31 Day Author Platform Challenge Day 29: Checklist Check

As we near the end of our 31 days, let’s take Day 29 to look over the notes and ToDo lists we’ve been tracking.

Grab that notebook again. Give it a long look, page by page. The To Do list is probably a bit of a mess. What’s left to be done? Probably a lot, and that’s OK! In fact, that’s great! That means you’ve been taking notes and keeping track.

Review the notes you’ve taken and see if there are any new ToDos that haven’t been added to the list yet.

Create a clean new list of things that need to be done.

Mull it all over for a minute.

Now re-list the list!

On a new page, re-list the To Do list again, in priority order. (Writing things down repeatedly helps your brain remember things so it’s not a waste of time!)

Now, if you’re super organized, group the tasks under headings such as Website, Rework, Decisions, To Schedule/Email, Ask for Help, etc. Super-duper organized people can use different colored pens for each heading.

To really motivate yourself, give a deadline or goal completion date for each task (remember SMART goals: specific measurable achievable relevant timebound?).

Whenever you’re on hold, or on public transit, in the waiting room, etc, scroll this revised list and work on things as soon as, and as best as you can.

Now go back and review what you’ve checked off your To Do list so far, and give yourself a pat on the back for work well done!

Recap: Review To Do list and (re)prioritize what needs to happen first. Bonus points to giving yourself deadlines on each.

You’re doing a great job!

[You’re doing such a great job, I bet you already followed 10 new people today!]

31 Day Author Platform Challenge Day 3: Quote me on it

[Before we start, have you followed 10 new people yet?]

We’ve done a ton of thinking and a little bit of grunt work. Let’s take a break and do some fast action.

Our Day 3 of the 31 Day Author Platform Challenge is a simple task. Remember those accounts I told you to sign up for and open? (from Day 1 and Day 2?) Today you’re going to create a gif/png/meme of your favorite writing-related author quote, and post it across all your social media platforms–even the new ones.

You can choose a cool quote from a character in your published book if you’d like; the background image could be a page from the book or your book cover (assuming you have rights to do so–check first!). And, you’ll be keeping your author brand in mind as you do so.

Note: a gif is video, while traditionally a meme (in PDF, JPG, PNG, HTML, XML, etc formats) is a static image. I use the terms interchangeably as memes now include video elements.

Creating the PNG/PDF

  1. If you don’t have a quote in mind already, do an online search for one. Consider flipping through old conference notes for something a speaker said that resonated with you.
  2. Go to Canva or Book Brush or Imgflip or Insta or whichever you prefer, and check out the (free) quote templates already created. No sense recreating the wheel. They might have actual quotes already waiting for you in the template itself. I got the above wording from Book Brush in the quotes template.
  3. Add the quote to the template as necessary, and who said it. In my example, it’s more a thought so I didn’t worry about an attribution (Book Brush didn’t offer one anyway). From a visual standpoint, I should have moved the quote up over the image of the boy a bit so the PNG isn’t so tall. But I got impatient.
  4. Are those template font and colors “on brand” for you? If not, change them to ones that are. I changed the template’s background color and font. Don’t use exactly what the template has. Make it “you.”
  5. Add in your website or social media handle, in a subtle 10-point or smaller font, about 50-75% opaque text so it doesn’t jump out, and place it at the very bottom or vertically along the side. In the above example, my URL is too large and too obvious. This way you get credit when it’s copied, RTed, or goes viral. You also get brand recognition.
  6. Bonus points if in the post caption you add an interaction Q such as “What do you think?” or “What’s your take?”
  7. Post away! Add it to every account you have: FB, Twitter, Insta, etc. If you chose and opened that automation tool like you were supposed yesterday, this will be suuuper easy for you…one and done!
  8. Bonus points if you take the time to target each different audience with an interactive Q posted in the caption such as “Have you ever thought this?” Remember, your FB audience might need the question worded differently than your website audience. Yes, it takes more time, but worth it.

Note: if adding to your blog or website, and you have the time or desire, add +/- 300 words on why the quote is important and relevant to you. It’s a blog, afterall. But OK if no; it’s fine to simply post the gif/png/pdf.

How long did it take you, start to finish? Leave a note in the comments.

That’s it! Day 3 complete!

31 Day Author Platform Challenge Day 2: Set up sign-ups

New-accounts-R-Us

Canva options for different social media templates

[Before we start, have you followed 10 new people yet?]

Welcome to Day 2! How did yesterday go? Learn anything surprising about your author brand, or lack thereof? It’s okay to find we’re not at the very top of your game. With busy lives we tend to be stuck in survivor mode and don’t think about long-term goals or big-picture stuff. That’s one of the reasons I want to do this challenge—to stop placing band-aids and start fixing those broken bones. Heck, to start avoiding injury!

I hope yesterday gave you a better sense of where you stand, and recommits you to sustaining a consistent image. The (positive!) consistent image is what will help us grow.

Today we lay the groundwork by making sure we have accounts for some apps that will make our next few weeks easier.

It’s a total drag to be on a roll only to find out you have to create a new account or download a new app. So we’re taking care of that today, with the apps we’ll be using the most.

You’ll be signing up for any new social media you’re interested in, for the apps you need to create pdfs/gifs/videos/memes and cool posts, and look into automation tools to make your life easier.

New social media accounts:

First up are the new accounts you want to start using (if there are any). Spend a few minutes today opening those accounts, picking a handle, setting up a profile and bio, etc. Just create the account. Creating a website? Maybe you need a domain name and you can secure that today, or maybe a new Goodreads Author Page is on your ToDo list. No need to post anything, or broadcast the new account. Simply sign up.

Graphic design help:

Second, since visuals get more attention in rankings, increase the amount of time people spend looking at it, and let the post stand out more, we will be making several meme-type posts this month. (“Meme” is just a fancy way of saying a post that has a background with words and images/photos/video.) I want to be sure you have a way to do that.

Look into ways that make sense for you. Make sure you already have accounts in place to make gifs and memes, like Canva, Book Brush, Instagram, Imgflip, GiphyAdobe, newer sites like Venngage, or the ol’ PowerPoint. Git yer tail a-movin’ and look into them, then sign up for a few that you like. You need at least one.

  • Most services have a 30-day trial to take for a spin. Starting with free gives you the option to upgrade to the paid version later, if you find you need it.
  • As an aside, if you are a published author and haven’t seen or used Book Brush yet, run, don’t walk to bookbrush.com. I am not getting paid to say this–I’m simply floored at their services. They have hundreds and hundreds of templates that let you pop in your book cover to all sorts of scenarios. Templated range from seeing someone reading YOUR BOOK on the beach to your book being tucked into someone’s Christmas stocking. Super cool, and easy. Literally drag and drop. I’m still on the free trial until a few months before my book comes out.
  • Apps like BookBrush and Canva have free templates specifically designed for each different platform. Other bennies in paid version like logo creation or nicer graphics. Those two are my personal top go-tos for post creation. I suggest you sign up for both free versions and play around. Total time suck but fun!

Schedulers:

Third, you need an automation tool. It does several things. It will let you create several posts/memes ahead of time and will automatically post them on the dates and times you schedule. It’ll also get your post out across all your platforms simultaneously, so you don’t have to go to each account separately, thus saving you time.

Hootsuite used to be the gold standard, but they charge now, so I abandoned ship. I was using the free version of Buffer which maxes out at three platforms but hey that’s still a time saver. I will also admit it’s not foolproof as I never figured it out why it won’t connect to my Insta. Right now I pay for Canva, which includes a scheduler. It’s the one I use the most since I don’t have to save the meme or exit the app/webpage, I schedule directly from there.

If you know of a good free version of schedulers like Sprout Social, Postify, Social Omph, etc, let us know in the comments!

Check with your web host too. If your host can do it for you, you might not even need a scheduler. I noticed WordPress works with Anchor podcast, for example, and will automatically post an audio version of your blog post to your Anchor channel. (Yes, it is on my To Do list!) It also will post a highlight of your new posts on almost any social media you connect to it. Insta lets you share any Insta post you create with other platforms (click the three dots on top right and click “Share to…”).

But having one place that does it all is great. Look into it!

If you’re already set on all accounts:

If you already had all the above completed, give yourself a gold star! For you, today’s task is to follow 5-10 new people in BOTH your SECOND and THIRD favorite platforms. (Thought you’d skate today, huh? Not on my watch! lol)

Cross promote:

Make sure each social media account you have references all the other social media accounts you have–at least to the best of your ability.

Recap in four parts: Set up any new social media accounts you are interested in. Sign up for services that offer (free) graphic design help. Find and sign up for a (free) automation tool. Make sure each of your current accounts references your other social media accounts, including website (if you’re proud of it).

Tomorrow we work on our website, so if you have always wanted to create one, grab that domain name and host and start now, so you’re ready!

31 Day Author Platform Challenge Day 1: Assess & Prioritize

Let’s assess!

Thanks for joining me on the 31 Day Author Platform Challenge. Have you read yesterday’s “31 Day Author Platform Challenge Prep Day” yet? If not, it’s on this page–hit this repost. The rest of us will wait. We need to be sure you’re set up and ready.

Is your notebook or online list handy? (The one we talked about in the link above?)

As we kick off our author platform growth, we have a choice: breadth or depth. We can go all in on a few, like a company that offers a handful products but specializes in them all (depth), or do our best across as many as possible like a store that has a little of everything (breadth). It’s kind of like a small business vs big box store. All have pluses and minuses.

For this challenge, we are going for DEPTH. We want to spend as time as we can handle on a few chosen platforms, in order to master what best suits our audience. At the end of the month, we’ll have better data to see if we’re reaching the right audience in the right places.

For Day One, as excited as I am to kick things off and start “doing,” our first task needs to be looking at the big picture. That means we’re not mass-posting yet. Today we are first noting where we stand on each outlet, then picking three or so outlets to focus on. There is a lot of text here but not all that much sweaty work; it’s assessment and prioritization. And, I have a bonus task if you’re itching to do something right off the bat.

Today we are going to start by taking an overall assessment of our platform, because, to paraphrase a scene in Alice in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?”

Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

Grab that notebook or open your To Do list app. Time to take some notes.

Part 1: Where do you stand today?

  1. Write down every social media platform you have an account for. Create a new page for each, writing the name at the top of the page. Let each one have its own front and back page to itself. Include (if you have them) your newsletter, website, blog, FB, Insta, Twitter, YouTube, Thread, LinkedIn, True, Post…whatever you have. My LinkedIn account is often ignored and I wonder if I still need it. But I’m including it the list since my name (and brand) is still on it.
    • As an aside, I should point out I use the term “platform” several ways and it might be confusing at first. I talk about our “author platform”–meaning how we are viewed online, and I talk about “social media platforms”–meaning the specific app used, such as FB or Twitter. Sometimes I refer to the latter as social media account, or social media outlet, app, site, etc. I assume you’ll be able to follow along.
  2. Add to the list any account or platform you’ve been thinking about adding. For me, I wanted to start a newsletter. I also want to work on a YouTube channel waay in the future.
  3. Now go to each of your current accounts. On your newly-written-page-for-each (see #1) write down:
    • a. the number of followers you have for each
    • b. the number of people you follow right now
    • c. the audience you currently talk to and/or the purpose the account serves (you may not have thought of it. OK to write ‘don’t know’)

This is your starting point.

Rolled maps standing against a world

Part 2:  Where do you want to go?

You should have one overarching goal for the 31 days (like consistency in brand or more frequent posts). My goal for your (and my) brand is consistency. Not perfection. Not even X#s of new followers, because unless you buy followers, it’s sorta out of your control. You can do everything right but you can’t make someone hit “like” or “follow.”

  1. In your spiral or virtual notebook, write down one goal for each social media platform for these 31 days. You might have a different goal for each. Maybe it’s up FB followers by 30%, increase Twitter by 20%, etc. For me, I want to interact authentically on FB more. For Insta, I want to spend less time scrolling and more time interacting with the right audience. For Twitter, I want to EVENTUALLY grow to 10K followers, but I’ll settle for growing from almost 3K to 5K for now (which I know will take probably 2+ months if I’m aggressive). For LinkedIn, I want to figure out how to best utilize it. I want to start a newsletter and figure out YouTube.
    • If you want to work towards a certain number of new followers, that’s great! But come up with a goal that’s SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time) or it won’t happen. I mean, wanting to grow from the 300 followers you’ve had for 8 years to a total of 10,000 in a month is unrealistic. But 30% increase? Sure—if you work for it. A study by the Dominican University of CA showed 42% of people that wrote down their goals were more likely to achieve them. Telling people about the goals increases the likelihood even more, as it makes you feel more accountable. But I want you to write them down simply so you know where you’re going. Place it on your vision board, if you have one. Refer back to it often.

Part 3: From that list, pick your top three favorite or most used platforms and look at some of your most recent posts.

What do you see? Use that newly-created standalone notebook page to write down observations. Ask yourself questions like:

  • When people visit my profile page(s), or see my posts, can they instantly tell it’s “sooo me”?
  • When they read my posts, regardless of the topic, do they hear or see a consistent “voice”?
  • Am I welcoming and engaging?
  • Do I come across as consistent, or haphazard?
  • Is the voice, font, colors, content all in line with my brand?

What will it take to get you to a place where you like the answers to these questions in all these places? Make some observations and come up with some ideas in your notebook. DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING YET. Just make note and write down on each page. (See why I said to give each platform its own two-sided page?)

Can you make these changes and create the perfect author brand in a day? No. But you can work on it from here on. (Am I perfect at this? No, but I’m always “me,” so I know that’s consistent!)

person writing on a notebook beside macbook
Photo by Judit Peter on Pexels.com

Part 4: Let’s look at time spent, and why.

That app you first went to and looked at in Part 3–why do you spend most of your time there? Who are your followers there now, and is the general potential pool of followers the right audience for you? Think about that for a minute before answering. It’s important.

Interestingly, I realized I spend the most amount of time on Insta, which is probably dumb, because I have the fewest number of followers there . . . so branding aside, that was an instant THINK moment for me: Why am I spending the most amount of time in a place that’s giving me the lowest ROI?

I need to ask: even if I had perfect branding, am I reaching (the right) future customers in this space? Am I there because I am interacting there for fun (which is fine! but make a mental note of it), or am I simply losing precious time scrolling and scrolling? Now that I see I’m there A LOT, if I choose to continue spending time there, I need to ask if it’s someplace worth dedicating more branding time, so that time is better spent. Or, I need to choose another outlet.

I also realized that my LinkedIn profile and followers aren’t honestly the best potential buying audience. BUT I’m not ditching it because it’s a GREAT place for potential work-for-hire. I need to make sure any and all content there is directed at a completely different audience, and modify posts accordingly. TBH I’ve made myself feel a little better about how I’ve been ignoring it, as WFH isn’t a huge priority for me right now. So I realize it needs to take a back seat. I can only do so much!

After reviewing and listing all your platforms…

PICK THREE PLATFORMS TO FOCUS ON THIS MONTH.

**Do not work on all of them, it’s just too much. Trust me.**

When I refer to “across all your platforms” from here on. I am referring to these top three.

We have to decide if a platform where we have low reach is where we want to concentrate our efforts, or if we need ditch and go back to a different one and revive those contacts. Maybe our website is where we have the most solid followers? We need to look into what it will take to reach our preferred audience at whichever social media platform we choose to prioritize. The choice should be based on a combination of what makes us happy and where we’re more likely to find our audience. *scribbles new note in To Do List notebook to do the math for each platform*

[As an aside, you’ll notice I never mention the ol’ TiketyTokety by name. That’s because as big as the chances of going viral there are, IMHO that audience, the demographics, ISN’T a picture-book-buying audience. Teens and 20-somethings and influencer wannabes aren’t shopping for baby books. But the mainly 30-to-60+ year old women on FB are! They are a perfect PB audience. And, they are (or can be?) kind and chatty and people I enjoy talking with. We can discuss this all you like; you may have a very different experience or perspective on apps. But that’s my take on why I won’t be mentioning that clock app over the course of the 31 days. If it’s been proven to work for you, feel free to include it in your plan!]

We want to look at AND clean up our branding across every site/app we have or are thinking about. We should start with the one that has the largest or most engaged audience, and work our way down the list.

Bottom line: as far as author branding, we should ultimately spend the most amount of our time where there is the biggest potential payoff.

And we’d never know where if we didn’t just take that assessment.

Now, since I’m an action girl and this feels like groundwork, if you’re like me you probably don’t feel like this is really “getting started” because you haven’t acted on anything yet.

Be careful what you wish for, lol, because I have an ongoing daily task for you. Pick either the platform you like the most (for me, Twitter) or the one you most want to grow your following (for me, toss up btwn FB and Twitter). Right now, open your fave and follow ten new people. Yep 10. Should be super easy. Don’t angst over it, just follow 10 people that you want to engage with. And do it again every day this month.

First action task:

EVERY DAY, when you wake up, before you even get out of bed, follow 10 new people.

I know you have your phone next to your bed, don’t make excuses already, it’s only Day One lol. You have time to do this. If you get stumped on where to find them, scroll for someone you admire, or an influencer in your genre and age range with a huge following, and see who they follow. See who follows them. Befriend those peeps. You already know they are the people you want to connect with!

Recap: Today you made a huge list of assessments in your notebook with one page for each social media site listing current number of followers and SMART goals, and you chose the top three platforms to focus on this month.

And you will follow 10 new people in one of those platforms–every day this month!

Helpful Day One? Too much to do, or read? Leave a comment and let me know.

Submit Your Children’s Book Without an Agent! *New List of >100 Open Publishers*

100 Publishers accepting children's books
100 Publishers accepting children’s books, no agent needed

No Agent? No Problem!

**Publishers accepting children’s books, updated 8/23/23**

Eager to submit your children’s book but don’t have an agent (yet)? Finding publishers accepting children’s books from unagented writers is no easy task! But not impossible. I know because I’ve been doing it awhile, having authored 16 books so far without an agent. I’m now actively pursuing one, given the tighter and more competitive climate, but am still pitching solo. Many other kidlit authors/illustrators that are staying commando too. Wait, I mean rogue. Agentless? You know what I mean.

image of "closed" sign symbolizing publishers closed to picture book submissions

As I get ready to submit my next round of picture books, I see more and more publishers that USED to be open to submissions are either closed and now agent only, are at capacity and temporarily closed until further notice, or sadly have shuttered down completely. Some have been bought out by larger houses so their policies have changed, some are simply catching up from the constant influx of subs and are temporarily overwhelmed.

What that means to me is that aaalll those great lists of picture book publishers I’ve bookmarked and found sooo helpful are now outdated. It’s frustrating to have to re-research every link. You feel my pain, I know you do.

[click READ MORE to read entire post and get to list]

Growth Along the Writing Journey

As a panelist on the WriteOnCon session “We Were All New Writers Once: Growth on the Journey,” I spent some time reflecting, of course, on my own writing journey.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Here’s the thing: I honestly never thought I’d be a writer.

My daughter disagrees. She says from what I’ve told her, at every turn I was a writer…from the boxes and boxes of saved handwritten letters (each one means I wrote to them first), to papers I claimed to have loved writing in school (including my dissertation), to comedy & theatre sketches, to the way I somehow always ended up writing at work whether it was news releases or ghostwritten technical papers or business plans. She even mentioned the mock Christmas newsletters I used to send out, like when I claimed she toured Europe in sold-out piano concertos (she was 7) and one son had unlocked the secret to the Dead Sea Scrolls (he was 5) and the other had been banned in the Midwest for his expert ninja skills (he was 3). [I guess I was always creative if nothing else.] Yes, I had stints as on-air and newspaper reporters too, but they came as a result of a corporate job where, to make a long story short, I ended up co-writing a syndicated newspaper column on a fluke.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

Or was it a fluke?

Did I unknowingly will it to happen? Have I always been a writer?

My daughter’s accusation, if you will, really caught me off guard. But OK. Maybe I really have always been a writer even if I didn’t realize it until this week. Maybe it’s that I never thought I’d be an author. But honestly, aren’t they really the same thing?

I realized I have always been drawn to — what…places? work?… — where writing plays a large role. What a great creative outlet! And you’re in control the whole time. Don’t like what you’ve written? Go back and fix it. Get feedback that what you’ve written isn’t right, or good? Well it’s not like math–right or wrong. It’s subjective. So you don’t have to like what I’ve written. I do! It’s the perfect loophole, lol.

Surely that “you can’t tell me it’s wrong” caveat gets tricky when it comes to being published. The other person HAS to like what you’re writing in order to publish it, unless you are self publishing. Even then, there are grammar rules, punctuation, etc. People have to like your writing in order to buy it. It’s not exactly a free-for-all. But as a writer, I am in control of everything! I write when I want. What I want. I certainly take what others say into consideration. I honor proper English and don’t go rogue on spelling or manuscript formatting or query protocol. I have several critique partners that I couldn’t live without. I definitely do my research, attend conferences, and listen to experts. I learn and adapt. I feel I improve a little every day. I don’t do it for anyone else, any more than someone who practices free shots in their driveway over and over does it for any one other than themselves. (Are they trying to impress the neighbors? Get an NBA contract? No. They just want to get better at free throws. They earn a sense of accomplishment, of work well done.)

My daughter had a point. Maybe my journey started before I even knew I was on board, and all that time I spent writing earlier in life helped land me where I am now.

And my journey isn’t over. Far from it.

Maybe your journey started years ago too. Maybe it’s starting right now. No matter when it began, your writing journey can go wherever you want it to! You are in control, my friend.

Your writing is yours. Only you can write what you write, from your perspective, with your voice, with your knowledge base. And so too is your writing journey. Only you can decide where and how to map it out. Only you decide how often you write, how often you edit, how seriously you take professional feedback and direction. It might be up to another person to say yes or no as far as a contract, but its up to you to get your work to the point where they simply can’t say no! Write once in a while? Great. Just don’t expect grand success if you’re not hammering away regularly. Even the best natural writers won’t succeed unless they–wait for it–SIT DOWN AND WRITE.

It takes time. Probably more time that you’re gonna want it to take. Other people will succeed before you. But that’s their journey, not yours. Keep at it. You might not have all the time in the world right now. No one does. It might be really hard to see how to get from point A to point B if you can’t even make it through the day. We’ve all been there! If you can only afford a few hours a week for now, that’s okay. Relish those few hours a week! Work smarter so those 20 minute a day can be even more productive than an open day where “let me just finish this last email” leads to three hours of wasted time. It’s your time, respect it. It doesn’t have to be strictly in front of your computer. Block off time on the calendar and temporarily cut off the internet. Eat lunch alone outside under a tree and speak your notes into your phone. Brainstorm while folding laundry. Find a pen-pal to swap ideas and manuscripts with (note: be upfront with what you are looking for: do you want ongoing positive reinforcement or true honest feedback?)(not that they are mutually exclusive!). Try to do one thing every day to move your path forward, even if it’s one tiny step…but don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. Or three.

Your journey can only move forward if you’re in motion!

Mainly: take yourself seriously. Allow yourself that daily distraction-free time, even if nothing immediately usable comes of it. Nothing creative is wasted anyway. You’ll reuse it in some form, either by learning from it (finding out it’s not a direction you want the story to go, for example, is great progress!) or from the positivity you just allowed yourself to embrace.

Don’t forget the “journey” part of the writing journey means it’s a process, not a one-time event. The journey might be spotty and frustrating at times, but it will also be rewarding and wonderful. Stick with it, even if it’s just for fun. Not everything we write has to have the ultimate goal of being published. Some of our best writings never have to be read by anyone but ourselves. We can be proud of our work no matter where it sits. The important thing is that we’re writing–present tense.

Never thought you’d BE A WRITER?

You already are.

Photo by Eva Elijas on Pexels.com