Thursday, August 21, 2014

Boost Your Blog's Presence

Want to get more readers, more followers and more comments on your blog?
Michelle Hauck has one of the most interesting and thriving blogs around. I asked her to share how she does it and this was her response. 
Blogging. Everyone in writerland tells you that you should be doing it. But there are so many blogs, so much content. How does one go about driving readers to your blog? Is it worth the time and trouble?
The answer, of course, is it depends.

By the time I was writing my second manuscript, I’d gotten this same advice and fumbled my way onto Blogspot, totally unsure of the technical aspect or even what I was going to do with a blog. My early attempts at posts revolved around funny things that happened to me at work. Not exactly a crowd pleaser.

The only ones visiting my blog were other members of my writing group at Agent Query Connect and spammers. I posted when I felt like it or when inspiration struck. I began doing a series I called Getting the Call in order to bring more established writers to my blog with stories about their success with agents. That helped a little, but really, my range of friends was small, and these posts were tough to find.

Blogging wasn’t really high on my to-do list. I did it because it was sort of expected. The post bounced around from subject to subject as I had no particular readership in mind. Then that second manuscript got an offer of publication from a small press. Suddenly I had rather a bigger reason to blog. I had to get myself known. Marketing would be up to me.

That’s when two lucky things happened to me, and they made my blog take off in a gradual upward climb. First, I joined twitter. Like blogging, twitter was more miss than hit. I stumbled around there too, getting to know the ropes, slowly building up a following. But there I met other writers and I learned, learned so much about the business of writing.

I could now do more of those Getting the Call posts because I knew more people. I added posts about editing and helped people with their cover and release day posts. My pageviews began to climb.

 The second lucky break was when SC and Mike asked me to be part of a contest they’d invented called Query Kombat. None of us had done a writing contest before. None of us had agents. I didn’t even have Kindar’s Cure out yet. Happily, we gathered a group of gracious agents willing to join the fun. That first contest was a modest success.

After the contest, I did a string of query critiques on my blog with queries offered by people I’d met on twitter. My blog began to have a direction, an audience. I cast around for more ideas to fit that audience of newer writers. Agents had been very kind about the contest, maybe they’d be up for being interviewed about query slush. Turns out they were. I started by asking agents I saw often on twitter. Interviews began to roll in.

My pageviews climbed steadily upward, becoming regularly a hundred views a day. Mike and SC and I hosted other contests. I did giveaways with agents of query critiques. Then I had the great fortune to accept an offer of representation from Sarah Negovetich a few months after Query Kombat. My pageviews went to three hundred a day and then six hundred. But I was posting something pretty much every week day. My blog was busy. I began to add a few book reviews, trying to keep to speculative fiction, to direct my audience more toward readers.

I discovered that I really loved blogging. I loved interacting on twitter. The two were one and the same for me. Keeping up a steady stream of blog posts was fun, and I enjoyed it. And here we are today barely a year later and my audience continues to grow. (I hope.) It’s great to meet new people and to help other writers in any way I can. Giving back is awesome. For me it’s all about the fun! Thus my blog title and my twitter handle: Michelle4Laughs.



So what do I think are the keys to successful blogging?

—Have a specific audience in mind and give them something they can’t get elsewhere. Whether it’s romance readers, travel stories, or beginning writers, come up with unique ideas and see if you can’t create a series of it. One thing I’ve seen recently from Dan Koboldt is bringing in experts to discuss aspects of writing, such as people who know horses to help writers with truths about horses in their books. That’s a fabulous idea.

—Use twitter. Use it to meet people for guest posts and use it to pimp your blog posts. Twitter can bring people to your blog. Or Facebook or Tumblr if that’s your thing. (I ignore my Facebook too much.)

—Don’t bother unless you enjoy it. There are all kinds of social media out there. Blogging may not be your thing. You may not have the time. That’s fine. Go with what you like. I started a Tumblr and decided it wasn’t for me.

—Post regularly whether that is once a week or every day. Have some kind of schedule.

—Be positive, but let your real voice come through. Let your personality shine in your posts and don’t be afraid to be a little silly, or exuberant, or sarcastic if that’s your thing.

—Don’t be afraid to try new things and take chances. I’ve recently added a newsletter to my blog, incorporating giveaways to get it started. I was pretty nervous about trying that, but it worked out well.

—Don’t expect to be an overnight success. A good blog will grow slowly. Do things to bring people back.

I learned by trial and error, and I hope some words from someone still learning can help. Come visit my blog, I’d love to see you.

What are your favorite things to write about on your blog? Do you have any tricks I missed?


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Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

She is a co-host of the yearly query contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, New Agent, PitchSlam, and Sun versus Snow. 


Her epic fantasy, Kindar's Cure, was published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, was published by The Elephant's Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer's Double Edge. Elephant’s Bookshelf Press also published another of her short stories, The Unfinished Task, in their winter anthology, Winter’s Regret. She’s represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.

Goodreads: Kindar’s Cure




   

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thirteen Things I Learned About Self Publishing And MY BEST FRIEND DEATH

Have you ever glanced at a book blurb and known, just known, that the story’s one you must read?




That’s what happened to me with My Best Friend Death and I’m happy to say the book more than met the blurb’s promise…so I invited the author Michael Anthony to share his story and his self publishing tips with us.




Thirteen Things I Learned From Self-Publishing
1. Writing is fun. Querying is stressful. Given enough time (and rejections) the stress of querying can spill over into the joy of writing. When that happens, writing stops being an outlet, and starts being a chore. No one likes chores.
2. Many people (myself included) call a new book or WIP their 'baby'. What few realize when publishing traditionally is that you are giving up your parental right to 'raise' that 'baby', to nurture it. But when you e-pub, you have full custody. The well-being of that 'child' is entirely in your hands. Yes, it's scary, but it's also liberating.
3. Criticism can beat you to the ground if you let it. But only if you let it.
4. You can judge a book by its cover. Especially if it's a self-published book. Publishing a novel isn't cheap. Don't get me wrong, it isn't particularly expensive either. With that being said, from my experience, there are two types of e-publishers: those who invest in their novel (this includes time as well as mullah) and those who don't. Quality of cover art is a HUGE indicator of which category the author falls under.
5. Based on #4, you might be wondering how much e-publishing cost. Well, I spent about $1000 publishing my novel. That paid for an editor and cover designer, marketing, website/domain name, and a few miscellaneous things that don't really matter (paper, ink cartridges, etc). I spent that over the course of four or five months, so it wasn't all upfront. 
6. kdp.amazon.com, createspace.com, and smashwords.com are a self-publisher's best resources. Period.
7. It is SO important (no matter how you publish) to give your readers a way to communicate with you. A single compliment can truly lift your spirits. Also, if there is ever an error (however small) they will likely point it out if they otherwise enjoyed the book. Readers WANT to help writers they 'discover'.
8. Not scoring an agent doesn't mean you're not a good writer. It's so easy to slip into the defeated mindset and second guess your talents, but you have to fight it. You have to believe in yourself.
9. Self-publishing isn't taking the easy way out. Not by a long shot. Aside from looking for an agent (which the NSA recently reclassified as a form of torture), it is insanely time consuming and physically and mentally draining. You don't have a network behind you (Can you hear me now? Good). It's just you and the 857 different hats you have to wear to get the job done professionally.
10. This goes for self-publishers and traditional publishers alike: DON'T READ REVIEWS OF YOUR NOVEL. Now that I've made that blanket statement, allow me to amend it: Don't read negative reviews. If the review has a star rating, don't read anything at or below three stars. If it doesn't have a star rating (or something similar) don't read it at all. A bad review can and will ruin your entire day no matter how many good reviews stand around it.
11. Along the same lines, critics can be incredibly harsh, especially over the internet. They have to ability to say whatever they want because they can hide behind a username. But because we are trying to build a name for ourselves, we have to remain composed no matter what. When senseless hate is spewed, the hardest thing in the world is to unload your cannon of vicious insults and paint on a smile. But you MUST do it. What's said on the internet is available for everyone to see. As writers, people judge us by our words.
12. Jumping back to number 5, let me say this: you get what you pay for. This is especially true when preparing your novel for publication. The more you pay (usually) the better the quality. The opposite can also be true. Trust me, when you think your work is near perfect, there's nothing worse than someone pointing out glaring issues you paid someone to fix. You lose faith in the quality of your work, and that's the worst feeling in the world.
13. There is truly no greater feeling than seeing a complete stranger reading your book. It makes you feel...eternal. Infinite. Limitless. It makes you feel like you've made your mark on the world.

Michael’s tips are really helpful and almost as inspiring as his blurb for My Best Friend Death is compelling.

Here it is:

Damien Crown devotes his life to being his brother's superman. Like all heroes, he's locked in a deadly war with a formidable foe—his brother's depression. Instead of perishing in a climactic battle as comics suggest, he dies at the screech of tires and the blare of a car horn. But in those last precious moments, he regrets not taking off the cape and living his own life.
 

But those regrets don't last long when Death becomes his life-coach.
 

Given a new body and one more year to live, Damien seizes the opportunity to reinvent himself. Forbidden by Death from making contact with his old family, he knows the trek will be hard, but he's happy to leave behind the pressures of his old life.
 

Until his brother attempts suicide.
 

Now, the only way to save his brother is to break Death's rules. But with a life any kid would kill for, Damien finds himself stuck between who he was, and who he wants to be. He can don his cape and die for his brother, or hang it up and finally live for himself.

If you’re like me and you'd like to read this story, you can purchase it on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KTJ2UUK



And if you want to know more about his self publishing adventures and his writing you can find Michael Anthony at the following places:





Thanks for visiting.  Feel free to leave a question or a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Playing Gladys Kravitz


By Eilis Flynn

I have a home office that I sit in all day (try not to at night; paying attention to one’s spouse seems like a good thing to do when he comes home, right?), and it faces due south. If I didn’t have curtains and a lot of detritus in the window there, I’d be staring into the house next door. (I live in the city; there are only feet between domiciles.) But there are all sorts of things sitting on the window sill, so it’s cutting off my view.

There are other windows that don’t, however. That house next door has changed hands a few times since we moved in two decades and some ago. The kindly couple who lived there when we first moved in have been gone for a few years, and the house has been sold and flipped and foreclosed on and currently, after several months of intense renovation, is for sale again. (And unlike the previous owners who bought it with the intent of flipping it, this owner has done it right, with updates and painting and lots of landscaping and taking care of the egg stain on the front of the house and so forth. I’m hopeful. It’s a nice house.) Watching the renovations have been my entertainment for the past few months, and it also forces me to get up and snoop out the other windows that aren’t pointedly blocking my view. Depending on what kind of work I had at the moment, sometimes that was also my exercise. (I run my editing and writing business out of my house. It’s cozy.)

“I realized I’m Gladys Kravitz,” I told my husband when he came home one day. “At least I’m not seeing weird things happening when I look out and screeching about it.”

“But I feel like Abner,” he responded. And he did look exhausted.

For those of you not into 1960s sitcoms, there was a show called BEWITCHED starring an actress named Elizabeth Montgomery who played a witch who married a mortal and he forbade her to use her powers because, after all, she was a housewife. (This was the 1960s. Take it as you will.) She promised, but it didn’t work, and all sorts of magical things ensued anyway. The neighbors across the street, Gladys and Abner Kravitz, saw things they couldn’t explain, but when Abner did, he just assumed he was imagining things, while Gladys was pretty sure she wasn’t and got upset about it. In my case, I’d step out and find out what was happening. If I felt my house shake a little, I’d check to make sure my house was intact; sometimes it was a shock wave, sometimes the ladder actually bumped against my house. No harm, no foul. And I got a chance to see what was going on! (And of course I got a tour of the place.)

The guy who bought the place was around a lot, and we became cordial. He wasn’t a pain, and I wasn’t going to be (he was providing my free entertainment!). And because my backyard was hard to look at (as in “wince”), he offered to replace my fence that divided his backyard and mine—and made sure the fence blocked the view. Okay with me; that fence really was on its last legs. (The other three sides of the fence, however, are still our eyesore to take care of.) But the best part was when he hired a landscaper to do up the back and front—and they gussied up OUR front lawn. They mowed our lawn! Tore down dead things and cleared away things and put down mulch! Our front yard still doesn’t look great, but it still looks better. And then, they even washed off the roof of our back porch because it was visible from that house! I’m going to miss them when the place sells!

In return, when the Realtors forget to turn off the sprinklers and leave them on overnight, I go over and shut them off. It’s really the least we could do.

At no time have I seen unexplainable things. I’ve kept an eye on the place when it was empty, I’ve kept an eye out when it was being torn apart and put back together. Nope, nothing supernatural, nothing paranormal, nothing unexplainable. Unlike Gladys, I always hoped, just so I could use it in a book. I can always hope, right?

Eilis Flynn can be found to argue with at Facebook, Twitter, or at her website at www.eilisflynn.com. If you’re looking for an editor, you can find her at emsflynn.com as Elizabeth Flynn. Either way, you’ll find her online somewhere!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Looking For the Silver Lining

Last time I posted, I told ya'll about the difficult time I'd been having getting my writing groove back after some very difficult life events. Just when I thought I might be hearing the thump-thump-thump of a regular writing rhythm returning, the unthinkable happens. My trusty laptop presents me with the black screen of death. Accckkkk! You probably heard my screams in all corners of the world. After spending a day trying everything I could think of to bring it back to life, I admitted defeat and took it to the local Geek Squad. They gave me hope when they said they should be able to retrieve my files that, procrastinator that I am, had not been backed up in a long, long time. Those hopes were dashed when they called and said it was so fried it actually locked up their system. *sob* Good thing I was going old school and emailing myself copies of my WIP draft. I lost some, but not all of it, thank heavens. Now me and the Cloud are very good friends.

So, now I am the proud owner of a new laptop. It's a major step up from my old one. It has a touch screen, plus I can flip the screen over and the whole thing turns into a tablet. Too cool! But that's not what's got me so excited. This thing also has Dragon Assistant, so I can dictate my writing instead of typing. I'm still practicing (sometimes it has a hard time understanding my southern twang) and I'm not sure it increases my speed and productivity since I have to pause so it can process what I've said (it'll only take 60 second chunks at a time). Still, anything that makes writing fun again is a bonus to me.

Another thing is since I have the new Windows 8, I figure its time to upgrade my Microsoft Word to the most recent version (I've been using 2007). I haven't done it yet. Instead, I imported what I could salvage from my draft into Scrivener. I took a class on it a month or so ago and thought now would be a good time to give it a try. I'm still in the learning stages, but I can tell the visual organization the program does with scenes and chapters is much to my liking.

So there you have it. My version of the silver lining in the face of an otherwise very depressing dark cloud. Here's hoping that whatever I lost and have to rewrite is better the second time around.
 
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