Learn, Promote, Get Connected

Years ago there were a number of forums and eMail groups for self-publishers. These days, there are very few, and many of those that are there don’t seem to be doing the job they once did. The same groups that once had 50 or more posts a day are now lucky to get that many posts in a month. The “old timers” — members who could offer information based on years of experience, have gone (or were forced to leave, during one of the many infamous “flame wars” that took place); Some forums became too burdensome for volunteer moderators to keep up with and a few seemed to go down a dark path and ended up on Angela Hoy’s Whispers and Warnings list, one writing forum is there for not paying freelance writers of all things!

In some cases blogs fill a void. There are numerous blogs geared towards self-publishers that are run by very knowledgeable people in the design and publishing industries, who also know what a possessive noun is and does. They’re also quite entertaining writers, and interesting conversations sprout up in the comments’ sections.

Many more though, are run by people who are posting their own learning experiences with self-publishing as they go, and while that too can be both helpful and entertaining, the misinformation from lack of knowledge is worrisome. I often read things like, “well, I typeset my book in Word and it looks fine.” It’s just not a good thing to encourage someone to set a book in Word, with the possible exception of a someone whose Word mastery is at the level of  Aaron Shephard’s, but even there are issues involving color and spacing that simply cannot be handled in Word. One “expert” (his word, not mine) actually refers to sans-serif fonts as “san serf” fonts, periodically throughout the text. I guess spell check and proofreading were too much effort. That little gem also had a cover “decorated” with Microsoft clip art, which usually isn’t licensed for commercial purposes and even if he did obtain permission, Microsoft clipart rarely has any business on a book cover.

Oh, there was a day when clipart was self-publishers really had to choose from, but with the advent of micro-stock companies, reasonable images can be legally licensed for as little as $2, some offer free images even for commercial use. If that still doesn’t work for you, go with a text-only cover and make your title stand out as the feature element.

I will admit I missed the old forums, the lively discussions and the interesting cast of characters from all over the world, with all different levels of experience…and then one day a few months ago, I found them again! Maybe not the same cast, but a few of them were there, and many more who were just as brilliant and just as interesting. There were at LinkedIn.com

LinkedIn has numerous groups for writers, communications and marketing experts, publishers, authors, designers, and most that I belong to are fairly active. But it doesn’t really matter if any one group is active or not, because there are so many you can join, that each day there will surely be something on one of them that interests you.

Aside from the camaraderie and convenience of finding answers to your questions, LinkedIn’s social networking offers a wonderful profile page for its members, and I can tell you through experience that head hunting firms are tracking down potential job seekers using LinkedIn. I worked on a contract position in an office a few weeks ago and that was part of the job — finding qualified candidates who might be interested in a senior position with another company, if the offer was right.. Not only that, but I have recently been contacted about a contract position by a local company who found my profile on LinkedIn.

Artists can display their work on LinkedIn via the free Behance Network. I am also going to have to gush over the Behance Network interface which is so remarkably simple (unlike the ever-changing interface of a certain blogging host I deal with), anyone should be able to figure it out in a matter of minutes. For example, I recently added a new image to my portfolio and then wanted to move that image to the top. On my left a bar appeared with a big white arrow that said “top.” Like Alice drinking the bottle that read “drink me,” I dared to click top, assuming it would take me to the top of the page. No! It moved the image I wanted to the top. Does it get any easier?

I also experimented with LinkedIn ads. They were great for getting directly to my potential clients, but I did find the service a little expensive and it operated quite a bit like Google’s Ad Words, a system that confuses Google’s Ad Words’ staff at times, so I will continue advertising on Facebook. Facebook ads are both easier to use and inexpensive. The only drawback with them is your credit card number is linked to any games you play. That’s fine if you’re aware of it, but I accidentally made a purchase one night that I hadn’t intended to make, and it processed through the credit card I had on Facebook. Thankfully I only made a $2 purchase, there was a $1000 option there I could have just as easily clicked on when trying to figure out how the game system worked.

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