Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Blogging for Writers: Tips, Tools, and Resources

Blog (1)

Here's a collection of blogging articles and tools, ranging from getting-started tips for beginners to code tweaks for writers who don't mind a little HTML under their finger nails.

Blogging Tips

13 Simple Tips for a Better Blog from agent Rachelle Gardner
Mostly common sense stuff, some of which I often forget. (Note: she recommends short posts of 300 words. I'm finding length doesn't matter.)

How Not to Blog from Anne R. Allen (a writer and one of my favorite publishing bloggers)
Part II of a two part series from her. Includes some advanced tips.

25 Ways to Increase Blog Traffic
Lots of good stuff, some basic, some more advanced.

10 tricks to get your readers commenting
More good common sense.

Use Social Book Marking to Increase Traffic
Social bookmarking refers to sites such as: Digg it, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Delicious. You post a link to a blog entry on one of these sites and it goes viral. Ha! I posted my links on several of these sites for a month and got very few clicks. Also, the sites can be a pain to use -- maybe you'll have better luck. For now, I've settled for including links that allow blog readers to add my posts to these social book marking sites. (See links in "Bookmark This Article" in right hand column on this blog. No, I didn't put much effort into making it attractive.)

Blogging Tools

WordPress or Blogger? 
This article offers an depth evaluation of the two.
The Upshot: Blogger is simpler and cheaper, WordPress is what the big dogs use.
(This blog runs on Blogger and, aside from the limited number of add-ons, I'm happy with it. For example, I was looking for a free pop-up to ask readers to subscribe to my blog. I found one freebie that didn't work -- see below. I suspect WordPress has a lot more options.)

22 Top Blogging Tools Loved by the Pros from Social Media Examiner, a site worth subscribing to.
Note: I haven't tested out any of these tools. My assumption, unless otherwise stated in the article, is that the tools work with both WordPress and Blogger.
One that looked particularly interesting:
#15: Optin Skin
Adds nice e-mail opt-in box to end of blog posts.

Sources for Free Photos and Clipart
(Haven't tried them all -- some you have to root around to find the free stuff)
Free Images UK
Creative Commons, the grandaddy of them all -- lets you search other free sites, such as Google Images and Wikimedia. (I used Creative Commons to find the "blog" image at top of this article.)

Blogging Tools Specifically for Blogger Users

Change the Title Tags in Blogger for More Search Engine Traffic
Nice little workaround. Was a little scary adding the code, but so far it seems to be working. (Making this change is supposed to help with SEO.)

Blogger Plugins
Some useful, some crap, but worth a look.

Tools to increase blog subscribers by adding a pop up E-Mail subscribe Box to Blogger.
- Geeky option (I couldn't get this to work. Maybe you can.)
- For others options, Google the words: pop up email subscribe box
- I lost patience with all the free pop-up options and adopted a less automated solution: I inserted the appropriate code from Feedburner in each article to create a "subscribe" box (see below). Here's how to do it.

For More of My Book Marketing Tips, See:

- Is online book marketing a waste of time?

Tips for Reading Your Writing in Public

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Marketing: My Five-Month Progress Report

In April, I vowed to boost my author platform. My results have been very modest. As a result, I have to keep reminding myself that:

- Marketing experts say that people have to be exposed to your message five or more times before they will notice you.

- Other folks have told me that book marketing is a long, slow process. They forgot to mention tedious and time consuming.

 Anyway, here's what I've done and how it's worked so far.

1) Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

What I tried:
- I added keywords to my Web site, blog, and individual blog posts.
- I added tags to all blog posts. (Tagging is included with blog platforms).
- I also found Web sites on topics related to my book -- travel, erotica, singles and relationships -- and attempted to add links back to my site. For example, some dating sites allow you to post links in their forums. Recently, I exchanged e-mail with a woman who has an erotica site, and now she links to me and I link to her.

SEO can be very tedious and frustrating. Not for those with weak stomachs. Still it was the most effective strategy for increasing my traffic. When readers search on certain keywords related to my book, my blog appears on the first page of Google results. Ongoing success will probably require me to continue posting new blogs. (Google likes Web sites that regularly add new content.)

This works!

Links detailing what I did:
Coming up with keyword phrases
Adding phrases to blog and sites

 2) More Frequent Blogging

What I tried:
- I started blogged every Tuesday. Previously, I blogged maybe twice a month.) Many of my blogs were about my experiences with book marketing. Some of the articles were pretty long, which didn't seem deter readers from finishing them. T
- To increase the number of subscribers, I added a sign up box at end of my articles. I also guest-blogged on a few sites and allowed some to post my content with a link back to my site.

Monthly page views jumped from about 1,000 to 2,400, doubled numbered of subscribers from 24 to 48.

This also works, but it's an ongoing commitment.

3) Twitter

What I tried:
I posted a couple times a day using specific hashtags in efforts to attract specific audience -- people interested in travel and writing.

Followers doubled to 700, some of them interested in travel. I've also gotten more retweets and mentions than ever before. (I can claim I'm getting quality over quantity, but still, my having only 700 followers isn't going to impress anyone.)

- Twitter has been my greatest frustration because you have to wade through a lot of crap, plus connections with people are very fleeting.
- Unclear, if this is worthwhile, though it has helped boost my Klout score from 35 to 48, which is bordering on respectable. A Klout score may impress agents and other Web sites, but it won't sell books.
- I'm going to keep on for a few more months.

Links to what I've tried:
- Getting Started with Twitter
- Twitter Tips for Writers Who Hate Social Media

4) Facebook Fan Page

What I tried:
- I posted less frequently, but tried to focus on topics that would generate the most interest among fans.(With a fan page, you can see statistics on how many people each post reached.)
- I joined groups related to travel and writing (has generated some traffic back to blog -- maybe 25 page views per week.)

Have not added many fans, but have increased Reach (measure often fans interact with my posts) from about 300 per post to about 400 per post. (Fans steady at 2,026)

These are people that I interact with most frequently. I'm guessing they would be more likely to buy my book than Twitter followers, Linked In connections, or folks who read a story on my site.

Links to what I've tried:
- Does matter when you post to Facebook?

5) Linked In

What I tried:
- I posted to groups and my profile more frequently in an attempt.
- I added connections from my groups until Linked In decided I was contacting too many people I didn't know. Now, I can only attempt to connect with people for whom I have an email address or who contact me.
- I've also joined some groups related to travel and get a small amount of traffic.

- 1,090 connections,
- I have met some nice people, including some of whom I connect with outside of Linked In.
- My largest source of Web traffic comes from posts to Linked In groups. But it's very time-consuming.
- I've gotten a few freelance writing and editing offers.

Useful for industry contacts, stalking agents and publishers; could help me develop a possible audience for a book on writing or book marketing.

Links to what I've tried:
- Linked In Tips for Writers

6) Goodreads, Google+
- I have accounts but limited time, so I haven't spent much time on these two.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Marketing Concepts for Authors: All You Need to Know on One Page

Do you need an MBA to be an author? No, but applying basic marketing concepts may save some time in building your platform.

The basic strategy for online book marketing is to lure potential readers to your site with useful or interesting information, and then pitch them your book. (Yes, it's a little gross.) You do the hard-selling on your site to people who have already shown an interest in you or your work. Don't hard-sell people you barely know using social media. (More on this below)

Here are some other concepts to keep in mind.

1) Who Are Your Readers?

Some experts will tell you to imagine a single reader, the perfect reader, their age, job, family, house, car, favorite TV shows, which hand they wipe with.

This can be tricky, particularly for fiction writers. As I've mentioned previously, my novel-in-progress is about a never-married hypochondriac who takes a trip around the world looking to change his luck with love. The story has several potential types of readers, including people interested in travel, dating, and humor. I've further subdivided these groups as follows:

- Travel: adventure travel, around the world travel, people who like to complain about travel, and sex tourists.
- Dating: bitter single people over 35, smug married people, miserable married people, readers of erotica.
- Humor: raunchy humor, humorous erotica.

How am I going to go after each of these groups? One group at a time.

2) Where Do Your Readers Hang Out?

The usual suspects: Social media, Web sites dedicated to your topics, search engines

Join some groups, add some keywords to your site or most popular posts, see if your traffic increases. If not, try some others. 

After a couple of months on Twitter monitoring different travel hashtags and travel experts, I've found a few that appear to be useful and have produced either followers or clicks back to my site: #RTWnow (for people interested in planning trip around the world), #careerbreak (people considering a travel sabbatical), #bootsnall (a Web site for travelers.)

A tool like Hootsuite makes it easy to monitor and post to different groups and hashtags on Twitter. (click to enlarge).

Meet Up groups, lectures, organizations, trade shows, readings you give and attend, social events you attend.

To keep track of these people, I just started a simple monthly newsletter using a free service called MailChimp. I plan to collect cards and e-mail addresses from people I meet out and about who are interested in my book or my topics. When people ask what I'm doing with myself, I describe my book and what it's about. If they're interested, I'll ask for the order: "Would you like to be on my e-mail list?" Am I as shameless as a real-estate broker? Of course!

(Full disclosure: I just started this e-mail newsletter two week ago and only have three subscribers. Yes, I'm a knucklehead: I've been talking about my novel-in-progress at parties, giving readings, meeting people at lectures, and even giving occasional lectures -- for three years now -- and didn't collect a single card. Did I mention that I'm a knucklehead? But you have to start somewhere.)

Sample of a very basic newsletter I created using MailChimp. (It required a few hours of set-up and fiddling.) Click to enlarge.

3) How to Connect with Potential Readers

- Don't spend all your marketing time hanging out with other writers, unless they are your audience.
- Don't make bald pitches for your book. (Sorry to keep repeating this -- but it's like screaming, "Hey, look at me, I'm a douchebag!" Sending a direct message with a book pitch to a new Twitter follower is a great way to lose that follower.)
- Do answer other people's questions, comment on their comments, like their comments, follow them.
- Do offer tips, links to news items, links to stories you've written, links to Youtubes of you reading in public or audios of you reading at home.

(Audios are relatively easy to make using a microphone and a free audio editor, such as Audacity. Spend an afternoon reading book excerpts into the mic and editing them. Do a bunch and upload them to a free site, such as box.com More on audio in a future post.)

- Pitch yourself as a reader at conferences, art festivals, literary open mics, folk-music open mics, story slams, poetry slams.

- But how can you pitch yourself as a reader if you don't have a published book or a book from a big publishing house? I don't have a published book; hell, I don't even have a finished book yet -- but these techniques have helped me get readings at decent venues:

*Read at a literary open mic over the course of a few months, do a good job, become a regular, graciously pay the $5 cover charge each time, buy some beers. Then ask the organizer if you can be a featured reader. Once you've been a feature, you can include that credential when pitching other events.

*Get a video. Some events and slams video-tape participants and will offer to sell you a video of yourself. Is it a rip off? Yes. Does it make you look like a pro? Possibly. Here's a video I've posted before that was taken at a story slam in Boston. It cost $10 to participate in the slam and I believe the video cost me about $35. Did I win the story slam? Of course, not. Would you consider me as a reader?

4) How Much Time Should You Spend on Book Marketing?

One well-know agent suggested that unpublished authors spend no more than 10 percent of their writing time on marketing.

I'm about six months away from finishing my book and circulating it to agents. Considering the long odds of finding an agent and a publisher, and the fact that agents and publishers want to see that an author can market his own books, I'm spending about 20 percent of my writing time on marketing. Is the marketing interfering with my writing? Damn straight. Would I spend this much time on marketing if I hated it? No way.

5) The Simplest Advice

One marketing consultant told me: "You don't have to do everything [online, offline, live readings]. Just pick something you like and become good at it."

My favorite marketing tip comes from U.K. author Jim Murdock: "Traditional marketing techniques don’t work very well online. Being a decent bloke who takes a genuine interest in other people and isn’t always selling at them does … but not quickly."

More Book Promotions Tips:
- Linked In Tips for Authors
- Tips for Reading Your Writing in Public

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Social Media for Authors: Groups and Forums

Posting in social media groups and Web forums lets you promote to large audiences with common interests. It can also be a huge waste of time.

Here are some tips for using groups on common social media (Linked In, Facebook, Twitter), book sites (Goodreads, Shelfari), and search sites (Google and Yahoo!). Web sites that target your audience may also have forums into which you can connect with potential readers.

General Tips

- Your book marketing goal is to post links and tidbits that will entice potential readers to your Web site. Even if your posts don't drive a lot of traffic, you are creating links back to your site (SEO) and currying favor with Google.
- Choose groups with lots of active members. A group with 10,000 members who never post or visit is useless. Also, check the date of recent posts. I've found groups with lots of members but no posts since 2009.
- Find groups in which members are allowed post. Some groups only allow the group owner to post which will defeat your purposes.
- Examine the posts: If the group is full of spam, porn, or authors pitching their books, you may want to avoid it.
- Again, if you're a non-fiction writer, finding groups is easier. For fiction writers, you need to consider sub-topics addressed in your book. My novel-in-progress involves travel, relationships, and erotica -- so I'm always searching for groups interested in these topics. (for more on sub-topics for novelists, scroll down to "Finding Your Audience" on this page about Twitter.)
- Create posts so they appeal to forum members -- not just promote your books. For example: "Buy my book!!!" won't do much for you. But "How to Avoid Being Ripped Off in Bangkok" should catch the attention in a group about travel.

Linked In Groups

Linked In allows you to join 50 or so groups. (The limitation is supposed to be 50, but for some reason, I belong to 51.) Most groups are professional groups -- people in the same line of work looking to network. But there are some consumer-type groups. So far, I've posted to groups interested in travel and have found groups devoted to my other topics, erotica and dating.

Once you join a group, it's easier to connect with people in the group who you don't know. When you attempt to add them as a connection, Linked In will ask how you know them and you can click the groups option.

Note: If you attempt to connect with a lot of people who either decline or say they don't know you, Linked In will first give you a warning, then it will remove the "groups" option, and you'll have to enter their e-mail, which you probably don't have. (click image to enlarge)

Busted! Invite too many people who say they don't know you and you'll be forced to provide their e-mail address.

Other tips:
- In the settings for each group, consider turning off daily e-mail -- or all e-mail except from the moderator and people who comment on your postings. This will prevent e-mail overload.
- Start your own group: If you're popular and a lot of people are asking you to connect, you may want to have them sign up to your group instead. Owning a group has another benefit: You can send e-mail to all members in one shot.
- Avoid Facebook LikeFests and Twitter FollowFests. In some groups, members will offer to follow you if you follow them. This is a great way to increase your likes and followers, but it's time consuming to Like and Follow everyone back, you'll get huge volumes of e-mails, and you'll be connecting to people more interested in increasing their stats than they are in your book. (For more quick and dirty tips for boosting your tips, see "Easy, Sleazy Book Marketing.")
- For some reason, I've had better luck using links shortened with Tinyurl.com than I have with Bitly.com. (Sometimes, when I enter a link created with Bitly, Linked In stalls. Entering the same link created with Tinyurl works. I don't know why or if my experience is unique.)

Facebook Groups

Facebook also offers a search function for finding groups and pages targeting a specific audience. But to join a group or Like a page, you have to do it from your Profile account -- not your Fan Page. Also, be sure the group or page allows you to post links.


Search for hashtags related to your particular topics. Read my post dedicated to finding and managing hashtags on Twitter.

Goodreads and Other Book/Reader Sites

Many of these Sites have forums into which you can post links. These posts won't be as pretty as those you make in Facebook or Linked In. Typically, you can post a note and sometimes a link -- provided you use paste the HTML code for the link into your post. (Don't worry, it's pretty simple.) I have not been able to figure out how to post a link to Shelfari's groups beyond spelling it out. I.e. "For the rest of this article visit my site TheLoneliestPlanet.com." (If you figure it out, please let me know.)

A groups search on GoodReads for "erotica" produces a mixture of forums for authors and readers.

Other sites for authors and readers:
Library Thing

Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups

These are mainly e-mail groups, which means your posts won't be as pretty as those you make in Linked In and Facebook, which both include a screen shot of your post and your photo. But one really nice feature: You can post by sending an e-mail to the group. You can even post to multiple groups at once from e-mail.

Note: You'll probably need to set up an e-mail account with Yahoo or Google before you can join a group. (You can still have e-mail from the group sent to your regular e-mail account -- even if it's not with Yahoo! or Gmail.)

Waste of Time Alert: I have yet to find a group on either of these sites that's worth the time and effort. Several travel groups on Google I looked at were full of ads and spam. A promising group wanted money (a membership) if you wanted to post. Several publishing groups I joined on Yahoo! have turned out to be worthless. I didn't do an exhaustive search on either site, so my experience may be atypical -- or not.

More Book Promotions Tips:

- Linked In Tips for Authors
- Is Online Book Marketing a Waste of Time? (Often, it is)

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