Sunday, August 10, 2014

Writer's Platform Part IV: Blog Niche Blues

So...as all the resource books will tell you, writer's platform is the key to getting noticed if you're going to be marketable among the myriad of media available. (Oooh. Alliteration!) In previous blog posts I've discussed public presence and web presence. In this installment, I'm going to tackle publishing presence including what to put in your blog.

This week's resource suggestion, APE: How to Publish a Book (Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur), is a free PDF download if you can find it on special, $10 on Kindle (and worth it) if you buy it off of their website, but you can also buy the hardback, or audio book. This concise manifesto gives you the down-and-dirty basics of what program to use/how to set up your text to write your book, what resources to use to publish your book, and how to sell your book. It has a huge section on platform. It's one of the shortest I've read but like Strunk and White's Elements of Style short packs an awesome punch. I'd recommend this one especially to those of you who want to go straight self-pub instead of indie or trying to snag a bigger publisher. Straight self-pubing is a tough road, but if you follow their advice and work hard, you will see results.

In the mean time, for those of us who are still building, building, building that platform, there's a third component most people don't think about: publishing presence.

Wait a minute! I thought platform was supposed to HELP me get published!?!

Yes, true. Platform is to help you get the major novel, major screenplay, major ???? published. Along the way, though, you have to prove you can put letters together in logical order to make words, then put those words into logical order to make sentences. Add logical punctuation. Throw in a little plot. Scenery for the visually-driven reader. Characters are nice. A few literary devices if you like. Post-modern questioning of truth. References to Shakespeare, Weird Al, or the New York Times. (Personally, I like to add Princess Bride quotes.) Then some of that has to get seen by the public and vetted by some publisher or contest. Make sense?

The following is what I have done so far. No, I'm not saying this is THE way or the BEST way. It has worked for me, it might work for you, or it might give you ideas that will help you. That's the point.

For the past few years, at least 12-20 times a year, (about once or twice a month as the opportunity arises) I've entered a contest, written an article for publication, or submitted a story for publication. I've received a HUGE number of rejections. I've decided to create a quilt (you can transfer paper designs into iron-ons) with all of them so when I'm a famous novelist I can snuggle up in it and take comfort in the fact that I didn't let the nay-sayers win. They'll get to keep me warm! Hehe.

Anyway, from all that effort, I have a nice selection of fiction and non-fiction publications I can show to any agent, publisher, fellow writer, reader, etc. to prove that yeah, I can write and yeah, I'm decent at it. And I've listed them on my website for all to see, some with links where you can read the stories: Writing Credits

That's all well and good, but writers also need publishing credits that reach out and touch more than just a few people that find their website or pick up the anthology where they're published. They need (evil sounding music) A BLOG!

Yes, for some people, a blog can be intimidating. However, consider these facts:

  • A blog that is consistently published will keep your name in the minds of your readership.
  • A well-written blog will attract more readers because of word of mouth (or clicking and sharing. ;-) ).
  • Sometimes you the writer need a break from writing on your main project and a blog is a great way to do that.
  • A blog is a published artifact. Yeah, seriously. If you post something online, it's published.
  • You can share your expertise through a blog. You learn more from teaching than from listening!
The question remains, how do you pick your topic?

That is one of the biggest hurdles to jump. With so many blogs out there, how do you pick your niche? How do you make yours unique? How do you platform your platform? (Whoa! Yeah, that's what you're doing.)

Here are a few things to consider when trying to pick you blog niche:
  • Pick a topic that is of interest to YOU. If you have no passion for the topic, you won't want to write about it.
  • HOWEVER, your topic should provide content for the reader. They don't care about your vacations, what your children drew, your grandchild's first words, or your "writer's journey." Give your readers something they can use or information that makes them think. (It's okay to mention some of the above so people get to know you on a personal level, but don't write an entire blog post about your life.)
  • The topic does NOT have to be directly related to your book. Some people choose tangents related to their book, some people don't. The key is to choose a topic that excites you AND provides something useful to your readers.
  • The topic should be FOCUSED and have a unique point of view. "Cooking" is not a good blog topic. You can find literally thousands of blogs on cooking. However, if you wanted to start a blog on Japanese/Southern American Fusion cooking, THAT would be unique. (By the way, I did a quick search and didn't find one, so, if you're interested, go for it!)
  • Once you think you have a topic you want to blog on, do some research. Are there blogs out there on that topic? If so, how can you spin yours so you can approach it differently?
After you have your topic, then you have to decide on how often to post. Make a schedule and STICK TO IT! Once a day, once a week, or once a month, but be consistent.

Then how do you come up with content? Find books on the topic and review them. Find people who know about the topic and interview them. Make lists. Explain how to do something. Write a series of blogs on one topic so you get people coming back for more. You can find more content by asking yourself, "What would I want to know about this topic?" and Googling your keywords.

Study successful blogs that are similar to yours. What type of content do they include? What do they NOT include? Here's a successful music blog by Swiss composer Adrian von Ziegler. Here is a popular agent's blog that helps writers, often on what NOT to do: Pub Rants. Like to read opinion columns? Here's a guy who's not afraid to share his even if you don't agree: Matt Walsh. Whether or not you like the websites, they are all popular because they've targeted their market, provided solid content, and stayed consistent.

How do you know when you are starting to have a successful blog? I've seen the term "1,000 subscriber milestone" bandied about on several websites. Not "viewers" but "subscribers." This is a daunting number, and it does seem to be more of a wall at times, but if you can get 1,000 committed people to view your blog every time you post, it's likely you're going to grow exponentially faster after that.

Am I at 1,000 yet? No. Not even close. ;-) But I will tell you that I've doubled my hits and my subscribers in the last couple of months simply by using the programs already know more efficiently and expanding my horizons to keep things fresh. 

By focusing on all THREE pillars of platform--public, publishing, and web presence--I've balanced my pre-writing career on a steady foundation. I'm almost ready to go. Now all I have to do is publish the book. 

Oh. Did I mention I'm getting ready to do just that? 

Shadow of Redemption, where monsters under the bed protect children and tooth fairies are no longer settling for leftovers, is still in editing and will be sent to my beta readers early next year. I'm so excited! Stay tuned.



Revision. It works for fairy tales, too. Bwahahaha!

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Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
When Reality and Fantasy Have a Baby...

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s