Tag Archives: research

How to play well with others – the guest blog query

DSC01656I know that the word “query” is a red-hot-icky word for many writers. Faggitaboutit!

A great way to expand your exposure and make new friends is to guest blog. But what about the mechanics of a blog query, the acceptance, or the dreaded turn-down?

Your blog – Take a critical look at your blog (and your FB, LI, Twitter). Are you someone that another blogger would welcome? Are your blogs about helping others, sharing experiences, sharing knowledge?

Before the query – Say for instance you find a way-cool blog. You like a post or two and think, “I’d love to be a guest on this blog!” Before you query…

Guidelines? – If the blogger has guidelines, read them. Follow them.

Research – Read a bunch of the blogger’s posts, including posts made by guest bloggers. I suggest at least a dozen. What is that blogger’s focus? How are the posts presented? How are guests presented?DSC01651

Where to send query – If the blogger wants you to send queries via an online contact form, use it. If the blogger wants you to send it to his email, use the email.

Form letters – Ick. Don’t do it. Most experienced bloggers can spot a form letter query from a mile away.

A blah query – “I’m a blogger, and I want to guest blog for you! I love your blog.” Blah and blech. Be sincere, not spammy.

A brilliant query – 1) Mentions a couple of the blogger’s posts and why you liked them. 2) Mentions one or two of the blogs in her blog roll. 3) Mentions the blogger’s book (if applicable).  4) Mentions what you’d like to blog about 5) Provides a brief preview.

Fear of rejection – Get over it. Send your brilliant query.

DSC01676Pace yourself – Don’t send out 50 queries on the same day – you might just get 50 “Yes, I’d like to have you on my blog” and then you’re scrambling to write 50 blogs at quantum-leap speed.

No, thank you – You send your query. You think it’s stellar! The blogger turns you down. It’s his blog, his decision. Remember, it might be timing. Make a note to query this blogger at a later date.

Temper, temper – If the blogger turns you down, don’t blast him on FB or Twitter. Send a basic thank you and let it go.

Resubmit – Try again in a few months. Consider subscribing to the target blog and leaving a comment on occasion.

See also Blog guidelines and Hosting a guest blogger.

Have you sent a query to another blogger? Was your query specific and personal or spammy? What tips would you add to my list?

“Panic at the thought of doing a thing is a challenge to do it.” ~Henry S. Haskins

Quote Garden

8 Comments

Filed under Blogging

Is your fan page a little flat?

Fan Page Research

I’ve been conducting considerable research on Facebook Fan Pages. I communicated with 36 fan page owners/administrators and asked them a pile of questions about what worked and what didn’t work on their fan pages.

Small and Large

I connected with small and large businesses from small specialty shops to non-profit organizations, writers and publishers, illustrators and photographers, local restaurants, small business entrepreneurs, social media strategists, and sales and marketing gurus.

Shocking Feedback

A lot of the feedback from fan page owners shocked me – many of these fan page owners activated their fan page without any idea of what to put on the fan page. And now up, they haven’t paid their fan page much attention.

Watching Fan Pages

I read dozens of websites and blogs on how to make a fan page successful. I have observed dozens of fan pages and noted which posts generate feedback and comments and which do not.

Fan Page Pffttt

Are you trying to engage your fans or posting links and getting just one or two comments?

Is there an echo on your fan page?

Here are a few quick fixes

Change your banner photo once a week. Keep it fresh.

Always, always include a good photo (or at least a link) with each post. Use photos that are clear, crisp, centered, edited, titled.

Either/Or – Ask a question that warrants a simple answer. Like “Harry Potter or Hardy Boys?” or “Do you send a text to say thank you, or do you create a hand-written note?” or “Turkey or Ham for the holiday dinner?”

Once you post a comment or question on the fan page, follow the post (don’t post and run). Interact with followers, answer their questions, have a dialog.

Create “theme weeks” or “special events” for your fan page. Google online calendars, but don’t use only national holidays – get creative.

***

I am almost ready to launch my own fan page to test some of my research. I will be sharing others’ expert websites, fan pages, tips, and tricks to engage your fan page fans. Stay tuned!

11 Comments

Filed under Social Networking

Kids’ Week – Author Jessica Messinger

Article by Jessica Messinger, author of Stinky Feet

Thank you, Karen, for asking me to guest blog about children’s books during Kids’ Week. I’m glad to be here.

I think every children’s book author has to deal with the question, “What makes you think you can be a writer of children’s books?”

I hear voices.

My writing began with my love for stories. My mother used to tell me stories about the mice that lived in my hair to get me to sit still while she combed the snarls out of my long, fine, blonde hair. My grandfather and my childhood babysitter read stories to me, and I can still hear their voices when I read those same stories. Stories are a huge part of our lives, and I suppose writing stories grew out of my love for hearing them, and then thinking, “Hey, I could write something like that.”

What did I do to research writing children’s books?

Though I have a BA in English, the research that helped me the most was reading to children. I learned what kinds of books they like, and I learned what I liked and didn’t like about children’s books.

I paid attention to how children looked at the world. Kids will spend hours looking at ants, bugs, worms and spiders. I got down on the ground and the floor with them and listened to what they had to say about the world.

I think it is imperative to spend time with children in the age group for your book, and it helps if you ask them questions or find out what they think about your book topic. With my book, I began to write it when my daughter was in second or third grade and she wouldn’t wear socks with her shoes. When she took off her shoes in the car it smelled like something had died. I knew this problem of stinky feet inside and out by the time I wrote the book.

What books, if any, did I use to help me?

I read Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, parts of Ann Whitford Paul’s book Writing Picture Books, and many children’s books. I also like to read grammar, usage, and punctuation books.

What audience do I hope to attract with my book?

I hope children will enjoy my book, but I hope that the readers of my book will enjoy it as well. If my book becomes a favorite that is asked for over and over again that would be nice too. Some people have told me that my book is definitely a “read-to” book. I do not believe that just because my book is a children’s book, all the words should be simple! Though I like simply-written books to help early readers, when people read my book, I want the child to ask, “What does this word mean,” so their vocabulary expands.

As so many authors do now, I added some thought questions at the end of the story, to encourage discussion about the book between the reader and the listener. I believe this is an important aspect of reading together.

Since you’re self-published, what did you do for your beta-reading and editing?

I sent pdf files to a few friends and asked for their feedback. I tweaked it a little and then I printed five copies and handed them out at my book group for people to see. They looked at the books for a few minutes and loved it. It is a nice book to look at, the illustrations “read” very well, and the colors are fabulous! I learned that beta-reading even a simple children’s book should take time. Next time I’ll print out a few more copies, give them to people to read, and ask specific questions.

I paid to have my book edited (Thank you, Karen, you do fantastic work!) and I would encourage any writer to have their book professionally edited!

What is your writing schedule?

I don’t have one. Maybe that’s why it took me seven years to publish this book. With a toddler and two busy teenagers (our third teenager is currently on a two-year mission for our church) it’s hard to find time to write. Most books about writing say that writing isn’t so much working on your story as it is honing your writing skills, so I have a blog for my book, and a blog for my son, which give me specific writing deadlines.

I love to write letters too! I think we’re losing the art of letter-writing to the convenience of instant messages. Because our family can’t call our son while he’s on his mission, we take time to write letters and lengthy emails to him. Sometimes I get creative and email him a letter written from the perspective of the three-year old, the cat, or the dog. It’s fun to watch my daughter and the animals and to think about how their perspectives might sound. My son loves to get those letters!

What is it like working with your husband?

I’m not sure if most children’s books are written and illustrated the way we did it, but it worked for us. Todd is one of those rare, gifted, fine artists who can also illustrate. When I wrote the story I had ideas in my mind of what the illustrations would look like, so I described them and put them in the manuscript where I wanted them. Todd took those descriptions and worked his magic into the illustrations we have now – which are fabulous! For the last 20 years, I have seen his work on other projects and he still surprised me with these illustrations.

Do you have another project in the works?

Yes! StoryCub has done a video reading of my book, which will be available for free on iTunes and their web site soon. I have a notebook full of ideas and I can’t wait to see which project will jump out at me next.

***

Jessica Messinger

Jessica Messinger has a BA in English with a minor in French from Brigham Young University. She lives with her husband Todd and their four children in upstate New York. They live in a teeny house with a yellow lab, Bailey, and a black cat, Midnight. Stinky Feet is Jessica’s first children’s book. She has a lot of ideas for more children’s books and hopes to have enough time to write them all.

Check out Jessica’s children’s book Stinky Feet via CreateSpace, on Facebook, or on her blog.

You can buy Stinky Feet on Amazon here.

***

Interesting information about StoryCub

StoryCub produces videos of children’s books being read while the camera pans through a few illustrations from the book. If you click on the YouTube icon on StoryCub’s home page, you’ll go to their videos on YouTube. Jessica’s book will be there soon!

8 Comments

Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Illustrators & Illustrations, Kid Stuff & Children's Books

Kids’ Week Kick-off – An Interview with Chris Eboch

Tell us about your latest historical fiction for children.

The Eyes of Pharaoh, 1177 BC: During the reign of Pharaoh Ramses the Third, Seshta, a 13-year-old dancer in the Temple of Hathor, dreams of becoming a famous entertainer. Horus, the brother of her heart, is content as a toymaker’s apprentice. Reya, at 16, has joined Egypt’s army with hopes of becoming a hero. Despite their different paths, nothing can break the bonds of their friendship.

When Reya hints that Egypt is in danger from foreign nomads, Seshta and Horus don’t take him seriously. How could anyone challenge Egypt?

Then Reya disappears. Seshta and Horus set out to find him—and discover a darker plot than they ever imagined. To save their friend, Seshta and Horus spy on merchants, soldiers, and royalty, and start to suspect even The Eyes of Pharaoh, the powerful head of the secret police. Will Seshta and Horus escape the traps set for them, rescue Reya, and stop the plot against Egypt in time?

Set in ancient Egypt, the ideas in this book echo in the international politics of today, while the power of friendship will touch hearts both young and old. Suitable for ages 9 and up.

What kind of research did you do for The Eyes of Pharaoh?

I’ve been fascinated by ancient Egypt since I was a kid. Plus, I grew up in Saudi Arabia, so I have some familiarity with the Middle East, and my family visited Egypt when I was in my 20s. I have at least a dozen books on ancient Egypt on my bookshelf, including several of the Time-Life books about how people lived, with lots of pictures. I also did a lot of library and museum research. The Eyes of Pharaoh is the kind of book I would have wanted to read when I was in fourth or fifth grade.

What is the most surprising thing you learned from your research?

One thing that intrigues me about history is how some of the lessons of the past resonate today. My first novel, The Well of Sacrifice, is an adventure/drama set in 9th-century Mayan times. I explored some of the reasons the Mayan civilization collapsed, such as environmental degradation and too much money flowing to the government and away from the people.

For The Eyes of Pharaoh, I touched on issues such as illegal immigration and the dangers of a country thinking it’s the best and most powerful country in the world, and therefore untouchable. It’s disturbing how some of these themes still affect us. Sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever learn from the mistakes of the past, but I hope my books will get people thinking a little harder about these issues.

What is your writing process like?

Over the years I’ve gotten better at using outlines. Now I prefer to start with them, as it saves me a lot of time and frustration during the writing process. I figure a strong outline is the equivalent of two drafts. I use the analytical process I developed and included in my book Advanced Plotting to make sure the outline has all the elements needed for a strong novel, including good pacing.

That means I’ll spend several weeks brainstorming before I start writing, and I’ll also do most of my research in advance (although there are always little things to check along the way). Once I start writing, I generally write 1500 – 2500 words each day, about a chapter. Then I take a few weeks for editing, and maybe a break between books to catch up on other things.

How did you choose your genre?

Writing middle grade novels seemed like a natural fit to me. I read an enormous amount as a kid, and I still enjoy reading children’s books. It fits my style, partly natural and partly based on journalism training, with a focus on simple, clear language and plenty of action and dialogue to keep the pages turning. Plus, I love ancient history!

I’ve written contemporary novels for kids as well, such as my Haunted series about a brother and sister who travel with the ghost hunter TV show. That has a historical angle, too, because the ghosts are from different points in history. I’m now publishing the fourth Haunted book, The Ghost Miner’s Treasure. The first three books were published by Aladdin, but they dropped the series after my editor left. I’m excited that with self-publishing I can release The Ghost Miner’s Treasure on my own – and one early young reader said she thinks it’s the best yet!

A couple of years ago, I was starting to feel restless and wanted a change. I realized I had mostly been reading adult romantic suspense novels. I decided to try one, and now I’m publishing my third, under the name Kris Bock. I also write articles about writing, teach writing through a correspondence school, lead workshops, and offer private critique services. I expect my future will hold a combination of writing for children and for adults, plus teaching and editing.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Take classes and get professional feedback. Most people try to submit their work long before they’re writing at a professional level. You’ll save yourself frustration if you focus on learning to write better for a few years before you worry about the submission process.

Where can readers find your books?

Readers can learn about my books and order them on my Amazon page. They can also read excerpts of my children’s books at www.chriseboch.com, learn about my romantic suspense novels at www.krisbock.com, or get writing tips and excerpts from Advanced Plotting on my blog.

***

Chris Eboch

Chris Eboch’s book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots and is available in print or e-book on Amazon or B&N. Learn about Chris’s children’s books at www.chriseboch.com or visit her Amazon page or B&N page.

Check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog. Chris also writes romantic suspense for adults under the name Kris Bock. Visit her website or see Kris Bock’s books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.

Connect with Chris on Facebook, Kris Bock Author Page, and on Twitter.

***

Chris Eboch’s profile photo by Sonia Sones.

17 Comments

Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Guest Writers & Bloggers, Kid Stuff & Children's Books