Why?

Why do you want people to read your blog? Like you on Facebook? Follow you on Twitter? Why do we want this “social” aspect at all?

Which of these best describes your response?

1. Everybody is doing it. This is a common refrain among authors and journalists and bloggers. Social media is trendy and no one likes to be left behind, right?

2. Everybody told me I had to do it. Another very common response, because no one likes to be in the dark and it’s easier to just jump onto social media just to say YOU ARE on social media and deal with the ramifications of how to use it later. This answer does lead to quick social media burnout.

3. I meet amazing people. This is a great side effect, isn’t it? There are fabulous and interesting and helpful people using social media. Plus, it’s really fun. (Good! This is the first step to using social media well.) But all the amazing people in the world are still not enough.

4. I find referrals and jobs and all sorts of good stuff on social media. I hear this a lot now too and I LOVE it. Great job, everybody. And if you’re not here yet, you soon will be, if you set up a simple strategy for your social media positioning. Read on.

5. The people I engage with on social media purchase what I sell sooner, thus shortening my sales cycle. In author/journalist/blogger speak, this means, you meet an editor on Twitter or LinkedIn, they go to your blog/website and check you out, and then send you an email with an assignment, buy an infoproduct or a book from you, or ask you to guest post on their blog.

What was your response?

  • 1 and 2 are why I got on social media in 1995. Never fear, you will soon be at 3 or 3 and 4.
  • 3 is just the awesome side effect of this fun journey. Now how can you transform into 4?
  • 4 is the beginning of your ROI measurement. How can you begin to strategize your social media usage to be able to track it conclusively like in 5?
  • 5 is standard ROI measurement. This is what social media strategists such as myself are focusing on these days.

For today’s ASJA workshop, I’ve prepared two downloads (pdf) for you to use to move your response into the higher numbers: (these are free and shareable)

Blog_Website as a Content Hub is a mindmap (created with Mindmeister; create your own or draw in your channels that bring traffic to your blog/website on this pdf)

The Art of Positioning on Social Media is a worksheet to develop your positioning strategy using social media. It also can be used to develop your blog theme, voice, and focus. These four questions first appeared on this post at ProBlogger in March 2011.

For more resources like this, please sign up for my twice a month email newsletter! In it, you’ll get my fresh ideas on positioning using social media, how to develop your blog and social media to support each other, and other ideas from the mind a publishing industry expert and social media strategist.

I’m also teaching a social media class that starts on June 13 at WriteBlogLearn.com, entitled The Social Network(s): A Field Guide for Authors. It runs for 6 weeks and is great for new and veteran bloggers alike. It comes with in-depth class lectures, assignments (using Moodle) and email support. After you’ve completed this class, you will know exactly what you story you’re sharing, what audience you’re aiming it for, the engagement that works best for you and “lights you up,” and how to measure your influence. Plus, we’ll have a whole lot of fun to boot! I no longer offer one-on-one consulting, so my classes are the only way to work with me in 2011 and into 2012. I hope you’ll join us.

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Dori Jones Yang’s newest book, Daughter of Xanadu, was published by Random House/Delacorte Press in January as young adult historical fiction. A journalist by training, Dori speaks Mandarin and spent eight years as a foreign correspondent covering China. She co-authored her first book, Pour Your Heart Into It, with Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz. Her second book, The Secret Voice of Gina Zhang, is middle-grade fiction and won two awards. It will be re-released soon with a fresh new cover.

How did you begin in kids book publishing?

After my Starbucks book came out, my ten-year-old daughter challenged me to write a book that interested her. After years of writing in journalistic style, I had to start from scratch, training myself in fictional techniques, such as plot, setting, dialogue, and character development. I entered a contest put on by the American Girls company, which was looking for new authors, and eventually I won it! That felt great.

What has been the best marketing practice for your recent YA novel?

Eight months before publication, I began a crash course in book promotion, trying to learn as much as I could. I redesigned my website, printed up postcards, posters, and bookmarks, created a Facebook page, and set up speaking events at local bookstores and schools. By far the most useful discovery I made was goodreads.com. It’s an online community of avid readers, including many who are crazy about YA. I sent two advance copies of my novel out, and 16 bloggers reviewed it before publication.  That made it easy for me to set up a “blog tour” to get the word out. I’m proud that Daughter of Xanadu has been #1 on goodreads’ list of “New YA Historical Fiction in 2011” since January 1!

You just joined Twitter. What is your goal for Tweeting?

I’m still trying to figure out how best to use Twitter for book promotion. What are your suggestions, Trish? Like many other authors, I need help!

What is one thing you’ve learned on your writing journey that you want to share?

Perseverance is the key. Writing books and getting them published is tough, with many setbacks and failures. My novel was rejected 22 times before I finally found the right format and genre and editor. If you believe in your project, keep at it.

What’s coming up for you in kids books? What are you writing?

I’m hard at work revising the sequel to Daughter of Xanadu, my second YA novel. I also have two exciting ideas for middle-grade novels, simmering on the back burner.  One thing I love about writing for kids and young adults is that young people today are much more multi-cultural and global than their parents. Because of that, their minds are wide open to reading about times and places long ago and far away.

Please come and visit me at www.dorijonesyang.com!

Hi, everybody! You can follow Dori on Twitter @dorijonesyang. And if you sign up for my email newsletter by April 11 (see sidebar), I’ll personally send via your email my free Twitter resource, the helpful Author’s Guide to Twitter (I sent it to Dori already as she is signed up!).

Have a great weekend all!

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(via Mikael Miettinen)

I know that many people reading this blog will wonder about my own experience writing and marketing books. I’ve written a variety of books (my most recent book was a kids picture book in 2007) and I was busiest in the 1990s writing several series of books that went out of print in the late 1990s after being featured in Target stores nationwide every year on Mother’s Day. Why they went out of print is a question I still don’t know the answer to.

The first series of books was a series of vellum-wrapped hardcover full-color coffee table gift books and one was entitled Mother. I also wrote the rest of the series: Father (never published), Sister, Friend, and Grandmother. I met the publisher through some conference I attended and shared with the editor some lines of verse that I wrote about my late grandmother. The editor was deeply moved. And so she offered me the Grandmother book and then came back with the rest of the series. It was like writing beautiful words about the people I loved the most. I really believe my first published books were from a deeper part of me. My late grandmother was like a second mother to me and I loved her very much. I still miss her guidance and laughter. Writing about my most precious memories of her touched something in me that also touched others.

Isn’t that what a book should be about? Not about how many people follow you on Twitter or how many people subscribe to your newsletter. Even for the professional books, as I know there are a lot of business book writers and journalists here, even when we write about retirement benefits, what touches people the most is when you meet a core need—an emotional benefit—you make them feel as if you understand exactly where they are coming from.

I guess that’s my first thing that I look for when I work with writers (who write business books, spiritual books, novels, and books about gardening; I also work with a lot of academic authors who write college textbooks, but they are not likely to be visiting here): I want to see if there is a passion (for lack of a better word) about what they are doing. I want to see if they are so sure that their message is important that they will work to get it out to an audience in a manner that may or may not include a print book deal.

I admit it; I cringe when a writer only wants to be published. I just don’t like that sort of personality. It frustrates me to no end. I often will try to encourage that writer to quit chasing the print book deal and find out what they really want. Really, a writer seeks to communicate a message in such a way that they change someone’s life. And that doesn’t have to include a print book.

But if you’re here, you’re likely already very interested in pursuing publication. You’ve probably started a blog or are thinking about starting a blog. You may even be an author with a book already out and you’re seeking information on how to build the online presence that is now seen as necessary to a successful author career and book launch. You’re in the right place.

The second thing I think I have learned since my first publishing efforts is that it never works out quite how you think it will. I hand-sold my first book proposal at the age of 23 to an editor at Harvest House Publishers (Christian publisher) without an agent. I was so young. I just got this idea and had someone who could get the proposal to the right person (I was copyediting and proofreading for Harvest House at the time) and she loved it! (This sort of success is highly unusual.) But then the proposal didn’t get past the editorial board. I was so disappointed.

Authors have got to be willing to go through a lot of twists and turns. Just as I think there are no more hidden corners, one shows up for me. I’ve been in this business working with authors for 16 years and a hidden corner showed up a few weeks ago. You live and learn. This is why I started Author Blogger. It helps to read about other authors who have their own stories to tell. I think we’ll learn a lot from them. I’ve got an exciting bunch of folks just in April and May for you to meet and learn from.

And my third thing I have learned is that I can’t do the writing and publishing career myself, if I wanted to do this writing career thing correctly. I now know that I need a team of people to help me navigate the publishing world. This includes an agent (discussions on this coming up), a critique group (discussion on this coming up), and a sort of business/writing coach (and discussions on this coming up as well). I need my team. It doesn’t guarantee success, but it helps me to take it more seriously. I find that when I have a critique group waiting for a chapter of my book every week or an agent waiting on a proposal, I’m more likely to get it done. And I’m very deadline-oriented. I could do it myself. But I’d rather not. And we’ll talk more about how writers use social media to find that team and support and how authors can get a lot of their best ideas direct from their audience. Crowd-sourcing you say? Why yes!

So, where am I now? I have a book with my current agent, am working on a few more ideas to spread around, am talking constantly to people I meet about coming on this blog to talk about their experiences, and finally am accepting students for a social media strategy class. Exciting! If you want more info or want to ensure you don’t miss anything, I do have a newsletter coming. Stay tuned!

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(via Striatic)

Kids book blogs are ubiquitous online, it seems, especially to those of us who work in kids books.

But is there really anyone else out there reading ‘em?

This is the question posed to me in the past few weeks by a well-published kids book author. This author wasn’t trying to be sarcastic, but was inquiring seriously about the odds of a blog (that requires hours of work on top of the writing of the actual kids books) gaining any sort of following outside of kids book publishing circles.

I can’t guarantee anything. And I won’t. But I wanted to start a dialogue on this blog about what works on a kids book blog. I asked the questions of some of my Facebook friends a few weeks ago. Their answers were varied, but mostly this:

“Yes, I visit author’s sites all the time—if I feel a connection to the author that goes beyond their book. But I only visit after buying/reading the book, once I’m toying with fanhood.”

So, how does a kids book author create that connection?

I’m really asking. How do you think a kids book author (and if you are one yourself, how do you) create connection and encourage “fanhood”?

I’ve got a couple of ideas and I’m going to bring in a few authors this week to discuss this very subject, so stay tuned. But your comments will propel the conversation, so jump right in!

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Wondering how things went at SXSW?

I was interviewed by British copywriter extraordinaire, Amy Harrison, and she posted this video on her blog yesterday. I LOVED SXSW! (if you couldn’t tell)

Check back next week for the start of fabulous content aimed directly to you as an Author Blogger! Got a couple of cool interviews coming up with some cool authors that I think you will enjoy!

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Wondering how things went at SXSW?

I was interviewed by British copywriter extraordinaire, Amy Harrison, and she posted this video on her blog yesterday. I LOVED SXSW! (if you couldn’t tell)

Check back next week for the start of fabulous content aimed directly to you, kids book writers and authors! Got a couple of cool interviews coming up with some fabulous authors that I think you will enjoy!

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As you can see, there are some major changes afoot on this blog, specifically, as well as on my new blog (set for official launch April 1!). Because you are my faithful readers, you get early access.

This blog will be for kids book authors, about kids books, and marketing kids books, and reaching libraries and editors and agents and most importantly, parents and the most important piece of kids books: kids/preteens/teens/still waiting to grow up adults!

My first order of business is to ask: What would you like to see on this blog and site? What questions do you need answered?

Please let me know in the comments! Or you can find me on Twitter. Or on Facebook. Or on Erin Murphy Literary’s Facebook Page.

Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here!

Now, let’s get buzzing!

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Hello SXSW peeps!

Thanks for a great trip last week! I’m thrilled by my trip to Austin (and exhausted). I had such a great time. Austin is just a lovely small city and I truly enjoyed our time there. Your hospitality is pretty terrific!

I talked to a lot of people during my week at SXSW. And I was always just a bit tickled by how my message focused in on the needs of each person I spoke with. I changed it up as I went. I hung out with an ad guy from D.C. and we talked print kid’s books. Next up, I was in a game design panel and talked with a game designer about using the iPad’s abilities to push manga, which is a piece of kid’s books, but slightly different. And then I went to a dinner where no one had any experience with kid’s book and it was all about the next great book on social media for brick and mortar businesses.

A diverse crowd, yes? Yes.

1. I tried to remember who I was talking to in each conversation, which is the first universal rule of good, persuasive writing, isn’t it? Or does someone else have a better first rule? Please tell me. I’d hate to be mistaken. But for my purposes here, I’ll just say, LOUDLY, that it’s helpful to know who you are talking to when you are blogging, building a community, preparing to sell a book, preparing to self-pub or indy pub, whatever. Copyblogger calls it “creating an avatar.” But that brings to mind the blue people from James Cameron’s AVATAR, and I’m always confused. Anyway!

2. Find their pain. I remember asking specific questions trying to find out what kept them awake at night or what their passion was (I use the word passion all the time; no matter what Jonathan Fields says) and it was so interesting to me what people care about and how that changed how I kept the conversation going. I am really easygoing in one-on-one conversation. You can pretty much steer me where you want me to go. I’m so not pushy. Somehow my writing translates as more pushy, and I’m trying to quit it. Really! So don’t follow my example! Be willing to be steered to follow the pointers your audience gives you about what matters to them!

3. Give more than you ask for. First mantra of my life has always been: give more. And I don’t mean giving what I think is important, but what my audience really wants from me. If they are lost about publishing, I don’t launch off into a long-winded spiel about how you should be prepare to write a lot of crap before you try publishing anything. I just say: “What are you writing about now? I think you should keep doing it.” And I offer pointers about how they can keep going. Because sometimes that’s all that people need to hear. “Keep at it!” Plus it’s pretty hard to create a strategy for a project that is never finished and it is totally discouraging to hear the self-proclaimed publishing gurus saying the same gripe over and over about how you should get the crap out of your system before you try and sell a book project. Ha! Whatever. This simply translates into “You’re not ready yet.” Nevermind some of the CRAP those publishing gurus produce on their own blogs and in their books. Sure, the project you’re working on may not get a print book deal, but don’t we all learn something from simply finishing a project? But perhaps I’m the only one.

All in all, a techhead/blogger can have the most fun with all this community-building stuff. I mean, everyone breaks their blogs or can’t figure out how to use video, or loses a password and has to figure out how to reset something. And that’s why we need people who can teach us, help us, and encourage us. Plus, how else will I know about the hottest blogging template until a blogger tells me about it? I’m just in the dark, I guess.

So, go forth and talk to your peeps now!

PS — was I too bossy in this post? Hit me with it!

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The publishing industry is in serious flux.

We know this already. No need to harp on it. I have many, many good friends in print publishing. I am not interested in hopping aboard the “going nowhere” train that declares publishing is dead. Or the main germ: Print is dead.

No, it’s not. It’s been reborn.

Sure, it may not be ink, it is e-ink. It may not be paper books, but an iPad screen. Print must be separated out from the impression it makes upon a clean white page. It existed long before the Gutenberg press, remember. There were pen nubs and ink bottles and papyrus rolls. And before that, people told stories through art work on cave walls or kept their children wide-eyed and terrified around a lone campfire before Europeans even knew such lands existed.

But, Author Blogger isn’t here to take you through a history lesson.

I just want to set the stage for what’s coming with this site. While I am not anti-print, I am also very pro-anything that gets your message, your book idea, and your writing to the right audience. And I’m not inventing any of the ideas that I will be talking about on Author Blogger out of thin air; I’ve seen people use them to great success. Stay tuned to see who I bring aboard to talk about how they did it.

For today, consider this core concept: What if a print book was not the first step in your publishing journey?

Or even if you’re a published author such as myself, what if you next book didn’t start out as a print book proposal first? What if it started out closer to your audience?

What’s coming up first in April?

A community and influence strategist who has helped President Obama, the UN, and the state of California learn how to spread their most important message. I think this person will help many of you who are struggling with the print pub or self-pub question.

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I’m so sorry for my absence. South by Southwest Interactive 2011 was AWESOME!

I had a fabulous time. I met so many people, which was very cool, but I also just loved the creativity undercurrent in Austin. You could feel it under the surface, like a auditory thrumming everywhere you went. And SXSW was everywhere. We truly took over all of Austin. Every restaurant, cafe, store, hotel, coffee shop was taken over and the hospitality blew me away. Austin really rolled out the red carpet for us and for that, thank you, Austin!

But right to the point: the biggest buzz word for authors and journalists was community. In other words, build it now.

I brought together some of the best minds in the world (literally) to my panel “The Care and Feeding of Blogs and Book Contracts” and what an action-packed hour we shared! But from the first planning meeting, I knew I would have to tell my blog readers first thing: building a community around your story is more important than ever before.

I repeat: building a community around your story is more important than EVER BEFORE.

Here’s what I mean:

1. Publishers are actively soliciting books from authors and journalists who have built their communities. These people share a vision and a passion with their community. Their community feels as if the author/journalist is really taking them somewhere. And that somewhere is where both the author/journalist and their community both really want to be. In other words, offer a solution. The community will buy whatever that author/journalist writes, sells, offers, because he/she has offered a solution that the community desperately wants.

2. Authors/journalists who are having trouble getting their book proposals looked at or seriously considered and/or bought should look at what kind of community they are building. Of course, my first question to authors/journalists is: do you have a blog? Do you know what your audience wants as an end result? Does it include a print book? These are legitimate questions that publishers will be asking. If you can’t show how you can sell 15,000 (random number that is just for example purposes) print copies to your community, the publisher is not going to be interested. How does an author prove this? By beginning to interact with a community and testing what exactly they will buy from you (see #1).

3. If you do have a community and are still not getting anywhere with publishers, take a step back and ask yourself what kind of community you are actually building. A lot of people may have built a group of people who read their stuff, but haven’t yet ascertained if that community would ever plunk down 12.95 for a print book. They may be only part of the community because it’s free and will likely never pay a dime for the content. That’s not what I think community is. To me (and to publishers), community is the ability to sell to a core group who will in turn recommend you to their core groups.

But enough about what I think. What do you think?

  • What kind of community do you want to build and what issues have you had building it?
  • Or do you have another definition of community that you think works better than mine?
  • Does it frustrate you that publishers are asking for yet another level of commitment from you as an author/journalist before they will even consider your book idea?
  • Are you ready to give up on print altogether?

Talk to me. I got to chat with authors/journalists/bloggers for 40 minutes after my panel and I loved it. My comments are open to you!

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