Social Media Mistakes with Laura Kamoie – #HNS2019

Laura Kamoie amazes me with her ability to co-write such wonderful novels as America’s First Daughter and My Dear Hamilton with Stephanie Dray. Combine that talent with a talk on the dos and don’ts of social media and I was lining up for this presentation at #HNS2019.

Laura gave us her qualifications immediately: she used to write romance and that genre is very good at social media so she learned from some of the best!

#1 Mistake – too much time on social media and not enough time writing. Don’t get overwhelmed by social media. You don’t have to do it all. Figure out what you’re comfortable with and be authentic. And if you’re going to be selective, according to Laura, Facebook is where readers hang out, particularly the 40+ crowd. Twitter is where influencers and industry folks hang out.

Laura offered the group several tangible ideas to keep in mind as we work on our social media presence.

EASY TO FIND = EASY TO PURCHASE

First, make sure you have a social media presence such as a website with your name prominently displayed. Use the PIN feature on Facebook and Twitter. Include retail links – all of them, not just Amazon to make it easy and to reduce clicks for readers. Include the covers of your books to create a branded look.

YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE SERVES READERS

Make sure that what you write and what kind of stories you write serve readers. Again, Laura mentioned retail links. Include quotes about your book(s). Find ways to take people through the stages of new to you ==> reader ==> fan ==> superfan. Superfans will bring other readers to you.

PURPOSE OF ONLINE PRESENCE IS TO SELL BOOKS

Goals of social media book promotion are to gain exposure for you as an author and what you write. To foster discoverability. To build you name, brand, and book recognition. To build relationships with existing readers so that readers will feel invested in you and feel some sort of kinship with you. To network and build relationships with authors, bloggers, reviewers. These relationships will get others talking about your books. (See, I did that at the beginning of this post!) To find new readers. And ultimately, to sell books.

Mistakes on Facebook and Twitter:

  • your posts are either too sell/buy or too personal/diluted
  • you don’t engage/interact – remember that social media shrinks the distance between author and readers; you need to engage and readers want you to engage
  • you don’t post regularly enough – Laura recommends 2-3 times per day
  • you have no custom URL on Facebook
  • you have no branded cover image
  • you don’t have an author page on Facebook (as distinct from your personal page)
  • you have no description and/or no links on your Facebook cover image
  • you don’t pin a post to signify its importance and to prompt shares
  • check out Laura’s Facebook page for ideas; click on her header image for Ribbons of Scarlet to see what she has included;

AT A GLANCE YOUR WEBSITE SHOULD CONVEY

  • your genre
  • your personality
  • whether visitor’s interests match your offer
  • Laura recommends checking out the websites of: Kristin Hannah, Steve Berry, Geraldine Brooks, Christina Baker Kline, Susan Meissner, Alma Katsu, Jennifer Robson

Mistakes on Website:

  • unclear branding/messaging about who you are and what you write and what kind of emotional reading experience your books offer
  • missing retail links
  • no master book list, no information on what’s coming soon
  • out of date/stagnant information
  • inactive blog
  • hard to spell/difficult to remember URL

Website Must Haves

  • newsletter signup
  • about page to convey who you are in an engaging way with headshot and short bio
  • separate page for each book that includes cover, buy links, short description, social proof

In closing, Laura reminded us not to be overwhelmed and to do what you are comfortable with. In her own case, Laura is on Twitter at least once a day; on Facebook 2-3 times a day; she has a virtual assistant; and posts about her backlist on TBT (Throwback Thursday).

Well, if you aren’t exhausted, I was at the end of that session (I know I didn’t capture everything!!) and as I prepare this post I admit to feeling daunted all over again by the work involved with social media. I already spend many hours to sustain my blog — clearly that’s not enough if I want to serve and engage with readers!

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Double Trouble #HNS2019

Beatriz Williams and Kate Quinn were obviously having a blast at their session Double Trouble at #HNS2019. The topic was all about crafting the dual timeline historical novel and having written two of them — Time and Regret and the as yet unpublished The Admiral’s Wife — I wanted to hear their advice. They ran the session like a conversation which worked extremely well.

According to Beatriz and Kate, dual timeline novels are hot, and I wonder whether this is because they can appeal to both fans of contemporary and fans of historical novels. But let’s hear from the experts!

BW: a dual timeline story is a dialogue between past and present and as such it connects us to the past

KQ: Kate’s editor suggested writing a dual timeline novel, apparently saying that it had the advantage of getting your books shelved in two spots which will broaden your reach. Kate said that historical fiction is a more difficult sell in the market and that dual timeline makes the ‘sell’ easier.

BW: historical fiction doesn’t feel relevant to many readers; with the present being so challenging (!) and dynamic, many people have less respect for the past. It’s very important to create HF stories that are relevant to readers. Dual timeline has been around for a long time and is a respected structure for a novel.

KQ: there are many varieties of dual timeline. For example, you can position the same character at different points in his/her life. The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams follows that model. The contrast between a character at time A and time B creates tension, interest, questions, and drama.

BW: you can show how the time — the era and its events — affected the character. And the points of inflection in a character’s life. Stories like these are a bit more demanding of the reader. In terms of technique – you can write one narrative at a time or go back and forth between the narratives.

Both: Beatriz prefers to write one narrative at a time in order to feel immersed in the era. Kate said she wrote The Alice Network going back and forth between the narratives. Both said there is no ‘right way’ to do it and you can/should make connections between the timelines as you switch.

BW: every book has its own personality.

KQ: there are various devices to link the timelines. Characters, objects/artifacts, locations, dead bodies, antiques can all serve as links between timelines. Kate mentioned that old letters from the past are a bit overdone as a technique.

On the topic of pitfalls and problems:

BW: you need to ‘get into’ each character with enough depth and detail to give them the richness they deserve and make them come alive.

KQ: in The Huntress, three main characters gave variety in time, setting and character. In the process, this created much more research, challenges with language and slang, and a huge requirement for fact checking.

BW: you need to create difference as well as consistency of voice. She finds this challenge easier if she writes one timeline at a time. Recommends that you create variation in your characters in terms of ages, gender, backgrounds, experiences. As a writer, you need to slip into the being of your character, which in turn will help your readers do the same.

KQ: likes to write ‘fish-out-of-water stories’. For example, a night witch with a Nazi hunter. This technique creates conflict, tension, dissonance. Kate recommends 2000 to 5000 words before switching timelines. She also recommends creating some parallels in points of inflection for each timeline. These become the beats of the novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Kate and Beatriz and will take their advice into my next dual timeline! By the way, I’ve read both The Summer Wives and The Huntress – highly recommended and superbly crafted.

If you want more information about dual timeline novels, Susanna Kearsley did a session on them at the 2017 conference. I wrote about it in Weaving the Twin-Stranded Story.

Other posts about #HNS2019: Tips on Writing a Series,  The State of Historical Fiction and When You Don’t Quite Fit.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

When You Don’t Quite Fit #HNS2019

Alison Stuart, author of historical romance and the soon-to-release historical mystery, Singapore Sapphire, and three other authors—Lauren Willig, Deanna Raybourn, and Leanna Hieber—discussed the notion of carving out your niche in a crowded market. It was a lively session with lots of laughter.

Publishers and retailers love labels; but what do you do when what you write doesn’t fit neatly on the shelf …

Lauren Willig refers to her novels as “genre stew”, a combination of historical chick lit, historical fiction, and women’s fiction. Deanna Raybourn used the phrase “magpies of the writers world” to describe her novels which are Victorian, romance, mysteries. And Leanna Hieber has coined a new phrase for her novels—gaslight fantasy—to describe their blend of historical fantasy, mystery, and gothic.

The group shared stories about their obstacles to publishing. Deanna said that she originally “didn’t know what she wanted to write” and stumbled around for years trying to fit until her agent told her to spend a year reading rather than writing. What she discovered during that time was that the stories she loved to read all included mysteries, had women in the lead role, and featured romance. Two years later, she sold a series of six books in one deal, her Julia Grey series.

Lauren sold her first novel just when cross-genre stories “became a thing.” She then experienced a problem because the genre lines tightened again. Lauren has discovered that readers enjoy a “modern frame story”, which is what she writes. She also told the audience that her publisher changed the cover of one of her novels from a historical fiction look to a romance look, when romance was hot and historical fiction wasn’t.

According to the panel, we should realize that publishers are organized by genre.

Each panelist offered advice for other authors:

Leanna: say yes to every opportunity and say yes to your voice.

Deanna: choose fear … choose the project you’re afraid of

Lauren: be flexible when you go to market; remember that the market is a strange beast and changes on a dime.

Alison: understand what your core story is, understand the market for that core story, and pitch to the right market.

The group said that historical fiction seems to be booming. Positioning your novel is key. For example, “Kate Morton” read alikes are selling. You can also position a novel by using a combination such as: Jane Austen meets James Bond.

Other posts on HNS2019:

Tips on Writing a Series and The State of Historical Fiction.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.