Tag Archives: blogging

Are you a Darcy?

“I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds. We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the éclat of a proverb.” Elizabeth Bennet

Yesterday’s post was so warmly received by my friends, and I’ve been on this train of thought about why I don’t blog more often–besides the issue of time and the fact that it generally takes me an hour or two to compose just what I want to say. But isn’t that part of the whole thing? Rarely do I post “just anything.”

So I was thinking about that this morning and it went through my head in such a way that I thought, That’s from something.

Sidebar: With reference to the Talent Chronicles, I have two characters who live in my head who are very fond of quotes from movies, books, and lyrics. One you may know, Maddy, who will later be nicknamed Download, for her ability to know all of a persons thoughts and memories with a single touch, as well as her ability to quickly categorize and access this mass of information she acquires. The other doesn’t have a proper name and is nicknamed Recall (because he has…wait for it…perfect recall). He doesn’t have a story yet. All I know about him is that he’s an unpleasant, sardonic sort of guy and he and Maddy participate in Ultimate Jeopardy Fighting Champion grudge matches in a TV room where the Talents hang out.

So anyway, back to the story, I said that seemed like a quote from something, and Maddy told me it was from the Pride and Prejudice movie, and of course Recall reminded her, in his snotty,  intellectual way, that that was a book first. Oh yeah, right.

Well, while they were sniping at each other, I went on to think about something from my childhood that I thought I would share, and see if this rings any bells with any of my friends here. The evil I wish to speak of?

Class participation.

If reading that was followed in your head by a dum dum dummmmm...then maybe you’re with me on this. When I was in school, this was my feeling about class participation:

I’d be sitting there, bored, and the teacher would be asking all kinds of obvious questions. Now you know how we tend to ask kids things we already know the answers to? And as a kid you tend to be, like, duh in your head before you answer the question anyway. And then at some point you realize this is just a style of communication that doesn’t really require response, and you just assume that all these questions are rhetorical and take up the nod and smile, yeah, I follow kind of look.

So school is totally like this. The teacher is standing there asking all these questions to which everyone knows the answers. Questions that are clearly rhetorical because why would she need responses to things she must realize we know because we already went over it. And the question-mark lilt at the end of her sentences, as well as the pauses, are really just that style of communication that asks, you’re with me, right? We all get this?

Nod and smile.

Okay, so what I never really understood in all the time I was in school, was that those questions were not rhetorical. That they were meant to be answered. The fault in my logic was that I assumed that the answers were obvious to everyone in the classroom.

So here’s the thing: not only am I totally bored, I’m constantly angry at show-offs raising their hands and yammering the answers I don’t need to hear. If we could all just nod and smile and let the teacher GET ON WITH IT, we could move on to something new. But these kids who constantly have to answer questions that don’t need answering, just to show off that they know stuff, when DUH, WE ALL KNOW THIS STUFF BECAUSE, DUH, are gumming up the works and making this drag on FOREVER.

Yeah, my bad.

As a young child, it was never that I was afraid to answer in class. I didn’t develop those sorts of problems until later. I just flat out did not see the point because I saw the world only through my own experience.

But, the point is not how closed-minded I have been, or how bored and angry school made me. What got me thinking about this was that line “unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room.”

Even though I now understand better about what was going on in those classes, the style of my personality I continue to carry with me is this unwillingness to draw attention to myself unless I have something to say that will amaze the whole room. Which is why you rarely see me blog unless I have something to say. And why I find it so hard to stick to a blogging schedule because I just can’t always be deep and interesting on demand.

And, I’m sorry to have to admit that there’s still a part of me that gets annoyed at those whose yammering doesn’t reach me in a meaningful way and I go away feeling like my time’s been wasted. Not being that bitchy person is something with which I continue to struggle, but, man, my friends will tell you that I lose that struggle a lot.

When I went through that blogging class at the end of last year, it just felt like I was being exposed to a LOT of enthusiasm and encouragement to just go forth and yammer, even if you have nothing to say, because you need to get out there and make noise.

And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!
That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE” -Dr. Seuss, speaking ofThe Grinch

And to me, it was that same old resentment. That same old thought process that unless you have something meaningful to add, something that will amaze the whole room, just hush up so we can get on with life.

And that is just soooo wrong. I know that. I get that this is my issue and that no one makes me read anything. For this reason, especially, I enjoyed Roni Loren’s recent post about freeing yourself from the blogging quid pro quo. Which I have done, and feel only mildly guilty about.

So anyway, I guess the reason for the post is just to find out if any of you remember being like this in school. (I already know Kait was assuredly one of those Hermione types–it’s okay, most of my best friends were then, too.) Did it piss you off? Do you still have remnants of that in the style of you? What about blogging? Do you feel that you can and should just make anything interesting, or do you save your blogging for when you really have something you want to talk about?

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3 tips on using fiction skills to craft more engaging blog posts

Recently I did some complaining about the blogging/social media whirl, and have been doing some thinking about what I like to read, what I want to see more of, what posts of mine get the best engagement, etc. I’m coming around to something in my head right now. I don’t want to say writing is writing–there are somewhat different skill sets involved in blogging and novel writing. And yet they share certain commonalities.

1. Voice

Voice is important. For a lot of readers, voice isn’t a deal-breaker. If you have the ability to craft a great story, if it’s full of artful twists and turns of plot or stunning revelations of character, it may not matter that the language itself sounds like any other story on the shelf. And, you know, if you’re that awesomely talented at those aspects of craft, more power to ya.

Voice can make a special connection between reader and writer, can draw a reader into a type of story she might not relate to just because she relates to the voice. The way I might not have been drawn into the Stephanie Plum’s story had Janet Evanovitch’s New Jersey style writing voice not made me feel so much at home in her world. (Just the way my writing voice seems to push some readers away because I’m still getting comments that they’ve never heard anyone swear as much as my characters. Yet that’s where I come from and I hope it speaks to readers who come from backgrounds similar to mine. But I digress.)

Mostly, though, voice is just about being unique. About making the writing stand out in the mind of the reader, even when the topic is one they read before. It is, perhaps, even more important in blogging than in fiction just because we so often discuss popular topics–the things everyone is talking about–and because establishing a blog following can be so much about personality.

The best advice with regard to voice is to be yourself. You are unique, so if you don’t sound unique, maybe you just haven’t really found yourself yet. Keep writing. Force yourself to be yourself–only moreso.

2. Gifts for the reader

Does each post offer the reader something of value?

In fiction, every scene needs to offer a gift to the reader. There needs to be something new for the reader to unwrap and examine. A reason to be glad she spent the time reading through it. She needs to feel like she got something out of it.

This is why readers get upset with scenes that seem to be just marking time, or just put in because of course the character’s got to eat, right? No, if it’s “on camera,” if it takes up the reader’s time, it should be important.

If you’re taking up the time of your blog readers, I’m just sayin’ try to make it worth their while. Offer something of value to THEM.

I think a lot of us write with the idea that maybe if this is a thing for us, maybe it will be a thing for something else. And that’s a great start. Focus your thinking on HOW you’re going to make this something for them and see if that doesn’t make more engaging stuff come out of your fingertips.

If you have something you’re trying to work out or something you need to get off your chest, there’s a way to do that in which you’re sort of doing it AT someone, and there’s a way to include them. Figure out the latter.

3. Relatable Characters, vivid settings

The main character on your blog is you. Do you write yourself as a relatable protagonist? Characters readers relate to are those with both positive and negative characteristics, and they also care about something. Don’t assume that you always have the same group of people reading each post. Does each post show aspects of your personality? Does each post show that you care about something? Does it convey some kind of emotional quality?

This is sort of an odd thing, but it happens. When we’re writing fiction, we know we need to set the scene and that we need to describe the supporting cast. But then we get on the blog to tell an anecdote and we say “my dog” “my kid” “my co-worker” “my best friend” etc, as though other people are just going to get that.

I mean, what makes for a richer story, if I tell you about something my boss did, or if I give you a few lines about my boss who couldn’t find her own ass if you paid her which is ironic since it’s her favorite storage place for her head, and then tell you about how something went missing and I was the one who got blamed for it? If I tell you about something my co-worker said, or if I describe how she’s 50 and dresses anime school-girl chic and how I was trying not to stare at the end of her fake eyelash that was fluttering dangerously while she was saying it?

Don’t be afraid to use your fiction skills to tell your story. Claire Legrand did this beautifully in a recent post on her blog in which she took us back to her childhood and made herself a completely real character along with her kick-ass Aunt Martha. If you need an example, that’s how it’s done.

The reader wasn’t there. She doesn’t know you, your supporting cast, or where the event took place. And those things do add to story. The more of that you leave out, the more the story takes on a “maybe you had to be there” quality. Because the reader’s not there. Too much of what’s in your head never made it to the screen.

If you wrote about something and didn’t get the reaction you expected, go back and take another look.

  • Did you engage the reader with a unique voice and perspective? Are you human and real. or hiding behind a barrier of propriety?
  • Did you offer the reader something of value? Is there some important lesson for her, or the value of encouraging her to share her experience with the topic?
  • Did you use your fiction skills to make your story vivid and real? Did you write three-dimensional characters the reader can relate to and care about?

Some thoughts about getting comments

First of all, realize that comments are wonderful. They make you feel like you’re doing your job right and everyone appreciates them. But if you’re not getting comments, that’s no reason to feel like you’ve failed or whatever. There are TONS of reasons people don’t comment and it doesn’t mean no one read what you wrote or got something out of it. Just keep going and work on your blog craft until you are such a bad-ass blogger people can’t help but comment.

A lot of people who have spent a lot of time in online groups are trained out of saying things like “me too” and “I agree.” So even if they’re really nice people, they will not take up space with a comment if that’s all they have to say. These people need to feel they’re adding something of value to a discussion. Did your post spark discussion? Because if all you wrote was a report of how many words you wrote this week or how many days you wrote, if you didn’t explore anything beyond your own productivity, most people aren’t going to respond to that.

Writing Rule #1: It’s all about HER pleasure

If you write romance, you know this, right?

I see a lot of self-centeredness. I see it when I’m reading samples of books that aren’t selling. I see authors telling me what they want me know without giving any thought to whether or not I’m going to be entertained. As far as they’re concerned, I can wait to be entertained until they get done laying their groundwork.

I really can’t wait.

So their book feels, to me, like a selfish exercise (which everything in writing and life probably is, to some extent). They’re writing, not to entertain me, but because they want to write a book, dammit.

Which is cool, it’s a free country. But I’m going to buy a book from a person who thinks about my pleasure, who re-reads what they’ve written and asks themselves: am I leaving this in because I think it’s terribly clever or does it really add to the reader’s experience?

It’s the same thing with blogging. Most people don’t want to read someone else’s self-indulgent personal stuff. When it seems like that’s what blogs are about and people still flock to them, look harder, and figure out what that writer did to make it about something deeper, something that entertained or made people think or feel.

Am I saying this because I’m the mac daddy shit and the perfect blogger and novelist? Aw, hell no. Come on. Did I used to write boring-ass project reports and word count updates? You bet I did. Do I still sometimes write completely self-indulgent posts on which few people can find something to comment about? Sure I do. Do I have stuff in my books that could have been done better? Of course.

But I’m trying. You’re trying. I know, because that’s why you slogged through this post. I appreciate it and hope it was worth the time. Good luck finding your comment-reaping bad-ass blogger within.

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Blog eMags and You

Okay, so this is my newest plan to keep up with my life. I’m picking some blogs that I definitely must keep up with–the ones that I consistently learn from and recommend on Sundays. And I’m picking a few book blogs to tell me what I should be reading so I can try to keep my head in the reading world, as well as the writer world and up my own–

Anyway, the new plan for not spending all day at this, surfing from one thing to another, was to try reading the blogs on my NOOK Color. I don’t like typing on the device a lot (maybe keeping me from some of my tome-like replies), and the browser is slow which may stop me from surfing too much. Still, must-try book samples are only a few clicks away through the NOOK shop. And I can take my daily news with me if I’m going out. Seems like a plan.

My way of doing that is to use Calibre to make a daily magazine of the blogs I’ve selected. I’ve been an ereading device owner for years now, and I’ve always used the Calibre software for ebook management. I can’t say enough about how awesome this completely free package is. I’m going to take you through how to do this. After I’m done, I’m going to talk a bit about something that may be in your blog settings that makes it harder for your readers to read you this way.

the Fetch News button in CalibreIn Calibre, there is a Fetch News feature. It’s a handy button on the top toolbar. When you click the little arrow beside it, you get a dropdown from which you can select “Add a custom news source.” This brings up the window to create your little digest, magazine, whatever you want to call it. It looks like this:

Window for adding a custom news recipe in CalibreIt calls your new source Unknown News Source. Change that to anything you like. I called mine “Blogs.” Ooh, I know. You could also create different magazines for writer blogs, reader blogs, etc. or Blogs1, Blogs2, so that you could go through your must-reads and move on to the next set of if-I-have-time-reads.

At the bottom of the window there’s a bar for the feed URL. Open up your browser, go to your blogs and start finding those URLs. Most people have the little orange RSS icon at least. When you click it, it will usually take you to the feed page where you see a list of recent articles and the option to use a service to subscribe. Just copy the URL that’s in the address bar and paste it into Calibre. Give the feed a title and click the button to add.

When you’re finished adding feeds, click the Add/Update Recipe button. (A recipe for a magazine is what you just built.) Then close. Calibre may keep asking you if you’re sure, even if you’ve saved everything. Just move on.

Click the arrow next to Fetch News again and select “Schedule news download.” You’ll see a long list of languages with numbers beside them. These are prebuilt news recipes. You’re looking for “Custom.” When you click that, it should drop down and display your new recipe. Select that and you’ll see options to choose how often and when your feeds are downloaded and your magazine is built. You can click “Download now” to see what you’re going to get.

Window to schedule download of news recipe in CalibreTo have this happen automatically, you’ll need to leave Calibre running. In order to really exit Calibre, you have to go to your system tray (that “show hidden icons” thingy with the teeny icons), right click it, and exit it. Otherwise it just keeps running even if you close the window in your taskbar. So that’s not hard. When you use Calibre to move things on and off your device, it’s called side-loading. Before devices had wi-fi or Whispernet, this is how it was done. (You know, back in the day, before the NOOK customer service people were born.)

Device buttons in Calibre toolbarUse the appropriate cable with a USB plug on one end (or however you connect) to hook up to your computer and wait for Calibre to recognize the device and sync. You’ll notice new Device and Send to Device buttons appear on the toolbar. You can see that my SD card also shows up because Calibre will let you move things from the computer to either the main memory or SD card. You can also use Calibre to delete items from your device that you’ve finished reading. If you click the device button, you’ll be able to see the items currently residing on the device. Go back to the library by clicking the Library button.

When your magazine has downloaded, it will be in your library with the title you gave the recipe and the date it was downloaded. I just right-click the entry and select “Send to device–>Main memory.” The transfer takes seconds. Be sure to go to your system tray, right-click the USB icon and choose eject so you can safely disconnect without corrupting the transfer. I dunno, I never had problems with that on the Sony Reader, but yanking out the USB on the NOOK Color seems to be a bad idea.

Once it’s set up, this daily ritual should take you about a minute, and then you can run out the door, catch the train and read some blogs. On a device like Sony Reader, I’m pretty sure it just shows up alphabetically in the title list. On the NOOK Color you’ll find it in “My Files,” “Magazines.” The rest of you are on your own.

Why I Can’t Read Your Blog

If your feed is set to set to show only summaries, summaries are what I get in my magazine. Each entry, whether summary or full text, does have a link to the entry on the web (so you can go read more, comment, etc.), but remember that a) I don’t like my browser, b) I don’t always have wi-fi access when I’m reading blogs, and c) there are still tons of readers out there that aren’t even wi-fi enabled.

To check your feed settings in WordPress, go to your dashboard and scroll all the way down the left side menu to “Settings.” Click “Reading.” Right above the Enhanced Feeds heading there are radio buttons for “Full text” or “Summary.” Make sure full text is selected, save the changes, and I’ll be good to go for reading your blog on the go.

Wordpress page for adjusting Reading in Settings

For Kindle Owners

Kindle owners can subscribe to blogs and have them delivered right to the Kindle. Amazon charges a fee for this convenience, and that fee is shared with the blog owner, similar to the way Amazon pays royalties on books. Not that I expect people have been dying to pay for the privilege of reading this blog, but I have added it to the service.  Find it here or click that link and search for some other favorite blog.

It looks like most subscriptions cost 99¢ or $1.99, but I saw nowhere to set a price so I’m guessing Amazon decides. If you’d like to learn more about making your own blog available for Kindle subscription, check out this article from the Savvy Book Marketer and download the PDF tutorial at the end of the post. (Thanks to Kait Nolan for sending me there.)

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#ROW80 and Thoughts on Blogging

So life here is slowly returning to what passes for normal. Last week wasn’t terribly productive as I had a lot of catching up to do in a lot of areas and needed a lot of staring dumbly at the wall time. If you have little kids and a low tolerance for chaos, you know what I’m talking about. But things are better now and this week I found myself faced with the fact that I REALLY have to actually work.

This resulted in a lot of procrastination. But since I had decided to give myself a freakin’ break all around, I was able to allow it to be productive procrastination. I think that when I decide I have to work on JUST THIS AND NOTHING ELSE BEFORE THIS, I end up with more stress and less productivity overall.

I’ve recently been spending more time on my blog. I’m always going around in circles about what I want to do with it and getting it “right,” and like you really care. But I finally came around to some ideas of things I want to cover. I do want to talk about writing and self-publishing because most of you who visit on a regular basis are interested in those things, and often seem to appreciate those posts. Even though they aren’t things that readers are into, and even though they’re not the kind of thing that would draw a reader in or get her to subscribe to the blog, I have no doubt that sharing my experiences and opinions about what works has earned me a lot more support than I can measure. So I’m going to keep up with the posts about writing and self-publishing.

I’ve been trying to blog too frequently, I think, and I just write up a post when I think about it and hit Publish. Now I’m hoping to jump in and write up that post and hit Schedule. And keep those writerly posts for Mondays. Maybe that will keep it from being so feast or faminey around here.

I do absolutely agree with Kristen Lamb–and how can you not?–that readers don’t want to read about writer stuff, and the way to attract readers is to talk more about the kinds of things that readers like in your fiction. Well, it’s easy to get caught up in that expert knowledge trap we talked about the other day. I’ve probably mentioned before that I was caught in that for a long time with regard to the Talents. There’s that bit of wisdom, and it is wise, that says you need to read a lot in the genre you want to write in so that you understand the rules and reader expectation. So I thought that to write about superheroes, I needed to become an expert on comics. Even when I put that aside, I still felt under-qualified to blog  about superheroes on a regular basis.

Just like it was hard to blog about writing before had a book out there to point at and say hey, here’s how I put this into practice. Lately I’ve come to realize that my best posts aren’t the ones where I try to be an expert, they’re the ones where I really personalize what information I have to offer, wrapping it in my own perspective, and feeling less like it’s my turn to stand in front of the class for the oral report and more like we’re all sitting around getting caffeinated and I’m the one sharing for a few minutes before the really hot guy painting the storefront across the way takes off his shirt and I lose your attention.

So in the one day a week reader-oriented (hopefully) posts, I’m talking about what I love in fiction: superheroes, heroism, and/or romance. Those are the things I tend to pay attention to when I read or watch. This may lead to me feeling like I’m reviewing some stuff, which I don’t like to get into, but I’m more trying to think of it as discussing my perspective on a particular facet of the fiction in question, and if I have to include a paragraph or two to gush or whine about the overall fic in general, well, you guys are used to OT babble, so…

We’re in ROW80, and rounds of that are planned throughout the year. So I’m also looking at two more days on the blog for updates. On Sundays, I’ll be combining my update with list of recommended online reading for the week. I don’t have time to read a whole lot of blogs, but sometimes something really stands out and you just think others should read it or might enjoy it. I keep a file on my desktop to make note of those when I read them.

Wednesdays, in case you haven’t figured this out, are for me to be even more self-indulgent than usual. A free day to include in the ROW80 update whatever happens to be on my mind, or not include anything else at all. Today the bloggy stuff is on my mind, along with the fact that our bus driver just told us she’d be coming over 45 minutes earlier starting tomorrow which is going to add more time to my work day (good) and cause less sleep, more morning stress, and take some getting used to (bad). Anyway, a me me me babble day. Witness the babble.

So back to the update: This week’s productive procrastination has allowed me to try out the schedule I had tentatively set for myself, and I now have posts for my topic days scheduled through Feb 4. I’m still spending a lot of time on writing blog posts. I posted the schedule, tinkered in my sidebar a little, gave some thought to what people are looking for when they come to the site, if they can find it, what I’m trying to present and what they see, etc, and I’m pretty satisfied with what I have right now.

Goal #1 has been to spend specific amounts of time on the work. Recently I’ve been suck and fail at that, but I didn’t change my goals because it wasn’t about scoring, it was about continuing to strive for that. This week I’ve been excessive as far as time spent working on problems in the Talent Chronicles world and in Heroes ‘Til Curfew specifically.

Goal #2 has been 3 scenes in Heroes per week. I wrote the first of those three yesterday. I also finished listing everything that was supposed to happen from here forward so that I could identify all my holes and logic problems. A loose outline that allows room to move around is important. But it is amazing to me how it can seem like a solid story and then you get to that part and it’s like–well, that doesn’t really make sense. Why would he do that? Why wouldn’t she just…

Meta-humans are fascinating, but their abilities cause all sort of dilemmas.

So I’ve made copious notes and written all my WTF? questions in pink, and hopefully I’ll be able to draft some of my buds to help me kick ideas around this week because talking things through with someone else really helps me focus, and I often lack focus even though there are no shirtless painters in my neighborhood.

Today’s ROW80 Linky.

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Giveaway: My favorite book marketing how-to guide

ETA: Read on for more about this very helpful book, but please note that this giveaway is over and comments have been closed.

My daughter’s scheduled outpatient surgery (getting a bunch of gum-chewing teeth taken care of because she tried to sock the dentist, even with laughing gas), was canceled due to snow. It’s certainly not a ton of snow by our standards, but for this part of the country, everything has to shut down. I hate snow, I really do, and my daughter told me, “If you hate snow, you hate Christmas.”

But, I really don’t. I’ve “Bah Humbug”ed more than once already, and I’ll do it again, but underneath this stress-ed out exterior, I really do love Christmas. And to prove it, I wanted to give away something I’ve found very useful this year.

Yep, I’m talking about We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb. I talked about this book when I was reading it back in September, but I just got around to writing an Amazon review yesterday. Bad Susan.

I’d like to believe you all hang on my every word and that, when I mention a book, you all run right out and buy it. But hey, you don’t, and this one’s 8 bucks for the Kindle version! And we’re all starving artists, aren’t we? But thanks to the magic of Amazon’s Gift as a Gift button (how much does that rock?) (and my magical Amazon credit card), I can easily offer you this book that I found so helpful, encouraging, and entertaining.

Note that this is the Kindle edition, and is DRM’d, so you’ll have to read it on a Kindle-compatible device or on your computer.

It would be lovely if you’d use the sharing buttons below to mention this to your friends and get more people to check out Kristen’s book, but I’m keeping this simple and all that’s required is that you leave a comment, saying that you’d like to win the book (to distinguish you from the other people who have to comment to gush about how great Kristen is). Let’s have an end to entries at 9am Eastern on Friday, since I’ll have another 1-day giveaway for you on Thursday. That should jog my memory to, you know, pay up. Then I’ll choose one random winner from among the entries. (ETA: it looks like I’ll be doing that other giveaway tomorrow, FYI. Doesn’t affect anything for this one, though, except my ability to remember to hand out a prize.)

And if you already read this book, will you please drop by Amazon and leave a review? Just your 5-star rating (I assume) with the line “I found this book really helpful” or “Great introduction to social media for authors” or something like that. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but ratings really help. In a world of corporate-branding For Dummies and Idiot’s Guide how-to books, let’s help out one of the little guys who deserves it.

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Increasing Your Kindle Rank: Blogging and Social Media

Saturday, I posted about reaching the Kindle top 1000 within 8 weeks of self-releasing my first novel, Hush Money. This post is part of a series in which I’m talking about some things I think helped me get there.

I have pretty much decided that blogging is the thing on which I get the worst ROI (return on investment), as far as my time is concerned. Pretty much every post I write takes more than an hour, often more than two hours. When I look at my blog stats, I can see how many people clicked links from my site to the places where my book is available for purchase. Even on days where I get better-than-normal traffic on the blog, there’s not the kind of clicking of my buy links to my 99cent ebook, of which I get 35cents per download, that’s gonna pay for those hours of work.

But blogging, and all social media activities, are a little more complicated than that, and time spent building and maintaining a network, in whatever way you do it, is about more than a ratio of visits to clicks. For more about the importance of such networking to authors, and a detailed method by which authors can approach it, I highly recommend Kristen Lamb’s book, We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I talked a bit about what’s in the book…here.

I didn’t put the time in on my blog, prior to my book release, to build a good, ready network of readers who were impressed by my brains, curious about my work in progress, and waiting for its release. In fact, I’m still having trouble figuring out what to talk about, and content is inconsistent in both topic and availability. (Hint: if your book’s not out yet, this might be something for you to work on.)

But you know who did? Kait Nolan. When Kait released Forsaken By Shadow, not only did she have a number of readers who were interested in her and knew that it was coming, but she also had a many contacts in the online writing community to approach for a blog tour that exposed her to the networks of, what, thirty different bloggers? In addition to blogging about her writing life, the Shadow and Fang blog focuses on topics of interest to writers: informative articles giving Kait’s perspective on many aspects of craft, as well as on industry news items she reads, and the changes taking place in publishing. This is something she enjoys and has been working on building for the last three years or so.

And I totally benefited from that base when she recommended my book to her readers.

Who else is a good blogger? Book-Crazy Jenn is an example, and one of book bloggers who took the time to share Hush Money with her network. Jenn is an avid reader (I think she’s read over 170 books already this year), and so updates her readers regularly with new books for them to read. She’s full of enthusiasm and warmth, and is a pleasure to read and to work with. She works to develop relationships with authors, which bring them back to her so that she can provide more content of interest to her readers, as well as occasional giveaway items.

And I totally benefited from all her effort when she reviewed Hush Money on her blog, as well as when she published a Q&A we did together. And when she mentioned my name in a post titled: Fangirl, Me?

Do you see where this is going? So you’re not a great blogger…yet. So what? You’re a great fiction writer, right? So buck up, ’cause maybe that’s all you need to be. Do what you can, and then leave the blogging greatness to others and just help them find you.

And then, just take that idea and rubber-stamp it onto other social media. I think it’s important to have some kind of presence, and to try to keep it up to date. After all, the more places you are, the better chance people have to stumble upon you. I have a Facebook profile, but I’m not good at Facebook. I put a little more time into my Facebook (fan) Page because I think it makes more sense to maintain that for people who go out of their way to say they’re interested in that aspect of you. Just because I don’t like Facebook is no reason neglect getting my information to the people who do like it. I do this by having my FB information in Tweetdeck. I do NOT funnel all my tweets to FB. If I were a regular FB user with tweets coming through on my NewsFeed all the time, I think that would really get annoying. But I do use Tweetdeck to send status updates of breaking news to my FB Page when I’m thinking of it without having to actually go to FB. And I try to check the page regularly to respond to any comments. I know the people there can tell that I’m not a FB user, but as long as I don’t make them mad, I think that’s ok.

I treat MySpace the same way, except that my MySpace is a wasteland where I don’t think anyone is listening. I have no idea how it works or how to make friends there. So it’s most just there for informational purposes, should someone happen to stumble across it.

Twitter is the place that I think requires the most hands-on approach. And fortunately, it’s also the easiest and most engaging, once you get into it. I have days where I’m really “on” on Twitter, and others when I have absolutely nothing to say. And still others where I don’t manage to get there at all. One thing I have on Tweetdeck that I want to mention, is a column with a search for my name. You already know when someone’s talking to you with an @mention, but what about when people are talking about you? If you set up a column for your name, you’ll see all those auto-tweets from Goodreads where members have just given you 5 out of 5 stars. So you can RT those if you want, or just send an @reply and say, “Thank you, I’m glad you liked it.” Make friends with people who like your work. They might RT some of your news later on.

And again, with Twitter, it’s not always about the size of your network, but also about the size and quality of your friends’ networks. When @kaitnolan spontaneously decides to send out a great tweet about my book, sometimes people buy. When I ask @zoewinters to RT something important for me, she’s very gracious and always does it right away. People I don’t even know who are just out to support indie writers will RT my tweets and help me sell books. Author Belinda Kroll, aka @worderella is an example of someone who does a lot of spontaneously helpful RTs. So don’t get too down on yourself over your number of followers. Just make friends, be nice to people, and wait for the karma to work its way back to you. (To avoid being a spammy tweeter, maybe check out this recent article on Parajunkee’s View.)

We can’t be everywhere and do everything, but at the same time, isn’t it kind of audacious to decide that readers should work to find you, in the places you’re most comfortable with, because you refuse to maintain any kind of presence in the place they prefer to get their information? I mean, as an author, who’s paying your salary? Just sayin’.

So what are you supposed to take away from this post?

  • You’re probably going to need to suck it up and do this stuff
  • But it’s also not as difficult as it feels
  • Concentrate at least as much on being a mensch as on adding people to your network
  • Get Kristen’s book if you need guidance

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