Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guest Author Kate Hart: How to Keep Up Online Without Losing Your Mind

By Kate Hart

Today’s guest author Kate Hart talks about something near and dear to my heart lately – trying to keep up with all our online madness. There are several things she mentions that I’ll be putting into practice, like trying to better sort my email and taking a close look at Google reader for keeping up with my blog reading. My days get pretty hectic and anything I can do to give myself a breather, and allow for more writing time, is a plus in my book.

Kate Hart is a history nerd YA writer, represented by Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary. She has two little boys, an oversized garden and a fairly strong Southern accent. You can find her at her website, Twitter, or YA Highway.

Take it away Kate…

If you’re trying to get published, the internet is both a blessing and a curse. You have access to an unprecedented amount of industry information: writing advice, author forums, publishing gossip, query critiques, agent blogs, editor tweets, ARC contests, character quizzes, design-your-own-cover games…

You can see where I’m going with this.

So how do you avoid information overload? How do you keep up without going under?

Step One: Let someone else filter the junk for you.

Weekly round ups
Bloggers like Nathan Bransford, Pimp My Novel, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Adventures in Children’s Publishing, and my ownYA Highwayregularly post their favorite links of the week, saving you the effort of wading through an ever-growing blogosphere. It’s also kind of fascinating to see which links make multiple lists.

Side bars and resource pages
Once you find a blog you like, check for the author’s recommendations. Janice has a great list in her top navigation; many people keep a “blog roll” in their sidebar.

Archives and tags
Publishing moves at the speed of “omg hurry up already,” and the basic rules don’t change much from year to year. Poke around in the older posts of established blogs like Rachelle Gardner, Janet Reid, the now defunct Miss Snark, and the aforementioned Nathan Bransford for years of wisdom. The tags on good posts will also lead you to earlier entries on similar topics of interest.

Twitter lists
Just starting out on Twitter? It’s a little intimidating, but worth it. When you’re deciding who to follow, start with lists like this one from Media Bistro, then check for lists on the right side of people’s accounts. Agent Sarah LaPolla has a big list of “secret” agents and other literati, as does agent Lauren MacLeod.Editor Martha Mihalickhas sorted out editors and publishers for you,Publisher’s Lunch lists booksellers and bookstores, and author Debbie Ohi has… well, pretty much everything you could ever want.

Step Two: Let free tools bring news to you.

Blog readers
With a blog reader, you don’t have to check each individual blog for updates—new posts come to you. Google Reader is a popular choice, but there are many others.

Subscribe via email
Many blogs let you sign up to receive new post notifications in your inbox.

Social networking applications
Instead of signing into Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkdIn, and more several times per day, get their updates all in one place. Applications like TweetDeck, Seismic, and HootSuite are helpful for following other people’s updates, but they also show your mentions or direct messages on the same page. If you run multiple accounts (for instance, maybe you contribute to a group blog or run an account for work), you just add them and voila! You can post from any name without signing in and out.This article at Mashable is a little outdated, but gives a good overview of what’s available.

Email filters
Drowning in notifications? Use email filters to bypass your inbox and archive them in various categories, then read them when time allows. If you use Gmail, turn on the colored labels option to make sorting even easier.

Make your own lists.
Lists are the secret to making these tools work. Categorizing all the people you follow and all the notifications you receive takes a little time on the front end, but saves you loads of time later. Tip: You can keep Twitter lists and Google Reader folders private, so no one will know if you put them on a “favorites” list, and only check other categories as time allows. Not that I… do that… *looks around* Shhhh.

Step Three: Let some things go.

Pick a platform.
Many resources duplicate their content on various services, which makes it easy for you to choose the one you like best. For example, you can follow YA Highway via a blog reader, but we also link all our posts on Facebook and Twitter. You don’t have to follow everyone, everywhere, all the time. Or at all, for that matter.

Declare bankruptcy.
Sometimes, you open your blog reader and see 800000 unread posts, or find hundreds of Goodreads updates in an archive folder, and it makes you die a little inside to even consider braving the chaos. Just click “mark all as read.” It’ll be okay. Really.

Have fun.
Seriously. If you’re not enjoying the platform you’ve chosen, switch to something else. If a blogger peppers her quality posts with the occasional rage-inducing rant, unfollow. If reading posts on a forum gives you a daily heart attack, quit visiting, and if Tumblr notifications are making you insane, change your preferences so they don’t arrive at all. If something is really important, chances are you’ll see it through someone else who doesn’t make you insane.

Take a break.
It is physically impossible to keep up with every single piece of publishing information online. Trust me. I’ve tried. My friend Michelle Schusterman takes Mondays off from the internet to detox. I try to allocate an hour or so a day to skim my blog reader, adjusting as life demands, and I recently spent an entire week away from technology completely. Truly big news will still be in the news when you get back. That’s the perk of working in a slow industry: You have plenty of time to catch up.

Do you have other tips? Leave them in the comments!


  1. Thanks for your helpful tips. I have a really hard time limiting my time reading blogs. It feels like a job or something where I have to read all that I follow. And I haven't gotten on Twitter because I don't know if I can handle more. I'll remember the Twitter lists when I do start checking it out.

    I'm definitely going to try some of your tips. Thanks so much.

  2. Thanks for the tips..this helps as I've been feeling really overloaded lately with the social networks and trying to keep up with the daily grind of networking!

  3. Great tips, thanks! I'm beginning to go insane with all the social media stuff "required" of us writers these days. Maybe some of this will help. :)

  4. Take a break. I love this one. Sometimes I think we put too much emphasis on social networking and establishing future readers when what we should be focusing on is our writing.

    You're reminding me that I'm due to unplug next month, thanks, Kate and Janice!

  5. "I recently spent an entire week away from technology completely."

    That was the worst week of my life.

    Great post :)

  6. Oh Kath, how do I love thee...

    Thanks so much for the nice comments, and to Janice for letting me guest post!

  7. Glad I'm not the only one with a backlog of social media guilt! Thanks for an excellent post.

    I follow far too many blogs, and I finally had to set up some rules in my Outlook so that only my top ten get delivered to my Inbox. The rest go into an RSS Feeds folder, and I skim them when I get the chance.

    That way, I can stay up to date with the ones I really care about (like this one), and purge the other folder without guilt if it gets out of hand.

  8. AWESOME post, Kate! The Web IS pretty intimidating, so any help with diving into it is more than welcome :)

  9. Great tips! I maintained multiple email accts and finally just moved everything over to gmail. I took some time to learn the filters you mentioned, and it really does help. I'm a couponer & dealfinder, so I have any shopping related emails tagged as coupon and they bypass my inbox. When I feel like I click on the folder and scan through, and sometimes I delete all the msgs w/out even looking. Freedom!

  10. This is so helpful!!!

    I'm not at social media burnout yet, but I could see myself getting there in the next little while. These resources and tips will help me avoid that and stay on top of everything.

    Thank you!

  11. Kate, thank you. Someone needed to voice the fact that most of us writers are overwhelmed with information. I appreciate tips from others on managing it all - I even took the bracketed number of unread posts off my Google Reader, so I would not know how many are unread. I love clicking "mark all as read." :)

  12. Oh my goodness this post is a godsend.

    In the meantime, I actually just recommended your blog as my "Ripest Pick" of the week. It's an award for well-organized blogs with excellent backposts of writerly info. In order to spread the word on blogs that don't have quite as many viewers as Nathan Bransford, I pick one with less than 1,000 followers.

    Feel free to pass on the award to your Ripest Pick, or just accept the compliment :)

  13. http://www.christinetyler.net/2011/07/tuesdays-ripest-pick-other-side-of.html

  14. Yes, thank goodness for breaks! And I agree that lists and an organized reader help a lot. Thanks for the great tips!

  15. Even though I'm just starting out in the world of writing (and its online double), I've been braving the interwebs for years. As a result, I find that articles attempting to "help writers online" are often filled with overly-simplistic or overly-general advice that isn't really that helpful. But with this post, you've avoided those pitfalls and offered some great specific and useful advice for writers regardless of their general online experience. Thanks for putting this together!

  16. I use ping.fm to post on multiple sites at once.

  17. Wonderful tips. I'm bookmarking this page because between writing, editing, critique groups, things can be overwhelming