Friday, August 30, 2013

How to Use Hashtags to Sell Books by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

#hashtags #socialmedia 

If you are in the business of trying to sell or promote books, you need to be using hashtags with every promotional tweet and post on FB, G+, Pinterest and blog. 

What is a Hashtag?

Even if you are not on Twitter, you may have seen the little hashtag symbol with the pound sign (#) in front of a word or a combination of letters and numbers such as #ff, #news, #jobs, #icarly, #glee, etc. These hashtags are used to identify and keep up with conversations and news about specific topics. Think of hashtags in the same ways as you use tags to identify articles, blog posts and Amazon products for topics or items in a search. Also, be aware that Twitter is not the only place where hashtags are being used. They are essential to most other social media sites as well. 

It is hard enough build a platform and be heard among all the noise out there on social media sites and be recognized over competition. These days it seems as if there are more authors than there are readers. Lets face it, readers only have so much time to read between working, raising a family, and living. I don't know a reader who has time to read all the books he/she would like to read. These readers have to pick and choose due to finances and time. That means some books and authors won't be read as often as others. You can increase your chances of appealing to readers searching for books like the ones you write by using hashtags and beat out some of your competition who may not be using hashtags. 

How to Use Hashtags
1) Whenever posting a blog, put the hashtags above the first line of text or somewhere in the first sentence. You should do this because whenever that blog post is shared on a social media site, it pulls the title of the blog post and the first line of text. Notice how I have done this with #hashtags and #socialmedia at the beginning of this blog post. It may look weird at first, but it works. 

2) Be sure to register your personal hashtags. While you cannot buy or own a hashtag like you can a domain name, you can register it with or so you have better control and management of your personal hashtag related to your books or you. Personally, I prefer Twubs since it is free and easy to use. You can register a hashtag to represent your author name and/or each individual book you write or even a series. This will help you keep up with the flow of responses and discussions around your books during new book launches. Here is an example of a hashtag I created for my #HighlandSanctuary book launch. 

3) Be aware of common author related hashtags and use them. While it is a great idea to create and register your own hashtags, be aware of some common hashtags that will bring readers to your blogs and social media sites. For instance, each time I post about a book on the CFBA Blog Tour, I include the hashtags #christianfiction and #christianromance. Here are a few examples. This way I am able to promote other authors' books, but at the same time, they may come to my website and discover my books as well. For a list of hashtags related to authors, writing and books, click here. 

4) Use the #SampleSunday or #TeaserTuseday hashtags to post short excerpts to introduce your work to new readers. The Sample Sunday idea originally came from David Wisehart, but it has taken off with other authors and since then Sharon Rose created a Sample Sunday Facebook page. You can read more about the idea here. Some authors post first chapters to promote their books. Why not take it a step further and post sentences or paragraphs each Sunday or Tuesday, leading up to and through a book launch for the first chapter? 

Are you using hashtags? Have you ever registered a hashtag? What are your thoughts about these ideas?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Paint me a word picture by Jim Hart

So there I was, looking for another word for ‘thesaurus’….

When is it appropriate to go to the thesaurus? I don’t know - when is it appropriate to consult a dictionary, or to use spell check?  And when is it appropriate for a man to stop and ask for directions? Or maybe the real question is, when does a guy admit asking for directions?(That’s a topic for another day…).

I think there should be no shame in consulting a thesaurus. The benefits obviously, or should I say clearly, or should I say discernibly……oh, you know what I mean……

I find using a thesaurus keeps me writing quickly (swiftly) while the thought (idea, notion) in my head is trying to make the journey (trek, voyage) from my brain to my fingers.

I’m more apt (ready, skilled) to get my thoughts (ideas, feelings) down before I forget (disremember, unable to recall) when consulting the thesaurus. It quickly helps(aids, assists) me to find a more suitable (appropriate, proper) word; or gives me more options (choices, selections); or stops me from using the same word repeatedly (constantly, repetitively, over and over and over and over again). But then again, I like reading the Amplified Bible. 

In the end, it’s all about our vocabulary.  I will say that overall, a healthy reading habit is probably one of the best ways to continually add to our personal lexicon (I thought of ‘lexicon’ all by myself without consulting the thesaurus). I remember an exercise that my grade school English teacher had our class do many years ago. We were to write a short story mimicking the style of one of our favorite authors. I chose Ray Bradbury. As a kid I recognized his ability to transport me to the location of his story by his expressive, yet simple, descriptions of place and events.  I really liked the words that he chose. They were perfect.

So – paint me a word picture, but please don’t keep using the same colors (pigments, hues).

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

10 Writing Prompts by Diana Flegal

I have a wake-up routine that I follow most days, even when I travel to writer's conferences. I find it helpful in clearing the cobwebs of sleep or that nasty dream.

I brew my coffee, sit down with a Sudoku book and work through one of each level puzzle. I have music playing in the background; praise or Christian Rock- depending on my mood.

Then I refill my coffee mug and scratch around for a bite to eat, grab my note book and pen and begin my quiet time.

As a writer, writing prompts can clear your mind of pesky 'to do' lists and laundry calling and serve to get your creative juices flowing. Even well seasoned writers find this exercise a fun start to their day.

Set your timer for five (5) minutes for the first. 10 mins for the second and if your in writer's block add a third prompt for 15 mins.

Keep a small note book with you at all times. (most published writers know this)
Add sporadic thoughts that come to you throughout your day under the heading: Writing Prompts

Here are a few in mine. Grab your timer and get creative.  This simple low budget exercise might unleash in you a bestseller.     

1)  The smoke cleared and I could see he'd been crying.

2)  Love is not a many splendored thing. Seriously, they never seen...

3)  "Are you ready for some football" blared from the family room TV and I was about to....

4)  The mall was crowded when three shots/ shouts (you choose) rang out.

5)  Heat had cracked the pavement and turned the earth to dust.

6)  Don't walk out...I hate when she does that!

7)  Blue mangos, neatly diced, filled a square bowl next to a pile of peels on the kitchens island , but the room was eerily quiet.  

8)  Banging the car radio I added that to my virtual dream list of things I'd get fixed  ...

9)  The smell choked me, a mix of ammonia, Lysol and dog.

10) Sand sifted through the hourglass ...

Have a blessed 'over the hump' day. May your creative juices flow as never before and you accomplish 2,000 more words than your days goal.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Learning New Tricks by Andy Scheer

Good thing I'm not an old dog.

This weekend I found myself trying to learn two new tricks – on opposite ends of the technology spectrum.

On one end of the spectrum there's a 1930 Ford Model A Town Sedan. My father-in-law has recruited me to serve as co-driver for a cross-country trip next month. This means I not only have to reacquaint myself with a three-speed, manual transmission, I also have to master the art of double-clutching, especially when downshifting from third to second.

I look forward to the trip, so I've been motivated to learn that largely lost art. Yesterday I found myself behind the wheel for nearly an hour, driving the 83-year-old car in traffic on country roads at fifty miles an hour.

At least we think we were going fifty. The Model A's speedometer isn't reliable.

That's the reason I'm having to learn some new technology. To keep accurate track of the Model A's speed, my father-in-law just bought a GPS receiver. He's never used one. Neither have I – preferring maps from the Motor Club or online printouts.

As the designated navigator, it's my job to figure out how to use the GPS, then show my father-in-law. I don't expect it will be hard to learn.

There's nothing like a little motivation – and a little bit of patience – if you're no longer a pup.

Monday, August 26, 2013

How Would You Label? By Linda S. Glaz

I’m rather curious how you might label each of these opening paragraphs. What genre would you fit them into and why?

The Wooden Swing
A soft breeze rustled, causing our wooden swing to sway in an unforgettable rhythm. Back and forth, hypnotizing me toward action.
I grew up in Samsaddie, North Carolina, twenty-one years ago. A beautiful small town on a river, almost Mayberry-like with all the folks waving and laughing with one another as they sat on their front porches with ice-cold lemonade. A safe town, a town where you could raise children and feel safe. As kids we played hide and go seek until dark every night in the summer. Mosquitoes buzzed over our bare feet leaving welts the size of silver dollars. Still, we played.
Moms and Dads rang a bell or shouted when it was time to come in, and it didn’t matter whose parents called first, all us kids ran for home or faced the switch if it took us longer than five minutes.
I loved my parents and chose not to worry them needlessly; I ran home at the first gong.
My kid sister, Ellie, ran, too, but stopped along the way to smell each and every wild rose. Oftentimes she’d arrive home crying with rose chafers sticking to her clothes, but Mom would hug her and all would be right in her three-year-old world.

The Wooden Swing
Chapter One
One minute, I sat mesmerized while my three-year-old sister, Ellie, kicked her feet, sending the wooden swing high into the air. The next, I was screaming Ellie’s name. A man muffled her mouth and forced her far from the protection of our backyard.
Dogs barked as he must have raced through the neighbors’ yards. But no one saw him…or Ellie. Ever again.
Thirteen years ago, that idyllic Mayberry-style life in Samsaddie, North Carolina ended. No more hide and seek until dark, no more cheerful hugs from Mom and Dad. Nowadays, acquaintances stared at the ground whenever Ellie was mentioned, afraid if they acknowledged it could happen here, their own children would be in danger.
 Now, at nineteen, I was old enough to disregard my parents’ wishes and apply for my PI’s license. I would leave behind my once happy family, the town that had meant safety for so many of us kids, and start the hunt in earnest.
Somewhere out there, my kid sister still waited for me, Jessie Blanchett, to find her and bring her home. Safely.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The passing of client Dianne Price by Terry Burns

Client Dianne Price went to be with the Lord last night. She is enjoying a joyous homecoming but our thoughts and our prayers are with her family. My entire client group and myself have committed to getting the word out on her delightful WWII romance series and we will be honored to follow through on that committment. She passed on just a week shy of being able to hold that first book in her hand but content in the knowledge that her publisher is going to publish the entire six book series and her friends and fellow writers are going to see that people find out about them, You may leave messages to her family at

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Targeting Submissions by Terry Burns

Back in the day when I was a fledging writer I was the host of a well known NY agent at a conference. That meant I was a go-fer, getting whatever he needed and showing him around. Hosts were not allowed to discuss their own work with the people they were hosting but had to wait until a scheduled appointment. But at one moment of down time the agent looked at me and said, “Do I represent what you write?”

I told him that’s what I had an appointment with him to find out. He smiled and told me that was wrong, that I should already know. I went home that night and did my due diligence and discovered that he did, in fact, not represent the genre of my project. When I told him that the next day he said, “I know, but it was important for you to find out for yourself.”

That may be one of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a writer. Never submit to anyone without first finding out if they are a good possibility for our work. Submission guidelines online make it much easier these days than it was back then and most agents and editors have those posted, but just some very general categories of what someone handles is still not enough.

Submissions are not submitted to publishing houses or to literary agencies, they are submitted to individual editors and agents. Before sending to someone we need to research them and see if they have worked with something that is a specific comparison to what we want to pitch to them. What type clients has the agent handled or what comparable books has the editor published? Whatever reason makes us think the editor or agent is right for the submission is something we should say in the cover letter.

It is constantly changing, too. I often use the illustration of the old TV sitcom ‘Laugh In’ where at the end of the show someone opened one of a wall of windows to lean out and say something and someone else would open another one and answer them. That is a perfect representation of the publishing industry. At any given time a project may only fit one place in the entire publishing industry and it is our job to get the submission in that open window. Soon that window will close and there is still only one place where it fits but now it is a different window open and we have to find it.

A client just pointed out an editor to me who had published a book that was a great comparison for her project. I told her I would check it out but it could mean one of two things; that the editor really liked that type of book . . . or it could mean that she found what she wanted and doesn’t need another one. Impossible to say without asking.

But the point is just going down the market guide and sending everybody who lists our genre a submission is a sure way to rack up a lot of rejections. But what do we have to lose, the worst that can happen is they say no, right? No, the worst that can happen is we burn a bridge that under different circumstances could have been the right avenue for the project, but maybe it is not the right time, or maybe it takes an agent to get it in at that particular place, or a number of other things that could not be in place.

But we should know whether that window appears to be open or not before we send it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Five Top Tools of the Writing Trade by Diana Flegal

A friend of mine was drinking coffee from this mug when I told her I just had to get a picture of it.

Friends of mine would tell you I ought to have one of my own :-)

I thought today I would list a few favorite tools I recommend to aid writers and see what you all had to say about them. If you had tried them or what is helpful to you and your writing. Maybe you have a better idea.

I sit at my desk most days perched on a big blue exercise ball or balance ball. I got this idea from friend and author Loree Lough and bought mine at K-Mart. I even took 'Big Blue' with me to a local writers conference and sat on it while I taught.I think it helps with posture and core strengthening and since I sit at my computer all day- anything that will help is good. Be sure to inflate your ball with the right amount of air to ensure the correct working height.  And refill it when needed.

Then recently, a client of mine, Jeanette Levellie purchased a standing desk. Have you seen these things? Jeanette blogged about her new acquisition and  claims it is saving her time. ?? Stop by and check it out.

Another cool writers tool is the lap desk. Mine has a wooden top with an attached bean bag underbelly. It sits comfortably across my lap and supports my laptop, allowing me to work from my couch when I tire of sitting at my desk. It helps me talk myself into doing a little more work before calling it a day.

By far though, one of the coolest writer tools would have to be Dragon Naturally Speaking by Nuance. You talk- it types. A friend of mine got a new Mac Air. He discovered it had this feature (Dragon Dictate) built right into it and demonstrated it for me. Wow. That ALMOST convinced me to become a Mac owner. Nah... I prefer a computer that is compatible with the rest of the world. (Please Mac owners- no letters or snarky comments. I understand. I own a Honda. :-)

And finally- ambient coffee shop noise has been shown to increase productivity and creativity. Personally, I have found it conducive to caffeine overload. When I listen to the coffee shop noise, I do seem to be more creative- but then like Pavlov's dog, I must have more coffee, then I am creative and then I must have more coffee...and here I sit writing my blog at 1:22 am. Hmm. But I am feeling very creative :-)

What writer tool have you found that is helpful or time-saving for you? I would like to know. Please share.
And happy over the hump day to you!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Piece of History by Andy Scheer

I was tempted to buy a piece of music history.

A listing appeared on Ebay for Just Gone/Canal Street Blues, Gennett # 5133, recorded in Richmond, Indiana, in April 1923 by King Oliver and His Creole Jazz band.

This was the first of several 78 rpm disks recorded by a hot jazz band with a second cornet player named Louis Armstrong. If you appreciate traditional jazz, a true collector's item.

Of course I own versions of that recording on LP and CD, but here was a chance to acquire the original—a fragile shellac disk pressed in a factory a few blocks from where the music was recorded.

I resisted the temptation. Bidding for the disk, even with badly worn labels, climbed to $112. Out of my budget.

Besides, I already have some pieces of publishing history.

A friend I met at a writers conference founded a group that collects the books of adventure writer Clive Cussler. I'd read all of Clive's books, so I joined the group.

Soon I found myself hunting not simply for first editions, but for book club editions, large print editions, UK editions, and especially advance reading copies.

Many remain out of my price range, as I was reminded this week by another Ebay posting. Someone listed for only $995 an autographed ex-library copy, with original dust jacket, of the 1975 novel Iceberg, Cussler's first hardcover. Some 5,000 copies were printed, but relatively few sold, mostly to libraries.

Why pay $5,000 for a pristine signed copy?” the seller asked. A valid question.
Thanks to friends in the collectors group, I own a battered ex-library copy of Iceberg, rebound and without dust jacket, but still one of those 5,000. It cost me less than $10. And now it's signed.

As is my copy of Cussler's The Mediterranean Caper, a mass paperback from 1973 by the then-unknown author. I'm happy to have those pieces of writing history.

What's special on your shelf?

Monday, August 19, 2013

I’m Smart Enough to Know, I Don’t Know a Thing! By Linda S. Glaz

Terrific OCW conference. Absolutely wonderful. But I learned one very important thing: that I’m smart enough to know, I don’t know a thing!
Why is that?
I met with some wonderful writers, isn’t that the most wonderful thing at a conference? But I also had some terrific conversations with other agents and editors who were delightful about responding to all my questions.
My first questions to all of them was: “What are you looking for? What do you see as the trend right now in fiction?”
And do you know what I was told? No one has a clue. All the editors and agents had favorites they liked to rep, but did they have a notion where the industry was headed? The normal response? “I don’t have a clue. Maybe an inkling here and there, but no real concrete idea where ANYthing is going at the moment.”
Now, at first I took that as very negative, but after mulling over it a few days, I came to the realization that it’s a good thing. If editors are clueless, then they are more likely to look at something ‘outside’ the box, different than their usual, and might be open to new trends.
I admit, I am the glass half full, but I left the conference feeling very optimistic, in spite of all the nay-saying going on. I realized that I might be able to approach an editor with a new, out of the box or edgy idea and get a good reaction. We might both benefit from my chutzpah at daring to think outside traditional lines.
Do I think fiction is tanking in inspirational books? Not on your life. We know romance is kicking like a mule, right where you want the kick, and saying that, I think there will be plenty of kicks for other fiction as well.
Let’s not give up; the glass IS half full!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Meet you at Atlanta? by Terry Burns

Will be on the road headed to the "Catch the Wave" Christian Writer's Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference is August 22-24th at the Lodge at Simpsonwood and is put on by the Christian Authors Guild. I've been there once before and it is a beautiful facility and a great place for a conference.

I have a little more expanded role this time as I'm going to set the tone for the conference in an opening talk on "Just Say Yes." Decisions that we make take on a whole new meaning when we realize that there are only two answers when we come to realize that the Lord wants us to do something, yes or no. Later, maybe, I'm not qualified, I can't do it, are just forms of saying no. We'll talk about what this means for writers . . . and just for Christians in general.

I'll be doing appointments, of course, and doing a workshop on "Developing a writer's persona" as well as one on "Agent and Editor pet peeves." I'll be speaking in the closing session as well, talking about, talking about "Why do we write?"

Hopefully there is something in these for everybody and the remainder of the conference content is very strong with presenters like Cindy Sproles, cofounder and Executive Director of Christian Devotions Ministries, Faye Lamb, acquisition editor for Pelican Book Group, and Stacy Robinson of the Robinson Talent Agency. Others are bestselling author Lynette Easton, publicist and media specialist ReAnn Ring, and Pix-N-Pens publisher Tracy Ruckman.

The conference is very affordable and a great opportunity to network and learn, particularly convenient for those who live in the Southeast. I hope I get the chance to meet you there.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sharing Our Passion for Books by Diana Flegal

When visiting Pittsburgh a week ago, walking with my son in his neighborhood on the way to his favorite coffee shop, he said he wanted to show me something I would really like.

This book box was built by a resident and placed in his front yard as a book exchange. It is a 'take one leave one' deal.

It even has solar panel lighting so that browsers can read the titles at night.

My son and I each found something. I found a hard back of  Anne Perry's title; Dark Assassin in her William Monk series. She is one of the authors I collect and this was a hard cover of one I had yet to read and own. A rare thing. My son found a CD on relaxing breathing.

 The next day I pulled my car up- opened my trunk and dug out 6 books I just happened to have in my trunk left over from my family reunion auction and Curtis and I stocked the box.

It was fun.  

Have any of you spotted a similar box in any of your neighborhoods? There is a movement underway to place these box throughout the country. Thank you to Lora Zill for pointing me in the direction of this site Little Free Library. Check it out. It lists places all over the country where these little libraries are located at. If there is not one near you- maybe you can build one and offer it.

Something to think about. :-)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Goodbye, Barbara Mertz by Andy Scheer

Best-selling author Barbara Mertz died this past Thursday. She was 85.

If you don't know her by that name, you likely know one of her pseudonyms. As Barbara Michaels, she wrote 29 suspense novels. That alone would have marked a successful career.

But she also wrote another 35 novels, most with a much lighter tone, as Elizabeth Peters. Those were her stories that I primarily read – and re-read. First her freestanding novels, then her series featuring plucky heroines Jacqueline Kirby, Vicki Bliss, and Amelia Peabody Emerson – especially the Amelia stories.

Whether I was in the mood to read them as straight, tongue-in-cheek, or over-the-top farces, they never failed to entertain – and also inform me about archaeology.

That's where she began, earning her doctorate in Egyptology at age 23. And that was the topic for Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt and Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt, the books she wrote under her own name.

By whatever name, her books never failed to keep people turning pages.

A few years ago at a writers conference, I encountered in the lobby a group of conferees in their teens talking about the Peters book one was reading. Old enough to be their father, I joined in the discussion about the merits of each of her series.

My favorite? Night Train to Memphis, a 1995 Vicki Bliss story, set in contemporary Egypt and filled with adventure and overflowing with humor, much of it involving a German professor's love for traditional American country music.

Which of the many titles by Barbara Mertz / Elizabeth Peters / Barbara Michaels have you enjoyed most?