Successful Blogging (update)

Writers are often encouraged to enter the world of social media.  I was slow to open a FaceBook account. Then, prompted by the desire to see photos of distant family, I finally did. I found many writer friends on FB so I started adding them. I now have 356 FB “friends.”  Whenever I post a new blog, I create a link on my FaceBook page.  I don’t expect everyone to open the link but when the topic is intriguing enough, some will.

Twitter took me longer. The idea of tweeting confused me.  Birds tweet.  People talk.  Writers write.  Last month I opened an account.  With few exceptions I avoid adding FB Friends to Twitter. After a month, I have 86 followers; most have some shared interests. As with FaceBook, whenever I post a new blog, I tweet about it on Twitter.  Some posts are re-tweeted, which spreads the word.

I started this Stringing Beads blog three years ago. I’ve had long spells when I haven’t blogged regularly. Readership suffers when people can’t count on a regular column. A good blogger must post regularly and about topics a reader finds interesting.

Overall focus is important. Solo blogs written by a lone blogger especially need this focus. Define your purpose in writing the blog then find a niche and fill it.

Are you blogging about the craft or business of writing?  It may be mostly writers who read your blog. If that’s what you want and you’re good at it, fantastic! I’m grateful for blogs like J.A. Konrath’s Newbie Guide to Publishing and those wonderful writers at Writer Unboxed.

Some writers draw readers by focusing on something that complements their writing, either in style or content. In Casey Comments, Casey Clifford shares snippets of her life that could easily be found in her women’s fiction or suspense novels.  Mary Stella’s Postcards from Paradise goes well with her fun contemporary romances about the Florida Keys. Beth Ciotta’s Blog is providing perfect introductions to her upcoming Cupcake Lovers contemporary series as well as to the much anticipated steampunk series, the Glorious Victorious Darcys.

Frequent, meaningful blogging isn’t easy. Time is precious.  As a result many readers band together to write a blog with each writing every few weeks.  Two remarkably successful group blogs with high readership are The Goddess Blogs and Magical Musings.  Both have amazingly creative writers who write on a large variety of topics.

Successful bloggers always reply to comments left by their readers. Along with it being good etiquette, this helps create more interaction and reader interest. They also post interesting pictures. And they never delve too deeply into plot lines of their own works, but rather into life itself.

A successful blog also looks professional.  Bloggers must learn and understand the program they are using, whether WordPress (my favorite), Blogger, Live Journal or some other platform. Set up and regularly test links that add to the blog, little extras in the sidebar. As  your posts grow in number, occasionally link back to ones that were popular.  Proof-read incessantly.

Read and comment on other blogs but not in a way that screams “read my blog” or “read my book.”  Comments must be genuine and relate. Readers look for a connection.

Keep track of readership statistics.  While you can’t tell exactly who is reading your blog, you can track numbers.  WordPress has Site Stats on the dashboard that gives lots of data, including what search terms people are using to find you and what posts are most popular.  A useful tool to install in your sidebar is StatCounter.

In her blog Write to Publish, Robin Sullivan talks about the importance of connecting with readers.  You should make it easy to pass your blog on to others. Post Share links to Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and others.  Include an e-mail link so the reader can send it to a friend.  On WordPress, these links are found on Dashboard under Settings then Sharing.  See below for my Share buttons.  (Hint: If you liked this article, please pass it on! :smile:)

Click onto Blog Tips for a list of other helpful tips.  Finally, please share a comment on what has worked for you.  Thanks!  ♥

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P. S.  See also this recent post in Savvy Self-Publishing for more helpful ideas.  Thank you, Lindsay!

P.P.S. – Another incredibly helpful post on this topic is Jim Murdoch’s guest column on Audacious Author called How to Get People to Read Your Blog. He mentions it in the comments below but I wanted to bring it up to the body of this post.  Thank you, Jim!

“Mining Your Backlist” at NJRW

Since the publication of their first book in 1995, Jim and Nikoo McGoldrick (aka/May McGoldrick, Jan Coffey, and Nicole Cody, among others) have published over 30 books.  On Saturday, September 17, Jim and Nikoo spoke to the New Jersey Romance Writers in Iselin, NJ about their writing journey.  Their workshop’s title was Mining Your Backlist and they presented a wealth of information about self-publishing.

In this entertaining and highly informative session, Jim and Nikoo walked us through the reasons for self-publishing and the steps required.  Using hard facts and figures, they shared their own story and what worked for them in re-publishing their books.

In 1995 Jim and Nikoo’s historical romance The Thistle and the Rose was a double NJRW Golden Leaf winner for Best Historical and Best First Book.  They went on to publish more historicals, contemporaries, suspense novels, and thrillers.

In recent years they’ve struggled to get their rights returned on out-of-print works. It has been a long and arduous process, five years with one house.  With another, it has now been seven years and they’re still working on it.

In addition to their backlist, the pair have self-published other books. One of these, Ghost on the Thames by May McGoldrick, is a Charles Dickens sort of book, complete with ghosts, set in Victorian London.  Another work by Jan Coffey is Step Write Up, a workbook for hands-on teaching of 21st century creativity skills. Three thousand copies were purchased by the New York Department of Education.

Jim and Nikoo now have 21 works available on the Internet. For roughly every one hundred e-books sold, they may sell one print on demand.  Their e-books are available through Smashwords, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, and others.  Print on demand are mainly through CreateSpace.  There is money to be made in self-publishing but the author needs to be aware of piracy.  And there is no guarantee that the profits will last into the future.

A writer looking to self-publish backlist title/s must first get his/her rights back.  After that, the process is about the same for a published author or a newbie.  An ISBN number is recommended, available either through Bowker’s or an indie distributor (i.e. Smashwords).  A cover follows.  Hiring a professional or someone experienced in cover design is preferred since a good cover can make or break a book’s sales.  The book must be typed on Microsoft Word and well-edited then formatted according to the requirements of the distributor. Pricing must be decided.  And finally, an author must determine “what’s the plan?”.

Self-publishing isn’t easy but by following the guides available online, it gets easier.

Nikoo and Jim shared many marketing tips, such as putting teasers in the backs of books and offering coupons. Traditional methods still apply. You must get your name before the public but without being obnoxious.

In the afternoon, the pair stayed for a Q & A.  “Ask us anything,” they said.  And we did. 🙂

A phenomenal presentation from a pair of knowledgeable, experienced, and amazing authors!  Thank you Jim and Nikoo!