Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Show Me the Blog 2011

Last year I attended the first ever Show Me the Blog conference in St. Louis. You can see my recap here. Since then Danyelle Little has put together other blogging opportunities including Blogging Bootcamp and Wordpress Bootcamp. They have all been exceptional opportunities to learn the intricacies of becoming a better blogger.

This year the second annual Show Me the Blog conference was expanded to two days, on October 21-22. The first day was dedicated to social media, and the second covered different aspects of blogging. On Thursday night we had a pre-event gathering at Luna Lounge. It was fun to see some of the past Show Me bloggers as well as meet some first time attendees. I also won a fun MP3 player courtesy of Reliv International by correctly identifying @milligfunk as the person who rocked the boots at Show Me 2010.

Lumiere Place was the host of this year's Show Me event. Parking was plentiful and the meeting rooms were comfortable and spacious. Hostess with the mostess this year was the effervescent Roshini Cope. She is funny and organized - always a winning combination.

The first session of the day was "So You Want a Job in Social Media", a panel discussion which helped us all to understand the role a social media expert plays in a corporation. While I am not looking for a job in social media, as the mother of a senior in college who is majoring in Marketing Communications and has experience through internships in social media, it was gratifying to hear that her job prospects are pretty good!

Following that was lunch provided by sponsor Hardees.

Seriously, it may take two hands to handle a Whopper, but you will need a third to do justice to the Big Angus Burger! Amazing!

After lunch there was a choice between learning about social bookmarking or how to build real clients and supporters. I chose social bookmarking with Niles Flores. Social bookmarking sites allow your readers to share your posts with others. Examples include stumbleupon and digg. Niles advised placing these sharing buttons above your article's content. For my next session I listened to Lakesha Brown of XDWebSolutions speak about "Finding Networking Value & Putting it to Use for Your Gain". My main takeaway was to comment on other people's blogs and be sure to always leave a link back to your own website.

"SEO: Know It, Use It" by Will Hanke was my next session, where we learned about using keywords in our posts. The last session of the afternoon was "Being Social: How to Effectively Engage Your Audience" with Liz Jostes and Kristin Zaslavsky. The recurring theme of the day seemed to be participate on other people's blogs and respond to the comments made on your blog. Also, you can see how your Facebook page ranks by going to Photos and videos bump up your page rankings.

Day Two started out with a bang as Stef Pollack discussed "You Too Can Be a Rock Star Blogger". Not only is Stef an excellent speaker but she also had a fun Powerpoint presentation comparing Lady Gaga's transformation from a struggling lounge singer to a rock superstar to her own blogging evolution from few followers to thousands of readers who devour her unique cupcake recipes. Stef is a perfect example of how if you write good content and engage your followers, they will spread the word for you.

Hardees provided another great lunch for us on day two, this time offering up a taco and nachos bar! I hadn't tried either of these items at a Hardees restaurant, so it was great to have the opportunity to do so at the conference.

Following a great lunch, you might think that we would all need a nap. Not so for the attendees who chose Hannah Mayer's session "Instant Blogging: Add Water". This woman missed her calling - she should be a stand up comedien! She provided us with a humorous look at how people end up finding her site (it has skid marks in the title so I will let you draw your own conclusions). I have not laughed so much at a conference for a long time. Okay, maybe never.

There were a couple other sessions in the afternoon, and then Danyelle made the right (or should I say Wright?) call by having Robyn Wright wrap up the conference with her prentation on "Building and Maintaining Relationships with Brands". She offered us her insights into the proper way to interact with brands, letting them know what you can do for them before asking what they can do for you. She stressed that you don't need to necessarily have a huge number of followers on your blog. The brand will be looking at your whole sphere of influences - blog traffic, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, LinkedIn network, and organizations to which you belong.

In summary, the main thing that I took away from the conference is the power of connections. I am excited to now have a relationship with a number of the attendees from this year's conference, as well as the fact that I met a number of other authors. I think Roshini said it best - "The answer is in the room". Congratulations to Danyelle and all her staff for another excellent and informative conference. The tentative date for Show Me the Blog 2012 is October 19th and 20th. Look for more details on the Show Me the Blog website.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Top of the Class

It is hard to believe that my 6 week class on writing, publishing and promoting a nonfiction book is over. Of the 16 adults who took the class, 15 ended up completing it. Since I did not have the best experience when I took this class (in terms of some of the students in it, not the quality of the teaching or class content), I was a little apprehensive about teaching it. But I really enjoyed each and every one of my students. They had interesting topics, were great communicators, and actually did the homework assignments. The fact that all but 1 of them could tell me what their book was about in one sentence and completed the 10 questions assigned the first class is truly amazing. In the class I took two or three of us had the sentence down and no one besides me did any writing at all. You cannot have meaningful dialogue in the classroom if the students aren't doing the assignments.

For 3 of the weeks I brought in guest speakers - 1 who spoke on editing, plus Bobbi who talked about writing, 1 covering book design, and 1 who talked about her experience in self-publishing and traditional publishing. I think having other people come in helps break things up for the students, plus these people are experts in their fields. For the week when we covered promotion we ended up attending the monthly meeting of the St. Louis Publishers Association because their speaker, Lethia Owens, is a marketing expert. That was a good call because she was a fantastic speaker with a lot of good information.

The community college did not give me any evaluation forms, so I made up my own. I wanted to know what the students thought was most valuable, anything they didn't like, and what they would change if they could. I also was curious as to how the guest speakers were received. Overall I got great feedback from the class, and some good suggestions for how to improve the course. Several people wanted the class to last a couple more weeks, but at the moment I don't know what other content could be added to make that worthwhile.

Another big thing expressed both in class and on the questionnaire is that several of them would like for me to critique their writing. I did not feel like this was something that the class was intended to provide. My job was to help them understand how to write a book and get it published, not how to WRITE in general. At least that is my interpretation. I do not feel qualified to instruct anyone on the mechanics of writing. I am not an editor, nor am I a book coach. Maybe the program brochure needs to be more clear, but I thought I had emphasized at the beginning that I/we would not be reviewing the actual writing.

I had to let the community college know by the end of September if I would teach the spring session of this class. I thought they were making a big assumption that Bobbi would not be back, so I called to discuss this with her. At first we thought that we might team teach the course, but Bobbi has officially "passed the baton" (as she calls it) to me. So I told the community college that I want to change the night to anything but Wednesday since I don't want it to conflict with the St. Louis Publishers Association. I also asked if I could teach it at Hixson Middle School, since that is so much closer for me. So I guess the spring session will be at Hixson on Monday nights. I can only hope that I get the same caliber of students that I had this session. They made my first experience of teaching at the college level very rewarding.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Signing

As I had mentioned in an earlier post the lovely folks at 6 North Cafe invited me to hold a book signing and presentation about researching house history at their Ballwin location. We had selected this morning as the date, and what a beautiful day it turned out to be. Sometimes that can be bad for an author event because people want to be outdoors during these lovely fall days. The event was promoted by the cafe through their social media and local contacts as well as by me.

Things started out on the wrong foot for me as my mapquest failed me. It said it would take me 17 minutes to arrive at my destination, and that 6 North Cafe would be on the right hand side of the road. I allowed 30 minutes for arrival, thinking that on a Saturday the time would be adequate. First I was overshot the address. In my defense, not too many of the businesses have an address large enough to read while operating a car. A few more trips up and down Clayton did not reveal the business to me. I finally stopped and asked the kind lady at Clarkson Eyecare if she knew where the cafe was located. Fortunately I was close, and it was on the left hand side of the road, not the right. Bottom line is that I was 20 minutes late and I was mortified by that. As there was no long line of fans waiting for my arrival, it was not that big of a deal. My tip of the day is to always ask your host for help with directions! I do not know why I didn't do that since I was unfamiliar with the area.

As it turned out no one arrived to buy my house history book or to hear my presentation. (Though I did sell one copy of From Buckeye to G.I.) So you might think that I am disappointed in the outcome. But you would be wrong. Four other authors came to the cafe, two because I had been announcing it and two by coincidence I believe. We had a wonderful discussion about traditional publishing versus self-publishing, ebooks, marketing, printers - you name it. It was fantastic! In fact, I would love to see all of us, and more, get together for coffee once a month or so to share ideas.  Even though the St. Louis Publishers Association meets once a month, there is never enough time to have the kind of conversation we were able to have today.

Top all of that with a fantastic cup of brewed tea and an amazing pumpkin scone, and my author event was great!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Keys to Unlocking House History Revisited

Keys to Unlocking House History has been available on and through a link on my website for over four months now. The book can be purchased through them for the Kindle, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, the Sony readers, Palm readers, in PDF format to be read on the computer - pretty much everything out there right now. There have been 27 downloads of the preview and 0 sales so far. Smashwords distributes the ebooks to virtually everyone except Amazon, who has refused to play nicely with others in the publishing sandbox. So I have made a couple of changes. First of all I reduced the price from $4.99 to $2.99. Then I changed my distribution on to eliminate their distribution to Amazon. (I kept hearing that an agreement between the two was imminent, but it has yet to materialize.)

Then I went to Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon's own book publishing arm and set up an account. I uploaded Keys to Unlocking House History and in a little over one day the book was available in the Kindle Store on Amazon. Since I now have this account with books for sale on Amazon, I headed over to their Author's Corner and set up a profile for myself. I was able to add Keys to Unlocking House History and From Buckeye to G.I. to my profile, but not Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed(room)? I have not sold that book through Amazon, so I figured that was the problem.

I filled out a help request form and was given the option of having someone call me. I barely hit the send button before my phone was ringing. An extremely helpful woman named Theresa went over all three books with me, adding the correct subject areas and search terms to each of the books. She mentioned that Who's Been Sleeping is only available on Amazon if/when a third party puts it up for sale. I asked how we could get around that, and she said she would email me information on their Advantage program. As I understand it, I would send books to Amazon and they would sell them and mail the copies out to the purchaser. So that is something I will need to look into, and I'll probably talk to some of my publisher friends to see how successful this program is since I believe there are fees involved. In the meantime though, kudos to Amazon for an amazing customer service experience today!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Day with the Masters

Yesterday an incredible event for authors and publishers took place in St. Louis. Brian Jud, Judith Briles and Dan Poynter spent a full day here at a Book Marketing Summit. For an extra fee of $75 there was an opportunity to have dinner with the three of them on Friday night to brainstorm ideas for marketing your book. At first blush that seemed a little pricey, but when you consider that you would have the undivided attention of three publishing powerhouses, it actually might have been a deal. We had tickets to the Fox Theatre, so attending was not an option for me anyway. I will attempt to summarize what I learned from each of the three "Masters".

 Dan Poynter started the morning, so I'll begin with him. I have a lot of respect for Dan and heard him speak last year at Publishing University. He is the author of, among other books, The Self-Publishing Manual. I always tell people that if writing a book is like giving birth to a child, then Dan was my birthing coach. His book really helped me understand how to set up my publishing company as well as produce and market my first book.
  • set up Google Alerts to notify you when you, your book, or your topics of interest are mentioned anywhere on the Internet
  • even if you are going straight to an ebook with your manuscript, still have some print books made up to distribute for review and promotion
  • doesn't recommend that you pursue brick and mortar stores, but if you feel you must then offer to do a mini-seminar there NOT a book signing
  • if you are going to use different publishing company, google the name of the company + fraud or scam to see if the company is legitimate
Judith Briles was the second speaker, and she is the author of 28 books and has, indeed, been on Oprah. She is known as The Book Shepherd and the founder of Author U.
  • in 2010 with the New York publishing companies, only 10 books sold over a million copies; the average book published by them only sells 500 copies
  • she recommends placing a QR code on your business cards, bookmarks, etc. so that those with smart phones can scan it and gain immediate access to your website
  • make sure that the main page on your website is not static, but changes with your tweets, Facebook feeds, etc.
  • Facebook is the 8th largest search engine so have a page for each of your books in addition to yourself
  • guest post on the blogs that your potential readers might be following
Brian Jud is also an author and publisher, and his latest book is How to Make Real Money Selling Books.
  • know who your market is and where they shop
  • book marketing is a simple as pie - plan, implement, evaluate
  • and can help you determine different retailers that might sell your book
  • is a website that gives information on selling to the government
This is but a small overview of what I learned yesterday. It was an  information-packed day that was well worth the the time and money I spent. St. Louis was very lucky to pull in three speakers if this caliber, and some credit goes to the St. Louis Publishers Association for making it happen. I have a long list of things to do now!
Brian Jud, Judith Briles, Dan Poynter & Bob Baker