Articles by Jessica Schein

How To: Use Video Chat to Connect with Readers

Just because you don’t have the time or money to travel the country touting your book doesn’t mean you have to languish at home post-publication any longer. Programs including Skype and Google Hangout make it easy (and free!) to meet a group of your fans face-to-face. Explains Sarah McCoy, author of The Baker’s Daughter, “Now authors can jump online and literally be a face at the party for an hour. It’s lovely, and such an opportunity for us to directly connect with wonderful readers.”

So how does one successfully bring his or her computer screen–literally–to life?

Choose the right program: Sign up for Skype and Google Hangout and get a feel for what you like most. While both offer free long distance, Skype requires a premium membership for 3+ people, uses a lot of bandwidth to work well, and will drop the entire session should the host drop off. Google Hangout has its drawbacks, too, so figure out what works best for your needs.

Blogging Guide, Part 2: Ready, Set, Write!

Click here for Blogging Guide, Part 1: Which Platform is Right…

So you finally did it. You have your own blog. Congrats!

Now what?

While the blank page can be intimidating, to face a blog post shouldn’t be. You’re responsible for shortish pieces on whatever strikes your fancy and, unlike in a novel – which requires believable dialog, a plot arc and a storya good blog post needs mostly personality.

Whether you’re sticking to one niche (e.g. the road to publication or writing tips for authors) or a number of subjects, the material you present must reveal you in some way. Without this your text will be bland, making it harder to forge a personal connection with your readers.

Connections, you’re asking? Who needs ‘em?

Everyone. The Internet is a vast world and there are plenty of places for people to turn so here are 10 blog prompts to get you and your followers thinking:

1. Look at what’s trending on Twitter (by hashtag) and write an opinion piece about the topic at hand. Remember to use your researching skills to back up your argument.

Blogging Guide, Part 1: Which Platform is Right…

(Click here for Blogging Guide, Part 2: Ready, Set, Write!)

Since the early 2000s the popularity of blogs has exploded, resulting in an increased number of hosts (or platforms) to choose from. Selecting which one to unleash your thoughts and observations on can be overwhelming—but hopefully not anymore.

This piece focuses on the top free blogging platforms—Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress. Each has a huge network with millions of bloggers, as well as a number of pros and cons, outlined below:

Blogger

Pros:

  • If you have a Gmail address you can open multiple blogs to tie into your blog account (should you, say, want to write about food and cars but not talk about them both on the same blog).
  • Blogger has an extensive Help Center that will walk you through setting up your blog and assist you with issues that may come up down the road.
  • Like Tumblr, the dashboard aggregates all of the new posts created by people you follow, which you can also import to your Google Reader should you prefer that format.
  • Continue Reading »

Tackling Twitter, Part 2: Replying, Retweeting & Using the Hashtag, Oh My!

Now that you’ve filled in your bio, personalized your page with a photo of yourself, uploaded a background, and have followed others or found followers of your own, what’s left to do?

Well as I mentioned in last week’s post (Tackling Twitter, Part 1), it’s important you maintain the relationships you’re building. This includes updating your own account on a regular basis, of course, as well as replying, retweeting and familiarizing yourself with the # sign, a.k.a. the hashtag.

What does that mean, though? Here’s a rundown:

Retweeting: It’s essentially a forward without commentary or, in dialogue form, “Hey, look at this interesting article / funny thought / smart observation I found.” Often I’ll pass along interesting pieces from The New York Times’ Twitter feed, blog posts from writers I follow, or even a 140-character sum up of how someone else is feeling because it’s how I feel that day, too.

Replying with the original tweet: I follow a bunch of writers who dish out some really good advice so often I’ll include their original tweet with my reply thanking them for the tip. This way other Tweeps I know can find the initial blog post / thought easily. So how do you reply like this, and what does it look like? Reply as you normally would, copy the original post after their username, put a “RT” before their @name, and then add your commentary before that. Here’s an example:

  • Original tweet from author @CathCrowley: The days of empty pages. Blog Post # 4 http://bit.ly/zPKvWC
  • My reply: Great advice for #writers who, like me, sometimes find it hard to start / keep going! RT @CathCrowley The days of empty pages. Blog post # 4 http://bit.ly/zPKvWC

Replying without the original tweet: Replying with the tweet usually indicates that the “conversation” has more of a broad appeal, but not all convos do. Recently I wondered if the Westminster judges accidentally picked a skunk instead of a dog as this year’s winner, which then kicked off a chat with a follower about her dog. Since our talk was more for us, and not for the general benefit of others, she didn’t include my tweet when she replied and so on and so forth. It went like this:

  • Original tweet: Does anyone else think that the #Westminster judges picked a long-haired skunk instead of a dog as the winner?
  • Reply tweet from a follower: I can’t judge #Westminster, I own a pup who bares similar Pepe Le Pew resemblance.
  • My reply: Your dog is AWWW-dorable and has normal dog hair/fur, not a mane, as yesterday’s winner does!

The #hashtag: This one is tricky, and it took me some time to get used to. It’s helpful to think of using the # sign to:

  • Become part of a larger conversation: Type #HungerGames into the twitter search bar, and you’re likely to find thousands of people talking about the books or the movies. Jump in on the conversation by writing your own thought about the #HungerGames and you never know who else you may connect to. Great twitter “trends” (what popular hashtag phrases are known as) for writers include: #amwriting; #writetips; #yalit; #yawednesday. There are tons of others though, so keep an eye out for what pertains to you.
  • Organize your tweets for followers: By tagging all of your posts as say #TheBakersDaughterTour, which I saw a fellow Tweep once do, her followers could easily find all of her tweets pertaining to her tour dates. It’s important the “trend” you’re creating be specific. Otherwise if you’re tweeting about the #Giants on game day a search will end up revealing all associated tweets, whether from you or not, and a follower will most likely just be overwhelmed.
  • Indicate a last observation: This is a particularly weird one and honestly pretty unimportant. Basically, though, sometimes people make a declaration on top of their initial observation. Wait, what are you talking about? It’s confusing so here are examples that are often supposed to be funny, with varying degrees of success:
  1. How is this day not over yet? #longestfridayever
  2. I promise never to wear bright green skinny jeans #noiwont
  3. I hate when I lost access to free articles on the NYT website #timesfail

I know it’s a lot to grasp, but deciding when to reply, retweet or use the # sign  becomes surprisingly instinctive after a while. Also if you fear you’ve not done it “right” there’s the nifty delete button, which lets you try again.

Above all else though, the #1 rule is to have fun, so get to it, Tweeps!

Other questions, tips or tricks for twitter?

 

Tackling Twitter, Part 1

(Click here for Tackling Twitter, Part 2: Replying, Retweeting & Using the Hashtag, Oh My!)

It’s hard for some writers to express a thought in 140 characters, but in today’s world of Pinterest, Facebook, and blogging it’s necessary. As The New York Times recently noted, “With the digital age comes new conceptions of authorship.” This is especially true for authors who don’t have the marketing muscle of a publishing house at their disposal.

Not everyone has been quick to jump into the “Twittersphere.” Explains author Lucas Klauss, “I was — like a lot of writers, I imagine — initially pretty suspicious of Twitter and its supposed benefits. I thought it would end up being just a big time-suck. And sometimes it is! But I’ve been happily surprised at how fun it can be.”

He used the social media platform to promote his book trailer (more on these at a later date). “By far most of the views I got were from Twitter — people retweeting it and saying they thought it was funny. And it connected me to other authors I hadn’t yet met.”

Wanting to be on Twitter and actually getting the mojo to join and keep on top of it are very different. It can also be intimidating and, take it from me, just plain weird at first.

Don’t let it be.

Remember how you tackled the blank page and completed a book? Well, trust me, Twitter has nothing on that. However before you start crying from the Twitterverse’s rooftops, remember the following:

Define your online persona: Being on Twitter means others will come to “know” you so think about which part(s) of yourself you want to put out there. What interests and hobbies will you promote? Your writing and reading, sure, but maybe you also love old Nintendo games, tulips, or your Subaru? Whatever it is take note and once you join, seek out similar folks with whom you’ll want to have a dialog.

Contribute to the conversation: Someone you follow is looking for a book recommendation? Answer him or her. Another person posts a link to a blog post you loved? Say so. The point of Twitter is not to tirelessly promote your own work but build your own community of online “tweeps” who will answer your questions and hopefully support you

Stay committed: The most popular people on Twitter tend to update their feeds often so plan on tweeting at least twice a day. If you’re worried about making such a big commitment, strategize. Keep a running log of future tweets as far out as you can handle. This can help reduce the pressure to always be by your phone or computer

Cross-pollinate: I’m not normally a big fan of corporate buzz words, but in this case it makes sense. Basically, you want to make sure that all of your various social media platforms are interconnected, meaning that your Twitter profile points to your blog and vice versa. This helps people become aware of your entire body of work. Thankfully, this linking process isn’t usually very difficult!

Be patient: Building followers takes time. It’s unlikely you’ll acquire 5,000 followers overnight but that’s okay. You want quality — as in people with similar interests who you can have a dialog with — over quantity.

Check out next week’s column for tips on using the hashtag (see below), the difference between replying and retweeting, as well as a whole host of general do’s and don’ts!

(Click here for Tackling Twitter, Part 2: Replying, Retweeting & Using the Hashtag, Oh My!)