Resource Roundup: YouTube Edition

So I mentioned last week in Breaking Up with Candy Crush that part of my computerly goofing off occurred on YouTube. I am not, however, breaking up with YouTube. Candy Crush is great for distracting me from doldrums (and my children from squabbles), but really not much more than that. YouTube is actually great for a lot of things.

Beyond sheer entertainment, YouTube is a good resources for many of your writing needs. Here are the ways that I fold YouTube into my writing life. If you have more ideas, I’d love to hear them below!

Research You can look up tons of stuff on YouTube! Want to know about the most poisonous tree in earth? YouTube can tell you about that. Want to know how to replace the engine in your car? YouTube can tell you about that. Want to know about what brains do on adrenaline? YouTube can tell you about that. There are so many videos out there that could fall under this umbrella, depending on what your project is about, but a couple of my favorites generalists are SciShow and TED, or any of their affiliate channels.

Writing Tips Whole channels are devoted to breaking down what makes an excellent story, first chapter, character, etc. You can find writing tips on everything from initial inspiration on down to the specific nitty gritty of word choice, crafting believable side characters, and examples of well done settings. One of my favorite shows for writing tips right now is the On Writing series by Hello Future Me.

Editing Tips Not sure how to clean up that messy draft you’ve plopped out on your keyboard? Never fear! YouTube has videos for that! Whether it’s troubleshooting what’s wrong with your character arc, making sure your opening scene doesn’t fall prey to overused tropes, or plucking out all those troublesome adverbs, YouTube has you covered.

Submission Tips Submitting stuff, and all the snarl of yarn that entails, is hands down the scariest part of writing for me. I’ll gobble up any submission tips I can find. I needs ‘em! One of my favorites right now is the Book Doctors’ channel. Their book was great. So is their channel. (They also cover editing and marketing too. Like many of these channels, they cover a lot of stuff.)

Marketing and Promotion I don’t really do this one, but maybe you’re better at promoting yourself and your work than I am. Lots of literary professionals build up a following on YouTube sharing tips, trends, or even just slice of life segments. Authors post thoughts on the writing journey, book trailers, you name it. All of this builds up hype for their work, which hopefully equates more sales!

Inspiration Yes, you can be ‘working’ while browsing interesting videos! I don’t know how many times I’ve been goofing around YouTube and then an idea suddenly pops in my head for a new element in a story I’m working on, or even a new story altogether. That’s the fun thing about inspiration- you never know what will lead you to it!

If you don’t even know what you’re looking for, but find yourself trawling YouTube for stray thoughts, you can’t go wrong working your way through The Write Life’s click-bait-titled list, 15 of the Best YouTube Channels for Writers. Go give it a glance! (I’m gonna go check out Brandon Sanderson’s BYU lecture series first minute I find.)

All that said, do be cautious. Like all of the internet, YouTube is vast and interesting, and getting sucked down that rabbit hole is a lot easier than we like to admit to ourselves. It helps to have a system in place to keep YouTube from cutting in too much on your writing time. Some people use a timer. Some people only let themselves watch a certain number of videos per day. Personally, I only watch YouTube when my kids are up and about, which is time in which I wouldn’t be able to effectively do any writing anyway. Find what works for you and stick to your guns!

What else do you use YouTube for? Do you have any great resources you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below! Please and thank you!

(On an unrelated note, happy birthday, Mama! Thanks for keeping me alive and sane-ish all those years!)

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Promotion Commotion

VendorIn case you missed it (although I’m not sure you how you possibly could have, since I’ve been screaming it at the top of my lungs for a week and a half), I am currently running a crowdfunding campaign to cover printing and shipping costs on Advice for Beginners, a book that came about when I started asking children what advice they would give newborns about living a good life. So you can understand that promoting this campaign has been on my mind lately.

Having never run a crowdfunding campaign, or even tried to sell anything more interesting than peach pies with rugby ball crusts and “bruise” jam (‘Cause black- and blue-berries. Get it? Ha!), I wasn’t sure how to go about this. My presence on Twitter was fairly steady, but my Facebook page has been known to go neglected. Suddenly bombarding both with desperate, hourly pleas to throw money at me didn’t seem particularly classy. Fortunately for me, I surround myself with wise friends. After much brain pickin’s, I reached the following conclusions about that all important question:

How much is too much?

The general consensus seemed to be that two, maybe three, a day is the sweet spot. Once a day is fine, but won’t be seen by many. More than that just gets annoying.

Bookmark

This is a bookmark I made to hand to random people everywhere I go. So I can hassle folks in real life, too!

But between those few promo tweets (or posts, or whatever, depending on your venue of choice), be sure to reemphasize that you’re a living breathing person who isn’t there just to shove your product at anybody with a nickel. In a world where people are increasingly skilled at ignoring advertisements, interaction keeps you on people’s minds in a positive way. (You know, assuming positive interactions. Now may not be the time to go pick a fight with the rival team.)

Another thing that will make you less likely to be written off as annoying and tacky is perceived usefulness. Usefulness can be straight up utility, whether for the consumer or for the good cause you’re trying to support, but it can also be entertainment. Figure out exactly what it is that makes your product special- it will change lives, it will make you a better cook, it will keep your dog safe in a car wreck, you will laugh until you pee your pants- and center your pitch around that. If you can’t come up with what makes your product special, or don’t have it front and center in your pitch, then don’t expect anybody to bite.

Ideally, your promotions will be so wonderful, so interesting, so genius, that you can get others to spread them around for you. Retweets, mentions, shares, etc, are gold, spreading your reach to new audiences. You trumping your own horn is alright in small doses. Getting others to toot it for you is worlds better.

A few other things to consider:

Vary your pitch. Sending out the same ad, over and over and over, isn’t going to catch anyone’s attention. Sending out slightly different ads are more likely to pique the interest of a broader audience. Another thing to vary? Timing. Try to spread your promos over multiple time zones. Even though you live in Guatemala, there may be someone in Australia just dying for what you’re trying to sell.

Go easy on the hashtags. Nothing will make your tweets look more like irritating spam than a solid block of blue. Hashtags can be useful tools for specific searches, but nobody I talked to used them regularly, and then only when they knew exactly what they were searching for. Although one or two thoughtful and accurate hashtags can broaden the audience of the promo, an excess of hashtags tends to do more harm than good. (Same goes for all caps. Less is more.)

Be clear. This should go without saying, but if it isn’t crystal clear what the link leads to, people aren’t going to click on it. Make sure that it is perfectly obvious what you are promoting and where the link will take people, and for pity’s sake, no bait and switch.

Use images. 120 characters only gives you so much room to play. Add a link and you come up even shorter. But a picture says a thousand words. Even on platforms that don’t limit your posts, try attaching pictures, images of text excerpts, videos- anything that gets your message across in an engaging, easily digestible way.

Follow these tips and, at the end of your promotional campaign, you just might have a few friends left! Haha, but do remember that I’m no expert. If you can think of any tips that I’ve left off the list, please let us know in the comments below. Sharing is caring! And happy writing!