The Great Chicago Fire, an artists rendering, ...
Chicago was on Fire! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a terrific time with the Independent Writers of Chicago last week. What a lively group! They took my instructions that this was an interactive presentation to heart. Folks were so engaged, and asked so many questions, I barely got halfway through my planned talk. Nonetheless, have a look at the complete slide deck (click the link if the embed isn’t working):

Build Your Author Platform talk at Independent Writers of Chicago

To those of you who attended, you’ll enjoy these slides  more than what you saw that night.

The Big Four social media sites

I focused my talk on why having a website (like this one) is important, and connecting with the most important social media sites:

The slides will give you a hint on why these are the most important, and pros and cons for each service.

But can you make money with it?

Karma as action and reaction: if we sow goodne...
Karma as action and reaction: if we sow goodness, we will reap goodness. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Much of the conversation focused on the fundamental question for any freelance writer: Is social media really a valuable investment in time? One writer noted that she set and achieved a goal to get 10,000 Twitter followers, but that she found it impossible to communicate effectively with that size crowd. Not discouraged, she divided her followers into lists based on who shared her content and other criteria. She, in turn, spent more time reading and sharing posts from the folks who supported her.

I also pointed out that many agents and publishers use audience size as a way to decide whether a new author is willing to do the marketing work needed to sell books today. No audience, no sale.

 New places to build platform

One thing I wish I could have shared is my time-honored advice for social media success: get in early! I’ve told this story often, learned by way of the Most Influential Person in Technical Communication, Tom Johnson.  In short: One of the main reasons I was once on the list of Most Influential that Tom was #1 on is that Tom and I both discovered – and posted to – Twitter early.

Eight years ago this month, some friends came back from South by Southwest to spread the word of the usefulness and fun quotient of the 140-character mini-blog tool. I signed up, and the rest is certainly history. (Psst…you can follow me using the button on the right).

So let me hook you up with two (relatively) new services that I’m on. I have no idea whether they will become household names over time, but if they do, I want to say I helped.

  • Ello: This service was the hottest thing in the blogosphere for a week or so late last year. Not unlike Google+, this ad-free zone was torched by the same bloggers and journalists for not dethroning Facebook quickly enough. Nonetheless, this beta service continues to grow, add features, and remains pretty interesting. I’ve got invites…
  • Known: I learned about this site by way of a comment on an article by Dan Gillmor
    Dan Gillmor, American technology writer and fo...
    Dan Gillmor, American technology writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    on Medium. I haven’t done much here, and don’t entirely get its purpose yet, but you might find it interesting too. Gillmor (one of my tech-journalist heroes, BTW) calls himself “a big fan.”

Thanks again to the Independent Writers of Chicago (especially Tom Kepler, James Kepler and David Steinkraus) for inviting me to speak, and providing such a great audience. Oh, the pizza was great, too!

Carole Jelen and I are getting excited about our upcoming webinar, Your Author Platform: Why You Need One and How to Get Started.Cover of Build Your Author Platform

In this hour-long presentation, Carole shows you how to create the basic framework of your author platform as a starting point to growing it over time. Once you build your platform, it takes on a life of its own. I’ll be managing the chat room, and chiming in during the question-and-answer period.

Having attended more than a few of these presentations over the years, it will be interesting sitting on the other side of the mic, as it were. I think both of us are open to advice on how to do this. Feel free to leave a comment.

Please register for Your Author Platform: Why You Need One and How to Get Started on Wednesday July 30, 2014 11:00 AM PDT at:

Space is limited, so get in soon!

Can’t make it for the live broadcast? Register anyway, we’ll be recording the session, and sending you a link to the recording when it’s ready.

I think it’s going to fun for all concerned – you too!


What an amazing thing Book Expo America is! While I was only in New York for a little more than two days last week, “special” is really only one adjective. As an author, the trip was very successful. As a tourist, it was too short. As a consumer, well, I’ve had better experiences, but lessons learned…

I have a lot of stories to tell, but I won’t make you slog through one really long post. Since this IS an author site, today I will write about my one day at the Javits Center, home base for BEA 2014. Next time, I’ll tell you about the travel experience in the Big City.

What is Book Expo America?

A quick introduction if you’re not in the book business: Book Expo America (BEA) started as the annual conference of the American Booksellers Association, the group that organizes and lobbies for independent bookshops across the country. The conference still offers dozens of educational sessions and panel discussions focused on the book business from the perspective of the booksellers and librarians who attend.

Publishers  attend and exhibit at BEA to connect their catalogs with the humans who place orders and offer recommendations to their customers about what to read next. Authors and literary agents attend to sell their current book and make deals for their next projects. This year, even independent, self-publishing authors had a portion of the trade show floor to call their own.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, ABA battled for the survival of independent mom-and-pop bookstores against the corporate Goliaths: Barnes & Noble and Borders. Absent some context, I suppose you could say they won: Borders is gone, Barnes & Noble fights rumors of its impending doom, and ABA membership is actually up this year!

Of course, the corporate bookshops weren’t really slain by the independents, but by another Goliath that once dubbed itself “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore,” While not an ABA member,  Amazon had a big presence at BEA through its CreateSpace and children’s publishing subsidiaries. A newer acquisition, Goodreads, also gave authors tips in  using its author program.

But I digress… enough exposition! Not here to pontificate on the state of publishing. Here’s the action part!

So how did the signing go?

Glad you asked — It went great! Carole Jelen and I were among the 750+ authors scheduled to sign books during the show.  At 10:30 in the morning, a half hour before our scheduled signing, I signed in at the Author Green Room. No, it was not like an airline club room with mahogany-paneled walls and attendants for our every needs — though the couches were pretty nice. I was given my choice of Sharpies to sign with, and offered coffee or tea.

As it happened, the two representatives from BenBella Books who scored us the signing appeared shortly after I got there, so I had someone to hang out with until Carole got there. Let me say before I go too much further that everyone we’ve worked with at BenBella has been nothing less than terrific in shepherding this project through. If you ever get a chance to publish with them, take it!

Just before the appointed hour arrived, the BEA Signings manager gathered us all up for a walk to our tables. Carole and I walked down to Table 11 not sure what to expect, but when we opened the curtain to greet our public, I think we were both a little surprised to see a long line of autograph seekers waiting for us! A line that kept coming for the full 30 minutes!

We met booksellers, librarians, and writers in a variety of genres. People kept telling us how much they needed our book. Even the author signing next to us told us he wanted one! The time just flew by.

Time to Celebrate

We close out Build Your Author Platform with a whole chapter reminding you that the writing life is supposed to be fun; that after the hard work of writing your book and working on your platform, you need to celebrate the achievement and have a party.

Andy Ihnatko at MacWorld 2008. This image was ...
Andy Ihnatko at MacWorld 2008. This image was cropped from the original flickr image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With that in mind, we gathered that evening at the Times Square Intercontinental Hotel (right across the street from the legendary Birdland jazz club), with many of Carole’s friends and associates in the publishing industry for a bit of champagne and conversation.  It was great fun, and I’m happy to say that I largely behaved myself. OK, it’s true I could hardly stop showing off the wonderful review we’d gotten that morning from big time tech columnist Andy Ihnatko, but that was pretty much the extent of my bad behavior. You can find more pictures from the signing and party on my Facebook page.


Many of us hoped the night would peak with a viewing of the semi-natural event locals call “Manhattanhenge,” but the overcast skies spoiled that. Such is life…

All in all, it was a spectacular day, especially for an introverted nerd like me. Every writer should have one (or many) like it. Many Thanks to everyone I crossed paths with!

Were you among the people we met at BEA? Have you hosted a great (or even not-so-great) book signing event? Feel free to share a story in the comments.

Enhanced by Zemanta