Like everyone else this week, I will gather round a Thanksgiving table and celebrate the many blessings in my life. But today I lift up a few things that make my job as a nonfiction writer easier and more enjoyable. I am thankful for:
I’m sure all of you have a lengthy list of gratitude too. So how can we give back?
Let us know what you are thankful for, and how you give back.
If you’ve been to any writers conference lately, you’ve no doubt heard lots of talk about building a platform. And, you’ve probably learned that one of the best ways to grow your platform is to increase your social media following.
But, just how can we grow our online following? Well, it would take more than one blog post to fully answer that question, but here are three tips to help you improve your online numbers and your engagement.
1. Be Authentic:
People can spot “a fake” almost immediately, so be genuine when you post updates. For example, if you aren’t a savvy cook and yet you’re coming out with a cookbook, don’t promote yourself like you’re the expert. Instead, be self-deprecating and play up your inabilities to cook. Have fun with it! People are tired of folks showcasing their “perfect social media lives”—be real. Your connections will love you for it, and they’ll be more apt to listen to you when you share about your latest books, future speaking gigs, etc.
One of the most liked and shared posts I ever made happened this past winter when I posted a picture of my feet wearing two different boots. I just happened to glance down at my mismatched feet while sitting under the dryer at my hairdresser’s, and I couldn’t help but laugh. I snapped a picture, posted it on Instagram & Facebook, and said something like, “You know you’re on way too many deadlines when you look down at your feet and discover that you’re wearing two very different boots. At least they are both black, so there’s that…”
My followers loved it! Many commented that they’d worn different shoes to work before, so not to feel too badly. Others said they were having that same kind of week. Still, some just messaged, “Thanks for the laugh.”
2. Be Overgenerous:
Always give more than you take. It’s totally fine to share the cover of your latest book and promote it on all social media platforms, but make sure you’re also giving back and not always in advertising mode.
For example, you could offer a coloring sheet related to your children’s book or some other kind of free downloadable (Perhaps, some of your backmatter or a sidebar you didn’t end up using could serve as a nice freebie.)
Entrepreneur and Author Gary Vaynerchuk has been giving away content from his books before they were ever released for years, and yet his books are always bestsellers!
So, why should we be overgenerous with our information? It builds authority, credibility, trust, and likability, and it increases our online presence because people will share you and your valuable content.
3. Be Consistent & Caring:
You can’t post once every two months and expect to gain much of a following online. Post often, even if it’s just a repost of a funny meme you found, or one that you created in Canva. (Hint: You can use a scheduler to post across several social media platforms all at once.)
Can’t think of a clever status update? Why not ask your followers a question, and see how many responses you receive? It can be something as simple as, “So, how’s your Monday going?” or something as specific as, “Anybody else watch the Thanksgiving Day parade? What was your favorite float?”
Don’t be afraid to engage with your followers. Get to know them and let them get to know you—the real you.
Lastly, when interacting with your followers, whether it’s on your personal Facebook page or within a LinkedIn group, always try to add value when sharing information. Be that “go-to guy” or “go-to girl.” When you answer questions, without asking for anything in return, you become more likable, and people will be more likely to share you and your books with their friends and family.
Ok, there you have it—three tips to get you started on that all-important platform building. Now, go forth and post!
By Lisa Amstutz
The past few years, I’ve helped to judge a writing contest. Each judge reads dozens of submissions and picks their favorites. Surprisingly often, there is a clear consensus on the winners. Something makes these submissions stand out above the rest.
This experience has given me a glimpse of what an editor must face on a daily basis. Her inbox is filled with manuscripts, many of which are perfectly nice, well-written stories. She’s already sent 20 polite rejections today: “This story is well-written but it just didn’t grab me.” “It’s a good story, but not right for me.” As she opens yet another email, what could possibly make her jump out of her chair and shout “Eureka!”? In a word: a hook.
So what’s a hook? Editor Frances Gilbert recently posted an excellent Twitter thread on this topic. To summarize, a hook is something so important, seasonal, timely, unique, funny, or extraordinarily well-written that an editor can’t resist it. It’s that something special that grabs a reader’s attention and pulls them in.
Hooks are easy to spot once you start looking for them. Try to identify the hook in the books you read. Go to a library or bookstore and browse the new books. What do you think made an editor fall in love with this story? What made you pick it up?
Next, go home and look at your manuscript. Would it stand out in an overworked editor’s inbox? Would it jump off the shelf at Barnes & Noble? If so, congratulations - you have a winner! If not, look at your story again with a critical eye. Maybe you need a punchier title. Maybe you need to simplify your concept or amp up the humor. Take the time to find your hook and really make it shine. Then toss out your line again—and just maybe you’ll land a contract this time!
By Stephanie Bearce
You bravely signed up for a critique at the conference.
It’s your dream editor!
Fingers and toes crossed, you go to the critique hoping she likes your manuscript.
Palms sweating, nervous chit chat.
Will she love it?
Will she offer a contract?
New writers often have daydreams that an agent or editor will love the manuscript they are critiquing so much that they will immediately offer a contract. Those of us who have been in the business for a bit longer know that dream is equivalent to winning the lottery. It can happen, unfortunately the odds are not in your favor.
But that marked up piece of paper you hold in your disappointed hand is a treasure map that can help you move forward on the path to publication. It’s a critique and you need to use it!
Here are five rules to help you get the most out of any critique:
Listen – If this is an in-person critique, go in prepared to listen to everything the critiquer has to share. She is an industry professional and she has expertise that can truly help you. Do not interrupt to try to explain your manuscript. Listen. And take notes! You’re going to want to remember the advice later!
Ask Questions – Go in prepared with questions you have about your project. Make a list and take it with you. This is your chance to pick the professional’s brain. Ask about markets, topics, sources, how to improve your work, or what are your next steps. If you are unclear about something she says – ask for clarification. The critiquer has the same goal you do – to make you a stronger writer.
Read – Once you have left the in-person critique, take time to read the written comments. Try not to feel defensive. It’s hard. She’s criticizing your baby. But remember the goal – publication! So, read it all – even the parts that hurt.
Set it aside – Once you have read the comments, set it aside for at least a week. Maybe longer. Do not jump into a total rewrite the next day. Let the ideas sit and simmer. Then go back and see which ones make sense for your vision of the manuscript. You do not have to take every piece of advice and implement it. But you should also be honest with yourself and recognize where your manuscript needs improvement.
Revise – After you have a good idea of the new direction you want for your manuscript – get back on that computer. Your project may need small tweaks or a complete rewrite. That is up to you! But smart writers take all the advice they can get. You never know when someone’s comments are going to spark an idea that will turn your story into a literary treasure.
We are ten authors who support readers and writers through our writing, author visits, and workshops.
The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas and a strong belief in The First Amendment. The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.
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