Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Kid: Part Two

Both of them have their phones in hand, fingers gyrating madly, half-smiles on their lips. My old fingers aren’t so coordinated, and here lies another reason I’m glad not to be a kid these days.
Technology is great. I love it. Obviously, you’re reading this via the Internet on my website as a blog post.
When I was a kid, none of those things existed. Most of them weren’t even under consideration. Heck, I learned computer programming in Basic as a sophomore in high school. And computers were as big and clunky as a TV (well, the TVs of the 1980s).
But those kids in the opening paragraph? They’re texting each other while seated on opposite ends of the couch.
How do I know this? Because they’re MY kids. I watched them do it, and shook my head thinking:

What has the world come to that we have to send messages to a person five feet away in the same room?

Social Engagement In Person

Although my kids are big with texting and private messaging, they know how to talk to people in person. And I’ve always made them put the phone away during family dinners.
Well, I did when they were kids. They’re still pretty good about respecting this and boy do they give me a hard time if I have MY phone out while we’re at the table.
Usually I’m just checking in on Facebook because…it’s the thing to do. Right?
I’m an introvert, but I can totally engage with people in person and especially in small group settings. A family dinner generally falls into this category.
Many kids don’t know how to make eye contact when they’re talking. They might mumble or fidget. Like the physical connection makes them itch.
Is this what we’re teaching them by letting them only engage via text, chat and messaging?

Social Engagement Via Device

It was funny the first time one of my kids texted me when I was across the room. Ha, ha. *waves*
It’s not funny that so many kids prefer this to face-to-face interactions. How will they learn the rules for good communication if they never engage in it?
Or are we moving to a society where the closest we get to face-to-face is Facetime? That’s a disheartening thought because people need physical connections.
It took me years to get a Facebook account, and I finally did it only to build my author platform. (And I’m not sure how much it’s helped with that as opposed to distracted me from writing books, but that’s another post.) Now, the younger generation has moved on from that.


They’re into SnapChat or Instagram. They want to post pictures more than have a conversation.
It all sounds so superficial to me. Where are they making friends they can talk to about their issues?

Why I Would Hate It This Way

As an introvert, I could hole up in my office all day. If I chatted with some friends via Messenger, that would satisfy my need for conversation.
But I would still be lonely for human interaction.
And the social media brand of communication is pretty me-focused. Look at what I’m wearing. This is where I’m eating lunch. Check out the view from my vacation.
To prove my point about the self-centered bent of engagement on social media, the day I began writing this post was National Selfie Day.
Really? Because that should be a thing?
I’m terrible at taking selfies, and I have no desire to get better. The best photo of me is the one I don’t know you’re taking.
As an author, I live to write. And my words are meant to be read and enjoyed by other people. That means I can’t be self-focused or no one will want to read my stuff.
I avoid the guy (or gal) in the room who’s talking all about their latest and greatest whatever without any thought to care about anyone else’s. Ugh.
It’s not just the thumb action that makes me glad I’m not a kid in this tech-enhanced-communication era. I need human touch and connection, eye-to-eye so I can see that the person cares about me.
Do you think social media is playing havoc without our ability to interact face-to-face?

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A Year of Gratitude

In 2016, I focused on building an attitude of gratitude.

And I really wanted to do it every single day.

So I created my own hashtag on Twitter and started bombarding my social media followers with a new meme every day. Remember? #365DaysofGratitude

You probably already saw them all, but I thought I’d share the favorites of my followers from each month. What better way to recap a year of gratitude, right?

January

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February

d47

March

d72

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April

d114

May

d143

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June

d172

Whew! We made it half way. Believe me, I was struggling to come up with fresh ideas by this time. That’s why there may have been a few similarities.

And you’ll notice how the format of the memes changed slightly. That’s because I hired a social media Jedi Master to help me streamline my all-over-the-place brand.

Did she do a good job?

July

d201

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August

d228

September

d268

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October

d304

November

d324

And the Last Month of the Year (if you get the Christmas song reference, comment please!)

d341

And that’s a wrap. 366 days of memes to remind me of all I have to be grateful for.

Now. Let’s finish out 2016 with positive thoughts, and hold on to them for the rest of our lives.

What are you grateful for this year?

When even begging fails

 

Begging Meme

I begged. Three people felt compelled listened. And I love each one of you with all my heart. Truly.

Maybe begging was the wrong tactic. You know I’m opposed to bullying. How do I get folks to sign up for my newsletter then.

Here are some ideas I’ve seen others use:

  • Contests: The only contests I’ve run on my blog have FAILED to get entries. I either give crummy prizes, or no one sees the contests.
  • Pop-Ups: This feels like bamboozling to me. I don’t appreciate pop-ups when I visit sites, so why would I force my visitors to suffer through them?
  • E-mails: Uh, I don’t have any email addresses on my list. That’s why I’m in this situation.
  • Twitter: There’s a way to see if people ever come to my blog because of Tweets, but I’m guessing since I don’t have much of a following over there, it’s as ineffective as begging on my blog.
  • Facebook: Yeah. My posts show up on Facebook. A few of my friends click through if the topic looks interesting. That’s a place to build relationships, not try to coerce people into something.

Experts Say

Experts say if I have offer my readers something of value to sign up, that will motivate them.

Question: What do I have of value to offer other than my writing?

Experts say that I need to write compelling content. Duh.

Experts say once I write something compelling, I need to make it easy to share.

Question: I have all the share buttons on my posts. How can I make it any easier?

Experts say if I visit other blogs with a similar topic to mine and comment regularly, other readers will see my comment and hop over to check me out.

Question: How many hours do these folks have? (FYI, I did this for the first year that I blogged and it netted me nearly nothing.)

My Thoughts

  • My content isn’t compelling.
  • The topics I address aren’t interesting to my readers.
  • I write about too many different subjects on this blog. I need to find my niche.
  • I’d rather be writing my fiction or Bible studies than thinking up things to write about on this blog.
  • The posts that I feel will have the greatest reach fall flat.
  • When I visited a Facebook party, I had the most hits on my blog. So, people were checking me out based on how I commented there. Since that time, I’ve tried to repeat those results – no success.
  • I’m floundering. I’m in over my head. I need to face the fact that I’m not going to build an email list (thus, publishers are going to reject me for having no platform).

Why does this writing thing have to have more legs than an octapi family reunion?

Your Thoughts

I NEED YOU.

Your thoughts could help me with this dilemma.

If you are reading this post, please help me.

What can I do to interest people in signing up for my newsletter?

What made you sign up? (I know, you’re related to me. Thanks for that.)

Road to Self- Published – Promoting your Release Date

release date

This whole “promoting” thing just isn’t my thing. It feels like tooting my own horn. Or going door-to-door with a case of encyclopedias.

Sure, I mentioned every stage of writing this book on my Facebook page. I posted about my release date on social media forums, but it felt superficial.

How do you promote your release date? What do the pros have to say about it?

The most important thing to do, they say, is build up an email address list. When they time is right, blast these people with information about your new work in well-timed increments. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

Or not.

As of this writing, I have seventeen addresses on my email list. Yes, as in NOT EVEN TWENTY.

And I’ve done everything the experts recommend except create a pop-up for every visit to my site. (I hate pop-ups. Don’t you? I don’t want to be that person.)

Creating an Email List

Every page of your website should have a prominent display for signing up for a newsletter.

I can check that off. Except…I fear I may have confused people because I have a space to follow my blog posts (and 200 people do follow it) right above the newsletter sign-up.

Whoops!

The newsletter sign-up is a relatively new addition to the site. I’m getting ready to mail out only my second newsletter this Friday. It announces – you guessed it – the upcoming release. And offers links to my site and the purchase pages.

The logic behind collecting email addresses is that people are asking YOU for something. They WANT to hear about your upcoming books and events. You aren’t spamming them with information they never asked for in the first place.

Social Media

I hear mixed things about using social media to promote your book’s release date.

First of all, you should have a presence on your media sites of choice BEFORE you start slamming everyone with requests to purchase your book. Show up and talk to people about things that interest you.

Share their Tweets. Like their posts and pages. Be authentic.

When you’re ready to release your book, don’t hammer your feed with the same link over and over again. I’m aiming for once per day for ten days leading up to the release. Then once per day for the first week.

After that, I hope people will be Tweeting or posting reviews about my book. Then I can share their comments, keeping the subject alive without looking like all I ever do is shove my book in people’s faces.

There might be a science to this, but I don’t know it.

Street Team

Okay, I failed at this.

I tried to find some people – even friends and family – who would willingly read an advanced copy of my book and post a review of it.

My sister and three of my writing friends signed up. I don’t know if any of them will actually finish the book (well, my sister did), or write a review once the book is up on Amazon and Goodreads (which it should be tomorrow or Monday, April 27).

I sent them an email offering a link to a private page on my website that listed simple things they could post each day on the social media venue of their choice. I tried to keep these blurb-ish statements short enough for Twitter. Most of them include links to the order page or my website.

Image by Tim Grahl timgrahl.com

The truth is – I don’t want to promote Reflections from a Pondering Heart. It doesn’t feel like the story belongs to me.

It is an important story, though. I want people to read it. I pray it helps them gain a better perspective of people from the Bible we often ideal-ize.

They can’t read it if they don’t know it exists. They won’t know it exists unless the word gets out. Somehow.

Aren’t there some Book Promo Brownies who take care of this sort of thing?

What would you add to this discussion? What do you feel is the best way to promote your book’s release date?

Additional Resource: Book Publishing Guide

What’s the point of a book review? And why you should leave one

Image from walkingtogetherministries.com

Reviewing books can be work, especially if you didn’t enjoy any aspect of the story. For authors, reviews build credibility or detract from it, depending on the contents, of course.

It’s no secret that this blog is about building my author platform. In fact, every aspect of my online presence feeds into that goal. Whether I’m on Goodreads, Twitter or Facebook, I’m spreading the wealth of my personality.

What to include in a review

I’ve read one line reviews that said “I loved the book and read it in one sitting.” That’s almost as helpful as “Don’t waste your time with this one. The author doesn’t know how to write.”

A review must include something to make it useful. Reviews are for both readers and authors. Readers want to know if the book is worth picking up, and authors want to know what resonated with their audience and what they might need to improve for the next book.

These one-liners don’t offer aid to either camp.

Readers want to know about:

  • The story. You don’t have to give anything away, but you can say whether it had conflict and held your interest
  • The characters. Did you like them or not? Did you feel like you knew them or not?
  • The audience. If a young adult novel appealed to an adult reader, that’s something to include. If a young adult novel seemed too graphic for that age group, let readers know.

Authors want to hear about:

  • Their plot – was it original? Did it hook you? Did it build to a sufficient resolution?
  • Their characters – could you relate to them? Did you hear individual voices? Did you feel their emotions?
  • Their writing – sometimes a style doesn’t appeal to you and that’s okay to mention as long as you give a reason. If there were catchy turns of phrases or original metaphors, the author wants you to include that detail.

I don’t know about most people, but whether or not I’m the author, I don’t care to see things about:

  • How many typos or grammar errors are in the book
  • Opinions that aren’t substantiated with a reason or two. “It was boring” should be “It didn’t hold my interest because the main character spent too much time moping around, internalizing. I kept waiting for something to happen.”
  • Mean-spirited comments of any nature. If you don’t agree with the theme of the book, that’s okay to say, but say it nicely. “Read like propaganda” isn’t as helpful as “I felt like the author was preaching their anti-government beliefs at me and it pushed me out of the story.”

Why you should leave a review

I think it’s appropriate to leave a review as often as you can. Most of my reviews aren’t more than five or six sentences. This can be helpful if you include information about the important elements mentioned above.

If you loved a book, leave a review. Make sure you include reasons why it affected you. “I couldn’t put it down” doesn’t make me want to pick it up.

If you were disappointed in one element of the story, but you enjoyed it as a whole, it’s important for the author that you leave a review. If you mention the area you felt the story was weak, the author has constructive criticism to use to improve future stories.

It’s essential to leave a review so other people receive guidance when they’re searching for something to read. You help other readers with every thorough review you write.

Authors want reviews because it shows their audience that the book is being read. Even if there are a few low reviews, if the average is four stars or above, people will pick it up.

When not to review

If you can’t think of anything positive to say about the book, don’t write a review.

I’ve heard people say you should never give less than four-star reviews. This is especially true of writers. That author will remember your low review and pay you back in kind once your book is published.

This seems shallow to me. If I’m so worried about getting a bad review that I don’t give honest feedback, who am I helping? No one, and I could be hurting myself. People know about me by checking out my bookshelves at Goodreads.

If you can’t give sound reasoning why a book fell flat for you, don’t leave a review.

I have given one two-star review and several three-star reviews. I gave my reasoning behind both of these (or didn’t do more than rate the book). I’m pretty sure my three-star review of a Salvatore book isn’t going to set the man on a path of vengeance.

I hope when I mentioned weak character motivation or a slow-moving plot, the reviews resonated with the author, and they make changes if more people say similar things.

Sometimes, a book just doesn’t connect with me and millions of others love it. Reading preference is as subjective a choosing an ice cream flavor.

What do you think? Are there other things that should be included in a review? Perhaps you disagree about my reasoning regarding not leaving a review. Let’s discuss it.

Six Sicknesses Perpetuated by Social Media

Social media enables people in different countries to interact and share news. It’s a great way to keep in touch with family who live far away. Its positive uses are many and varied. Unfortunately, with every positive comes a negative.

The negative uses of social media are many and varied. This truth smacked me in the face during a recent conversation with my youngest son. He is away at college and we were using Skype (yes, technology provides many conveniences we love).

I informed him that a relative was engaged to be married. His response?

“No way! I didn’t read about that on Facebook.”

I’m sure you’ve heard similar statements from people in a variety of generations. My son was only partly serious. This initial response loosed the analytical side of my mind. Thoughts about the problems various forms of social media can and do cause churned and roiled.

My short-list looks like this:

  1. Sterile Relationships: My initial response when my son made his comment: “Some things should be conveyed face-to-face.” Social media sterilizes  and cheapens personal relationships. Debates rage about whether too much socializing on social media affects a teenagers desire and ability to interact personally. An informal poll shows that 67 percent of people feel this is a viable problem.
  2. Miscommunication: The news is quick to tout the Tweets that went out at inappropriate moments (the Boston Marathon bombing a year ago comes to mind). I’ve seen reports of Jackie Chan’s death on Facebook. These are big name items but the likelihood that any post can be misinterpreted is high. Someone stops talking to you. When you track them down for the cause, it turns out they misread a status update on your Facebook timeline.
  3. Negativity: Do I even need to embellish this point? We’ve all seen the negative memes featuring President Obama. Cute pictures provide backdrops for hateful words degrading anything from marriage to religion. Yes, I’m thankful for free speech but have you ever Mymottonoticed how much faster those negative posts spread? People are too happy to jump aboard.  All the negative vibes on social media reinforce my original reluctance to join it.
  4. Loss of Privacy: For most people, this one ranks much higher on the list of problems. We can choose how much information to share, so I don’t get all up in arms about loss of privacy. When people share my business that I wanted to keep private? A problem arises, but I can take down the post or kindly ask them to do it. For the gossips of the world, social media expands their network of listening ears exponentially. No thanks.
  5. Is Everyone a busybody? Suddenly, people think they need to know every little thing about everyone. Instant news – we want it. Updates about health problems – why aren’t they posting on Facebook? Fodder for gossip mills – yep, people expect to see it all on social media. It’s harder than ever to convince people to give you space when people post pictures of all the food they eat, detail doctor visits and spill venom from a fight with their sister for everyone to see. This last is the worst. Since they don’t have to face a real person, many people feel entitled to say things in a disrespectful manner they would never use in a personal confrontation.
  6. Distance: Ironically, most social media exists to help us stay in touch and bring us closer to other people. Instead, too many people substitute kind words on Facebook for genuine caring outreach to people in need. This creates emotional distance. We need each other. We need hugs and someone typing *hugs* in my comments doesn’t offer the same endorphin release as actual skin to skin contact. (Although for those who live far away, I appreciate the sentiment behind this.)

I signed up for Facebook under duress because I need to build a platform for my writing. Since those early grudging posts, I’ve met quite a few incredible people from all over the world who I would never have otherwise encountered. Social media paved the way.

I’ve also had to block some strangers, remove myself from groups to which I didn’t ask to be added and hide posts from people I know from showing in my newsfeed. Minor inconveniences, sure, but infringements on my personal space that I would never have encountered if I hadn’t taken the social media plunge.

What are your thoughts? Are there other problems with social media that bother you? Maybe you think I’m over-reacting. Tell me about it in the comments.