Posts Tagged blogging for authors

How to Grow Your Author Blog

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

I am a huge fan of writers having a blog, but one of the first arguments I get is, “But I did have a blog and it did nothing.” I hear your pain. We live in a world of instant gratification and often it is why we are more inclined to post content on our Facebook or Twitter instead. Instantly we can see other people sharing and responding and it feels oh so good.

The blog? Meh.

The problem, however, is that any “benefit” from Facebook or Twitter evaporates almost as soon as it appears whereas the blog (if we stick to it) will keep giving us rewards for years to come.

Reframe Your Goal

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

I will give you tips for growing your author blog here in a minute, but a simple mental shift will help keep you pumped up in the meantime. My tips can’t help unless you keep blogging.

Instead of focusing on number of followers, I looked at my blog as my author training. Writing is a tough job and most people won’t make it because of one crucial factor…they want a job. Writing is not a “job.” We don’t clock in and out and have some authority figure who tells us what to do.

We can work when we want and how much we want. No one is going to write us up and fire us if we spend all day looking at kitten videos instead of working.

Most adults have been trained in structured environments like school or the workplace. Thus, when they step out into something where they are their own boss? They struggle. It’s why most entrepreneurs fail as well. They never reach their potential because they lack the critical ingredient necessary—self-mastery.

Thus when I began blogging, I knew I had a lot of bad habits. Blogging would teach me to be beholden to deadlines. Perfect is the enemy of the good, so I would learn to let go and ship. I could relax. It didn’t have to be worthy of a Pulitzer. It was just a blog. Blogging could help me learn to write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner.

Posts that once took half a day now take an hour. Instead of chasing followers, I focused on becoming a stronger writer.

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Blogging would help me stretch those word count muscles. I used to panic at the idea of 1000 words a day and now I can knock that out in about 45 minutes. Blogging taught me to process, analyze and then articulate my thoughts seamlessly (useful for writing books, too). No amount of sharing or liking on Facebook would give me this skill.

Blogging made social media mentally active, instead of me lazily camping out in passivity. Blogging strengthened the muse and made me a better storyteller.

It taught me that content and ideas were literally everywhere. 

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But while there are countless benefits to writers, we do still want to eventually gain traffic. Duh.

Simply blogging into the ether forever was not exactly a bright plan. So, when I kept blogging and getting nowhere, I began to study blogs. What blogs did well? What blogs garnered hundreds of comments? What blogs had tens of thousands of subscribers? What were they doing that I could learn from?

Elements of a Great Blog

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Countless people start blogs that just get left abandoned in cyberspace, yet the elements of an excellent blog are pretty simple. If your blog is not doing well, often some small changes can make a huge difference.

Simple is Best

Content does matter, but packaging is key. We could have a blog so brilliant angels weep, but if no one reads it?

Yeah.

We must always remember that a blog is for the reader and not for us. When I started out, I became far too fascinated with all the cool layouts and color-schemes. When I was writing my blog, I was in the dashboard area which is, of course, black letters on a white page.

Though I thought that black page with red lettering was so edgy and dark and cool, I might as well have been tossing my readers’ eyes into a digital iron maiden.

Simple and clean is best. Our content is what should be the focus, not a bunch of colorful doodads. Remember to also test how your blog looks on a smartphone. Get an idea of how the post looks on any number of devices your reader might use.

The background we choose for a computer, might be a nightmare when trying to read on a phone.

Break Up that Space

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Many people don’t truly read blogs, they scan them. Yes, my blogs go longer because often I also give examples (I.e. the post about great description). But, because I use bullet points, those who simply want to scan can gain plenty (and the examples are there for folks who want more).

But I have seem comparably short blogs (500 words) that appeared more daunting than my 1300 word posts simply because the writer failed to break up the text. They left NO white space.

Bullet points, white space, headers, and photographs are key. When we have huge blocks of text in 10 point font? Many potential readers will just move on.

Keep Blogging

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Many people start a blog then quit before they ever get to enjoy a harvest. Blogs take time. We can either keep pouring our energy into instant gratification (Facebook) or we can be patient.

Eventually a blog that is generating thousands of hits per day is not generating those visits off the post for that day. Rather, search engines reward attendance. Additionally, evergreen content (content that is always salient) is being picked up through web searches. This is why building archives is extremely valuable.

I still gain new followers from posts I published years ago.

And the truth is, when my blog started being successful was right about the time that I’d accumulated a substantial archive (around 200 posts). Then I was no longer at the mercy of catching attention with the one post just published, I was beginning to gain ROI from the other 199 posts. I started enjoying compounded returns.

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Blogging is about appreciating the long tail, but frankly so is being an author. Just like most bloggers aren’t going to get fame and success with one post, most writers won’t hit it big with one book. We must learn to keep our heads down, to keep putting one foot in front of the other and trust the process.

There is so much more to having a great author blog, so I hope you will check out my Blogging for Authors class!

What are your thoughts? Do you see posts written on wild backgrounds and weird fonts and just run away? Have you ever run across a great post, only to realize the blog had been abandoned?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Check out the other NEW classes below! Now including a log-line class! Can you tell me what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t SIGN UP.

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Upcoming Classes

Blogging for Authors  (August 26th)

This class will teach you all you need to know to start an author blog good for going the distance. Additionally I would also recommend the class offered earlier that same week (August 22nd) Branding for Authors to help you with the BIG picture. These classes will benefit you greatly because most blogs will fail because writers waste a lot of time with stuff that won’t work and never will and that wastes a lot of time.

I am here to help with that😉 .

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 2nd

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

Log-lines are crucial for understanding the most important detail, “WHAT is the story ABOUT?” If we can’t answer this question in a single sentence? Brain surgery with a spork will be easier than writing a synopsis. Pitching? Querying? A nightmare. Revisions will also take far longer and can be grossly ineffective.

As authors, we tend to think that EVERY detail is important or others won’t “get” our story. Not the case.

If we aren’t pitching an agent, the log-line is incredibly beneficial for staying on track with a novel or even diagnosing serious flaws within the story before we’ve written an 80,000 word disaster. Perhaps the protagonist has no goal or a weak goal. Maybe the antagonist needs to be stronger or the story problem clearer.

In this one-hour workshop, I will walk you through how to encapsulate even the most epic of tales into that dreadful “elevator pitch.” We will cover the components of a strong log-line and learn red flags telling us when we need to dig deeper. The last hour of class we will workshop log-lines.

The first ten signups will be used as examples that we will workshop in the second hour of class. So get your log-line fixed for FREE by signing up ASAP.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

 

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Are We Undermining Our Own Writing Success?

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Keith Roper

I rarely reread books, namely because there are so many new titles I want to consume and only so many hours in the day. But, there are a handful of books I read and reread namely because they are areas I struggle in and so reinforcement is tremendously helpful.

The three books I seem to cycle through the most are actually about money and investing: Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and (even though it is an older book) Stanley and Danko’s The Millionaire Next Door.

There are plenty of money manuals that promise to make me a gazillionaire overnight with no effort on my part and those kinds of plans frankly give me hives.

The books I prefer are far more salt-of-the-earth and they say the same things, though in different ways.

Fortunes made on a winning lottery ticket are rare and never last. Slow and steady wins the race. Never underestimate small actions done daily.

I know this. I know all of this stuff. So how is it I so easily get off-track?

Perception Matters

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What is so fascinating particularly about The Millionaire Next Door is the very people we would think have vast investment portfolios actually are far more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck. Conversely, those who actually have accumulated substantial wealth often don’t “look” wealthy at all.

Here I was beating myself up because I use coupons and buy everything on sale.

What am I doing so wrong?

When I reread these books, I realize that I’m doing a lot more right than wrong. What I perceive as a truth actually isn’t (it’s a consumption shill propagated by pop culture). Most genuine millionaires don’t have a fleet of new luxury cars. They have a solid IRA instead.

But because my “vision” isn’t correct, it is then really easy for me to start accumulating bad habits that undermine my goals.

Well people with clean homes have maids.

NO, they wash their dish after eating!

In Regards to Writing

Often we writers can fall into similarly skewed thinking when it comes to our profession. We have a flawed perception of what a successful author looks like…and this opens the door for the little foxes that spoil the vine.

A successful author would publish her first book and be a runaway success with no social platform.

Noooo, that isn’t an author. That is a unicorn. A tortoise isn’t glamorous, but it is at least real.

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In our minds, we can believe that we would do far more writing if we simply had more “time.” Since most of us don’t have the luxury of getting up, having coffee and simply creating all day long, we then fail to invest at all.

We will invest “one day.”

We believe that because we also hold a day job and “only” have an hour to spare in the mornings, that our situation is hopeless. The consequence is we end up squandering the most valuable resource that is available to all living humans.

Time.

Why I love books on fiscal responsibility is I hold a core belief:

Small truths reveal larger truths.

If I am not managing, planning and budgeting my money, odds are I am not doing that with my time either. I find that often when I work on habits in one area, other areas also improve. When I zoom in on waste in one area, I become aware of it in others.

If I fail to plan the meals for the week, the consequence is a lot of food I throw away. We end up eating out or rushing to grab a bite because I didn’t put dinner in a crock pot and I am tired and cranky and In-N-Out Burger is just so darn convenient.

The end result is I nickel-and-dime myself $15 and $20 at a time.

When we look at how we are spending our time, are we leaking it away 15 and 20 minutes at a time?

Planning matters. Using time deliberately is vital.

If I fail to plan my time for the week, I’m all over and time goes swirling down the drain. In fact, failure to plan can cost me BIG. For instance, last Tuesday, instead of getting my next day planned I was “tired” and decided that Facebook and watching Dr. Who was preferable to preplanning.

Wednesday morning, I was in the middle of working and feeling great about my progress.

Then…

OMG! Spawn’s camp has a field trip today! I totally forgot! And they leave in 20 minutes!

In a mad rush, I swooped the one remaining Lunchable into a Sprout’s bag so I could dash like a crazy person to get him there in time for the bus.

In my haste, I unknowingly threw my cell phone in with his lunch.

Shoot…me…now.

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That three-second mistake (that could have easily been prevented with ten minutes prep work the night before) cost me an entire day and easily ten years off my life from stress.

A three-second error cost me four hours hysterically hunting for my phone and then two more hours at Sprint replacing the missing phone with a new phone. Then when the school found my phone? It cost me another two hours returning the new phone I didn’t need and reactivating the old one.

And a $35 restocking fee, or what I fondly refer to as a Stupid Tax.

How much writing could I have accomplished with only ten minutes of preparation the night before?

How Much Stupid Tax Are We Paying?

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When it comes to time, boundaries go a long way. Now, I’m no proponent of cramming activity into every waking second. But we can start truly seeing our days instead of merely wandering through them as bystanders.

Just as many of us hemorrhage money through tiny holes and unseen leaks, the same could be said of our time. But not being stupid with time is not the same thing as being wise with it, either.

Are We Investing Wisely?

Via Flickr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.

Via Flickr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.

Many people believe when they have money, they will invest money. But if we take a closer look, those who have money, have it because they invested it.

Not the other way around.

Many writers new to the profession see building a brand and a social media platform as a wasteful use of time because they don’t yet have a books to sell. Problem is, in this publishing climate, trying to build a platform after the book is almost a formula to fail. They will spend valuable time (later) that could have been used to write more books and better books scrambling to claw sales from the ether.

They believe they don’t have time, and yet a really strong brand/platform is rather simple to build over time with small and consistent investments in the right places.

Where to Invest?

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Instead of investing an hour a day on Facebook and Twitter, could I spend that on building an author blog? Being an expert tweeter does nothing to improve my skills as a writer. Facebook content can’t be eventually harvested for a book (that can make money or be used as a loss leader/promotional tool). Search engines will never direct new fans to my author site with my clever Instagram pics.

So instead of feeling overwhelmed that we don’t have an entire Gucci wardrobe a bazillion SnapChat fans, can we be patient and consistent with our small IRA account blog that we know with time and consistent investing will reap amazing returns?

This is a snapshot of my blogging stats. WP didn’t even bother measuring my first two years because they were too small to register. In 2009 I had roughly 6,900 views. By 2013, a half a million.

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Though looking at raw numbers, my overall traffic has gone down over the last couple of years but numbers can be deceiving. In 2010 I published a total of 95 posts and received 62,000 visits. This year I generated over 220,000 visits with only 60 posts, meaning I am doing more with less.

I’m gaining an advantage of compound interest (archives and following) which frees me up to now finish more books because now my blog is doing far more work for me than it did at the outset when I was new.

That was great because we’ve had a horrible couple of years with illnesses and death and it has taken a toll on how much I could physically do.

But the cool thing was, because I invested what little energy I had in a blog, my brand not only remained in tact, it actually grew much larger even though I wasn’t there to micromanage content (like I would have had to on all other social media sites).

The effort I could continue was effort that would pay dividends. When I had Shingles, I wasn’t tweeting a lot, but by gum I could post a blog. Now that I have weathered these storms and am back writing like a mad person, I don’t have to waste time reclaiming lost territory.

My blog is strong and so is my brand. Now to get my @$$ in gear on the books.

Because books can do the same thing. Most authors who make a good living aren’t banking everything on the sale of one book. They are investing their time and focusing it on multiple titles.

If we are focused, can we spend an hour a day on the novel. Just one hour. Instead of waiting for the magical, mystical tomorrow, can invest that today?

What are your thoughts? Are you happy you don’t have to try to be a unicorn? Do you find yourself buying into popular myths about what’s required to write novels (I.e. eight hours uninterrupted time)? Do you feel guilty because you aren’t on every single social media site? Are you relieved to know that is actually a bad plan?😀  Are you leaking small amounts of time away and they are adding up big? I bet you’ve never put your cell phone somewhere stupid😀 .

Are you actually excellent at managing your time and have tips to share?

***Btw, I do actually have a blogging class coming up😉 .

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Check out the other NEW classes below! 

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Upcoming Classes

Blogging for Authors  (August 26th) will teach you all you need to know to start an author blog good for going the distance. Additionally I would also recommend the class offered earlier that same week (August 22nd) Branding for Authors to help you with the BIG picture. These classes will benefit you greatly because most blogs will fail because writers waste a lot of time with stuff that won’t work and never will and that wastes a lot of time.

I am here to help with that😉 .

Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages August 12th

The first five pages are the most essential part of the novel, your single most powerful selling tool. It’s how you will hook agents, editors and readers. This class will cover the most common blunders and also teach you how to hook hard and hook early. This class is 90 minutes long, 60 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes for Q&A.

Your First Five Pages Gold Level

This includes the webinar and a detailed critique your first five pages.

Your First Five Pages Platinum Level

This includes the webinar and a detailed critique of your first twenty pages.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 2nd

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

 

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44 Comments

Why Your Author Blog is Stuck & What To DO

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Ah the blog. Some of you might perk up at the word. Others? Blog sounds like some radioactive creature that hatched from a meteor and is only there to feed. Feed on your energy, your hopes and your dreams.

Many writers start the blog with high hopes, then a few months in? You can’t bear to go to your computer because the screen is a reminder of that shiny blog you started…then abandoned to the spam bots.

A blog done properly is one of the most powerful tools in our social media arsenal.

Twitter could flitter and Facebook could face plant, but the blog will remain. In fact, blogs have been going strong since the 90s and have taken over much of what used to be the sole territory of traditional media outlets. Additionally, blogging is the only form of social media that plays to a writer’s strengths.

Writers write.

Many writers get overwhelmed at the idea of a blog. But there are SO MANY blogs! Yes, there are. But don’t let that number fool you. Yes there are a gazillion blogs, but how many are any good? How many are consistent? How many have been abandoned?

When we blog properly, the competition isn’t nearly as bad as one might imagine.

What vexes me profoundly is when I attend classes on social media and blogging and witness eager authors listening to advice that frankly? Sucks. Not long ago, I literally walked out of a blogging class at a conference…namely because shutting up is not my strong suit.

So today, I want to outline some basics for you and get you asking and answering the correct questions before you begin to blog. If you want to know more about the author brand/blog I go into great detail in my book Rise of the MachinesI also have two classes coming up—Branding for Authors (May 16th) and Blogging for Authors (May 20th). This will keep this post a reasonable length because blogging is a vastly complex topic.

But the biggest question we need to ask in the beginning (before we get stuck) is….

What Kind of Blogger Do I Want to Be?

An Author Blog is Different

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

One thing I want all of you to understand is that the author blog is a distinctively different creature. Part of why I got so angry in the class I walked out of was because the expert failed to make the distinction and acted like a blog was a blog was a blog.

NO.

There is a HUGE difference between a blog and an author blog so you need to ask yourself this BIG question before you ever get started because it will impact everything that follows.

Is your goal to become a professional blogger? Or, is your goal to use your blog to build your author brand and eventually drive book sales?

There’s no wrong answer, but there is a vast difference in approach and planning. Often bloggers will use monikers. Think Scary Mommy, The Bloggess, or Pioneer Woman. For a blogger, this is perfectly fine since the goal is to build the BLOG and often the goal is to become big enough to be able to sell ad space.

If, however, you are wanting to be a successful author who blogs? A moniker makes your journey unnecessarily longer and harder and will only add layers of friction to your brand. The only acceptable author brand is the name printed on the front of your books.

People don’t like thinking and they’ve gotten really spoiled. If I spend years blogging as HappyFunGirl, then no one browsing novels would even notice Kristen Lamb because I branded the wrong name. 

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Steve and Shanon Lawson

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Steve and Shanon Lawson

There is another constraint worth mentioning. Content. Often blogs revolve around a particular area of interest—cooking, family, parenting, pets, etc. These are all non-fiction topics and stuff the left brain loooooves.

The problem is that authors are selling a right brain product (fiction). Why are we selling a right brain product with a left-brained brand? It’s bait that’s less than ideal. Again, it can work, but it isn’t connecting the way it needs to in order to cultivate a fan base for fiction.

Another problem when we start a subject-based blog? It’s easy to burn out (get stuck). An author blog gives us far more flexibility and freedom in our content that will keep us passionate about writing for years to come. We won’t feel chained to a subject that no longer interests us.

Courtesy of Imagens Evangelicas vis Flickr Creative Commons

Courtesy of Imagens Evangelicas vis Flickr Creative Commons

Platform Matters

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Why it is really critical to define our goals in the beginning is this is going to dictate where to build our blog. Any “expert” who says the only difference in a free platform and a paid platform is how many fonts, colors and backgrounds you have to choose from, doesn’t know her stuff.

The reason I’m a huge fan of the blog is the blog is a great way to drive book sales in a noninvasive way. We blog on something that catches interest, a reader clicks and likes and subscribes, and over in the corner, what do we have?

A shopping cart to BUY our books.

The entire reason I became a social media expert was I fell victim to the same bad advice I’m warning you of today. The same advice being given in 2016 in that class.

I didn’t know that the real difference in the FREE version and the PAID one had everything to do with BUSINESS.

In the FREE version, we cannot conduct commerce, which means no shopping cart. I didn’t know this in the beginning and it wasn’t until I had over 25,000 subscribers that I realized my mistake. By the time I had books for sale? There was no moving my followers, my 500+ blog posts and my tens of thousands of comments.

I had to start at GROUND ZERO if I moved. Yes, I was STUCK.

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***Actually, WP now will allow me to move everything but I had to wait five years for the technology to catch up to my oops. I’ll be moving over the summer when things slow down. It will be way easier for me to have a shopping cart instead of having to hyperlink books and classes every post.

But here is the deal, I’ve done all the dumb stuff so you don’t have to. Plan for success and just invest the $100 in a paid site. You will thank me later😉 .

If you are stuck and not growing and not selling books? Might be time for an upgrade.

Interface Matters

We must remember that the easier we make it for people to find, interact, subscribe, follow, share and comment on our blogs, the greater the odds of the blog being successful. This is why I strongly recommend a WP based website. I know some authors love Blogger and are very successful using it and if so? Sally forth. This is more for the new folks.

WP, in my POV, is far more user-friendly. Blogger makes me solve five CAPTCHAS, submit a haiku, three letters of reference and a blood sample before I can comment. This is why if I click on a link and see the post is Blogger based? I don’t even read.

Blogs live and die by the comments, so no matter what platform you use, please make it easy for people to comment and share.

When authors don’t get comments and followers it is super easy to get discouraged and give up. Change the interface. It might just be your readers are having a tough time connecting.

Bonus Blogging Tip

If you start an author blog, make it your landing page on your author website.

Static pages are boring and no one wants to go there. This makes it easier for you to use blogs as bait to get folks to your site where hopefully they will buy books. Remember the more we make people click to navigate, the more chances we have to lose them. If the blog and shopping cart are right there on the landing page?

BOO-YAH!

Also, if you blog regularly putting your blog on your author site (home page) will make the search engines looove you and will give you algorithmic advantage which is essential for success😀 .

What are your thoughts? Did you realize there was a difference between the blog and the author blog? Are you seeing some things you’ve been doing that might be stalling your blog? Have you lost the love for blogging?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

More Classes

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line (THIS FRIDAY!!!) This is a great diagnostic for a floundering plot. I can tell what is wrong (or even right) with a plot by looking at the log-line. The first ten signups get their log-line shredded IN CLASS and for FREE.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist This class will teach you to be a master plotter. No antagonist, no plot. Weak antagonist, weak plot. Additionally this class will teach you how to put conflict and tension on every page.

Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages The first five pages are one of our best selling tools. We fail to hook the reader and that is a lost sale. In this class, we go over the art of great beginnings. Additionally, the upper levels Gold and Platinum I actually LOOK at your pages and critique your actual writing. I am offering DOUBLE PAGES for FREE so this is a fantastic opportunity to get feedback from a pro.

 

 

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Selling Books in the Digital Age—We ALL Have an Image Problem & Here’s What To Do

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Original image courtesy of Phillip Capper Flickr Creative Commons

We live in a wonderful age to be a writer but a terrifying one as well. It’s wonderful because there was a time when we could have gone to our graves without ever seeing our work published and holding our work physically in our hands. Now? Good news is everyone gets a chance. Bad news is everyone gets a chance.

Before self-publishing took off, I was not a fan of the whole idea. The reason? I knew the problems it was going to create. We were opening a door we could never close.

When we had gatekeepers, there was an assumed standard. To say we were “published authors” actually meant something. Now? It means next to nothing.

Great you’re a published author. So is my cat.

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir...

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir…

With barriers to entry removed, we’ve created a problem with public perception when it comes to how they view our product—BOOKS and by association? Us (authors).

Perception is Reality

Ever heard the saying “Power perceived is power achieved”? Works for value too. “Value perceived is value achieved.” Therein is a lot of our problem. The sheer volume of books paired with the ability for everyone to be published has diminished the perceived value of our product. It is now up to authors to actively demonstrate value to the consumer.

See, in the “olden days” a book alone meant something. A book had inherent value. A book in and of itself represented more than just a story. A physical book in your hand represented countless other authors who tried and failed, but this author, this author got an agent, landed a contract and was…published. This author was worth a publisher’s investment. This book was worth shelf space at a bookstore.

Fast-forward into the digital age and now what is a book? Heck, what is a “real” author?

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Since self-publishing was not a viable model until very recently, most of your average consumers really had no idea it existed…until now. These days, even regular people, if you say, “I am a published author.” The next question often will be, *weird face* “Yeah but are you self-published?”

This is because the very nature of the product has changed. Now in a world of infinite “shelf space” with no real barriers to entry, anyone can be published and the public has caught on to that. So “books” mean far less to them than ever before and for good reasons.

I am not here to pick on self-published authors because I am one. I have actually published all three ways (traditional, indie and self-pub). Sometimes, there are excellent business reasons to self-publish.

For me? I had one of the top agents in NYC. I was with Russ Galen. Love Russ. Great agent. But it turned out that a social media book just was not a good fit for traditional publishing. Russ worked his tail off because he saw a book like mine was necessary.

Though my agent loved my book, traditional publishing was at that time, simply not as open to the idea as Russ was. So? I published on my own. But Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World was guided and had the oversight of the best set of eyes in New York. I hired the best cover designer in the industry and the best interior designer and formatter money could buy.

Meaning? Not all self-published books are junk.

Problem is? Too many of them are.

What does all this mean? It means that twenty years ago selling a book was very different than selling a book today. Customers had a far different perception of the product twenty years ago.

Why the Struggle?

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

One of the reasons writers are struggling and will continue to struggle is that everyone thinks they can write.

See, the arts have always been vulnerable to people, consumers, corporations, etc. taking advantage of us. There is nothing new about that. But, for musicians, it’s different. The average person at least recognizes that they can’t play a guitar like Slash, the piano like Billy Joel or sing like Beyonce. The regular consumer for the most part doesn’t believe they can do what the musician does.

Now? We writers are in a real pickle. A lot of people honestly believe that simply having command of your native tongue qualifies you to be a writer. I can’t count the number of times I have heard people say to me, “I’ve always wanted to write a book. I just never had the time.” As if TIME is the ONLY factor separating that person from George R.R. Martin.

Could you imagine us saying, “Yeah I have always wanted to cut open a person’s head and do surgery. But wow I just never had the time.”

Before self-publishing, sure folks believed they could write a book, but they didn’t all believe they had what it took to get published. So at least we had that in our favor.

But now that everyone has the ability to claim the title, “published author” let’s just say we have to approach our careers very differently because “When everyone is special then no one is.”

Books Are No Longer Enough

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala

When I first started this blog years ago I said this would happen and here we are. We have to have a brand and a platform capable of driving sales. It is not enough to have a book. Even if you want to traditionally publish, it doesn’t matter. Agents won’t even look at you of you don’t have a platform and for good reasons.

Platform and Brand Aids in Discoverability

There are millions of books for sale. Millions of choices and this is overwhelming for consumers. Our greatest enemy is obscurity.

Before the digital age, shelf space was limited and finite. Thus, the infinite shelf space of the web is a double-edged sword for authors.

If you read my post The Ugly Truth About Publishing then you know that one of the major problems created by the arrival of the megastores like Borders and Barnes & Noble was that they didn’t leave authors on the shelves long enough to cultivate an audience. Also, since shelf space was limited, authors no longer had their backlists available and this seriously impacted the earning ability of many writers.

The Digital Age helped this tremendously. Now, a new writer can publish a good book and maybe it only sells a handful of copies. But, because there is no expiration date for it being on the shelf, the writer has time to cultivate an audience and be discovered.

I had this happen with a writing duo who bought my first social media book. Saffina Deforges and Mark Williams (her coauthor and silent partner) went from selling a couple of books a month to selling a hundred of thousand copies in only a few months and breaking all kinds of records. Sugar & Spice, a book no agent would rep and no one would publish went from complete obscurity to one of the biggest selling e-books in UK history.

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Same book that sat at #1,372,760,092 on Amazon later shot to #1 in multiple categories. Same book that sold no copies later broke records. Only difference was they applied my methods and gained discoverability using social media.

What good is a book no one knows about?

Even traditional publishers appreciate discoverability is their problem too. Borders and B&N in their greed wiped out the indie bookstore ecosystem. Borders then imploded and B&N has experienced record contraction. Even if you go into one of the handful of remaining B&Ns it’s a lot of books to sift through and you want consumers to find your book, you will need a brand.

Books Have an Image Problem & Brands Can Fix That

Remember a book no longer holds inherent value.

Because the concept of “books” has been contaminated with so much bad writing, now the author also has to be part of the package. Told you guys we were really the oldest profession😉 .

I have my contest that I hold every month to encourage you guys to comment. It’s my way of giving something back and nudging you out of your shyness. But I’ve gotten 20 page samples that were so bad I nearly could not finish. But when I sent the pages back, dripping RED…the author responded with, “Well, my publisher loved it and it’s being released.”

…and the other half of that sentence is—being released into the world and onto the unsuspecting public.

There are ways to counter this with the product. We write better books. Seek people who will be truly critical. Hire real editors. Invest in good formatting, covers, etc. The problem is, no matter how good the book is? It won’t matter these days. Until that book is in someone’s hands, all that is moot.

Fortune Favors Those Who Hustle

So branding is going to aid your audience in finding your work (they can judge you later). It’s no longer a nice little extra. It is mandatory if you want to make it in this business. One of the reasons I am a huge fan of authors having a blog is that it helps develop trust. Readers need that because a lot of other writers (or “writers”) have betrayed that trust.

You can’t slap lipstick on a pig and call it a super model.

When we claim I am published readers assume a level of quality. Too many writers were so eager for the title they cut corners and didn’t earn the title and relationships with readers have suffered.

Thus, sadly, all of us now feel like we are dating someone who’s broken up with a psycho. We now have this additional burden of proving we are not out to boil their bunnies.

This is where social media comes in and where a blog is super helpful.

These days people are looking for the pros and when they find them they latch on something fierce.

Search engines deliver new fans to me daily, but why I keep fans is because I have content. I don’t just blog when I feel like it. Most of my competition however? Does. Thus, when people find my blog, there are vast archives for them to peruse and get to know me. They learn that I am not “playing author.”

I am doing this for real. I am a pro. I show up no matter what. Also, blogs play to a writer’s strengths. Writers write. People get a taste of your writing voice and can fall in love with it. Even though I blog on writing, social media, pop culture, humor, etc, the unifying feature is my voice. Right now I have a mystery thriller that has been accepted by a traditional publisher. I assume when it is for sale, y’all might give it a go because you enjoy the blog. It is far simpler to go with who you know and like.

By reading this blog you learn so much about me as an author. The writing is clean. It isn’t riddled with typos. It’s coherent. It’s fun. It’s engaging. I’m using my blog to earn your trust. If I earn your trust here? Far easier to then ask for the sale because I have actively demonstrated I am valuing your time. You spend time with me and TIME WITH LAMB = TIME WELL SPENT.

Those who come across my blog and don’t feel time with me is time well spent, well they are clearly brain damaged and have bad fashion sense not my audience. My blog has done us both a favor. My voice connected me with the unusually good-looking and intelligent people out there who are my audience and weeded out the secret nose-pickers who would have possibly left a bad review except Amazon doesn’t let them review in Crayons.

Anyway…

It’s a great time to be a writer. Focus on writing the best book possible no matter which way you publish. There is no bad way to publish, no wrong way to publish. But you do need a platform if you would like to make money. 

For those interested in learning how to create an author blog, I am holding a class on it this Saturday in my W.A.N.A. International virtual classroom so you can attend from home and at your computer #pantsoptional. The recording of the class comes with purchase. Yes blogging is a very unique form of writing especially when you are blogging to build a fan base for fiction. Also you are going to need time to actually write books. We cover all that. Feel free to peruse the old free archives or pick up my book if you would like to know more.

And for some EXTRA FUN! ME! Hey, don’t feel dumb. I did once write crap too!

What are your thoughts? Are you frustrated that everyone believes they can write a novel? They can’t. But whatever. Are you vexed with the hacks and amateurs? What are your thoughts? Questions? Suggestions for what you’d like to see in upcoming classes?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

And yes, I am a complete and total slacker. December’s winner will be announced later because I seriously had three posts go viral. Great problem to have…but tabulating a winner? Gonna take a little time. Love you *air kiss*

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International.  Blogging for Authors THIS SATURDAY.

Branding for Authors (NEXT SATURDAY). This is your best way to get PAID in the digital age. We have to cultivate that 1000 die hard fans. 

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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95 Comments

How To Become a Lean, Mean, Writing MACHINE

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In my most recent branding and social media book, I talk about blogging and teach how to do it well. I’m a HUGE fan of the blog for a number of reasons. Blogging is fabulous for platform-building, cultivating a readership, and streamlining our writing. Blogging is the most stable form of social media.

Unless the Internet implodes? Blogs will remain. But blogging offers writers a significant edge beyond the platform.

Getting in THE ZONE

When we’re new, it’s tough to filter out the world and “get into the zone” where words begin to flow. We might futz with the coffee machine, check e-mail, tidy the kitchen and do everything but write. If one looks at a lot of the big name writers, many were originally doctors, lawyers and journalists.

Blogging is journalism of The Digital Age.

Many of the most effective, prolific and most highly awarded novelists began in journalism—Jack London, T. Jefferson Parker, Jonathan Maberry are the ones that quickly come to mind.

Journalists possess unique skills that can make us stronger and more successful writers. A journalist can’t wait for the muse to visit to write about that big chemical company fire. They write whether they feel like it or not. They aren’t playing for fun, they’re “playing” for keeps.

Image courtesy of Reuters.

Image courtesy of Reuters.

Many of us are working multiple jobs and serving in numerous roles—caretakers, employees, spouses, parents, grandparents, etc. The world’s job is to stop us from writing. Our ego is our enemy. Our insecurities would love to burn us and our dreams to the ground. Friends and family are often enemy agents. Not being a pessimist, just a pragmatist,

Steve Pressfield calls it The Resistance. Seth Godin calls it Retile Brain. When I started blogging, it took HOURS. I perfected every word, every line. I had the attention span of a gnat with a bad crack habit.

Now? I homeschool, have four cats and a dog and run two companies. When I’m writing, I’m present, vested and bulletproof. I’ve literally continued writing with a kitten scaling my back and Spawn whacking me with a NERF sword while Dora the Explorer blares in the background. It no longer matters.

Right now? I have Shingles. Does it hurt? Like hell…but not right now. I’ve blocked that. I’m writing.

Did this happen overnight? NO. It took practice, but this is why I’m fond of blogging. It can be a warmup. It’s running lines or spending time in the batting cage. It hones our focus and trains us to put on our game face instantly and remain fully in the zone until the play is complete.

Journalists get the story. They can think when bombs are going off and gunfire is all around. They can be pushed, shoved, beaten and only the story matters. When they’re on, they’re ON.

Tighten the Writing

Great journalists learn to hook early, get to the point ASAP, captivate attention completely and then end. We can take a lesson. If we can say it in one sentence, we don’t need five. One powerful word is better than three inferior ones. Journalists cut the fluff and go for the guts. So do superior writers.

The car hurtled west towing a swirl of black exhaust into the light of day. It was low and old, with Baja plates and a loose muffler that dangled and sparked on the dips. ~T. Jefferson Parker Iron River

Look at HOW MUCH information we glean in TWO sentences and how many questions are raised in the reader’s mind. Why are they speeding? The condition of the car. Location. Time of day. Something important is making the driver ignore a muffler that would make the rest of us stop and find a coat hangar or a mechanic. But not THIS driver.

Why?

We are ALL works in progress. I’m always hunting for ways to streamline and say more with less.

Journalists also see details others miss, meaningful details. Blogging will make you notice people and the world in a whole new way. While other writers offer the obvious—“He had dull brown hair, glasses and wore a polyester suit”—we’re offering the meaningful. “He had the kind of face you forgot even while you were still talking to him.” (Daniel Suarez, Daemon).

The Office

The Office

Immaculate Deception

Journalists make deadlines. They ship. Perfection is an illusion. We could all edit our WIPs forever and someone will not like our work. No work will be “immaculate.” That’s a lie. We cannot write books (or blogs) by committee. It’s a good way to go crazy. Just accept not everyone likes what we have to offer. Not everyone likes my blogs (GASP!). They’re too long, too short, too conversational, etc.

I got razed on a Huffington post because I used the word “awesome.” Really?

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Am I going to quit using the most awesome word in this awesome world because one person thinks the word awesome is “unprofessional”? Nope. I think that they should find another awesome blog and have an AWESOME time reading something that appeals more to their ridiculous and boring preferences.

Blogging builds rhino skin and fires out perfectionism. Writers that make a living write a lot. Let go, move on, write more. The great part about blog-training is you’ll write leaner and faster and only get better over time. The last book I wrote? The editors I hired were thrilled because they could edit the meat of my work because the draft (although imperfect) was already clean. 

Yes, there are other ways to train/hone the same skills, but I am all about doing MORE with LESS. Blogging builds the platform, reaches readers and cultivates new fans, all while helping us become better today than we were yesterday.

What are your thoughts? Are you struggling with getting in and remaining in the zone? Find it difficult to filter out distractions? Are you seeing ways you can hook earlier, end stronger? Say less with more? Are you improving when it comes to procrastination or excuses? What other ways have you trained yourself to be a better writer?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Back to School!

Upcoming Classes: NEW!!! Going Pro Series

Going Pro Craft, Going Pro SocialMedia/Branding, Going Pro Business, Going Pro All the Way! (ALL THREE).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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111 Comments

Suck It Up & Writer Up—Preparing for Greatness

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Social media doesn’t work. Blogging doesn’t sell books. We’ll have to put out massive amounts of time and effort for no pay-off. We’ll have to learn HTML and how to manipulate algorithms to succeed and this is all for nothing. If we blog, we must write Pulitzer-quality content, but don’t bother. No one will read it, anyway.

Social media and blogging are the most soul-sucking, life-draining tasks we’ll ever have to do as authors. Quit while you can. If you aren’t already a mega-best-selling author, no one will care about you, your work or your blog.

Feel inspired?

Unless off the grid traveling, I’m always engaged with social media. I keep my “finger” on the pulse of what’s happening in my platform. Over the weekend, a Twitter follower shared an article and asked me for my thoughts.

I won’t even bother linking to the article because my goal here isn’t to put anyone down. The author of the article clearly felt overwhelmed, exhausted and disillusioned and that’s par for the course in what we do.

I can appreciate how dreadful the writer who wrote this post must feel. In fact, I never wanted to be a social media expert. I wanted to write novels. But, early on, when attending conferences and reading blogs from experts, I could see where their advice was headed.

While these experts meant well and truly wanted to help, I believed their approach was more likely to turn writers into cutters than to sell truckloads of books. I knew social media would be the ultimate game-changer, so I put aside my fiction and set a new course.

Are They Wrong?

We can debate right and wrong all we want. I feel there are likely people who use algorithms, automation, promotion, contests, newsletters and technology and are very successful at it. But this isn’t a One Size Fits All World. There are millions of people who believe in living a vegan lifestyle and actively try to convert me.

Granted, I’ve never met a veggie I didn’t love, but the simple fact is I have so many food allergies this diet would kill me. I’m not particularly a meat-eater (Psst, Don’t tell the other Texans.) But, with horrible allergies to gluten, soy, legumes and most nuts? Going vegan is an option that would make me ill, weak, and leave me malnourished.

Does this mean all the vegans of the world are wrong? Well, that’s really not what we are here to discuss. It’s an anecdote to make my point.

Here’s another while we’re here.

In college, I had friend who had the same go-to-diet every time she gained weight. Stop eating, start smoking and drink lots of Dr. Pepper. Granted, it was tempting in those years to do The Marlboro-Dr. Pepper Diet, myself. I struggled with my weight despite many, many hours at the gym and eating healthy (I didn’t realize I was allergic to gluten and dairy and that’s why I remained “fluffy.”)

It was gut-wrenching to see her svelte and thin while I wore stretchy pants. But, deep down, I knew The Marlboro-Dr. Pepper Diet was flawed. It worked short-term, but I knew it would have long-term, devastating consequences.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Zoetnet

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Zoetnet

This is how I feel about social media. WANA is a balanced approach to social media that works with the strengths of a writer. I imagine most of you aren’t doing this “writing thing” until your dream job in high-pressure sales comes along. But WANA is not The Marlboro-Dr. Pepper Diet. You might not see big results for a long time, but your platform will be fun, healthy, and stable.

Thinking Long-Term

Recently, I’ve started the P90X program (I started it once before then gave myself EPIC tendonitis pushing a crappy mower and working in the yard). I had to stop and do yoga for about a year to allow my joints to heal enough to try again. Due to my food allergies, I already have a fabulous diet. In fact, when I went to the doctor a year ago at a Size 16 and 180 pounds, I brought my food journal and exercise journal for the previous six months.

The doctor was floored. Unless I was lying or had something hormonal going on (Thyroid?) someone with this lifestyle should NOT have been 5’3″ and 180 pounds.

I was working out, no alcohol, no sugar, GF, dairy-free, non-GMO, organic, no soy, good carbs and yet I was FIFTY pounds overweight. They did an extensive blood panel and I was textbook perfect health—aside from having three @$$es when I should have only had one. The doctors were puzzled  and so was I.

Knowing my history with food allergies, I cut out eggs and my weight began to drop. Then stopped. And there was another thing that disturbed me. I’ve always been someone who easily put on muscle, but I had no tone. NO muscle. Sure I was in a Size 6-8, but I was soft despite being active.

So, I revisited the P90X and, before starting, I calculated how many calories their plan wanted me to ingest.

2400 CALORIES? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND??????

But, I figured I’d done it my way long enough, why not try? For me, the biggest challenge has been the eating. What I’m eating is the same, just A LOT MORE and MUCH MORE FREQUENTLY. I’ve had my mind screaming, You’re eating too much! You’re going to be back at a Size 16! 

But, I tried it…and have lost roughly a pound a day. Also, I felt these lumps after a few days. OMG. Tumors? No, MUSCLES. I’m finally getting definition in my arms, shoulders and back.

And sure, 2400 calories is easy if we are eating garbage. But try getting 2400 calories of green veggies, lean protein, and limited complex carbs. Last night, I made my final chicken breast and kale and it was so hard to eat, because I’ve been in a bad habit of not eating enough.

But what do I want? Do I want to keep wearing a Medieval Torture Device (Spanx) to keep my tummy tucked in and back-fat smoothed down? Do I want to keep hiding my beefy arms under cardigans? Do I want to keep relying on caffeine for energy? No. So, in my mind, Suck it up, Buttercup.

Our bodies and our platforms reflect what we feed them and how often. Starvation and junk yield weak and ill. Thus, we always should ask, “What am I feeding my writing/platform?”

THIS?

THIS?

Or THIS?

Or THIS?

At first, it might not be easy. Just like clean-eating, it might take time for the digital “taste-buds” to catch up (and even crave) the wholesome stuff over the empty junk. This is a process.

Our Author Platform is a Living Thing

WANA platforms are designed to be organic and grow as you grow. They don’t rely on algorithms, automation or technology. They are immune to fads and work on any social site we choose. How?

Platforms cannot grow and thrive long-term on empty-calories automation and algorithms. We must be present and vested. There needs to be a human behind the tweets and posts. People sense automation and they either ignore it or resent it.

And sure, filling out a bunch of automation ahead of time seems easier, but it’s the digital equivalent of The Marlboro-Dr. Pepper Diet. Short-term we might feel spiffy, but later? BLURGH.

Once the short-term wears off, we’re left exhausted, worn out, angry, grumpy and eventually will fail to see results at all.

Want Your Blog to Grow? FEED IT FREQUENTLY

When P90X tells me to eat every 2-3 hours, it’s a hassle. I won’t lie. I’ve never been a breakfast-eater, probably because most breakfast foods were poison for so long (eggs, dairy, wheat). When I started this, I literally had to force myself to eat when I wasn’t hungry.

Good thing, though, is that P90X isn’t asking me to sit down to a seven-course meal 6 times a day. It can be three ounces of chicken and a cup of veggies, an apple, a protein bar, a handful of almonds. Small, meaningful meals regularly and consistently for long-term results.

The same can be said of blogging. In my book, I teach how to blog in a way that is very easy and will connect to readers. In fact, it can take as little as 15 minutes a day. Why? I’m not asking you to serve up an article worthy of The New York Times. I’m asking for the digital handful of almonds.

The same goes for any platform. We can tweet a handful of times a day, five days a week and that’s plenty. We can post two or three times a day during the week on Facebook. That’s plenty. Will we see earth-shattering results Week One? Likely not. But good choices over time accumulate into major results.

I love you guys and I sincerely want for you to succeed. Whether we like it or not, social media is our lifeline. It’s been one of the single largest factors for more authors earning money off their work. Thus, if we need this platform for long-term success, we need to feed it good stuff regularly for long-term health and fitness.

Writer Up—No One Can Do This FOR Us

Just like I can’t outsource my health and my body, we can’t outsource our platform. Promotional companies and PR firms simply no longer have the power they used to in a world ruled by Media Gate Keepers who stemmed information flow. Are they valuable? Sure, but we have to do the building first. They can’t do it for us.

I’d love to pay some gym bunny to do my workout for me. Can I pay her do the squats, crunches, stairs and burpees and magically my whittle my butt down to something bikini-worthy? Would that not be COOL? No work on my part, just fork out money and wait for RESULTS.

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way at the gym or on-line.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.

We need to Writer Up and show up. And to continue the analogy, I wish I looked as awesome as those folks on my P90X DVDs. Sadly, I probably resemble a chain-smoking Water Buffalo with a hangover. I can’t do all the reps. I have to take it easy in places to avoid flaring up my tendonitis. Some moves? I can’t even use weights. It is a sad…sad……..sad sight.

It may be pitiful, but it isn’t permanent😉.

I don’t have to do all the reps and all the moves. I merely have to show up. So much of social media is simply showing up. That simple. But simple isn’t always easy. My early blogs were just as ugly as these early workouts. But, I kept showing up and it made me faster, leaner and stronger. Success in anything? We can’t pay for it or wait for it we must work for it.

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

There are NO Short-Cuts to ANY PLACE Worth Going

I’d love to come up with a “Social Media Shake-Weight.” You know, some goofy “fast-results” system I could sell for BIG cash. Unfortunately, I have a conscience and vested interest in your success as writers and as people. I can’t hand you a fancy algorithm or Guaranteed 20 Step Plan to be a NYTBSA. 

Why?

Because I know many of you possess the talent to take you over the moon, but it will be character that will keep you there. I’m not in the bottle-rocket business. I want to ignite stars that burn for generations.

Social media is more than selling books, it’s learning to forge relationships, be positive even when the world is caving in, showing up when you want to stay in bed, doing the work when no one notices any results and thinks we are fools. Social media, blogging and writing teach us patience, tenacity, flexibility, self-discipline and to keep pressing for what we say we want.

It would be easy to be a writer if all we had to do was finish a book and then hand cash to a promo team to make us zillionaires. But that isn’t reality. This business is tough. It weeds out the weak, the self-centered, the impatient, the undisciplined and those who are writing for the wrong reasons or who complain, whine and are unwilling to sacrifice. Yet, on the positive side, social media, blogging and writing rewards the faithful, the diligent, the committed, the humble, the giving and the kind.

In the end? We are not alone. Yes, we need a platform, but no one said you had to do it by yourself. That’s what WANA is all about.

What are your thoughts? Do you get overwhelmed? Do you think you need to do a lot of EVERYTHING and it’s leaving you burned out? Have you learned to be faithful with baby steps? I know I am still working on that. Do you feel pressured? Like nothing you do matters? Or, have you come to that place where you’re willing to Writer Up?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World

March’s WINNER—Christina Delusions of Humor

Please e-mail me your 20 pages (5000 words) in a WORD document to kristen at wan a intl dot com. Or a synopsis (750 words MAX) or a query letter (250 words). Congratulations!

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113 Comments

Blogging for Authors, and How a Banana Slicer Saved My Marriage

Image via Myndi Shafer WANA Commons

Image via Myndi Shafer WANA Commons

Whenever I teach writers about blogging, my first challenge is to talk them off the ledge from panic. What do I TALK about? I have no IDEAAAAASSSS!

*breathes into paper bag*

And I truly understand this panic, because a lot of social media experts advise writers to blog in a way that is very left-brain.

Write about writing.

Write about the industry.

Write about your process.

Write about your research.

Write about your books.

Write essays.

Write about getting an agent.

Conduct interviews.

Do book reviews.

Yet, here’s the thing, writers (especially fiction writers) are CREATIVE people. We are storytellers. When we blog merely on information, we engage the left-side of the brain, but our fiction engages the RIGHT side of the brain.

Why are we trying to build a following/fan base for a right-brain product with a left-brain TOOL?

Craft, the industry, our process, our research are our tools for our art, but they ARE NOT our art. Readers, or potential readers ARE NOT interested in the tools of our trade, rather they want to see how we USE those tools. Regular people (readers) are interested in the art, which is merely the unique “set of eyes” that permits writers to see what others can’t (but secretly wish they could).

EVERY product marketed uses the right side of the brain, from razor blades to duct tape. Madison Avenue wants us to see Michelin tires and think safety. They want cheap body wash to give us an “organic experience”, or why else pay an attractive actress to go all When Harry Met Sally with soap and a loofah on prime-time TV?

If virtually EVERY product sold uses emotion, then why do we think we are going to get traction pumping out a constant stream of information?

Writers are not, per se, experts at teaching craft or discussing changes in the industry. We are artists. A writer’s expertise is looking at the world in a unique way mere mortals can’t. THAT is what readers (fans) gravitate to. They rely on us to focus in on something they would have walked right past and make that unexceptional object or event magical.

Writers look at ordinary things in extraordinary ways. Want to be a great writer? Pay attention, REAL attention to the world around you and get good at seeing/and selling with artist eyes. Great blogging uses the world as your muse…JUST LIKE YOUR FICTION.

The best examples of this technique (that I’ve witnessed) are some of the people who leave reviews on Amazon. There are reviews that go viral simply because a reviewer had some fun (maybe a writer by trade or a regular person moonlighting as a writer for a brief moment). They took the time to elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary…and people LOVE reading what they have to say because they are FABULOUS storytellers.

I selected these entries from this banana-slicer review at Amazon, which is just page after page of gasping-for-air-clutching-one’s-sides-delight. I think I may have found my kindred spirits here. But watch how they take something so vanilla and unmemorable and turn it into something you can’t wait to share…by using the power of story.

And frankly, these reviews make me want to buy stuff. I actually just BOUGHT the Hutzler banana slicer even though I am allergic to bananas. Why? Because, I know when I’m having a bad day, I will be able to retrieve my slicer from my kitchen drawer and get a really good laugh. I am so grateful for these armchair artists, and honored to share their writing here. I hope you will go give them the 5 star reviews they deserve…and maybe buy a banana slicer to save your marriage, too.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20,689 of 20,850 people found the following review helpful.

5.0 out of 5 stars No more winning for you, Mr. Banana! March 3, 2011

By SW3K

For decades I have been trying to come up with an ideal way to slice a banana. “Use a knife!” they say. Well…my parole officer won’t allow me to be around knives. “Shoot it with a gun!” Background check…HELLO! I had to resort to carefully attempt to slice those bananas with my bare hands.

99.9% of the time, I would get so frustrated that I just ended up squishing the fruit in my hands and throwing it against the wall in anger. Then, after a fit of banana-induced rage, my parole officer introduced me to this kitchen marvel and my life was changed.

No longer consumed by seething anger and animosity towards thick-skinned yellow fruit, I was able to concentrate on my love of theatre and am writing a musical play about two lovers from rival gangs that just try to make it in the world. I think I’ll call it South Side Story. Banana slicer…thanks to you, I see greatness on the horizon.

10,707 of 10,801 people found the following review helpful.

5.0 out of 5 stars Saved my marriage July 30, 2012

By Mrs Toledo

What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn’t already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone…. this is one of the greatest inventions of all time. My husband and I would argue constantly over who had to cut the day’s banana slices. It’s one of those chores NO ONE wants to do! You know, the old “I spent the entire day rearing OUR children, maybe YOU can pitch in a little and cut these bananas?” and of course, “You think I have the energy to slave over your damn bananas? I worked a 12 hour shift just to come home to THIS?!”

These are the things that can destroy an entire relationship. It got to the point where our children could sense the tension. The minute I heard our 6-year-old girl in her bedroom, re-enacting our daily banana fight with her Barbie dolls, I knew we had to make a change. That’s when I found the 571B Banana Slicer. Our marriage has never been healthier, AND we’ve even incorporated it into our lovemaking.

THANKS 571B BANANA SLICER!

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars my life is changed forever, January 9, 2013

By

TheMightyBahamutSee all my reviews

This review is from: Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer (Kitchen)

All my life I have been wondering how to make a banana into small bite sized pieces.I spent my childhood in a basement practicing on smaller fruits like grapes before graduating to plums and even small peaches.

My parents became concerned when household fruits would turn up missing, and the day they found me hiding in the bushes enthralled with my dissection of a large apple, they decided I had a problem.

As I reached adulthood my need to slice open fruits was becoming unbearable. I would gaze longingly at bananas in the store, wondering how best to slice open their delicate flesh so I may feel their moist sticky insides. I made my first clumsy attempt around age 25.

When no one was looking I snatched a small banana from its companions, and brought it to my basement. It was a disaster, my knife-work just left a smashed and uneven mess, so I buried it in the woods lest anyone stumble upon my grizzly handiwork.

Finally I found the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer. I used it on the next unattended banana I saw, and discovered I could now cut up and dispose of an entire banana in one swift movement! I can do it in mere seconds, or slowly lower the slicer, prolonging the ecstasy I feel seeing the bananas flesh torn open.

Thank you Hutzler 751, because of you my basement walls are lined with the peels of hundreds of bananas, and I am currently working on a mask made from the peels of all my victims sewn together.

What are your thoughts? Opinions? What is the best item you’ve ever seen reviewed? Do you think this might be a good way to practice those blogging muscles? Go write these kinds of reviews. Hey, it helps the product AND gives us practice. Something to noodle over at least😀.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, 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 once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NOTE: December’s winner will be announced Monday.

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of January I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. 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 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.

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70 Comments

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