Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Art of Writing for Blogs

Today’s guest blogger, Sara Dawkins, is an active nanny as well as an active freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor of http://www.nannypro.com/ and I thought a lot of writers could benefit from her experience writing blogs.

As someone who was used to writing for school and technical papers, let me tell you that writing for blogs was a bit of a shock. Oh, sure I’d written a piece or two of fiction in my time and through that had some grasp on writing conversational English, but to write an entire article in that language? Never had it crossed my mind.
Let’s just say you wouldn’t want to go back and read my first blog posts. Not only were they boring to the max, but they were also so stilted that it feels more like reading a college essay then a blog post. It was only after reading other blogger’s work and finally loosening up that I got to the point where I could write conversational English. For those of you just starting out in the blogging world, or if you want to loosen up your writing style for other reasons, here are a few tips for you:
1.      Don’t sweat the small stuff – I know that things like sentence structure and proper formatting were drilled into you from a young age, but at this point you need to throw it out the window. You know how great chefs never use recipes? The same idea applies here. You know what you are doing, now let creativity flow.
2.      Write like you talk – A good rule of thumb is to write like you speak. If you use a lot of big words and complex sentences, then fine. Great. But if you tend to talk more like your average Joe go with that. Use short sentences. Use run on sentences. Use slang and conjunctions. Be human.
3.      Have fun with it – Blogging is supposed to be fun! If you are not having fun writing it then your readers won’t have fun reading it. Laugh, make jokes, be silly.
4.      Don’t plan too much – This is not a research paper. You do not have to outline your topic, come up with a thesis, or hit key points. Yes, you want to communicate effectively, but if you over plan you end up sounding like a robot. Have a general idea of what you want to say and then go with it.
5.      Keep it short – This is important. Blogging is all about brevity. Keeping your blog posts short is the best way to keep readers interested. Do not have huge chunks of text. If you can a list post is great, but if you can’t small paragraphs work well too. Remember that we are all busy people, so help us to make the most of our time and be succinct.
These are just a few little tips on helping you to become a writer who is fun to read. You want to really connect with your readers, in fiction and in bogging and everywhere in between. As always, enjoy what you write or don’t bother writing it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Holiday Festival Fun

With eight novels in print with a small press and a number of major conference appearances under my belt I just spent three days at a craft fair, and I thought it might be fun to talk about why.

When I started as a self-published author I did a lot of this kind of event.  Then I established a strong relationship with Borders Books and enjoyed sitting in one of their stores almost every weekend.  Sadly, Borders is no more, so I decided to backtrack a bit.

So I spent the weekend at the Northern Virginia Christmas Market along with 300 other vendors.  It’s a bit more work than signing in a bookstore.  I had to buy copies of my books.  I had to bring plenty of change (and I got one of those gizmos that attaches to your phone so you can swipe credit cards.)  I had to haul tables, chairs, books, tablecloths, banners, bookmarks, book stands in with me.  I was on my feet most of the time.

On the other hand, I got to talk to a lot of readers, and people with friends who like to read.  In this way I was a big help to some folks with hard-to-buy-for people on their gift list.  I also chatted with a librarian who needs writers to speak at her library, and a couple of book club members who would love to have an author come to their meetings.  I put my postcards, bookmarks and business cards into a lot of hands, and had several people say they’d download me onto their Kindle when they got home.  And I signed 80 or so books that would not have been bought otherwise.

Aside from that, I had a good time chatting with other vendors, and I really do enjoy being face-to-face with readers.  Plus it was a chance to get most of my Christmas shopping done without having to sneak around.

Was it worth it?  Let me put it this way: I’ll be standing at a table doing the same thing in Virginia Beach at another Christmas Market on Thanksgiving weekend, where I expect to sign even more books!

Friday, November 9, 2012

C3 Conference – And Now a Word from Our Sponsors

There is no “how to give a literary conference” kit.  So I’m building one.

When I've attended crime fiction conferences I couldn't help but notice how publishers, large and small, make their presence known.  Those publishers may buy space for posters on tripods, contribute gifts for the attendees or put their name on parts of the conference.  It makes sense – whatever sponsors contribute allows the organizers to lower the cost to attendees.

That’s good for the fans who attend the conference, but what does it really do for the publisher who becomes a sponsor?  It’s all about building their brand.  Sponsoring a conference is a way for a publisher to establish itself as legitimate and professional in the eyes of a room full of readers and authors.  That can lead to increased prestige and increased sales in the future.

We are offering a number of ways publishers can sponsor the Creatures, Crimes andCreativity conference.  For example, they could finance the wine service at one of the dinners.  We’d promote that on the C3 web site, announce the sponsorship at the meal, and invite the sponsor to say a few words.

A company could supply the goodie bags we’ll hand out at registration (with their name and logo on them of course.)  Or they could buy ad space in the conference program.

We’re also looking for someone to supply flash drives for all the attendees.  They could load them up with ebooks, or we can.  And any publisher could supply books to give away to attendees, either published or their Advance Reader Copies (ARCs.).  We’ll put those books in the registration goodie bags, or use them as center pieces at a meal.

To make a big impression, a press could sponsor a meal.  That would earn them one full admission to the conference, a banner on our web site declaring them a conference sponsor with a link to their website, a designated table for their party at that meal, an announcement of their sponsorship at that meal and an invitation for their representative to introduce themselves and make a brief presentation at that meal.  Plus we will post any signage they supply at the conference.

Acorn Book Services is sponsoring Sunday breakfast at the C3 conference, including omelets made to order.  They also came up with a creative sponsorship idea of their own.  Acorn will publish an anthology exclusively for the C3 conference, and supply a copy for every attendee.  Aside from including (and thus promoting) work from Acorn’s authors, all writers who register for the conference are invited to contribute a story.  Check out the submission guidelines on the conference web site.

We hope having publishers help sponsor the conference will pay off for them, and for all the fans and writers who attend.