About Robyn Roste

The short story is I'm a professional writer living and working in Abbotsford, BC Canada.

April Flowers In Season Garden

April flowers…in season…in my garden.

I am not a gardener by any stretch but I interviewed a gardener for an article coming out next month and it inspired me to write a little more about the topic.

April flowers at my place

Purple Pansies

I love spring. Sigh. And the rain stopped for one day here in southwestern Canada so I feel hopeful again. Even if it lasts a mere moment before the rain comes back for more.

One of the things I love doing when I get home from a long day at work is walk around my flower beds and visit my flower friends. It’s remarkable how much they change in a day. Watching them grow before your eyes is an experience I can’t put into words but it fills me with wonder and awe and I feel my stress and anxiety melt away.

I found these pansies last summer, blooming in the middle of the front yard. My husband was mowing so I grabbed my shovel and rescued the plant, transplanting it in a front flowerbed where it was safe from the mower’s blade. What began as two flowers is now…quite something to behold!

April Flowers Hyacinth

For some reason I always forget these flowers are called grape hyacinths. Hyacinths, hyacinths. These are perfect flowers for me because they come up every year, low maintenance and have such a nice fragrance! They attract a lot of happy bees as well, which I’m glad for.

April Flowers Yellow Pansy

This is my newest yard rescue, found in March—again in the front yard—and is now safe from the lawn mower in my flower garden. I keep calling these plants pansies but you know, I’m not quite certain I’m right. When I Google it similarish flowers come up but not similar enough to remove all doubt. Perhaps this is my summertime quest.

April Flowers Daffodil

And this is my daffodil. What’s funny though, is I didn’t know I had a daffodil because I’ve never seen it before. This will be my third summer at my home and I’ve never had a daffodil. And I’ve never planted a daffodil. And yet, there it sits. Regal and daffodilly. And right smack in the middle of my flower bed. So. There we go. I have a daffodil.

My yard has a lot of shade so many of my flowers don’t show up until closer to summer. But right around the corner I’ll have tulips, lilacs and lilies so I may have to do this again.

Other times I wrote about gardening (but not April flowers)

Schedule Social Media with These Free Apps and Services

What are the best tools to schedule social media with?

There are a lot of apps in this world so it makes sense that people aren’t sure which ones are worth the trouble of figuring out…connecting to all their social media accounts…troubleshooting…. It also makes sense to ask around about what others are using to schedule social media posts. If something is working, why not cut out the trial and error and get on with scheduling already!? I get it!

best tools to schedule social media posts

Last year I wrote up my roundup of 15 best apps for writers and some of those apps are social media schedulers but today I’ll expand a bit and list a few more of my favourites. And I’ll also note all the apps and services I’m mentioning have free plans, which is great when you’re not 100 per cent sure you’ll want to stick with it for the long term. A great get-to-know you, no strings attached, coffee date kind of relationship.

Schedule Social Media with These Free Apps and Services

HOOTSUITE

There’s a lot to love about Hootsuite. I used to use it for all my social media but now the free plan limits your scheduled posts to 30 so I’m limited in my working ahead. Although I’m disappointed with the recent change I’m still team Hootsuite for all of my Twitter management. I schedule posts, track analytics, and keep an eye on the Twitter lists I follow. It’s easy to organize and keeps me sharp. I’m also testing it for my Instagram posting but it’s too soon to say how I feel about it.

I have used Hootsuite teams (paid account) for working with clients and I’m impressed with the analytics capabilities and the ability to co-ordinate with team members.

RECURPOST

This is one of the newer schedulers in my arsenal but I think it’s a keeper. This is a “productivity enhancement tool,” which is a fancy way of saying you can manage your social media for multiple platforms from its dashboard. In this way it’s a lot like Hootsuite but where it has a leg up is the content library. Here, I can add evergreen posts and create a schedule around the different libraries. What does this mean? I can not only schedule my social media but I can have it repeat on whatever schedule I desire. I have all my evergreen blogs set up in Recurpost and they now drip out to my chosen social networks on the schedule I set. It is awesome!

You are limited to 100 posts in your content library in the free account, which means you’ll have to upgrade if you’re a content behemoth. And with the stricter Twitter regulations of no identical Twitter posts you now have to create “variations” of your Tweets before the app will schedule them. This does put a damper on my enthusiasm, as I was using this for Twitter the most. And I haven’t sat with these new restrictions long enough to know how I feel about my content strategy or how to deal with it yet.

LATER

Like Hootsuite, this is a social scheduling and planning tool. Unlike Hootsuite, it’s a visual planner. What does this mean? You can plug in your social media posts for the next week, month, whatever, and see how it looks as a collection—this is especially powerful for Instagram. You can also save images, captions, and hashtags in the tool for easy re-use. Once your post is scheduled it either publishes it for you sends a push notification (on Instagram) when it’s time. The visual plan helps me see how each image works together and helps me stay on brand.

The free plan limits users to 30 scheduled posts and I’ve found I’m quite capable of maxing it out on Instagram. Also, you’re limited to only the past two weeks of analytics with the free account so if you’re relying on Later for your IG metrics it’s something to keep in mind.

BUFFER

Buffer is a great all-around social media scheduler. You can schedule posts across your social media accounts from this one hub as well as manage Twitter (likes, retweets, etc.) and set up optimal scheduling, which analyzes and suggests the best times to post on each platforms. I use Buffer for a few client accounts and also for my personal Twitter account (more on that in the next tool) and find it straightforward and streamlined. There are also analtyics, but only for the posts published through Buffer.

The free account limits your scheduling activity to 10 posts per social network. It’s because of this teeny tiny amount I can’t recommend it higher. Also the paid plan limits your scheduled posts to 100, so although I like Buffer I wouldn’t go all-in.

Quuu

This is the craziest app in your schedule social media toolkit. I heard about it a while ago but couldn’t wrap my head around how I could use it. However, a friend re-introduced it to my last autumn and I decided I’d try it out. And you know what? I love it! Quuu is a hand-curated content service, which means they line up your social media content for you and schedule it on your chosen social media platforms. Curating content is a big part of social media marketing, although it’s tough for many people to get on board with (and I get it!). They wonder how promoting other people’s content is going to help them. And I know it’s a mind warp but this upside-down approach of promoting others to grow your platform IS legit. But curating content takes forever. That’s where Quuu comes in.

You are limited to two posts per platform per day and you cannot change the posts with the free plan. In the paid accounts you have more flexibility and say, so if that’s important to you then pay attention. My biggest concern was the curated content wouldn’t match my brand or interests but I’ve been quite pleased with how spot on Quuu has been, even to the point of writing the Tweets how I would. Now that…is freaky.

Boardbooster

BoardBooster is a Pinterest scheduler and allows you to loop your pins, which means repinning older posts to the top of your boards and deleting duplicate posts. It’s a great way to keep your Pinterest activity constant even if you don’t have new content. You can also schedule new content to post on boards and set up auto posting to group boards. Other features I haven’t tried yet (I’m still working on understanding Pinterest) are tribe management tools, test pins for broken links, duplicates, etc., split boards and remove unwanted pins from the platform, and optimize your strategy through analyzing the best time to pin.

With the free account you’re limited to 100 pins although I’m not certain how firm they are since I’m over 100 and still on the free account. The paid account is $5 btw so…not a bank breaker.

IFTTT

This tool helps you automate your social media marketing with triggers (called Applets and Services), which are amazing and yet overwhelming since the options and combinations are endless. It works like this: IF an action happens on your service (say, on Facebook) THEN the applet runs and does your desired action (say, posts what happened on Facebook to your Pinterest board). It’s tricky to explain but I can tell you, it’s a time saver because it takes out the mundane repetitive tasks and automates them for you. You just need to know what you need.

I like all the different options IFTTT offers but I’m limited by my imagination—which recipes will work best for me? Which combinations of services and applets will move my marketing forward? How much should I schedule social media and how much should I be in the moment, live and authentic? These are the questions. I learned about IFTTT from a friend and has a better explanation of its power so if you’re curious, check it out.

There are a lot of apps in this world so it makes sense that people aren't sure which ones are worth the trouble of figuring out...connecting to all their social media accounts...troubleshooting.... It also makes sense to ask around about what others are using to schedule social media posts. If something is working, why not cut out the trial and error and get on with scheduling already!? I get it! Here are my favourite social media scheduling tools.

This list isn’t comprehensive but it is what I enjoy using these days. If you have any favourites I haven’t mentioned please enlighten me! I’m always looking for tools to help schedule social media and would love to try something new.

Creative Places to Find Clients

There are a lot of places to find clients but the well-known places are competitive. Since I like avoiding hustle whenever possible (unless, you know, I need clients YESTERDAY) I like looking in less-obvious places for freelance work. Part of me wants to keep these creative places a secret so I’ll be the only one who knows about them but a bigger part of me wants to help other freelancers find work so here we go. Maybe there’s a new idea or two in here for you today.

creative places to find clients

Creative places to find clients

Places to find clients idea #1: From your day job

While this is an awesome place to find clients you do need to pay attention to your company’s privacy policy and it’s better if you keep your boss in the loop with any outside-of-work relationships you have with work affiliates. Assuming everything is above board and your freelance work happens outside of your day job, doing some side gig stuff with people you interact with every day makes a lot of sense. On a professional level they know, like, and trust you as you do them. And you already know you can work well together. You just need to keep the boundaries in tact so you don’t overstep in either direction.

Places to find clients idea #2: From your family and friends

I’ve mentioned this before (the best way to let people know you’re available for freelance work is by telling them you’re available for freelance work) but it’s one of those sort of awkward things so I want to mention it again. What you don’t want is to bug your friends and family and have them throw pity work at you. You also don’t want them to assume since they’re your friends and family you’ll work for a massive discount (or for free). So how do you create an environment where your friends and family know you’re available for freelance work and are happy to pay you for it? Now, that is the finesse of it. Everyone will find her own balance so the takeaway here is to put yourself out there and let people know you’re available.

Places to find clients idea #3: From places you’re a client

This is another time where you’ll need to tread with care and be sensitive to appropriate timing but there’s nothing wrong with mentioning you’re a freelancer while engaging in small talk and allowing the conversation to go where it may. I’ve had many experiences where I’m asked to leave my card behind or picked up the odd client from a place where I’m a client. I love it! Of course you’re not becoming a client in order to find clients…that’s not a hustle I’d recommend, but if it happens organically…awesome!

Places to find clients idea #4: From guest blogging

Guest blogging, guest writing (whatever), is an interesting beast. If you look around the Internet for long enough you’ll see a wide variety of opinions and teachings on why you should do guest blogging, why you shouldn’t do guest blogging, why you should never write for free, why you should write for free sometimes, etc. etc. etc. I’m not here to talk about any of that. I think you should figure out what is going to move the needle forward and then do it with abandon. Anyway, got a little off topic there. If you get into guest blogging and are choosing good partners, this could turn into a writer-client relationship. Honest! I’ve seen it happen! So keep building into your relationships!

Places to find clients idea #5: From partnerships

This idea launches from the last one—build relationships with others and form mutually-beneficial relationships. This could be an agency, a freelancer with complimentary skills, or a local business. The big idea is you share clients. No you don’t get 100 per cent of the pay but you also don’t have to do 100 per cent of the work and in some cases this is an awesome arrangement.

Places to find clients idea #6: From local events/workshops

Something I’ve noticed about freelancers is they’re out in the community a lot. Working freelance has them attending events, observing meetings, and talking to a lot of different people. So what about throwing a little extra networking in while you’re already out? Do what you’re there to do but also mention you’re a freelance writer and if it makes sense, mention you’re available for hire or pass out a business card or two.

This last point is extra exciting to me these days because I’m in the midst of building a workshop for freelancers, which developed from a pre-existing relationship, turned into a partnership and is now a collaboration. Wow. When we began building these relationships this workshop was not even a dream. And yet, here we are.

There are a lot of places to find clients but the well-known places are competitive. Since I like avoiding hustle whenever possible (unless, you know, I need clients YESTERDAY) I like looking in less-obvious places for freelance work. Part of me wants to keep these creative places a secret so I'll be the only one who knows about them but a bigger part of me wants to help other freelancers find work so here we go. Maybe there's a new idea or two in here for you today.

I hope I’ve given you a few new ideas to try here. Remember, marketing is a long game and it’s something you sprinkle into every day—while you’re busy doing other things. If you want some more tips and tricks you’ll enjoy my article on learning how to rock your marketing even when you don’t have time for marketing.

How to Write a Query Letter

My writing life focuses heavier on pitching articles than querying agents but I get asked how to write a query letter more than you’d think. For people who have a book in their head (or on their hard drive) and want to know how to get it to an agent or a publisher, you are asking the right question. If you want to publish you need to know how to write a query letter. And yes, I’ll help you figure out how.

how to write a query letter

Today I’m focusing on querying book ideas to agents or editors but much of this applies to querying article ideas and guest posts to magazines or websites.

But first, a story

In 2017 I had a goal of querying an agent with my non-fiction book idea so I had to write a query letter. While this isn’t my first query letter it is one I’m pretty happy with and will continue using.

I brought my query letter with me to a writing conference I attended but ended up giving verbal pitches rather than passing out my letter. This is normal, by the way, which leads me to my first tip.

Tip 1: When you meet with agents or editors you pitch. When you email agents or editors you query. There’s a difference

This is your first lesson: you need a query letter and a pitch. But before you stress out I have good news, the pitch is part of the query. Hooray!

Writing a query letter means you’re leaving the safe daydream world of being a published author and entering into the scary real world of selling your work. This is where you need to step back and start looking at your work as a product. Which leads me to my second tip.

Tip 2: You can’t be precious about your writing or your ideas. This is a tough industry

Writing is personal but professional writers learn how to let go of their work and let it take on a life of its own. They grow thick skin and aren’t threatened when their ideas are rejected or their writing gets shredded by critique groups or editors. Getting shredded, while painful, is good for you. It improves your writing. Because—news flash—you can always improve.

If you approach the query process with the idea that your book is 100 per cent finished and perfect just the way it is you are going to have a ROUGH time out there in the real world. So get past that sooner rather than later. Be open to edits. Be open to critique. Be open to improving.

How to write a query letter

There’s a lot of advice out there for writing query letters. What I’m outlining today is what I’ve found to be the most effective format for query letters and what I’ve heard the most agents ask for.

Think of a query letter as a one-page business letter with three paragraphs.

  • Your first paragraph is intro. You’ll list what category your work falls under, its title, and estimated word count. You’ll also explain what your work is about. Keep it brief!
  • Your second paragraph is your pitch. Here you’ll deliver a clear and immediate gist of what your work is about. The goal? Make the agent or editor want more. This is sales, razzle-dazzle, back-cover book copy magic. This is your BEST writing
  • Your third paragraph is about you. Who you are, why you’re qualified to write the book, and what you have going for you. Yes it may feel a bit braggy but if you have 1,000,000 Instagram followers who will buy your book once it’s published…you want people to know

Your query letter has one purpose: to get the agent or editor to request your work. Keep it tight, keep it simple, and keep it focused on selling your work.

While this is a great formula for how to write a query letter, you can’t just one-and-done it. Which brings me to my third point.

Tip 3: Before you send your query letter, do some research

While you can create a general query letter, and you should, you should do some research on the agents and editors you’re querying before you send it to them. I have two reasons why.

Reason one: Many agents have specific submission guidelines and you should follow them. You can find these guidelines on their website—so do yourself a favour and put in a few extra minutes of research before hitting send.

Reason two: Not all agents or editors are looking for the same things. They’ll list what genres they’re interested in on their websites, they’ll Tweet what they’re searching for (#MSWL), and they’ll tell you to your face if they think it will sell. If you’re pitching a non-fiction book to an agent looking for paranormal romance…there is no point. You don’t have a chance. Increase your odds by finding agents and editors who are picking up what you’re putting down. Respect them by paying attention and doing some research ahead of time.

At the last writing conference I attended, there was one literary agent I wanted to meet. I’ve followed her on Twitter for years and didn’t want to miss the opportunity. So I did my research. I paid attention to what she was talking about on social media in the months leading up to the conference. I tailored my pitch to the exact metrics listed on her literary agency’s website (side note, this is a great template), and I researched other authors the agency represented in case there were any similarities to what I was pitching. When I arrived at my pitch appointment I was ready. I had researched, I had personalized my pitch, and I gave it my best shot.

Was it a lot of work? Not really, although it sounds like it when I list it all here. Mostly it just meant me paying attention and putting the work in rather than mindless scrolling and wishing. Could I do this for all the agents at the conference? No. So you want to choose with care. Which agents are the best fit for you? Which ones are looking for what you’re writing? Which ones do you believe will help your career gain momentum? Pay attention to those ones.

Put yourself in their shoes

Imagine if you were the agent getting 100 pitches thrown at you at a writing conference. Yes, you’re looking for new titles and new authors but not 100. You have 200 more queries waiting for you when you get home with more arriving every day. You’re looking for reasons to say no. So who will you say yes to? The authors who make it easy. The ones who make it personal to you. The ones who have done their research and are a great fit. The ones whose books you think you can sell.

My writing life focuses heavier on pitching articles than querying agents but I get asked how to write a query letter more than you'd think. For people who have a book in their head (or on their hard drive) and want to know how to get it to an agent or a publisher, you <em>are</em> asking the right question. If you want to publish you need to know how to write a query letter. And yes, I'll help you figure out how.

I hope you feel a little less confused about writing a query letter. There is other advice out there and if you find something that works better for you, all good! But whatever you do, do your research and don’t get precious. And have fun!

Indoor Gardening Herb Tips for Non-Green Thumbs

Take it from me. Growing herbs isn’t as easy as the Internet tells you. So here are some indoor gardening herb tips from someone who has tried, failed, tried again, failed some more, and is now a successful herb grower. With a little help from the Internet.

indoor gardening herb tips

The sad story

Living in the country is wonderful but it turns out I’m a terrible at most of the things that make country living look quaint and picturesque on Pinterest. Like gardening.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Last year I grew loads of things all over the place. And then…there were bunnies and deer and rats and all sorts of bugs. All of a sudden. And they enjoyed my beautiful garden.

So I thought perhaps I should become an indoor gardener until we can build a fence or a greenhouse. I salvaged the plants I could, potted them, and moved them indoors. But…it wasn’t so simple. In fact, they didn’t like the indoors much.

The happy discovery

In my front garden I have a small planter with chives and mint. All summer I enjoyed cutting the herbs as I was cooking, running back and forth between the garden and the stove. But by autumn they had withered so I left the container out over the winter and remembered my little herbs with fondness.

But then! The snow melted…the sun came out…and my little herbs are growing back!

It gave me hope. Maybe I can’t do a full garden yet, but what about herbs? I’ve tried them in the past to various degrees of success. But what if I gave it another go?

The next step

I did a bit of searching to come up with a great little herb garden but wasn’t sure what would work best. There are so many options! And then we found the big kahuna of herb gardens—AeroGarden Sprout LED with Gourmet Herb Seed Pod Kit. Like, what? Gourmet herb seed pods?

We found it on Amazon and I thought it was both silly and amazing. Going with the three-herb version for the first time around I set up the little machine and set it up in the kitchen window.

And I waited. And waited. And waited some more.

A week or so later the waiting was over. I have kitchen herbs! I’m thrilled with it and can’t believe how well the little system works. I’m thinking I can use the AeroGarden for the herbs I’m not sure how to grow, or haven’t had good luck with. And then the ones I feel more confident with I can keep out on in the front garden.

One herb at a time.

indoor gardening herbs

Indoor Gardening Herb Tips

  • Herb roots like growing away from light so if you’re growing in jars or bottles, go for a colour rather than clear
  • Many herbs can grow in just water—cut a five-inch stem, strip off the bottom leaves, and place the stem in water to root. Once the roots develop you can plant into pots
  • Using a grow light supplements lighting for herbs. This is good if you don’t have a south-facing window or don’t get 6+ hours of sunlight per day
  • The herb varieties that do best indoors: cilantro, basil, parsley, oregano, chives, thyme, and sage
  • Take it from me. Growing herbs isn't as easy as the Internet tells you. So here are some indoor gardening herb tips from someone who has tried, failed, tried again, failed some more, and is now a successful herb grower. With a little help from the Internet.

    This is such a random topic but I’m so happy with my AeroGarden herb garden system. It’s a bit pricey but I have herbs now! So many herbs! It’s giving me my gardening confidence back!

    And if you were wondering if I ever used my garden encouragement signs the answer is YES. And they’re awesome.