Finding Time to Write a Book in the Digital Era

The surprising thing about being a writer says novelist Ellen Crosby is “how hard you have to fight to find the time to write.”

Ellen Crosby

Ellen Crosby spoke about her latest book, Multiple Exposure, at the Library of Virginia.

Crosby shared her thoughts on the topic during a talk at the Library of Virginia.

Her editor told her she had to be on Facebook. The publishers “Really believe that’s the future,” she said.

Publishers are less likely to send the authors to a bookstore. “They want the magic of the internet,” Crosby said.

That means she needs to be on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. She also writes a blog and maintains a website, although she said, “I have eight visitors on a good day.”

“It’s a very big part of my day,” Crosby said. “I try to do it cheerfully, although I’d rather be writing.”

On her social sites Crosby shares about upcoming book appearances and signings. She also shares tidbits related to her books. She’s currently doing a photo blog, which ties directly to her latest book, Multiple Exposure.

(Courtesy of Ellen

(Courtesy of Ellen

Engaging on social does require time and effort. A few tips gleaned from numerous talks include:

  1. Align your social media profile picture with your brand. Use a photo of you that appears on your book jacket or use the cover of your book.
  2. Include a short description of your books and links to purchase books.
  3. Respond to replies and comments. You want to engage with your community.
  4. Plan your posts and tweets so you have fodder and aren’t spending all of your time writing for your social sites instead of writing your book. It’s acceptable to share information related to your subject matter. For example, Crosby can share about photojournalism or wine country.
  5. Cross pollinate. Not everyone will visit your website or follow you on Facebook. It’s okay to use content more than once.
  6. Post photos because they help your posts stand out and they create an emotional connection with your fans.
  7. Ask your fans to retweet and repost or to write mini reviews.

Libraries Open Doors

Attending the 13th Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards last evening, I was struck by how each other talked about how libraries had influence them.

Whether it was opening new worlds of exploration or setting the stage for future writing careers, libraries were the cornerstone of everyone’s story.

Attending the awards feels good. I love books. I always have and hope I always will. So to be able to meet the authors whose works have swept me away is always a thrill. Last night I met Barbara Kingsolver. A great friend turned me onto her works many years ago. Her early works had a profound impact on my outlook.

“The Bean Trees,” which is described as “a story about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surprising resources in apparently empty places,” was an early favorite. More recently, I was riveted by “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” and this summer I embarked on my own journey to eat off the land. So I started my own garden.

Kingsolver was honored last night  for her newest book, “Lacuna.” And I was delighted to spend a few minutes chatting with her about my garden and its success. And I was overjoyed when she signed my book.

I also attend for inspiration. Adriana Trigiani hosted the evening. She continues to remind me to “just write.” She continues to encourage all of us writers to finish our projects. I attended with a friend who did finish her project. Julie Campbell’s “The Horse in Virginia: An Illustrated History,” is now on book shelves.

As a child, libraries opened the doors to whole new worlds. As an adult, I continue to find inspiration and friendship in my library.

Thank you Library of Virginia for an incredible evening.

Writing about Virginia’s Horses Takes Patience

NFPW and VPW member Julie Campbell always has been a horse lover. So it was natural for her to write a book about the horse in Virginia.

She just didn’t realize how long it would take. She worked on the book full time while researching and writing on evenings, weekends and days off. “When you boil it down to time I spent just on the book, I’d guess it took about two years,” she said a few weeks before her book tour kicked off.

But then there was another year when it went through two rounds of anonymous reviews and subsequent revisions. She also had to find the illustrations and obtain their accompanying permissions. Tack on another year or so for production: copyediting, design, proofreading, indexing and printing.

The Horse in Virginia: An Illustrated History explores the history of horses in Virginia during four centuries, including how the horse fit into society at any given time.  The University of Virginia Press developed the concept and hired Julie to write it and find the illustrations. There are many books about different facets of Virginia horses – fox hunting, steeple chasing, thoroughbreds and racing – but there wasn’t one general history. Now there is.

Even an avid horse lover like Julie was surprised by some of her findings. “I learned that through the mid-19th century, many if not most horses in Virginia had a gait called ‘amble’ in addition to the usual walk, trot, canter, gallop,” Julie said. “It was smooth and easy to ride and very popular.”

“I also learned that Virginians are very interested in the remains of famous horses, like Traveller and Little Sorrel,” she said. “You can actually see some horse bones at Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters museum in Winchester; they belonged to the horse of a Confederate cavalryman, Turner Ashby. Both the man and horse were killed in battle during the Civil War.”

Want to know more? Ask your independent bookseller to order it for you from the University of Virginia Press. Julie will sign her book March 20 at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond and May 11 at the Library of Virginia in Richmond.