The Ugly Reason I Stopped Following You #SocialMediaMarketing #AuthorPlatform #SocialMedia

When I started this ‘whole social media gotta have an author platform’ thing – which was way more work than I ever could’ve imagined – I was the follow back queen. Seriously, I had a crown and everything. So what if the crown was an orange plastic thing that came in our Queen’s Day kit my mother-in-law mailed to us in Germany? It was a crown damn it! But slowly and surely, I’ve lost my follow back queen status. At this point, I’m abdicating. It’s a good thing too because my crown sprung a leak.

Obviously, I’ve learned not to automatically follow just anyone. It didn’t take me long to figure out who was a spambot. The line “buy 10,000 twitter followers for $49” was my first clue. But then there are those tweeters who take advantage of these deals. It only took me slightly longer to learn to spot those. Anyone who has thousands more followers than follows, but isn’t a household name, does not get an automatic follow back from me anymore. I’ve also stopped following accounts that are in foreign languages I don’t speak. I mean, what’s the point?

But why would I stop following you? You who is just going along doing your thing, not using a tweet service, and religiously following back your followers. There are basically three reasons:

No activity. This is an easy one. If you don’t post any content on whatever social media outlet is the latest rage, I won’t be following you back. Why would I?

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JUST DON’T!

Automatic Twitter DMs. Direct messages are annoying. Trying to keep up with my social media accounts is hard enough without adding DMs. And then there’s the fact that 99% of DMs consist of unsolicited marketing. It’s awesome you have your first book published. I’m totally proud of you. But if you want me to market or review your book sending a DM is NOT the way to go about it. First of all, it’s lazy because those DMs are always the same – how unoriginal. It’s hard enough to get me to review your book when you actually send me an email. A DM is just not going to cut it. (PS You can easily find how to contact me – as well as my review policy – if you just look at my profile that links to my website.)

 

ugly truth 3It’s all about you. How many times have you heard this one? Don’t only promote your own books or products? Still. It’s not getting through to a lot of writers. I recently joined Instagram and was frankly shocked to see how many writers were constantly posting pictures of their books. Apparently because it’s a different social medium, the old rules don’t apply? I get it. You’re excited about your book. You want to sell copies. But I won’t be buying one. I’m sure it’s a perfectly lovely book, but I just don’t care anymore. Not after seeing five posts a day with different pictures and teasers of your book. In fact, I’m unfollowing you. Click.

So, there you have it folks. The ugly reason I stopped following you. It’s not an original reason. Not by a long shot. It’s just the ugly truth.

ugly truth 1

Making a paperback book out of your eBook #WriterWednesday #Createspace

I don’t sell many paperbacks. When I first started this writing gig, I’d drive up from Germany or fly over from Istanbul to the Netherlands to do book launches (the Dutch not only speak English but many also prefer to read in English leading to English books being widely available – Yeah!). Besides my family, friends, and some former colleagues hardly anyone showed up. Even though I was having tons of fun, I wasn’t increasing my reader basis with these book launches. So, I stopped doing them.paperbacks cupcakes

Why then do I continue to publish a paperback edition of my novels? A few reasons. First of all, I gift my books to my sisters and parents and want to continue doing that. I also buy several copies for myself so that I can donate copies to various charities. Finally, I run giveaways in which the prize is a paperback. I find these giveaways are more successful than giving away an eBook.

createspaceAnd not a small factor in continuing to publish a paperback edition is that – through a lot of trial and error – I can transform my eBook into a paperback in a few hours. Here’s how I do it:

Set-up. I use trim size 5×8 in Createspace. The document size is therefore index card 5×8. You’ll need to use mirrored margins with the following customization:

Top .39

Bottom .39

Inside .25

Outside .25

Gutter .35

Gutter left

Page numbers. I like centered page numbers. The header and footer margin should be at .39. To make sure page numbers begin at the start of the book (and not with the front material) and stop at the end of the book use continuous section breaks. Just make sure to not link the footer to the previous section.

Middle material. I change the paragraph spacing to 6. Otherwise, there is too much white space in the paperback. You’ll also want to get rid of widow/orphan control. These ensures that paragraphs break over pages instead of staying together, which will leave you with large empty spaces on pages.

Back material. I remove the acknowledgement section at the end and alter the author profile somewhat. It may seem silly, but I like the paperback version of my book to be somewhat serious. (I know, I know, I’m never serious.) All hyperlinks and online contact information should also be deleted.

Front material. The copyright should be changed to refer to print publications instead of electronic. You’ll also need to add the ISBN. Createspace will give you one for free. Unless you’re writing nonfiction, the table of contents can also be deleted.

That’s it! If you follow the above, your book should pass review from Createspace. Now go sell some books!

paperback 2

The Daily Planet (@TheEarthNetwork)

 

 

Living in Holland ~ King’s Day and my personal experiences #ExpatLife #Holland

Last week, on Good Friday no less, I talked about how Dutch holidays are centered around religious holidays. There are two exceptions and one of those is about to take place – King’s Day. King’s Day started out over one hundred years ago (1890 to be exact for the history geeks amongst you) as Princess’s Day to celebrate the fifth birthday of (Crown) Princess Wilhelmina and became Queen’s Day when she ascended to the throne. When Wilhelmina’s daughter, Juliana, ascended to the throne in 1948, the holiday was moved to her birthday which was April 30th. When Beatrix ascended to the throne, she kept the April 30th date as her birthday is on January 31st and who wants to have a huge outside party in January?

kings day 4

King Willem-Alexander, aka Willy but NOT Willem IV

Beatrix abdicated in 2013 and Willem-Alexander ascended to the throne. (He then proceeded to anger the stuffy historians by refusing to take the name Willem IV. His response? I’m not a number!) The holiday then became known as King’s Day and the date changed to Willem-Alexander’s birthday, which is April 27th.

 

I just have to point out – for those who might have missed it – that the reigning monarch of the Netherlands for over one hundred years was a queen – a woman. And, unlike the United Kingdom where hoops had to be jumped through for the ascension of Queen Elizabeth, the Dutch accepted the eldest daughter of the monarch as the crown princess without reservation. In fact, when Willem-Alexander became King and his wife, Maxima, was crowned as queen next to him many protested that she should not have the title queen.

kings day 1I seriously love this country sometimes. Getting upset that the former monarch might be offended by her son’s wife gaining the title of queen? That’s pretty much the definition of girl power right there. And having a century of queens ruling the country? And the 20th Century wasn’t exactly an easy one to maneuver. Oh yeah, I love this country.

Which leads me to my embarrassing moment of the day. When I was researching Buried Appearances, we were living in Germany. I planned a trip to the Netherlands to do some onsite research (and okay maybe visit friends and relatives and have a good time as well). Anyway, I was checking opening times of the Jewish History Museum in the Amsterdam and saw they were closed on King’s Day. I assumed this was some Jewish holiday of which I was unaware and proceeded to spend an hour researching Jewish holidays before I remembered that Beatrix had abdicated the thrown to her son who therefore became king. Major head slap.

So, what’s King’s Day all about anyway? Having a good time and selling crap, preferably while wearing orange. Yes, you read that right. The day is a free market during which anyone can sell their crap … er … gently used goods. This is serious business folks. In neighborhoods, kids will get up hours before the crack of dawn to get a good location. In city centers, it’s a more professional endeavor and taken very seriously. In addition to gently used goods, college students will raise money for their fraternities (these are not just men by the way) by setting up games that usually involve drinking and some form of dare devilness.

Onto my second somewhat embarrassing moment of the day. My first year in the Netherlands, I insisted the hubby take me to Amsterdam for Queen’s Day. It’s The Place to be on Queen’s Day. In addition to the free market, there are concerts, boat rides, food stalls, and all kinds of events. But that’s not all there is because millions of Dutch and tourists descend on Amsterdam for the festivities. I hadn’t counted on that. The early hours were fine except that slowly but surely it was getting more and more crowded. I’m not good in crowds. Not. At. All. At some point, I told the hubby I wanted to go home (it was not a suggestion).

kings day 2The train station in Amsterdam is smack dab in the center. Getting there was not fun. We ended up on the Damrak – the main street leading to the station from the palace – and we literally could not move. It was that crowded. I was in full-on panic mode trying to crawl under tables of wares. Fortunately, I spotted a Dutch policeman – thank god the Dutch are so tall – and started trailing him. Apparently people will move out of the way for a police officer with a weapon but not a woman screaming and carrying on. Whatever. We eventually made it to the square in front of the station with a trail of people behind us – all of us following the policeman as he made his way through the street! Needless to say, I haven’t been back to the city for Queen’s or King’s day.

If I manage to get over my fear of crowds, I’ll post some pictures of King’s Day over on my Instagram account. Stay tuned.

kings day 3

 

Easy Formatting for Smashwords #WriterWednesday #Selfpublishing #Smashwords

Like most self-published authors, I use two platforms to publish my works: Amazon and Smashwords. Like it or not, if you want to sell books, you need to be on Amazon. And truth be told, their platform is the most user-friendly of the bunch. But Amazon is not the end all be all. If you also use the Smashwords platform, your book will be distributed to all the remaining major booksellers: Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, etc.

A lot of writers have trouble with formatting. As a lawyer, I’m intimately acquainted with Microsoft Word. Not what you expect, but it’s true. Lawyers are always writing documents, and we use a lot of formatting in those contracts you hate. My former law firm once had one of our clients (we specialized in IT) come and give us a class in Word. I’m not exaggerating when I say we knew more about Word functions than the so-called expert.

smashwords-logoToday’s blog is not about my stellar Word capabilities. Nope. This blog is a down and dirty guide to formatting for Smashwords. I always write my manuscripts in a Word template that is set up to Amazon standards. This guide will show you in just a few steps how to format that Amazon template into a Smashwords document. It’s easy. Annoying, time consuming, and boring but easy. Here are the only five steps you need to take:

  1. Spacing between paragraphs. Smashwords doesn’t allow spacing between paragraphs. (If you want to get nitpicky, you can have spacing in Smashwords but not if you indent the first sentence of each paragraph.) You’ll need to go chapter by chapter and remove the spacing. Like I said – time consuming.
  2. Copyright page. Smashwords requires you to include the fact that this version is the Smashwords edition in the copyright page.
  3. Hyperlinks. You probably have links to all of your books at the end of your book. You’ll need to change these to Smashwords links. In fact, check to make sure any and all links in your manuscript do not link to any competitor to Smashwords. Linking to a competitor is an automatic rejection of premium catalog status.
  4. Table of contents. Frankly, this is a bitch. I don’t care what Mark Coker says. The standard table of contents in Word is super easy – unlike making a table of contents for Smashwords. This will take several steps:
    1. Delete the table of contents you’ve made for Amazon
    2. Make (and title) a new table of contents page. Type out the chapter titles. Yes, by hand.
    3. Add a bookmark to each actual chapter. I just use chapter1, chapter2, etc. There are no spaces allowed when adding a bookmark name.
    4. Go back to the table of contents and add an internal hyperlink to each chapter title to each bookmark.
    5. You can add a return to TOC link under each chapter, but I don’t. I find it disruptive as a reader.
  5. MS 97-2003 doc. Once you’ve done the above, save the document as an MS 97-2003 doc.

I’m not an expert or anything (despite the above bragging), but if you follow the above steps, you’ll find your manuscript is accepted by Smashwords for the premium catalog without issue.

Next week, I’ll tell you how to alter your ebook Word document into a paperback version for CreateSpace. Exciting stuff. Sarcasm intended.

 

Religious holidays in a secular society – Huh? #ExpatLiving #Holland

Today is Good Friday, which is not a public holiday in the Netherlands. Imagine my surprise when I went to walk the dog and discovered businesses and schools closed. Huh? Isn’t the Netherlands a secular society?

holidays 2

Image by Inez Templeton

The Netherlands is without a doubt a secular society. In fact, more than 65% of the Dutch population claims to have no religious affiliation whatsoever. But the Dutch view separation of church and state differently than Americans. For example, prayer in school is a big no no in the U.S. The Dutch aren’t bothered. If a school – whether religiously based or not – meets the general quality criteria set by the government then it will receive the same government funding as any other school. There are even three political parties based upon the Christian belief.

Being married to a Dutch man as well as having lived in Europe for several years, I was aware of the above before I moved to the Netherlands. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that the vast majority of Dutch public holidays are religious based. Here is a list of the official public holidays:

New Year’s Day

Easter

Easter Monday

King’s Day

Ascension

Pentecost

Pentecost Monday

Christmas

Boxing Day

As you can see from above, New Year’s Day and King’s Day are the only two official Dutch holidays, which are not based on the Christian faith. Liberation day (May 5th) is only a holiday once every five years.

So, we have this secular society with almost entirely Christian holidays. How does that work? That’s history folks. Until the Second World War, the country was predominantly Christian and society was based upon the values of this religion – as were the holidays. The holidays are now so ingrained in the culture – and when people take their vacations – that no one really cares to change things. (Of course, with the surge of refugees – most of whom are Muslim – no one would dare to suggest making a change to a Christian holiday at the moment because of the backlash from the far right.)

holidays 1The funny thing is most Dutch people can’t even tell you the meaning of the majority of the holidays. Most don’t even realize that the public holidays in the country are centered on religious holidays. If you ask most young people what Pentecost is, they’ll refer you to the huge pop festival that happens over that three-day weekend.

In case you’re wondering why my neighbors from the Dutch Bar Association are off today, let me explain. Employers are allowed to ‘force’ employees to take a percentage of their vacation days when the employer mandates. (It’s more complicated than that, but you get my drift.) For example, most businesses close on the Friday after Ascension. Good Friday is also a popular ‘mandated’ vacation day as most employees want to take the day off anyway to give themselves a four-day weekend.

Any other expats out there with strange holidays in their current place of residence?

 

 

 

How to hook a blog reader #MondayBlogs #AmWriting #AmBlogging

hook 3Writers love to discuss the ‘hook’. Should you try to hook a reader immediately or have faith in the reader and slowly grab them? Although these discussions center around novels, the hook discussion can – and should be! – applied to blogs and hooking blog readers. In some ways, finding readers for your blog posts is more difficult than for your novels. Before you start calling me crazy and throwing sh*t, let me explain.

When someone buys, or considers buying, a book, they know that they’re going to have to put at least a few hours into reading it. That’s not even remotely true for blog readers. Everyone is busy, busy, busy. Reading and following blogs has to fit in between all the two-hundred other things a person needs to do in a day. Bloggers need to hook a reader quickly before they scroll onto the next blog. But how? In my opinion, there are three ways to hook blog readers to ensure they don’t keep scrolling past your blog.

hook 1The actual hook. Like many blog readers, I have the WordPress App on my phone. The app allows a reader to see – at most – three sentences of the start of the blog. I’m not going to lie. If the first three sentences don’t hook me, I’m scrolling down. This is why I believe wholeheartedly in the hook for blogs (for novels as well, but that’s a different story). There are different ways to hook readers. I’m not an expert, but I usually try one of three things. I make readers laugh, I try to shock readers, or I try to arouse readers interest with an unusual topic. (Ironically, today’s blog post about hooking readers doesn’t contain much of a hook. Oops!)

Sometimes, I’ll keep reading a blog even if the first three sentences don’t capture me. There are basically two reasons I continue to read:

Good graphics. I love a good graphic – as do most blog followers. Humans are, after all, visual creatures. Whether it’s a picture, a meme or even a chart, if it grabs me, I’ll keep reading. What grabs me? Something unique. Not a meme I’ve already seen ten times on Facebook this morning. Any interesting chart about increasing blog readers or selling more books will definitely pique my interest as well.

hook 2Interesting title/topic. In my quest to learn anything and everything about readers, writing, and the publishing industry, I follow a lot of blogs. Like, seriously, I should probably join a support group. I don’t read a ton of blogs, though. Why? Because there aren’t a whole lot of blogs out there, which contain unique material. There I said it. Go ahead and burn down my house, just make sure to bring a fire extinguisher with you. But seriously, I know how hard it is to come up with unique material. Trust me, I try to write three blog posts a week for this blog, not to mention daily posts for my Readsalot blog. It’s freaking hard to come up with interesting topics. Sometimes, I totally cheat and do a blog containing memes. I’m only human.

How do you hook blog readers? Let me know and I’ll totally steal your ideas J

My top 5 favorite reactions to people learning I’m a writer #FridayFun #AmWriting

If you’ve ever read my blog, then you know I’m hesitant to tell people I’m a writer. (There are a ton of reasons – read about them here.) Eventually I stop hemming and hawing and tell people I’m a writer. The responses vary from baffling to outrageous to just plain funny. Here are my top five in descending order:

Uninterested. This is by far my least favorite reaction – people who just walk away or change the subject once they learn you’re self-published. Do they not realize by self-published I do it all? I’m responsible for every single aspect of writing, publishing, and marketing. Yeah, totally not impressive or anything.

response to author 5

Dismissive. I want to write a book too. This one makes me want to tear my hair out and scream. Like it’s so easy to write a book? Nothing to it, I just haven’t had time to get around to it. Grrrrr….

response to author 4

Confused. Like a published author? I seriously don’t know what the deal is with this, but I’m thinking it’s a Dutch thing because this is the most popular response Dutch people have to my saying I’m a writer. They are shocked (not awed) that I publish books.

response to author 3

Curious. Do you write sex? For some reason, everyone is convinced that we indie writers only write about sex. And not just sex but 50 Shades kind of sex. Seriously? I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I’m all excited that I managed to talk about a man’s … erm … excitement in my latest book.

response to author 2

Awestruck. Are you famous? Okay, I’ll be honest. This actually only happened to me once. It was THE BEST. Of course, I’m not famous but the idea that someone thought I could be – after an evening of storytelling, drinking, and laughing – made me super happy. I obviously hadn’t embarrassed myself. Go me!

response to author 1