Showing posts with label blogging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blogging. Show all posts

Friday, September 23

Bloggers: 10 Sites With Public Domain, High Resolution, Images

Bloggers: 10 Sites With Public Domain, High Resolution, Images

I was just reading another terrific post by Joanna Penn: 7 Mistakes You're Making With Your Author Blog And How To Fix Them. All her points hit the spot but one of them ... I felt like she was writing to me. Well, perhaps not the person I am today, but the one I was a few years ago: I didn't use enough images in my blog posts. (Maybe I still don't!)

I sympathize with folks who shy away from using images. On the one hand it is vitally important to use photos in posts. I can tell you from experience, it makes a huge difference in terms of discoverability. But it is time consuming.

Images Need To Have A Licence

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but it must be said: it's crucial that for any picture used, one needs to be crystal clear about how it is licenced. It can be tempting to use one of the many gorgeous pictures that comes up in Google Images. But don't do it, it's a trap!

So, where can one get appropriately licenced images? The first images I used were from the Creative Commons over at Flickr. Flickr has developed a friendly, vibrant, community of photographers and I had a lot of fun getting to know some of the artists whose work I used on a regular basis.

Creative Commons Images Require Attribution

Images with a Creative Commons licence require that you credit the creator. To which I say, "Of course!" That's a no-brainer and I was thrilled to do it. That's how I got to know many of the photographers over at flickr, they tracked me down and left wonderful comments on my blog.

On the other hand, putting in the attribution, getting it right, embedding all the links, takes time. If you're anything like me, there just aren't enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to get done. And, hey, sleeping would be nice!

So, lately, I've been using public domain photos for my blog. But this raised another problem: it was difficult to find decent, high resolution, photographs. Then I stumbled across a Wikipedia article (Public domain image resources) that listed dozens of sites offering public domain photos.

Images Should Have Metadata

I say "should," but of course it's up to you. I've found, though, that tagging images with metadata helps readers discover my blog. For example, the other day I googled "short story structure" and was knock-me-down-with-a-feather surprised when one of the images from my blog came up! When I clicked "visit page" it took me right to my blog article! Now, I'm not sure anyone ever actually came to my blog that way, but every little bit helps. What I do is try to remember to take time to fill in the "title" field and the "alt" field with information that accurately describes the article I'm placing the picture in.

The Upshot: All This Takes Time

It is undeniably important to have photos on one's blog, not just because it helps your blog become discovered, but because it makes blog posts look more polished. That said, it can be an enormous drain on one's time. First one has to find appropriately licenced photos, then one needs to embed them in one's blog article (I usually have to resize them first), then tag them with appropriate metadata. That can take a lot of time, it used to take me an extra 20 or 30 minutes per post.

Two Solutions: Word Swag & Public Domain Photos

Word Swag

An app that has saved me massive amounts of time is Word Swag. Yes, that's an affiliate link, but the ONLY reason I'm recommending that app as opposed to another is because I use it daily and love it. It is a very simple app, there aren't a lot of bells and whistles. But, for me, that's part of its appeal. I pick a photo, slap on some text, choose a layout for the text, tweak the colors and that's it! It saves me a ton of time because—frustratingly!—Word Swag can make images look far better than I can and in a fraction of the time. I've used Canva and love it but, for me, Word Swag is easier. There is no learning curve and it just does what I want it to do. That said, if another solution is working for you, stay with it! Don't waste your valuable time exploring solutions to a problem you don't have.

Public Domain Photos

I mentioned, above, that I came across a list of sites that host public domain photos. Here are a few of my favorites:

If you don't already use photos for your blog, try it out. See how it feels, see whether it makes a difference in your traffic. See whether you look at your blog, at your blog posts, differently. (Personally I think a blog post with a nice high resolution photograph just looks great!) But, in the final analysis, it's all about what works for you. Try things out, experiment, find out what you like; then you can make a reasonable, informed, decision.

That's it! I'd love to hear whether you use images on your blog and whether you've found they make a difference in terms of traffic or reader engagement.

Over the weekend I'll post a writing prompt, so head over there or follow me on Twitter if you want a quick writing workout.

Have an awesome weekend and I'll talk to you again on Monday. In the meantime, good writing!

My Patreon Page

In 6+ years I've written over 1,300 articles about writing, all completely free! Each post takes between one and four hours to research, write and publish. I love blogging and I appreciate my readers, I don't want anyone to feel pressed to support But if you would like to contribute a dollar a month (that's less than 4 cents per day) I would be thrilled and it would make a very real difference to the site. If you'd like to contribute, or just take a look around, here's a link to my Patreon page

Tuesday, March 31

The Dark Art of Blogging

The Dark Art of Blogging

Yesterday a friend told me he needs to stop blogging. It was a shock, but I think it’s the right decision for him, and I strongly suspect he’ll be back one day in the not-too-distant future.

It made me remember a time when, years ago, I needed to walk away from blogging. I was the primary caregiver for my parents. They needed help in their last years and I was glad to give it. 

During the worst patch, I stopped blogging for a few months. I had to. And, looking back, I’m glad I did. It was too much. In the odd half hour I could snatch for myself I needed to let my mind grope toward a static whiteness. At least, that’s what it felt like. Overload. I started hearing Scotty, “She cannae take any more of this, Captain! She’s gonna blow!”


Although I stopped blogging, I never stopped writing. Even if it was just scrawling down fragments of a story on the outside of torn envelopes. 

It’s almost ironic that when one needs the most time to meditate, to be still and feel and struggle to make sense of the apparently senseless, that one actually has less time.

And, of course, I came back! I have my friends to thank for that. When it was all over, they kindly, gently, encouraged me to resume blogging. And when I did I realized how much it meant to me, how much I’d missed it. 

So, looking back, I’m convinced that taking time away was the right decision. I think that if I had driven myself to keep blogging I may have ended up resenting my blog and, as a result, stopped for good. 

How I Blog, My Process

For a while now I’ve meant to write a post about what I somewhat jokingly call my process. But, over the years, I have developed a certain system, a certain rhythm. I strongly suspect this is going to be different for everyone, but, for what it’s worth, here’s what I do:

Step 1: A Handwritten Zero Draft

The overwhelming majority of my blog posts begin life as a handwritten draft scrawled in my writing journal. This is a rough, rough, draft, more like a zero draft than a first draft. 

Often, when I pen the first draft I’m not sure what the blog post will be about, I’m groping about for an idea. As I sit and write a theme usually emerges. 

Everyone’s different, but for myself it’s important I handwrite this first draft. If I try and type it I often end up staring at a blank screen thinking about all the things I need to do that day. I’m not sure why this is, but often a theme won’t emerge. Here’s where the “dark art” of blogging comes in!

Step 2: Transcribe The Zero Draft

I’ve experimented with voice recognition programs like Dragon NaturallySpeaking but find I spend just as much time training it as I do using it to write! 

I do sometimes use the voice recognition capabilities of my Mac, the program that comes with the operating system. Although it’s not as accurate as Dragon, I find it much more convenient since its only one keyboard shortcut away.

As I type in my first draft I reorder or delete paragraphs, fill in an idea or two, and so on. By the time the post has been transferred from my writing journal to my computer, I usually have a theme.

Step 3: Read The Post Through And Tweak It

The next step is to read my post through from beginning to end. It now begins to take on it’s final form. If I still don’t know what the post is about, I lay it aside and come back the next day.

Step 4: Polishing

Then comes polishing, and inserting whatever links are needed. (In previous drafts I simply put “[link]” in the text to indicate I’ll need to hunt up a URL.) When that’s all done ...

Step 5: Editing

I then ask my computer to read the post back to me. Often hearing my post will suggest editing changes. I try and eliminate rambling sentences that go on and on, with no period in sight, sentences where the point I was trying to make gets lost in the words used to make it; sentences like this one.

This is also where the lions share of actual editing takes place. Sometimes I’ll add another step and paste the whole thing from Scrivener to Word. Even though I love Scrivener, I like to use Word to expose my many grievous sins against the English language.

Step 6: Publish

And that’s it! Or, almost it. I still need to paste my post into the editor over at Blogger, fill in the metadata, find a public domain or Creative Commons picture, alter the picture to include the title of the post, save the image as a .jpg file, and upload it. Then, finally, it’s time to press that big, beautiful, orange “Publish” button.

And ... that’s it!

Or not. After the post is published I share the link with my social networks. For me, that’s Google+ and Twitter.

All in all it takes a few hours of work. But it’s worth it because the writing, the process, has become a living thing, like the beat of some wild subterranean drum. It’s something I love to do, something I must do. And, fate willing, I’ll be able to do it for a good long time.

That’s it! Thanks for reading. For my next post I’ll return to my series about Dan Harmon’s take on the structure of stories.

Monday, July 14

4 Ways To Write Every Day

4 Ways To Write Every Day

I need to write every single day.

Everyone's different, I know that. What works for others doesn't always work for me and what works for me won't always work for others.

Writing Daily

When I work on a zero draft, or first draft, I work on it daily. But I'm not always working on a draft. Sometimes I'm editing, sometimes I'm on vacation (a real vacation that includes neon coloured drinks with absurd miniature paper umbrellas), and sometimes the minutia of life rises up like a tsunami and sidetracks me.  

Even when I don't have a WIP I'm trying to coax from the ether I still write daily. I blog, I do a writing exercise or I work on flash fiction.

The bottom line is that I've found if I don't write every day then it gets more difficult to write when I need to sit down and spend a few hours doing that creative thing writers do where we capture a story and put it into words.

Ways To Write Every Day

After years of writing, I've noticed certain things about myself, my writing routine, and I thought I'd pass them on in case you're one of those people who's a bit like me.

Here are some suggestions for ways to write every day:

1. Write and publish a blog post, even a short one. It can be extremely satisfying to write something, finish it, proof it, and publish it all on the same day, especially if you're used to writing 60,000+ word novels. If you don't have a blogging platform, here are a couple of articles that can step you through choosing one:

- Choosing a Blogging Platform over at
- How Do I Start a Blog? over at

(BTW, I don't have any sort of affiliate relationship with BloggingBasics101, I just think those two articles have a lot of useful information.)

2. Complete a writing exercise. I wasn't fond of writing exercises until recently but now I'm enjoying them. There's something about completing a short (under 300 words) story--giving it a beginning, a middle and an end and then publishing it as a comment so that others can read it and, if they like, give feedback. It generally only takes me a few minutes. I find it can be a nice warmup exercise for my writing day.

- Writers Write (Google+) has a terrific writing prompt they share every day. (Also, I've begun sharing a daily writing prompt.)

- M.J. Bush often shares picture prompts.

3. Create short pieces of flash fiction and publish them. When I'm not busy writing an early draft of my WIP I try and finish one flash fiction story a week. I'll publish these either on my website or on Google+ (often under a pen name!). I find that doing these pieces as part of a writing challenge really helps me finish them. There's something about a group of people writing at the same time, committed to the same goal, to help keep me on track.

- #SaturdayScenes (Google+). +John Ward started the Saturday Scenes community a few weeks ago. It's a place where folks can share a piece of short fiction (generally under 1,000 words) and read the fiction of others. I've been having a lot of fun getting to know fellow writers and reading their work. I encourage you to check out the community.

We all have scenes we loved but had to cut, or trunk stories that have been gathering dust, #SaturdayScenes is a fun way of getting them in front of readers.

- Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenges. Every Friday Chuck Wendig puts together a flash fiction challenge that, in some way, relies on random chance. Here are the challenges from the last few weeks: @YouAreCarrying, Bad Parents, Doing The Subgenre Twist, Once Again.

4. Keep a journal. I used to think that my non-fiction writing shouldn't count as daily writing, but that's crazy! As I've mentioned, above, you can blog but you can also keep a private journal. Talk about what you've done that day, or how the weather makes you feel or how Aunt Joan would make a really good murderer. (I'm kidding Aunt Joan, love ya!)

Something I've been meaning to try for years is keeping a fake diary. I'd imagine I'd discovered one of my neighbours is an alien (yes, I've watched The 'Burbs a few times; perhaps a few times too many!). It could be a fun way to get some writing done and perhaps spark an idea or three. (I think I would write, "This is writing practise," above each entry so no one takes me seriously!)

5. Wattpad. I'm playing with the idea of writing a series of flash fiction stories that flow into each other, each forming an episode in a larger story. Perhaps they could be linked by the characters, or the situation or ... well, anything! It would be interesting to serialize something like this through Wattpad

That's it! 

Question: What do you do to write every day?

Photo credit: "Alien Life Of The Party" by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, June 1

3 Things I've Learned From Blogging Every Day For A Year

3 Things I've Learned From Blogging Every Day For A Year

Yes, it's been a year!

Last April I started blogging once a day and then, in the middle of May 2012, I started writing two blog posts a day, even on weekends! That was intense ... okay, crazy ... and I went down to one post on Saturdays and Sundays.

I've cut back the past couple of weeks, now I'm blogging five times a week, but I thought I'd write about what blogging every day for a year has taught me.

Great and wonderful things blogging has done for me:

1. Helped me get through writer's block

It sounds silly when I put it like this, but blogging every day has taught me that I can write every day.

Blogging every day helped me get over my fear of the empty page by helping me develop work-arounds.

For instance, I now know I have a much more difficult time writing a first draft on my computer than I do in a journal. If I write my draft long-hand I rarely get writer's block. If I write my draft using a keyboard ... well, that's a non-starter. I'm not sure why this is, but having discovered it out I go directly to my journal.

It takes longer to write all my articles, all my stories, out longhand and then transcribe them into my computer, but the work gets done and that's the important thing.

2.  Taught me I'm a horrible judge of what folks will like

I think I have a pretty good handle on what folks find moderately interesting, but I regularly fail miserably at guessing what people will think is tremendously interesting. Articles that I thought would be of interest only to myself and a couple of other cave dwellers have been my most popular, and articles I thought would be insanely popular turned out to be no more popular than average.

What is more interesting, though, is that every single time I felt I was writing uninteresting drek the article was at least as popular as average.

The lesson is that even if everything is screaming at me saying I'm writing drek I need to keep writing. Nine times out of ten the feeling passes and, even if it doesn't, even on my worst day, my writing turns out not to be as terrible as I had thought.

3. In order for me to write about something it has to interest me

It is difficult for me to write about something that doesn't, on some level, interest me.

This is one reason editing is such a chore. At some point in the editing process I begin not only to loath the story, but the very sight of the manuscript gives me hives! Okay, maybe not hives, but I do begin to find reasons, any reason, not to work on it.

My fix? Put the manuscript aside for a time and go on to something else.

How long? It depends. At some point I'll be sitting down, my mind will be wandering, I'll be thinking about future projects and I'll remember a story I put away. Its incompleteness will bother me, like an itch that needs to be scratched. Then I'll reach into my "down time" drawer, pull out the manuscript, and begin working on it again.

Coming back to the story with new eyes is like starting over. And chances are it'll be much easier for me to spot, and fix, its weaknesses.

I realize this--putting your manuscript away in a drawer and forgetting about it for a week or a month--isn't always possible for folks who have external deadlines, but I do think that taking some time away from the work can often help improve it.

The downside of blogging every day:

1. Takes time away from the kind of writing that pays my rent

That's it. That's the only downside, but it's a big one.

Periodically bloggers write about whether folks should blog, or how much folks should blog, but I think it's probably different for every person. Each of us must struggle to find that comfortable medium where we reap a benefit without taking too much time away from the work that puts food on the table.

And, next week, I do promise to write that post about book promotion! (grin)

Why do you blog? What has blogging taught you?

Photo credit: "It's all about love" by kevin dooley under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, May 18

The Key To Being A Productive Writer: Prioritize

The Key To Being A Productive Writer: Prioritize

Writing 3,000 words a day is hard.

I can just imagine Dean Wesley Smith shaking his head saying, "You think writing three hours a day is hard work?!"

Well, no. Writing for three hours a day is, to a certain extent, the easy part. After all, I already wrote about 1,000 words of non-fiction and 1,000 words of fiction a day.

There's also--I'm not going to say 're-writing'--but there is editing. At least there is for me. That's another two hours a day. Then there's my blog--two posts a day takes about four hours. Sorting through and answering my email, reading other blogs, keeping up with Twitter, all that takes another two hours.

Lately I've put aside an hour a day to do nothing but read, but--necessary though it is--that is time I'm not writing.

These past few days I've become acutely aware that I spend most of my working day on things that, while good and productive in their own way, keep me from putting my butt in my chair and writing fiction.

But that has changed, which is why I didn't blog at all yesterday: I was busy writing.

I've decided I need to make some sacrifices. One of these is that I won't be blogging twice a day anymore. To be honest, I'm not completely sure how much I'll be blogging. I've been thinking about writing a post a day, or perhaps five posts a week like Chuck Wendig.

Speaking of Chuck Wendig, this is really his fault, him and Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch. Actually, Kris started it all by mentioning she wrote one million words in 2012.

One million!

The thought boggled me. I imagined Kris sitting at her computer typing away in a blue bodysuit with a red "W" on the front and a red cape falling gracefully from her shoulders. In my imagination I gave her the name: Superwriter.

Then recently Chuck Wendig revealed that he, too, is a member of the one million words a year club. That's 3,000 words a day, each and every day.

My first thought was that it would be hard never having a day off.

But then I did something Dean Wesley Smith is always encouraging writers to do (see here, here and here) and I ran the numbers.

Guess what I found? Assuming that one's books are moderately successful (and that's a BIG if), if one writes a million words a year, chances are good that, at the end of five years, a writer can make a reasonable living.

Now, I'm not saying that one has to write a million words a year for five years to make a reasonable living as a writer.

Not at all!

One or more of your books could be a bestseller, and if that book is part of a series then chances are you'll be well on your way to making a decent living.

But hoping that one's books will be bestsellers is a much bigger IF than hoping each of one's books does moderately well. Thus my goal of writing a million words a year for the next five years.

Yes, folks, that's the goal! Whether I'll end up doing that, I don't know, but I'm certainly going to try.

It's difficult re-aligning one's life, one's priorities, so that can happen. It takes time, and it has been difficult for me to decide what to let go. I'm not letting go of this blog, I find it too rewarding, on a personal level as well as a professional one. I've learnt so much. Both through my own research and from your many insightful comments.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that this will be a learning process for me and I hope you will forgive me if I don't post as much as I used to.

And, by all means, if you would like to see a post on a certain topic, please leave a comment or contact me here.

I'll be sure to keep you updated on how it's going.


Other articles you might like:

- Indie Writers Can Now Get Their Books Into Bookstores
- What Do Aaron Sorkin, Stealing, And Advice About Writing Have In Common?
- 4 Ways Outlining Can Give A Writer Confidence

Photo credit: "London Calling #5" by Thomas Leuthard under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, April 8 Find Out How Much Traffic Your Blog Gets Find Out How Much Traffic Your Blog Gets

A question which is careening around the blogosphere is whether writers, especially new writers, should blog.

That's not what this post is about. This post is about how to determine how much traffic your blog gets.

Why should you care about how much traffic your blog gets?

You might not. If you write solely for personal edification, or as part of your writing routine, then how much traffic your blog gets is irrelevant.

On the other hand, if you're thinking about using your blog as part of your writing platform then it may help to know.

You might also wonder if having a blog at all is the best use of your time; perhaps you'd be better off devoting your spare time to Facebook or Twitter. By comparing your blog's traffic to the blogs of other writers you can get a feel for what you'd like your goals to be. allows you to see how much traffic your site gets relative to other sites.

For instance, the most popular site on the internet is Google, the second is Yahoo. There are over 300 million website in the world so if your world Alexa ranking is 3 million or less you're in the top 1%! congrats!

So, for instance, has very high traffic. Don't feel at all intimidated by not having these numbers. If you're only one person blogging and you have a limited budget there's no way you'll ever see anything close to that kind of traffic.

Two of the most popular blogs on writing are Joe Konrath's and Jane Friedman's. Still, though, their numbers are insanely high and they've been blogging for years.

Find your traffic rank

In order to find out your traffic rank go to and enter your domain name (for example, If the blog is indexed you'll get two numbers, your worldwide Alexa traffic rank and your US traffic rank. You'll also be told how many websites link to your own.

If you click the link embedded in your domain name you'll be given a more detailed analysis based on data from the last three months.

Things to remember

- When it comes to your traffic rank, the lower the number the better.
- If your global traffic rank is 3,000,000 or lower, you're in the top 1% of blogs.
- Go here and enter your domain name to find your traffic ranking. After you've done that, press "Get Details" for a more detailed analysis.

What do you think of Were you surprised by your Alexa traffic rank? Are you glad you know?

Other articles you might like:

- Using Language To Evoke Emotion
- C.J. Lyons Discusses Whether Amazon KDP Select Is Worth The Price Of Exclusivity
- Short Story Structures: Several Ways Of Structuring Short Fiction

Photo credit: "The Decisive Moment..." by Thomas Leuthard under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, March 16

To Blog Or Not To Blog, That Is Jane Friedman's Question

To Blog Or Not To Blog, That Is Jane Friedman's Question
Well, not really. It's L.L. Barkat's question.

Jane Friedman--web editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review and blogger extraordinaire--invited L.L. Barkat to contribute a post to her blog.

Nice, right? Jane Friedman has one of the most popular blogs in North America; its reach is enormous. So, what did L.L. Barkat blog about?

It is time, Barkat announced, for experienced writers to stop blogging.

This call did seem to possess a certain amount of Chutzpah, being issued, as it was, on the blog of an experienced writer. L.L. Barkat writes:
[I]n 2006, I started blogging. Over six years, I wrote more than 1,300 blog posts, garnered over 250,000 page views ....

But on Saturday, November 10, 2012, I suddenly did the unthinkable. I myself stopped blogging.
.  .  .  .

Is blogging a waste of time? ... For the experienced writer, my answer is yes … in 2013.
L.L. Barkat's post has, it must be said, the advantage of being unambiguous.

Jane Friedman's Response

Contrary to how it may seem, I'm not here to write about L.L. Barkat's post. No. I'm here to write about Jane Friedman's short but eloquent response.

I don't usually share another person's comment without asking, but in this case I think Ms. Friedman won't mind; it was publicly posted on her own blog.

1. Just because it's difficult doesn't mean it's not worth doing

Many writers blog, a lot more than used to even five years ago, and it has become more challenging to attract readers. But, even in this rich reading environment, it's far from impossible.

Besides, just because a thing is difficult (like, say, breaking in as a writer) doesn't mean it's not worth doing. Jane writes:
If it were, then why bother writing fiction or poetry or memoir or essay? Thousands upon thousands of writers are already out there doing it—more so than ever—but yet we all know and agree that a new voice still has the chance of finding an audience.

2. Blogging is less difficult for experienced writers

Jane Friedman writes that  if anyone should  be discouraged from blogging--and she's not saying they should--it would be new writers not experienced ones.

New writers may find it more difficult to split their writing focus between their manuscript and their blog--something I can attest to!

Jane gives us three things to think about when considering whether to try blogging:
(a) what is giving you energy rather than taking it?
(b) what will lead to career progress in your *current* situation, and
(c) do you have something to say—or a voice/personality—that's a great fit for a blog?
Jane concludes:
Blogging can help both new and experienced writers with discipline, focus, and voice development. But it is indeed a waste of time if you're doing it because someone admonished you to (e.g., to build your platform), and it's a forced chore. If you're not enjoying it, neither are your readers.
Also, it's easier for an established writer to maintain a popular blog because one's audience will also be made up of those who read, and liked, your books. Jane writes:
Established authors likely have more reason to blog than beginners for the simple reason that they have an existing audience who seek engagement and interaction in between "formal" book releases (or other writings). It may take less effort to interest and gather readers if you're known, and it's valuable to attract readers to your website (via a blog) rather than a social media outlet since you don't really own your social media profiles, nor do you control the changing tides that surround them. You DO, however, own your website and blog (or should).

3. Growing your blog

Although blogging can be discouraging, especially in the beginning before you've developed any sort of an audience, there are things you can do to attract readers.

New and experienced writers alike can grow their blogs by contributing to writing venues--other blogs for instance--that are more popular than their own. Jane Friedman writes:
Such efforts not only bring you into contact with new audiences/readers, but also drive traffic back to your existing site or blog.
I have also found that blogging regularly--whether it's once a day or once a month--helps build an audience.

#  #  #
What do you think? Is blogging beneficial for writers, experienced or not, or is it just one more thing to distract them from their works-in-progress?

Other articles you might like:

- Hugh Howey's 3 Rules For Writing
- 7 Secrets To Writing A Story Your Readers Won't Be Able To Put Down
- Review Of Grammarly, Its Strength And Weaknesses

Photo credit: "songs about buildings and trees" by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, December 22

Writing And Publishing in 2013: How To Survive And Thrive

Writing And Publishing in 2013: How To Survive And Thrive

I've been reading various pundit's predictions for 2013, what the New Year has in store for writers.

Today I was going to write about Mark Coker's predictions for 2013 and take a closer look at what future the large traditional publishers have, especially after they tied themselves to the millstone of Author Solutions.

Somewhere along the way, between draft and finished piece, I lost heart. Avarice isn't new or interesting; on the contrary, it's relentlessly depressing. That a business only cares about he bottom line is hardly news. So let's talk about things we--whether we're traditionally or independently published--can do to help ourselves, and each other, in the coming year.

What follows are my opinions. You may have different opinions and that's great! I'd love to talk to you and find out what they are. The fact is, I've changed my mind about a couple of things this year. That was partly a response to the world changing and partly a result of talking to other writers and being persuaded by the evidence.

1. Where Should We Sell Our Books: Is Amazon KDP Select Worth The Price Of Exclusivity?

Yes, I think so. In certain cases.

If you are a writer just starting out, you have no following. If no one has the slightest inkling who you are then I can't think of a reason not to take advantage of Amazon's KDP Select program.

That said, I believe it would be a mistake to put all your books into Select and leave them indefinitely. There is a lot to be said for not putting all your virtual eggs in one basket. Also, writers don't want to alienate any potential readers. We don't want to require them to jump through hoops to buy our work, and forcing readers to buy from only one store is a pretty big hoop.

If you already have a following, the benefit of Amazon's KDP Select program is going to be markedly less. If you are releasing the first book of a series or if you are branching out into a previously unexplored genre, you might think about releasing the book with Select to pick up a few readers. After the three months are up, though, you'd probably want to pull it out of Select and make your book available on all platforms.

Other articles on the price, and benefits, of exclusivity:
- Does Amazon KDP Select Drive Away True Fans?
- Amazon's KDP Select: The Best Long-Term Strategy?
- Amazon's KDP Select Program Has A Lot To Offer New Writers, But What About Established Ones?
- Kobo Becoming a Player for Self-Published Ebook Authors, Lindsay Buroker

2. How much should ebooks sell for?

I don't think you should price your ebook under $2.99.

You'll probably want to try experimenting to see what the best price point is for you. I think $2.99 is the minimum you should offer your ebook for, but the maximum is up to you. I've seen indie published books for as much as $9.99 selling relatively well.

That's not to say you can't make a book free, or dramatically lower its price, for brief periods of time as part of your marketing strategy.

Also see:
- Writers: How To Use Permanently Free Books To Increase Sales

3. Should I Blog?

The answer for me was: Yes!

Before I started blogging it was difficult to write every day. I knew that in order to get better one must write but it was difficult to find the "butt-in-chair" time I needed. When I made the commitment to post one blog post a day--then two--writing every day became part of my life.

Blogging Helps Newer Writers

I think blogging benefits newer writers more than established ones. Old pros have their community, they have their routine, and they've written well over 1,000,000 words.

1,000,000 Words And Competency

There's a notion that in order to learn to write saleable fiction one must first write 1,000,000 words. That's an approximation, certainly, but 1,000,000 words is ten 100,000 word books. That seems about right. But there's another way of looking at it: One thousand 1,000 word blog posts! If you did two 1,000 word blog posts a week by the end of one year you'd have written about 100,000 words.

Blog posts count toward your 1,000,000 words, so after one year, just by blogging regularly, you'd be 1/10 of the way there!

Your Blog And Serials

I can hear someone say, "But wouldn't it be better to use those 100,000 words and write a book?"

There's no reason blogging and writing fiction can't be combined. I think one of the big things in 2013 will be serials. Every week you could do one non-fiction blog and and one episode of your serial. Start building up an audience for your fiction writing, get more eyes on your blog, and then--when your story is finished--publish all the episodes on your ebook platform of choice.

A number of writers are taking up the challenge of writing serials. Recently I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of one of them, Ben Guilfoy. Ben wrote an excellent article about his experience with the art form as well as how he structures a serial.

Here are a couple more articles on the subject of serials:
- Serial Fiction: Is It Profitable?
- Is Serial Fiction Profitable? Hugh Howey Says: Yes! Even With Absolutely No Promotion

To Be Continued ...

It turns out this post is going to be a bit like a serial! I try and keep my word count under 1,000 so I'm going to break off here and finish my list of 'things writers should do in 2013' tomorrow. (Update: Click here for the rest of the list: Writing And Publishing In 2013, How To Survive And Thrive: Part Two)

In all things, do what seems right to you. If something I wrote resonates with you, great! If not, that's fine. It was nice having you stop by, I hope you'll come again. :)

Other articles you might like:

- Writing Links: Blogs For Writers
- Ready. Set. Write!
- How Many Drafts Does It Take To Write A Novel?

Photo credit: "Another Pillow!" by CarbonNYC under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, November 20

How Often Should A Writer Blog? Answer: It Depends On Your Goals

How Often Should A Writer Blog? Answer: It Depends On Your Goals

Sometimes writers email me and ask how often they should blog, or what they should blog about, or how long their blog posts should be, and so on. That's great, I love hearing from readers. I write back and ask: Why do you want to blog? Or, more specifically:

What do you want your blog to do for you?

I've talked before about whether a writer needs a blog, but I've rarely talked about things like how often a person should blog.

Originally I was going to look at a number of different goals a writer might have for their blog and then, for each goal, give my two cents. But that would have made this post book-length! So I'm just going to focus on one goal for today.

Goal: Build A Writer's Platform

Let's say your number one goal is to build a writer's platform. Now you can go on to answer other questions such as:

a) How often should I blog?

Since your goal is to build a writer's platform then you'll be interested in growing your blog. Different folks measure their blogs growth in different ways. Some look at the number of unique visitors per month, for others they concentrate on pageviews.

How big is big enough? I think this is a personal thing. Some writers would be happy with 5,000 pageviews a month while others want 500,000.

Whatever your goal, ask yourself how long you want it to take to get there. If you want to go from 0 pageviews to 5,000 pageviews per month in 6 months then I think you would need to plan on blogging every day and see how things go. Give it a month, or even two, and look at your rate of growth.

Ask yourself: If your pageviews continue growing at the present rate would that be enough to meet your goal or do you need to adjust your blogging schedule? Perhaps you're going to overshoot your target. Perhaps your calculations will show that, in six months time, you'll have an average of 10,000 pageviews per month.

If you want 10,000 pageviews per month as your new goal, great! Keep at it. If you'd rather scale back and spend your time doing something other than writing blog posts (for instance, starting the draft of your next book) then do that.

What you need to do with your blog depends on what you want. It depends on what your goals are. 

Here I've talked about a person wanting to take their blog from 0 pageviews per month--a brand new blog--to one with 5,000 page views. But what if you already have a blog that has around 5,000 pageviews a month? What if you want to grow it to, say, 100,000 pageviews per month or even larger?

I asked this question of a professional blogger, someone whose blog gets around 350,000 pageviews per month. This person told me that to grow ones blog rapidly one needed to publish at least two blog posts a day. At least.

I looked around for advice on the internet as well, and this bloggers advice was echoed wherever I looked. And, what is more, if my own experience is anything to judge by, it was good advice.

b) What should I blog about?

Blog about something that interests you. Since you're building a writer's platform, it (of course) needs to be something related to your writing.

Look at what authors writing in your genre blog about. Or, more importantly, what do readers in your genre like to talk about?

A great way to find out is to ask. Put up a poll on your blog, go to conventions and ask fans what they like to read. Say you write spy thrillers. Do fans of the genre like reading about the lives of real-life spies? Do they like reading about the technology involved in spying?

For instance, look at Amanda Hocking's blog posts, especially those she made when she first started out. What did she blog about? Popular culture. The TV shows she watched, the bands she liked. She connected with the people who wanted to read her fiction.

c) How long should my posts be?

Shorter than this one! (grin) I try to aim for around 500 to 750 words per post, but often go way over that.

The longer the post the more important it is that it be broken into sections with descriptive headers. That way if someone is interested in just one aspect of the post they can quickly get to the information they want. Also, a long post looks less intimidating to the eye when broken up, otherwise it just looks like one gigantic, unappealing, pillar of text.

d) Should I use images?

Yes! In my experience readers love images. Also, if you use images with a creative commons copyright often you'll get traffic from them as well. Why? Well, when you abide by best attribution practices you'll post a link back to the picture and, often, to the profile page of the artist. Artists like to see where their work is being displayed and will often drop by to say "Hi".

Also, if I have time, I like to leave a comment on the page I took the picture from, thank the artist for licensing their work with a creative commons copyright and provide a link back to my blog post. This is not only part of best practices but it's another way of making a connection and getting a url to your site elsewhere on the internet.

In General ...

Whatever genre you write in, go and look at the websites, blogs, what have you, other writers have put up. Pay attention to things such as Google Page Rank and how well known the writer is apart from blogging. It seems to me that the more popular a writer is independently of their blog, the less often they need to blog.

Originally I wanted to talk about all sorts of different reasons why a writer might want to blog and to say a few words about each. I still want to do that, so I'll list these goals here and come back to them down the road:

- To showcase your writing in the hope an agent or editor will see it. This would demonstrate the quality of your writing and that you could work to a schedule.
- To get into the habit of writing every day (or X times per week)
- To keep a personal account of events others can read./To keep in touch with friends and acquaintances.
- To have public encouragement while writing a book (e.g., a book blog)

What are your goals for your blog? If yours isn't listed here, please leave a comment and tell me what it is. :)

#   #  #

After all my talk about the importance of a blogging schedule it looks as though I might not be able to post a second blog today. So I'll give you my NaNoWriMo update now. As of this moment it's up to 37,034 words and I'm hoping to get that up to 39k by tomorrow. Cheers!

Other articles you might like:
- Outlining: Kim Harrison's Character Grid
- Writers: How To Use Permanently Free Books To Increase Sales
- Vanquishing Writer's Block

Photo credit: "arches" by paul bica under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, October 29

SEO Tips & Tricks: How To Make Google Love Your Blog

"Morpho peleides wings closed (blue morpho butterfly)" by Armando Maynez under CC BY 2.0

Yesterday Bob (that's not his real name, but he doesn't want me to use his real name) asked me for pointers on how to improve his blog's position in Google's search results. His goal: he wants a link to his website to be among the first five results returned when someone searches on a particular phrase.

I started to give Bob advice and then thought. Wait! This would be a great idea for a blog post.

First off, though, I want to assure you that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is falling-off-a-log EASY. Well, the beginning stuff, the stuff that can make a huge difference, is. A SEO expert could fine tune your site and your SEO presence would (hopefully) go from good to awesome, but if good is good enough, read on.

1. What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

This is the basic question of Search Engine Optimization:
How do I optimize my site so that links to my content are served up when users search on certain keywords? 
Here's another way of putting it: You want your site to be to search engines what catnip is to felines.

Ideally, you want your content to be returned first but I've found simply being on the first page of search results generates a lot of traffic, depending on how popular the search phrase is that your link is paired with.

An Example

Let's say I want to look at recipes. Using Google Search, I type in "recipes". Here's what I got back:
First result: from
Second result: from,
Third result: from,
Fourth result: from,
Fifth result: from
All things being equal, the first result returned will get most of the traffic, but all the links returned on the first page will do okay, especially the ones on the upper part of the page.

As you can see, there's a lot of competition to place high for "recipes". All of those sites get a lot of traffic and are maintained by many professionals. They're going to place better in the search results than you are since you're not an expert and you're only one person.

The solution: focus your content on one small area of cooking such as recipes that are quick and easy to make. Then you can try to get your site noticed when people perform searches like "recipes for writers" "recipes for the rushed", and so on. When you write a post for gingerbread cookies--cookies twice as good ready in half the time!--you can use keywords that will help Google identify what it is and return it if someone types in something like "gingerbread molasses cookie quick".

Summary: You likely have a chance of getting your site onto the first page of search results for less popular (long tail) terms and, using this method, you can still get a fair amount of traffic.

2. Why should I care about SEO?

If it doesn't matter whether your site gets traffic from search engines then SEO isn't going to be first on your list of priorities. That said, much of what I'm going to discuss is part of 'best practices' and, who knows, one day search traffic may be important to you. There's no harm in laying the foundations now.

So, why would someone care about optimizing their site so that it attracts search engine traffic?

- You're selling something. If you're selling anything on your site, or thinking of one day selling something on your site, you will want a lot of people to come look at it.

- Growing an audience. If you're not selling anything but want your writing to be read by someone other than your great aunt Edna, getting more eyes on your site is a good thing. It's one way of building an audience, a platform, a community.

- Best practices. Most of what you'll do when optimizing your site for search engines is clearly and accurately labeling your content, and this is something you probably should do anyway since it's part of best practices for site design.

3. SEO: Optimizing Your Site For Search Engines, What They Look For

Google (and other search engines, but in the following discussion, for brevity, I'm going to talk about Google) wants to give people the information they are looking for when they conduct a search and Google wants that information to be accurate, relevant and of good quality. Here's what that means for me as a blogger:

Accurate: I need to get my facts right. For instance, I can't say that dogs are felines. (You'd be surprised!)

Relevant: If you write a blog post on what substances are toxic to cats (chocolate, for instance) you want the post to be categorized as being about cats, not dogs, not sloths, not giraffes. You also want the post to show up on searches for toxic substances for animals, so keywords like "cute" and "kitten" aren't your friends.

Good quality: Don't ask me how Google determines this, but it's gotten very good. Books are written on this subject so I'll just say that you want to bring your A-game to your posts, while keeping in mind that a more informal style is the norm and an occasional typo is tolerated.

Okay, back to my friend Bob and what I would advise him to do to optimize his site to attract search engine traffic.

a. Use categories and tags

Bob runs Wordpress on his own hosting site, but what I'm about to say applies (I believe) to websites over at as well.

When you're writing a post in Wordpress, on the right-hand side of the screen, you'll see a place where you can select various Categories and Tags. Fill these in! You don't have to use many. Choose one or two categories and then refine it with two or three tags.

For instance, if you're blogging about Amazon's Kindle Fire HD tablet then your categories might be "Retail" and "Tablet" and your tags might be "Amazon" and "Kindle Fire HD". If your blog is on you don't have categories and tags, you just have labels, in which case I would just use "Retail", 'Tablet", "Amazon", and "Kindle Fire HD".

b. Use images and give them meaningful names and descriptions

Early on I found I got a lot of traffic because of the images I used on my site (of course "a lot" in those days was 100 pageviews a day!).
 Name. My camera automatically names my photos with (really long) numbers and, early on, I didn't bother changing the numbers to something more descriptive. Search engines look at things like names to determine what kind of content is on a particular page. The more consistent, accurate, cues you give the search engines the better they are at serving up your pages at appropriate times.

Alternate Text. If you have access to this field don't leave it blank. If you've turned off images in your browser then what gets shown is this alternate text so it is best practices to include it. But even if your visitor never sees the alternate text search engines do. This is another way of telling them what sort of content is on your page.

Caption. Same idea. Though since I use the caption to give copyright information I don't have a lot of leeway here.

Description. Again, very important for telling both search engines and humans what your image is about.

The rule of thumb: If there's a way for you to tell search engines about the content on your page, do it!

c. Choose a descriptive domain name

The more descriptive your domain name the better. For instance, if you're a horror writer a great domain name would be Naturally that one's taken, but you might try something like or You get the idea.

If you don't have a descriptive domain name but you have already built up a community then I wouldn't worry about it. If it works, don't fix it.

The only time I would think about changing a domain name that had been in use for some time was if it was misleading to both people and search engines.

For instance, a horror writer specializing in zombie stories probably wouldn't want to have or as a domain name. An exception to this might be It might mislead search engines but it is memorable and fun. Humans get the implication and, in the end, that's what matters.

d. Choose descriptive blog titles

In university one of my English teachers gave me heck because the title of one of my essays was too descriptive. He said I should be more creative, less literal. Perhaps he was right about the title of my essay (though I never thought so) but if he takes that attitude toward blog titles he's dead wrong.

Search engines aren't creative. They don't understand tongue-in-cheek commentary or puns. Which isn't to say you should never have a whimsical title. You have categories, tags, labels, etc., to let search engines know what your post is about. Just be aware that these kinds of titles are harder for search engines to make sense of.

Search engines also don't like vagueness. For instance, I could have titled this blog post "How to create a better web page". That's more or less what I'm talking about, but I used the words "SEO", "Google" and "blog" because they're more specific and so give search engines a better idea of what content is on the page.

e. Echoing: Repeating keywords throughout your post, your tags and your categories.

Here's a rule of thumb:
Try and work in two or more of your keywords into the title of your blog, the body of your blog and also use them in your categories and tags.
 Do this sparingly since it can feel spammy if overdone.

For instance, in this post SEO is a keyword. I have it in my title, I have it as a label, and I've repeated it several times within the body of my post. But only where appropriate. Google is smart, you don't have to repeat the world dozens of times to pick up on the fact that you're writing a post having to do with search engine optimization.

f. LEGITIMATE links back to your site are good, the more the better

Legitimate links, or backlinks, are those which folks put up on their pages because they like your content. If anyone tells you they can arrange it so that a lot of other websites will link to yours, run away. Run very very fast.

This trick used to work--some folks would have networks of hundreds of websites that would do nothing but link to other websites--but after Google's Panda and Penguin updates having these sort of links point to your website actually hurts you.

So how does one get legitimate links to your website? Here are a few options:


Bloggers love pictures so upload a few and make them available for others to use if they like, they just have to attribute the photo to you. Although it's not strictly necessary, it's best practices to include a link back to your site.

Guest Blog

Ask other bloggers if they accept guest posts. Most do. (I do!) As a courtesy, a guest blogger is allowed to leave at least one link back to their website. (7 Tips On How To Get Your Guest Post Accepted)

Blog Directories

There are various blog directories such as Technorati that you can register your blog with. I did this a year ago. While I'm not sure how much it helped I am sure it didn't hurt. Bottom line: it's another place for people to learn about my blog and it only took about an hour of my time.

Social Media
I'll be honest, I have a Facebook account but I really only use Twitter. Perhaps I should use Facebook. If I could magically squeeze more hours into the day I'm sure I would, but I love Twitter, I (think I) understand Twitter and I get a significant amount of traffic from Twitter.

Twitter is an awesome way of getting links to your website in front of people who would be interested in your content. How? Hashtags (eg: #). Using hashtags you can get your tweets in front of people who don't follow you. Folks who've never heard of you. (I talk about this more in 19 Ways To Grow Your Twitter Following.)

g. Create Great Content

Hands down, the single best way of making Google Search love your blog is to regularly post great content. That is, content that is accurate, well marked up and well written. Google is biased to favor new articles, so try to blog at least once a week, but if you can't manage it, try for at least once a month.

h. Google Analytics & Google Webmaster Tools

Google has developed many tools it provides, free of charge, that will provide you with valuable feedback on, for example, which search terms are bringing visitors to your site, how many times a particular article has been accessed, the average length of time a visitor spends on your site, and so on.

I highly recommend using both Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools, but if you're only going to use one I would say use Google Analytics. It's easy, vastly informative and takes only 15 minutes or so to set up.

I've only covered a fraction--a fraction of a fraction of a fraction!--of the material on how to optimize a site to attract search engines. If you have any questions, or you'd like me to say more about a point I addressed, please leave a comment and ask. I love hearing from you. :-)

Other articles you might like:
- Chapter Breaks: Where Should They Go?
- How To Attribute Artwork Licensed Under The Creative Commons
- Making A Scene: Using Conflicts And Setbacks To Create Narrative Drive

Saturday, October 13

Penelope Trunk: Blogging And Branding

It's raining.

I love rain and the gentle patter it makes on window panes. I don't love bundling up and sitting, damp, in my favorite coffee shop sipping overpriced espresso. So this Saturday morning I stayed home, curled up with my iPad, and caught up on reading Penelope Trunk's blog.

Penelope can make anything interesting! One of her posts was about bedbugs and I was fascinated.

I've posted about Penelope's blog before, but today I noticed she has a page devoted to the topic: How to blog. Why hadn't I seen it before? Anyway, as you'd expect, she gives great advice, and I'd encourage you to read it, but what I want to talk about is something Penelope said about branding.

Penelope didn't call it branding, she talked about picking a topic for your blog, but what she said made me think. She writes:
Pick a topic — you can change it when you know what you’re doing.
This is like dating. Pick something that seems good, and if it isn’t, try again. Don’t get hung up on topic. As in dating, you’ll know when you’ve found one that’s the right fit. There are some obvious things, like pick a topic you have a lot to say about, pick something that interests you, pick something that will help your career. This is great advice, but you already know that if you look for a perfect match you’ll never actually go on a date. (The easiest instructions for how to start a blog)
I think this advice applies not just to picking a topic for a blog--making a blog a cooking blog, or a book blog, or a personal finance blog--but also to picking a public face, for building a platform, for branding.

It turns out Penelope has written a post about this: Tips for building your personal brand. If you're in the process of building a community it's worth a read even though it wasn't written specifically for writers.

Other articles you might like:
- 12 Writing Tips: How To Be A Writer
- NaNoWriMo: 5 Tips On How To Get Ready
- 7 Tips On How To Get Your Guest Post Accepted

Photo credit: Amanda Slater

Friday, October 12

Building A Platform That Meets Your Needs

Building A Writer's Platform That Meets Your Needs

A while ago I wrote an article entitled: How To Build A Platform: Why Every Writer Needs A Website, in which I argued that just having a blog wasn't good enough, you need a website too.

These days, I'm not so sure. I think having a blog, even a blog on, might be good enough. Here's the thing: What you need depends on what your goals are.

What is the main thing folks are going to come to your website/blog for? And who are these folks going to be? You might be staring at these words shaking your head, thinking, "And how the heck would I know who's going to come and visit my site?"

That's a fair question. Often in the beginning we don't know who these folks, our visitors and, ultimately, our readers, are going to be.

Come one, come all

Whether you decide to go with a static site, a blog or a full-blown website (I talk more about this later) you'll need to keep at it. The key phrase here is: be consistent.

Naturally if all you're going to be putting up is a static site--a webpage with information about who you are, where you can be reached (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)--then being consistent is fairly easy. You just need to update the page every six months or so, or when something changes (you put out a new book, become active in new forms of social media, and so on). Otherwise, there isn't much to do!

If you don't know who your visitors are going to be you can still design a website. I'll go into more detail later, but there are roughly three broad kinds of sites you can put up. I call them the starter package, the starter package plus blog and the full-featured site.

As the name implies, the most basic of these is "the starter package". This is a static website that simply tells visitors how to reach you, where you are on the web (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), what you've written and how to contact you. If this is all you want, or would likely meet your needs. Make sure, though, that the service you choose allows you to use your own domain name ( does and does but you need to pay a fee). That's a must. Why? If you ever decide to move your site from, say,, to another hosting site, your readers will be able to find you at you new home through your domain name.

By the way, I know it might seem like a contradiction in terms to recommend blogging sites for a static site! As it happens, you can set up as a static site (I should probably write a blog post about how to do that) and I imagine the same is true for as well. The great thing about starting off with a site like is that it does all the search engine optimization (SEO) for you and can list your site with all the major search engines.

If you want to be slightly more ambitious, you could go with a "starter package plus blog" and blog regularly (keep in mind that if you blog once a month you're blogging regularly!). You can blog even if you don't know what sort of audience you're reaching out to, just talk about whatever interests you. Over time you'll see themes emerge. Also, after looking at your viewer statistics, you'll notice your readers are more interested in certain articles, certain themes, than others. After a few months you'll get a feel for what you like to blog about and also what your readers are interested in.

If, in the beginning, you don't have an idea who your audience will be then I wouldn't advise you starting off with what I'm calling a full-featured site. The way I think of it, a full-featured website one that is dynamic and easily customizable, you likely would have a blog and could even have forums or open an online store! (For example,

But with a full-featured site you'll also have additional concerns. This kind of site can do a lot but, as with everything, there are tradeoffs. For instance, the more cool features you add (e.g., link tracking), the slower the site will run. A few bells and whistles may not make a difference but at some point you'll wonder why your pages are loading slowly. Also, this sort of site is complex and complex things tend to break. If you can fix it yourself, great! Otherwise maintenance can be expensive. Either way, maintaining this kind of a site is time consuming.

You have an idea who your visitors will be

We've just discussed how to go about building a site if you don't know who your target audience is. Now let's talk about how to build a site when you have some idea what kind of a community you want to build.

Shared interest
How do you build community? You reach out to those who share an interest of yours. It could be anything. What are you interested in? Steampunk? Scifi movies of the 80s? Doctor Who? Skiboarding? Cooking? Hiking? Whatever it is, there are people, lots of people, just as passionate about it as you are. The trick is letting them know your site exists.

By the way, when I said you could build your site around any theme/idea that was a bit of an exaggeration. What you write about has to have some connection to the shared interest you've built your community around. For instance, if you write science fiction, by all means, talk about scifi movies, conventions, trivia. Talk about collectibles. Even talk about other scifi writers! Eventually, if you keep at it, a community will form.

Cookbooks are popular. They sell well. Why? The tie-in between a writer's community and how to reach that community is obvious. You write books about food and it is very easy to blog about food, post pictures of food, conventions, good places to eat in your local community and across the country, and so on.

I mean, who doesn't like beautiful close-up pictures of desserts? Especially chocolate ones. (Oh my gosh, if I wrote cookbooks I would gain SO much weight. Anyway, moving on.)

Making the connection between your area of interest and your community
How do you make the connection between what you are interested in--for instance, mystery stories with sleuths who cook--and building a community? 

If I could I would have that word, "interaction", blink red and blue and have big yellow dancing arrows pointing to it. But that's not a surprise, is it? That's how me make friends. Interaction forms the basis for any social endeavor. And that really is the other key word: social. I'm talking about building a community, not a list. For that to happen, for a community to form, there has to be interaction.

And that means you need to find a way to interact with the people who you would like in your community.

I think I'm going to leave it there for today. I covered more material than I thought I would. In the next segment I'll talk about interaction and social media but I want to say here that I don't think social media is necessary for you to form and interact with a community.

Good writing!

Other articles in this series:
- What Is A Writer's Platform?
- Does Every Writer Need A Platform?

Other articles you might like:
- Jim Butcher On Writing
- NaNoWriMo: 5 Tips On How To Get Ready
- On The Art Of Creating Believable Characters: No Mr. Nice Guy
- Perfection Is The Death Of Creativity

Photo credit: "KIUKO"

Thursday, September 27

7 Common Self-Publishing Fears And How To Banish Them

7 Common Self-Publishing Fears And How To Banish Them

You keep telling yourself that you will write an ebook someday … just not yet. And it’s almost certainly the case that one of the seven common fears in this article is holding you back.

Staying stuck isn’t any fun, so let’s get right to it …

Fear #1: I’m not ready
This is the biggest worry I hear from bloggers: I’m not ready.

All too often, the bloggers saying this are more than ready.

They’ve been blogging for six months, or a year, or longer.

Or they’re subject matter experts.

Or they’ve been writing for years or even decades.

Even if the longest thing you’ve written so far is a blog post, you probably are ready (or at least a lot closer to ready than you think).

Tip: Pick a date when you will begin your ebook, however unready you feel. Put it in your calendar.

Fear #2: I don’t know what to write about
This fear comes in two forms:

I have no ideas at all
I have so many ideas, I don’t know which to pick

The best way forward is to ask your audience.

Give them a list of your potential ideas and ask them to vote on their favorites. Even better, ask them what they’re struggling with, using open-ended questions.

Tip: Though open-ended questions are always best, you can use SurveyMonkey to run a multiple choice survey — it’s free at the basic level, and quick and simple for your audience to use.
Great advice! Here are the rest of the fears:

Fear #3: Nobody will buy it

Fear #4: It won’t be good enough

Fear #5: I don’t understand the technology

Fear #6: I don’t have a big list

Fear #7: I hate the idea of marketing

To have your fears dispelled, read Ali Luke's entire article: How to Beat 7 Common Self-Publishing Fears.

Other links you might enjoy:
- Want Help With Editing? Try Free Editing Programs
- The Key To Success: 3000 Words A Day
- John Gardner: You Aren't Fooling Yourself, You Really Can Do It

Photo credit: Yuliya Libkina