Posted in Business Side of Writing, Promotion

Building Your Own WordPress Website

If you read this post, you’ll see that WordPress website builder is my first go to, plus it has information on choosing a host.

After you’ve written and prepared content for your website (see this post if you need content ideas and this one for preparation info), then follow the steps below:

Chose a WordPress.org theme

  • Finding a theme can be difficult. It’s not just a matter of layout or colors (much of that can be changed), but it’s also about what a theme provides: blogging, e-commerce, etc. I like what this article says: “Your goal should be to find a WordPress theme that has a design you like, is fast, and can be easily customized.” Read more of “Selecting the Perfect WordPress Theme – 9 Things to Consider” for more tips.
  • It can be overwhelming as there are so many choices. Narrow those choices by using the search. Try “author,” or “illustrator” or “writer” or “art” or even a specific color. Remember the images will be yours (although some themes provide banner images that you may keep).
  • Pick three to four themes that appeal to you, then examine each one closely.

For example, Context Blog is a theme aimed at blogging. There are two links on the page to check out, first a Preview. The Theme Homepage link takes you to a Demo. What do I like about this site? Clean, easy to use, good for multiple authors blogging together. I like that blog posts have a light-colored background. The font is easy to read. There are a variety of ways your home page can be set up.

Kidsi Pro offers a rainbow of colors. Besides checking out the above issues, make sure you read the text and the tags—these will tell you a lot. In the tags on this one, it shows blog, so that means it’s easy to set up a blog page. The Theme Homepage didn’t work. Uh oh! I’d steer away from this one then.

Green Wealth is one I discovered by clicking on Latest Themes. Green is my favorite color so it appeals to me. I like that the image is formatted as a circle and I like the soft green backgrounds. When I click on the Demo I see that it has animation. I like the floating dots, but I don’t like the way the picture moves. Animation can slow down a website too, so something else to keep in mind.

  • If necessary, choose more until you can narrow it down to one or two.

Get opinions on your choices from others. For example, one writer I know picked a black background. When she showed it to her daughter-in-law, she felt it was too dark. We changed the background to a medium dark gray blue. But that wasn’t something built into the theme. I had to use CSS to customize it. (And unless you have programmer knowledge or help, I can’t recommend this.)

  • Verify it has what you need as far as what you can build and how much flexibility it has.

Check for tags such as custom colors, custom background, custom menu, sidebar, columns.

  • I also like looking at the ratings and active installations of a theme. If no one is using it, that would make me nervous.

Once you have your host, and have set up a domain name, add your theme.

  • Go to your WordPress dashboard. There is usually access directly from your host. Also, you can access it by your url. Example: myauthorwebsite.com/wp-admin. Of course, a password is required.
  • On the left column, you’ll see Appearance with a subcategory of Themes. This is where you add new themes.
  • Easiest is click Add New Theme and use the search box by entering the name of the theme.
  • Once you’ve added a theme, you must click Activate.

Customize your theme. This is where you make it uniquely yours. (Note: not all themes will have each of these options. Some will have more; others less.)

Under Appearance is a subcategory of Customize. Here you can change:

  • Site Identity. For example, mine is set to Site Title: Susan Uhlig and Tagline: Children’s Author.
  • Colors. Here’s where you change the Background color and Header Text color.
  • Header Image. What image do you want to show on every page? These are usually a short and wide picture. Recommended is a 1000 × 250pixel image. Other size images can be cropped to fit.
  • Background Image. Instead of a solid color background, you can have a background image. Be wary of getting too busy.
  • You’ll probably ignore the Menu tab.
  • Widgets. This is where you can add sidebars and footers. Some themes come with them already.
  • Home page. It can be static or show most recent blog posts. The latter is my preference as there is always changing content on the home page.

All that and we still have not created a page or a blog post.  But the groundwork has been laid. And can be changed. For example, I had a red-toned background for a while, then switched to green.

I’ll do a post on adding pages and blog posts next.

Posted in Business Side of Writing, Promotion, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, Tools

Twitter Tips

Tweetdeck

When I started using Twitter, author Jenn Bailey taught me to use Tweetdeck. I don’t know why I stopped but recently I was reminded of its uses. One of my favorites is being able to schedule tweets. For some silly reason, I had totally forgotten this fact so was using my calendar to remind myself to tweet about things on a timely basis. Now I’m back to using Tweetdeck and scheduling those tweets. Ahh, the simplicity! (Tweetdeck automatically connects with Twitter. Here’s a tutorial on using the app.)

Hashtags

In a group Zoom discussion about Twitter, someone asked how to find active hashtags. Debbie Ridpath Ohi has a collection specifically created for writers here. There are two pages full. However, groups are added and groups change. I often use the simple method of typing a hashtag and seeing if something pops up. Some popular ones I see frequently are: #WritingCommunity, #amwriting, #writingtips, #writerslife, #amquerying and specifics to category and genre: #picturebook, #middlegrade, #YAFiction, #mystery, #scifi, #fantasy, etc. Upper and lowercase are not necessary, but often used for visual clarity. There are also ones related to events: #PBParty, #SCBWINY21, #Storystorm, #writingworkshop or pitch parties: #PBPitch, #pitmad, #RevPit. Here’s a list of 2021 pitch parties. (Need more info on hashtags? Check out this resource.)

Images

In a limited test, I noticed my posts with images got more traction (likes and retweets). The article on “17 Twitter Marketing Tips That Actually Work” agrees, and even mentions that emojis help. If you don’t have your own images, my favorite go-to site for free photos and illustrations is pixabay.

Analytics

Author Nancy Castaldo explained analytics to me. It’s how you can see what is happening with your tweets. On the menu on the left, click on More, then choose Analytics. Right now mine shows that in the last 28 days, my number of tweets is down 44%. I’ve had 635 visits to my profile—down 23%. Mentions are down 18%. However, followers have gone up by 10. And my top tweet earned 593 impressions. The top tweet with media (image) earned 231 impressions. So, what is an impression? How many times a tweet is seen. I’m sure these numbers are very low, but it is still interesting to see what is working.

You can also check an individual tweet. In the upper right corner of your tweet, click on the three dots, then chose View Tweet activity. You can then see impressions and engagements. Twitter explains right there on the pop-up window what each means. FYI, you can’t see analytics on someone else’s tweets.

Following Versus Followers

You want to have more followers that those you are following according to this article “How to Get Noticed on Twitter — 15 Tips for Writers.” So, I went looking for ways to cut down on who I was following. At first, I was manually looking at people’s profiles. I found some hadn’t tweeted for years! But what a time-consuming method. Internet to the rescue, there are programs that can suss out those people. The one I chose—easy to use and free—was UnTweeps. Here’s the site that introduced me to it. Am I there yet? Not quite, but it is more even than it was.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have any tips to add, please feel free to share in the comments.

Posted in Promotion, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

LinkedIn Is Not “Social” Social Media

Despite emails that are misleading such as “Connect to your colleagues from SCBWI” LinkedIn was not designed as a social connection site, but for professional networking. Yes, SCBWI is a professional organization, but please bear with me and read on. The LinkedIn system has no idea how large of an organization SCBWI is—it’s only using keywords to create these messages. Connecting with someone on LinkedIn who is an SCBWI member you have not met is not the same as on other social media sites. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., LinkedIn says, “We strongly recommend that you only accept invitations to connect from people you know.”

LinkedIn’s Vision is to “create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.” Two of the tabs are “jobs” and “work.” If you’ve ever declined an invitation, you’ll see the “I don’t know this person” small window pop up on the left. That’s a report system. If someone gets too many of these, LinkedIn may restrict their account.

Dave Roos says, “a LinkedIn profile page is essentially an online résumé.” This article, “The Difference Between Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, YouTube, & Pinterest,” by Karisa Egan, explains, “LinkedIn is different from the rest of the social media outlets because it’s specifically designed for business and professionals. Users mainly go to LinkedIn to showcase their job experience and professional thoughts, making it one of the more important platforms to use for those in B2B.” (B2B – business to business).

Does that mean SCBWI members should never connect on LinkedIn. Of course not. I connect with those I’ve worked with in various volunteer capacities. I can validate their “work  experience” because I know their capabilities. I don’t connect with people I don’t know. I personally leave that mostly to Twitter, however, I do connect with many people through Facebook groups. And don’t forget the SCBWI Blueboards are a great place to connect.

So, please don’t be offended if even though we’ve met at a conference or event, or you’re also a children’s writer, that I don’t accept your LinkedIn invitation.

Posted in Promotion, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Preparation and Practice for Public Speaking

practice-615644_1280.jpgLast time I wrote about different ways of presenting:
1. A speech
2. An interview
3. A conversation
4. A reading
5. Show and tell
6. Acting it out
The most important part for any of these methods is preparation, practice, and personalization.
Prepare what you are going to say, how you’ll answer questions, the section of your book you’ll be reading, what you’ll show, what images and/or text you’ll use on a PowerPoint, what scenes you’ll act out. Whatever you plan to use, preparation is essential.
Here’s how I do it:
First, I either write an outline of what I want to talk about or create a PowerPoint which is affectively an outline. This helps me organize my talk/interview/conversation in a logical order. My outline or PP are not full sentences. Instead sections look like this:
DIALOGUE TIPS
• ATTRIBUTIONS – said, asked
• TAG LINES – She gulped her lemonade.
• NO SPEECHES
Or like this:
WHY DO YOU WRITE FOR CHILDREN?
• Age I was first hooked on books
• Limited pov
These are reminders of what I want to say. Not word for word text to read aloud.
However, if I have a quote by someone I want to share, that is written out completely in my notes. E.g. “Use adverbs as if they were rationed.” -Juliet Gardiner. If I’m reading from my book, I might make enlarged copies of the pages (or retype them) so they are easier to read aloud.
Make sure your outline includes personal details. Share when/how you learned something, or why you have such and such opinion. People want to get to know you. Why you do something is interesting. What motivated you to write this particular story is interesting. People like what they perceive as secrets–those things that someone reading your book and/or bio won’t know. Let them in on some secrets.
Second, I play with my outline until I’m happy with it. If I’m doing a PowerPoint, I build it and add images, etc.
Third, I practice out loud. This is where I discover:
• Things I’ve left out or should leave out
• Awkward phrasing
• Where I need to pause or hold up a prop
• A better ordering of the subtopics
• Perhaps a better story to tell to illustrate my point
• An approximate “runtime”
During this stage I may make reminders to myself, such as smile, or pass out a handout. Note: even adults can’t listen while papers are being passed around, so don’t talk during this time. Call them back to attention when ready. During my out loud practice I may realize I’m trying to cover too much for my allotted time. Rarely do I find I have too little.
I make my changes and go over it again. This time I make sure I’m not speaking too fast. And I practice again. And again until I’m not making changes but just rehearsing. It’s not memorizing per se, but it’s definitely familiarizing. And it means I won’t be reading directly from my notes, but glancing down at them or looking at what I’ve chosen to include on the PowerPoint slide.
If I get the chance, I practice with a small audience. This person (or several people) can point out where he wants to know more, where she was confused, where he thought something was too basic, etc. Even if you receive no feedback from your audience, you’ll hear problems. If something was supposed to be funny, did your audience laugh or grin? If not, the humor is not working. Watch for expressions of boredom.
Practicing for an Interview
But how does this fit with an interview? If you ask, an interviewer can give you the questions ahead of time, or at least you’ll know what topics will be covered. Prepare answers to the exact or possible questions, such as “What are your favorite books?” or “What’s the best part of writing?.” Practice those answers until they flow off of your tongue. On the day of, if the interviewer asks a question that stumps you, use some stalling techniques to let yourself come up with an answer. E.g. “That’s a good question.” “I’ve never thought about that.” Or even “No one has ever asked that before.” If you can come up with an answer, well and good, give it. If not, there’s no shame in saying something like, “I really don’t have an answer for that.”
Practicing for Acting it Out
If you are using the “act it out” method, how are you choosing volunteers? A show of hands? The teacher selecting? Award for answering a question first? If you plan ahead, you’ll be more comfortable. Will you need/want props for “act it out?” Gather them and put in a handy container. Will you lay them all on a table ahead of time or will you be pulling them you’re your container as you go? The latter is often more affective. Write out your instructions ahead of time and practice those as well.
Microphone Handling
Will you be using a mic? If so, practice with a real one if you can. Schools, churches, and other organizations may let you try one. Here are a few basic microphone rules:
• Don’t tap a microphone to see if it is on. They usually have a light. Or you can blow across it.
• Speak into the microphone to test it.
• Hold the microphone near your mouth.
• Don’t be afraid of the microphone. If the sound is too loud in the room, whoever is controlling the speakers should turn it down versus you pulling the microphone away.
• If you get feedback, make sure you aren’t standing in front of the speakers.
• If you get popping, put the microphone below your mouth.
• Don’t freak out at the sound of your voice–it only sounds odd to you.
If you can’t practice with a real mic, at least hold something that is a similar size to your mouth when practicing. And when you arrive early, test the real mic at your venue.
Making Mistakes
Okay, I’ve prepared and practiced, but during the actual presentation I’m afraid I’ll make mistakes. Of course you will. We all do. Correct the mispronounced word and go on. Don’t anguish about it. If you leave something out, you can always say something like, “Oh, and I meant to mention earlier . . .” or “One last thought on the topic of . . .”. If you get lost, pause and say, “I’m going to check my notes and make sure I haven’t left something out.” If you get sidetracked, you can even say “where were we?” and someone will probably answer.
Remember, the audience doesn’t expect you to be perfect. What they expect is to be entertained or learn something. People like being in the know and when you tell something personal, they’ll enjoy it. Be who you are, be prepared, and practice, and I’m betting it will go well.

Posted in Promotion, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Public Speaking Phobia

cartoon-1300891_1280.jpgRecently I’ve seen a number of writers almost panicking about being asked to speak. I understand. I am an innately shy introvert. As a kid I wouldn’t call the library to see if they were open. (Obviously before internet days.) I didn’t take debate or go out for drama in high school. At church as an adult I remember reading a portion of a letter in front of the small congregation and afterwards being afraid I wouldn’t be able to return to my seat as my knees were shaking so hard.
I think we approach public speaking all wrong. We’re all storytellers. Who hasn’t been with a group of friends, or at the dinner table, and told a funny story of something that happened that day? Or when someone else tells a story of a kid/pet/work, been able to contribute a story of your own? We share what excites us, amuses us, annoys us all the time.
Think of a funny story right now and tell it! Ack. The pressure’s on. I’m writing this and I can’t even come up with one! That’s because it is a command performance. We think about public speaking as command performances. What if instead we thought of it as talking to friends? A conversation. A conversation with a focused topic.
No one knows your book(s) better than you. You know your process, your struggles, your successes, your mistakes. You know what motivated you to write. Those are things the friends in your prospective audience want to know. Those are things you can share.
“But I hate speeches!” So don’t do a speech. There are other options. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Have someone interview you. Ask someone to collect questions from the audience ahead of time. Or create questions yourself. Or find a list of commonly asked author questions on the internet. In either case, take the questions, decide which ones you like and put those on your list. Order the questions in an order that makes sense to you. If there are questions that can be answered with “yes or no” mentally add “why?”
  2. Have a conversation. Ask the group a question or two. Answer too. For example, I started out writing magazine pieces, so when I went into a classroom, I asked, “Do you like to read magazines?” Of course, some of the students said yes or raised their hands. “What magazines do you like to read?” I called on specific kids. I told them magazines I like. Then I told them what I like about reading magazines. I explained the different ways magazines get their stories and articles. I might ask “What’s the difference between a story and an article?” A student or two answers. I agree. I tell them what I like to write best. I might show them some of my stories or articles. Read one. I might ask if they’ve ever gotten a grade they weren’t happy about on their writing. I tell them writers get rejections and explain how that feels like a failing grade.
  3. Do a reading from your book or a wip. Follow it up with an interview or Q&A.
  4. Do a show and tell with slides or PowerPoint. You can start with your bio. Students like seeing pictures of you when you were young, where you lived, where you write, your pets, etc. If you did research for your book, show pictures of places you went, stacks of books from the library, people you interviewed. Show them rejections. Read portions from discouraging ones and encouraging ones. Show them a stack of manuscript pages. Show them a critiqued page with writing all over it. Show them an editorial letter.
  5. Act it out. Have you ever acted out a scene from your story or done an action trying to figure out how to write it? Show the audience that process. Encourage them to try writing some action so others know what the action is. Or in a classroom have students act out various actions and see if the others can guess the action. (I’ve provided actions on strips of paper for kids to choose from.)

Wow, I’ve gone on much longer than I had intended. So next time, I’ll talk about preparation and practice.