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.”
Makes sense! Save the book stuff for the books.
Scoring a free sofa curbside is nobler than spending megabuck$ for it at some over-inflated retail store, IMO. It’s like finding free money.
Great post, Kristen. I totally relate to the dumpster diving. For years I kept a closet full of stuff I scavenged and regularly took it to sell at the open-air flea market for gas money. I often wondered if the people buying my great finds were the same ones who had dumped them. I also knew which mailboxes I needed to use to have my envelopes date-stamped in time, yet have the checks arrive at their destinations three days later. Couldn’t agree with you more. Seconds have their place, but not on blogs. All the best.
Great post. I don’t think unpublished authors should post their fiction on-line. It’s lost in the wilderness. I think the key is to focus on building a platform and exchanging with other writers. I keep saying it’s a great time to be a writer and it is. If I were unpublished right now, I’d follow Kristen’s book and establish my footprint on-line and in social media. Make contacts. Study all the blogs and articles about what’s going on.
The first thing we do at Who Dares Wins Publishing when we get a query from an unpublished writer is google their name. If they don’t have a web site, a valid twitter presence, etc. it’s a hard sell. Because we’re all marketing together. I’ve seen an uptick in sales for us on Kindle in the last two days since getting back from New Jersey Romance Writers and I believe it’s based on both a new blog post and a focus on Twitter and other on-line resources.
The hardest lesson for someone like me has been being CONSISTENT with brand and message. I want to slack off, let a day or two go by. Can’t do it. I’m finally putting together my Social Media Standing Operating Procedure (combining elements of what I learned from Kristin’s book and my Warrior Writer program). And I’m sticking to it!
I agree with what’s been said. And that raises a question for me. There’s this debate going on in chapter meetings and at conferences over lunch about who you are really trying to attract with the blogging and FB and other social media: writers or readers? My personal opinion is that writers make great readers. We are avid, and follow our faves probably more intensely than non-writer readers. And, let’s be honest, some struggling writers will never be published, but they will be great readers. Every day as I scan or comment on blogs I find a new author or book I usually order. (I better come back because my TBR list is big enough for two, maybe three lifetimes.) Unpublished, of course I want the support of other authors first, hoping my reader base will expand once I get there. Once published, then I see the use of posting exerpts not used, or, as one of my creative writer friends did, the POV of the OTHER person in her love scene from her published novel. That was a very cool idea and I plan to steal it!
So, Kristen, other great writers out there, who are you blogging for and is it working?
The best answer to your question, blog for your readers (which will include other writers). Too often I see writers blogging on topics that alienate the potential readership by forming a “Writers Only” clique. If all I blog about is getting an agent and the future of publishing, who will care? Other writers. But if I write paranormal romance, then why I am I blogging on getting an agent an the futureof publishing? My FIRST choice should be to blog about what READERS of paranormal romance like….the PARANORMAL! This opens me up to potentially limitless topics. Now I will interest writers AND readers. Can you blog about writing? Sure. But if you aren’t selling a book to writers, then you are going to alienate that big chunk of the Bell Curve….the general reading and even non-reading public. Stephenie Meyers and J.K. Rowling are uber-authors because they mobilized entire groups of people who didn’t consider themselves “readers.” There are thousands of fans who never read any book beyond the Harry Potter series.
And trust me, it is probably a heck of a lot more fun to blog about hauntings and ghosts and orbs than it is to blog about e-publishing. This is one of the reasons many writers give a big fat blank stare when you say they need to blog. They fail to get creative once they are beyond the novel 😀
I don’t think it’s a good idea to post CHAPTERS of the novel online to build a platform if you’re going to post it in its entirety and then publish it. Why would I buy it if I read it already? I mean if I already publish the novel, I think it would be okay if I post ONE CHAPTER (test drive before you buy). My question is this: Is it okay to post flash fictions on your blog? Something that you don’t want to submit to the editors but have fun writing?
Oh sure. A self-contained piece is different. I would caution that you employ it sparingly. Why? Fiction does terrible with search engines. They don’t contain the tag words that will generate a lot of hits. NF topics are your best bet. Instead of using extra fiction, put some of that research to use. 😀
I love finding treasures at Salvation Army and the Goodwill. I love shopping for vases and trinkets. You can find some really nice ones sometimes. My brother is the Dumpster diver in our family. He would constantly bring home stuff when we had “anything” trash day in our neighborhood. That was the day you could put out furniture, applicances, anything, and the trashmen had to take it.
Thanks for link love. I really enjoyed this post. What you’ve said about “deleted scene” type stuff is something I’ve always felt, sort of intuitively, but have had a hard time putting into nice words when someone brings it up. So now I can just send them to you!
Blogging is hard for me. Writing things that are short is hard, coming up with things to talk about that aren’t just “writer” things is hard. Whatever I post about, I often spend 1.5-2.5 hours putting a post together. It’s like, if it’s important enough for me to bother blogging about it, I’m going to tell you everything I know, in as organized a fashion as possible, try to remember where I read this or heard that, and hopefully track down all the relevant links. And I supposed I’ve been impatient about developing those numbers, as well as unreliable about what the content is going to be or even if it’s going to be there. I find myself wanting to blog about things where I can offer advice, rather than about topics which would invite discussion and are probably more what my book readers would get into.
Totally agree about not posting excerpts or castoffs on a blog. No offense to those who do it, but when I visit a blog and see the author offering snippets of a story, I promptly click away. Your blog is the chance for me to get to know YOU as an author (and by default, a bit about your writing style). I’m delighted to read a one-paragraph blurb telling me what your story is about, but some random, out-of-context chapter excerpt is not going to pique my interest. It’s just going to confuse me.
Then again, I’m easily confused.
Oh my! I will never, ever, be able to get those shorts out of my mind. You made your point very well. I will never post un-used chapters.
I’ve only read one story featured on a blog and it was b/c it was a true tale of how the blogger met and married her husband. This blogger has such a strong voice that reading her story was like reading the backstory on the characters that populate her blog posts. But so far, she’s the only one who has tempted me to give it whirl.
Those short are horrible, aren’t they? LOL Pieces of fiction are fine. I would recommend complete pieces and very sparingly. If for no other reason than fiction does TERRIBLE with search engines (it lacks key tags likely to be picked up in a search) and you will find you have less traffic across your blog…which is kind of counterproductive.
Thanks Bridgette for your faithful following, commenting and promotion. You are a gem :D.
I totally get it. It took me a while to come around to this point though. I used to think that if I couldn’t place a short story I should publish it on my site … then I got to thinking maybe that story shouldn’t see the light of day.
First, I got my whole apartment furnished in college for $20 and some very good stuff. Mama has class. Second, I love blogging. It helps me keep focused on topics I like and what my readers like. I love to entertain and inform. That’s why I write and teach. Blogging helps me put out a constant stream of information.
When I first finished my novel, I posted an old story. I’ve since deleted my posts, waiting until I’m ready for a blog. The best part of my day is always finding writers I like. Sometimes, I feel like finding a great blog is like dumpster diving. Other times, I find a river of gems with no sand.
You give good reasons not to post old material, all very eloquently put. Your blog helps in the area I need the most, so thank you for posting it.
So, my fears with blogging? My biggest fear has to be errors. I also wonder how PC and censored an author should be in blogs? How open should an author be about their personal life? I want to make sure everything I post has some substance.
About dumpster diving… We have given away a lot of free furniture this way. We figure, why store or sell something when people need help? A long time ago, I bought my first bed at a flee market. When money was sparse, I didn’t live in nice enough places to get anything good near a dumpster.
How do you prioritize your networking? If you are pressed for time, how do you decide which pieces of your networking to visit? For instance. Always hit your blog first, then Facebook, then Twitter, then your groups? I get lost sometimes and don’t know which ones I can skip today.. does that make sense?
Thanks!! JANET B Taylor
I network on breaks. I keep everything minimized and then when I have met a certain goal, I hit Twitter, FB and the blog. Takes about ten minutes max. On Twitter, I do my Law of 3…1/3 Information (post a link to my blog or another good one), 1/3 Reciprocation (repost blogs for others…people whom I have come to know always post great content), 1/3 Conversation. I scan for anyone who made a word goal and type Congratulations, someone who might need a “Happy Birthday” or “Feel Better.” Something that is personal and reaches out to others. I also thank anyone who reposted my content. Then I try and answer questions or thank for comments on the blog. Then I scan FB’s Home stream and, once more apply the Law of Three.
I always hit all three, but I never hang our for very long. Short, continuous bursts throughout the day. We get to know people’s patterns on Twitter. If you are an evening tweeter, I know I won’t see you in the morning. They key to all of this is just be consistent. Even if you had 6 teets five days a week, you would be shocked how much just that continuous effort has on a platform. What happens too often is that people get all fired up (like working out) and they wear out their tweeter, then can’t keep the grueling standards they have set for themselves….then they disappear for weeks or months. That will devastate your platform.
Janet, I hope that answers your question. Social media is a lot like an investment plan. You can invest $30 a week in interest-bearing accounts, and, after a even just a few years, have quite an impressive nest egg. It is all about consistency, 😀
Thank you so much, Kristen.That helps a lot! I don’t participate on Twitter or FB much, I mostly listen, because as an as-yetunpublished author, I’m afraid I don’t have a lot to offer, or that no one would really give a rip what I say. And I do not have a lot of followers, so that would explain it.
the blog, I try.. But coming up with interesting subject matter is difficult.
Again, thanks for the great info and have a super day! 🙂
I found your blog via a retweet on Twitter. I’m a new blogger and I’m struggling with what to blog about. Thanks for sharing your insights!