Getting Motivated . . . or . . . Finding that Elusive Mojo

There’s [still-lllllllllllllllllll] a knee-high heap of articles and emails to read re getting a mailing list going, attracting viewers/followers, and making big bucks.  Should I laugh or weep?

It’s kinda like suffering from writer’s block—you’re stuck, determining what direction to take, what to do first, and who to attract.  The thing about becoming motivated is that you may already be completing or accomplishing things, but you’re just not quite focused or informed enough to impel yourself that little bit further.

Or you may have a comfortable routine that suits your needs.  There’s no need to learn more; you just continue doing what you’re doing.  <pointing finger at moi>

Every day, I whip up a brief Facebook post for my Triple Threat private-eye gals.  I’ll add a little pic, maybe an emoji.  Voilà!  Every Wednesday and Saturday, I create a WordPress post or page related to writing or my lovely lady detectives.  Voilà!  Damn, I’m good.  And let’s not forget that Typepad blog that no one visits; there’s a weekly post there, too.  Damn, I’m really good.

. . . Not really<LMAO>  I haven’t motivated myself to learn [more] about—or apply—those [%!@!] mailing lists I post about.  No ifs or buts: they’re vital to success.  As such, I can hardly question, or grumble about, why I’ve not attracted more than a couple of followers.  My [really] bad.

But, in deference to self, it’s a question of time, too.  There’s very little of it in my current life (given a full-time job and taking care of Mom), so I apply it where I can: posting and writing.  If I don’t do either, then I’m a non-entity.  But if I don’t promote/market, then I’m a non-entity, too.

LMAO again.  The intention had been to post about motivation and I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent about myself.  Look for “Part 2” next week on tips/strategies for you [us] to get motivated and inspired.  Let’s locate that elusive mojo!

pizap.com15031631749081

Calling All Writers & Bloggers!

There’s [still] a knee-high pile of articles and emails to plow through re getting a mailing list going, attracting viewers/followers, and making big bucks.  <LMAO>  It sounds so f’g easy.  And, for some, I don’t doubt that it is.  God bless you that have it easy.

As one of the “missions” of this blog is to share information gleaned, I thought I’d touch upon that valuable marketing tool called the “Call to Action Button” (CTA).

It has a plethora of purposes—like getting readers to sign up for your mailing list, subscribing to your blog/website, leading them to your shop, or purchasing a product or service.  You can use these CTAs in posts or add them to a sidebar.  Whatever it is you want your visitor or viewer to do, make sure you have one.  But before you design one, ask yourself this: “what’s the goal of my blog (website)”?

There’s a ton of stuff to be learned about this lovely little tool; given this is a post and not a page or in-depth PDF doc, here are a few highlights (which I’ll apply to mine, when I finally apply a CTA to this blog—and I will).

Make it clear/uncomplicated.  Your visitor should be drawn to it almost immediately.  Let it stand out from the bordering content, so watch what’s around it.  Also, keep an eye on the size of your button.  Too small and it’ll be lost; too big and it’ll take over the screen.

Fun fonts are just that—fun, far-out, and frivolous—but make sure they’re readable.  Keep your lovely call-to-action short and sweet.  Create a sense of urgency, if doable.  Consider words like: “try”, “buy”, “sign up”, “get”, “join”, “start”, and “send” to name but a few (“free” is a pretty good one, too).  Get personal, as well: use “you” and “me”.

Offer a reason (or two) why your visitor should complete your CTA.  And don’t overwhelm him or her by offering too many actions or options.

You can keep them rectangular, as most of them are, or you can opt for something different—circle, box, star, whatever you like.

Remember: while a CTA may look amazing, it may not generate action (i.e. convert traffic), so you’ll want to test it out.

In my Google travels, I came across a couple of free call-to-action button sites (and this is by no means an endorsement, simply a sharing of something found); I’ve not tried them.  You may want to check them out (like I plan to) to see where they take you.  But, like I always say: do your due diligence.  Learn what’s out there: absorb and apply . . . and have some fun, too.

http://buttonoptimizer.com

https://dabuttonfactory.com

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A Tale of Non-Success

Mr. X, a fictional character (or maybe not), and his foray into the publishing world make for some solid do’s and don’ts about doing just that: entering the intriguing, if not intimidating, writing world.

As a non-editor and non-researcher, Mr. X’s fiction writing leans towards the flat.  The ideas are sound; the execution not so much.  The gent has never seen any reason to edit his work or engage someone to do it, listen to opinions, or take advice.  Confidence is a very good thing; egoism probably not so much.

Not understanding why he couldn’t attract a traditional publisher or agent, Mr. X figured he go the self-publishing route—i.e. use a vanity (or subsidy) press.  Wouldn’t you know it?  He picked a press that has one of the worst reputations out there (we’ll be kind and keep it nameless).  As a non-researcher, he’d simply gone with whoever tickled his fancy.  (As an FYI, it took a good decade for him to discover his “publisher” had received a copious amount of bad press and wasn’t respected by legitimate publishers and agents.  Better late than never, as the saying goes.)

The point?  Do your due diligence.  And do it well.

Kudos to Mr. X, though, for strength of conviction.  He determined that his first book was so good, it should be made into a movie.  So, while penning a few more novels, he started chasing producers and directors, and agents.  Standard we’re-reviewing-your-submission replies were accepted as we’re-really-excited-to-have-your-amazing-stuff responses.  Humbleness is a good thing; arrogance maybe not so much.

In the [very] rare instance that someone requested more information or documentation, he complied . . . and advised where the requester could purchase his book(s).  This almost certainly is not a good thing, my friends.  When someone expresses interest, absorb the cost (consider it an investment) and provide a free copy or two.

Alas, another factor not in his favor: Mr. X didn’t (still doesn’t) care for social media.  As far as he’s concerned, it serves little merit as a promotion or marketing tool.  He’s certain he’ll succeed when “the time is right”.  This may be true, but after nearly 15 years, it seems evident that “the time has passed”.  He’s still not known and has no deals.  Playing ostrich by sticking your head in the sand and avoiding what’s out there—maybe because the truth is daunting or the amount of work/effort is overwhelming—is absolutely fine.  Keep believing you’ll “luck in”.  And, perhaps, you just may.

More conceivable?  You’ll experience success because you made it happen.

Do your due diligence.  And do it well.  We all love a tale with a happy [successful] ending.

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What’s in Tradition?

Traditional [fiction] publishing, that is.

Save for vanity publishing (something to avoid like picnic potato salad lying under a blazing summer sun all afternoon), at one time, the traditional publishing route was the only [viable] one to take.  It was tough—like hiking up Kilimanjaro when you’re a drive-to-the-corner kind of person.

Fortunately, the world of e-books arrived.  There’s a plethora (gotta love that word) of e-book publishers out there; Smashwords, Amazon’s KDP, Nook Press, and Kobo are to name a few.  You can format your work yourself, design the cover, and pretty much hold carte blanche, unlike in the traditional world where the publisher has creative control (never mind financial when you sign a binding contract).

Forgetting that [most] firms prefer to have agented writers contact them for potential representation—and that getting an agent is as difficult as getting a publisher—the odds of getting published are not in our favor.  Ever hear of the “slush pile”?

According to statistics, in 2013 only 50,000 novels were published; given the number written and submitted, the chances of being one of the “lucky ones” is slim.  As for agents, they tend to reject 99% of the projects received.  Not particularly encouraging, is it?  Rejection just plain sucks.

On a positive note, there’s tons of advice out there for both traditional and “e”, so read, read, read.  Determine what’s best for you.  You might even give the traditional route a try first—to get a feel for it and learn from the experience.

 E-books didn’t exist when I first started writing (I’m aging myself, alas).  For years, I tried acquiring an agent and publisher (whichever came first)—to no avail.  But I kept writing and gaining knowledge (and experience).  In retrospect, I see why I never got far: I had good ideas, but they weren’t executed well.  The great news?  I’ve improved—considerably so (pat on back to moi).

But this isn’t about me.  It’s about persevering, no matter which publishing route you take.  If you have a passion for writing, have at it!  Don’t second-guess yourself and don’t give up or in to fears and frustrations.

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Watt Fun

The merits of being a Wattpadder.

Is Wattpad a viable selling tool for an aspiring/established writer?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  Depends on who you talk to.  Some love it; some see it as no value add.

Currently, I have weekly installments of “Odd Woman Out” going.  Not sure anyone reads them.  But then, I’m not promoting them, either.  I guess I’m hoping a Wattpad fairy will sprinkle magic pixie dust.  Et voilà!  Tyler, you’re a hit!

The truth is that I’ve got an hour or so of actual “me” time per day, so it’s a toss of the coin.  Heads, I write; tails, I promote.  But if I promote, I need to decide what the best course of action is.  The abundance of self-promotion/marketing info out there is overwhelming.  It definitely takes (me) lots of time to digest all that requires doing.  And it seems easy enough initially . . . but three hours later, there I am, still trying to figure it out.

I digress.  For those not yet familiar with Wattpad, it’s a site with an informative blog and community (and labs) where—among many other things—writers can post works or persons can reach out with causes.  More notably, you can read Wattpad writers’—or Wattpadders’—opuses.  There’s lots of great stuff to be found.

From a writer’s perspective (forgetting the fact an audience or fanbase is probably a very good thing), I do find it rather fun.  You can design your own cover if you wish (I did mine and it ain’t bad, if I do say so).  You can post as often as you like, but doing so regularly (frequently) would be best.  There’s something exciting about hitting “Create” and “Continue Writing”.  Maybe one day the commitment will pay off.  Maybe not.  It’s all good, whatever the outcome.

I hear Wattpad even has awards, though I confess I’ve not yet checked that out (I’ll add this to the 105 other must-dos).

Take a gander . . . and have some fun.

www.wattpad.com

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Burbling a Blurb – What’s in a Written Sales Pitch?

Remember: you want to create interest, if not excitement.  Suck in your reader.  Do that by revealing the dilemma or challenge facing your character(s) without disclosing how it’s resolved. 

Finding the right [amount of] words to sell your beloved work isn’t always easy.  No question, writing book blurbs—otherwise known as sales pitches or selling tools—can be challenging.  But, rest assured, it’s far from impossible.

Let’s consider what you shouldn’t do first:

  • go on incessantly, revealing all
  • reveal all (yeah, it’s a great story and you want to [enthusiastically] share every detail, but this really isn’t beneficial)
  • summarize all plot twists and/or characters
  • tell how the story ends
  • talk about how brilliant you and/or the story is
  • be overly effusive with descriptions (but not use effective descriptive words to entice us).

Now, let’s take into account what you should do:

  • tell us the genre of your book (we don’t want to have to guess, although mysteries do have their merit)
  • write a killer opening sentence; pull in your reader immediately
  • have us wanting to know/learn more
  • apply that old and familiar phrase: keep it short and sweet
  • introduce the protagonist and his/her quest, quandary, desire, journey (whatever the trial may be)
  • give a sense of setting.

My own process: write a synopsis (five to seven pages).  From that, whittle it to a one-page synopsis.  The blurb evolves from that.  Yeah, it can prove time-consuming.  But it helps capture the true essence of the book and, sometimes, it even reveals a snag.

Your process could be totally different.  Discover what works for you.  If you’re a first-time “blurber”, check out blurbs in your genre.  Get a feel for how they flow.  Adopt that rhythm.

Here’s a quick example (using my mystery series trio):

 The gals from the Triple Threat Investigation Agency stumble across a body in Ala Moana Park while waiting for a new client.  Could it be, this was he—Jake the Flake?  Why did someone of his notorious background want to hire them?  The assault he’d recently been arrested for?  Or the stalker he’d briefly mentioned on the phone?  As JJ, Rey and Linda search for clues across various Hawaiian Islands, it’s apparent a number of people hated the toady guy enough to want him dead.  And when their quest drags them into the dark and dangerous underground gambling world, they learn they’d better push out fast . . . before they add to the mounting body count.

Remember: you want to create interest, if not excitement.  Suck in your reader.  Do that by revealing the dilemma or challenge facing your character(s) without disclosing how it’s resolved.

It takes practice, like anything, but it does come—and when it does, your awesome blurbs will attract readers (and followers) and help you make sales.

pizap.com15010847263082

Writer’s Block can B a Bitch

For those easily offended, sorry for the “b” word . . . but, man, writer’s [and blogger’s] block can be just that.

Sometimes, it’s because ideas are bumping around in your brain like out-of-control bumper cars.  Other times, it’s because you’re experiencing a dry spell as arid as the Mojave Desert.  In both instances, focus is proving as clear as the Big Muddy.

Other excuses, uh, reasons include:

  • scheduling/timing, anxiety, dog walking, kitty litter changing, shopping, eating, vacuuming (pick one, any one).

There are several ways to defeat writer’s/blogger’s block and they’re painless, even enjoyable.

My fav: take a walk.  (Ideas come when I’m strolling with no destination in mind.)

Similarly, get out of the house/condo/apartment and enter a different space and head place, like a lounge or gym or park.

Do something creative or entertaining: play a game, color/draw, maybe watch a motivating or encouraging flick.  Music’s nice, too (Christian R&B works for me, but if Five Finger Death Punch does it for you, go for it).

Daydream—about the story and characters, your future, an ideal vacation, the upcoming long weekend, or that perfect world.  Engage the ol’ gray matter.

Jot down words, ideas, or character sketches.  Or record what you’re feeling and thinking (do some free-flow writing).

Talk to someone . . . or the dog, cat or parrot.  Chatting aloud, even with yourself, can take you places (and, no, they won’t be taking you away with a butterfly net).

Search for inspiration.  The folks I follow on Twitter tweet amazing sayings and stunning photos.  After viewing a few of those, I’m feelin’ uplifted and very fine.

Hopefully, one of these options will work.  If not, go looking for something that will . . . like I just did (writing about the writer’s/blogger’s block I was experiencing today).

Ending words: don’t give up.  Persevere.  You’ve got it within you.  Stick to it!  And, above all, keep the faith.

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Rolling Along the Blogging Trail

This is exactly what I’m doing, rolling along the blogging trail . . . like a honey-coated golf ball . . . and progressing like a keen Monachoides vicinus (otherwise known as land snail).

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“Forever Poi”, the fourth in The Triple Threat Investigation Agency mystery series, is taking forever to complete, but it’s all good.  Sometimes you just need to invest [more] time in a project than you’d initially anticipated.

Never rush.  Errors and sloppiness abound as a result (to this I can and will attest).  Take those baby steps I always [ad nauseam perhaps] refer to.  Some say have a plan or an outline; others say take it as it comes.  I’m a have-a-plan kinda gal (coz I am so not spontaneous), but do whatever works best for you.

Straightforward and simple advice for today (I’m counseling myself as much as you):

  • stay focused
  • be proactive
  • suck up as much information as you can, and above all,
  • believe in yourself.

Never give up or in.  It will come.

 

Hey, Didya Hear . . . ?

Or maybe you saw, read . . . ?

This may well be a senseless post to those under 40, but I’m gonna do it anyway.

We know that a mailing list is important—a must—if we want to sell ourselves as writers (or anything else).

Another must self-promotion tool: social media.  And I will personally attest to this: it works.  Period.

One bit of advice: every social media platform has a different audience—with different focuses and interests.  Determine which ones best suit your needs/goals.

I’d recommend not spreading yourself too thin, at least not in the beginning when you’re starting to market yourself as a writer or blogger.  Focus on a couple only and learn everything you can about them—use them to the fullest.  My first choices (and not necessarily yours): Facebook and Twitter.

Get involved with social media groups that have interests similar to yours.  They can provide lots of guidance and support.  If you haven’t already discovered how easy it is to attract viewers/followers, do so now; there’s tons of information and advice to be found and absorbed.  Run with it.

As the [paraphrased] saying goes: you’re only as limited as the limitations you place on yourself.  Faith, support, and creativity know no bounds.  Either should you.

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Mail Lists, Mail Lists, Who Wants a Mail List!?

I do, I do!

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And so do you, if you hope to succeed as a writer.  Renowned gurus Mark Dawson, Derek Murphy, and Joanna Penn (among others) tout the necessity (!) of having one.

I totally get it.  Now, if I could totally do it.  <ROTFL>

Given the weekends are the only times I can work on “technical” components, it’s been three weeks now that I’ve tried to get a mailing list organized.  Every time I follow a couple of steps, it seems there are six more to perform . . . and a-Googlin’ I go.

Eventually, it’ll happen.  It’s merely the multitude of baby steps required for yours truly to get there.  But I digress.  <still ROTFL>

Consider this my first official advice as a blogger/writer: get a mail list going!  It doesn’t matter if you have 10 or 1000 names on it.  The important thing is that you have one.  Everything else, in time, will follow.

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There’s simply too much information about mailing lists to include in a post.  To help you get started, here are three links to awesome sites that can provide essential must-knows and must-dos.
https://markjdawson.com
https://www.thecreativepenn.com
https://www.creativindie.com