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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 kristen lamb (6)

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|

 

Wednesday
Sep072011

Building a Following: The Four Types of Bloggers

 

Photo by Matthew Hine (click pic for link)

Today I feel a bit like Casey Kasem--I'm blogging by request. : ) Shain Brown asked if I would mind blogging about how I found my niche as a blogger, which is a great topic idea. So Shain, (*said in my best Casey Kasem voice) here is your request and dedication...

There is a lot of information out there about building your social media presence and your author brand. You can hear from experts from every walk of life. And oftentimes, you hear conflicting points of view, which can leave you frustrated and unsure of what direction to go in.

I most often refer you guys to Kristen Lamb because I think she really focuses on what works best for writers. However, as I've noted before, I've broken many of her suggestions. My biggest one being that I created a blog for writers vs. something more broad that could attract both writers and readers.

I totally see her point about why blogging about writing exclusively kind of paints you into a corner. It's put me in the position to where I now have two blogs because I don't want to do a bait and switch with you guys and move away from the reason you signed up to follow this blog in the first place.

But here's the deal: This blog wouldn't have the following that it does if I hadn't made this a niche blog.

If you are trying to build a presence online, you are going to get a lot more traction by keeping a specific focus then you will being all over the place. People like to know what they're getting when they come to a blog. Consistency = following and Consistency + Great author voice = Magic

So hopefully you guys enjoy my voice and style and that's part of the reason you read my posts, but ultimately you probably come here to get writing and publishing info. If that weren't the case, then all of you would've hopped over to follow my author blog as well. But you haven't because you may not be interested in things like Boyfriend of the Week or Sappy Sunday. : ) And that's fine. That's one of the reasons why I didn't merge the blogs in the first place.

But before you get all freaked out if you don't have a niche or clear focus, also give some thought to what you want from your blog and what you want your blog to be.

 

Four Types of Bloggers

 

 
Group Hug
Community Blogger


Purpose: If you are blogging mainly to connect with other writers who are on the same journey as you so that you can all provide mutual support and cheerleading for each other, then you may be a community blogger. You are blogging as part of a specific community. You each comment on each other's blogs.


Action Plan: You don't need to have such a tight focus or niche. You're hanging out with friends and any topic is fair game.


Benefits: You can build a very loyal, very supportive group that you feel totally connected with.


Drawbacks: You may have trouble building a massive following. Posts about your word count or how far you are in your goals probably are not going to get lots of retweets or traction.

 

 

give
Photo by Irish Hunnyb
 
Information/Niche Blogger


Purpose: You are providing information or service for your reader. Maybe that's writing tips like this blog or maybe it's giving book reviews or keeping people up to date on the latest movie releases.


Action Plan: This is where a niche is helpful. What types of information, advice, or tips are you going to give? Make sure you blog in a way that gives people a takeaway when they read your post. You give them some nugget they can deposit in their mental bank after they close your post.


Benefits: If you are giving good information, you can build a significant following because people know they are going to get something worthwhile most of the time when they visit you.


Drawbacks: It can restrict you in your topics and you may only be appealing to a specific group. If you go too far afield from your main niche, you will lose follower engagement.

 

 

ATHOT

Photo by Andres Rodriguez

 
Entertainment Blogger



Purpose: Most often, this blogger's purpose is to make you laugh--that's your takeaway.

 

Action Plan: You can have a niche (like Chuck Wendig) or you can be more broad in your topics while keeping humor the theme (like Tawna Fenske).

Benefits: People love to laugh, so you can get a lot of followers and interest in your posts. You're not limited to a tight niche on topic because humor and your voice are the binding element.

Drawbacks: Being funny all the time can be hard. And if you don't have a natural talent for it, it can come across as forced.

 

 
floating typewriter poster
Photo by J E Theriot
Established Author Blogger



Purpose: These bloggers already have their books out there and followers typically come to them BECAUSE of their books.

 

Action Plan: This is when niche can go out the window. YOU are now the niche. You can write about the tomatoes in your garden and fans will be interested in seeing a peek into your life. However, the authors who stand out in this group are the ones who aren't just writing about their tomatoes. They are the ones who can attract non-fans to their sites based on their blog and THEN get them to buy their book. Think John Green, Seth Godin, etc. This last group is what we all should strive to be once we're published.

Benefit: When done right, you can engage with your current fans and make new ones who may have never thought of buying your book.

Drawback: Easy to get complacent and just phone in your blog.

So there is no wrong or right type of blog to go with. You just have to know what your goal is and what you want your followers to get from your blog. And obviously, if you do any of these types and have a boring voice or don't engage in conversation with your readers, then you won't get traction regardless. Connecting with others is the first goal no matter how you go about doing it.

I could write a ton more about this, but I'm going to stop before I ramble on too long. : )

So what type of blogger are you? Which type do you hope to be? Which kind do you prefer to read? And do you think having a niche is important?

 


"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|

 

Friday
Jul082011

Fill-Me-In Friday

 


Welcome to the new Friday feature--Fill-Me-In Friday where I share some of the best links I've come across during the week.


On the web...

 


Sherrilyn Kenyon's keynote speech from RWA - Totally made me cry when I heard it in person. If you ever want to get whiny about writing, go read this and kick your own ass.

 

 

thefaultinourstarscovers:photo credit here[submitted by Jen]
*not actual cover, check out others here*

A Social Media Marketing Success Story via Anne R. Allen and the post she's talking about: An Unfinished Book Hits Number One

 

Things Learned at RWA 11 via Dear Author - I linked to it on Wednesday, but if you didn't check it out, go now. :)

Romances Don't Have Enough Condoms and Have Too Much Fantasy - Smart Bitches, Trashy Books take on the latest study blaming all of life's woes on romance novels. All of the stuff that is blamed on romance novels makes me tired. Really, really tired. (And for the record, I would say 99% of romance novels I read tackle the issue of protection. The only ones who don't are historical novels where birth control methods weren't exactly available.)

Forget Everyone Else by Jessica Faust - On writing the story you want to write.

There's going to be a Q & A with author Maya Banks on Dear Author on Sunday- Everything you were afraid to ask about publishing. Maya is both e-pubbed and traditionally pubbed and is now venturing into self-pubbing. You can go submit questions still and she said not to hold back! :)

 

Kristen Lamb is giving her intitial thoughts on Google+ and is generously going to test it out for those of us who are wary of entering yet another social media zone.

 

 

What Separates Man From Penmonkey by Chuck Wendig - Warning: If you haven't read Chuck before, his posts are hilarious and insightful, but rated R. There, you've been warned. :) Now go read it.

 



What You Missed on my Author Blog:

 


And if you missed Monday's post, I'm still looking for people willing to host me for a spot on my blog tour for CRASH INTO YOU. If you're interested, please sign up here.

 

And last bit of personal pimping--I've been interviewed for the Writer's Knowledge Base newsletter. Check it out here! And if you haven't already, subscribe to this super helpful free newsletter. Lots of good info each month.

Hope everyone has a great weekend! What was your favorite link of the week? Have you read any of the ones above yet?

  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
Jun132011

The Successful Author Blog - Is It A Myth?

 

Photo by Rob Boudon (click pic for link)

Last week I talked about what I learned from Kristen Lamb's talk on social media. One of the things that became a well-discussed point in the comments and then on Kristen's follow up post was the suggestion that authors shouldn't have a blog about writing. Not to say you should never talk about writing, but that you shouldn't have a writing specific blog (like this one, lol.) Kristen's point is that you are only reaching a small niche audience if you stick to writing topics (other writers) and you're missing the opportunity to reach a much wider group of potential readers.

 

So I totally get her point. Even though, like I said in the original post, I do not regret doing this blog because it has brought me wonderful friends and great opportunities I wouldn't have otherwise.

But this did leave me thinking--okay, so how do I adjust and broaden my platform? Part of what I do is my author blog where I focus more on romance-friendly stuff and photos of hot men on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I'm not blogging here. (My job is such a hardship, right?) But am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing?

So of course, I wanted to research who was doing it "right". Which successful published authors had (non-writing) blogs that were interesting enough to make people read it on a regular basis?

I first stopped by some of my favorite authors' sites. Almost across the board, the blog posts are pretty much all about upcoming releases, cover reveals, news about conferences and signings, etc. All helpful information but not something you'd like sign up to read weekly.

But I couldn't really find any stand out blogs from the authors I went to. I could think of a few authors with debuts coming out that had good blogs. I think Tawna Fenske does an excellent job having broad appeal on her blog. Her theme is humor with a heavy dose of sexual innuendo (she does talk about writing some). She's funny and entertaining and the blog gives you a feel for what her writing voice is. It makes you want to read her book. I also think Stephanie Faris does a good job covering very broad appeal topics like Do You Remember New Coke? Though she writes middle grade so her blogging is not necessarily tied to her genre.

I also love Chuck Wendig's blog. He does blog about writing regularly but it's not a "writing" blog. And he's hilarious. Totally subscribe-able. But other than that, where are the multi-published authors who have killer blogs? I gave up and asked the hive mind of Twitter. Here are the suggestions:

Neil Gaiman
Jennifer Crusie
Ebony McKenna
Patrick Rothfuss
Meg Cabot

But really, people had trouble coming up names. Now, this is a limited sample because most of the people who follow me on Twitter are fellow writers. So, like me, they tend to hang out at blogs about writing. But still.

This made me wonder is the successful, engaging author blog that rare? Do readers really care to see more than news style updates once an author is published? Are we all stressing ourselves out over something that nobody else is doing well either?

I don't know the answers to those questions. My instinct is that a non-writing reader would probably be more interested in following a favorite author on Twitter and Facebook to just get to know them organically and in bite sized morsels rather than regularly reading their blog. But that's just conjecture. And if you throw the whole self-pubbing thing into the mix, then you have even more complicated questions because then your online platform is your ONLY way to get to readers. The whole topic fascinates me.

So I'm dying to know what you all think? Which author blogs (non-writing blogs) do you love to read? What are those authors doing right? As a reader, what do you want your favorite authors to blog about? 

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|

Monday
Jun062011

Get the Best Bang for Your Blog

 

Fireworks
Photo by tsuacctnt

This weekend I had the privilege of attending the North Branch Writers' Workshop both as an attendee and a speaker. While I managed to give a talk on queries and not have a public speaking panic attack (score!), I also was able to stay afterward and hear the lovely and talented Kristen Lamb give her talk on social media for writers.

 

If you guys aren't following her yet (seriously, where have you been?), she blogs, she tweets, and she is the person behind the #myWANA (We Are Not Alone) hashtag. But anyway, she spoke on how we can maximize and streamline what we are doing online to best position ourselves and our future books in the market.

First of all, let's say that I have not been the poster child for Kristen's advice. : ) In fact, in her presentation, I was a ready example of what not to do, lol. But I am teachable (mostly). So here are a few tips I took away from this weekend.

1. Have your blog title have your name in it.

You want people to know your name, the one that is going to be on front of your books. As Kristen points out, you can't go into the bookstore and buy a book from FictionGroupie. (The same goes for using a moniker instead of your name on Twitter--it's wasting a valuable opportunity for people to learn your name.) 
This is my big sin honestly. I started Fiction Groupie when I was just testing the blogging waters. I didn't even use my name when I started blogging. Then it turned out to be something fun and the blog grew. Well, by the time I realized I probably shouldn't have made the web address "fiction groupie", I had a significant amount of followers and didn't want to start over with another address. But even if you've done this, it can be fixed. The web address doesn't matter so much, but you can add your name back. So as you'll notice above, my name is now in the title. (See, I'm teachable.)


2. Group blogs don't offer you much benefit.

I had never thought about this, but Kristen made the point of--do you know the authors' names of the group blogs you like? Or do you just know the blog name? This wastes your valuable blogging time if no one connects your name with your content. 
I had recently started a Tumblr photo blog with a group of other authors. Over the weekend, I left the blog and set up my own Tumblr site. This is where I post inspiration pics--erotic photogratphy type things, so NSFW but lots of fun.  This one also feeds into my author website under the Hotness tab. ;)


3. Don't do a blog about writing.

*ducks head* Okay, obviously I didn't follow this rule, and I don't regret it. I love this blog and the people I've met through it. And I wouldn't have gotten my agent referral or even the speaking gig this weekend were it not for this blog. However, I totally get Kristen's point. She argues that writers are only a small subset of readers.  It's more productive to blog about other things that you enjoy and that have more broad appeal--things that could expose you to a much wider audience.


4. Don't have more than one blog.

Eek! Okay, so I'm bad for this one too and I'm not changing this anytime soon but I don't necessarily recommend it to anyone else, lol. I have (shh) three blogs. This one, my author blog, and now the tumblr. But part of this is because I didn't follow #3. This blog is a writing blog. I know many of you who follow me are not erotic romance readers. So when I got my book deal, I was in the position of--how do i adjust my blogging to appeal to both my current blog readers and readers who are actually interested in my genre? 
I ultimately decided to not change the focus of this blog but to start blogging two days a week at my author site on more romance (and sometimes racier) topics. For instance, every Tuesday is my Boyfriend of the Week post where I put up (often shirtless) pics of my favorite celebrities. That appeals to some of you and not others. I do plan to start linking to those posts here on Tuesdays and Thursdays to give you the opportunity to read that content as well but as of right now, I don't plan to merge the two blogs. (And the Tumblr site is just for fun. Takes me literally 30 seconds to put a post there and it feeds into the author site, so I don't even really view it as a separate blog.) *rationalizes* 


But yes, I wouldn't recommend the multiple blog to everyone and maybe eventually I'll merge everything and just list a schedule where I say--I'm talking about writing topics on MWF and sexier/fun stuff on T/Th. How would y'all feel about that? Just curious. I'd love feedback on how you feel about a blog having mixed focus?


Also, what do you think of these other tips? What things have you done with your blog that you would've done differently if you could go back in time?


And to get more kickass info from Kristen, she has two great books for writers: Are You There Blog? It's Me, Writer and We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media.

 

And thanks again to the North Branch Writers' Workshop for inviting me to the conference! I had a lot of fun. :)