Below you will find the entire social media advertising campaign that I’ve been sharing bit-by-bit on Facebook and Instagram. I’m sharing the whole campaign here in one place. (I’m going to do the same with the 22 teaser ads I created–one for each short story from The Postcard and Other Short Stories & Poetry).
This was a new strategy for me. When I launched my other three books, I didn’t have much of a social media campaign built. If you’re an independent author like me, you may want to create something like this that you can share–it helps let people know what the book is about and how they can get a copy.
Using a program like InDesign or Canva, you can build these ads rather easily. Create a theme that will work for the entire campaign, and let that theme run through the ads. My theme, as you can see, is “if you’re short on time, this collection of short stories may be right for you.”
If you can’t design yourself, find someone who can. College students are always looking for ways to improve their portfolios. Maybe you can get an intern to help you, or, honestly, you can learn how to do it yourself. It’s pretty easy and there are lots of tutorials out there to help you learn how. Canva.com is pretty simple to use.
I’ll continue to share these ads sporadically, and I’ll probably add a couple more here and there. Next on the agenda, however, is getting my press kit out there to some local media. That takes some time. I’ve already put aspects of the kit on the blog under Author Press Room, but I have to mail out some books to folks to help spark some interest.
I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy of my newest book. It was fun to put these stories—written over many years—together in one collection. It’s truly is the perfect read for people who are short on time, busy with kids, work too many jobs, but who still love to read stories.
Ries & Trout, the famous marketing and advertising duo, would be happy to see that I “positioned” the book that way.
When you were a kid, do you remember how summers seemed to linger, the days felt long, and you stayed outside until dark catching fireflies in your Mason jars?
Do you remember playing Marco Polo endlessly at the pool, riding your bike to the park and feeling the burning heat of the day on your legs as you slid down the metal slide, and getting ice cream every day from the pool snack bar without counting calories?
What I remember most about my childhood summers is being outdoors. Sure, some days in the backyard were hot, but we’d spread out a blanket underneath a tree and break out the Barbies — sometimes we’d even wash the Barbie clothes and hang them on the line to dry. Sometimes we would pitch our white and red striped tent with the window that opened and park ourselves in there or sell lemonade to the passersby on the sidewalk. We’d use our imaginations, and make up stories; sometimes we were pirates or circus folks or dancers on a stage. Other times we were swashbucklers and knights. Summertime was meant for family and friends; it was meant to connect you in ways you didn’t connect when you were busy during the school year.
I have such vivid memories of summers spent at the Jersey Shore or Bethany Beach with my parents and grandparents. The photo above is of my grandfather at the pool in Bethany West–we had so much fine doing dives and jumps for hours. And when we were rounded up to go home to eat, it was always too soon.
Summer forced us all to just slow.down.a.bit.
It was summertime magic.
And thank GOD we didn’t have electronics to beg for our time.
The best thing you can give your child–in my humble opinion–is a set of great childhood memories. Sure, you want your kids to succeed in high school and college, to make the varsity squad, and to be successful in life. But success doesn’t always mean you have to be driven during every waking moment. Success can also mean that you were influenced by things that are real and tangible, by a magnificent gaggle of love that surrounded you no matter what. Because those wonderful memories will stay with you and impact you as you make decisions about how to raise your own children and spend summers with them.
Summer, I have always loved you.
Today is July 31, and August is upon us, which means summer is coming to an end.
This concept of a child going away to study at a university shouldn’t really phase me at all, right? I’m a college professor. I have been for years now. I’m the one smiling at other parents during Open Houses as I say all the right things to them about how their student will love college; how they will grow and flourish; and how they will have the time of their lives. This should be easy for me as I have a son who will start his freshman year at a university in Pennsylvania in a few weeks. I’ve been in this profession since 1993, long enough to know that all that I say to parents is true: college is a wonderful, meaningful, explorative time for maturing young adults.
So why I am I sitting here typing this with tears in my eyes knowing that in a matter of days (yes, I have started the mental countdown of how many nights my son will have at home before he leaves), he will be living with a roommate in a college dorm? Because it’s difficult being a parent, all around. It’s difficult to raise a good kid, and it’s difficult to temporarily say goodbye (for now) to a good kid.
The power of time—and how quickly it flies by—never ceases to amaze me. This afternoon, I went for one of my long walks in the neighborhood, and an empty house that’s been renovated for the last several months had a moving truck in front of it. New residents were finally moving in, and the place was bustling. It reminded me that only five short years ago, we moved into this neighborhood as well, and I remember driving into our lovely pool and tennis facility and thinking: the kids are gonna love it here.
Boy, have they. From playing tennis to golf to hanging at the pool to making some spectacular friends, my kids have enjoyed our neighborhood. The high school is a little over a mile away and is brand new; they participate in activities and are spoiled by the state-of-the-art, new facility. My son played on the tennis team, then transitioned to the golf team, where he made strong friendships and eventually became the team’s co-captain; and he loved every minute he was in DECA, serving as Vice President to his best friend’s presidency. My son was going into his eighth grade year when we moved, and to be honest, I wish we had moved here sooner. I would have loved for him to have spent his entire middle school years through high school in this setting and with his wonderful friends.
He’s going to miss these guys—a great group of young men he’s been tight with for five years now. He readily admits it. And I’m going to miss the whole crew of them coming in and out of our house, playing Xbox and eating all our Cheese-It crackers and playing 80s tunes and rap music in the basement.
There’s a sense of emptiness that I’m fully expecting to feel as I pass a tidy room with a made bed when he’s gone and not the sort of organized chaos that takes place in his room currently. I’m going to miss seeing the golf spikes near the doorway and the golf club head covers resting on my kitchen counters. I’ll miss the backpack that was always parked across the dining table and not in the cubby in the office where it belongs. And to be honest, as a working mom, I’m going to miss giving my son a quick call in the afternoon if I have to stay late on campus asking him to pick his younger sister up from school activities or take her to her job.
He probably doesn’t know just how much we love having him around and how much we rely on him as a part of this family. He also probably doesn’t truly comprehend how much I will miss him. He and I have a similar sense of humor and find the same things funny; we share inside jokes that no one else in the house gets; and he still hugs and kisses me without being asked to do so.
Yes, it’s going to be a lot quieter around here. A lot emptier. When we eat dinner, there will be that empty chair.
I should be ready for this—I’ve had 18 years to prepare for it.
One of the things I didn’t do well when I launched my three prior books was to create a social media ad campaign. Nowadays, it’s imperative that we do this–to help spread the word about our work. And as my fellow writers who undertake this challenge can attest, it’s about writing, editing, producing, and then MARKETING. And this is the most difficult aspect.
As a professor at a university, I teach a course called The Advertising Campaign. In that course, students must create their own campaigns over the semester and then pitch them. As I always say about teaching—the wonder of it and the beauty of it—is that you get to teach the students things, and in turn, they teach you. Bouncing ideas off of each other in class and sharing our thoughts about campaigns, copywriting, and content is so helpful, and benefits us all as we begin to create and innovate.
In that spirit, I’ll be sharing with you here the campaign for The Postcard and Other Short Stories & Poetry that I’ve put together, week by week. Today’s first ad is probably my favorite, and it will help set the tone of the campaign that follows.
If you’re an independent author, consider creating your own social media campaign to help spread the word about the book you labored to create. After all, it’s great to produce something, but that something needs to be read, right? These promotional ads can also be used in print, too, and I’m currently trying to decide which publications suit me—and my books—best.
While there are so many pluses to being a writer—namely that we have the privilege of passionately telling stories through our own lenses—there is a downside, at least from my perspective.
The downside has become increasingly more clear to me the older I get. It makes me pause more than I used to. It leaves me with notebooks full of scribblings.
The downside that I am talking about this morning, as this blog post came to me all at once (you know, with the lightbulb going off and all that jazz), is that when we are writers and intent on telling stories, we are also part psychologist, as we try to understand people, places, actions and things that cause us to do what we do. I ask more questions than I used to when I hear stories or want to dissect a situation, and then I ask follow-up questions to those stories. I dig in a lot, trying my best to comprehend conflict and what makes people tick.
And that’s the downside.
The reason why it differs when you are a writer is that sometimes you are not only listening to stories to lend an empathetic ear, but also to gain information. It’s difficult to turn off that “writer brain,” because it seems to always be working–and it often works overtime.
The underlying word that must be associated with writers is the word CURIOSITY. Wanting to delve deeper into personal stories, challenges, triumphs, and recovery stories requires us, as writers, to get to the heart of it. Even after watching something as simple as a movie or television show or biography about an historical figure, I find myself Googling more about those people, reading about their backgrounds, and understanding more about what makes or made them tick. It’s fascinating to uncover the driving forces behind celebrity-type folks as well as regular folk, because all of us constantly make choices and decisions for better or for worse.
I have notebooks of ideas for stories. I meet someone and hear their story and think, “This could be a novel–or at the very least–a short story.” Sometimes the stories are reinterpreted. Sometimes I am observing someone in a public place and I know nothing about them. I find myself constructing a possible backstory for him or her–what led him or her this point in his or her life? Often, I set out to write that story, guessing at the parts I need to fill in when I write fiction. And that’s where I have to be clever and let the imagination take over in order for creative work to emerge.
The truth of the matter is, we all have a story to share, and stories are all founded on something tangible. As Miles Channing, a character in my third novel Inn Significant who is a travel writer said, “Everybody has a story, Milly. Some are just told better than others.”
And as writers, the responsibility is that we have to tell them well.
My new book is called The Postcard and Other Short Stories & Poetry; it is a collection of stories that allowed me to delve into characters and their respective situations, mindful of their hopes, dreams, and attitudes. I hope you’ll come along for the ride and see what you think, and let me know how I did in bringing their stories to life.
It’s been over 24 hours since the book launch, and since then, I’ve heard words of congratulations, encouragement, and a few people who say I inspire them to tackle their own writing projects. These sentiments couldn’t make me happier. I hope I’ve inspired others to write and publish. That makes my day!
Because there are 22 stories in the collection, and because I want to showcase them each in their own way, I’m going to share each story’s promo from The Postcard and Other Short Stories & Poetry. I’m also busy setting up my press room on the site which will contain information about me and my books.
Here’s today’s promo. It’s from a short story included in the book—the only one about baseball as I harken back to my days working in the sport—called The Slump. I thought it was appropriate since tonight is Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. And it’s only the second baseball story I’ve written besides Baseball Girl, my second novel.
The Slump is the story of a Major League Baseball pitcher’s slump, the reporter who covers it, and the future Hall-of-Famer who acts as the middle man when things get dicey.
After years in the making, within hours, my latest work of fiction and poetry entitled The Postcard and Other Short Stories & Poetry will be available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Today, I’m unveiling and telling the story of the cover.
But first I have to say…I love this part of the process. The part where it all comes together. The part where you get to see your work come to fruition.
When I worked at the Orioles and was the editor of Orioles Magazine, I loved going to the printer’s and watching the magazine come off the presses. My heart would pulsate as my adrenaline kicked in; the excitement of seeing all the hard work realized in the printed form has always been thrilling for me. And while Kindles and Nooks are awesome, I still prefer the printed form and love to hold a book in my hands.
So now it’s time! I’m excited to share the final cover…which will be available very soon…
Here it is!!!
As I was trying to figure out what image to use for the cover, I knew I wanted it to reflect the title piece, a short story called The Postcard. In the story, the male character sends his ex-girlfriend vintage postcards. I knew I wanted it to be pretty and look like a postcard and have a little bit of a retro-could-be-set-in-any-time-period feel to it.
When I saw one of my student’s photos from a recent trip she to to Europe on Instagram, I was immediately taken by one photo in particular. In fact, all of Grace Clark’s photos are stunning, but this one connected perfectly with the story I had written. I contacted Grace when she returned from her vacation and asked her how she felt about allowing me to use her photo on the cover of my book. Luckily for me, she agreed, and the photo she perfectly represents what I wanted the book to look like. As for Grace and her photography, I am happy to say she is now a paid photographer, so if you need any shots for your projects, I can put you in touch with her. As you can see, it’s a beautiful book cover and just what I wanted for the cover of my fourth book.
So THANK YOU, GRACE.
I’m waiting for the green light on the book from Amazon and Barnes & Noble and will let you know when it’s ready for purchase.
It should be any day now.
Thanks, as always for following my writing, editing, and publishing journey. I really hope you enjoy the collection of short stories I’ve put together for you. Here’s a little more about he project if you want to learn more about the contents.
That’s what I like to call it. Our state has a lot to offer people who like variety—the mountains to our west, the beaches to our east, the Chesapeake Bay, nearby Baltimore and Washington, D.C., theme parks and casinos, pretty state parks and delicious Maryland crabs, the picturesque and historic capital city of Annapolis, and numerous quaint, tucked away towns and cities with charms all their own.
I’ve lived in Maryland since I was five. I grew up in Bowie and Annapolis. I went to college in Towson at Towson University. Along with my husband and children, we’ve lived in Baltimore City, Ellicott City, and Severna Park. I worked for the Baltimore Orioles for a total of 13 years, and I’m currently a professor at Stevenson University in Owings Mills.
And did I mention that I’m madly in love with living near the water?
Maryland is magical—and it’s why I enjoy featuring it in my fiction writing. In fact, people have told me that Annapolis is like another main character in Beneath the Mimosa Tree, much like New York City was the fifth character in Sex and the City. I love that. Being able to put people directly into a setting helps make the books more realistic, and it helps readers to be able to picture their characters walking the streets or attending an event at a notable locale.
And while Annapolis is the setting of my first novel, my third novel, Inn Significant, is set almost entirely on the Eastern Shore, with its start in Washington, D.C. The main character, Milly, has learned the devastating news that her husband and soulmate has been killed in a car accident. After struggling to move on from his death, her parents ask her to come to the beautiful Eastern Shore—to the town of Oxford—to run their inn while they head to Ireland for a spell. She reluctantly agrees, and her life begins to change in that setting and among the people she meets in that tight-knit town. Luckily for me, I got to spend time researching Oxford, and enjoyed days there with my mother and then with my friend, Elizabeth.
My second novel, Baseball Girl, which is loosely based on my life working in professional baseball for the Baltimore Orioles, is set in a fictitious town called Bay City, although most people who know me personally realize it’s modeled after Baltimore and its great harbor. That book was particularly fun to write because I pulled so many true stories from my working days and disguised them by not naming names and allowing my characters to have some fun among the pages. Plus, I enjoyed crafting the baseball quotes that began each chapter, trying to relate baseballisms and worldly knowledge to real life.
My current collection of short stories, which will be available in the next week or two, includes many stories set in Maryland. One takes place in St. Michaels, one begins in Baltimore, and many other local influences will be noticeable if you are familiar with our pretty magical state.
I was thrilled that @ellensmithwrites asked me to be a part of this #bloghopdc, and am passionate about sharing writing tips, stories, and promoting other authors who do as I do—tell stories that move us in some way—through both my published books and through my blog, Steph’s Scribe (stephsscribe.com).
It’s been a pleasure “chatting” with you through this medium, and I hope you’ll connect with me at Steph’s Scribe, where I will soon make the announcement that The Postcard and Other Short Stories & Poetry is available for purchase on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
Happy summer reading, writing, and blogging, everyone!
If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you I’m horrible at admitting when I’m wrong, so I figured I’d practice eating my words today with the hope that I may become better at acknowledging when I am incorrect.
Over and over again throughout my years, I have uttered this singular sentence: I am an East Coast girl.
It has been a conscious decision to say these words. And I said them with pride and an air of snobbery.
Now—here it comes, so get ready—because I have to eat my words. Every ounce of arrogance that is linked to that one sentence is false. It’s a lie, an error in judgment. It’s utterly ridiculous. Because they say that travel opens us up; every experience we have when we travel changes us.
So today, as I sit on my back porch right now, the humidity wreaking havoc on my hair, perspiration running down my back as I look at my burned out grass in the back yard from lack of rain in the Annapolis area, I am altered. In this setting, devoid of the crashing surf along the rocks in Carmel, the hills of San Francisco and the sounds of the trolley, the view of the 18th hole at Pebble Beach, long, welcoming piers in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica, the breathtaking views from the Hollywood Hills, and the palm trees and seals in the La Jolla Cove, I have come home humbled by the beauty that left me awestruck in California.
I almost had to stop saying “the sentence” a couple of years ago when I spent time in Napa Valley, but it was only a small sampling of California, and not the spectrum of sightseeing and touring we did during this long vacation.
Therefore, this woman must take back those words she has said over and over again—I will forever be an East Coast girl, born and raised on this side of the country with much time spent from Maine to Florida, but from here forward, there will always be a spot for the landscape and sights of California wedged within my heart.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts about each place we visited, explored, and became acquainted with during our two-weeks away.
But for now, let me allow space for my misgivings. I have to leave behind the snobbery I claimed to have when pitting the East Coast vs. the West Coast.
Both coasts are beautiful and remarkable in their own ways, but a day after leaving the sunny, crisp air of California, I’m missing the sight of a lone palm tree blowing gently in the breeze against the backdrop of blue skies and the sound of the crashing surf of the Pacific Ocean.
A Little Milestone: I finished editing the short stories today for The Postcard and Other Short Stories and Poetry. It is almost done being formatted. This project–a couple of years in the making–contains 22 short stories I’ve written over a span of time. I have so much love for this collection for these particular reasons: they remind me of fragments of people I’ve met along the way in my life; they remind me to take the time to tell a story the way you think it should be told; and they remind me to never stop going for your dreams even when it takes baby steps and months or years to get there.
Thanks for keeping up with me as I tackled another writing journey. I got so much love for you all.
Last night, we had to have the hard conversation with our daughter about possibly quitting something she’s involved in. She didn’t really want to quit, she just wanted to alter the way in which she does it. We talked it through, and we all came to the conclusion that persevering is the optimal course of action.
If you’ve never watched the Markus Zusak Ted Talk, author of The Book Thief, then you are really missing something. He quotes writer Samuel Beckett in his talk, and offers his own perspective. It’s worth watching. The famous Beckett quote is this:
“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Try again. Fail better.
These are words we can truly live by. If something’s not working, we must alter the course, but stay the course, that’s what’s most important. Keep working at it. Let your frustrations and failures help you march on toward completion—toward finding satisfaction in it all.
Last summer, I found myself at a low point with book publishing and promotion. I was not at all frustrated with writing and the writing process, but rather with the time one must spend promoting his or her work as an independent author. It’s not all fun and games. It can be exhausting, but it comes with the territory, I’m afraid.
However, I took a little break from it, went on vacation, spent time with my family. I put things into proper perspective, and I came out better for it. I’m continuing on my writing journey and self-publishing journey as we speak, and I feel so happy about it. I’m working on a collection of short stories and it’s changed my focus and brought joy to my life.
I stayed the course. Persevered.
You can do the same.
We all can.
Sometimes, you just need to adjust the perspective, and when you do, it makes persevering feel like it’s what you always should have done in the first place.
Yesterday afternoon, I sat with my parents on their porch overlooking their spotless, inviting pool and their gardens that are in full bloom. It was just the three of us, and we got on the topic of graduation and what kids are studying in college, especially as my own son is off to college as a freshman in the fall.
I admitted that I had no idea what I wanted to study when I went to college. I just knew that I was supposed to go to the university and make something of myself. What that exactly was, I had no idea.
“Did you have any idea at all what you wanted to study in college?” my mom asked me.
I did, sort of, but I didn’t take that path. At least not right away. I had a dream, but I didn’t believe it was worth pursuing.
Thirty-five years later, I admitted the truth to them as we sat there having lunch.
“I remember sitting in Ms. Sheppard’s History of Maryland class, listening to her talk, but toying with a short story I was writing in my notebook. I remember thinking, ‘Someday I’m going to write something worth publishing.’ That was the only thought I had. I didn’t really know how I was going to get there, I just knew that writing was a goal of mine and it’s what I wanted to do at some point in my life.”
So, I went to college. I went to Towson University and lived on campus.
I did not become an English major. Instead, I was a Business Administration major who earned a “D” in her accounting class. I knew that major wasn’t for me right away.
Taking matters into my own hands, I marched to the Registrar’s office and changed my major to Mass Communication. I learned about radio, television, and journalism; I took courses in public relations and communication, and I felt more at home. I also secured a job at The Baltimore Orioles in the Public Relations department, and that job propelled me a 13-year career with the ballclub.
I still wanted to write.
I got my first master’s degree back at Towson University in Professional Writing and was promoted to the Director of Publishing at the Orioles.
I was writing. I was editing. I was doing exactly what I thought I might do when I was dreaming back in Mrs. Sheppard’s class. But deep inside, I longed to write fiction.
However, securing that full-time position warranted that I go back to school.
I earned an MFA in Creative Writing with the support of my husband, a subject I had loved since high school when I took it with Mrs. Susek. I loved every minute of that program at National University.
I had to write a book as my thesis.
I wrote my first piece of publishable fiction, a novel called Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and it will always be special to me.
It took me a while to follow my dreams, but thanks to Mrs. Sheppard, for all her encouragement as a student in that history class, and Mrs. Susek, for all of her inspiration in Creative Writing, I finally chased that dream as a middle-aged adult. Now, I write on the side and I teach full-time, inspired by people I had along the way. I honestly have the best of both worlds. With three fiction books to my name and one textbook on Event Planning, I’m busy putting together a collection of short stories that started my passion for writing in the first place.
My point of telling you this story is this: no matter your age, don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. You can go for it at any time. Graduating seniors in high school can start chasing that dream in college, in a trade, or through a work path. Graduating college students can get right on it by choosing a job that suits them, returning for a master’s degree, or going down an entrepreneurial track if that suits them. Middle-aged people like me can do it, too, if you have the support of those who love you around you to help make it happen. Do not be afraid.
Follow your dreams, people. Work hard to make it a reality. Invest in yourself and what you want to do in the future. I took a circuitous route, but you can go more directly. It’s entirely up to you.