Since opening an Instagram account, I’ve become fascinated by the power of the hashtags.

Hashtags are words preceded by the pound symbol (without spaces). These key words or phrases categorize posts. For example I use #TexasPanhandle on every one of my Instragram pictures. Through the use these key words and phrases, you can follow anything of interest including places, people, hobbies, food, fashion, special interest groups, companies, TV shows, movies, etc.

The birthplace of the hashtag symbol first happened on Twitter. Discussions became trackable and content can be organized using hashtags. Twitter hashtags allows for “trends”, or specific topics in conversation that you’d like to follow or become engaged by posting comments.

So how can writers benefit from using hashtags?

Create hashtags for your book titles, character names, author events, or use key topics that relate to your books when you post something.

Social media sites such as Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine utilize hashtags to maximize shareability. Popular hashtags will help you pick up followers who are interested in the same things, and will help you discover new accounts. So what’s popular or trending now, you might ask. Go to to find out.

Follow me on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram! Links are located on the home page of my website at

#havefun #write

Marketing, Promotion, Social Media

Marketing, Promotion, Social Media

By Natalie Bright

The concept of marketing has changed greatly over the years since I minored in this vocation in college. We learned about target markets and ad copy, much the same terms used today, but a marketing plan involved the precise art of ‘targeting’ a clearly identified group of consumers through printed magazine and newspaper ads, snail mail flyers, radio, television, and other buzz generating tools.  It was a labor intensive process utilizing lots of brain power in which timing was the key. Everything relating to that product or service had to hit consumers from all avenues at the same time. Sales numbers provided measurable results. If you were serious about selling, a marketing plan was best left to the professionals.

In my opinion, promotion on the other hand was ongoing, and included everything related to that product such as the author or owner, the store front, etc. In the case of authors, they kept writing and waited for their publisher to identify a plan for marketing their latest release. Not that long ago, options left up to authors were snail mail postcards, speaking events and bookstore autographing.

It’s a New Day!

Times have changed. In my mind, the distinctions between marketing and promotion have blurred.  Authors have an abundance of promotional options available, and the concept of identifying a specific ‘target audience’ has basically been thrown out the window. Let’s tell everybody we know, and they’ll share with everybody they know, and someone, somewhere will discover our book.  This realization hit me in a big way this past month.

One of my short stories, which I had written in 2006, was selected for an anthology published by a university press released during this past holiday. You might have seen the blog post about it right here on Wordsmith Six, WEST TEXAS CHRISTMAS STORIES is a collection of stories by West Texas authors by ACU Press, compiled and edited by Glenn Dromgoole.

The publisher asked that authors help promote the book. As most university presses have extremely limited budgets, I wasn’t surprised at this request. I tweeted, Facebooked, and sent private emails to friends and family sharing the news. I also gave away numerous review copies, asking people to please post on Goodreads and Amazon. A specific marketing plan was never considered.

Promotion Results

Recently I began receiving notes of appreciation about how much people had enjoyed the collection of stories. My Uncle gave copies to all of his friends in Colorado. One of my high school English teachers sent me a message through Facebook saying how much she enjoyed the book, and shared that they had sent copies to all of their friends which included a star by my name. She also asked that I let her know when my next book comes out. So, wow! How does a little collection of holiday stories grow legs like that and go places?

The great thing about social media is that it’s everywhere, can be done anytime, and is nonstop.  The bad thing about social media is that it’s everywhere, day or night exhausting, immeasurable, and can rule your life.  There’s no way to know where your tweets will land. There’s no immediate result that you can attribute to your efforts, so don’t even stress over it. The good thing about being an author in today’s social media climate is that we can do something everyday to promote ourselves and our work. It only takes a few seconds, and then we can go back to writing.

Oh, The Place You Might Go!

How many social media outlets are you utilizing? Even if you’re new to writing and unpublished, start today and begin building your social network. You can never imagine the places it may take you and your work. And as I’ve learned, don’t give up on your work. You never know where it might land, even years later.

Thanks for following Wordsmith Six, and please SHARE our posts with your friends!

Selling Books for 25 Years

Selling Books for 25 Years

by Natalie Bright

The Amarillo Downtown Library hosted a reception this month to celebrate Jodi Thomas’ 25 year career as a published author. With millions of books in print, numerous awards, and four RITA’s, the prestigious golden statue from the Romance Writer’s of America, this lady deserves a celebration. We also recognized ten years of  The Jodi Thomas Fan Club, which can boast of a membership that spans across the country.

Her fans in Amarillo were delighted to have an autographed copy of the newest historical, PROMISE ME TEXAS (Berkley), the 7th novel in her popular Whispering Mountain Series. Jodi shared news about her upcoming projects, reminding us that inspiration continues to come from the members of her fan club. She knows that we’re anxiously awaiting each and every one.

Autographings and Booksignings

She recalled how early in her career she’d pick an area of the state and cold call bookstores to schedule events. Her husband, Tom, would help load the car with kids and boxes of novels and they’d set out on a weekend road trip to sell books.  Her private dream was to make the New York Times Bestseller List some day. Meeting as many librarians and bookstore owners and people as she could, she never lost sight of her dreams. Many times these connections paid off resulting in invitations to speak at fundraisers, book clubs, and writer’s groups.  I’ve learned from Jodi that you can never have too many people in your network because you never know where those connections might lead. She advised me early on to start a contact list of these people and include them in every mailing.

Setting Goals

Jodi mentioned that her current goal is to write 25-30 pages a week. My jaw dropped. That’s about 7500 words! Every week! I’ve been friends with this lady for some time and I know her plate is loaded with grandkids, guiding college students as Writer-In-Residence, co-chairing a week long summer writing academy and newly elected RWA Board member.  She’s no different than the rest of us, except she’s got 39 novels under her belt.

It’s like one of her long time critique partners stated. DeWanna Pace observed that Jodi Thomas “had the same 24 hours as everyone else does who sets out on the writer’s journey and, yes, life got in the way many times. But she always found a way to shift her strategy and made it all work in the end. She never missed an opportunity to learn more, write more, network more, to help other writers, and meet each goal she set for herself.”

The Truth about Selling Books

Selling books is an endless marathon. Don’t kid yourself into thinking otherwise. A newly published author shared her excitement and told me that her book is with a smaller house so she’ll have to do all of the marketing herself. I’m happy for her. Every publishing credit is thrilling, but the ‘who’ in promotion is a misguided belief.

Bestselling authors do their own marketing too. It never ends. The writing, the advertising, the blogging, the speaking, the selling; successful authors do it all. This business is not for the faint of heart. It’s the hardest work you’ll ever do.

Selling More Books

I stayed after Jodi’s event to help clean up. We carefully wrapped the glorious RITA’s in bubble wrap and packed away mementos symbolizing a writing career that began with the first sale in 1988. We carried boxes of leftover books, pens, bags, and bookmarks to Jodi’s car. Before driving off, she asked me for the Fan Club poster I’d made, a 10-year picture collage of memories. She had a bookstore event the next day and thought it would look good next to her autographing table. I watched this amazing author, teacher, and a dear friend of some twenty years drive away. I suddenly realized that there hasn’t been a time that I’ve known her when her car wasn’t filled with boxes. She’s living the dream. Still selling. Still hauling books.

Go to to learn more about Jodi Thomas, New York Times Bestselling author of contemporary and historical novels.

Happy book selling Wordsmith Six friends!


The Social Network

The Social Network

 By Rory C. Keel

For a writer, social networking sites are beneficial in several ways. First, they can help you make connections with other writers who are trying to achieve the same goals. The ability to discuss with others the techniques that work, and those that might not, can help you as a writer avoid mistakes and pitfalls by increasing your knowledge of the writing craft.

Second, social networking sites can provide the ability to contact and reach out to successful writers and their publishers, creating opportunities that you might not otherwise have. Due to the high volume of manuscripts received by publishers, many good writers may be overlooked. By networking with publishers, agents, and the authors who write for them, your connections could turn into an asset when you are ready to seek publication.

Third is marketing. As much as we would like for our writing to sell itself, or for our publishers to do all the marketing, we will need to do some of it, if not most, for ourselves. A majority of publishers will want to know your platform – in other words, do you have an audience? With social networking sites, you can develop a potential vast audience for your writing.

PPW Window, Volume 2009, Issue 6, Presidents report By Rory Craig Keel



by Sharon Stevens


“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”  Benjamin Disraeli

This evening I was just going to DASH into the grocery store to pick up three items.

But make no mistake; dashing had nothing to do with it. Living in a small town I knew I would encounter someone along the aisles that would invariably lengthen my stay. That’s just the way it is.

I know this, they know this, and my husband sure knows this if he happens to be along for the ride.

Today though, my distractions started early when I walked by a table set up outside United Supermarket. The kids manning the booth were from the Phi Delta Theta WTAMU campus fraternity asking for donations of canned goods to benefit the local Ronald McDonald house in Amarillo. Now, just this afternoon I had been researching in the Canyon News and had come across a news article about the Shaw family and their Make- A-Wish excursion to Disney World in 1997. They had stayed at the McDonald House in Fort Worth prior to their child’s Bone Marrow Transplant.

And not only that, a wonderful family from our area had been posting on facebook while staying in the Ronald McDonald House with their newborn after heart surgery. And yet another family lived there this last month after their child’s heart transplant.

I told the kids volunteering at the table I would be right back out with some canned goods after I bought the THREE things I had come to get. Amazingly I didn’t connect with a single soul while in the store. I was able to find what I needed within five minutes or less which left me more time to make my selections of those goods for the young college kids awaiting outside the front of the store.

I entered that section from the top down instead of the other way around and came across the canned fruit first. Glory be, they were having a sale! But the marked down price isn’t what caught my eye. It was the labels calling me from four feet away that pulled me in. The fruit looked luscious from all angles. I could imagine cold pears, fresh peaches, rings of pineapples, and of course, the ever popular, fruit cocktail. Who doesn’t remember this colorful delicacy at the dinner table for desert on a hot summer’s day? Over ice cream is just fine, (thank you very much) or pie, or chocolate. It doesn’t matter. Even then, visions of school lunches clouded my judgment although my thoughts from this memory turned more to the hot rolls served by the silver haired grannies with nets covering their hair. Funny what you remember.

Back to the fruit cocktail…what is there not to love? You have your grapes, and your pears and your peaches, and what about those miniscule cherries. How they could look so inviting from just the label on the can? And that’s when it hit, didn’t the families or the kids at the Ronald McDonald House deserve a little “sweetness” along with their mixed vegetables, cans of corn, and/or your garden variety of green beans? Of course they did!

That did it! I made my purchase, several cans of each, dropped them off at the table outside, and dashed my way home.

The marketing industry pays a quadrillion, billion, million dollars on marketing strategy for the average shopper. They study trends, they look at temperature control, and music selections. Brightness affects buying power as well as too bright, and not bright enough. Impulse is consulted and grocery lists combined. Grocery carts are evaluated and welcome signs are hung. All to lure the customer to make that little extra purchase that makes CEO’s and stockholders smile.

As writers we never know what will catch the reader’s eye. We have no clue what they are feeling or witnessing, but we always need to be prepared to settle somewhere in their heart and mind, from their standpoint, not ours. With whatever genre we write, we have to keep it simple, but make it colorful and inviting from every angle. We shouldn’t depend on the publishers, or editors to drive our story. Forget about the obvious label that “labels” your thoughts. Right up front, give your readers that little extra something, that visible tug, that piques a memory within, so that they will choose you, your work, your very soul, to carry home.

After all, everyone needs a can of fruit cocktail every once in a while, if only for the memories.

Writers’ Conferences

Outtakes 20

Writers’ Conferences

Beginning writers often run into problems jump starting their careers. Questions regarding copyright, contracts, submissions, formatting, genres, and marketing come up and answers are sometimes hard to find. I’ve been there so I understand the frustration. I thought I was the only writer out there who had doubts and questions. I had a novel. I’d submitted it. The agent liked it, but didn’t sign me. So what do you do?

My answer came from a newspaper article for a writer’s conference right here in Amarillo. I read the information, called for the registration packet, and made plans to pick brains, and learn more about getting published. I so enjoyed that weekend. I attended workshops with New York Times Best Selling author Christina Dodd, mystery author Rick Riordan, and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham. The best part was that I was no longer alone. I went to the conference not knowing anyone, and left with a pocketful of business cards from fellow writers. I became friends with some of the folks I met, and ten years later, I still can count on their support and encouragement.

Do I recommend writers’ conferences? Absolutely! The trick is finding the right one for your needs. I prefer smaller conferences (I’m shy), but some of my friends like the larger ones. I recommend Frontiers in Writing in Amarillo. The 2012 conference will be held the weekend of June 29-30 on the Amarillo College campus. This year’s conference will offer workshops for everyone whether you are a beginner or a published author. If Amarillo is a little too far away, run an internet search for a conference in your area. It will cost a little money, but this is an investment in your writing career. The contacts you make are so valuable, and the friendships made are priceless.

Cait Collins