Jane Friedman Interview: The #Business of Being a #Writer

Excellent advice on publishing from publishing powerhouse Jane Friedman. She talks about Traditional as well as Independent and Hybrid publishing. I especially enjoyed her advice on memoirs and audiobooks as well as her thoughts on paying for reviews.

 

 

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New Author Tip: What is the difference between a blog and author website, and do I need both?

Whenever I am out and about the first question people ask: “Do you have a website?” So I thought I’d talk briefly about the difference between a blog and an author website and if you need both.

First, no. You don’t necessarily need both, though I do recommend it for authors with several published books. But, first, let’s get into the major differences.

Though both are referred to as “websites” a website is different from the blog in that it is something that is static and unchanging. It focuses on the author and his/her work without the distraction of too many other elements (like new posts). Sometimes websites just have one page and that’s OK. The purpose of the website is to give immediate information about who the person is, what it is that they do and how you can stay in touch with them and their work. These things must be understood immediately upon visiting the author’s website.

A blog is the place where the author (that’s you) would write on a regular and consistent basis. Deriving from the word weblog, blogs are technically also websites but the differences is that readers can come to learn more about you as a person and become familiar with your work through your consistent posts. They can get to know you personally and as you are writing your book, not just by reading your published work. A blog is always changing as the writer is always posting new content and is much more interactive than a website which is the basic difference between the two. Blogs have comments, sharing options and catch the attention of Google much better than a static website.

So the major difference is:

  • Website- Static, to the point, unchanging (can have widgets and things but does not change as much with updated posts.)
  • Blog – Constantly changing, interactive, easily indexed by Google

The question is: When should you invest in a website or blog?

If you have no books out, it would make more sense to start a free WordPress blog before investing money into a website. Use the free blog to get a feel for blogging and writing publicly, and use it as a way to build your platform by adding value that brings readers. Don’t just talk about your writing, talk about your life in general. Share your favorite kind of music, movies, or whatever pertains to the subject of the book you are writing. Also, learn more about blogging in general.

I am not going to get into the “Is writing blogging?” debate. I am just going to say that if you’re a writer using blogging to connect with readers you should probably take the time to learn a little bit about how your blog platform of choice works if you hope to do well. No, I don’t think just publishing posts alone is enough. You can write until you’re blue in the face but if you don’t know how to add tags and categories, set up an about or contact page, connect social media, add a follow button and all of the basic stuff, your blog is just going to sit there doing nothing. People may find you eventually, but understanding these basics will help them to find you quicker.

In any event, use blogging as an opportunity to be social, make new friends, and network with professionals. Blogs are interactive and a great way to keep your readers updated. It’s also the easiest way for you to get to know your audience on a level beyond the basics. You can tell by likes, comments or social shares what kind of content people like. This will help you to produce more valuable content and that’s what you want.

So, website? Blog? Both?

If you have several books published I would say to have both a website and a blog, with the blog accessible through your website.

I am not saying you have to spend a lot of money on a website but it should certainly be part of your budget strategy when you are ready to begin. I don’t understand why in every other business people understand that to start a business is to also start a financial plan as well, except when it comes to writing. Publishing books, my dearest Indie Authors, is not free. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to publish a book but it will cost something. Create a budget for that something and don’t publish the book until you can afford to do so. If you want to become a Self-Publisher you will need to be just as financially responsible as if you were starting any other business. Let’s start taking ourselves seriously as authors! And if you’re serious about publishing you must consider thinking like a businessperson and the basics of all businesses are having a website where people can learn more about that business. If you’re a serious author you should have a website.

But, your blog can also certainly act as your website….with a few changes.

Because the blog and the website still have major differences, if you do this (have your WordPress blog act as your website) consider making a few changes to your blog:

  • Use your author name as your blog name and purchase a domain name. If you intend to use your blog as an author blog you are going to want it to be something like: www dot yournamehere dot com, and not www dot tanyaforeverlove dot wordpress dot com. Yes, this blog is not named after me but don’t be like me. But, also consider that I have an author website that is named after me already and this blog is linked to that site. I can send people to yecheilyahysrayl.com and they can still access this blog and that’s what you want: a place where people can access all of you in one place.

 

  • If your blog is also your website (and you blog using WordPress), consider setting up a static or landing page. I can just tell people to go to yecheilyahysrayl.com and they will find everything they need on me (including this blog). But if you are using your blog as your website, remember, the major differences between the website and blog is that the website is static and gets straight to the point. There is no long list of posts to sift through and what the person does is immediately available. An author website focuses ONLY on you, the author, and your work. It’s unchanging and provides everything someone would need to learn more about you without the added commentary, widgets, theme changes and constantly updated articles. This means that if your blog is your website, you may want to change your blog name to reflect your author name, create a domain name of that name and then, you may want to also create a static page.

To create a static page on your blog, first, create a new page.

Dashboard > Pages > Add New

Make this a landing page. A landing page is a single web page used to promote a business or product. Click on my Stella Trilogy Page Here for an example. It was once the static page for this blog. Notice the number of comments. I also sold books through that page. By being able to keen in on the books with no other distractions, people were capable of focusing on the work. That’s what you want and that’s what author websites provide. If your blog is your author website, you can provide that same kind of focus by adding a static page.

After you’ve published your new page you’d want to make it your static page.

Go to your dashboard

Setting > Reading >

Under Your Homepage Displays, check static and then check the landing page you just created

Now, when you tell people about your website they won’t be distracted by your recent blog posts, sidebar widgets, comments, etc. It will act as an author website but also a blog.

Cons: Of course, there are pros and cons to everything. One con of having a static page on your blog is that sometimes it can be harder for people to access your blog posts and follow you. If people have to look for stuff they usually leave. This is one reason I took down my static page. Depending on your theme of choice, people won’t be able to access your blog posts or follow you with the static page up. With this theme I am using, the static page doesn’t even show my follow button.

Which comes back around to why I think, if you have several books out and have established yourself, it’s easier to have both.

  • If you have no books out and are just getting started, create a free WordPress blog and be sure to name your blog after your author name as it will, for now at least, also act as your author website and people will try finding you first by your name so it’s easier.

 

  • If you have several books out have both an author website and a blog. I suggest using either WordPress to create your author website or Squarespace and then making sure that your blog is accessible through your website. You can create a blog through your website platform (i.e. through Squarespace) or you can create a blog on WordPress separately and then just link it to your website. Either way, you want people to access the blog through the website.

Play Your Piano

LOS ANGELES, CA – (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for BET)

Vivica Fox told the story of being on the set of Booty Call. She said that she tried to take a couple naps between scenes except Jamie Foxx kept playing the piano. Being the outspoken person that she is, Vivica was not having it.

“…it was hard to be his dressing room neighbor for a few weeks…he had a piano in there, and he would just play it all the time, singing his pretty heart out!”

Vivica went out and screamed to Jamie to, “stop playing that damn piano!”

Let me give you some background information before we continue this story.

I decided about a year ago that I was not going to limit myself and that I was going to step outside of my comfort zone. This was not an easy decision. I am an extremely shy person who overthinks everything. Whatever I share online, do believe I’ve gone over it repeatedly and have examined every possible outcome. (I am learning to be less anxious however and more centered and balanced.) Anyway, I decided I was tired of reading about what I needed to do to be a better writer. I wanted to “hear it from the horse’s mouth.” Tired of writerly commandments that got me nowhere, I wanted to act. I needed to act. I decided that acting was the only true way of knowing.

So, fed up with my own lack of action, I logged off my computer last year and went around to bookstores, talked with businessmen and ask the questions I’d always been afraid to ask, armed with business cards (side note: No, I don’t recommend giving your business card out like it’s candy. Most people just throw them away. These are facts.) and sample books. This weekend, I ended up at A Cappella Books, a small Independent Bookstore in Atlanta. I spoke to a man there who gave me some advice.

“Get your name out there because even if you’re in the store, if you aren’t a household name people won’t find you,” he said, spreading his arms to insinuate the rest of his thoughts, which didn’t have to be said: you are a nobody so people won’t be able to find your book among all these books by well-known authors.

Now, ya’ll know I gotta be honest. At first, I was offended. Household name? I thought. Who the hell cares? So I’m not worthy?

“Are you going to the Decatur Festival?” he continued. Interrupting my thoughts about how I didn’t like him.

“Yes.”

“Good. That’s a good place to start. I get a lot of {Indie}authors coming in and calling but if people don’t know you…”

“I understand.”

I left the store, still offended but the blow was softened by the confirmation that I’d made the right decision to attend the Decatur event. It was the third time someone had mentioned it to me and I am big on spiritual confirmations. I believe that what’s meant for me will often be confirmed through others. (The first time I heard of the Festival was at the Atlanta African American Book Festival. An older man had bought two of my books and asked me if I was attending the Decatur Book Festival. “That’s where you need to be,” he had said. The second time was when speaking with my academic advisor. I told her I was going to a book festival and she brought up Decatur.)

After marinating on the man’s words, tasting them, digesting them, I wasn’t offended anymore, and I realized that he’d just given me lots of wisdom. It was deeper than selling in a store. He was telling me that as an author I needed to build relationships with others if I intended to sell books. He was telling me, without telling me, that familiarity sells books so I needed to network and give people a chance to get to know me first.

For online this is social media but offline this is events, book signings, meet and greets, lunch and dinner meetings. (side note: think big….introduce yourself to the person running the show…speak with owners and coordinators…also, with social media, don’t feel obligated to be everywhere…go where your audience is or where people have shown they care. I don’t do much on my personal Facebook page and I really just started posting regularly on my business Facebook page. Why? I don’t have anything personal against Facebook but if I see something is not providing value I am not the kind of person to want to keep doing it….if something is not working then I need to get a new something, not force it to work. If I see that the people on my personal page aren’t interested then I am not going to keep bothering them…I am going to go where I am valued and where the people have shown they are interested in what I have to offer. For me that is Twitter and IG so I post to these accounts the most without feeling guilty about not posting the same thing to Facebook.)

Back to the guy…

I knew what he was saying was truth and have known it for years but hearing it from him directly made it more real and helped me to understand how to better sell the books I have on the shelves of the other two stores in Georgia. People must know who I am in order to walk in and request my book. I needed to work harder to build awareness.

This point was further validated (confirmed) when I saw a post by Mixtus Media:

“Even if you’re an introvert,” the caption read, “you need to connect with people to sell your book…I know it’s intimidating to put yourself out there on social media–especially for introverts. I know because I am one! But in order for your book to see success, you have to do it.”

I know now, exactly what is needed for me to take my career to the next level.

Now, let’s get back to the story.

When Vivica screamed at Jamie to stop playing, she didn’t know at the time that he would later win an Academy Award for Best Actor, BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy all for playing the piano, among other things, in his portrayal of Ray Charles in the movie Ray.

What you do tomorrow is determined by what you do today. You think Jamie Foxx decided to play the piano when he found out he was gonna play Ray Charles? No. Jamie Foxx had been playing the piano since he was five years old (back when he was still Eric) and the practice helped him later in life to do something he probably didn’t even know that he would ever do.

Vivica A. Fox Book Signing, 7/22

Whether you write, sing, dance, act, teach or swim, play your piano. In other words, prepare and do what is necessary today even if you don’t understand why you must do it. You have to be ready when the time comes and not trying to get ready.

Being an Independent Author doesn’t mean you should not listen to people who are trying to educate you about improving your craft. As Vivica puts it, “when you receive constructive criticism and it helps you deliver, you have to acknowledge it.”

Vivica had another story. This one about a woman she met who wanted to be an actor. The woman was concerned that she was too old. She had gotten a head-shot and everything and wanted Ms. Fox’s advice.

“Well, you can’t stand by the pool,” Vivica told her, “you have to get in.”

Vivica explained that the work is not just what’s on screen. I think this can apply to those of us in this digital era. The work is not just what’s on screen! On Facebook, on Twitter, on IG, on the blog. The work is constant and much of it takes place behind the scenes.

“I so appreciate that (name) put time into studying,” Vivica continues, “but I always tell people to educate themselves with real experience.”

Ms. Fox is right. Five or ten years from now you may find that the work you put in was preparing you for that one moment.

Additionally, don’t wait for someone you think is more important than you to make the decision of who you are gonna be. I got offended by the man’s words (at first) because I’ve never been a “star struck” kind of person. I cheer for everyone and give everyone the same level of respect, honoring each of our sacrifices and contributions regardless of position. These authors are people like I’m a person. They aren’t better than me and I am not better than them. They just started earlier.

This isn’t about bragging but as a wise person once said, “you will have a very hard time running a successful business with low self-esteem.” You can be humble and confident in your ability to deliver at the same time. You are not better than anyone (humility) but you have to know what sets you apart from the rest (confident). I struggle with being timid and unsure too but it’s something I am learning (quickly) I’d need to get over to take it to the next level.

If you want to be successful at anything you must see yourself as such already. Before I married I knew that I needed to become a wife before I actually was. Jamie Foxx didn’t become a pianist when people started to recognize him as such. He always was. Just like you already are. Everything you strive to be, YOU ALREADY ARE. Act accordingly.


Don’t forget to join me tomorrow for the start of the I am Soul Blog Tour! I will be visiting a total of 10 blogs over the course of the next few months and introducing some of my poetry. Be sure you are following these blogs by clicking HERE. You don’t want to miss it!

LeBron James Opens a Public School in Akron | LA Times

The I Promise School is in a renovated brick building that sits between a McDonald’s and a convenience store. Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

 

LeBron James just opened a public school in Akron Ohio and I’m here for it! Since LeBron is an entrepreneur, my hope is that the school will educate the students on how to be entrepreneurs even if they don’t attend college (as very few schools do).

 

“They settled on a program that helped teach the skills children need to handle trauma they see in their daily lives, combined with a hard math and science curriculum that would help further their education.

The school’s “wraparound” services help reduce stress kids might feel when their parents are struggling financially. That includes job and family services, a GED program, a food pantry from which they can shop and choose their meals, and help with housing if needed. They have a seven-week summer camp program to help avoid the trouble that comes with too much free time.

Every student gets a bicycle because when James was growing up, he used one to get away from the more dangerous parts of his community. The students also get a Chromebook to complete their homework.”

 

READ MORE AT THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE SOURCE HERE

Yecheilyah’s 2nd Annual Poetry Contest: Entry Submission Acceptance ENDS TONIGHT!!

You have until 11:59pm EST to get your poems emailed to me!!

When that clock strikes 12:00am I will not be accepting any more entries so yes, you have time to enter after you get off work people!

DO NOT miss out on this. There is NO entry fee to enter and tons of prizes on the line. Money, publishing, promotion, books. Nothing to lose. Everything to gain!

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ENTRANCE GUIDELINES AND PRIZES BY CLICKING HERE.

Submit a poem on self-love / self-care in some way, subscribe to the email list (you need to subscribe so you get updates on the contest) and then email your poem to: yecheilyah(at)yecheilyahysrayl(dot)com

Go Go GO!!


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FINAL COUNTDOWN: Yecheilyah’s 2nd Annual Poetry Contest Ends Soon! Enter TODAY

It’s the final countdown people!

You have until midnight tomorrow (Tuesday, 7/31) to enter your poem into my 2nd Annual Poetry Contest.

The contest is heating up and we have some very talented poets out there!

…and some awesome prizes! We are giving away money, publishing, promotion, books and more! DO NOT miss out on this. There is NO entry fee to enter.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ENTRANCE GUIDELINES BY CLICKING HERE.

Submit a poem on self-love / self-care in some way, subscribe to the email list (you need to subscribe so you get updates on the contest) and then email your poem to: yecheilyah(at)yecheilyahysrayl(dot)com

Go Go Go!!

The Diary

My first practice in writing was the diary. Sometimes it wasn’t an actual diary but a journal I turned into one. It was a special thing for me because prior I had been writing in notebooks but notebooks didn’t provide the kind of privacy that diaries did. With the privacy of the diary, I could be more open which meant that I could be more real in my writing. I could express how I was feeling authentically because I knew that no one else would read my words. I could be angry, happy, sad, and excited. Unknown to me at the time, this was helping me to learn to express myself, to experiment with language and to organize my emotions.

My first diary was something I found somewhere. It had a lock on it that didn’t work and was pink and some other colors I don’t remember. But even though the lock didn’t work the cool thing about the diary is that as soon as it was understood this was a diary, people knew not to read it. To do so was an invasion so strong that you would fight someone over it. If someone read your diary it was like they had read your soul. It was deep because of how deeply you confided in it. I still remember what I felt when the events of 9/11 happened. I remember because I wrote it down.

First, our teacher turned the radio up. Something about New York and terrorists. Then, the school let us go home. When I got home, I stared at the television in the living room and watched as the twin towers crumbled to the ground. It was the first time I had seen something like that happen without it being a movie. I took to my diary to voice my opinion.

“Today is Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I am fourteen-years old. We are at war. God bless America.”

I was so corny and what I wrote was lame but because of writing it down I remember the exact day of the events and my age when it happened. I was fourteen so I didn’t understand all the politics surrounding the event at the time and of course I believed whatever the news told me. I also didn’t realize how writing this down was helping me  with my memory.

I got my next diary/journal when I was fifteen-years-old. It was pink and fluffy with a blue sparkly butterfly on the front. I got it in Cincinnati Ohio during my 8th-grade trip. I got more personal in this one. I was fifteen and the boys had gotten cuter. I wrote more about life in general in this diary. I wrote about when my favorite cousin had gotten jumped so badly that when he came over to our house his face was terribly plump. I wrote about my excitement and sadness over graduating from eighth grade. I was graduating with honors but my twin had to go to summer school. It made me sad we couldn’t graduate together. I wrote about how this boy at school had a crush on me and how I liked him but I didn’t want to “go with him” because he went to my school. I didn’t “go with” people who went to my school. I had standards.

In my next journal, I would dedicate it completely to poetry. It was a gift given to me by my cousin. I was sixteen (I got a new diary or journal almost every year) and my cousin and I thought we were poets. We would have poetry contests (and till this day he wants me to let everyone know that he taught me how to write…lies) to see who could write the better poem. I don’t remember who judged us. I think we judged ourselves. (insert eye-roll)

But I had also begun to express myself in a different way by now. This journal was green, not pink so that the color and the content of the book reflected my maturity compared to the other journals. I didn’t write about my life, I wrote poems about life instead. I started to look around me and write about the things I saw reflected in the world and not just what was reflected in me. I would look up the definitions of words and write whole poems based on those words. Most of the time it made no sense but it did help me to expand my vocabulary. I also wrote poems about sex because I was sixteen and that’s pretty much all we thought about.

At every stage of my life I always had some kind of diary or journal with me to help to organize my thoughts and feelings and I didn’t know then how it would help me with my writing later on in life. (It also helps me to be patient by writing thoughts down on paper before publishing it to the internet. Letting them sit in ink for awhile and waiting to see if  the words are even worthy of being shared with the world. Most times they aren’t.)

Before the internet, before social media, before Facebook posts and blogs, there was the diary. The one place where we knew that we could be ourselves without judgment. I still keep a journal with me today and even though it’s filled with business ideas and inspirational quotes, it still helps me to write down my feelings and to organize my thoughts. It still serves as a powerful tool in helping me to be a better writer.