Thank you, Toni Morrison

As a writer, at this point, I’m a nobody.

Even though, I have been writing for fun since I was twelve, I didn’t believe that what I was writing, who I was as a writer, even my place in American society as a Black female speaking on behalf of Black females would resonate anywhere.

Then I read Sula. And I realized that my place in society as a Black female was an indomitable one. A revered (even if secretly) one. One where I make no apologies for who I am and give no regard to who you think I am.

This is who I was meant to be.

I was unsure whether my stories could see the light of day or even be appreciated in this society where I had recently found my place. Who wanted to see the poetry of black life?

Then I read Song of Solomon. And I realized…who wouldn’t want to? It was more beauty and more real emotion than I thought possible.

This is how I wanted to write.

I was disbelieving than any Black woman could make a dent in writing notoriety. That even if I did become a novelist, who could crack into that white male pantheon of classical and celebrated literature?

Then Toni Morrison won the Nobel.

So, I echo the sentiments of a lot of us–nobodies and not–who are inspired by you, who are celebrated just because we dared to walk in your footprints, and who still believe the dream that you made a reality.

Thank you, Mrs. Morrison.

Featured Image Photo credit: Toni Morrison, 1970. Photo by Bert Andrews. Photo accessed from “Our Professor: A Toni Morrison Memory” https://dukeupress.wordpress.com/2019/08/13/our-professor-a-toni-morrison-memory/ Duke University Press

Facebook Groups: Good or Bad?

This morning I was invited to my millionth Facebook Group, and I have come to a revelation: I have no idea what I am doing in some of these groups. (And some of them I asked to be in. Shh, don’t tell anyone.) I’m a group hoarder. So…

Why FB groups? (The Good)

The groups I interact with the most have these great things in common:

  • They are engaging. Most of the groups I’m active in–or at least trolling daily–are writing groups. Well, duh. I’m a writer who’s actively writing (well, struggling to write. Same diff) . Group members are sharing writing stories, giving quotes, commiserating where I feel I can jump in too.
  • They are substantive. Show me something I didn’t know. Invite me to FB live sessions, talk about events. At least give me a different opinion about a topic. And respect me when I share my knowledge.
  • They have an order/rules/crowd control. When groups get popular and have more than 100 engaged members, I like some order, or it will just look like my Twitter feed. And I can’t stand Twitter (even though I am killing it on Twitter right now! FYI: That’s because I respond only to word and pic challenges and some of the #WritingCommunity tag. Hence, why I like order.) I once joined a group that had over 1000 members and a feed that I could barely understand where to jump in. So, I didn’t.
  • They have something to look forward to. Several groups I engage with a lot have daily do’s– promo Fridays, or web chat Wednesdays, or Hot Man Mondays (not that one, but I think I’m going to start that one in my group). These are a great way for an introvert like me to chime in. I like to have an activity!
  • They have nice people in them–a couple of groups I’ve been in have had moderators turn off comments to posts frequently because members are arguing with each other. Then there’s the once a week post from some rando that says, “I hate [whatever the group represents]” or “I’ve had so many negative experiences with [group identity].” Um why are you here? Get the heck outta the group feed! I don’t need that kind of negatively in my life, and neither do you.
  • They are better than pages. I love my page, but now that FB has turned off posting by others on pages, I don’t like them as much. The whole point of my page was to have a place on FB where I can talk about author-Me and people can talk back. And we can sip virtual wine on Fridays or whatever the heck. So that’s why I like groups as an author/businessperson.

What I Don’t like about FB Groups (The Bad)

  • When they get big, sometimes they can get unwieldy.
  • No moderators or direction. I don’t like when I’m invited to a group, and I have no idea what I’m doing there. I like announcements first thing and something in the “About” section. A welcome is always nice when the group is a club atmosphere. Obviously, most people join groups in the middle of several discussions. Having these things to orient you helps so much!
  • Sometimes groups are all ads and buy links, with very little (if any) interaction. While I’m okay with some buy links, especially if I’m in a group that’s promoting something, I don’t want to be bombarded with them constantly and without any direction. I mean, is this recommended? Is it worth the buy? Why am I here if I’m not going to buy anything?
  • Ranting against what the group is about/constant negativity. See above.
  • Groups can get stale.

Why I started an FB Group

I like that people liked my Owen and Makayla Trilogy, so I made a page for it, but now that you can’t really use a page to “talk,” I didn’t see why I needed that page. I want to have a SM place to interact with fans of the series, to talk Owen and Makayla, romance novels in general, have fun, and be ourselves. Writing is a communal activity despite what we think, and readers are a huge part of that experience if you are or want to be published. Plus, who doesn’t love a “Hot Man Monday”? ūüėć

If you’re on Facebook, why not join us? CLICK HERE.

Secrets to #pitmad Success

For anyone new to Twitter Pitches or #PitMad in general, this sums it up. It also has great tips for creating pitches (which is tough stuff for most writers).

Sarah Nicolas

As the 2018 Pitch Wars Social Media director, I’ve overseen a year’s worth of #pitmad events. (If you’re unfamiliar with #pitmad, it’s a quarterly pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. Agents and editors make requests by liking/favoriting the tweeted pitch. More info at the link above.)

Overseeing #pitmad consists mainly of answering questions and keeping one eye on the hashtag for twelve hours straight (with help from our wonderful volunteers, of course!). Over the past year, I’ve made observations and thought I would share with you things that can increase or decrease your chances of a successful #pitmad.

Read the Rules & FAQ and … Follow Them!

I know it seems obvious, but so many people don‚Äôt bother to read the rules or think they‚Äôre somehow above them. Every single one of these rules is there for a reason ‚ÄĒ‚Ķ

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#TestWriter: Using Mailchimp (or, What the Heck am I Doing?)

First of all, thanks to all of you who subscribe to my blog, whether you’re engaged and commenting or just passively looking at my posts. You’re here, so thanks so much for being here!¬†However, most of¬†you are WordPress members, which tells me I’m really not getting much traction outside of WordPress. Since I’d heard so much about Mailchimp (and services like it)¬†and how it benefits indie authors and small businesses getting noticed, I thought I’d try it.

Um…What’s Mailchimp?

I will say up front:¬†After creating an account and working with¬†some of the features¬† for a couple of months, I had¬†no idea what Mailchimp actually did. I needed to find more people who would be interested enough¬†in my blog to subscribe. Mailchimp doesn’t do that. What it does is “help you share email and ad campaigns with clients, customers, and other interested parties.”¬†So they do the back office¬†work of marketing that most of us creative types don’t know how to do. How do we tell all our blog followers that they can get a new book of ours for free? How do we point them exactly to our product straight from¬†their¬†email? How do we let our fans know that the content they want from us is here? This is what Mailchimp helps you with. If you have no fans, (or if they are all on WordPress), Mailchimp is not going to be your scout. (And if I had read their “getting started” post about their service, I would have known that.)

So, how do you use it?

So think of Mailchimp as your online, digital marketing department.¬† You create campaigns–some just for one time or one event, some of them will be ongoing. A one time event for a writer would be like a book launch, or a giveaway; whereas, an ongoing campaign maybe sending out a weekly newsletter. An event may require one campaign or more than one depending on who you are trying to reach and what you’re trying to advertise.

For instance: I want to advertise the release of¬†Volume 3 of my Owen & Makayla Trilogy.¬† I’m going to create¬†several marketing campaigns, so I can reach all my potential customers: 1 giveaway using a landing page, 1 Facebook ad, 1 email notifying my blog subscribers of the release, and 1 Instagram ad. I can use Mailchimp to create each of these campaigns, send them to respected parties when I specify, and then gather statistics and¬†present me with¬†reports on how each of these are doing (effectiveness).

The Positives

  1. So now that I knew what¬†Mailchimp was for, I found it to be pretty easy to use for the amount of customization I can do. The templates for email had a lot of customizable features to navigate. While I love that ability, that’s going to make it more difficult for people who really struggle with technology. But that’s the trade-off with all technology: either it is easy to use but has less customization, or has more customization and is harder to use. The only obstacle I found is the compatibility with¬†Wordpress–but more on that later.
  2. Even if you’re operating on a small scale, you can use a lot of features for free. The account set-up is based on features you want,¬†number of subscribers, and number of emails sent per month: (table from Mailchimp.com, Oct. 2018)
The Basics Free Grow Pro
Subscribers 2,000 Unlimited* Unlimited*
Emails per Month 12,000 Unlimited* Unlimited*

Since I only had 6 email¬†subscribers at the time and didn’t really have a lot to promote, I customized and created an¬†email ad campaign for free. So, you look pretty professional, which hopefully¬†woos¬†your “interested parties,” and gets you increased engagement.

The Negatives/Tips to help

  1. Like I said above, Mailchimp is pretty easy to use. That is, except with WordPress.com. Some of the features have to have a special script to engage with WordPress. Others can’t be customized like you want them, unless you have the WordPress business account. I wanted to add my WordPress users, but I can’t because I only have a premium membership–no plugins. But even with that, I see more negative reviews for the Mailchimp plugin on WordPress¬†than positive. Bottom line: the platforms¬†just don’t work well with each other.
  2. You have to find and read the guides and tutorials (which are better and more up-front now) to understand how to use some of the tools fully. Mailchimp has updated its¬†site since I first started using it, so finding and understanding the tools and why you need them¬†is better than when I first started. But you still really have to do your HW before you can jump in. In the example below, I created 3 drafts of an email campaign, because I thought it was¬†ongoing. It wasn’t. None of them were.
  3. Prep your¬†account before you need it, or you will have to find and create everything from scratch. Every time you need it. You really need to set up your account (lists, upload logos and¬†brand identity stuff, create templates) before you even begin an actual campaign. Otherwise, you’re going to get frustrated trying to create every new piece of marketing collateral. I didn’t set my default logo, and even though I’ve used the email campaigns for a few months, it’s like starting from scratch when I decided to create a landing page. So now, I really need to go to my account and see how¬†functional it really is. Otherwise creating my campaigns for the release of Owen & Makayla part 3 will be torturous.

Bottom Line

A Mailchimp account is a great asset to have for an author, but it doesn’t do everything.

  1. First, have your marketing plan together,
  2. then read up on how to use Mailchimp,
  3. then set up your account so it’s ready to help implement that plan.

Follow these steps in order to get the most out of this service.

DIY…Writer?

Isn’t that redundant? Well… kind of and emphatically not.¬† There are a lot of tools, services, and companies offering products to writers, specifically to indie authors.¬† But most are new not tested, and some even border on scamming hopeful authors.

So I guess the term I’m looking for is more like Beta Tester. In any case, my next themed blog adventure will be researching, testing, and reviewing products and services¬†that writers want to know about. If you have a product, service,¬†or writing tool that you want me to review, please put it in the comments below. If my budget can handle it, I may test it, if it looks/breathes/acts like a scam; I’m not going to even attempt it.¬† My first services/products I’ll be trying out are book Marketing, but feel free to comment with any other writing-related software/service/hardware that you have been curious about. Find these posts here or on my social media feeds with the #TestWriter

Looking forward to testing what’s out there!