Optimistic Authorship

THE OPTIMISTIC AUTHOR

You can approach your writing with optimism or pessimism—your choice.

(Though complaints, worries, and frustrations may become more of a habit and less of a conscious decision.)

Optimism can be an asset to your authorship.

When you believe that your book will be successful, you are more likely to:

  • motivate yourself to work hard
  • stay focused while writing
  • do the necessary research
  • proofread carefully
  • put time and effort into cover design and formatting
  • put a small investment in cover design or editing
  • make a full effort to market your book
  • find a way to harness your creativity in your marketing

On the other hand, if you are pessimistic about the outcome of your book, you are less likely to put in the work needed to help make your book successful.

Thus, your outlook may pull a pivotal role in the success or failure of your book launch.

Once you start getting sales, if sales are slower than you expected, optimism can carry you through the slow times. If you are optimistic that you can improve your sales, you are more likely to try new marketing ideas and eventually discover strategies that work for you. You will be more likely to write additional books—and put the proper effort into those, too—if you remain optimistic that your writing will take off (and it sometimes takes multiple good books to gain traction). But if you are pessimistic, it’s easy to give up without really putting the effort into it.

The optimistic author will find the good in a bad review, while the pessimistic author will see something bad in a good review. The optimistic author appreciates the neutral review, whereas the pessimistic author is upset that it wasn’t a five-star review.

When a potential customer visits the optimistic author’s social media sites and blog, the customer has a positive experience.

When a potential customer sees complaints and frustration in the author’s social interactions, the customer is seeing publicized negativity.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

2017 Writing Goals #PoweredByIndie

Image from ShutterStock

Image from ShutterStock

2017 WRITING GOALS

I’m trying to focus on my main writing goal for 2017:

DEVOTE MORE TIME FOR WRITING!

I think it’s a pretty good New Year’s resolution.

And I’m off to a good start, wearing out my seat cushion and rubbing off the letters from my keyboard as I pound away.

Mostly about physics for now, as I’m wrapping up a BIG project, but I have many writing plans for 2017, and I’m anxious to start on them.

I also hope to spend more time on my blogs in the near future.

A couple of other related goals include:

  • read even more indie books
  • find more time to write reviews

I have a lot of specific goals, and timelines for projects. Goals and timelines help me be productive and stay motivated.

But I’m trying to focus on the main three, posted above.

What are your writing goals for 2017?

Remember to use the #PoweredByIndie hashtag when you post about them on social media.

Amazon is sponsoring this hashtag and supporting indies.

I was lucky, as KDP mentioned my main goal (to devote more time for writing) on their Twitter site.

Check out Amazon KDP on Facebook and Twitter. You can see other great writing goals, and they often share links to valuable publishing tips.

Amazon also has indie New Year’s stories to share: http://www.amazon.com/newyearnewstories

HAPPY 2017!

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Write Selflessly… to Sell More Books #WriteWithCare

Selfless

SELFLESS WRITING

By selfless, I don’t mean giving away your books for free.

I mean a distinction between selfless versus selfish in how you go about the writing, publishing, and marketing.

Really, there aren’t two extremes: one who goes about this 100% selflessly or 100% selfishly. Everyone is apt to fall somewhere in between overall.

But let’s look at one possible extreme. Let’s label this as completely selfish (even though from some perspective, one might not agree with this label—don’t worry, we’ll explore this perspective, too):

  • Write whatever comes to mind.
  • Don’t write for a specific audience.
  • Write however you feel like writing.
  • Focus entirely on writing, if possible.
  • Give as little attention to formatting, cover design, marketing, etc. as possible.
  • Avoid interacting with readers or potential readers.

One way this might seem selfish is that you would be writing for you, not necessarily for the benefit of any particular reader. Will any readers actually appreciate what you’ve written?

Another way is that this ultra extreme example doesn’t entail learning or at least exploring the craft of writing itself, such as the elements of storytelling or characterization or making the writing flow.

Finally, this extreme is selfish in not wanting to meet or interact with readers, not to take a vested interest in marketing, not to add a personal touch to the reading experience, not to be willing to get out of one’s comfort zone with marketing, or to not want to take a more authoritative role in cover design, formatting, or the blurb.

Let’s compare with the other extreme, completely selfless (in a sense):

  • Considering your abilities, knowledge, experience, creativity, etc. and how to harness these to match up with real readers.
  • Thinking of ways to attract, engage, and please (or perhaps better, to wow) your audience from the front cover (the moment the reader lays eyes on your book) to the ending (that fulfilling climax and beyond). (Oh, yes! The writing and selling process is a romance, even if the book isn’t.)
  • Researching, learning, and exploring ways to apply elements of effective storytelling, characterization, communication, etc. with a style that suits your writing.
  • Looking beyond the writing itself, appreciating the challenge of trying to hook the reader with the cover and blurb, taking an interest in how the design of the book can supplement the feel of the story, and feeling motivated to share your passion with readers through marketing.
  • Wanting very much to meet readers and potential readers, and to interact with them.

To be fair, there is another perspective to consider.

If you write so much for the readers that you lose yourself… you sacrifice your own style… you write about topics that don’t strongly interest you… your writing goes against some of your own beliefs… you write in ways that you hear are best, but you don’t really believe in them… your motivation becomes to sell as many books as possible, whatever it takes… or worse, you engage in unscrupulous behavior to reach more readers… then you are apt to feel like you’ve sold out.

But somewhere in between is a happy medium, where the author retains a strong sense of identity, but where the author writes more selflessly, trying to put the author’s talents, experience, knowledge, background, style, etc. to effective use to please actual readers.

C.A.R.E.

  • C-are
  • A-bout
  • R-eaders’
  • E-xpectations

Back to the romance analogy with writing, publishing, and marketing, you don’t want a one-night stand. You’re looking for readers to commit to your book. Your series. So you need to commit to your readers. It’s mutual.

Think about how much you C.A.R.E. and how showing this impacts sales, not just now, but in the long run.

  • C.A.R.E. enough to make it easy for your audience to tell what kind of book you’ve written from a glance at your cover.
  • C.A.R.E. to dress your book up in an attractive cover, one that tells readers, “Hey! This author C.A.R.E.s.”
  • C.A.R.E. to stimulate the reader’s interest in the blurb, to not ruin the story for the reader by giving too much away, to show what kind of book the reader should expect.
  • C.A.R.E. to learn and perfect the craft of writing to become an effective storyteller, to create strong characters, to communicate clearly, etc.
  • C.A.R.E. to put the best possible book on the market, one that you will be proud of, one that readers will feel was well worth the money and time spent.
  • C.A.R.E. to find out what readers think, to meet readers, to interact with potential readers, to let your passion show, to get out of your comfort zone and help readers discover your book.
  • C.A.R.E. to think about how readers shop, how they will discover your book, what will pull the reader to your product page, what will make the reader take a chance on your book, how the beginning of the story will hook the reader, whether or not your story will engage the reader throughout, and whether your story is powerful enough to make the reader crave more.
  • C.A.R.E. to make your book so good that it leads to word-of-mouth recommendations.
  • Just C.A.R.E.

This works beyond writing books. How selfless do you write for social media? How selfless or selfish is your blog, for example? Is it meeting the needs of actual readers?

#WriteWithCare

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Fun with English

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

FUN WITH ENGLISH

Language can seem funny sometimes.

§

Did you know that left can be right?

Left is right when right is dead wrong.

On what side of your body is your heart?

Left is right. Right is incorrect.

§

Similarly, wrong can be right.

Wrong is sometimes correct.

What’s a synonym for injustice?

Wrong is a correct answer. Right is dead wrong.

§

Even the word literal can’t always be taken literally.

Sometimes, we use literally to mean figuratively.

I’m hungry enough to eat an elephant.

Literally! (Just not in the literal sense…)

§

I is speaking with poor grammar, right?

You can’t say, “I is.” It has to be, “I am.”

But check this out: I is a pronoun.

Find the mistake in that.

§

Everything is something.

Nothing is something.

If A=C and B=C, then A=B, right?

So everything is nothing! (Not quite.)

§

I can be here and there at the same time.

I think of myself as being here.

You think of me as being there.

So I am both here and there; it’s all relative.

§

If you don’t have anything, you have naught.

The number zero is called the nought.

The opposite of having something, of course, is not.

It’s enough to tie your brain in a knot.

§

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Comments

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Kindle Unlimited Pages Read Rate for August, 2015

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

KINDLE UNLIMITED PAGES READ

Amazon paid $0.00514 per KENP read in August, 2015.

Compare that to the $0.005779 pages read rate in July, 2015.

That’s a drop of 11%. If you had 10,000 pages read in July, would earned $57.79, but for the same 10,000 pages read in August, you only earned $51.40.

On the one hand, an 11% drop is significant, but on the other hand, unless you had a million pages read through Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime, that 11% doesn’t amount to a whole lot.

And if you had a million pages read, you’re thriving in the program (compared to most authors).

But the concern really isn’t over one drop in the payout of 11%.

The concern extends beyond that. 11% is a pretty sizable change. It’s not a small fluctuation.

So one concern is stability.

If it drops 11% in August, another 11% in September, another 11% in October, and so on, that would really add up.

Since these are the early days of KENP, we don’t have much data to go on. We don’t yet have a pattern of KENP payouts established to lend us a feeling of stability.

What we really need is more data. But authors also want to make sound decisions now. And it will take a few months to get solid data.

I expected the pages read rate to drop toward $0.0050. What I didn’t expect is for it to jump straight there in one fell swoop.

And hence stability is in question.

But I think it’s premature to run for the hills.

One drop of 11% isn’t too much for me. Maybe stability will be there. I need a few months’ more data to assess this.

If it levels off around $0.0050, that will be what I had been expecting anyhow; it will just have gotten there faster than I was predicting.

If it drops even below $0.0050, the question will be how much below. What’s your magic number, where if it goes below that, you feel like KDP Select isn’t worth it? This magic number will be different for everyone, but it’s worth thinking about. We’re not near my magic number yet.

And what’s your backup plan for the worst-case scenario? It wouldn’t hurt to sketch out a backup plan and store it in a safe place. If you’re not below your magic number, I wouldn’t initiate the backup plan yet. But it’s smart to have a plan in mind, just in case.

I feel I’ve given too much attention to this lone 11% drop. Who knows what next month will bring? We don’t have enough data yet to see a pattern emerge.

POSITIVE INDICATORS

But there are other positive indicators that may help offset that 11% drop. Let’s look at a few of these.

GLOBAL FUND STABILITY

The KDP Select Global Fund is suddenly more stable than ever.

It was approximately $11M for May, June, July, and now $11.8M in August.

It’s starting at $11M for September.

They used to commit a mere $3M to the pot, and then raise it to $8M or more.

Now they commit to $11M on a regular basis.

So while the pages read rate may have dropped 11%, the KDP Select Global Fund has been very stable, more stable than ever.

KINDLE UNLIMITED IS THRIVING

KDP Select authors are earning a combined $10M per month just from KENP read.

Amazon has paid out over $100M in royalties just for KDP Select borrows in 2015.

Approximately 2 billion pages of KDP Select books are read through Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime per month.

That’s a huge readership. And it’s been a consistent readership (if anything, it appears to be growing).

And this readership supports indie books. Not every indie book, but the top KDP Select books are thriving in Kindle Unlimited.

Most of these readers are reluctant to buy books any other way.

AMAZON PAID MORE ROYALTIES OVERALL

Although the per-page rate dropped from $0.005779 to $0.00514, the KDP Select Global Fund rose from $11.5M to $11.8M.

Amazon paid $300,000 more in KDP Select royalties in August than they paid in July.

Overall, KDP Select authors earned more than ever.

So although they paid 11% less per page, there were more than enough additional pages read to compensate overall, enough such that Amazon actually paid more money in royalties overall.

Either there were (A) more Kindle Unlimited subscribers or (B) Kindle Unlimited customers are reading more than usual.

Either way, in general, KDP Select books benefited from this additional reading and the extra $300,000 paid in KDP Select royalties in August compared to July.

MORE BOOKS IN KINDLE UNLIMITED

Another sign that the program is thriving is that the number of books in Kindle Unlimited steadily rises.

Even through the new Kindle Unlimited 2.0.

Even through the 11% drop in the per-page rate.

The number of books in Kindle Unlimited keeps climbing.

It’s up to 1.1M presently. It was about 1M just a few months ago, but despite the new program and even the drop in the per-page rate in August, still 100,000 more books have added in the past few months than have dropped out.

127,000 books were added to Kindle Unlimited in the past 90 days. Whereas only about 27,000 have dropped out during this same time. For every book that has dropped out, 4 more were added in.

44,000 books were added just in the last 30 days. The number of books added to Kindle Unlimited each month keeps rising.

There is plenty of content for customers, and plenty of new content each month.

The top KDP Select books are thriving with millions of pages read per month, and the customers enjoying those top books want more top books to read. And those authors feel motivated to write more similar books. And other authors want to become KDP Select All-Stars, so they’re working to try to please Kindle Unlimited customers.

Many books benefited from the extra pages read and higher KDP Select Global Fund for August.

For many books, overall, this made August better than July, even though the per-page rate dropped.

WHAT IF YOUR BOOK DIDN’T BENEFIT?

If your book didn’t benefit from the extra pages read and the higher KDP Select Global Fund, there are a number of possible reasons:

  • There are many complicating factors involved in a book’s sales. Most books go through sales slumps at some time all on their own. If your book’s sales slumped in August, it’s quite possible that it had nothing to do with Kindle Unlimited. In fact, more pages were read through Kindle Unlimited than ever, and the payout was $300,000 more than in July.
  • August is typically a slow season for very many books. If your book’s sales slumped in August, it may just be a seasonal effect. The interesting thing is that more pages were read in Kindle Unlimited in August, even though sales often slump in August. Overall, this seasonal effect didn’t impact KDP Select borrows (although it surely did for some KDP Select books, overall there were more pages read in August than July).
  • Many authors changed their publishing and marketing strategies when Kindle Unlimited 2.0 rolled out. Many authors believed that Kindle Unlimited 1.0 favored short books, and now many authors believe that Kindle Unlimited 2.0 favors long books. What Kindle Unlimited 2.0 favors is reader engagement. As many other authors adjust their marketing strategies, that impacts other books.

Here are a few proactive ideas:

  • Marketing, of course. For a book that has appealing content, the trick is to get more customers to learn about your book. Learn free and low-cost marketing strategies, and try them out.
  • Marketability is another factor. Are you writing the kinds of books that appeal to Kindle Unlimited customers? Are the cover, blurb, and Look Inside helping to close sales? If so, your book is more likely to benefit from KDP Select borrows in addition to sales, and those borrows can help your sales rank.
  • Are you making the most of Kindle Countdown Deals? Just scheduling the promotion isn’t apt to be as effective as searching out websites that can help you promote the Countdown Deal.
  • Are you using AMS wisely? Most authors tend to overbid. The safer route is to bid very low, wait a few days, raise your bid only slightly if necessary, wait a few more days, and use patience and frivolity to your advantage. It may take a month or more to generate significant activity, but it’s less risky that way. Also, once you have several similar books out, with good marketability, that improves your prospects for advertising success.
  • Personal interactions can go a long way. When you interact with your target audience, a personal interaction is more likely to inspire a sale during a slow period, and it’s also more likely to lead to a review. Get a few sales in a slow period and it can help you rebound.
  • Write more books. And do some research to see what kinds of books are selling. Which are a good fit for you to write. For which customers are likely to support indie books.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE

Is the grass greener in KDP Select or outside of it?

That’s a good question, and it may depend in part on the particular book, as well as the marketing capabilities of the author.

If you can build a strong following all on your own, you stand better prospects of growing a readership outside of KDP Select. But it’s not easy to do.

Another big factor is sales momentum.

If you start in KDP Select, once you get initial borrows and sales, you have sales momentum. Each Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime borrow helps your sales rank.

If you now opt out of KDP Select, you lose that benefit on sales rank. You lose your momentum.

Sales momentum is really tough to build. Once you have it, you don’t want to lose it. But you lose part of it when you switch to the other side.

Similarly, if you have sales momentum on several sites and join KDP Select, you lose it on those other sites.

Kindle Unlimited has a huge readership (2 billion pages read per month of KDP Select), which supports very many indie books (through KDP Select).

This audience can potentially benefit new authors. (But it takes a marketable book and marketing to improve your chances.)

Hence, it’s appealing to start out in KDP Select.

You can opt out after 90 days (but you must uncheck the auto-renewal box to do this successfully). But you risk losing that sales momentum.

Unless, of course, you hardly have any sales to speak of. But Kindle is the main market. If you hardly have any sales to speak of, the sales aren’t likely to be found elsewhere. But it can happen, and you might feel like there is nothing to lose in trying. (The real problem may be with the marketability of the book, or with marketing.)

One intriguing idea floating around is to write multiple series (or similar books) under multiple pen names, and rotate one (or more) of these series in and out of KDP Select. One idea behind this is diversification, and to try to reach customers on the other side of the fence.

But the risk in this strategy is that rotating a title in or out of KDP Select will hurt sales momentum.

It is wise to have a backup plan in place. But I wouldn’t do anything to risk hurting sales momentum unless and until the per-page rate goes below your magic number.

I’M STILL IN

KDP Select has been good to me.

I have pages read, but where I’ve seen the largest increases are (A) Kindle sales and (B) paperback sales.

I have no doubt that this is largely due to KDP Select.

First, all those KDP Select borrows improve my sales ranks.

Secondly, I’ve learned how to make effective use of AMS. It took a couple of months of overbidding to develop my low-bid strategy, and to refine my targeting, and it’s begun to pay dividends.

Not every one of my books has benefited (nor are they all in ‘my’ name), but overall my Kindle sales and paperback sales have improved.

Not all authors are thriving in KDP Select. But many are, and the potential is there.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Puzzle Post: Three Words You Should Never Say…?

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

PUZZLE POST

What three words should you never say?

Let me clarify: You should never say these three words in succession.

It’s been a while since I’ve made a puzzle post.

I put some lines of text here.

To try to create some space between the puzzle…

…and the answer.

So if you don’t want to bump into the answer…

SPOILER ALERT

…then scroll back up until you’re ready.

🙂

HISTORY

There is a little history to this puzzle. Let me describe this to provide a little extra space between the puzzle and the answer.

Maybe it will also provide a bit of a hint, if you want one.

When I was in junior high school, one of our teachers preached to us to never say these words.

Unfortunately, it was natural for us to say these words.

Quite often.

So we heard his admonishment regularly.

And it worked. I remember it today whenever I hear these three words.

It’s a very common expression.

ANSWER

Ready or not, here comes the answer.

Perhaps with a bit of irony.

If you felt that you couldn’t figure it out, you probably did.

Did you find yourself thinking, “I don’t know”?

If so, then by not knowing, you actually solved the puzzle.

The answer is: I don’t know.

Those are the three words you should never say.

WHY NOT?

Why should you never say, “I don’t know”?

Let me first explain what the answer isn’t. It doesn’t mean you should know the answer to every question. That would be impossible.

Sure, you should strive to be well-prepared so that you don’t find yourself thinking, “I don’t know,” when your credibility is at stake.

But the reason that you should never say, “I don’t know,” goes much deeper.

These are wasted words. I don’t know. If you don’t answer the question directly, it’s obvious that you don’t know.

It’s not helping the inquirer advance toward a solution.

Be resourceful. Think of ways to help. Consider how to go about finding the answer. This kind of thinking is productive. Thinking, “I don’t know,” isn’t productive.

Suppose you have a problem and you really need help finding the solution. But you’re pretty sure nobody you know has the answer. Who will you ask for help?

The kind of person who always has helpful advice, even when he or she doesn’t know the answer. That’s who.

Not the kind of person who instinctively answers, “I don’t know.”

It’s about credibility, branding your reputation, feeling self-confident, improving your resourcefulness.

These are all valuable skills. If you avoid those three words, “I don’t know,” it helps you build these valuable skills.

MY NEW PUZZLE BOOK

Do you enjoy puzzles?

I do. I love puzzles, especially math puzzles.

So it’s no surprise that I have a new book of math puzzles, the latest in my Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks.

It includes quite a variety, such as visual puzzles, prime numbers, the Fibonacci series, and much more. It starts out easy and the challenge grows steadily.

Available both in print and for Kindle. Cover designed by Melissa Stevens at theillustratedauthor.net.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Research & its Value for all Authors

Image from Shutterstock

Image from Shutterstock

RESEARCH FOR AUTHORS

Every author can benefit from research in multiple ways.

Research isn’t just for nonfiction authors. It’s not just for the content of the book.

There are many kinds of research relevant for authors, including:

  • Researching the mechanics of grammar or style, or the art of storytelling, for example.
  • Researching historical, geographic, language, or other elements relevant to your plot.
  • Researching how people react to names, places, and ideas you’re thinking about using in your book.
  • Researching how beta readers react to your story.
  • Researching the potential market for your book concept.
  • Researching reader expectations for your genre.
  • Researching helpful marketing strategies.
  • Researching publication tips, like writing the blurb or designing the cover.
  • And, of course, researching content for nonfiction, educational books, or historical fiction.

Here are some examples of how research can help:

  • Any kind of research can be a helpful marketing point.
  • It demonstrates your motivation to write your book well.
  • Character sketches, idea bubbles, maps, etc. make for nice bonus material on your website.
  • Writing-related research helps show readers that a great deal of work goes into preparing a book.
  • It helps you develop a professional image as an author.
  • Research helps strengthen your author biography.
  • It gives you useful content to post on your blog or author website.
  • Bits and pieces of research here and there can help you build buzz or create a content-rich website.

Many of the things writers already do and take for granted can be presented as a form of research. And when presented as research, they can make a favorable impression upon potential readers.

PERCEPTION

The last fantasy and sci-fi novels that I read were immediately followed by about the author sections, and in each case the author section each author mentioned a great deal of research that had gone into preparing the book.

In one case (Jeff Wheeler’s Legends of Muirwood), even though it was a fantasy novel, I was intrigued to learn that the basis for much of the magic in the book related to Medieval Europe. It wasn’t just random. Most chapters of the book begin with a fictional “quote,” while the author’s note at the back begins by describing the author’s passion for collecting quotes.

In the other case, (Bob Mayer’s Area 51 series) the author had blended actual events with fiction. The author also demonstrated how the military component has authenticity and described his obsession with mythology.

Reading about how these authors had done their homework just after I finished reading their books:

  • It made me more eager to check out the next book in the series.
  • It made it easier for me to recommend their books to others.
  • It left a favorable impression just as I was about to head over and review the book.

Does your book involve other cities? Don’t you have to research the layout of the city? Don’t you have to research the culture, lingo, and accents?

Does your book involve a military component? Don’t you have to research the military? Don’t you have to research the technology?

How do readers know if your book is realistic? Showing that you did your homework helps. It can also help inspire reader interest.

Showing that you’ve done your research also helps to create a positive perception about you and your book. It helps you build a strong brand as an author.

Marketing that perception helps you play to your strengths. Have you done anything to master the art of writing or storytelling? Do you have firsthand experience regarding the setting of your book? Do you have any expertise relevant to any of the subjects involved of your book? If you do, it may pique a reader’s interest.

MARKETABILITY

Some research can help you make your book more marketable:

  • Keyword research. Visit Amazon.com and start typing keywords into the search field. You’ll see popular searches. Note that the results are different depending on whether you search within all departments, books, the Kindle store, a category, or a subcategory, for example. Results are also different for searches on Kindle devices. You should try a variety of possibilities. You want keywords that are specific (to help you stand out better), popular (so they get searched for), and highly relevant for your book (so you don’t get overlooked in search results).
  • What to write. Search for books that you might be a good fit to write. See what’s selling, what’s not. See if the market’s already flooded, or if there is a need that you can fill.
  • Packaging ideas. When you search for similar books, you come across a variety of covers and blurbs. These can help you get ideas (but don’t be a copycat), and can help you gauge what customers expect to see (though there isn’t just one kind of cover that signifies a particular genre). Follow other authors and you can learn some of their marketing ideas.
  • Content expectations. Read similar books to learn what readers are accustomed to in your subgenre (that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do the same; but there are some features that most readers of a subgenre strongly want, so that can be helpful to know).

MY RESEARCH

I publish nonfiction, including math and science books. My background is physics, which I teach. I do all sorts of research for my books.

But, as you may know, I also have a sci-fi series that I’m working on. I’m in the beginning stages, and as I come across publishing decisions that I must make—like research—I’m sharing these experiences on my blog (with all the other kinds of posts that ordinarily write here). The image that I included with this post gives a subtle visual clue (though it will be set in modern times).

I’m doing much research to help write my series, such as:

  • Researching actual scientific data that may relate to extraterrestrial visitations of earth (in the past or present). Puma Punku in Bolivia, for example, has some fascinating finds. Most of such “evidence” isn’t necessarily “conclusive,” but can seem compelling and I find it fascinating. I want to know what my audience might know, and I want to make possible connections (after all, it’s fiction) that seem both deep and plausible.
  • Researching differences between writing fiction and nonfiction. I’ve been writing nonfiction avidly; obviously, fiction is quite different. I read a ton of fiction, especially sci-fi, fantasy, and classics, which will help. But writing isn’t quite the same as reading. For example, if there is a fight in my novel, I’ll need to describe the fight scene. (Fantasy author Charles Yallowitz gave me a great suggestion for this: Research some choreography.)
  • Researching sci-fi books in my subgenre that my readers are likely to be familiar with. I’ve already read some, but I’ve found several others. It’s kind of cool that the series that I’m writing is helping to fuel my own reading list.
  • And much more. I’ll save much of my research, including the details. It’s not just for writing the series, but much of it also figures into my marketing plans. You’ll see if you follow along.

CHANCE TO WIN 4-BOOKS-IN-1 ON SELF-PUBLISHING

You can win my 4-books-in-1 paperback book on Self-Publishing with Amazon.

This is an Amazon Giveaway hosted by Amazon. If you win, Amazon will fulfill the order and ship your prize directly to you. Click the following link for your chance to win. Every 300th entrant will win. Up to two winners.

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/3f7daee9a66b9548

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Mar 25, 2015 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See the Official Rules at http://amzn.to/GArules.

READING SURVEY

If you haven’t already done so, please participate in a survey on how people read books. The more participation we get, the more meaningful the results will be.

Here is one question, for your convenience. (If you’ve already answered this before, please don’t answer it a second time.)

You can find more questions here:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/surveys

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Comments

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What Should You Write about? (Topic & Genre)

Images from Shutterstock

Images from Shutterstock

WHAT SHOULD YOU WRITE ABOUT?

When you decide to write a book, you’re faced with important decisions:

  • Which genre should you choose? Which subgenre?
  • What topic should you write about within that subgenre?
  • What features will your story have?

But there are other important considerations that go along with these, which are often overlooked:

  • Is there an audience for what I really want to write about?
  • Could I attract more readers by writing about something slightly different?
  • What are my marketing assets?

You’re not the only person who will read your book, right? At least you hope not!

So if you only write what you want to read, doesn’t that seem somewhat selfish?

You’re a reader, too, of course, which may help you, as a writer, develop a style and feel for how to write.

The challenge is to find the right balance.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR GENRE & TOPIC

Here are factors to consider when choosing your genre and topic:

  • Familiarity: Which kinds of books have you read? The more experience you have with the subgenre, the more you’ll be aware of readers’ expectations.
  • Ability: In which subgenres are you best equipped to write? Look at this both in terms of ability and marketing.
  • Knowledge: On which relevant topics, relevant for your subgenre, are you knowledgeable? Marketing is a factor here, too.
  • Research: You should do research for your work of fiction, and this can be very handy when it comes to marketing.
  • Assessment: What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing? when it comes to relevant content knowledge?
  • Goals: What are your writing goals? Authors with vastly different goals should approach this decision somewhat differently.
  • Receptiveness: How receptive will the target audience be to you as a new author? If self-publishing, you also want an audience that will be receptive to indie books.

One of my coming posts will be on the topic of researching your fiction book, with specific ideas for how to take advantage of this in your marketing. (Stay tuned.)

There are many advantages to thinking about marketing in the beginning, and not as an afterthought.

I’m not saying that you should write for money.

I am saying that you should think about how you will attract readers when you’re beginning your project, not after it’s done.

What if you could be helping to create interest in your book while you’re still writing it? That can pay big dividends when you’re ready to launch your book.

What if you could make a small change to your approach to writing that may greatly enhance your readership? If you knew this, would you consider it?

You can merge your marketing with your writing in small ways, without really imposing a business sense on the art of writing. In coming posts on the subject of fiction writing, I’ll reveal ways to do this.

WRITING GOALS

Writers can have a variety of goals when they proceed to write a book:

  • Write leisurely as a hobby.
  • Write to earn good money.
  • Write to hone the craft of writing.
  • Write to experiment with a new form of writing.
  • Write to please a specific audience.
  • Write to prove themselves.
  • Write to get published.
  • Write to become famous.
  • Write to land a movie deal.

Chances are that you have more than one goal from this list. If so, you’ll have to decide how they weigh in importance to you.

(You may also have a goal that isn’t on my list.)

What you should write about obviously depends, in part, on your goals.

EXAMPLE

You may recall that in a previous post I announced that I would be writing a work of fiction. (Although I’ve written and published several nonfiction books, this will be my first novel.)

Not only that, but I will periodically blog about the decisions that I make as I come across them.

I’m presently deciding what to write about, so today I will use my current project as an example.

Writing is both an art and a craft, and that’s the way I view it when I sit down to write. But as I hope to show you, it’s possible to also consider marketing to some extent early on in the writing process, without sacrificing the artistic feeling for business. And these little considerations along the way can really help you share your passion with readers effectively down the road.

Choosing the Genre

I read many sci-fi and fantasy books. I’m familiar with these genres as a reader.

Both have significant target audiences, and a healthy percentage of that has shown willingness to support indie authors and even new authors. (I’m far from a new author, but I am new to publishing fiction.)

I plan to write a series, and this appears to be quite doable in these genres.

My background in physics lends itself more naturally to science fiction.

I also have specific plans for how to tie my research on the subject into marketing.

So my first fictional work will be a science fiction novel. Which will turn into a series.

(Each volume will be a full-length book with a complete story.)

Choosing the Topic

I want the story to plausibly obey the known laws of physics. As a physicist, I’m not willing to sacrifice this point.

After much thought, I’ve decided that the best way to do this is for the story to be set here on earth.

One of my goals is for the reader to feel like the story could really happen. Tomorrow. I want it to seem so real it’s compelling. You could be part of this story.

I have a very specific topic in mind, but I don’t want to reveal too much at this point.

As you write your story, you want to start creating interest in your book, but you don’t want to give too much away. It’s a tough balancing act.

For now, I will just say that the book will be set in the present day, and it will involve aliens to some extent.

Strengths & Weaknesses

I count my background in physics as relevant to science fiction, so I feel that can be a marketing strength.

So is my familiarity with both the genre and the content that I have in mind. I also have specific research plans.

Two of the story’s strengths will include curiosity and suspense. The topic will feature things many of us would love to know more about, so curiosity will be a natural ingredient. My intention is for the plot to eventually reveal something really big. Like, “That’s huge!” and “I can’t believe it!” So there will also be suspense.

One of my writing challenges will be that I’ve become accustomed to writing nonfiction for some time, while fiction is a somewhat different craft. For one, fiction includes a much wider variety of adjectives and verbs, and strong emotional elements that often don’t appear in nonfiction writing. I’m quite familiar with reading fiction, and I’ve studied the craft of writing fiction—and I have written shorter pieces of fiction in the past. These things should help, but when I start the writing, these are some of the challenges that I’ll face.

Target Audience

I find that it’s helpful to know who my audience is when I’m writing the book. And of course this will be helpful for the marketing, too. And the marketing should begin when you start writing the book, not after it’s published.

One of my target audiences is the slice of sci-fi readers interested in a present-day story that takes place on earth, which involves aliens.

But I also have a significant secondary audience: UFO enthusiasts and people who are curious about the possible existence of other forms of intelligent life in our universe. There are millions of people in this secondary group, as shown in the popular t.v. series Ancient Aliens which first appeared on the History channel.

Marketing Potential

This is a story that I will really enjoy writing, which is important.

But one thing that increases my motivation to write this story is the potential to share it with others.

One step involves researching the subgenre to check that there is a target audience for your story. Doing this also helps you learn the expectations of your target audience so you can better meet their needs.

Another step is seeing how your background or experience may be relevant when it comes to marketing.

And research. Research for your fiction book can serve as a valuable marketing tool. I’ve already identified material that I will read, watch, and study that will help me perfect the content. More than that, this research will also be helpful when it comes to marketing. One of my coming posts will show you specific ways that you can do research for your novel and use it as an effective marketing tool.

Also, I will write an entire series. (Each volume will be a self-contained, full-length novel.) In genres where series can work well, series carry some marketing benefits. There are a few disadvantages, too, and some challenges, but if you can pull off the series well, the pros can outweigh the cons.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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How to Get 100,000 Views of Your BLOG (21 Blogging Tips)

Blogging Tips T

BLOG SUCCESSFULLY

I first began blogging actively on WordPress in December, 2012.

Only a little over 2 years, and my blog has reached 100,000 views and nearly 4,000 followers. My blog averages over 400 views per day presently, and the viewing frequency steadily accelerates.

If I can do it, you can, too. I believe it.

It’s not rocket science. (Just ignore the fact that I have a Ph.D. in physics. I didn’t use any physics to make my blog.)

In fact, I’m sharing my blogging ‘secrets’ today to help you do the same.

It’s not just me. I meet many other WordPress bloggers with many more views and followers than I have.

If you’re not there yet, don’t worry. You can get there, too.

I’ve created multiple blogs and webpages with WordPress, BlogSpot, GoDaddy, etc. By far my most successful blog or webpage is this WordPress blog. We’re fortunate that WordPress helps with visibility in search results. I find that the WordPress community is also very helpful, interactive, and positive. It’s a great place to be.

WORDPRESS BLOGGING TIPS

Here are 21 simple tips for better blogging at WordPress.

At the end of this article, I also reveal my two best tips for better blog traffic, and discuss those two tips in detail.

1 Readability

You can’t afford to lose any potential readers, right? They’re so hard to come by.

So your blog needs to be as readable as possible.

Black text on white is easiest to read. Use this for body text.

2 Skimmability

People read books. But they skim blogs.

Use headings, bullets, boldface, color, quote blocks, indents, images, etc. to make your blog skim-friendly.

Help the reader identify main points and see which parts of the article have relevant content.

3 Who Are You?

Setup your Gravatar. Check it periodically to ensure that it’s current.

Look for Users on either your dashboard or on My Sites.

Manage your photo through the Gravatar service. This will be your visual brand when you comment, for example.

Complete your profile. Be sure to add other links. For example, authors might add an Amazon Author Central page and a Goodreads page.

4 Publicize

Look for Settings > Sharing from your dashboard (click WP Admin from My Sites).

Add your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social media sites here. This will allow you to feed your WordPress blog directly to those sites.

(But check out my previous article about how Amazon uses Facebook and Twitter, and also check out the comments section in that post. That only takes a minute and it’s a better way.)

5 Sharing

More important, add the sharing buttons in Settings > Sharing.

This allows people who read your articles to share them via Twitter, Facebook, etc.

(If you include a hashtag in your title here at WordPress, that will help if anyone shares your post on Twitter.)

Remember to add the Print and Email options. Some people who read blogs actually like to print the articles out.

Be sure to scroll down and check the boxes for the posts and pages where you want these buttons to show.

6 Twitter & Facebook Widgets

Here is a little secret: Your Twitter and Facebook following adds to your WordPress following, so they actually help make your blog seem a little more popular than it really is.

Go to Appearance > Widgets from your dashboard.

Add the Twitter Timeline and the Facebook Like Box. Just drag them over to a sidebar. Then click the dropdown arrow to open a menu and customize them.

7 Interaction

Let your readers like your page, comment on your page, and perhaps even reblog your posts.

The likes and comments make your blog appear more interactive, and help your page stay fresh longer.

Some people try to look “pro” by removing the likes. The idea is that if there are a mere 13 likes on a post, you’re not really so popular, huh?

Who are we trying to fool? If I don’t even see the like button as an option, my first thought is that the number of likes must be really tiny.

Or, in some cases, the idea may be to encourage Facebook interaction instead. Ah, but I loathe to have to login with so many different accounts. Look, I’m already here with my Gravatar. Let me use that.

Make it simple, encourage interaction. It’s hard to get, so take what you can get.

Turn likes and reblogs on under Settings > Sharing and discussion options under Settings > Discussion.

8 Can Your Spam

Nobody wants to see that junk on your blog.

Go to Settings > Discussion to adjust comment permission settings.

I like the option where a previously approved commenter can comment again another day.

Do you really want your most loyal followers to be pending moderation? No.

But you don’t want to give the spammers a free reign either, so it’s a good idea to manually approve those who are new to your blog.

But then you better remember to check for comments that need to be approved. Don’t make them wait in limbo for days.

9 Tags & Categories

Choose tags and categories for each post. Choose just a few of each.

Specific tags likely to actually be searched for are best.

Categories should be somewhat broader than tags, but still, specific is better.

Example: I recently wrote some articles on Amazon’s new advertising tool for KDP Select authors.

Good categories may include Amazon, KDP Select, and advertising, with more specific tags of advertise on Amazon, KDP Select advertising, and Amazon Marketing Services.

Narrower tags are better. Suppose someone is searching for the keyword “advertising” on Google. My post specifically on advertising books through KDP Select isn’t going to be relevant for most searches on “advertising,” so what’s the point of that broad tag? My specific tags make this more relevant for search engines.

Categories can be somewhat broader. While “advertising” may be too broad for use as a tag, if I have other posts in the category of “advertising,” then search engines can see how relevant my website overall is to that topic.

It’s more effective to have just a few categories and a few specific tags. Piling these on or using broad tags doesn’t help.

Tip: I start typing searches at a search engine, and it pulls up popular matches as I search. You can get more detailed analysis from Google, for example, but this is good enough for me. I want a specific tag that’s actually searched for enough to show as a popular match, but not so general as to be too popular for me to ever achieve reasonable visibility.

10 Search Engine Visibility

The tags that you add should naturally fit into your article. If indeed they are relevant, it should be natural to work them into the text and headings.

Don’t overdo it. Google will smell a rat. Don’t just string keywords together. That will be very obvious, not only to Google but to your readers, too.

Your article needs to read well, but also signify what the content is about.

11 Branding & Straying

You want to develop your own brand as a blogger. This way, readers know what to expect in the way of content from you. And as your website begins to attract visitors through search engines, you want those search terms to be relevant to your blog.

But you don’t want to post 100% within the same topic, even if it’s a broad topic. It’s okay to write occasionally about other things, or to post something more personal and show that you’re human. You don’t have to give out personal info, but you might once in a blue moon relate an experience. You can make your blog a little personal without giving away personal info.

A little variety is actually good. You may actually attract more followers that way. You can balance some variety.

But you want your brand to be clear through the variety.

When I browse through my WordPress reader, I see some posts and the style of the photo or the style of the beginning clearly reveals whose blog it is. Those blogs have a definite brand in terms of appearance or style. Brand recognition. But you also want the content of your brand to show through, even if your blog has some variety.

If you want referrals, recommendations, and links to your home page, it should be clear what people should expect from your blog. What is your brand? No, don’t tell it. Show it.

12 Don’t Lose Traffic

Every extra click loses internet travelers along the way.

If it takes 2 clicks to reach your website instead of 1, you’ll lose traffic.

In Settings > Reading, you can choose to display the full article or a summary.

If you choose summary, this creates an extra click that some followers must click to reach your article from the WordPress reader.

(Some know that they can get there in 1 click. But those hoping to read your post in the reader will waste a click realizing that wasn’t possible.)

Some won’t make the trip. It’s just an internet fact.

But the WordPress stats can be misleading.

If you switch from showing the full article to showing a summary, your view stats may actually increase. But this can be misleading.

Here’s what might happen. Someone who likes your blog might add your home page to their Favorites toolbar. So they visit your home page to read your articles. If you’re showing the full article, they can read 5 articles on your home page without any clicks at all. They read 5 articles, but you only get 1 view.

Now you switch to showing only a summary. Now this reader visits your home page, but has to click the Read More link 5 separate times to view those 5 articles. Suddenly, your view stats go up. But really, your pages aren’t being viewed more than they had been. It’s just counting different now that someone has to click the link to read the rest of the article.

But this may be a bad thing, forcing those clicks to up your views. Because some people won’t make those clicks. Some people who could have read 5 articles without a single click now won’t read 1.

However, there is another consideration: upload time. Let’s say that you have a lot of high-resolution images in your posts, most of which would show after the Read More point. This could slow down the load time of your home page. Then people might visit your blog and close it out because it takes too long to load. In this case, switching to summary may help more than it hurts. You have to weigh the pros and cons (and maybe test your website out from several different computers and devices).

13 Writing

If you use the WordPress.com dashboard and if you write in Visual mode instead of Text (for HTML)—find the option at the top right when you’re writing the post—click the Toggle Toolbar icon at the top right of the icons on the top toolbar to open up other options, including an option to change from Paragraph to Headers, change the font color, indent a block, or insert a special character, for example.

WP Toolbar

(Can you imagine not knowing that these other options are available?)

Use the headings (with the icon in Visual, or using HTML in Text) for headings in your blog post. The words in your headings, or in the text divided by the headings, may help to show search engines how your content is organized, for example. Headings also aid in skimming versus reading.

14 Images

You have many options when it comes to images, even without using HTML, just with the Visual menu writing a post at WordPress.com.

Click the Add Media button. You can upload a file, or insert an image from a url, which lets you display an image from another site (but check the image use guidelines first). Find the image, right-click, and copy image location. The link often ends with .jpg or .png, for example, when you paste it in. This may not work with images on some sites, like Facebook.

If you’re not using an image that you made yourself, check the image use guidelines for that image. You don’t want to be in violation of content theft.

When linking to an image through an image url, click the button for alignment. You can also link the image to a website with the bottom option.

For example, you can find your book on Amazon, copy the image url (right-click the image and copy image location), paste it in when adding an image url at WordPress, then copy the url of the book’s product page at Amazon and link to that. When someone clicks on your thumbnail in your post, it will then take the reader to your product page.

You probably don’t want to feature your own book (or other product or service) visually at the end of every post. You don’t even need to link to your book’s product page in every post. You could use your sidebar to feature your book (or author page). Look: Your followers already know about your book. You don’t need to shove your book in their face constantly. People finding your blog for the first time will see your sidebar and discover your book that way. I do mention one of my books in plain text at the end of each post, which has some branding value, and helps for those visitors who ignore your sidebar.

When adding your own image, you can set the size, edit the image in WordPress, add a caption, etc. It pays to explore your options.

Returning to the issue of content theft, some immensely popular blogs, especially those that are image rich and feature incredible images, often don’t allow reblogs. If someone reblogs your post, your images show up in their media history at WordPress. (Crazy, huh? Maybe it’s so that those images will stay on their reblog even if your blog goes south… I dunno.) But unless your images really are such a prized possession, you may need the reblogs if you can get them. At least, post a notice regarding copyright and image use on your sidebar or at the end of your posts. (It doesn’t prevent abuse, but at least you’re asserting your rights.)

15 Don’t Play Hard to Get

Go to Appearance > Widgets from your dashboard.

Add the Follow button to your sidebar. Choose Follow Blog: Follow Blog via Email. (If you choose to show your followers, it will include Twitter and Facebook followers if you add these through sidebars, too.)

Some people prefer to follow by email, so include this as an option. WordPress users will also see a Follow button at the top of the page to add your blog feed to their reader. For others, you can also add the RSS Links button to your sidebar, so they can subscribe to your blog feed.

Here’s one benefit of the follow by email option. Once people follow hundreds of bloggers, their WordPress reader becomes jam-packed. They have to be really selective to keep up with those posts, or just read the most recent posts. It just becomes too much.

So how do you, as a reader, following hundreds of blogs, make sure that you read 100% of the posts by your favorite bloggers? The answer is simple: Follow your favorite bloggers by email.

Follow many blogs in your WordPress reader, but only your favorites by email. (Actually, you can do both for a given blog, and I believe it will count you as two followers.)

Also, follow yourself! Not for the stats. But this way you can see how your own blog looks in the WordPress reader and in email. Follow yourself both ways.

But don’t like your own posts. That would be vain. 🙂

16 Why Are my Main Headings in CAPS?

I now begin all of my posts with an image followed by a heading (using h2) in CAPS.

For example, this post begins with the heading, BLOG SUCCESSFULLY.

Why is it in caps, instead of just capitalized like Blog Successfully?

That’s because your blog post looks different on your website, in the WordPress reader, when fed into your Author Central page, when fed into Goodreads, in the emails of those who follow by email, etc. When I put the headings in caps, the excerpt for my post looks okay across the board, but if I just capitalize it, I’m not happy with how the excerpt looks in some cases.

On my website, my heading and the first paragraph show up on different lines.

However, when my blog feeds into my Author Central page, the heading and first paragraph run together.

So if I don’t use caps, here’s how my excerpt would look to shoppers viewing my author page:

Blog Successfully I first began blogging actively on WordPress in December, 2012. Only a little over 2 years…

It looks grammatically incorrect. What kind of IDIOT (that would be me!) starts a sentence with, “Blog Successfully I first began blogging…”

So in an effort not to look like a fool, I put my headings in caps. Here’s how it looks at Author Central with that subtle change:

BLOG SUCCESSFULLY I first began blogging actively on WordPress in December, 2012. Only a little over 2 years…

Still not perfect in this case (it works better when the first word has more than one letter), but the caps provide some helpful separation.

You don’t even have to start your post with a heading.

But you should see how your posts look everywhere they might be read and on different devices.

17 Feed Your Blog

I feed my WordPress blog into my Amazon Author Central page and into Goodreads.

This is easy with WordPress. Just take the url for your WordPress website and add /feed/ to it. For example, my blog is https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com, so my blog feed is https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/feed/. I just paste this feed url into the appropriate fields at Author Central and Goodreads.

My most successful website or blog is my FREE WordPress.com blog, which includes .wordpress. in the url. I actually own the domain http://chrismcmullen.com, housed by GoDaddy, but all the traffic is presently over here with the free WordPress site. Everybody and their uncle and their uncle’s uncle will tell you that it’s better to buy the domain (which I did, but for me, that’s a different author site than this one, with far less traffic).

(Certainly, that looks more professional, right? But I wonder. When I see a link I’m not familiar with, I’m reluctant to click on it. Sorry, but even if I know John Doe, I don’t want to go to JohnDoe dot com. There’s a lot of stuff floating around on the internet that I’d like to avoid. But when I see a url ending with .wordpress.com, I trust that site because I trust WordPress. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get your own domain. Remember, I have one, too. Just maybe it’s worth rethinking this “common knowledge” that it’s better to use your own domain than to have the “wordpress” in it.)

18 Blog vs. Website?

Some people think it’s more professional to have a website than a blog. But you know what? If you feed your blog into your home page, it keeps the content on your website fresh. Fresh content is good for search engines, right?

The truth is that a website can have a blog, and a blog can become much more of a website than just a blog.

I started out with just a blog, and now my website has several pages. But my homepage features my blog.

Remember, you don’t have to build Rome in a day. You can start out with a blog, and once in a blue moon you can add a page, and eventually you’ll have a professional site with both a blog and pages of helpful content.

What you really want is a content-rich hub that will attract your target audience. You want to attract search engine traffic with a content-rich website. But all those weekly (or so) blog articles that you post will become the content for your content-rich website, provided that you post relevant content sometimes. And that blog will keep your content-rich website fresh.

The other pages will also have helpful content, so that people will want to add your website to their Favorites and revisit your site periodically.

Content is king. See my BEST TIP #2 at the end of this article.

19 Your Image

Be professional. You can add a personal touch, and that’s a good thing, but still cast yourself as someone who behaves professionally.

Try to avoid stirring controversy where it’s not necessary.

Try to avoid using your blog for public complaints that might not seem professional, like authors complaining about reviews.

Remember that your blog is public, not private, and the internet has an elephant’s memory.

20 Why You?

There are many great blogs to read.

Many blog readers follow hundreds of blogs.

So… the post you’re writing right now… why should people read it?

No, don’t tell. Show.

The beginning should hook the reader. It should make the expectations clear. It should create interest; not give it away.

The supporting image should help attract interest, too.

A striking, relevant image can snap the reader alert, creating interest in your post.

Even after the reader visits your page and begins reading, there is no guarantee that the reader will stay.

So you must work to engage the reader throughout.

21 Back-up

You’d hate to blog for months, posting dozens of articles, to one day wake up and find it all gone.

So periodically back-up your blog.

It’s amazingly simple. And quick. I thought my blog was enormous and would take an eternity to download, but it just took a moment.

Go to Tools > Export. Then click export. Simply download a file and save it to your computer or jump drive (maybe both, just in case).

BEST TIP #1 PATIENCE

The first key is patience.

You start out with one post, no views, and no followers.

It can be agonizingly slow in the first few months. That’s normal.

I averaged over 400 views per day this week. But I was averaging in the single digits per day my first few months. It wasn’t until my 5th month of active blogging that I finally surpassed 300 views per month. I now average more views in 24 hours than I averaged in 30 days back then.

If you blog effectively, your stats can really accelerate months down the road.

The good news is that it often isn’t linear.

I remember those early days.

You do calculations like:

After 1 month of blogging, I have 200 views, 30 likes, and 10 followers.

At this rate, if I blog for 10 years, I’ll only have 24,000 views, 3600 views, and 1200 followers.

That wouldn’t be much to show for 10 years of hard work.

But it doesn’t work that way.

Why not?

  • As your following grows, so do your initial views.
  • As your following grows, you tend to get more reblogs, retweets, and Facebook shares.
  • As your following grows, the likes and comments make your newer posts appear more active.
  • As you write more posts, you improve your chances of generating search engine traffic.
  • It can take several weeks for your blog posts to gain visibility in search results.
  • As you write similar posts, this may help your visibility with search engines, too.
  • As you write similar posts, you develop a brand as a blogger.
  • As you mention your blog’s url in all of your other marketing (e.g. bookmarks, author page in your book), this slowly adds more traffic to your blog.

Hence, things tend to accelerate.

So don’t sweat the early numbers.

See if you can make the numbers grow from one month to another. Do this consistently, and you have great long-term potential. Be patient.

BEST TIP #2 CONTENT

Content is king.

You don’t have to write 5,000+ word posts. In fact, shorter may be better, say around 1,000 words.

It depends on what you’re writing. Some bloggers build much traffic posting a poem every few days. There are some photoblogs that mostly post an image a day that have impressive numbers. Posting an inspirational note every day can gather a following.

But who is your target audience? And what will attract that audience?

Look beyond the views, likes, and follows. But I’m not saying these numbers aren’t important. They are: Your active followers provide the interaction that you need for your blog to feel worthwhile. They provide the support your need to be patient and the feedback to help you improve. And their likes and comments make your content appear interactive when latecomers arrive to the scene.

But there is another highly significant number that can signify excellent long-term potential.

Look at the number of views you’re getting from search engines. Look for older posts to show in the list of your 10 most popular posts of the day. Look at the search terms used to find your blog.

If you write content-rich articles, WordPress gives you good prospects of building significant traffic from search engines.

Search engine traffic pulls in new people from your target audience (if you choose your content wisely). These are visitors who didn’t already know about you, your blog, or your products or services. Hundreds of visitors find my blog each day from search engines. You can do it, too.

In the beginning, you’ll have no search engine traffic. This starts out very slow and can take months to really gain traction.

It also takes good content, and a wise choice of tags and categories (see tips #9 & 10 above).

Once you get any regular search engine traffic to some of your posts, your blog views can accelerate tremendously in the coming months.

Study the posts that are generating search engine traffic and try to figure out what you did right. That will help you when you write future posts.

Without search engine traffic, you write a post, it receives several views and likes for a few days, and then that post drops off the map completely.

If that post later starts finding regular traffic in search engines, that post adds many more views to your blog over the course of a year than your most popular posts generate in their first week (unless you have the good fortune for a post to go absolutely viral).

If your content is good enough to generate search engine traffic, it will also be good enough when it’s fresh to help please and add to your following.

Focus on creating helpful content for your target audience, at least with some of your posts, and good things are likely to happen.

FREE RESOURCES

The WordPress help pages have plenty of helpful information.

Every blogger should check out One Cool Site’s Blogging Tips. This site is packed with valuable blogging tips for using WordPress effectively. I’ve learned much from this site.

http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com

If there is something specific you’d like to know about blogging at WordPress, try using Google to find your answer. Or try asking experienced bloggers. In my experience, WordPress is a helpful and friendly community, happy to share knowledge and tips.

Follow experienced and effective bloggers. You’ll probably learn some helpful tips seeing how they manage their blogs. Occasionally, bloggers even share their blogging tips right on their blogs.

LAST WORDS

Blog from your heart.

Write what you enjoy.

Enjoy what you write.

But also consider what’s effective and what your audience wants.

Because you’ll enjoy your blog more when you develop an active audience.

Ideally, what you want to write and what your audience wants you to write would be one and the same.

If that’s not quite the case, you could do both—just mix it up.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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