The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘Book Smugglers Publishing

Recently the amazing publicist who works for my publisher, Book Smugglers, asked me to consider using a new social media platform—Instagram. She was putting together a cool campaign on Instagram to promote myself and the other authors with novellas by BSP. Instagram is a social media platform where you can share photos and videos. You can create geotags and hashtags. Instagram is visually driven. The Pew Research Center’s study, conducted a few years ago, notes that it tends to draw in a millennial audience.

And, I should note that the publicist wasn’t adamant that I start using Instagram—she was willing to post my content that I sent her. I’m pretty open to using social media, but I was reticent to add yet one more item on my already densely packed list of social media activities. Still, when your publicist asks you to consider something that they feel will be helpful with developing “organic reach” for your book, it’s wise and courteous to say yes.

In the end, I did join Instagram and it I’m glad I did. But, in doing so, it made me think more about a writer’s relationship to social media and how that relationship evolves over one’s career. It made me reflect on the choices I was making (or not making) related to social media. I thought I would share these musings with you in the hopes that it will spark your own reflections. Some of you may feel really comfortable with social media, and some may feel like it’s a drag and time suck. I find that for many writers (especially newer ones), social media is something they do begrudgingly and it often inspires feelings of guilt, dread and anxiety.

Reflecting on my choices, I can say that I’ve (unconsciously) followed four simple principles:

1) Find out what social media platforms you like and use them.

2) Use social media to serve your audience/community/tribe.

3) Grow your social media (and time learning about social media), in proportion to your goals.

4) Model your social media etiquette after other writers and creatives that you respect and enjoy following.

Facebook

The first social media platform I started using was Facebook. I read Clay Sharkey’s book Here Comes Everybody which was chock-full of reasons why Facebook was an important tool to develop and enhance social relationships and “get things done”. This changed my thinking about the value of Facebook.

Pros:

Facebook is my favorite social media platform.

There is an ease to Facebook. It’s very simple to use, so my technophobic concerns were immediately quieted.

I found that I had a natural voice and ease in expressing myself in Facebook. I love inspiring people and connecting with them, so Facebook seemed the perfect medium. A big plus of Facebook is that my insights can be shorter than a standard blog post.

For many years, I didn’t have an Author Facebook page, but used my personal page to do ‘writing sprints’ and offer up writing and creative encouragement.

I am always amazed at who finds and likes my posts. It’s a good cross section of creative writer friends and academic friends (who are supportive and/or interested in developing their writing).

I now use my personal page less for discussions of writing and have relied more heavily on my Author Facebook page. I set up an Author Facebook page a few years ago when I started developing more webinars and online trainings.

There are lots of writers that have used Facebook very creatively to keep their community engaged. Facebook is an invaluable place to cultivate your community and ideally, once you have some publications–your super fans. Many writers have closed groups where they offer super fans, first crack at content, and other goodies. Other writers use their Author Page to update folks about upcoming publications and/or events and even solicit beta readers. If you teach writing workshops, you can create closed groups and offer specific resources to participants.

Cons:

Facebook is always changing its algorithms so having an Author Page doesn’t mean that the people you want to see your work will. It used to be that everyone saw every post and that’s not true anymore. I don’t usually “boost” posts which involves paying Facebook so that they will show your post to many more people (inside and outside your network).

Upkeep:

I post at least once a week, often twice a week. I like culling and sharing interesting tidbits of news, advice and inspiration related to creativity from around the web. I often post different kinds of resources there than what I share on the blog. Although Facebook’s algorithms are always changing, the way the platform looks and feels has been relatively stable, another feature I also appreciate.

BTW: Come play with me on my Author Facebook Page here (or click the link on the sidebar to the right)

Twitter

Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-characters (until recently) messages called “tweets”. Some writers use it for community building and getting to know other authors. Others use it to promote their work. I joined Twitter in 2012 and it took me some time to figure out its value and how to manage my time using it.

In 2015 I attended the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s writing residency which was amazing. I took a great workshop called “Twitter for Authors” that was so empowering and helped me to think differently about Twitter. Mary Johnson shared a power packed handout about Twitter. She made the case that women’s voices were often underrepresented on Twitter and that many female authors were trying to change that. We explored how Roxanne Gay and other prominent writers use Twitter. Mary also noted that many writers used Twitter as a tool for self-promotion and that was OK, as long as we weren’t only using it for that end. Like all social media platforms, one’s goal should be to serve the community by providing great content, not just “look at me, I have a book” updates.

This workshop exposed me to a bevy of women writers active on Twitter and gave me some concrete tools in how to connect to the writing community. It’s taken me some time but I’ve grown my community to on Twitter –it now feels like a community, not just a random bunch of strangers I haphazardly followed when I first joined. I’ve also become a fan of tools like Hootsuite to help automate my tweets.

Pros:

There is a quick responsiveness to Twitter which can feel great. It is easy to populate Twitter with information for your community—use Hootsuite to automate. But, you don’t want to automate too much because part of the fun is actually interacting with folks on Twitter in real time. It’s a great medium for getting to know other writers. Another perk is that readers have connected with me on Twitter. Some have tweeted me their reviews of my work. It’s awesome to connect with readers! This rarely happens for me through either Facebook or even my blog.

Cons and Upkeep:

If you aren’t consistent and tweet often, you can fall off of people’s radars. You also have to practice impulse control. You can’t take things back on Twitter. It is very tempting to tweet something without really thinking about the consequences. Don’t!

You should always bring your best self in all social media correspondence. There is Twitter etiquette that should be learned.

BTW: Come play with me on Twitter

Pinterest

Pinterest is a social media site. You create boards and load pictures or anything that already exists somewhere on the web. I have a couple of different boards including one about Pugs, Writing Projects, Petite Fashion, etc.

I got on Pinterest because my curiosity was peaked, especially after I heard author Joanna Penn discuss it in her fantastic podcast called ‘The Creative Penn’ (sorry I don’t remember which one, but you can see her work on social media below).

She used Pinterest as a way to create a placeholder for images of current writing projects and made boards that documented her novel writing process. I loved that idea! With Pinterest, you can signal to others about your passions, interests, hobbies, etc.

Pros and Upkeep:

Pinterest is very easy to use. You begin by naming and creating a board and ‘pinning’ items to it. You can pin when you feel like it—daily, weekly or monthly. Pinterest also suggest items for you to pin, a feature that keeps your imagination stimulated.

How might Pinterest help you as a writer?

Let’s say you are a fantasy author and you write about dragons. You create a board that collects lots of images of cool dragons.  If someone loves dragons and they are on Pinterest, they will search for dragons. There’s a good chance that they may find your board, pin some of your images and “follow” your board.  They may check out other boards that you have (maybe related to fantasy or not). Over time, they may decide to read one of your dragon themed books. Like Instagram, the idea is that this platform helps attract people based on specific interests and that can lead to interest in what you actually produce. It is thought to help with organic reach—reaching people beyond your networks.

Cons:

Pinterest can be very distracting! I have to be intentional when I go on Pinterest or I go down some beautiful rabbit holes!

BTW: Come play with me on Pinterest

Instagram

This is the new kid on the block for me. I have just started using Instagram. Even before my publicist asked me to join Instagram, I had heard some buzz about how authors were using it. Authors were posting images that related to their story ideas. I heard a good tip (I think from Joanna Penn), that to get started on Instagram, post one thing once a week or even once a month and before you know it, you’ll have lots of images. And, you’ll have followers without trying too hard. I am finding this observation to be true. I also think that I am in a place in my career that having a presence on Instagram is worthwhile.

Pros:

It’s pretty easy to use. You can literally upload any picture and tag it. It doesn’t have to be related to anything specifically about your work. It could be, ‘I just saw this beautiful flower and I wanted to share it with my community.’ I find it fun to upload photos from recent book events.

Cons:

It’s a bit harder to use on my laptop. Like Pinterest, I have to be focused when I go on Instagram. There’s so much interesting visual material, it’s easy to get lost.

Upkeep:

So far none.

BTW: come and play with me on Instagram

At every stage of your writing career, social media can support your goals. It is worth taking the time to reflect on and identify how social media can amplify your writing interests. What’s important to you? Connecting with potential readers? Pitching to editors? Connecting with local writers?

Social media continues to evolve and change and so will our use of it.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to do anything related to social media that you don’t want to (unless your publisher wants you to). Overall, you have a lot of choice about the kind of social media you want to use, how often and for what purpose.

Additional resources:

Jane Friedman’s excellent overview ‘Social Media for Authors: The Toughest Topic to Advise On’ (thanks to Erika Dreifus for posting)

Joanna Penn’s ‘7 Best Ways to Build an Authentic Author Brand’ and search The Creative Penn for additional social media posts

 

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Tonya Liburd is a speculative fiction writer and poet. Tonya is having a fabulous writing year. She’s had several short stories published and one of her poems was nominated for the Rhysling Award given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA). Her new story, “A Question of Faith” with Book Smugglers Publishing was recently released. [Another win for the Book Smugglers family! ]We’re in some of the same online writing circles and I noticed that I kept seeing her name pop up and her work mentioned. I read her essay, “Adventures in Gaming” in Mosaics: The Independent Women Anthology, and was blown away. The essay explores her experiences as a gamer spanning two decades and highlights the chronic misogyny, racism and homophobia that are endemic to gaming culture. I also am inspired by the fact that Tonya moves between writing speculative poetry and fiction. I wanted to know more about her work and writing practices.

I’m excited to welcome her to The Practice of Creativity.

-You write both speculative fiction and poetry. Can you tell us a little about your work?

Well, my first love is music; and I’ve been told that my writing leans on the literary side, and can be lyrical. I don’t have a favourite piece that I’ve done, because I have a good feeling about several pieces, but I do think the best thing I’ve written, craft-wise, is “Through Dreams She Moves”.  It made the longlist for the Carter V. Cooper (Vanderbilt) short fiction competition in 2015. Author Nisi Shawl uses my first ever published piece, “The Ace Of Knives” – which was reprinted as part of People Of Colour Take Over Fantastic Stories Of The Imagination Magazine – in her workshops to demonstrate “code switching”.  Last year a literary poem of mine, “You Don’t Want to Know Me”, won 4th prize in Ve’ahavta’s 2016 Creative Writing Competition, and this year my poem “The Architect of Bonfires” was nominated for a Rhysling Award. So here’s hoping I keep getting noticed for these things as I work harder on my writing!

-How did you get bitten by the ‘writing bug’? Did you always wish to become an author?

Ever since I could remember, English has been my best subject. My mother encouraged me to write down things in a journal, so it would improve my writing skills. I remember knowing three things I could be when I grew up: a singer/musician, a writer, or an actor. Well, one of the three panned out!

-You are the Associate Editor of Abyss & Apex Magazine. What do you enjoy about this position? What lessons have you learned about being an editor that you apply to your own writing?

I enjoy finding new voices and pioneering new things – Like I did with Celeste Rita Baker and her story “Name Calling” – and I have learned SO MUCH, thanks to Wendy Delmater (editor and publisher), being so hands on. My learning curve is still happening. I have learned that a lot of my writing was, in first draft and edited by myself, fell into the ‘so close (but no cigar!)’ territory, and I got to see what that looked like, via submissions. I have learned that grabbing an editor’s attention and making everything tight from the get-go is crucial when dealing with the sheer amount of subs they have to deal with; and that’s an important step, learning how to tighten one’s writing. Ask me this time three years ago if I would say I could write flash fiction and I’d laugh right in your face. I wrote LONG. The first thing I seriously sat down to write outside of high school was a horror novel.

-What do you say to yourself on days when the writing feels especially difficult?

I go to friends and seek emotional and moral support, and in this case they will remind me -and I will try and remind myself – that some days are easier than others. But it’s hard sometimes to tell yourself that, and just having that validation outside yourself makes the negative thoughts easier to dismiss and the positive ones harder to.

-What’s on your bookshelf, next to your bed (or in your e-reader)? What are you reading right now?

Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson, and Hunger by Roxane Gay are on my bookshelf. I’m reading The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco on my kindle right now; so good!

– What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Keep writing; make it a habit and it’ll come even though you don’t feel “inspired”. Edit, edit and edit some more!

 

Tonya Liburd shares a birthday with Simeon Daniel and Ray Bradbury, which may tell you a little something about her; and while she has an enviable collection of vintage dust bunnies to her credit, her passions are music (someday!) and of course, words. Her poetry has been nominated for the Rhysling award, and her fiction has been longlisted in the 2015 Carter V. Cooper (Vanderbilt)/Exile Short Fiction Competition. Her story “The Ace of Knives” is in the anthology Postscripts to Darkness 6, and is used in Nisi Shawl’s workshops as an example of ‘code switching’. She is the Associate Editor of Abyss & Apex Magazine. Check out her Inspirations and Influences essay about the story, “A Question of Faith” here. You can find her blogging at spiderlilly.com or on Twitter at @somesillywowzer.

 

Over the next few months, I’ll share reviews about the incredible authors I’m reading in the Book Smugglers Publishing family. I am truly honored to have found a press that is publishing fantastic authors and that values diverse and underrepresented voices in speculative fiction. I’m glad to be in their family! I am enjoying reading so many writers that are new to me. I just finished the novella, Keeper of the Dawn, by Dianna Gunn. Dianna’s was the first novella released in the Book Smugglers Novella Initiative. Dianna will also join us here for an Author Q&A during the summer.

 

 

REVIEW

Have you ever wanted something so badly, trained for it, dreamed about it, devoted yourself to it and then it got snatched away? How does one recover when this happens? These questions swirl around Lai, the main character in Keeper of the Dawn. The story begins when she is a young girl training to become a priestess. The training is grueling and can prove fatal. In her society there can be only one priestess and because of her heritage (her grandmother and mother were priestesses), people assume it will be her.

The story is an outer journey as Lai struggles to find a way to serve her goddesses when all looks lost and she faces many obstacles. It is also a great inner journey as Lai’s growth involves exploring her values, believing in herself and being vulnerable.

Keeper of the Dawn is set in a thoughtfully designed and complex second world fantasy. I love this culture and her portrayal of strong and complex heroines. The writing is detailed, vivid and compelling. Her writing reminds me of the work of Elizabeth Moon.  Another thing that I think is really cool and interesting is the way that Gunn explores asexuality and the complexity of relationships. This, I think, is a relatively new area of character exploration in young adult fantasy.

Ms. Gunn is a talented writer. I think most fantasy readers will find this story engaging. I definitely want to read more of her work!

Read her her essay on inspirations and influences for Keeper of the Dawn.

COVER REVEAL: I have been DYING to share this news with you. My new sci-fi novella, “Reenu-You” is being released this week. Last fall, I had the incredible good fortune of my novella being selected as one of the four to be published this year by the AWESOME Book Smugglers Publishing. They are a small (but mighty in spirit) press interested in all things speculative fiction and with a real commitment to diversity and feminism. Since December, I have been knee-deep in edits, proofs and marketing. Whew! I will post more about that process soon.

I am THRILLED that Black Girl Nerds is doing an exclusive cover reveal today!

Reenu-You is a sci-fi thriller that explores what happens when a mysterious virus is transmitted through a “natural” hair product. Set in the 1990s, the novella explores race, gender, the politics of beauty and corporate conspiracy. Female friendships, unlikely heroines and hair—what more could you want?

Would you consider visiting the Black Girl Nerds website and possibly leaving a comment? The more traffic they get, the more they are encouraged to promote this cover reveal. TY!

Watch this space for more Reenu-You news soon!

This is the way I feel today!


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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