Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with Pinterest beyond being an enthusiastic user. I’m not being paid for any element in this post, nor have I been approached to write about it. I merely wish to share with you a tool that I find invaluable as a writer and believe you’ll find an asset to your writing.
Pinterest was my best source of learning when I decided to commit to writing as a career. I wanted to learn as much as I could to make my writing quality, and worth reading. Trawling the internet was a start, but saving and categorising my learning sources was difficult. I needed to know about plot development, character development, setting description, and eventually how to revise and edit, then how to publish. I can tell you, there is an absolute multitude of information out there, and it pays to keep what speaks to you in a handy place. At this early stage I’d been using Pinterest for teaching ideas and home improvement things, and then it occurred to me that Pinterest would be the perfect platform to collect my learning and preserve it for others who’d like to use it.
When I started out, I found bits and pieces of writing wisdom all over the place. There are several superb websites with a large amount that interested me, but there were also sources with just an article or infographic I was interested in. I spent hours and hours collecting items together, and I wanted to cut out all the searching for quality pins for others, and provide boards that contained quality pins and what really worked for me. So, when looking at my Write boards and Biz boards, what you’re looking at right there is all the research that’s made me the writer I am today. My Pinterest account is a resource I add to daily, and revisit several times a week – it’s a working resource for me, and you too can use my boards to develop your craft and save and/or share what works for you.
Side note: I chose not to do it this way because you can only create sections within a BOARD, not sections within a SECTION, and I felt I needed to be able to separate out, especially in the case of my Character Inspiration boards – each section represents a person with their name and birthdate, so it had to be that way. Incidentally, you can have up to 500 sections within a board (yes, I’ve found that out through creating 500 sections in my character boards and having to start second boards!). Give yourself room to expand and, if you’re keen on building a following, do your best to avoid deleting boards, as this deletes all the followers of that board (whom sometimes don’t follow your whole account, just that board).
So, if you know anyone headed in the writing direction, or anyone else wanting to learn a new craft, let them know about my account and share away. Pinterest isn’t just a ‘save’ space, it can be utilised as a learning space, for marketing, sharing, and so much more!
Now that I’ve freaked you out, let me explain…
As a first-time indie author, I was oblivious to this legislative obligation that applies to all New Zealand authors/publishers (and not just those of books or stories). It’s called Legal Deposit, and if you’re publishing almost any kind of publication in New Zealand (see below for a link to the list), you’re required to send your work to the National Library of New Zealand for preservation as part of New Zealand’s heritage. The potentially scary bit is, if you fail to comply, it’s a punishable offence. You may be liable to a fine not exceeding $5000 under section 39 of the National Library of New Zealand (Te Puna Mātauranga O Aotearoa) Act 2003 (here’s a link to the act if you want to read it).
So how do I make my Legal Deposit and not get fined?
It’s actually easier than you might think, and beyond the cost of a couple of author copies and postage (if you’re publishing in print), it won’t cost you a bomb either. Plus, there is an upside to this Legal Deposit business: your work will be preserved FOREVER within the National Library of New Zealand, and therefore become a permanent, physical part of the heritage of our country. Now that’s cool hey?
What you can access here:
I'm covering Legal Deposit (and a little on ISBN) here. If you'd like to find out more about the other items on this list, head to the Nat Lib website.
So, let's find out how to make your Legal Deposit…
Under legislation, all publishers in New Zealand are required to deposit their publications with the National Librarian. Yep, you read that right. I had no idea about this until I looked at requesting an ISBN for the paperback copy of my debut novel, plus, I nearly made the mistake of purchasing one through Amazon. On top of that, had I continued with digital copies only, I may have unwittingly failed to comply with the legislation and therefore been liable for a fine. Through my research, I was lucky, and by reading this, you will be too!
If you’re not sure if Legal Deposit applies to you, check out the list here, and if you’re still not sure, contact them via the phone number or email address at the above link.
So, you’ve found out you’re on the list. What now?
In short, you need to submit your publication/s, and it’s pretty straight forward.
First, There’s a PDF form to fill in asking for your details, your publisher’s details (if you’re self-publishing, you can create your own publishing name, for example, I use ‘Emily Larkins Publishing,’ but you could be more creative), and details of your publication. QUICK TIP: I keep a copy of this form saved on my computer with my details filled in and only have to add my publication details each time.
Second, if you’re publishing physical copies (e.g. paperback), you’re required to submit two copies of your publication (there are some exceptions to this that you might want to check out on the form or website) within 20 days of publication (or as soon as practicable thereafter. In my case, it took an absolute age for my first copies to arrive from Amazon in the US and I did get a reminder email from the Nat Lib that my deposit was overdue. If you keep them updated via email, they’re pretty good about it).
For more on Legal Deposit, and to download the most up-to-date forms, head on over here.
Should you have questions or require assistance to at any stage of the process, the contact details for each department are clearly shown on the above website. All my communications with National Library staff have been straightforward, professional, and informative, though there can be a delay between inquiries and replies depending on when you send your emails, so keep this in mind.
And here’s a bonus note on ISBN, ISSN, and ISMNs…
It takes three working days to supply your number/s. If you have an urgent request, you need to call the library directly. Make sure you tick ALL the boxes your publication will come out in as each requires its own specific number. You can apply for your number/s up to eight weeks prior to your proposed date of publication, though you may request your number/s early if you have a specific reason. You can fill in this form on the website.
As a problem shared is a problem halved, so is sharing those vital pieces of information that can save other authors from heartbreak or calamity in the writing world. So, share away, and I’ll add your tips either to this post or to fresh one if they’re biggies, with you as the source included!
Until next post, happy writing and publishing!
I am in no way associated with Pinterest beyond being an enthusiastic user. I’m have not been approached by Pinterest and am not being paid for any element in this post. I merely wish to share with you a tool that I find invaluable as a writer and believe you’ll find an asset to your writing.
If you haven't caught the other posts in this series, link to them from here: Part One: The writer's best friend, Part Two: Do it once, do it right, Part Three: Injecting your brand into your boards. Enjoy!
I find storyboards great for two main reasons: 1. They help me create a visual plan of my story before, or as I write, and 2. They’re great to share with readers or potential readers to give a sense of the story as I saw it during writing.
Pinterest is an exceptional place to create storyboards because you have access to the entire web. Being image-based, these storyboards become a visual representation of your story, and you can pin links to research keeping it all in one convenient place.
Before going public with this board, you might consider making a title image using Canva or similar. As I’ve posted about before, I have specific titles I use, and incorporate my logo and website into cover images to make them instantly recognisable.
Storyboards can be an effective source to lead readers to your website or book sales links by including your book cover in the storyboard, plus, you can use your cover image to lead to your books, blogs, or buy links too. Consider having them lead to different places, e.g. cover image leads to your website, book cover image leads directly to your amazon link for that book (or similar).
I find my storyboards an excellent source of motivation to write. Visiting them gives me a deep reminder of my characters, setting, and plot, and this drives me to write more. Having images I can return to as needed helps me write accurate descriptions of character and setting, my saved research can be accessed quickly and efficiently, and I get a real sense of what my story looks like from my storyboards.
If you’d like to give storyboarding on Pinterest a go, I suggest you visit my Write! boards (link to my account below) as a great starting point. You’ll find banks of character inspiration images (see below; thousands of faces choose from including celebrities, well-known people, athletes, and so on, with multiple images of each person); Setting Development includes sections on world building, architecture, and images for inspiration; Images for Inspiration has plenty of setting ideas, plus a more diverse section called Strength, Beauty, Diversity to find character inspiration; and Research for Stories has a wide selection of topics you might require information on from survival to medicine, law to ancient culture and so much more. Feel free to follow these boards as I’m adding to them all the time.
Click Character Image Bank images to access below...
Do have a look at my existing storyboards under Read! (link to all boards above). Some are better than others, but all will give you a good starting point for your own storyboarding adventure. Learn from my successes and mistakes, and take from them what you like.
So, why not give it a go? And if you come across any great storyboarding examples or ideas, please add them to the comments on this post for others to learn from. Who knows, it might just generate you some sales!
First up, if you haven’t already checked out Part One (The Writer's Best Friend) and Part Two (Do it once, do it right) of this series, click the links! There are some fantastic tips there for new or existing Pinterest users.
I am also not being paid by anyone to write this post, I’m doing it purely because I value Pinterest as a tool for writers – they have not approached me for endorsement.
I make no secret of my love for Pinterest, and before I say anything more, I need to be clear that I have not been approached by anyone from Pinterest, and I’m not being paid for writing about it; I’m doing my bit to help other writers (or creatives), it’s as simple as that.
As an author or business person on Pinterest, the one thing you want above all else is to be recognisable – to STAND OUT. In my last Quick Tip post I discussed setting up your profile, specifically your bio, username, and image, and I briefly mentioned board cover images and descriptions. This post relates directly to them.
What learning is how to inject the ‘flavour’ of you and your writing (or business) into your account and become immediately recognisable as YOU. If you haven’t considered it yet, I strongly urge you to create a brand for your business (you can see mine all over this website AND my Pinterest account). I suggest you do this early, as this is one of the most striking ways to make yourself visible and identifiable – think colour, font, a logo, or consistent imaging. DO YOUR RESEARCH – there’s more to branding than simply popping your name on something – it’s a chance to create a striking, instantly appealing signature that is yours alone (for more on this, try my Promotion Board on Pinterest).
The basic anatomy of your Pinterest account is: your bio, your boards (very much like a folder), sections (like dividers in your folder), and pins (the items you place under each divided section). You can also make an image from each board the ‘board cover image,’ this is the highlighted image that stays at the front no matter how many pins you add to the board. You give each board a title, and you’re given a limited number of characters to describe each board.
So, how in this limited space, can you show your brand and personality? The key is to be consistent, concise, and clever.
As I discussed last Quick Tip, I group my boards by type: About me, Business boards, Reading boards, and Writing boards. My first strategy here is alphabetisation (Pinterest organises boards and sections alphabetically by default, and I’ve tried to safeguard my organisation by running with that (so it won’t matter too much if Pinterest, for whatever reason, lists differently on different devices). My second strategy is COVER IMAGE. This is potentially the bigger attention grabber because this is where you can showcase your brand on each image and employ colour to clearly define the group your boards belong to. You can add text to these images to further explain what they’re about without having to click to get board description.
When you’re entering the description for these boards, write a concise essence of what the board is about, then add hashtags that will lead potential viewers right to your boards (viewers can search hashtags and all the boards with those hashtags included will come up – you want your board to be on that list!). I always include my specific hashtags #emilylarkins and #emilylarkinsauthor, as well as #amwriting on writing boards #amreading on reading boards and #businesstools on my business boards. Do some research, and try to anticipate what your potential viewers might search for, like #shortstorytools on a board for short story writing. I aim for a 50:50 balance of description and hashtags in the allowed character limit.
Once your board is cleverly named and described, use your cover images to your advantage. Sticking with the default is fine, but risks your account looking generic. Board covers are a massive opportunity to make your account stand out. It’s where you can get clever: using Canva (this is the site I use) or a similar image creation site, design your own cover images that include: the name of the board, a one sentence description of what it’s about, always include your website address, and/or your name, AND use your brand colours and logo if you have one. I also include my profile image. Cover images can be a real asset to your Pinterest account, and you can set the pin address to redirect straight to that board so when a viewer clicks on the image, it takes them to that board. Viewers can then save your board cover image right to their own boards, and when they click on that image it takes them straight to your board! Alternately, whatever pin you create can link directly to any web address you like, so it can link to your website, book purchase pages, and so on, so lead your viewers to YOU.
Do you have more ideas on how to inject your brand into your Pinterest boards? If so, please share them in the comments!
Flash Fiction; fast and fabulous!
I started writing Flash Fiction for two main reasons: one, to feel that sense of accomplishment in finishing and publishing pieces more frequently; and two, to give back to my readers.
Many writers long for that ‘I’m done!’ feeling, that sense of accomplishment, completion, and having works out there in the world being read! I appreciate that feeling, and it helps me carry on with longer projects, providing little reminders of what finishing a full-blown novel feels like. Through writing Flash Fiction, I discovered benefits I hadn’t thought of: 1. Practicing and polishing my writing skills, 2. I can draft a piece in an hour or so, so I can write a whole story whilst my kids are occupied with a movie or drawing, 3. I can write, edit, and publish a piece in a week (a great and productive gap-filler between larger projects), 4. Readers get a taste of my writing in different genres, 5. I can push my boundaries by trying different genres, characters, and settings, therefore stretching my writing muscle. And boy does Flash stretch that muscle! You’ve got such a short window to get that story across, and every single word needs to count!
I’ve challenged myself to write at least one Flash Fiction piece for publishing each month in 2020 (this is my year for big goals, after all!). I felt the need to up my count of published pieces on Amazon, and to give back to readers. At the same time, I wanted to provide an incentive for my audience to read more of what I’ve written: the hope being that if a reader enjoys a historical fiction Flash I’ve written, they might then choose to read a historical fiction short, or if they liked my contemporary Flash, they may then go on to read my novel. Essentially, my Free Flash Fiction Friday pieces are a ‘lead magnet’ of sorts, but not the main reason I write them.
So, how do I do this Flash thing?
First of all, keep in mind that Flash Fiction is like a glimpse through a window; you’re not entering the whole house, just catching a view. In other words, Flash Fic is short and to the point; you just don’t have the word count to go into depth, so must convey your idea succinctly.
I tend to follow a formula that I’ve developed through reading short stories, blog posts, and articles on short stories and flash fiction, combining what works for me into my own formula. This process is ever-evolving, and I have a base document that I plan and write from that I regularly update with new (and often simplified) ideas. On occasion, I’ve been known to ‘pants’ Flash Fiction (writing without planning first), straight from a prompt if it grabs me strongly enough.
Most of my flash fic starts from writing prompts. A prompt that’s strong enough to capture my imagination will provide an image to start from, and often a character, setting, or problem. There are so many prompts available on the internet, and I’ve collated many of my favouites into a Pinterest board (see them here). I also write prompts and add to them every week which you can see and pin for yourself here.
The following are extended explanations of the steps included in the downloadable document I’ve included in this post for your use.
Hey all you readers and writers out there,
Do you have any tips or tricks to writing great Flash Fiction? Do you want to help other writers get the best out of their 1500 words? Please comment on this post!
Better yet, pop on over to my 'contact' page and drop me a line. I'd love to include a section on this post with tips and tricks from all of you! Please include your name so I can credit you in the post!
I’m stuck, I don’t want to. Is this the end for me as a writer?
So, lockdown has killed my writing groove. What can I do to reignite the spark? If, like me, you’re feeling a bit lacklustre, less than inspired, tired, or frustrated, but you want to keep in the groove of writing without actually putting pen to paper or fingers to keys, what can we do to keep the fire burning? I find if I step back for too long, I lose the urge completely and won’t write for several months – hardly ideal when I’ve chosen to pursue writing as my career. Allowing such a gap, even in these unusual times, could spell the end, the implosion of my goals, and I’m determined not to let that happen.
After a spell of musing, I’ve come up with plenty of activities you and I can get on with to support our writing and authorship without feeling forced. In fact, this is a great time to concentrate on growing your knowledge and expertise of your craft, and to do small things now to get ahead. I’ve put together a list of ideas (feel free to add yours in the comments) that are sure to spark interest, some of which may surprise you. I’m sure there’s something here to keep your passion alive.
Taking a break is important, but stopping completely could be detrimental. It’s possible to take a writing holiday without losing touch by shifting focus for a bit."
A change is as good as a holiday, even if you’re stuck at home.
At this unsettled time, keeping your mind focused on the singular task of writing may be a challenge, but there are plenty of tasks you can apply yourself to that will support you as a writer, and help you get prepared for when you’re ready to tackle the manuscript again.
My (small and gentle) goals during this time are to:
I've really only set goals for this time so I can ensure I do a bit of each. It's totally up to you if you want to work this way.
Here are some ideas to support each goal:
1. Immerse in story…
2. Grow meaningful social media…
3. Learn your craft…
4. Prepare for the future…
These ideas are just the beginning. I’ve caught a few other blog posts out there with more, so hunt them out if you haven’t found something that takes your fancy on mine.
Do take a rest if you need it. We can’t be totally enthralled with what we do all the time, but we can maintain forward motion. Even when we’re feeling lost or completely anti, there are small actions we can take to get through the hard spots. There’s inspiration to be found in the work of others, and through other mediums. Every little step you take now will help you get through and come out the other side in a better position to restart your writing passion.
In the meantime, stay safe, wash your hands, take those little steps.
P.S. Do you have ideas that others might find useful? Please add them to the comments to help your fellow authors through.
First up, I have not been approached by anyone or paid to write this post. I’m singing the praises of Pinterest solely because it’s an essential and brilliant tool in my writing kit, and I want to show you why, so it can make your writing life easier too!
For those of you unfamiliar with this platform, Pinterest is essentially a search engine, but unlike the majority which allow you to bookmark pages, Pinterest has been designed to be the ultimate place to capture exactly what you want off different sites through images and links. It goes beyond that, too, allowing you to create and share your own ‘pins,’ ‘boards,’ or account.
There are numerous different blogs on how to set up an account, and the basics of using Pinterest, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel outlining how to do that here. Instead, I’ll give you my tips and tricks for making Pinterest work for you as an author.
Things to note: a ‘board’ is like a folder (you can have multiple boards on your account. I presently have 38). Within your board you can have ‘sections’ or dividers with different titles related to the subject of your board. A ‘pin’ is the item you’re saving, or tucking into that section that you can come back to later. A pin can be a single image with no link, or it can be a title page that, when clicked on, can lead you a whole blog post or website.
I make Pinterest work for me in several ways:
First: it’s a place to promote myself and my writing. I have boards that illustrate me as a writer and person, my blog and other social media platforms, and my books and stories. These are my marketing boards that help me get my brand across. Many of my pins contain links that take you directly to my website or places you can buy my books.
Second: I use it to learn and help others learn my craft. I have ‘Write!’ boards to inspire others to join the writing way of life. From how to develop a character or plot, to images and prompts for inspiration, I’ve saved hundreds (if not thousands) of excellent tools to help you on your journey as a writer.
Third: I use it to learn and help others learn the business side of being an independent writer. Titled ‘Biz,’ you can find everything here from how to build a website or blog, to different forms of publishing and marketing.
Fourth: it’s a tool for developing and illustrating my stories as storyboards. Each of my stories gets a board, and each board is sectioned depending on what I want to store or show. Common headings here are: characters, setting, and research. I also have character banks (with thousands of entries to help you put a face to your characters), and a ‘research for stories’ board in which I tuck bits and pieces I might need in the future, and could help you out should you need to know about anything from survival skills to period costume, science to crime and combat, and heaps more.
The internet is truly your oyster when it comes to Pinterest, and you tailor your boards to suit you. You can even have public boards (seen by everyone), or private boards (seen only by you), so if you want to save things that aren’t relevant to your writing life, but happen to like sewing or cooking and want to save pins on those topics, you can save them just for you.
Like other social media platforms, you can follow other accounts, or follow a selected one or more of their boards. Likewise, you gain followers – people who see what you’re pinning, and can pin those things too. The key to gaining followers is to pin, pin, pin. Several pins in short bursts throughout the day seems to be the most effective strategy. I’ll pin anywhere from 10 to 50 pins in a day depending on what else I’ve got going on. You can also create your own pins, but everywhere I’ve looked advises to start by pinning from what’s already out there (when you pin someone else’s pin or follow their board or account, they’re notified of that and might pin from you or follow you back!).
How are you feeling? Jacinda's got my back!
I’ll be blunt: I’m a bit of a hyper-aware mess. It’s clear, if you’ve got a keen eye: I bite my nails when stressed, my face is a blotchy mess, and I can’t stick to one task for longer than twenty minutes, and that’s at a stretch! Plus, at the time of publishing I've just been diagnosed with Shingles, so I wasn't as 'on top of things' as I thought.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Just last week our Prime Minister took the unprecedented step of addressing the nation on TV. Sure, we see Jacinda Ardern quite a lot at the moment, giving press conferences almost daily, travelling from place to place to check on progress and what our country needs to be prepared for this Covid19 monster, but a direct address is rare. The last I remember happened after the March 15th Christchurch Mosque Attacks almost this time last year. She looked us straight down the camera and assured us she’s looking out for our wellbeing. Unlike some other political leaders across the world, I believe her. She’s not in this for her own gain, political or otherwise. She spends a lot of time away from her fiancé and her own bubba on the quest to slow this pandemic down and soften the blow on our small country, and we know: Jacinda’s got this.
(Side note, I feel like our Prime Minister is part of our extended family, hence the first name basis. Our previous heads have had nicknames in our house – John Key = Jonkey, Bill English = Binglish. Jacinda is Jacinda because she’s guided us through some of our toughest, most personally challenging and desperate times. She’s not afraid to put herself out there. She’s visible, she’s kind, she’s relatable, and at times, hilarious *queue the East Coast Wave!).
So if Jacinda’s got us as a whole, how can I make better use of the time I’m left with? Not by obsessively checking news headlines, that’s for sure. And what about all those people that are now jobless, in isolation, or otherwise at a loss for what to do?
First of all, back up, and take a good deep breath of some clean, clear air. Take another for good measure. Now, read on…
"Having something productive to work on takes my mind off 'real world' stresses and recharges my batteries." - Emily Larkins.
So how do we bust those worries for a bit?
Some of you out there will have been toying with writing, or the idea of writing. It doesn’t matter if you’re serious about a career at it, or just enjoy it, this applies to anyone. You might enjoy poetry, writing short stories, non-fiction, fiction, journaling, screen-writing, anything! You might have written before, or this might be a fresh start for you. It doesn’t matter. This post is about the intent, and that might relate to something other than writing too. My key point here is stepping away from mass panic buying and toward something, anything productive that settles your mind. Cue quote from Peter Drucker: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Take hold of your future and make it work for you!
What can you do to switch from Covid19 jitters to a productive mind set? (The highlighted sections in this post include links to some of my blog posts and resources that you might find helpful!):
Some extra tips: timetables, calendars, allocating blocks of time (click here to see tips I use) to certain tasks, monitoring progress, sharing with others – any or all of these things could be useful to you. I’ll suggest journaling as a healthy way to monitor how you’re feeling. I’ve got a Quick Tip blog post on Journaling that might help – it’s quick and easy and only takes around ten minutes a week to work through.
And remember to breathe!
So, it’s time to get your project on! It’ll keep you in a routine, keep your mind occupied on something meaningful, and potentially create some income. Now grab that paper, and let me know how you’re going in the comments. If you need a hand or advice, feel free to drop me a comment in the box or hunt me down on social media. Here are my links.
Until we catch up next time,
P.S. Get in touch through the comments section if you'd like more tipes or ideas, or if you have some to share with others. Together, we'll get through this!
Building an author platform isn’t as scary as you might think…
Starting out back in 2018 I had no clue of what an Author Platform was. None. I had accounts on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, and was keen to get my book out into the world, but had a sticking point: it’s scary. To start, following complete strangers on the internet goes against the grain of inviting strangers into our lives, and as for direct messages, well you never know what’s going to pop up in there! To be frank, it scared me, but I had no idea how important a social media following is for an independently published author or for a newbie looking to get a foot in the traditionally published door! I needed direction, so, like for most things I have no idea about, I decided to do some research.
During research into publishing I came across the term ‘platform.’ Having not long built a house, all I could imagine was bare earth all smoothed out and ready to build on, and this image actually isn’t far from the truth. Your platform is the foundation of followers, fellow writers and creatives, friends, viewers…anyone who could be considered a potential reader. It pays not to be a hermit (that’s a bit tough! I hear you introverts cry), but it’s a fact of publication that having a followership really helps. I utterly get the reluctance to venture into the public world with your book baby, or to create a public image of yourself, I’ve been there! I’d not long come through a period of depression when I decided to go the whole hog with my writing. I was in a space of wanting to hide, I mean, why would anyone want to know about me? Why would they care about my stories? How would they even see my one tiny text in a gigantic world library of books? Well, at the start they didn’t, and that’s the point of starting early.
Deciding on how you want to portray yourself can take some time, and so does building the confidence to take that step into the public domain in your newly claimed role. I’ve done it all in little caterpillar steps (to date, two years), and as time has gone on I’ve built myself a platform. I started with family and Facebook friends. I researched platforms and social media (you can find the blogs etc. I used on my Pinterest board here… [insert link]), I created accounts, and I waited, and very little happened. What was I doing wrong? Read on to find out.
Where on earth do I start and why?
The biggest mistake I made in the beginning with social media, was assuming that people would come to me.
I still consider myself a newbie at platform building, and for me it’s been two years of mostly research, trial, and error. I’ll tell you that it takes time and a certain amount of guts (or just close your eyes and go for it, like me) to start making those connections. But the sooner you start, the better, and almost every author I’ve come across will tell you to start before you publish. That felt wrong to me, and so I waited. I didn’t have anything to share, did I? Actually, I did, and so do you. Had I joined the #writingcommunity on Twitter sooner, I could have tapped into a wealth of experience in planning and writing books. There are literally thousands of authors out there who are willing to share their expertise. I could have asked about publishing, advertising, how to beat writer’s block, or what the heck a platform was in the first place! So, I’ll tell you now, it’s never too early to begin, and baby steps are better than no steps.
The one secret I’ve got that can really help you isn’t such a secret really: if you want people to find you, you’ve got to get out there and amongst it by following others. You’ll find that many people you follow, particularly on Twitter and Instagram, will follow you back, and add you to their #writerslift (a way of sharing people to follow), and then you’ve got your foot in the door! Hooray!
But what social media apps should we as writers/creatives be using? How many? What should I post? There’s no easy answer there, sorry, it’s up to you. All I can do is share what I use, and urge you to have fun with it!
I use four main apps – Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I’ve listed them in the order I find them most beneficial to me as a writer and I’ll tell you why below.
Pinterest – ultimately a search engine with effective methods for saving what you find. Once you’ve joined (I thoroughly recommend choosing the free business account), start pinning. Begin by pinning other people’s pins that you like. I started with ‘how to’ type stuff, searching, ‘how to write a novel.’ Once you’ve saved a bunch of other people’s pins, you can begin creating your own. The bonus of Pinterest is that you can create boards (like a file folder) with any title you like, and you can divide these boards into sections with their own headings (like divider inserts). I have created title images for each kind of board I have – business boards (for how to build your author empire), reading boards (with inspiration boards for each of my stories), and writing boards (educational tools for myself and other writers to use). I also have a few private boards that are visible to me only. One of these is for saving pins I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. If I like them after reading, I’ll shift them into one of my public boards. I also start new story inspiration boards as secret boards and only make them public when I’m ready. Pinterest helps with my learning, sharing, and marketing of my work, and the business account gives you access to analytics (I can find out how many impressions my pins have made, how many saves, and how many link clicks pins have generated, which of my boards are most popular, and so much more!).
To see how my Pinterest account can help you on your journey to a writing career, click here:
Twitter – it’s all about the interaction. I was terrified of joining twitter in the beginning and saved it until last (silly me!). The potential audience is massive, and I didn’t know what I could possibly have to say that anyone would want to interact with. It’s daunting in the beginning, but if all you do to start is follow a few people (hint, use the hashtag #writingcommunity or #amwriting), you’ll be able to look at what others are posting, and who knows, you might have an answer to someone’s question, or you might ask one of your own. You’ll start getting followers quickly, and you can follow them back (but you don’t have to if you don’t like the look of their bio/account). The key to building your platform on Twitter is to follow people, and participate. Use the above hashtags, and jump on #followfriday and #writerslift tweets so people can follow you. Interact, ask questions, or try setting up a poll. Don’t be freaked out by people with enormous follower numbers – pretty soon you’ll be up there amongst them and wonder what you were afraid of! They’re just normal people too, though they seem like Twitter gods to begin with! Twitter is my newest app, but my fastest growing, and most interactive, and I wish I’d gone for it sooner!
Instagram – is an image sharing platform. There are literally millions of images shared here each day. I use it to share visuals of my work, but also to share snapshots of my life. I started on a private account, but converted to a free business account when I turned my focus to writing. With a business account you get free analytics, and down the track you’ll find these really useful. My viewers get to see a bit of my personality, what I get up to, what I like, and how I live. I don’t have a visually stunning account like some of the pros out there, but I’m learning and evolving all the time. The key to getting noticed on Instagram is to use the right hashtags, for instance #authorlife, or #amwriting.
My Instagram following has been slow but steady to build. My top tips are a catchy bio that has a bit of your personality in it, and images that give a sense of you and your interests. I try to give equally of myself and my work. It’s never advisable to ‘sell, sell, sell.’ People will get annoyed/bored and unfollow you. Another great feature of Instagram is that (once you’ve linked your accounts) you can share straight from your Instagram account to Facebook and Twitter with a couple of clicks.
Facebook – it’s where most people start because we’ve been using it for so long to interact with family and friends. The trick, when you go public, is to create a business page. I’ll be honest right now and tell you that Facebook, whilst I thought it was golden in the beginning, has been my hardest platform to grow, and compared to the platforms I mentioned earlier, it’s a bit of a let-down. Sure you can get some great page views through advertising, but it for me, it hasn’t led so much to anything useful. And be careful with advertising. I put a bit of cash into advertising early on. It got my page plenty of single views, and sold a few copies, but ultimately I haven’t made that cash back yet (not from Facebook interaction anyway). You might have more luck than me, or better yet, do your research to make it work for you.
Beyond my ‘big four’ above, I also have connections in other places:
a website, which is my gathering page for everything – all roads lead to it, and I redirect to other places from there. I’ll blog more on websites in the future.
I have a Goodreads author page but am still working out how to make it work for me.
Potentially the most useful of my author pages as an independently published author is my Amazon Author Page. This is where your face and bio pop up with your works in one place, so it’s important.
There are plenty of ‘how to’ blogs out there with step by step instructions to setting up accounts on any of the afore-mentioned apps. All instructions to accounts I have can be found here – to be clear, these are bloggers I’ve used and collected into one easy place, not my own. You can use them too by clicking here:
I’ll give you my three top tips for Social Media here now (more to follow in my Quick Tips coming soon):
DON’T sign up for everything out there – you’ll spread yourself too thin and won’t have time left for writing! Start small and add things in as you go. Stick to two or three and work your way up from there, otherwise you’ll be spending all your time on social media instead of creating!
DO write a bio on each platform. I, and many others, won’t follow you without a clue as to who you are. It’s way too easy to scroll over you. Even ‘writer,’ or ‘#writingcommunity,’ is better than nothing! The idea is to lead us to your account so we can follow you.
DO treat direct messages with caution, in both opening them, and sending them. Seriously, you’ll be surprised what some people think is acceptable to fling at you without invitation (including unmentionable images of body parts, spammy advertising, and ‘if you’d like to increase your follower numbers…’). Likewise, nobody likes the incessant message box spammer that pings you daily with ‘buy my book.’ Just don’t do it. I know it can be tempting when you’ve got a new book and you’re just beginning to build your following, but JUST DON’T. Save it for your public feed unless someone messages to ask you for more information. I don’t even have an automated ‘thanks for the follow,’ because it annoys me to receive them. I’d rather drop a gif or quick thanks on someone’s main feed. My general way of dealing with my direct message inbox is to ignore it, so please don’t be offended if I don’t answer you there. I find it more trouble than it’s worth.
Has this blog helped you? Do you feel more confident in putting yourself out there for having read this post? Do you have questions about platform building on social media? Let me know in the comments section!
Help, I can’t find my insert list name here!
I’m a note-jotter, list writer, and an idea scrawler by nature. Without a quick tidy now and then, I’ll end up with a desk covered in squares of memo cube, and notebooks with warped covers from my tucking odd scraps of lists inside. Since I’ve had children, my previously exceptional memory for diary dates and lists has faded to almost nothing. I’ve become reliant on writing things down; if I don’t, I can kiss that idea goodbye. One of my biggest annoyances is remembering routines, and beyond that, where I’ve jotted them down.
But there is an easier way!
My magic Quick Tip to help you keep those high-use essentials at hand: PLANNER FOLDOUTS! They’re a quick, simple tool to create and use, and you can make them for almost anything you like. I’m not talking divider sections, or bookmarks, but sections that fold right out from the front or back cover of your planner.
Because of Planner Foldouts, I no longer need to try and recall from memory, or search through multiple notebooks and sheets of paper for items I use regularly. I know exactly where they are and they take just seconds to locate. I can fold a list out when I need it, refer to it for as long as required, and fold it back in when I’m done.
I think you’ll love them as much as I do, so I’ll walk you through, step by step.
Planner Foldouts are a timesaving lifeline I use almost every day. With Foldouts I can free up more thought space for writing. It’s a win-win.” – Emily Larkins.
Create your own awesome planner foldouts!
Planner Foldouts are actually really easy to make, and you can make them to suit you and any journal or planner you’re working from.
For this set of steps, all you need is your journal, a list/set of steps/quick reference table of your choice (I’m using my Start and End of Week Check-In lists. Read more about Self-reflective Journaling here... https://emilylarkins.nz/one-writers-life-blog/self-reflective-journaling-improve-your-focus-in-just-ten-minutes-per-week), paper (heavier paper is more durable), ruler, scissors (or craft knife), pens/pencils/markers, tape (and/or glue). You can choose to measure and rule if you like. If you’re a crafter with a good eye, you can wing it.
Here’s what you do:
1. Decide on a list or reference table you frequently use.
2. Rough out the steps or elements you need to have at your fingertips.
3. Decide whether you wish to have this list pop out like a tab when folded, or if you’d like it to tuck right inside the cover. For today’s example you’re getting the bonus of one that does both: It protrudes as a tab when in use on my desk, or, if I’m taking my book somewhere, I can fold the sheet over again and it tucks right in for protection.
4. My journal is 29.5cm high by 20cm wide. I suggest working to slightly smaller measurements to ensure all foldouts will fold in neatly. When fully folded out, my paper will measure 26.5cm high by 22cm wide (remembering that it folds in). This is the MAXIMUM I can allow to have a tab AND fold it to tuck away.
5. I’ve marked the fold lines on my paper to fold with a 2cm securing margin (which I’ll glue to the cover of my journal. A top tip is to fold this section slightly narrower than 2cm, you’ll see why shortly), and a 10 cm flap. That leaves just over 10cm between the two folds. You’ll want the middle section to be just a bit bigger than the flap so it folds in without buckling (that’s why we fold slightly shy of 2cm). You can trim the excess along the flap to fit if it buckles.
6. Now, fold along your marked lines. Tip: place your ruler on the fold line and run your fingertips along the back side of the paper. This will give you a nice, straight, sharp fold.
7. It’s time to mark your attachment line on your book cover. If you’d like to be able to tuck your foldout right away and have a tab, you’ll need to make sure you can fold along the attachment line and have the whole foldout tuck flat. I took my time with this step to ensure I had enough of a tab edge, and to ensure I could tuck the whole thing in. Once you’re happy with placement, fold your foldout completely closed and mark along the back side of the fold line against the cover. This will help when you stick it in. For permanently tucked in foldouts, move your foldout over so the folded flap doesn’t protrude at all (no tab).
8. Now, glue along the back of just the thin attachment strip fold. Line it up with the placement line you marked in your cover earlier and stick it down. Check that all folds hinge neatly (I suggest a small piece of tape top and bottom to reinforce the hinge area). Also, try opening your foldout all the way out, close the planner. See how it neatly wraps around your front cover? At times, I use my foldouts tucked around the current working page. This is the secret to why they work so well for me.
9. Last of all, transfer your list neatly (and beautifully if this suits you) onto your foldout! If you’d rather complete this step before permanently binding it to your book (just in case you make a mistake), just shuffle this step up to before you get gluing.
And just like that, you’ve created your very own Planner Foldout!
It’s perfectly possible to include more than one foldout. You can tuck them in the front and/or back covers, and if you’re really clever and patient, you can create multiple layers of foldouts. I haven’t gone that far yet, but plan to.
I recommend having your goals on a Foldout for quick reference, your journaling prompts, high-use hashtags and more. If you’d like to learn about Routine Lists (a throwback from my teaching days), join me for my next quick tip, due next month.
Until then, happy planning everyone!
Have you had a go at making your own Planner Foldouts? I’d also love to know what lists you like to keep at hand. Let me know how Planner Foldouts could or do work for you! Tell me about it in the comments section.
Hi, I'm Emily,