The sometimes strange and short month of February has come to a close so here’s a wrap-up of what has been going on here at the Hall of Information in that time…
This month I appeared on the awesome Indie Book Talk Podcast to share all of my wisdom on Author Twitter.
New Guide Alert!
My aim this year is put together a new guide every month. In between my writing, reading and procrastinating on social media efforts, this month saw my 9 year celebration of being on Twitter. Here are some things that I learned and a basically how I operate right now to stay present, support others and sell books. I basically don’t stop.
#indieFebruary – some love for Indie Books
Over on Twitter I did my best to try and get a new hashtag trending. While the results weren’t great I still led the charge in supporting my fellow indie authors by putting together a series of posts celebrating my favourite indie reads. You’ll find some below.
Creatives face a myriad of daily challenges that get in the way of their craft. From day jobs to home demands to health issues, it seems there is always something standing between the desire to create and the act of actually doing it. One of the most significant challenges a creative might face in their lifetime is chronic pain.
In March of 2018, the cartilage in my left hip joint tore because of a malformation in my femur. Suddenly, sitting down to write or draw became an agony. Taking a walk outside could lead to a several-day flare-up. I was only 25 years old, and otherwise in good health, with an unusual presentation of symptoms that led to doctors brushing me off for over three years.
I felt like everything that had meaning in my life had been stolen from me in one moment.
So how did I manage to maintain focus on my novels throughout this challenging period in my life? Of course, everyone’s chronic pain story is different, but I hope these suggestions will help you stay creative through times of adverse health.
Rest when you need to.
In a society that encourages us to put productivity before health, it’s important to recognize when you need to LET YOURSELF REST. Do some self-care, take your medicine, or get lost in your favorite media. Powering through the pain will likely burn you out and worsen the pain long-term.
Create when you need to.
There may be days that you feel you may explode if you don’t write a few sentences or finish that outline. Take full advantage of inspirational episodes. Accommodate yourself by taking frequent breaks, make sure you’ve eaten and are hydrated. Write in bed if you have to! At the least, jot down some brainstorms in your journal for the next time you’re feeling better.
Don’t stop seeking relief!
In the early months of my injury, it became clear that this was not a health issue that would vanish on its own. As I continued to go undiagnosed, I lost hope many times that I would ever find a doctor who could help me.
A friend said to me one day, “Be persistent until you get relief.” Though her words were simple, the meaning and strength behind them were the reason I finally found a practitioner who could diagnose me. I am currently working towards a life with less pain. Please, don’t give up. You will find someone who can help you.
Finally, to maintain your creativity through chronic pain, there is one ultimate truth to hold in your heart:
NOTHING CAN TRULY STOP A CREATIVE PERSON FROM CREATING.
Art has persevered and permeated human society since the first smudge of ochre was painted on cave walls. Creation is our birthright, something that lives within us, even when we have no choice but to put it aside and focus on our health.
Whatever you do, don’t lose faith in yourself and your ability to create what is in your heart. The magic is there, and it will wait for you until you are ready to pick it up again.
The truth is and this might not be a revelation, I’m constantly busy with something. Whether it is blogging or writing, social media or day job stuff, there is always an abundance on my to-do list. I’ve partially concluded that I might only be able to function effectively as a busy person which is great, but that also means I cannot stop…
On my usual social media scrolling travels I often see writers who are in the querying trenches. It seems to be a borderline obsession for some and that finding an agent or publisher is the only route to success in writing. While I applaud and admire anyone taking the dive into querying their work, I am simply too busy to be doing that. Especially when there isn’t a guarantee of an actual end result. I could be waiting half a year for a response and so everything I am busy with, ends with an actual result. From social media posting to writing on this blog, I’m getting sales and I’m getting views. Although slowly, things are moving in the right direction which is all governed by me doing the work.
This week I reached out to my following to offer Twitter coaching, a new venture and also something I have built a lot of specialist knowledge with. Just by looking at a fellow Tweeters profile page I can tell what they need to do in order to get more traction on the platform. While my guides have all tried to capture mass appeal, I think I would be way more effective on an individual basis. Of course, new ventures always start slowly, but for this one, I am optimistic.
To thrive in the present, one must overcome the past.
Tragedy is nothing new to playwright and performer, Meredith Golden. She’s endured the violence of an alcoholic husband, the tragic death of her parents, and abuse from her uncle. To say she is a fighter is an understatement. She is a survivor. But tragedy leaves scars. When Meredith meets Paul, it seems that the past is finally behind her, but when her ex-husband begins stalking her and making new threats, old wounds are torn open. She realizes that peace comes with a high price and ’til death do us part may be a curse that can’t be undone. As her world spirals out of control, Meredith vows to be Shaken No More.
Her Best Book So Far I received an ARC (Advanced Review Copy) of the book in exchange for an honest review. Shaken No More by Jacqui Morrison is a romantic suspense novel and it’s women’s fiction set in New York City in the 2010s, with flashbacks to the 80s and 90s. This is Morrison’s fifth novel, following Kaitlin Wolfe Crown Attorney, The Vigilante, Escape The Castle, and Terri’s Journey – The Colour of Rain. Shaken No More may be her best book so far. This is the story of Meredith Golden, a performer and playwright, who has to overcome staggering real-life challenges. The novel title cleverly alludes to James Bond’s catch-phrase “shaken, not stirred” and there are more cocktails in this story than a 007 movie. There’s drugs, detectives, doctors, divorce, and violence, in this story. There’s also therapy, meditation, qigong, and healing. Will Meredith thrive? Can she survive? That’s the mystery. The romance is with Paul, after Greg reveals he has problems. Some of the story is told from Meredith’s point of view and some of it is told from Paul’s, but most of it is a third person narrative that will keep you reading and cheering for Morrison’s main character until the final page. This novel has 76 chapters in 267 pages and that format gives the narrative lots of momentum. Morrison describes everything so the reader can see it as clearly as in a movie. The novel would make a good movie about the scars left by tragedies and how one woman battles back, in the big city, and move on to the next stage and the next.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jacqui Morrison has a B.A.A. from Ryerson University in Toronto, and two graduate certificates. One from Humber College School for Writers, Toronto, in 2017. And a certificate in Adult Education from Seneca College, also in Toronto. She has been writing professionally since 2000.
Jacqui won the 2009 IPPY for best regional fiction for Central and Eastern Canada for her first novel Kaitlyn Wolfe, Crown Attorney. In 2013, her second novel The Vigilante came out. Escape the Castle was released in 2018. She has also been published in four anthologies, including the Best of the Muskoka Novel Marathon 2000 – 2010. SHAKEN NO MORE is her first romantic suspense novel.
An enduring multi-layered tale of one gun for hire and his final shot…
Stephen King has succeeded yet again in turning his hand to crime fiction but describing this story as just a few genres would be an understatement because like always, you get your money’s worth. ‘Billy Summers’ is the name of a man who is a gun for hire, he has a sometimes dark history which readers will gradually realise while also being connected to the underworld of big business and organised crime.
There is a lot to unpack and digest here along with references of many different things through multiple layers, some I grasped and probably others I missed. A few figurative elbows are aimed towards modern politics but for the most part we stay in the neighbourhood King is known for. Our main character turns his own hand to writing a memoir of war, childhood trauma and much more while carrying out a final mission. They do say ‘write what you know’ and for this story its metaphorical in a sense. The ‘dumb self’ concept is particularly clever and a needed vessel to give Summers a certain calculated depth although my only criticism is we don’t get all of him and after such a long read is kind of a waste to me. For a man who spends much of his time covering up who he is, readers never really get to know the real side to him.
Of course the story is an enduring one, we have a slow introduction and long middle and even a long end but it works for the most part. There are many twists, turns and that textbook depraved/twisted style which Stephen King is known for but in smaller doses. I particularly appreciated the reference to one of his older works and for those who aren’t into the supernatural side of things, this one is perfect for you.
Variety really is the spice of life and being a social media author the same thinking generally applies for me. As long as you have a multitude of ideas and can lay them down in an orderly fashion, eventually you’ll succeed. The algorithms might change and so will the platforms but those who do continue to seek fresh ways to get their content out there will also have their content consumed by the end user.
Peaks and plateaus, that’s what this journey has been for me and while today’s numbers might seem low, they are still ten times better than a few years ago. No matter what valley or shadow banned state my social media engagement is currently in, it will spin back towards momentum soon. That needle, it can’t always be in constant motion but my drive and desire is. Everyday is an opportunity to find better results, reach new people and of course convince existing followers to stick around.
My conclusion is swaying towards a realisation that I might be a functioning serial busy person – by that I mean constantly having a challenging amount to do keeps me motivated and keeps me working. They do say busy people get things done and so here I am getting things done.
Time can be a rewarding thing. Give an author time and they’ll eventually give you the world or at least when they have stopped procrastinating. Give a Tweeter time and eventually they’ll figure out the platform because that’s exactly what I’ve done and that’s exactly what you need to succeed on Twitter. Succeeding on the platform takes many different forms from finding your crowd or community to eventually finding sales to some other awesome things. More importantly and to me its all about being content with your efforts and even though I am partially addicted to Twitter, what I’ve got from it makes me happy mostly.
The start of each year serves as not just my anniversary on Twitter but also the anniversary of when I announced myself as an author to the world. 22 year-old Lee Hall didn’t know much about being a writer back then, but he knew that he wanted to be one and he also knew even less about Twitter. Nine years later, that writing desire stands strong and for it I have seven books published, to me and probably just as importantly, I have thousands of Twitter followers. That following pushed me to be better and go further with my writing.
This is a post that will highlight some of my major learning curves on the platform with a hope it can help others.
Incentive is a word I use to describe what was missing in my Tweets during the many years of Twitter purgatory I found myself in. Specifically I’m talking about the odd link share and a random thought share routine I’d found myself in for the best part of five years. From 2013 to late 2018 I’ll happily admit my Twitter was nothing like it is today and rightly so because I hadn’t figured it out. From logging in every now and then to simply scrolling with a frown, like many newbies, I thought Twitter was a weird place, it might still be that but now I understand the platform, my view is little different. Twitter is something that requires no formal qualifications to figure out, spending time on the platform will eventually help.
Back to that word incentive because by the end of this purgatory era I finally realised the true power Twitter has if you can offer something to someone. From a simple question to advice, from a relatable experience to even a random conversational quip – If you give on Twitter, eventually you will find others that will embrace what you have to offer and more importantly engage with you for it. Late 2018 just happened to be when I began one of my most important endeavours as a social media personality and blogger and author, I started reviewing indie books. One fateful December evening I put out a tweet asking for indie book rec’s. The deluge that followed convinced me that reviews were in demand and my voice, even if it was a lot smaller back then had reach that could be amplified simply by offering to fulfil a need or have some level of incentive.
This tweet asking for indie book rec’s still serves as one of my most engaged, even now after reaching 20,000+ followers. It also paved the way for me to review 40 books in 2019 and connect with some wonderful creatives I still share my Tweeting experience with today. From then I have reviewed over a hundred indie books and that number continues to grow.
The next few years I spent on Twitter very aware of the potential it had and I simply got to work making a name for myself as an author and supporter of fellow creatives. Still a kind of post-purgatory loomed over me until April 2020 arrived and the gift of time was given to me. In an attempt to gain a readership for my still largely unknown Order of the Following Series I began to ramp up my presence online in both blogging and Twitter. Because the pandemic world had granted me more time at home, I could treat this career aspiration as an actual career and what started as a simple increase of presence, set me on the path to another realisation.
Presence is everything, being there regularly is everything and finding quality subjects to tweet aboutwas achieved by tweeting in quantity. Finding quality through quantity became my main aim even after this 4th book in my unknown series was released because the needle was moving. April 2020 saw around 3,500 followers and December 2020 would bring 5,000. During this important time I was marking in my mind what worked and what didn’t – I’d drop the stuff that didn’t and would do more of what worked, growth was constant and as long as my tweets inspired, informed, entertained or provided some level of value and incentive, I would succeed.
For my efforts, books began selling. In 2019 I would probably sell one book from Twitter every two weeks or so. By 2021 I would be selling a book or two every seven days. By 2022 I sell a book or two nearly every other day – this hopefully tells you that selling on social media is possible eventually and you can do the same.
From 2018 to now I’d spent a huge amount of time reading and reviewing indie books and it was earning trust from a constantly growing following. Plus and just as importantly, I was reading and enjoying these works. My Tweets focused predominantly supporting others on this author path and trying my best to find things we have in common – from sharing sales figures that would bring us closer to providing tips or promotional methods. All of this incentive focused content was earning the trust of so many others like me.
Earn a person’s trust and they will invest in you eventually. On Twitter the momentum will start swinging your way when you have something to offer and if you offer it regularly. That ‘something’ needs to be unlimited and never run out. It won’t be easy figuring out but it is possible. For me, authors will always need reviews, readers will always want new books to read and those like me in the industry will always appreciate experience based support. These three things are incentive based and pretty much limitless. Supporting others on Twitter is also free – there seems to be a consensus that supporting others involves a cost, even a simple retweet or a like is considered support from me and that costs nothing.
More importantly and probably above all I set out to make my Twitter a pleasant place to be online because you might do all of the above and still get pretty much zero interest because tone is everything or it might even be something else – nobody really knows how the algorithms really work. But get that tone just right and people will eventually want to engage with you – be open, be honest and be decent. Speak with others as if they were opposite you in the same room. Big opinions or anything that may stir passionate responses can very easily turn sour on Twitter so my advice is to keep it light. Just recently I saw someone express quite a strong opinion which proceeded to trend – that particular account lost half its following in a single day. While I strongly support free speech, I am also an advocate for using it responsibly. You’ll sometimes need a thick skin because people will approach you in all types of ways from the friendly to the less so.
Social media gets a negative light sometimes for being a troll heavy, mental health draining waste of time but to me I have converted all of those negatives into positives by doing my best to make my Twitter a nice place to be. People are drawn to pleasant experiences and genuine people who are real. I want the book industry and self publishing to be a place where story-tellers can succeed no matter who they are, my efforts have rewarded me with thousands of Twitter followers, regular book sales and a boat load of supporters I call friends.
It took a while, but the journey and time was worth it. Social media does have a long way to go in order to be better at stopping abuse and trolls but for the most part, social media is one of the greatest feats of social engineering we’ve ever created. When its good it is incredible and generally most people want it to be good. That desire can stamp out the bad eventually and through being pleasant.
All of the things mentioned worked for me and Twitter is sometimes an individual journey of figuring out what works for you. Its okay to experiment and try new things on the platform, in that sense variety is sometimes key.
I do hope these words will guide you towards your own Twitter success and thanks for reading!
For some further listening, you can hear me laying out my author Twitter journey through a series of audio coaching sessions via Patreon. The first 2 sessions are free and for those who then sign up will access the rest of the series and receive regular shout-outs for them and their work on my Twitter.
For those who do follow me and support me on here and of course anywhere else including Twitter. Thank you. For those on that Twitter/social media journey like me, good luck and if you ever have a question about anything to do with it, I’m here.
Sometimes you’ve just got to enjoy the ride. One of the most wonderful things about being an indie author is having no deadlines. I’m fully in control of what I want to do and when I want to do it while right now I’m just enjoying the view. Freedom in this world is hard to find and so in that respect, it does more good for my own creativity than anything else.
Doing things when I feel like it fosters my creativity, there’s no pressure or rush. I’m taking things slow whilst keeping up with the social media game right now. Books are selling, followers are finding me and reviews are coming in. Everything is seemingly moving in a good direction and all of those foundations I have laid in the past five years are continually coming to fruition. Quite recently I’ve taken the plunge into kind of resurrecting my Facebook presence just to have a better spread for communicating with followers. With my experience its gone well initially and that experience is something I am going to utilise in other creative endeavours eventually.
For what began as a stressful hectic year is starting to calm down a little. I’ve taken the rough with the smooth and rolled with a few unexpected punches. As for my writing, it’ll happen when I’m ready. The wonderful thing is, I’m in control.
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