#FixThatBlog – Blog Housekeeping

The longer you have— and post in— a blog, the more your blog will need housekeeping. Any post currently on your blog can win you a new reader who finds you through a search engine. You want to make a good first impression!

One housekeeping chore is when you revise your concept of the niche or theme of your blog. You may find a lot of your own posts no longer fit. Should you go on a post-deleting binge? Not really. Some of my ‘off-topic’ blog posts are also my evergreen posts— every day they get a hit or two. Do those hits translate into readers? Probably only rarely, but still, it’s nice to have a blog that receives regular visitors whether they stay or become fans or not.

One type of post you CAN easily delete is the years-ago no-longer-valid post. You may have made an excited blog post or two five years ago about a traditional publisher that showed interest— only to find that the traditional publisher turned out to be a vanity press who was lying to you and would accept any work as long as the author paid the money.

Or you ranted against a politician you then hated but support now. Or you shared chapters from a work-in-progress that you never finished and now no longer want to finish. Or you wrote posts to justify Amazon affiliate links but Amazon since kicked you out of the program for not making enough sales in the first three months (that happened to me.)

Any old post that seems no-longer-valid and that has no comments, doesn’t regularly draw in new readers or visitors, and isn’t really about your niche anyway might be fodder for deletion. You don’t HAVE to delete old posts, but if you really feel some of them are dragging your blog down, delete them. Or revise!

Revising posts you have already posted may seem like a waste of time, but some of them are well worth revising. An evergreen post (that gets regular visits) that has spelling errors or is out of date in some way can be brought up to date. A rewrite of a post that is drawing new visitors through search engines might improve it to the point that the next few visitors stay longer and read the whole thing, or even go on to read other articles on your blog.

Revising old posts that don’t regularly draw new visitors may be a waste of time unless they contain old information that must be corrected, or unless the headline is misspelled or ungrammatical. Sometimes you can just leave it up to add to your blog’s total post number. A blog with 500 posts impresses readers far more than a blog with 12 posts.

Another housekeeping task lies in updating your categories and tags, or your labels. In WordPress blogs you can use categories and tags to sort your blog posts. Categories can be in a hierarchy— that is, under ‘blogging’ I can have the categories ‘blog hops’ and ‘blog improvement.’ You can give more than one category to a post. Also, on WordPress you can use tags. I use this when I mention a writer, such as Declan Finn, or a podcaster, such as Jimmy Moore. I can make a tag of their names and then readers can find other posts mentioning the same person, and it doesn’t clutter up the categories. In Blogger, however, you have to use labels for both functions.

I once made the mistake of eliminating a bunch of categories to make my category system more logical. The result was that a lot of posts became ‘Uncategorized’ and as a result that category became the top category. So from time to time I get ambitious and start going through old ‘Uncategorized’ posts, giving them real categories. My goal is to get rid of that ‘Uncategorized’ category in time.

Another blog housekeeping task is to regularly check your blog’s PAGES. Pages are those most important, just-under-the-blog-name tabs that are often called ‘About Me’ or ‘Contact Me’ or that list your books, book signings, and other important stuff. If you delete your Twitter account but it is still on your contact page, that is a BAD thing. It can be a good habit to look over your pages once a month just to catch any things that need updating. More, if you have a page for book signings and public appearances that needs to be kept up to date.

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#FixThatBlog – Blogging and your WIP

This is a post in the #FixThatBlog series about fixing neglected author blogs, and also the July post in the Insecure Writers’ Support Group blog hop. See, multitasking!

A writer must write. Write on his works-in-progress, and finish first draft and other drafts. But he must also write blog posts so he can build a platform, right? But how do you find the time to do both?

You make the time. Platform-building, in the form of writing your blog posts, and writing your writing-works are both being-a-writer tasks. As are finding agents and traditional publishers, or finding book cover artists and editors-for-hire, depending on whether you are seeking indie writer or traditionally-published writer status.

But it’s tricky. I have a lot of days when I either write blog posts or do work on my WIP. I’ve been trying to schedule a second writing session in my evenings when I usually watch boring crap on television. But due to my health problems and to cheats on my ketogenic ‘lifestyle’ I am too exhausted in the evenings lately to actually do it. I must think of some other solution.

We writers are multi-taskers. We write on our WIPs, but we also go to our day jobs or get our laundry done or cook our meals. And make our bulletproof coffees. There have been cases of writers who took a year’s sabbatical to finally have time for their writing work— and they get even less done than when they were busy with a day job.

I’m not a perfect person on being organized or on Getting-Things-Done. I have Asperger Syndrome (autism spectrum disorder), which can make a person seem like they have attention deficit disorder as far as being organized and getting things done is concerned. And I’m not a spring chicken any more, and so have a set of health problems that cause a lot of fatigue, especially when I don’t watch my diet. So I have to adapt whatever advice I get from books to what works for me.

Days of the week are one ‘organizational’ tool I have. My garbage pickup is on Wednesday, so an important task on Tuesday is getting the garbage gathered and the garbage cart taken to the curb. Since this blog, since my recent small stroke in February, is also replacing a ketogenic diet blog I don’t have time for, I use Thursday as ‘keto day’ on this blog and make keto posts then. The first Wednesday in the month is Insecure Writers Support Group day. Saturday I can write about my cats or critters, and Sunday I can write things related to Christianity.  This gives me a bit of a planning scheme that I can remember.

To learn more about writing and time management, read How to Manage the Time of Your Life by James Scott Bell. (JSB writes a lot of how-to-write books that are very useful, and also writes mystery novels in the Evangelical Christian fiction market.)

To learn more about Getting-Things-Done, pick up  Getting Things Done by David Allen. This book has been found so useful by so many people that it made the book into an actual bestseller— as in ‘New York Times bestseller.’

IWSG folks on Blogger: if you have that ‘prove you are not a robot’ thing enabled, I cannot comment on your blog post. Sorry. It just doesn’t work on my computer and I’m sick of writing comments that don’t get posted so I have stopped trying.

Have you had any conflicts between getting your WIP done and writing your author-blog posts? Or getting your other tasks done? What do you do about the conflict? Have you found a solution that works for you?

#FixThatBlog Your Blog’s Niche

A blog niche is the topic or topics of your blog. A blog about budget travel is different from a blog about celebrity gossip or one based on a Moravian pastor’s sermons. Each of those blog niches will attract a different audience. The fellow jonesing for a fresh Moravian sermon won’t be grateful to read the latest about a transgender celebrity who is featured nude in Playboy!

If you already have a blog with a bunch of posts, check your all-time stats. On this blog, my top posts are my post about the Lutheran rosary and my interview with Moira Greyland, author of ‘The Last Closet’ about her abusive parents, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen. Neither of these is about my blog’s niche, alas. I’m not drawn to writing a blog about Lutheran devotions (since I’m now Catholic) or about sexual abusers of children.

One bit of bad advice about blog management is to pick a niche which can be easily ‘monetized.’ One ebook I’ve read suggests a blog niche about high-ticket consumer goods which you can review, and have affiliate links for. The author even suggests ‘reviewing’ items you have not purchased, owned or used! No one wants fake reviews and ‘monetized’ blogs. Blog readers want content. Interesting content.

What can you blog about that would be interesting, and might relate to your writing work? If you are an Evangelical author of Amish romances, you can blog about Amish culture or Evangelical faith items, but you probably shouldn’t dedicate your blog to reviewing the latest in deer hunting rifles and accessories. Unless you work hunting in to all your romance novels because it’s your thing. (Even though I don’t normally read romances, an Amish deer hunting romance might tempt me, especially from a passionate author.)

‘Author blog’ might seem to be enough of a niche, but there are different types of author blogs. Some are about the writing process. Others are about the author’s genre, and perhaps book reviews of other author’s work in the genre. Authors passionate about their faith or their political perspective might include those things as topics in their blog, especially if those topics show up in their books. Others might have blogs that are neutral on religion and politics, but very keen on cats, pet snakes, or the Boston Red Sox. These topics will attract some readers, bore and repel others.

What do you call your blog niche? Suppose you are a Christian and you write ‘paranormal’ (vampire) romance. Is your niche ‘Christian romance’ or ‘paranormal romance’ or ‘vampire romance?’ Or is it a more widely focussed writing blog? A Christian author of romances might talk about similar secular works, or Christian fiction in other genres. And ‘Christian’ covers a lot of ground. Most of us are not generic ‘mere Christians’ but Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Moravians or Pentecostals. Maybe you are going to be reaching out to Christian authors and readers of similar faith backgrounds.

I would recommend using a search engine like Duck Duck Go to research your potential blog niche. Look for ‘Christian fiction blogs’ or ‘conservative romance blogs’ or ‘Neopagan fantasy fiction blogs,’ whatever you conceive your likely niche to be. Are there other blogs with similar niches to yours? What do those bloggers call their niche? Or are they even aware of their niche?

One thing about your blog niche— it can, if necessary, be changed. Each blog post you write, whether a bulls-eye for your current niche or not, is a chance to attract new readers. You can use your blog stats, and the comments on the posts, to see which posts are attracting readers. You can shade your blog’s niche in the direction of what is working for you at the moment.

Think about the things you write about in your books or works-in-progress. And the things you have blogged about, or might blog about. What can you write about in a unique and interesting way? If you have blogged for a while, do you need to narrow your focus? Or perhaps widen it? Or shift it altogether?

Using MailChimp for your Author Newsletters

Most books on author blogs and book marketing urgently suggest that you have a newsletter. It’s a way to get in touch with the people who really like your writing— enough to sign up for your newsletter, anyway. And if your blog gets taken down and you are banned from your blogging service for no reason, you can use your newsletter to keep your true fans informed of your new blog.

Most newsletters use a service like MailChimp as their host. This way, you don’t have to manage the list, and people can subscribe and unsubscribe without the embarrassment of contacting you personally.

I once signed up for a newsletter that didn’t use a service. When I got the first newsletter, I thought it was a private email just for me. This was NOT a good thing. You want your newsletter to stand out from personal emails!

I am not great at doing newsletters. I have written and sent out ONE so far, and I had planned on doing it monthly. But I’m hoping to do better. I ordered a book about how to do author newsletters, and I finished writing the June newsletter and hope to send it out by this coming Monday.

So if you sign up for the newsletter before Monday, you will get the June newsletter. It’s not great, but it does have my recipe for keto/lowcarb hot chocolate in it— a super easy recipe, made in the mug.

Some people recommend offering a free ebook to get people to sign up for your newsletter. I suppose that would work if you can write an ebook on a topic of general interest, and write it well, and if you have the knowledge to write intelligently on that topic.

I don’t happen to have a free ebook to offer. And I’m not sure I like that approach. People who sign up for a newsletter to get a free ebook may not want the newsletter.

Sign up for the newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/FN2hr

Have you done an author newsletter? How did it work out for you? What is your newsletter like? Are you still doing it?

Links:

I Need Coffee: How to Create an Author Newsletter that isn’t Terrible: https://medium.com/writers-on-writing/i-need-coffee-how-to-create-an-author-newsletter-that-isnt-terrible-650ecf37578

Jane Friedman: Email Newsletters for Authors: Get Started Guide: https://www.janefriedman.com/email-newsletters-for-authors/

#FixThatBlog – Should you blog about your current WIP?

When you are considering what to blog about, things from your current work-in-progress may jump into mind. You may think of posting your worldbuilding notes, or character sketches, or that super-duper scene you just wrote. That will get people all excited about your coming book, right?

Wrong. If people read your blog post and do have a little interest in your story, the first thing they will discover is that your book not only isn’t available for sale yet, it isn’t even finished! Books can take YEARS to get the first draft finished, and then there are other drafts, and the process of finding a traditional publisher or going through a hired editor to make your book ready for self-publishing. Even if you personally write quite quickly, the casual readers who find your blog may assume your book is something that will happen far in the future. They will be disappointed. They are not going to keep checking back with your blog to see if it’s published yet.

Also, if you post things about your WIP while writing, you are restricting yourself. That brilliant idea you had today may not work out a few chapters down the line. When you keep your first draft private, you can change everything around without worry. Put the story in a whole new setting, eliminate your main character and elevate a minor character into that place, do what you think works best.

If you have been sharing your WIP as you compose the first draft, you are inhibited. If you published your character sketch of Jakko as your main character, you worry that your blog readers will not like it if you make Heino your main character instead. And you will get feedback that may inhibit your first draft progress. They may dislike your characters or your storyline. Or they may love you character but assume she’s going to be a feminist heroine and that not only isn’t your intention, it’s something you don’t want to do.

Also, fictional stories may never be finished. Lawrence Block, famous author who also wrote how-to-write books, started a few novels he couldn’t finish. If you are just starting out in the writing game, you are even more likely to start something you can’t finish.

When I blog about a WIP that I later do not finish, it makes me feel I am exposing myself as an amateurish writer. And I don’t want to do that. I have had some writing success, including having my poetry published in a number of periodicals— which would have been more if I had been submitting more regularly. I used to think that talking about a WIP that I’m working on would make me more motivated to finish. Actually, I think it just made me dead-end sooner due to being self-conscious about the project.

Lawrence Block said that he didn’t talk about his WIP before he was done with the first draft. He was afraid that if he talked about it, he would be less motivated to actually write it. He called it ‘leaving your fight in the gym,’ which I think is a boxing metaphor.

The same rule goes for talking about your WIP on your blog or author page or an online forum. Your brain may interpret that talking as you doing the required writing work on that project. And then not give you the writing energy and motivation to make that WIP into something real.

When your WIP is a finished novel out on the market— even if it’s self-published— that is a time to blog about it. Talk about the characters in it or aspects of your worldbuilding. You could even publish the first chapter as a series of blog posts, with your notes about how you did it. But wait until your WIP is finished, please.

Have you ever thought about blogging about your current WIP? Did you ever do it? What were the results?

#IWSG – How to Find the Right Genre

Genre? What is a genre? Does ‘creepypasta’ count as a genre? It’s confusing, and that makes for writer insecurity.

This is a post for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Find Out More: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Let’s make things easy. A genre is a division in a real-world bookstore. They keep the mysteries in one place, romance in another, and the science fiction and fantasy genres lumped together in another place.

Genres like that are major genres. There are a lot of subgenres under each genre, but the important thing is the major genre. Some subgenres disappear— like the Gothic romance that had its own shelf in the bookstore in its heyday— but writers continue on in another subdivision of the major genre. Some Gothic romance writers just called their work ‘romantic suspense’ and kept on writing Gothics!

What genre is right for me? Because of having Asperger Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder) I can generate infinite self-doubt about my genre choices. I can tell myself ‘you aren’t really good enough/original enough to write in that genre’ until the sheep come home. (I don’t own cows so can’t do anything until the cows come home.)

The first genre I really loved was science fiction, and that wasn’t because of books, but because of the original Star Trek series. As I grew old enough to obtain books on my own, I read Orson Scott Card and Mercedes Lackey and other authors, some of whom I no longer mention, as in the case of the Darkover authoress who ruined her own fiction by being a swine in real life.

What I really like is a subgenre which is sometimes called ‘planetary romance,’ which is a fantasy-like story which takes place on another planet and where the ‘magic’ tends to be based on science not yet understood in our own time. My current WIP is in this subgenre.

I also get writing ideas that are not ‘planetary romance’ but that fit into the science fiction and/or fantasy genre(s) in some way. Even my ideas for Westerns tend to have alien cowpokes in them. I think that is the key to determining a writing genre— not which you like to read the most, but which genre you constantly have ideas for.

Do you have a Facebook author page? Read: https://myantimatterlife.wordpress.com/2019/05/25/doing-facebook-author-pages-in-2019/ and add the link to your author page in a comment, and your author page will be added to my list! The list is here: https://myantimatterlife.wordpress.com/fb-author-pages/

Why Authors do Newsletters

Why do authors do newsletters as well as a blog? One reason, it is highly recommended. Your blog is at the mercy of your blog’s host or provider. They could take it down deliberately or it could come down through their error. This is not as common as having a Twitter account deleted or suspended, but it COULD happen. Having a newsletter— with the emails of your willing subscribers— can, in an emergency, make it possible for you to move to a new blog without losing all your fans.

Don’t try to write a newsletter using your own email program. A provider like MailChimp ensures that your newsletter recipients can easily cancel if it turns out they don’t want your newsletter. It is less socially awkward to cancel through MailChimp than to send a personal email to you.

Plus, you can get more information on your subscribers through MailChimp. And it gives you the chance to create something professional-looking for free. Yes, MailChimp can be free until you get to 2000 subscribers.

I haven’t sent out my newsletter in ages, but I’m working on a June edition. What is in it? I try to provide a short informative article along with some updates on my blog and writing life. If any of my books are at a lower price or free temporarily, I will let people know.

I don’t know whether my newsletter or any e-newsletter is all that exciting or worth reading. But I’m doing my best trying to make it a little special.

When people sign up for your newsletter, they are giving their permission for you to send them an email. Permission-based contact is the best. You can mention your books available for sale (no hard sell, please) and they can’t complain— they chose to sign up.

Of course, to show your gratitude, make sure that your newsletter is 90% good stuff and only 10% self-promotion. No one really likes advertising even if they have given their permission. But your newsletter is your best chance to connect up with the people who might become your fans.

It goes without saying that I would very much like it if you would sign up for my newsletter: http://eepurl.com/FN2hr    It is planned to come out every month, and you can cancel easily at any time. Join just for this month if you like!