Saturday, March 31, 2012

Insta-fabulous!

I'm tooootally addicted to Instagram.

He's 2 years old in 17 days. And I have no idea why he's "reading" about arthritis.

The most water he's ever seen at once. And "cuckies." Also known as "duckies."

Where we spent the afternoon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Doing It Right: Mary Pauline Lowry on Social Media, Pt. 2

Without further ado, read Mary Pauline Lowry's thoughts and advice on using social media as an author! 


When Mary finished this post she sent a response e-mail that started with, "OMG, I just wrote the longest guest post ever!!!" Which made me laugh,  but also made me like her even more. Thanks so much, Mary, for your time and effort!




First I want to thank Andi for hosting me here at Estella’s Revenge. In honor of Andi’s new job, which focuses on Interactive Media, I’m going to write about how/why I use social media as an author.

According to Wikipedia, social media “includes web-based and mobile technologies used to turn communication into interactive dialogue.”

I love that definition, as it gets at the heart of what makes social media a rewarding tool for me as an author. Social media gives me a chance to have an “interactive dialogue” with readers, potential readers, and those fabulous divas called book bloggers who work so hard to encourage reading, spread the word about books they love, and create a world-wide community of passionate bookophiles.

Blogging was the first major form of social media; and it’s the main form I use to reach readers with information about my novel The Earthquake Machine. I started with a couple of large book blogger directories that I found on-line; and I began to look through each individual blog to find out if its author might be interested in reading and writing about my novel.

I looked to see what genres each book blogger is interested in and whether or not they are accepting ARCs for review. And because my novel has sexually explicit content and is shaped by my own brand of aggressive and intellectual feminism, I tried to find book bloggers who I thought would be likely to enjoy the novel, and not be appalled by it.

So far I’ve culled through over 1,600 book blogs and have emailed over 700 individual bloggers. And I try to personalize most of my emails, commenting on aspects of each blog that I like or find particularly interesting.

Is this incredibly time consuming? Yes.

But if I were a hard working and dedicated book blogger, would I be more likely to respond to a personal email or an obviously cut and paste mass email? The answer is obvious.

And has my strategy worked? Absolutely. So far almost 60 book blogs have featured a review of The Earthquake Machine or an interview or guest post with me. And it’s been incredibly rewarding to have a personal relationship with readers.

The other form of social media I have used is Twitter. Many book bloggers and countless readers are regular tweeters. I use Twitter to learn about what people are reading, as well as who has written or tweeted about The Earthquake Machine. Most notably, I participated in a FridayReads paid, promoted giveaway and Twitter Book Tour. FridayReads was created by book blogger and social media expert Bethanne Patrick. On Fridays, anyone who tweets what they are currently reading, along with the hashtag #fridayreads, is entered to win the book giveaway of the week. FridayReads currently has a Twitter following of 141,000 people.

Unlike my own work contacting bloggers, the FridayReads promotion cost me money, but I decided to give it as shot. I participated in two FridayReads Twitter Book Tours, which involved live on-line chat with folks interested in The Earthquake Machine. The FridayReads promotion didn’t result in a large and immediate spike in book sales. But it was incredibly fun and gave me a chance to communicate directly with curious readers. And a couple of days ago a reader who found out about the novel by “attending” one of the Twitter Book Tours posted a glowing review of The Earthquake Machine on Amazon. So I know the Tour resulted in at least one new reader and fan. Those curious can check that review out here.

I also created a Goodreads author page and a Goodreads Giveaway of my novel, which helped readers to learn about the book. Goodreads is a great go-to site for readers and authors alike.

I used Facebook—a somewhat more private form of social media-- to let friends and family know about my book release party. Facebook made it easy to invite even friends I haven’t seen in a long time, and as a result my book release party was jam-packed. I sold all 100 copies of the novel I brought to the party, and was able to sign copies for everyone from my junior high boyfriend, to my first boss. And it gave people in my community who love and care about me a chance to support me in a very tangible way.

If I had to give authors four quick tips for how to use social media I would say:

1. Personalize your messages to book bloggers.
2. Tweet about your daily life and/or books you love, not just about your own book.
3. Save mass emails for sharing urgent info or updates.
4. Read these posts from Insatiable Booksluts about:
a. how to use Twitter; and
b. how to launch an online presence as an author.
I’d also love to hear about some ways readers of Estella’s Revenge use social media to promote and find out about great books! Please leave us your great ideas in the comments section.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Doing It Right: Mary Pauline Lowry on Social Media, Pt. 1

Those of you who have been around this blog for a minute know that I'm not a fan of the increasing mechanization or depersonalization of the publisher-to-blogger or author-to-blogger relationship. I threw a fit about this a while ago, and many of you agreed with me that increasing influence in blogging is...well...a drag.

Recently, after taking part in Friday Reads on Twitter, I was chosen as one of the day's random winners. In my case, it was a copy of The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry. Admittedly, I was excited to win the book, but I wasn't sure it was my cup of tea. I put the book on my stacks with good intentions to read it...someday.

While I'm often taken aback by the growing sway publishers exert over freelance reviewers, I'm also woman enough to spread the word when a publisher or author really does it right. Such was the case when Mary Pauline Lowry sent a wonderful, personal, thoughtful, human e-mail asking me to consider reading and reviewing her book.

The e-mail was truly a thing of charm and loveliness. She knew my name! She commented upon my work as a professor! She commented upon my full load as a mom! She shared about herself and her family! Truly a wonderful, chatty e-mail and one I appreciated so much for reaching out to me on a personal level, I turned right back around and asked her to do a guest post on how she uses social media.

This topic is obviously of interest to me as I'm embarking on my new career as an interactive media diva (technical term). But I also just feel lucky to be able to pass along a note about how wonderful, thoughtful, and respectful of my time Mary Pauline Lowry is. She is an author truly doing this social media thing RIGHT!

I hope you'll come back on Wednesday to read her guest post. She's a gem, this one!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Another Bookslide...

That's right...ever since I've been out of the bloggy loop, the books continue to arrive on my doorstep. Here are the newest additions to my stacks...






The Iguana Tree by Michel Stone for a TLC Book Tour in April. Set amid the perils of illegal border crossings, The Iguana Tree is the suspenseful saga of Lilia and Hector, who separately make their way from Mexico into the United States, seeking work in the Carolinas and a home for their infant daughter. Michel Stone's harrowing novel meticulously examines the obstacles each faces in pursuing a new life: manipulation, rape, and murder in the perilous commerce of border crossings; betrayal by family and friends; exploitation by corrupt officials and rapacious landowners on the U.S. side; and, finally, the inexorable workings of the U.S. justice system.


A Mountain of Crumbs: A Memoir by Elena Gorokhova from the lovely and generous Heather at Raging BibliomaniaElena Gorokhova’s A Mountain of Crumbs is the moving story of a Soviet girl who discovers the truths adults are hiding from her and the lies her homeland lives by. Elena’s country is no longer the majestic Russia of literature or the tsars, but a nation struggling to retain its power and its pride. Born with a desire to explore the world beyond her borders, Elena finds her passion in the complexity of the English language—but in the Soviet Union of the 1960s such a passion verges on the subversive. Elena is controlled by the state the same way she is controlled by her mother, a mirror image of her motherland: overbearing, protective, difficult to leave. In the battle between a strong-willed daughter and her authoritarian mother, the daughter, in the end, must break free and leave in order to survive.


Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers. London, winter of 1862, Adelaide McKee, a former prostitute, arrives on the doorstep of veterinarian John Crawford, a man she met once seven years earlier. Their brief meeting produced a child who, until now, had been presumed dead. McKee has learned that the girl lives—but that her life and soul are in mortal peril from a vampiric ghost. But this is no ordinary spirit; the bloodthirsty wraith is none other than John Polidori, the onetime physician to the mad, bad, and dangerous Romantic poet Lord Byron. Both McKee and Crawford have mysterious histories with creatures like Polidori, and their child is a prize the malevolent spirit covets dearly.

So these are the books on the horizon, although, as I mentioned in my previous post, I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself to read anything specific. Any reading is good reading and any reading is better than no reading! All in good time, all in good time. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Remember Me? I Like Books and Cupcakes.

I bet y'all thought I was eaten by a desert creature in Phoenix, eh??? Not quite.

The new job is off to a rollicking good start. Much to do, much to do. I really like the people I work with, and while it will be challenging to come up with strategies that work with a diverse bunch of ventures, I can't wait to dig in even further than I already have.


But I've posted enough jobby jobness lately, so let's talk about books!!! This weekend will be the first time I've had an opportunity to read for fun in the last several weeks, so I am almost beside myself with joy! What I'll pick up next is the hard part. With far too many obligations on my plate, I'm not trying to hold myself to any sort of plan. Any reading is good reading!

Right now my choice is a toss-up between Paris, My Sweet by Amy Thomas and The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry. They're both wildly different books, so it just depends on what grabs me.

If I were a bettin' woman (which I totally am), I would side with Paris, My Sweet. I've been in something of a confectionery mood. Maybe it's the stress, but I've been obsessed with sweets. Not indulging so much, but lusting after sweets of each and every kind. With this in mind, Chuck and I had lunch next door to The Cupcakery's uptown Dallas location yesterday. Our office is literally right down the street. It was my first trip to The Cupcakery, and it was pure heaven. Of all the great, decadent flavors, I chose "The Wizard" a butterbeer cupcake!!! And it was a-mazing. Butterscotchy, vanilla, cream soda magic. Seriously delicious. When the counter attendant asked if I wanted a to-go box I actually said, "No, I'm just gonna snork this down before I go back to work." Class-ay.


I couldn't find a pic of "The Wizard" but this will likely be my next Cupcakery adventure--the Kir Royale--"moist raspberry cake drenched in a bubbly champagne frosting." Whoa-yeah.  

But back to my bookish discussion...I like sweets. I need lightish reading. Paris, My Sweet sounds like just the ticket.

I've missed you all horribly and will be trying to catch up on some of my blog reading tonight and tomorrow. I hope you're all well and swimming in books!!!

Watch for upcoming posts on the new books that have landed in my house since I logged in last. AND a very impassioned discussion of authors who are using social media to their best advantage with a human touch. :) "Click to buy" need not apply!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Personally: One More Milestone

And just that quick, my office at the college is packed up. I've spent this past week scrambling to square away administrative tasks to make life easier for my colleagues after I'm gone. I've shredded my weight in paper. I've given and received a lot of hugs.

It certainly is odd to be leaving here after three years of chasing students, chasing faculty. There was a cake this week, cards, gifts from colleagues and students. There's been a lot of reflecting. I was offered an opportunity to grow up professionally here. So much good advice and mentoring.

While I can't believe I'm done with my journey here with these wonderful co-workers, I am undoubtedly excited to be doing something new that's so close to my heart. And in many ways I'll be carrying on what I started here -- helping new institutions engage with students and professionals via the social Web, ferreting out new ways to learn and new ways to do business.

Bittersweet as it is, I think I'm ready to go. Good things await.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Blood Sports Make Me Giggle!

I love me some irreverence, and irreverence is the name of the game in TheTournament of Books. But a reverent irreverence, ya know??? Whatever...I'm posting about it for the second day in a row, but I'll be damned if I'm gonna stop. I'm so excited, I can barely keep my clothes on.

The opening post for the 2012 Tournament of Books made me giggle in a classroom full of students taking a final exam. It's ok, they're used to me.

Kevin and John -- the Tournament Dudes -- do a little celebratory reminiscing as today is the Tournament opening ceremonies. Kevin, in particular, ponders odd match-ups and doorstop novels (chunksters to the book blogging crowd)...

The doorstop novels have provided us with some of the most enduring narratives and entertaining moments in the tourney. In 2007, the first round pitted Against the Day against the graphic novel Pride of Baghdad. This is how judge Anthony Doerr summed the two up:
Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day took me 22 days and two international flights to finish. I read Brian Vaughan’s The Pride of Baghdad during lunch. Twice.

On page 108 of The Pride of Baghdad, for example, there is only one word: “Grahhhhh!”
Pages 112 and 113 feature two words: “Nah!” and “Unh!”

There are lots of words on all of the pages of Against the Day. 
And if you don't actually want to visit the website and read the opening post yourself, keep reading here for the setup of tomorrow's Round 1 pairing. Although you're really missing out on some fun times if you don't click on over to the page:

The Rooster kicks off tomorrow with the wonderful Emma Straub choosing between the sedately British Booker Prize winner, Julian Barnes’s Sense of an Ending, and the hyper-violent American debut, Donald Ray Pollock’s The Devil All the Time. Will Barnes show up in a red coat, marching all in a line, ready to be picked off by the upstart rebel? Or will Pollock be undone by Barnes’s Bond-like cool as he monologues his way through his deadly, criminal master plan?

Can’t wait, brother. Let the blood sport commence!

Let the blood sport commence, indeed!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Almost Book Tournament Time!!!

Guess what's great about tomorrow???! It's the first day of the Tournament of Books!!! That's right, folks, March 7th to March 30th is the readerly main event. I've made it a personal challenge to read my way through the 2012 Tournament contenders this year. I was making GREAT headway before I got a new job, and things have pretty much ground to a halt since then. But, I have read some great books thanks to this year's Tournament. These are the ones I have under my belt so far:

  • The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah
  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
  • The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  • Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

Given, I've missed out on some of the heaviest hitters: The Marriage Plot, The Art of Fielding, and Salvage the Bones remain unread, though I expect any of these books to have a great showing in the Tournament. The Marriage Plot and The Art of Fielding will probably end up pitted against one another in the second round, but either of them could re-emerge in the Zombie Round. Same thing with Salvage the Bones and The Sense of an Ending.

Who's going to take the cake??? Such a hard decision. I think there's a good chance State of Wonder or The Marriage Plot could take it all. We'll just have to see how it unfolds.

Who are you pulling for in the 2012 Tournament of Books? Do you have your author jersey and a platter of potato skins ready?!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Sunday Salon - On Information Hoarding

Everyone has some specific ways they respond to stress, and for many of the readers and librarians I know, it involves information hoarding. 

I am an information hoarder. This is a little of what that looks like.

1. When I feel unseated I tend to read EVERYTHING I can get my hands on about a topic.
2. I tend to start writing copious notes I'll have to go back through later and decipher for myself and anyone else who cares.
3. I tend to observe others who are doing the same thing I'm hoarding about or a community at large that can help me feel more grounded.

Check, check, check! 

I am REALLY not trying to drive you all crazy with new-job-talk, but it is sending out such drastic, resonating shockwaves through my life, it's really hard to avoid! And I need to vent. So there! It's really a trifecta of crazy. Let's analyze...

1. Old Job Crazy - This past week I've been finishing up my duties at the college and getting the t's crossed and the i's dotted to pass my materials along to our Dean since she'll be absorbing a lot of my current duties. My last day at the college is Friday, March 9th, which coincides with the last day of the academic term, so I've also been grading papers and getting those grades ready to post. Busy, stupid, crazy.

2. Online Job Crazy - Five online classes are kicking my tail. Given, I inherited three new classes several weeks into the semester. I am so so so glad to have the extra  income, but the grading is a nightmare. I've been trying to catch up this weekend with mild success. It just always takes SO MUCH LONGER to grade papers online. 

3. New Job Crazy - I am just astounded by the amount of work there is to be done. Like so many companies, social media has been something of an afterthought with a bunch of other irons on the fire. The process of cleaning up, doing lots of "listening" and research, and ultimately building the social media strategy into something doable for a bunch of different brands is going to be a huge challenge. Right now I'm getting a handle on what each brand needs, what's being said (or not said) on the web about those brands, and laying down an infrastructure for the department. I'll be diving into this gig head on with travel plans to Phoenix next Sunday and Monday.

See why all the info hoarding??? 

One of the better hoarding decisions I've made this past week was to download a copy of Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (& Other Social Networks) by Dave Kerpen. This came as a recommendation from a good buddy at work and was confirmed by some good buddies online. 

Kerpen owns a successful social media consulting firm and has a lot of great advice. Is it all brand new advice? No. If you've been in social media in some capacity--blogger, Twitter, Facebook user, marketer--you'll already know a lot of the tactics in this book. However, it does provide some pretty interesting and heartening statistics about building a following on Facebook and Twitter to increase sales, brand recognition, and overall presence in the market. It also synthesizes some of the more innovative and successful efforts undertaken by other brands that have given me some ideas. Take what works and do it better!!! That's my goal. 

The number one goal of this book? BE LIKEABLE and helpful. More companies should live by that rule.

This book has really confirmed what I want to do in my new job and given me a few new ideas to throw into my bag of tricks. That's probably the most valuable thing I could have right now -- a sense of calm and knowing. Confirmation that I do know what to do with the challenge even though my head is spinning. 

Another side effect of gaining a job in social media?!...

A desire to keep this blog TOTALLY SEPARATE from my work. Obviously I'm not doing a very good job of it at the moment, but I think when some of the twirliness passes, I'll be able to settle back into my happy place here. You won't see me doing a lot of things differently here. I don't want to use this blog as a petri dish for my work. Just good reading, a lot of honest reality, and snark.

So that's my Sunday! Posts will still be slow here in the next couple of weeks until I get settled but I am thinking of my bloggy peeps, wishing for more reading time, more posting time, and more commenting around the blogosphere. Twitter has been an especially helpful connection to my bloggy peeps the last couple of weeks since it doesn't require more than 140 characters of thought at a time. And Pinterest! Lots of pinning going on.