Welcome to Twitter, Please Surrender Your Sanity

Despite the intense-sounding title, this is supposed to be a light-hearted post. As many of you know, Twitter is THE premier watercooler-esque hangout spot for procrastinating creative folks. However, Twitter can be an overwhelming, confusing place. It has an etiquette code all its’ own, and sometimes, stumbling around it can make you feel super old and out of the loop.

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Twitter Etiquette 101!

Don’t be an egg. Seriously. (I’m referring to the default Twitter user profile picture of an egg)  Even if it’s just a picture of your favorite anime character, your cat, or a can of soda, it’s better than being an egg. Many people refuse to follow “egg” accounts, because nine times out of ten, they’re a spam account. Twitter users will connect with you better if your profile picture shows some of your personality, even if it’s not a photo of you.

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Like a friend’s thought? A fav will do. Want to end a conversation, but not in a rude way? Just fave the last tweet the other person said. Fav-stars for everyone! However, if you want to signal-boost a friend’s blog post, article, or thought, a retweet will provide them much more exposure.

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Well, maybe not THIS much exposure

 

Hashtags are great, right? We #should #hastag #EVERYTHING, #right?

Nope. That’s annoying. It also looks spammy, and it’s hard to read. Use hashtags like a seasoning. Put the hashtag at the end of the tweet. However, if you want to discuss a commonly hastagged item, then it’s totally fine. For example, there’s no sense writing “I’m so excited about Pitch Wars. #pitchwars”  Just use, “I’m so excited about #pitchwars.”

Try to avoid using too many hashtags in your bio, too. It’s harder to read, but a few targeted ones can make you more discoverable to new followers.

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Twitter is an amazing place because you can read the tweets of anyone; famous authors, celebrities, your sister-in-law’s cousin’s next-door-neighbor… but use some common sense. Don’t be that person answering every single tweet from a big-name author, or creep out an average person by favoriting every single tweet they post. Ask youself: Does this person follow me? Do they answer and favorite my tweets? Will this be the first or second time I’ve interacted with them today? If the answer is “No” to at least one of these, slow down. If the answer is no to all of them, then definitely don’t do it.

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Provide content on Twitter. It’s not just a place for emotional rants, sub-tweets(when you try to call someone out without actually calling them out) and retweeting all the time. Interact with people. Make friends. Share pictures of your city, gifs of your fav shows, funny thoughts.  Don’t share photos of other people, or kids though. Remember. Twitter isn’t like Facebook. It’s very, very not private.  Anything you share, rude, funny, embarrassing, whatever, may become viral.

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Twitter also isn’t a marketplace. Constantly tweeting links asking people to buy your books, your art, your collection of bannana peels won’t result in many sales, and in fact, a lot of people will mute or block you. Aim for one sales-based tweet a week or so, more if you’re gearing up for a launch, but never more than three times a day.

Don’t schedule the same sales tweet to show up multiple times. That might work for commercials, but it doesn’t work for Twitter. Likewise, don’t constantly retweet other people’s sales tweets. DO NOT ever auto-dm people. Most Twitter users will auto-unfollow someone who does this. It’s annoying, rude, and makes it seem like you’re only on Twitter to sell things.

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Not the right attitude for Twitter

Finally, be nice to people. There’s a real live person behind every twitter account (except for the spam accounts.) Try to treat them like real people. Don’t jump on a tweet and try and turn it into an argument. Don’t pester people begging for a retweet or to be noticed. Don’t send creepy DMs.

Be kind.

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And if you got through this whole lecture, and want to be my Twitter friend, find me at @writer_carrie (link here)

Fears and Self-doubting in the Creative World

Hi all!

Short blog post is short, but will be leading into a longer one. If you read this blog, you’re probably a creative person. Or my mom. (hi, Mom!) and if you’re a creative person, you’ve probably felt doubts. Fears. The ever lurking shadows of failure.

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The rejections and bad feedback that makes you feel awful. The people who look at your art and say “I don’t get it.” The review of your band that calls it worse than drunks at karaoke. You know, the non-fun part of being creative.

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But those insidious whispers are WRONG. You are talented. You are amazing. You make good art and you make the world a better place. Everyone is cheering you on, and the world is waiting to meet you. There are so many good things ahead in your creative journey. Keep going. You can do it!

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Here’s the thing. We all get those feels. And I’d like to think, just maybe, if we talk through them, together but anonymously, maybe we can get some things off our minds, and go back to making beautiful art.

To me, Rumple is beautiful art. Disagree, fine.

To me, Rumple is beautiful art. Disagree, fine.

So, on my tumblr, http://writercarrieann.tumblr.com/ask I’ve opened up to anonymous asks. I’ll leave it that way for about a week, and in that time, share your fears, your doubts, your moments of “OMG, I’m a fraud,” your cat’s name, your belief that Rumple/Belle is the best thing ever… okay. Maybe not the last two. But please, share your fears-no matter where you are, published, just starting out, a dancer or a knitter. I bet someone else is feeling the same one. All the fears will be condensed into one post, so you will be totally, totally anonymous.

Unless your fear is that Belle will never forgive Rumple. Then everyone will know that one’s me.

You’re not alone, and in a follow up post, I’ll try and address these fears. We are stronger together, and even stronger when we talk.

Business of Art Interview: K. Kazul Wolf

So, it’s time for another Business of Art interview, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to introduce K. Kazul Wolf, a writer as well as a professional chef! Her creativity amazes me and her story prompts are a great way to beat writer’s block. They are posted every week on her Tumblr.

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 Hi! Tell me a bit about yourself?

Hallo! My penname may be K. Kazul Wolf, but most people call me Bacon. My day job is a chef-who-turned-baker at a four diamond restaurant in the Finger Lakes of New York, and then I come home to my crazy house of two dogs, too many cats, and chickens who also think they’re cats. Otherwise, I’m a fantasy author that talks too much about dragons.

How long have you been writing? What do you love about writing?

I’ve only been writing for about five years, give or take. I was kind of a late bloomer with both reading and writing — I couldn’t care less about reading until I picked up either Harry Potter or The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (it’s the chicken and the egg, I have no idea which really came first) when I was ten, and couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with my love of creating worlds until I was eighteen.
As to what I love about writing: I love creating. There’s nothing I love more than to weave any medium into something beautiful, or emotional — something that makes you feel. Writing is perfect for that.

I loved the Narnia books too! What other books are among your favorite?

Ohhhh, that’s such a hard question! My top to go-tos, though, are: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, and The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor. No one can ever beat Diana Wynne Jones’s world-building and plot complexity, and Laini Taylor is absolutely beautiful in her prose.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard?

This is going to sound lame, but simply: write. Yeah, we all have moments of doubt, but those insecurities you feel are felt by every single author out there. If you don’t push through them and get the stupid words out, you won’t have written, and you won’t be a writer. So, yeah. WRITE.

I couldn’t agree more! Doubt sneaks into every writer’s brain. Tell me a bit about the projects you’re working on now.

Well, I’m coming to an end to my year-long project, where I take prompts every week and write a short story involving all of them (more about this over here). And as for my WIP novel, I conveniently have a rough query:

Emma wakes up to a man with black eyes and razor-pointed teeth hovering over her, in a strange house, an even stranger land. She can’t even try to run; the town she’s in is surrounded by a ward that keeps out a seething darkness of eaters — formless remains of people who have lost their souls, and will do anything to get another. But even that doesn’t compare to the fact that she can’t even remember who she was before she woke up.

The monster-man, Bob, and the owner of the house, a Magician named Morgan, seem nice enough, though the sink like a bottomless pit, an oven that likes to shoot its racks at unsuspecting victims are a little hard to swallow. There’s no solace outside — the townsfolk blame her for the infestation of monsters, and it’s only Morgan and Bob keeping her safe. Emma can’t understand what motivates them to help her, what’s in it for them and what they want from her. The truth is a tricky thing when you can barely remember your own name.

That query sounds intense! Can’t wait to read the story! You mentioned you’re a professional chef, which is awesome! Do you find your culinary expertise influencing your writing?

Yes! You have no idea how much I annoy my friends with cooking metaphors. For awhile I stayed away from food in my own writing, but looking back, I don’t know why. Who doesn’t love food? On the level of similarities between the two, there’s actually a lot, especially with baking. It takes patience, precision and practice. You’re not going to start off icing wedding cakes like a pro, or cooking tenderloins to a perfect medium-rare, or  cutting perfect tourne (those are evil). And there’s always more to learn, and always different ways to perfect your style and taste.

One of the features of my blog is “the business of art” In your life, have you encountered any challenges or confusion relating to business matters and your art?

Oh gosh, yes. As a writer, I could complain about having to be a small business and brand onto myself until I’m blue in the face, but I that’s something other people can cover way better then me. As a chef, it’s a little different. Just like the literary industry, it’s very unique, and it can be hard to break into the fine dining side of things. Especially as a woman. I actually had training and classes on a very nice culinary resume before applying to culinary jobs. Even with all that, one of my first interviews the man kept asking me, “But you’re so pretty, don’t you want to be a waitress?” I wouldn’t have accepted the job, even if it was offered. And as a vast contrast to querying vs. job applications, this was personal. It wasn’t that I wasn’t a right match, it was that I was a girl.
That being said, I got my first fine dining job at a great restaurant on the second day of a stage (unpaid internship), when the head chef came up and asked if I wanted a be hired as a garde manger. Being the quiet introvert on top of being a girl, it’s a hard place to be taken seriously even if I have all the skills. It’s sad that there’s still so much sexism in the culinary field (oh the irony with all the kitchen jokes), but that doesn’t mean it should stop you from trying to do what you want to do.
Thank you so much for a great interview (and for making me hungry. Mmm cake.)

If you’d like to find out more about K. Kazul, here are her homes on the ‘net.

Risk and Reward

So, this is one of those businessy posts, but I’ll be applying it to creative endeavors. I also promise fun Disney metaphors and gifs at the end.

In the business world, you’re taught most choices can boil down to a simple formula. The greater the risk, the greater the reward.

To simplify, you stand a better chance of winning the lottery if you spend the money on a ticket (please note, that’s not financial advice to place the lottery.) But, your risk is that you’re out the cost of the ticket.

Similarly, if you want the reward of feedback on your creative work, your art, your knitting, your sassy cross-stitch, your writing, you have to risk getting it rejected.

And if you want the reward of growing your craft and achieving your dreams, you have to risk a lot of rejection.

A lot.

You can only show your work to your best friend and your grandma, and never hear a word of negative feedback, but you’ll never have a fan you’ve never met gush about your work, or meet someone who challenges you to Art Harder as the awesome Chuck Wendig says in his post here.

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Risk versus Reward applies to everything.
 

Publishing options? Self Publishing is All the Risk. All the Reward. If you succeed, you’ll basically get all the financial reward of the work, But you also take on all the risk. The risk of marketing, the risk of editing and not misspelling the word “public” in the most tragic way…

Traditional publishing is on the other end . You don’t have as much risk. Someone else is editing your work, spell-checking your typing, designing your cover, all so that you don’t have to take on that risk. But you do lose some of that reward, both financially, and in the sense that you can’t point to the cover and say, “Me. I did that!”

Neither of these approaches is wrong. There’s no perfect risk/reward level that everyone should work towards. We’re all different people, and we all have different risk tolerance levels.

Disney metaphor, as promised!

Some people aren’t risky, at all. They  know what they like, and they’re happy with that. They might create art, but they also may never share it with anyone. For them, big rewards, aren’t worth the risk.

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Some people are driven and brave and perhaps just a little bit wild. They’re willing to work hard, create art, and make a market for it. They’re aiming for big rewards, and willing to take on big risks.

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And there’s the people who might need a nudge. They art. They art well.  They dream of big rewards, of Hollywood lights and hardcover books, but they’re so afraid of the risks that they can’t even think about sharing.

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Their fear of the risks has grown larger than the risk itself. If you find yourself in this category, maybe…just maybe, take a leap of faith. Put one toe outside your security bubble. You might like the reward.

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I wish you best of luck (and lots of rewards) in all your risky endeavors.

Who is reading? Who isn’t?

So, buckle your seatbelts, kids, this post has a chart. But, I, hopefully, will be making that chart, and set of statistics easily understandable. Maybe even useful for writers.

Consider these scenarios:

You might think you’re an average reader. You’re not a rabid book blogger, but you read two, maybe three books a month.

You’re a writer, getting ready for your book launch. You write middle grade novels, so you look at your own family, and imagine them as your target market.

Are either of these accurate? Let’s examine the data and find out!

…hang in there, people. I promise a cute photo of my cat at the end.

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(Chart from Pew Research, link)

The scary thing. This data is for people who have read AT LEAST ONE book. As in, about 25% of people in the random survey Pew did said they haven’t read a SINGLE book in a year.

On average, the typical American read or listened to 5 books in 2014. The survey did note that “avid readers” who read over 12 books a year were the exception to the rule, and therefore the 5 comes from the median, not the mean, to avoid error. (Math class flashbacks, anyone?)

I’m going to do one take away from each section, and then sum it all up with an overall summary. Remember, keep reading for a cute cat.

1. Gender: Women are reading more than men, in all forms of book distribution. So, if you’re a writer who doesn’t believe in having real, multi-faceted females in your fiction, I challenge you to reconsider, unless you want to cut yourself off from the gender that reads more.

2. Race/ethnicity. We NEED diverse books. It’s that simple. If you try and tell me a race/ethnicity “doesn’t read” I’m going to hit you in the ace with a Statistics textbook

3. Education Level:  College grads are the most likely, by far, to have read an ebook or listened to an audiobook. If you’re targeting that market, those are things to keep in mind.

4.Household income: There is a decent correlation between a greater household income, and the percentage of people who have read an ebook this year. If your book is launching as an ebook first, you may need to tailor your marketing to appeal to that income bracket.

5. Community type: Tied in with the above, we see suburbanites being the most likely to have read an ebook, with urban and rural pretty much tied for having read a print book.

So, what does all this tell us? First of all, the push towards diversity in literature is greatly needed, and long overdue. Second, is that “Five books a year” phrase resonating in your head yet? Often times, I think writers tend to talk books with other writers, and forget the average American doesn’t read as voraciously as they do.  This is why word of mouth is so important for books. You have to get your book in front of those people, who probably don’t follow book blogs, or keep track of the twitter-verse.

And as promised, here’s my cat

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Business of Art Interview-Nicole Tone!

Hi! Welcome to the inaugural edition of what will be a bi-weekly feature. I’ll be interviewing creative folks of all types, artists, writers, actors and crafters.

To kick things off, I’m interviewing the fabulous Nicole Tone.  She’s a great friend of mine, and an amazing writer. Find her on twitter at @nicoleatone, or subscribe to her blog at www.nicoleatone.com

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Tell me a bit about yourself:

Nicole:  I’m an MFA in Creative Writing student, submissions intern, editorial intern, traveler, wife, freelance editor, and book blogger.

How long have you been writing?:

Nicole: I’ve been writing since I was in first grade, but didn’t end up completing a project until last year.

What are some of your  favorite books?

Nicole: White Oleander by Janet Fitch; Wasted by Marya Hornbacher; Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill; and Looking for Alaska by John Green are among my favorite.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard?

Nicole: Do not write what you know, but write what you believe is the truth, especially in fiction.

What projects are keeping you busy these days?

Nicole: I’m currently working on two projects. One, a Women’s Fiction that takes place in Seattle that tries to answer the question of what home is while being wrapped up in classical music, summer weddings, and what if’s with handsome violinists. The second is an urban fantasy that I’m having a blast trying to draft with the help of some really great critique partners.

One of the features of my blog is “the business of art” In your life, have you encountered any challenges relating to business matters and your art?

Nicole: This spring I began my MFA in Creative Writing at Chatham University. When I had first researched and applied to MFA programs, my primary focus had been on teaching, and wanting to start an MFA program at one of the many schools in Buffalo (since there are no graduate level writing programs here).However, in the interim, I’ve gained amazing experience in two different internships in the publishing industry.  My focus, and my passion, has shifted from teaching to being a part of the publishing industry. I’m currently offering critiques, and I cannot begin to explain the joy that comes from providing this service to my clients.

So, to finally get to my question, how important is formal education in the publishing industry? Is experience everything? The MFA? Or, is a MA or MS in Publishing far more marketable and necessary?

Great question! If you have thoughts on Masters programs in the publishing industry, please feel free to comment below! Thanks for an awesome interview, Nicole.

***

If you’d like to be featured on a Business of Art interview, please contact me at carrie@creativelycarrie.com

Social Media Sites Are Like Shoes

Have you ever seen someone enter the room, wearing an amazing pair of shoes, badass combat boots or dangerously high stilettos? The shoes add so much to their personality, to their style, and you find yourself craving the exact same ones, to borrow some of that pizzazz.

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(Yes, this is a.gif post)

So you try on a pair, and they chafe, or give you clown-feet, or make walking impossible.

Othertimes, you’d really be happier wearing a pair of Converse, but your friends will insist you should wear heels or else this first date is doomed to feel,

Social media platforms are a lot like that.

It’s easy to see someone effortlessly chatting away on a v-log, or engaging with thousands of people on twitter, and to think, oh! I should do that.

Or perhaps, you feel pressured to be on tumblr, favoriting bath bomb giveaways (even though you don’t have a bathtub) or making a book review blog (even though you only read a book a month, and half the time they’re old classics no one wants a review of)

But guess what? It’s silly to shove your feet into shoes that don’t fit, and it’s just as silly to force yourself into a social media platform you don’t enjoy. How many times have you stumbled upon an abandoned blog, left to wither after five blog posts, or heard people complain social media sucks away all their time?

Social media sites, at least, for many writers and artists, are an important tool for networking, business growth, and socialization, but they should never add to your stress levels.

 

1. Determine how much time you want to spend, per week, on social media.

Five hours? Ten hours? Five minutes? None and you want to contract it to someone? None and you want to be a mystery? 24/7?

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2. Decide why you’re using social media

Is it to recommend books to other people? As a platform to advertise your art commissions or freelance editing? A place to share story snippets and communicate with other artists?

Each choice may lead to a different platform, different ways of communicating with followers, and different choices in shared content.

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3. Define your target audience.

Once you know WHY you’re using the social media, it’s important to know WHO you’re hoping to engage. For example, many writers/agents/editors hang out on twitter. If you’re hoping to find beta readers or to learn more about the querying process, twitter is a great place. But, if you’re content with a small, dedicated group of readers/responders, a long form platform such as a blog may be better for you.

It’s also important to note ages change. Facebook is no longer the realm of the young and hip.If you’re looking to engage with teen readers, it’s not your best bet.

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4. Set a schedule/plan

Social media, by its nature, is addictive. We’re conditioned, as humans, to respond to reward stimulus, and as you probably know, few things are more exciting on the net than seeing that little flag pop up, alerting you to notifications.

Once you’re done with your social media for the day, block the site, log off, turn off the wifi, whatever it takes to break away from the glowing screen.

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Now, you’re ready to strut in your social media shoes.

 

Let’s Get Down To Business

Is the song from Mulan stuck in your head now? If so, you’re welcome.

This won’t ever be a blog where I post nitty-gritty writing tips. Commas and I fight enough as it is, without me dragging new people into our battles. However, as a person with a business background, and in the process of my Masters with a concentration in marketing, I will occasionally share my thoughts on the business of art.

I love picking apart data, so expect posts where I flip percentages and ratios into handy facts for querying writers.

I’m also a wizard in excel, so I often run pricing comparisons for various freelancers, or help people re-organize their data into something more accessible. If you ever have an excel question or want a pricing comparison run to check your freelancing costs against others, I’d love to share my knowledge.

Plus, my background is specifically in finance, so I’m a huge proponent of budgeting, and teaching people to understand financial lingo. Eventually, I’d like to get a sample budget sheet set up for free use. I see budgeting as a way of achieving freedom from stress, fear and confusion. Everyone, from a part-time worker student to a lawyer can benefit from understanding their cash flows.

For all you I’ve put to sleep, I apologize. Here’s a picture of a cat who is equally amused by my spreadsheets.

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