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These are my writing posts from my former blog, spanning 2009-2012. To see new writing posts, click on the blog tab above. To see these archived post organized by topic, click "For Writers" above.

Entries in author blog (5)

Monday
Jan232012

All About Web Space for Authors

It's guest Monday and today Sierra Godfrey is schooling us on the often confusing waters of deciding what you want your web home to be--website, blog, self-hosted, free, etc. She's going to give us some practical tips to make it easier for us to know which direction is best for us.

 



BLOG TOUR ALERT: Today I'm at Sexy Lady talking about From Blank Page to Published Book - How CRASH INTO YOU Came To Be

 

 


 

Take it away, Sierra...

 

 

All About Web Space for Authors
by Sierra Godfrey



When I'm not writing, I work as a freelance graphic designer. I design brochures, logos, and Wordpress-based websites with my build partner, fellow writer Mike Chen. We opened shop on our joint project, Atmosphere Websites, last summer. In that time, we've had a ton of questions about blogs vs. websites. And funnily enough, authors seem to be the ones asking the questions. 

 

Roni has written a lot on the subject of author websites as she's emerged out of the chrysalis of unpublished writer with a strong blog into the butterfly of published author with a real need for a website that accomplishes many things. I've written about this at length, too, especially for unpublished writers. A few weeks ago, Anne Allen had a post about whether you need a website at all. Here are some answers to some of the more common concerns and questions we've gotten:

1. What's the difference between a blog and a website? 

Put very simply, blogs are for social interaction. They're for engaging with others. It's okay if you want to use yours as a soapbox, but remember that the basic function of blogs is for people to comment and interact with you.

Websites are more for information purposes. They don't always nor automatically feature mechanisms for you to interact. For published authors, they're perfect for marketing books.

Of course, you can market your books just fine on your blog, but if you do only that, people will stop coming around--because you're no longer having a conversation with them.

Some published authors have asked us: Do I really need a blog? The answer is no, of course not. But if you want to provide an easy to way to converse with readers and writers, then yes.

2. What's the advantage of paid services over free ones?
First, here's the breakdown:

  • Blogger is free,
    run by Blogger and hosted by Blogger.

  • Wordpress.com is free, run by Wordpress and hosted by Wordpress.

  • Wordpress.org is free content management software that you download and install on your own server space


Server issues

Why on earth would you use your own server space and pay all associated hosting fees when you could just use Blogger or Wordpress.com's server?  The simple answer is that if they go down, so you do. 


Custom Design


One of the questions we get a lot is why anyone should pay for website design when there are so many free templates out there--for both blogs and websites. And it's true, there are free templates and some of them are really great looking. I personally maintain a blog through Blogger's free service, although I've tricked the heck out of it so it looks exactly how I want it to look. (I address why I use the free Blogger site rather than my own Wordpress site below.) Here are a few reasons for both:



With a paid web host, you:
  • Have control over how it looks and acts, and can customize the graphics

  • Can add customized features that a lot of free templates don't allow

  • Can change it, add to it, grow it,  and you generally have a bunch more options for doing this, including account size space



Free services are great because:

  • They're, well, free

  • There are a lot of beautiful templates

  • A company (Blogger, Wordpress) runs the server and takes care of upgrading templates and updating the interface

Domain names

"But I can get my own domain name on my free Blogger blog. Why do I need to pay for a hosting package?" You're paying for that domain name--and still not owning your blog space, and you're not getting extras like your@yourname.com email addresses, which you usually get for free with paid hosting packages. And, if you don't have a website, there's no room to add one later. But if what you want right now is a blog atwww.yourname.com. then the domain name option through Blogger or Wordpress.com is a good one.


3. So why are you using Blogger?


A few weeks ago, I was telling someone about the advantages of getting your own server space and domain, and installing Wordpress on it, and paying someone to do a custom design. And then they asked me, "So how come you're using a free Blogger blog?"
 

  
To be honest, there's no good reason--I just haven't gotten around to switching yet. I don't even have the excuse of having to buy or set up my own website, because I already have it. So for me, it's the matter of transferring my Blogger blog over to a Wordpress blog. I see no advantages in staying with Blogger except that I'll lose my blog followers; this is pretty easily overcome by publishing a post begging people to switch and leaving it up there. And I don't have the number of followers that Roni does. She's a little more cautious about losing her hordes--and yet, she's expressed to me that she worries about losing all the content she's published on her Blogger blog.


When I move my blog over to my own website, I'll get a better blog publishing interface (in my opinion; Wordpress has many more blog-friendly features than Blogger does even with Blogger's new interface, which strangely mirrors Wordpress's now). And all the posts I've written for the past three years will import right over, and the chance of losing them all to a crash of Blogger's doing will be minimized.
 

In the end...

Using a free blog or website vs. a paid, custom-designed one is a personal choice. Generally, you're going to want more space, freedom, and control when you're a published author, which are things a free service can't supply as well. And there's no question--a yourname.com site looks professional. 
For marketing reasons, I always advocate having your own server space. There are a number of low cost and very reliable hosting companies that offer space, email, and domain names at affordable prices. (I use 1and1.com and have four web hosting packages through them; my business partner Mike uses Bluehost.com for the same reason.)
But free blogs offer wonderful, great-looking services as well--and work just fine for lots of folks. Blogs and websites are all a part of how you manage your identity online, and as an author all those choices are highly personal. 
Please ask me any questions, or let me know how YOU plan to go forward with free or paid web spaces.

About Sierra:

 

 

Sierra has enjoyed crafting stories for as long as she can remember. She especially likes stories that feature women who grow from the choices they face—and get the guy at the end. She’s a member of RWA and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two little boys, and two annoying cats. In her spare time she works as a freelance graphic designer and technical writer. To the untrained eye she can appear somewhat sassy, but at heart she loves a good story and is really quite sweet, especially when the lighting is right. Visit Sierra at her blog or Twitter.


 

 


“...a sexy, sizzling tale that is sure to have readers begging for more!" –Jo Davis, author of I SPY A DARK OBSESSION

 

 

CRASH INTO YOU is now available! Read an excerpt here.

All content copyright of the author. Please ask permission before re-printing or re-posting. Fair use quotations and links do no require prior consent of the author. ©Roni Loren 2009-2012 |Copyright Statement|

 

Wednesday
Oct122011

The Post In Which I Rant About Blogging, Platforms,and the Pressure on Writers

 

Photo by Rafiq Sarlie (click pic for link)
Typically, I am not one to rant. I'm a pretty easy-going, live-and-let-live kinda girl. But this past week, I was pushed a bit to the brink with this whole author blog thing.

 

I wrote this post last Friday and since then, the lovely Anne R. Allen has tackled the same topic, so I suggest you read her post as well because I'm going to attempt to not be redundant and to come at it from a different angle.

*Warning: This is a ridiculously long post. I apologize in advance. Grab a cup of coffee and a pastry in case you get peckish halfway through.*

Writers are under a lot of pressure to build their platform. We talk about it ad nauseam here and there are posts everywhere you turn in the writing blogosphere. When I read those posts, I try to pull out the tidbits that may help me and let the rest roll off my back.

But lately, it seems like the noise of what we should and should not do is becoming not just loud but cacophonous, contradictory, and oftentimes, unrealistic in my opinion.

Luckily Agent Sara and my lovely editor are perfectly happy with my web presence and never put pressure on me to do any of it. But this doesn't mean I don't put pressure on myself. And I know many of you out there are doing the same.

So let's look at what's being said as of late about blogging...

1. "Writers should not blog about writing." 
Okay, first Kristen Lamb said it and I understand where she's coming from--you want to reach readers, not just writers. Then Janet Reid said it because she thinks writing about writing makes for a "boring" blog. (From Twitter: booooring. your website is about your finished writing, not your process. Its like watching sausage being made: nooooo")

My reaction: I GET it. I understand why it behooves us to have a broader audience than just writers. This is why I bought Kristen's book and started my separate author blog. But I disagree that blogging about writing is boring and something that should be frowned upon. Anything can be boring if done the wrong way. Also, I think for the writer just sticking their toe in the blogging waters, writing about writing and getting connected to the online writer community are not bad things. It can help you find your blogging voice and build a support network. Then you can gain the confidence to experiment to branch out and expand your topics.

So I trudge along with my "shouldn't be doing it" writing blog and my "more for readers" author blog. I'm not on the ledge yet. I'm doing alright.

Then...

2. There's that post by Wendy Lawton that inspired my Is Blogging Dead? post where she says that blogging may not be worth the time because the blogosphere is glutted and it's going to be impossible to stand out.

My reaction: You can read my full post, but basically, I think if you love blogging, do it. If you think it's going to put you on the NYT Bestseller list, you're probably going to be disappointed. I see fellow authors all the time who've built significant online presences, but I don't see there names rocketing to the bestseller list because of it. I'm sure it doesn't hurt their sales, but you have to think realistically. Even if you have 5000 blog followers and EVERY one of them bought your book--which believe me, will not happen, maybe 5-10% will. You're still not going to make any major list (unless those 5k people bought your book all in the same week--also not likely.)

So off I go, still typing my little blogging heart away, but being realistic. Then...

3. People start talking about what kind of stats you should be getting to be considered a decent blog by NY Publishers.
Agent Rachelle Gardner puts out the statistic that a blog should get about 15k hits a month to be considered good. Then Meghan Ward hears from agent Andy Ross that 100k hits is where it needs to be to get attention and an editor says less than that, but 10k Twitter followers is a good range. So Meghan's research reveals somewhere around 30k hits is what they want us shooting for.

My reaction: *jaw drop * *rant starts boiling within me*  I respect all of these agents who are giving this information. However, this is a seriously intimidating bar to set for people. In summary: Blog, but not about writing, and only if you can get a crap ton of hits, otherwise don't bother because it's worthless. 0_o

This blog, which I think most would consider respectably successful (including my own agent who is totally excited by my numbers), has taken me two years and 500 posts to build. I have roughly 2k followers when you combine RSS and google connect. I definitely don't get 30k hits a month. Not even close to any of those numbers thrown out above.

And 10k Twitter followers? You know how you get 10k twitter followers easy peasy? You go follow 10k people. The number of twitter followers can be completely misleading. People who follow everybody and their daddy will get people following back. But are they engaging with you? And are you going to be able to engage with all those people in a genuine manner if you're following everyone just to get your numbers up? It becomes a meaningless number. (Read Kristen's Having the Right Friends for more on that.)

So after all of this piled up in my brain, here is what I wanted to shout at the heavens: "I am not a blogger who writes. I am a WRITER WHO BLOGS!" *insert expletives that aren't appropriate for this blog*

My main goal is not to become one of the uber blogs that gets 100k hits a month. People who are doing that are BLOGGERS. That is their job. MY job is to write books that people are going to want to buy. My blog and twittering and everything else are accoutrements to that goal. If I wanted to be a blogger for a living, I would've gone and worked toward that.

So I'm begging those out there to take the pressure off of writers.

Yes, blogging and social networking are great tools for your platform. Even though, frankly, the jury is still out on whether it actually sells any significant amount of books. (Check out this post on the supposed uber blogger/writers that Anne linked to in her post.) There will always be "break out" cases and hopefully some of us become one, but the reason why people always say Seth Godin, Neil Gaiman, Konrath, etc. is because there are so few who actually reach that level with an online presence. For every one of them, there are thousands who blog and network their little hearts out and go completely unnoticed.

And yes, blogging about something other than writing will give your readers variety. But almost every "big time' author who regularly blogs, blogs about writing sometimes. Readers like to hear the behind the scenes on occasion. So you don't have to cut it out cold turkey.

And honestly, post-publication, readers go to author blogs to get to know you better. Writing is obviously part of who you are, so why not include some of that along with other things you're interested in.

Niche blogs do the best hits wise (i.e. blogs on cooking or celebrity gossip or crafts), but listen--once you are a published author, YOU are the niche. YOU. Readers aren't coming to you to learn how to scrapbook or play checkers (unless you write books about those things.) They want to know about topics related to your books and you as a person.

This idea that you're going to build some crazy big blog and people are going to flock to it for tips on playing tiddlywinks and think--ooh, look, she's a paranormal romance writer too, I'm going to go buy her book!--is unrealistic in my opinion for fiction writers (non-fic is a whole other animal). If you are not blogging about something that is related to the kinds of books you write, the two dots are not going to connect. I could build a cute puppy pics site, but it's not going to make people want to buy my erotic romance.

And even if it's related, it still may fall flat. I enjoy reading historical romances. But I do not have any particular interest in learning facts about the Victorian period. So if you make your blog about that, I'm not going to be interested. You've gone too niche-y. So try to think of things that are appealing to a broad group of readers. Meg Cabot has a great blog. It's just her using her voice to talk about whatever. And it works because she's an established author and people seek her out--then they see her blog is interesting too, so they stick around.

As for those numbers thrown out there, the only reason you'd need a blog with 100k followers pre-publication is if you want to get a book deal BASED on your blog like that Julia Child book/movie. And your chances of that happening are about the same as striking oil in your backyard. I doubt that's what most of us are going for.

In my humble opinion, here is what a writer should be focused on...

1. Write the best damn books you can (duh). Because ultimately, that's what's going to give you a lasting career and draw people to you.

2. Build an online presence that is meaningful to you and that you get excited about. 

3. Blog about what you want but try to find things that you think will appeal to your target audience. If you're passionate about whatever it is, that will come through and people will want to read it. You are introducing people to yourself and your voice first, the topic is secondary.

4. Do not obsess on the number of followers and hits. It's about building engagement with others NOT about a statistic that may or may not be meaningful. (There are even authors like Natalie Whipple who are so frustrated with that focus on numbers that they are deleting their follower gadget.)

5. Be visible to readers  -- get book bloggers to review you, do interviews, hang out in forums. Don't just stick in the little writing corner of the the world.

6. Genuinely engage with others. Be helpful, be funny, be entertaining--whatever works best for you. A thousand engaged followers is way more valuable than 10k strangers.

7. Decide if you want to be a writer who blogs or a blogger who writes. Big difference. We only have so much time and creative energy in a day, where do you want to channel the majority of yours?

Which path do you think is going to be more likely to lead you to a book deal or writing success?
Spending the majority of your work time writing and honing your craft, while doing social networking and blogging in between?
Or, spending all your time building a mega blog and hoping New York will notice you?

I'm putting my money in the first basket for 99% of cases.

So I'm here to tell you, fellow scribes, to give yourself a break. Stop stressing. My publisher didn't even ask about my blog when they gave me a book deal. As long as I have a website and they know I'm on the social networks, they're fine. They are much more concerned about me writing great books and making deadlines.

And my small potatoes writing blog has gotten me a lot of opportunities. I've been invited to speak for groups without even having a book to sell yet. I've been blessed to meet all kinds of people who are willing to promote me without me asking. I've had people recognize my name who I had no idea were even aware of me.

Will it help me sell books? *shrug* Maybe, maybe not. But I wouldn't go back and change it. The people I've met through blogging have made this more than worth the effort. Maybe I'm doing it all wrong, but it's working for me.

That's not to say that I'm not always striving to do better and that I wouldn't love to get those crazy number of blog hits at some point, but that is not what is going to keep me up at night. I've got enough sleepless nights with my characters chattering at me, thankyouverymuch.

*end rant*

So has any of the recent blogging advice gotten you all stabby? What frustrates you the most about the advice out there? What have you found most helpful? What do you want your blog to be? And do you think blogs sell books?

 


 

 

"Revved up and red-hot sexy, CRASH INTO YOU, delivers a riveting romance!" --Lorelei James, NY Times Bestselling author of the ROUGH RIDERS series

 

 

CRASH INTO YOU is now available for pre-order!

Read an excerpt here.



All content copyright of the author. Please ask permission before re-printing or re-posting. Fair use quotations and links do no require prior consent of the author. ©Roni Loren 2009-2011 |Copyright Statement|

 

Monday
Aug012011

Is Your Blog Fluffy? 5 Questions to Ask (and Contest Winners)

 

Fluffy friend

Photo by jinterwas


So last week I celebrated my two-year blogging anniversary (see winners to that contest at the bottom of this post.) That milestone along with my recent obsession with trying to figure out What READERS Want From an Author Blog and some anticipated tight writing deadlines next year has led me to do a lot of thinking about how to streamline my online time.

 

Right now I am blogging six days a week--three posts on this blog and three on the author blog. I love to blog and that's why I do it, but I also know it's a good way to suck up writing time before you know it. I get about 3.5 hours kid free writing time each morning and blogging usually takes up about 45min-1hr of that. So if I have any chance at increasing my writing output, I need to slim down the schedule and build in some flexibility.

I have a tendency to like structure and themes when it comes to blogging. It makes it easier to keep on track, but it also can start to make you feel a bit boxed in like--crap, I have to blog about THIS today because I have a theme for this day of the week.

And then many times with theme days (though not always) you end up with "fluff" posts--those posts that fill space and let you check off "blogged for the day" but don't really do much else. They don't resonate with your readers, they aren't particularly unique or different than anyone else who's blogging that day, and really when it comes down to it, are a a waste of time for everyone. This all hit me after reading this post: The Unproductive Writer's Guide to Success.

And this doesn't mean that all posts have to be long and serious. My Boyfriend of the Week theme posts on my author blog are fun, don't take a lot of time, and seem to be well-received. So I don't consider that fluff. (Plus, my editor says she likes them, so there.) ;)

But I really want to make sure that the posts I'm putting up are worth everyone's time, including mine. So I'm going to be more selective and also give myself some breathing room with what I'm calling my Flex Blogging Schedule.

So here's my new flex-y blogging schedule (for now):

 

  • Monday: Writing/Publishing Post (this blog)
  • Tuesday: Boyfriend of the Week (author blog)
  • Wednesday: open/flex day
  • Thursday: open/flex day
  • Friday: Fill-Me-In Friday/links roundup (this blog)
  • Saturday: open/flex day


So on those open days, I'll post if I have something worth saying and if I have the time to do it. If it's a writing post, it will be on this blog. If it's something broader or more personal, it will go on the author blog.

 

Of course, this is all experimental, so subject to change at anytime. :)

And here's how I'm going to determine if a post is fluffy or not.


Five Questions To Ask To Determine If You're Posting Fluff

1. Does this post add anything unique to the blogosphere? 
2. Does this post provide my blog readers with something (whether it be usable advice, interesting information, or a fun experience)? 
3. Did I feel excited writing this post or did it feel like I was dialing it in? 
 4. Is this post true to my voice? 
5. Does this post engage readers in discussion? (may have to be something to evaluate after the post)

Okay and before I forget, let me get to the contest winners. Thanks so much to everyone who entered and welcome to those of you who may be new to the blog!

 

Let's all congratulate these lucky winners!

WINNERS! 

 

  • Taryn Elliot - Writing Craft package
  • Carrie Butler - Paranormal romance 
  • Karen Taveres - erotic romance 
  • Natalie Ham - TEMPEST arc 
  • Jami Gold - Historical Romance 
  • Febe Moss - Contemporary Romance 
  • Jessica Anne - Historical Fiction 
  • Julie Glover - Historical Fiction 
  • Natasha Hanova - YA Package 


I will email the winners some time this week to get your addresses so that I can send you your prizes! :)

 

Alright, so am I the only one reevaluating my blog these days? What do you love to see on other blogs? What do you consider "fluff" posts? How do you feel about theme days (reading them and posting for them)? Which of your posts get the most reader interaction?

All content copyright of the author. Please ask permission before re-printing or re-posting. Fair use quotations and links do no require prior consent of the author. ©Roni Loren 2009-2011 |Copyright Statement|

Thursday
Jul282011

What do READERS Want From an Author Blog?

I normally don't post links over to my other blog, but I think this post is one that you guys may be interested in too. :)

 

 

 

All content copyright of the author. Please ask permission before re-printing or re-posting. Fair use quotations and links do no require prior consent of the author. ©Roni Loren 2009-2011 |Copyright Statement|

Monday
Jul042011

Blog Tour Volunteers Needed

 

 

 

BLOG TOUR (VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!)


So if any of you saw my post last night, I'm six months away from my book releasing! Squee! So I'm starting to gear up for a blog tour, which I'm thinking will start in November and go through January. I know it's still a few months out, but I would like to start compiling a list of those of you who want to be super fantabulous and generous by hosting me for a stop on my blog tour.

 

I'm not sure how many stops I'm going to end up planning, so signing up doesn't guarantee that you'll be one of the stops, but I'm going to try to do as many stops as is humanly possible without my bloggy brain exploding. :) So if yo would like to be put on the list, please fill out the form below. And THANK YOU!

Thanks ahead of time who all of you who sign up! :)  And I hope everyone has a fabulous Fourth of July!


All content copyright of the author. Please ask permission before re-printing or re-posting. Fair use quotations and links do no require prior consent of the author. ©Roni Loren |Copyright Statement|