Top Ten Tuesday: Blogging (and bookish) confessions

toptentuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is ten blogging confessions. But the example post they gave is for bookish confessions. Because I doubt I can manage ten blogging confessions. Although maybe I can. Let’s see…

Sometimes I draft blog posts at work, although I don’t post them from there, because my employer’s firewall has a JUST SAY NO policy about social media, even blocking helpful blogs like Grammar Girl. Probably the most notable work-drafted post is this one: What not to say to your editor. Because I was very angry. (For the record, the writer I blogged about there is getting a tiny bit better … although this week he defended a word choice because he was using it in a “commonly understood way that any English speaker would understand”. Except me, apparently. But at least he says thank you now.)

If I buy an ebook and love it beyond all reason, I order the paperback afterwards. I just can’t help myself. I’ve got six full-size bookshelves that are getting very cluttered. And I love to look at my pretties. The only catch is that if it’s a POD release (via small press or indie publication), I usually wait till it’s available on The Book Depository. Amazon’s paperbacks might be cheap, but the shipping to Australia can double the price of a book from them.

I don’t blog about things I really want to share. Like most writers who are querying manuscripts, I’ve found there are various highs and lows on that journey, and sometimes I really want to do a virtual happy dance or cry into my WordPress pillow. That’s one of the reasons that writers who post saying they have an agent or a contract are so giddy about it. Because finally they can TELL PEOPLE. (See here. And here.) Even now, there are things I could blog. But I cannot blog the things. Perhaps one day.

Why can’t I blog the things? Because querying agents and publishers is like Fight Club. You don’t talk about it. If you’re not sure why, read The Art of Oversharing by Summer Heacock. It’s both educational and horrifying.

c49b2-yabounktourbuttonI signed up to a blog tour company’s promo emails to get extra content. The one I chose was YA Bound, as I’m sure regular followers of my blog will have already figured out, on account of their logo being splattered all over certain blog posts. That’s where most of my book blitz posts with excerpts and giveaways come from. But on the bright side, I’ve discovered some awesome-sounding books that way. Now to just find the time to read them all… (Note: they also regularly have slots available for reviews as part of book tours, so if you’re a baby book blogger looking to get your hands on more books to read, check them out!)

I almost never review books in exchange for free copies. I can only think of two instances where I have. One was Twelve Steps, by one of last year’s successful Pitcharama entrants, and one was Silver Tides, over at Aussie Owned and Read before we got our two book reviewers on board. The reason is that I have *counts* fifty-nine paperbacks or hardcovers sitting here waiting to be read, plus two I’ve ordered that haven’t arrived yet and a preorder that hasn’t been released yet, PLUS at least another twenty ebooks on my Kindle. At the speed I read that’s enough to get me through till at least Christmas 2015.

Assuming I don’t buy any more books before then.

Which I will.

As an aside, I have over 80 books on my to-be-read pile. And that doesn’t count the pendng releases I haven’t preordered. Holy crapbiscuits! That’s more than I was expecting.

I used to rarely review books at all, anywhere. But then a bunch of awesome writers I know and love from Twitter and Aussie Owned had their books come out and I know how valuable reviews can be for new writers trying to break through and make a name for themselves. (This doesn’t mean I lie in my reviews, mind you; I do mention any things I don’t like alongside the stuff I do.) Since then I’ve expanded it to include most books that I read.

Except for the children’s books. Because you probably don’t care much about my struggles to read The BFG aloud to my son. That dialogue was haaaaaaaaard, you guys.

I read a lot of blogs, but rarely comment. I know I’m not alone in this, given how many hits my blog gets a day relative to the number of comments. In my case, it’s because I use email subscriptions to keep track of my favourite blogs; I read most of them in my email client on my smart phone, which doesn’t make it very easy to write something in reply. I’m more likely to pin a post I love or tweet a link to it than I am to comment.

I try really, really hard to only use open source, free graphics. Occasionally I buy stock, such as that fireworks graphic I used on Saturday. But sometimes the desire for an animated Pixar or Doctor Who gif overwhelms me. I just hope that, if Disney and the BBC come after me, they decide it was more of a homage than theft. It’s not like I’m hosting entire shows here, after all. HOWEVER, I feel very strongly about stealing art for use on blogs. Don’t do it, kids. (Or if you do, at least link back to the artist’s page so it’s more like a free advertisement. They may forgive you, then. Of course, they may not — it’s always better to get permission. Be squeaky clean.)

I schedule almost all my blog posts. I expect most people do, so this may not be a shock. But the best time for me to post is in the morning, Australian time, because then that also catches the US evening crowd. And since by then I’m usually either on my way to or at work (with its unfriendly social media firewall), that means I have to schedule stuff.

On that note, it’s dinnertime and I’m hungry. 😉

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First Tweets: the Aussie Owned and Read crew

So, to celebrate its eighth birthday Twitter has launched something called First Tweet, where you can discover any Twitter user’s, well, first tweet.

For fun, I decided to do a search on each of the Aussie Owned and Read bloggers and see what their immortal first words were. They don’t know I’m doing this, so I hope there’s nothing too embarrassing there…

Aussie Owned and Read

AOR

Lauren, co-founder

Lauren_1st_tweet

Stacey, co-founder

Stacey_1st_tweet

Emily

Emily_1st_tweet

Katie

Katie_1st_tweet

Kim

Kim_1st_tweet

Sharon

Sharon_1st_tweet

Suse

Suse_1st_tweet

Cait

Cait_1st_tweet

Heather

Heather_1st_tweet

Hahaha, I love these girls! 😀

In the interests of fairness, here’s mine:

Cass_1st_tweet

I’d be interested to know, what was your first tweet? Have you seen any absolute corkers? It’s a funny thing, because almost everyone (with the exception of Joss Whedon, who got over 100k followers in 24 hours) tweets their first tweet to an audience of one. They’ll have no followers, and no one will notice. This tool lets everyone go back and see what those potentially embarrassing mumblings were. (For example, @abcnews, our national broadcaster’s news network, tweeted “pwn3d”. That’s what happens when you let the work experience kid set up the account, I suppose.)

AussieOwned_Contributor


Where in the world is Cassandra Page?

(Ok, the title is a reference to Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, which you’re all no doubt too young to get. With your clothes. And your music. *shakes walking stick*)

Carmen Sandiego

Carmen Sandiego – straight from the 1980s. Woo!

The last week has been big with the crazy around my place. My son started preschool, and the same day we drove to Sydney so he could have his eyes tested at the eye hospital there. The results were a bit of a shock: it turns out he’s night blind.

Sort of explains why he’s afraid of the dark. 😦

He’s fine and it’s not degenerative, so it could be much, much worse. But it took me a day or two to adjust my thinking to the whole idea.

Also, my phone line and ADSL have been down. Hopefully by the time you’re reading this they are back, but I’m drafting this post using a 3G dongle I just bought. It feels as slow as dial up did back in the day, although without that charming screech when it connects. (Speaking of the stone age…)

Anyway, I have been kicking around the rest of the internet during my absence here. Spefically there are three places I’ve been lurking this past week — in case you missed me trying and mostly failing to share the links on my phone.

Today I posted the Aussie Owned and Read Valentine’s Day poll. (Yes, I know it’s a day early  — shush.) You may recall that I had a blog post up last month calling for nominations. Well, this is where the final battle will be fought. With heart-shaped pillows and arrows made of chocolate. Or something.

On Sunday I made a cameo at Laura Catherine’s blog, talking about the many wonders of scheduling everything from tweets to emails to blog posts (ahem).

And on Monday I was K. A. Last’s guest over at her blog. I talked about using the everyman, familiar cultures and familiar myths as a way of grounding your speculative fiction reader.

I’ll try to be more organised in future. I promise. xo


Twitter etiquette: auto-DMs

Spam makes baby twitter bird sad.

Spam makes baby twitter bird sad.

I recently got into a discussion with someone on Twitter after I unfollowed them. They tweeted me and asked why, and what they could do to win me back.

Never mind the fact that I’ve never had anyone do that before — most people, especially those with thousands of followers like this person — take the occasional loss of a follower in their stride. I’d  never had a personal interaction with this person beforehand, and had only followed them for a few days before I unfollowed.

I tried to explain my reasons to them (as I write this I still haven’t decided whether to relent on the unfollow). And I’ll explain them here for you.

DO NOT SEND TWITTER DMS TO PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW, ASKING THEM TO DO STUFF.

This is spam. It doesn’t matter whether the DM contains a link, or even whether you’re asking them to do stuff on behalf of someone else — it’s still spam: an unsolicited request to do something they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Think of it like this. When you tweet, your followers see the tweet in their timeline. If they’re looking at the time, anyway. They can either choose to read it or ignore it, and if they choose to read it they can then elect to do the thing you’re asking them to do, or not. It’s like an ad on TV, or in a magazine.

When you DM someone, they will definitely read it, sure. But it’s more like telemarketing: ringing someone up (probably at dinnertime!) and asking them for stuff. I don’t like people ringing me, or DMing me, unless I know them or have otherwise invited contact.

A lot of people send auto-DMs when you follow them. Some are just “hey, thanks for the follow”. Others contain links to blogs and things — which is, to my mind, a little obnoxious. Put the link in your bio; I’ll find it if I want to.

For the record, I usually don’t unfollow someone for this particular offence. But I know people who do, so my advice would be don’t do it.

The person I unfollowed not only sent the auto-DM welcome message (with link), but then went on to send another DM to all their followers a few days later. It didn’t contain a link, but it did ask me to do something. It was spam. Again.

I’ll give someone another chance once, but twice? When I don’t even know you? No thanks.

I think a lot of people with things to sell on Twitter are bewitched by the idea that a DM is a guaranteed read. What they don’t realise is that it’s almost always also guaranteed to piss people off.

If you want people to click on your blog link, or like you on Facebook, or do whatever it is you are tempted to ask them to do, then my suggestion is this: be engaging. Be sociable. Be friendly, and genuine. Don’t just tweet about your product — you can mention it, of course, but it shouldn’t be more than a quarter of your overall tweets (probably less). Talk about other things. Show that you’re a person.

And have the link in your bio, so that when you’ve won people over they click on the link because they want to. Because they like you, or are a fan.

Thus endeth the lesson/rant.


Blog memes – Thursday’s Children and #MondayBlogs

This is my last Thursday’s Children post. Not because I have decided to take my bat and ball and go home (no bat, and also — no home!), but because the organisers, Rhiann and Kristina, have decided that after organising it for a full year it’s time they moved on to a new project. I respect that, although I will miss the meme, which is about sharing the things that inspire you.

thurschilbadgejpgThe meme has been a great thing to get me blogging. Since I joined in April I’ve posted Thursday’s Children blog posts at least once a fortnight — depending on other blogging and real life commitments. And it’s also drawn some extra traffic to my blog that I otherwise might not have had, because each Thursday’s Children blog post is registered at a central list and the participants often drop in on other blogs to say hi and see what’s inspiring them.

And Thursday’s Children inspired me. Talk about the snake eating its own tail … in a nice way, obviously.

#MondayBlogs

If you’re a blogger and also on Twitter, there’s another meme you should be aware of: #MondayBlogs.

This was created by social media guru Rachel Thompson as a way for people to share their blog posts once a week, and to find and retweet others. It is, unsurprisingly, held every Monday — although given the various timezones around the world, Monday goes for way more than 24 hours.

Here are a few tips for participating in #MondayBlogs.

* Write a blog post that others will want to read.

* Tweet about it on Monday. Make sure you include the #MondayBlogs hashtag, and that your tweet actually reveals something about the post.

* If you also include the account name @MondayBlogs, they will retweet your post as well. (DON’T include the account name as the very first thing in the tweet, because that prevents your followers who don’t also follow @MondayBlogs from seeing it. Include a character — even a “.” will do — before the “@”.)

* You can find other blogs to read and retweet by either checking the hashtag contents or the @MondayBlog tweets. I prefer the latter because each tweet only appears once instead of dozens of times as it is retweeted.

* Try and retweet at least a few other people’s blog posts. (I try not to retweet too many links at once, which means I spread it out. And I always read the blog post first, to make sure I’m not inadvertently sharing something offensive — which is why I only manage to share a few each week.)

If you want to learn more, I recommend this post by Rachel Thompson.

Anway, to close, I’ll leave you with the children’s poem that inspired Thursday’s Children in the first place:

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

Click here to see this week’s other Thursday’s Children blog posts.


Twitter Contest to Win an E-Copy of ‘The Best Man’ by Ana Blaze

Beth Chase is too busy planning perfect weddings to worry about the lack of action in her own love life. But if she was looking for a man, she wouldn’t be looking at Colin Pratt. Her boss swears that Best Man Colin is a quiet scholar and science fiction writer who couldn’t possibly cause a fuss at his own brother’s wedding. He’s clearly never met the man in question. Snarky, sexy and more than a little inebriated, Colin is the final obstacle between Beth and the last perfect wedding she needs to make partner. Of course, when she helps him into a taxi at the end of the night she has no idea that he’s only just begun to poke holes in her professional exterior. Colin might have the skills to seduce a romance professional, but can he convince her that he’s the best man to share her happy ever after?

The Best Man By Ana Blaze

Find The Best Man on Goodreads, or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo or Smashwords. The Best Man is also available from Entranced Publishing.

Watch the trailer here.

 Contest Details

Entering is easy. Just tweet @ana_blaze and include the hashtag #TheBestMan between midnight EST on 7 June 2013 (NOW!) and 11:59 p.m. EST on 8 June 2013!

 For example, you could tweet:

@ana_blaze I married #TheBestMan I know.

@ana_blaze #TheBestMan is on my must read list.

@ana_blaze #TheBestMan made me breakfast in bed.

@ana_blaze I love sexy nerds. #TheBestMan

@ana_blaze I wish Beth would plan my wedding. #TheBestMan

@ana_blaze Being #TheBestMan is tough, but someone’s gotta do it.

or even just:

@ana_blaze  I want to read #TheBestMan!

You get the idea. Twitter rules ask that we don’t have too many duplicate tweets, so it’s best (and frankly way more cool) if you come up with your own tweet. Ana is really looking forward to seeing what folks come up with. And hoping for some tweets about how to be #TheBestMan. It’s also best if you are following Ana on Twitter. Apparently that’s the only way to guarantee that your tweet shows up in the search.

You’re welcome to tweet (and enter) more than once, but please not more than once an hour. Let’s not annoy the Twitter-folk too much.

This contest is open internationally.

Void where prohibited. 😦

You can find Ana at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Goodreads.


Website design: creating an attractive author image

Today’s guest post is by Amber A. Bardan, contemporary and paranormal romance writer and winner of North Texas Romance Writers of America‘s 2013 Great Expectations. 

I’m so excited to be guest blogging for Cassandra today! I thought I’d blog about something I know a little be about. My day job (as in the job that actually pays me money so I can spend the rest of the time writing) is as a Web and Graphic Designer. Let’s face it the reason you get an author website is so publishers and agents can look you up and see that you appear professional. Obviously you want your website or blog to look pretty, and thereby enhance your professional image.

It’s also the foundation of your one day ‘published author’ platform. I want to stop here a moment and say something; at the end of the day your writing is what is going to sell you – everything else is secondary so don’t stress too much if you have no domain, few blog followers, and only a couple of Twitter followers. These things are only a complement to good writing.

However, the advantage of setting yourself up professionally is that other writers, prospective readers or whomever our blog/website is targeting are far more likely to take you seriously if you look the part. So here are my tips on creating a good looking author website.

Creating Strong Visual Appeal

·         Keep it simple

Look at the majority of successful bloggers and aspiring writers; their blogs and websites are usually simple. If not, they usually have professionally designed themes.

Either way they are not generally loaded with photos, images, clip art, hundreds of colors or varying text sizes—it’s simple and consistent.

·         Quality graphics

If you are going to use graphics to enrich your website or blog make sure they are good quality, royalty-free images. Nothing looks worse than tacky clipart on a website. Sites like Shutterstock, iStock and Dreamstime have millions of beautiful, professional images available to purchase for a very small fee. You only need one great image to create a website background or blog banner.

·         Color Choice

This is the biggest problem with DIY websites and blogs! We all know ‘those’ websites with black background and yellow or magenta text… Apart from not being visually appealing, color choice effects visibility and your website’s or blog’s accessibility.

Chose two colors—with big contrast. You might introduce a third color for enhancement, but only use it with a light hand.

De-saturated colors work well. But always use web-safe colors (no neon yellow or magenta)

When using a color for a background or text I suggest always pairing it with white. For example, with a dusky blue background, use white text. With a white background, use dusky blue text. You can use more than one color against white, such as a white background with a dusky blue text and pale blue embellishments, but never put a colored text on a colored background. 

·         Templates and Professionals

Another option is to purchase professional services in the form of professional web design or web/blog templates. This option can give you a very professional and individual result—if you choose your source wisely. Of course, custom is the most expensive option but there are more affordable templates available from template stores for a small cost (some are even free). If you do choose this option ensure you do your research; look at portfolios and get a good understanding of what is included, what you need to do yourself, and total costs.

You can find Amber on Twitter or at her blog.

Amber A Bardan