Sunday, 30 June 2013

Turning envy into inspiration

We're going to move away from the Author Platform now and talk about How to be a better novelist.

I read a great article on turning writer's envy into inspiration and wanted to share a few of the highlights with you in this post.

We've all been there, reading the most amazing, inspiring text and wishing we could be even so much as half as good, then realising with that horrible sinking feeling that we're never going to reach that high bar. It's simply not attainable to us.

But stop right there! You're allowed a marginal amount of wallowing in self pity before you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back to your craft.

Don't let envy eat away at you!

Yes, it's a natural emotion, but why not harness its energy and turn it to your advantage?

Everybody has a unique voice and you shouldn't try to write in a voice that isn't your own. By all means follow the market trends and advice, however stay true to your originality and stay true to your instincts.

I strongly believe you can't be taught to write - you've either got the flair for it, or you haven't - but you can be taught to write better and hone those natural, inbuilt skills.

Writing isn't a race or competition either. I personally see it as more of a journey - a journey only for me. People will always try to measure your success with how many book sales you've made blah blah blah, but I reach the pinnacle of my success when I finish writing the story. It's all to do with how you feel about your achievement, not how other people feel about it. Manage your expectations of yourself.

Finally, study the work that inspires you and learn the techniques these writers use to capture the scene, the emotion, the whatever it is that's gripping you. I'll often dig out different books when I'm writing this scene or that scene so I can embrace the greatness of the writer and try to apply it to my own writing.

Strive to be better at what you do, but for gawd sake don't waste time beating yourself up!

Remember this definition of success from Maya Angelou: Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Social media techniques for newbies

I'm still learning how to best manage my time with my blogging and social media platform building. It can get disheartening when you're spending hours upon hours writing content but your website traffic and blog traffic remain low. Worse still, you haven't touched that manuscript in a very long time and the vision of becoming a serious writer and freelancer is quickly diminishing under the author platform and brand building pile.

Sound familiar?

I think it will always be a juggling act so be prepared for that, but there are little things you can do to start to turn things around if you want to see better results and be encouraged. The following is from my personal experience. I started an experiment three weeks ago with the aim of increasing my website traffic and I'm pleased to report it's going very well.

Using Hootsuite - to give me the option to track those all important shortened URLs and the traffic they might produce - I began by scheduling tweets with a link back to my website content every hour. The tweets are divided into three (three different subject matters) so each one reoccurs every three hours. This is personal preference. I have a thing about threes! I know this is controversial social media practice but I'm about to change it up so bear with me. I reasoned that I could reach all of my target audience across the globe by dividing up like this and tweeting every hour. Also I am looking to get traffic all over my website, not just to my blog. I want people to see the different things I write about and I want people to get to know me.

So one week went by and my website traffic skyrocketed into the hundreds again and I began to gain more Twitter followers. I schedule a week's worth of tweets at a time to keep it manageable. This takes about an hour and a half depending how prepared and focused you are. It's mind numbing work but well worth it. The second week I changed the content and for the third week coming to an end today, I changed the content once more. Going into the fourth week, I will be tweeting some of my favourite recent articles from other writers keeping to my "threes and hourly" schedule. I've picked these blogs to follow and they now sit on my Blogger page. This is another benefit of using Google's Blogger platform. Make the integration work for you. I believe you should be able to do "dot to dot" with your social media so maintaining your author platform becomes seamless.

It helps to have a regular blogging schedule too so you are always producing new and fresh content - and more importantly, you're still writing and not just being a scheduling monkey! This gives you more to tweet about and more to share through your social media. I blog over on my website and I'm currently working on this blog to see where it leads me - whether I can gain a bigger audience for my work, whether the stats can help me and whether Google+ is something I want to venture into.

Going back to my hourly tweeting schedule, I know I can't always be tweeting links to content because social media is supposed to be just that - social. My next step is to build relationships with fellow bloggers in my areas of interest - writing, travel and photography. I also want to have a "product" that I can offer for free over on my website and here on this blog. That "product" will be the basis of Phase Two of this experiment!

One final word - I have my website linked up to Google Analytics. You can only link one website / blog to Google Analytics but, for me, that's ok because Blogger has its own Stats so I can still track this blog's progress through there. Anyhoo, one important thing I've already noticed is that I don't get a very high percentage of returning visitors to my website. I'm hoping by bringing the "social" into my media and offering my "product" I can turn this around.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Finding the right people on Google+

Much like Twitter, to get the most out of Google+ and be inspired by great content as well as sharing your own great content in the subject areas that matter the most to you, you need to search out the best people and groups to follow - and in Google's case "circle" them.

Remember, you can then share your circles with other people and they can do the same for you - social networking at its easiest!

The obvious starting point is Goggle+'s search. Here you can type in keywords, phrases and even hashtags to find people who are commenting and posting about the topics you are interested in. Also check out the excellent "Communities" feature.

Here are a couple more interesting ways to find people for the more serious user:

Circle Count - this ranks users according to how many followers they have. It also measures the influence of a person, useful if you are searching for an expert in your chosen field.

Recommended Users - again this is good if you are looking for influential / high profile people to follow.

When talking about Google+ in yesterday's post, I hinted that it would be a good starting point for finding potential clients and freelance writing work. Just to see how effective it really is, I searched "freelancing writing jobs" and up popped The WM Freelance Writers Connection. See what they are all about here. It's a really great concept - and they have regular job posts. This is just one of many you could be connecting with...

In conclusion, Google+ has a real social networking business feel about it, so if you're hesitating and thinking one more social media to maintain for the author platform is definitely going to be one too many, take a deep breath and give it a go. You can always back out later if it isn't working for you.

I still prefer Twitter (as I keep saying) because it's fast and easy, but Google+ is worthy of consideration if you are looking to take your author platform to the next level. I'm going to try a little experiment to see if it helps me get down to the serious business of finding paid freelance work as well as making acquaintance with real industry professionals. I shall report back soon!

Monday, 17 June 2013

What is Google+?

A late edition to your author platform could be Google+

It is being tipped as the next big thing ahead of Twitter (and Facebook) which is why I'm going to post about it today.

I'm still learning having only recently set up my profile, but here's what I know so far...

  • Facebook uses "likes" and "shares" and Twitter uses "retweets". Google competes with a +1 button
  • Google has social "circles" and unlike Facebook, is a search engine with a global reach
  • It offers free, business pages
  • You can construct targeted groups to market using Google "circles" - the potential reach is far better than Facebook
  • Your blogs, articles and websites can be linked back to your Google+ profile to establish your authority in a specific area of knowledge
  • Use the "contributed to..." area on your author profile to link out to your work
  • Use the "other profiles" area to link to your other social media accounts
  • Make full use of the "Introduction" section and any full URL you write will turn into an active hyperlink for people to click through to (could be your website)
  • The content is quality content. It's rumoured some communities (circles) are kicking people out if their content lacks substance. They prefer to know WHY you think something is valuable and worth the time to read
  • The circle system is great if you have different friends in different industries. I can keep my travel content separate from my photography content and writing related content - targeting interested parties much more effectively
  • As a freelance writer, you can search out potential clients. More on this to come...
  • Potential to use Google Hangouts to network with fellow writers (even hold a conference!)
  • You can share circles you've created
  • The more +1s you get, the higher you move up the search engine rankings within Google. Excellent SEO! A social media that is also a search engine !!!
  • The visibility of content is much better in Google+ ie. more people will see what you post
  • Now for the most important detail: "Google Authorship and Author Rank" - the capability to verify your identity with Google and connect your Google+ profile with content you have written all over the Internet. This is your opportunity to make ALL of your content work hard for you as it will ultimately count towards your expert status in your chosen field/s. This raises your original content higher up the search engine. And when you set up your Google Authorship (use this link to help you), your profile image will appear besides your results in Google search. Pretty cool eh!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Twitter Tit Bits Part 2

As you know, I love Twitter over all of the other social media out there and I feel Twitter is my best friend when it comes to marketing and promoting myself and my books. I've been using it now for about two years and I know I've barely scratched the surface. Here are some more useful (and creative) ideas and techniques for managing your Twitter account and keeping the enthusiasm alive.
  • Have a separate account for your book character/s or let one of your characters take over your Twitter account for a day or two
  • Use your favourites as a testimonial page by saving any nice tweets people make about your book
  • Some established hashtags for the writing and publishing world that will get your tweets circulating in the right newsfeeds
           #followfriday or #ff or #writerwednesday - recommending authors and people in your area of expertise you might want to follow

          #amwriting - charting your progress on a current project and supporting other writers

          #amediting - for when you're editing and need help and advice

          #writetip - sharing tips

          #fridayreads - persuade your friends to promote your book - or if you're reading a great book, remember to include the username of the author, the official hashtag for the book and the link to Amazon in your fridayreads tweet!

          #bookgiveaway - if you're running a promotion 
  • Work trending topics into your tweets 
  • Set up a list of your favourite tweeters to create a whole new newsfeed you can then add to your homepage on your website. It will be packed with useful info. for your followers and puts everything in one place for them (and you) 
  • If you're feeling really serious about Twitter, brave or just plain crazy, organise a "tweetup" - real-life meet up of the people you follow on Twitter!
  • Tweet about the ideas and concepts contained within your books 
  • Tweet the bits of reviews people give your books that will generate curiosity - so no bragging

Friday, 14 June 2013

Blogging conundrum

So I've been blogging for a while over on Weebly and recently decided that I wanted all of my content to filter out from one source (my website) to keep things more manageable, but I was still left with a blogging conundrum - should I have a Blogger blog, or not?

My reasons to have one:

It integrates nicely with some of my favourite writing and travel related blogs

Greater exposure


My reasons against:

Weebly blog is well established and I want all of my content to feed from my website out to various social media streams

Having another blog in another location to look after will be too much to maintain

However, I have noticed some distinct disadvantages with Weebly blogs as follows:

You can't copy or save an archive of your blog posts to any where. So, you will not be able to migrate. If you need to move to Blogger or WordPress, you have to manually copy and paste all of your posts and comments.

There are no post tags. Post tags tell precisely what the post is about in five or six words and search engines give priority to them, treating them as subjects rather than words. With the post tag facility absent in Weebly, it leaves your blog posts treated as generic content.

Thinking about all of the pros and cons above, I finally decided to have a Weebly blog and a Blogger blog and to copy and paste my Weebly content to Blogger. It's definitely not efficient, but it's an adequate compromise for now. I reasoned it was better to be a part of the growing Google social media network, than to miss out altogether.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Website interaction

Drive the spark within your website
Time is precious so I have to admit to not being a fan of forums or chat rooms. I also don't have enough time yet to prepare and send out my own ezine.

If you feel yourself agreeing with me, what can you do then to make your website more interactive for your audience?

Here are 5 suggestions which are very easy to implement if you have a basic website already in place.

1) Star in and post your own YouTube videos with a direct link to your YouTube Channel so people can check out your additional content. Talk about anything writing related. Give advice. Discuss the themes of your latest book. Make your content come alive.

2) Include a blog so people can leave comments and subscribe to your posts via an RSS feed.

3) Post podcasts so your content can be downloaded and listened to as audio files.

4) Link up Facebook and Twitter to your website, so when you post new content, people using social media are instantly notified.

5) When you have enough of a following, prepare and email exclusive content to them using an autoresponder.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Building your blog's readership

As we wrap up this series of posts on developing your author platform and online presence, here are some tips on building your blog's readership.

  • Publish regularly so your readers know when to visit for fresh content.

  • Stick to your niche. Mine is writing, travel and photography and occasionally I chat about other things, but I always bring it back to these three.

  • Write meaningful titles for posts to announce what they're about and to help your reader's navigate your blog. Good titles also help your search engine rankings!

  • When people start commenting, make sure you interact with them. This is what being a writer is all about these days.

  • Something I don't do - but should - is highlight my best posts. At the moment, they're lost in the archive! Create a "Best Posts" category on your blog page or homepage and link back.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Notes for a good blog comment

Here's how you can maximise your chances of getting traffic back to your website by leaving quality comments for other bloggers. Basically it boils down to common sense and a bit of a balancing act...

1) Don't be too eager to be first to comment, but don't be last either.

2) Read the whole post!

3) Pick a part you want to comment on and write no more than a paragraph.

4) Add some value to the discussion.

5) Stay on topic.

6) Use an example from personal experience.

7) Don't self promote!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Building blocks of blogging

Building blocks of blogging - try and say that after a few drinks!

Today we're going to talk about what you should be doing to take your blog to the next level. I'm still at the stage of blogging 4 to 5 times a week and not really looking beyond that, so I'm learning here too...

First and foremost - you're writing great content and getting hits, you also have a plan of action for future posts. Now, spend some time going through your most popular posts and figure out why. This will be the foundation for the rest of the advice I'm about to give you.

Search out a handful of writing blogs you really like and do two things - guest post and comment. Think of each blog post as a magazine article. You need to be pitching your most popular content to similar bloggers, just like you would when pitching to an editor of a magazine. This is the best way to broaden your online audience and build relationships with other bloggers. Also comment on these blogs and include a personal life experience to bring their advice back to how it's helped / or is helping you.

To enhance your guest posting experience, come up with 10 blogs relevant to yours and find ways to link your content back to theirs. Try to substitute one of your blog posts for a guest post each week.

Finally there is the matter of monetising your blog. Of course, you have to have a product to sell first. If you have a niche within your writing, or your day job (which you blog about) provides a basis for a product, then the product will most likely come from this. The point is you need to do some hard graft "behind the scenes" to build your product portfolio, so eventually you can regularly introduce these when blogging - and make money.

However, one step at a time and it really is up to you how fast you go with all of this. The important thing is to enjoy your blogging and forge lasting relationships where you can support each other.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Engaging your readers

It sounds corny to say "write from the heart", but really, isn't that what it's all about? There are people out there in cyber space searching for the exact words you're about to pen and when that connection happens, it's going to be magic.

You are going to make a difference to someone's life. 

Basic writing skills and good knowledge of topics make a successful blogger, but a deeper connection with the reader will bring them back to your blog time after time.

With each blog post, start afresh every day. Write like you're talking to your friends. Be outrageous once in a while. Challenge the norm. Exude a little vulnerability. And above all - have fun.

Writing a blog

To complete our quartet for building a successful author platform and online presence we come to the world of blogging - and I have to say I LOVE blogging.

It's "writing freedom", a form of escapism, pushing the boundaries and saying things the way you want to say them without having to worry about RULES.

Keep this foremost in your mind as we discuss how to go about becoming an expert blogger over the next few days.

I've got 5 pointers I would like you to consider in today's post:

1) Write about what you love and write for YOU.
At least to begin with to ease you into the blogosphere.

2) Treat blogging as a writing exercise.
Especially if you're trying to write some words every day.

3) Keep it short and punchy.
People don't have a long attention span when they web surf. Get to the point quickly and do it in a way that grabs the reader instantly. Research shows you've got 5 seconds...

4) Freestyle your writing.
The beauty of blogging is nobody is going to judge you, and if they do - who cares! Blogging is a personal thing. It's showing who you are - to the world. But don't be scared about that. It's actually wonderfully refreshing. Imagine - your work being read around the globe. I bet you never dreamed it. Blogging makes it happen. Just like that.

5) Share writing wisdom.
Between blogging and Twitter, I've learned so much and got my writing buzz back on track. There are millions of writers out there all reachable through blogging communities, and if you can't get to a writing group and you desperately need some inspiration and human contact, this is a godsend. So don't be afraid to network and share thoughts and ideas.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Social media mistakes

Before we discuss the final aspect of your author platform - blogging - I want to highlight some social media mistakes to avoid to keep you on the straight and narrow...

1) Setting up a Twitter and Facebook profile and then not using it
Aim to visit your profile daily but limit the amount of time to between 30 minutes and 1 hour, at least in the beginning. Then it can be down to personal preference once you've established a routine. Post great content regularly and I guarantee you'll create a buzz, not just for yourself, but for your followers / audience too. If you can't get to a writing group, this is the next best thing - virtual socialising.

2) Only connecting with family and friends
The ultimate goal of social media is to raise your profile as a writer, so you must go beyond your family and friends circle and reach out to your target market. This will drive traffic to your website and book/s and people will see what you have to offer.

3) Constant self promotion
There's a well known rule with social media, the 90/10 rule - share something of value 90% of the time (great content that helps people) and promote yourself for the remaining 10%. Remember, people want to get to know you before they do business with you. You need to establish likeability and trust first.

4) No plan
Social media can become addictive or useless without a plan of action. You have to ask yourself the following: What do I want to get out of this? Who do I want to connect with? How am I going to connect with them? How am I going to establish myself as a credible writer? How will I brand myself? What content am I going to post? How often am I going to post it?
It may seem bizarre, but I have a blogging plan and I actually know what my next 100 blog posts are going to say. I haven't written them yet, but I know what content I'm using. You need to be thinking along the same lines. It really helps if you are trying to get into the habit of writing something every day.

5) Not tracking progress
I'm not purely running my website and blog for financial gain at the moment. I'm still establishing my parameters. However, this needs to be in the back of your mind if you're freelancing and need the income. You want to make things easy for yourself, so link your blog to all of your social media profiles and with one click you can potentially reach hundreds, if not thousands of people - more on this over the coming days when we take an in depth look at blogging. The golden rule is, if you can measure it, you can monetise it. It's good to keep an eye on how many people are visiting your website daily and where they are coming from. If you can see more traffic coming from Twitter for example, then you know to put more content to Twitter to build on this success - but also look to see why Facebook isn't working for you.


Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Steps to getting started on Facebook

We've covered building a website and using Twitter, so the next item on the list for creating an effective online presence and author platform is - Facebook.

Here are some tips and tricks for getting started with your new account:

1) Make use of the profile photo. It sounds obvious but you'd be surprised how many people don't.

2) Be succinct with your interests. And that goes for music, movies and books too!

3) Connect with actual friends (and family of course). Don't add random people. You are showcasing yourself (and your work with a separate Facebook page - we'll come on to this in a sec) so you don't want to be networking with potential spammers and scammers.

4) Know the difference between "suggested friends" and "friend requests". "Friend requests" are ok. "Suggested friends" will list friends of friends you may not even know.

5) Leave messages on friend's Walls but nothing incriminating...

6) Go through your privacy settings with a fine tooth comb.

7) Manage your profile. Potential employers may be checking you out. I tend to think of Facebook as my fun networking and Twitter as my more serious networking, but there's a very fine line here.

8) Ah the Facebook status... There are plenty of rules and etiquette to follow with this - and most people don't. My advice is do what you have to do, but don't make a tit of yourself. I've been there, we all have ;)

9) Be wary of all the applications. I like to keep my profile clean after kicking my addiction with Farmville!

10) Don't "poke" people unless you know them really really well.

I mentioned a Facebook page - originally I set one up specifically for my debut novel, but now I just have an Author page because it can become overwhelming when there are so many elements of your online profile that you need to update on a regular basis.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Using Twitter effectively

Following on from my last post about Twitter, once you're up and running try these 3 tips and see how you get on:

1) Tweet about what you love and enjoy. This will keep you interested in tweeting regularly - and will keep your followers interested in you.

2) You may still be learning about the hashtags, but my advice is - be creative with your own! The only way to be noticed amongst the frenzy of activity is to be original.

3) Advertisers are tracking content all the time so exploit this and use emotive language / concepts in your tweets that will generate an emotional response in your followers.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Steps to getting started on Twitter

You know I am a massive fan of Twitter, so today I'm going to share my thoughts on how to use it to build your author platform. Remember the four foundations to get your online presence up and running - Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter.

Twitter is about building a network of like-minded people around you in cyberspace, and largely people you've never met before. What do they say - Facebook connects you with people you went to school with and Twitter connects you with the people you wish you'd went to school with. This 140 character phenomenon allows the flow of information, advice, tips and industry news to be shared amongst millions instantly worldwide.

And guess what - you can use it to promote yourself and your work! Here's how:

First and foremost, sign up for an account. It's free - and simple. Keep your username relatively short and remember it's part of your author brand so nothing obscure. Also, make sure you really use the profile paragraph to describe yourself and update it when your writing / freelance career takes a different turn.

Search for people in the writing community. Following a few of the thought leaders will lead you to more people you may be interested in.

Something I'm only dabbling in at the moment but by no means using effectively is the list feature. Twitter lists allows you to create categories of people and organisations to follow all at once. Start by finding lists created by someone in your niche and then have a go at setting up your own list. The more people you follow, the more important (and useful) this feature gets.

Follow the tweets. You don't need to be tweeting at this stage. Just read what people in your niche are putting out there and click through to any relevant links. At this point I started marking interesting tweets as "Favourites" so I could come back to them. The amount of information can be overwhelming, but stay calm.

Tweet valuable information. This is my last pointer and for me what the Twittersphere is all about. Once you feel confident, write some great content to help others and get it out there. For every self promoting tweet, give a tweet back encouraging someone or re-tweet something that's useful and inspiring. Twitter is not just about selling and that's the beauty of it.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Building your website

I was clueless when it came to creating my own website and my advice to you is keep it simple. You can easily build the foundation and then add to your site as time goes on. I picked Weebly as my web host based on several recommendations from friends. Originally, I started to build my website with iWeb, but Apple making this defunct meant I had to swiftly move elsewhere. The only spend has been on upgrading to the Pro features and buying my domain name year on year.

All in all I spent approx £70 on both these things (depending on exchange rates - Weebly is an American web host), but that figure would be less if I opted to buy for a longer period of time. I'm now two years into my website with Weebly and so far I've been very impressed. Weebly is easy to navigate and build with. There is a Stats page and you can also link to Google Analytics to monitor your progress / hits. They are constantly working to improve the features they offer, so more and more tools are becoming available. The only downside for me is the fact I can't link my existing Weebly blog to this one on Google's Blogger platform.

It's really down to personal recommendations, personal preference and what you feel comfortable with. So do your research, choose wisely and then invest in your decision.

The content you need to be showcasing on your site includes any or all of the following:

An ABOUT ME section - your literary inspirations and aspirations

Sample writing - published and unpublished

News & Events - forthcoming book signings, readings, etc

YouTube video - of you reading from your book / latest work

Blog - I believe this is where people who visit your site really get to know you. I absolutely love blogging because it makes me write every day and I can be totally at ease. We'll talk more about this later on...

Remember - the best websites are the ones you can easily navigate, aren't too cluttered and have colour that enhances rather than blinds you. Check out your favourite author websites to see how they do it.

Trust me, it's a great feeling when you can finally add your own www. to your business card!

Your online presence

What exactly is an online presence and an author platform?

Well, in this post I'm going to explain what they are and how to create and cultivate them.

I always start with the bottom line so you can see where I'm heading and this is it - if you can go to an agent or publisher (if you still fancy trying your hand at being traditionally published) and prove to them you already have a fan base and readership in place for your book, it stands you in a far greater position of being considered for publication. Since there is little or no marketing budget for debut novelists, you are showing them the demand is there and all they need to do is work with you to build on the foundations.

My advice - get working on your author platform right away. If I'd known about it, I would've started mine at least two years before I published my first novel.

It isn't just about making yourself known. Through developing my online presence, I've learned about the changing face of the publishing industry. Tracking trends is so important also.

In the old days, an author platform was defined by television appearances and radio interviews ie. public, high gloss visibility in the national media. Why has it changed? Simply because the way people choose books has changed. Now people are more likely to visit Amazon (for example) and look through recommendations, then read reviews in the press or pick up tips from a television show. The new model of an author platform still involves visibility and reputation, of course it does, but today it's more about interaction between the author and the reader online.

Every good author platform should contain the following:

A website

A blog

A Facebook account

A Twitter account

We'll talk about each of these in future blog posts so you can understand what the different elements should be doing for you.

How long you want to be around as an author and writer online largely depends on you. One thing's for sure however, it's a process that needs to continue for as long as you want a readership. Without your personal input and interaction through the above channels, your author platform will crumble.

New series - How to build your author platform

Ok, it's been a while, largely because I've been putting together a Twitter / Weebly blog / Google Blogger marketing plan of action!

So, here we go then... First up, a series of blog posts on building your author platform.

I hope you enjoy it.