Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Savvy Sensation: Sher Hart

You know who's awesome? Sher Hart. I don't think she even knows how awesome she is because when I asked her to be a Savvy Sensation she seemed to think she wouldn't be an ideal candidate. But, oh, she is. Read on.

Who are you (what do you write, what are your personal stats)?
I write under a pun name, Sher A Hart. I write pun-filled fantasy adventure for teens. My first book in the Earth One series is middle grade, and so is the next. The third may be YA.

By personal stats, I hope you mean my followers because my chocolate stats have led to weight stats I don’t want to divulge because of body bulge.

Anyway, my blog has 587 GFC, 55 NB, and one Blog Frog you can’t see because she hopped away. No, I don’t have a Blog Frog widget because I didn’t even know it existed until recently. I’m just over 1300 on twitter. I’m slow because I check every bio and tweet stream to make sure they’re clean. If someone’s @handle piques my interest, I may follow his, her, or its blog too. That’s how I ended up following a tp-roll, a dog, some feet, and other humorous tweeps. I don’t follow eggheads unless I know the person behind the handle from somewhere else. So please, put up a picture and a bio. The bio is helpful for listing.

Where can we find you online (blog, twitter, facebook, etc.)?
A writer’s name, in my case a pun name, should be his or her brand. One of the reasons for branding is to make it easy for people to find you. So my name is part of every platform. I’m on Facebook and Google+ as Sher A. Hart and twitter as @SherAHart. My website is at, and my blog is at I may switch to Wordpress to see which does better. I would like to hear from someone who knows from experience.

When did you begin your online platform building?
I started my website first, in early 2010. My first blog entry shows as March 2010, but I think something happened to a few earlier entries. I started a Blogger blog that same summer, but I didn’t get serious until the summer of 2011. That’s when I ran my first monthly contest for chocolate and books. Really, I can’t have one without the other.

What is your message, if any (is your blog about anything specific, for example)?
Cover the world with books and chocolate! Wait, no. That’s just my monthly contest theme.

Before I started writing, my charity work was all physical, hurricane cleanups, church work, Boy Scouts, school volunteering, etc. When I started writing, I wanted my blog to encourage others writers to work for a cause. If you’re going to write, you might as well try to do some good for someone besides yourself. “Care for a cause and have pun doing it” was my first blog description. I later added “There’s a whole world of reasons to write for right.” I wanted to expand and clarify the idea of helping others by writing for a cause. Also, the world in my blog’s background is Earth, which happens to be very similar to Earth One in my book. Serving others does not require neglecting yourself; in fact it does your body and spirit a world of good.

How have you built your followers? What have you done that has been the most successful?
1. Rachael Harrie’s Platform Building Campaign: These are free and you can meet a lot of writers who will follow you back if you follow them and comment on their blogs.

2. Blog Hop Book Giveaways. These are not free, but I give away books I read, so the extra cost is postage. An unpublished writer isn’t going to find enough readers just among other writers. We need readers as followers too. My son says I’m a sellout. I think seeking followers who read the same kind of books I read is good business because they might buy my book someday. Besides, media rate postage is very cheap as advertising costs go.

3. Twitter. I resisted too long because I thought only narcissists and social butterflies used twitter. I love the #hashtag search and list powers not available on FB. I don’t love that I get caught up in reading interesting links and stay on it too long.

What have you done that has failed?
I tried blogging on my website. Nobody came, or I couldn’t tell if they did because I didn’t know how to add follower widgets like GFC or NB. Of course I would have lost GFC anyway. But now that I know how to add follower widgets, I don’t feel the urge to restart my website blog. One blog is enough for me.

I also included too many puns in my first book. I’m still weeding out the clunkers. To a lesser extent, writing my main character in third person was a failure because it was difficult differentiating a split personality when both were “he.”

How much time do you spend blogging? Reading blogs? Commenting on blogs?
Well, let’s add another failure. I don’t keep track individually, but the total is too much. Blogging, reading and commenting, combined with twitter and other social media, should take less time than writing. Since I lose track of time, I ought to use an alarm, except I would forget to set it. I’m better at using a calendar. Knowing I want to return pages to a critique partner or post a blog by a certain date keeps me on track.

What else should we know about you?
I’m a Mormon, and I read that more of us write SF and fantasy than any other religion. I always liked to play dress up as a child and pretend to be someone else. As an adult, I made a Queen Borg costume that won first prize at a Star Trek convention. But I’m not a Trekkie so much as a generic Science Fiction and fantasy lover. Thanks to your advice, I now have a search box on my blog’s sidebar where you can type in “Queen Borg” to see the winning costume along with the second, third and tie for fourth place costumes I made for my hubby and two oldest sons. You can type in “about me” to find out all kinds of other strange stuff, but don’t type in “Aso Adobo” unless you have a strong stomach.

Any additional advice for our readers?
I stop reading a lot of indie books within a couple of chapters because they need serious editing help. When I tell the author about all the errors, the general response is, “I can’t afford to hire an editor.” Now I have some evidence besides bad reviews on Amazon that it’s not just me that thinks these books are too hard to read. Go here: and then decide if you can afford not to hire an editor. Head hopping is one of my pet peeves. Telling me what every character thinks totally ruins any mystery, and I’m not just talking about a mystery book. Head hopping kills the mystery of romance too.

What makes you unique?
I read while I’m walking. Most writers know they want to write from an early age, but I didn’t want to write until gardening became too difficult because of sciatica. I sure didn’t expect my third choice hobby to become first choice once I started.

Sher, the more I read about you, the more I adore you. You don't know how many times I said, "Wow!" and "Me too!" when I was reading your answers, but it was a lot. I so admire your wanting to help the world, your religion, and your sense of humor. (I think I will not search for Aso Adobo on your blog, by the way, thanks for the warning). Thanks so much for being here. You've been so sensational!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Preparing for A to Z

I'm preparing for April's A to Z Blogging Challenge. What are you doing? 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Blog Critique: Damsel in a Dirty Dress

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 published author for today's critique. I love this because your site is a whole different ball game when you have product that you're selling. But, man, we have a lot to cover today so go check out Nicole MacDonald's Damsel in a Dirty Dress and meet below.
The first thing I have to get out there, Nicole, is that I really enjoy reading your blog. You are a completely enjoyable read. The problem is that I spent a good deal of time on your site before I could figure that out. There's a lot going on and, admittedly, I was overwhelmed when I arrived. That's not where you want your readers - or, when you are selling a book, your buyers - to be when they visit your site. So let's see what you could do to change that.
  • The first thing a reader sees of your blog is the above screenshot. Notice, I don't even see any content without scrolling. Rule of thumb for everyone: Make sure your header info does not take an entire screenshot. We'll talk more about ways to fix this as you go on.
  • On the screenshot, notice we don't see your name anywhere. I love your website title, but you need to add your name. Even if you had "Nicole MacDonald is a" above "Damsel in a Dirty Dress." Your name is crucially important. We need to know we are at the right place.
  • I love the Amazon widget. BUT here's 2 things I don't love about yours:
    • You have books other than yours in your widget. Confusing! I'd just keep your books in this widget.
    • Your widget is preventing me from seeing the rest of your site. It makes me feel like I'm on a book-seller's site or a MySpace page. I'd move it to run vertically on one of your sidebars.
  • The white of your navigation and sidebar links, and later the background of your posts, is too garish. Use a really light blue for the background of your posts. For your navigation, I'd use that awesome yellow you have lower on the left sidebar. It's a great palette, really. But you need to use that yellow more to punch it up.
  • The navigation links are confusing and they shouldn't take two lines. I don't even know who you are yet so menu items such as "Characters in the trilogy" mean nothing to me. Here's what I suggest for menu items (as long as they all fit in one line)
    • Home
    • About Me
    • My Books - include "Characters in the trilogy" on this page 
    • Tips for Authors - Put both the e-book formatting and the indie advice here
    • How to Download
    • Contact Me
And now we can finally scroll down.
  • When you are selling books, I want to see two things near the top of your blog: Your profile and your books. I should see both of these without scrolling down so this is when a double sidebar is effective. I would put your profile at the top of one side and books for sell on the other. This would be a good place for the vertical Amazon widget with only your books. Go ahead and keep that whole left sidebar for your products. 
  • I'd always put your newest book at the top of your book list. Otherwise, people returning to your site might stop looking when they see your first book listed. You want them to say, "Yes! The new book is available!"
  • Your main post section is too narrow. Another rule of thumb: Your sidebar space added together should never be wider than your main post section. You have a fair amount of space not being used on the sides so I would just widen your main area and keep your sidebars at their current width.
  • Your profile is a fun read. But it's buried and it's too long. Move it to the top. Then, I'd trim it here and put the long version on your "About Me" page.
  • Trimming will give you room to put your followers up higher instead of buried at the bottom. Followers are not as important now as when you don't have a book to sell yet. You always want people to do something when they visit your site - something the blog owner can track. For unpubb'd bloggers, you want people to follow and/or comment. For pubb'd authors, you want people to buy your books.  Everyone, keep these two things in mind and it will help you build your site. Make sure you always ask yourself, does my site make it as easy as possible for people to do what I want them to do? If there's other stuff getting in the way of that goal, it needs to go.
  • In the spirit of not being totally un-fun - I don't mind the fish at the bottom of your blog. Just keep them down at the bottom where they don't take up prime real estate.
I think I'm done. Nicole, you have a jewel of a blog. Unbury it, polish it up a bit and this site is going to shine.

FYI: Here are a couple of published author blogs that I think do a (pretty) good job of organizing their material:

Readerly people - do you have any thoughts for Nicole?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday Savvy Sensation: Cynthia Leitich Smith

Yay! Today we have the sensational Cynthia Leitich Smith!

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of TANTALIZE, ETERNAL, BLESSED, DIABOLICAL and TANTALIZE: KIEREN'S STORY (Candlewick). Her award-winning books for younger children include JINGLE DANCER, INDIAN SHOES, RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (all HarperCollins) and HOLLER LOUDLY (Dutton).

Her website at was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer's Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her Cynsations blog at was listed as among the top two read by the children's/YA publishing community in the SCBWI "To Market" column.

Who are you (what do you write, what are your personal stats)?
I’m the author of several children’s and YA books including Holler Loudly, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton, 2010), and the Tantalize series (2007-).

I make my home in sunny Austin, Texas; with my author-husband Greg Leitich Smith and our four fierce writer cats. I also occasionally teach writing for young readers.

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

When did you begin your online platform building?Before anyone had heard of “platform building”—I launched my author site and an e-newsletter in 1998, my blog in 2004.

What is your message, if any (is your blog about anything specific, for example)?
My focus is inspiration and upbeat, useful information for writers, readers, gatekeepers, booksellers,
publishing pros and other book lovers of all stripes.

How have you built your followers? What have you done that has been the most successful?
I consistently offer in-depth coverage of the craft and business of books for young readers, including guest
articles from new and established voices in the field, interviews with members of the children’s-YA literature community, and coverage of breaking news.

What have you done that has failed?
I regret giving up my e-newsletter when blogs took off. I’d built up a substantial following, and I was too quick to trim my sails. On a related note, I waited too long to hire a professional web designer.

How much time do you spend blogging? Reading blogs? Commenting on blogs?
I spend about an hour a day blogging and about as long reading and commenting on blogs. Exceptions would include book launch periods or when I’m faced with a substantial, quick turn-around series of posts, such as coverage of Bologna speakers.

What else should we know about you?
I’m active online, but I put my creative writing first. When I’m stuck on a scene, I dance to the soundtrack to “Xanadu.” For the first time today, I received a check from a publisher in Turkey. And my latest revision went to my editor this morning.

Any additional advice for our readers?
Find a way to visually unify your platform. For me, using variations of the same avatar and color palate made a huge difference.

Don’t be afraid to put your byline out there. If no one knows you’re the author of the blog, then it’s difficult to build relationships.

Think hard about how personal you want to get. There’s no one right answer. It’ll vary from individual to individual. But it can help to set a guideline. I don’t say anything on my blog that I wouldn’t say at a podium or a lunch with colleagues, gatekeepers and publishing pros.Remember, it's a two-way conversation. Go forth with empathy, good humor, and cheer.

That is such sensational advice, Cynthia. I adore that you dance to Xanadu. And a check from Turkey? How exciting! Thanks so much for visiting. You've been a savvy inspiration to us all!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge

Did you notice the little A to Z blogging challenge badge in my sidebar? Yeah, I broke down and signed up. I wasn't going to do it because I am so busy with Easter at the beginning of the month. I had even already written my post for a "blogging vacation".

So why did I change my mind? Peer pressure. No, actually, peer envy. I realized so many of the blogs I was visiting had that little badge and I started feeling left out. Like, wow, they're all going to be visiting each other and bonding and I'll be sitting here with crickets.

Yep, that's what swayed me. What really sealed the deal was when I had the idea to do an A to Z of author marketing throughout the month. I've been feeling like I really need to share some more of that info lately, and this is the perfect opportunity.

For those of you who are signed up for blog critiques in April, can I move them to the Sunday before each scheduled day? I'll email you all and talk to you about it directly. That would help me out.

And those of you who haven't signed up - come on, what are YOU waiting for? (Do it, do it, do it, do it!)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Blog Critique: Beth Stilborn

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've been excited for today's blog critique because I know that Beth Stilborn is very actively working on improving her blog. She frequently comments here and is obviously very engaged with bloggers. No matter what her blog looks like or is doing, that engagement is more than half the battle. So let's journey on over and see what her blog looks like.

Okay, Beth, overall I like the structure and the clean, simplicity and all the elements I want to see in a blog are there. I have a hard time getting to all that, though, because the first thing we see is that your colors don't fit together. 

Now I admit that I'm not a great color expert. I just know something feels wrong. But Joe, one of the graphic designers on this critique team, picks up the problem right off the bat. The header blue doesn't go with the other blues.  Additionally, you need a contrast color to make it pop. Here's a link to color scheme designer with the colors that should be in your header and your contrast color to fit into your existing palette. If you have a good eye, you'll see that your header blue is not among those colors. 

To decide what you want to make your contrast color, think about what you want to pop on your page. What do you want people to see immediately? Your name? Your titles? Your links? These are all things that you can make one of those contrast colors.

One more thing on your header: those tiny gray words that say "By Word of Beth" - can those be removed?

Now that we're past the color scheme I can really look at the rest of your blog elements. 
  • I love that I know who you are and what you do.
  • Your name is in your title. Score! 
  • You have a good placement of your profile info. 
  • You have a search box! Yay! 
  • I like that you have many ways for people to subscribe to your blog, but that needs to be placed higher. You want to make it easy for people to follow you.
  • You've already told me, but I need to tell the readers that Beth is having difficulty with her template and her navigation tabs. She has to put her links on the side instead. I suggest you continue working on resolving that issue. It would definitely help with the cleanliness of your blog.
  • You use LinkWithin - I love that. I'm always curious why bloggers choose to only use the 3 across version of Link Within though, when you have more room on your template. If you chose the "Show 5" version, you would have five boxes and they would fill the space better.
  • I think you do a good job at informative concise posts.
  • You have a lot in your sidebar, but it doesn't look crowded.
  • You tell us when you blog - nice.
  • And you tell us what's coming up - that's a nice touch as well.
  • Okay, we must address the graveyard at the bottom of your blog. (That blue fits your palette - did you notice it in the link I placed above?) There's just lots of stuff down there. It looks like you're trying to shove stuff under your bed. Get rid of the nonessential and make that area just as clean as the rest of the blog. I'd stick with your labels and the copyright info and that's it. 
  • Speaking of your labels, I prefer that they are alphabetical. One of the main reasons we use labels is so that readers can find stuff easily. When it isn't alphabetical, it's harder to sort through.
Good job blogging and engaging, Beth. You are a very busy writer bee and your dedication to your craft and the arts is apparent in your work.

Did I miss anything? What do you readers think? Oh, and if you want to test your own color scheme skills, take this test. I got a 6.0. I don't think that's a good score (hangs head in humiliation).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Savvy Sensation: Talli Roland

You know what's a great way to spend a Saturday morning? Reading some chick lit. And if you don't have time for chick lit, the next best thing is to read about a savvy chick lit writer. 

That makes today extra special since that's exactly who today's Savvy Sensation is: Author Talli Roland. Welcome, Talli!

Who are you (what do you write, what are your personal stats)?
I ask myself that every day! Seriously! Since I have a pen name, it often gets a bit confusing. I write chick lit (commercial women’s fiction) as Talli Roland, and non-fiction as Marsha Moore – my real name. I have two travel guides published and three novels, with the fourth novel scheduled for release in May. Hmm, what else? Apart from that, I love coffee. And wine. I live in London and I’m now a British citizen, although my heart will always belong to my Canadian homeland.

Where can we find you online (blog, twitter, facebook, etc.)?
Where can’t you find me online? I love the community of writers and people I’ve met through online interaction. Many have become great friends in real life! I’m on Twitter as @TalliRoland, Facebook (, Blogger (, Pinterest ( and my author website, ( I’ll give anything a whirl and see if it works!

When did you begin your online platform building?
One downside of a pen name is that you need to build everything from scratch under that identity. I already blogged and tweeted under my real name, but with Talli Roland as my pen name for fiction, I was addressing a whole new market. As soon as I got the fiction book deal with my publisher, I began building up my platform. It was about eight months before my release date.

What is your message, if any (is your blog about anything specific, for example)?
My blog tag-line is ‘I drink coffee. I write. Then I have wine’. That pretty much sums it up! I blog about books and writing, but I try to keep it light and not too technical; to talk about the funny side of writing. I’m conscious of appealing to the readers of my books, so the tone of my blog posts mirrors the style of my novels.

How have you built your followers? What have you done that has been the most successful?
I’ve built my followers through a lot of hard work: by consistently interacting with people, every day. I think the key to success is using social media regularly and making sure not to treat it like a one-way megaphone, but like a conversation. No one wants to be around people who only talk about themselves. The same holds true in social media.

What have you done that has failed?
While some things have been more successful than others, I wouldn’t label anything I’ve done as ‘failed’. With social media, I think it’s often a cumulative effect rather than one big push. Each little thing you do counts, even though it may not be wildly successful at the time.

How much time do you spend blogging? Reading blogs? Commenting on blogs?
When I first started building up my blog, I’d post every day and spend at least three hours commenting. Now I’ve reduced it to posting three times a week and commenting one to two hours. It’s still quite a bit of time, but I really enjoy the interaction and I feel like I’m checking in on my friends.

Any additional advice for our readers?
If you’re using social media, people want to know you first -- then your books or products as an extension of that. With so many people publishing now, Twitter and the blogosphere sometimes seem like they’re drowning in advertisements. Keep YOU first and foremost, and be careful not to overdo the promotion. It’s a very fine line.

What makes you unique?
Yikes! Er, um… where’s my wine when I need it? I guess it depends on what perspective you’re taking! From a reader’s standpoint, I’d like to think I’m unique because I have strong female leads who fix their own problems without needing a man to swoop in and carry them off . . . and because my plotlines and concepts are quite original. Hope that answers the question!

Thanks for coming by, Talli! You've made this Saturday truly savvy!

For the rest of you, if you haven't already, check out Talli's acclaimed novels such as Build a Man or it's upcoming sequel, Construct a Couple.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday News

Late post today. Why? Oh, I don't know. I guess I was busy getting ready to submit my materials to Carlie Webber because

Whew! There was some pretty stiff competition. And from the comments Ms. Webber left on other entries, I thought there was no way I'd be a winner. I'm so excited because the prize is a 30 page critique. That's such a valuable prize. That means no matter what happens, I'll get something out of it. You know?

And this was a boost for me because I've been wallowing. At the end of last week I received the dreaded R. Yep, that's right. An R on my R&R. I was devastated. Heart broken. Embarrassed. Ashamed. The list goes on. My crit partner told me she read somewhere that an R&R is called "the slow no".  Slow and painful as they crush that knife into your vulnerable chest.

The upside is that I have a better manuscript. I also had two other agents who knew I was revising. One has asked for the revision and has it now (fingers crossed!) and the other asked for a synopsis to view the changes. I hope the synopsis is strong enough. It's hard to really make your writing show through a synopsis, but I suppose she already knows my writing - she's trying to make sure she likes how I changed the story.

Well, that's my Wednesday post for you. Not very informative for all of you, but it's been good for me to share. It's good for me to say to myself, and to all of you, that I believe I am a Winner.

What's your Wednesday news?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Blog Critique: Magpie Writes

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.

This Monday brings us magpies. Well, Magpie Writes, that is, a blog from Alex Villasante. Go visit and we'll jump right in with our Monday critique.

This is going to be a quick little critique, I think, because overall I really like your blog, Magpie Alex. I'm never short of opinions, though, so I do have a few to share:
  • Magpie. I love that. But I'm curious what that has to do with you, Alex. I don't need to know, but I do need think you need your name - your author name - in your title or subtitle. I'm not really sure how to do that with your current title. 
  • Graphic Designer Joe wants some break up of the minty color. He admits that it may be a personal thing, but I also think its a tad too minty for me. Joe's suggestion is a header with some different colors  in it. Or maybe your navigation bar could be solid. My suggestion is to change the hue of your post boxes - make it a light cream or something. Joe is the graphic designer, so he's probably the one to listen to.
  • Joe also recommends using more of that orange highlight. I like it too. It would be nice if that was your navigation bar alternate color instead of that greenish hue. 
  • Yes! Your profile info is at the top!
  • I'd put your followers right under your profile. Make it easy for people to follow.
  • I usually am not too big of a fan of side columns, but yours is nicely organized and not over cluttered so good job.
  • I love your posts and your personality. Fun reads.
  • You use nice photos to add color to your blog.
  • I'm happy you have your WIPs on your blog. I have heard more than one story about agents asking for material from a blog. When you get an agent, you'll have to take your excerpts down, just by the way. Be prepared for that. Another option is to just have a blurb about your work, such as what you include in a query letter. Either way - good job at having this.
  • Include an email subscription. This is good not only because it gives people options to follow you, but it also helps you build up emails for the future.
  • The shelfari gadget at the bottom of the page is nice too.
  • Personally, I like it when blogs that have a good amount of posts have a search box. Yes the box at the top does searches, but it isn't a great search box. And I use search boxes. We've talked about it on this blog before and others don't care so much. But I do.
  • Um, I'm a huge proponent of no word verification on comments. It kind of pisses me off when I see it. And sometimes I won't comment if I see it. There are other awesome bloggers out there that have recently spoken out against them as well. Do you really get so much spam that you can't deal with turning it off? See, I think that if you are trying to invite people to follow you and engage with you, you need to make it easy for them. Don't put up barriers. Okay, I'm off the soap box about word verification. Moving on...
That's really all I have to say. You told me you were ready to move your blog to the next level, though. So I have to ask where exactly you want to go now. Do you want to build followers? Or just make sure your blog is tip top presentable? I'd be happy to continue the conversation in the comments. 

What are your opinions, dear readers?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Savvy Sensation: David Powers King

Before we dive into our Savvy Sensation interview, I have to tell you about a super savvy giveaway: Sparkling Reviews is holding a $500 Amazon Gift Card giveaway. I'm not kidding. Get over there and enter. NOW! Oh, but remember to come back because I really can't wait to introduce you to David Powers King. 

Thanks for being here, David!

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Laura! *Looks around* You have a really nice pad here!

Why thank you, David. Now tell us, who are you (what do you write, what are your personal stats)?
I’m a guy with broad storytelling interests. You want stories of dragons, princesses, dogfights in space, epic wars, MG kids who discover magic, or zombies? I’m your writer. I write for the MG, YA, and Adult markets in the science fiction and fantasy genres. Some of my favorite books include The Books of Bayern, The Giver, The Lord of the Rings, and Ender’s Game.

Where can we find you online (blog, twitter, facebook, etc.)?
You can find my blog here, my twitter here, and my facebook here.

When did you begin your online platform building?
I didn’t think about it as “platform building” at first. It was at the Life, the Universe, and Everything symposium a few years back when I saw a panel of authors speak about blogging and social networking. “If you write, you should blog,” was the impression I got. I found some blogs, checked into what made them so cool, and then I made my site. It looks very different now, three years later. It wasn’t until last year when I finally figured out how to use my blog effectively.

What is your message, if any (is your blog about anything specific, for example)?
The Cosmic Laire is a haven for all things science fiction and fantasy with a writing focus. The message I hope to promote is to motivate others and give them tools and highlight my personal writing mistakes and lessons learned so that others might be wiser than I when I started. I have a weekly advice column, a weekly storytelling device (trope) post, and random book reviews, fun things, and movie/book trailers. In short, my message is to write and enjoy doing it.

How have you built your followers? What have you done that has been the most successful?
I’ve found the best way to built followers is to be genuine. No one is going to find your blog if you never venture off your page. Browse the blogoverse. Find blogs with writers who write your genre. Follow them. Comment on their posts. They will likely do the same in return. If you are genuinely interested in other people and their writing success (not just your own), people tend to reciprocate. Show this by hosting giveaways, reviewing books, hosting interviews, and maybe offer your time by critiquing (or offering to critique) people’s work. Pity posts and rants (for the most part) turn people away. If writing is your passion, show it! Be lively, genuine, excited!

What have you done that has failed?
Not doing what I said above for the first two years of my blog. 50 awesome people joined my blog in that two year period (mostly from meeting them in person at conventions). One night, we watched Julie & Julia, which made me I rethink my blog. It needed a purpose, so I created one. I needed to explore blogs, so I did. Over 600 members have joined my blog since then, and I am lucky to have maintained many awesome friendships that allow us to learn and grow together.

How much time do you spend blogging? Reading blogs? Commenting on blogs?
On average, I spend about an hour every day blogging, reading, and commenting. I try to have at least three posts up each week (sometimes more, when surprising or cool stuff happens). As more people join my blog, it gets increasingly difficult to be as active a commenter as I used to be. I have a job and a family, plus my writing. When I do comment, it’s a special event for me.

What else should we know about you? What makes you unique?
I’m an incurable movie buff (raised in LA, what can I say?), an occasional gamer (FPSs, mostly—you probably won’t want to play Halo with me…), and I took linguistics in college so I could develop five original languages for one book series. Not an easy feat, but it sure was fun! I also enjoy cooking and experiment in the kitchen, if I ever have the chance to knead. When it comes to writing, I always strive to create stories that no one has ever thought of before.

Any additional advice for our readers?
Writing is an art. Publication is a business. If you want to be a successful author, you need to embrace both worlds. This means no more hermitism, shyness, or fear that people will steal your items (they have their own). I was in that boat. The more you blog, meet writers, and attend conferences, those insecurities will eventually fade away. Be about others—not about you.

Thank you again for having me, Laura! If you’re ever in the neighborhood, I’ll bake you a pizza. No anchovies, though. They’re super gross.

Nummy, David. I'm totally hungry now. And thanks for stopping by. We've all really appreciated your super savvy insights!

Friday, March 9, 2012

And the Winner is...


No, just kidding. But not really because I already won with all of you as followers.

Also, I won on MiG Writers "Pay it Forward" contest. I won three Linda Joy Singleton books. I'm so excited to have won! Now I need to devise my own way to pay it forward.

Seriously, though. The winner of my 300 Follower $15 Amazon Giveaway is...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Miss Snark's First Victim's 2nd Victim, I mean, Entry

I'm in Miss Snark's First Victim's March Secret Agent Contest.


I'm Entry #2. So go ahead and pop over if you like and tell me all of my horrible mistakes. I can take it.

And one more thing, follower friends. You have one more day to enter my $15 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway. By one more day, I mean today. Contest ends at midnight. Clocks ticking....

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

While You Wait and I've Been Tagged

I, as I have mentioned, am in this horrible period of waiting while the agent who requested my revisions reviews my newly revised manuscript. It's much like the query waiting, it seems, but it also feels a little more intense.

Of course, the advice from everyone while you wait is to write (which I am doing). But I have some advice of my own: Prepare your marketing.

Here's the deal. If you have faith in your book, or even if it's not this book, there are things you can do now, before you are agented. If you get signed - when you get signed - you will be busy with edits and other marketing then, why not give yourself a leg up and get some of it done now?

Last month, Lynette Labelle had an EXCELLENT post about this very topic: Before THE call: Ten Tasks to Complete Before an Agent Calls. Go read it now. Seriously.

I've been working on #6, Grow Your Marketing List, in case you were interested.

On another note, I was tagged. Twice. So you get to find out about me and my manuscript whether you want to or not.

First, from Freya Morris, I was tagged in Jaycee's Lucky 7 Meme.

The rules:
1. Go to page 77 of your current MS
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines - sentences or paragraphs - and post them as they're written. No cheating
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know

Here's mine: 

“Memory Transportation?” Mina scoffed. “You can’t do that!”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Porter said.
“I just mean you’re only a marvel,” Mina said. “A marvel can’t do Memory Transportation. Can they?”
“I think I can. With the wand.” He held his right hand out to Mina, still clutching the wand. “Porter, we can’t use that! There’s a SCUM in the building. Don’t you think she’s going to notice?”
“That’s why we’re going to have to do it quickly. Now shut up and hold our hands.”
Mina obeyed, the wand held firmly between her and Porter’s clasped hands.

Then Krista from I Take the Pen tagged me. Here's my answers to the tag questions:

1. What is your dream vacation?
I want to take a cruise with my husband that starts in Spain and ends in Venice. It was our goal to do it when we'd been married 10 years, but I think it's going to have to wait until another big anniversary.

2. Are you spontaneous or do you like to plan ahead?
I'm pretty laid back about things that I know will just happen and be fine. But if I'm at all worried about something, I'll plan.

3. Tell us one thing you want to do but don’t dare to do.

4. What's your biggest phobia?
Hmm. I'm not sure. I guess spiders. I really don't like spiders.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island – what 3 things would you want with you (not including laptop, or family).
A pen, a notebook, and lots of diet A&W rootbeer.

6. Name three blessings in your life.
My husband. My daughters. My talents.

7. What was your nickname in High School?
Fuji was one. Larla was another. You could call me Larla now and I'd still answer. Don't call me Fuji, though, because it brings back some pretty crappy memories.

8. If you could meet the President of the United States, what would you say to him?
Probably not much. I'm a bit of an introvert.

9. If you could be any literary character for a day, who would you be?
Ooh, I don't know. Most of the books I like, the characters are in some pretty dire straights. So maybe someone who's got cool things going on. Like Anna from Anna and the French Kiss.

10. What is your favorite quote?
I have many that I love and can never remember them. But I love this line from an Ingrid Michaelson song called Keep Breathing that really seems to sum up my wants for the world versus what I actually do, "I want to change the world, instead, I sleep."

I am tagging the first 7 people in my reader. You can choose if you do the Lucky 7 or answer the questions. Or both! Or neither. :)

6. Krista

What are you doing while you wait?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Blog Critique: Charity Bradford

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 jump into today's critique I'd like to remind you all about my 300 Follower $15 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway. I'm taking entries through Thursday so be sure to enter.

Now, back to business. While last week we looked at a baby blog, Charity Bradford's blog is just the opposite. The challenges for newbie bloggers are somewhat different than more experienced bloggers. When Charity contacted me, she mentioned that she thought her blog was a little crowded. It makes sense. When you've been blogging for awhile, you accumulate stuff. Why don't you go take a look and we can discuss it more below? 

Okay, Charity, let's get right into it. I don't think you have a crowding problem (though, I have a feeling you moved some things since you told me about that issue). I do see a few other issues that might make you think you have a crowding problem:

  • You have no differentiation between middle and side bar. This is huge for me. It makes it hard to see where your posts end and where your side text begins. I would differ the background in both areas. Joe suggested a gradient for your sidebar like you have at your header. That would look really spiffy. Here's the problem though - I played around with your template on my practice blog (yes, I have a practice blog, does that make me a nerd?) and you can't differ the background on the sidebar from your posts. So you have three choices - mess with the CSS and override the code so you can make them different, leave it alone, or change templates. There are other templates that will give you the option of changing that sidebar. You could still put the same picture behind them. I suggest messing around sometime and seeing what you can come up with.
  • Another thing about that sidebar - I would like to see it be narrower. It has too much prominence in your blog. Your posts should get the top billing.
  • You have a lot of purple in your blog. Joe wants to see some more contrasting color. Try to add orange or yellow or green in your links or headers.
  • Joe also would like to see you use a font in your header with a curly apostrophe instead of a straight one. Straight apostrophes drive him crazy. That's a Joe thing, I'm sure, but it's interesting to know, isn't it? 
  • My own personal cringe is the split sidebar without filling the area evenly. Down where your labels are, you have your sidebar split in two columns, but you really are only using one side. That would look so much nicer if you clean that up.
  • I would move the story progress bars lower or to another page. You have room to move them lower, so that might be the way to go. I know they are important to you, but there are other items in your sidebar that are more important to your readers than your story progress bars, like...
  • Your "my other blogs" box. Move that higher. That's important.
  • You have a heckuva lot of labels to choose from. I am a firm believer in keeping your labels tight and to a minimum. If you have a ton of them with only one post related to them, they just become overwhelming to your readers.
  • What's the "things i need to remember" box? There's nothing under that heading
  • We caught you: The bottom of your blog is kinda like under your bed, isn't it? I mean, you just threw stuff down there that you didn't have a place for. I suggest organizing it and making it spiffy. Some people go down there. I did!
  • You have a lot of posts on one page (10). This isn't really horrible, but you don't have sidebar content to run all along that far, and it starts to look uneven. Plus you have that stuff at the bottom of your blog. I'd limit your posts to 5 per page. But that's just me.
  • I recommend having all of your links into another window. Particularly those links that actually take readers to another site. This can be confusing for a lot of us. Opening into another window keeps your blog open so we don't get lost.
I made a lot of suggestions, Charity, which makes it appear as though I didn't like your blog. This is entirely not true. I really like your blog a lot! You have great things going for you. Here's just a few of my favorite:
  1. You have your name in your blog header.
  2. You use pictures.
  3. You have your profile near the top with your picture. (When you aren't in the middle of a blogfest, move your profile up to top billing. :)
  4. You have depth (pages).
  5. You have an About Me page.
  6. You have a Contact Me page
  7. You're involved - you participate in a lot of different things on the web (blogfests, etc.). And you respond to your comments in a timely manner.
  8. You have connections to your writing! I kid you not: a woman in my Write at Home Mom's (WrAHM) group just got an email from an agent who read about her manuscript on her blog. She requested the query. I'm not joking. This is not the first time I've heard of this happening. Be prepared, folks! Charity is!

Okay, this has turned into a really long post. I think you are doing an excellent job, Charity. You have lots of followers and comments to prove it. Keep up the great work. I'm honored to have gotten to give you some of my suggestions. I hope they are helpful!

Any other feedback for Charity? (And don't forget to enter my 300 follower giveaway.)

Update: For those who asked, here is how you open links in a new window - When you insert a link, this box pops up. Click the box that says "Open link in a new window" at the bottom of the box. See it? That will now become your default option.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Savvy Sensation: Caitlin Lomas

Most of my Savvy Sensations have been writer/bloggers, but there is much we can learn from the amazing Book Reviewer Bloggers. Especially because they are the people who are reviewing or will one day review our own books! So today's Savvy Sensation is a YA book reviewer. Learn about Caitlin Lomas below.

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

I’m Caitlin, 22 year old philosophy graduate from the UK. I write my blog which focusses on reviews of YA books! I’ve been blogging for just over a year now.

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

When did you begin your online platform building?
I got Twitter in the summer of 2010. At first I just stalked my favourite authors and then started following book bloggers and viewing their blogs from there. Eventually I started interacting with them and then decided to bite the bullet and create my own blog in February 2011!

What is your message, if any (is your blog about anything specific, for example)?
Well I mostly review YA books and I think my message is that these books are as well written and enjoyable as any adult fiction. They have important messages in them and they are worthy of respect! In terms of blogging, my message is to write about something you enjoy, as that enthusiasm will shine through in your posts (I’m hoping it does in mine anyway)

How have you built your followers? What have you done that has been the most successful?
Through networking. I’d followed blogs for a few months before I made my own, so I knew all about the follower hops and memes like Waiting on Wednesday. I started taking part in these almost immediately, spending most of the weekend networking. I was featured on Parajunkee’s Friday Follow and I think that added to my success. I also try to leave thoughtful comments that show I’ve read a blogger’s post and I think that’s helped me be successful.

What have you done that has failed?
Trying to blog every day. I don’t have the time to post new content and network every single day, so I tend to post every other day, leaving time free for networking. I think it’s important that there’s a balance

How much time do you spend blogging? Reading blogs? Commenting on blogs?
A few hours a day. I tend to write a couple of posts so I’m always ahead. Then I’ll read and occasionally reply to my comments, visit everyone whose left me a comment and read their blog, read my blogroll and then I tend to just scroll through my googlereader looking at what interests me. I try to comment on at least 10 blogs a day and on everyone’s blog who commented on mine. Though I’m usually on Twitter/reading this whole time which limits my productivity ;)

What else should we know about you?
Well I’m hoping to work in publishing here in the UK! That’s my career goal and hopefully one day I’ll make it. I’ve done work experience and I’m currently interning remotely for a fantastic American company called Entangled Publishing.

Any additional advice for our readers?
Be a considerate blogger. If someone consistently reads and comments on your blog—do the same! Nothing worse than feeling you aren’t appreciated as a reader. Also, use Twitter, it’s so much easier to connect with people over Twitter.

What makes you unique?
I think we’re all unique bloggers and that’s what’s so great about following many different people! But I’m always honest in my posts, even if that means negative reviews sometimes. I also don’t have an angle, I’m blogging for me, not for any other reason, and I think that sincerity and genuine enthusiasm for YA shows in my posts.

Thank you so much for letting me spotlight you, Caitlin. You are truly Savvy and Sensational and have shared amazing info with our readers! 

Friday, March 2, 2012

300 Follower $15 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

I never thought I would reach 300 followers, let alone 300 AMAZING followers.  You wonderful, supportive peeps deserve to be rewarded.

So I am holding my FIRST EVER CONTEST. The winner will receive a
 $15 Gift Card from Amazon. 
All you have to do to enter is enter the Rafflecopter info below and leave a comment on this post. You may also tweet and blog on your own blog to get extra entries. Contest opens today and runs through 3/8/12.  I'll announce the winner next Friday, March 9th.

Thank you, Fabulous Followers! a Rafflecopter giveaway
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...