April Fools . . . But Not Really

WordpressreblogFor my online April Fools Day joke, I thought I’d announce that after ten years of blogging, I’ve decided to hang it up. But I thought the joke might backfire. What if everyone agreed, that yes, it was time I moved on to some other endeavor. After all, I’ve been repeating myself with some frequency and actually have not said anything new in years.

That would be a problem, because, you see, I actually like to blog. I know some writers struggle to know what to say or where to find the time to write. Some agonize over every post and all their creative energy seeps from them as they write.

I’m a different breed. I really like spouting off voicing my thoughts. 😀

In reality, writing helps me think. Sometimes I know what I want to write about, but I don’t always know what I think about what I want to write about. I realize this might be confusing to others, but writing forces me to say something, to formulate a position, and to express it so others will know what I mean. When I’ve written, then I know what I think.

Honestly, there are times when I’m writing that I think I’m wandering around a topic, that I feel as if I’ve lost direction. I’m the most surprised when I re-read what I wrote and it says something I actually believe. Then I kind of sit back and say, Ah, that’s what I think—I just didn’t know it until now.

So, yes, I love to blog. I learn. Sometimes I have to do research. Sometimes I read other articles to which I respond. Sometimes I write about things I’m learning in Scripture or ways Scripture speaks to the problems in our culture. Sometimes I write about a topic that’s right in front of me . . . like blogging!

No matter the prompt, I come away from blogging with a better understanding, a deeper conviction, a greater appreciation. Blogging, you might say, nourishes my writing soul. And maybe my soul soul, too.

So, no April Fools joke from me today. I wouldn’t want you to think I’m serious about no longer blogging. Because if I stopped blogging, I’d be impoverished in a way I hadn’t realized until I started writing about blogging. 😉

Published in: on April 1, 2016 at 4:56 pm  Comments (4)  
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Blog Cogs Or Blog Logs

Recently I read an insightful article about blogging entitled “Are You A Blogger Buddy Or A Blogger Bum?” In a succinct way, the author, John Sherry, pointed out ways bloggers can either make themselves appealing or odious.

It’s a sobering subject, or ought to be, for those of us who write regularly and/or who consider blogging a plank in our writer’s platform.

Just a short while ago, agent Rachelle Gardner wrote a series of posts on the difficult discussions agents sometimes have to have with clients. One of those had to do with a writer’s public image.

Has it occurred to you that as an author, you’ll be a “public figure” and people will form opinions about you based on every little thing? You want your public image to be inviting, so people will want to buy and read your books.

Now, if you’re unagented and uncontracted, and not trying to sell any self-pubbed books, then you don’t have to stress out about this quite yet. But keep in mind that when you’re out there trying to build a readership, everything matters [emphasis mine].

So I started thinking about blogging and what I appreciate or don’t. Mind you, I think Mr. Sherry’s lists are excellent. These are just my add-ons.

Blog Cogs
(or The Things Bloggers And Visitors Do That Make Blogs Better)

  • Give kind and encouraging feedback
  • Engage in discussions (and take part in polls 😉 )
  • Share articles on Facebook or Twitter
  • In their posts, link back to you and your articles
  • On their site, answer your comments so you know you’re not merely talking to yourself

Blog Logs
(or The Things Bloggers And Visitors Do That End Up Creating Rot)

  • Skim read posts but comment regardless
  • Nitpick posts
  • Critique posts line by line
  • Hijack post comments to discuss a favorite topic that has little or nothing to do with the subject at hand.
  • Refuse to admit an error or apologize for a mistake

Quite honestly, I find this an intimidating subject because I’m quite sure I’ve done all the Log things at one time or another and I’ve neglected the Cog things far too often. But writing about it makes me want to do better, and that’s a good thing.

What about you? What are some of the things you’ve observed as you bounce from blog to blog? Any blogger you want to give a special shout-out to for the excellence of their content or for the way they interact with visitors?

I think we’ll all be better Cogs if we limit the shout-outs to the blogs that are doing it right, don’t you think? 😀

Published in: on May 26, 2011 at 6:42 pm  Comments (8)  
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What’s Important?

It’s easy to get inundated with activity. Maybe it’s a part of the Western culture or maybe it’s always been this way, but it seems as if there is always more to do than time to do it.

I felt that way when I was a teacher. If nothing else, there were always papers to grade, and I got used to carry a satchel and a red pen whenever I thought I might have a few “spare” moments … because there really weren’t any such things.

As a writer, little has changed. I still have laundry and dishes and the other household tasks, but the structured teaching day has been replaced by a less structured potpourri of activity: answering email, contacting PR representatives about blog tours, editing a chapter in my latest novel, responding to contacts on Facebook, working on the new editing project, writing a blog post, researching agents, hammering out another draft of a query letter, and on and on. Now I carry a blog tour book with me for those “spare” moments.

The day never ends with me crossing off the last item on my to do list. The best I seem to be able to manage is to tackle a few “must do” assignments. The problem is, what do I place in that “must do” category?

Some of these tasks are ones I don’t enjoy, others are why I wanted to be a writer. My first choice, quite obviously, would be to put the fun ones (actually writing) first. The problem with that approach is that I’d never get to the unpleasant but necessary ones.

I know some people who reverse the process — get the unpleasant out of the way first. The problem here is, those are recurrent, and it’s quite possible to never get to the fun ones. I can do all the work to build a platform and network with people in the writing business and promote my genre of choice (fantasy, in case anyone visiting might be unclear about that 😉 ) — and never write.

So today I took a little time to catch up on some of the blogs I try to follow (love Google Reader), and came across a post by PR pro Rebeca Seitz, she of last year’s Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference seminars (funny co-incidence that we have the same blog template, don’t you think?)

In Rebeca’s post, she put work into perspective — the privilege of connecting. After all, I write to connect, just as I once taught to connect or coached to connect. The great thing about writing is that I’m able to determine how meaningful that connection will be.

For me it has to start with prayer. First I must connect with God, then allow Him to show me how to proceed from there.

In His economy, though, nothing is wasted. No thirty-second chat on Facebook, no hour-long agent search. Not even throwing in a load of laundry.

The problem isn’t really in deciding what is most important or most necessary. It’s in perspective — viewing the work God gives me as something I can do for His glory. No matter how mundane or separated from “the fun stuff.”

And by the way, if you’re wondering, for me blogging is part of the fun stuff! 😀

Published in: on January 18, 2011 at 6:58 pm  Comments (2)  
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Promotion, Promotion, Promotion

In his comment to yesterday’s post Alex said

you really have to wade through the muck to find someone with something interesting, or purposeful to say.

I suspect the flood of trivia, junk, dirt, spam, ads, and promotion has only just begun. Businesses have discovered the goldmine of marketing through bloggers. And people like me who want to create buzz about a particular something (in my case, Christian fantasy) will undoubtedly proliferate.

So do we all just jump on the spam wagon and ride it for all it’s worth? I don’t think so. Having something to promote does not mean I have to become a spammer.

If I have a product or know of a product that I think someone else might be interested in, then it’s worth talking about. That’s a far cry from a) lying about a product and saying it’s good when it isn’t; or b) pretending that everyone I know will be interested in it, when I know they won’t.

In my mind, what separates legitimate promotion from spam is this: honest evaluation and care for the consumer.

Believe me, I’ve read posts and emails and status updates that turn me off because no matter what the subject, in the end the person ends up telling us about his latest work or her latest book. Sometimes those are appropriate and fit in well. But sometimes those kinds of comments simply sound self-serving.

It reminds me of the complaints that were bandied about regarding Christian fiction being preachy. If the writing comes across as propaganda, then it ruins the story. I don’t see any difference in writing non-fiction—blog articles, emails, or tweets.

So what is propaganda? From Wikipedia: “propaganda in its most basic sense, often presents information primarily in order to influence its audience.” There’s the thing—the purpose of propaganda is actually to manipulate others. It goes beyond information. Here are examples of each.

Information: I like this, and I think other Christian women my age might like it too.

Propaganda: This is the best one yet, and your life won’t be complete unless you too, all of you, buy now, before the price goes up or they run out of the autographed edition (or hardback copy or accompanying tee shirt … )

Propaganda: Yellow Labs and Golden Retrievers are popular dogs, which reminds me of how popular my book has become.

😀 Yeah, promotion can morph into propaganda, and as I see it, that’s not a good thing.

The Chief Means of Marketing, Part 6

Just to remind you, the real subject of these posts is word-of-mouth marketing. My thoughts have been spurred by Andy Sernovitz‘s book by that same title. Sernoviz made the statement to the effect that the boring is the killer of all buzz. Or stated in the positive, interesting is a must if something is to be buzz worthy.

In that light, I’ve been thinking about first the produce—the novel—and what makes it interesting and then the promotion, particularly blog posts and what makes them interesting.

Before I give my ideas about what makes a blog post interesting, I’ll tell you the things that aren’t compelling to me, and I’ll even give them in exciting, countdown fashion. 😀

5. Pictures – unless I know the people. Then, yes, they work. But just putting a generic picture up … not so much.
4. Personal journal stuff – unless I know the person in the real world. I don’t have a point of reference to know how great it was that you got to go to Australia for the weekend.
3. Cute personality trait quizzes. Yes, I’ve participated in a couple of those, but I’m so over it! 😉
2. Posts that are self-serving.
1. And the number one thing that does not compel me to read a blog post? Canned copy. When I recognize the material is the kind of information found in a press release, I pass.

Which brings us to the five most compelling features that encourage me to read a blog. (I was tempted to list Emoticons, but the only site I’d go to or the posts I’d read just for the emoticons is All About Children’s Books—see the complete list when you click on “Post a Comment.” )

So here we go. What makes a blog post interesting? Again, in countdown order, here are my top five:

5. Contests
4. Humor
3. Brevity
2. Hooks
1. Topic of interest

By “hooks” I mean either a great opening that catches my attention, or a nail-biting ending that has me coming back just to find out the rest.

But the number one, by far, is an interesting topic. I have subscribed to one blog (you can relax—this one is not about any who might come here and read) that I actually kind of groan at when I see there’s a post. By and large, this individual writes boring, boring posts. But once in a while, there’s a piece of information I would not have learned except for that blog. So I continue to scan it whenever a post comes up, but my scans only turn into in depth reading when I see a topic of particular interest.

Well, duh, you might be thinking. If I knew what was interesting, then I’d write interesting copy. The key is, interesting to your readers. Who comes to your site? Or who do you want to come to your site? Me, I love sports. I coached for years. I follow most major sports (and I consider soccer as a major sport) in the pros and some in the colleges. But you rarely read anything about sports here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. I figure the people who come to a site with Christian and Fiction in the title probably are here because that’s what they’re interested in. Consequently, I limit my content to those subjects, with the rare exception.

My guess is, the people who visit here regularly do so because they want to read content about one subject or the other or even better the intersection of the two.

Does that guarantee I’m writing something interesting? I wish! But at least I have a fighting chance because the visitors stopping by aren’t expecting my views on the political race or what I think about a 41-year-old mother swimming in her fifth Olympics or … you name it.

Now, if I could just master that brevity thing.

What about you? Did I list the thing you think makes a blog post interesting?

More on Blogging—Book Buzz, Part 4

So we have a successful blog and we have a book with high-quality content. Is buzz assured? Hardly. I don’t know the latest figure tallying the number of people who blog, but a recent book on the subject says the number doubles every five months. That puts the total in the millions, I’m guessing, so how is my little voice going to stir action when so many voices are asking for attention and a response at the same time?

One key component is the trust factor. Some bloggers, because of their position, have others listening to them. Examples in Christian writing circles would be Thomas Nelson CEO, Michael Hyatt or agents such as Chip MacGregor.

Others have built up trust because of what they say or because of their experience. Brandilyn Collins comes to mind. As a relatively new and successful author, she hooked a number of us onto her blog because she shared a detailed, and often humorous, account of her road to publication.

For those of us who have no high-profile position and no validating experience, the job of creating buzz via blogging is somewhat harder but certainly not impossible.

One of the most successful is Camy Tang. Besides building up her blog readership, she has ventured into a number of other buzz-creating endeavors. One such is to offer freebies. People love winning free stuff and will often continue to come to a site and leave a comment on the chance they will win.

“Free stuff” can be free info, especially if the person is situated as an insider. Randy Ingermanson may be the best writer offering free help for those starting out, to the point that he has morphed his teaching into a business. Agent Terry Whalin also has a number of free articles he links to at his blog.

Besides offering free info or books or what have you, bloggers are building buzz through blog tours such as CSFF, blog carnivals, and blog parties. Parties have extended to launch parties. I haven’t seen one of these done up big yet. The only “party” I was involved in, I was pretty much on the periphery, but the buzz part was created by every participant posting a link to party headquarters. Also, lots and lots of people donated prizes, so the purpose was really to join the party, post, and see if you might win something.

Contests are another part of creating book buzz, and blogs are ideal for holding contests such as Fantasy Challenge and Fantasy Challenge II or Wayne Batson’s Treasure Hunt.

But there’s even more. Can you tell blogging is becoming one of the bigger pieces of the marketing pie?

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