Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: It’s never too early to start a writer’s platform.

The moment you make the decision that you want to become published, start thinking about a writer’s platform. It’s never too early. Get involved in Twitter — start connecting with other writers. Connect on Facebook — lock away a custom author’s page. Think about a blog/website. Maybe you like taking photos, so use Instagram. There are so many options. Let’s face it, agents, publishers and fans will google you. The more hits you can get on the Google search, the better off you’ll be.
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Facebook apps that access your Friends list are dangerous.

Originally, I had planned to post an entirely different post for this week, but a recent trend on Facebook has given me cause for great concern. I cannot remain silent knowing that there are so many out there putting themselves and their Friends at risk.

I’m talking about the growing trend in Facebook apps that access your Friends list. Some of these are appear to be harmless, listing who might be your partners in crime. However, there is a new app that is making the rounds. This particular app goes through your Friends list and their activities, and ranks your Friends in the order of those who have visited your profile the most. It might seem innocent on the surface, but in reality, it’s a violation of your Friends’  rights.

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Social Media

Hidden Private Messages on Facebook

Most users of Facebook are very much aware that the site developers are constantly changing things to improve the end-user experience. However, sometimes the changes mean that things go missing or unseen.

One of the changes means that random users can send you private messages (PM), even those who are not listed on your Friends list, however, you don’t necessarily receive them. How many times has someone said they sent you a PM and you have spent hours digging through your old messages trying to find the elusive message but to no avail? How many of those message requests has Facebook filtered such that you don’t see them?

Well, here’s how you can access your missing Facebook PMs.

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High School English: It’s Now Social Media

Things have changed so much since I was in high school. I distinctively remember being incredibly bored during English classes and challenging the teacher when she insisted that a particular Shakespearean passage was intended to reflect some ideology.

"How do you know? Did you know Shakespeare personally?"

Yeah, I was always a little too forthright for my own good.

However, in seeing what my teenage son now faces, I have found myself in a unique position to help him and other teenagers who might be in a similar position.

I don't normally write about personal things on this blog, but if you'll just bear with me for a moment, everything will become clear.

My 15-year-old son has just started NZQA Level 1. As one of his courses, he has elected to take English with Media. Gone are the days of analysing that Shakespearean text. Instead, they assess how various forms of media has influenced our written and spoken language. I must admit that I probably would have found English in high school much more interesting if I was watching movies and TV and listening to radio. But in today's world, media also includes the Internet.

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Checklist for Basic Online Platform Setup

This checklist is a starting point for a basic online platform. It is intended just as a reminder of the core elements common to most writer’s platforms. No specific detail is provided in this document as it is meant to be used in tandem with Hidden Traps: A Writer’s Guild to Protecting Your Online Platform, due to be released August 2017.

Other related posts and resources:

Twitter 101: The Who, What and Fun

Front Page of Twitter 101The biggest issue that any writer faces on Twitter is the ever-growing number of hashtags on Twitter. This handout explains how to set up an account with Twitter and get the most out of it as a writer. Discover some of the hashtags available for writers and what some of the basic pitfalls of Twitter are with ideas on how to avoid them.

Note: This version of this document refers to the Twitter system from late 2016 – early 2017. In March 2017, Twitter changed the way it handles replies and mentions.

Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: A writer’s platform is more than just on-line activities.

When writers hear the term writer’s platform, many immediately jump to the concept of on-line presence and the related activities. However, a writer’s platform is everything that you do in your capacity as a writer. It will include your local memberships, your writer’s groups, the conferences, the workshops, the local interviews, book fairs, classes, etc. Of course, your platform will also include any on-line activities as well, but don’t underestimate the power of your in-person activities.
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Facebook and a Writer’s Platform

I frequently find myself in the middle of a conversation on some forum about Facebook and how one might include that particular social media site into their writer's platform. There are a lot of things to consider.

Unlike Twitter, where you can have as many accounts as you do email addresses, on Facebook, you are meant to have only the one account. Yes, there are some writers out there who have two accounts: one for personal use and the other for their writing persona. For those that get away with it, good on you. However, for those considering doing this themselves, be warned. There have been reported cases where writers have been locked out of their accounts by Facebook because of this. This is a standing policy of Facebook: one account per user. If they discover that you have multiple accounts, they can and will put you in Facebook Jail. It's a real thing, people. Considered yourself warned.

So let's carry on and assume that you've joined the masses in Facebook with only one account. So now what?

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Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: Your writer’s platform will constantly change.

As we develop and grow as writers, so too must our writer’s platforms. We learn from our past and press forward into the future. Technology changes, as will the industry as a whole. If we don’t change with the times, then we’ll get swallowed up, never to resurface again. If you want to succeed in the writing industry, or any other industry for that matter, then you need to be prepared to adapt and change. In fact, your current activities may not be suitable in the future. Your platform, however it manifests itself, needs to reflect your current situation, developing and growing along with you and your writing.

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Pitching Blog Posts

Guest blogs can be a great way to get your name out there as a writer. Most blog hosts will allow you to have links to your various online accounts and are happy to include a brief bio and profile picture. Let’s face it, for the time and effort that it takes to write that blog post, you get free advertising. However, there are some rules that you should follow when it comes to pitching guest blog posts.

1) Do your research!

Just like in pitching a manuscript to an agent or publisher, you need to do your research. You have one question that you’re seeking answers to: is the blog somewhere you would be happy to have your work posted? Your name is going to be attached to an article on that blog, possibly for all time (at least until the blog host either takes your page down or the entire site down). As such, you need to ensure that you would be happy to have your name associated with that site. You might have other questions, such as site traffic, marketing, etc., however, it really comes down to the site and the blog itself.

Look at the site layout. Is it easy to find things? If your article was listed there, would readers be able to easily find it, or would it become quickly buried, never to see the light of day? Can you navigate the site? Is the site riddled with broken links? When was the last time any of the pages were actually updated? (Yes, you can get that information just from looking at a site.)

What about the site theme? Is it something that someone just slapped together with no thought of the reader experience, or has some time and effort been put into the site pages? Believe it or not, I’ve actually turned down a guest blog opportunity because the site used such a hideous theme and was poorly laid out — a sea of pink was staring back at me. I didn’t want my name anywhere near that site.

With sites such as WordPress.com and Weebly.com, there really isn’t any excuse for a website to have a horrid theme, however, I have encountered cases where the chosen theme was inappropriate and/or not customized to suit the blogger. This results in posts that are never seen and links to other online platforms that disappear. A little time and effort is all it takes, and it shows within the final result.

2) Read the blog first.

Say that you’re happy with the site itself, but what about the blog? Read through a few of the entries. You don’t need to read through the entire archive, but after reading a few posts, you should be able to determine the underlying theme. You’ll want to do this for multiple reasons:

  1. Is the content of the blog something that you would be happy to be associated with?
  2. Do you actually have something of value to contribute to the blog?
  3. Does the tone of the blog posts suit your writing style?
  4. Would readers of the blog actually be interested in your other work?

Look at it critically. Guest blogging is actually a marketing tool for your other writing. You need to ensure that every post you have out there will eventually drive the right type of reader to your other stuff.

3) Be mindful of any submission guidelines.

Let’s say that you’ve found the perfect blog and you know exactly what you could contribute. Now what?

Some sites openly advertise for submissions for guest blog posts — pay attention to ALL of the submission guidelines, just like you would for submission to an agent or publisher. However, submissions to blogs are not as tightly regulated and the process is much faster and often more laid-back. Some sites will offer money for guest posts, however, if they do, they will specify this on the site along with the submission guidelines. If no mention is made of financial remuneration, then it’s safe to assume that there isn’t any.

If the site you’re interested in doesn’t have submission guidelines listed, then you will need to contact the web administrator directly. Keep the initial contact professional. Give them a brief (1–2 sentence) description of the proposed post. DO NOT send a copy of the post until invited to.

4) Ensure that what you pitch is actually what you send.

You’ve done your research. You’ve found the perfect blog. You’ve pitched a blog idea to them and they’ve invited you to send them the full post for review. What you send them better be what you pitched.

It looks bad on you, and can be damaging to your reputation, if you had pitched a post about how to deal with rejection but sent a recipe for a chocolate cake instead (unless of course you’re making an analogy between that chocolate cake recipe and rejection). It doesn’t matter how well written that chocolate cake recipe is… They were expecting insights on how to deal with rejections. And guess what… You are now faced with having to deal with rejection yourself.

Guest blogging can lead to other opportunities.

I have written a few guest blog post myself for various websites. In some cases, I was approached by the blog host for the article and I happily wrote one for them. (My post about holograms on Dan Koboldt’s site was one of these, and an article that I loved writing.) My interactions on social media have led to invitations from various direction, including regular guest appearances on internet radio and now my own radio show. I have been asked to write about science, writing and editing, and the opportunities are endless.

Guest blogging is not something to be afraid of. You never know where it could lead.

Guest blogging opportunities on Black Wolf…

All of this being said, if you have an article on writing, editing, publishing or the trials that you have faced during your writing journey, I would love to hear from you. We do not pay for articles, but as mentioned above, you never know what opportunities will come from it. You can find out more about guest blogging for Black Wolf here.

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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2017