Blogging–The Writer's 21st Century Quilting Bee
Today is WANA Wednesday, the day I dedicate to demystifying the social media experience by expounding upon techniques and principles from my new book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. A few weeks ago, I posted a somewhat controversial blog about…blogging. In my opinion, blogging is just part of the new job description for the 21st Century Author. This happens. Times change and those who wish to be successful must grow and evolve or go extinct. The days of yore when writers could live quiet solitary lives is over. We are part of a new age, the Information Age, and consumers (code for “readers”) expect interaction with their favorite writers. If we do not interact, readers will gravitate to those who do. We must serve the reader, which in a way means we are—gasp—part of the service industry. If we can visualize ourselves as part of a service industry, then we will see profound changes in how we approach blogging. Today I am going to give you a way to dramatically increase hits to your blog, while simultaneously growing your regular readership.
We have already discussed blog topics. If you are trying to build a platform as a fiction author, is it okay to blog about writing? Sure. Is it the wisest use of your time? Well, unless you are like me and selling mainly to writers, probably not.
My mother buys more novels than she will ever read, and she really doesn’t care about writer’s block, agents, conferences, or even the future of publishing beyond how it will affect me. Profile your reader. If you write sci-fi, what do sci-fi readers like to read and discuss in their spare time? UFOs, Nasca lines, conspiracies, Big Foot, Mystery Quest, etc. I have a great blog that discusses this in more detail called Where Are All the Readers? Also, posting sections of your novel are a bad, bad, bad idea and I tell you why in my blog Is it a Good Idea to Post Sections of Your Novel On-Line? Ideally you will profile the reader and blog on topics interesting to them.
So now that you have an idea of potentially interesting topics, I recommend a new step that will help build you as an authority and is guaranteed to make your readers love you.
Find ways to use hyperlinks.
First, permit me to expound. As bloggers, we tend to default to thinking like five-year-olds. Blog love becomes quantitative. Sort of like when Mom hugged on baby brother too much, we started plotting how to mail the little bugger to Kathmandu. We didn’t understand that there was plenty of love to go around, that Mom wouldn’t “use up” her limited store of hugs and kisses. Same with blogging. It is easy to get so focused on our own blog and our own stats, that we forget the bigger picture….service.
The single guiding principle in my book We Are Not Alone is that we have a servant’s heart—service above self. What this means it that:
- We are vigilant about content. Content is to serve our reader, not our ego.
- We serve the reader by going the extra mile and providing an easy way to navigate the Internet.
The first step, makes sense, but the second?
There are all kinds of reasons that we might not get daring on the Internet. We are lazy. We are an instant gratification society. Hey, I’ll admit it. I am the person who taps my toe as I wait impatiently the three minutes for my microwave popcorn. We are also overwhelmed. We are thirsting for knowledge while drowning in a sea of information. There are so many choices we are often on system overload. We are also fearful. Hackers, spyware, viruses, etc. are all very real threats, so we look to people who can help us navigate the treacherous Internet terrain in ways that are enjoyable and devoid of hazards.
So, as writers (bloggers) if we can appreciate this reality, we can take our level of service to a totally new level by providing an additional service—the hyperlink. Your readers will thank you.
If you read Monday’s blog, you will see that as I discussed each of the books I was referring to, I made sure to include a hyperlink to Amazon so that anyone reading could simply click and buy. That was a service. I try to always make it a point to include hyperlinks to any good blogs, or articles that might have inspired my topic that day. Also, throughout the week, I keep a One Note document open and minimized. As people post blogs they wrote or that they recommend, I read. Then, if I find the content worthy, I copy and paste into One Note so that when I write my blog I can include a mash-up (listing) of blogs worth of my reader’s time.
All of this is a service to my reader. I make it easy to purchase books, look at articles or read blogs. I act as an information delivery gal and as a filter, sifting through all the crap so you don’t have to. Not only does this help you guys, my readers, but it also helps those who have been kind enough to provide us with something that would enrich our lives, our writing, or our free time. These hyperlinks bind us together.
I like to think of hyperlinks like the stitches connecting quilt squares together. One square (my blog) might be intricate and unique, but alone it is limited in purpose. What can we do with one quilt square, right? Pot holder? Tea cozy? But, the real magic happens when we bind multiple squares (blogs, articles, etc.) together. Not only do we help ourselves and our readers, but we help others out there who are also trying to build platforms, sell books, etc.
Social media, in its finest form, should not be a solo effort, but more like a barn-raising—everyone coming together for a common goal. Or, in keeping with today’s analogy, we are like a quilting bee, all sitting and socializing and sharing while working to create a common network of squares.
I chose the title We Are Not Alone for a very good reason. This is not traditional marketing, it is social marketing. Social, by definition, implies more than one. So I challenge you to be an edifier and to focus on serving the reader beyond your own topic/book. People will appreciate your help and will often reward it with loyalty and patronage, not because you beat them over the head with a catchy marketing gimmick or free e-book sample, but because you earned that loyalty by providing a genuine service. Those people you take time to edify often will see that you included a hyperlink. This is a great way to earn not only their support, but it is also a great way to add members of their network to yours. Share and share alike, right? 😀
How do you include a hyperlink? The simplest way is to just type or paste in the URL. The problem with that is two-fold. First, it doesn’t look as pretty and can interrupt the flow of your writing. Secondly, it likely navigate your reader away from your page—bad juju.
Thus, what I advise doing is that you insert the link into the text. When you are posting your blog, highlight the word you wish to turn color. This will serve as your link. For instance, my favorite book on the antagonist is Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches, by Jessica Morrell (also a WD Special). After you highlight, on your dashboard, you should see an icon that looks like a chain link. Click that. A window will appear that will cue you to paste in the URL (you will see an http:). Paste the URL. Then, there should also be a Select Target box that will allow you to select whether you want the link to open in the same window or a new window. Choose a new window. This will embed a nice little hyperlink that now looks pretty and leaves the flow of your brilliance uninterrupted.
- Blog for the reader
- Make shopping easy. If you mention your book, a friend’s book or any kind of book, make it easy for your readers to click and purchase.
- Include links to noteworthy blogs and articles. If you refer to one of your earlier blogs, include a hyperlink to make it easy for your readers to read that blog, too.
- Include a mash-up
- When you include a hyperlink, make sure you select the option that opens a new window. Keep people on your page as long as you can. We want this to be an enjoyable information shopping experience.
The less work you create for your readers, the more grateful they will be.
Until next time….
To improve on the craft of writing, I recommend NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer’s Novel Writing Workshops. Bob also runs the groundbreaking Warrior Writer Workshops that will teach you how to grow from aspiring writer to professional author. Learn all the tools of the trade as used by the best of the best. Bob also teaches the business side of the publishing industry. This workshop is VITAL to any writer’s growth and Bob offers an on-line version, so go sign up today!
Best-Selling Romance Author Candace Havens has a fantastic on-line writing workshop. Candy teaches on all kids of subjects from creating characters to plotting to fast-draft to how to effectively revise. She also brings some of the industry’s best and brightest (I will be teaching on social media at the beginning of October :D).
I highly, highly recommend this month’s edition of Writer’s Digest Magazine. I was amazed that it was even possible to have that many awesome articles in one place at the same time.
Writer’s Digest also put out some great blogs this week.
8 Basic Writing Blunders by Jerry B. Jenkins
The 4 Story Structures that Dominate Novels by Orson Scott Card
Concerned about the future of publishing and e-books, rights, etc.? Then read Copyright, e-Books and the Unpredictable Future by Emily Williams.
Need a good laugh? Read Tawna Fenske’s blog. She’s a hoot.
And, one of my all-time favorite blogs is of course, Jody Hedlund. She has an amazing voice and offers invaluable insight on life, writing, parenting, etc.