Monday, March 25, 2013

Writers Need a Blog

No matter what you’ve heard, the intention of most writers’ blogs is to create a professional looking online presence to assist in gaining interest from people in the publishing industry.  You see, blogging is part of a writer’s platform.  If you’re not sure what a platform is, check my last blog post.

I started blogging to be able to say in all honesty that I did everything in my power to get published.  Though it would have been prudent to check all options, I went directly to Blogger.  In truth, I’m envious of a lot of other blog templates, namely Wordpress.  If you’re thinking of starting up a blog, do your research.  Don’t be shy about asking for advice if you see a writer’s blog that you really love.  Writers are extremely supportive of each other. 

Research indicates that it is imperative to post at regular intervals to keep your followers’ interest, and it’s equally important to know your audience.  I chose to post every Monday morning but I had no idea about my audience.  I didn’t have a clue where to begin.  The description of my blog became Musings of a Writer.  That enabled me to write about a variety of topics. 

Visitors to a blog can tell a lot about the writer by the information provided on their site and the tone of the posts.  I guarantee that a regular follower of your blog will know you as well as they’d know a friend. 

Your blog is a good place to showcase your published short stories or excerpts from novels.  You are building your identity with readers.  I provided links on my blog to some of my early online-published stories.  Recently, after reading a couple of them, I took them off the site.  Hopefully, that means my writing has improved.  However, they still make a presence on my Bloggers stats.  People are still reading and enjoying them.  Stats don’t actually show that they are being enjoyed, I made up that part. 

Speaking of stats, I think mine are crazy.  No way could my blog have had that many hits.  Probably 90% spammers.  Everything I’ve read says not to pay attention to numbers.  Whether it’s hits on your blog or Likes on your Facebook page.  Fehghedabouddit.  Stats are not to be believed.  That’s another thing for bloggers to accept – there are a number of occurring and recurring technical difficulties.  L

In my opinion, there are more pros than cons to having a blog.  Over a year ago, one of my posts (an interview with an author) led to a monthly magazine column.  In the last few months, a portion of the magazine has been available online.  These links to my columns are now on my blog site.  Just in case you check them out, this is a smart-ass opinion column and not at all, I repeat, not at all indicative of my writing style for my crime/suspense novels.    

Admittedly, on my blog site I have provided short stories that could be greatly improved and magazine columns that are not an example of my writing style.  It sounds like I’m instructing writers on how not to set up their blog sites.

Here’s more advice from someone who would rather write a novel than a blog post.

Stay focused and Keep your eye on the goal ... then you’ll have something to blog about J

Monday, March 18, 2013

Writers Need a Platform

If writers only had to write, life would be simple (huge sigh). 

Marketing is an integral part of the life of writers.  You probably think I’m referring to promoting sales of a published book.  No!  The marketing starts long before that. 

It often takes more than a riveting, well-written novel to get the attention of agents and publishers.  First, writers have to prove an undying commitment and passion for writing.  Publishers are wary of retirees who have always dreamed of writing a novel.  More than likely that’s the only book they have in them. 

That was a huge learning curve for me after I’d finished my first novel.  I thought it would be a simple matter of sending a query letter and following up with the full manuscript.  Mind you, that does happen but not always.  The industry is looking for prolific writers with a proven record of accomplishment.

Writers need a platform.  Initially, I had no idea what that meant.  It was spelled out to me this way:  If an agent receives a query that looks promising, or receives two queries and must choose one, the first order of business is to Google the writers' names.  Whoever has the most online presence will get the call.  Hmmm, online presence. 

Picture me sitting at my desk with a completed manuscript at my elbow, a manuscript that my beta readers have given a boisterous thumbs up, only to realize that I have just begun.  Following the advice of established authors, I joined a writing group.  Best move ever!  Members of the writing group suggested, among other things, that I write and submit short stories.  Actually, they insisted.  And begin a second novel, they said.  The common element in all the advice I received was ‘Keep Writing!’

A newly published author (it took him ten years to see his book in print) insisted that I would never be published unless I maintained an active blog.  So, in addition to writing and submitting short stories, and starting a new novel, I began the seemingly arduous task of establishing a blog.  Forget ‘seemingly arduous’, I practically pulled my hair out and I’m still experiencing technical difficulties.  Ugh!  I’ll talk about blogging in the next post.

At this point, the average retired individual with only one book and no interest in writing another would have tired of this game and taken up golf.  Maybe that’s the point of all this.  Only the die-hards reach the finish line.

In addition to the blog, I established a Facebook page.  The last couple of blog posts covered the Facebook aspect of online presence or ‘platform’. 

There are terrific online writers’ groups and some that are genre specific.  I belong to a Crime Fiction group that I joined with enthusiasm before realizing that it was a springboard for self-promotion with very little meaningful discussion.

I’ve been following an informative writers’ blog for a couple of years and recently joined their writers’ community on Facebook.  Their rules about self-promotion enable writers to interact in an informative and productive manner.  A definite plus! 

If you are a writer, maybe some of the advice I received will help you on your journey to becoming established.  It’s not enough to spin a good story, you have to have a solid foundation.  Writers need a platform. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Writers on Facebook

Last week’s blog post addressed the confusion over the username of my Facebook page.  This week, let’s talk about why I have a Facebook page.  To begin with, it’s part of the writers’ platform.  What’s a platform, you ask?  We’ll talk more about platforms next week. 

Some writers refer to their page as a fan page, or author page, or writer page.  Even though I have had success with short stories, I refuse to call mine an author page until I have a novel published.  A fan page? ... oh, I wish, haha... okay, so let’s refer to it as a Facebook writer page. 

Initially, I created a writer page because it felt increasingly uncomfortable posting links on my personal page for my weekly blog, monthly magazine column, and updates on my WIP.  That might be a throwback to the days of being a closet writer when even my closest friends didn’t realize my passion.  Whatever the reason, I prefer to keep my reading and writing updates and exchanges on a separate Facebook page. 

Aside from promoting my work (remember the platform), my writer page is a comfortable meeting place where avid readers and writers can interact.  That’s what I love the most about it; I love hearing about works in progress, current favourite authors and books – especially if they’re of the crime/suspense/thriller genre. 

Initially, close friends and family LIKED my page to show their support for my writing.  For them, it’s a great vehicle for following my journey along the obstacle riddled road to an agent or publisher.  The ride is more enjoyable with company.  Thanks for hanging with me.

Gradually, I’m attracting other writers to my page.  And that’s a good thing.  It’s a great way to connect with people with similar interests and keep in touch with others that I’ve met online in writer groups.  It’s a privilege to promote the websites, blogs, and pages of other writers or businesses connected with the publishing industry.

Some confusion does arise when people I meet online send friend requests to my personal profile rather than LIKING my professional page.  Though I am thrilled to connect with them, I’m sure they are more interested in interacting as writers and readers than viewing my grandchildren’s pictures.  Mind you, the kids are real cuties!  By LIKING my Phyllis Humby, Writer page, followers will receive my updates and if they have a page as well, I am able to track their activity through their status updates. 

It’s all about being connected!  Being part of a community!  Feeling the pulse of readers, writers, bookstores, publishers!  And yes, self-promotion.  It’s a necessity.  We must constantly network to keep in touch with trends and changes to the industry.

Though, if I had it to do over, I would have created another Facebook profile rather than a page.  I would have followers instead of LIKES.  At the time, I wasn’t aware of the choice.  At the time, I wasn’t aware of a lot.  Actually, I had no idea what I was doing and it can still be confusing.  No regrets though, I’m connecting with new people all the time.  I LIKE my page!  Hope you do, too.

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Write Username for Facebook

It’s been rough.  Tweaking and shifting and changing ... hours wasted ... frustration mounting ... and nothing accomplished.   Oh sorry, that was my blogger template.  This post is about my Facebook username.

There has recently been concern amongst my followers that I am experiencing an identity crisis.  What’s up with all the changes to your name, everyone wanted to know.  Uh oh!  I was trying to change my username and, unfortunately, everyone was getting updates of each one of my erroneous attempts.

There was a problem getting my identity right.  Initially, the username for my Facebook page was The Write Break to tie in with my blog.  Then I realized it wasn’t the blog I was promoting ...because I only write the blog for an online presence for ... well, me.  More about that in a future post.  So, I then changed my username to The Write Break with Phyllis Humby.  Made sense at the time.  However, when I left comments on other writer sites, it looked more like a plug for my blog than a response.  That’s just my opinion, no one made a remark to that effect. 

Regardless, I dropped The Write Break from the username (even though the address remains )and inserted my middle name to differentiate from my personal Facebook profile.  Regrettably, when I typed in my name, I inadvertently made a typo.  Oops!  I had to change it again.  Each change resulted in an update on your Facebook site.  Oh, brother.  Hence, the questions and feedback.

My explanation was simple enough.  Or so I thought.  They persisted.  Are you planning to use your middle name on future published stories, they asked.  I hadn’t thought of it but, sure, why not.  They then wanted to know if I was changing my name on my blog, too.  How about your magazine column, they asked, will it be Up Close and Personal with Phyllis Louise Humby?  Hmmm ... no, using the middle name sounds too ostentatious. 

My intention all along was simply to distinguish my writer page from my personal profile.  Another suggestion was to change my name on my personal profile.  No!  This was getting out of hand.  Signing into my Facebook account, I returned to the Update Info page and deleted the middle name, leaving it Phyllis Humby, hoping that would be the end of it.  It wasn’t.

More feedback indicated confusion over which site my status updates originated, in the event that people followed both my personal and my writer sites – even though the profile pics were slightly different.    

Seriously, I tended to agree that the two sites should have different usernames and considered using Phyllis Humby, Writer.  I typed it in the space for username and wondered if the word writer would be better with a lower case w.  I almost changed it but enough was enough.  I would not add writer to my name, not with a lower case or an upper case wForget it!  No more changes. 

When I signed off, Facebook asked if I wanted to leave the page because I had unsaved changes.  I didn’t want to save the changes so I said yes, leave the page.  Of course, when you want something saved it disappears, and ... yes, you guessed it ... now we have Change number SIX, Five updates too many for you to scroll through while searching out the good stuff.  Sorry! 

The username for my Facebook writer page is Phyllis Humby, Writer with an upper case W.  It’s going to stay that way unless ... unless you have a suggestion...