We're taking a short break from the author platform and online presence so I can update you on my 30 Things progress! The list has been slightly edited (see highlighted bits) to better reflect my forthcoming plans, now that things are finally slotting into place for the rest of the year. Nothing I can tick off this month, but I am making progress on Items 5 & 21 and the revised 3 & 4...
1. DONE - Fly First Class long haul from anywhere to anywhere
2. Take a photography course
3. DELETE - Climb something on our island like Snowdon or Ben Nevis
REPLACED WITH - Experience the Caledonian sleeper train to Scotland & ride around Edinburgh in a funky Billy Connolly style Trike
4. DELETE - Have a canal barge holiday
REPLACED WITH - Visit 1 of the countries in my Top 3 “before it changes forever” list - Cuba
5. Sort out proper storage for my favourite belongings
6. DONE - Try 3 new variations of foods
7. Walk the beautiful Jurassic Coastline
8. Complete a family tree with at least 50 people on it
9. Fun family photo shoot
10. Fly in a Tiger Moth
11. Tandem sky dive
12. Bake a marble cake just like my mum’s
13. Make a decent curry
14. Finish writing the Dalton Trilogy
15. DELETE - Exhibit Little Child at a mental health exhibition
REPLACED WITH - Self publish an informative eBook on Amazon
16. Publish a paid article
17. Feature photos on shutterstock.com
18. Catalogue my last 10 years of travels
19. Lose 14 lbs
20. Host a dinner party from scratch (3 courses)
21. Build a new desk area for the office
22. Do 1 presentation to an audience
23. DELETE - Experience a murder mystery party weekend
REPLACED WITH - Ride the London Eye
24. Interview 3 Indie authors from Twitter
25. (Market and) sell 100 copies of Little Child
26. Take a weekend TEFL course
27. Achieve 3000 unique visitor hits on my website in a month (Feb 2012 was 2666)
28. Make some serious progress on my Writers Bureau course
29. Local book signing
30. Walk parts of the Thames Trail
I've also been reading Yahoo's article this morning - 10 places to see before you die - and can happily say I've already seen 3 of the 10 (which was more than I expected!)
I've travelled through the Canadian Rockies on the fabulous Rocky Mountaineer, stood up close, been sprayed with and microlighted over the thunderous Victoria Falls (Zambian side) and marveled at the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx in Egypt.
Still so much to do though...!
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 2 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 1 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, 1 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.
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.
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.
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 1 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.
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 - I've set one up specifically for my debut novel Little Child, but the choice is yours. You could do the same, or showcase all of your work.
Also worth mentioning whilst we're talking about Facebook is the new Subscribe button. Read all about it here and add it to your website!
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.
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 or re-tweet back that's useful. Twitter is not just about selling.
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 www.piarastrainge.com for 1 year.
All in all I spent a total of £50 on both these things, but that figure would be less if you opted to buy for a longer period of time. I'm 3/4 of the way through my "test" year 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.
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!
You've heard me talk about an online presence and an author platform. Well, in this post I'm going to explain just exactly 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 Little Child.
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.
You know how I said yesterday that it wasn't just about the writing anymore...
Every good author platform should contain the following:
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.
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.