Posting Second-Hand Stuff–Just Because We Can, Doesn't Mean We Should
Welcome to WANA Wednesday, the day I dedicate to helping you guys rock it hard on social media. All these tips are based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. Today we are going to talk about blogging. What do we writers blog about? Can we use some of our unused material? Hmmm, we’ll get to that. Can we? Yes. No one will stop us. Should we? Maybe decide for yourself. But first, a parable.
I don’t know about you guys, but I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth…more like a KFC spork. Being a child of the 80s in Texas was not easy. The oil industry and defense industry collapsed. My dad suddenly had no job and my mom had always been a housewife. So what did we do? We learned how to shop second-hand and pay attention on trash day. I carried this into college. Virtually every piece of furniture I owned until I was 30 I’d found at a garage sale, a resale shop, or…okay, I cannot BELIEVE I am telling you guys this…near the Dumpsters on the first of the month.
I tossed papers in college. From midnight to 5 in the morning, I slugged up and down stairs at three MASSIVE apartment complexes…but they were the NICE complexes. I learned that the 1st of every month and right after holidays was like winning the lottery. People would put stuff out near the Dumpster simply because they didn’t feel like moving it. The complexes’ offices would spend big bucks on fancy Christmas decorations, only to toss them away after the holiday because they didn’t want the hassle of storing them. I made out like a bandit. The key was location. Ghetto apartments might get you a free couch…along with a free infestation of roaches (as a fellow student friend of mine learned the hard way). But the fancy apartments? Silk flower arrangements, hardwood furniture, paintings, bookshelves. My apartment looked NICE…all furnished for $3.42. 😀
Any of my fellow Dumpster-Divers will tell you that there is an art to shopping second-hand. First, target the Goodwill stores and resale stores in the nice neighborhoods to get the best stuff. Why? Because that is where the wealthiest people donate things they don’t want or can’t use. Translation? GOODIES!
So what is the point of this, and what does this have to do with social media? A lot.
It has to do with value. Specifically the value of our content.
Last week I told you guys about being tossed into the fray on a Twitter chat (hash tag problem since fixed, btw). I was the “keynote” to be Q & Aed, but none of my hash tags were appearing, and this opened the door for others to trample me like a turtle in a stampede. As I was panicking and trying to figure out why none of my posts were showing, all kinds of people were chiming in to give “advice” to writers.
The moderator asked–Q: Kristen, what do you advise writers to blog about?
Before I could get out an answer, someone replied A: Writers can use chapters of their unpublished books, character backgrounds and pieces of the manuscript they’d cut, and any other “extras.”
Okay. Fair enough. Here is the problem, at least as I see it. When we post all this “unused stuff” how valuable is it? If it’s Stephenie Meyer’s unused stuff or Stephen King’s unused stuff, then that is like finding a Gucci bag at a resale shop. A treasure! But what about our stuff? I am not here to hurt anyone’s feelings but at this point in time, I am in no danger of a fan stealing my garbage to look for pages of my next book they can sell on eBay. If we didn’t even find this content valuable enough to put in a book, why do we think our blog readers want to read it?
Bear with me for a minute and let’s use some logic.
I assume most of you are like me and you want lots of people following your blog. More than just your mother and friends from your writing group, right? I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t even like coming in halfway through a movie, let alone a book. How are we supposed to feel vested in characters we don’t know from a hole in the ground or get hooked on a story that may take months before we can read it in its entirety? Oh, and these characters might not even be in the book and these chapters, in the end, might mean nothing because they were just extra bunny trails that were cut and put on the blog so they could serve some purpose other than taking up space in the Recycle Bin.
Can we use this stuff once in a while? Sure. You can feel free to eat Pumpkin Peeps on Halloween, but I don’t recommend them as a food staple.
The simple hard truth is there are no shortcuts. Marketing is part of the 21st Century Author’s job description. Blogging is the single best way to grow a large following of people who like you and your writing voice. We are going to have to write blogs that connect to a readership. The big brand names can get away with hand-me-downs because they are….the big brand names. People will fight and claw over a Prada handbag donated to Salvation Army. But what about the no-name bag with no label? It could be just as lovely, but it doesn’t have the name. Same with us. We might be a better writer than Stephen King and J.K. Rowling combined. We might be the next big brand, but until then???? Our stuff will be valuable to us, our mothers and our dearest friends who love us even though we are nobodies who one day might be somebodies. But the rest of the world? Nope. We are going to have to do some work, first.
Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, and Tom Clancy can use their “unwanted’ and “extra” material for blogs because fans will scramble to scoop it up. The rest of us can’t really do that. We risk making our followers feel like we’ve re-gifted a Chia Pet.
So what is a writer to blog about? I walk writers through how to blog to build their brand in my book, We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I teach you guys simple ways to blog on topics that are going to connect you to READERS and always keep you bubbling with fresh material. Blogging can be the best part of this job and the most rewarding if we approach it correctly. If blogging feels like a chore to you, then something is dead WRONG, so make sure you pick up a copy of my book.
In the meantime, I would recommend you check out one of my earlier posts, Is it a Good Idea to Post Chapters of Your Novel On-Line to Build a Platform? And breathe. Calm down. Writers, in my experience, tend to make things harder than they really are. Hey, we dig drama. Please trust me. Blogging can be even more rewarding than the actual novel if we approach it properly. How is that? First, blogging lets us talk about subjects we like the most. Secondly, blogging prepares us for the self-discipline we will need to be successful in our long-term writing career. There will come a point that it’s no longer a hobby or a dream and blogging develops those skills necessary to be viewed as a writing professional. Lastly, blogging allows us to see tangible benefits. Blog regularly with great content and you literally can watch your following grow, which is a great boost to the confidence when you are wondering if you even have talent at all. When I began this blog a year and a half ago, I had a maximum of 15 hits a day. But then I watched that 15 become 30 which became 50 which became 65 which became 100 and so on and so forth. That is exactly the kind of soul food many of us need, especially when we don’t have a fat royalty check or a hardcover book to validate our talent.
So go easy on the leftovers. We didn’t like it when Mom tried to pass them off on us too often, so we shouldn’t do that to our readers. And the truth is, most of you reading this know you were born to write. Writing should be FUN. What other job in the world gives you the extra “chore” of doing something you already love?
So, after all of this. What are some of your fears, loves, hates, concerns, etc. about blogging? Or, for those more daring, what was the best/worst experience with a garage sale, a resale shop or a Dumpster dive? I want to hear from you!
Leave a comment and I will put your name in for a drawing, and you can win an autographed copy of my book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I’m going to gather all comments until Halloween and then the winner will be announced November 1st. Trackbacks count as an entry, so you can double your chances to win by leaving a comment and then linking to any of my blogs.
Until next time…
This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness
Want to know how to use Goodreads to promote your novel? Great blog by Susan Bischoff
12 Dos and Don’ts When Introducing Your Protagonist by Anne R. Allen
Jane Friedman’s Best Tweet’s for Writers has a list of the best articles, blogs and websites for last week (ending 10/22)
Bob Mayer’s Write It Forward Blog has a treat. The Borg, Jean Luc Picard, and the Future of Publishing Yeah, who knew Bob Mayer spoke Nerdese? He had me at “Borg.”