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The Writer’s Online Presence: A Guest Post from Marianne Sciucco

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s hear from today’s guest, Marianne Sciucco.

How Important Is An Author’s Online Presence?

All the publishing pros will tell you that having an active online presence is an author’s most important asset. How else will readers discover your work? How will those interested in what you have to offer locate you? How else will you stand out from the rest of the crowd? I recently experienced firsthand how imperative it is for an author to be available to an audience online. I consider myself to have a solid online presence and what I saw when I researched other authors baffled me.

A few weeks ago while at work at a community college in upstate New York, I got a call from Dorene who works in our continuing adult education program. She asked me to help her locate the author of a book she wanted to purchase for a class. She wanted to buy the books directly from him. I teach a few classes in self-publishing at the college, so although I am officially a campus nurse Dorene figured I’d be able to help.

“Did you look him up on LinkedIn?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “Great idea.”

We looked for him on the site and came up with nothing. We checked his Amazon page, but there was no author profile and no contact information listed. We looked for him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, all the usual places authors set up an online presence, but did not find him. We did a Google search and came full circle back to the Amazon page with no info.

Stumped, I apologized and said, “I guess he doesn’t want to be found.”

She was disappointed. “We’re looking at another book, and that author is approachable, so I guess we’ll go with him.”

I felt bad for the author who lost the opportunity to put his book into the hands of a classroom of students. If he had simply set up an author profile on his Amazon page with contact info, he would have made a nice sale.

Not long after that I was talking to Gail, my contact at Thrall Library who works with me to coordinate the library’s Local Authors & Illustrators Showcase, coming in September. She had an author she wanted me to invite to the event. She gave me a slip of paper with his name and phone number.

Before I contact an author for this event, I check him out online to make sure he fits with the program and to see what he can offer to our patrons and the other authors attending. And although I had a phone number for this guy, I wanted an email address, my preferred method of communication for this event. As you can imagine, coordinating 20+ authors can become confusing and overwhelming. An email trail keeps me organized and sane.

So I did my research on all the usual sites and discovered this author had no online presence other than his Amazon page with no author profile. Bummer. I resorted to calling him, and after we played some telephone tag he agreed to participate. He gave me an email address, and we are now communicating online, although he says he does not have internet service at home and visits his local library once a week to take care of his email.

After our initial conversation, I shook my head, amazed that the author of five print books would opt out of an online presence. We live and work in a global market. There’s no telling who might be interested in what this author has published or who might want to invite him to an event where he can share his work with an audience and perhaps sell a few copies. Again, a profile on his Amazon page including contact info is all he needs to avail himself of opportunities.

A year ago, I attended a local author event at another library (it’s where I got the idea for the event in my hometown). I met a few authors of children’s books. I’m in need of these authors to round out my program so I thought I’d invite them to join us. I had the event program and lots of info I’d collected (bookmarks and postcards) from these authors and sat down to do some investigating.

I was shocked to find that although many of them had some online presence – a Facebook or Twitter page,  a website –  many of them were inactive and had not posted or updated their sites in months. What was going on? Were they interested in getting out there with their books? None of them had listed an email address. Of the five I checked out, two looked promising, so I reached out to them via their Facebook accounts, but we are not friends, and such messages get sent to a secondary inbox. I learned this when I reached out to a blogger for a possible interview and didn’t get a reply for months because she didn’t realize she had mail waiting for her in this box. I imagine my messages to these authors will lie undiscovered, and they will miss out on an opportunity to connect with readers and other authors, and sell books.

One more story regarding my locating authors for this event: I learned of a local guy with a new book and decided to invite him. He had a great online presence – Amazon profile, and Facebook, Twitter, and About Me pages – but I couldn’t find an email address. I decided to contact him via Twitter and he responded! Happy ending! But I shouldn’t have to work so hard to get in touch with someone who has recently published a book.

What’s the moral of these stories? If you’re serious about your career as an author, indie or otherwise, it’s imperative you establish an online presence. You can do this for free. At the very least, build an Amazon author profile. Then start a Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, About Me, or Google+ page (one or all, your choice, but at least one.) Create a webpage, your home on the web. On every site, include an email address. If you don’t want to use your personal email address establish a new account specifically for your author activities. Remember to check it daily. Update your Amazon page and social media pages frequently. It’s important to look active and engaged to potential readers and those looking to establish a relationship.

Publishing is a competitive business. Discoverability in a field of millions is difficult. Don’t make it hard for people to find you. Not everyone will be as patient and determined to track down an author as I am.

Marianne Sciucco, Author

Marianne Sciucco is not a nurse who writes but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, she dreamed of becoming an author when she grew up, but became a nurse to avoid poverty. She later brought her two passions together and writes about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues. Her debut novel, Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story, is a Kindle bestseller, IndieReader Approved, a BookWorks featured book, a Library Journal SELF-e Selection, and winner of IndieReCon’s Best Indie Novel Award, 2014. A native Bostonian, she lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, and when not writing works as a campus nurse at a community college. She loves, books, beaches, and craft beer, and especially enjoys the three of them together.

Here’s more about Blue Hydrangeas by Marianne Sciucco:

Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story by Marianne Sciucco

What if the person who knew you best and loved you most forgot your face, and couldn’t remember your name?

A nursing facility is everyone’s solution for what to do about Sara, but her husband Jack can’t bear to live without her. He is committed to saving his marriage, his wife, and their life together from the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease. He and Sara retired years ago to the house of their dreams and operated it as a Cape Cod bed and breakfast named Blue Hydrangeas. Jack has made an impossible promise: He and Sara will stay together in their beautiful home no matter what the disease brings. However, after nine years of selfless caregiving complicated by her progressing Alzheimer’s and his own failing heart, he finally admits he can no longer care for her at home. With reluctance, he arranges to admit her to an assisted living facility. But on the day of admission, Sara is having one of her few good days and he is unable to follow through. Instead, he takes them on an impulsive journey to confront their past and reclaim their future. In the end, he realizes that staying together at any cost is what truly matters.

On Amazon + Amazon UK + An Interview with  Author Marianne Sciucco + Audible + Barnes and Noble + Facebook  + Goodreads + Google+ + iBooks + Kobo + Linked In + Nook + Pinterest + Scribd + Twitter + Website

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7 Steps to a Library Author Event

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I got your quick takes RIGHT HERE!  And so does Kelly over at This Ain’t the Lyceum. 

Last Saturday I took part in an event for local authors at the happiest place on earth.happiestplaceonearth_thumb

No, not there. Our local library!  How did we make this happen?

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Get to know your local librarian!

Sherrie at the library putting DYFAM in its library suit.

Sherrie at the library putting DYFAM in its library suit.

This is Sherrie, who blogs over at Sherrie’s Scriptorium.  She’s also the welcoming face we see at one of our local libraries.  She loves books and more than tolerates people, which makes her the best possible person to have behind that desk.  I had a relationship with Sherrie before my book came out, so that once it was available, I already had an ally in the fight to get my book in the hands of readers.

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Network with other authors.  I joined the Catholic Writers Guild ages ago and more recently joined my local branch of Sisters in Crime.  Both organizations gave me a connection to other authors for times like this.

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Come up with some cockamamie theme, ideally having something to do with a holiday.  Holidays mean shopping for gifts.  Books make great gifts.  An author event themed to a holiday sounds like a winning idea to me.  And thus…

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Design holiday-themed activities to include in your event that get people to mingle and not just stand around feeling shy and awkward.  Bookworms and the people who write for them are not exactly known for their extraversion, after all.  Valentine’s Day means dating.  Speed dating with books (3 minutes with one book, then you have to move on to the next) and blind dates with books (wrapped in brown paper and purchased unwrapped for a donation to the library) were the order of the day.  We’re already talking about a possible summer reading event, “Beach Book Bingo.”

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Give yourself enough time.  Please, people, never do something like this (forgive the language) half-assed and last minute and then complain that nobody showed up.  Your audience for this event needs time to hear from you repeatedly, find out which of their friends are going, and then commit to attending themselves in order for your live event marketing to have a hope of working.  You could still have a flop, but at least it won’t be for lack of trying.

Sherrie & I threw this together in about six weeks from idea to event.  This was as tight a time frame as I’d ever want.  I’d prefer to start 8-12 weeks from idea to event.  Why so much time?  You need to…

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Get your librarian and her library on board.  You may need time to get the library’s board of directors to approve your event, and that can be tricky, especially during seasons when weather is likely to cancel board meetings.

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Organize, mobilize and publicize.  Recruit authors from your network to take part in the event, because many hands make light work, and variety has a bigger draw.  Organize who’s doing what when (we used SignupGenius.com).  Send out press releases 4-6 weeks before your event.  Create a Facebook event (if you’re as lucky as I am, your Sherrie will do this for you).  Tweet. Instagram, if that’s your thing.  Encourage your fellow participating authors to do the same.  Together we had a longer reach, and by including other authors in this stage of the game, I got several new media contacts to whom I was able to send the PR, which is always a good thing.

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Enjoy your event!  The weather was not great, but we still had some readers come join us.  Most of us sold books.  I showed up with two boxes of items for my display table and left with just one!

Here’s the speed dating table…

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Copyright 2015 Sherrie Palmer. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

I also suggested people bring a food to share with readers that connects to your book.  Top left corner has your tomato pie, fo sho, but also take a look at the little “A Good Book” sandwiches another librarian on staff that day made with tortillas.  Deliciously cute! Carolyn Astfalk, whose book isn’t even out yet, brought “Rebecca’s Fantasy Fudge,” which is part of her forthcoming novel, and bookmarks with the recipe on them, fantastic ways to get potential readers to hang on to your info and keep you in mind when your book release date gets closer.

Copyright 2015 Sherrie Palmer.  All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Copyright 2015 Sherrie Palmer. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

So, even though we did not have a HUGE crowd, we had some crowd.  Best of all, though, we writers had an opportunity to share our writing lives with others.

Copyright 2015 Sherrie Palmer, All Rights Reserved.  Used with Permission.

Copyright 2015 Sherrie Palmer, All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

Many thanks to Sherrie and the Atglen Public Library for hosting us! Let’s do it again some time. Also, do check out Sherrie’s blog, where she’ll have a list of links to all the “Fall in Love With a Good Book” participating authors.    Have you ever put together an author event like this one?  Do you have any tips to add?  Do you need some additional ideas on how to organize your own event?  Comment below and let’s share brains!  

7QT: An Interview with A. K. Frailey

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It’s Friday, and it’s 7 Quick Takes over at Jennifer’s very own ConversionDiary.com!21

Today is my pleasure and honor to have a visit with Catholic author A. K. Frailey.

Author A. K. Frailey

Ann has a B. S. in Elementary Education and has taught in Milwaukee, WI, Chicago, IL, Los Angeles, CA, Wood River, IL and for Peace Corps in the Philippines. She was married to John Frailey who was an educator for many years. John died from cancer complication December 2013. Ann has eight children and she home educates them while maintaining a rural home – including chickens, bees, cats and dogs, apparently in early retirement.  Ann has a B. S. in Elementary Education and has taught in Milwaukee, WI, Chicago, IL, Los Angeles, CA, Wood River, IL and for Peace Corps in the Philippines. She was married to John Frailey who was an educator for many years. John died from cancer complication December 2013. Ann has eight children and she home educates them while maintaining a rural home – including chickens, bees, cats and dogs, apparently in early retirement

Ann is one of the first Catholic writers I really got to consider a friend after meeting her through the Catholic Writers Guild.  Her work is shot through with the dignity and integrity with which she lives her whole life, and you’ll be honored to get to know her too.  Let’s meet A. K. Frailey!

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Tell us about your most recent work.  How did the idea come to you?  How long did it take you from start to publication?  

I wrote Georgios as a continuation in the “Conversation with God” theme I have in all my books.  It is a story about a young Greek boy named Georgios, growing up on the island of Patmos which is where St. John the Apostle spent some years in exile. I read an article about the island and thought it would be a great setting for a story.  It took me about a year to do the research and write the first draft of the story.  Then it took some months to get it edited and revised.

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Idea, research, editing, design…What was your favorite part of working on this project? What was your least favorite?  

I enjoy coming up with the initial plot outline and then beginning the writing process after getting some research in place to back up the setting and the physical aspects of the story – like what people eat, how they dress and what kind of housing they might live in. My favorite part is when the characters begin to take over, usually somewhere near the middle of the book.  The characters become so real that they act the story out according to their own nature and I just come along for the ride.

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Tell us about how this work came to reach us:  did you go the self-publishing route or did you contract with a publisher?  What was that like?

I am a self-published author and I learned about this blog from the Catholic Writer’s guild.  I have met a lot of supportive writers through the guild and have become a better writer for the experience. Self-publishing is tough since you have to do or hire someone to do pretty much everything from writing the story to editing, and marketing.  But I do believe that as a self-published author I know the process from start to finish, and I not only have better skills as an author now, but I certainly appreciate other authors more honestly.

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What other things in your life do you juggle in order to keep at your writing?  How’s that working out for you?

In addition to being an author I also home school my children.  I have eight children, though one is in college now.  I have had to learn how to balance my priorities so that I can fulfill my vocation as mother and manage my job as educator, yet still have some time for writing and the whole self-publishing package.  It is a difficult balance to maintain, but it is worth the effort.  I believe that my writing has made me a better person, more thoughtful and introspective, and also more certain of what I think is really important.  I have learned to take necessary risks and to accept defeat.  But I have also learned to keep moving forward even when things are beyond difficult.

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Setting, characters, plot, mood, tone… What would you describe as your greatest strength as a writer?

I definitely focus on character.  I love humanity and I am constantly encountering amazing stories of real life heroes who strive for the best in themselves and others despite incredible obstacles.  When I engage in the process of forming a character I reflect the reality that I know to be true and there is a point when something new happens – something that is beyond my conscious thought – and it is there, that I as the author, learn something important. I love that.  I need that.

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Conversely, if you could change one thing about your writing style, what would it be and why?

I wish I knew the secret world of commas and punctuation better…  It is morass which sends me into grammar hell on occasion.

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Lastly, where can we find your work, a. k. a. give you our hard earned cash?

My books are all available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble as both paperback and e-books.  There are other book sites which carry them but you’d have to Google them…

9781450288101_COVER.indd Cover for ARAM 2013 IshtarCV Neb_Cover front cover only

Writer attends conference. You won’t believe what happens next!

That kind of headline seems to work for getting people to watch goofy videos.  Maybe it will get you to think about attending the Catholic Writers Guild Conference Live.  

CWC live

The Catholic Writers Conference will be July 30-August 1, 2014  at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center and Hotel, in conjunction with the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show.

This year’s conference will be focused on “Perseverance.” How do we continue to write our faith through the tough times? How do we run that race as our Lord asks? Our conference allows you to connect personally with Catholic publishers and retailers, to learn more about the art, show your work, learn the craft and network. 

This year we are hosting:
•workshops on marketing and writing
•presentations on marketing and selling your work
•in-person pitch sessions
•group critique sessions
•national CWG Members meeting (guests welcome, of course)

Time is running out, so get thee to a registration page!  

PR Pics, huzzah!

Do you need to write a press release?  It seems making pictures available to go with your news item may (may) increase the chances of your story being run.

However, most news folks aren’t all that interested in opening large files from strangers.  What do you do?

You post the pics somewhere online…

Author Erin McCole Cupp

Author Erin McCole Cupp (c) Scott Cupp, Erin Hause

Then you include links to those pics…

Author Erin McCole Cupp distributing slices of Philadelphia-style tomato pie at the 2013 Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show

Author Erin McCole Cupp distributing slices of Philadelphia-style tomato pie at the 2013 Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show (c) James Hrkach 2013

… in the emails you send to the various media outlets.

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Comme ça! 

My work here is done.