An Interesting Profile

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When I was a youngster, we used the words, “cool, neat, and swell” to describe good things.

Now, the popular words are, “awesome” and “epic.”

Remember the days when the word profile referred to how you looked from the side view?

Now, it means your bio.

Although word usage may change, an interesting bio/profile is even more important in our current world than in the past.

So, just what should one contain?

Begin with your name.   End with your contact information.

Between those two “bookends” include the following based on the purpose for writing your profile (is it for a college or job application? a dating site? your own website? to find contacts?)

A little research on my part has uncovered these necessary items:

Your profession/training/educational background (Simply state this. You don’t want to come off sounding “smart or cocky.”) **This is NOT A RESUME, so don’t fill in too much detail. However, realize that you’re going to be going into more depth in this area, if the bio is for a job application and less if it is for a personal website.

Special accomplishments/recent works/expertise. If you share examples, direct them toward your target audience.

Personal, humanizing details. Are you married? Do you have children? Pets?

Your age and a recent—tasteful—photo.

Include hobbies and interests (but, again, think of your audience. These might not be good to include in a job application, unless specifically asked for…)

Remember:

Be sure to write in the third person.

Keep it up-to-date, making changes whenever necessary.

It’s a word picture, so write with a smile!

 

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Oh, Where Will You Go?

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In elementary school I was taught to separate various words/phrases from the rest of the sentence with commas. Now, my editor tells me that the world of computers—and especially texting, Twitter, and Facebook—have changed the rules. The less use of the comma, the better.

Authors need to stay up on all of the latest information in writing, publishing, and marketing.

One way to do that is by going to meetings of local writing chapters and to conferences. It’s time to plan which ones you would like attend (you can sandwich them between your family vacations and yearly physical exams).

If you are a Christian author, you may want to attend the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference. I try to go at least every three years, myself. Others I would recommend are: Glorietta Writers Conference, Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, Colorado Christian Writers Conference, Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, and Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Since these conferences can be expensive and require travel and hotel costs, you may want to begin your conference “experience” at local conferences. Here in Arizona, our local CWOW (Christian Writers of the West) conference, held each January, is always excellent and very affordable.

Other conferences, geared toward mainstream writers are: The Muse and the Market Place (Boston), ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) Conference held in New York City, San Francisco’s Writer’s Conference, and Literary Writer’s Conference (New York City).

Expensive? Perhaps. But well worth it because of the added bonus of networking, opportunities for pitching, etc.

Now that you know, where will you go?

Two Sides of the Same Coin

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When you teach someone else how to do something, you learn a lot yourself.

Teaching has a way of cementing ideas, facts, procedures—all kinds of information—in our brains through the visual and auditory senses, as well as the writing (of the lesson plan, main points on charts or power point and so on).

So, I am going to suggest something you might think is crazy: I’d like you to consider mentoring a beginning writer. 

You may consider yourself a beginner and question just how much help you could be to someone else. But, even if you only stay a step ahead of them, the experience will be invaluable—as you learn TOGETHER.

I remember, as a first year teacher. being assigned to teach two periods of sewing in Home Economics. I had no experience. I didn’t know any of the terms, parts of the machine, not even how to read a pattern.

Each night, I would go home and teach myself what I needed to know in order to get through class the following day. This went on for the entire semester. I stayed, literally, one step ahead of my students. But, by the last day of class, I found myself actually looking forward to the next group of students. I felt increased competence and confidence 

So, the point is: whether you know a lot about the craft of writing, or you consider yourself a beginner, the experience you will gain by mentoring someone else will be invaluable.

It will be time well spent…because learning and teaching are two sides of the same coin.

Creative Networking

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At a recent book sale, my table was sandwiched in between two watercolor artists.

Next to one of them was a young lady selling delicious homemade cookies.

Beyond her was a married couple designing one-of-a-kind T-shirts.

On and on, down the line, there was a nice mix of artists, crafters, and authors.

All brought unique opportunities to network.

Here’s what I learned on that chilly Saturday morning.

We shouldn’t limit ourselves to only making connections with others in our same profession or field of interest. Authors can also make use of opportunities to network creatively with many other individuals.

Just because they may not be authors, doesn’t mean they are non-readers, you know. You need to meet, great, and exchange cards with everyone.

Ask yourself, “What is the connection I can make with a painter?” Well, do you ever need an illustrator? When your book is written, will you need a cover?

T-shirts? How about one displaying the cover of your most recent book…main character…catchy quotation?

But, a baker?  Hum…are you writing a cookbook?

I’m not, but I have a partially-written—and long-forgotten—novel in the bottom drawer of my desk. It has the word “Cookie” in the title. That’s enough for me to start a conversation with the gal selling Snickerdoodles.

You never know who you’ll meet.

So, wherever you go, look for ways to connect.

You just might end up with a free sample.

Chocolate chip…pumpkin spice…oatmeal raisin…

When It Comes “Write” Down To It

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Yesterday, I spent 4 hours in my booth at an outdoor Art Walk—and sold two books—my marketing tip for today will try to answer the age-old question:

What is the best use of a writers’s time?

Given one hour of an author’s time, which is the most productive/profitable?

Book signings, creating Amazon ads, making display posters, making new giveaways—bookmarks, business cards, etc., doing podcasts/interviews/speaking engagements?

First, let’s agree on what it is NOT.

It is NOT checking your emails or texting for the nth time.

It is NOT vegging out in front of the television.

It is NOT allowing yourself to be lured into the mall for hours of shopping madness.

What it IS very much depends on YOU.

If you like those things mentioned in the third paragraph (not the fifth, I said the third), and if they bring you into contact with others whose ideas stimulate your creativity, and if they get your name “out there,” then they can be a good thing.

However, in the articles I have read, most authors will agree on only one consistent finding. 

It is this:

Give your writing a value. Let’s say, just for the sake of conversation, that you feel you are worth $30 an hour. Then, take a look at the list above. See what the going rate is that you would have to pay someone else to do that job for you.

If the person you would hire costs MORE than $30/hr, then you may want to do the job yourself.

If the person’s hourly rate is LESS than $30, then you may be wise to hire someone to do the job for you.

Then YOU can spend that time WRITING.

Because, when it comes “write” down to it (sorry, I just couldn’t resist) most authors agree that their time is most efficiently/profitably spent by actually WRITING.

HUM.

Imagine that.

Do the math: what is the best use of your time?

Covers That Speak to the Heart

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I can see the cover now: a blinding storm—a blizzard, perhaps—commuters trapped in an avalanche of snow—waiting to be rescued by—a team of sled dogs and a handsome forrest ranger…

(Sounds so good,  I just may write it!!)

But, wait—we are talking about the COVER of the book.

The question is: Should the cover tell the story…or only allude to it?

Since I just finished the cover for my newest fiction book, Simon Says, I can only share my insights from the process.

I thought, I knew what I wanted. I even conveyed it to the design team at 99Designs.

However, when I made a poll of my favorite designs, it turns out that responders had something else in mind.

They wanted a somewhat vague, emotionally-driven cover.

This shouldn’t really surprise me, because when I shop for a book to read, covers that evoke emotion are at the top of my list. They speak to the heart.

The cover should be a little vague. It should allude to–but not tell the whole story. It should make the shopper curious...pick it up…turn it over…read the back copy…hunger for more…

My new cover shows a boy watching a neighborhood baseball game from afar. The reader doesn’t know it is about bullying until they read the back cover copy…but THEY SENSE THE ISOLATION and that is how they connect with Marcus, the main character.

So, when it came down to it, I had to trust my audience because

the customer is always right.

Spend Until it Hurts

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I promised to address the subject of a marketing budget this week.

Delving into it, I discovered a frightening truth: how much money to allocate for marketing simply depends on how much you have and how famous you are.

The more your name is recognized, the less you’ll have to spend on marketing.

Do you think Stephen King has to spend much, now that his name is a literally a “household word?”

Nope.

He has people searching the internet and bookstores for his newest releases. They fly off the shelves the minute they are available for sale.

So, what I can tell you about a marketing budget is this:

Spend until it hurts.

Spend it when you can least afford it because that’s when you most need it.

When you’re rich and famous, you can sit back and rake it in…without spending a nickel.