend, family member, or even a mentor.

The main character is almost always a likeable person, someone the reader can identify with in some way. They are often part of a community, with secondary characters coming in as friends or professional acquaintances. It is easy to build tension, or refer to issues or events from a long time ago, because generally the characters have known each other “forever”.

The victim in a cozy mystery can be anybody – from someone who is highly respected to someone that has a list of enemies a yard long. The reason behind the death (or incident, if there is no death) can be quite simple, or quite complicated, and often involves the surrounding community.

The setting can be anywhere – from a small town to the biggest city. Remember – big cities are made up of individual sections that often act like “small towns” on their own. The murder (or incident) can be placed before the story starts, or a couple of chapters into the story. What matters is that the murder (or incident) is meaningful to the characters. If not, then why write the story!

The plot can be anything, but it usually revolves around the human condition – the issues that we face, and the frailties and insecurities we reveal when dealing with them.

My favorite part of a cozy is that in the end, justice is done. Peace is restored, and while not everyone lives happily ever after, there is generally speaking no big cliff hanger, and the community returns to its normal state.

© September 2012 Bonnie Cehovet