The Medium Challenge: Day Five

day-five-write-your-first-post

Okay, Ninja! Here we go.

Today, you’re going to write your first Medium post.

If you’ve been following around, you should have a list of ideas and a list of work you can repost to Medium, if you have any.

What will you write about? If you’re not sure, here are some ideas:

  • Post a piece of flash fiction. (This is especially good if you have a lot of friends on Facebook who might head over and check it out if you ask them to.)
  • Re-post something you’ve already published, as we’ve talked about.
  • Let yourself be vulnerable: write about something that’s bothering you.
  • Write about something that’s working for you.
  • Write about an experience you’ve had.

My advice is to keep it under 1000 words.

There are two things that are more important than anything else when it comes to getting attention on Medium: the title and a picture. When someone is looking for something to read on Medium, those are the two things they’ll see until they click to open your post. They’re also what will be shared on Facebook and Twitter.

Your title should be provocative. It should be something that compels a click. The title of my Medium post that has the most reads is How I Got Fat. The top three stories on Medium, as I write this post, are:

  • How to Become the Best in the World at What You Do
  • How to Get People to Like You in 5 Seconds or Less
  • How I Went from Zero Experience to Landing a 6-figure San Francisco Design Job in Less Than 12 Months.

I actually had to stop writing and read that last one. It was pretty inspiring.

Notice that all three of those posts start with ‘How to; or ‘How I.’ Yours doesn’t have to, but it bears remembering that people are reading your post to get something out of it for THEM. They aren’t reading it to do you a favor. Focus on writing a post with your reader in mind, and write a title that promises something to the reader.

You’ll also need a picture. A compelling one. This is actually pretty simple. I use Stocksnap. Just click over, type in a keyword, choose a picture, download it, then upload it to the top of your post. Stocksnap’s photos are all royalty free and cash free. You’re free to use them without worry about copywrite.

Now, write your post. My advice is to use headers to bread up the text. If you write the header text, highlight it, and you’ll be able to turn it into subhead by clicking the little t. (The big T will make it a title.) Headers make your post easier to read.

When you get to the end of your post, add a form from Rabbut. Then pop in the bio you wrote yesterday–with a link to someplace where readers can follow you. It doesn’t hurt to ask readers to click the green heart and recommend your post if they enjoyed it.

Now click ‘publish.’ You’ll be able to choose up to five tags. Choose them all.

Once your story is published, go through it and highlight the lines you think are best. That will encourage readers to highlight as well. And share your story on your Twitter and Facebook feeds. Go ahead and ask your friends and family to read and click the green heart. Be brave!

Come on over to Facebook and share your link with the Ninjas. Friday is our self-promo day, but if you let us know you’re posting as part of The Medium Challenge, we’ll make an exception.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about how to submit your post to a publication.

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The Medium Challenge: Day Four

day-four-prepare-your-listYou’re probably thinking…hello, lady, when are we actually going to write on Medium? Soon. I promise. But not today.

Today, we’re going to get you set up so that you’re ready to welcome readers when they show up.

When you post on Medium, there’s a chance that what you write will get some attention. People will share it on Facebook and Twitter or a bigger publication will want to publish it and it will go out to all of their readers. When that happens, you want to be ready.

You don’t want to be the guy who says: I had a post go viral, and I missed building my email list, because I didn’t have one.

Today, you’re going to set up an email service. And you’re going to check out a service that will let you put a sign-up form on your Medium posts.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Your email list is, obviously, a list of emails.

You can write them down in a notebook or in a Google Doc so you can copy and paste them into the ‘to’ field in an email. But that’s going to get unsustainable fast.

An email service manages your email list. Every time someone fills out a form to follow you or get a free thing from you, their email is recorded in your service. Then you can send an email to everyone easily.

I use a service called ConvertKit. I am madly in love with it. It isn’t free, though. It costs $29 a month for the first 1000 subscribers. If you are confident that your email list will grow quickly, or if you’re just really sure you want it to and you’re willing to work on that, at least check out ConvertKit. It really is amazing.

You can use MailChimp, which is free for the first 2000 subscribers. After that, the price is similar to ConvertKit’s.

I’ve only ever used ConvertKit and MailChimp. There are other services, if you want to look around.

Today, I want you to choose one and get signed up.

(And while we’re at it: If you don’t already have one, I’d like to go to Gmail or another email provider and sign up for a professional email address. Preferably, just your name. Mine is shauntagrimes@gmail.com. If you have a more common name than me, you might be able to get johnsmithwriter or janebrownauthor. Do this BEFORE you sign up with an email server, because you’ll need to use your email as the ‘from’ on any emails you send out.)

Once you’re set up with a server, you need to think about how you’re going to invite people who read your posts on Medium to join your email list.

One way is to link to your blog, if you have one, and to have an obvious sign up form there. You can see how I do that at the bottom of this Medium post. I direct people to a page on my blog where they can subscribe to my newsletter.

Another way is to add a form to your posts. You can see how I do that here. I use a service called Rabbut to build my form and collect the emails. Rabbut will integrate with Mail Chimp, but doesn’t with ConvertKit. That’s not a big deal though, because it’s simple to download the list of subscribers and import them to my list. It takes less than five minutes.

I pay $10 a month for Rabbut, but there is a free version.

Just follow the directions for making a form, once you’re signed up. It’s super self-explanatory. If you have trouble, come ask questions on Facebook. You can see an example of my form at the bottom of this Medium post.

Okay, so three things today:

  1. Get a professional email, if you don’t already have one.
  2. Get yourself signed up for an email service.
  3. Get signed up at Rabbut and make a form.

Exciting stuff!

Tomorrow we finally get to write our first post.

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The Medium Challenge: Day 3

day-threegather-ideasOkay, Ninjas. So far you’ve signed up for an account at Medium and you’ve done some exploring.

Today I want you to think about what you’re going to post. I’m not talking about brand new writing. Medium is a fantastic place for reposting work you’ve posted elsewhere.

If you have a blog, you have a whole backlog of posts you can mine. If you’ve ever written for someone else’s blog, those posts might be fair game, too. (You’ll need to look at which rights you’ve retained. Most of the time you can repost if you link back to the original post. If you have essays that’s you’ve written, flash fiction, chapters of a novel — all of it can be posted on Medium.

Get out a notebook and make a list.

Now, add new ideas to your list. Think about what you want to write about. Look around Medium and see if any of the posts there trigger ideas for you. If you already blog, Medium might be a good place to explore topics that don’t fit the narrower scope there. You know I love a series (like this one!) Can you think of one that might get you started?

Don’t feel like you have to only write fiction or about writing. Medium is a good place to stretch yourself.

Okay, last thing.

You’re going to need a short bio. Just who you are, what you’re working on. You can check out mine at the bottom of any of my posts on Medium. Add one in your notebook to use when you start posting on Medium. You want to have place to let people follow you outside of Medium. If you have a blog, include a link. If you don’t have one (and that’s okay. Lots of people only blog at Medium.) link to your Facebook and/or Twitter pages. In fact, link to those social media outlets regardless.

Tomorrow we’re going to talk about an email list. For today, just start thinking about where you want to go with this thing.

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The Medium Challenge: Day Two

day-twocheck-out-publicationsYesterday, you set up your Medium account.

Today, I want you to spend some time on the platform and check out the publications.

A Medium publication is like a digital magazine. It’s a collection of posts, curated by an editor. If your post is picked up by a publication, it goes out to all of the people who follow that publication.

So, it’s kind of like the difference between posting something to your own blog and posting it on Huffington Post. (Maybe not that big–I don’t think any publications on Medium have that kind of readership, but you get what I’m saying, right?)

Start by clicking on ‘top stories’ on the top bar on Medium’s home page.

Here’s an example of what you’ll see. Pay attention to the parts I’ve circled in red.

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The top article has the name of the author and the name of a publication. In this case The Mission. This means that the publication published their post.

The bottom article has just the name of the author. That means that they posted just on their own Medium wall.

If you click on the name of the publication, you’ll be taken to their Medium page. Here’s the page for The Mission. You’ll be able to see what kind of articles they publish. If you Google the name of the publication + Submissions (so The Mission Submissions) you might get a link to their guidelines.

Here are the submission guidelines for The Mission.

Today, I’d like you to identify at least three publications you’d like to be published in. Make note of their guidelines, what kind of writing they’re looking for, story ideas you might have, and think about any work you’ve ALREADY WRITTEN somewhere else that might work for them. Think about blog posts or essay’s you’ve written for other venues that you might be able to reprint on Medium.

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The Medium Challenge: Day One

the-medium-challenge-blank-1This started out as a 31 Days of Book Promotion challenge–and then I realized that was way too broad.

Book promotion is going to need a series of challenges. It just is.

So, we’re going to start with a platform that I think pretty much everyone should have in their pocket. Medium. And it’s going to be a little loosey goosey–I’m not sure how many days it will be. As many as it takes! I’m thinking probably the month of February.

We’re going to take it one little baby step at a time. My goal for you is that if you follow all of the steps, by the end you’ll be comfortable using Medium and you’ll have started to build an audience there that’s translating into an email list for you.

Here’s a little about Medium from Wikipedia:

Medium is an online publishing platform developed by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, and launched in August 2012. It is legally owned by A Medium Corporation. The platform is an example of evolved social journalism, having a hybrid collection of amateur and professional people and publications, or exclusive blogs or publishers on Medium and is regularly regarded as a blog host.

Basically, Medium is a super simple to use blog host with a built in audience. Posting there doesn’t automatically ensure readers–you have to work a little harder than that–but you have more of a chance to find an audience there than you do on a self-hosted or WordPress blog.

We’re going to start with the bare beginnings today: all I want you to do is open a Medium account and spend a little time checking the site out. That’s it. Easy peasy.

Over the next weeks we’re going to write our first posts, make an editorial calendar, discuss cross-posting, think about what exactly we want to post, learn how to tap into established audiences, and figure out how to turn Medium readers into followers and those followers into an email list for you. I’m also going to walk you through setting up an email list and teach you to start using it.

All I want you to do today is head over to Medium and sign up for an account if you don’t already have one.

When you get to the site, here’s what you’ll see:

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Click the “sign in” link at the top right and you’ll see this pop up:

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You can choose to use your Twitter or Facebook accounts to connect to Medium, or sign up with your email and a password. Just choose your method and follow the easy instructions.

Once your signed up, you’ll be prompted to input some information about yourself. If you have a website or Amazon profile or Facebook page, be sure to link to it. You’ll be able to link up your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Do that. The best part of Medium is how easily shareable it is, so make sure you take advantage of that.

Here’s my profile. (Go ahead and follow me. I’ll follow you back!)

When you’re done, click around and see what Medium has to offer. Read some posts. Find some publications you like. Check out some tags and see what other people are writing.

When you’re looking at posts, you’ll see that some just say “Shaunta Grimes” in the byline (Only, you know, not my name. The writer’s name.)

Other’s will say “Shaunta Grimes in . . . ” That dot-dot-dot is the name of a publication. Pay attention to those. Click them, check them out. Later we’re going to talk about how you can get published in them.

That’s it for today. Come on over to Facebook when you’re done and share your Medium profile with us so that we can follow you and you can follow us. Swing by Facebook, too, if you have any questions or problems getting your account set up. I’ll be around to help.

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My Publishing Story

My Publishing Story

A couple of days ago I mentioned that it took me seven years to go from crappy NaNoWriMo first draft to having a book published by Penguin.

I want to talk to you a little more about that.

I wore a new dress the day my second book launched. I wore lipstick and fixed my hair. My kids and my husband were spit-shined like we were about to meet the president. We trooped into Barnes and Noble, up the escalator, to the G shelf in the YA section.

We’d done this same thing the day before, when my first book launched. I was prepared for the excitement of seeing my new book on the shelf.

Only, this time, it didn’t work that way.

Rebel Nation wasn’t there.

I wonder if you can imagine the way everything inside me tightened, like it was being squeezed by the giant fist of the publishing industry.

Barnes and Noble hadn’t picked up my second book.

Because of that, Penguin didn’t pick up my third book.

It didn’t matter that my first book had good reviews. It didn’t matter that my editor had encouraged me to end Rebel Nation on a cliffhanger. It didn’t matter that I was getting daily emails from readers who loved my story.

The giants spoke and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. All of a sudden, I went from having a shining literary future ahead of me to being the devastated owner of a career that consisted of two thirds of a failed trilogy that ended on acliffhanger.

So I fell into a funk. For the first time since 2004, I stopped writing. For a whole year, I didn’t write a word. I teetered on the edge of going all in on my Plan B and becoming a classroom teacher.

It was how close I came to giving up writing altogether that, in the end, made me stop feeling sorry for myself and tell another story. And it was The Plotting Workshop, believe it or not, that carried me through the first steps to getting back to writing.

I sat down and wrote out all the steps that I needed to take to plot a new story. And then I just started taking them, one by one. And when I was done, I had a road map that I could follow through the story.

Every time I start a new story, The Plotting Workshop takes me through finding my inspiration, the steps of the Hero’s Journey, developing 30 key scenes, building a physical plot board, and finally writing a synopsis.

If you click here, you can pick up a free worksheet detailing those steps. (And my favorite writing exercise from The Plotting Workshop.)

Writing is hard, Ninja Writer. I told you that in my last email. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking. But if you’re a storyteller, you’re driven to it. Not writing, then, is even more heartbreaking.

What I’ve learned over the last couple of years, since being traditionally published, is that I don’t have to rely on traditional publishers to give me a career. If I write a good story, I can find an audience for it. And there has never been a more exciting time to be a writer, as far as publishing goes.

For exciting, of course, you can read scary. But there’s all of us, Ninja Writers. We’re in this together. I’m so grateful for that.

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Thunderclap Campaign Update

Here are the results of my Thunderclap campaign--crowd sourced social media support for my book Wasted.

First, I want to give you each a big, fat, virtual hug. Thank you for helping me with my Thunderclap experiment. My Thunderclap did go live on March 9, thanks in huge part to you guys.

Sadly, though, it was kind of a big sad-trumpet, meh sort of experience.

Thunderclap is a way to crowd source promotion. You start a campaign (for free), and if at least 100 people sign up to support it, it goes live on a date and time that you choose. Going live means that a message that you wrote goes out on everyone who signed up’s Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr account (depending on how they chose to support your project.) This was my message:

“Nominate the dark YA thriller WASTED by Shaunta Grimes on Kindle Scout & get it free when it publishes. #amreading http://thndr.me/d7ua90

The link goes to my Kindle Scout campaign, where people can nominate my book WASTED in the hopes of helping it to get published by Amazon.

The end result was that 103 people supported my campaign and the message went out to just over 118,000 people via those 103 social media channels.

I won’t say that Thunderclap was a negative experience. It was super easy to set up. When someone wanted to support it, it took less than ten seconds and zero technical ability to do it. The message went out as it was supposed to.

But, for a few reasons, it wasn’t as I’d hoped it might be.

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