Marketing, writing

Social Media for authors part one: Your voice, your brand

This is the first in my advice series for building customer engagement with readers as an author.

Disclaimer: I’m still very new at this business in particular so I expect this advice will date quickly. That said, I have been doing professional social media for various companies for almost a decade on and off and I know a bit about engagement.

Before you do anything else, you need to think a bit about how you want to come across to a total stranger. You need to plan your brand.

I’ll admit, if someone asks me what my brand is, my mind blanks out. I don’t like the idea of reducing my entire self to a few words, and I hate the idea of selling myself as an idea. But when it came to a pen name it became easier for me to get my head around it.

When I came up with Jaxon Knight for the Fairyland romances, I knew I could leverage off my love for theme parks, fluffy happy stories, romance and food, as those are all things which feature in those books.

For a more hypothetical example, if I have a pen name to write science fiction stories about spaceship battles in space, then that pen name should have a brand concerned with military tactics, spaceships, physics and all things space. If I was to be posting on social media for that pen name, I could do things like retweet NASA and share photos from the International Space Station. Basically you want to connect to your readers on the things that they’re into and you are too.

In terms of politics, it’s important to decide early on what you’re willing to get into. A lot of authors will recommend not being political at all, just stick to the books and the fun stuff. I think this is impossible, frankly. Nothing you write or release exists outside of politics. The choices you make around what to write and what not to, is political. But that doesn’t mean you want to go on twitter and start fights with politicians as your author persona. Just be mindful of what you choose to share.

I, personally, am okay with complaining about transphobia as my author persona, because I write trans and gender diverse characters, and if people are following me for my books then they’ll know that. If someone who disagrees with me unfollows me as a result, that’s okay because they probably wouldn’t like my books anyway. The upside is that if there’s someone, somewhere who looks up to me as an author and identifies as trans or gender diverse, then they’ll know I’ve got their back. Trust is super important.

Keep your voice authentic to you. Don’t make up a bunch of lies that you have to keep track of, because people will catch on, catch you out and assume you have something to hide. Trust lost! You don’t have to be posting photos of yourself and sharing details of your life, but share enough to show you’re a real person. For example, my Jaxon Knight instagram features a lot of food I’ve made, because I put a lot of food and cooking scenes in my Jaxon Knight books.

So what I’m saying, basically, is that you should think a little about how you want to come across before you get stuck into social media as an author. Think about the kinds of things you can share on your social media, decide how much of your true self you’ll share and what you’ll omit from your real life, and have a think about politics as well.

Take a look at what some of your favourite authors are doing, on their facebook pages and twitters you’ll notice it’s not just ads for their books. They’ll be sharing articles and retweeting people etc.

Take a look at what other authors in your genre are doing as well. Obviously, don’t just copy them, but the more you immerse yourself in the community the more you’ll get an instinctive feel for how to interact in a way that works. Watch and learn, and then do your own version of it.

Don’t fake it, if you don’t actually care about the stuff you share, it will read as dull and flat. Be yourself, but be a refined, targeted version of yourself.

Phew, okay. Apparently I have quite a lot to say about brand and voice, despite finding those terms a little cringey. Please comment if you have any insights or extra stuff to add! In this series I’m going to do some specific Twitter, Facebook and Instagram advice and whatever else occurs to me. If you’d like to see me tackle something in particular please let me know!

Writers, writing

Guest post: Mariëlle S. Smith on her new release

Thanks to Mariëlle for coming onto my blog to talk about her new release. I was lucky enough to get an advanced reader’s copy and it’s amazing, a great book – lots of interesting prompts and self-reflection. Highly recommend this one!

What is the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner about? 

52 Weeks of Writing is a journal and planner for writers that will help you plan, track, reflect on, and check in with your progress and the goals you’ve set for yourself. Every week, it offers questions, writing prompts, and exercises that are designed to help you dig deep and find out the truths about why you aren’t the writer you want to be yet. 

How is the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner different from everything else out there? 

What’s different is that it doesn’t focus on a specific goal, such as becoming better at marketing your books, or planning your social media channels for the year ahead. 52 Weeks of Writing is all about your personal wishes, needs, and goals. It provides a safe space where you can figure out what it is you truly want (once you stop looking at what everyone else is doing), and how to get there considering the realities of your day-to-day life. We all have different aims and desires and none of us carry exactly the same responsibilities. This author journal and planner will help you focus on your situation and on what you want to achieve in this lifetime. 

Why did you create the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner

52 Weeks of Writing reflects everything I’ve learned over the past several years as a writing coach, editor, and writer. As a writing coach, I know that coaches don’t come cheap and that not everyone has the means to hire one. Of course, no book can stand-in for a human coach, but this author journal and planner is my attempt to bridge the gap between hiring a writing coach and trying to figure it out all on your own the best I can. 

Who will benefit from the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner?

Writers who are fed up with themselves and are ready to figure out once and for all why they keep getting in their own way. 

Get the ebook

Get the paperback

Are you ready to become the writer you were always meant to be? 
52 Weeks of Writing will get you cracking by making you plan, track, reflect on, and check in with your progress and goals an entire year long. 
52 Weeks of Writing will help you dig deep by offering questions and writing prompts designed to unravel whatever truths about your writing you’re ready for. 
52 Weeks of Writing will keep you inspired by delivering a thought-provoking writing quote every week. 

  • Do you struggle with setting goals that reflect your daily reality? 
  • Do you want to practise breaking goals down into manageable chunks? 
  • Would you like more insight into your writing habit(s) and figure out why you keep getting in your own way? 
  • And do you want to create a sustainable writing practise that honours your needs and desires as a writer? 

Then the 52 Weeks of Writing: Author Journal and Planner is for you. 

52 Weeks of Writing brings together every lesson Mariëlle S. Smith has learned as a writing coach and writer. Wary as she is of comparisonitis and unhealthy competition, this author journal and planner was designed to help writers develop and fine-tune a practice that works for them. 

If you’re ready to get out of your own way and become the writer you’re meant to be, pick up your copy of 52 Weeks of Writing today. 

About

Mariëlle S. Smith is a coach for writers and other creatives, an editor, (ghost) writer, and custom retreat organiser. Born in the Netherlands and raised by her Dutch mother and Scottish dad, she moved to the island of Cyprus in February 2019 to focus on her coaching, editing, and writing practice. 

Website
Instagram
Facebook

fiction, writing

SpecFicNZ podcast interviewed me!

I was recently interviewed by the SpecFicNZ podcast crew about writing, inspiration, RPGs and romance. This was a really fun interview to do, and I highly recommend you follow this podcast to learn more about New Zealand authors and what’s happening with speculative fiction.

https://specfic.nz/2019/10/20/episode-15-of-the-podcast-featuring-jamie-sands-is-now-live/

If you’re a fan or author of speculative fiction and based in New Zealand, go join in specficnz

Suburban Book of the Dead is available here and go here for my Jaxon Knight theme park romances.

writing

Recipe for Chaos now live!

Recipe for Chaos book cover

Recipe for Chaos

I’ve published another book! This is the third in my gay contemporary romance series, and it’s about Charlie, who has been in both previous books, and Max Jones – heir to the Fairyland theme park.

Writing this book, it was the first time that I had a character just take hold of the story and run off in his own direction. Max totally ignored my plans for the story beats and did his own thing, and consequences be damned! It was a lot of fun, if frustrating. I’ve had characters talk to me before, but I’ve never had any rebel quite so hard as Max did.

I’m very fond of both of these boys, and I got to introduce some fun new side characters as well. Plus we see a cameo of a fan favourite little girl from Rival Princes

Here’s the blurb:

The recipe is simple:
Charlie cooks an amazing meal
Charlie impresses heir to the theme park Max Jones
Charlie gets a promotion and a dash of control over his kitchen

But the perfect recipe becomes unpalatable with one wrong ingredient and Max Jones is not behaving how Charlie expected…

Max is meant to inherit the entire Fairyland theme park but he just wants to party, have fun and bed as many people as possible. That is, until he meets Charlie and falls for him so hard he can’t even finish the delicious meal.

Charlie doesn’t have time for clubs or helicopter flights over the city, but Max is accustomed to getting what he wants, and he wants Charlie.

Featuring one part Billionaire, one part sensible chef, six cups of attraction, a generous dose of snark and a freshly prepared Happy Ever After.

Buy it now!
Or buy book number one: Rival Princes
Book number two: Mischief and Mayhem

writing

Writing Troubles – my new podcast

I started a podcast

So, because I wasn’t already doing too much, I started a podcast. The only way I could justify this was by recording it in one take and not bothering with fancy things like editing or sound production or music.

Basically each episode is me talking for ten-ish minutes about a problem I have encountered in writing. Usually something emotional, or some kind of psychological blocker I’ve had which I didn’t expect to.

As I dive into professional writing as a full time job, I’ve found a lot of advice online about writing craft, about marketing, about systems and processes… but I’ve not found much which deals with the human side of it. I didn’t expect to feel like crap when I published a book, but apparently it is a thing which happens.

I’m here to talk honestly about what it feels like, and what has helped me to get over these little interal obstacles. My hope is that it will help others as well, and eventually maybe I’ll even have guests at some point.

If you like podcasts, writing advice, or just to hear me bleed my heart out in ten minutes, then please like subscribe, follow the podcast where-ever you can.

Spotify
Soundcloud
Stitcher
Podbean
iTunes is being a pain, so not on there yet…

Writers, writing

Guest writers series: an interview with Christopher Ruz

Who are you and what have you done with the Real Christopher Ruz?

I’m Ruz, an Aussie author, teacher, and one-time stuntman. The original, more handsome Ruz is buried in the potato patch. Don’t cry for him. He died like a punk.

Harry Potter world: what house are you? And what animal would be your patronus?
Harry Potter houses are an artificial mechanism used to divide students ideologically and turn them against one another so they won’t band together and overthrow their oppressive wizard and witch overlords!

Also, Ravenclaw.

Are you a Think Everything Through Before Acting person or a Great Idea Let’s Try It! Person?
I always dive in without thinking. Who has time to think? Huh. Maybe I’m not a Ravenclaw at all.

What got you into writing?

The Lord of the Rings BBC radioplay adaptation. My Dad used to play it for me on long car rides, and I fell in love with those mysterious worlds and grand battles of good versus evil. Some of my first stories were LOTR fanfiction when I was about six. They weren’t real good.

Why do you write now?
I’ve got too many worlds in my head! There’s something special about being able to share them with the folk around me, a feeling of sharing the greatest adventure of your life. I can’t get that feeling anywhere else. So, I put these worlds and characters and conflicts on paper, and hope everyone else enjoys them as much as me.

What’s a book you remember reading as a teenager and absolutely loving?

IT. I borrowed it from the school library when I was absolutely not supposed to, and read it late at night when my parents wouldn’t catch me. It was dark and dangerous like no other book I’d read before, and it sunk its hooks in deep. I reread it every few years, and it’s still special to me.

What are you reading right now?

Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen, Monstress by Marjorie Liu, and The Trespassers by Meg Mundell.

Can you name some formative books for your own writing?
Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun changed the way I saw storytelling. Elements of it seep into literally everything I create.

Stephen King’s IT, of course, seeded everything I write with malevolence. Finally, Piers Anthony’s Xanth series. Looking back on Xanth now, it’s weirdly misogynist and creepy and not something I’d recommend for young teens (or anyone). But for teen-me, Xanth showed me how a world could be ridiculous and compelling at the same time. It taught me to take risks.

Creative writing in primary school, what did you write about? Can you remember any stories?

SO MANY STORIES! They were mostly inspired by the videogames I played at the time, so I wrote a lot of Wolfenstein fanfic. My mother was horrified (and fair enough, too). But I was also already dipping my toes into horror, with a lot of Goosebumps inspired stories of children my age being stalked by werewolves and bog-beasts.

What do you do/where do you go for inspiration?

Current events plus personal drama plus horrifying imagery generally takes me somewhere fun. For example, my current WIP is about a North Korea-esque hermit state, the gigantic floating corpse of a dead god, and destroying incels. I have more ideas in the bank than I can deal with right now.

Do you believe in a divine muse?
I don’t. My muse is sitting down in front of Scrivener and doing the work. I believe the ideas and the energy comes when you put yourself in a professional mindset.

What does your physical writing space look like?

My office is quiet and cold. My monitor is haloed with post-it notes covered in new ideas, potential plot twists, and character sketches. My desk is a travesty of old teacups and unfiled paperwork.

Open up your skeleton closet: can you tell me about an abandoned project of yours which seemed awesome when you started but you’ll likely never return to?

This could apply to any of my first four novels. I have a particular attachment to Alpha Slip, which was a near future cyberpunk psychological thriller about a psychiatrist diving through (and being trapped in) layers of a POW’s memories in order to extract key information on military crimes. I finished the final draft two days before the trailer for Inception dropped, and I was so disheartened that I never opened the doc again.

Favourites:

Star Wars or Star Trek?

It used to be Trek. Then it became Wars. Now I’m firmly on the fence. Fingers crossed for Picard!

Hogwarts or Narnia?

They’re both nightmares of child endangerment! Can I choose Destin instead?

Ideal holiday, price and time no concern, where would you go?

Japan. A nice town somewhere in the south, where the wind is sweet and the evenings are quiet, and I could eat well and write all day and pat random cats.

Favourite song to sing at Karaoke?

Shatner’s cover of Common People.

Favourite song to sing in the shower when no one else is home?

Rammstein’s Auslander. The tiles amplify my naturally weak baritone.

The weirdest hobby you have, other than writing?

I’m an artist in my spare time, mostly focusing on life studies and portraits. I don’t know if that counts as weird, though. I also paint miniatures, even though I don’t play any tabletop games that actually use them. I just like the zen calm that comes with all those tiny details.


My bio:  Teacher, designer, and one-time stuntman (don’t ask), Christopher Ruz is a rabid fan of fantasy, science fiction, body horror and crime thrillers. Born in Hong Kong to well-travelled parents, Ruz was fortunate enough to live in South Africa and Vienna before returning to live and work in Australia. His love of dark fiction began when a worn copy of Pet Semetary caught his eye at a local flea market. He bought it with his pocket money and hid it under his bed so his parents wouldn’t see. He was eight years old, and has been a little odd ever since.

Ruz

Ruz can also do twelve chinups. Neat!

His best known works are The Ragged Blade (Parvus Press, 2019) and his ongoing horror series Rust. Meanwhile, he publishes the Olesia Anderson series of pulpy spy novellas under the pseudonym D.D. Marks. He has sold stories to Andromeda Spaceways and Apollo’s Daughters, has beaten the grueling Immerse or Die challenge twice, and was a finalist in the 2017 Aurealis Awards. When not writing, Ruz teaches art and design at a west-Melbourne high school and works at boardgame conventions across Australia.

Ruz’s website

Writers, writing

Boosted productivity via Bullet journal genius

I’ve been using a bullet journal this year, and I’ve found it useful in a lot of ways. Specifically I’ve been loving tracking my word counts/pages edited for each day. This is an example month spread from May. I used to just have words across the whole page, but then I realised I wanted to have editing and learning and things accounted for as well.

So, here’s May with the central spindle date margin, editing etc on the left and wordcount on the right. The running total wordcount for the whole project is on the far right.

I usually try to focus on one project, but you can see I jumped around some (and did work on two projects in one day towards the end… ) I also had a full week of learning, but it gives you a general idea.

But then for the month of August, I tried this system from youtuber Garrett Robinson:

Suddenly my hours were focused. I was less likely to get distracted, or mooch around on other tabs on my laptop. I would be tempted to but just say to myself ‘no, this is my hour to do X’ and apparently that was all my brain needed to really knuckle down. So to speak.

Here’s my running totals for August. You can see that my daily word counts have shot up, I’ve been more focused on a single project, and my pages edited have increased as well. August 11th is, as far as I can tell, my most productive words day ever. It’s a heady feeling.

More than that, I wrote 25k words in one week. I think my previous record was a very exhausting 20k week which resulted in almost nothing the week after. With this system I was still energised, I wanted to keep writing, but I knew my editing on another project was my priority so I jumped into that instead.

This last weeked I travelled to Christchurch and went to the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference, so my word count’s been a bit all over the place. But I learned a lot and have a nice new list of actions for various projects, etc so. It’s all good.

I love this bullet journal tracker, it really really works for me, and I recommend anyone looking to up their productivity gives it a go, for one month at least. I’ll definitely be using it for September and churning out some serious words.