Author Platform Example: Caitlin Doughty, Ask a Mortician

Author Platform Example: Caitlin Doughty, Ask a Mortician An excellent example of ticking all the boxes for building an author platform. Any author, self-published or traditionally published, can learn from Caitlin Doughty’s example.

Death. An inevitable fact of life, but one that is usually spoken about in hushed tones and with sadness and awkwardness, right? Well, that is until now.

Caitlin Doughty, a licensed mortician with a degree in medieval history, kind of blows that theory out of the water. Caitlin deals with the topic of death boldly, factually and with humour.

Her book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory was published in 2014, but she started her YouTube channel Ask a Mortician in 2011, long before the release of the book, and she hasn’t done just a video or two. Caitlin has produced more than 50 videos, some receiving in excess of 250,000 views! In her eccentric, entertaining manner, Caitlin addresses questions that many of us have wondered about but never felt comfortable enough to ask, even if we knew someone who could answer them. No topic related to death seems to be too weird or too uncomfortable for Caitlin to discuss.

Perhaps it is because of this that she has more than 650 reviews of her book posted on Amazon (a 4-1/2 star overall rating) or perhaps this success is due to our curiosity about the niche topic she so readily and easily explains with her insider knowledge, but I’d like to think that Caitlin is a perfect example of an author with an extensive author platform, established long before the launch of her book. She’s ticked all the boxes for building an author platform by using an extensive number of social media networks, YouTube and a website to attract readers for her book.
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Tw-inspiration! Lots of Tweet Ideas for Writers

Tw-inspiration! Lots of Tweet Ideas for Writers provides writers with links to posts full of ideas and inspiration about what to tweet about on Twitter.

A while ago I wrote a roundup post called Hundreds of Blog Post Ideas for Writers. It’s been a fairly popular post here on Bound and Determined and I have to confess that on days when my brain is drained and I need to write a blog post, I sometimes open up the post and click on a few of those links for inspiration!

In that same vein, today I thought I’d roundup a few blog posts about what you can tweet about.

So, in no particular order, here’s a list of posts filled with lots of ideas, and inspiration, to get you tweeting away like a pro. Please note that many of these ideas are generic and not specific to writers, but can generally be geared toward a writer’s followers with a little ingenuity!

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Source for Images: The Commons on Flickr

Source for Images: The Commons on Flickr gives an overview of hidden treasures from the world’s public photography archives that can be found on The Commons via Flickr.

I’m always looking for interesting stock image sites, preferably free ones. And, I must admit that I’m rather fascinated by historic photos and drawings. When I can I use them as post images for my blog posts and social media postings.

Flickr has created The Commons which amasses a collection of public photography archives.

Flickr’s The Commons goal is “to share hidden treasures from the world’s public photography archives.” To do so they are cataloguing public photo archives around the world, or at least the ones that are available online.

Participating institutions include museums, universities, churches, libraries and archives.

Each participating organization has a link to its Rights Statement. It is recommended that you review this statement prior to use to assure that you are permitted to use it as the specifics of the rights vary from archive to archive and may also vary depending on the intended use of the image (commercial or non-commercial). You can read an overview about the Rights Statements here.

Here are some very random examples of what images are available on The Commons:

If you’re writing fiction, particularly historical fiction, you might also find some of these images are helpful for your storyboards.

Have fun exploring and let me know in the comments if you find anything exciting!

Photo credit: Dionne Quintuplets from the collections of theDundas Museum.

Twitter: Jazz It Up With Special Characters

Twitter: Jazz It Up With Special Characters – If you have noticed Twitter profiles and tweets containing images or special characters and wanted to use them, too, read this article.

Have you ever noticed on Twitter how some profiles and tweets contain images or special characters? Have you ever wanted to use them, too, and wondered how to do it?

If you’re nodding your head and answering “Yes” to the above questions, you’ll be happy to know that you can find the answers right here!

Special Characters for Twitter

Check out these articles for more information:

And, this Chrome browser extension might be helpful for jazzing up things on Twitter, too:

If you decide to add special characters to your profile or tweets on Twitter, let me know in the comments below or follow me on Twitter: @ShelleySturgeon.

5 LinkedIn Groups for Writers

5 LinkedIn Groups for Writers discusses the differences between open and members only groups on LinkedIn and lists five groups for writers.

LinkedIn can be a great place to connect with people you know through your professional associations, but did you know that you can join discussion groups through LinkedIn related to writing, editing and publishing?

Groups can be either “open” or “members only.”

In both cases you have to have a LinkedIn account to join a LinkedIn group.

Differences Between Open and Members Only Groups

Open groups
Information discussed in open groups can be accessed through search engines and shared on Twitter, Facebook and similar social media sites.

Members only groups
Information exchanged on members only groups is only accessible by members of the group and cannot be shared on social media.

Each group has an owner. This is usually the person who starts the group who establishes the specific focus and the rules for that group. The groups allow for discussion and promotion (see the rules), and you can quickly determine by selecting the “Members” option for the group, if any of your LinkedIn connections belong to the group. You may also search through the discussions if you’re looking for a particular topic.

LinkedIn Groups for Writers

  1. Book Writing, Self Publishing, and Marketing for Business People – This group has 12,000+ members and offers connections and advice related to writing, marketing and publishing your book.
  2. All things writing, journaling, creative, non-fiction, blogging – This networking group of nearly 9,000 members offers information and support to all kinds of writers.
  3. Let’s Talk About Writing – This group discusses the craft of writing including the actual writing process and techniques, editing, illustrations, etc. There’s just shy of 6,000 members in this group.
  4. The Craft of Writing Fiction – This group discusses the general aspects of writing fictions such as plot, characters, etc. It has nearly 2,000 members.
  5. StyleWriter 4 Really Readable Writing! – This group is devoted to practising plain English by doing the “Readable Writing CHALLENGE.” So if your writing skills need a bit of help, this group might be just the ticket. It has 1,000+ members.

You can find more information about finding a group on LinkedIn here.

Or, why not start your own group?

Do you belong to any LinkedIn groups or think you might join one? Tell me in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

5 Twitter Hashtags to Connect With Writers and Market Your Book

5 Twitter Hashtags to Connect With Writers and Market Your Book suggests several popular hashtags used by writers to connect with other writers and to market their books.

I must confess that I rarely use hashtags on Twitter but I know that I should.

Think of a hashtag as a subdirectory on Twitter or a file folder in an old fashioned filing cabinet. When a hashtag is added to a tweet, it can be accessed along with all other tweets with that hashtag very simply by searching for that hashtag.

To see tweets with these hashtags, log into your Twitter account and then click the links below.

  1. #amwriting – You can also try #writing, #writelife, #WritingTip or #WriteTip
  2. #author – You can also try #AuthorLife, or #Authors
  3. #selfpub – You can also try #selfpublishing, #indie, #indieauthor, #indieauthors or #indiepub
  4. #bookmarketing – You could also try #bookbuzzr
  5. #novelist – You could also try #fiction, #nonfiction or #poetry

More Examples of Hashtags for Writers

100 Twitter Hashtags Every Writer Should Know

205 Author Hashtags

Hashtags for #writing in Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr

102 Hashtags Smart Writers Are Using to Build BIG Brands on Twitter

Twitter Hashtags for Authors and Book Marketing Pros

44 Essential Twitter Hashtags Every Author Should Know

Do you have a favourite hashtag for writers? If so, tell me in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

5 Things to Know about Working with a Virtual Assistant

5 Things to Know about Working with a Virtual Assistant shares some information about working with virtual assistants.

I wear a lot of hats in life as do many of you and one of mine is being a virtual assistant. So, if I’m at my desk and I’m not blogging or writing, I’m usually working for my clients.

I’ve been a virtual assistant now for about eight years and I thought I’d share some information about working with virtual assistants that you might find helpful.

Five Things about Virtual Assistants

  1. Find a virtual assistant that you feel comfortable with. I recommend this to people all the time. In the absence of face-to-face communication, it’s important that you have a good feeling about the person you work with. Referrals from someone you trust definitely help. Interview your virtual assistant on the phone or on Skype to get a sense of who they are. Most virtual assistants are happy to discuss your needs with you initially without charge.
  2. You will need to give your virtual assistant your passwords for sites you need help creating or maintaining. Before you send this information to your virtual assistant, make sure that it works. If you can log into your accounts successfully with the login information, she should be able to as well. (There can be exceptions to this if the site logs IP address as part of their security measures.) Sending the wrong login info causes confusion and wastes time that you have to pay for.
     
    If you are uncomfortable sending the information through email there are a few ways to do this that minimize the likelihood of it being intercepted.

    • Print the document, scan it and send the image file with your password as an email attachment.
    • Tell your virtual assistant that you are sending the password over several emails without noting what the password is for. For example if you’ve told her you’re sending her your password for your blog, you could send it with the subject line of Email #1 and the body of the email could show the first three characters of the password, say “ABC”, then subject line “Email #2” with the body showing the next three characters, and so on. The information would appear as random characters and it is unlikely that anyone other than you and your virtual assistant would know what the password was for if it was intercepted.
    • You could verbally give your password and login information to your virtual assistant over the phone or on Skype but if it’s a particularly complicated password with a lot of special characters, this may be difficult.
  3. Different virtual assistants have different skills and experience. Some virtual assistants help writers maintain their blogs or market their books and are experts on using social media or building websites, some virtual assistants work with lawyers, some work with real estate agents, etc.
     
    And, even though a virtual assistant might be an expert on using social media, it doesn’t mean that she’s completely up to speed on every single social media platform and utility that works with that social media platform. She might be, don’t get me wrong, but things change quickly on the internet. New sites crop up overnight.

    It’s also been my experience that as much as I might like to learn something new, it isn’t always possible because there are only so many hours in a day.

  4. Just because a virtual assistant works from home doesn’t mean she’s available for business 24 x 7. We all have personal lives, too, and as we’re all learning more and more, it’s important and healthy to switch off and disconnect from the internet sometimes.
     
    The borderless nature of the internet means that we often work in different time zones than our clients. Some of us choose to work on off hours that better suit our family lives, but some of us work 9 to 5 hours, or something close to that. Know what time zone your virtual assistant is in so that you don’t call her too early in the morning or too late at night. And, realize that if you email on a weekend, you might not get an answer until Monday.

    If you have questions or concerns about this, ask your virtual assistant what she sees as being reasonable work hours when you can contact her.

  5. Being a virtual assistant is great! I like my job. I like to help my clients and working from home works for me and my family.

Is there anything you’d like to know about virtual assistants? Ask me in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

Photo credit: 30.365 via photopin (license)

Hyperlinks: Pretty, Smart and Short

Hyperlinks: Pretty, Smart and Short describes three options for modifying hyperlinks to make rename them, make them geo-aware or shorten them.

I’ve never tracked how many hyperlinks I use in a day, clicking on them, adding them to blog posts and emails, and so on. I bet some days I use hundreds of them and that’s not an exaggeration. They’ve become firmly entrenched in our day to day online operations, haven’t they? In fact, I might go so far as to say, without hyperlinks there’d be no internet?

But some URLs are so long and random that you couldn’t possibly type them from memory and they’re useless for use on social media, particularly on Twitter where you’re limited to a mere 140 characters. Other URLs take us to sites that we can’t practically use because of geographic restrictions. So, today, I thought I’d tell you about a few options you could try.

Pretty Links

This is a plugin that works with WordPress.org sites. It enables you to shorten, redirect and rename awkward links for affiliate sites or social networking sites or pretty much any sort of hyperlink on your site, even the links that aren’t particularly lengthy and awkward, using your own domain name. And, you can access statistics so that you know the number of hits per link.

So, for example, my affiliate link for Book Design Templates is: https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?cl=239841&c=ib&aff=292655.

With the Pretty Links plugin, I could change that to http://shelleysturgeon.com/bookdesigntemplates, and not only would it be easier to remember, I could also view the stats on how often that link was clicked on from my site.

There’s a free version and a pro version which offers even more features. You can see the differences between the two products here. The pro version currently sells for $37 for one website or $97 for multiple sites.

Smart URLs

Ever clicked on an Amazon link on someone’s site to buy their book only to discover that it directs you to Amazon in a foreign country that won’t ship to you or allow you to download e-books through their site?

SmartURL will take care of that.

This is a free utility. Its links are” geo-aware” so if you use a Smart URL on your site for your Amazon book, and someone in the UK clicks on it, they are sent to Amazon.co.uk. Smart URL is not Amazon-specific and will work with various sites.

For more information about Smart URLs features click here. FAQs for Smart URLs can be found here.

Booklinker

Booklinker is similar to Smart URLs but it is only for links to Amazon.

Link Shorteners

Link shorteners are helpful on social media or when a hyperlink is long or awkward and you want to share it. There are many link shorteners available on the web but I’d advise that you do your research and stick to reputable ones as some link shorteners have been linked (no pun intended) to malware and adware.
I regularly use the following three link shorteners:

  1. Google URL Shortener
  2. Ow.ly
  3. Bitly

So, using the URL for this blog post and shortening it using these URL shorteners, this http://shelleysturgeon.com/hyperlinks-pretty-smart-and-short/ becomes:

  1. http://goo.gl/au5Njt
  2. http://ow.ly/KBKRo
  3. http://bit.ly/1FgpcsA

Significantly shorter URLs, aren’t they? So I guess it’s pretty obvious why they work better on social media, especially on Twitter when used in tweets and you’re limited to 140 characters.

Generally speaking, however, it is a good idea to exercise good judgement when clicking on shortened URLs because you can never really be sure where the link you’re clicking on will take you. Make sure you trust the person or site providing you with the shortened URL.

So there you have it–three flavours of hyperlinks! I hope you find them useful.

Photo credit: Buttercups Springtime via photopin (license)

Authors: Let’s Play Show and Tell

Authors: Let’s Play Show and Tell explains why authors need to show and tell potential readers about their books and suggests how they can accomplish this.

As writers and authors we see our books from a unique perspective.

We’re excited about our books, right? And we already know how great they are, right?

Because of this, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that our potential readers have to catch up and learn what we’ve known all along—that our books are fantastic and they really need and really want to read them.

So, how do we do that?

Show and Tell

Do you remember way back (well, way back for some of us!) when we were in grade school and we had to bring something in for Show and Tell?

When our books are published, it’s our job as authors to “show” our books and “tell” our potential readers all about them.

What Influences Readers?

But, let’s think like readers for a minute. When we go to buy books, what makes us decide to read a particular book?

I think we select books in our favourite literary genres or subject matters based on:

  • The book cover
  • Availability of the book
  • Familiarity with the author
  • Reviews

So, if these factors influence readers to buy books and we have to “show and tell” readers so they know about our books, how do we do that?

Showing and Telling When It Comes to Your Book

  • Book Cover
    Your book cover is often the very first connection your readers will have with your book and contrary to what we’ve always been told, i.e. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” we do exactly that. I mean, come on, how could we NOT do that when there are 10 books on the same topic to select from and 5 of them have covers that look like they’ve been designed by a five year old?

    Without taking the time to evaluate the contents, we make assumptions that the author didn’t care enough to do a proper job of the book–based on its shoddy cover. As readers, we don’t stop to think that the author already knew that his book was fantastic and just didn’t know how to relay that information to us, do we?

    Have the cover of your book professionally designed. If you’re determined to do it yourself, have a neutral party with experience in this field critique your cover. One way to do this is through the monthly e-Book Cover Design Awards run by The Book Designer and even if you don’t actually submit your e-book cover to this contest, you can learn a lot by reviewing previous submissions.

  • Bookstores – Online and Off
    Wherever possible, and unless you have a very good reason not to do this, make your book available through various online and offline retailers in print and e-book formats so it can be seen and is accessible. We’re all busy people and many of us are a bit on the lazy side. If it’s too hard to find your book to buy it, most people won’t.
  • Your Author Platform
    Just as you should put your book out there, show your face, too. Connect with your readers, your potential readers, other writers and other industry professionals. Utilize social media, maintain a blog, do interviews, consider podcasting, do a newsletter, write guest posts.

    Use this, your author platform, to tell potential readers about you and your book. Tell them why you made certain decisions about your storyline, or where you did your research, or how you picked your book cover, for example. Let them in on the creation of your book and tell them why you think it’s fantastic, but don’t go over the top with “Buy my book! Buy my book!” because they won’t. You’ll just turn them off.

    It’s recommended that you create your author platform well before your book is actually published to build your connections and to reap the most benefit from your social media networks when your book is released versus starting from scratch after your book has been released.

    Interact with your audience and others in the industry and be approachable. If they like you and are interested in what you have to say, odds are they’ll want to read your book and might even help to spread the word about it.

  • Book Reviewers
    Book reviews are an important way to tell the world about your book. If you’re lucky, you’ll get some book reviews without asking as people read your book, but more than likely you will need to get this ball rolling, and it will be your job to contact book reviewers and ask them to read and review your book and show them your book (see to it that your book gets in their hands) so they can do this.

    Book reviews tell people about your book and the more people telling the world about your book, the more noise they’ll make and the more likely it will be that others will want to read your book, too.

My clearest memory of bringing something to school for show and tell was taking a dried blow fish that my grandfather brought back from Jamaica where he was stationed during WWII. The poor thing was old and very brittle (and ugly!) by the time I took it to class some 20 years after the war ended. I don’t remember what I told the class about this dried up old fish when I showed them, but I do remember that that fish had the last laugh when its sharp pointy spine things poked through the paper bag I was carrying it in and gashed my legs.

Showing and telling your potential readers about your book sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? It is, and while it’s not quite as simple as back in the day when you could drag a favourite toy (or a dried up fish), into your classroom and talk about it for five minutes, you can still have a lot of fun with it.

Photo credit: Puffers via photopin (license)

14 Free Ebooks on Writing, Marketing, Publishing and Motivation for Writers

14 Free Ebooks on Writing, Marketing, Publishing and Motivation for Writers – a list of 14 ebooks written and complied by industry experts offering information and guidance on a variety of topics ranging from writing, marketing, publishing, and being just plain motivated to stay the course.

Below is a list of 14 ebooks for writers written and complied by industry experts offering information and guidance on a variety of topics ranging from writing, marketing, publishing, and being just plain motivated to stay the course.

To receive some of these ebooks, you will have to sign up for a free subscriptionn first.

I have visited a lot of these blogs and have downloaded and read many of the free ebooks listed below. A few of the others were tracked down just for this article and I haven’t had a chance to read them yet so if you do please let us know what you think.

I think there’s a lot of good stuff here.

Writing, Publishing, Marketing and Motivation for Writers

  1. Free Guides on Publishing available at BookBaby.com
  2. Shave 10 Hours Off Your Work Week available at MichaelHyatt.com
  3. Guide + Workbook, How To Write Better Stories available at Jennifer Blanchard
  4. 14 Prompts available at The Write Practice
  5. The Nearly Ultimate Guide to Better Writing available at Write to Done
  6. How to Get Published, How to Increase Book Sales available at Best Seller Labs.com
  7. 10 Things You Need to Know About Self-Publishing available at The Book Designer
  8. Author 2.0 Blueprint available at The Creative Penn
  9. Twitter Just For Writers: The Ultimate How-to Guide for Authors available at Social Media Just For Writers
  10. 279 Days to Overnight Success available at Chris Guillebeau
  11. Smashwords Book Marketing Guide available at Smashwords.com
  12. Write Good or Die by Scott Nicholson
  13. Time Management for Creative People available at Wishful Thinking
  14. The Cheap Retreat Workbook by Catharine Bramkamp

Photo credit: DSC_0590 via photopin (license)