To Blog or Not to Blog? Good question!

By Patricia Stoltey

HorsetoothRes2000_text_smallI’m sure you know there are tons of blogs out there on every imaginable topic. You’ve also probably heard those little rumors floating around that “blogging is dead,” or “blogging does not sell books,” or even “blogging is a total waste of time because you should be writing.”

If you already have a blog, your frustration may reinforce those rumors because your stats are in the toilet. You don’t get visitors, or they come but they won’t leave comments.

On the other hand, you may have heard that agents and publishers aren’t remotely interested in writers who don’t have an online platform. That usually means a website, a blog, and at least a couple of social media sites such as Twitter and Goodreads.

I don’t know if any of that is true.

What I do know is that blogging can be useful. It can be time-consuming. It can be frustrating. And it can be lots of fun. Let’s deal with my truths one at a time.

Blogging can be useful

1. Link to your blog and have it display on your Goodreads author page. Readers who follow you can comment on your post without leaving the site.

What did you say? You have a book out but you don’t have an author page on Goodreads? I’d highly recommend you remedy that situation as soon as possible.

2. Keep information current so friends and readers know about your new cover art or book release. You are more likely to regularly update a blog than a website.

3. Attract readers to your blog with reader-friendly content. Share anecdotes about your life with humor and photographs to attract potential readers.

Blogging can be time consuming

1. While I admire the bloggers who post long essays/articles seven days a week, I don’t think that’s the best approach for someone whose primary purpose is writing fiction. Limit the number of days you will add content to the blog, but post at least weekly.

2. Keep blog posts reasonably short or well divided into categories so readers can pick and choose what they want to read and respond to. No one has time to waste.

3. Schedule certain times of the day to read other blogs and leave comments.

Oops! I hear the screeching sound of potential bloggers slamming on their brakes. But if you want bloggers (and bloggers are readers, too, you know) to visit your blog and leave comments, you have to get yourself out there and make friends.

4. Make it easy for readers to subscribe to your posts via email. Give readers a way to search for specific topics. There are widgets for these and many other functions.

Blogging can be frustrating

1. Be patient. Be persistent. Because one day your pre-scheduled post won’t publish. The next day, you can’t open the site at all. Suddenly readers are unable to post comments. Or the blogger god makes major changes on the site and you can’t find the buttons for bold or italics or even to pre-schedule.

2. Look at blogging as you would look at any amazing technical marvel that is constantly being upgraded (and didn’t quite get all the bugs worked out before its release).

Blogging can be lots of fun

1. Make a whole bunch of good efriends through blogging. They help spread the word about cover reveals and release dates. Blogger friends post news and host authors as their guest bloggers, conduct interviews, and sometimes review books.

2. Host other authors on your site. They bring their fans to your blog.

3. Participate in blog challenges and blog hops related to your genre. Lots of book bloggers host these kinds of activities, and the people who follow book bloggers are readers.

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0One of the very best blog challenges takes place every April. It’s called the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge—participants post 26 days (rarely on Sundays) and title their posts, with or without a theme) to coincide with that day’s letter of the alphabet. Signups are happening now at the challenge website/blog and that’s where you can get all the information and register. Total participants have numbered well over 1,000 in past years. That’s a lot of econnections you can make in a month.

So after all that, is the biggest question on your mind, “Does blogging sell books?”

Wrong question!

The right question: Does blogging reach people who read books?

It sure does if you create good content, make blogger friends and help each other, promote your posts, engage with those who leave comments, and make sure your blog reaches the non-writing readers who look to Goodreads and book bloggers for the books to add to their “Want to Read” lists.

If you have questions about your blog or would like feedback, leave the link in your comment.

If a Blog Falls in the Forest….

By Sunny Frazier

Sunny FrazierJulie Luek asked me over here to discuss blog interaction. First, let me say, I'm honored. I entered the Colorado Gold contest early in my career and the changes suggested definitely got me a contract. This is a terrific group.

I do my homework. I've scrolled through some recent blogs on your site. Good stuff. So, where are the comments? One here, two there. And, the same responders showing up. What gives?

Then I found Aaron Michel Ritchey's “Why I Have Failed To Write a Word In 2014.” I don't know this guy, why should I care? But, the title has grabbed me. His first line: “I am the problem.” No writer admits to that. They blame writers block or a full-time job.

I have to keep reading. His clipped style and use of the word “suck” amuses me. I have no idea what “Lama sabachthani” means. I don't care. He's hooked me with the first sentence. Isn't that what we're told to do in our novels?

His piece got 21 comments. I read all of those as well. I want to find out more about this man and, if his books are as good as this post, I want to buy them. I'll even become the stalker he craves.

Aaron started with a headline that stood out. I'm from the school of journalism; it all starts with the headline. Next, he made it personal. He's not lecturing me, he's opening up. With loose language and a bit of irreverence, I know I'm in for a good time with this guy.

Frazier_FoolsI use the same tactics as Aaron, but I go a bit further. I created a Posse, a group of aspiring writers. I send them interesting posts and train them to reply. It's a chance for them to expand their contacts in the writing world, to find out who's who. It also allows them to give an opinion and perhaps mention their own WIP. They're trained to announce posts they've written. Blogging doesn't do a bit of good if nobody is aware of its existence. .

Everyone should have a Posse. It starts with friends and contacts in your circle. All that networking you've been taught to do? This is where it comes in handy. Get out the business cards you've collected and include them in your group. Don't be shy, but don't SPAM everyone you know. Figure out who will enjoy the experience you are about to give them.

Please don't waste their time. If you're only blogging to fill up space or fulfill a commitment, remember all of us are busy people. Every time I write a blog, I ask myself “Would I stop and read this?” Be sure the reader comes away a bit more aware or given a different slant on the topic.

Frazier_Angels FearDon't make a blog all about selling. It's promotion, yes, but readers are trained to smell the hard-sell from a mile away. You have to be slicker than that. Let your word usage do the selling for you. A blog should be an audition for your novel. If readers love the way you write, they expect more of the same in a book.

To pull people to your blog don't say, “I wrote a nice blog. Please stop by and read it if you have a moment.” Here's the announcement I posted today titled “Yes, I Dipped My Toes In Those Muddy Waters.” My email said “Literary fiction vs genre--sounds boring, right? Do we REALLY need to hash out this one again? Those of you who know me know I'm going to have the last word, and you can count on it being irreverent.”

My followers know I'm again thumbing my nose at the status quo and we're cyber-nudging each other, snickering to see if I can get away with it. Toes will be stepped on but I get invited back because I do something all site owners are looking for: I attract readers. The numbers go up. People are plugging into their websites and will hopefully sign on for more.

Finally, my last tip to create fans: I personally contact people who reply to my posts to thank them. Not just in the reply space. Nope, I'm going to Google you to see who you are, what you've written and let you know I appreciate the time you took to read my words. I will even Facebook you with a request for friendship. And, I will notify you the next time you want to have some fun with me over at another blog. You're important. You make this all work.

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Sunny Frazier trained as a journalist and wrote for a city newspaper, military and law enforcement publications. After working 17 years with the Fresno Sheriff's Department, 11 spent as Girl Friday with an undercover narcotics team, it dawned on her that mystery writing was her real calling. Both Fools Rush In and Where Angels Fear are based on real cases as well as astrology, a habit Frazier has developed over the past 42 years. To see her in her WAVE uniform and learn more, go to her website.

Writing is an Act of Love

By Nicole Disney

When I first decided it would be fun to try blogging, I had this vision of myself creating ten, twenty, even thirty posts. They were going to be stacked tight and aligned like a fresh ream of paper, somehow undisturbed by any of my three wall-vaulting cats. The contents of these pristine entries were to be brilliant, each of them a gem of insight.

Then real life happened, which looked a lot more like me cleaning the house with one hand, trying to tame my frizzy curls with the other, and perching my phone on my shoulder while attempting to plan my wedding well enough it would at least be recognizable as such. Each day was a succession of rushing to my full time job, then to my part time job, shoving a little dinner in my face, and getting in bed just in time to get that almost-enough-but-not-really, amount of sleep.

My blogging process was shoved anywhere I had a few extra minutes, and always concluded dangerously close to my deadline. I would spend my drive to work brainstorming topics, my first ten minute break writing my favorite ideas down and choosing one. At lunch break I would produce a rough version, and my half hour between jobs was used to type it into the computer and shine it up a little. All of this just for one silly, five to eight hundred word blog. The good news: I know I am not alone.

Writers achieve phenomenal feats of multitasking, job juggling, and personal relationship management. When writing a quick blog can accumulate the urgency and scatter of a SWAT raid, how do we hope to keep up with things like writing novels, submitting queries, and marketing? And yet, we do. Granted, most of us are plagued with a perpetual sensation of being behind, but when your brain is constantly sprouting new characters, plots, and chapter beginnings, it's a wonder we get to things like doing the dishes.

So I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the immense accomplishment it is to be a writer. Yes, before you are a New York Times best seller, before you are published, before you have an agent, you are already achieving something most people cannot. I have heard countless stories of single parents who work three jobs and still have a prolific collection. When are they writing? Or better yet, why are they writing when they already do so much?

I think the answer is that we are always writing. We are always hearing those pesky voices and searching for scrap paper to record vague but priceless ideas. Writing is an act of love. And we make time for it because there must always be time for love. Writers come home from the scuffle of the world, underpaid and beaten down, and decide to spend the precious last moments left in the day to creating something. That is truly beautiful.

I hope each of you will always keep writing, even when it's exhausting or means making sacrifices. This intense labor of love is worthwhile. It is necessary. It is a gift. Even though life will challenge this constantly, art is always better than money.

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Nicole Disney
Nicole Disney is the debut author of the contemporary lesbian fiction novel, Dissonance in A Minor. She lives in Denver, Colorado where she continues to write dark, edgy novels. She is also a martial arts instructor and teaches Krav Maga, Muay Thai, and Karate. For more about Nicole, please visit her website. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.