Posts Tagged blogs

Bookstores are Closing & Amazon is Expanding–Want a Sure Bet in an Uncertain Future?

As many of you already know, historically, novelists have endured a mind-numbing failure rate. Even up to 2007, traditionally published novelists only had a 1 in 9 chance of ever seeing a second book in print. Most writers failed to sell through their print run (per BEA statistics) and had to return to the day job to pay the bills. Ah, but the times, they are a changin’ and it is a WONDERFUL time to be a writer.

As many of you already know (especially the WANAlums), I happen to be a HUGE proponent of writers having a blog. A GOOD blog that people actually want to read. But, I get it. Some of you might not believe you have time or perhaps you aren’t ready to start a blog. Okay. Fair enough. Today’s advice is for you. Oh, and it is also for ALL writers, even those who have a blog.

Yeah, and you thought you’d sneak out the back of the HTML. Nope. Grab a seat.

How many of you have blogs that could use more traffic? Yeah, that’s pretty much all of us. How many of you have a book coming out one day and it would help to get a review or do a blog tour to promote? Um…everyone should have a hand raised right now. How many of you LOVE randomly e-mailing total strangers and asking for big favors?

Exactly.

The Rapid Changes in Our Marketplace

Most of us cringe at the idea of self-promotion, but as we careen into the 21st century, the Digital Age Author has more responsibility than ever before. If we self-publish or go indie, our social platform means life or death, and traditionally published authors no longer get a pass. Sorry.While it might be a fantastic time to be a writer, I imagine those working in publishing remember fonder days.

Amazon has really been putting the hurt on NY Publishing. The future of Barnes & Noble, the largest book retailer in the world, is largely uncertain, and William J. Lynch Jr, CEO of Barnes & Noble, admits that there is a lot riding on the future of the Nook. Independent bookstores? Yep. Magic Eight Ball says, *shakes vigorously*, yep, “Future uncertain.” If you don’t want to trust my Magic Eight Ball, you can read more about it here in the New York Times article, The Book Store’s Last Stand.

So why am I taking time to mention the uncertain future of book retailers? So you stop depending on them to get your books in front of readers. From this point on, any shelf space is gravy and awesome, but it cannot be trusted to be there for good.

Traditional methods of getting an author’s wares (books) in front of a customer (reader) are shrinking and going away. It is highly likely that most books will be digital within less than ten years. I am not here to debate whether this is good or bad, but I AM here to help prepare ALL authors for a brilliant future, no matter what your preferred choice of publication might happen to be.

May I remind you, it is a fantastic time to be a writer! Yes, things are changing, but not all change is bad. But some changes require…um, change. Writers need to be on social media. All writers. And if you don’t have a lot of time, I am here to help all writers work smarter not harder.

Agencies now want authors who come with a platform, and few things make agents feel all warm and fuzzy like a writer who has loads of blogger pals. Since traditional means of showcasing books (bookstores) are diminishing, writers need a digital support network now more than ever. Bloggers can be a writer’s best friend and a HUGE time-saver when it comes to social media.

One of the best things we writers can do on social media is to become a Blogger Booster.

The cool thing about bloggers is we are attention whores friendly, and many of us like people. We are like a faithful dog, and, if you give us a scratch in that place that makes our digital legs go a thumpin’? We will be a loyal pal.

How Can You Be a Blogger Booster?

Comment on Blogs and Repost to Your Networks

Really. That’s all. Ideally, comment on blogs with large followings. Many people go to the more popular blogs for more than the posted content. Hey, check out my comments section. Sometimes I think my posts are just an excuse for all of you to have a party, and often you guys are WAY more interesting than I am.

If you run across blogs that have a healthy comments section, that is a clue that this is an established and even growing community. Commenters befriend each other and hang out. I know because I have met many friends this way. They were regular at commenting on my blog (or other fave blogs where I was the commenter) and I went to their blog and on and on.

In fact, it is very common to see the same people congregating on each other’s blogs. It is a huge…are you ready for this? NETWORK.

Even if you don’t have time to blog, at least take time to read blogs and leave thoughtful comments. People will see you are vested and have something worthwhile to say. They will get to know you and hopefully like and support you, especially if you have a presence on Twitter.

The more people you get to know, the better. When it comes time to plan your book launch, you won’t be tossing form letters into the ether hoping something sticks. You will have awesome pals who are clearly active on-line. Additionally, bloggers will know you, recognize you and, if you support us enough, we will LIKE you…a lot.

Last April, when I taught in L.A. at the RT Book Lovers’ Conference, one of the PR “experts” recommended that an author with a book about to be released needed to sit down and e-mail as many bloggers as possible and see if they would do a review.

Um…no. For the love of all that is chocolate, NO.

In fact, I raised my hand on that one. There are few things that will annoy bloggers more than unsolicited spam asking for us to put out effort for someone we don’t know from a hole in the ground.

Yeah, sure. I will read your indie published 110,000 word high fantasy in my infinite free time, and write a favorable review, even though I have never talked to you or so much as seen a “Great blog” from you in my comments section. Yeah…I am right on that, right after I organize my sock drawer.

Bloggers are always looking for stuff to talk about. Many will even do reviews. I do them on rare occasions, but not for random people who e-mail me a form letter. One of the best ways to get on a blogger’s good side is to regularly comment on her blog and even repost on Twitter and Facebook.

If you do all these things then, LATER, when you are staring down the barrel of needing your new book reviewed? It will feel a heck of a lot less weird asking for a favor. A blogger, particularly a book blogger, will be far more inclined to help you out if you have been giving in the relationship for a while.

Commenting on blogs can build rapport with key influencers with large followings, and it only takes a few minutes a day. Maybe you don’t have time to blog, but you can make time to comment and RT or post a link on your FB, G+ or whatever. Just those two activities can plug you into communities that number in the tens of thousands.

And sure, the future of the bookstore is uncertain…okay, bleak. That’s life. But the cool thing is that while markets change and technology changes…humans are timeless. We will always want community, love, support and friendship and investing in relationships is ALWAYS a good idea, regardless of what is happening on Wall Street.

What are some other ways you guys can think of to be a blogger booster? Do some of you blog and have a cool reader story you would love to share? What are some of your favorite types of blogs? Why do you like them? What makes you guys subscribe to a blog? If you happen to be a book blogger, what steps would you recommend a writer take to improve her chances of landing a review?

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will announce last week’s winner on Friday.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of February I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck! 

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

I am a HUGE fan of Porter Anderson’s Writing on the Ether. It is just crammed full of the best information to stay on top of all the changes in our industry.

4 Ways to Find the Right Freelance Editor by C.S.Lakin.

Need More Cowbell? Hop on over the Jenny Hansen’s Blog. She is doing a really neat series asking Why Do You Blog?

Are Book Covers Important in the Digital Age? by the AWESOME Jody Hedlund. Her blog has been named one of Writer’s Digest’s Best Blogs of 2012 and I AGREE! Just to say…I found her first ;).

What’s So Funny? by Tawna Fenske

What Makes a Book Magical? over at Writer Unboxed

The amazing Anne R. Allen is running a series about How to Blog. Seriously, check it out here.

Need a good laugh? Who doesn’t these days? Make sure you follow Natalie Hartford’s blog. This week? The iFinger.

NYTBSA Bob Mayer has an interesting post, The SDSU Writing Conference, FREE Books, the Self-Publishing Bubble and Zombies. Yeah, he had me at zombies, too.

Pipe down! Will ya? Ever wonder about where these idioms come from? Check out Barbara Forte Abate’s Blog.

Ellen Gregory has a really lovely post Let’s Talk About Choices.

Want more laughs? Marriage Proposals and Bass Boats by Piper Bayard.

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170 Comments

Numbers Are Our Friend–Writers and the Wild World of Metrics

Okay, yesterday Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner had a blog post that promptly scared the bejeezus out of a lot of writers. I’m here to help you guys understand that Rachelle is actually on our side, and the idea of numbers should not scare you. Numbers can be a writer’s best friend. They can keep us accountable and can let us know where we are doing well and how we can improve. This is the purpose behind metrics in any business.

My husband works in the defense industry. His business uses metrics to look for waste, redundancy or errors. What changes are working? Which changes should be scrapped?

Writers can take a lesson from this.

One of the biggest challenges many writers face is the mental transition from artist-hobbyist to artist-entrepreneur. Many of us gravitated to writing because spreadsheets gave us hives and sales goals made our eyes roll back in our heads. I feel your pain. I came from a background of industrial sales. I wanted to throw myself in traffic every day I went to work. Writing was my lifeline, my salvation…but it wasn’t a free pass to get out of being a savvy businessperson.

So grab a paper bag. Breathe. That’s it. Place your head between your knees and your laptop at your feet so you can keep reading. I am here to help.

Not All Numbers Count Equally

Social media changes so quickly that even us “experts” have a full-time job simply keeping up with innovations. Yet, one innovation I have seen that makes me feel better is a site called Klout. Klout measures our ACTUAL influence. We now can gain a clearer picture of the impact we have (or don’t have) because there is context.

Yesterday, I guest-posted for Jane Friedman, contributing editor to Writer’s Digest Magazine (Jane has, by far, one of THE best blogs for writers out there, btw). My post addressed three social media blunders that can KILL an author platform. One of the blunders I listed was focusing too much on the numbers.

At first this seems like I am giving contradicting advice from Ms. Gardner. On the contrary!

There are lies, damn lies and statistics. ~Mark Twain

I see too many writers spinning their wheels joining ten different social sites and then just friending/following thousands of people. Having a Twitter following of 30,000 doesn’t necessarily mean much. To use my example from yesterday, I could theoretically hold up the White Pages I just tossed in my recycle bin and claim that I have 30,000 “friends.” Yet, how many of those “friends” can I count on to spread the message of my new book? How many of those “friends” can I count on for a sale? A recommendation? A referral? Help expanding my platform? Only a very small percentage–folks I know personally and a handful of weird, lonely people.

One of the cool things I have liked about Klout is that Klout measures our ACTUAL influence. It runs algorithms to see how many people our message is affecting. What is our amplification? Translated: How many people repost what we are posting? Are people listening? Are they responding? Are they sharing?

Real Friends DO Matter

See, I can go have 20,000 followers. I can even download an app to tweet witty comments every hour so I can “fool” people that I am really on Twitter. There are all kinds of machines that will blast out links to my blog. I never even have to physically BE on Twitter. On the surface, my huge following looks pretty awesome. Oh, and for a fee, I can purchase peeps to make that following even MORE impressive.

Ah, but the real numbers don’t lie.

Klout will tattle on us if we cheat. Most people don’t feel vested in bots. We are unlikely to repost for them and far more likely to just ignore and move on to people who don’t treat us like morons who can’t tell the difference between a person and a bot. Since others aren’t vested in us, our Klout score will reflect this.

When we focus on authentic relationships instead of super high “numbers” we actually will raise the number that counts—the Klout score. This is one of the reasons that writers are better off narrowing their focus and not “participating” on ten different sites. It spreads us too thinly, and, in the end it will negatively impact our Klout.

An Example

I blog, am on Facebook (no fan page yet) and I tweet. That’s it. I have less than 5,000 twitter followers and less than 2,000 Facebook peeps….but, I regularly have a Klout score of 72, which is pretty darn great. Due to a death in the family, I haven’t been on social media as much and my Klout score is a tad lower, but it generally is pretty strong at 71-73. I have a very high rate of amplification. This means people listen, they like and they share. This proves what I have been saying all along.

No one is successful on social media alone.

What I love about Klout is that Klout is not so much about me as it is about others. The better I serve others, the higher the score. See, if get on G+ and friend a half a zillion people, that serves ME. That is no measure of how I have served others. A “large number” alone can’t tell me if those in my following listen, whether they care, or are if they are even engaged. Klout is a far better measure of our social media impact, and we don’t need the mega-high followings to have a Klout score that will gain an agent’s attention.

Blog Statistics

Last week there were all kinds of blogs about whether it was a waste of time for writers to have a blog. One agent said that they would not be impressed unless a writer could show 15,000 unique visits a month. Many writers nearly passed out with a panic attack. FIFTEEN THOUSAND A MONTH!!!!

What I find interesting is that so many of the agents feel blogging is a waste of time. How about BAD blogging is a waste of time?

Why do we all assume that because writers can write novels, we automatically have the skills to blog in ways that will connect to tens of thousands of followers? Blogging is a skill, like anything else. Instead of blaming the blog, let’s see this as a separate skill that needs to be learned. It is also a skill, that, with lots of practice, can be MASTERED.

I will grant there is a lot of GREAT writing out there, but the blogs are not geared to gain those large amounts of visits or even connect with readers (who aren’t writers). Why? Writers are blogging about the wrong things and targeting the wrong people (exclusively).

Expand the Blog and Improve the Klout Score

I can be a world-renowned expert on the mating rituals of the African Tse Tse fly and it not be worth publishing a book. Not enough people care about the Tse Tse fly getting lucky for me to sell a lot of copies.

Granted, the subject of writing is not as limited as the Tse Tse fly. A lot of people care about writing and the craft of writing, but when viewed as a slice of the larger whole global population? Um…there are better things to blog about.

Storytellers have been making the mundane magical for over 100,000 years. We have the power to create new worlds, breathe life into imaginary people. Yet, we get a blog and we all blog about….writing. We become the All-Writing-All-the-Time-Channel. This will limit our influence and lower the Klout score.

Why?

Because only a small percentage of the overall literate population in need of entertaining or informing cares to read about narrative structure, POV, character arc, or trends in indie publishing. Also, too many writers are all blogging on the same thing targeting the same worn-out demographic. There are only so many writing blogs we writers can follow and be loyal to. Yet, when I mention getting out of the comfort zone, writers promptly want to defend the writing blog. Feel free to blog about writing, but likely your blog numbers will never get high enough to matter in a proposal.

Before anyone gets huffy, I made all the mistakes so you don’t have to. We will look at me.  I blogged about writing once a week, religiously for over a YEAR, and, after a year I had less than 600 views a month. After a year of banging my head against a wall, I set out to figure out what made blogs popular and how we could tool our blogs to connect with writers AND non-writers.

Since I am all about authenticity, here is a look at my stats from May of 2009 into December of 2010. That top number is 25,000 for those who can’t see.

Count over roughly 11 pathetic columns. The wimpy little column in May 2010 was after a YEAR of blogging about writing. 594 visits a MONTH. The next jump was when I started blogging twice a week, once about social media. A little better, but not that wonderful. Had another little bump. Nice, but room for improvement. That fourth jump? That HUGE leap? THAT was when I started blogging in ways that connect to readers beyond writers. I would tell you more, but I save that secret information for my workshops.

One would think my information blogs would have made the huge difference, but actually they didn’t. I had to get out of the comfort zone. When I say don’t do a writing blog, it isn’t because I sit up all night thinking of ways to make you guys miserable (I only stay up until ten doing that). I tell you these things because I have had all the same “bright ideas” that turned into digital tar babies. So when I give advice, it really is because I want to help you guys. Writers are wonderful, but our support base can only do so much.

Remember earlier I said metrics were helpful for figuring out inefficiencies? Well, contributing thousands of words a week to a blog that was reaching less than 600 people a month I think qualifies as an inefficiency. I had to rework my strategy.

Tip: If the horse is dead, DISMOUNT!

As you can see from that image, numbers helped me see when I started connecting and what content made the difference. If I hadn’t had the analytics, I would never have been able to get an idea of what worked and what was a waste of time. Numbers help us improve. They help us adjust and make a new plan if the old one isn’t working. Numbers help agents land us sweeter deals.

This applies to speaking engagements, Internet radio followings and vlog views (also mentioned in Rachelle’s blog). Maybe your numbers aren’t huge, but if you can show a 1000% growth in six months, agents can use this in your favor. Quantifiable metrics can help you grow, expand and innovate. Numbers keep us accountable and focused. Numbers help us try new things and see tangibly if they are working. Numbers help us work smarter, not harder.

What to take away:

  • Authentic relationships DO matter.
  • Klout score is more important than surface numbers.
  • Large blog followings are possible with consistency and a solid plan. Content matters.
  • Some topics, by their very nature, will experience limited growth.
  • Focusing on community and being part of a team will translate into a higher Klout. This is one of the reasons I HIGHLY encourage participating on #MyWANA.
  • ABOVE ALL…People matter the most. If we serve people with authentic interaction and great content, the numbers will eventually reflect all our hard work.

Okay, so do you guys feel better? Need a digital daquiri? Any heart attacks out there? Hey, we are not alone! Better, we are in this TOGETHER!

I do want to hear from you guys!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of October, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of October I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

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92 Comments

Author Blogs–Solid Platform, Wrong Audience

Happy Friday!!!! Today I have a really special treat for you guys. I do have to say that I love being right, but sometimes it kinda sux being right…but then it goes back to being awesome that I am right. Confused? Okay, well I started a ton of controversy surrounding writer blogs with such posts as Sacred Cow-Tipping–Why Writers Blogging About Writing is Bad and More Sacred Cow-Tipping–Common Blogging Misconceptions.

We have big folks in publishing claiming that blogging is dead, that blogging is a waste of time and does nothing to drive book sales. Yet, I counter with, “What if blogging isn’t the problem? What if writers just don’t know how to blog?”

GASP!

I mean if I ran out and spent $2000 on a Mac computer and the promptly used it to swat mosquitos and then loudly proclaimed that Mac laptops were a waste of money, everyone would think I was a lunatic, right? Yet we have the hubris to believe that because we can string together sentences that we instantly have the know-how to write a blog that connects to thousands of readers in a way that creates loyalty and drives book sales??? Hey, I’m not judging. I learned this stuff by making all the mistakes.

Yet, we have this amazing tool–the blog–and think that with NO instruction, we can be successful. Can we? Sure. Are there better approaches that are more effective? YES!!!

Blogging isn’t dead, but blogging is an art and a skill that needs to be learned. It can be learned by trial and error (like me) or it can be learned by those who have made all the dumb mistakes and who are willing to share their knowledge (from me). It feels good to be right, but sometimes it can bum me out, too. Yet, the awesome part is that, if I am right and I offer instruction to writers who want to blog, then there is a path to success and that is great reason to get excited.

Today my pal Susan Bischoff-who is an amazing writer and very sweet/supportive person-is going to share her experience. A couple weeks ago, Susan courageously e-mailed me and asked if she could share her story so that other writers could learn from her mistake. I think that is awesome and very brave and adds one more reason I adore her.

Thanks, Susan for doing this….

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Kristen’s recent post, The Secret to Selling Books Part I–Let’s Get Sticky, certainly got a lot of people talking. Part of what’s interesting to me about the post and the buzz it’s created is that, in a lot of ways, it’s the same thing Kristen’s been trying to tell us all along. This idea that writers talking to writers about writing is not optimal use of social media if you want to sell fiction is something that’s clear in her books We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media (a.k.a. the WANA Guide) and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer.

So I wanted to talk about why, knowing and understanding Kristen’s advice regarding blogging to and for writers, I basically ignored her and did it anyway. More importantly, I wanted to give you a bit of case study about how that’s worked out for me.

Blog on topic…

From the time I read the WANA Guide, around the same time that I released my first novel, and I determined to get serious, to retake my neglected blog, to make an effort on Twitter, etc., I’ve experienced the frustration of not feeling like I had anything to talk about except writing. Kristen says to blog “on topic.” On something related to your book.

One suggestion she makes is to take the research you did for your book and write articles about that. If your fiction is set in a historical period, write articles about that period, about the clothes, food, events, technology, etc. People interested in that period will find you and may be interested in reading your fictional perspective. Write about ghosts? Then write about ghost hunters, paranormal science, ghost sightings, ghostly legends.

Even for those of us who don’t feel like we do much active research, like what we write comes purely out of our heads (Purely? Really? Not inspired by anything?) we could probably find something in the real world to tie in to our fiction.

I write about teens with superpowers. So I could write about comic book superheroes, superhero TV shows and cartoons, superhero movies, books about kids with abilities…

Yah. If had time to actually take that stuff in. And then analyze it for something to say besides ZOMG Squee! or Thor’s six-pack! :flail:. And then write about it in some way that makes it actually worth someone’s time to read about it.

Writing about writing is easy. It’s accessible to us. We think about it all the time. We discover things that are new to us, and we enjoy sharing those things with people who get it—the people we rarely meet in real life. Writing a writer blog is very gratifying.

In my case, I know that I didn’t see how I could maintain an “on topic” blog because I didn’t want to see it. I really wanted to keep doing what I was doing. And I see this from others all the time, in comments on Kristen’s posts and in what people say on their on blogs.

Just doing what came naturally…

It was very easy to convince myself that my writer blog was totally working for me. I was building a following on my blog. People were subscribing. I was selling a lot of books, in large part due to the Amazon machine. The way it works is that you hit a certain level of sales compared to everyone else, which causes you to achieve a rank, which causes you to hit their charts, which causes you to be easily seen by browsers, which increases your sales dramatically, which causes you to chart higher and more widely, which increases your sales even more, which means that some of those people are actually reading and some of those reading are actually reviewing, adding buzz and credibility to your visibility, getting you some more sales…

And where did I tell myself all of that started? In part, with all of my writer buddies. Every sale counts, and it doesn’t matter why someone bought the book, it still helped its rank.

  • I wrote a whole blog series about marketing ideas that helped me. It was very popular.
  • An article I wrote was published by a company which helps authors market. Many of those authors publish independently as I do.
  • Every time I wrote about a level of success I experienced, people who wanted so support independent publishing would say, “See, she’s sold more than 150 copies!”

And not only did those things send visitors to my blog, it did sell some books because the book itself was very inexpensive and people were curious about my writing. Some wanted to know how good a book has to be to sell like that (not like it was a huge seller) and some wanted to know if I was doing something so right that I was selling even a really crappy book. But they were all sales.

So I was writing about writing and catering to writers and I was doing just fine, thank you very much. I was being supportive and instructive. I was paying back and paying it forward, and getting all kinds of nice comments and blog love. I was building a blog and a solid blog following—something that I doubted I could accomplish. Yay!

When I realized it didn’t work…

So I went to publish my second book. Allegedly I had thousands of readers of the first book. But, uh-oh, I don’t know how to get in touch with them. Even though I offer a newsletter, only a few hundred people signed up for it. And what was really interesting to me about the newsletter, during the year in which I collected subscribers, was the fact that I didn’t know them. They were not the people who commented on my blog or talked to me on Twitter. They were people completely unfamiliar to me.

Oh, look! I think that may be a retroactive clue.

Okay, so I got ready to put the book out. I let everyone know on my blog. I asked for their help to spread the word. I wrote some extra good posts that brought in extra high traffic—posts aimed at writers and indie publishers.

The book went out. I let everyone know on social media. I posted links. My friends supported me with Twitter mentions, liking me on Facebook, carrying the badge for the new book on their blogs, writing whole blog posts mentioning the release. They were awesome. And they probably reached all the same people I reached because we have all the same followers.

Last time I put a book out, I had not built up my social media platform. If a writer friend promoted me, that message reached people I couldn’t reach. A year later, we’re all hooked up, linked in. Homogenized. I think people must get that on some level, which accounts for some of the scurrying about to find new friends and hobbies the wake of the “Sticky” post.

See, of all the people it was in my power to inform, only people who were fans of my books bought my second book. Right now I have a follower base who are fans of my writing/publishing advice.But that’s not what the book is about.

I neither want nor expect fans of the writing advice to buy my fiction if the content doesn’t interest them. I neither need nor expect pity or loyalty sales. The advice I gave, I gave for free. And I don’t regret giving it away in the slightest. I got a lot out of giving it, and that’s a big reason why I kept doing it, to the exclusion of focusing on my fiction/genre/topic stuff.

I built a writer blog. And that in itself is cool. In a financial sense, it would be cooler if I’d monetized my blog, if it carried ads. Then I’d get paid to build that following just for the sake of building it. In a marketing sense, it would be super cool if I also had books about writing or publishing to market. Then my blog would be selling my product. But my product is fiction.

Looking at my blog content as advertising, it’s like I wanted to sell jewelry and so I wrote about sports and ran the commercials on ESPN. Will I hit a few viewers who might be curious enough about me to look more deeply, a few who happen to like jewelry and then become my customers?

Maybe.

But in terms of ROI (return on investment), it is not the best use of my time and creative energy to maintain focus on a topic that has very little to do with my product. Nor to focus on a demographic that isn’t necessarily part of my target, a demographic with lots of book consumers, yes, but consumers who are over-saturated with book choices.

Solid platform, wrong crowd…

When I released my second book, I felt like I was standing on my platform, looking out over my sea of followers. People who respect me professionally or like me personally and care what I have to say about writing. People who have appreciated what I’ve been sharing with them as I’ve learned it. And there I was, ready to make my big announcement. And I said, “Hark, oh ye loyal followers, for now I have NEWS!”

And upon hearing the news, a few of them jumped up and gave me a squee, because a few of them actually like what I write. And some of them took the time to give me a grin and a thumb-up, and even a pat on the back, because they like me. But mostly they just went right back to talking to each other about writing like we always do.

Because we’re all writers. We’ve all got books coming out every week. Big deal.

Logical. Obvious. But I needed to have this experience for it to really hit home. To really understand what Kristen was saying. I had taken my evidence, my sales figures and my blog subscribers (and other social media numbers), and made them tell me something I wanted hear—that the writing about writing was really working for me. (Must be because I was just soooo good at it.)

(Please, girl.)

I want to continue to serve, to share what I learn, to be kind (and yeah, rack up some good karma). I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to do. But I need to understand that putting too much focus on that doesn’t serve what I say my goals are. That’s me becoming known as Susan: sweet, sensitive, and sometimes insightful writer girl. That’s not me developing a reputation as Susan: author of kick-ass teen paranormal romance.

If I focus on the writer persona to the exclusion or detriment of the author persona, for the sake of serving the writer community instead of my writing career…that seems a little martyrish.

So what now?

In terms of selling book 2, sales will come. I’m a good writer and it’s a solid piece of work. I just have to wait for a slow build that might have been faster if I’d been more linked in to my actual market.

And the platform?

I have a lot of thoughts. I mean, this element of what I did non-optimally is really only part of my recent mind-blowing epiphany. I think I have a better understanding of how I want to use my blog. One hundred topics for my blog that might actually sell my books? Nope. Don’t have those yet. A clue where I’m going to go to find my target demographic and how I’m going to reach out and interact with them without being spammy? Nope. I think I’m going to take Kristen’s upcoming workshop to try to figure it out. After all, it somehow seems like she’s always right.

***

THANK YOU SUSAN!!! And I really look forward to having you in class. For those reading, the class is still open but you need to sign up FAST. Class is about to start. It is $40 for TWO MONTHS. One month is for lessons and the other month is for launch. I help each participant create a brand that is special and unique and designed to connect to more than just writers. My goal is to help you connect to your future readers. 

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

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More Sacred Cow-Tipping–Common Blogging Misconceptions

Photo courtesy of www.dpchallenge.com  

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, the day I teach you guys how to rock it hard when it comes to social media and based off my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. Last week we talked about Sacred Cow #1—Writers write, thus they must write writing blogs, right? Um….WRONG! Go here if you want to find out why writing blogs are bad. I teach writers how to blog to create a brand. What is our author brand? Our name—US. Blogging gives us an opportunity to reach out to millions and give them a chance to get to know us and support us as fellow friends and human beings.

Why limit the topics?

Many of us became writers because we were interested in so much stuff that we couldn’t figure out whether we wanted to be a scientist, a dancer, a race car driver, an archeaologist or an astronaut when we grew up. As writers….we could do ALL those things. So why, when it comes to blogging, do we have this knee-jerk reaction that we can only talk about one topic…writing?

Last week many writers promptly had a panic attack when I said writing blogs were bad. There is a difference between a Writing Blog and an Author Blog.

Writing Blogs have cutesy titles like…oh, let’s see…Warrior Writers (look at the URL). Writing blogs lack the author’s name and they pidgeon-hole content. Author Blogs, however, have the writer’s name clearly visible and then a certain day is dedicated to blogging about writing. See? Never said you couldn’t blog about writing, so hand over the paper bag. It’s okay.

But, here’s the deal. Many writers are insecure and so the reason we get the same bright idea to blog about writing is, deep down, many of us need affirmation that we know what we are doing. It’s a security blanket. But, here is the thing, writers don’t need to be expert writing teachers to be amazing storytellers. Fiction authors establish expertise by writing great fiction. Our blog is for us to connect with others, not to prove we know what we are doing. Good books will prove that.

Back to blogging….

I have made all the dumb mistakes so you don’t have to. This said, after YEARS of highly unscientific testing, I have found what works and what is very literally a social media tar baby. Am I saying MY way is the only way? No. But, I am saying, “Hey, when I did this, this and this, I was losing hair by the handful and could hear crickets on my site. Ah, but when I did THIS, people CAME TO MY BLOG AND THEN HOLY CRAP THEY CAME BACK AND SOME EVEN BROUGHT FRIENDS! SQUEEEE!”

Then, to ensure I was not a lone anomaly, I used a lot of friends as guinea pigs (Hey, Piper!), and they found that these techniques worked for them too. Not only did they begin to ENJOY blogging–GASP!–but they saw drastic improvements in their traffic fairly quickly. This said, feel free to do any of these no-nos I am listing below. I will not stop you. But later, when friends and family find you curled in the fetal position under your desk with a letter opener to your thoat and clutching a bottle of scotch, it will be very difficult for me not to say I told you so.

Last week we tipped over Sacred Cow #1 The Writing Blog. Today? We take out a couple more. Mooooooooooooooooooooooove over, Bay-bee!

Sacred Cow #2—You need multiple blog sites if you talk about more than one thing.

Um, no. Multiple blog sites dilute your brand and erode your author platform. You need one place where alllll your precious nuggets of wisdom collect.

Our blog must be under our name and then just put certain topics on certain days (even writing). Then we are connecting with people via mutual interests and this, in turn, builds our brand and our name.

I am a social media expert. I have the burden of proving I know what I am talking about.

But here is the cool part. Even if you are blogging to establish expertise, you can still benefit from blogging on other subjects on different days. These types of posts make you more human and approachable, two essential ingredients for a great blog. I blog on all kinds of things, but if people want to learn about social media, they simply check in on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

I don’t believe it has confused any of you that I have blogged about my junk drawers or growing up in the 70s. Why? Because those were on Friday, which is  Free-for-All Friday. Did you start questioning my expertise about Twitter because I blogged about dreaming I was in a nasty divorce/custody battle with Batman?

Hmmm, maybe not the best example.

But back to my point. How many of you do more than one thing? Would it fracture your reality to know I do more than one thing? Why is our knee-jerk reaction to treat readers like they are morons? If we blog about writing every Monday and gardening every Wednesday and travel every Friday, but everything is under the banner of our NAME, which is our BRAND…most people will catch up. We don’t need totally separate blog sites that spread us thinner than a college kid’s budget. Keep it all in one place. Really.

Oh the humanity! She blogs about writing AND travel. How can I go on?????

If people like you and your writing voice, likely they will read your writing blogs and your travel blogs because they find YOU and your topics interesting. Um, and if they only care about your travel blogs they…are you ready for this? They just won’t read the other days. O-M-G!

We don’t need separate blog sites to keep readers from clawing out their own eyes because we talked about something different. Having a bunch of different blogs might make US want to claw out our own eyes trying to keep up, but the reader will be fine. Multiple sites is a formula to go crazy. It might be fine now, but one day you are hopefully going to sign with an agent and you will have deadlines and a lot of work. This is why I am teaching you guys to streamline NOW. Make this blog puppy a well-oiled machine that grows as you grow in your career.

Sacred Cow #3–Group blogs are wonderful for getting your name out there and gaining a large following.

Uh…yeah, about that. Group blogs might not be the best use of time.

Can you contribute to a group blog? Sure. Can a group blog build your brand? Eehhh…not so much. The group itself gets the focus, so that is what will get branded. Think of it this way. Many of you will recognize Motley Crue. Would you recognize Mick Mars? He’s the guitarist. I had to look it up. But do you see what gets the name recognition? So unless we have an instance like The Police then Sting goes off and makes his own name, most band members’ names get lost to the overall brand…the name of the band. The BAND has the large following, not necessarily the individual members.

Same with group blogs.

There are a lot of wonderful group blogs and contributing to group blogs can open up your readership, but your own blog should be paramount. Readers know Writer Unboxed, Adventures in Children’s Publishing or Writers in the Storm, but many of us would be hard-pressed to name individual contributors unless they also happen to have their own blogs. I meet a lot of writers who are contributing hundreds and thousands of words a week to group blogs that will do very little to build their brand.

Worse still, they are contributing to the group blogs while their own blogs are neglected.

Are group blogs evil and a waste of time? NO, but they are a different tool for a different task. Is a tack hammer bad? Not if you are hanging a painting, but if you are busting up concrete? Wrong tool! Group blogs are great for getting you started and for even opening up your own blog to fresh readers. That is what group blogs do best. I contribute guest posts for group blogs. I have posted on Writer Unboxed and Genreality and I will be contributing to Adventures in Children’s Publishing in July. See, I contribute…but my own blog is first and foremost.

My tactics help you maximize time. If we are going to churn out thousands of words a week in content, then the best thing is to make some minor changes and have that effort fueling our overall goal…growing our platform and solidifying our brand.

Questions? Comments? Want to hurt me? Break out in song? What are your thoughts?

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements (Mash-Up of Awesomeness is Below)

June Week One Winner is Delorfinde

June week Two Winner is Jennifer Fischetto

Please send 1250 words in a Word document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org :D.

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Ten Ways to Avoid Mid-Book Doldrums by the awesome and talented Jody Hedlund

3 Tips to Set the Mood for Romance by the amazing and funny Tawna Fenske

Villians Dissected: Magneto by awesome writing teacher Terrell Mims

Interesting blog by Bayard & Holmes. Is profiling logical?

Jenny Hansen has a great post about how writers can ROCK LinkedIn.

The brilliant word pirate Chuck Wendig has two special nuggets of awesomeness. First a HYSTERICAL blog about the new baby that every parent should read. DO NOT drink liquids while reading. Then Chuck chimes in about all this writer blogging stuff.

Albert Berg has a great blog about YA. Is it getting too dark?

Austin Wulf has a very helpful post about resumes for the freeleance writer.

Fun and short post by Patrick Thunstrom about the organic nature of social media.

Looking for the best shows to watch on TV this summer? Then you MUST go to Tiffany White’s blog.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

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84 Comments

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