Does Comic Sans Font Make Writing Easier?

(We’re soliciting reader feedback for a special upcoming article, so please read through to the end if you’d like to participate.)

The other day on Twitter, a friend of mine posted that she had switched the font on her WIP to Comic Sans font, and found herself frustrated by it. Curious, I asked her why she did that, and she pointed me in the direction of an article on the website Lifehacker by A.A. Newton. According to the article, titled Get Over Yourself and Start Writing in Comic Sans, the unique nature of the font, where every letter is different from the other twenty-five, keeps writers from losing focus, becoming super-nitpicky of their work, and in the case of people with dyslexia, easily tell the letters and words apart.

After reading the article, I thought I’d try it myself to see if it would help my own writing, and as I was starting a new story, I switched the font from my normal Times New Roman (yeah, I know, but I like that font) to Comic Sans and went to work. Last night I finished said story and surveyed my work.

What did I think?

Well, I did feel like I was filling out pages out much faster than I normally do. This was probably because, while I changed the font, I didn’t change the font size, and 12-point Comic Sans is slightly bigger than 12-point Times New Roman. so it did actually fill the page faster.

However, I’m not sure it made that significant an impact on my writing. I still got out words at my normal pace, and I still found myself pausing to think about how best to say what I wanted to say. The only difference was that there was a bigger font.

Which, by the way, I switched back to Times New Roman after the story was finished. What can I say? I like that font, it looks professional, and working in Times New Roman, especially during the editing phase, is just easier overall for me.

Overall, I don’t think I’d switch to writing in Comic Sans. It’s just not helpful to me in the way I need it to be.

Of course, I’m just one writer. At the time I’m writing this article, this site has 3,752 subscribed followers. A single person reporting their results is a case study. An entire group of people? Now that’s a real experiment.

So for the next three months, I’m asking our lovely readers here at Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors to try writing in Comic Sans. Try writing a short story (or if you’re in the middle of a novel, a section or chapter) in Comic Sans, and let me know the following by May 1st:

  • Name
  • Fiction/Poetry/Non-fiction
  • Genre/Subject
  • Short story or novel chapter/section
  • Page/word count
  • How did it go for you?

For that last part, if you could tell me in 150-250 words, I’d appreciate it.

Please send your submissions to my author email address: ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com, with the subject line Self-Pub Authors – Comic Sans. Depending on how many submissions we get, yours could end up being showcased here on the site. And if we get A LOT of submissions–like, more than we can fit in a single blog post–I’ll work something out.

And if you already write in Comic Sans, we’d also like to hear from you. Please tell us all about it and how it helps you write.

Remember folks, this is entirely voluntary, but we would really like to hear from you. When we did something like this a while back, we got some great responses, so I hope to see if we can get that same magic again.

Happy writing, everyone. And….GO!

Update on the “Handbook for Mortals” Controversy

Recently I wrote a post on “Handbook for Mortals,” which covered the controversy about a first-time author and former band manager whose YA novel made it to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, and how the Twitter YA community uncovered that the author got there by making bulk orders from bookstores. All in order to apparently get a movie deal with the author as the main character. Yeah, that happened.

Well on Monday the author of that very book, Lani Sarem, wrote an article for the Huffington Post defending herself. She pointed out that the publishing industry has changed dramatically over the past couple of years, and that she ordered the books for conventions and book signings, going through the bookstores rather than her distributor so that sales counted towards the NYT Bestseller List. She also said that plenty of people had bought books at these signings/conventions, and that she’d already locked down the rights for the movie so she could have more control over the five movies (seriously? Five?) based off the series she was writing, and to star in the film.

I’ve seen a lot of back and forth in the wake of this article. Some is sympathetic, and others not so much. And Sarem does make some points. The publishing industry has changed dramatically over the years, authors do order in bulk for events like conventions and book signings. And authors do show up in adaptations of their works from time to time. Could all the media coverage of this book and its author, including the coverage from two weeks ago, have actually been detrimental to something positive?* Did one Twitter community accomplish something that another failed to do with the Ghostbusters reboot?

Well, I did some research, and slept on it, and I thought about it. And while there are some interesting points, there’s still some stuff with this situation that doesn’t ring right. Not least that movie thing (five? Seriously? SERIOUSLY?! Let’s get to even one and see how that goes! And you as the lead? Really? I don’t know if that’s a sign of a control freak or a narcissist or both).

First off, the buying in bulk thing. Yeah, authors do buy in bulk for events. However, most of the time they buy through their distributors, as it comes with a discount, and it still counts as sales. It’s also considered more honest than what Sarem did. She literally says in her defense she bought through bookstores simply to get on the NYT Bestseller List, which would get her the movie deal. And while she’s technically right that there are no “rules” against doing something like this, there’s a subversiveness about it that doesn’t feel right. Not to mention that, as I mentioned in the previous article, behavior like this got her fired from a band she managed. Heck, tactics like this was used in an episode of Lucifer, and it felt just as subversive there as it does here. It actually reminds me of the time I played an online game and used a cheat code to get to maximize my stats just so I didn’t have to do the hard work of building them in the first place.

And that’s the major problem here: Sarem was looking for ways to immediately reach the top and get her movie deal, rather than get their through hard work and talent. Even if she wasn’t doing technically anything “wrong,” it was still dishonest and meant to be a shortcut to fame and success. That’s why people are upset, and made such a big deal about this. Sarem used a cheat code, all for a film deal, and it got exposed. That’s why she was taken off the NYT Bestseller List.

Because in the end, there is no defense for trying to skip hard work and make things easy. Especially when it comes to literature.

So while Sarem may have a good defense, there’s plenty here that just doesn’t sit right. And if you think about it long enough, you’ll realize there are ways to get a great novel on top of NYT Bestseller Lists, and this isn’t one of them.

Also, Sarem’s cover art may have been stolen from another artist. I’m not kidding you, the cover of the book apparently bears a striking resemblance to an art print called The Knife Thrower by Australian artist Gill Del Mace. And if you look at them, they’re very similar (can’t post it here because of possible copyright issues, but here’s a link to the creator’s website if you want to check it out). Where does it end?

But what do you guys think? This seems like it  might become an ongoing issue or story, one I may revisit on this site in the future, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Was Sarem being dishonest or innovative? Did Twitter go insane again, or was it a cross between Spotlight-style reporting and grassroots activism? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

*As for the quality of the book, I’ve looked at reviews from both before and after the initial wave of articles about Sarem’s unique methods. Some like it, but a lot more find it a mess that seems to have been written by a junior high schooler. Of those who’ve written reviews after the controversy broke, they admit they know of the controversy, but they try to focus on the book itself, which I’ve done myself with different movies and films. If they’re definitely trying to stay unbiased, then the reviews don’t bode well for Sarem regardless of the efficacy of her tactics.

Handbook for Mortals: How One Author Scammed the NYT Bestseller List, and How a Twitter Community Exposed It

This isn’t directly about self-publishing, but it is related to what we work hard to do, so I’m posting about it.

Over this past weekend, a friend of mine posted an article from The Daily Dot on Facebook about how an author had scammed the New York Times bestseller list. Obviously, I got curious, so I checked it out.  According to the article, the YA community on Twitter had noticed something weird about the NYT YA bestseller list. A new novel that nobody had heard of, Handbook for Mortals by Lani Sarem, had appeared out of nowhere and knocked The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. The novel follows a girl with magical abilities who goes to Vegas, works in a magic show, and has a love triangle (that old chestnut. That old I’m-going-to-waste-my-natural-talents-while-doing-one-of-the-biggest-romance-cliches-ever chestnut). Lani Sarem, the author, is described as an actress and former band manager.

Like I said, nobody in the community had heard of the novel, and they got very suspicious when they heard that the book was published by GeekNation, a movie and pop-culture website that just got into publishing last month! And in that time, they put out a book that hit the top of the YA bestseller list? Obviously, some were confused by this, and the community, led by writers and YA enthusiasts Phil Stamper (@stampepk) and Jeremy West (@JeremyWest), started investigating. What they uncovered is mind-boggling.

Turns out, there’s practically no physical copies of Handbook for Mortals.  None.  It was listed as “Out of Stock” on Amazon, and no Barnes & Noble seemed to carry any physical copies. No one from the YA Twitter community came forward with a copy. And yet the book was already a bestseller, with the author herself planning on starring as the lead character in a movie version of the novel! How exactly does that happen?

Turns out, the author and her publisher were placing bulk orders for “events” like conventions or author signings at various booksellers across the country. When ranking its bestseller lists, the NYT relies not on the actual number of books sold, but number of reported orders and sales from booksellers. So they see that this one book in the YA category is getting a ton of orders in bulk, and without any indicators to present something fishy, there’s a new entry on the bestseller list.

That’s actually kind of clever. Horrible, as all cons are, but still kind of clever. Now if there were actual copies of the novel, it might have worked.

It only got crazier from there. Remember when I said Sarem was a band manager? Well, one of her former bands was Blues Traveler, and they admitted through Twitter that Sarem had done similar stuff when she was their manager, and they fired her for it (they later took down that tweet, but it’s already out there, so…). So we’ve got an author and her publisher, one of whom has done bulk orders to boost visibility of a product/group, using bulk orders to send a book up the NYT Bestseller list.

Well, Twitter’s YA community wasn’t happy about it. Stamper and West started encouraging bookstore employees through DMs to come forward about this. As it became more apparent that there was something fishy going on, the NYT finally took notice and saw what the YA Twitter community had uncovered. They later released an updated list, with The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas back on top, and Handbook for Mortals nowhere in sight.

It later came out that Sarem’s whole goal was to star in the movie version, but she needed buzz, so she got the book onto the bestseller list. If she could get it on the list, she’d be able to get funding for a movie. God, that’s horrible.

So what can we take from this story? Obviously, if you notice something suspicious, you’re perfectly capable of doing Spotlight-style sleuthing and discover  conspiracy. But it just goes to show what happens when you try to skimp on hard work and still make it to the top.

There’s no substitute for hard work. And the majority of authors, no matter if it’s their first or sixtieth book, work as hard as possible. We write, edit, edit several more times, try to get good covers, and do our best at marketing our stories. This applies whether you’re a traditionally or independently published author. Sometimes we’re successful, sometimes we don’t. Still, we try our hardest. But when someone tries to game the system and build hype by being fake, there’s always going to be people who notice.

And sometimes, when they notice, they can bring down an entire scam and keep someone unworthy from getting a literary and acting career.

How I Could’ve Done A Better Sale

Back in September I wrote an article about when was the best time to publish a book. That article also mentioned some opportune times to host some sales. Going off the advice of that article and my previous sale experience, I decided to host a sale around New Year’s, which is apparently a very good time to hold such a sale.

To my surprise and slight consternation, I did not sell as many books–digital or paperback–as I thought I would. I did get some good sales, including from friends and colleagues, but it was far lower than I expected, to the point that I put more money into the sale than I got back.

I’ve been spending the time since trying to figure out where I went wrong and what I could do to improve my next sale and ad campaign (probably when I publish a novel later this year). Below are the conclusions that I’ve come to, which I hope will give you some help if you hold a sale in the future.

I used only Facebook ads. In another previous post, I showed that Facebook ads could be extremely helpful in spreading the word about sales. This time though, they didn’t prove as helpful. While the likes on my Facebook page did increase from 383 to over twelve-hundred, not many of those people did buy a book. That’s because Facebook is already a free service, we get so much content from it for free. Sure, you may see ads for products on it, and you may like the pages of those products, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to buy it. You’re more likely to ignore an ad from a free service anyway, even when you’re confronted with it over and over (which is probably why I’ve never bought something advertised before my YouTube video).

So next time, I should try formats other than or in addition to Facebook. Yes, it’s a useful site to advertise and attract a fan base, but to rely solely on it wasn’t one of my better moves. Next time, I’ll look into using other platforms, including Twitter and KDP Amazon (yeah, KDP Amazon allows you to advertise through it. I heard the costs were huge, but maybe if they are, it might be worth it to advertise through a site where people are already there presumably to buy products).

I cast too wide a net. When you set up an ad campaign, you can decide who the ad is targeted towards based on criteria like age, interests and hobbies, sex, and several others. One of the main criteria though is country or countries. I wanted to get as many people to see the ad as possible, so I tried targeting as many countries as I could where Amazon operated in (most of my sales come through Amazon). Problem is, while Amazon does operate in those countries, it may not be as big as other retailers there. So when I cast a wide net, I cast a net where people would see the ad but may not buy. Meanwhile, there may have been people in more Amazon-strong countries that would’ve bought my books if they saw the ads, but didn’t because of the wide focus.

Plus some of the countries I targeted don’t have English as a first language. Yes, English is spoken there by a wide swath of the population, but it’s not a dominant language by any means. And most of my sales are from English speaking countries anyway, probably since my books are in English.

So in the future, I will try to focus on countries where most people do buy from Amazon, but English is a spoken by a majority of the population.

Include links. This should’ve been pretty obvious to me. I didn’t include links on two out of three of my ads though, expecting the readers to head over there out of curiosity and look themselves. I don’t think that’s what actually happened in real life. So if you’re going to do an ad, make sure a link or two is already present.

 

If this helped you at all, my job here is done. Sales and ad campaigns are never easy and don’t always yield the results you want, but if you learn from others and go through trial and error, they can on occasion bring in a very nice pay day.

What tips do you have for a successful sale/ad campaign?

My Experiments with Facebook Ads

For the past couple of months, I’ve been using the Ads feature on Facebook in a variety of ways, seeing if using it can help me grow my audience on my blog or Facebook page, or even to increase my book sales. I’m sure many of you have already utilized and come to your own conclusions about these features, but for those who haven’t, I’m presenting my findings in case you decide to try Facebook ads and want some advice or testimony before starting.

And if you don’t know much or at all about this feature, let me tell you about it. The Ads feature of Facebook is a way for people with businesses or Facebook pages to build followings and even sell their products. Setting up an ad campaign is very easy: you write the ad and then once you’ve finished, you can set a target audience based on criteria such as age range, country, and interests or hobbies. You then set for how long you want the ad campaign to run (five days, a week, two weeks, etc), and how much you want to pay. I generally recommend between ten and twenty dollars a day. As how many people you reach depends on your daily budget, this price range guarantees you’ll reach a bunch of people.

Once you’ve finished setting everything, you click “Done” and send the ad off to be approved. Usually this takes no more than a half-hour or an hour. Once your ad is approved, you let Facebook do the rest. It bases its algorithms on who it shows your ad to based on the parameters you sent, and then people start noticing it. Some, though not many, even click on it.

I ran three different ad campaigns through Facebook. Here were the results:

  1. Blog Campaign: In this campaign I gave a link to my blog. I wasn’t trying to sell anything, just get people reading. Of the nearly seventeen-thousand reached, only about one hundred clicked on the link, which led to a slight increase of readership on my blog. Didn’t get any new comments or likes or followers, but it was still a noticeable increase, small as it was. Spent a little over $41 over five days.
  2. Reborn City Campaign: This time around, I was trying to see how effective an ad campaign was at selling books, so I picked my most popular one, my sci-fi novel Reborn City, and aimed it at fans of science fiction, particularly dystopia fans. Reached a little over twelve-thousand people, but only about 140 followed the link to RC‘s Amazon page. Of these 140, no one seemed willing to pay the full price for a print or e-book copy of RC, sadly. Spent about $70 over the course of a week.
  3. The Big Birthday Sale: With this campaign, I had a bit more success than the previous two campaigns, which I did in honor of my 22nd birthday. For five days, all my paperbacks were marked down, and all e-books free-of-charge, and each day I ran a new ad campaign, each one lasting a day, advertising the sale. I also expanded the criteria to include more people, leading to buyers from seven different countries. All told, I reached a staggering sixty-thousand people and managed to sell or download nearly twelve-hundred books. Although I didn’t make as much money (especially with the e-books) it was enough to know that people were downloading and reading my books. In addition, I received a huge boost in the number of likes on my Facebook page, going from 140 likes to nearly 400, most of them from India! All told, I’m pretty satisfied with how this campaign went, spending $65 total.

From these experiences, I’ve gained some insight into what makes a Facebook ad work. Firstly, it helps to be very specific with what you’re pushing. You can’t just go “Check this out! It’s new! It’s awesome! You should want it!” You have to say more than that. For example, if you want to push your latest novel, you can say “Chester Bennett was just an ordinary teenager with ordinary problems. That is, until he met Kaylie, a girl who was born into the wrong body and is on the run from the mobster parents she stole from. The adventure they go on together leads both teens to learning many uncomfortable secrets about themselves and each other, and teaches Chester what it truly means to love in Running in Cincinnati” (and that’s just something I made up on the spot. If you want to turn it into a novel, be my guest).

It also helps if you’re emphasizing why now’s a good time to buy. This is especially helpful during a sale. If you emphasize that your books are discounted or even free and that it’s better to get the books now because of these reasons, people will take notice. Of course, there’s the downside that you might not get as much back in sales as you did in spending money on the campaign, but if there are more people reading your books because they got them at a discount price and if a good number of them enjoy the books, at least some of them will review the books, tell their friends about them, and maybe buy future copies of your work.

And of course, you need to know whom you’re selling to. The reason why my last campaign was so successful was because I made sure as many people around the world as possible with the interests and hobbies I was targeting did see the ad. The result was a huge amount of people getting my books and even liking my Facebook page. So when selling, take advantage of the parameters you’re setting for the campaign. Even look in places you wouldn’t think of looking in (like I did when I decided to target Germany, India and Japan rather than just English-speaking nations). You never know who might want to check out your new book.

Oh, and use the Ads Manager page, which you can reach by finding it on the left side of your page. If you need to make any adjustments to your campaigns (and you will), the Ads Manager will allow you to do that, so don’t ignore it!

While it may seem like putting a lot of money into something that might not yield results, Facebook ads can be a lucrative means to reach readers if you allow them. You can start slow, doing one-day campaigns and seeing what the results are, seeing what works for you and what doesn’t. With any luck, it could lead to a few more devoted readers wanting to know what happens next in your latest series or to look and see what else you have available. Nothing wrong with that, right?

What’s your experience with Facebook ads, if you have any? What tips do you have for other readers?

Also, I’m happy to announce that, like I promised in my last article, I’ve set up a page called Conferences, Bookstores, & Other Resources with links to place like the Gulf Coast Bookstore that can be of service to you in promoting your works. Included on this page are stores, conferences, and websites that have the potential to be helpful for every indie author. You can check the page out by either clicking on its name here or you can find it at the top menu under “On Marketing & Promoting”. I will be steadily adding other entries to the lists there as I find them, so if you have any you’d like to recommend, leave a name, a description and links in a comment and I will put it up as soon as possible. Hope you all find it helpful!

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.

How to Edit Your Twitter Profile (with screen caps)

I’ve gone back and forth about doing this post because, while so many authors use twitter, it isn’t  integral to the publishing business. But, after having to explain how to set wallpaper to yet another person via email, I decided there was a need for it.

(Click on any of the images to make them bigger)

How to use Themeleon

Near the upper right corner of your profile is a little gear icon. Click it and a drop down box will appear that allows you to access several things. The only thing we’re worried about is the settings option.

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A new screen will load and you’ll want to click on “design” in the left hand pane. This will change the options on the right side, and you’ll be greeted by several default thumbnails. If you want, you can use any one of these, or you can try the interesting plugin called Themeleon.

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A new page will load that will look something like this. There’s a dialog box that you have to scroll down in order to see

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Scroll down and click the sign In button

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You’ll have a new pop up asking you to authorize Colourlovers to “use” your account, meaning the app can change things like your wallpaper etc. If you don’t like apps cancel out now and scroll down to the next option (How to upload your Own Wallpaper). If you do like apps  then go ahead and click authorize app. (I have used Themeleon for about a year now and never had any issues such as it hijacking my twitter.)

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You may or may not have to sign in again (I did, but this may be because I took so long taking screen caps etc.) But you will eventually come to your profile editing screen.

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At the top are some pre-made themes (more on those in a moment) and in the second half of the toolbox are the “make your own theme” tools. As you can see it starts with a background pattern, which you can scroll through.

What’s the difference between the pre-made and the DIY? Unlike the do it yourself set, the theme’s wallpaper tends to be a single large image, like more traditional wallpaper, instead of a tiled pattern. You can also upload your own image, if you prefer, but it’s easier to do that through twitter itself.

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As you’ll notice when you click on the themes you get a preview, not only in the toolbox, but if you scroll down your profile also “tries it on” so you can see how it’s going to look.

If you’d rather start from a pattern, go down to the background option. There’s a drop down box with choices but I’ve never bothered with it and usually just scroll through the available backgrounds by using that little arrow button we mentioned earlier.

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Don’t let the colors fool you – you can completely change them. For instance you can see that the pattern above looks very tropical, but with a few color swaps it now looks… well, the colors are different, anyway. How did I do that? Underneath the pattern preview are colored boxes, each representing a color in the pattern. Click the color you’d like to change and you’ll get a snazzy pop up. Move the circle around on the color chart, as well as the sliders, to change the color to something you like better.

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As you can see, sometimes changing the colors can make a big difference in what the pattern looks like:

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Once you have a pattern you like, it’s time to tweak your layout. There are several pre-created palettes you can choose from by using the arrow key. The colors you are choosing now change the color of your links, such as where it says “Following, Followers” etc. as well as links in your twitter stream.

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if you don’t like the pre-made palettes you can make your own. Click on the colored squares to get a pop up color picker. Move the circle and the sliders until you find the colors you want.

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When you have it the way you want, click the “Save Profile” button

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You’ll get a pop up trying to encourage you to add more things, but just click the “I’m all Creatived out” button to skip it.

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And now bask in the glory of your new profile!

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How to Upload your Own Wallpaper

if you have your own wallpaper – maybe it’s your book cover, or your characters, or just a snazzy photo – then it is really easy to upload it to twitter.

You’ll need to go back to Settings > Design like we did previously, then click the “Change Background” dropdown and select “Choose existing Image”

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You’ll get a pop up. Navigate to the folder that your wallpaper is saved in, click on it and choose open. Jpegs work better than pngs.

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If the wallpaper file is “acceptable” the words under the “Change background” button will reflect the file name.  Then it’s time to set where the wallpaper goes. you can have it left aligned – meaning it is “sticky” on the left side, so that the left side of the image will always be on the left side of the screen – centered, and right aligned (which does the same as the left but on the right). You can also choose whether to tile your image or not – play around with the options until you become familiar with the differences. Though unlike themeleon, your profile will NOT reflect changes until you save it.

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As with Themeleon, you can change your link colors and your background color. Click on the colors to get the pop up color picker. When you’re done, hit “Save Changes”.

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and check out your new profile!

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How to Change Your Twitter Banner

On your profile page click the Edit Profile button that is just below your “banner area” – if you have no image here it will be a black-ish box.

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Hover over it and a little pencil will appear in the top right corner. Click on it.

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A little box will pop up that lets you upload a photo, remove your photo or cancel. We want to upload.

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You’ll get another pop up. Navigate to your banner image and choose “open”.

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You’ll get a “preview” with a slider underneath it. You can use the slider to zoom in and out of the image. Once you have it the way you want, click “Apply”

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How to Edit Your Profile Information

While we’re there, let’s edit our profile information. If you’re starting here, then click on the “Edit Profile” button underneath your banner image.

Your profile information is highlighted in black. To edit it, just highlight what you’d like to change.  I’m going to change the About.me link:

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And then I am going to just type in my wordpress address, like you would in a document. If you’re finished click “save changes”

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How to Change Your Profile Photo

While we’re there, let’s edit our profile photo. If you’re starting here, then click on the “Edit Profile” button underneath your banner image.

If you hover over your photo you’ll get a little pencil in the top right corner. Click it.

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A little menu will pop down with the choices to upload a photo, take a photo, remove photo or cancel. For this tutorial we want to upload, though if you have a webcam and a good hair day you might try the “take photo” option and let me know how it goes.

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Clicking upload gets you a pop up box. Use it to navigate to your photo and click open.

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A new box pops up that has your photo of choice with a slider bar underneath. You can drag it to zoom in closer to the image, essentially cropping it down. When you have what you want, hit apply.

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If you’re all finished make sure to hit the Save Changes button.

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And that’s it!

Bask in the beauty of your new twitter profile! and, if you’re feeling especially inspired, add me (@Joleene_Naylor) and say “hey, come look at my cool profile!”

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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.

The Biggest Blog Mistake

There are plenty of articles out there to tell you how to blog. They offer advice on how to decorate your blog, what links you should include in the sidebars, how to make your blog easily navigable and searchable. There are articles that give you ideas about how often to write, how long the posts should be, what the ideal time is to post, and even what your posts should be about. However, all of this is meaningless if your readers can not subscribe to you.

The point of posting a blog is to get people to read it, and if no one can read it then you’re wasting your time.  You want to make your blog as easy to get access to from as many devices/subscriptions types as you can. It takes a couple of seconds, and there’s no excuse not to.

Most blog hosts offer a default RSS subscription service. All you have to do is make sure that the link to it is visible in your toolbars/widgets.  RSS isn’t the only subscription route. For example, I don’t use RSS and the sad fact is that if I can’t subscribe to a blog via email, I don’t bother, no matter how interesting or entertaining it is. I simply don’t have time to book mark it and randomly check back. I’m not the only one.

If your blog host doesn’t offer an email subscription option (wordpress does – just go to your widgets and drag it over to your widget area), you can use feedburner.com to create one. They will generate code that you can paste into your blog’s sidebar (if you want to see it in action you can check here – look to the right). Feedburner is pretty easy to use, so I won’t go into details unless someone wants me to.

Remember, the point of blogging is to be read – so make it easy for your readers to read – and subscribe – to you, or they might not bother.