This Business of Writing

Posts Tagged ‘blog’

Platforms—Why They’re Important and How to Develop One

In blogging, How-to's, Marketing Your Book on April 15, 2010 at 8:10 am

Why is building a platform important, even if you’re an unpublished writer? Besides the future promotional benefits, you also develop the discipline of writing (sometimes daily) for a responsive audience of readers. Writing interesting content daily is wonderful practice. And having an established online community that you’ll later be able to promote to is always a plus for a publisher.

Some things to consider when building your platform:

Do

Do use your blog as a way to practice writing regularly. Try to post on a regular schedule, even if it’s just twice a week. If you feel more comfortable having a buffer between you and the demands of your blog, consider building up several weeks’ worth of posts before you even launch your blog. But—continue writing posts as much as possible to keep that buffer up.

Do make blogging friends and network. You really only need one active blog to follow to get you started. This could be a blog in your genre or just a general writing blog. Active blogs usually have healthy blog rolls in their sidebar. Start clicking on blogs. Each of those blogs will also usually have a blog roll in their sidebar, too. In addition, when you add a blog’s RSS feed to your blog reader (e.g., Google Reader), when you click on “folder settings,” Google will recommend blogs that are similar in content to the one you’re adding to your reader (“More Like This”). That’s another great way to discover new blogs in your niche. The next step is commenting on blogs and developing a network, really more of a community. That step is extremely important to finding a readership for your blog.

Do consider Twitter and/or Facebook. Both are excellent ways to network online with other writers and industry professionals. You’ll learn a lot, discover resources that can help you with your writing, and network with other writers. Writing can be lonely and finding friends online is a tremendous help.

Do make sure your blog, Facebook, and Twitter presence is professional-looking. Professional doesn’t mean it has to be created by a web-designer—just that it’s carefully edited for typos or grammatical errors and that it has your contact information readily available. Plus…consider the content you’re putting on your blog and how it might look to an agent or editor.

Don’t

Publish manuscript excerpts on your blog. Many publishers and reviewers will consider your manuscript published if it’s appeared online.

Overpromote yourself. It’s much more effective to take a soft-sell approach when getting followers for your blog or (later) when promoting your book. Instead, look for ideas or resources that you can share with other writers. Try to contribute something of value to the community.

Hound agents or editors via social media about your query or submission. It’s not a good way to make friends.

With blogging, I’ve gotten ideas from other writers on plotting and character problems. I’ve developed friendships and readers—for my blog and my books. I’ve exchanged resources that help me with my writing. I’ve analyzed my approach to writing, which has helped me write other books. I’ve also known a couple of bloggers who found literary agents through their blogs—obviously a more tangible benefit to blogging.

Is platform building hard work? It is. But the rewards are worth it.

Elizabeth Spann Craig
http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com
http://elizabethspanncraig.com

Elizabeth Spann Craig writes the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and is writing the upcoming Memphis Barbeque series for Berkley Prime Crime as Riley Adams. Like her characters, her roots are in the South. As the mother of two, Elizabeth writes on the run as she juggles duties as room mom and Brownie leader, referees play dates, drives car pools, and is dragged along as a hostage/chaperone on field trips.

How to Drive Readers to Your Blog

In blogging, How-to's on April 12, 2010 at 7:41 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

List to a PODCAST of this article.

With the emergence of self-publishing as a viable form of authorship, it behooves the writer to learn how to market his work for maximum success. One of the initial steps you should consider is blogging. Once that marketing piece is in place, you then need to drive readers to your blog.

Here are some basic steps you can take to do just that.

Publish regularly. You should author articles and post them to your blog as often as possible, but no less than once a week.

Learn how to title your articles. Determine what terms and phrases people use to find information on the Internet and use those to title what you write. I first started with Google Adwords and then began to keep a database of those terms and words people use to find my blog. Can you guess what the number one phrase is?

Populate your blog posts with subscription options. Most of us are aware of the RSS feeds but you might also consider an email subscription service like Feedburner.

Try some article marketing. Think about writing article for sites like EZine or Scribd.com and others. As long as you place a link to your blog in the article, it’ll drive traffic to your blog.

Offer to guest post for other bloggers. Just this past Friday Elizabeth S. Craig was kind enough to allow me to guest post. Of course, she’s posting on my site in just a few days. These reciprocal arrangements encourage people to read both blogs so it builds readers for each party.

Consider if you should place a link under your email signature. Now everyone who sees your emails will be exposed to your blog. And you never know who knows whom.

Link your posts to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and any other social networking sites to which you subscribe. As long as they serve your target market, it’ll help build your blog.

You may wish to add a button that allows your reader to retweet your posts. This encourages their followers to find you. I’m been remiss with this but will pick it up this week.

Read other blogs within your market and comment on them. People do tend to read article comments and everyone who does will see the link to your blog.

Build an email list of people who visit and comment. Send an email announcement to each of these people whenever you have a new article posted.

You might also implement share buttons on your blog posts. If you allow your readers to connect with you on various social networking sites, it’ll generate word of mouth advertising for you. One person did this for me on Stumbleupon and I received more than four thousand hits in one day, by far my largest number of hits from a single site in a day.

If this is a topic that holds interest for you, keep an eye out for this blog as I’ll be doing more on this subject soon.

So, what are your favorite tools to drive readers to your blog?

Until we speak again, you know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”


The Key to Your Author’s Platform

In blogging, General Information, How-to's, Marketing Your Book on April 5, 2010 at 11:09 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

To listen to a podcast of this article, click HERE.

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The word, “platform” is bandied about these days as one of those many things an aspiring author is required to have. So what is an “author’s platform?” Here’s your quick definition. Your platform is nothing more mysterious then how you get the word out about your book. It’s how you market your novel. Or, as they describe in this associated ARTICLE, it is “your writing and publishing resume.”

The good news? A platform is within the reach of everyone who works at it. The bad? It takes time and effort to establish your platform.

The next question, of course, is why does someone writing a novel need one of these things? The initial answer is obvious. It helps you reach your target audience, those who will purchase your novel. And that is why you’re writing, right? Also, for good or bad, your platform gives you a leg up on garnering the interest of agents. If you think from the agent’s perspective, he gets paid only when your novel sells. So, he wants to know you already have a list of book buyers interested in your novel. The larger your platform, the better the chances an agent will represent you. The same thing applies to those who decide to self-publish. You’ll sell more books if you’ve developed a ready audience of novel buyers. It really is all about the money.

Now that I’ve mentioned money, if you’re smart about what you do, you can develop your platform for very little financial input. Though they could help, you don’t need expensive newspaper and radio ads. Neither is it required you find some wealthy benefactor to support you. (Boy, wouldn’t that be nice?) The fact is, most tools an aspiring author needs to build a platform are free or nearly so. Money should not be your stumbling block.

What might you do to create your author’s platform? As Joanna Penn says in her ARTICLE, “there is no magic bullet.” But here is a primer on how to get started.

Develop an email contact list. Every person with whom you come in contact is a potential book buyer. Get their email address and keep in contact. There are all sorts of programs for this, such as Constant Contact or even ACT! (No, I’m not a paid endorser of either.) However, this is one of your best tools with which to build your platform.

Here’s another idea, and one I appreciate. Write Articles. Like this one, for example. Create a blog and post your articles. This establishes credibility and offers people an opportunity to learn how you write, to experience your writer’s voice and so on. It allows them to get to know you.

You may also wish to join and utilize various social networking sites. Those you should consider include Twitter and Facebook.

Another optimum step is to publish and optimize your web site. This is your premier sales tool.

Secure testimonials. This can be daunting for many, I know, but there is nothing like word of mouth to get your platform cranking. Often when people read those articles you write, they’ll give you testimonials on their own. They leave them in the comment section of your blog. In fact, I’ll ask you to leave a testimonial when you’ve finished reading this article. Will you do that for me? (See how easy that is?)

Another option to consider is to publish a newsletter and send it those people who follow you throughout your various digital incarnations.

Don’t forget to utilize Amazon.com and its many tools. It’s a marvelous site to develop your writing platform.

There are any number of other ways to build your platform and you might look to THIS post by Rachelle Gardner for ideas from other successful authors.

As I close, allow me to offer one telling statistic I received from a very successful author here in Richmond. He told me only 6% of the people who came to his book signings found out about him from his efforts with traditional ads. 94% come from his social media contact work. So, you now have the key. Go open some doors.

Best of luck in your efforts to create your platform and drop a line if you have any questions.

I hope you know by now I wish for you only bestsellers!

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers”


THE Secret to the Slush Pile

In General Information, How-to's, The Craft of Writing, Working with Agents on March 19, 2010 at 7:14 pm

by C. Patrick Schulze

To listen to a podcast of this article, click HERE.

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We all know the best way to an agent’s heart is through a well-crafted query. The problem of course, is how to see that query past their hands and into their heart. However, did you know even if you’ve written the world’s best query, there’s a chance it might not be placed on an agent’s desk at all? Would you like to know why? It’s because the agents are not the first to review it.

I listened to a panel of agents a while back and they revealed a secret about queries. That is subalterns read your query first. Only if it passes their inexpert eye does it move into the agent’s inbox. So the first issue we as authors face with our book or novel, is it must pass muster with an inexperienced person. Now, I’m not knocking agent’s assistants, for we all have to start somewhere, but I have to rely upon an unproven stranger’s abilities to advance my writing career? This is not the most comforting thought, if you ask me.

So, how does your fraught-with-angst query get out of the infamous slush pile? That same agent’s panel I mentioned above gave me that answer too. All three agents agreed ninety percent of all queries are, and I quote, “crap.” Imagine! Nine out of ten queries are not even acceptable, let alone worthy. As severe as that sounds, I see it as an advantage.

Think of it this way. One hundred people apply for an important position at a company. Ninety of the applicants arrive in jeans and t-shirts, while ten of them are dressed in business suits. Which ones will move past the admin? The lesson here? Wear nice pants. Well, that too, but the real message is to learn the craft of writing. And the craft of writing includes the knowledge of how to formulate an effective query.

Now, armed with these two pieces of information, can you tell me what an agent’s assistant looks for? Here’s a hint, it’s not the next Great American Novel. The agent simply teaches them to spot a well-crafted query and to pass it along. With this information, the answer on how to avoid the slush pile, like so many answers in life, is simple. Write an effective query. How many times have we heard that one before?

I’ll bet we are all intelligent enough to craft a query letter, so I’ll assume everyone who reads this blog post will get theirs into the agent’s inbox. Now, comes the real problem. Once your query lands on an agent’s desk the process is, as you might suspect, subjective. And there ain’t nothing you can do about subjective. So, learn the craft of writing, pen an excellent query letter, be persistent and have faith.

The formula for an effective query is clean and simple and can be found all over the Internet. But in case you’d like an assist, here are some people and their article that tell you how to, and how not to write a query.

Rachelle Gardner

Nathan Bransford

Kathleen Ortiz

YA Highway

Chuck Sambuchino.

Until we meet again, I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”


How to Write Your Novel’s 1st Chapter

In How-to's, The Craft of Writing on March 18, 2010 at 7:56 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

To listen to a podcast of this blog article, click HERE.

We all know the first chapter of your book is the most critical in the novel. We also know within this initial chapter, the first paragraph is of utmost importance. And of your first paragraph, the first sentence is primary above all. Why is this, and if these things in your novel carry so much weight, how does an author insure he gets it right?

They “why” is simple. Book sales.

Have you ever seen someone in a store pull out a book, flip it open, read for a moment then set it back on the shelf? Truth be told, they do that much more often than not. So, how does an author get the buyer to say, “yes?” Of course your cover, your title and your blurbs all have power to help form the buyer’s decision, yet despite all these, before they buy they’ll read that first paragraph or two.

The worst part of this? They offer you three, maybe four seconds to capture their attention. That’s it. You’ve got mere seconds to convince them to pay you a royalty. And that is why you’ve got to grab them right away. It’s all about the sale, my friends.

So, once they flip open your novel, how is it you capture their curiosity?

One tool to consider is Point of View, or POV as it’s known. If you’re new to the craft of writing, give serious consideration to third-person point of view. You might contemplate this even if you’re not so new to the craft of writing. Third-person POV, where the author acts as narrator, can be considered a default Point of View, if you will. It’s a powerful Point of View and offers the writer much more versatility with his words. It’s easiest to write and most familiar to your reader.

Another tip is to get to setting right away. This creates that first important word picture and immerses the reader in your story at once. You need not get too descriptive, for this can bog down the action, but give them a fact or two to ground them in time and place. For example, in my current manuscript, “Born to be Brothers,” right away the reader sees a wiry man as he reins in his plow mule. Can you see how the mule and plow give you a hint of setting? The secret with this is to make the setting active. That is, have your character perform some action in relation to the setting.

You also might wish to employ some startling action in the first sentence or two. Give them a reason to raise an eyebrow as they peruse your first page. Be sure not to give them the entire picture all at once or their curiosity won’t compel them to take your novel home.

Another possibility is to open with a puzzle of sorts. You might have your hero look over something he doesn’t understand. Of course, the “something” must be integral to the storyline, but if you do this well, it may raise a question in the reader’s mind and encourage him to learn more.

You might attempt to create that perfect twist of words that captures their imagination. “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” It’s tough to do, but quite effective.

You might introduce the reader to an intriguing character in context or perspective. Is he an outsider, an outlaw or an odd duck? Again, this just might spark the reader’s imagination.

Another potential opening could include a microcosm of your entire story. If you’re writing about a murder, begin with a murder. If your story revolves around a young girls fantasies, begin with a fantasy. This type of opening can bring your reader into focus fast.

You can also attempt to fascinate or intrigue the reader with an interesting character. Imagine an opening sentence that shows a female detective thrashing an ex-con. Might your reader want to know more about her? If you use this tactic, focus on the character’s emotional state during the scene and not their physical description. For more on how to create effective characters, consider THIS blog article.

Maybe you could introduce your intriguing character in context. Identify their personality. Is he an outsider, an outlaw or an odd duck? Again, the secret here is to focus on the emotional aspects of your character.

One way to draw a reader into your novel is to establish a powerful mood. Even Snoopy of “Peanuts” fame understood this. He always stated his stories with, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Don’t use that line, but you get the idea. An evocative atmosphere from the very beginning may just work for you, if fits your story.

Now I have a question for you. What remarkable openings have your written or read that might work for the readers of this blog?

As always, you know I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”

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