Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Top Ten Writer Advice Blogs of 2012!

Today, as part of a week-long blog hop, I'm bringing you my top ten writing blogs of the year. Yes I realize today's open category probably should have more to do with actual book blogs so I'm staying out of the linky list, but you can still join in at the bottom of this post. Plus I've listed some nifty blogs I've found super useful - and I hope you do too!

There's loads of advice here I haven't even had time to look through, but one of my most useful writing discoveries was her synopsis lecture series. And it's available for download, so you can stash it in one of millions of writer advice folders on your battered old USB drive. :)

Among other awesome advice, their monthly critique workshop gives you access to feedback from professionals and your peers, and two chances to post revisions to help you improve even further. It's extremely useful, especially since you get to post a whole five pages.

A go-to site for all your grammar queries.

A blog by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary, featuring a weekly query round-up to show you exactly what lands in an agent's inbox, what got requests, and what was a big no-no. Plus archives of first page critiques from an agent's perspective.

A wealth of publishing advice which will have you laughing while you learn, and a great self-publishing success story to keep you inspired. Plus, her books are awesome.

Just look at it. Pure awesome. And their free email marketing course is unreal.

Where Literary agent Janet Reid rips queries to shreds for the good of writers everywhere. She even lets the authors submit revisions, often until they've created a successful query for us all to see.

A treasure trove of past critique sessions featuring hundreds of writers and everything from one sentence pitches to first pages. Plus, the Baker's Dozen contest has to be one of the best opportunities around...

A wealth of information, on a huge range of topics, from a published author. What more could you want?

And last but not least, speaking of awesome opportunities to hook up with an agent, Brenda Drake keeps her contests coming so quickly you won't have time to stop. :)

So that's my top ten writing blogs of the year - now what are yours? Leave me a comment, and remember to check out the blog-hop linky-list and sign up for the other top ten's coming up this week. Here are the hosting blogs:

Lisa from A Life Bound By Books, Jessica from Confessions of a Bookaholic, Jamie from Two Chicks on Books, Mindy from Magical Urban Fantasy Reads and Rachel from [Fikt]shun.

Have fun!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Sharing The Blog-Hop Love - And Some Awesome Cover Designs!

While being stuck at my computer today because I’ve feasted too much to be able to get up, I discovered a cool new blog-hop and decided I had to share it, since it’s part of a week-long celebration of all things books and so there’s plenty of opportunities for you to join in, too. Today’s subject is the top ten book covers for books RELEASED in 2012, and for tomorrow's open category I'm thinking I'll list my top ten book blogs of the year, so feel free to drop by 

So here are my favorite designs. And since anyone self-publishing may have to consider creating or at least conceptualizing their own covers, I've let my inner graphic design student have a ponder at why they work (even if it means I sound like an arts-y loser). :) 

 I. Love. This. Not only because of the tension in the fate of the flower, but also the way the color gradient on the lettering makes the heat seem almost 3D - which just increases the tension even more. Plus, the jagged, red cracks int he background seem to me to indicate more conflict in the back-story.

Sometimes what you leave out of a design is even more important than what you put in. In this cover there's nothing to connect the images and therefore they raise more questions than they answer, which makes me desperate to read on. 

We all know contrast is one of the strongest tools in a designer's arsenal, which is why the success of the color contrast is obvious. But also check out the way the soft, flowing vines contrast with the spiky thorns to create a creepy, romantic theme of death. Sounds good to me.

Vintage typography is all the rage right now, so I couldn't go past the lettering used for the main title. The way the subtitle then sneaks up out of the deep really emphasizes what the story is about, which makes me feel like I can already relate to the character.

I love the way the intricate border brings darkness to something traditionally considered quite light and family-friendly. Having the same effect when you see the sweet, innocent girl with that amusingly dark caption seals the deal for me.

Awesome contrast to make this stand out on a shelf, and beautiful layering of images like road signs and hidden crows. A lot of books have their subjects looking away from the reader, so I love that this one stares at you so you can't look away.

Simple and therefore eye catching, and something that would stand out in a wall full of black-covered teen reads. Plus it's fun yet a little bit sad, so it's like a log-line in its own right.

Beautiful typography, eye-catching colors, and great lighting to illuminate the subjects. All these little hints say 'these two characters stand out from the crowd, and that's why you should be reading them.'

As I've mentioned, designers often say less is more, but the way the trees, vines and falling leaves crowd around the girl says something is going to come after her. Her hand hesitating at the point of opening the gate gives me all the tension I need. 

The bold colors on this are awesome - because no matter what size you view it, it still stands out (go ahead - view it as small as you can). Something to remember, considering that your book cover will often just be a thumbnail on a website. 
So there you have it. I hope these are useful - or at least as inspirational as they are for me! Don't forget to check out my top 10 book blogs tomorrow (UPDATE: I realize what I intend to share are writing blogs rather than book blogs so I might sit out of the blog-hop tomorrow, but I'll still try and post my short-list) - you never know what useful resources you could be missing out on. And thanks to Lisa from A Life Bound By Books, Jessica from Confessions of a Bookaholic, Jamie from Two Chicks on Books, Mindy from Magical Urban Fantasy Reads and Rachel from [Fikt]shun for hosting the hop - jump over to their blogs to join in!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A Donkey? For me? You Shouldn't Have...

Here’s a fun question for everyone. What’s the oddest Christmas gift you ever received? Think about it long and hard, because I bet I can still beat you… Got it? I’d love to hear it. And here’s my entry:

How about two goats, a chicken and some poo?

I’ve been bought all of the latter, and no gifts have ever made me feel better. That’s because they all come from Oxfam Unwrapped – a fantastic website offering a range of humanitarian gifts for those who need them, all around the world. The theory is simple: instead of wondering “what do you get for someone who has everything?”, and spending a combined total of three days trawling the jolly Christmas mosh-pits, growing ever more desperate for something unique to jump out at you until you end up with 10 pairs of undies, some chocolate and a foot spa… why not get something fun, unique, and useful, and make your receiver feel like a million bucks when you potentially only have to spend $10?

Sounds good, right? I mean who wouldn’t want to receive a rice farm, an emergency hygiene kit, or school lessons for kids in Sri-Lanka?

In my family, shopping with Oxfam has become a yearly ritual, and now I want to spread the word. There’s still time to head on over to Oxfam Unwrapped and pick out the most unique gifts you probably ever will, and your recipient will get a cute card sent to their email address letting them know all about who and where their gift is helping (allowing them to brag, non-stop, if they so choose). Or if you have an Oxfam store in your local shopping centre, you can grab a real card – plus 10 pairs of hand-knitted socks and some organic chocolate (just hold the foot spa, thanks). And finally, since I figure we can all related to this feathery gift, I've decided that if ten different people tweet this post, I'll buy it!

So get tweeting and spending because, as Oxfam put it, "nothing says ‘best gift I’ve ever sent you’ like a canoe".

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

New! Enter Your Blog In The Monthly Marketing Muse

Remember when you were a twitter newbie? When you thought RT meant saying ‘right there’ at whoever you were replying to, and you put #randomwords in hashtag format, and your every tweet was diabolically lame?

Maybe that’s just me, but I digress.

Back then, if a published author followed me I’d have had a grin wider than my own face and immediately follow back, amazed that they found little old me in the vast expanse of twitter. Sadly though, these days if I even see Amazon in a twitter profile, I’m wary. If that’s all that’s mentioned, I’m warier still. In fact the only thing which might tempt me to follow them is if their stream has nothing to do with their book, but I’m already so jaded I might not even give it the time of day to check.

This. Sucks. These authors are doing their best, just as we will when we eventually publish. So for the benefit of anyone building their author platform I want to see just how many people are put off like this. As one commenter said, the tweets are always more important than the profile, but can a profile discourage you from looking at the owner's tweets in the first place? Cast your vote here, leave your thoughts on what does/doesn’t encourage you to follow someone on twitter, and I’ll compile all the results and comments at the end of the month. In the meantime you can grab the code and stick the poll on your own website (so we all get to look like super trendy marketing gurus), and if you’ve got a question for the next monthly marketing muse, I’d love to hear it. J

Are you discouraged from following someone whose twitter profile only mentions their books being for sale?
Only if their tweets are all about their book, too.
Create your own poll

To add the badge to your blog, go through your blog's design options to add a gadget, select the HTML/Javascript option, and paste in this code:

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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Interview With A Blogpire 2 - Sticking Your Blog In The Spotlight

Welcome back, everyone, to this week’s Interview With A Blogpire. Before the break Aimee L Salter shared some fantastic advice on blog building, and now we’re talking about how to promote your amazing content to the world. Here goes…

Since you’re posting a few times a week, how do you get the most out of twitter a as a promotional tool – without bombarding it?

This is something that took me a long time to figure out. I had to work through the process and learn how to use Twitter by trial and error, and believe me, there were errors over the years!But I feel like I’ve settled on what works now. My opinion is this (and it is just my opinion):

  • Bombarding twitter with links to something several times in an hour is pointless. You’re hitting the same audience every time. So whatever clicks you get will probably stop after the second tweet. Spread your promotional tweets out so that you’re hitting different time zones and twitter habits. 

I usually tweet a blog link 4 or 5 times in a day – but those tweets have 3-5 hours between them and I only promote a blog post for one day. (That means I’m only “promoting” my work 2 days out of 7.

          The rest of the time I’m just hanging out or RT’ing stuff that I actually read and liked).

  • If you spend more time getting to know people and tweeting personal messages, getting into conversations, etc, than you do promotion, you’ll probably be okay and followers will like you. If you spend more time promoting and / or RT’ing everything under the sun just so people see you RT’ing them… you are probably just annoying.
  • If the material you promote is only about you, yourself and you, people will stop paying attention. Whatever you push into the twitosphere, make sure it has some use to people beyond getting to know you.***

***The exception to this rule is when you have achieved something / created a fanbase. (A fanbase is not a platform. A platform is a group of people you have contact with who will give your material consideration. A fanbase is a group of people who associate themselves with you and your work. They feel like they know you – or want to know you – personally. They are loyal and vehement, and generally only come on the heels of something you did that they love. As writers, we gain fans when we write books that people connect with. Usually not before).

Contest or critique sessions - which do you think engages readers more?

I think it depends on "bang for your buck". One thing I see too much of is competitions that require too much for entry - retweeting, posting on facebook, blogging, AND commenting. When an entry gains the reader nothing but an entry for a book they can buy themselves... Well, I think readers are jaded enough to feel used at times. Or just too busy. But if I had an arc of the hottest YA release for the coming year? That sweetens the deal. Readers love the idea of getting in behind the scenes.

Where competitions really draw readers though, are when they offer opportunities for advancements, or short cuts past the slush pile. 

As well as my own blog, I'm a contributor at YAtopia. They've run or been part of some huge competitions in the past, offering writers the chance to pitch their work directly to agents and editors. That kind of competition will always have a huge draw - because they give the reader a shot at something that is potentially of huge benefit to themselves.

So, to answer the question directly, I think critiques (provided they are of quality) will have a bigger audience than a competition for an amazon gift card. But if you can bring agents or editors to your blog, that will always trump a critique.

What has been the most useful strategy for building your blog?

For me, my most useful strategy has been to always remember that a blog has to be useful to people. Now, it can be useful in any number of ways. If you’re funny (and I mean actually funny), that’s of use to people. Most people love to laugh, to have their spirits raised on a regular basis. If you can do that, you can write about any damn thing you want because people will want to read it because they’ll enjoy it.

If you’re an expert in something you can offer advice. Technically this is where my blog falls, but because I haven’t achieved the credibility that comes with success in the industry, I had to approach it differently.

From day one I’ve said “This is what I’m learning, let me show you so you can learn it too.” I’ve never claimed to be an expert, but my work still has a practical application to my audience.

The other way to be useful to people is to bring together resources, or create resources. Angela Ackerman and Becci Puglisi did this with their Emotion Thesaurus blogsite (which is now a really popular book). Of course, in other industries, the technical interests and resources will be different. I think this is why Pinterest has become so popular – it allows people to gather up things that help them or they’re interested in.

And finally, what stellar bit of blogging advice would you like to share?

The most useful advice I received when I started blogging, bar none, was that blogging about myself wouldn’t get me anywhere. You need to find a way to connect that benefits the other person, and if you can do that you'll have a much better chance of repeat business in terms of blog views, retweets, shares and likes, etc.

So for every blog post, tweet or status update, ask yourself one question:
What's in it for the reader? If the answer is consistently only "getting to know me better," or "nothing," then you have a problem.*

Well that’s it, guys. I certainly hope you found this as useful as I did! I’d like to send a special thanks to Aimee for being an inspiration to us all, and good luck to everyone scuttling off to put her ideas into place. Have fun!

* The information for this answer came straight from Aimee’s blog, since I found it so useful I had to share it. Thanks again, Aimee. J

Saturday, 1 December 2012

De Ja Vu?... Plus Interview Update

G’day everyone, and welcome to that priceless time of the year where every day is a puddle of deliciously melted, advent calendar chocolate, and every night is about six billion degrees long. My Interview With A Blogpire (Part 2) is still on its way, there’s just been a slight delay as blogger extraordinaire Aimee L Salter busily juggles life stuff while finalizing her tips on building a successful author platform. So stick around for that, and check out Part 1 if you’ve no idea what I’m on about.

On other notes, I’m stoked to have been given my third nomination for The Next Big Thing blog hop and I figure it’s about time I accepted them. I haven’t completed this before because the questions matched those from a previous blogfest I entered, but since I had a great time answering them I’ve decided to share again. Plus, the hop has never had a badge before, so I’ve made a rather terrible one for us all to enjoy.


And here are the questions:

What is the working title of your book?
— The Hourglass Bridge. (I’ve also got the working cover, the working blog, the working movie trailer and even the working camera angles and theme song for the final scene in the working finale of the working series. Some say I’m obsessive… I say leave me alone, I’m working).

Where did the idea come from for the book?
— As I touched on in my #GUTGAA meet & greet post, I woke up seeing a girl find a magic book and unknowingly summon a young witch and wizard into her room. But I had to ask, why was the book there? A: Because someone put it there. But why? A: Because they needed her. But why? (Yeah, I was one of those kids. Even I want to give young-me a wedgie). Anyway eventually I changed the book to an hourglass and developed an entire plot… as well as a debilitating crush on an imaginary sixteen-year-old from the sixteenth century.
Just my luck.

What genre does your book fall under?
— YA historical urban fantasy with a mystery bent and a hint of romantic suspense, written to outsell 50 Shades of The Hunger Games and be made into ten movies. (Now, if I could just pitch that to an agent, they’ll be thrilled...)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
— Five months, and as soon as I finished and read it I decided there was more to tell before those events, so I threw it away and started another, which also took five months. I did all this in between travel, university, playing in a band and having a job, and by the end I had broken the Guinness world record for being the first person to go without sleep for one year straight. I’ve since spent two years editing, and slowly going insane.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
 Johnathan Rhys Myers as my crush’s tutor; Steven R. MacQueen as the MC’s twin brother; Gary Oldman as an important old guy I don’t have room to explain here; Ian McKellan and Michael Gambon as the time keepers; Eva Green as the antagonist and Daniel Craig as the king (which makes this photo like a weird armistice I certainly did not authorize).

I couldn't find the photo credit, but I borrowed it from here:

What is the one-sentence short synopsis of your book?
Hauled into sixteenth century Wales, a shy, teenage history buff must embrace the destructive powers she never knew she had, to protect her ancestors from a war she doesn’t know she started.
Also, there are slugs.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
— Depends whether you mean in my mind or in real life. :P Haha in all seriousness I’ve only sent out about four queries so I’m hoping for an agent, but I am extremely passionate about marketing (hence building this entire blog around book marketing and promotion) so I’m working on my author platform and look forward to the challenge of self-publishing if that’s the way life takes me.  

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
—Um, I thought everyone would have been sold on the slugs. No? Geez, tough crowd. Ok, how about the last line of the entire book? You ready? You sure? Well here it is…
The end.*

And that’s it! Sending lots of thanks to Donna Hosie, Stacey Trombley and Aimee Salter herself for nominating me. You guys rock!

*Disclaimer: Not actually the last line. Sorry. I was counting on the slugs.