Introducing the #ListifyLife Spring Challenge!

Listify Life Spring Challenge - Join up!

I love a list. There's something about that little itemized structure that does it for me. It's neat, efficient, and gets to the point. When I'm brainstorming a new book, all my thoughts are in bulleted list form. Maybe the hero has this in his background. Maybe the heroine met the hero when she was a kid. Maybe the hero has a dog. 

And when I plan, lists are my go to structure, too. That's why the Day Designer works well for me. Half the page is dedicated to a long To Do list. 

So, when I bought a beautiful new gold Leuchtturm journal, I had a plan to keep lists in there. BUT I am a notoriously failed journal keeper. And this felt a lot like keeping a journal. So that got me to thinking--what if there was some structure to the lists I keep in there? A challenge to keep me excited and focused. I started chatting about it with my friend and fellow writer Sierra Godfrey and the Listify Life Challenge was born.

What is it?

There are lots of lists type challenges out there, but maybe are daily and most seems to focus on heavier topics like goal-setting and deep thoughts about life or yourself. That's cool but not what I was going for. I wanted this to be fun, a little silly, something to look forward to. No therapy needed! ;) So this challenge is going to be a WEEKLY list challenge where there is one topic a week. You write down your list on any day that week and take a photo of it to share (or you can type it into a blog or FB or whatever works for you.) Use the hashtag #ListifyLife if your chosen social network uses hashtags and join up with others. :) This is meant to be a fun way to document your year and meet others without being too time-consuming.

When is it?

It starts next week. We're going to divide by seasons. So this first challenge is the Spring Listify Life Challenge and will run March 20 (first day of Spring) through June 19th (last day of Spring). If things go well, a summer challenge will start after that.

What are the topics?

Here's a beautiful graphic designed by Sierra Godfrey. Sierra has also made free printable cards with the individual list topics if you want to print and write your lists on those. (And feel free to post this graphic on your site or instagram to spread the word.)

2016 Spring Listify Life Challenge - Roni Loren

Where to post your lists?

This is the flexible part. This isn't going to be tied to a certain social network. Blog your lists, Instagram them, tweet them, Facebook them. Post in one place or five. It's whatever works for you. I'll be posting the photos of my lists across my networks. And I will blog them as well with added commentary.

Who can join?

Anyone! This isn't just for writers or a particular group. Two of the topics lend themselves more to people who love to read, but other than that, the topics should work for anyone.

Why should you join?

Um, because lists are awesome. And you get an excuse to buy NEW OFFICE SUPPLIES. That should be reason enough. AND you get one free day a week where you don't have to think about--what should I blog about? Or post on Instagram or FB? You have a built in idea. And did I mention the office supplies? New pens, people. Pens.

***

I'm really excited about this challenge and am looking forward to seeing everyone's answers for the different topics. I hope you'll join us and be a fellow list nerd with me. :) 

So, are you ready to play along?

Checking Items Off Your Bucket List: Photography

Neighborhood cat escaping his yard

A neighborhood cat escaping his yard.

Back in February, I blogged about making a reasonable mini-bucket list. We all have big, bold things we'd like to do someday, but often someday doesn't come or the task is too big/expensive/time-consuming for us to fit into our lives. So I wanted to make a list I could reasonably tackle right then.

You can read the full post here, but one of my items was to learn more about photography. Here's what I said back in February:

I have always been interested in photography. It's one of those creative pursuits I "hope to learn" one day not for career purposes but for a hobby. But especially after my blog photo lawsuit debacle, I now am REALLY interested in learning how to take my own photos. I've gotten a few fun apps on my Iphone, but obviously that's very limited.

And I know a DSLR camera would be the next step, but those are expensive and at this point, I'd have no idea how to operate it. So I feel like I'd need to take a class if I decided to invest in that pricey of a camera. So this one has some cost involved. But I'm still really interested in pursuing it.

So, I was a bit intimidated by the learning curve and the upfront cost. However, in March, I took a trip to NYC to visit the Penguin offices and meet the publishing team involved with my books. On that trip, I had the chance to do lots of sightseeing and took lots of pictures--but all I had was my Iphone to do it. So when I came back home, I decided that the next royalty check I got, I would treat myself to a fancy camera and find a camera class.

In April, I bought the Canon Rebel T4i and a 50mm lens after chatting with Twitter friends/photographers on what I should get (extra thanks to Jenn LeBlanc for sending me long, detailed emails answering my newbie questions.) Then I researched and found an Intro to Digital Photography class at a local university for a really reasonable price. It was seven classes, two hours once a week. 

I just finished the last class this week, and I'm so happy I decided to take the plunge. It was a risk to do during deadline time. And I almost talked myself out of it with "you need to be using all your non-mommy time on writing" but sometimes you need to refresh your brain with non-writing creative pursuits. 

Of course, this was only an intro class and now I want to learn more, so I'm going to probably sign up for another class in the fall. But at least now I can use my camera on manual mode and feel confident about taking photos.

So if you have one of those lingering bucket list items that is doable, I encourage you to take the time to try to fit it in. It's a nice feeling to do something purely for your own enjoyment or enrichment. Not because it's practical. Not because it's necessary. Not because you need to make money from it. But just because you want to.

And though I'm still learning, I'll share some of my pics I've taken over the last few weeks. If you want to see more, check out my Flickr.  (And btw, I list almost all of my photos as creative commons on Flickr so feel free to share using the creative commons guidelines.) : )

 Ironwork

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So what's on your reasonable bucket list? What would you like to tackle next? Or, what are you currently checking off your list? 

 

Most Popular Posts of 2012 and Introducing Must-Read Mondays

Putting 2012 in our rearview mirror (kidlet does this with a cape)Happy New Year!

First, before I get to today's post, I want to say thank you to everyone who helped me celebrate FALL INTO YOU's release yesterday even when you were busy doing your own holiday thing. *hugs* I hope those of you who bought it, enjoy it, and those of you who didn't--come on, get to it. Don't let those book gift certificates waste away! ;)  But seriously, I'm always indebted to each and every one of you who read my books. You rock. Thank you.

Now, on to today's post..

It's that time of the year to look back and evaluate what has gone right and wrong so we can decide how we want to move forward in the bright, shiny new year. So I thought it'd be interesting to see which posts were the most popular here on the blog in 2012. And though I knew which one would be number 1, the rest were a bit surprising. So here's what the numbers look like and what I'm going to do about it. :)

 

Top Posts of 2012

 

1.  Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog - My Story - Yeah, this wasn't a fun situation, but the post went viral and seemed to resonate with a lot of people. So, though I'd prefer not to have gone through it, I'm very glad it helped all of us learn how to do the right thing with regards to pics on our blogs.

2.  What to Read If You've Read 50 Shades of Grey and Want More BDSM Romance - Not too surprising considering the 50 phenomenon, but I was surprised that people found their way here considering the glut of info about 50 out there.

3.  BDSM Romance: What To Read If You've Never Tried It Before - This one is probably here for the same reason as number 2.

4.  Want Private Inspiration Boards? Alternatives to Pinterest - I did this post before Pinterest implemented access to 3 private boards. Clearly, it was something a lot of people were looking for (especially after my photo debacle.)

5.  What Will Make An Agent Gong Your Pages - We all want to know, don't we? :)

6.  Zang...Best American Idol Performances Ever #atozchallenge - This one surprised me. It was kind of a random post.

7.  Readers Face the Slush Pile: A Few Hard Truths - This one talked about how readers are now going to have to sift through the slush since it's hard to tell what is good and what isn't now that the indie movement is so big. (I wrote this last May and since then, have read many indie books. I've discovered that how I sift through the slush is simple--I wait for recs from friends and reviewers I trust before I buy a book. And I read samples on occasion.)

8.  Author Websites: Layering Yours With Sticky Extras - I think this one was popular because sometimes we focus so much on our blogs that we forget that readers (especially non-blog-readers) might want a little more on your author website.

9.  Kink & BDSM 101 - What It Is & Why It's So Popular In Books  - I probably have to credit 50 Shades on this one too.

10.  Because Good Smut Should Be Shared...Book Recommendations

11.  The New Adult Genre: Here To Stay This Time? - This genre is on fire right now, so I'm not surprised a lot of people stopped by.

12.  Finding Your Novel's Theme and Your Universal Theme 

 

So what was pretty interesting to me in this list is how it's changed so much from years before. Usually, my writing posts have been the big winners each year. This year, after an effort to balance my site a bit more so that I could provide content to readers and not just writers, it seems to have shifted. I was surprised at how popular the book recommendation posts were. 

Therefore, since I love doing the book rec posts, and y'all seem to appreciate them, I'm going to continue those this year in a more structured way. I'm making Mondays - Must-Read Mondays. Now, if I don't have something to recommend, I won't do a post. But generally, I'm reading enough that I always have a good book to share. And this will NOT be a place for other authors to solicit me for reviews/guest posts/etc. I'm happy to host people on occasion on other days, but I don't accept books for review. Anything I review, I picked up on my own. Plus, I want y'all to know that if I'm recommending a book, it's with no ties or strings or author-is-my-buddy bias--it's just me loving a book as a reader and wanting to pass along the word.

Now for the rest of the days on the blog, I'm still going to cover writing and social media topics when I come across something I haven't covered before. And I'll continue Fill-Me-In Fridays where I round up all the best links. However, those round up posts may be spaced out instead of every Friday because I've been too busy with writing lately to surf the web and have enough links to share each week. Also, I'm not sure if people are still loving the round up, so let me know if it's something you want me to keep around. 

I'm still working on some other features, but that's what I'm changing for now.

Now, go buy FALL INTO YOU, and enjoy your New Year's holiday! ;)

Are you making any changes to your blog this year? What posts are you most likely to stop by for here?

Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Links of the Week

Photo of the week: This ornament keeps trying to knock down the tree

The title of this one is a bit of a misnomer. I haven't done a Fill Me In Friday in a while, so this is more like the best of the last three weeks. :) But there are definitely some great ones in here. Enjoy!

On Writing/Publishing:

 

On Social Media/Marketing:

 

Bright, Shiny Randomness:

 

What You May Have Missed Here:

 

That's all I have for you. I'm not sure I'll be posting again until after Christmas so I hope you all have a lovely holiday! 

 

A Year Of Book Buying in Review: Did Social Media Influence My Choices?

What does a year say? Today I was reading Janice Hardy's blog about having too many Twitter followers (and I agree, go read it. It's a great article.) But she linked to an older post by The Intern on author social media presence and if it makes a difference. Does all that tweeting/blogging/spinning plates in the air really effect book sales? 

I've talked about the topic before from my own perspective as an author. However, I thought it would be interesting to look at my own book buying habits as a READER over the past year to see if all that social media book buzz made me buy books. 

*Now, the caveat here is that since I am in this industry, I am dialed in to social media and the world of authors, book bloggers, editors, and such. Readers like me are probably a very small segment of the book buying population. But I still thought it'd be interesting to look at my personal stats.

So here's a look at my 2012:

Format...

 

Number of ebooks (not including free) bought this year: 80

Number of print (not including free) bought this year: 23

Thoughts: Wow, I've definitely become an ebook junkie. But this is probably less about a preference for ebook than it is the sale factor. All those ebook sales get me. Plus, I get LOTS of free print books from conferences so I only have so much room.

 

How'd I find out about the books I acquired?

 

On Sale (not including free): 35

Discovered Online through someone other than the author (book blogger, twitter rec, etc.): 22

Free ebooks: 17

Favorite Authors/Auto-buys: 16

Heard About Online Directly From Author: 14

Random purchases: 5

Free print books: A lot, probably at least 50.

Thoughts:

-On sale is clearly an effective strategy for me BUT there were a lot more sales I passed up. Often those sales were paired with an online mention/rec by a book blogger or someone I know. So the sale alone is often not enough.

-Yes, I discover most of the books I buy from online soures, BUT it's rarely directly from the author. It's more word of mouth via other authors, readers, and book bloggers.

-The authors who I bought based on directly hearing about their book from them are almost 100% people I've already built relationships with online. So they are friends. These were not purchases from random authors who I've never chatted with who just happened to put out a "buy my book!" tweet. That absolutely is white noise to me. I don't pay attention at all unless I already know the person.

 

Now, those are the books I've bought, what about the books I've actually READ?

 

Books discovered via online recommendation by someone other than the author: 17

Books by Favorite/Trusted Authors: 13

Books bought on Sale: 10

Books I heard about directly from the author: 4

Random: 2

Free ebooks: 0

Free print books: 2

Thoughts:

-So even though books on sale got the most buys, they didn't get the most reads. Why is this important? Because a sale gets an author their first buy, but a read gets an author their NEXT buy. And the only FREE books I've read this year are two print books that I got at a conference. I've read 0 of the free ebooks I've downloaded.

-Online recs from book bloggers and online friends I trust clearly are effective for both what I purchase and what I read.

-Favorite authors get moved to the top of the pile for reading. I bought 16 of these and read 13. And the three that are unread are only unread because I just got them. So this is stil the strongest bought to read conversion.

 

Overall: So it looks like YES, my book buying is highly influenced by my online connections. It's the thing that most gets me to buy books because even the sales are discovered via social media. BUT I discover new books and authors through other people not through the author herself. The only books I've bought directly from my connection with the author are people I'd already developed a friendly relationship with.

So what does this mean for authors on social media? 

In my opinion, it means that you should focus on building genuine friendships with people. Trying to sell your books directly to your followers is probably not going to be very effective. But if you build real relationships with people, entertain and help with your blog/tweets/etc., then maybe those people who have gotten to know you will be the people to spread the word on your behalf. And THAT buzz is what actually gets me, as a reader, to buy...and probably many other people as well. But also realize that many, many readers are never going to dial into the online book community, so it's still a small lake in a big ocean. So don't kill yourself trying to be the social media master. Do what you can and write more books.

 

What are your thoughts? Where do you find out about the books you buy? What's your biggest book buying influence?


Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Links of the Week

I may or may not have done this dance when I turned in my book. :)

Hey there. Hope everyone has had a fantastic week. I turned in my latest book to my editor yesterday so I'm in celebration mode. : ) Now I get a few days to clear my head before I get to work on the E-serial, NOT UNTIL YOU, on Monday. 

Here are the best links I've come across in the last two weeks. Since I've been in serious writing/editing mode, my surfing time has been scarce so this is a little shorter than normal, but I still wanted to pass them along.

On Writing/Publishing:

On Social Media/Promotion:

Bright, Shiny Randomness:

What You May Have Missed Here:

All right, that's all I have for you this week. Hope you have a fantastic weekend!

Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Writing Links of the Week

The Loving on the Edge series brought to you by copious amounts of Iced Tea

So guess what? I finished my draft of CAUGHT UP IN YOU! Woot! 55 Days - 85,000 words and enough Iced Tea to hydrate a Paula Deen convention.  

I did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A slow writer can learn new tricks apparently.

It was kind of like doing NaNoWriMo two months back to back. (I do not recommend it.) But after multiple false starts with this book and a complete change in concept (twice), which put me under the gun, I made my deadline! Now I have to do some revisions, then onto the next project which is due Feb. 1.  *gets back on hamster wheel*

But I hope to at least be sane enough to get back to some regular blogging now. And since it's Friday, I figured I'd get back to my normal round up post. This is two weeks worth of links.

 

 

On Writing/Publishing:

 

 

On Social Networking/Promotion:

 

 

Bright, Shiny Randomness: 

 

Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! 

Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Writing Links of the Week

Photo via Ben Salter (Flickr cc)Is it Friday already? Wow, weeks fly when there's a deadline looming. : )  Today will be a pretty short list since my web surfing time has been limited lately, but I wanted to pass along a few links of awesomeness I came across this week.

But first, an announcement. :) My NEW covers with their new look for my series will be revealed on Tuesday on the USA Today Happily Ever After blog! Yay! Can't wait to share them with y'all. That also means I'm going to need to find some time to update my website and the header because I've got a brand new...uh brand. :)

Alright, on to the links...

On Writing/Publishing:

Screenwriting Tricks for Authors - FREE this week! <-- love this book, go get it

What's New in YA? Mashups via Publisher's Weekly

Author Image | Annie Neugebauer <--should your author photo match the vibe of your books? (I know mine doesn't. But I've got no shot of being dark and sexy in a photo. My non-smiling expression in photos always look like a frog is peeing on my foot.)

NA Alley: Entangled Publishing Announcement <--more news on the New Adult front

 

On Social Networking/Marketing:

The Bookshelf Muse: The Path To 10K In Sales: Strategy, Luck & Mistakes

Who Needs a Platform? | Rachelle Gardner

Author, Jody Hedlund: Is Blogging a Time-Suck for Writers? <--really interesting discussion and points from James Scott Bell on both Rachelle's and Jody's post.

 

For Gits and Shiggles:

This Risotto Gonna F**k You Up, Son via Chuck Wendig - so, so funny. He needs his own cooking show.

EXCLUSIVE Cover Reveal: Maya Banks’s Breathless Trilogy! <--so purty

 

What You May Have Missed Here:

Is Reading the Genre You're Currently Writing Dangerous?

 

That's what I've got for this week. Hope you all have a fabulous weekend! I think I'm going to head out to the TX State Fair for all things deep-fried (cinnamon rolls, grilled cheese, jambalaya, the list goes on.)  :)

 

Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Writing Links of the Week

Bellagio Fountains

So it's that time of the week. I missed it last week because I was on my mini Vegas vacation (hence the photos), so this will include links from the last two weeks.

Also, you may have noticed (if you're particularly observant) that I've been a bit quieter on the blog and on Twitter lately. This has been by design because I'm under a tight deadline right now and have to put most of my time into that. BUT, it's working. I just tallied last month's word count and I wrote 40k in September. Woot! That's definitely a record for me. Now I have 35k to write by Nov. 1. *breathes into paper bag* So posting may be continue to be a little less regular for a little while longer. 

Alright, on to the links...

*First, I've posted an exclusive snippet of FALL INTO YOU on facebook if you'd like to check that out. (And if you want to follow me there, this is the place I focus on more reader-oriented vs. writer stuff.)

On Writing/Publishing:

What a Concept! Plotting Your Novel Conceptually via Janice Hardy

real actual hilary: Why writing with a book deal is a whole different game

delilah s. dawson: 10 Tips for Barfing a Book

Penguin, 3M E-Book Pilot 3M Goes Live <--Penguin working with a new library ebook service

How to write a bad review - Salon.com

Book Piracy – An Insiders Perspective - Stacey O'Neale's Site

Comparison Doesn’t Work - Books & Such Literary Agency : Books & Such Literary Agency

Co-Authoring: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly via Rachelle Gardner

Our hotel bed looked like it should be at The Ranch

Calls for Submissions:

Submissions opportunity: one week only…feedback & 6 week response time via Carina Press -- Great opportunity to get feedback

Now acquiring: Contemporary crack at Carina Press <--after reading Angela James' discussion of contemporary crack, I'm starting to think this is what I write, lol. The drama! The angst! The smex! :)

Now acquiring: New Adult at Carina Press <--I just talked about this genre in a post last week (linked below) and here you go, a publisher actively looking for it

 

On Social Media/Promotion/Marketing:

Is Your Author Website Helping You or Holding You Back? | BookBaby Blog

Why Content Marketing is the New Branding | Copyblogger

Does Social Media Sell Books? « Writerland

 

For Gits and Shiggles (and a little panting):

Channing Tatum opens his New Orleans bar “Saints and Sinners” this weekend - NYPOST.com <--why oh why didn't I plan a trip home to New Orleans this weekend??? I'm tempted to send my mother out to the opening with a camera. ;)

Ten Tips for Bringing BDSM Into Your Bedroom by Joey Hill | TheCelebrityCafe.com <--I get asked about this privately pretty often since my books make some readers curious about how BDSM can work in real life. These are some great, practical tips on getting started.

 

At the Marilyn Manson (and Buckcherry) concert

What You May Have Missed Here:

The New Adult Genre: Here To Stay This Time?

Natalie Bahm and Agent Sara Megibow On Self-Pubbing For a Good Cause

7 Things That Make the Chronic Finisher Put Down a Book

Book Deal Squee-ing: More Loving on the Edge On the Way! <--in case you haven't seen me squaking about it all over the interwebs. :)

 

 

That's all I have for you this week. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

 

Fill-Me-In Friday - Best Writing Links of the Week

 

Fave photo of the weekTaking kidlet on a miniature train ride in Fort Worth yesterday. Kidlet declared, "It's just like the Dinosaur train! But no dinosaurs." :)

Alright, we've made it to Friday, everyone. Congrats. :) And since I had to skip last Friday's round-up, we have an extra long one today. Hope you find something worth reading.

 

On Writing/Publishing: 

 

On Social Media/Marketing:

 

For Gits and Shiggles:

 

What You May Have Missed Here: 

 

So that's what I have for the week. How was your week? What are you reading?

Your Facebook Page May Be Blocking Your Fans

Keep Out

Photo by Zach Klein (flickr cc)

I didn't plan on posting today, but I wanted to do a quick PSA about something I found out today. So on occasion I've had a friend or two say they couldn't reach my Facebook author page. I tried to send a few different versions of links to those people, but no matter what I tried, they couldn't get to it. Even if they searched for me, my name didn't come up.

Then yesterday I did a post on Facebook vs. Twitter: Where The Readers Are and I had more people have the same issue. So I put a call out on Twitter this morning to see who could access the link and who couldn't. Well, turns out, it was blocking anyone from outside the U.S.  Uh-oh.

So I did some research and discovered that Facebook apparently has a setting that defaults to only allowing people in your home country to view your page. It blocks EVERYONE else.  !!!  I was shocked to find this out. I've had this page for at least two years and had no idea. I always wondered why my FB page grew so much more slowly than Twitter. I figured it's because I'm on Twitter more. But now I realize I was unintentionally locking out a whole lot of people. *sigh*

Therefore, I wanted to let everyone know about this setting so that you can check your own page and fix it if you're set on the same default.

To fix this, go to your Facebook PAGE (This is not for profiles but for fan pages.) Click on the Admin Panel, then Manage Permissions. Then make sure there are no countries listed in your "Countries Restrictions" box. And select the button that says "Hide this page from viewers in this country." If you have no countries selected then that will mean it's open to all.

If you need more visual directions, here's another blog post with pics.

Grr. Kind of frustrating that I'm just figuring this out now, but hopefully you can save yourself the trouble.

And for anyone out there who has tried to access my page and had issues, everything should be fixed now. You can follow me here. : )

Am I the only one who wasn't aware of this?

Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Writing Links of the Week

Cave Silhouette

Photo via NeilsPhotography (Flickr CC)

*peeks out from writing cave* *blinks* Wow, there's light out there. And people.

Writing Update: How is it Friday already? I think I missed a couple of days this week. I've been trying to write with the Fast Draft mentality this week (not true fast draft of 5k a day, but writing without obsessing and going back constantly to fix stuff.) It's definitely not my natural state and I get walloped with the anxiety of it all at least once a day--what if I'm going in the wrong direction, what if I'm writing all these words that won't be used, etc. Ack. But so far, I haven't gone back, and in the last three days I've written about 7k words, which is a decent pace. Hopefully they're mostly the right words. We'll see.

Book Update: There will be official announcements coming soon, but I did get a couple of good news things this week. All I'll say for now is that it looks like you'll be getting stories from The Ranch for a while to come. : )

All right, now on to the best links I've come across this week...

 

On Writing/Publishing: 

 

 

On Social Media/Promotion:

 

 

What You May Have Missed Here:

 

 

For Gits and Shiggles:

  • 2012 BTCA finalists <--Want to know what crazy deep-fried concoctions have finaled for this year's Texas State Fair? I think the deep-fried cinnamon roll with bacon is going to be the one I get in line for.

 

 All right, that's what I've got for this week. How has your week been? Hope y'all have a great weekend!

3 Reasons Why Coercing Readers Into Newsletter Subscriptions Is a Bad Idea

Image via opensourcewayWhen it comes to marketing our books, all of us want a captive audience. We want to know how to find the readers who love our books and the readers who COULD love our books. And we want to be able to reach out to these people so we can connect with them, build relationships, and at some point let them know when we have something new out. And one of the traditional ways of doing that for authors is the newsletter. 

Talk to any marketing expert and they'll mention the importance of building your "list". The list being that group of people who have voluntarily signed up to listen to you. And this list is so important because a) This is your captive audience and b) It's something that can't be taken away like Facebook or Twitter (Remember MySpace? If you'd built all your following there, you'd be in trouble now.)

So that's why you'll see so many writers running contests that give you points or require you to sign up for their newsletter or blog in order to enter. You can give away a Kindle and get that ever-precious list to grow to hundreds, thousands! Whee!

Yeah. And guess how many of those people ACTUALLY give a flip about the kind of books you write? Exactly. They wanted to win the contest and jumped through your hoop, but they are not your target audience. But, but, but... you say. But they COULD become my readers when they see my kickass newsletter in their inbox. But they know my name now and name awareness is everything. But, but, but...

Here's the thing...

This is what typically happens when I've signed up for a newsletter in the past just to enter a contest or get something:

  • I see it in my inbox, don't recognize the author, I delete it.

Everyone gets enough email, and we're accustomed to deleting spam and advertisements without even opening them. Newsletters are great when it's someone I'm truly interested in. But if I'm not a fan already, no newsletter has ever converted me into one.

  • After I delete it a few times, I start to get annoyed and I unsubscribe.

So now, not only am I not interested, I kind of have a bad taste in my mouth. I feel like I was coerced into this subscription and now I have to waste my time to unsubscribe.

 

Why Coercion Doesn't Work

1. Email is a higher level commitment these days.

If I sign up for a blog, it's easy enough to scroll through my blog reader and skim past posts that don't interest me. But you do have a chance of catching my eye and maybe getting a new fan if you write something interesting. But if subscribing to a blog is like smiling at a guy across the room to let him know you could be interested, signing up for an email newsletter is like giving him your phone number and agreeing to a date. It's a bigger commitment. You don't want to date everyone. You hand pick those people.

2. It doesn't foster true connection with your readers or potential readers

When we sign up for something just to be entered for a contest, it's pretty clinical. Okay, what do I have to jump through to win this thing? Sign up for newsletter--check. Tweet the contest--check. This isn't introducing you to new readers necessarily. It's not giving them a reason of WHY they should WANT to follow you and get that pretty newsletter.

3. Newsletters are typically very fan-focused so play to a different audience than the group you coerced.

There are exceptions, but in general, newsletters are set up to play to that captive audience--your current fans. But if I'm not already a reader of your books, what do I care about exclusive excerpts or the cupcake recipe your character used? *delete* This goes deeper into what you should put in a newsletter. I personally think author newsletters are meant for current fans and blogs/twitter/facebook are better for attracting new people to try your books. But feel free to disagree with me on that one.

 

Can you tell I got one too many newsletters in my inbox this week? ;) I think newsletters are a fantastic feature to have added to your website. Many readers are NOT daily blog readers and like having a newsletter come to them to remind them that you have a new book out. However, I think newsletter sign-up should be truly voluntary. It's called "opting in" for a reason. And it's fine if you offer some freebie for signing up--an exclusive chapter, a free ebook, whatever. But have it be something that encourages interest in your books, something that plays to your target audience.

Don't just build a list to build a list; make it a meaningful one. One hundred true fan subscribers are better than a thousand people who really just wanted to win a gift card and have no real interest in you or your books.

So what do you think? Anyone else get annoyed by the newsletter thing? What newsletters do you love to get and look forward to reading? What audience do you think an author newsletter should be targeted toward--current fans or potential readers?

Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Writing Links of the Week

School bus

Kidlet goes back to school next week!

 So this week has continued to be crazy and my current WIP has changed a few times over again. Let's not even talk about deadlines. But I'm not going to complain because deadlines mean I have book contracts and that is always a good thing. :)

But can I say I'm SO happy kidlet goes back to school next week. He only goes for half a day in the afternoons so I'm not going to be getting much more time than I get now with him in daycare in the mornings, but afternoon time is so much more productive for me writing wise. AND a bus will pick up kidlet instead of me having to play taxi. So yay for that.

Oh, and for those of you who remember me asking about other programs to use to organize and save links like Delicious, I think I've found one that works for me. Zootool allows me to save a link with one click of a bookmark button and I can organize them into "packs" which is similar to when Delicious still had "stacks" (the feature I was missing in the new design). So then I can just make a pack for each week and save things throughout the week for this Friday post. :)

Now, on to the links...

On Writing/Publishing:

  

On Social Media/Promotion: 

 

Other Awesome Stuff:

  • Natalie Bahm: BIG News - My agency-mate Natalie is self-pubbing her first novel and ALL proceeds are going to help a family with a very sick child. How amazing is Natalie? She's going to stop by the blog next month to talk more about it, but go check out what she's doing and spread the word.
  • Dogshaming - This was making the rounds on Twitter this week, but in case you missed it, go check it out. HILARIOUS. 

 

What You May Have Missed Here:

  

That's all I've got this week. Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend! 

Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Writing Links of the Week

Young Gymnast Trains in the Gymnasium of the Turner Club in New Ulm, Minnesota...

(Photo via the U.S. National Archives)

Status: Still trying to find balance this week

So I'm still buried this week with writing the new WIP and going through copyedits for FALL INTO YOU, so this list may be a little shorter than normal. Maybe one day I'll figure out how to balance working under deadlne and keeping up with everything else. But hopefully you'll find some links worth clicking. 

On Writing/Publishing:

 

On Social Media/Marketing:

 

Other stuff and what you may have missed from me this week:

 

So what good links have you come across this week? Hope y'all have a great weekend!

 

Should I Change the Look of my Website? Opinions Needed

So Squarespace, the company that I built my website through, has a new version available. And of course, this meant I had to tinker with it to see what it looked like. Not that I have time to be doing any tinkering. But here's what I came up with.

Do you think this has a better look than what I have now or should I stick with the site I have? I like the more modern look of the new template, but I'm worried that it doesn't match my "brand" as much.

Thoughts? Opinions?

 

 

For a bigger version, click here

 

I'd appreciate any opinions anyone wants to throw out there. Thanks!

Want Private Inspiration Boards? Alternatives to Pinterest

So ever since the whole photo copyright situation, one of the things I've been saddest to give up was my book inspiration boards on Pinterest and my inspiration photos on Tumblr. I enjoyed having those visual cues to go to when I was struggling with a scene or needed to remind myself the mood I was going for with my story. (And frankly, when in writer's block, what better to help a girl out than a big dose of mancandy photos?) 

And even though I now realize it's not legal to be collecting and sharing those photos publicly on Pinterest or Tumblr, I did wonder how I could recreate those inspiration boards in a private use only environment. Yes, I could print out photos and pin them to a real bulletin board. But come on, anything that involves crafts is lost on me. Plus, printer ink is expensive. So I started to google.

Pinterest does not have the option for private boards yet. It's been talked about but hasn't come to fruition yet, so I wondered what else was out there. And wow--there's a lot out there. I couldn't possibly list all the different Pinterest-like sites I came across because I'd be here all day, but here are some of the more promising ones that allow private boards.

UPDATE (11/2012): Pinterest now allows up to 3 private boards! 

Photo by Alixanaeuphoria (Flickr CC) 

Six Pinterest Alternatives with Private Board Capability

1. Clipboard

This one is the one I'm trying first. It allows you to collect pictures like Pinterest, but also adds the function of clipping anything to add to your board--web pages, videos, articles, recipes, etc.  You can add a +clipboard button to your browser and when you come across something you want to clip, it's super easy to select exactly what you want. And they take privacy seriously. Your boards default to private and you have to decide if you want to share them.

 

2. Juxtapost

This one has a similar look to Pinterest and is mostly focused on photos. But it does have some added features that Pinterest doesn't have--private boards, the ability to share private boards with a particular person, the ability to export your boards into excel so that you can print things out, and a "more like this" button to see similar pictures. 

 

3. Springpad

This one is really visually appealing like Pinterest. You can do private boards and it has smartphone apps to help add things to your notebooks. This one is definitely tempting me too.

 

4. ImageSpark

This one goes with the idea of "moodboards" where you can arrange your photos not just in grid lines like Pinterest but can make it more collage like. You only get two moodboards to start though. There may be a charge if you want to expand beyond that.

 

5. Love It

This one looks very similar to Pinterest and appears to have the same functionality with the added bonus of being able to have private boards. Thanks to Amber West for recommending this one.

 

6. Bo.lt

Also has a similar look to Pinterest, but allows you to save entire webpages, not just photos. Also, it saves a copy of whatever it is so even if that webpage disappears in the future, the info is still there for you. 

 

There are more out there but these are the ones that came up most frequently when I was looking for private board capability. And remember, if you make any boards public, the same issues with Pinterest apply to all these sites as well. Don't publicly post pics you don't have copyright permission to use.

Has anyone tried any of these? Anyone have any other services you use that you'd recommend? Do you see the benefit of the private boards or was Pinterest all about the public sharing for you?

Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Writing Links of the Week

  

 Fave photo of the week: My haul from RWA *pets*

How is it the end of the week already? Wow. All right, so those who may new to the blog, on Fridays I do a links round up of the best writing and publishing posts (along with a few fun posts thrown in) of the week. Since I was at RWA last week, I skipped a week, so this list will be a bit chunky. :) 

On Writing/Publishing:

 

On Social Media/Blogging/Promotion:

 

For Gits and Shiggles: 

 

What You May Have Missed Here:

 

All right, that's what I have this week. Now I'm off to hopefully write two winning book proposals. I hope y'all have a great weekend! :)

FAQ on the Blog Photo Debacle

Photo by Alexander Henning Drachmann (cc)So I'm still recovering from RWA this week. I have a fun combination of a sick child, a cold, and lingering jet lag. But I thought I'd pop in really quickly to answer a few questions. I've been getting a boat load of emails since my photography post. Most have been kind words--I appreciate that--but many have also had additional questions about the post and/or copyright.

I don't necessarily have definitive answers on some of these because I am NOT a lawyer and this is NOT legal advice. However, I can tell you what I've found in my own research during all of this.

 

FAQs from my inbox:

1. If I can't find out who owns the photo, can I use it?

No. Just because you don't know who owns it, doesn't mean it's not owned. Just find another photo that is creative commons or that you can pay or get permission for.

 

2. What about still shots from TV shows or movies?

This was one I really wanted to know. It *seems* like this is okay under Fair Use because you are only using a small part of a whole and not impacting the ability for the movie to sell. Jane at Dear Author spoke a little bit about this in a recent post.

 

3. What about YouTube videos?

If you are the one making the videos, then be careful. Don't use copyrighted material in your videos. However, if you want to say, embed someone else's YouTube video on your blog, is that okay? I haven't gotten a black and white answer on this. But here's what I've gathered. If it's a very short movie/TV clip, then it *probably* falls under Fair Use under the same logic as the movie still. If it's a music video/movie preview/clip hosted by that brand/artist/TV show/movie studio and there is an embed feature enabled, then it's *probably* fine. Like I said, don't take this as legal advice. But the nice thing about YouTube is that if you embed something on your blog and then You Tube finds out that the original person used copyrighted material, they take down the video and it will disappear anywhere it's embedded. So use with caution, but some particular uses are probably fine. (And obviously if a clip has the embed feature disabled, then don't use it at all.)

 

4. What about LOL Cats/Cheezburger photos or those funny e-cards?

For the e-cards, there are specific rules on how to use them. You can go to their terms of service and look, but it seems like the proper way to use them is via embed code NOT just cutting and pasting.

From SomeEcards TOS:

If you include or post any of the Content on another website, YOU MUST EITHER:

  1. use the sharing and embedding buttons on the Site for Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest; OR
  2. use the embed code or post the link of the Content ONLY.

Any other downloading of Content or dragging it to a third party site violates our rights to the Content.

As for the other, Jane at Dear Author contacted LOL Cats and it seems that they are okay if the embed code is present. Here's a quote from her site:

I emailed LOLCat about the embed codes and was told that some of the images don’t have embed codes for copyright images and that you needed to click through to the individual page of the LOLCat to see if there was an embed code but if there was one, it was there to be used.

 

5. What about recipes?

Recipes ARE copyrighted. You can copy a list of ingredients, but the directions on how to cook those ingredients are copyright protected. So no cutting and pasting someone else's recipes on your sites. (That obviously goes for the food pics that accompany them too.)

 

6. What about song lyrics or poetry?

Copyrighted. You can't use them in full. A small quote of a line or two would probably be fair use. The only exception would be things that have outlived their copyright term and are now in public domain.

 

7. If I post a link in Facebook and it adds that small pic from the original post to the link, is that breaking the rules?

Since that is a thumbnail sized pic and is a link to the original site, that appears to be fine. You didn't actually make a copy of the picture and paste it into Facebook.

 

8. Do these photo copyright laws apply across all the platforms: Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, blogs, etc.?

Yes.

 

9. What about celebrity photos?

Those are copyrighted just like anything else. Most of those big gossip sites probably pay a fee to certain companies to get a certain amount of access. They are not free to share. If you need to talk about a celebrity, a better option may be a screen shot from a movie with them in it.

 

10. If a site has a Pin It button, is it okay to pin?

Not necessarily. For instance, any blogger can put a Pin It button on their site, but if they are using other people's images (knowingly or unknowingly), you could be pinning copyrighted stuff. However, if a retail site has the Pin It button on their own product pages, you're *probably* okay. Never hurts to check their Terms.

 

11. What about book covers and movie posters?

Publishers get the rights to the book covers to use them for promotion, so bloggers using them to talk about the book is fine. However, you cannot take part of the image and use it for your own purposes (i.e. lifting off the text and using the photo on the cover for other purposes.) I'm assuming the same applies to movie posters since they are a promotional tool and when used in the context of commentary or review would probably fall under Fair Use. (Though like I said above, don't take my word as law. There are other ways you can't use movie posters and book covers. Here's a bit of an overview for movie posters.)

 

12. Can you release the name of the photographer or details of the case?

No. I wouldn't do that anyway, but there are confidentiality rules. So if you hear anything out there about what amount was paid or who was involved, it's probably not true because I haven't released any details and won't be doing so.

 

13. How do these apply internationally?

My research has been U.S. specific, but most countries have copyright laws. Things are going to be different from country to country so be sure to look up the rules that apply to you.

 

All right, I think those were the main ones. Hope that helps! 

 

A Bright Side - Writers Building a Photo Sharing Community

Wow, it's been a crazy weekend here at the blog with my copyright post this last Friday. I had to close comments finally because things were starting to spin into the name-calling direction. But before that, there was a vibrant and impassioned discussion in the comments and I appreciate everyone who chimed in with things that added to the discussion.

And clearly based on the shear volume of visitors and attention the post has I gotten, I wasn't the only one confused over the Fair Use laws. So I'm glad that even though this wasn't a fun thing to go through, the word on the right way to use photos is getting spread. That's good news for bloggers AND photographers.

One benefit that came out of this was bloggers and writers getting inspired to create their own photos and to share them. Kristen Lamb, founder of WANA International and the blogger/author behind the #myWANA (We Are Not Alone) hashtag on Twitter, even started a group on Flickr where we writers can submit our photos for free sharing with other writers for blog use. Already I'm astounded at the gorgeous pics some of the WANAs have submitted to the group. I guess I shouldn't be. Writers are a creative lot. : )

And it's definitely made me start looking at random things I could photograph for blog posts. On today's agenda was kidlet's toys. Here are some photos I've taken. (I think kidlet had as much fun as I did with the process.)

USA map puzzle

His favorite puzzle

 

IMG_0204IMG_0205

For back to school posts

 

IMG_0207

Recreating the Jurassic Park scene for my Plot-Driven post

 

IMG_0209

Yes, I violated kidlet's dolls to create a pic for my Sexual Tension post. Let's ignore that they're technically brother and sister. I was just channeling Flowers in the Attic.

 

Kidlet's creation

Kidlet's creation.

 

So I'm a person who always tries to find the positive, the bright side, of situations. Life's too short to stew in negativity. So that's what I want to do in this situation as well. One obvious positive thing that has come out of this is awareness in the blogging community and a swell of people changing things now that they know better. But also seeing writers get together to help each other out warms the cockles of my heart. 

I hope the creativity and the desire to make things better continues.

Now just a heads up--I'm going to be attending the RWA conference this week so my internet access is going to be limited at best. I have the lovely Tori St. Claire guest blogging here tomorrow, but the rest of the week, I'm taking off from the blog. I hope to come back from RWA with lots of great new information to share.

I hope you all have a fantastic week!

How has learning about the copyright rules changed how you're going forward with your blog? Are you more motivated to take your own photos?