#WritingTip 1:

Just a short one while I’m thinking of it. I was asked about my number one writing tip and I think it is that I seek honest feedback. I totally appreciate that it can be difficult to give sometimes, but I am most grateful for honesty. Truly.

I don’t ask beta readers, coaches or friends to make me feel good, I ask them how I can improve … and I love the answers. Sometimes they can be “wrong” but they are never unhelpful and usually they are right. 

Sometimes we differ on opinion or advice and sometimes it is different “grammar rules” but for the most part, they each lift my game a little (and sometimes a lot),  and it is a little like having a mirror placed in a blind spot, a light shone in a dark corner, or a lid being lifted on a whole new jar of tricks. I love that they want these things for me!

It sounds so obvious but it isn’t. And I have to say, I’d do the same for you. When I beta read for others I try to be as honest as I can, and I know it’s not easy. No one wants to hurt feelings. But do yourself a favour and #AskForHonesty.

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@JPeaSmith
“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off the pedestal: chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”  ― Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Author Stage or Author Platform

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Many people who are new to writing are doing exactly what we are all advised to do: Build an online presence, an online platform, and get the word out there. We have to sell ourselves, and we have to sell our books. But the biggest question I get asked over and over again is how do I get people to come to me and listen to what I have to say. This is the hardest part in some ways, but in other ways, I think it is actually the easiest, but you do need a few key ingredients: Humility, Patience, and Community are just three of them but believe me, you can’t get far without ALL of them. Here is why:

The first mistake we make is to go out, buy the wood and build ourselves a little stage in our back yard. We stand on it and wait for the crowds to come. It is heart-wrenching when no one turns up! So we fork out the cash for advertising, we stick posters on the lamp posts, and we tell all our friends. Some of them come, but still, there is no crowd and few of our books sell. It feels so unfair.

The problem is that many of us build a stage before we build a platform. Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook are all great tools, but they are just that, they are tools. They are the loudspeakers and the flyers and the billboards. But the problem is that they are lost in millions upon millions of almost identical loudspeakers, flyers, and billboards. At one end we have a FABULOUS product (aren’t all of our books going to be the next best seller?), and at the other end we have the advertising, but there is nothing in between. There is nothing to connect us and make us stand out. Even our STUNNING front cover is lost among thousands of other stunning covers!

So in comes humility and patience. Humility to ask someone else if we can perhaps have a seat at their table, to get to know them, and to one day accept a teeny corner of their stage. Over and over people tell me that they don’t have the time to meet people, to get to know them before they ask for help, or even then, that they don’t want to stand on someone else’s stage! They want to stand on their own stage. I get that. We all want our own stage to shine, but we can’t force people to come or to buy.

Another option perhaps is to build your own stage by all means, but for the first season, don’t stand on it other than to introduce our guests. Invite others to come and speak on it instead. Bring in people who you know others would love to hear. It is still your stage. But if you spend a season being the host, welcoming people, giving others a voice and a place to stand, then after a while, when people love and trust you, they will turn to you and ask you ” do you also write? I love to hear your voice at the beginning of each show, I would love to hear what else you have to say”.

These things both take time, they both take humility, and they take a whole lot of “paying it forward”. I am not saying it is easy, but for me, it is actually a whole lot easier than embarrassingly standing on a soap box and shouting “PLEASE BUY MY BOOK!” at the top of my lungs all day, every day.

We need to build an online presence and an online platform, but we must be a little careful of confusing it with simply building a stage…

Over the next few posts, I will dig much deeper into these things and answer any questions you have. Please feel free to join the closed Facebook Group on the subject of building ethical launch teams if you would like to ask your questions in a more private space, by clicking HERE.

 

ScampinChips Blogs!

img_5280-1I couple of months ago I found ScampinChips. She is a great blogger on so many levels and her wisdom and kindness in sharing everything that she learns, so freely and so honestly, is an inspiration to me. I have to confess that when I read her blogs I feel embarrassed of mine. I won’t stop of course but I thought that instead of writing nothing on starting out on Social Media this week, I would share this post on her blog.

Please don’t just close this down and without reading it. It is a really easy read I promise and it is a fabulous list of the 9 things that she wished she knew before she started blogging. If you are so new that you are following me on this series then her post is a must read! Truly! Even if there are a couple of things that don’t make sense to you yet, most of it will, and you will be thankful for these tips I promise.

I myself am keeping it open as a checklist because there are a couple of things that I missed as well and so now is the time to change/fix them…

Social Media Etiquette:

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Sorry that this is a long one but I don’t want to repeat myself for each platform, as all of this applies to all of them. But here are some basic Social Media Etiquette “Rules”:

I am not one for “rules of society” other than respect respect and respect. I think that if each and every one of us is thoughtful, aware and respectful, then most things in social life will go smoothly. But that is not the reality that we live in and there are a bunch of extra rules which need to be taken into consideration when launching into social media. Of course the basics of respect apply, but here are also a bunch of other somewhat random basic rules that also apply and why.

1: Try and be discreet when “Tagging” people. We tag people to either get their attention or the attention of their friends and followers. Which is great if you already have an appropriate relationship with them, or at a pinch you have something that you are 100% sure they will actually appreciate. However, tagging them in our post to promote ourselves is not a cool thing to do and is a bit like taking advantage of someone or worse, invading their personal space. It is considered rude to simply tag someone as advertising and I have been bowled away by how many people do it even though it is written all over the place that one shouldn’t. The other day someone who I have never met tagged me in their post saying “look at my blog, you will love it”. That is not cool. It is taking advantage of my following to promote themselves. If you tag me because you are reading these blogs and setting up accounts because of it, then go for it, but go for it because I am specifically inviting you to as you learn, and I encourage it too as I have offered to help. But if you then keep tagging me every day from then on in order to promote your puppy pictures then that is a whole new board game. It is an easy rookie mistake but not worth making. Be thoughtful (and respectful) about who you tag and how often.

2: Direct Messaging or sending people or pages private messages. Again this is a great tool but people either intentionally or unintentionally use this in ways that are considered totally not cool by the general social media population. When I got my first DM after following someone I was super excited. To then learn that they send the same message to every follower, automatically at that, left me feeling a little negative (anything stronger than that is pushing it but it wasn’t a cool feeling for sure). It didn’t hugely bother me until I kept reading over and over how much the big guys detest it and how upset some people do get by it. That first DM for me at least appeared to be genuine the way that it was phrased, but since then I have received hundreds of them that are not even vaguely attempting to sound genuine. They ask for things, tell me how much I will be blown away by their product, blog or company, and often send long lists of everything that they are connected to. I just ignore them as I have decided to give them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t “know any better”, but I have read many articles where people will block anyone who sends them a DM. I think that that is a bit strong but I don’t want to be that person sending DMs all over the show either.

3: How often to post. This one is a really tough one but as a general rule of thumb:

  • If you don’t post very often then there isn’t a lot of point in trying to get a following outside of the community of people like family and friends that you already have.
  • If you post too often then even the most forgiving don’t like their entire feed to contain nothing but you, so you will lose followers.

So you need to find some balance and middle ground. Most people try and have some kind of post 2-3 times each day. Many post more than that which can be great if you actually have that much to say that people love.

4: Repeated posts on Twitter and Facebook are a good idea because they are such a “point in time” platform that anything you say has all but disappeared by tomorrow or the next day. But if you have nothing but the same repeat going on then your followers who do see you will get sick of the same thing over and over. Imagine that you post 3 times a day but it is all the same things, your profile will simply be a long long list of the exact same thing. Even rotating 2 or 3 different things is not much better. So have some variety. Share your blog posts as you write them but in between share other things too. This is where Instagram comes in handy for me, it allows me to quickly and easily add colour, pics and memes to my Facebook Page automatically and in doing so I am covering two social media platforms in one, plus adding diversity to my posts.

5: What to post. Don’t just talk about yourself or your product. One of my personal favourite things about all the social media sites is the community and connectedness that I have found there. It is clearly obvious very quickly that the more you build up others the more they will build you up. If you post nothing but your own things and don’t contribute to discussions, share other’s posts, or encourage others, then why should they do all that for you? Stats vary but from all the articles that I have read, if you share, “like”, comment etc on other people’s pages at least two or three times for every time you promote yourself you can’t go wrong. More is even better. Some days I am tired and don’t feel that I have much to say, so I simply scroll through my feed and like share and comment on other people’s things. It brings diversity to my own profile, and people see that I promote and encourage other. I need followers and I often get more followers on those days. So don’t feel that you have to come up with all your own stuff.

6: Be genuine. Think about what you share, either of your own or of others. As you click away, share away and comment away, your personality will shine through. If you think you have that angry streak well hidden, it is likely to show in the general flow of what you do. And that is OK. If it is real then show it, and you will connect with like minded people. If you try to be false, too sweet, or too anything that you are not, it will show. For the most part people want to follow genuine people and aren’t interested in fake. Having said that, some of the biggest social media people are completely fake and yet they are followed anyway. Unless you have that gift of being “on” 24/7 and can push some crazy fake agenda, then don’t even try.

Ethical Launch Teams Part 2:

img_9270 Yesterday I started a Facebook Group for anyone who is interested in the whole concept of Launch Teams. With so many people doing their own publishing, it has become imperative to also do one’s own marketing as well, and if you are a writer like me then that is HARD! I am not a sales person, I don’t like sucking up to people, and I am absolutely useless at self-promotion, but worse than all of that is the fact that I am also an introvert. And I would also way prefer to be writing my book or my blogs than writing about me or my book or my blogs. And what would I say anyway?

So while I don’t think that anyone enjoys the whole marketing side of their books, things like Launch Teams have become a necessity. But this has also opened up a massive opportunity for readers who aren’t writers. A world has emerged where readers can spend very little money and read as many books as they would like or are able to. They can get in on the ground floor and be a part of the machine that puts great books and great writers out there. Joining a Launch Team for them is a great way to get cheap or even free books.

That sounds like a perfect match to me, and I keep hearing people who are new to the game say the same thing…. and then a few months later they burn their toes and wonder how it happened. You see in the rush to be seen and heard, many authors ask for reviews, publicity, and support and are kind and willing enough to return the favour. This is where it comes unstuck. Let us imagine for a moment that you and I are in the same literary group. There are twelve of us and we have been meeting at the library on Tuesday evenings for a decade and now it is time for us all to launch our much loved, hard earned, soul-bearing books. The timing isn’t exact, but within a year or so of each other we all proofread, edit, double, triple and quadruple check everything, and each of us launches our book. We have all supported each other in every way possible for a decade and we all feel the love of the others as we all sign up for Amazon, buy each other’s books, and give each other an honest review.

Our little group sends out weekly emails to each other and we are all friends on Facebook. We even meet for Cocktail Hour at the local pub once a month. This group is harmless in every sense of the word and the love for each other (well, most of each other) is deep.

The problem is that Amazon and Google and all the powers that be which we don’t like to think exist, know that we all know each other and they also know that other less noble citizens are prepared to swap (or worse; PAY for) reviews and reads …..and they can’t tell us apart. We all look dodgy to them. So they remove some of our reviews, they reject others outright, and the readers of our small local library who have so kindly offered to support us, get caught in the fallout too.

It sounds like a very bad and ridiculous movie. But it isn’t. I am now watching people choosing NOT to join or create a Launch Team because they are frightened of the mix up between genuine support and the swapping of reviews or appearing to be coerced into giving one. Amazon is ruthless.

But I have to tell you, that the concept of a Launch Team is still a very good one. We just all need to be prepared to work in a MUCH wider circle, to “pay it forward” and trust that someone else entirely will do the same for us.

Soooo…. with that in mind, if the first step to a Launch Team was to create The Facebook Group to host it, now it is time to recruit. And the first tempting thing that people feel they “ought” to do is to reciprocate. But my advice is to be honest, be transparent, say why, but don’t jump onto every other persons’ Launch Team and create a virtual small circle. There are other ways to pay back and I will give a bunch of examples next time but for now give all you can to the Launch Teams that you sign up for, but don’t become too incestuous. Gather the bulk of your Launch Team members from work or school colleagues, family and distant friends. You can even ask friends if they have friends who might like to join. Advertise for some help at your local library, church, book club or corner store.

Throw the net wide, gather what you can, and if it isn’t big then that is OK too. Growing slowly is better than having dozens of people sign on but have nothing to give. Many of us have learned that the hard way. And above all, think of it as a loving, helpful, but business arrangement. They are going to get to be the first to read your book, have a say in the colours and font on the front cover, maybe even win something later on, but if they aren’t already your personal Facebook friend, then leave it that way. Keep them at a little bit of arm’s distance. You don’t have to pay them, pay them back, or give them stuff.

I have met some AMAZING people on this journey, two at least whom I hope will become real life, long term friends. But right now each of us needs to get our books out there and we need to keep our respect and help for each other at a bit of a distance. When we are both famous and have thousands of fans that the other can get lost in the middle of (as far as Amazon are concerned), then we can be Facebook friends as well. But for now, this is business guys!

Building an Ethical Launch Team!

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The ink is still wet on my first book and I am already planning the next one. Actually, the next few books were written long before the Lion and the Peacock was even an idea, but that is beside the point. It is and forever will be my first book and it is not by any means forgotten, but I learned so much from the process that I am keen on sharing my ups and downs with you and what I would have done differently. I am also keen on putting those learnings into practice to see if they have an effect or not.

So with that in mind, I am starting my Launch Team much earlier this time and will use it as a learning tool for myself and anyone who would like to come along for the journey.

The first step of any Launch Team is to create a Closed Facebook Group. The idea behind it is to rally people to support your upcoming book. The slight difference here is that I will also have people joining it simply to learn the process, but the first step would be the same for any Launch Team. You want the group to be closed and not public simply because it can be a safe place to talk about “behind the scenes” things that you don’t want the public to know (as yet anyway). It will later become a space where you can share your ideas for a front cover and people give feedback on the font, picture, layout etc. It is an interactive group.

But I want to point out that it should NOT be a space to create “read and review swaps”. Or a place that guarantees any kickbacks. It should be a place of community and support. Anyone who joins the launch team should expect nothing in return but because of the way the group should function, they would hopefully ultimately feel that they gained a lot by being there.

If you are an Author:

Join someone else’s Launch Team because:

  • You can learn so much from the process in order to do a great job (and hopefully even do a better job) yourself. It is almost silly to run your own launch before ever being on one and seeing it from the other side, or having launch teams to compare mistakes and successes etc. It is a totally free way to learn!
  • You want to “pay it forward”. In other words, when it is your turn to have a launch team you too will want people to sign on and help you. Of all the professions in this world, being an author is one of the greatest in terms of this. Whether you like it or not, all authors need the generosity of others, and if you have never given anything it is tough to ask others to give it to you.

Don’t join someone else’s Launch Team if:

  • You expect them to join yours. It could well backfire on both of you as the Amazon Bots are always on the look out for “review swaps”. The process of Launch Teams is a little like the analogy where it “all comes out equally in the wash”. If you belong to enough communites and are active in them, then there should be plenty to go around if you all join a handful of launch teams with no one reciprocating.
  • You aren’t prepared to give anything to them. If you think about it, they have started the group for themselves but you have been given the privilege of being a fly on the wall of this intimate and soul bearing exercise. The least you can do is any one of the little, free, 2 second ways that you can support them (“Like” their author facebook Page, share their posts, retweet a few of their tweets, tell your freinds about them … the list is endless). But think about giving them a review at the end. If you are not doing a review swap then this is the greatest way to bless them!
  • You don’t like their writing! I know that a lot of people dont agree with me here but it is really hard to read and review a genre or a book that you are completely uncomfortabel or unfamiliar with. Spend a little time reading soemthing that they have out there for free (free book on Amazon, or a blog that they write, or an artcile that they have written for a publication, or check them out on Goodreads).

If you are a Reader:

Join someone’s Launch Team because:

  • You can learn so much about what goes into a book and I believe that your reviews will be so much richer for understanding the heart and soul of some of the authors. It can be so easy to criticize something that appears small and simple but isn’t. I beleive that a great reader would enjoy getting to know some authors and their processes.
  • You want your favourite authors to succeed. Never before have readers had so much power in the success or failure of the authors of the world. So many people have asked me when my next book will be out and the answer is very simply: “when I get enough people to support it”. If no one is going to even know that it exists, then I will fail before I begin. If you want your favourite authors to write, then support them at the foundations and help the world to see them 🙂
  • It’s fun! OK, maybe fun isn’t always the right word, but when I read the books of some of my favourite authors I have a yearning for so much more. I want to know the things that I felt were hidden between the lines, if there are photos of the journey then I want to see them. Launch Teams and newsletters often let you into private spaces that no one else gets to see.

Don’t join someone else’s Launch Team if:

  • All you want is to be a fly on the wall and give nothing back. If an author allows you into their heart and soul process then please be gentle and helpful with that gift that they have given you. Too many people say yes please to the privilege of being on the team and then do nothing but take advantage of the days that the book is free and give nothing back.
  • You aren’t prepared to Like their author facebook Page, retweet a few of their tweets, tell your freinds about them … again, the list is endless. But most of all if you aren’t prepared to give them an honest review at the end then think carefully about pretending to support them when in fact your aren’t.

So to recap: First step is to set up the Closed Facebook group and the second is to find people to join. The reason I suggest people to start early is because it takes time to build a good team. So many people urgently create a group a couple of weeks before launch and don’t have the numbers that they want. Next post I will talk more about how to find the people that you need to make this group work! (but in the meantime, set up your group and ask a handful of Facebook friends and family to join you).

Here is my new Launch Team link if you would like to join, follow and learn from my journey: JOIN THE TEAM

Here is the link to be on my no spam email list to receive updates, specials, and exclusive updates, photos and personal details: SIGN UP

Success Stories!

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-5-41-32-pmEveryone loves a success story, but of course, success means different things to different people and at different times. As an author, the sheer number of books sold is one measure of success, but so are awards, accolades and “Best Seller” lists. I have hit number one on a couple of lists on the days that the book was free, and the numbers of books sold are climbing steadily.

But for me right now the greatest joy are the success stories! The feedback from complete strangers that tells me that my theory works, it makes sense, it is easy to read and put into action, and that at .99c it accessible to almost anyone. This is bringing me great joy on all kinds of levels and I would love to blog about some of these stories.

Sooooo… if you have read the book, I would love to hear from you personally… It is up to you whether you would like me to interview you on here, me to simply publish what you have to say, or whatever else works best for you. Thank you all for this feedback so far, for passing it on to others (for I don’t even know over 2,000 people so they must have got it from somewhere right?!) …

You can contact me in the comments below, or by signing on here (which will put you on the list for the non spam emails which will give details for the feedback and interviews and you can then answer me back at that address). I am so enjoying reading your stories!