Category Archives: Tips for Indie Authors

Rethinking Social Media Part Two


As mentioned in a previous post, I have been rethinking how I use social media to meet my my professional goals. To that end I am relaunching (and rebranding) this blog to match my other social media platforms.

I had a bout of the creeping crud and was down for the count for several days, so I’ve pushed my blog relaunch. I will send out official invitations next week. Wahoo.


hors d’ oeuvres, giveaways, special guests, party games


wooden hashtags brought to you by Pine Nuts


I was recently in a panel/roundtable discussion for CWILL BC about social media for writers. I was asked to type up some of my notes. A bit of what I shared is below, plus I’ve added a few things I’ve thought about since that discussion:


A few years ago I read Jeff Vandemeer’s excellent book Book Life: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer. One of the things I took away from it is that I DON’T have to do it all! When I streamlined my marketing and social media efforts to keep from getting overwhelmed, I asked myself, what few tools can I focus on and do WELL? I picked blogging and Tweeting. I’d rather have fun and use fewer tools than juggle so many that I can’t keep up. Find what works for you and do that.



Not so many years ago, THREE was the magic number when it came to how many blog posts to write per week. Everywhere I turned bloggers were telling me that if I wanted repeat readers, I had to post 3 times per week. But the blogway is over-congested these days and who can come up with that much interesting material? If you can write one good post per week, you’re keeping up.

I think one really interesting posts is worth 3 mediocre ones. I also think it’s more important to be consistent then to post frequently. As a friend pointed out, the really fun blog waitbutwhy says right in the header “posts every Tuesday.” Great! Now I know to come back every Tuesday for awesome new content. (If you’ve got the goods and can post several times per week, more power to you. But don’t panic if you can’t.)

Participate in blogging communities you enjoy. Don’t expect others to hang out on your blog if you don’t take the time to hang our in theirs. USE to aggregate and organize your blogs. In a matter of minutes you can cruise down an organized list of new articles in all your favourite blogs for tidbits of interest and the latest news. Feedly has brought the joy back into my blog reading.



During the last NaNoWriMo I finally discovered the joy of hashtags. I wrote with strangers during #nanosprints as we cheered each other on. Now, when I’m at a conference and hear a great piece of advice, I #hashtag the name of the conference (#AWP2014, #GeekGirlCon) and share the info (or photos!) with others. With hashtags, you can be part of a larger conversation. For example, searching #amwriting on Twitter is a great way to meet other writers.

Also, if you ever mention anyone else’s name on twitter, USE their @name Twitter handle. That way they know you’re acknowledging them. Everyone likes to be acknowledged. For example, if you tweet this blog post, you might tweet: @danika_dinsmore nails it with her post on social media – then add a truncated link (you can use to the post and the hashtag #socialmediaforwriters. It will alert me and make me smile.

Use Hootsuite (or something like it) to manage your tweets. Use Hootsuite’s widget “hootlet” to tweet the blog posts you read on feedly! (You can also manage other social media tools on hootsuite like Facebook and linked-in)


Writers! Take advantage of the GoodReads author page and widgets. THESE ARE YOUR PEOPLE! THEY READ BOOKS AND TALK ABOUT THEM! Fill out your author profile, link your blog, link any other pertinent information about yourself, enter your book for giveaways, and use their widgets to promote your giveaway and your books on your blog. Take a look at my sidebar and you will see some GoodReads widgets. It’s all really simply and not much at all to maintain.

If you’re not sure how to use the author program, START HERE.


5) FACEBOOK. Many people are grumbling about the recent changes on facebook, especially how you now need to PAY to get your page posts seen by people who have ALREADY LIKED your page. I think the lesson for companies is this: don’t give people something for free, and then make them pay for the service later. They will grumble.

I use Facebook both personally and professionally. While some writers elect to keep one Facebook profile for all their “friends,” I chose to have a personal profile, an author page, and a white forest series page. In hindsight, I might have stuck with just a professional page because it’s a little too much upkeep, I think. But I would never merge my personal profile with my professional one. Yes, it has been pointed out to me that Facebook has made it so you can target who your posts are seen by, but I want my headers and graphics to reflect different things. I put images of my family on my personal profile and book or author related ones on my professional page.



The above is just a short list of social media tips I’ve picked up. There is no way to cover it all in one post, which is why many people blog about this sort of thing every week!

There’s an overwhelming amount of advice online about how to use social media tools efficiently and effectively. But if you only have time to read one blog about how to get social media right, I recommend Anne R. Allen‘s. This week, she really nailed it with this one:

What Most Writers are Getting Wrong – where she talks about the fallacy of follower numbers

and the week before:

How to Comment on a Blog – so that you’re actually a participant in this realm


If there are any blogs on social media for writers that you use frequently and want to recommend, please do in the comment section below.

Have a Great Week and Come Back for the Party!


***NOTE on Twittering: Resist the urge to set up an “auto respond” that sends new followers a link asking them to CHECK OUT your FREE ebook. The 3 marketing consultants I asked about it said, “Just don’t.” I liken it to introducing yourself to someone at a party and the first thing they do is hand you their book. It puts people off.


Filed under Social Media, Tips for Indie Authors, writing life

Authors of Indie Presses #3: Money is Good.

Many years ago, when I was a young poet, I adopted a “starving artist” mentality. To me, there was something romantic in it all. Creatively stretching small amounts of cash and haunting thrift stores. Running poorly-funded literary events and holding potlucks during the holidays.

I realized later that having money isn’t evil, that it can breed its own kind of romance, and, in fact, can be pretty useful. Money is the flow of energy. It’s thanking someone for their work, their time, their skill. It’s being able to treat the ones I love to our little luxuries. It’s buying creative time.

I live a fairly low-maintenance life. I have my simple luxuries (good food, good wine, staying on the beach on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast). But every once in a while, it feels good to really take care of myself and others. To pay for a gourmet meal. To get a fancy haircut or a massage. To buy some high-quality clothes and shoes.

I began to enjoy being in the money flow. To be able to hand it to another artist (whether their art is cutting hair, designing clothes, or massaging bodies) to say THANK YOU for providing me with something of value.


art by Michael Manalo

Because I never followed a traditional job/career path, I’m used to the fluctuation of money in my life. I think this prepared me for the Writing Life more than those who have a traditional 9-5 dependable paycheck kind of job.

The thing about following a career path in writing is that one may not see any substantial money for a while. A long while. One could write for years, developing her talent and product without a sale. When she finally gets an advance, it could be small or non-existent. When, years later, that novel is published, the sales probably won’t rival those of J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, or Suzanne Collins.

To both create a Writing Life and maintain the flow of cash, I’ve had to be creative about how I earn a “living,” balancing teaching and writing and story editing and performing and working on film sets as a studio teacher.

I love my full and unpredictable life. I love waking up at 5:30 AM to write before going to my film job. I love when my job ends and I have the luxury of time again.

Knowing how to go with the flow of money and time has made me much less stressed as a writer. And much more grateful when the wins come in.

More from this series on tips for Authors of Indie Presses:

Authors of Indie Presses #2: Bookstore Reading Reality

Authors of Indie Presses #1: Public Appearances

Seen in the blog-o-sphere this week:

J.D. Munro’s most excellent tear-inducing post on being the mother of a bully.

Writer/Photographer Chris Fink-Jensen’s brand spanking new blog.

And this is just cool: Eco friendly houses set in the trees. (they are so magical I was instantly inspired to use one in a science fiction story)


Filed under Tips for Indie Authors, writing life

For Authors of Indie Presses #2: Book Store Reading Reality

Life has been so utterly cuckoo I am just now getting the second post out of a series I started two weeks ago. I initially thought of this as tips for Indie Authors and Authors of Indie presses, but really, I should just call it REALITY CHECK.

The series was inspired by my own reality check as an author, as well as an excellent interview I heard by Cory Doctorow

This post is a continuation of the last one on making public appearances.

#2 Bookstore Reading Reality

Many debut authors dream of that successful bookstore reading: a packed house, a line of people out the door waiting to get their books signed. Even I was prone to such fantasies.

You may be surprised to learn that for a debut author (especially an indie author or author of a small press), bookstore readings are really not the best way to go. Not even close. Especially in a town where you don’t have many friends or much family.

empty chairs

Think about it… how many times have you gone to a bookstore reading by an author you aren’t familiar with? You may have heard new and unfamiliar authors read at conventions and festivals or at readings where they were featured with other authors you knew, but generally, one doesn’t drive across town to a bookstore for an unknown author. The author may be brilliant, but people just have too many other things vying for their attention.

You will realize this after your first bookstore reading with 5 people in the audience (and one is your publisher/mother/spouse/best friend).

Don’t despair. Once after a reading of low attendance, one of the bookstore workers told me the first time he ever hosted Chuck Palahniuk, only one person showed up.

The best way, I think, to get an audience, is for you to find an audience that already exists. For instance, if you can do school assemblies, you have a built in audience. There are also book clubs who like author guests and regular reading series that pair open mics with featured readers. Readings at conventions and festivals can still be iffy if you are unknown, so see if you can read within an event that features several authors. That way you all increase your audience.

If you insist on having a bookstore reading, here are a few tips to make it go better:

**stick with smaller, indie bookstores
(unless your chain store is very community oriented)
**find out from the store what nights have generally brought in more people
**pick a store close to where lots of your friends and family live
**use some kind of e-invite or facebook event page to invite folks
**DO YOUR OWN MARKETING (don’t expect the bookstore to take care of this)
**if your book is special interest, contact that community to let them know
**do OTHER events around the community so people will know who you are

The best bookstore reading I did was a packed house at Ms. Figs after I had done two school assemblies in the area. The kids got excited and brought their family and friends.

Even authors with large publishers and multiple books sometimes have trouble getting audiences at bookstore readings. I think it’s best to find the audience rather than have the audience find you.


Filed under indie worlds, industry poop, novel adventures, Tips for Indie Authors, writing life

For Authors of Indie Presses #1: Public Appearances

I’ve been mentally jotting what I’m learning about the realities of authorship since the launch of my first children’s novel with Hydra House (not Random House’s new ebook imprint Hydra). I deliberately chose to work with a small press for various reasons and I’ve been enjoying the ride ever since, though it is a long, slow, challenging ride.

I had enough jottings to put together a list of Tips (AKA “reality checks”) that I hope you find useful.

#1 – Make Public Appearances

Make as many public appearances as possible. Social media is competitive. Large presses have bigger advertising pockets. People are inundated with information and marketing ploys. Put a face to your work, make relationships, and support others. Appear at other writer’s readings and book launches. Be the support you want to have.

Offer to be on panels, propose courses at local conventions, visit schools and festivals and literary arts centers. Be gracious and grateful. Be nice to have around. I’ve often bought the work of authors I’ve met simply because I enjoyed our conversation or thought they had some useful insight.

(Here’s a bonus tip for those who have trouble being consistent bloggers because of time constraints: work your posts into a series)


Filed under indie worlds, industry poop, novel adventures, Tips for Indie Authors, writing life