Writing for the Web: How To Improve Your Blog

How to hook your blog readers

Did you know that readers of online content only read 28% of the text (Nielsen study)? I was aware that we tend to scan, rather than read, when we read text on our computer screens or gadgets but I hadn’t realised it was such a low percentage. How do you ensure that readers of your blog engage with the most important information, that they act on calls to action, that they even read to the bottom of your blog post?

When asked to speak at the National Women’s Enterprise Day conference last week, I was provided with the topic ‘Writing for the Web’ and decided to concentrate on the anatomy of a blog post.

Do you visualise your target reader when writing your blog posts. Writing successfully for the web involves writing for your reader. First you need to identify:

  • Is your target reader male or female?
  • In what age bracket do your target readers fall?
  • Where do they live?
  • What is their disposable income? Are they on a tight budget or can they afford luxuries?
  • What is their knowledge about your industry, the products you sell, the services you offer? Do you need to explain things in simple terms?
  • What do they need from you?
  • What questions might they need answered?

Once you have answers to these questions, you should be able to visualise what a typical target reader looks like. This makes it easier to write for your target market if you visualise them when writing, you can even imagine telling them about the blog post over a cup of tea, this will add a friendlier tone to your posts.

Remembering that people scan online content and can be distracted easily, so make your content attractive and easy to absorb. Here’s how to improve the content and presentation of your blog posts.

Improve Your Blog Titles

Just as in newspapers, it’s the title and the first paragraph that helps people decide if they will reach the whole article or not and blog posts aren’t any different.

Questions

By using rhetorical questions, readers know that you will answer them, thereby providing them with the answers to questions they may not have even considered yet.

Questions for blog titles

This question by Saucepan Kids attracted my attention. As a mum, I fall into their target market. My daughter makes the most delicious bread occasionally and I was intrigued by the play of words on ‘our daily bread’.

It’s a good idea to make a note of questions that customers ask you. After all, if customers pick up the phone to ask you a question, it is likely that others will be typing the question into a search engine. Many of my most popular blog posts have been written in response to questions asked.

Twist on the Negative

Warnings as blog titles

Providing people with tips on ‘what not to do’ or how to prevent mistakes also work well in that people always want to know how to stop themselves committing errors. As you can see from the shares on this post, the title worked well.

Lists

Lists tend to work well too. If people see that the blog post promises tips or entertainment within a certain number, they know it will ‘do what it says on the tin’. Lists are usually divided by numbered subheadings or bullet points so they suggested short and focused paragraphs under each number or subheading.

Lists as blog titles

Many online newspapers are using the number 10 when creating articles now but apparently odd numbers such as 9 or 11 gain more attention. Maybe the rounded numbers suggest that the last paragraph was included just to reach the round number?

Tips / Secrets

Blog Titles with Tips

Promising your readers tips on how to attain something, such as the example here from StyleCaster with their promise on how to look taller with 14 different fashion tips, will prove popular.

Guides / Tutorials

Blog Titles as Guides

Promising readers a tutorial, guidelines or instructions promise that you will be sharing your expertise and that your readers will learn from it. Amanda also created a post recently that shows you three tools that are handy when helping you come up with good titles and testing their effectiveness.

Emotional Appeal

Appeal to their senses. As it is coming into winter and as nights draw in, our thoughts turn to log fires, armchairs, good films and books, warm jumpers and cosy Sunday afternoons. Okay, many of us will also be thinking of evening classes and exercise but nonetheless, the emotional appeal of honest to goodness comfort food, preferably wholesome and lashing with custard, is bound to attract.

Titles with Emotional Appeal

 

I loved this title by One Man’s Meat and yes, fruit crumble is on my ‘to bake’ list since. The line ‘food to heal your soul’ seems poetic, warming and comforting.

Puns, Alliteration, Assonance

puns_titles

Playing on words is a fun way to engage your audience too. This blog post by Dolly Rouge demonstrates that their target audience are in their twenties with the use of the word ‘lippies’ rather than lipsticks and the pun on Aren’t / Orange.

Storytelling

Titles that promise stories

People love stories and this blog title by Drawn to Sport suggests that there is quite a story to be told as Rachel moved from being a city slicker to a country girl. Rachel doesn’t disappoint and continues on the story to reveal how she started painting country sports, ending with a skilful call to action to view her new Etsy shop. Extremely well done for a blogger who has only been blogging a couple of months.

First Paragraphs

The first paragraph must continue to hook the reader, provide more insight as to the value of the blog post and encourage them to read on. Remember that many of your readers will only see the title and part of the first paragraph in their feedly reader so you have to hook them within that limited content. For those seeing your blog post in the search engines, they will also see the beginning of the first paragraph if it acts as your meta description.

How to hook your blog readers

This blog post by One Fab Day clearly has winter brides as its target market. By the time I got to the end of it (even though I got married in the summer many years ago), I wanted a winter wedding. I almost felt as if Naoise was confiding in me and sharing the best moments of the photoshoot, how it will inspire you to make the most of the winter season for your wedding.

How to hook readers in the first paragraph

Presentation and ‘white space’ are just as important as the content and this post by Mona of Wise Words uses white space and punctuation effectively to emphasise her disbelief of being asked to plant potatoes as a challenge, with the idea of harvesting them on Christmas Day. The full stops between ‘I.Know.’ emphasise it further. Do you want to read on to hear how the planting went? Would you like to visit the blog at Christmas to see if the challenge worked? I would.

Body of Blog Post

Readers will be turned away by a solid wall of text. No matter how long or short the blog post is, do divide it into reasonably short paragraphs using subheadings, numbers or bullet points to break up the text too. Use italics or bold to bring attention to your main points too.

Photographs

How to hook your readers A picture tells a thousand words and serve to emphasise the main points of your blog post. Photos work to break up the text, providing visual relief. If  your business involves selling attractive products, you should have plenty of photos to choose from. Do ensure that your beautiful images are large enough to be clearly visible, ideally the full width of your blog post.

Portrait images are best for sharing on Pinterest and Amanda’s guide gives plenty of tips for ensuring your blog photos are sized well for the various social media platforms. She also advises on sizes for uploading to the various platforms too.

Don’t forget to add a watermark or your logo to the photos too. I usually add my Write on Track logo to my text images so they can be instantly identifiable on Pinterest and other social media tools too when shared there.

Calls To Action

If your readers have read to the end of your post and either been entertained or being informed by your content, it’s time to ask your readers to do something – not just for you but to benefit them too. Examples of calls to action would include:

  • Ask them to buy your product or use your service
  • Ask them to sign up to your email newsletter (tell them what the benefits are)
  • Ask them to follow you on one or two of your social media platforms
  • Ask your readers to comment on your post and continue the conversation

Social Sharing Buttons

The social sharing buttons should be clearly visible on your blog post, encouraging your readers to share your wonderful content with their followers. Your blog post should be the hub of your social media activity, once people arrive at your blog they are in the centre of your website and can act to purchase or contact you. If more and more people share your content, you’ll really increase your web traffic.

I hope you enjoyed the slides and this blog post. Let me know if you agree with my analysis of the anatomy of a blog post and if you have anything else to add. I’d love if you used the social sharing buttons to share this post with your followers too. 

 

photo credit: stavos via photopin cc

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Posted in Blogging for Success, Blogs

How To Defeat Bloggers Block

How to get your blog back on track and defeat bloggers block Do you find you suffer occasionally from bloggers block? I’ve been experiencing it lately even though I have plenty of material to blog about and I know that once I commence blogging again, the fingers will tap away on the keyboard and I’ll get back into the habit reasonably easily. Although I love writing and really enjoying blogging about social media, I found that breaking the habit of twice-weekly blog posts meant I lost my momentum.

1. Not Maintaining Consistency

I generally write a blog post twice a week here but when I was busy with the blog awards (Yes, I recognise the irony in this!), my posts slipped from two posts a week to one and then to none. Even though the awards event was on 4th October, I had a number of appointments slotted in last week and it just seemed to take more energy than usual to restart the writing. Losing consistency meant that it was harder to re-start.

2. Limited Time

Writing a good blog post takes time.  Being short of time meant that I was prioritising my ghost blogging work for clients and simply hadn’t scheduled in enough time to write my own posts. Being tired after the awards, I just didn’t have the energy to write my own posts ‘after hours’.

Maintaining consistency is the easiest way to keep on track with your blogging and that means being realistic with your expectations. If you feel you will struggle with writing two posts a week, then write one but stick to it. Don’t beat yourself up about something that isn’t realistic.  Maintain the quality of your posts by giving yourself sufficient time to devote to writing a good post. Allocate yourself up to 90 minutes on a particular morning of the week to write your blog posts. After all, if you finish early, you can reward yourself with the treat of going for a walk or reading. Pushing your blogging to be fitted in at the end of the day means that it turns into a chore.

3. Advance Planning

I underestimated how busy I was going to be – organising an event, organising judging, publishing posts about the blog awards sponsors, client work, training, putting a proposal together, taking a stand at a 3 day event with my book and achieving significant press coverage meant that all those interviews ate into my time too, it all added up for a hectic month. I knew it was going to be busy but I should have planned in advance and written some posts to schedule. Alternatively, I should have arranged for some interview posts or some guest posts. Although these take time, they can be effective in time saving.

Planning content is important too so it’s a good idea to brainstorm some topics for your blog. If you are struggling with getting back into blogging after a break, choose your favourite or the easiest topic to increase your motivation.

4. Not Using A Content Planning Tool

I was using Co Schedule for a while to ensure I stayed on track regarding my planned theme for each month. However, once I realised I wasn’t sticking to my schedule, I reverted to writing my ideas for posts in my trusted notebook. I had plenty of topics in mind so lack of material wasn’t an issue. However, if I had maintained my use of Co Schedule, it may have kept me on track.

I recently explained how to use Co Schedule to help you stay on track with your blogging and also for sharing your posts to social media platforms such as Pinterest. Amanda posted a video tutorial yesterday too. Using a content planning tool with a realistic timetable really aids successful blogging.

5. Ignoring Traffic

Even though I was still getting enquiries about training and ghost blogging, I wasn’t paying attention to my google analytics reports. When I did look, the results weren’t good. My traffic had decreased by 20% over the last month. This just proves that regular blogging really helps with traffic. I’m sure if my blogger’s block continued, it would have an effect on enquiries too.

Stay motivated by keeping an eye on your website and blog traffic. Give yourself a pat on the back when you see increases in traffic and when you know that sales and conversions happen as a result of your blog. This will motivate you to maintain your consistency.

6. Not Celebrating The Achievements

Writing a good blog is hard work and you should reward yourself by celebrating your achievements. Many Irish bloggers celebrated their achievement of getting into the finals of the blog awards by attending the event on 4th October. I had been too busy to celebrate the fact that my blog was generating more paid work but it’s important to stop and give yourself a clap on the back – even if it is just an extra cup of tea and an extra big slice of cake on a Friday afternoon!

It can happen that we are too busy to celebrate the achievements or sometimes we just aren’t kind enough to ourselves, that we drive ourselves too hard. Take time to stop and smell the coffee as well as rewarding yourself.

I’m back in the saddle now and yes, I enjoyed writing this post. The next two weeks will be busy so I’m going to be realistic with my schedule and I plan to write one post a week, then I should get back to my norm of two posts a week!

What do you sometimes struggle with when keeping up with your own blog? I’d love to hear.

If you are a businesswoman in Ireland, do come along to the National Women’s Enterprise Day conference in Galway on 22nd and 23rd October – I’ll be presenting on Blogging and Writing for the Web on Wednesday afternoon.

Posted in Blogging for Success, Blogs

How To Improve Your Blog – Navigation

How To Improve Your Blog - 6 Navigation Tips Bloggers sometimes tend to overlook the navigation of their blog when it comes to assessing how easy it is for your visitors to find their way around your blog but it’s hugely important.  We’ve all been in situations where we have been standing in a shop and we don’t know where to find the product we want. What do we do? We ask a sales assistant or we leave.  When people visit your website, they are likely to leave if they can’t find what they want. It’s up to you to ensure that the navigation makes it easy for them to contact you or purchase from your website.

What are the important aspects of a blog’s navigation?

1. About Us page

It may sound obvious but visitors to your blog are more than likely going to want to find out more information about you if they enjoy your blog or have found it useful. If they are considering doing business with you, then they are definitely going to want to know more information such as your location, your background, your pricing, services and products. They will also want to get a sense of who YOU are, if they feel they might like to do business with you so a friendly approach with a nice photograph of you (plus the team if relevant) are important.

Herbi_Carni

I really like the Herbi & Carni About Us page – it tells of how two people with very different diets can eat from the same menus – simply by adding or taking away ingredients or altering the recipe in some way. It’s no mean feat for a herbivore with severe allergies and a carnivore but Tony and Marion smile their way through it and now share that learning experience with other families.

2. Contact Us

Again, this may seem another obvious one but while organising the Blog Awards, it has become apparent that many bloggers make their contact details very difficult to find, with some even withholding that information completely. If you have a business, you must be easy to contact. Apart from potential customers, imagine if a popular blogger or a journalist from a widely read publication wants to interview you.  Ensure that your contact information is either available in a designated page listed on the navigation bar or visible on the sidebar. Some businesses limit their contact details to a contact form, I’d recommend adding your email address, postal address and telephone number.

3. Layout of Posts

Make it easy for new visitors to your website to see the selection of topics and content in your blog with a snapshot of your most recent blog posts. All they need to see are the title, thumbnail photo and part of the first paragraph in order to entice them to delve in and start reading their favourite from those available.

saucepan_kids

The Saucepan Kids blog is a nice example – lovely photographs and a brief excerpt to draw you in.

4. Easily Accessible Archives

Visitors to your website may have particular questions they are asking when they arrive at your blog post. They might find that the blog post they are reading doesn’t quite answer their questions but they are interested in finding out more about your product or service or they need more information. Make it easy for them to find related material by adding a Related Posts plugin to your blog posts – see how this post has suggestions for related material at the end.

It’s also a good idea to have your archives of posts available – usually in the sidebar of the blog.  Having a search box is also important. I like the way One Fab Day invites readers to search amongst their archives using the search box.

One_Fab_Day

 

5.  Categorize

Categories are crucial to the organisation of a blog. Remember that readers will differ in their needs and requirements, they won’t want to wade through all of your posts. Make it easier for them to find the material they want by having your categories listed in the sidebar or elsewhere as in this example on the Teddy & Alex blog where the archives are located in the sidebar.

teddy_and_alex

Gobblefunked have their blog posts listed under various categories on the home page which makes it so much easier for parents and children to find material in the relevant sections.

How to categorise your blog posts

Categorising your posts also improves the SEO of your blog and ensures that relevant content is rewarded with higher rankings on the search engines.

6. Call to Action

If a reader has read an entire blog post, it is likely that they like your content and want to read more or they wish to book your service or buy the product you blogged about. As mentioned above, the Related Posts plug in will help them to find related material. A call to action at the end of the blog post with a link to the relevant page will make it easy for them to find that product. See how the end of this blog post on One Fab Day provides stockist details for various wedding accessories and providers featured in the post.

One_Fab_Day_stockists Many business bloggers will include a call to action for a comment, to like their facebook page, sign up to their email newsletter or purchase their product, somewhat like I have done below with a link across to our online courses.

The best way to assess the navigation of your blog is to give a friend a list of things to find on your blog and watch them navigate it. Are they finding it easy or difficult? Have you any other tips to share with regard to improving the navigation of your blog? 

Our online blogging courses over at We Teach Social start with a beginners blogging course on 15th September,a business blogging course starting on 27th October and  a 2 week course focusing on getting more blog readers on 24th November. 

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Posted in Blogging for Success, Blogs, How to Blog

10 Tips For Writers On Using Twitter Effectively

10 Tips How Writers Should Use Twitter

10 Tips How Writers Should Use Twitter I’m a huge fan of twitter for so many reasons. The main reason is I see it as being extremely effective in terms of sales and for today’s post, I am going to concentrate on how authors can use twitter well to drive sales for their books.  I found twitter to be the most effective social media tool for my crowdfunding campaign and I’ve found it to be influential in selling my book too. However, using twitter to raise the profile of your books comes with a word of caution as an inappropriate use of it can turn potential readers away and they may even unfollow you or worse still, decide that they will never read your book! This post by Tara Sparling (and the comments) reveal twitter to be a good friend to authors but a cruel enemy if used inappropriately.

1. Don’t Self Promote

Many authors send self promotional tweets almost demanding that their twitter followers buy their books without giving them a good reason to do so. e.g. ‘Buy my book [insert title] today for just 99c’ or even worse, they may give their book away for free for a review. Do I want to buy a book from someone who ‘buys’ reviews. No, I do not. Remember that potential followers may look at your most recent tweets and a list of tweets all saying ‘buy me’ will turn them away. Yes, you can let your followers know if your book is available at a good price on kindle or in the shops but mix those tweets with chatty updates and with tweets showing the quality of your book.

2. Tweet in the Style of your Book

140 characters is usually too short to include an excerpt from the book within a tweet. However, if you tweet in the written style of your book or include updates on the subject matter, your target audience should find your tweets interesting.  Charles Stross tweets links to his blog posts, is chatty, includes some political type tweets (similar style to his books) but is also amusing in recounting normal life.

Charles_Stross

3. Reply to Readers

Always reply to those who say they have read, enjoyed, reviewed or purchased your book. People will tweet you to tell you if they have purchased it, if they are part way through reading it, and will often tell you what they thought when they finished. Always take the time to thank them for purchasing and that you hope they enjoy it or that you look forward to hearing what they think.

louise_phillips_001

If they have reviewed it (and you are happy with the review), you can link to their review with a tweet something like ‘Many thanks to XXX for reviewing my book on her blog’. If your readers have taken the time to tweet you, do take the time to respond. I always favourite and sometimes retweet their tweet of praise too just as Louise Phillips has done here.

4. Google Alerts

Set up a google alert for your name and the title of your book – then you will never miss a mention for your book as it will send you the alerts by email. Sending a tweet can be the handiest and quickest way to acknowledge it.

5. Create Content

This may seem obvious but you need to tweet on a regular basis. I just did a search for a very popular author as her book is on my list to read next. She has almost 3,000 followers but has never tweeted! Being engaging and chatty will encourage readers to talk about your books, to share their perceptions of your books and increase the ‘word of mouth’ brand awareness.

6. Background Information

It’s surprising how many people don’t complete their biography properly – you need to include that you are an author and preferably the name of your latest book. Provide a link to your website or to where the book can be purchased. The bio needs to be written in your own style so don’t be afraid to add personality.  Having the cover of your book as your header photo or the background to your twitter account serves as a non pushy reminder to readers too. Colm O’Regan, author of the Irish Mammy books, tweets in the style of the books and has the front covers of both books as the header image.

Irish_mammies

7. Share Progress

Share the progress of your next book but be careful about giving too much away. I’m not sure that readers would be impressed if they buy the book and find that they have already read quite a bit of it on twitter! However, you can keep readers informed and help them feel part of the journey by letting them know how it is going. I like this tweet by Hazel Gaynor who proves that writers are perhaps as susceptible to procrastination and nerves as everyone else.

Hazel_gaynor Let people know if you are going to be in the press by sharing behind the scenes news. Maria Duffy will be featured in the Sunday Times this weekend and shares photos and updates of their new pup being photographed in her first photo shoot! Apart from wanting to read the interview with Maria, I want to see the photos of the pup too!

Maria_Duffy

8. Interesting Content for your Readers

Provide content that your readers will enjoy by searching for relevant newspaper articles, tweets, photos, blog posts – whatever is relevant to your genre and you think your readers will enjoy it. People follow you for your interesting content so try to provide it.

9. Find Relevant Tweeters To Follow

You can find people who are interested in your topic area by using Advanced Search. It can return results based on the terms used in their biography or in their tweets. Do not spam them with ‘buy me’ tweets but follow them, look at their tweets, respond to a tweet if it is relevant and a ‘conversation starter’.  You can identify people of influence by using a tool like followerwonk too.

Don’t forget to create lists to categorize those you follow, for example, you might like to put writers into a ‘Writers’ list so it is easy to check their tweets on a regular basis and it means it is easier to help them promote their work and engage with them too.

10. Use Hashtags

Join in with writing conversations by using relevant hashtags and engage with other writers. Examples include #amwriting, #amreading, #writingtip, #askagent, #MustRead and of course, there are hashtags for each genre too e..g #nonfiction. There’s an emphasis on reading more female writers this year and the hashtag #readwomen2014 is being used to promote it.

Some writers create their own hashtags for their books too. Jo Baker had the hashtag #longbourn printed on the back cover of her book which meant it was easy for readers to provide feedback and even discuss the book with each other. I would recommend responding to some of these tweets – the hashtag provides a wonderful way to receive feedback and engage in conversation.

Have you any other tips to add regarding an effective use of twitter for writers and authors?

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Posted in Blogs, Self Publishing, Social Media Platforms, Tips, Twitter, Writing

Why (and How) Writers Should Use Pinterest

How and Why Writers Should Use Pinterest Pinterest tends to be one of the last social media tools that authors use for their writing purposes. Many writers may be using Pinterest to store pretty pictures and dare I say it, even to procrastinate! Pinterest is much more than just a place to find and categorize inspiration photos for your kids birthday parties or your home. It can be a good inspiration tool for your books, an excellent promotion tool and of course, a good selling tool.

#1. To Sell Your Book

Pinterest is a visual tool, used mostly to catalogue pictures into different ‘mood’ or inspiration boards. The beauty for those selling online is that every pin (picture) carries a link to its source so if you have pinned the front cover of your book from where it can be purchased online, it will always carry that link, no matter how many times others might repin (share) it. That means that people all over the world can click that link and purchase your book. However, Pinterest works best when you use it with your target market’s wants in mind – what might they like to see on your account besides pictures of your front cover? How can you add value to their Pinterest experience? How can you become someone that they want to follow?  Do read on.

Derelict_barn #2. Gain Inspiration

You could use Pinterest to find inspiration for your novel. Find pictures of people that resemble your characters and pin them to a secret board so that you are the only person who can view them. This can help you in describing the character’s appearance and make them ‘come to life’ for you. The same goes for settings for the book. Imagine writing a description of a derelict barn on a stormy night – you’ll find plenty of images on Pinterest to inspire you.

#3. Show Potential Readers Some Sneak Peeks

When your book is published, you could show your fans and readers these pins, either by making the secret group a public board or by repinning those pins into another board. Enthusiastic readers of your novel would love to see more insight into the work behind the book.

Abby Green, an Irish author of romantic fiction, has numerous inspiration boards on her Pinterest account. Lisa Wingate uses Pinterest to inform readers about the historical background to her fiction as well as showing them artefacts and dresses that would have been worn by people during that time period.

#4. Reading Groups

Encourage reading by sharing your recommended reads, those books you enjoy reading. It is likely that those who like your taste in reading will also enjoy your books. Remember that when pinners repin a pin, a pop up box encourages them to follow another board that same pin has been pinned to – the more you pin and repin, the more chance you have of growing more followers – particularly by this method.

Why authors should use Pinterest

Therefore, pin and repin books in the same genre as your own book – and books you genuinely enjoy reading. Even better, you could link to your book reviews on your own website, thereby encouraging people to click the links to read the review and arrive on your site where they can also see your books for sale.

#5. Connect With Readers

Remember to consider how readers will use Pinterest too – they will comment under the cover image of your book when they are pinning or repinning. If you find glowing tributes and recommendations, you can follow them, comment under the pin and thank them, and generally engage – encouraging them to follow you back (if they aren’t following you already). See how this pinner recommends this book to other readers of historical fiction:

how authors should use Pinterest

You can find out who has pinned from your website by typing in http://www.pinterest.com/source/yourdomainname.com to the address bar, inserting your own website address. You could also do a search for the title of your book and see what comes up.

#6. Create Relevant Content for your Target Market

What are your target market interested in? If you write parenting books and your potential readers are going to be interested in finding tips on educating children, storage tips for children’s toys, recipes for suitable weaning foods, educational toys etc, then create boards to interest them (as well as you). Find quality content online (as well as your own books) and pin to these boards. You will then become seen as a person to follow for excellent content as well as your words of wisdom in print.

Laura Frantz, an author of Historical Fiction, has numerous boards to interest those who like history – historical houses, art, letters, lace, antique silver, Russian history, antique dolls houses, American Revolution, 18th century dress, Early American life – a treasure trove of interesting pins for history lovers.

Don’t forget to create content for all book lovers too – boards for interesting bookcases, book storage, libraries, quotes about books, plays – anything you can think of really.

#7. Become Part of a Writing Community

You can get to know other writers, learn from them, share stories, ask advice, share successes and become part of a writing community on Pinterest as easily as on Linked In or Facebook. You could even become a ‘leader’ by starting up a contributor board for other writers and inviting others to join.

See our post ‘All you need to know about shared boards’ for more tips. Always remember to pin quality content and to be extremely active within the board when you are its creator if it is is to work well. For example, this community board for writers includes inspiring quotes for writers, stories of the writing process from established authors.

I hope you found this post useful. If you would like to learn how to use Pinterest more effectively, do check out our online Pinterest courses at Beginners and Advanced levels

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Posted in Pinterest, Self Publishing, Writing

Why (and how) Writers Should Blog

why and how writers should blog The easiest part of blogging for writers should be the actual writing shouldn’t it? Yet it can be difficult for authors to work out what to write and whether to write in the same style as their ‘normal writing’ or not. Blogging has similar advantages for writers to what it has for all business people:

  • It builds brand awareness of one’s books
  • Drives traffic to website where people can read about your books / purchase them / click the call to action that brings them to Amazon, ie increase sales
  • Get to know other writing bloggers
  • Build relationships e.g. ask book review bloggers to review your book during a blog book tour
  • Show the person behind the business / books  - remember people buy from people. People are more inclined to purchase your book when they feel they ‘know’ you.

Another advantage is that you can test writing ideas on your target audience via your blog, you can use your blog to hone your writing skills and writing a blog post can be a handy way to get the fingers tapping before you settle into writing your book each day.

What Do Writers Blog About?

Here’s some of my favourite author blogs to give you some ideas:

Show The Person Behind The Book

How authors blog

MT Maguire blogs regularly – about her life, about occasional scatterbrained moments (the one advantage of being a writer is that is is not only permitted to be scatterbrained but positively encourages – well, that’s my excuse too), about metal detecting, about her self publishing, about the writing process and showing sneak peeks of the front covers of her fabulous sci-fi books too.  Although I’ve never met her, I know we’d chat for ages if we did get to meet. Notice the facebook like box in the sidebar too – all about encouraging readers to stay in contact with events.

Talk Directly To Readers

Pat Fitzpatrick provides regular updates on his book sales on his blog, explaining various things he has tried to improve sales of his self published book. What I particularly enjoy is the fact that Pat is very open regarding what the book cost him to produce (not counting the time he spent writing it) and how much revenue it has achieved.  He also shares his thoughts regarding the effectiveness of his blog, twitter, KDP Select and more.  As I also self published my book, I provide occasional updates re the journey and progress of getting a self published book into bookshops and how sales are going.

Share Sneak Peeks

Imen McDonnell is busy putting the finishing touches to her memoir/cookery book and occasionally includes photos from the book in her blog posts, or an occasional recipe to whet our appetites as well as updates on the progress.

Imen_McDonnell

I don’t know if this exact photo which includes the dog will be be featured in the book but it adds humour and a cute element too not to mention the fact that those cakes look pretty tempting in the background.

Share the Success

It’s a good idea to share the successes with your blog readers too. That helps them to feel part of the journey and share in your excitement. Louise Phillips is launching her third book within the next couple of weeks and has just posted a screenshot of a featured article in a publication.

Louise_Phillips_blog

If you do well, share the joy. It can be a good idea to have a ‘press’ page too where people can see the press coverage you have achieved.

Insight Into Your Style

Most authors will write their blog posts in a similar style as their books.  Others will break into that style at times yet still letting people see the real person behind the blog and books.

Tara Sparling includes great variety on her blog – musings on the vagaries of writing, wondering why so many writers are penniless and writing in freezing garrets, how to come up with a good title for your book, what makes people buy self published books not to mention the effect of an arts festival on one’s inspiration and concentration – she has only been blogging for a year and seems to have amassed a good following to date not to mention the fact that I know I will find any of her books absolutely hilarious and will snap them up at once.

Featuring Authors

Carmel Harrington has a regular slot on her blog where she features other authors asking them a variety of questions in a very chatty and humourous style. You just don’t know what the next question will be or where it will lead. Not only does that build relationships with other authors, it’s fun to see who she has next on her couch.

Many writers review other books too. After all, most writers read lots so it makes sense to review those you enjoy. Reviwing books can be another way of building relationships with authors although you may have to be careful about what you say! I review a book every Sunday and write honest reviews. However, if I didn’t particularly enjoy a book, I don’t write a review. I only review those I enjoy. 

Many of the authors featured here use a variety of the techniques described, I hope these give you some ideas for your own blog and if you’re not blogging already, that it will inspire you to start. Remember too that publishers will use your blog to determine the extent of your following and the quality of your writing so there’s many advantages to having a good blog. Have you any tips or examples to share that I have omitted?

“Free

 

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Posted in Blogs, For Beginners, How to Blog, Self Publishing, Writing

How Authors Should Use Facebook

Facebook for Authors - why it is an essential tool

Facebook for Authors - why it is an essential tool Authors are becoming more aware that they need to be using social media. Hearing tales of other authors missing out on publishing deals because the publishing house wanted them to have a loyal following not to mention hearing of writers increasing their sales of books because of their social media presence must evoke many different feelings in writers. Some may feel inspired to start using social media when they hear of such success stories, others may feel daunted and overwhelmed with a ‘where do I start?’ terror coursing through them. I can totally understand why hearing that writers should be blogging, using twitter, creating a facebook page, using linkedin groups and using pinterest at the very least, can be intimidating.  It’s not a case of starting with all of them at once but mastering one at a time, finding out which one works best and learning how to use it effectively.

I’m going to write a series of posts – showing examples of how authors are using the various social media tools effectively so that hopefully, writers will feel inspired to start, rather than feeling overwhelmed. I hope you will return each week to read each one.  I’m going to start with Facebook. Most people have a facebook profile so they tend to find it to be the easiest platform to use from a professional basis.

1. Create a Facebook Page

You must have a personal profile on facebook before you can create a facebook page, for example, my personal profile is under my own name Lorna Sixsmith, and it’s where I share news with many friends.  It is relatively straightforward to create. Sign up at www.facebook.com by following the steps and facebook will even help you to locate some of your friends.

To create a page, you need to visit this link, choose ‘brand or product’ and follow the steps to create a facebook page. Most authors names their facebook pages as their own name and add ‘books’ or ‘author’. You will need to upload two photographs. One is your avatar and will be resized to 180 x 180. Many authors use a photo of themselves, sometimes reading a book or holding their own book.  The cover photo is a wide landscape photo with the dimensions of 851 by 315. Many authors use a collage of their books or a picture from their launch for this image.

hazel_gaynor_author

As you can see from this image, Hazel Gaynor has an image from a book signing as her avatar and is using her front cover as the cover image – complete with a quote from a well known author.

This post shows how to create a  landscape collage on Picmonkey.

2. What Do I Use As Content?

Nobody likes a facebook page that is ‘sell, sell, sell’, there has to be an element of engagement with readers as well as providing them with information they want to see.

Many authors use facebook to inform fans about upcoming events such as book readings, signings and launches. People love good news stories and they love to see you share your successes occasionally with them too.

how to create content for facebook

Carmel Harrington is using facebook effectively to spread the word about a book signing. By using an image with text, the information can be seen instantly and will be easily visible when others shared it. It has worked – 12 people have shared this image for Carmel, thereby spreading the word further.

I shared some good news with my own facebook fans this morning as I was interviewed for a national magazine. People do like to see the good news stories and if they have liked the book, they almost feel part of the journey too.

How authors use facebook

Sharing images with an update can be very powerful – whether it is an image of the book, an image of an event or perhaps a photo of where the book is set.

How authors can use facebook to promote their book

Felicity Hayes-McCoy shares extracts from her book ‘The House on the Irish Hillside’ frequently, always making it sound poetic and beautiful and always teaming it with a photograph of beautiful Kerry, where the book is set. See how effective this is – 62 shares of this particular update.

You can create anticipation for a book and the launch on your facebook page too. Louise Phillips has been telling fans about the film trailer for her upcoming book, showing us images from the shoot and also of the lipsticks that will be available at the launch – all tie in with the killer in her book The Last Kiss. Louise has also used facebook to create a launch event so she can increase interest and gauge the number of attendees.

How authors use facebook effectively

I can’t wait to go to the launch, let alone read the book!

Reward your fans too – give them sneak peeks of the front cover, ask their opinion on something, host a competition for a signed copy of your book or another prize.  This will raise their enthusiasm for reading the book and telling their friends about it too.

How Often Should I Update My Page

It takes time to build up a good following on facebook so don’t leave it until the book is on the bookshelves.  If you have content to share three or four times a week (spreading it out across the week), that will be plenty. Once a day is definitely sufficient. The trick is to share content that educates, informs, entertains or amuses your fans.  Engagement on your page in the form of likes, comments or shares means that more and more people will see your content in their news feed and your brand awareness will increase.

How Will A Facebook Page Impress A Publisher?

I started off this post by mentioning that authors have had their books turned away at almost the last minute when the publishing house discovered a low social media presence. If you are in discussions with a publisher or even in your opening letter to them (or to a wholesaler if you have self published your book), you should highlight your following on social media. Apart from the fact that you have a means for communicating with your audience, you know the demographic that is interested in your book.

how authors can use facebook

On my own ‘book’ page, I can see from my ‘Insights’ that the majority of my fans are female. This has an influence on the content I share but it would also influence my decisions regarding the publications I might try for press coverage or for advertising. The publisher will now know who the future buyers of the book will be – and where they live.

You can also use facebook to attract people to subscribe to your email newsletter by using an app – if they like your content on facebook, they are likely to sign up for more updates and invites.  Facebook will increase brand awareness and it will probably encourage readers to choose your book over another one when they recognise it on a bookshop shelf or if buying online.

Have you any other suggestions on how authors can use facebook that I may have missed?

“Free

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Posted in Facebook, Self Publishing, Tips, Writing

How To Self Publish Your Book

how to self publish and print your book

how to self publish and print your book You’re writing a book. You have decided to self publish it, perhaps because you view it as a possible path to traditional publishing or perhaps because you are committed to staying as a self published author. You are going to publish it as an ebook on Amazon, Nook, iTunes, Kobo etc but you are wondering about getting books printed and onto the shelves. You know that lots of readers still prefer to read it in a hard copy and people still expect to see the book on bookshelves in shops so what are the steps in self publishing a printed book? That’s exactly what we are going to look at today.

Much of it is similar to an ebook – you still should get a professional to illustrate your front cover, you should hire an editor and unless it is all text and simply laid out (ie a novel divided into chapters), you may need help with the formatting too. However, the prospect of spending a large amount of money on a print run can be daunting, not to mention if you are wondering about the quality of the finished product.

Options for Getting It Printed

More and more authors are using print on demand services as it limits the risk of having 300 of your 500 book print run sitting gathering dust in your attic for evermore. It also means that you don’t have to make the financial investment or secure a loan (or run a crowdfunding campaign to raise finance).  Many authors use the Create Space model on Amazon – as an author, you can order multiple copies at cost price (although, as far as I know, there isn’t a discount the more copies you buy) and you can then stock the shelves of your local bookshop. This can be a cost effective way of trialing the success of a printed book via an ebook and paving the way towards getting your book into all bookshops.

The other option is to be brave and order a print run for your own book from a printing company. This can have a significant cost which is why more authors are using crowdfunding to part fund the printing cost and secure some pre-orders. It can also be the case that the cost to print 500 copies is very close to the print cost for 1000 copies which provides another reason to crowdfund – as it ‘saves’ money in the long run.

I opted to use a local printer, Naas Printing. Apart from the fact they were recommended to me, I recognised some good quality self published books on their website and when I called in, there were shelves full of their printed books. This was useful as I could check the quality and show them exactly the type of matte cover and matte finish on the pages that I wanted. It may have been more cost effective to look at sourcing a printer abroad but I wanted to be able to talk to them in person, ask questions, and see the quality of their printed products.

Self Publishing Companies

Many companies now help authors to self publish their own books. They will review, edit, format, design and publish your book either as an ebook only or as an ebook and a printed book. Emu Ink is an Irish company offering this service and their price of €1495 to do a triple edit, typesetting, cover design, provision of ISBN numbers and publish a book on all ebook providers seems fair. It is difficult to estimate what this might cost if doing it all independently (hiring a professional editor, illustrator and formatter individually) but it is unlikely to be less than €1000. If you wish to print your book, this cost will be additional but Emu Ink does offer a print on demand service.  Kissed Off Creations also offer a self publishing service with prices starting from £200.

Personally, I prefer to travel the steep learning curve, learn by my mistakes and benefit from my learning for future books but it can be helpful to have someone holding your hand with your first book and that’s where these companies are very useful.

Crowdfunding With Self Publishing Companies

I crowdfunded with an Irish crowdfunding company and then self published independently and separately but there are now plenty of companies that provide a crowdfunding service specifically for books and within the self publishing service. In effect, you are asking people to pre-order your book and the company will indicate how many need to be ordered before it can be deemed a success, i.e. your book goes into publication. In essence in terms of finances, it is a little like getting an advance from a publisher. It should have all the advantages of crowdfunding in terms of securing income, raising your self confidence, spreading brand awareness and securing sales. It will also require a loyal following to generate those pre-orders and ideally, that following should be on social media as it is easy for them to click once to the site and pledge. It has the advantage of having advice and help from those working in publishing and self publishing.

Although these companies will provide advice and support on the crowdfunding and will publish your book, they don’t necessarily offer an editing service. You have to submit your finished and edited manuscript for approval.  They decide on the cost per pledge (the pre-order price) and the number of pledges/orders required. Once that is achieved within a specified time period, they will publish the book and you can dispatch the printed books to your pledgers.

However, it is unclear how much ‘profit’ the writer makes on each book. According to the Britain’s Next Bestseller details, the authors get £1 for each book preordered above the minimum target set.  They promise significant marketing help if you surpass the pre-orders but I’m a little bit sceptical – you can easily do much of this marketing on your own.  It’s unclear at this stage if they remain as your publisher and what the percentage the royalties willbe. Yes, it is helping you by holding your hand along the way but I would prefer the independence of crowdfunding separately to the self publishing. Pubslush and Authr are more such companies and there seems to be many more.

 

Self Publishing your own book can be very exciting, liberating and successful – it can also be extremely terrifying and expensive. It can take considerable time for sales to roll in and to recoup your investment. Every situation is different and I hope this post has helped to make the choices somewhat clearer. If you have any questions, do ask in the comment box below. If you have self published, I’d love to hear of your experiences. 

Do check out my post on ‘How to sell your self published book’ too – lots of tips in there for when you receive your print run. If you would like to consider crowdfunding, do look at these articles reporting on my tried and tested method.

“Free

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Posted in Blogs, Self Publishing, Writing

To Publish or To Self Publish – That Is The Question

Advantages and Disadvantages of Publishing and Self publishing

Advantages and Disadvantages of Publishing and Self publishing If you are a writer, it is probably your dream to secure a publishing deal but while you are waiting for the right publisher and you feel your book is as good as it possibly can be, maybe self publishing your book is the answer.  You may be happy to remain as a self publisher or you may see it as a possible route to securing a publishing dea.  In this article, I’m going to compare the advantages and disadvantages of going the self publishing route with that of traditional publishing. I self published a year ago and wrote a recent update on sales to date.

Advantages of Traditional Publishing

1. The publisher takes care of the editing, the formatting, the cover design, the production of the book and sometimes they will help with the launch and press coverage too.

2. The publisher bears the cost of the production of the book, some publishers may pay for a launch or will help with the organising of it.

3. As Derbhile of Write Words mentions, having a book gives you and your book kudos and credibility.

4. You may receive an advance which could be very handy!

5. It is likely your book will be in most bookshops within weeks of the launch, you don’t have to worry about distribution or even how many to print. This suggests you will sell more books than if you were self published.

6. Your publisher is experienced with marketing of printed books and ebooks which should stand your book in good stead.

7. There’s a much higher chance of your book being reviewed in the weekend newspapers.

8. Your books should be in the bookshops within weeks and having a publisher makes it easier to secure book signings.  If you want to get into the bestseller lists (and who doesn’t), having a publisher behind you will maximise the chances of this as they know exactly what to do to try and make it happen.  They may also help you to secure press coverage although this doesn’t happen for all authors.

Disadvantages of Traditional Publishing

1. It may not be as lucrative as you think. I had always presumed that authors got 10% of the retail price but it is 10% of the wholesale price. My book sells for €12.95 of which the wholesaler takes 55%. If I was traditionally published, I would get 65c for every copy sold. Less than that if my book is included in a 3 for 2 offer in the bookshops. Unless the book becomes a bestseller, you are still going to need the day job.

2. It can seem like it takes a long time, often at least six months after you submit your manuscript before it is ready for the book shelves.  That doesn’t include the length of time spent waiting to secure a publisher.

3. Publishers don’t necessarily pay for the launch so you may have to foot the bill for that yourself and they may insist on a launch.

4. You don’t have control over your own work. You aren’t free to create bundles with other writers, for example, something that Paul O’Brien mentioned at the Wexford Literary festival last week.

5. It takes at least 6 months to receive payments and to receive reports on sales to date.

Advantages of Self Publishing

1. You have complete control over your book, that may be daunting for some but means that you are free to take any opportunities that come along.

2. You will make better margins on each sale, for example, I make €3 on each book sold in a bookshop and €7 for each one from my website.

3. Although you have to wait 3 months to be paid by the wholesalers (Easons and Argosy), they do pay monthly on sales after that. It’s much easier to keep track of sales and feel ‘in the know’. I have found Argosy to be very helpful in terms of letting me know the numbers each month (number of books sent to bookshops, not necessarily of books sold).

4. It may take more work but you can get your book into bookshops.  As you are ‘closer’ to what is going on, you may be more inclined to actively seek press coverage.

5. You will make mistakes along the way, it is a huge learning curve, but you will learn from them for the next book.

6. It feels more purposeful than waiting for a publisher and if you can sell 2000 units of your self published book, it may be a quicker route to traditional publishing if that is what you want.

Disadvantages of Self Publishing

1. This may not be a disadvantage for some but many writers find it difficult. You are going to have to market and distribute your own book, you have to treat your book like a business product to sell and you have to put yourself and your book out there – with press coverage and on social media. Having said that, publishers want their authors to have a social media following one (I know of authors who had their books turned down because of its absence and had to wait another year until they had built up a following) so if self publishing makes you get out there and blog, tweet, pin and set up a facebook page, it will stand you in good stead should you wish to go down the self publishing route in the future.

2. You do have to invest money in self publishing.  If your talents include graphic design, you will be able to format it yourself and design the book cover but if not, it is worth investing in the book cover design at least. Don’t skimp on an editor either – do hire an editor for your book. Most self publishers publish their books as ebooks and as print on demand but people still expect to see books on shelves. Some self publishers order printed books from Amazon’s Create Space for their local bookshops and this can be a good way to try it out too (make sure you order them at cost price by visiting your own dashboard though). Printing your book is a huge investment but can be worth it. If you print 500 or a 1000 copies, you will need a website to sell the book from so you will also have to invest in a website. Running a crowdfunding campaign can be a way to raise finance (and test the market too) but you do need to have  a good social media following first.

3. You have to work at it to gain credibility. Self publishing is still looked down upon in some circles as it doesn’t carry the stamp of approval from a publisher. Therefore, your book needs to be as professional as you can make it and you need to get it out there. Prove it is a great book with sales, reviews, radio interviews and local press coverage if you can.

 

I would really recommend getting to know other authors. It’s not a competition, you are all in the same boat, just writing different genres for different target audiences.  Apart from having others to bounce ideas with or ask for feedback or just share stories, I’ve found that supporting each other has helped each of us get press coverage, just to give one example. One author provided me with a contact for a TV programme (having a direct contact makes such a different) and I secured a TV interview. I just heard that another author, whom I had provided with a contact for a national radio show, is being interviewed on Monday morning. You can’t beat networking and friendship amongst people in a similar field.

What other disadvantages or advantages of publishing or self publishing have I missed? I’d love to hear your thoughts and your experiences. 

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Posted in Blogs, Self Publishing

How To Schedule Your Content To Social Media Platforms Using Co Schedule

How to use Co Schedule as your editorial content planner and to schedule pins to Pinterest If you are looking for a handy way to organise your blogging timetable and your scheduling of blog posts to Pinterest and other social media platforms, Co Schedule could be your answer. I signed up for the free trial and have given it a try. It seems to be particularly useful for group blogs and larger business blogs but also for sole owners who need more organisation in their lives. It also a very handy tool for scheduling your pins to Pinterest.

Scheduling your updates across your social media channels is so important. Your blog is the hub of your website, you are using platforms such as facebook, pinterest and twitter to drive people across to read your content and connect with you. Being able to reach your target audience when they are online is really important – particularly if they are in a different time zone to you and the optimum time is midnight where you are!  Scheduling also saves you time – you can schedule your posts in a ten minute slot and you’re done for a while. No risk of being sidetracked when you pop into twitter to send a tweet.

How to use the Editorial Content Scheduler on Co Schedule

You have to sign up at Co Schedule and connect your self hosted wordpress blog. Effectively you are adding Co Schedule as a plug in – so you will need your ftp password.

Once you are connected, you can go straight into the scheduling calendar, click on the little pencil on the top right of a relevant date, and add in titles, date, and of course, the date for publication. You can assign it to a specific author too – which is where it really works well for larger businesses or group blogs.

How to schedule posts

I often tend to create draft posts when I have an idea for a blog post – I simply type in a title, assign a category and write a short paragraph. However, those draft posts are sometimes in danger of being forgotten about but now I can actually schedule them into my content schedule planner by using the plug in further down the dashboard page and filling in a little more detail – then it automatically appears on my calendar. Easy peasy.

Co_Schedule_Calendar

You can then see all of your planned content at a glance – have you made the most of writing about appropriate topics for specific days in the year, for example, today is Social Media Day – have you a post assigned to it?  Are your posts too heavy on one specific topic? Do they focus enough on a particular area? By looking at the content schedule, you can evaluate it and you can drag and drop content if you wish. As you can see, I have planned some blog topics around publishing and selfpublishing, authors and social media for this coming month. Here’s a good video that demonstrates how it works too.

You can also see your planned content at a glance by looking at your dashboard (My Activity page) . It will also show you your top posts in terms of social shares.

Using Co Schedule

How to use Co Schedule to Schedule Pins

1. Add your social media profiles.

How to use Co Schedule

2. As far as Pinterest is concerned, you have to add each board that you wish to schedule too individually but once they are added, they remain there.

3. Click the pencil button on the top right and opt for ‘new social message’.

co_schedule_how_to_schedule

Co_schedule_to_pinterest 4.  It is then a case of choosing the Pinterest board, twitter account or whatever you wish to schedule to. Add in the link for the blog post, and of course, it doesn’t have to be from your own blog. As you check the content in your feedly reader on a daily basis, perhaps first thing in the morning, you can use Co Schedule to schedule out the content that you would like to share.  It will pull up an image and you can choose another image if you’d prefer. Don’t forget to add in your own comment.  Choose a date and time and click to confirm. That’s it. As you can see, where it says ‘published’, you can check the selection there if your post isn’t published as yet and choose a scheduled post.

5. If you are happy using Buffer or hootsuite to schedule your updates, you’ll be glad to hear that this works with buffer too.  You may be happy just staying with either of those. Where Co Schedule is helpful though, is the ease with which you can schedule your blog posts to Pinterest that makes it a winner for me and some of the other Pinterest scheduling tools are getting very expensive so this could be a cheaper option.

It really is a case of getting used to using it and having it open when you are reading through your feedly if you wish to use it to share good content throughout the day.

6. What is also handy is all of your scheduled updates to your various platforms show up on the calendar too so you can see if you’re being a little too sharing-heavy!

Co Schedule offers a free trial for 2 weeks. Thereafter, it is $10 a month. I will be honest – I still like using my content schedule planner that we designed for We Teach Social but I can see that scheduling those impulsive draft posts I create would keep me on the straight and narrow!

Where Co Schedule would be really handy is for those who wish to schedule their posts to Pinterest, particularly if your target audience is in a different time zone and you know that 2am is the optimum time for getting those click throughs and repins.

If you give it a go, do let me know what you think of it.

Posted in Blogs, Content Marketing, Pinterest
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