Thursday, September 15, 2011

Paper Sculptures: Appreciation of Libraries and Books

While perusing Neil Gaiman's blog this week, I noted a link he put to a website that showed anonymous paper sculptures someone left in the Scottish Poetry Library. They can be found here.

When librarians (and aspiring writers) have difficulty marketing ourselves, it helps to remember the purpose, the core of what we do. It is when we realize that writing and librarianship are less about books and words, and more about sharing experiences, that we better resonate with our audiences. As the anonymous note left by one of the paper sculptures says: "We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books...a book is so much more than pages full of words...This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas...a gesture..."

Sarah Dessen is a master of sharing ideas. Right now I'm reading her YA book, Just Listen. It addresses the dangers of witholding truths in order to be nice. It also takes a firm, honest look at what an eating disorder does to a family. When the protagonist's sister plants herb seeds and leaves them, unseen, to grow, the reader knows she is attempting to rebuild what she's lost and put the pieces of herself back together again.

Aspiring writers and librarians should all strive to find ideas that resonate with others. Writers: instead of focusing on whether your sentences are accurately structured, think about the overall themes you want your readers to take away from your stories. Librarians: instead of concentrating on re-branding, focus on what your patrons need to take away from their library experiences. That is how we will all keep our audiences.

-The Writer Librarian

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Social Media and Online Platform Tips

In our digital age of ebooks, digital text, and yes, hybrid books, it becomes all the more imperative to develop an online presence to go along with query submissions. And yes, even us reluctant to get on the social media band wagon may need to bite the bullet and give Twitter a try (no matter how vapid it seems). More often, agents are developing an online presence, which you can use to see the kinds of submissions they're accepting, as well as submission instructions (or if they've stopped accepting for the time being, like this agent).

Let me clarify--social media avenues require discernment. One should not start a blog, join Twitter or Facebook just because it's the "cool" thing to do. Those who do generally tire of the game quickly, finding such means of communication to be a time-suck. And they usually are, unless they're used correctly.

In the theme of working smarter, not harder, consider what social networks have to offer you. Here's what I've learned so far in my experience:

1. Use Facebook and Twitter to find literary agents (try to avoid LinkedIn if you can).

A lot of literary agents have a Facebook presence. Go find them. This will help you keep in tune with what they're doing and what they deem important. Following an agent on Twitter can also be helpful. My experience with LinkedIn was pretty negative--when I joined, they "spammed" all the people in my address list, trying to get them to join LinkedIn too. I called them and asked them to shut the notifications off. As yet, I haven't gotten any benefits or connections by being a member of LinkedIn, but perhaps others have.

2. Create RSS feeds to agents you're interested in querying.

A great blog, Literary Rambles, features a weekly agent spotlight, and links to online presences, if applicable. I've created RSS feeds to three different agents using this method. For those unfamiliar with how to get RSS feeds, see instructions here. Note: many RSS readers are already built into internet browsers. Mozilla Firefox's reader has worked best for me so far.

3. If you want to try blogging, link to author and agent blogs, and follow good blogging practices.

Your blog should:
a) Be updated at least twice a week (I'm trying to get better about this one)
b) Contain content that others can use
c) Link to author and agent blogs through a blogroll

4. Design a website to showcase your writing (including previously published works).

This step is the most daunting, but it's also the most necessary. If you're unfamiliar with web design, I suggest the following book to help you get started. Also, research your hosting site--some charge only about $25 a year. When you query agents, you can refer them to your website, and it indicates that you're serious about marketing yourself as a writer.

I know what some of you must be thinking: all of this will take away from time spent writing. Yes, it will. But you can write and build a platform at the same time. It's just a matter of carving out the time for both.

-The Writer Librarian

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Potentially Bad News?

I read the Annoyed Librarian (AL) blog on occasion. Usually she (I think it's a she, as the AL is anonymous) has some wry quip about how the library profession is self-destructing, and librarians are too worried about staying relevant to notice. I usually enjoy these diatribes, but today's post left me a bit depressed, probably because it had "death" in the title. It's called "Death of the Author" and can be accessed here.

The post references this article from the Guardian which argues that although books aren't going away, the digital revolution will make "The Writer" obsolete as a profession. The AL argues, "Who cares?" My feeling is, a lot of people might, especially aspiring writers who dream of making a living at what they love.

AL also points out that not all published books are of good quality, especially when it comes to ebooks. I'd tend to agree. As was mentioned in my previous post, I am of the opinion that publishing houses are more concerned with profitability than quality. But this overall trend implies that publishing houses may have more to worry about than aspiring writers do.

The author of the Guardian article tends to blame Generation Y, the "Millenials," who prefer digital over paper. He uses statistics from Barnes and Noble to back up his claim. While this might be a bit daunting, I don't think it should stop aspiring authors from putting themselves out there.

Of course, we all know that digitial is much cheaper than paper (and sometimes can be distributed for free). I'm hearing more and more about authors, fed up with the process of trying to make money in a tough market, choosing to create author pages on Amazon and digitizing their books there (at no extra cost to them). They probably won't make a profit, but at least their work is out for others to see.

I've been told that if someone is just writing in the hopes of a big dividend, that they shouldn't be writing at all. Maybe this digitized trend may separate those who write for writing's sake, and those who write because they want to be rich and famous. And perhaps that's a good thing.

-The Writer Librarian