How to Get Your Blog Noticed

The best way? Write something that will really stir people up.

One approach is to be super negative.

For instance, Adele’s new album has been breaking sales records and she has zillions of adoring fans. Imagine writing a blog that says 25 is crap, she’s over-rated, and not remotely as good as Lana del Ray or any other singer of your choice.

You’d be sure to get lots of hits and people would RT like crazy in their rage. But then among the crowd would also be lots of people who actually agreed with you–so you’d get those readers, too.

Another approach: Defend a common target of ridicule.

Example? Blog that the Kardashians have been misunderstood. Say they represent the best in family values. Say they stand for everything that makes America great. Given their high profile, one way of another, anything about them is likely to generate hits, and that’s what you’re after: click bait.  A sexy title and photo or two helps.  And some funny gifs.

Now, what do you do in either case about the badly spelled emails from people who think you’re a total moron and should be put down like a rapid dog? And the tweets that vilify you in worse terms? And the comments pointing out the smallest typo and trash everything from your writing skills to your sanity?

Ignore them.

You’re not blogging to start a conversation or prove you’re God’s Gift to Blogging. Your aim is publicity, and the best way to generate that is by posting a controversial blog.  But beware, this can happen even by accident.

So.  Are you tough enough to handle it?

Lev Raphael is the author of The Edith Wharton Murders and 24 other books in genres from mystery to memoir.


A Farewell to Blogs, or A (Last) Shot in the Dark

Happy holidays, whichever you celebrate.  I do the solstice myself.  Be sure to check out Newgrange (Co. Meath, Ireland) on December 21.  Sunlight is supposed to shine along the interior of the passage tomb and hit the back wall at sunrise on the shortest day of the year.

When we began this Perseverance Press blogspot, I had my doubts.  Now I’m convinced of the truth of the English teacher motto:  anybody can write five paragraphs about anything.  I suppose the reverse is also true.  Nobody can write five paragraphs about nothing.

Be that as it may, I somehow passed the fifty blogs mark and only screwed up my appointed time once.  I never did figure out how to import photographs to the text.  Pity.  I had some good ones.  And I never did figure out whether we were supposed to write about creating mysteries or about whatever struck our fancy.  By and large I tried to keep the focus on writing, since my life is not dramatic and I am a rather private person.  However, I enjoyed reading about everyone else’s life.  You will all appear in my next fantasy novel since I have your back stories.

Looking back at all the blogs, I found the variety of styles and responses stimulating.  The quality of the writing was what might be expected of talented professionals, but there were a few disappointments.

Getitwrite was not a news blog.  Even so, more acknowledgement of what was going on in the real world–maybe just in the real world of writing–would have given the blogs greater intensity.  Also, apart from the mostly laudatory comment, there was very little sense of interaction between the writers.  It’s hard to structure that without having to watch the discussion degenerate into a sword fight, but it might be possible to engineer, say, three writers’ responses to the same topic with accompanying comments.  Or each blogger could be asked to comment politely on a specific point made by the previous blogger.  Or a topic could be thrown out for a general melee.  I’m too inexperienced to see the pitfalls here.  There are bound to be some.

I was glad I agreed to participate.  My special thanks to Janet and Meredith for making it happen.

The Autoblogger, a Labor-Saving Device

Every once in a while I come up with a science fictional idea, a wrinkle on reality that reflects a possible future.  As I was brooding about topics for this week’s blog, it occurred to me that someone ought to come up with an app to take over the process of blogging–all the way from generating topics to editing and polishing, including writing the blog itself.  A roblogger.  A drone blogger.  An autoblogger.  The part that composed the actual blog would be a bit like the thousands of monkeys chained to typewriters until they composed Hamlet, or Arthur C. Clarke’s antique computers that recited the nine billion names of god so the universe could come to an end.  That part would require a lot of memory.  The rest, though, would be duck soup–a genisap, an editap, and a copap.  And, of course, a pubap.  Truly, a labor-saving device.

The golden age of science fiction was much taken up with labor-saving devices because that was what engineers and other technicians brooded about in the mundane world outside science fiction.  I don’t remember ever reading an article in the news magazines of that era that presented a negative view of labor-saving, but I do remember wondering what all that displaced labor would do for a living when the devices that eliminated labor were in place.  When I got around to studying British history, I came across a name for people who voiced that concern–Luddites.  Maybe I was an incipient Luddite.  Horrors.

In my lifetime, as a consequence of labor-saving devices, our society shifted from being an agricultural labor-market to resting on the uncertain foundations of manufacturing.  Now it teeters between manufacturing and “service.”  When I taught introductory history at a community college, we used to list what was necessary for cookery, basic household work.  A sharp stick and a fire.  A pot, the students would say.  I pointed out that you could dig a pit, fill it with water, and toss red-hot stones into it.  You didn’t need a pot.

Nowadays the kitchen is full of labor-saving devices that eliminate, what, the cook?  Not exactly.  The cook’s close attention?  The stove (four burners and an oven) eliminates the need for an open fire of buffalo chips (or wood or coal or peat).  If the stove fails, an electric skillet, a micro-wave, and a slow-cooker provide backup.  The sharpened stick gives way to a broiler, roasting pans, a deep-fat fryer, cookie sheets, pie and cake pans, a Dutch oven, and a raft of electrically specialized tools like toasters, waffle and coffee makers, rice cookers, and sandwich grills.  Replacing the pit and hot stones, the stove burners heat pots and pans with and without lids.  And those are just some of the cooking clutter.  I have not yet mentioned the pitchers and cups for liquids and the crockery on and in which the food is served (replacing a large leaf or a bread trencher) and the tools (chop sticks or cutlery) that replace bare fingers.  Ah, I forgot–knives (I need six for cutting, paring, and slicing) and serving spoons, slotted and unslotted, strainers, graters, spatulas, egg slicers, apple corers, garlic presses, cherry stoners, and nut crackers.  Mandolines.

How generous of the manufacturers to supply me with all these objects in exchange for quite reasonable amounts of cash.  Do they save me labor?  I don’t know.  I do know that I don’t have a cook, and I don’t know anyone who does.  In the nineteenth century, most houses the size of the one I live in would have had, at the very least, a resident cook and a housemaid, so that must be the labor all those devices saved.  Indeed, this house has a bedroom for the cook right off the kitchen.  Consider this–the plots of Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey don’t make sense for a series set later than World War II.  Except for nannies, people no longer consider a career in service, nor does “service” mean what it used to mean.

The automatic blogging app I theorized in the first paragraph would not be replacing labor in the sense that cookery is labor.  Nevertheless, blogging is a complex, time-absorbing activity, thoroughly exhausting, especially for someone who has other writing waiting to be done.  Clearly an autoblogger is a desirable labor-saver and ought to be created as soon as possible.  I can’t do it but somebody out there surely can.  Maybe somebody has.

While I was plugging away at this, my spouse googled “autoblogger.”  There is one.  We held our breath as it loaded.  What if …

Unfortunately, the extant autoblogger is closer to Car Talk than to the text generator I envisaged.  Clearly my kind of autoblogger will have to have another name.  Verblogisty?  Blogosity?  You name it, I’ll buy it.

Placement, Displacement, Replacement

The topic I thought I had in mind for this blog was displacement, as in “displacement activity.”  That turns out to be a jargon term from anthropology/archaeology.  It means something like scratching your head when you’re puzzled.  Scratching has no natural connection with being puzzled.  It’s a learned response–displacement from one itch to another.  I had in mind something more like replacement, the substitution of one activity for another, with both activities intense and almost compulsive.  Writing is compulsive and intense, though not necessarily all the time for all writers.  Since writing can also be exhausting and even painful, most writers turn to other intense activities when the going gets compulsive.

I find myself returning to the same replacement activities.  I have even developed a level of skill in some that gives me satisfaction, though never the level of satisfaction I enjoy from arranging 90,000 words in a bundle with a title and my name after the word “by.”  So, as a matter of interest, what replacement activities do other writers engage in?  I have no ulterior motive for asking.  I’m just curious.

My favorite quick-fix replacement activity is cooking.  Run of the mill cooking doesn’t count.  I don’t think my family has ever noticed, but my cookery  improves whenever my writing gets stuck.  I take pains.  I try out new recipes and unusual ingredients.  Take quiche, for instance.  Prosaic quiche is roughly as difficult to make as scrambled eggs and about as interesting.  Last week, when stuck, I made a quiche using leaf-lard pastry, free-range eggs, and chanterelle mushrooms straight from the slopes of Mount Adams. Time consuming but tasty.  I was very stuck.

Twice in my writing life I have been seriously stuck, the kind of stuckedness that demands long-term replacement.  This first replacement took three years.  I started out doing a bit of historical research for a crucial scene in a regency and wound up with an extra master’s degree in history.  I have heard of other writers diverting from writing to research.  Few divert that far or that long.

My second long-term replacement involved water-color painting.  Fortunately, I was only frozen into that one six months–or maybe I took that long to demonstrate to myself that my primary talents are not visual.

What about games as replacement activities?  I confess I’m afraid of games, but not because I don’t like them.  I like them too much.  They are as close to the virtual reality of fiction as anything out there except narrative history and tabloid journalism.  I confine myself to three games–Sudoku, Scrabble, and bridge.  I am allowed to play only one round of each before I begin writing and then only because they are mental warm-ups–Sudoku for numbers, Scrabble for words, and bridge because my parents taught me to play it when I was ten and one rubber makes me nicely nostalgic.

Other writers use games, often elaborate role-playing games, as exercises in plot manipulation and character interaction.  I respect that, and I think gaming has a great future, but if I indulged myself in games I would risk losing my gift for creating “real” fiction.  It’s as simple as that, so I don’t do it.  I don’t watch TV for the same reason.  Now, if I could just persuade myself not to read  fiction, perhaps I’d get my “placement” cursor back on writing, back where it should be.  If only I could stop blogging. . .

Round Robin: Thinking About Social Media

Our favorite harbinger of spring, that round robin.

Our favorite harbinger of spring, that round robin.

Time once again for our rotund avian friend, the Round Robin. This time the Perseverance Press authors discuss social media. Love it, hate it, somewhere in between, it’s still part of the business of writing. Here’s are a few questions for our PP writers (and our web maven Sue Trowbridge), and their responses, regarding social media and how they use it.

Which platforms are you using or dabbling, or dipping your toes? Do you find it useful? Is it a major time suck? Why do you like it? What turns you off? Would you include blogging with things like Facebook and Twitter, or is it something else entirely?

Lea Wait: Although I’ve grown to look at all my contacts with potential readers as marketing, I do categorize types of contacts differently. For me there are two kinds of blogging. One is the regular, getting-to-know you, blog, where you have repeat readers; the others is the “pleased-to-meet-you” cocktail party guest blog where you in effect leave your calling card/book mark and hope the reader remembers you or checks out your book. I blog with Perseverance, of course. I also blog regularly (3-4 times a month + group blogs on Sundays) with I do guest blogs or interviews perhaps 1-2 times a month.

The only other social media I do is Facebook. I don’t have an Author page. I only have about 2300 “friends” so I’m not near needing one, and I think most people like the idea of being a “friend” instead of a “fan” – although they don’t call it a “fan page” any more. I probably spend a couple of hours a day on FB. I post all my blogs there, and other blogs of my friends. I write short reviews of books I enjoy. I comment on life in Maine, on events I’m involved with, and on what I’m writing. I also comment a lot on my friends’ posts – from wishing them happy birthday to liking their cat and baby photos and so forth. I do try to be their “friend” – not just an author who posts about her writing. I think it pays off when I have a new book out. At first it felt awkward – now I actually enjoy it.  Plus it’s a way to keep in touch with actual long lost friends and relatives.

I haven’t gotten involved with any of the other social media, although people have tried to talk me into Twitter and Pinterest. At the moment, one “time suck” a day is plenty – plus the blogging. If I added up the number of hour a week I spent blogging and FBing . . . it would be a lot.

Laura Crum: I have been blogging for five years at the equestrianink blogspot and have found it a very effective way to reach potential readers of my horse-themed mystery series. Since the readers of this blog are interested in horses and writing about horses, it is very much my target audience. My backlist is now up on Kindle and it is easy for me to see the bumps in sales when I do a promotion through the blog. So I would say that it is very useful. I also enjoy the discussions with other horse bloggers. Since I don’t like to take the time away from home/family to do physical book tours, etc, the blogging has been a great tool for me, enabling me to both find new readers and connect with fans.

I’ve been using Facebook for just over a year. I resisted it for a long time, because I knew (and I was right) that it would be addictive for me and a major time suck, as you say. However, it does work. On my last Kindle promotion, many “friends” shared the info and within hours of the sharing the sales more than quadrupled. I’m pretty sure that I have reached a lot of potential fans of my series through Facebook. But even so, I do waste time there, for sure.

I’ve resisted trying any other social media because I feel that I give enough time to Facebook and blogging as it is.

Lev Raphael: I signed up for Twitter and Facebook because I thought they’d be interesting ways to get my work out there beyond what I’d previously done.  Frankly, they’ve been more important in terms of fans finding me (which isn’t quite the same thing), and for learning about news, books, authors, or places I might not discover otherwise.  The downside is what everyone knows: Facebook can be a black hole. I try to limit my time there to, say, fifteen minutes in the morning.  I’m not always successful.  However, the days I stay away from it I tend not to miss it.

What I dislike most about Facebook is that people often misread things there and take offense quickly without thinking through their reactions.  Twitter and Facebook are both very cold ways of interacting that can create hot reactions.  They lack crucial basics of human communication: tone of voice, facial expression, body language, and the ability to repeat or backtrack or correct.  I also think people in a lousy mood can go ballistic on both those social web sites, take out their bad moods or work out their problems on others.   The quick nature of both media can bring out the bitchiness in some people, and too frequently does.  I’ve seen people de-friended on Facebook for ridiculous reasons.

I also think that Facebook can elicit inappropriate sharing from people who don’t know when to stop posting.  I’m not talking about authors telling fans and friends about meals or vacations, alerting them to readings or book sales or new books. When an author brags about royalties, that’s crossing a line – but then the problem with Facebook is that the lines are blurry anyway because the whole thing is so removed from reality.

Nancy Means Wright: I’m on Facebook with both a personal page and my Mary Wollstonecraft page, which early on attracted over 900 people – but I can’t see it has sold many books. People on FB don’t want to read a lot of “Buy Me” posts. So I try to entertain with lighter fare. Moreover, FB doesn’t show my photos, et al. the way it used to, so the page isn’t as interesting as it once was.

Goodreads (now acquired by Amazon) is helpful: I offer three or four Giveaways of each new book and usually have just under a thousand people wanting a copy. Sometimes I get a review, as well, and recently a reviewer of The Nightmare won $50 for her delightful review sent to Bas Bleu catalogue. I also post Giveaways in Library Thing, and might or might not get a review there. I’m on Linked In, but doubt it sells books. No Twitter at this point—I simply haven’t time!

I’m on listservs (chatrooms) for Crimethrutime,  Dorothy L, Historical Excerpts group, MMA, MWA, LLDreamspell, Red Room. And other subgroups within larger groups. I’m on Linked In, too, and seem to attract friends, if not sales.  I’m on two group blogs: PP of course, and Vermont Book Shelf, which is just for Vermont fiction writers. In a sense, blogs count as social media, since we do give and get comments. I make a point, too, of commenting on blogs by people who comment on mine. A courtesy – but I usually find them interesting, and learn something new.

Is social media a time suck? To a degree, yes – it keeps my name alive. But everyone is out there trying to promote his/her book, offering free e-book copies, et al. – and I’m just one of hundreds or thousands.

As a former teacher, though, I like to help others in any way I can. It’s in the blood.

Sara Hoskinson Frommer: Unless you count DorothyL, I don’t even dip my toes in.  Time pressure, for sure.  And I’m leery of Facebook. Blogging doesn’t worry me in the same way.  Not sure why.  Except that there too I protect my time.

Sheila Simonson: The main problem with social media is the way they suck up time.  I use Facebook and Linked In, though not as well as I’d like to.  It would be helpful if each medium would set up a user-friendly tutorial exploring all the possibilities, and if that’s not likely, perhaps some kindly expert somewhere could summarize.

Camille Minichino: When one of my stepdaughters was in college in San Diego, she’d send us postcards. “I’m in the library studying,” she’d write.

“No, you’re not,” her father and I would respond (to each other), “You’re in the library writing postcards to all your family and friends.”

That was about 20 years ago. That same “girl” is now on Facebook, posting up to the minute reports on what she’s doing. “Hubby and I are enjoying a date night,” she posts.

“No, you’re not,” her father and I say. “You’re on Facebook.”

In other words, Facebook hasn’t changed who we are; it’s simply our current tool. I try to use it the way I use any tool—to serve my needs, under my control. Not that it always works that way, but it’s my choice, and I can never blame it for time wasted. 

Albert Bell: I must admit that I view social media with suspicion. That’s due partly to my age (late 60s) and partly to my temperament (deeply introverted). I don’t want people following me, on Twitter or in any other fashion. Nor do I want to follow anyone else. I have better things to do with my time than to tell people where I’m having coffee or to be told where someone else is having coffee or anything else about their lives. Some days I think J. D. Salinger had the right idea – hole up and write. I’m not a Luddite; I use a computer and the internet for hours every day, in my job and in my writing. I have a couple of web sites and am on Facebook, but the current craze for interaction through social media feels to me like a violation of privacy – mine and everyone else’s. Blogs do seem to offer the kind of safe distance between the person posting and those commenting that makes me more comfortable. And a post on a blog is usually thought out more fully before it goes public.

Nancy Tesler: As a traditionally published author from the pre-internet, pre-ebook days, I am a total dunce when it comes to using social media. I am learning, however, that it’s an important tool for me as an author, to have in my arsenal in order to get my “brand” out there.  Consequently, I do have a website and a Facebook page.  I also, thank God, have a wonderful friend/assistant who helps me.  I have not yet ventured into Twitter or P<interest, partially because I’m intimidated, and partially because I find even Facebook a tremendous time suck. When I see how often some people post, I wonder how they get any work done. It takes too much time out of my day just to read all the posts, much less to post frequently myself.

Having said that, I believe the announcements I posted on Facebook for a recent eBook giveaway were very helpful. I posted at least two announcements with graphics before the three-day-giveaway and one on each subsequent day. The various posts were seen by 150 to 1400 people and I received many more “likes” than I’d had previously.  FB had given me $50.00 to do an ad and I did take advantage of that. Reportedly I had a good click-through rate. How many of those people actually downloaded the book I can’t say. The tremendous success of the promotion and the sales of my five books that have followed, I attribute to my having purchased a featured spot on Bookbub and to a lesser extent on Awesome Gang. Both sites have FB pages and numerous subscribers.

Kicking and screaming I’m being dragged into this new world. I don’t believe any of us can afford to ignore it.

Sue Trowbridge: Before the advent of the Internet, fans would only hear from authors when they had a new book out. I used to get occasional newsletters from writers like Carolyn Hart, Charlotte MacLeod and Elizabeth Peters via the U.S. mail. Today, thanks to social media, it’s possible to keep up with many of our favorites year ‘round. I can see Cara Black’s photos from Paris, find out which New York Times opinion pieces Lev Raphael has been reading, or get a movie recommendation from Lee Goldberg. In addition, I follow publishing industry watchers like Sarah Weinman on Twitter to find out what’s new in the book world. One thing the folks I follow have in common is that they all seem to genuinely enjoy interacting with their fans and friends, and they frequently have useful or fun information to share, not just “BSP.” If social media is not for you, don’t worry about it. Many of my favorite authors, like Peter Robinson and Marcia Muller, don’t have a social media presence at all. It doesn’t make me any less likely to buy their books. I think all fans recognize that the most important thing an author can write is not a status update – it’s an excellent book!

Wendy Hornsby: I have resisted the social media.  Like Rip van Winkle, I had a long nap in my publishing career.  Not as long a nap as his, but during which as much change in what was familiar occurred as his did. In 2009, when In the Guise of Mercy was published by Perseverance Press, I had been away for a decade, except for short stories. I was encouraged to start a webpage and to go on Facebook and to join various Listserv groups. I did what I had time and resources for.  But it seems that every week there is something more, and each new medium requires both more time and more tending. Honestly, because I am still teaching full time, and writing, I find the social media to be a great time suck. How productive is it?  I don’t know.

Recently, I participated in a writing project led by my friend Tim Hallinan. After the success of an anthology of donated short stories to raise money for Japanese relief after the great tsunami, Tim asked the participants to next contribute to a book about how various authors, twenty of us, create stories. Do we plot meticulously, or do we fly by the seat of our pants? The product of our conversation is a very fun book called Making Story.

The project was interesting from the beginning, and continues to be. When Making Story was first released as an E-book original, and then a paper and ink POD, we all posted on Facebook, blogged and tweeted like mad. I wrote about the book in my bi-weekly newspaper column, hawked it whenever I spoke about writing. With the efforts of twenty authors, the initial sales soared. And when the efforts faded, so did sales. We bottomed out at #300,000.

To bolster sales again, during the period from April 12 to 16, in honor of Income Tax Day, we offered the book online through Amazon, for free. Once again, we all hit the social media by storm.  By Friday morning, April 12, Making Story was number one on Amazon in the category of books about writing.  By Sunday morning, it was in the top 100 of non-fiction e-books.

It will be interesting to see if all the work to promote the book when it was free will help sells when it is back at its regular $3.99 bargain bite.

Do the social media sell books? Sure, given enough time, effort, and variety of postings. Would I alone be able to create such a move in the rankings as twenty of us working together affected? Nope. I know that there are bloggers, tweeters, reviewers and Likers (is that a new noun?) for hire at the rate of about five bucks per post. But I’m a school teacher so I doubt I’ll ever go that route.

For now, I have a web page, I check Facebook every week or so, I post on the blog for Perseverance Press authors and post on various guest blogs.  I write my newspaper column, “No Mystery Here,” for the Grunion Gazette.  And at the moment, that’s about all I can manage. Tweeting? If you explain why I should, maybe, after I retire.

Janet Dawson: Yep, it is a time suck. Which is why I don’t post on Facebook that often. I blog here with my fellow PP authors and I have my own blog, Got It Write. I view blogging as an opportunity to write short pieces about whatever catches my fancy. But sometimes it’s several weeks between posts. I was on Twitter for about a year but I still don’t get it, so I got off that one. I did get on Pinterest and am having fun with it, simply because it’s a place to post all the cute kitty pictures of my fabulous felines and my beautiful roses. Does it sell books? Maybe. But I work full time, which means writing time is at a premium. I simply don’t have the time or the inclination to devote several hours a day to social media, at least not right now. In fact, I just put up a sign on my desk that reads “Write First!”