Business Cards and Bookmarks

Not too long after my most recent book Snake came out, I designed and ordered my first set of business cards, which arrived in the mail not too long afterwards. The pictures below show both the front and the back of the business cards. (I’m sorry if the photos are blurry; my camera’s old, so sometimes getting a close-up on something blurs the shot).

business card 1

business card 2

I received 250 cards, which I’ve been giving out to anyone I think might be interested. I like to think that they’ve helped boost sales a tiny bit, because I’ve had a few sales since I got them (though I doubt the download from the UK has much to do with the business cards). I thought that since my business cards were doing so well, I’d write an article about designing and ordering your own cards to promote your writing. I also plan to include bookmarks in this article, as the places that print business cards also usually print bookmarks if you ask them to.

This brings me to my first point:

1. Find out what your local options are. Some of you may have local print shops who can create your cards and bookmarks for you. It’s sometimes easier to do local anyway, because you can go and pick them up yourself and work with the people at the shop. However, if it’s an independent print shop, the prices might be a little more expensive, so make sure to compare prices before choosing a place to print your cards or bookmarks. Staples and Kinko’s also make some very good cards, and their prices are usually a little more competitive. And if there’s nothing in your area, you can always go online. I got my cards off of VistaPrint, and they did a very good job for a good price, if you ask me, and they make a whole bunch of other products besides business cards and bookmarks.

2. Choose a design that fits you. A business card or bookmark should have the same sort of feel as the work you write, rather than just being a plan white piece of paper or having a picture of a bunch of books on a shelf. Think of it as selecting a cover for your book: you want it to reflect the tone, atmosphere, and characters of the story. So let your bookmarks and business cards reflect what you write. If you are a sci-fi writer, maybe you should do something with aliens or machines. If you do romance, maybe something with hearts and different hues of red and pink. Whatever it is, make sure it works.

3. Make sure all relevant information is on your cards. Name, blog address, Facebook page, Twitter handle, YouTube channel, Reddit username. If you got it, make sure it’s on the card somewhere. If you have an email where fans can reach you, or even a phone number if you’re comfortable with it, include that too (if you have or have had or think you might have obsessed fans, I’d avoid the phone number though). And if there’s room, include the names of some or all of your books. If you have too many to fit on a single card, include maybe the most recent ones, or the most popular ones. And that brings me to my next point:

4. Update as soon as there’s something to update. Got a new book out? Or maybe you’ve started a new page on a new social media platform? Time to start a new card. Yes, it’s a little bit of a hassle, but in the end, it’s a little less annoying than having to say “Oh by the way, I also recently started a page on so-and-so website/published a new book called this-and-that.” And having it on the card helps to keep it in mind for the person you give said card to. Updating them regularly also gives you the chance to try different designs and configurations for your cards (when I update them, I want to customize mine to have one of my photos from the Paris Catacombs on them. I think that’ll be very fun to do, as well as give people an idea of what sort of stories I tend to write).

5. Include a quote or something about yourself as well. On my business cards, I have a short, two-sentence paragraph describing the sort of stories I write. Doing quotes on bookmarks are especially effective, especially if the bookmark is being used to promote a new book. However, should you pick a quote, make sure it is a particularly powerful one that will entice the reader to actually check out the rest of the book. Just putting any old quote on that bookmark just doesn’t do the trick like a quote that is full of mystery and only offers a small peek into the whole story.

6. Finally, be frugal and generous with your cards and bookmarks. What this means is that you should try to give them out to as many people as you can, but try to make sure to give them to people you think would really want to read your books. It’s not an easy thing to do at first–you want to let anyone and everyone know about your work, and you never know who might be a reader–but you get good at it after a while. I learned how to do it while trying to get people interested in my meditation group at the Asian Festival last year (though that’s a story for another time).

Do you have business cards for your writing? Have they been effective?

What advice do you have on making and designing business cards?

When Trolls Attack!

You know, that sounds like the title for one of those B-movie horror films that are played at three in the morning. When Trolls Attack! “Don’t cross that bridge. You may not like who wants you to pay the toll!”

But all kidding aside, internet trolls are a hot topic as of late. With the anonymity of the internet to protect them, trolls go skulking around the forums and the discussion groups and the blogs and Twitter, using threats, name-calling, false reviews, and a plethora of other despicable tools at their fingertips for just one purpose: to hurt the targets of their e-bile. Authors seem to be a special target for these trolls. Get on the wrong side of one and they will take great pleasure in trying to bring down the rating of your books or leave hurtful comments on your blog.

And the world has not let this phenomenon go unnoticed: thousands of authors, self-published and traditional, large and small, have signed petitions trying to get Amazon and other retailers to take measures against the intentionally hurtful reviews trolls leave behind (I’m happy to have signed one myself). Authors like Anne Rice have taken to Facebook to encourage others not to be discouraged and to fight back against trolling. Articles have been written on blogs and in newspapers and magazines, and a recent study on trolls has come out, confirming what we already know about them: that the people who engage in troll behavior are “everyday sadists” who enjoy cruelty and seeing others in pain.

Yes, we are fighting the trolls as well as coming to understand them. However, it can still be pretty traumatic when a troll decides to target you. If, God forbid, one should set their sights on you, here are some tips in order to hopefully mitigate the damage and maybe even fight back:

1. Take a deep breath. If a troll leaves a nasty review on Amazon or a cruel comment on your blog, take a moment to calm down. Remember, trolls will target just about anyone, and what one is doing to you isn’t out of any personal grudge. So take a deep breath, get a cup of tea, do whatever you have to do to calm down and approach this rationally. When you’ve calmed down, talk to someone about it if you need to, preferably someone who understands the effects bullying can have on others.

Once you’ve calmed down a bit, the next step is to:

2. Create a record of the trolling. Even if the post or comment or review isn’t threatening or violent, it’s good to keep a record of the harassment. If this same troll keeps coming back to make you a victim, you cn use your record to prove there’s a history of harassment and fight back.

3. Try to get rid of the post, if possible. Once you have a record, you can delete the false review or cruel comment if you want. I certainly would, if I felt that it was in my interests. It might take a little work, but you can even get Amazon to get rid of a review made by a malicious bully.

4. If the harassment continues or starts to get threatening, don’t be afraid to contact the authorities. I know some people might be wary of approaching the police or contacting a lawyer, especially if the harassment is restricted to the Internet. However, not fighting back only encourages a troll, and no one should make you feel uncomfortable, especially not some coward who hides behind a keyboard to hurt others. So if the bullying doesn’t stop, and if it starts getting threatening, don’t hesitate to take action to protect yourself.

Now, sometimes those in the authorities will hear that this is happening on the internet, and will immediately stop listening. To them, you might as well be talking about Wonderland, Atlantis, or the planet Raxicoricofallipatorius, crazy talk that has no bearing on the real world. If this happens, don’t get discouraged. Ask for the supervisor, talk to a lawyer. Keep pushing, because this is your safety and your mental health at stake.

5. Fight back. Once you’ve taken care of yourself, it’s time to fight back. Talk aobut your experiences, advocate for ways to control or stop what trolls do. Signing that petition is one way. And remember, you are not alone. Other people have experienced trolling and survived. You can all band together and work together to stop the continued persecution that internet trolls revel in.

Now, I’ve never experienced trolling personally (and I hope this post doesn’t lead to me experiencing it). But I’ve talked and spoken to and heard from people who have been attacked by trolls, heard how they reacted and I’ve taken what I’ve learned from them to form this article. If anything I’ve said sounds inaccurate or like a bad idea, I do apologize for my inexperience and naiveté.

But if this post helps in any way to fight against trolling and makes it easier for you to deal with their sadistic tendencies, then I am glad to have been of some sort of service. Because if we wish for the world to change, we must be the agents of the change in the world. Nothing’s going to get done unless we do it, and I’m just trying to do my part.

Some Tips For WattPad Users

I’ve been using WattPad for the past couple of weeks, and I thought that an article about it would be fun to write. Also, I found out this blog doesn’t have an article on WattPad yet, so I thought I’d break the ground and do a piece on it.

Throughout this article, I will try to give some sound advice on using WattPad and possibly getting some success through it. If any WattPad users have any additional tips they would like to…well, add in, please let us know. I’ll do a follow-up article with your words of wisdom.

So, first things first: What is WattPad? WattPad is a website where writers can upload and share stories with the public. It’s been in operation since 2006 and it’s been nicknamed the YouTube of storytelling. Writers can upload stories, gain feedback, create covers, and enter contests with their short stories or novels.

What sort of work is published on WattPad? Just about anything is published on WattPad. Novels, novellas, short stories, poems, non-fiction pieces, of all types and genres. Science fiction, fantasy, and YA stories tend to be the most popular, with horror and romance in a close second. There’s also a sizable amount of erotic fiction on the site, though I haven’t personally browsed that in any great detail. And technically erotica isn’t allowed on the website, but I won’t tell if you won’t.

Is it possible to get success through WattPad? Depends on what you mean by success. It is possible to spread your work to other writers and readers, maybe get feedback, and learn something from other writers by both reading and being read. And it is also possible to get the success that every author only dreams about (there’s an example of that in a recent issue of TIME magazine), but like anything in fiction, that is very hard to achieve and what can cause it is very difficult to predict.

How do you spread your work through WattPad? Tags and categorizing your work is very important, because it allows people with similar interests to search out and find your stories (and on that note, make sure to also rate your short stories appropriately. At the very least, an R-rating might deter some nine-year-old from reading a wildly inappropriate story). Also, networking with other authors, commenting on their stories, and even recommending works to authors you make friends with can be very helpful.

What are some ways to keep your readers interested in your work? Besides having interesting work, there are a couple of ways. One is to post frequently new stories or updates. Another is to post a novel on the site, but to do it in serial form. Posting new chapters on a regular basis keeps our readership up and it keeps them wanting to know more (especially if you end every chapter on a cliffhanger).

Should one copyright their work before posting? Well, that depends. Copyrights cost money and take time to process, so if you don’t mind waiting and shelling out money for the fees, then by all means get copyrights. At the very least, you should get copyrights for novels or for works you plan to sell in the future, and do it before you post it on WattPad.

I should also mention that WattPad allows users to post whether a story is copyrighted or not, so take advantage of that when you post a story. It could be seriously helpful.

If you publish a story on WattPad, can you put it on your resume as a publication? Again, that depends. This is a website where anyone can upload a story, so whether or not you want to include uploading stories onto an author’s YouTube on your resume is up to you. Some authors are comfortable, some aren’t. I know a few of both. If you are comfortable with it though, then only do it for stories that you’ve never published before in any way, shape, or form. And if you’re shopping for a publisher, definitely don’t do it!

What are these contests through WattPad you mentioned earlier? Wattpad holds a number of contests throughout the year. Most are small, but there are some big ones, including the Wattys, which are held once a year, and the Attys, which are for poetry and were started by author Margaret Atwood (yeah, she’s on the site. How cool is that?). The contests are open to all users with a WattPad account and who follow the rules of those contests.

If you are a regular WattPad user and have any other tips you’d like to mention, then please let us know. If I get enough tips, I’ll do a follow-up article on the subject with your tips in it.

Conferences, Are They Worth It?

The short answer is “yes,” but the real question is why are they?

Even after attending several of these, you wonder if you will learn anything new. But as usual, your doubts are put to rest after a conference speaker or two has presented.

Perhaps you are interested in taking the traditional route. Conferences allow you to meet with literary agents on a one-to-one basis. You can pitch your work and see if they believe your story has prospects either in the marketplace or in your ability to tell a good story. Often you bring a synopsis and at least a chapter for them to examine, but other times you just pitch your story. One writer I know has been pursuing this path for a number of years, and an agent at last week’s Nebraska Writers Guild conference requested to see more of her work.

However, today’s conferences also include a lot of advantages for the self-published author. They put you in touch with professionals in the business, such as in graphic design and marketing. One such speaker was a publishing guru and book designer Joel Friedlander.

He spoke on the benefits of each online social media from Facebook, to Twitter, to Goodreads, to YouTube, to LinkedIn to having a blog, stating blogs are the best resource. It is your hub where you can promote, post new ideas, conduct surveys and more, he said. Additionally, he believed LinkedIn to be extremely value in “gaining reputations” through its discussion formats, in being able to ask questions and in building a niche network.

Additionally, these professionals asked the audience which sold better e-books or print books? The audience replied, “e-books.” But these experts said the opposite. Thus, those brick and mortar bookstores are not going out of business soon. In fact, young people prefer print books, but adults favor e-books for their ability to enlarge print size, turn pages for those with arthritis and other e-book features, the field representatives said.

Conferences also allow attendees to interact with their cohorts – writers published or new to the craft. At this conference, there was a Friday night event where those who wanted to could read from their works. You cannot believe the great talent and variety of genres exhibited, such as poetry, memoirs, fancies, romances and humorous pieces. In addition, you got time to sell your books if you wished to do so on Saturday. If going to attend, why not sell your book(s)? You have nothing to lose since you are there anyway.

One thing I loved was putting a face to names seen on the e-mail loop. Nothing is better then talking with other writers, finding out where they are in the writing process and sharing experiences.

Finally, thank those who did the volunteer work to put the conference together. It takes time and a lot of effort from registering participants, preparing name tags, finding speakers, securing a facility and setting up the room.

So once again, get yourself to a conference even if you think there is nothing new to ascertain. You will not be disappointed. See you there and God bless.

7 Reasons Why Working Less Might Improve Your Marketing Results by Daniel Sharkov

While browsing my Twitter stream this morning I found this great article by Daniel Sharkov. He gives a beautiful example, goes more in depth, and says it so much better than I did or could in Creating Schedules and Routines to Enhance your Writing.

Daniel Sharkov writes, “Back in the closing months of 2011, before taking a huge blogging break, I was used to working a lot. I was spending long hours, trying to improve my blog’s performance. I was publishing long in-depth posts so writing and research alone were taking two-three hours every day. Twitter and all of the tools that go with it were also draining valuable time.

“All of this was partially the reason for me to stop blogging for almost four months. In the end I learned that spending your day on something and actually making progress are two different things.

“As of now I’m putting far less time into blogging and social media and still the results are improving by the day. In the following article I will overview how is that magic happening and will give you seven reasons to reduce your daily workload…”

Read the rest of his article here.

An Article About Balancing your Social Media Efforts

I’m one of those people who are out of balance in the social media forum. Maybe I’m not utilizing them very well, but then again I think it’s a nearly impossible task without repeating over and over again the same message and run the risk of being removed from our readers/followers media streams. No one likes spam and when you use the micromedia forum, that about what you have to be to stay on top.

I joined Twitter, Digg, Stumbleupon, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Facebook because I was told by other writers that these were the places to market and promote on. I had to have these accounts because it would help me succeed. I’ve since removed my accounts from all places except Facebook and Twitter, neither of which I update all that often, usually because I forget or I’m really busy with my other efforts, like writing and publishing a book.

I found this article Expand Your Social Media Mix: Twitter Alone is Not Enough by Jeremiah Owyang who briefly mentions that all our efforts maybe out of balance if we only use micromedia places like overloaded Twitter to market instead of focusing our efforts on things that should be longer lasting, higher impact, and larger form content. These would be better places to focus our efforts (ie writing new books, blogging, and/or article writing) and balance it with the micromedia of our choice. And lastly he calls for a Mindset Change and a way to rebalance your social media mix. This leads me to the second article.

Why 150 Followers Is All You Really Need  isn’t the original article I found, but I like it just the same. The gist of the article talks about devoting  most of your time to creating a backlist of books, then to your blog, and lastly choose one social networking site and utilize it to the best of your ability. If that site is Twitter, then focus on following the rules of Twitterverse. If it’s Goodreads, make sure you participate in an acceptable way. Facebook the same, etc.

Spreading yourself all over the different networking sites means that you’re less effective in your message and connecting with people. The article went on to say that we can only have meaningful relationships with about 150 people, not sure how true that is, but I know from experience that having a relationship with more than 20 starts getting hard for me.

What do you think about your social media efforts?  Do you have any articles that you would like to share on social media?

Social Media: Friend or Foe?

Recently, someone sent me an article called Why You Should Consider turning Your Back on Social Media. The article is geared towards small businesses, but what are independent authors if not the smallest business unit there is?

The gist is that in some cases the time spent updating Twitter/Facebook, including commenting, making connections, and creating content can sometimes take more time than they’re worth in terms of sales.

When I first published Shades of Gray over a year ago, I jumped on the Facebook (and to a lesser extent Twitter) bandwagons. I spent hours setting up pages on facebook, making “friends”, commenting on their stuff and trying to come up with clever advertising techniques.  I generated a few questions, like “Wow, I want to get published too! How do I do it?” and several “congratulations” or “Your book sounds interesting”, but if it resulted in any sales I’d be surprised.

MySpace, on the other hand, did generate sales because of the blog. Though as far as I know I could count the “random” sales on my digits. Mainly, I was able to sell to people I  already interacted with on more personal levels, such as reading their blogs or because we were in poetry groups together.

Oddly, Flickr (a photography site) has generated several random sales. In fact, my newest Amazon review came from a new Flickr contact.

So, I wondered how it was with other authors. Have you found a great success with social networks? If so, were the sales generated worth the time it took to set up the pages, get the contacts, keep the contacts by being friendly (eg commenting on their statuses/photos/tweets/messages and such), etc. ?