Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I'm Being Interviewed!

Do you want to read about my thoughts on social media and writers? Then head on over to Gennifer Albin's site where I'm being interviewed today.

If you haven't had an opportunity to meet Gen yet, I'm telling you, you'll know her name before the year is out. Her debut novel, Crewel, is the first part in a trilogy that comes out in November of this year.  The book landed her an agent and publishing deal in record time -  like, a month - that's how good it is. Go to her Facebook page to check out her prologue. Makes me super excited for the book, how about you?

Oh, and right now, Gen is running an AWESOME blog contest - one that will get you artistic types excited. So make sure you check it out too.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Blog Critique: Another Author

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

Today's blog critique comes from Abhishek Boinapalli of Another Author. Since I'm in a get-it-done kind of mood, I'm just going to invite you to go take a look now and cut out my usual intro. We'll meet below.

Abhishek, you have two specific things that I would like to commend you for right off the bat: you have an invitation for guest posts and you have links to articles you have written. Asking for guest posts is an excellent way to get guests, and guests can be so beneficial. And the articles is a good example of what I always ask for in the way of connecting to your writing. It's a nice portfolio.

There are a number of other things that I would suggest you should rethink:
  • Your name is not in your blog title or subtitle. You should have it more prominent.
  • Your blog address (becomingprince.blogspot.com) is confusing - do you want to be a prince? Or the artist Prince? This address should be like your title or your name.
  • Your profile is buried in your sidebar. Have it higher so we can see who you are.
  • The moving widget bar to invite people to Facebook, Dig, etc. is annoying and covers a lot of the blog. I'd lose it.
  • You have a big old ad in the prominent position under your navigation and above your blog posts. This leads me to think your ads are more important than your posts. 
This last issue brings me to the real issue with your blog - it is evident that you want your blog to earn money. Now, there is nothing wrong with monetizing your blog, but very few people are interested in visiting a blog that screams, "GIVE ME MONEY". The over abundance of ads, the placement of the ads, and asking for donations clearly says that. To have a blog successfully earn money with ads and donations I recommend three things:
    1. Place your ads in subtle, thoughtful locations. 
    2. Build a following of people before monetizing.
    3. And, most important, create a blog that draws people's interest.
A very successful blog that monetizes is Dooce.com.   Yes, Dooce has ads, and she even has quite a few. But she built her followers before adding advertising and she offered/offers a very specific personality with posts and images that are unique and desired by readers. It is very difficult to reach this level of blogging, but, like anything, if you are sincere about your desire to be a paid blogger, you must work hard to achieve it. I suggest really spending some time trying to decide what your blogging goals are and devise a plan to reach them.

If I am completely missing the message of your blog and if you are more interested in being a writer's blog as your title suggests, then you really need to lose the ads. That message is completely lost in the midst of the ads and money tracker. Focus first on creating a blog for writers with helpful, thoughtful posts. Build your followers. Then you can monetize.

Of course this is only my opinion. Only you know what is best for you and your blog. All bloggers deserve a pat on the back - it's a real commitment - and so I'm giving you one now. Congrats!

How about you, readers? Any thoughts or suggestions for Abhishek? We'd love to hear from more than just me!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Savvy Sensation: Jessie Harrell

Last night my husband and I put together our new treadmill. It's in our office and we had to move things around so we disconnected all the computer stuff. Then we had a helluva time getting the internet back up! This is why you should schedule your posts in advance... 

Anyway, I'm late with today's interview, but she's worth the wait. Jessie is an appellate attorney and a YA author. Plus she's a wife and mother of two.  Without further ado, here is the fabulous Jessie Harrell of The Daily Harrell.

Thanks for having me on your blog today, Laura! I'm super-excited to make an appearance on your Savvy Sensations feature.

Who are you (what do you write, what are your personal stats)?
I'm Jessie, a mother, wife, attorney and author, who adores all things YA lit. I've just crossed the 900 follower mark on my blog and 1000 follower mark on twitter.

I see you're at 1171 followers as I post this. You are amazing! Where can we find you online (blog, twitter, facebook, etc.)?

I'm just me basically anywhere you go. www.jessieharrell.com http://jessie-harrell.blogspot.com @JessieHarrell JessieHarrell_Author on Facebook. Can you sense a theme???

Themes are an awesome strategy. When did you begin your online platform building?
After attending a winter SCBWI conference several years ago, everyone was saying "you have to get on twitter" and I was like "WTF is twitter?" Since then, I've become a tweeting fool, you can find me blogging on my own blog and with the ladies at Oasis for YA (http://oasisforya.blogspot.com) and I'm on Facebook. Meeting folks in the online community has been a blast. I had no idea that people I've never met in person could be so supportive!

What is your message, if any (is your blog about anything specific, for example)?
My blog revolves around YA lit. I do a feature every Tuesday called Happy Debut YA Book Birthday, where I feature new titles by debut authors. I picked Tuesday since most books release on that day (odd, I know). I also post reviews, YA-related giveaways, and an occasional post about my own debut YA novel, Destined.

How have you built your followers? What have you done that has been the most successful?
Participating in the giveaway blog hops hosted by I am a Reader, Not a Writer, has been huge for me. You can make the only requirement for entering that someone follow your blog and for a $10 investment (cost to buy a book through the Book Depository), you'll grow your followers by at least 100. Note to authors: I've seen far less astounding success rates if you're only offering to give away your own book.

What have you done that has failed?
Well, on Oasis for YA, I decided we should create a Thankful for Thursday meme. We created a neat little badge and asked folks just to post what they're grateful for that week. A couple people really liked the idea, but for the most part, it flopped. Where's your silver lining, people???

How much time do you spend blogging? Reading blogs? Commenting on blogs?
Not as much as I should... I generally blog Saturday mornings, creating my posts for the week for both the blogs in advance. Tracking down the debut YA novels coming out takes a little time, but I enjoy it. The only downside is how big my TBR pile has gotten! I wish I had more time to go around to others' blogs and comment. Generally, if someone leaves a comment in the blogger nation forum of #yalitchat, I'll swing by. Or if I have some free time at work, I'll scroll through my GFC updates. I have to be honest though: just like I judge a book by its cover, I just a blog by the picture posted. If the picture doesn't interest me, chances are really low that I'll read the post. So that's my best blogging advice -- find really cool pictures to use on your post.

What else should we know about you?
Like most bloggers, I didn't think I had anything new or unique to add to the conversation when I started blogging. So I've tried to use the blog just to show my personality when it comes to YA lit. Anyone who reads my reviews knows I love paranormal romance and romantic contemporaries, but shy away from high fantasy and dystopians. I try to always find the good in a book because I know that everyone's tastes are different. So basically, I think if you like the same types of books that I do you'll enjoy my blog.

Any additional advice for our readers?
Don't broadcast your own message constantly. I had a really hard time reeling myself in when I was launching my book, but people don't want to hear it all the time. They come to read what you have to offer, not to read about your publishing journey bit by painful little bit.

Try to respond when readers leave comments. You should have a give and take on your blog.

What makes you unique?
No one else is going to approach books from my exact perspective. Whatever it is you're blogging about, you have a unique opinion. I stay true to myself and my opinions, while at the same time trying to broadcast the successes of others. I like my blog to be a happy place.

Jessie, thanks so much for stopping by. You are truly savvy with sensational advice. Well done!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Facebook Friday: Just for fun

This picture is going around on Facebook, but I think it's funny and awfully accurate:

And I also have to correct myself:  At one point and time, the little search box at the top of Blogger blogs searched ALL blogger blogs and not just the current blog. Well, guess I haven't attempted to use that search box in awhile because I have no idea when it changed, but apparently it now only searches the blog you are on. So for all of you that I told to get a search box when you already had the one up top - I'M SORRY! I have been set straight now :)

Finally, I have been given two blog awards this week! Stay tuned next week where I will do my part of the blog award requirements, but for now I just wanted to thank Savannah Rose for the Versatile Blogger award and Jamie Ayers  for the Kreativ Blogger award.  Wow! I'm truly honored by the support and kind words. I really appreciate the award!

So now that I've made you laugh, shared my humiliation and thanked two very lovely bloggers, what are you doing with your Friday?  Do you have a Just for Fun to share?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Blog Critique: Writing Unleashed

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

We have a special Wednesday edition blog critique today. Why? Because I said so. How's that for an answer. So go on over to Laura M. Campbell's blog, Writing Unleashed and come back to discuss below.

First of all, Laura, congrats on having such a cool name. And secondly, congrats on becoming a professional writer! WOOT!!

There are some great things going on in your blog: You have your profile at the top of your sidebar, you have ways to subscribe by RSS, and you are getting your name on other people's blogs (great marketing!). But when you have time - I realize you are a busy bee lately - there are a few things I would suggest to move your blog to the next level.

  • Name in Title: You're a professional writer! Get your name in the Title or, at the very least, the subtitle. People need to be able to find you.
  • Post your contact info: Again, you never know who's looking to reach you through your blog.
  • Get a Search box: I love me a search box. It really makes things easier for new readers.
  • Have more than one post per page: I've never given this note before, but I find it a little annoying when there is only one post on a page. It does make for easier reading, but one of the things I like about blogs is being able to quickly read through several posts. Having to always hit "Older Posts" is a little time consuming.
  • Your font color is sometimes very nearly the same color as your background post. Make sure it's always a light color so we can see it.
  • Also, the yellow color that you use for your links is so great. It would be better as your post color. Make your links white instead.
  • And speaking of color - we like the brown that you have on the bottom better than the brown that is your post backgrounds. It's a cooler brown and would be a cleaner contrast.
  • I've said before and I'm saying again - I like single sidebars. They are cleaner. Just my opinion.
  • But if you're going to have two sidebars, really think about what you need there. Your awards are cool, but I'd put them at the bottom or on another page. They tend to look awkward since they are different sizes. Then move your followers up under your profile. Make it easy for people to follow.
  • Connect to your writing, girl! Yes, I know, I don't do it yet either because I'm lazy. But you're not lazy. You're a professional writer with a goal of being published this year. Get your writing samples up for those agents to look at. And think they don't look? Well, let me tell you a story: I had an agent ask me just last Friday for my blog address. Man, I really should have had my writing samples up. Learn from my mistakes, Laura. Everyone, learn from my mistakes.
And that is all I have for you, my fellow Laura. Again, congrats. Here's to a great year for you and your writing!

Anyone else have any feedback for Writing Unleashed?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Blog Critique: Shannon O'Donnell

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

It's Monday again. How does that happen?

But the good news is that it's blog critique day. That's always a good way to start off the week, isn't it? Today's bloggy victim is the amazing, wonderful Book Dreamer, Shannon O'Donnell of Book Dreaming.  Go take a peek and come on back.

Now, it's likely you are already a follower of Shannon. She's pretty popular. And I always have to give this little caveat before I crit a popular blog: If you have followers - you're doing something right. So out of everything I say, remember I'm just one opinion and only you know what's best for your blog. Okay. Since that's out of the way, I can talk to Shannon.

Shannon, my lovely. I do so love your blog. And I adore you. A fellow picture book/MG writer - How could I not? So let's talk a bit about your blog and see if we can't give you some things to think on:
  • First I have to say you post wonderfully. You have a message. It's clear. It's consistent. Love it.
  • Your header should be wider. Let your pictures fill all the space.
  • As I always say, your name should be in your title or at least your subtitle. I'm glad it is in your blog address. 
  • And speaking of your subtitle...It's cute, it is. It makes sense because you are a teacher. But when I read that subtitle I think I'm going to get lots of posts about things your students or children say and how those things make good book ideas. Just something to think about.
  • I love the location of your profile. But your name is so little. Can you make it bigger?
  • I adore that you use color throughout your blog. It really makes it feel like it's about/for children without feeling too kiddish. 
  • Your three column set up (not usually my favorite) works for me, but you need more differentiation from your posts and sidebars.
  • The white background of your posts does not bother my non-artist eyes. But my designers feel it is too stark of a contrast to your background. Joe suggests a really pale blue for the background of your posts - blue like the lightest blue in the clouds of your main background. And then your columns should be a bit darker - maybe a green. These should be very pastel though and text should be readable over them. Play around with it. Maybe it won't be for you, but try it.
  • It's a little tricky to tell where one post begins and the other ends. This is mostly because you use a lot of colors and so it's hard to spot your headlines. You could make your footer's have a background shade that differs from the rest. Or you could add the Link Within app. This would add a distinct row of pics between each post. 
Okay, I'm done. These are all really just aesthetics. Your blog functions perfectly. I love reading your posts and it appears that many others do too. Great blogging, Shannon!

What do you guys think about Shannon's blog? Anything you'd suggest?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Saturday Savvy Sensation: The Golden Eagle

I think this is the first time I've had a Savvy Sensation that I can't introduce to you by name. Yep. I only know her as The Golden Eagle. And I know that she's amazing. She has an awesome, professional blog with lots of followers. If you haven't met her yet, you should. So here she is:

Who are you (what do you write, what are your personal stats)?
I'm a teenage writer of Science Fiction, along with Fantasy and some other genres every now and then.

Where can we find you online (blog, twitter, facebook, etc.)?
You can find me at my blog The Eagle's Aerial Perspective:

When did you begin your online platform building?
I think I really began building my platform during Alex J. Cavanaugh, Elana Johnson, and Jen Daiker's Great Blogging Experiment, where they asked participants to write about what makes a good character. Before that point I followed very few writers, but after the event I gained many followers and started looking for other writing blogs in earnest.

What is your message, if any (is your blog about anything specific, for example)?
I don't have a specific message; I blog about a lot of different topics, though writing is definitely one of the main themes. Books and science are two other subjects that I return to with some frequency.

How have you built your followers? What have you done that has been the most successful?
Commenting and following other bloggers, mainly. Nothing beats networking with others if you want to build an online platform--though, sticking to the reason I started a blog in the first place, networking is not my No. 1 priority. Sharing my thoughts and finding out what other people think (and getting to know them in the process) is.

What have you done that has failed?
Just following. I used to follow, not comment, and not add the blog I followed into a folder in Google Reader--the feed aggregator I use--so I couldn't find the blog again later to comment. Some people follow back regardless, but they're much more likely to comment if you do, first.

How much time do you spend blogging? Reading blogs? Commenting on blogs?
Sometimes I spend as little as an hour, sometimes I can spend four. But the average is around 2-3.

What else should we know about you?
I'm crazy about raptors, any raptors--though I suppose you may have guessed that from my screen name. :) Oh, and I can't decide whether web design or crewel needlework is more fun. I'm serious. They're both awesome.

Any additional advice for our readers?
If you want to blog successfully, go with what you really want to post about. Think about what you want your blog to say, what subjects you want/don't want to cover, and go for it--don't let anything block you. It's your piece of the web, so make it yours.

What makes you unique?
I try to figure that out all the time.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Facebook Friday: Fan Page Mistakes

It's been awhile since we've had a Facebook Friday, but I found this interesting article the other day about the 7 Biggest Fan Page Marketing Mistakes. Some of them have no use to writers and others are some great tips. But one in particular struck me because I see it all the time.  So I am sharing with you what I think is the number one fan page mistake:

Assuming people go to your fan page versus reading your posts in their news stream.

Stop for a minute and think about the fan pages you have "liked". I am willing to bet that the majority of them you visited one time - the time that you "liked" it - and then never again. This is true of most people. Generally people read their news feed and that is all. Look at this nifty graphic to see how what I'm talking about:
I'm not telling you that fan pages are not a good idea. I'm telling you that we don't always know how to use them. The majority of fans never go to your page and potentially 75% of your fans never see your posts. Here are three things this teaches us:

  1. You need to post to your fan page often so people don't forget you. I like watching Project Runway and I "liked" the fan page which I've been to once, so now I get constant reminders about the show. Even when the show isn't currently airing I get posts about Project Runway. This is good marketing.
  2. You can't expect that all your fans read your post. If you have something important, post it several times. Get creative with how you post it so you don't sound redundant, but you must say it more than once.
  3. Fans who go to your fan page often are probably stalking you. I'm just kidding. But sort of not since very few people repeat visit a fan page without good reason.
A more interactive way to use Facebook is to set up a Group. All members of groups get notification whenever someone posts and, if you're in a good group, members are much more likely to interact. 

Do you have a fan page? Does this information change the way you plan on using your fan page?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Life is Insane


That's me screaming over the insanity of my week thus far:

  • My MBA class is intense and time consuming. So much more than I was intending...
  • I'm still getting my house caught up after being sick (Yikes!)
  • I have two funerals and a wedding (I'm the Director of Music at church) and that's a lot for us in one week
  • We are breaking the baby of her bottle (well, most of them)
  • I have a marketing deadline that I haven't started on due, um, like in half an hour
  • My husband is working doubles all week because he has someone on vacation (he's a manager for a Blockbuster)
  • and I just got my 5th request for a full on my manuscript!!!! Now I have 5 rejections and 5 requests. Super happy :)
So here's my marketing question for you today: What do you do to keep yourself present in the literary world when you are bogged down with real life? And go...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Blog Critique: Conversations with Self

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

I'm better! Except for this stupid headache that won't leave no matter how many Advil I take. Though that could be from the virus I call my children. 

But anyway. Thanks so much for the feedback yesterday. It was very helpful. I am sorry I had to push this week's critique to today, especially when the blog comes from the sweetest woman in my blogging world. At least, that's the impression I have of Len Lambert: Sweet and maybe a little crazy :).  Go on and check out her blog at Conversations with Self and meet me below.

Oh, Len, you sweet, mum you.  My husband and I stared at your blog for a long time before he finally said, "It's good." Then, after I pressed him, he said, "I don't know what it's missing, but it's just not right." 

Here's what I think the problem is: I don't know what you want your blog to accomplish. It seems off the bat that you are a rambling blog. You know, a blog for sharing whatever you feel like sharing. Elements of your blog that back this up are your whimsical background, your title, your randomness in posting, your welcome paragraph. Of course, since you write, writing will sometimes find its way into your posts. This is a perfectly fine type of blog to have, and really, anything goes when you blog for yourself like this. So then I would say, "Great blog!" and "Awesome job!"

But I wonder if you are trying to be a writing blog. Or an author blog. You have author interviews and helpful author links and all. If you are, then there are some things we would suggest:
  • Your title is confusing to find. It's not your name and then your blog address is also something different. If you are going to be carpediem202.blogspot.com then that should be your blog name.
  • You don't have your name at all in your title or subtitle. Who are you? At least put your name in your subtitle.
  • You have a nice welcome on the side, but this should be the spot for your profile.  You could blend the profile and the welcome together.
  • Oh, and your subtitle is a little hard to read. Maybe try making it bigger. You could also try a rust color there and see if it reads better.
  • Okay, I'm going to forgive you for the exclamation marks in your posts because I think it's just you :) But for sure, you don't need it in your subtitle. Headings read so much better without them.
  • Joe likes your palette. The background colors, that is. You could really use them well if you incorporated them in the actual blog. Use that rust in your headlines, for example. Use that teal for the inactive tabs (they're too dark right now, anyway - or too close to your font color).
  • What is the purpose of the books on the side? Are they fellow bloggers? Friends? Books you like? Let us know or we'll ignore them.
  • Your words of inspiration at the bottom are too hard to read over the background. Maybe try a yellow font there. Or leave that section blank. It would be pretty without anything on it.
  • And, blog a little more consistently. It's hard. But it will keep you on people's minds. 
I LOVE that you have a Contact Me, Awards, and Writing links. Great job! Mostly, I adore your personality. It's very different and unique and I feel it captured well in your posts. They are honest and beautifully you. Don't ever lose that whatever you change on your blog.

What are your thoughts readers? We'd love your notes!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Can You Hit A Perfect Pitch? Blogfest

Yes, I'm still sick. But I had this prepared before, thankfully. It's all part of Brenda Drake's Can You Hit A Perfect Pitch? Blogfest. I don't imagine I will get around much to the bloghopping/critiquing part of the game unless I'm miraculously cured in the next day, but feel free to comment on my entry below. We are supposed to have a 2 sentence pitch (no more than 35 words) and the first 150 words of the manuscript. Hope you enjoy! (Oh, and I moved the Monday blog crit to Tuesday in hopes that I've recovered more.)

Title: sWitch
Genre: MG Low Fantasy
Word Count: 67,000

Pitch: When Mina's magic doesn't come in like the other witches, she discovers she was switched at birth. Her quest to find the real witch leads her to choices that will change the magic world forever.

Even her mother’s best Patience spell couldn’t keep Mina from pacing her room. In less than sixty minutes, she would celebrate the thirteenth hour of her thirteenth birthday, and her magic would finally flow from her fingertips. She would show everyone once and for all that she was not a weirdo in the world of witches.

Mina moved to the Mystic Revealer again. She didn’t want to be the type of girl that stared endlessly into a mirror, but this object showed more than her reflection; it showed traces of magic. Like she did most mornings, she first straightened her hair, then searched the outline of her image looking for any sign, small as it may be, of her magic leaking. This time she expected to see something different – a glint of what lurked beneath, a shimmer around her reflection – but the Mystic Revealer didn’t show anything but the same old Mina.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday Savvy Sensation:

I'm still laid up in bed with the flu so I'm doing a quick intro of today's Saturday Savvy Sensation. There is a lot we could learn from Lori M. Lee. Her blog is only a year old and has an incredible following. Plus, she made a goal last year to get an agent, and she did!  She's very inspiring, but why don't we just let her speak for herself:

Who are you (what do you write, what are your personal stats)?

I write young adult fiction, typically with a sf/f slant, as well as some speculative short stories. I'm represented by Suzie Townsend of Nancy Coffey Literary.

Where can we find you online (blog, twitter, facebook, etc.)?

I blog here: http://lorimlee.blogspot.com
You can also find me on twitter: @LoriMLee
I totally gave in to the siren call of tumblr, and it can be found here: lorimlee.tumblr.com :)

When did you begin your online platform building?

I started the blog mentioned above in February of this year (2011). However, I'd have to say that I began my online platform building years ago when I was writing fanfiction in between original works. In fandom, I learned netiquette and how best to interact with readers and writers, as well as what to avoid. I blogged almost daily about writing and memes and general nonsense and built up a great group of friends and followers. It was a ton of fun. (I still blog there but nowhere near as often)

What is your message, if any (is your blog about anything specific, for example)?

My blog is a mixture of fun and informative. I don't want my posts to just be a regurgitation of info that's already been said elsewhere (and probably better said as well). So I like to space out the posts about writing and craft with blogfests and giveaways and sometimes, just the random nonsensical post that might make a few people smile. I want to keep things fun and informal.

How have you built your followers? What have you done that has been the most successful?

I think blogging consistently has been a huge factor. But the most successful thing I've done would be actually interacting with other bloggers. I learned this during my time in fandom—replying to comments, opening a dialogue, returning the favor by commenting on their blogs. It's a very give-and-take relationship, and you have to understand this before starting a blog. You can't just throw up content and expect to sit back and watch the followers/comments roll in (unless you're J.K. Rowling). When I set up my blogger, I had to replace the commenting system with one that would allow me to respond to comments b/c that's very important to me.

You have to genuinely want to do this as well though. I enjoy it because I've made a lot of fantastic friends this way.

What have you done that has failed?

When I first started blogging years ago, I didn't yet understand the give-and-take nature of blogging so, for a while, it felt like I was just talking to myself =P

How much time do you spend blogging? Reading blogs? Commenting on blogs?

It used to be a few hours every day, but I no longer have the time for that. I love organization and grouping, so reading everything through google reader has done wonders for me. I can easily pick out posts I want to read more fully and posts I want to comment on.

What else should we know about you?

I have always been fascinated by unicorns and faeries. Zombies terrify me. I enjoy zombie books, but can't watch zombie films. I'm a huge anime/manga fan, and a gamer geek. I also enjoy drawing, and I often include a piece of artwork at the end of my blog posts for visual interest.

Any additional advice for our readers?

The same thing I always tell people—never give up on your dreams. It's cheesy and cliché, I know, but it's also true. You only fail if you give up.

What makes you unique?

I like to pretend I was raised by magical flying unicorns (like thestrals but less morbid). Wait, that's what makes me weird. Oops.

Lori, you crack me up. Here and often on your blog. You are funny and sassy and savvy and sensational. Good luck with your book and congratulations on all your success!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Flu Friday

I had planned on actually writing a Facebook Friday post (can you believe it?) but yesterday I came down with the flu. Whoa, is me. Now I have to actually stay in bed and read books all day.  Sucks, doesn't it?

No, really, I am sick. My daughter had the flu all week and our household is big on sharing. So next week for the Facebook Friday, okay?  But do come back tomorrow for a Savvy Sensation. It's going to be great!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I'm Finished!!!

If you haven't heard already - which would be amazing because I'm shouting it everywhere I get a chance - I am done with the first draft of my MG novel!

I can't really call it a first draft, though, because I edit while I go. I know, they tell you not to, but I can't fight my style. IT'S WHO I AM. And I'm not apologizing. I even sent it chapter by chapter to my crit partner - LOVE YOU, KIMMY!! - and have already incorporated her suggestions as she sent them back to me.

The good news is that although it took me almost six months to write (except I didn't touch it for two of those months), it will not take long at all to polish it. That means that shortly, like in a couple of weeks, I will start the querying/waiting game.  Then I will have tons of time to dedicate to you beautiful people in the blog world.

Okay, okay, you caught me withholding information.  I'm embarrassed to tell you this, but I knee-jerked and sent out four queries already. Two came back as full requests. (Squee!!!!!) Yes, I may have blown my chances by querying before the dust settled. I'm telling you: I KNOW THIS! But did I mention that I can't help myself? Because I can't. Again, it's who I am.

So tonight is going to be an all-nighter while I reread the whole book from beginning to end. Then off it will go to my two full requests. Pray that I will stop the querying madness until I have a few more betas read. Really, you'll have to pray hard. Because I'm psychotic about this kind of stuff.

Anyone else out there a knee-jerk queryer? Do you think less of me now? Sigh. I need to join Alex's Insecure Writer's Support Group...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Blog Critique: Callie Leuck

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

Before we get going with today's critique, I'm letting you know we are now back to Monday's only for critiques. I hadn't wanted to make people wait so I added extra dates, but then I felt like I was never able to post about anything else. So when you see me back here on Wednesday, it's not going to be a crit.

Now let's get to today's subject. Our blog is Callie Leuck's Write On!  The exclamation point is there always; I didn't add it. Go on over and look over her blog and we'll meet below.

I'm going to be really pun-ny right off the bat and say, I like Callie Leuck.  That's pun-ny because Leuck is pronounced "like". You didn't know that? It's a great tidbit - an important tidbit, since it's about Callie's name - and it's at the bottom of her blog. Are you catching the hint that I think this should be more prominent? Well, I do. 

Callie, seriously, I like you. I like your personality, I like your posts, I like what you talk about. I like you. And you're cute. You are very organized - or, your blog is, anyway.  I like your neutral colors. I like the lighter color you use for your posts. You have most of what I consider "essential" elements on your blog: a search box, your profile featured in a prominent place, your name in your blog title, an about me page, a tagline that tells what your blog is. Lots of good going on here.

But I always have something to complain about, don't I? Okay, not complaints, really, but suggestions. So here's what I suggest you think about:
  • Include better access to your writing. You have a lot of experience as a writer and your website has the samples. But I wouldn't know that if I found your blog first. Either include a page with links to your writing directly on your blog or include a link that says "Writing Samples" that directs readers to your website samples.
  • I'm generally not a fan of two sidebars. It's more cluttered. You do the best job you can with two sidebars, keeping it clean, but IMHO, I would go to one and get rid of some of your "stuff".
  • Just FYI for the readers: If you must have two sidebars, learn from Callie. The color differentiation from the sidebars and the center posts is very helpful at keeping it clean and straight forward. She also has a background that is neutral enough to not compete.
  • Tom would like your post headlines to be a little larger. They aren't much bigger than your text right now. I'm not sure it will work for you because you tend to have longer headlines, but that's what the graphic designer says, so I'm sharing.
  • You use a mish mash of fonts throughout your posts. And really, I don't mind. You use different fonts to express things, and you do it quite well. It fits with your personality.
  • I'm kind of picky about labels/tags. First, these work so much better if you have a place where people can click on them from a list - like a label cloud. They act like an index in a book.  But if you decide to feature this, you will need to cut out half of your labels. Stick to just a few basic tags.  The way you have it now, I'm not sure it's very functional. The Link Within feature you have does the same thing.  This isn't really an issue; I'm just giving you something to think about.
  • And last, but not least - where are you? You haven't posted since 2012 started. I totally get taking time off, just tell us where you are. :)
I love your blog, Callie. I'm so glad to have met you through this process. 

Readers, what do you think about Callie's blog? What are your thoughts on the labels and tags? And what about the two sidebars? Just asking!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saturday Savvy Sensation: Alex J Cavanaugh

The elusive Alex
Um, do we get any savvier than this? Because I can't imagine that we do. The most sensational thing about Alex J. Cavanaugh - well, the most sensational thing currently - is that Alex is about to birth a new book on February 28th called CassaFire.  (see the trailer here). Aren't you excited? But let me turn the post over to Alex. He can tell you about himself much better than I can.

Who are you (what do you write, what are your personal stats)?
I write science fiction - specifically space opera. (Low tech, adventure style.)
Personal stats - I have a physique similar to Ryan Reynolds. (In that I have a head, two arms, and two legs.) Seriously though, I have a Bachelor’s Degree, I’m married, live in the Carolinas, and dig all things geek, tech, movie, music, and science fiction.Would you like my gaming stats as well?

No, but my husband might. Where can we find you online (blog, twitter, facebook, etc.)?

I’m also on Goodreads and Google+

When did you begin your online platform building?
I began November 9, 2009, about a year before CassaStar’s release.

What is your message, if any (is your blog about anything specific, for example)?

I struggled with a theme before settling on movies, music, science fiction, and tech stuff. (Unconventional for an author, but it works for me.) I also focus on promoting my blogger buddies. My message is always entertaining, positive, and fun!

How have you built your followers? What have you done that has been the most successful?

I’ve built my following (close to 1100 now) by being active in the blogging community. The A to Z Challenge http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com in 2010 really kick-started my blog and last year I was a co-host. (And I’m co-hosting again this year.) I participate in blogfests and have hosted many of my own. Last year I launched the Insecure Writer’s Support Grouphttp://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/p/insecure-writers-support-group.html and it’s been a huge success.

Bottom line, I’ve just made a lot of friends. One can follow and comment on blogs all day long, but it’s building relationships and friendships that really matter. My blogger buddies are the most awesome people in the world.

What have you done that has failed?

In the beginning I made all the wrong connections. I followed a lot of science fiction blogs, writers, and readers. When I started following just anyone who interested me, things began to click. I also discovered a much wider audience for my book!

How much time do you spend blogging? Reading blogs? Commenting on blogs?

You really want to know? Deep breath - anywhere from four to six hours a day. Before you faint, some of that is while I’m working. (I love my job!) Weekends are much lighter.

I actually feel better knowing that, because now I know how you manage it all. What else should we know about you?

Is it all right if I mention my next book, CassaFire, http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/p/cassafire.html comes out February 28, 2012? And that people can sign up for my Catch Fire! http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/p/catch-fire.html Blog Party to win a free book? Hope so, because I just did!

Of course it's alright to mention, but I already beat you to the punch. Any additional advice for our readers?

Focus on friendships. All else will fall into place.

What makes you unique?

I’m Ninja Captain Alex! I am here for your amusement.

I'm amused, how about you? And I'm impressed as always by your sensational savviness. Thanksk for stopping by, Alex, and good luck with the release!

Available now-
CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh
Science fiction - space opera/adventure
Print ISBN 978-0-9816210-6-7 $15.95
EBook ISBN 978-0-9827139-3-8 $2.99
Book trailer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67YBjQve00U

Available February 28, 2012:
CassaFire by Alex J. Cavanaugh
Science fiction - space opera/adventure
Print ISBN 978-0-9827139-4-5 $15.95
EBook ISBN 978-0-9827139-6-9 $4.99
Book Trailer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qa6VINRGtyE

Friday, January 6, 2012

Where Am I?

I just wanted to drop a quick post explaining why I might not be blogging, commenting, and blog hopping as much as I usually do.  See, I am half a chapter away from finishing a readable draft of my Upper MG Light Fantasy.  I'm so excited!! I'm also starting a class next week - my final class in my MBA degree - so I have been spending every spare second behind my laptop so I can finish my book by Sunday. Something always suffers.  Right now it's the blogging world.

Please do come by tomorrow for my Saturday Savvy Sensation Series. I also have some blog crits next week and hope to be back to being a full blogger participant by Monday.

How's your writing going? I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Blog Critique: Social Vani

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

Don't laugh when you see the subject of today's blog critique. When I first visited Chitraparna's blog, Social Vani, I thought, "You want me to critique your blog? I should be coming to you for advice!" Yes, Chitraparna is a self-titled social media hobbyist. She knows her stuff and it shows. But even the experts can use a second (or, when you add Joe and Tom, a third and fourth) eye. So here we go.

First, Chitraparna, you are the only person through all my blog critiques who emailed me a few days before to make sure you were still on the schedule. That's a nice touch. Good job.

As for the blog, there is much I really like:
  • Your profile is placed well.
  • Your social media buttons are in a nice visible spot.
  • Your blog is clean and uncluttered.
  • You have a search box.
  • We have a connection to your portfolio.
  • It's easy to contact you.
  • You have an easy to navigate menu.
  • You use pics in your posts.
  • You have a consistent message and it's immediately apparent in your posts, from your title, in everything you display.
Really, I'm pleased. But the graphically we do have a few suggestions and things to think about:
  • Your "share" button moves.  This means that when someone looks at your blog from a narrow window, it covers your navigation bar. Also, it personally kind of bugs me that it follows me everywhere I scroll, but that's just me.
  • As a society, we are trained to read left to right and the biggest words stick out at us first. That means any new viewer of your blog immediately thinks that your current post headline is the title of your blog rather than Social Vani. Correcting this isn't an easy task. You may want to rethink having the blog title in the right hand corner. You could also make your headlines smaller and lowered. I'm not saying that you have to always have a banner across the top with your title, but that's how our culture reads. You could also consider putting that entire sidebar on the left side. That might help. 
  • The white of your posts is really bright with the dark background. Consider lightening it to a tan or a an off-white.Or use the gray color you use in your "About Me" box. This will make your red pop more. Red on a dark background is really hard for the eye to look at.
  • The "Recommended Buys" box in your sidebar extends too far out. Trim this up and make it fit in the sidebar.
  • You have two search bars. Get rid of one. The one at the top is in a nice place, but it's hard to see. 
  • Lose the !s in your navigation bar. You don't need them and make me feel like you're yelling at me when I read them.
I also have to say that your blog does not at all appear like a baby blog. It has the sophistication of a pro-blogger.

What do you think readers? How is Chitraparna's blog looking to you? 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Blog Critique: Lindsey Bell

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

Wow, it feels like I haven't done this in months and it's only been a little over a week. How was your break? Mine was fabulous! Except that I'm tired of my kids being home and am enjoying the idea of getting back into a routine. And so here we go with our first blog critique of 2012 - Lindsey Bell. Take a look and come on back.

Okay, I have to say, I love it.  You don't appear to be blogging for authors, but you still blogs seriously. Here's a few things I love most:
  • Your name is in your title.
  • Your subtitle explains your blog message.
  • The navigation is easy to read.
  • The header is very attractive.
  • Your profile is up top and easy to see (though I would like it above the social media icons)
  • It's easy on the eyes.
  • You have a contact me area.
  • You use pictures.
  • You have connections to your writing.
  • You say when you post.
  • And you stick to it pretty well.
Just a few little things to think about:
  • Joe suggests you use a picture in each and every post since it is really the only color in your palette. Plus, they pop really well and draw attention.
  • Move your followers up under your profile. It is easy to follow you, but let us know how important we are. 
  • In what direction are you going with your blog? Are you hoping to eventually attract authors or potential readers? I think you have a good solid message and your posts are consistent, but your contests to attract more readers makes me wonder exactly who you hope to draw to your blog. If you are hoping to draw Christian, stay-at-home-moms then you have a good start and we might be able to brainstorm some other ways to draw readers.  But you are already an agented writer and may be seeking a different audience. If you are, then you may need to rethink your blog posts.
What are your thoughts, my dear readers? And what have you all been up to this holiday season? I've missed you tons!
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