Blog like No One is Reading?

Seen on Twitter: “Dance like the photo’s not being tagged, Love like you’ve never been unfriended, Tweet like nobody’s following.” @postsecret from @bythebrooks (via @neilhimself).

Don’t you wonder what people have to say if they think no one will read it? Maybe that’s why some people quit blogging. If no one out there is responding, they’re not about to keep putting themselves out there. Blogs have great tracking features to tell you how many people read your post. Plus you can add feeds for subscribers to increase your readability.

But it doesn’t really bring in readers. What you write does. So is what you’re saying interesting enough to hold an audience? Only of people who personally know you? Not even then? Even if you have something interesting, humorous, or noteworthy, you might not capture the audience. Perhaps someone will repost one of your thoughts, but never come back again. [I am recently guilty of this.]

I just don’t read that many blogs. I haven’t yet found the time. It doesn’t mean I won’t find the time, especially if someone shares it directly with me, but my focus is toward writing: blogs slanted that way, books on the topic, books in genres I write, plus the writing and revision of my own work. It’s time consuming. I let it be that way.

Not that I don’t pay attention to my family. That’s where the rest of my time goes.

I’m not really under delusions about how many people read my blog. If I were WordPress would definitely burst my bubble. It’s not about what I’m trying to tell someone else, but it’s an expression of something I want to say. I think a blog ought to be something you want to do. I originally started one because it seemed like the thing writers do – they blog. Some do and some don’t. Some are successful and some aren’t. There is no one way to label a writer or a blog. The expert opinion is to do it if you like it, but that there are plenty of ways to reach an audience other than blogging if that’s the author’s preference.

It’s a long way to say: if you’re reading, thanks. It’s nice to know someone wants to read it. I’d probably still be blogging anyway – but it makes me happy.

Any Digital Scrapbookers Out There? Giveaway!

My Memories has a digital scrapbooking software. My friend Shawna scored a free copy from the company and got another one to give away!

It’s always exciting to first be recognized as a blogger with a giveaway, though we both wonder how a company chooses specific bloggers to participate.

I love how she gives a full review of the software on her site, plus if you buy the software you get a $10 off coupon. How often do you get 25% off something? She doesn’t make any stringent requirements like writing an essay about how much you really need digital scrapbooking software or taking a million random pictures of scavenger hunt options – aren’t you glad I didn’t think up the rules for the giveaway? All you have to do is follow Shawna Skinner Meyer’s blog (she gives options) and follow the company (again, options) and let her know about it.

Don’t let me be the only one to enter. I don’t even scrapbook!

Robot or Guru?

This doesn’t seem like something that can be easily confused. It’s a natural assumption that a robot wouldn’t pass a Turing Test [test your human/robot knowledge here], but how many humans interact the same way – especially in an online setting? When we remove the body language and tone of voice, we lose a great deal in our abilities to communicate. Add on top of that the pressure of being professional and trying to sell a product, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who runs into questions.

I read several different sources when it comes to writing, publishing, and the great ways to get your name out there. I ran into one this week that said (paraphrased) to channel everything you post on a social network to be focused toward your product/platform. I’m struggling with this – because while I do not post whatever I had for breakfast or every stop I made on my day of errands, I have heard from more sources that it’s good to have a dose of color in the blend of blogging and social networking.

That dose of color means part of my personality. Maybe not all of it. It depends on your audience and your platform, I’m sure. What I do know is that I appreciate knowing that there’s something behind the screen that isn’t simply parroting something at random intervals, and I believe that there are a lot of people out there that share my views.

I know I can link my Twitter and Facebook and blog and LinkedIn and a bunch of other sites together so when I post to one, it posts to all of them. Sometimes, when I see fifteen posts in a row about the same thing from the same person (yes, that has happened before) I wonder if each site pulls from the other and cross-posts to the rest in loops. Or if the person forgot all the sites were linked together and posted to all of them. Or if it’s really a person at all. So, while I will link a few things, I make sure they don’t go more than one direction. I’d rather spend a little more time posting, possibly catering to different sites, than look like a robot.

My other assumption is that if I only talk about my (published) book, my writing, and my platform – I’m going to bore everyone into blocking me to stop the madness. I’ll talk about my projects, especially if I hit a milestone like finishing a rough draft or finally figuring out how to fix a plot hole. Those are things meant to be shared. But if I also mention that I have a family and a job(s) and life outside of writing, I’m guessing that might be interest to some who venture here. The blog, the social networks, and all the other stuff are extensions of my bio, which doesn’t just include my publishing credits. I am a person and I’m not afraid to share that.

Found, via Twitter, a perfect quote from someone I admire: “Use your blog to connect. Use it as you. Don’t “network” or “promote.” Just talk.” NEIL GAIMAN

My question is to those of you who search online for authors of books you read (regardless of genre): What are you looking for? If you run into an author online, what makes you want to grab that book and read it? What would disappoint you if you did or did not find it in the search for that author?

Strong Points

Have you noticed, as a writer, there does not seem to be a lot of separation of tasks? I mean, sure, we write, we rewrite, we edit, we polish, which all supposedly falls under the umbrella of writing. The writers I know often seem to be better at one side than the other as far as the writing and the editing go. Some people race through rough drafts with the ease of a knife through butter, and others can polish a sentence to the shine of a mirror in one pass.

None of that goes with the rest of what the writer has to do – be visible. Does it take an awesome writer to gain visibility? Answers may vary, but the short answer is no. You can say all you want about what makes a great writer, but those talents are not the same as the ones to get you noticed by your audience. All of that is about publicity.

Publicity takes different strengths entirely. You can’t be afraid to be noticed or to have people look at you. It’s silly because most of the writers I know are fairly shy people. A lot of them wouldn’t mind at all if you locked them in a tower and bounced their manuscripts off to be published somewhere – but it doesn’t really work that way.

Once you gain some notoriety, then there are both good and bad ratings of your work. Well, this gives the sensitive writer something else to be shy about. One always hopes there will be something good to say about the work in question, but someone out there is always willing to dash your hopes.

There are published books out there about the rejection letters other writers received. I think these books are supposed to be inspirational, but how much rejection is one supposed to take? Once the book comes out and an author waits for reviews, they might be good and might be bad. Plus, even financial success and movie deals won’t stop an amateur or even a non-writer from saying how the book could have been better or saying that the author isn’t good.

Do you ever stop and say, really? First, they tell you not to go into the field because it’s cutthroat. Second, they tell you to expect you’re getting better if you get a hand-written rejection. Third, even getting a book deal with a major publishing house and sharing your vision of character and plot with all the readers and getting your name to be recognized and you still need to deal with the naysayers? Does anyone know when s/he’s reached success?

I know if I believed everything they told me I probably wouldn’t keep writing and submitting my work. Part of why I do it is just to share them with people who would like to read them. In keeping with that goal, I’m posting a story on this site for free within the next week or so. Ironing out the last few kinks in the electronic formats with a copyeditor friend of mine. Don’t be afraid to comment whether you like it or not – partly I want to know that you’re reading it. If you want to send me feedback, please do so to my email. I would dearly love to hear from all of you.

Part of surviving the writing business is knowing where you’re strong and emphasizing those points. I’m not the best at promotion, but I am learning as I go and definitely figuring things out. Enjoy the freebie. I haven’t decided if I’m going to make it a regular thing, but that is definitely something I wouldn’t mind doing if the response is good. [A good response being a lot of people want to read it, not just a lack of death-threats for me to stop writing in my inbox.]

Happy reading.

Careers

See my interview with Mike Manno today!

What do you say when someone asks what you do? I’m sure for some people it’s easy. Some people go to work and go home and stop working.

They’re not writers.

Not many of us can stay at home full time and crank out the stories, even if we’d prefer to do just that. So we work more, during the day at our regular jobs and during the evenings typing by the light of silver screens.

Sometimes we’re lucky and get in print. Then the marketing fun begins. It’s interesting that so many writers are introverts, but the few who aren’t seem to be the ones who are successful at  marketing.

And still, they all have their day jobs. At least, the ones at the Book Event did. We all mention our other activities, like we’re finding things in common. We write books on so many subjects we have something for everyone who reads.

It’s hard to write a book for people who don’t read.

So sometimes I mention the stay-at-home mother thing. Other times I don’t know what to say. I tutor and teach. And all the time, I write. It’s a career if that’s what I put my time and passion into, no matter how much money it makes. Right?

Artists work not for fame or fortune.

The Great Iowa Book Event

Yesterday I spent the day at Merle Hay Mall in Des Moines. There were definitely over 20 authors with their books. I’m not sure if we had the full 42 expected, but wow, what a crowd!

Many of the authors present were at their first signing type event with their books. I’m hardly a veteran, but there were a few who could be called that.

One of the neat things is to connect with others and trade tips. One of the hard things is that a lot of the mall-goers weren’t looking for or expecting us. I think most of them were just headed about their shopping business, though a few decided to buy books. Yay!

Now if only some more of them would buy my book when I’m there today…

Thorny Pitches

Do you call it a logline or a premise or a one-sentence pitch? And by whatever name you call it, is it really that much different?

The logline’s history starts with scriptwriting, so if I have a novel, do I want to call it a logline?

The premise is a one-sentence summary of a novel, which may or may not be nearly the same as the one-sentence pitch.

Whichever one you think you’re writing, it has to be catchy. Ever feel sorry for all the industry professionals who have these short pithy sayings aimed at them all the time? From Oh, I’m in the elevator with an editor, time to spout out my pitch, to Bathroom break, I think someone’s in the stall next to mine – it’s an agent, I can tell by the shoes! It’s enough to make me glad I’m not one of them.

Well, almost. I think it’d be really cool to discover books, but from the things I read on Twitter via #pubtips, well, wow, there are some bad queries out there. There must also be some great ones, because books keep getting published.

The trick of all those one-sentence dealies in the beginning is word choice. It takes them forever to be crafted, but once they exist in a pretty form they’re helpful. Remember Mark Twain’s words, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

I mean, what if the first Percy Jackson book was called The Lightning Bug Thief? That just gives an entirely different picture of the book.

The same concept works for pitches, or anything else in a very short form that must get people excited about the project. We’re writers – we need to use our words. There are so many of them out there just waiting for their turn in the spotlight.

It also means we need to stop thinking the first draft of a premise is the correct one. The first draft of anything usually needs a lot of coaxing to shine.

More about Promotion

What a cool interview with Penny Sansevieri about promoting books!

She reminds us that social networking can be taken too far. (Can you imagine having a presence on 350 sites? I don’t think I could manage all those if I did it all day and never slept.)

So where do you choose to have a presence, and why? She might not answer all of those questions for us, but each writer has different needs. No matter how much you promote, remember that next book is also important to keep working on. She has a presence on only 3 of those social media sites. I like that she reminds us that an abandoned site is worse than not having it at all.

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Perhaps the difference is they were never on social networking sites.

Promotion for Authors

Before I was published, I had no idea how much of the promotion would be on my shoulders. I think I had a lot in common with other writers out there. Promotion wasn’t on my radar. I didn’t know what my brand was, or if I had a platform. What I knew was that I had stories to tell.

In the process of telling my stories, I can’t live in a vacuum. Sure, the story will be there, but professional development in the form of classes, critique groups, and professional memberships bring ideas for improvement. Those same avenues can help a beginning writer learn about brand, platform, promotion, and any other questions that come up.

One question a writer should ask: How do I want to be known?

This question takes you to a new thought process. It’s the start of everything else. If you want to be a children’s picture book author, yet your myspace page has indecent jokes all over it, you may need to rethink your image. On the other hand, if you want to sell erotica and your Facebook is covered with pictures of your two single-digit age children, you should address that disparity.

That isn’t to say you can’t have both worlds. Just that your professional image as an author needs to represent the part of you that your audience wants to connect with. It’s a little bit like a banker advertising he has a credit score of 2. Would you trust him? Would you invest your money in what he’s selling?

Take a look out there at authors you admire and aspire to be like. Do searches on them and see what comes up. Their pages are professional and deal with what they’re selling – books. (Or other products, but that happens when you take off, right?)

Preditors and Editors Reader Poll 2009

The results are in! The Art of Science placed 4th in the reader poll.

I’m really happy my book did so well. Thank you for all the votes! It really makes my day when someone loves my stories, and this even more so since it’s my first novel published.

I’m still working on the next project, and I’m hoping good things come of it.

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