Thursday, September 22, 2011

My talk to the NYC chapter of Sisters in Crime

I crowdsourced the good parts of this talk this morning on Twitter. I had my basic points in mind, but I tweeted "I'm giving a talk to SinC on things writers should be doing. Any suggestions?"

There were a lot of good suggestions, but I had a limited amount of time (sadly!)

Here are the ten points of my talk:


1. Have a website with
a. contact info (your OWN email address: @alwayscoffee)

added note: the anthology you gave me tonight does NOT have all the website addresses for contributors (tsk! tsk!) That's a must! If I like your story, I might want to get in touch!

b. sample of your writing
c. IF PUBBED: a professional photo

d. If you have a blog instead, don't blog about writing.

2. Be visible on Twitter (the notes that are underlined were obtained from people who helped me crowdsource this talk this morning on twitter.)

3. Subscribe to Google alerts for
a. your name
b. your book title
c. keywords (Bella Stander's idea)

4. Subscribe to Shelf-Awareness

5. Volunteer at Sisters in Crime/be part of the leadership (this is your in-house crowdsourcing)

6. Subscribe to CrimeSpree, MysteryScene and other industry mags. Read reviews

7. Attend READER/fan conventions: Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, Love is Murder, Malice Domestic

8. Read widely (all the finalists for the Edgars, and Agathas for starters)

9. Write to a disciplined schedule
a. Get the first draft on paper. Until you do it's all academic (Jen Burke)

10. Do NOT drink the kool-aid on E-publishing. It's too early to be making sweeping statements about any of it. We're all learning this as we go and the right answer to almost everything is "we'll see what happens."

If you take away just one thing tonight I hope it will be this, from Bill Cameron: Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Don't be afraid to fail. Neither will kill you.

I came away very impressed with the enthusiasm and professionalism of the NYC chapter of Sisters in Crime.  Clearly a very good group of writers.  Probably a good group to join if you're looking to get published as a crime writer!


Melissa said...

Thanks for your tips. As a suspense writer, I'm always looking for new ways to network. It seems most of the writers and groups in my area are focused on YA.

Colin Smith said...

Interesting points. I'm curious to hear more (from Janet or others) on a couple of points:

1) "Don't blog about writing." Not that I disagree, but I would like to hear more on this. Writers write, so it seems natural that they would blog about writing. Why is this bad? What should they blog about?

2) "Be visible on Twitter." I've wondered about the value of Twitter, and how one builds a Twitter "audience." I would love to know what people think about this.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Colin. If a writer-blogger starts blogging more about other things than writing (I'm talking a 70-30 split) I stop reading their blog. So I want to know what other people think.

Nancy Kelley said...

If your blog is your platform, its purpose should be to connect with potential readers, not other writers. That means blogging about things your readership is interested in: tidbits you've learned in your research, sneak peeks of your books, or behind the scenes thoughts on your characters, to name a few.

Thanks for sharing the bullet points, Janet.

Anonymous said...

I too am interested in the rationale behind "don't blog about writing." "Tidbits you've learned in your research, sneak peeks of your books, or behind the scenes thoughts on your characters" seem to be "about writing" to me!

Also, I feel that one should find the social media that one is comfortable with and do it really well, rather than spreading out across every possible platform in a mediocre or even lousy way. Not sure why Twitter specifically is a "must" over, say, blogging or Facebook.

I'd love to hear the thoughts behind those two bits of advice, to better understand them.

Anonymous said...

Love this! And Bill Cameron's advice was perfect. Thanks for sharing the finished product.

Colin, my initial experience with Twitter was basically finding people I found interesting. Following them. Joining the conversations. Be engaging. For me, it's just like having a conversation. I've gotten to know so many amazing people from it.

As for blogging about writing, the general advice is to blog about anything else -- anything that interests you. Some people write niche blogs (only about politics or cooking etc). I think that blogging about writing, or who you're querying etc is just bad form. If you write about an agent who passed on your writing, there's a chance that someone in the industry might read that. And that won't necessarily help you.

Emily, there are so many people on Twitter -- and so many people use it throughout the day -- that I think it's the best way to potentially reach the most people. Since joining, I often find myself Tweeting something funny while I'm out -- or uploading an amusing picture. Everyone tweets -- from news anchors to writers to teachers. ~Ali

Anonymous said...

"Don't blog about writing"- this is what I'm saying! Sometimes I read other people's blogs and enjoy the insights about the writing process and the publishing world, but ultimately I want to reach *readers*.

Anonymous said...

What if your Website and blog are about a different kind of writing? Mine are, mainly about travel writing, but now I have a suspense novel. Do I need a new site and blog?
Enjoyed your suggestions.

BP said...

I think the idea behind "Don't Blog About Writing" (and we all do it every now and then; can't help it!) is that everyone has their own ideas of what works and what doesn't in a story. The point is to enjoy each others personality and the JOURNEY your writing takes you on, not necessarily the nitty gritty of what makes writing work for YOU, because there are so many methods out there. That's the beauty of writing; we all do it so differently and together we make art! ;D

Feaky Snucker said...

Yes to all of the above. Coincidentally, last night I was signing up for accounts to twitter, gmail and facebook with my real name, so that I can promote myself, or am more easily found if I manage to sell this book.

For me, the advice about not being afraid resonates. Having started querying, I've gotten 6 rejections so far from agents, but you know what? They didn't hurt like I thought they would. I think it's because I truly believe in my book, and believe that it's good, and that someone will want it. So that's another part of not being afraid:
BELIEVE in yourself, and your writing.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for all the thoughts on "don't blog about writing". I'm still a little confused because I read several writers blogs (Laurie Halse Anderson, for example) and I love when she talks about writing. But I get the point about don't blog about querying or getting rejected.

Sarah said...

Question about blogging on querying. I just started a blog about my journey to publication. How I started my query process, how it's going (not specifics on who I queried or their responses), but a general "here's what I'm doing." Mostly because I think it would be informative to other writers starting out. I didn't have the slightest clue when I started and am grateful to blogs that guided me. I also plan to put snippets of my writing, thoughts on my journey, link to other great blogs, articles and sights on writing/publishing, and discuss books I'm reading/love. Should I not do any of this? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I asked Janet about the no writing talk thing on Twitter last night. Her reply:
"@Sheri_Hart booooring. your website is about your finished writing, not your process. Its like watching sausage being made: nooooo"

My take on that was if you are shopping around a completed novel, or are awaiting publication, your audience is potential agents/editors or readers. Talking writing process is not of primary interest to them. And your purpose is to gain more readers, so you should be talking about your books and yourself as an author.

However, if you are like me, and not currently shopping material around, I still believe there is a benefit in maintaining an online presence. To me that's all part of "being ready." Surely it's a good thing to have a built in audience to market to, or help you market your books.

Kathryn Schipper said...

I recently found a magazine to which I successfully pitched and sold an article via Twitter. I've found the site to be a great way to "meet" people (like Janet!) and get exposure to new ideas. I have to admit, though, that Twitter can be the modern-day equivalent to staring out the window; it's a great writing-avoidance mechanism.
I use my blog almost exclusively for samples of my work. My personal thoughts, ideas, questions, etc. are on Twitter.

Anonymous said...

So... sounds like the "not about writing" is aimed toward not-yet-published writers?


I don't want to put words in Janet's mouth on the "don't blog about writing" issue, and I may be way off base here in my guess about what she means.

But for what it's worth, I think it's natural that writing will come up from time to time as a topic. It's HOW you do it that matters. Lamenting your struggles with querying (if you're unpublished) or every detail of your writing process with the new novel (if you're published) is boring as hell for the most part.

But if you're a crime writer who blogs about a day spent at a funeral home doing research for the next novel, THAT is interesting. Yes, it's about writing (sort of) but if you're doing it in a compelling and interesting way, it's not only unique, but gives a strong sense of your voice.

I write romantic comedy, so I blog about exciting things like the time I threw up in my underwear or got humped at the dog park or tested out the logistics of a love scene in a car with the neighbors watching. While I circled all of those issues back to writing in a roundabout way, the real point of the blog posts was to make people laugh (which, hopefully, led them to think, "damn, I'm heading over to Amazon right now to buy Making Waves.")

Janet can correct me if I'm off base there, but that's the distinction I see between "blogging about writing" and "blogging about writing in a way that showcases your voice or the uniqueness of your stories."


Anonymous said...

I see what you're saying, Tawna. I expect the original comment was meant as a very narrow and specific kind of "blogging about writing." I also see how being a "how to" source would attract writers looking for advice more than readers looking for their next read.

As a bullet point, it just struck me as bafflingly broad! I think the "how to" that focuses on other writers versus the entertaining "behind the scenes" that is of interest to readers is perhaps the distinction. Both "about writing," but in a different way.

Joel Brown said...

You are pretty awesome.

Colin Smith said...

Thanks everyone for your thoughts on blogging and tweeting. Very helpful indeed. And thanks to Janet for the original post. Wouldn't it be cool if she could do an online seminar via Skype or something? :D

Terri Lynn Coop said...


Thinking about it.

::running off to Amazon to get Making Waves::

Joe Vasicek said...

In my experience, the successful blogs are the ones that tell a story. If you are a writer, writing is a part of your story; the question is how to make it interesting to non-writers as well as writers. Too many aspiring writers try to blog authoritatively about things that they really know nothing about, or get so wrapped up in themselves and their writing that their blogs put me to sleep. But plenty of others do it well, so I don't think it's fair to make a blanket statement like "don't blog about writing."

Speaking of blanket statements, your advice about "don't drink the kool-aid" on ebooks strikes me as so wrong it borders on irresponsible. There's a growing and unnecessary divide between indie writers and writers pursuing traditional publishing, one that helps no one except those who are looking to exploit us. The two paths are not mutually exclusive, and your negative characterization of the self-published ebook path blatantly ignores many of the innovative new things that indies are doing--as well as the success that many are enjoying.

Gary Ponzo said...

As far as a writer blogging about writing, I tend to agree. It can be tedious. I tend to use my blog to interview other writers, big and small. It can be interesting for readers and writers alike.
I've had Tess Gerritsen, Catherine Coulter, Janet Evonavich. You'd be surprised how accessible some of these people are. Simply writers helping other writers. The way it should be.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Perhaps you might want to make a list of things one should not be doing, especially if an agent. I suggest starting it with:

Do not compare self-publishing with mass suicide; it is offensive.

I realize that some agents think themselves above considerations such as courtesy and good taste. The rest of the world may not.

Janet Reid said...

JR, I'm sorry that metaphor was offended you. I certainly did not intend my comments on epublishing (not the same as self publishing) were to be compared to mass suicide.

I thought "drink the KoolAid" had worked its way into the vernacular enough to be seen as a metaphor rather than a reference. Clearly you don't think it has.

While we may disagree my intent was not to use it as a comparison.

Beth said...

The "don't blog about writing" took me aback, because that is exactly what I do (when I actually blog, that is). But I don't blog about the process of writing my own novel (yes, that would be tedious) and I certainly never blogged about the agent hunt. Rather, I blog about the craft of writing, about technique. Occasionally I'll do a book review, but only if I liked the book. Now and then I post something non-writing-related, but that's rare.

Once I get published, I may start the whole blog again from scratch, but I think my posting will always be writing-and-book-centered.

Unknown said...

Interesting post and comments, as always when I visit here. However, the 'don't blog about writing' aspect was somewhat ambiguous, until Sheri kindly cleared it up.

Off to blog about writing... :-)

Regards to all, and good luck with your respective projects.