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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: Author Blog

No, this is not Kristen having a breakdown. She’s on a boat having fun. This is Cait, talking about why I hate blogging as much as I hate downward-facing dog in yoga.

So, if I hate blogging, why do I do it? What’s more, why do I do it to Kristen’s exacting standards? Well, partly because I’m afraid of her. But, mostly, I blog because she is right about blogging in so many ways. It’s really not fair that she’s always right about this sort of stuff.

Yet, for something that seems so instinctive and intrinsically simple (“Writers write, ergo blogging”), why do we have so much trouble with it? Why does it spike my anxiety, trigger my perfectionist paranoia, and send me in the direction of scrubbing the toilet as a preferable way to spend my time?

I have spent a lot of time pondering this (probably time I should have spent drafting blogs). In fact, I have spent most of this week struggling with this post.

The first thing I had to do is come up with was a solid list of why I hate blogging (again, time that could have been spent writing). After thoroughly psyching myself out, I went back through all Kristen’s reasons that blogging makes sense (reinforcing the soul-eating guilt I feel at having wasted all that time not writing a post).

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Finally, I remembered the corollary to Kristen’s blogging rule…but I’m gonna be mean and force you to read to the end to find out what that is. <insert moderately evil laugh here>

Blogging vs. just about anything else

I could do a whole post about all the reasons I hate blogging, but Kristen would probably jump off that cruise ship, swim all the way back up the Atlantic coast, dodge customs in Boston, and break down my door just to slap me upside the head about positivity. Because she loves me.

But, the truth is, I am more at home using negativity as a motivator and dwelling in the blessed realms of snark, cynicism, and dark things. That’s just the Slytherin in me, I guess. The challenge is finding a way to use my negativity about blogging to motivate myself in a positive way. And, I’m going to stop right there, because I’m starting to sound all self-helpy, and I can’t stand 99% of that ish.

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So, let’s just dive into the top three reasons I hate blogging, shall we?

Supersizing the topic

I come from an academic background. In a parallel dimension, I am a professor of history, still using the Red Pen of Wrath…just on my students instead. Academic writing habits are hard to break when it comes to blogging, even though some do come in handy.

One of the cardinal sins of academic writing is tackling a topic that is too broad or too narrow for the projected length of the paper.

I mean, sure, we can describe the decline and fall of the Roman empire in a three page, double-spaced, 12pt font paper (I’m old school page-count and print-out, before word-counts and emailed/uploaded papers became the norm). But, those three pages are going to be uselessly generic, not contributing anything to increasing our understanding of Roman history or helping develop our ability to think and analyze critically.

On the other hand, focus on TOO granular a subject, and well…it ends up being more of an anecdote or footnote. Probably interesting, but again, unlikely to contribute anything to the greater understanding or improve our critical thinking skills.

Blogging is like that for me.

I want what I write to be informative, useful, and accessible. But, writing a blog on “How to write historical fiction” isn’t going to help anyone. Writing a blog on “Understanding currency, income, and prices in historical fiction” (shout if you want me to write something like that) is probably a lot more useful AND interesting AND better written.

I constantly feel like Goldilocks, trying to find the right-sized topic that will live up to my probably-obsessively-over-fastidious standards.

Yoast is killing our brain cells

You know that little thing called SEO? Yeah, worst thing that has ever happened to the written word. And, I’m saying that even in comparison to text-speak and adding words like ‘ginormous’ to the dictionary. If SEO is pure evil, then Yoast is its right hand.

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Yoast is a website plugin that scores your posts and pages on readability and SEO strength. It’s unfortunate, but if we want our blog posts to have a chance at traction, we have to follow the rules it sets out. What are those rules?

First, we have to set a keyword. Fine. Like a gateway drug, that’s not so bad. But then, Yoast tells us how often we should be using that word (*side-eye at density score*), and where that word should come in titles and first paragraphs. If it stopped that, I’d grit my teeth and accept that algorithms are gonna do what algorithms are gonna do.

But then, Yoast starts picking at other things, like breaking up the text every 300 words with a sub-heading. Like making sure we don’t repeat the way we start a sentence. Like making sure less than 25% of our sentences have more than 20 words (and I know I purposely triggered the repetitive-sentence-start thing, but Yoast doesn’t really understand context or dramatic intent *flounces off*). Paragraphs can’t be too long, either – oops, gotta cut this one short!

Yoast is dumbing down blogging. By trying to make blogs easier to read, Yoast is encouraging a growing laziness in blog readers. What happens to a society when we can no longer focus past three sentences at a time in order to process a complex thought or multiple pieces of evidence to support an argument? I’ll tell you what happens: we get bad movie sequels, clickbait, and double-very-bad politics.

Paging Mr. Orwell, your 1984 is ready.

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I resent being forced to ‘dumb down’ my writing just so a brainless algorithm has an easier time of it. I write for people, not Google. Oh, wait. I use Yoast, so I guess I’m writing for Google. But, consider this another major reason why I hate blogging.

Perfectionism

This actually isn’t quite as related to what Kristen was talking about in this post. I’m talking about my inner intellectual demon that MUST BE RIGHT AT ALL TIMES. If a blog post is a form of educational argument, then dammit, I’m gonna WIN!

I’m not kidding. I approach each topic – especially anything that involves factual research – with a goal of creating an UNASSAILABLE argument. I want my post to be the Fort Knox of logic. My brain goes into hyper-passive-aggressive-nerd mode, playing Kasparov-esque chess with each point I write.

It’s exhausting.

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I don’t mind admitting when I don’t know something. But, I feel soul-crushing humiliation when someone points out a stupid mistake or an obvious (or not-so-obvious) flaw in my argument. Maybe…just maybe I’m over-reacting, and I should get some therapy about it. Or, maybe, that drive to be as certain and correct in opinion and facts is what helps make my writing and teaching reliable and useful.

Still, the fact that I’ve got some subconscious id and ego stuff going on with perfectionism makes blogging an emotionally and intellectually draining task.

Le sigh…why Kristen is right about blogging

There are a lot of reasons Kristen is right about blogging being the best, most effective way for writers to market themselves. She is also right about Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, but we’re just going to focus on blogging for the moment.

It all comes down to the three C’s: classic, cost-effective, and control. This is a trifecta that is pretty much the holy grail goal of all marketing. When I used to work in advertising, we wanted our ads to be memorable over the long-term, hit the target audience without breaking the bank, and look/feel/sound exactly as planned.

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The number of times Kristen has said this…

While the landscape might have changed from analog to digital, the principles and goals remain the same. Classic. Cost-effective. Control.

Classic: why blogging is the Talbots of author marketing

Warning: extended metaphor ahead. May cause eye strain from over-rolling of eyes.

Think of getting ready for a job interview. We have our resume, portfolio, references, and talking points at hand. The job description is a great match for our skills, and we know we’ll kick butt at it. We just have to wow them at the interview, so we inhale all the caffeine we can handle without inducing tachycardia, pop a couple of breath mints, and put on our interview suit.

The classic interview suit.

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Maybe we stay simple and true with traditional accessories (pearls for ladies, cufflinks for gents). Or, maybe we add a dash of flair with a daringly patterned shirt or chunky piece of jewelry we picked up at a vintage sale. It’s a small piece of individualism, a little personal pleasure, and it only adds to the solid impression a classic suit makes.

A blog is like the classic interview suit. It never goes out of style. It is the best and strongest way we have of presenting our brand to readers. It’s the one wardrobe piece we never throw out because its quality was designed to endure. We can easily update and refresh the look with accessories, apps, widgets, and chunky vintage jewelry (um, yeah, getting all the metaphor stuff mixed up, I know).

Besides, if we want to be remembered as a writer, then the best and most enduring pitch we can make is…well… our writing.

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Social media outlets like Snapchat, Instagram, What’s App, etc. are all well and good, but they are the Forever 21 funky accessory of marketing. They are fun, get attention, but may also tarnish and/or break fairly quickly. Can you say Vine? (So 2015!)

Just think about it…is anyone really ever going to go back through all our Snapchats, Tweets, or Instagram posts two years from now? But, as an admin on this site, I can tell you that there are blogs that Kristen has written that are four and five years old that are still top trackers and getting comments on a daily basis.

Now, that’s some classic-interview-suit power.

Cost-effective: how blogging can keep us from sin

Marketing is expensive. It costs us time and money – resources most of us are chronically short on. Marketing is also seductive. Nothing is as exciting as seeing swag with our name on it, or an ad for our book pop up on Facebook, or getting that shiny new book trailer. So, we try to find that balance between price and quality. Fun times.

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And yes, if we set up our own domain and do stuff right with backup, security, and all that jazz, it will cost us a couple hundred dollars to get started. Depending on what plans we choose, there is also the yearly renewal fees. Still, that yearly cost pretty much comes down to the equivalent of three or four impulse purchases at Target. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to continue the clothing metaphor.)

The keys to leveraging a website (assuming we have decent content people want) are consistency and distribution. Consistency is a free feature that comes with wrangling our brains into some semblance of discipline. Distribution? Well, that’s what Jetpack is for. Again, it’s free.

Even with graphics, there is a lot we can do with free ‘photo editor’ apps. Personally, I pay $10 a month for a subscription to a professional-level app, but that’s because I do a LOT more than just blog graphics. And, I only started that subscription last year. Before that, I made do with free for about four years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some COSTLY mistakes. Like cringe-inducing-dear-God-if-You-loved-me-You-would-have-stopped-me-because-that-was-a-really-expensive-lesson mistakes. The only marketing tool I keep coming back to in the end is…you guessed it: my website (and occasionally Kristen’s because she forgets to lock the door).

Control: blogging vs. paranoia

Wanna hear a scary story? A romance author on Facebook builds an author page that gets 15,000 followers. She posts a picture for fun. The next time she logs into Facebook, her page is gone. DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUN!

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No, it wasn’t me. But, it has been many authors I’ve known. It’s a ‘cross-cultural’ phenomenon – there are versions in Instagramland, YouTubia, and Twitterburg.

Don’t forget, we also have to deal with ever-changing terms of use, hackers, and the final, fatal OMG-twitfacetogramchat-just-went-out-of-business! Want an example?

Dogster.

Don’t laugh. It was actually a great site for finding pet info. The fact that it was MySpace for pets is a whole other level of psychosis. Still, I met other Basenji owners through their forums, and they have become some of my closest, dearest friends. Thank goodness we had all exchanged contact info and signed up for Facebook before Dogster announced they were shutting down.

Think of MySpace…and Tila Tequila. Her original claim to fame was getting to a million followers on MySpace without much else (i.e. talent, content, etc.) to back it up. So…how’s that workin’ for ya, Tila?

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A website of our own never goes away. Our blog content is subject to our rules. Our website is our castle, and we can defend against trolls and hackers with laser precision. Oh, and we can also build community through interacting with commenters, adding chat and forums, etc.

Remember, the flip-side of paranoia is control-freak! 🙂

Wait…that didn’t come out right…

The thing we usually forget Kristen said about blogging

Here’s the promised payoff from my little intro tease. Yes, we need to blog…but we also have to find a way to ENJOY it.

Somehow, I tend to forget that.

I haven’t entirely solved my blogging problems, and that’s probably partly because I’m still figuring out how to TRULY enjoy it. There are moments when I giggle to myself as I write something that is (at least I think) funny. Picking out the memes to go in a blog…I love telling people that it is legit part of my job. I bask in the glow of the final product and clicking ‘Publish.’

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But…there’s still the anxiety, the dread, the worry I’m not providing good enough content or that I’ve gotten something wrong. It doesn’t take much to spiral me into a perfect orgy of procrastination…er…research.

However, I am experimenting, trying to figure out what I can do to both get better ABOUT blogging regularly and ENJOY blogging regularly. I’ve found I really enjoy making videos, and I’m about to dip my toe into podcasting (which I think is really spoken-word blogging). While the file sizes mean I wont’ be ‘hosting’ the videos and podcasts on my website, I will be centralizing all the information about them there.

I also have been sharing my love of creating reading ‘syllabi.’ But, being a snotty little French historian, I have to call them something pretentious like a ‘Catalogue RaisonnĂ©.’ It turns out I have a lot of fun going through my personal library to pick and choose what I put into the list. It also became something I could turn into another page for my website.

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(And by the way, while I do think you’d enjoy those pages, putting external links into a blog post is another Yoast requirement. *shakes tiny fist*)

All in all, I’m still on the journey, but I’m determined to get there. If you happen to be on the same road, maybe we can travel together?

Let me hear it!

Why do you love/hate blogging? What are your tips for becoming a happy, successful blogger? Share the love…or hate, LOL.

Class tonight!

URBAN FANTASY: SALT CIRCLE NOT INCLUDED

PARANORMAL, URBAN FANTASY, GHOSTS, VAMPIRES, WRITINGInstructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, October 19, 2018. 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE!

Be honest. How many voodoo dolls have you mutilated in your quest to become the next Laurell K. Hamilton or Sherrilyn Kenyon?

  • 0-9: You’re probably too virtuous to ever get published.
  • 10-19: Equivalent of the New Year’s resolution of voodoo…fizzles in week 2.
  • 20-29: You’ve won NaNoWriMo once or twice and wear lucky writing socks.
  • 30+: Now, we’re talking.

In all seriousness, urban fantasy has emerged as one of the strongest and most competitive categories in publishing, building on the momentum of legends like Anne Rice and expanding to embrace all kinds of sub-genres such as YA, satire, and romance.

But for all its badass convention-breaking, urban fantasy also a genre boobytrapped with the worst pitfalls of all the genres it borrows from.

If we’re not overdoing the Mickey Spillane-esque hard-boiled grit, we’re confusing which supernatural creature has which power. Or, we’re creating characters that are so wrapped up in their love lives with <insert hot supernatural guys here>, they almost miss the climactic battle between good and evil happening a couple blocks over.

Fear not! Strap on your vampire-hunting gear, grab your wolfsbane gris-gris, and don’t forget to bring your sarcastic sidekick to this class where I will help you navigate the mean streets and treacherous back alleys of urban fantasy!

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

SEE YOU TONIGHT!!!

 

 

Photo courtesy of www.dpchallenge.com  

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, the day I teach you guys how to rock it hard when it comes to social media and based off my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. Last week we talked about Sacred Cow #1—Writers write, thus they must write writing blogs, right? Um….WRONG! Go here if you want to find out why writing blogs are bad. I teach writers how to blog to create a brand. What is our author brand? Our name—US. Blogging gives us an opportunity to reach out to millions and give them a chance to get to know us and support us as fellow friends and human beings.

Why limit the topics?

Many of us became writers because we were interested in so much stuff that we couldn’t figure out whether we wanted to be a scientist, a dancer, a race car driver, an archeaologist or an astronaut when we grew up. As writers….we could do ALL those things. So why, when it comes to blogging, do we have this knee-jerk reaction that we can only talk about one topic…writing?

Last week many writers promptly had a panic attack when I said writing blogs were bad. There is a difference between a Writing Blog and an Author Blog.

Writing Blogs have cutesy titles like…oh, let’s see…Warrior Writers (look at the URL). Writing blogs lack the author’s name and they pidgeon-hole content. Author Blogs, however, have the writer’s name clearly visible and then a certain day is dedicated to blogging about writing. See? Never said you couldn’t blog about writing, so hand over the paper bag. It’s okay.

But, here’s the deal. Many writers are insecure and so the reason we get the same bright idea to blog about writing is, deep down, many of us need affirmation that we know what we are doing. It’s a security blanket. But, here is the thing, writers don’t need to be expert writing teachers to be amazing storytellers. Fiction authors establish expertise by writing great fiction. Our blog is for us to connect with others, not to prove we know what we are doing. Good books will prove that.

Back to blogging….

I have made all the dumb mistakes so you don’t have to. This said, after YEARS of highly unscientific testing, I have found what works and what is very literally a social media tar baby. Am I saying MY way is the only way? No. But, I am saying, “Hey, when I did this, this and this, I was losing hair by the handful and could hear crickets on my site. Ah, but when I did THIS, people CAME TO MY BLOG AND THEN HOLY CRAP THEY CAME BACK AND SOME EVEN BROUGHT FRIENDS! SQUEEEE!”

Then, to ensure I was not a lone anomaly, I used a lot of friends as guinea pigs (Hey, Piper!), and they found that these techniques worked for them too. Not only did they begin to ENJOY blogging–GASP!–but they saw drastic improvements in their traffic fairly quickly. This said, feel free to do any of these no-nos I am listing below. I will not stop you. But later, when friends and family find you curled in the fetal position under your desk with a letter opener to your thoat and clutching a bottle of scotch, it will be very difficult for me not to say I told you so.

Last week we tipped over Sacred Cow #1 The Writing Blog. Today? We take out a couple more. Mooooooooooooooooooooooove over, Bay-bee!

Sacred Cow #2—You need multiple blog sites if you talk about more than one thing.

Um, no. Multiple blog sites dilute your brand and erode your author platform. You need one place where alllll your precious nuggets of wisdom collect.

Our blog must be under our name and then just put certain topics on certain days (even writing). Then we are connecting with people via mutual interests and this, in turn, builds our brand and our name.

I am a social media expert. I have the burden of proving I know what I am talking about.

But here is the cool part. Even if you are blogging to establish expertise, you can still benefit from blogging on other subjects on different days. These types of posts make you more human and approachable, two essential ingredients for a great blog. I blog on all kinds of things, but if people want to learn about social media, they simply check in on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

I don’t believe it has confused any of you that I have blogged about my junk drawers or growing up in the 70s. Why? Because those were on Friday, which is  Free-for-All Friday. Did you start questioning my expertise about Twitter because I blogged about dreaming I was in a nasty divorce/custody battle with Batman?

Hmmm, maybe not the best example.

But back to my point. How many of you do more than one thing? Would it fracture your reality to know I do more than one thing? Why is our knee-jerk reaction to treat readers like they are morons? If we blog about writing every Monday and gardening every Wednesday and travel every Friday, but everything is under the banner of our NAME, which is our BRAND…most people will catch up. We don’t need totally separate blog sites that spread us thinner than a college kid’s budget. Keep it all in one place. Really.

Oh the humanity! She blogs about writing AND travel. How can I go on?????

If people like you and your writing voice, likely they will read your writing blogs and your travel blogs because they find YOU and your topics interesting. Um, and if they only care about your travel blogs they…are you ready for this? They just won’t read the other days. O-M-G!

We don’t need separate blog sites to keep readers from clawing out their own eyes because we talked about something different. Having a bunch of different blogs might make US want to claw out our own eyes trying to keep up, but the reader will be fine. Multiple sites is a formula to go crazy. It might be fine now, but one day you are hopefully going to sign with an agent and you will have deadlines and a lot of work. This is why I am teaching you guys to streamline NOW. Make this blog puppy a well-oiled machine that grows as you grow in your career.

Sacred Cow #3–Group blogs are wonderful for getting your name out there and gaining a large following.

Uh…yeah, about that. Group blogs might not be the best use of time.

Can you contribute to a group blog? Sure. Can a group blog build your brand? Eehhh…not so much. The group itself gets the focus, so that is what will get branded. Think of it this way. Many of you will recognize Motley Crue. Would you recognize Mick Mars? He’s the guitarist. I had to look it up. But do you see what gets the name recognition? So unless we have an instance like The Police then Sting goes off and makes his own name, most band members’ names get lost to the overall brand…the name of the band. The BAND has the large following, not necessarily the individual members.

Same with group blogs.

There are a lot of wonderful group blogs and contributing to group blogs can open up your readership, but your own blog should be paramount. Readers know Writer Unboxed, Adventures in Children’s Publishing or Writers in the Storm, but many of us would be hard-pressed to name individual contributors unless they also happen to have their own blogs. I meet a lot of writers who are contributing hundreds and thousands of words a week to group blogs that will do very little to build their brand.

Worse still, they are contributing to the group blogs while their own blogs are neglected.

Are group blogs evil and a waste of time? NO, but they are a different tool for a different task. Is a tack hammer bad? Not if you are hanging a painting, but if you are busting up concrete? Wrong tool! Group blogs are great for getting you started and for even opening up your own blog to fresh readers. That is what group blogs do best. I contribute guest posts for group blogs. I have posted on Writer Unboxed and Genreality and I will be contributing to Adventures in Children’s Publishing in July. See, I contribute…but my own blog is first and foremost.

My tactics help you maximize time. If we are going to churn out thousands of words a week in content, then the best thing is to make some minor changes and have that effort fueling our overall goal…growing our platform and solidifying our brand.

Questions? Comments? Want to hurt me? Break out in song? What are your thoughts?

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements (Mash-Up of Awesomeness is Below)

June Week One Winner is Delorfinde

June week Two Winner is Jennifer Fischetto

Please send 1250 words in a Word document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org :D.

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Ten Ways to Avoid Mid-Book Doldrums by the awesome and talented Jody Hedlund

3 Tips to Set the Mood for Romance by the amazing and funny Tawna Fenske

Villians Dissected: Magneto by awesome writing teacher Terrell Mims

Interesting blog by Bayard & Holmes. Is profiling logical?

Jenny Hansen has a great post about how writers can ROCK LinkedIn.

The brilliant word pirate Chuck Wendig has two special nuggets of awesomeness. First a HYSTERICAL blog about the new baby that every parent should read. DO NOT drink liquids while reading. Then Chuck chimes in about all this writer blogging stuff.

Albert Berg has a great blog about YA. Is it getting too dark?

Austin Wulf has a very helpful post about resumes for the freeleance writer.

Fun and short post by Patrick Thunstrom about the organic nature of social media.

Looking for the best shows to watch on TV this summer? Then you MUST go to Tiffany White’s blog.

Happy writing!

Until next time…