Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Importance of a Professional Headshot

When my short story Birthright was accepted for publication, J. Taylor Publishing welcomed me into their fold. It was an amazing feeling. There was much rejoicing … and cake. However, the publisher sent me a daunting production schedule. One of the first things on the schedule: send them an author photo.

I thought about sending them my old author photo. My husband took the shot and I fixed it up. Having worked in the graphic design and animation industry for nine years, I’m used to ‘improving’ photography as seen in the example below:
For a long while this photo was fine for general use. However, the publisher specifically requested a professional photo with a plain background. I could’ve fiddled with the photo again and pasted in a plain background, but my husband was against it.

He asked me, ‘Is your writing career important to you?’

I wanted to say, ‘Well, der!’ Instead I restrained myself for a change and said, ‘Of course’.

‘Then this photo is also important,’ he replied. ‘You shouldn’t skimp on things like this. If you want to be taken seriously, then you shouldn’t try to cut corners.’

He was right, of course. So below I’ve compiled a quick and dirty list of why a professional headshot is so important:

1. To be taken seriously. A professional photo will say immediately that you are serious about your career. For writers, it will say, ‘I’m an author. Writing is more than just a hobby.’

2. To give the right impression. A party shot with flash photography searing out the corneas of your eyes will not give the world the kind of impression you want. We all know how important first impressions are, so make sure it’s the best it can be. 

3. To look like a star. Okay, maybe not a star, but you want to look your best. A professional photographer will know the little tricks to make you look awesome.

4. To give readers confidence. For example, if an indie author skimps on their headshot, it will make me wonder how much else they are willing to skimp on—such as the all-important editing.

Can you think of other reasons why a professional photo is so important? What are the reasons you would or wouldn't use a professional photo?

On Monday I will post tips on How to Fake a Professional Headshot. 


Monday, May 28, 2012

7 Tips for Writing Emails

Writing emails for promotion might seem straightforward, but all too often those emails will be tossed away unread or caught in spam filters. Below I’ve offered some quick tips on how to get the most from emails.

1. Respect people’s privacy. When someone gives you their email address, they trust you won’t spam it out to everyone. Privacy is a real issue in today’s world and you could get more than a slap on the hand by inadvertently sharing around the address. Sure, some organisations sell email addresses to other organisations. Don’t be one of them.

So how do you hide email addresses when sending out a mass mailing? By placing all the addresses in the ‘bcc’ field—not the ‘to’ field or the ‘cc’ field. It’s as simple as that.

2. Personalise the email. We all like to feel important enough that someone took the time to write a personalised email to us. If it's personalised then we'll be more open to what the email has to say.

3. Don’t waste the recipient’s time. Keep business emails brief and to the point. Leave the rambling to the personal emails.

4. Include links. If you want the recipient to go to a link or leave a review, then make it easy for them by providing that link rather than making them look it up. This might sound obvious, but I’m amazed how many people don’t do this. If you are worried the links might get caught by spam filters, you don’t have to make the links live. The point is to make it easy.

5. Include a signature. I don’t mean an image of your scrawl. I mean your full name and other links to find you. For example, I sign off my emails with something like this:

Lynda R. Young

It’s a great marketing tool because it’s subtle, but it works. Also, we shouldn’t always assume the recipient will know who we are. However, try to keep your signature short and, if you must add an image banner, then make sure the image file size is tiny.

6. Never send huge files without permission first. I have an older family member who recently discovered the joys of emails. Unfortunately, in his enthusiasm he sends me 2-8 megabyte files. This clogs up my email and slows everything down.

7. Give the recipient the ability to respond. For example, if you are using email to respond to blog comments, make sure you don’t use a no-reply address. The whole point of social media is to make ourselves accessible.

Can you think of other tips for using emails?

Thanks: A huge and massive thank you to Nate Wilson. He ran a haiku contest recently and I won a $25 Amazon Gift Card. I’d not written Haiku before, so thanks, Nate, for pushing me out of my comfort zone.

Thank you also to Trisha from Word & Stuff for the Great Comments Award.
Please visit these great writers and say hi from me.

Photo: This is another photo I took on the Isle of Pines during my recent cruise. The weather in Sydney is getting colder as we draw near to winter, so I’m yearning to return to somewhere tropical.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Building a Network

Today I'd like to welcome M. Pax to my blog. She has been a long time blogging buddy whose courage and irrepressibility over the years has been both an inspiration and a joy. Take it away, Mary!

To build a network in any social media, the main key is to get involved. Participate, be generous, and talk to people. I’ve met several mentors on the blogs and Twitter, who have been instrumental in helping me launch my publishing career. I also met an editor I love from the blogs … finally.

The support and encouragement we give and get from each other online is invaluable. It’s fantastic and I really treasure it.

However, we should also develop face-to-face, live and in-person networks. Join local writers groups. Find an activity or volunteer opportunity to become entrenched in your community.

Where I live grows writers like weeds. My dinky town (less than 100,000 people) has a writers association, called Central Oregon Writers Guild. We’ve had as high as 90 members. Average is about 70. And not all writers in my area are members. Through this association, I found my critique group. We meet every three weeks at the local Barnes & Noble.

I became involved early, volunteering to be the blog director. End of April, I was the star presenter for our monthly meeting. I taught about the author’s platform and building a blog. At least 40 people showed up. The event and my name with the titles I’ve published were in the local papers, and more than one person told me they drove a long distance just to see me.

I’d also recommend the RWA (Romance Writers of America). I don’t write romance, but they’re a great group of people. Among the most supportive I’ve found. That’s how I met another group of local writers. We get together once a month for lunch and hang out for hours talking about writing, publishing and what we’re working on. Three of them are contracted and make a living at this writing gig. So, it’s a valuable network and as close as I can get to coworkers.

In the summers, I volunteer at a local observatory. (We’re fortunate to have two in the area). The one I work at is part of the University of Oregon. We get thousands of visitors every summer. I meet professors, physicists, local people, tourists, and people who come back once a year because they enjoy what we do so much. We do put on a pretty good show. I always have business cards in my back pocket just in case. This year I’ll have books in the trunk of my car.

Find a way to get involved in your community and meet people. Get visible. You never know who they’ll end up introducing you to. Same principles apply as on the blogs: be supportive, be enthusiastic, be positive, be warm, and be generous.

How do you network?

The Backworlds After the war with Earth, bioengineered humans scatter across the Backworlds. Competition is fierce and pickings are scant. Scant enough that Craze’s father decides to hoard his fortune by destroying his son. Cut off from family and friends, with little money, and even less knowledge of the worlds beyond his own, Craze heads into an uncertain future. Boarding the transport to Elstwhere, he vows to make his father regret this day.

Available as an ebook from: Available from: Amazon / AmazonUK / Smashwords / Feedbooks

Free on Smashwords & Feedbooks. Will be free on Amazon in a few weeks.

Sign up for M. Pax’s newsletter to be notified the moment The Backworlds goes FREE on Amazon, and when it becomes available from other retailers.

About the author:
M. Pax’s inspiration comes from the wilds of Oregon, especially the high desert where she shares her home with two cats and a husband unit. Creative sparks also come from Pine Mountain Observatory where she spend her summers working as a star guide. She writes mostly science fiction and fantasy, but confesses to an obsession with Jane Austen. She blogs at her website, and at Wistful Nebuae. You’ll find links there to connect on Twitter, Goodread, FB and other sites.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Make Believe Cover Revealed!

On December 3, 2012, J. Taylor Publishing will release Make Believe, an anthology of six short stories, ranging from contemporary romance to fantasy, written based on a photo prompt with a wintry setting and a woman in red. At last I’m able to show you the cover!! I've not had my name on the cover of a book before (insert girly giggle of delight). I can also share a little more about the stories:

Sacrificial Oath by Terri Rochenski
An impetuous act unwittingly makes Alesuela the fulfillment of the Sovereign’s Blood Oath to their Goddess. In five days, she’ll be forced to make the greatest choice of her life: become the virginal sacrifice already promised, or force the man she loves most to die in her place.
With an impossible choice in front of her, she searches for ways to undo the oath, and in her quest, finds not everything in her life is as she expects.

The Amulet of Ormisez by J. Keller Ford
There is only one way to save Elton Fletcher’s brother from an insanity-ridden death.
After years away from home, fighting for his people, Elton returns to discover his only sibling, Cayden, possessed by greed and malice, and responsible for malicious, unthinkable deeds. Cayden, though, isn’t the only one afflicted by the Amulet of Ormisez, and Elton finds himself in yet another battle, where the price of failure could be his own life.

Birthright by Lynda R. Young
Christa can mask the pain and hide the scars, but running from a birthright is impossible.
She’s tried to escape her grief by fleeing to a small town in Florida. Much to her frustration, the locals think they recognize her even though she's never been there before. To make things worse, a man named Jack spouts outrageous theories about her.
Both spur Christa to bolt, to start fresh yet again, but there’s something about Jack that intrigues her enough to stay. The only problem? Someone else wants her to leave, and they won’t stop until she’s dead.

Petrified by Kelly Said
A mysterious storm has replaced summer with winter, devastating crops and smothering Castle lands in snow.  Prince Sterling August stands alone as a leader, lost in personal grief as well as a desire to help his people but with an inability to do either.
The answers he needs await him, but without Lochlyn, a woman who’s just as isolated as Sterling, he’ll never see what stands before him, cloaked in illusion.

Last Winter Red by Jennifer M. Eaton
Emily is a Red, a woman whose sole purpose in life is to produce offspring. When her husband dies and leaves her childless, she risks her life and forsakes the safety of Terra—a disease-free city born after the nuclear holocaust. Beyond its boundaries, she knows, survives a man with whom she can be properly paired.
The Outside, though, holds secrets the government struggles to keep, and what Emily discovers on her quest for a mate will change her life forever.

Escort to Insanity by J.A. Belfield
From a charity auction, to a stroll in the park, to the craziest night of her life. Nicole Harrington can’t help but wonder how a simple event went so drastically wrong.
Of course, the male escort she booked is wholly to blame. Not only charming but shrewdly intelligent, Benjamin Gold drags Nicole into a platoon of unimaginable problems—ones from which she’ll have to find the courage just to survive.

What do you think of the cover and story blurbs? Are you excited? Will you share the joy and have some virtual chocolate cake with me?


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pinterest Social Media Network

Today I have the honour of hosting Meradeth Houston. Her novel, Colors Like Memories, was released on 11th May from MuseItUp Publishing. Take it away, Meredith!

Thanks a million for hosting me here today, I really appreciate it! Before I forget, I have a contest running for my blog tour—all commenter’s are entered into a drawing for two copies of my book, and one person will win a $25 giftcard to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. There are more details on my home blog!

Okay, so today I thought I’d talk about my latest addiction: Pinterest. Have you heard of it? Wow, is it addictive! My sister showed me the site almost a year ago, and we’ve been sharing pins ever since. Lately it has really caught on as a way to market yourself, especially to women.

For those of you who might not have checked it out, Pinterest is an online pin-board. Much like a corkboard where you pin things you want to remember, you can “pin” items from the web onto boards you make and title. You can also look at what other people have pinned based on topic, shopping price range, etc. My personal favorite categories are the Humor and the DIY & Craft section :)

You can also link your account with twitter and facebook (don’t worry, it’s not required), which allows you to follow the pins from people you know. You can also find people to follow based on shared interests.

In terms of using Pinterest as a marketing tool, it’s a great way to share your blog, photos, books you are reading, etc. Do keep in mind that it’s primarily imaged based, though that doesn’t have to limit you if you want to pin something that’s primarily text. I have several boards set up with pictures I’ve found that remind me of my novel, Colors Like Memories. If you decide to create your own boards, be sure to enter a category for the grouping so more people can find them! The main thing is to share not only your own information, but “re-pin” things from other posters (trust me, you’ll want to!).

On my blog I have a button for following me on Pinterest. I’ve also added a button to my browser that allows me to easily pin things I find around the web. These are both simple to do, with all the information here. If you’re interested in checking out Pinterest, you’re welcome to swing by my boards and get a taste of what you can do. Happy Pinning!

A bit about the Colors Like Memories:
Julia has a secret: she killed the guy she loved. It was an accident—sort of.

Julia is a Sary, the soul of a child who died before taking her first breath. Without this 'breath of life' she and others like her must help those on the verge of suicide. It's a job Julia used to enjoy, until the accident that claimed her boyfriend’s life—an accident she knows was her fault. If living with the guilt weren't enough, she's now assigned to help a girl dealing with the loss of her mother, something Julia's not exactly the best role model for. If she can't figure out a way to help her, Julia's going to lose her position in the Sary, something she swore to her boyfriend would never happen.

A bit about Meradeth Houston:
Meradeth’s never been a big fan of talking about herself, but if you really want to know, here are some random tidbits about her:
  • She’s a Northern California girl. This generally means she talks too fast and use "like" a lot.
  • When she’s not writing, she’s sequencing dead people’s DNA. For fun!
  • She’s been writing since she was 11 years old. It's her hobby, her passion, and she’s so happy to get to share her work!
  • If she could have a super-power, it would totally be flying. Which is a little strange, because she’s terrified of heights.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Make Believe Anthology authors revealed!

On December 3, 2012, J. Taylor Publishing will release Make Believe, an anthology of six short stories, ranging from contemporary romance to fantasy, written based on a photo prompt with a wintry setting and a woman in red.

The anthology will open with Terri Rochenski’s Sacrificial Oath, a story of self sacrifice. J. Keller Ford’s The Amulet of Ormisez will follow—a story of success in failure. From there, Birthright by Australian author Lynda R. Young will delve into secrets revealed. Kelly Said returns to this anthology with Petrified, taking the reader on a journey of finding one’s purpose. Last Winter Red by Jennifer M. Eaton finds us in a post-apocalyptic world where not all is as it seems. Rounding out the anthology is our headline author, J.A. Belfield, author of Darkness & Light and the to-be-released Blue Moon, with Escort to Insanity.

Did you notice something odd? Yep, my name is among the authors. How super exciting is that? This news comes a little late because I was away on a cruise during the official announcement, but it's never too late to celebrate.

Virtual chocolate cake for all!!!

I also have a new author picture to show off in the sidebar (I hope it doesn't scare too many people) and a slightly new look to my blog. And next week I'll be able to show off the cover of the book. Exciting times!

Photo: Even though the photo has nothing to do with snow, it has everything to do with my cruise and I promised to share some photos. While the authors were being announced for Make Believe, I took this photo on the Isle of Pines last week. Wow, was it only last week?


Monday, May 14, 2012

Random Act of Kindness BLITZ!

I'm back from my brief, yet fabulous cruise. I had a brilliant trip and feel wonderfully refreshed. I'll share some of the photos in a future post. In the meantime, let's celebrate the support and kindness so prevalent in the writing community:

To commemorate the release of their book The Emotion Thesaurus, Becca and Angela at The Bookshelf Muse are hosting a titanic Random Act of Kindness BLITZ.

I found it difficult to pick just one person for this Random Act of Kindness (RAOK). There are so many of you who have given so much back to the community, so many who have encouraged me in ways you probably don't realise.

After much deliberation, I picked Charmaine Clancy, a fellow Aussie author. She recently decided to go the indie route with her debut middle grade novel, My Zombie Dog. It's a brilliant read. Thoroughly enjoyable.

I met Charmaine at a Sydney Writers' Festival workshop last year, but before that I got to know her through her blog, Wagging Tales. Please stop in at Charmaine's blog and tell her how awesome she is. For example, she's always been a support and I admire her enthusiasm for her writing and her never-die attitude. She is generous with her time, an inspiration and a remarkable person. Because of this, Charmaine, for my RAOK gift, I'm offering to critique a first chapter.

Come join the celebration! Randomly acknowledge someone special. Send an email, give a shout out, or show your appreciation in another way. Kindness makes the world go round.

Becca and Angela have a special RAOK gift waiting for you as well, so hop on over to The Bookshelf Muse to pick it up.

Have you ever participated in or been the recipient of a Random Act of Kindness?


Note: I will post tomorrow with my belated announcement and yummy chocolate cake.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Announcements, Thoughts, IWSG and break

Happy, happy news! I'm off on a short cruise to the Isle of Pines and Noumea. I haven't taken a holiday (vacation) in six years so I'm looking forward to this one. I'll be back here on the 14th May with an exciting announcement (chocolate cake at the ready).

Here are some other announcements, most I would've otherwise missed by sailing away:

Clarissa Draper has released her debut novel, The Sholes Key. It’s a mystery and I’m looking forward to reading it.

M. Pax will be releasing her science fiction, The Backworlds on 7th May

Laura Pauling will also be celebrating the release of her debut novel, A Spy Like Me, from 7th May

An official thank you to J.C. Martin for the Oracle Swag Bag I won. Her book will be released in July. In the meantime, if you like scary stories, read her short story, The Doll. It's wonderful. I loved it.

Meredith Houston will be releasing her novel, Colors like Memories, on 11th May

And lastly, a big thank you to Angela and Becca for their inspirational site, The Bookshelf Muse. You both have created a fantastic resource for writers everywhere. Their book, The Emotion Thesaurus, will be available on 14th May.

Thoughts on the A-Z Challenge:
The A-Z Challenge was about posting thematically from A-Z every day except Sundays during the month of April. This was the second year I took part in the challenge. Last year I wrote micro posts with writing tips. This year I broke from my usual theme and shared some of my photography. I found it a lot easier and it was like a mini break for me. Also, I think my regular readers got to know me better in this last month than they have in the—almost—2 years I've been blogging. Another bonus is that I've met some brilliant new friends and they pushed me over 1000 followers. Wow! Thank you so much to all my new and old followers! What I found hardest about the challenge was keeping up with the comments every single day. My writing time took a huge dent. I ended up sacrificing reading (bad) and TV time (not so bad) because I had a few tight deadlines I needed to meet in April. Would I do it again? I'll let you know next year once I've recovered.

Insecure Writers' Support Group:
Normally I'd have a piece of encouragement for the group—keep trying, keep writing, and enjoy what you do—but today I'll ask a question: How do YOU decide whether or not to go traditional, small press, or self-publishing?