6 Easy Ways to Grow Your Blog Readership

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When I first starting blogging, I had no idea what I was doing. In my mind, a blog was like that line from that Kevin Costner movie: “If you build it, they will come.”

Well, I built it, and honey, let me tell you: they did not come. I put up a post and waited. And made pie. And checked my blog stats to see how many people came to visit until finally, a system error message popped up on the screen: “Nobody came, and stop checking because you’re overloading our system.”

Duly noted.

What was I doing wrong? Didn’t people realize how spectacular my blog was? Didn’t they want my expertise despite the fact that I wasn’t an expert in anything (and despite the fact that they didn’t know me from Adam or Adam’s cat)? What was the deal?

Well, fast forward a couple years and I’m finally starting to “get” what a blog is supposed to do and how to maximize it. A blog is supposed to –get ready for this—share content.

Quanie, dude, everybody knows that! Why don’t you tell us something we don’t know!

Well, did you know that most bloggers quit blogging because they build it, and nobody comes?

Did you also know that most posts don’t get clicks, not because of poor content, but because the title of the post doesn’t grab people’s attention and therefore doesn’t prompt people to share it?

Did you realize that your blog boils down to you, the blogger, being the brand?

Well, Ms. Smarty Pants, if you have all the answers, then why don’t you share them?

Dude. If you insist.

  1. This might seem like a no-brainer but ask yourself: who is the audience for your blog and what types of things are they interested in? For example, I’m a writer, and so are most of the lovely folks who visit my blog. As a result of that, I write about all things writerly: the process of writing a novel, marketing, publishing, etc.
  2. Be relevant! Find out what’s going on in your industry and blog about it. You can do this by subscribing to other authors’ blogs or following them on Facebook and Twitter to see what others are talking about. Then write about those issues and give your own two cents. For instance, I just ran across a Goodreads thread titled, “Are Indie Authors Really Authors?” Is that conversation worthy or what?
  3. Does the title of your blog post catch people’s attention? Does it give folks the retweet fever? Example: you’ve just written a brilliant post and you’ve titled it, “Marketing for authors.” Snooze fest! Better: “8 marketing tips for the cash-strapped author.” You’ve written another post and you’ve titled it, “The importance of encouragement.” Better: “How a shady donut vendor helped me to finish my novel.” And after someone clicks on the link to read the article, the content should be so engaging that people want to share it.
  4. What makes people want to share a post? Not only the content, but also, you! Remember: when you blog your personality should shine through, so ask yourself: what’s the “voice” of your blog? Are you inspiring? Funny? Insightful? Snarky?
  5. Share the love. Yes, this means visiting other blogs and leaving meaningful comments. Not just “Great post, dude!” It helps if you actually read the post and say something insightful or funny enough to make the blogger and their commenters interested enough in you so that they want to find out who you are. It’s likely that they’ll visit your blog and leave a comment. Do this enough times with any particular blogger and bam: a friendship made in blogger heaven.
  6. Be visible. How can people visit a blog that they don’t know exists? There are many places where you can promote your posts: Twitter (by using hashtags like #amwriting, #MondayBlogs, or #wwwblogs. In fact, blogger Paula Reed recently wrote a blog post called “Using Twitter Hashtags to Grow your Blog Traffic. It’s very helpful. You should definitely check it out.), Shewrites,  Insecure Writers Support Group, Google+, Goodreads groups for writers, Facebook. Remember: your goal is to connect, not spam people from here to eternity. There’s no better way to get unfollowed than to keep hollering out, “Buy my book!” Your goal should be to connect, engage, and build relationships. Otherwise, what’s the point?

This should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway: your blog should also be easy to read and navigate. If people have to squint to read your posts or scroll for eternity to get to your content, it doesn’t matter if your posts are Nobel Prize worthy. It’s likely that people won’t stay long enough to see what you have to say.

Having a blog is a great way for any author to build their platform but it definitely takes time to build. It’s not always easy but if you stick with it, you’ll eventually see some growth. What about others? What things are you doing to grow your blog or increase your blog traffic? What do you find works best or doesn’t work at all? What’s the thing you wish you knew at the very beginning of your blogging journey? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

And Happy Thanksgiving Week to All! 🙂


How Not to Respond to a Negative Book Review – Part 2

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Happy Monday, All! I’ve been tagged by editor extraordinaire, Christie Stratos, to share the things I keep by me when I write, so here we go: my laptop (duh, right?), my flash drive, and a cup of coffee. Pretty simple, eh?

Now on to today’s topic. A couple months ago, I wrote about how not to respond to a negative book review. In that post, I told you all about the author who went ham, cheese, and bologna on a blogger over a negative review, but this next story takes the cake: an author showed up at a reviewer’s house over a one star review. Have you guys heard about this?

Here’s a quick rundown (from Salon):

On Friday, a YA novelist named Kathleen Hale published a personal essay in the British newspaper the Guardian, recounting her obsession with someone who had criticized her first book harshly. Hale admits to combing the Internet for information about the woman, a blogger who, while reading Hale’s book, posted a derisive running commentary to Goodreads, an enormous social networking site for book lovers. Hale confesses that she scrutinized the woman’s Instagram feed and Facebook page, as well as engaging in subterfuge to obtain the blogger’s home address. In doing so, she discovered indications that the blogger’s actual identity is quite different from the one she presents online. Then Hale drove to this woman’s house and knocked on her door. Receiving no answer, Hale later called the woman she suspected of being the blogger at work, twice: the first time pretending to be a fact checker and the second under her real identity, trying to get the woman to admit that she was, as the Guardian headline put it, her “number one online critic.”

What in leopard print hell?

And here’s an excerpt from Hale’s article for the Guardian titled ‘Am I being catfished?’ An author confronts her number one online critic:

“Before I could change my mind, I walked briskly down the street toward the Mazda parked in (The Reviewer’s) driveway. A hooded sweatshirt with glittery pink lips across the chest lay on the passenger seat; in the back was a large folder full of what looked like insurance claims. I heard tyres on gravel and spun round to see a police van. For a second I thought I was going to be arrested, but it was passing by – just a drive through a quiet neighbourhood where the only thing suspicious was me.  I strolled to the front door. A dog barked and I thought of [her] Instagram Pomeranian. Was it the same one? The doorbell had been torn off, and up close the garden was overgrown. I started to feel hot and claustrophobic. The stupid happiness book grew sweaty in my hands. I couldn’t decide whether to knock. The curtains were drawn, but I could see a figure silhouetted in one window, looking at me. The barking stopped. I dropped the book on the step and walked away.”

My question is this: what was Hale going to do had the blogger opened the door? I imagine if it had been me. I’m in my house, minding my own business, when there’s a knock on the door. I open it, and on my doorstep is an author who wants to talk to me about the one star review I left on Goodreads. The conversation would have probably gone something like this:

Me (smiling, assuming she’s selling Mary Kay): Can I help you?

Author: Yes. I’d like to talk to you about that one star review you left for my novel on Goodreads.

Me (confused): And you are…?

Author: A disgruntled author.

Me (taking off my earrings): Okay. Give me just a second.

Sidenote: If a woman takes off her earrings during a confrontation, this is probably an indication that an ass whuppin’ is in your near future.

I wonder what would have happened if that blogger had been home. Things seriously could have turned ugly. Everyone should have the freedom to express their opinion about a book without fearing that someone might show up at their home and do God knows what. And over a book! As far as we know, the blogger didn’t call the author’s mama ugly. Didn’t toilet paper her house. She simply expressed her opinion about a book, a collection of pages that are bound together and may or may not have words on them. Geesh!

I have said it before and I will say it again:

  1. Reviews are NOT for the author.
  2. If you can’t handle your reviews don’t read them.
  3. A critique of your writing is NOT  a critique of you as a person.
  4. Somebody’s opinion of your novel is actually none of your business.
  5. It is not a reviewer’s job to lift you up. This is what your family and friends are for.
  6. Never respond to a negative review! Never. Even if you feel you’ll combust if you don’t. Simply do not.
  7. And lastly: do NOT find out where the reviewer lives and show up at their house. I don’t care if you’re just bringing them a chicken pot pie. Please don’t. It’s creepy, and said reviewer just might feel violated. And just might call the cops and report a stalker. Or just might give you a lovely, twenty-four ounce can of whup ass. Just sayin’…

Everybody is entitled to their opinion and just because one person doesn’t like your novel means diddly squat. In fact, I can’t recall an instance where a negative review has kept me from reading a book. I typically make my reading decisions based on the book’s first page. If the writing pulls me in, that’s all that matters. It’s scary to think that, in this day and age, someone would go to such great lengths over a negative review. Scary!

What about others? Have you heard about this? What are your thoughts? And I’d also love to know: what would have happened had the author shown up at your house?

To read more about this story:

http://www.salon.com/2014/10/21/battle_of_the_trolls_kathleen_hale_reveals_the_war_raging_between_authors_and_readers/

http://www.killyourdarlingsjournal.com/2014/10/nepotism-bullying-stalking-online-reviews/

http://dearauthor.com/features/essays/on-the-importance-of-pseudonymous-activity/

http://bibliodaze.com/2014/10/haleno-blogger-blackout-and-the-non-existent-war/


Are Your Publishing Expectations Far-Fetched?

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Happy Monday, everybody! So today I woke up to a pleasant surprise: Coffee Bookshelves shared a lovely review of  The New Mrs. Collins. *fist pumps*

And I’m also excited because Leena Williams, the novel’s protagonist, is being interviewed on author Melissa Maygrove’s blog! If you have a moment, stop by and check it out! 🙂

So a couple weeks ago I blogged about why you should consider independent publishing and today I’m talking about having realistic publishing expectations.

Before I published my first novel, I had all of these unreasonable publishing expectations. For starters, the book would sell so well that I’d end up on the Oprah show, despite the fact that the show was off the air (because of course, she would bring it back, just so she could interview yours truly). And when I went to parties and told people that I was a bonafide published author, they would look at me like I was up there with the Einsteins and Newtons of the world and say, “You?”

“Yes, me,” I’d reply proudly, with my Nobel Prize stapled to the front of my shirt (I’d also be sipping martinis and signing copies of my New York Times best selling novel).

Fast forward a few years and this is how it actually went:

I published a novel. My mother called me and said, “Now how do I get it? On YouTube?”

“No. It’s an eBook. You’ll have to read it on a Kindle.”

“A what?”

I had a few blog tours and garnered several positive reviews, met several fantastic authors who helped me to spread the word of my novel, and actually sold several copies of the book without having to twist anybody’s arm. But there was no Oprah, no Nobel Prize, and sadly, no martinis. Why not? Well, as you can probably imagine, my publishing expectations were probably just a leetle far-fetched.

I heard Bella Andre speak at the San Francisco Writers Conference last year and she said she believes that book number five is the “sweet spot” for authors, meaning that, this is the point at which most authors are able to make a living publishing books. She was speaking specifically about writing a series, but I think it applies to non-series books as well: after people know who you are (and like your work), they will probably go back and buy everything you’ve written since kindergarten. But until that time comes, most authors struggle to build their audience.

Here are a few sobering facts:

  1. There’s a chance that no one, not even your friends and family (at gunpoint) will buy your book. In fact, you might go days, weeks, or months without selling a single copy and may potentially end up hitting the bottle and singing, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.” Dude: I’m here for you. We all are.
  2. Most books don’t sell well, whether traditionally or independently published, so if you were thinking of quitting your day job (or buying that house in the Hamptons on credit because you’re, like, so sure your book is going to sell a million copies) you might want to hold off on that for the moment.
  3. Even after people read your book, there’s a chance that (gasp!) they won’t like it. Yes: I know. You think your novel’s the best thing since War and Peace and that the people who don’t like it are obviously delusional, but keep in mind that not everyone has read War and Peace. And that probably includes yourself.
  4. You might have a hard time getting reviews initially. What not to do: send out a nasty email to reviewers telling them how they’re going to regret not reviewing your work because your book is going to be bigger than Twilight, Harry Potter, and 50 Shades combined (and then when they don’t respond, send a follow up email asking if they received your previous message. No beuno). What you should do: Write your next book. Keep networking and building your platform and eventually, once you start building your brand, people will begin to recognize your name and this won’t be as big of an issue.
  5. Social media does not exist for the sole purpose of you promoting your book. I know this may come as a bit of a shock, but if all you do is tweet, “Buy my book!” people might come to regard you as a spammer. And we all know what happens to spammers: they get deleted. Or unfollowed.

“But Quanie,” you say, I’m in a hurry to become an overnight success. What shall I do?” Write, boo. And once you’re done writing, write some more. Got one book? Well, get started on that second one. And if you’ve already gotten past book number five, then book seven might be the sweet spot for you. So get crackin’.

And in the meanwhile? Surround yourself with positive, supportive people (including other authors), and if you wake up one day and find yourself feeling particularly blue, do something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return. That probably won’t help your book sales but doing something nice for someone is always a good thing. Besides, if you sow positive things you are bound to reap them—and you might even reap them in the form of stupendous book sales.

What about others? What’s been your publishing experience? If you haven’t published yet, what are you expectations? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

 


How to Deal with Plot Bunnies

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InsecureWritersSupportGroup

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and you know what that means: another installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group! Haven’t heard of IWSG? Click here to sign up! This month’s co-hosts  are LG Keltner, Donna Hole, Lisa Buie-Collard and SL Hennessy. Make sure you stop by their blogs and say hello!

Now, let’s get into my insecurity for this month. *Rolls up sleeves*

I was online the other day when I ran across this blog post by author Reese Ryan called “My Quest to Tame the Monkey Mind and Find Focus.” In the post, Reese talks about something I’ve probably been doing for the last year: chasing plot bunnies.

For those of you who don’t know, a plot bunny is a story idea that a writer chases but can’t catch. And because we can’t catch it, we either abandon it, or worse, get distracted by another plot bunny. The cycle repeats itself until one day, a writer finds herself surrounded by a pile of half-finished manuscripts (and candy bar wrappers because, hey: chasing plot bunnies makes you hungry) and asking herself the following questions:

Am I ever going to write a novel or will I spend the rest of my life trying but failing?
Do other writers experience this?
What in the world am I going to do with all these candy bar wrappers???

It’s not a new phenomenon. For centuries authors have been trying and failing to write novels (and then questioning themselves and their ability to write because of that). As the French say: Ain’t nothin’ new under the sun. But as authors, how do we deal? I think the important thing is to allow ourselves to “fail” and not beat ourselves up about it because some of those half-finished manuscripts may very well turn into finished manuscripts one day. Or: you may end up plucking a character out of one of those unfinished stories and using them in something else. I don’t think any story idea is ever wasted. We can always use something from an unfinished project. We just have to figure out what that something is.

So that brings me to my current WIP. Without giving too much away for fear of pissing off my muse, it’s a paranormal story set in a small Louisiana town about a girl whose life changes after a traumatic event. I’ve been chasing this idea for so long I’m embarrassed to tell you. I’ve chased more bunnies than I can count but all roads have led here: I have what seems to be a solid outline and when I put the characters on the page (knock on wood!) they seem to work. But I’m afraid that somewhere down the line, a shinier, newer story idea is going to come along and say (in a Brooklyn accent): “Pssst! Quanie: over here!” And I’m going to look up and go chasing that new idea and abandon the one I’m working on now. Sigh.

What about others? What are you working on currently? And how do you deal with plot bunnies? I’d love to hear your thoughts!