Google Drawings: Great Free Tool for Writers

writerGoogle Drawings is a free Google Drive-based drawing tool that allows users to create drawings, devise marketing pieces for their writing, brainstorm stories with concept maps, and more.

To use Google Drawings, here’s what you do:

  • Open your Google Drive account; go to New and select Google Drawings (it’s probably located under ‘More’).
  • Insert shapes, lines, an image, or text with the editing tools.
  • When finished, publish the drawing as a stand-alone or add it to a Google Doc, slideshow, or spreadsheet. As with all Google tools, it can be shared with others in a wide variety of methods.

There are a lot of drawing programs available — SumoPaint, KidPix, and TuxPaint to name a few. All are wonderful in their own right and many more powerful than Google Drawings. So why use Drawings? Here are eight reasons:

  • It’s collaborative which is nice if you’re working with a team.
  • Projects are easily shared with others.
  • It syncs between locations so you can start a drawing on your laptop and finish it on your tablet. 
  • It is minimalist which means it is easy to learn, intuitive to use, and with only exactly what you need for most drawings.
  • It’s easy to find. Rather than trying to remember where you created your drawing, Drawings are all saved to your Google Drive. 
  • Edits are easy. Just open the project from Drive and edit.
  • The project can be shared as a link or embedded into many different locations with an embed code found under File>Publish to the web
  • A project can be downloaded as a .jpg, a .png, a vector graphic, or a PDF

Here are eight projects perfect for writers:

Brainstorming, mindmap to plan your story

Create the bubbles and arrows popular to mindmaps with Google Drawings rather than a dedicated mindmap tool like Since Drawings allows for collaborating and sharing, it’s easy to brainstorm a story if you’re co-authoring and come up with a collaborative solution everyone likes.

Here’s an example I created:


Comic strip another way to share your story

Create a comic strip trailer for your novel quickly and visually. Here’s an example:

Infographic about your story

Introduce your story with an infographic created in Drawings. Here’s a good video on how to create the shapes required for infographics. Once that’s done, add text boxes to describe your story.

Timeline (events in your plot)

I love timelines but most of the online tools are less than satisfactory (I won’t mention names). Google Drawings has become one of my favorites because of its minimalistic approach–add text boxes to identify events in the story and then add pictures. The example below uses a thick line, text boxes for events, and one picture to sum up the story:

Clickable map of your story

Create a map of the locations in your story. Add a picture that links to a rundown of what happens there in your story. Use this to inspire interest in potential readers.

Here’s an example of a story, based in the USA (though you won’t be able to click the red stars because I’ve uploaded a screenshot only):

plot map in google draw


In a literary world where getting noticed is critical, Google Drawings could be exactly the right tool.

More on Apps for Writers:

Digital Storytelling Tools

How to Screenshot

How to Use Canva in Your Writing

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019, first in the Crossroads Trilogy. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning


Book Launch Report

Blood and Water CoverLast month, I wrote about my book launch strategy and promised to return to let you know how it went. I feel like I learned a lot and I’m happy to share, but it’s important to remember that it’s impossible to copy someone else’s launch strategy and get the same result. There are simply too many variables: the quality of your book cover, blurb, and Amazon page. Your book’s genre. The day of the week. How books are selling this month.


Blood  & Water is my fourth book, so I’ve already done some of the work to establish myself. And I have two other traditionally published books that contribute to my overall sales strategy. For this book, I had a 99 cent pre-order phase followed by a 99 cent launch week. I launched November 21st, hoping to benefit from the Cyber Monday sales. I may have, but the four-day lull in sales right after Thanksgiving broke up the momentum of my rising sales rank. My highest rank was 10,000. I think you need three good sales days in a row to get into the top 100 in a category. With previous books, I’ve seen that getting into that list really drives sales.

Some of the promos I picked performed better than others. The $150 dollars I spent on inclusion in Publisher’s Weekly was a huge portion of my budget and, unless its impact is delayed, was the biggest mistake I made during this launch. I can recommend ENT, Bargain Booksy and Booksends, all of which gave a modest spike in sales and rank.  I saw no results from the Facebook boost, Bookbub ads or Genrecrave’s cover contest. I didn’t notice any sales caused by tweets or Facebook posts. Minus my sales, I spent another $127 on this week.

What’s next? I’m gong to sit back and wait for reviews to start rolling in. I bought a spot in Netgalley and I’m not planning to do more promotion until I have a substantial number of reviews. I’ll also be working on getting and keeping fans engaged on my newsletter. It really came in handy after the Pronoun debacle and I think it’s a must for indie authors. If you’d like to join mine, please click here!


My RE-launch

Blood and Water CoverLast month, I wrote an extensive post about my big plans for the launch of my new book, Blood & Water. Well, a month and a half into the two month pre-order phase, the online distributor I’d chosen announced it would be shutting down in January.

This left me two choices: I could yank my books now, losing the rank and all my sales I’d been building since October 1st or I could go through with the launch continuing to build my rank only to lose it in January.

I chose to cut my losses and go with the first option, but I understand why authors in a similar situation have done the opposite. It’s kind of a lose-lose proposition. I’ve spent the last week redoing most of what I’d spent over a month doing: reformatting the book for multiple platforms and contacting all the promo sites I’d set up with the new link. They’ve been really nice about it.

I’ve been grateful for the super nerdy, long to-do list I was keeping that has become the re-do list. I’m back on track for a November 21st release (tomorrow!), but you can pick it up now during the 99 cent pre-launch sale. Next month, I’ll return with some stats on whether my marketing strategy worked.

Google Forms: Great Tool for Indie Marketing

There are lots of free survey and polling sites (two popular options are PollDaddy and Survey Monkey), but often they limit the number of surveys you can create or how many questions you can include without ‘leveling up’ to a premium version. Among the writers I know who are always looking for ways to save their limited pennies, Google Forms is a run-away favorite. It is intuitive, flexible, professional, can be adapted to specific colors and images, and can be shared as a link or an embed. And there are many options that personalize the form.

Using available templates, a customized form can be completed in under five minutes. Responses are collected to a Google Spreadsheet (which is part of the same free Google Drive that includes Google Forms) that can be private or shared with participants and can be sorted and analyzed like any other spreadsheet.

How to use itgoogle forms

Google Forms is simple to use. Just follow these steps:

  • Open through your Google Drive (part of every free Gmail account), select ‘New’ and then ‘Forms’. Alternatively: Go directly to the Google Forms site.
  • If you get there through your Google Drive (New>Google Forms), you start with a generic form, much like the blank slides and docs you get in other Google Apps. If you get there through the Google Forms site, you’ll find six templates at the top of the page covering a variety of projects from an RSVP to data gathering. Select your choice and it will populate the template.
  • On the right side of the form are formatting options, from background and images to adding video and additional questions.
  • On the upper right are options for changing colors, previewing, and set-up.
  • Edit form title, questions, descriptions, and answers by clicking in the field.
  • When you edit a question, you get nine options for how you want the question answered–everything from short answer to multiple choice to other popular options. Some will require input on the questions (such as multiple choice). Complete those.
  • Indicate whether this is a required question using the slider button at the bottom right.
  • Drag-drop questions as needed to rearrange the form.
  • Any form question can be duplicated and then edited.
  • When you’re done, share the form by embedding it into a blog or website, or by sending out the link.
  • Track answers using the Response tab at the top of the form. This will populate as people return the form.

Here’s a video on how to use Google Forms.


How to use Google Forms in your writing

Here are my top five favorites:

Create an assessment for a writing class you teach

This can be a rubric, multiple choice, short answer, or other options. It can be based on information the student has prepared or something you shared in class (for example: You showed an image and ask students to select the right answer using the form’s ‘multiple choice grid’ option). Google will even grade the form for you, share results, and provide answer hints so they understand why the correct answer is the right choice.

Create request lists for your materials

This could be to request for a Review Copy or ARC (Advance Review Copy) of your latest novel, your appearance at a reading, or to find beta readers. The entire process is done online. The interested party fills out the Google Forms request form and you’re notified via email of the request.

Collect sign-ups for your blog hop

Interested people answer a series of questions about how they’d like to participate and when. 


Use Google Forms to collect any activity that benefits from an RSVP response.

Collect data for your newsletter

Use Forms to collect data about newsletter subscribers or anything else associated with your writing activities.  

Here are examples of forms I created with this amazing program:

–first published on TeachHUB

More on Google in the classroom:

Embed a File from Google Drive

Google Gravity

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her non-books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. The sequel to To Hunt a Sub, Twenty-four Days, is scheduled for May, 2017. Click to follow its progress.

12 Surprises I Found Marketing My Debut Novel, To Hunt a Sub

quirksMarketing To Hunt a Sub, my debut novel, is a whole lot different from my non-fiction pieces. In those, I could rely on my background, my expertise in the subject, and my network of professional friends to spread the word and sell my books. Fiction–not so much. For one thing, I don’t have expertise in the topic I wrote about. Nor do I have prior fiction novels that have buttressed my reputation. So I did what I have always done when preparing for the unknown: I researched. I read everything I could find on how to market a novel, collected ideas, made my plan, and jumped in without a backward glance.

Well, now that much of the marketing is done, there are a few pieces I wish I’d done differently:

  • I participated in the Kindle Scout to mentally kick-off my campaign. That took longer than I expected which set me back a few weeks.
  • Uploading my manuscript to Kindle was easy, but took more preparation than I’d planned. The preparation was along the line of ‘tedious’, not ‘complicated’. No brainpower required; just time.
  • Many fellow bloggers offered to help with my blog hop, and I wish I’d kept better track of that aspect. I did have a spreadsheet, but I didn’t include enough detail.
  • I wish I’d included interview questions in the blog hop articles. Several bloggers I follow did this, but I skipped it to save time. I wish I hadn’t.
  • I should have used Facebook and Twitter more. Here’s what Stephanie Faris, efriend and published author of the Piper Morgan series, says about a Facebook account:

Facebook is where you’ll find your friends and relatives. You’ll also find your fourth-grade teacher, your kindergarten best friend, and pretty much everyone who has ever mattered in your life. These are the people who are most likely to buy your book and tell everyone they meet about it. All you have to do is post a picture of your book and your real supporters will ask where they can get a copy.

Stephanie actually suggests the same sort of approach for Twitter. I have a Twitter account, but I forgot to use it enough!

  • Take that a step further: I should have FB’d and Tweeted the posts of my blog hop folks. Duh–that seems so obvious now.
  • I wish I’d reached out to my local library and bookstores to see if there’s appetite for a book signing or chat. Well, I could still do that!
  • I didn’t follow up well enough on fellow bloggers who offered their help. Thankfully, many of them reached out to me–emailed me with questions or confirmation of dates. I wish I’d reached out more.

A few essential pieces that I gleaned from the experience of fellow bloggers and/or just seemed logical but–surprisingly–everyone doesn’t do:

  • Kindle Scout was a good first step because it forced me to create the necessary marketing pieces for the ultimate campaign–blurb, one-line summary, pristine document, and polished cover.
  • Visit the blog hop host and respond to comments.
  • Take blog hop visits one step further: Visit the blogs of those who comment. Join their conversations. Be a friend.
  • Read the books of your blog hosts. Usually, they’re Indies–between $0.00 and $2.99. That’s a small investment to promote your book and often, you come away with excellent entertainment for a few days. Then, review them. Add the review to not only Amazon, but Goodreads which has become the go-to location for readers and writers.

What tips do you have for marketing a new novel? What’s worked best for you?

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

31+ Ideas to Market Your Novel

marketing woahsAt a recent #IWSG confab, I was whining to online friends about the difficulty of marketing my books. I got a long list of great comments, both on the blog and via emails from writers who have suggestions that worked well for them.

I shared these on my blog and now want to share them with you so we can build the conversation, I chose a Google Spreadsheet for its ease of viewing and curative approach. If you’re familiar with Excel, it’s quite like that, but easier to share out and collaborate on.

Using this method, we can:

  • read everyone’s thoughts
  • share ideas by clicking the link and adding contributions to the bottom of the spreadsheet (it’s set to share and edit)
  • repost the spreadsheet to your blog where you collect ideas from your readers. Those will automatically be updated on this post’s spreadsheet (and Today’s Author readers’ contributions will appear on your blog). If we can repost this to lots of blogs, the list should become a comprehensive litany of what we writers do to get the good word out.

What have you done that’s worked? What are you going to try? Just click this link:

…and append your ideas to the bottom row. And, please reshare either by reblogging this post or grabbing the spreadsheet and sharing that way.

I can’t wait to see how much we’ll all learn from each other!


More on marketing:

4 Reasons You Want a PLN and 13 Ways to Build One

Top Ten Marketing Tips for Your Ebook

5 Top Steps to Market Your Books this Summer

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Preparing a Novel for Publication – Preparation, Pre-orders, and Promotions, oh my!

Professional publication isn’t easy. Whether you’re traditionally published or self-publishing, you need to present yourself professionally. How your book looks, on the inside and out matters. How you promote your book also matters. Today, I’m going to walk you through how I, a self-publishing author, navigate the murky waters of publication while attempting to be as professional as I possibly can be.

I’m going to draw your attention to one important thing: If you act like a professional, treat yourself and others in a professional fashion, and treat your work like it is a professionally produced product, at the end of the day, you are a professional. It doesn’t matter if you spend $1,500 to produce a novel (like I do) or if you spend $0.00. Professionalism isn’t about budget. It’s about behavior, planning, and executing your publishing plans.

Having a budget helps, though.

I’m going to walk you through how I’ve been working on my upcoming novel, Winter Wolf, from start to finish, including tidbits and tips for a smooth release.

My Process:

  1. Outlining
  2. Drafting
  3. Editing
  4. Cover Art and back-of-cover copy
  5. Pre-Orders
  6. Promotions
  7. Formatting
  8. Publication

1: Outlining, 2: Drafting, 3: Editing

This is pretty self explanatory, so I’m not going to waste a lot of words on it and will instead jump straight to my unasked-for advice: Write your book, and make it as professional as you can. I hired two editors to help me whip Winter Wolf into shape. I’m working like some professional publishing houses do: the publication date is set when the book isn’t completed yet. Unless you are an experienced professional, do not do this. Deadlines like this are serious, and cannot be missed.

  • For most people, the pre-order and promotions phases will not begin until after the editing phase is completed. Your mileage may vary.
  • In this phase, professionalism is really important. Listen to your editors. Let them be picky. They’re improving your novel. Leave your ego at the front door, and always be polite.
  • If you aren’t using editors (not recommended!) then you should take extreme care and caution with your work. Use your word processor’s grammar checker, and confirm each and every rule. If you’re breaking a rule, you need to know the rule and why it’s acceptable to break it.
  • Use a synonym checker and master list of commonly misused words. Their and there are two different words! So are where, were, and ware.

Fun Fact: My outline for Winter Wolf was so detailed it was pretty much a first draft, which in turn makes the drafting and editing process much smoother. It took well over a week to completely detail the novel, make corrections, and do my developmental editing chores. As a result, the drafting and editing phase is well ahead of schedule.

4: Cover Art and Back-of-Cover Copy

Winter Wolf by RJ Blain This is the finished cover for my upcoming novel, Winter Wolf. Due to the importance of the cover art, I actually ordered the cover art from my artist, Chris Howard, in the very early stages of production. Once Chris started working on the cover, it took approximately a month to finish. The texting, commonly referred to as typography, was done independently with a different graphic designer.

A professional cover artist can help you create an attractive, compelling cover. But also remember that not all cover artists are graphic designers, and you want a graphic designer handling your typography.

Since the cover should tie to the novel, I did the back-of-cover blurb shortly after the cover art was completed. It took me about five hours to come up with my blurb, and I didn’t finalize it until I gauged the interest from some fans and readers.

Here’s the blurb I’m using:

The Hunted Wizard

When Nicole dabbled in the occult, she lost it all: Her voice, her family, and her name. Now on the run from the Inquisition, she must prove to herself—and the world—that not all wizards are too dangerous to let live.

The savage murder of a bookstore employee throws Nicole into the middle of Inquisition business, like it or not. Driven by her inability to save the young man’s life, she decides to hunt the killer on her own. Using forbidden magic to investigate the past, she learns that the murderer is in fact a disease that could kill the entire werewolf race.

Forced to choose between saving lives and preserving her own, Nicole embraces the magic that sent her into exile. Without werewolves, the power of the Inquisition would dwindle, and she could live without being hunted.

Nicole’s only hope for success lies in the hands of the werewolves she hates and the Inquisition she fears, but finding someone to trust is only the beginning of her problems. There are those who want to ensure that the werewolves go extinct and that the Inquisition falls.

But, if she fails to find a cure, her family—including her twin sister—will perish…

Why did I choose this blurb? I feel it has the important elements of a good blurb: It has a character who has a problem to solve. It tells a bit of what the story is about–but not too much. Finally, it hints at the consequences of the character’s failure, and what she gains should she succeed.

These are the types of blurbs that appeal to me, which is why I asked friends and fans for their opinions. I settled on this blurb because it resonates with me, and it’s also appealing to others who like the type of stories I write. That’s important–you want to write a blurb which attracts readers who enjoy the types of stories you write.

These were all marketing decisions, as the blurb is one of many weapons in my publication arsenal.

Tip: Professionals don’t insult the tastes of readers in their blurbs. The blurb is about the book, not you, your opinions, and whether or not you think books of whatever sub genre are boring. Exceptions may apply, especially in parody works.

5: Pre-order

Amazon recently opened pre-order functionality to self-publishing authors. Winter Wolf is my initial experience into the pre-ordering system. Here’s a very brief walkthrough of how it works from a writer’s perspective, and how to set it up:

1: Fill in the book data as normal.

However, this time, you have the option of marking a ‘finalized file’ or a ‘draft manuscript.’ For Winter Wolf, I am using a dummy manuscript of the approximate length of the actual book. The manuscript isn’t ready to be finalized, nor will it be ready until mid October. Most authors should not do this. I’m good at meeting my deadlines, and I’m experienced with doing so. If you are not the same way, absolutely do not start a pre-order unless you are 100% certain you can have the finalized manuscript ready on time. Amazon will ban those who fail to have their manuscripts ready from the pre-order system for one full year.

You do not want this.

Tip: Professionals meet their deadlines.

2: Select a date

Amazon and other pre-order services require the finalized manuscript two complete weeks prior to the novel’s official release date. Most services will ban you from pre-ordering if you fail to have the manuscript prepared on time. Yes, I’m repeating myself, but it’s really that important.

Buyers will be able to see your pre-order approximately 24 hours after submission, where they can click “pre-order” to buy the book. They’ll be charged for the book on the day of the novel’s release.

6: Promotions

Armed with your pre-order links, you can arrange any promotions you want without having the stress of doing a soft launch or needing to get links to your bloggers at the last minute. This is a huge relief, as someone who had to do this. My previous novel’s release was beyond hectic, as I didn’t have buy links until the last minute.

  • Research your promotion companies–there are great ones, and there are scams. Research, and don’t accept the first site you find as the final say. The hours you spend researching may save you a lot of grief and heartache later.
  • Many promotion firms require at least six to eight weeks to prepare for a tour or single-day blast promotion.
  • I’m using six different groups for promotion of Winter Wolf. I’m really proud of this novel, and I feel it is worth the investment.

Tips on Professionalism: When working with promotion groups, stay polite, if you’re asked for something, deal with it as soon as possible, and have patience. A single advertising campaign may take you hours to properly prepare.

7: Formatting

Sometime between the editing phase and the publication date, formatting the novel is necessary. You’ll need to format twice; once for the ARC, and once for the production copy. You may need to format three times, if you’re doing a print manuscript. From past experience, it takes me several hours to format a novel for publication, and I’m experienced enough to have streamlined the process.

  • The interior of your novel matters. Do it right. If you can’t, hire someone to do it right for you. If you don’t know how to do it right, learn–do not publish until you’ve mastered your formatting. Always check for errors if you’re converting files.
  • As with many things, plans included, ‘Keep it simple, stupid!’ applies–the simpler your formatting is, the less likely there will be problems over different devices.
  • My first formatting run is done a month prior to the novel’s release so I can send the book to reviewers. The second formatting run is for the finalized version, which will be done several days before my deadline for submission.

8: Publication

Two weeks prior to the official publication date, the finalized manuscript goes into all systems. At this stage, I’ll be completely done. On publication day, all I’ll have to do is sit back and watch.

That’s how my novel is being dealt with this time–a very drastic difference compared to how my other books were produced. This method won’t work for everyone. However, the basic principles of professionalism still apply, no matter how you approach completing your novel.

In short, these are the things I’d suggest to you if you want to carry yourself as a professional:

  1. Swallow your ego and correct your mistakes.
  2. Don’t argue with people helping you. Either use their advice or don’t, but listen and keep quiet unless you have a question.
  3. Always be polite–even if it means gaining a reputation of being old fashioned from saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ so much.
  4. If you can’t be kind to a reviewer of your book, don’t say a word.
  5. If you say you’ll do something, do it.
  6. Don’t miss your deadlines. (Excuses won’t get Amazon to overturn the 1 year ban from pre-ordering.)
  7. Edit your novel.
  8. Proofread your novel.
  9. Proofread your novel again. People are paying you for your book. You don’t want basic mistakes! (All books have them, just fix them when someone finds one.)
  10. Yet again, proofread your novel.

Good luck.

Getting on the Promotion bandwagon for your book

With self publishing and indie publishers being the choice for many writers to get their work published, the matter or promotion and marketing is one which weighs heavily on the minds of the authors. Although I haven’t had the experience of being published with a ‘traditional’ large firm publisher, I have both self-published and had work published with small and reputable indie publishers; and from all accounts, regardless of what sort of publisher you go with, the promotion of one’s book lands almost squarely on the author. While a traditional large firm publisher may set up a few book signings or send out a media kit to a few marketing firms, this often is all they do. It’s therefore important to become your own promotions bandwagon and peddle your own goods; after all – who else is as passionate as you are about your characters and storyline?

Social Networks
Love it or hate it, the success of your book comes from it being visible to a wide range of people and the best way to do this is through social networks. Get yourself noticed by having a wide range of profiles, including Goodreads, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter.

Have a profile
Its not enough to have a facebook page and a blog or website with your details on it. The internet is jam packed with information. Unless it is immediately relevant, visitors click past your profile. By all means, have the facebook/myspace/google+ profile page, but also have active blogs. Keeping a blog specifically giving your opinion on writing or reviews of work will set you apart from those whose profiles are stagnate. However, you need to participate and be part of the community to be noticed. Become a voice within your online community or special internet interest group by joining forums, posting comments on blogs and giving advice, rather than with negativity or pushing your own barrow.

If you are a writer, you need to be a reader as well. Review others’ books (either on Amazon, Goodreads or on your own blog), giving them honest feedback. Others see through transparent and blatant self promotions – so don’t be tempted to add a little tag line about your own work. You will be respected in the long run if you have considered and valuable advice or opinions to share, and others will be more likely to consider reading one of your books and reviewing it if you have shown that you are willing to be part of the community.

Start by getting profiles on these sites

Use Twitter the smart way
I have been as guilty as the next person with twitter junkmail. Nothing turns off a follower more quickly than having the same, boring links selling things being posted up on their wall. This social networking medium can be an extremely targeting and beneficial tool, if used correctly.

Find an online twitter system which will automate your tweets such as ‘social oomph’, “Tweet add” or ‘tweet later’. Set up a series of scheduled tweets with links to where your book can be purchased – but don’t sound like a broken record. Have a list of different quotes or ways to promote your work in interesting ways, rather than ‘buy this book’. Consider using the professional version (one you pay for) for a short time as it really saves time and effort.

Target your tweets by using hashtags. Participate in chats and groups who would be your target audience. For example, if your book is a recipe book, use hashtags such as #foodchat. Unless it involves spaceships and aliens, it would not be beneficial to tweet with science fiction hashtags.(though it might actually be funny…)

Tell people about it.
This is a pretty simple concept – email, facebook message or print flyers and hand them to your neighbours, work colleagues and within your community.  Post your exciting news on your blog, remembering to include things like links to where readers can purchase the book, or meet you for a book signing.

Participate in a blog tour
Book tours sound grand and from all accounts can be hard work. Try one where you don’t leave your lounge chair and do it virtually. Many writers are part of an online community of like-minded writers. Most of these people have their own blog – or multiple blogs. Ask a handful of your blogging comrades to either review your book, or to post up a blurb you can send them.  Make sure they include the links to where readers can buy the book.  An example of this is here 

Think of creative ways to promote the book 
Some people are great with graphic art, or making youtube clips, or talking to the church congregation.  Use your skills and work in your comfort zone to let people know about the anthology and encourage them to buy it.  In the past, we have done book trailers – either for anthologies or for novellas.  Here are some links to some to give you an idea.
New Sun Rising – Charity Anthology 
Unseelie Court 
Historys Keeper 
Dust and Death 

Buy the book
Again – a simple enough concept, besides, who doesn’t want to see their words in print?

Throw a party
Why not celebrate your publication by inviting some friends around for an afternoon tea or drinks?  It can be a simple affair, with crackers and cheese, or as lavish as you want it. Why not buy a stack of the books and do an ‘Author signing”?  If you aren’t financial enough to buy books to give away to your family and friends, ask them to buy one and put in a bulk order to be opened on your party date. Even if your party is celebrating with one friend, its important to recognise the achievement you have made in being published.

Throw a virtual party
Facebook has a function called ‘events’. You can set up a virtual book launch or party on a specific day and invite all and sundry to it. Explain in the details tab that it is a virtual party as some people still don’t ‘get’ it. Encourage your friends from all around the world to post photos of them celebrating or congratulating you on your publication. Encourage your friends to invite others and promote it with giveaways or prizes or run little competitions or giveaways during the day. Particularly if you have an ebook version, you may consider giving a copy of that away to the 10th person who posts a photo, or the person who answers a pop quiz right in the next hour. Make it as light-hearted and fun or as serious as you choose. The whole idea is to promote not only your book, but you as a writer. People will take more notice of others that they have felt a connection with, rather than just a blank email or face staring out at them.,

Of course you can follow all of this up with letters to independent bookstores, schools (if the content is appropriate) and libraries, who are often delighted to be able to have a ‘live‘ author willing to do a talk about their book. Ensure you have copies of your book for signings and quick sales as people who are interested will buy them from you on the spot, but will often forget when it comes to purchasing online.

That all said and done, word of mouth and honest reviews will most often be the best advertising you can get. The bottom line to promotion is to get your name and your work out into the hands and minds of a wide range of readers in as many different forms as you can manage. Good luck and have fun with it.

How to Kickstart Your Writing Career

music-23790_640You want to be a writer–have lusted after this golden ring since … forever. You took writing classes, attended seminars and conferences, read a whole bunch of books. You did NaNoWriMo, NaNoBloMo, entered contests. You finished a novel, sent it out–and nothing. It’s like the Void. No answer. No fireworks. No welcoming arms lauding your achievement. No excitement over the fulfillment of a decade of work.

No biggy. You know from talking to friends that it’ll be up to you to write, market, sell, and write some more.

But how do you do that?

You build a brand. You create a name so when people see you’ve written a book, they rush out to buy it–or at least, check it out.

How do you do this?

By writing.

A lot.

I have 110 published non-fiction books. You’d think by shear weight, I’d be famous. Anyone who’s published that much must be. Truth? No one would know me if I didn’t (constantly) work the marketing. Because I do, if you Google ‘tech teacher’, I’m on the first page (often above the fold). If you Google ‘Ask a tech teacher’ even without the quotes, I’m above the fold on the first page. If you Google ‘KidPix’ (a popular drawing software for K-5, one that gets tens of thousands of daily hits), I’m on the first page.

Why? Because I do the following:

  • blog. Constantly. I have 6 blogs and each focuses on one topic. I write 2-5 posts a week on each. I don’t mix posts (except for the rare crossover). I don’t do the ‘journal’ type blog, the one that tells readers everything you did with your day. I don’t believe those are as effective in branding you as addressing a single topic and making yourself the expert on it. And, I avoid politics. That’s incendiary. People get mean.
  • participate in social media like Twitter, G+. A few rules to making your social media presence effective:
    • be positive
    • be supportive
    • be up-beat
    • be helpful
    • be free
    • be focused. Follow people with your interests. Don’t follow others. This means I have 4 Twitter accounts, one for each of my interest areas.
    • don’t be commercial or sales-y. It doesn’t go over well in social media.
  • participate in what’s trending on the internet. I keep an open mind for new socialization methods. Who knew Pinterest would become the go-to place for spreading the word? Today, I get about 15% of my blog hits from this still-new networking approach. And how about Instagram? I never heard of it before my students mentioned it–over and over.
  • network. Join LinkedIn for business, FB and G+ for pleasure (although there’s a lot of crossover with G+. I’m now doing business hang-outs there)
  • join book groups like Goodreads, LibraryThing. If you love reading and writing, you need a presence there. I post all of my reviews on Goodreads and–much to my surprise–often hear from the authors. We chat, like normal people. Who knew they were so approachable?
  • link all your online media. When I post a blog, it is cross-posted on Twitter, FB, G+, LinkedIn, and any number of other social media locations of my choice. It makes me look busy, vibrant, alive, active–all good characteristics for a freelancer.
  • tell readers how to reach you and what you can do for them. Me, I created a separate gmail account so I wouldn’t have to share my personal one. I use it often in profiles, bios, and posts.
  • reblog your posts for six+ months ago to your Twitter stream. I use a cool widget that does it automatically for me. Early on, I realized I needed an inventory of articles to make my blog/etc look more robust, so I committed to writing every day for as long as I could stand it. Sure, it was a massive time drain, but eventually, I accomplished my goal of offering sufficient material that I looked experienced and knowledgeable. Currently, I have several thousand posts that my widget can draw on. Every four hours, it reposts one. Because I have many new followers, it’s new to them. I often see them retweeted and Scooped.
  • have Pillar Posts–a collection of your best writing that is easily accessible. Use it any time you are required to provide samples. I showcase twenty-four in the sidebar of my blog. This gives readers a taste of your writing skills. It gives prospective employers an idea of what they’ll get when they engage your journalistic skills.
  • write for free to spread the word. I got into a massive discussion about the wisdom of doing this. After many posts back and forth (and a large group of writers weighing in), even after being forced to delve into my reasons and understand the whys and whats, I remain convinced it is a good decision for me. I carefully select who gets my stuff for free, hoping they will get my name out to audiences who might not meet me otherwise or who I want to see me as knowledgeable in my area of expertise. I will write articles for my selected outlet for 6-12 months and then re-evaluate. Is it accomplishing my goals? Am I getting return hits? Does the splash back offset time requirements? I drop those who fail my test and add new ones.
  • attach a bio to each article you write. Mine includes a rundown on my expertise. I had trouble ‘bragging’ at first, but now I don’t even notice I’m doing it.
  • answer every contact you get. I take them all seriously because I appreciate the interest. I try to put myself in their shoes, consider their perspective as I address their question.
  • visit everyone who comments and/or ‘likes’ your posts. This is time consuming, but the best way to develop a network. I can’t tell until I’ve spent some time with new e-friends whether there’s synergy, so I invest the time.
  • share your knowledge–as much as possible–for free. Sure, you can’t share everything because there’d be nothing to sell, but the internet is about building the whole. A rising tide raises all ships should be its motto. If you’re not willing to become part of the community, you won’t make it there.

Because I do these fourteen activities relentlessly, people do notice me. I get requests to write reviews, analyze new products, serve on committees and boards, write columns for other ezines (like Cisco), consult in my area of expertise, mentor. It’s not a fortune, but it’s a living. I know from talking to people on my blogs, social networks, some even in person, that the goal isn’t wealth, rather to make a living doing what we love.

Follow these ideas. You can do it.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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