Category Archives: digital publishing

eBooksTalkToMe at the Birmingham Public Library’s Local Authors Expo this Saturday, Feb. 2

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I’ll be participating at the Local Authors Expo presented by the Friends of the Birmingham Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 2. The Expo is free and open to the public. Stop by my booth for information about digital publishing. The Expo is held at the Birmingham Public Library, Central Library first floor. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hope to see you there. I’ll have handouts and freebies.

LocalAuthors2013Here’s the link to the library for details http://www.bplonline.org/programs/LocalAuthors/

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To Twitter or Not To Twitter

When the people who invented Twitter first came along, they really did themselves no favor in the name. Twitter and Tweet are almost too preposterous to be taken seriously. But, given time, the fundamentals of the important roles Twitter can play have caused many to overcome and accept the silliness of the name. There are still holdouts. There are many who don’t “get it.” And there are others who have entered the Twitter universe and come away disillusioned because it was something different from what they expected. Efforts just didn’t equal payoff.

Recently the capabilities of Twitter were explored in an O’Reilly webcast titled “#tweetsmart,” hosted by J.S. McDougall, a web developer, digital strategist and author of a book titled “#tweetsmart.”

McDougall admits to entering the world of Twitter like many of the rest of us as a “complete skeptic.” But, after some time, he began to see that, rather than a mere marketing outpost, Twitter is a conversation. And, he says, therein lies its potential.

His book is a series of formulas that he devised through trial and error to gain  attention to a publishing company where he was employed. By patiently building on what worked, he was able to bring substantial attention to the products the company offered.

According to McDougall, this forum “helps marketers be more interesting on Twitter, adding value and raising awareness in a way people enjoy and find fun.”

Those who have used Twitter merely to advertise their product have oftentimes had disappointing results. It’s been described as a trough that everyone is trying to feed from at once. Used that way, it’s easy to come away with viewing Twitter as a waste of time.

McDougall offers ideas for first determining if a company’s audience is even on Twitter. Then creativity can guide marketing efforts to inform and to make the interacting process fun. He suggests that a company start with monitoring a Twitter presence for 15-30 minutes twice a day and then “grow into it over time.”

And the crux involves optimizing all efforts, whether through Twitter or a website, to make it easy for a visitor to buy a product.

“#tweetspeak” is for sale through the O’Reilly website and Amazon.

The Digital Writer

The digital writer puts his work out there and then must be willing to promote

A Digital Writers Workshop will cover the ins and outs of digital publishing. Sign up for the email list here on the blog
for further information as it’s released.

There are a few things taking place in the modern age of digital writing. Now like no time ever is it easier to get your story out there. The floodgates have opened and there’s a long line of frustrated writers, aspiring writers and professionals who are beating a path to self expression.

So, much is getting out there without the prior benefit of editing and polishing. Writers tend to think of their words as gold — all writers. And for those who have made a lifetime out of the pure mix of blood, sweat and tears that it takes to get  a work printable, it’s a little more than disheartening to see the upstarts enter the field, as if all it took was the ability to craft a few sentences.

The opportunities that writing in the digital realm afford has created new styles and manners of writing AND selling. There are crafty opportunists who are using words as a sales tool and then giving it the hard sell to anyone who will listen on Facebook, Twitter and the other venues that can be turned so easily into self promotion vehicles. And, for those who are successful at this method, it leaves the rest of the pack to just scratch their heads in wonderment at how all those years of striving and hard work can be so easily passed by by an efficient sales pitch.

Part of the explanation goes to the givens that writers have adhered to through the years. Since their words are gold, it has gone that we write and it’s just a matter of the right timing and luck for our ship to come in. We write and then wait for popular opinion to grant that we indeed have the voice that guarantees our place in the halls of literary greatness. For the upstarts that dash off and upload their first drafts, and then sell, sell, sell to their mailing lists, it’s been a bit unnerving to see that these salesmen succeed in getting to the top of the charts, even if it’s only for an hour in Amazon’s top 10. Or to see these salesmen use hijinks and manipulation to push merchandise, like offering their book for little or for free in order to boost the numbers. And then there are the reviews. Beware. Some of them have been manufactured — not that this hasn’t been done through the years on book jackets and in press releases. It’s just that the lines of decency and propriety have been blurred by the guys that don’t really understand that these manuscripts are words, for crying out loud.

And there’s a bit of sour grapes here. Writers wouldn’t be so brazen as to assume that they could perform brain surgery without training. Why, then, does anyone think that because they can construct a sentence, that they are a writer? But there are those doing just that and some of them are enjoying success. Never mind that it wouldn’t matter if it was words or widgets, this element that writes without really respecting the craft will only have its day for a while.

So there. But if digital publishing has the traditional publishing world on its ear, it’s still for good reason. Because the traditional publishing method really does stink unless you are on the inside. There are many times that I have wished that I had wanted to be an accountant. How easy would that have been? There always seems like there’s a need for accountants. And two plus two always equals four. But, no, for some reason early on in my development I realized that I was a writer and the die was cast. I’ve said that thank goodness I didn’t want to be a poet — that’s the only thing I could think of that might be worse. That’s a really toughie.

The theory goes that we write and somehow our manuscript will capture both the eyes and the imagination of just the right editor who will catapult it and us to literary stardom, which translates into cash aplenty and the nods of the literati that we do indeed belong with the masters. Ha. And tell me about the thick skin that a writer has to have to face rejection umpteen times and continue to believe in their story and that they aren’t a fraud. The process of finding an editor is also quite time consuming. And, what makes an editor know so much, anyway? Look at some of that drivel that passes for literature these days. We know that somebody must have owed someone’s brother-in-law a favor for that to have gotten published. And insiders tell me it is very much a who know who world. Living in Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia, I didn’t know anyone in publishing in New York, Boston and London. When you are a gentle creative soul in the first place, it takes guts and strength to keep believing in yourself. Sometimes they let you down easy with feedback like “your manuscript’s not long enough” or “it’s too long.”

But the new digital opportunities are astounding. No longer do you have to wade through the slog of hoping to catch an editor’s eye. This is the good news. No longer is vanity publishing the stigma of amateurishness that it once bespoke. So, here for all those frustrated with the process, here is the open door you’ve been waiting for all these years. You can get your manuscript out there and let it happen like it should have been for all this time — let the reader decide if it’s the writing of an amateur or the esteemed musings of an learned visionary that’s viable . If it turns out to be the writing of amateurs, so be it. If it’s the great story that’s lay dormant in a drawer for two decades and has now found its wings, also, so be it.

The caveats now are to get others to read it before you take it to epublication. Get the bad grammar out. Clean it up. Nobody gets it perfect all alone. A writer gets so close to the words that typos go uncaught. That’s normal. Get a good copy editor to give it a once over. Get feedback. Get good cover art so that you don’t look like a real low rent project, unless your message is on how to publish for little or no money.

As writers are getting their works out hurridly, the errors are there. Formatting that doesn’t quite work. Links that don’t work or are nonexistent. The errant letters or numbers that appear in the middle of a paragraph. Readers will get used to some of this. It was already happening from the big publishers who were having to cut staff input for budget reasons. There are many print books with quotation marks missing or formatting errors that I have come across in recent years — the type of thing you never ran across in year’s past.

But, it’s all good. At least writers now have a chance that they didn’t have before. And the readers will make the decision about what is good and what is not. Writers will have to be more involved in marketing their products, but that was already happening in the print world. The notion that a writer writes and then sits back and waits for accolades is hooey, and probably was never much a reality for many out there.

So, if you have a message in your heart, and it’s a bit surprising that so many people are so hungry for self expression and exposure, then write. Write as if it was the most important thing. Write as if the world could change with your words. Write as if someone’s day could have more depth with what you have to say. And then have the respect in yourself to get the words presented with quality and style. You may not sell many books, but you will probably touch a few lives. You will probably make a difference to someone. Don’t quit your day job until you are making a lot of money selling books. Selling books has always been a rather tough sell most of the time. But, go for it. Be open to criticism. Believe in yourself, but be willing to make a change to a phrase you particularly love.

And thank the stars that you have the chance to make it happen rather than sadly putting your manuscript in a box at the bottom on a drawer. Step up to the plate. You may end up being your biggest fan, but you also may make a few along the way. Be willing to self promote. And enjoy your position as joining the ranks of the published for all the glory and the benefits (sometimes merely intrinsic) that this affords. You may change a life or two in the process, and that, in itself, is a thought worth embracing.

A Digital Writers Workshop will cover the ins and outs of digital publishing. Sign up for the email list here on the blog for further information as it’s released.

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