books with Athena

books with Athena

Sunday, December 4, 2011

HOW TO BLOG: A Beginner's Guide for Authors

FIRST, AN ANNOUNCEMENT!  My second Camilla Randall mystery, SHERWOOD LTD., went live on Amazon.com and the UK Amazon site this morning.  It’s a sequel to GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY that involves mysterious doings at a wildly unorthodox publishing company in the English Midlands, near Nottingham. It was inspired by my wacky experiences getting my first book published in the UK back in the early ’oughties. It’s full of writerly humor as well as fun stuff for Robin Hood fans and Anglophiliacs everywhere. Etiquette expert Camilla Randall's good manners get her into more dangerous scrapes--and this time the charming hero may be trying to kill her. (Nook owners, The Gatsby Game, Ghostwriters in the Sky and Sherwood, Ltd. should be available on B & N by Christmas!)

A year ago I ran a series on how to blog that went viral and got mentions on a lot of prestigious blogs. I went on to teach blogging and social media at the Central Coast Writers’Conference. The following is an overview of part one of my beginning blogger course. Next week, I’ll run part two: “HOW NOT TO BLOG.”

NOTE: please don’t take anything I say here as dogma. As a certified Old Hippie Chick and life-long Authority-Questioner, when I step in a pile of dogma, all I want is to scrape it off my shoe.

Which is probably why I ran afoul of the Amazon Review Taliban in the last couple of weeks. Boy, howdy did I learn my lesson, (although my little incident of stepping in it also got me a sympathetic mention on Porter Anderson’s must-read publishing industry round-up Writing on the Ether this week.) 

So please note:

I do not now—nor will I ever—dictate what anyone must blog, read, write, think, review, smoke, or wear.

(Really. I think you look fabulous in that evening gown, Mark.)

These are my own observations of what seems to be working right now. But creative people are always finding ways to get around rules. It’s one of the things creativity is for. If you hate blogging, please--go find a more interesting way to promote yourself and come back and tell me about it. I’d love to feature your experiences here.

So: do you absolutely need to have a blog if you want to sell books? 

Nope. But it just might help..

Even a couple of years ago, only nonfiction writers needed “platforms,” but that’s changed. Even the Big Six publishers expect authors to do most of our own publicity.

And what is a platform?

It’s the network of people who know you well enough that they might buy your book. All social networking sites contribute to it. So joining RedRoom, Goodreads, Kindleboards, Absolute Write, She Writes—or any of the smorgasbord of writer schmooze-rooms—will help build platform. So pick a few and join up. But not too many: remember this is about promoting your writing, not keeping you from it.

The point is to get your name out there where the Google spiders can find you.

Why? Here’s a quote from Oak Tree Press acquisitions editor Sunny Frazier  that might answer your question:

“I don't read the query (sorry aspiring writers!) I look for two things:  genre and word count. I then Google the author. I'm looking for the number of times the writer's name appears on the Internet. I'm searching for a website or any attempt to build a platform.”

Yup. She checks your presence on the Interwebz before she looks at your writing. Sad but true.

Before I started blogging, if anybody Googled me, they'd find me on maybe page 20 in the endless string of Anne Allens. If you Google me now, you’ll get 20 pages of mostly me. And I’ve only been blogging a little over two years.

The three major pillars of most writing platforms are Facebook, Twitter and your Blog.

The greatest of these is your blog. This is where you get to be 100% yourself however many characters it takes.

Here’s what publishing guru Jane Friedman says: “All serious writers need this kind of hub so they can start learning more about their readers and formalizing a connection with them. Facebook, Twitter, and other sites help you find readers and connect, but those connections can disappear at any moment, or gradually over time–but with a blog, they can always find you.”

That’s why a website you have to pay somebody to update for you isn’t as useful. People want to connect with you—not your web designer. The difference between a website and a blog is the difference between putting an ad in the Yellow Pages or personally giving somebody your phone number. Blogs are friendly. And if you have a blog, you don’t need an expensive website. Here’s what Nathan Bransford said about formal websites:

“The thing about author websites is pretty simple, in my mind. They're expensive. Are they worth the return on investment? I don't know. I can't think of a time I've ever bought a book based on a visit to an author's website. But I have definitely bought books based on author blogs. I know I may not be the average reader, but I still have a hard time seeing how it's worth the investment unless the website is really spectacular.”

Does a blog sell books?

Not directly. But it helps in lots of indirect ways. I found my publishers through my blog. I got to know Ruth Harris through my blog—and most of the people who are hosting my blog tour. Networking pays off.

A lot of blogging advice is for professional bloggers who are looking to make money selling ads on the actual blog. That’s not what you want as an author. You want a fun, inviting place where people can visit and get to know you—a home rather than a storefront.

I had to learn blogging by trial and error—lots of error. So here’s the stuff I wish somebody had told me.

20 Steps To Starting Your Own Blog:

1) If you don’t do it yet, spend a couple of weeks reading a bunch of writing and publishing blogs before you jump in and create your own. See what you like and don’t like. Agent blogs and some of the popular indie-publishing blogs are good for meeting people at all stages of their careers. I especially recommend Nathan Bransford’s blog  because he’s a publishing insider and a social media guru as well as a successful MG author. He’s also a smart, classy guy. Plus his blog has forums where you can get to know people.

2) Comment and interact with other commenters. You only have to say a few words of agreement or disagreement, or offer your own experience about the topic. Lots of writers have a “blogroll” in their sidebar with a list of other great writing blogs. Start clicking around. If you like what somebody says, click on their name in the comments and you’ll get their profile and you can go visit their blog. Comment there and Bingo, you’ve got a potential follower.

3) It’s easier to comment if you have an online profile, so I suggest you sign up at Gravatar.com. This gives you an online profile that’s compatible with all blogging platforms. Upload a picture—a smiley one of yourself is best. There’s room for a short bio and your contact info. Make sure you post an email address. That’s why you’re doing this—so people can find you. If you’re on Facebook, Goodreads, Google + or whatever, post the link. If you’re on Google + (which I like, because it’s kind of quiet and low-key) you’ll already have a Google profile, but it’s helpful to have a Gravatar profile, too, because it’s compatible with all blogs.

4) Choose a blogging platform. The biggest free blogging platforms are WordPress, Tumblr, LiveJournal & Blogger. Tumblr is a platform for short posts, videos and pictures—something between a blog and Twitter.  You can also have a blog on your personal website, or on a writer’s forum like RedRoom. But these aren’t as likely to be picked up by search engine spiders, so if your goal is to be more Googleable, I suggest using a more popular platform.

I use Blogger (owned by Google, with addresses that read “blogspot.com”) because it’s the easiest to set up and use—and has some really pretty templates. But Blogger does have some drawbacks. Whole continents get blocked periodically—probably by Blogger’s fierce spamblockers. And for a while there, we were all losing our follower widgets, and some people couldn’t get into their own blogs. But the glitches eventually get ironed out.

People who are more tech-savvy love WordPress. You can get step by step instructions here. Jane Friedman loves WordPress. And it has the advantage of being easily translated into an ebook. Very cool.

4) Decide on a focus and tone for your blog. Blog gurus will tell you to address a niche, but I’m not sure any more if that’s the best way to start. I think the most important thing is to develop a strong personal voice and be flexible. And don't plan to blog about writing all the time. There are an awful lot of us out here doing just that and you want to provide something fresh.

Roni Loren—a fabulous romance author and popular blogger who is going to be visiting us on December 18th—has written some of the best posts on blogging I’ve read. She's pointed out she’d never have the following she does if she’d started with a niche blog. She started out as a YA writer and switched to erotic romance. Yeah, a tough switch.

Beginning author-bloggers form a wonderful community. That community can help you in hundreds of ways, so don’t worry too much about seeming like a ‘professional” blogger right away. Be real, flexible, open and friendly and you can ease into your niche later.

Remember the most successful blogs reveal the writer’s personality and provide something useful at the same time. Even if you choose to be a niche blogger like me, keep flexible.

Don’t focus on one book or lock yourself into one genre, especially if you‘re a newbie.

Zombies could invade the second draft of what started out as a cozy mystery. Or a Victorian romance could veer into steampunk. Romance writer Rosa Lee Hawkins might decide to become dark, brooding R. L. Hawk. She doesn’t want to be stuck with that pink, lacy blog—or betray her romance-loving followers. You can always add stuff, but it’s harder to take it away.

5) Think of a title and subheader. Don’t get too creative here.

Make sure you put your own name in the title. Your name is your brand.

Yes, I know most blogs you see have names like “Musing, Meandering and Muttering,” but this really isn’t a good idea.

Anywhere you go online, you want to promote your brand, or you’re wasting time (time you could be writing that opus that’s the reason for all this, remember?) It’s OK to be unimaginative like me and call it YOUR NAME’s blog—maybe reducing the ho-hum factor with something like “Susie Smith, Scrivener.” The advantage to using your own name is—

    1. When somebody Googles you, your blog will come up, instead of that old MySpace page you haven’t bothered to delete, or the picture of you on Spring Break in Cabo in 2006. Yeah. That one. 
    1. You don’t get boxed into one genre. (I strongly advise against starting different blogs for different books. One blog is hard enough to maintain.) 
If you need to be convinced of the “your name is your brand” thing, read social media maven Kristen Lamb, whose wonderful books Are You There Blog?It’s Me Writer and We are Not Alone, the Writer’s Guide to Social Media are must-reads.

6). Choose a couple of photos from your files to decorate the blog. Usually one of yourself for your profile, and another to set the tone. And of course your book covers if you have them for sale. Try to keep with the same color scheme and tone.

On Tone:

If you write MG humor, you don’t want your blog looking all dark and Goth, and cheery colors will give the wrong message for that serial killer thriller. Romance sites don’t have to be pink, but they should be warm, inviting and a little sexy or girly.

Also, if you have a website or Twitter page, aim to echo the tone and color in order to establish a personal “brand” look.

7) Prepare a bio for your “About Me” page. This is the most important part of the blog. Make it intriguing and funny without giving TMI. You can add some more pics—maybe of your dog or your funky car. Keep family out unless it’s a family blog. Pseudonyms for kids are a smart idea for protecting their privacy.. 

8) Go to a friend’s blog. If they use Blogger or Wordpress, there will be a link at the top that says “create blog.”

9) Click on “create blog.” Follow directions in the window. They’re easy. In Blogger anyway.

10) Choose a template. Don’t mess with the design too much, except in terms of color—a busy blog isn’t a place people want to linger. And don’t add animation really big files or anything that takes too long to load. Keep with your color scheme and tone.

11) Pick your “gadgets.” There are lots. But again, keep it simple. I suggest just choosing the basics like about me, followers, subscribe, share and search this blog. Share is the thing so people can Tweet or FB or + your post. You want this to happen.

You can go back and add anything you want later. Later you’ll want your archives and most popular posts. Just go to your “design” tab to find more. If you Tweet, get a twitter button. (Google “Twitter buttons”) Don’t choose an animated one, though—they’re cute but they slow your load time.

In a little while, you’ll want to install the gadget that posts links to your most popular posts. That makes people want to move around the site and not leave after they’ve read one thing.

I don’t recommend putting your stats on the front page “so many hits” or whatever. It will only advertise that you’re a newbie and might make you sad. Do keep track of your stats on your own dashboard, but remember it takes about a year to get a blog going at full stride. So don’t obsess. Yes, you will have weeks when you have two hits. My blog had five in its first three months.

But checking stats is actually a good idea because you can see where your traffic is coming from. If you suddenly get 40 hits from one address—go check it out. Somebody’s posted a link to you. You may have a new friend you didn’t even know about.

12) Set up privacy settings. I suggest making no restrictions on new posts. Don’t make every comment wait for your approval before it goes live. You won’t get a discussion going that way. Monitor your blog yourself instead. I’ve personally found that 99% of commenters are friendly.

Also, I suggest turning off the “Captcha.” word verification thingy. Spambot programmers are learning to get around them and they don’t screen out most spam. (That’s done by the spamblocker, which will work just fine without Captcha.) But the two or three extra steps annoy people and keep them from commenting.

But DO have every comment over a week old sent to you for approval. Old posts attract spam and trolls.

13) Sign up for email notification of new comments so you can respond to them in a timely way. If commenters give an email address in their profile (always smart) you can respond to them via email, but I prefer to respond in the comment thread to stimulate discussion.

14) Upload those photos. But not too many. One per post is good. This is a WRITING blog. And NO MUSIC. People read blogs at work. And on their phones. Even though you’re sure everybody on the planet adores the classics of the Abba catalogue, some of us don’t. Trust me on this.

It’s that easy. But don’t forget to:

15) BOOKMARK your blog, or you may never find it again. You’d be amazed how many people set up a blog only to have it disappear forever into cyberspace.

16) When you go back to your blog, click “sign in” and then “new post” to get inside the blog. What they call the “back” of the blog.

17) Keep to a schedule. Decide how often you want to blog—I suggest once a week to start—then do it. Preferably on the same day each week. Most blog gurus will tell you to blog more often, but I have a pretty highly rated blog and have never blogged more than twice in one week.

I follow something called SLOW BLOGGING. It’s like the slow food movement. Quality over quantity.

Joining the Slow Blog movement is simple. Start a blog and announce you’re planning to post on alternate Tuesdays, or every full moon, or whenever. Or if you already have a blog, next time you miss a few days, tell yourself you didn’t FAIL to blog; you SUCCEEDED in joining the Slow Bloggers. All you have to do is skip those boring apologies, and you’re in.

18) Write your first blogpost.

So how do you write for a blog?

  • A post should be 600-1200 words presented in short, punchy paragraphs. (Do as I say, not as I do—This is one long-ass post. Sorry.)
  • Bulleting, numbering and bolding are your friends. Make a point and present it in a way that’s easy to grasp.
  • Offer information and interesting observations, not navel-gazing. Direct your focus outward, not inward. (And keep to nonfiction. Blogging your fiction isn't a great idea for a number of reasons, which I'll go into next week.)
  • If you have more to say than fits into a few paragraphs—great! You have material for next time.
  • Keep to one topic, because that stimulates conversation more effectively. If you have dozens of short things to say—Tweet them.
  • Always ask a question of your readers at the end. It makes people feel involved and stimulates discussion.
19) Go tell those blogfriends you’ve made that you’ve got a blog. Hopefully, a few will follow. Don’t despair if you don’t get a lot of followers right away. I had maybe ten for my first six months—consisting of my critique group and my mom.

20) Congratulations. You are now a blogger.
Really. It’s that easy.
*******

What about you, scriveners? Do any of you regular bloggers have suggestions for newbies? Newbies, do you have any questions? We’ll be glad to help.

This week I’ll be making two blogtour stops. I’ll be visiting Roni Loren’s legendary blog, Fiction Groupie  on Monday, December 4th, talking about that scary question of whether that first novel can find a publisher.

I’m doing an interview with Canadian author and knitting maven, Leanne Dyck at her blog on Friday, December 9th.

For the weekly installment of the Indie Chicks Anthology stories--this week's from paranormal author Linda Welch-- click here or on the Indie Chicks page link above. Linda's story is an inspiration for Boomers writers like me. It's never too late!

87 comments:

  1. This is a great post. It is exactly what I wish I'd read when I was starting out.
    To anyone thinking of starting a Blog, follow Anne's simply set out advice. It is great fun. There is a world of people out there and lots would love to join you when your blog goes live.

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  2. I stumbled through starting my blog and learned lots as I went, but I'm still learning. I wish I had read your post before I started.

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  3. Time to rework my wee bloggie a bit then! Thanks for the tips Anne! I'm going to settle down in bed with Sherwood Ltd. later, wheee!

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  4. These tips are fantastic, Anne.

    I started my blog about nine months ago. It's still a work in progress - over time I'm improving it and (hopefully!) becoming a better blogger. I may not be an expert, but I really enjoy blogging (and reading blogs).

    I couldn't agree more that people need to keep their blog designs simple. When I go to a really busy looking blog with a dozen neon colors and widgets zooming at me from every direction, I feel a headache coming on, so I hit that back button, fast!

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  5. Anne's the best! Sensible, practical, entertaining!

    Do what she says and, don't forget, do it slowly. More fun, better results. Fact is,the internet is forever—as least as far as we can tell right now. ;-)

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  6. Excellent post. I follow Kristen Lamb's blog, and I was glad to see you promoting her books. They're extremely helpful and full of a lot of common sense advice.

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  7. I definitely red this the first time around and thus my personal blog was formed. I am now looking into starting a more the author side of me for blogging so I'm going to be book marking these posts for easy reference.

    Book marking my own blog, that was a useful tip I learned the hard way. :}

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  8. Elaine--I've watched your blog morph through many changes and blossom. It's a great blog.

    Susan--Don't you wish there was a little "helful hints for beginners" window that would come up when you open Blogger and Wordpress?

    Spook--I'm so glad you bought a copy of Sherwood! You might be my very first customer.

    Ranae--I think blogs should always be a "work in progress" so we don't stagnate. I'm so with you on the busy ones. Especially if they have so much stuff they won't load. People don't realize how much traffic they may be losing.

    Ruth--Thanks! You're so right: just throwing random thoughts onto a blog can backfire. Think first and do it carefully.

    Marcy--Kristen is the BEST!

    Cathryn--LOL. Me too. So embarrassing to lose my own blog.

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  9. Anne, great advice as always. I consider the blog my own personal magazine, sans perfurm ads. I also hook up with the women from my writer's group on facebook and twitter, but I enjoy the blog more than any other facet of social networking. Congrats on the launch. Yet another great read for my Kindle :)

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  10. Anne, I don't know who Gabby is but Google has put me down as her.
    The previous comment was from Florence who will protest by leaving this comment as anon.

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  11. I love my blog. Even though I'm on hiatus right now I still have millions of posts I think about writing.

    Great advice, all you newbie's listen up. Anne's the best!

    Love the cover for the new book! Can't wait to get my hands on a copy. Santa's bringing me gift cards. YAY!

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  12. Hey Anne, Great post, and I'm so pleased to hear you are publishing your books on Nook, too. Expect a few more sales!

    I have a Gravatar question. My blog is on Weebly.com but I have a Google account, so when I leave a comment I usually use that. Presumably Gravatar would cure all that confusion. But when I look at your options here under "Choose an identity" Gravatar is not an option. What am I missing?

    ~Dawn

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  13. Gabby--A blog is like a magazine--great comparison. Think of it as your own version of "Oprah" and you'll do great. Sounds as if you are.

    Florence--LOL. I have no idea why Blogger has it in for you, but it is almost comical. They tried to make you post as Gabby, but they won't let you post as Florence Fois? Curious and curiouser. I wish I had an answer.

    Anne--I think you're doing it absolutely right. Plus you have the prettiest author blog around. Everything about it is gorgeous, including your book covers.

    D.--I don't know anything about Weebly, but I think your Gravatar ID is treated as a website ID, so you could try putting your Gravatar address in the url window. I think it's affiliated with Wordpress, so there might be something in the Wordpress menu in Open ID, but I'm not sure.

    Can anybody out there help? I'm not good on the tech side of things.

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  14. Hi, Anne! What a GREAT A to Z for starting a blog. I began blogging about 6 months ago and still am not sure how to connect to more people. I have taken Kristen Lamb's classes and I read a lot of things about how to blog better, etc. I try to keep my blog posts short and to the point and pepper them with pictures and a question at the end and I don't blog about writing, but more about interesting subjects as well as personal ones so people get to know me. And I like doing it, for sure. I guess I'll just "keep on truckin'" since my book will come out in January and then maybe I'll have some more followers.
    Patti

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  15. Great post as usual. I think I'm going to see if it's possible to change the name of my blog to include my own name. I wish I'd read this before I started :-)

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  16. Also, I hope you don't mind me hijacking your comments Anne, but to Patricia, the lady who commented above me. I clicked on your name to visit your blog but there was no link to it. I don't know what it's called so I can't visit it. Just thought I'd pass that on.

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  17. I love the cover of your new book. Congratulations! I'd be interested in your discussing (someday) how you are managing to promote all these different novels at more or less the same time, a problem traditionally published authors never wrestled with.

    Question: why have you not purchased your own domain name? Do you think this is unnecessary? Are you absolutely sure that you own all the content you've produced here and could use it in a future book, e.g., one about blogging?

    Thanks for another great, newsy post.

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  18. Great post Anne. When I started my blog I didn't know any of this. I didn't even know one could get followers. I remember how shocked I was when I got one. Funny now, when I think about it.

    I'm glad I have a blog and now I'm not going to worry about a website. And you're right, one blog is enough. I find it really irritating when I click on someone's profile and they have numerous blogs. I mean, who has the time to figure out which one is current?

    I'm trying to find my niche. But that is the same thing as voice...right?? I know we aren't supposed to say too much about our fiction projects but since it's all I can think about, sometimes that's hard. I guess you'll tell me exactly why not next week?

    Congratulations on getting another book on Amazon. It sounds great!

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  19. Congrats on your new release, Anne! And I appreciate the shout out. :) I learned the blogging thing like you--trial and error. I wish I would've had a guide like this to start, lol.

    And amen on the comment approval thing. Good grief that drives me nuts. I always wonder if my comment has disappeared into the ether.

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  20. Patricia--Sarah's right. You need to add your blog url to your Google profile so all of us who are now very interested in visiting your blog can find it. Then you'll magically get a whole lot more followers. See how easy? (BTW, watch the size and number of pictures you put on the blog. If they're big files, people won't wait for them to load.) Good luck with your launch!

    Sarah--Yes, it's easy to change the name of your blog. You can't change the url, but you can change the header--and that's all there is to it. Kristen did that. Her url is the old "warriorwriters" but the blog is "Kristen Lamb's blog."

    Rebecca--Isn't that a brilliant cover? The designer is Laura Morrigan. A genius. Which is why she's booked through next May.

    Who said I'm managing? I'm going nuts. Without Ruth to take over the blog a couple of times a month, I'd be in the looney bin. (Thanks, Ruth!) I do NOT recommend launching seven books in the space of two and a half months.

    Have I purchased my domain name? Nope. Should I? Dunno. Yes, I own the content, and I could publish it as a book. If I had WordPress they even have an app of some sort to do just that. Copyright laws are pretty much in the author's favor on this. Could people steal the content for their blogs? Sure. I consider it an homage. (And if they link back to my blog and give me credit, I'm a happy bunny.) Now, if they tried to publish it and charge money, then I call a lawyer.

    Yvonne--You bring up an important point. If I click on your name and find ten blogs, it's just as bad as finding no blog or website at all. I sure am not going to click through to all of them. And chances are I'll choose the one you haven't updated since your rant about the ending of *Lost*

    Thanks on the book. Writers should get big laughs out of Ghostwriters in the Sky and Sherwood Ltd. Lots of writerly humor.

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  21. "Which is probably why I ran afoul of the Amazon Review Taliban in the last couple of weeks. Boy, howdy did I learn my lesson"

    No, I don't believe you did. So now everyone who disagreed with you is the Taliban.

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  22. Anon--I've received your death threats, loud and clear, and reported them to local law enforcement. The sad thing is I agree with most of what the anonymice say, but they're arguing with stuff I never said. I'm sorry you think nobody should be allowed to review books but people who belong to your cult. But I think you're not quite as evil as you want people to think you are.

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  23. Anon--You don't deserve two comments, but yes, you have flustered me a bit. In all my, ahem, (big number) years, I've never had a death threat before. This is about BOOK REVIEWS, for goodness' sake. Take a chill pill. I know you're angry. Living in your mom's basement sucks. The system has not done well by the younger generation. But threatening people who tell you what *does exist*, instead of what you think *should be*, isn't the way to solve the world's problems. My 90 year old mom is out Occupying; my brillian jazz musician nephew just got himself arrested for standing up for the rights of immigrants at his college. If you're going to do something so utterly stupid as threaten somebody's life, do it for a better reason than that you don't like Amazon's algorithms.

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  24. SKFigler (aka Rrrandy Wurst)December 5, 2011 at 12:00 AM

    Okay, Anne, you've convinced me to do a blog. (Actually, you convinced me some time ago, but I've just been lazy, scared, or lazy-scared.) Here, you lay out the process very clearly, which means I will only work my way into 17 box canyons of the e-world.
    Question: When I tried in the past, Wordpress (or was it Blogger?) would not let me have a url of "myname.com". It had to include "blogspot" or "wordpress." Or was that in an alternate universe?
    Your pal, Rrr W

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  25. Recommending this post to all and sundry Anne - great summary of blog basics. I wholeheartedly agree that blogging is an essential tool for authors. Thru my blog I have made friends. Guaranteed an audience for my book even before I had published it. And even made contact with photographers, cover designers and book trailer producers, artists - who were blog fans and then became book promoters and a super support team. My blog began and still is - a slightly demented mother/parenting blog - but I write young adult fiction so one would think the two dont mix. However, blog readers have generously embraced my books BECAUSE of my blog even tho the two are worlds apart at times. I am grateful for the people who read my blog and the encouragement they consistently offer for my writing adventures. Its an exciting time to be a writer, you get to interact with your audience on a global scale. And blogging is part of it.

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  26. Anne, Thanks for posting Lin's story. It's very inspiring. It's NEVER too late!

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  27. A few reactions. First, it's a shame that agents and editors wouldn't read a query to find out what the book is like and instead rely on numbers that MIGHT NOT NECESSARILY HAVE ANY BASIS IN REALITY. Because guess what, those numbers and Google rankings are easily fudged if you know how to SEO and sneak in back links on websites. I've been approached by several sneaky little companies and individuals who have tried to get their links on my blog. Although my blog isn't a big one and this puzzled me as to why mine would matter, it turns out ANY link matters to search rankings. Bottom line: Google rankings can be somewhat of a fixed item. If you pay enough people or get enough friends and family to hype you online, your rankings go up. Maybe it's just me, but representation and publishing shouldn't be the result of a popularity contest. This is the whole Klout thing all over again.

    Second, a "formal" author website can be worth money if you have no idea where to start or how it should look, or your design skills are similar to those of a rabid Rhesus monkey's. Then, hiring a designer and builder might make sense for you. Shameless plug: I design such web sites. My clients typically are people who want a professional site but don't know where or how to begin. And while Nathan Bransford is right about not buying books based on web sites, he stops short. A website for authors, like *all* businesses, provides a means for readers/consumers to verify that you are who you say you are. That is the point of a website (without ecommerce). And once they verify you're real, you've made the first step to connecting. Why can't you just do this with a blog? You can! But blogs are for discussing and engaging, whereas websites are for informing and marketing.

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  28. Some great stuff here, Anne.

    One thing to add to #12 - if anyone does leave the moderator switched on it does invite speculation about which comments the blogger is allowing to appear and which may be being deleted because they have a different viewpoint.

    As here in your comments today, I fine example of why even malicious negative comments should be allowed through. They just show up the true colors of the writers who send in this anonymous drivel.

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  29. Check, check and check! Wow, excellent list. And I'm really glad I started with a blog and never got around to a website.
    Do blogs sell books? I'd have to say a big yes to that one!

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  30. Roni--I missed you up there. So happy to be guesting on Fiction Groupie today. And wouldn't life be easier if everybody would turn off the stupid CAPTCHA?

    Mr. Wurst--You had a blog before I did, so I can't really claim to be less lazy. In order to get a url without "blogspot" or "wordpress" in it, you have to pay for a premium site. Not worth it to me. But you'll see that Nathan Bransford has the premium type. Those have more pages and you can have forums and stuff. But, hey, that's work.

    Lani--Your blog is a great example of what works for an author blog. It has a strong voice and fun tone. It's friendly and makes people want to get to know you better. You're so right about the global aspect of blogging. I love that I now have friends all over the world.

    Barbara--I so much enjoyed Lin's piece, since I'm also a "chick" of a certain age. :-)

    Mark--Thanks for making that point. Yes, I leave up negative comments. Anything that stimulates discussion is a plus. I don't expect everybody to agree with me. In fact, didn't you and I first get to know each other when you disagreed with something ignorant I said about indie publishing? Obviously, you disagreed in an intelligent, respectful way and you didn't send me "we know where you live, you &*%#!" emails. There's a difference between a disagreement and a temper tantrum. But I think it's best to let the temper tantrums sit and speak for themselves.

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  31. Anne, I left a long response and then my comment got eaten! So it evolved into a post for Wednesday at my blog.
    There are two really important things I wanted to respond to here--first, in sum, Google rankings can be fixed and faked, and everyone should keep that in mind, especially editors who rely on those. The overall goal should be putting your name out there, but NOT relying on rankings.

    Second, author websites--totally different function from blogs. I go over this in detail on my blog on Wed. I wasn't sure if you or Nathan Bransford referred specifically to the ROI of having a website in general, paying someone to design it, or paying someone to update it. You never want to pay anyone to update your website, but paying someone to design it is different especially if your own design skills are similar to those of a rabid Rhesus monkey's.

    Finally, I would add step 19 to the list of 18 how to blog steps: Engage with your readers and followers. I think part of being a blogger is about having a discussion with others. Vomiting up blog posts and expecting magic isn't really a formula for success. (Not saying you said that, just adding to your points.)

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  32. From Sierra Godfrey:

    (I don't know why it didn't appear here, but it did make it to my inbox)


    A few reactions. First, it's a shame that agents and editors wouldn't read a query to find out what the book is like and instead rely on numbers that MIGHT NOT NECESSARILY HAVE ANY BASIS IN REALITY. Because guess what, those numbers and Google rankings are easily fudged if you know how to SEO and sneak in back links on websites. I've been approached by several sneaky little companies and individuals who have tried to get their links on my blog. Although my blog isn't a big one and this puzzled me as to why mine would matter, it turns out ANY link matters to search rankings. Bottom line: Google rankings can be somewhat of a fixed item. If you pay enough people or get enough friends and family to hype you online, your rankings go up. Maybe it's just me, but representation and publishing shouldn't be the result of a popularity contest. This is the whole Klout thing all over again.

    Second, a "formal" author website can be worth money if you have no idea where to start or how it should look, or your design skills are similar to those of a rabid Rhesus monkey's. Then, hiring a designer and builder might make sense for you. Shameless plug: I design such web sites. My clients typically are people who want a professional site but don't know where or how to begin. And while Nathan Bransford is right about not buying books based on web sites, he stops short. A website for authors, like *all* businesses, provides a means for readers/consumers to verify that you are who you say you are. That is the point of a website (without ecommerce). And once they verify you're real, you've made the first step to connecting. Why can't you just do this with a blog? You can! But blogs are for discussing and engaging, whereas websites are for informing and marketing.

    Sierra--These are very good points. I was shocked when I read that editor interview, too. But I'm just reporting things as they are, not condoning them. I'm totally with you on Klout and all those other rating systems--they mean very little, except that somebody knows how to game the system. Unfortunately marketing departments base all their decisions on them.

    And YES!! If you do want a spiffy formal website, Sierra is your person--her designs are creative and she's a very, very smart lady. Check her out.

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  33. Sierra--the comments seem to have crossed. You make some great points and I look forward to your post on Wednesday. I haven't been convinced I need a formal website yet, but you are a pretty persuasive writer, so I'll be very interested in what you have to say.

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  34. Excellent post. I so ended this last yr when I stumbled onto the blogging circuit blindfolded. I had no real direction and no niche. I hadn't yet decided that it would be for my writing (which I'd not then thought of publishing) or about writing, so I never named it my name - I plucked something out of the air. WordsinSync at least sounds associated with writing :D

    Shah. X

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  35. Great list! It's hard to find all that in one place. Thanks! Finding a group of bloggers at about the same place as you has been tremendously helpful for me - taking Kristin Lamb's WANA course has brought a whole slew of writing/reading/networking opportunities I wouldn't have found elsewhere.

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  36. Alex, you have one of the best blogs around, so I guess a great blog=sales. Good to hear.

    Shah--Most of us just stumble into it. You can easily change the name to "Shah's Wordsinsync" and get your name in there.

    Lisa--I learned a whole lot of what I teach from Kristen. I somehow stumbled on her blog before I named mine, so I didn't have to go through a name change. Good point about finding a community of writers at your same stage in the writing journey. That mutual support is so important.

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  37. Anne this such great advice. I've been involved in 'group' blogs for five years, and just this month went solo for the first time. I'm starting over again, and have to rebuild readership. It is wise if you leave a blog to make sure you can say good-bye so followers will know what happened to you. In my case I wasn't given the oppertunity, so I'm starting over again. It's okay, it will be an adventure to see where it takes me. I'm applying everything I've learned over the years to my personal blog. The key is to be consistent, and blog at least once a week. But it is the best way to get the name out there, talk about a personal writing journey.

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  38. Lee--I'm not actually a fan of group blogs. Kristen Lamb points out that it's the blog name, not yours that gets promoted. So no matter how many followers the group has, it's not that useful for the individual author. So maybe this was a blessing in disguise ;-) You have such a unique background, being in law enforcement, that I know you'd get a big following of mystery writers if you blog about law enforcement issues as well as writing. Then go haunt popular mystery writing blogs like Elizabeth S. Craig's *Mystery Writing is Murder* and meet more people in the mystery community. It's hard to be in a group blog with writers who are mostly in a different genre. Following the Sisters in Crime blog is a great way to connect with mystery lovers, too. This is a whole new beginning for you. (And you've handled it with amazing class.)

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  39. I want to say I am all new to weblog and absolutely savored this blog site. Very likely I’m likely to bookmark your website . You definitely have beneficial well written articles.

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  40. Anne; you are an inspiration to me.

    That's all I'll say on this :)

    I've read Indie Chicks and am working on the review - in fact I know I started it and can't find the works document. And I'm about 48% through Ghost Writers - and loving it. I put it down reluctantly.

    But, I can't wait to get back to the review of Inde Chicks cuz I just enjoyed the collection so much. I think I've found myself several new novels to read . .

    ........dhole

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  41. Boy, did I need this post, Anne. Being techno-challenged, I'm still reeling from putting up a WordPress site, and now I'm about to -- eek! -- post a blog. Thanks so much for this helpful guide.

    And congrats on your new release!

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  42. android--I think you might be an actual droid, but I'll leave your comment up just in case you're just a writer who's not not a native English speaker.

    Donna--Yay! So glad you're liking Ghostwriters AND Indie Chicks. Those ladies are awesome.

    Alicia--Thanks for the congrats, Alicia. It's all kind of overwhelming. Another coming in two weeks. Yikes. Best of luck with your new blog!!

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  43. GREAT post, Anne!! I've always had grogs with other writers because I believe there has to be a platform or you get lost in a crowd. I do a complete section on this in my non-fiction book, The Tricked Out Toolbox~Marketing and Promoting Tools Every Writer Needs (second edition, 2012). When I started The Writers Guide to Epublishing (http://thewritersguidetoepublishing.com/) I knew there was going to be a big push in the e-revolution and there had to be a place to go to for Indie authors or anyone interested in this new age, and trying to pay it forward.
    As a writer, I wasn't bringing my readers there. I was getting all sorts of reader mail asking about a blog site (I already had a website) so I decided a few months ago that I would start a blog where I can keep MY WRITER VOICE real. It's all about the reader for me and so far so good!

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  44. Yes, yes, and more YES. Your blogging tips helped get my blog rolling. They really did! I'm so grateful. And look at your on fire with all these novels. I can't keep up!!!!

    Can you believe the 2011 you had???? You're such an inspiration, Anne.

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  45. Tonya--Thanks for stopping by. WG2E is a fabulous site that is so encouraging for indie writers. I'll definitely check out your book. But as you've discovered, a group blog, no matter how successful, doesn't really substitute for your own personal blog where you're available to chat with fans and be yourself.

    Nina--Everybody should read your great post today about getting blog comments! I'm so pleased my advice has helped you build your fantastic blog

    And you're right--what a year! I'm still so busy I haven't had time to really take it in (one more novel and one anthology due before Dec 25th--to bring the total to 8 books between Sept 25 and Dec 25.) Yes, if anybody's asking--I'm certifiably looney-tunes at this point.

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  46. Too funny! I was jumping up and down yelling AMEN...before I even saw that you referenced me and my books, LOL. So THANKS!

    Awesome post and a tremendous resource for newbs. I know whenever I come here, I will find a real treasure. Thanks for making the Internet a way more interesting place :D

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  47. I'm glad Kristen Lamb led me to your blog. I started my site as a mixed bag of things before devloping it into a writer's den. I didn't follow all of these steps.

    I recommend anyone who is starting out to follow your advice. I've connected with so many excellent people, like Kristen. I wish I'd known what I was doing when I started.

    hell, I still don;t know what I'm doing.

    Great post.

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  48. Thank you for this invaluable advice! I heard from Kristen Lamb how amazing you are and I look forward to following your blog!

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  49. Kristen--Aw shucks. Thanks a bunch. You're the Queen of all Social Media as far as I'm concerned.

    Lance and Ingrid--Welcome. More bloggy advice coming on Sunday.

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  50. As always, this was a great post!

    In fact, I just passed along the link to a writer's group to which I belong (we're graduates of Dave Farland's 2011 workshop). Several members are just starting blogs and your post is quite timely.

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  53. Kristen directed me to your blog--one more treasure I have to thank her for...
    Blogging has allowed me to meet and interact with wonderful people. It also made my name show up on Google searches and raised my klout score.
    I loved how you showed the reasoning behind your advice, Anne. Thank you!

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  54. Wow, this post was wildly insightful and incredibly helpful! I'm just beginning to post online, building that platform, and I'd say I'm in the blueprint stages. There isn't even a stack of lumber to turn into a deck yet. But, thanks to this post, I have tons of ideas. Thank you, thank you!

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  56. Thank you for sharing these points... as a "wanna be successful" blogger, I often get lost in the question What do I write about as a freelance graphic artist to capture you...? I'm off to try a technique or two from this post!
    http://www.TheMerryBird.com Designs

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  57. Roh--Hi there! Good to see you. I'm so glad you could pass this on to your writing group.

    Fabio--Kristen is so awesome. She shows how to use social media to raise your profile without letting it take over your whole life.

    Sean--I'm so glad I could help. Blueprints save a lot of time :-) More blogtips coming tomorrow.

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  58. Anne - Great post! The only thing I would add is that new bloggers read publishing and writing blogs for publishing and writing advice, but read author/other blogs for examples of how to blog. Although my blog is mostly about writing, I agree with Kristen Lamb 100% that it's a mistake for new bloggers to start writing blogs. Blog to your audience, not just to other writers. Blog about topics that will interest your readers. I'm slowly moving in that direction myself.

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  59. Great article with helpful advice. I started my blog 2 years ago but only in the last few months have I begun to post weekly. But I sure need help getting people to read them! Two comments: The editor who looks for frequent authors' names is smart but Oak Tree Press is listed in Writer Beware. Also, I clicked on Nathan Bransford and got a message that the script in it was holding up my computer. Had to shut down and start over. I'll read his some other time, I hope.

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  60. Merry Bird--I'm writing for authors, not artists, so some of this advice may not work for you, but I'm glad you found something helpful.

    Meghan--The writing blogosphere is definitely saturated, so blogging about other things is the way to stand out from the crowd.

    Phyllis--Oak Tree Press has had its problems, but that was long ago--mostly due to vociferous complaints from one author, who later was arrested for threatening to kill Bill Gates because of problems with her computer. I wish WB would remove that "not recommended" tag. Even RWA has now vetted and approved Oak Tree. I know several very happily published Oak Tree authors. I'm not sure why you had trouble with the link to Nathan's blog. It's working now. His post from Friday is a little slow to load because he's got an imbedded video. (I don't recommend videos on blogs because they take so long to load. Links are better, IMO. But if you're Nathan, people will wait.)

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  61. Wow, so many comments! And I'm not surprised. This post, and your other one on what not to do, came along at exactly the right time for me, as my blog is established but I knew I needed better focus to take it up a level. I've written about it and linked to you,http://jenalexanderbooks.wordpress.com/ Many thanks!

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  62. Wow, so many comments! And I'm not surprised. This post, and your other one on what not to do, came along at exactly the right time for me, as my blog is established but I knew I needed better focus to take it up a level. I've written about it and linked to you,http://jenalexanderbooks.wordpress.com/ Many thanks!

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  63. jenalexander--thanks much for the linkage!

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  64. Thanks for the great tips. I've been blogging for awhile and am always looking to reach more people.

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  65. Thank you so much for this post! Stumbling through the start of a blog is tricky, and as I've slowly learned, not all common sense.

    Your post finally got me to fill out my Gravatar information and write some posts about my other interests. Thank you for this fantastic reference guide!

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  66. Carol--I just saw a post on blogging that suggested you spend your blogging time 60/40. 60% commenting on other blogs and 40% on your own. I think that's a great formula for bringing more traffic all the time.

    Kristen--Thanks for emphasizing the importance of Gravatar. Signing up is so simple, but so few bloggers seem to know about it. Gravatar essentially gives you a "website" so when you sign in with an "url" you can put in your Gravatar address.

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  67. Re Sunny Frazier looking for a web presence: I edit a business magazine, and the point that gets hammered home every issue is, like it or not, whatever your profession is, you have to build that presence. It goes against the grain for a lot of writers -- writing being a profession for the solitary-minded -- but to succeed we have to establish that presence. We have to self-promote.

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  68. Thanks, Melanie. The publishing world has changed so much in the past five years that a lot of people are in denial about it. But I don't see things going backwards. We need to be Web-savvy or we'll end up writing for nobody but the cat.

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  69. Anne,

    As a writer, I think I’d rather a publisher seek me out through a google search to see if I'm a serious writer, than to have to blog. Don’t get me wrong, I think the blogging process is important and I found your article valuable and helpful. Blogging is as important as any type of online media that exposes authors to potential readers and publishers in addition to networking contacts, but “getting your name out there” is what marketing and publicity is all about, which is what I feel Sunny is suggesting. That’s part of being “web-savvy.” (Besides, how wonderful to be contacted by a publisher rather than having to go through the query process!)

    ~Carole Avila

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  70. Carol--Publishers and readers are a lot more likely to find you through a Google search if you have a blog. It should be an important element of an author's marketing strategy. My publishers found me because of my blog. If I'd relied on paid promos on other websites, or press releases, they wouldn't have got to "know me" and I certainly wouldn't have the platform I do. The blog should be the hub of your web presence. There's no point in putting out a lot of publicity if people can't find you and communicate with you.

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  71. My New Year's resolution is to broaden beyond the cat. Web-savvy it is -- thank you, you're so right.

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  72. Great post! I'm gearing up to start an author blog, but I already have a blog, so I'm trying to figure out how to juggle it all.

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  73. I was looking at something on the internet today and ended up here, but I guess you know how that goes. Not sure why I haven't discovered you before now, but I'm glad I did.

    I've been blogging for 2 1/2 years and still learning. When I started my blog I just jumped in without knowing what a blog was and learned as I went. That worked well as I began to catch on quickly. I've done most of the things you mention, although I don't use my name in my blog title. It hasn't hurt my Google presence though--I seem to have pretty good representation on that account. Taking a funky sort of pseudonym probably helps too.

    Great post. Now I'm off to read the rest of the series.


    Lee
    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out
    Twitter: @AprilA2Z
    #atozchallenge

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  74. Anne, great post. I'm happy to see that I've been doing most of those things all along; nice validation. We so often discuss things like this in writers' forums, but it's always nice to have a concise list to refer to. Thanks!

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  75. Arlee Bird--I'm about 6 months late answering this one, but I should say yes, if you use a pseudonym for your writing, by all means use it for your blog. The point of the blog is to promote your writing. So promote whatever "brand name" you write under. If your books are written as "Arlee Bird" don't blog as John Smith. But if you write books as John Smith, you want to blog as John Smith, otherwise you're wasting your blog time. You can change the name to John "Arlee Bird" Smith.

    Melissa--I agree there's a vast amount of information in writers forums. But some of it is mistaken and it's hard to weed out the bogus from the valid tips. That's why Catherine and I wrote our book HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE (only 2.99 for a limited time :-) I also highly recommend the books by Kristen Lamb on social media.

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  76. Anne, you're right; there's a lot of information that is less than stellar. Our forums are often infiltrated by scamming editing and publishing outlets that prety on the newbie and put out scary stories to drive writers to them for "help." Then the industry is changing so fast, it's hard to keep up with the new developments. Blogs like yours and Kristen Lamb's are great for keeping abreast of it all. I try to be a voice of reason on my blog, as well: mjb-wordlovers.blogspot.com. It's a great time to be a writer!

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  77. Hi, this is the first time I've seen your blog. If I may be so bold I'd like to make a suggestion. For easier readability I would like to see you change the color of your links from orange to something that would stand out more off the greenish background. Maybe it's because I'm an old coot and my eyes aren't what they used to be, but there may be other readers who have difficulty reading the links, too. Otherwise, great info!

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  78. Melissa--those scammers are a menace. I understand they're even trying to recruit authors by leaving them bad reviews, then offering to "help" with their editing services. I'll check out your blog, for sure!

    Robert--Thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately, the orange comes with the green in the Blogger template. If I want blue links, I have to have a boring white background. :-(

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  79. Actually I believe if you go into your template settings you have the option of changing the color of your links. You're also able to do things like change your font.


    Lee
    Wrote By Rote

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  80. Arlee--Thanks so much! I'll check it out. I don't much like those light links either!

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  81. Dear Anne, as an aspiring novelist, with a couple of short story successes under my belt, it is time to develop a web presence for all those publishers and agents out there, desperate to sign me :) Thanks to your informative posts, I have begun to build a blog on wordpress and got myself a Gravatar account. I will take on board all your advice and return to this post frequently. I have also added your blog to my blog roll.

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  82. Juliet--Thanks! It sounds as if you're doing things the right way. I think getting some short stories published is a great way to start a career, rather than jump into querying novels right away.

    And--shameless plug here--if you want all of this info in one place, all 5 parts of my How to Blog series are included in the book I wrote with Catherine Ryan Hyde HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE. Only $2.99 for your Kindle or a free Kindle app for your computer. Paper version due in September :-)

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  83. Hi Anne, and thanks for this very informative post. I'm a mystery writer with three books on Amazon and two to go up shortly. The three are about to come down for a re-edit and new covers, more in line with a theme. It is a military mystery series that will have at least 15 books in it. 
    My website is built around both the protagonist, Private Donald 'Rabbi' Hawkins and his military world. My plan was to create a platform on this fictional character and I am developing a Wiki page for him. He would blog as well as myself. From what I have read on your post, I may be making a mistake focusing on him as opposed to myself. I do have the website in his name, rabbihawkins.com. Should I reconsider shifting the emphasis onto the author from the protagonist? Remembering that you have declared the information in the post to be non-dogma. :)

    Jim Miller

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  84. Jim--You're absolutely right that there's no dogma--and generally the marketplace rewards creativity. It sounds as if what you're doing is working just right for you--especially if you can see 15 books ahead in the same series.

    After all, JK Rowling's site is called "Pottermore" :-)

    If you're sure this is the main path your career is going to take, by all means keep on it. Later, if you want to write literary fiction, like Ms. Rowling, you may have to rethink, but hey, if you have even a little of her success, you can laugh all the way to the bank.

    But don't get too ambitious with the two blogs. Save your energy for the books. Blogging is hard work. Maybe you could have Jim Miller "guest blog" for the Rabbi on occasion?

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  85. These is exactly what I needed to know to start up my own blog. Thank you!

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  86. Brenda--I'm so glad you found this post to help you get started. A lot of new Bloggers have to learn by trial and error. I did. But I figure people can learn from my mistakes.

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