Blogging, Social Networking, Answering Emails – Hey, when do I get the time to write?

Are you blogging? How often? Once a week, 3 times a week, every day?

Are you on social media? What ones? Are you posting every hour? Once a day? Are you talking about about what you ate for lunch? Or a link to your latest book?

How about answering emails? Are you answering them, or ignoring them? Do you read through all the email you get from newsletters and blog subscriptions or do you find yourself deleting them?

Now that you’ve answered some of those questions and I’m sure asked some of your own, here’s another: When do you get the time to write? Are you writing regularly?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d bet money that most of you are busy people with a day job or two, family, kids, and/or other commitments to take up your valuable time–like food, friends, and sleep. So fitting writing and book marketing into an already full schedule isn’t so easy. But it can be done. I’m going to share with you one way to help you.

The 80/20 Rule

First, I want to mention the 80/20 rule. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s basically 80% of your time should be on Marketing and 20% writing and other business related work. I’ve also heard some people say that the 80% is all business related work  that is not writing including marketing and the 20% is writing only.

Now some of the writing/publishing gurus tell you that you have to do this to succeed as an author, if you read authors like Dean Wesley Smith you’ll find his approach is very different. I’m going to suggest that you spend 80% of your time writing new fiction for your backlist, 10% of your time researching and book setup such as editing, rewriting, and setting it up for publishing, and 10% of your time on business related work like marketing, blogging, and emails. Before anyone protests, yes, it’s a slower process to making money, but if you aren’t writing, editing, and publishing new work then social media and blogging are doing you no good.

Hey, this is Ruth here. Stephannie’s letting me add my two cents to the post, so here it is. The important thing to remember is that you want to build a solid foundation.  Once you build a fanbase (even a small one), you want to get more books to that fanbase.  Why will someone keep coming to your site if you don’t have something new coming soon?  While it’s good to reach new readers, you shouldn’t neglect offering something new to your current ones.  

People get so hung up on authors who made it big like Amanda Hocking, but what they don’t remember is that she had a backlist already out there when she went into the social networking part of her career as a writer.  She didn’t just write one book and keep marketing it.  There are some authors who hit it big on one book, but if they can’t get the next one out there, then how will they satisfy their current fanbase?   Will you sell like Amanda Hocking if you have a backlist and social network like crazy?  The odds are against you.  We’re not promising that.  I have a little over 40 books total published, and I’m nowhere near making Amanda Hocking sales.  But I do know I wouldn’t have gotten to where I did if I never wrote the next book.  Plus, I started writing because I loved creating stories.  Little writing and all social media would ruin my joy.

This leads us to the second point…

Don’t Neglect your Writing

Writing is the most important aspect of business, your book is the life blood of your career. It should be your main focus. It’s why I suggest focusing 80% of the time you have on writing.

Now I’m not the most productive writer or as self-disciplined as I would like to be. I love researching and reading stuff on the Internet. I’ve also gotten in the habit of opening my emails in the morning when I start the day. Once I finished checking emails, reading blogs and newsletters, sending or answering requests for guest posts and book reviews, answering emails and comments, writing a (daily?) blog post, leaving a meaningful comments on blogs, interacting on my favorite social networks, updating my website, etc., I’d lost a valuable chunk of time from my day. And lets face it, if we aren’t writing that book or the next book after that, then all the marketing and promoting we do on social networking and blogs won’t help.

My word count goal for the last few months has been about 300 words throughout an 8 hour day. Horrible, I know. I decided I needed a change this and recently downloaded a productivity app I’d heard of called Cold Turkey. This app doesn’t allow you to access certain sites and you can add your time wasting websites to it. I highly suggest it and I get nothing from if you download it.

Since I like to write in the mornings, each night after I finish working on business for the day, I set the app up for the next day. I can still access research sites I need, but everything else is closed to me. Which means I get more writing done in a day. I’ve been averaging about 800-1000 words in a 4 hour day. I’m hoping for more when I get into the groove of things.

Ruth: What I started to do is limit the days I’ll respond to blog, Facebook, and Twitter comments.  I take 3-4 days a week to answer them.   I’ll do it less often if I’m especially busy.  I’m not as active on Facebook or Twitter as I used to be in terms of interacting with people, but I do link up blog posts to those places.  Linking blog posts can help you social network with no extra effort on your part.  That’s why I like to set up my Twitter and Facebook accounts to WordPress to link automatically on those sites.  I hit publish or schedule to publish, and WordPress does the work for me.  I also link my blog posts (from my author blog) to Goodreads.  I will share a blog post I’ve done for a deleted scene or inspiration for the book or sample scene to Pinterest.  These are time savers for me.  I love those share buttons at the bottom of the blogs.

I also love those share buttons and suggest that everyone who writes blogs and have websites install them on their website and leads into my last point.

Don’t Neglect your Author Platform

Please don’t neglect your author platforms to carve out more writing time, that’s not the point I was trying to make above. Your author platform is very important, not as important as the next book, but a close second. Why? Because your website, Twitter, Facebook, other social media sites, and blogs are your way of telling the world, both readers and fans, that you are writing a book. It’s a way to get them excited about what you are publishing and it’s counterproductive to do a disappearing act to write. It can set back your marketing efforts.

What I am suggesting is plan you platform activities carefully. I’ll use my efforts as an example.

After I finish my writing for the day, I check my emails, reading through and answer those that need to be answered. Those from fans, people wanting to guest post, answering comments on my blog and other blogs, and answering questions from authors who need book cover designs done. I wait for Saturday to read through blog posts and newsletters. Since I find social media distracting, I wait for the blog muse hit and spend a day writing blog posts and tweets. I don’t schedule them ahead of time because I like to read through them one last time before they go live. I spend about 10 minutes in the late morning and evening on Twitter (posting tweets, retweeting, talking to people, etc), about 10 minutes on Facebook (updating my status and talking to others), and about 30 minutes rereading and publishing blog posts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Once a month I like to update my website, though since me website and blog are one, every time I post I’m updating it too. LOL

I’m hijacking this post again. I’m not as organized as Stephannie on this one.  I love her idea, though.  It might be helpful to have a timer nearby.  Ten minutes on Twitter, Facebook, or another social network site is easy and doable.  The problem comes in when you get sucked into looking at pictures or reading articles that look interesting (this is where I end up spending a lot of time that takes away from my writing).  If there’s an interesting article off Twitter (a lot of good ones come from there, esp. ones that help authors), I suggest marking them as “to read” when you schedule time to do it.  (And this is all stuff I am going to mark down to do since my approach has been lacking in this area.  :D)

The Author Platform: 6 Steps you Should Take

One of the most mysterious subjects I’ve every tried to find information on was the Author platform. There is a plethora of information on what it is and some articles on creating one, but they’re really vague. I’m sure my list isn’t much better, but I thought I would introduce you to the mystery that is the author’s platform.

While the below points are great ideas for getting you started, there are the few authors who take it too far. They stalk their readers, sending meaningless newsletters and emails inviting them to buy their book, or join their group, or come to their signings, when the reader doesn’t do what they want, they become belligerent. This is not the norm. My favorite authors follow the points below.

1. Author/Product Branding

There are two ways to do branding, you can brand your books or you can brand your author name. I suggest branding your author name over your books. It means less work later.

Figure out which you want to do. Now write down your goals for your books and your author name. What do you want your author’s name to mean to others. What genre do you plan to write and what books do you plan to write under that name. Do you plan to put everything under one name or have pen names for your other books and do you plan to share that name.

2. Create a Writer’s Website

Once you figure out your brand, create a website to encompass that brand. Website design in as important as your book covers. Keep it up-to-date. Be sure to make it inviting, presentable, and easily navigated. This will be some people’s first contact with you and you’ll want to make a great impression. A website allows people to find you 24/7 and it doesn’t need sleep.

3. Email promotion

This is my least favorite unless it’s used for newsletters and blog subscriptions. Email promotion gives you a way to promote you writing business, connect with your network, and provide great content for your readers. However, if you flood people’s inbox with static information that doesn’t benefit them in some way, they will move on.

4. Blogging

Everyone has their ideas of what authors do all day. A blog can be used to reach out to, promote your latest book, enhance your online presence, and get you name out there. The best way to do this is comment on blogs that interest you, but that is an article for another day.

The best advice I’ve heard on blogging is to create entertaining, helpful content. Many writer’s create writing blogs, which while interesting to writer’s will probably turn the non-writer reader away. Think of your readers and create content for them too.

5. Social Networking

If you are out to get numbers, you’ll miss the opportunity to make friends, and possibly ostracize your fans; however, if you are out to make friends, you’re not going to have time to write. You need a healthy balance.

6. Newsletters and E-zines

Offer a free author’s newsletter that offers important information about your books as well as your writing. I’m not sure about you, but when I subscribe to a newsletter or blog, I don’t subscribe to be bombarded by emails geared toward selling their book. As a rule of thumb, if it annoys you, it will annoy your reader and they will drop you for a less intrusive author. Don’t be pushy.

In the next few days, we’re going to go into greater detail on each of these points. Now you don’t need all six of these to create a successful platform as an author. But a few would help. Anyone want to add any more tips to creating an Author Platform?

9 Blogging Tips

These articles were first written in honor of National Blogging Month and the posts were spread out over course of a month. So here are 9 blogging tips to improve blogging.

Blogging Tip #1: Write for your Readers

The first tip I thought we would discuss is your readers. What do you want to convey to your readers. As authors we need to reach our target audience. If we write gothic horror, we need to write posts that appeal to and fill the need of our readers. Teasers about the book we are writing. Contests coming up. Sample scenes to get readers interested. A day in the life of a writer. Etc.

There is a fine line between entertaining and boring your readers. Even if they might be looking for information on a certain subject, readers like to be entertained. So we as bloggers need to first communicate, which means knowing our subject. This can be a specialized niche or one that is more general like writing. We must also grab and keep the reader’s attention.

The best way to do this is to have a conversation with your readers. Because this is blogging and not article writing, leave behind the dry, facts and use a more personal tone, as if talking to a friend.

This doesn’t mean you can’t use facts to support what you are saying, just don’t overdo it. I don’t know about the rest of you, but unless I’m looking for a ‘how to’ article, I want a post I can enjoy and relate to. I want something I can learn from. I have no interest in a solely promotional blog, unless that is the sole purpose of the blog, to promote other people.

Blogging Tip #2: Get Readers to your Blog

First you have to start writing your blog. Once you have a few posts, its time to start looking for readers to read your blog. Yes, I know that readers will come looking for your content eventually, finding you through search engines and other people. But that is a very slow climb upward. Trust me.

My first blog was at LiveJournal. I created it so I didn’t have to keep writing the same letter to friends and family. They could read all about my day. When I decided to publish my novels and start an author’s platform I started another at LiveJournal. This lasted about a year until I decided to create my author website. The decision to go with WordPress meant that I had everything in one place. Blog, about me page, extra pages for books, etc..

The next step was to promote my new site. And the best way I found to do this was to find other blogs and forums that I enjoyed and befriend those people. I dislike the ‘look at me, I’m so great, buy my book’ commentors or the ‘I’m only commenting because I want you to buy my book’ commentors. This doesn’t work. An honest question or comment has me clicking on their website every time. Another way to get readers is to offer something for free. People love free stuff.

Blogging Tip #3: Keep it Short

Very few people will spend large amounts of time reading a blog post. Most will skim the content and some will comment. Ever get those comments where you wonder if the person even read the post. I have.

If you keep you posts short and on topic, then those who read the post are more likely to actually read it. And comment correctly.

Using hyperlinks to previous posts can help shorten paragraphs and keep you from going off on tangents. You won’t lose your reader’s attention, because once you have your reader’s attention you don’t want to lose them.

Blogging Tip #4: Catching Readers Attention

Most author blogs are on the Internet to gain readership for the books that are out or are about to come out. There are a number of ways to do this, but let us start at the beginning. You have to decide the subject of your blog. What is it you want to convey? Is it about your book? Is it about writing and the mechanics behind it? Is it about your life?

Once you decided what it is you want to blog about, write your posts with your subject in mind, readers will find you and stay if they find content they were looking for. Which brings us to catching the reader’s attention. When the readers first open the Internet browser to look for information on a given subject, the first thing to catch their attention will be the title and the short summary. Once it does, you have to keep their attention, and you have a short amount of time to do this.

Web writing isn’t like magazine writing. There is just too much information on the Internet and readers are looking for specific things to help them or to read. So while the title should be catchy, fun, or snarky, if it doesn’t give a clue as to the content of the page, readers won’t click on it. Same goes for misleading headings that trick the reader into visiting the site for numbers, they will leave and they won’t be back.

Studies show that readers are more likely to scan the article or blog post for the information that they want. So headlines, subheads, highlighted text, and bullet points need to be utilized to capture and motivate readers. When I first open an internet browser to a blog whose Title or Summary interested me, I don’t want to be bombarded with ads, videos, and dozens of pictures (unless that’s what I’m looking for). The ones that catch my attention are the ones with informational headlines, summary paragraphs to tell me what the article or post is about, a picture or two is fine, bullet lists, or pull out quotes help me skim for the information I need. Mostly it depends on what I’m looking for.

Blogging Tip #5: Converse with your Readers

When I visit a blog I want to feel welcome, not overwhelmed or treated like a stranger. It can sometimes be difficult to hold a conversation with people who are not there and sometimes don’t talk back, but as a blogger that is what you have to do.

Write as if you are having a conversation. Or as I do, and write a letter as if you are answering the question of a friend. It really helps to loosen up the tone of your writing. It becomes less stilted or uncomfortable and more personal, conversational, and sometimes even passionate.

This is also simple writing. The words aren’t fixed to impress people. It means I don’t have to pull out the three-pound dictionary to figure out what you just said. The writing becomes concise and honest which is better than verbose and flamboyant.

Now there are few exceptions to this rule, but that has more to do with technical manuals and impersonal how-to articles. Readers prefer direct and affirmative writing, which improves credibility, helps in scanability, and communicates information more effectively.

Blogging Tip #6: Introductions Please

There are three kinds of introductions that can be placed on a blog. The first is a short bio at the end of an article style post for multi-authored sites or newsletters. The second is the About Me page. And the third is Contact Pages. If you don’t know how to create a page with WordPress, Joleene Naylor wrote a great how-to post for this at http://wp.me/pLEbI-ej

The About Me Pages, Bio, and Contact Pages are an important and sometimes overlooked part of blogging. They are like the bio at the end of a book. They share with the reader a little about who you, why you are writing your blog, and how they can reach you with questions or for more information.

The Contact Page

The contact page is where you list your name and contact information so that interested readers can ask questions or reach out to you for other business opportunities. Contact information can be more than a business address, phone number, and/or email. This is where you can put links to your other websites, blogs, or social networking sites. Some people like to have this as a separate page. Others place the information as widgets in the margin of their blogs. Mine is combined with my ‘About Me’ page.

The Short Bio

The bio is can be used at the ends of posts, articles, and books. Book Bios are usually longer than the post and article ones, but the elements are the same. Keep your bio down to one small paragraph, write honestly and to the point, and you will have a pretty good chance of being remembered.

1. Use elementary psychology when you write your bio and use third person. This creates distance between the reader and you, and the reader feels less encroached upon. Also people trust what is said of one person by another over what people say about themselves, even when they know the bio was written by the author.

2. List facts about who you are, not wishes about who you wish you were. You are free to state that you are an IRS agent writing in her free-time or a stay-at-home husband whose writing is a hobby, or refrain from doing so. Cite any relevant experience or education, and writing communities you are part of. While I don’t think this is important to a bio, there are readers out there that do and it can’t hurt.

I recommended not overdoing the posturing in your bio, it reduces the reader’s trust in the objectivity of that bio, and in conjunction your material. Also, a major no-no is lying in your bio. It is a breach of trust between the reader and you, and it can do irreparable damage to your reputation.

3. A good rule in all your writing, and especially in your bio, write tight. You have a short span of time in order to catch your reader’s attention. With the bio that time is shorter. The reader will read it to estimate the value of your work. Write more than a few lines, and you’ll lose them.

Blogging Tip #7: Conveying Information

Basically, readers come to your blog for information. Some want to gather that information quickly. They don’t want to wade through background material. For those that have never been journalist, this means precise writing. Most journalists have a space limit which they have to maintain. When conveying information, keep these three tips in mind.

First, when writing a post or article it is always smart marketing to write a summary paragraph or two about what the post will be about. This lets the readers know what to expect and if it is of interest to them. Then you can break your post into headings if that is your wish.

Second, keep one thought per paragraph. Ever have sensory overload. Too many thoughts per paragraph can make your writing look sloppy and disorganized. Keep paragraphs short to create visual breaks.

Third, don’t be afraid to use lists, bullet points, and pull out quotes to convey information. Just be careful not to abuse them. It can be too much.

Blogging Tip #8: But I Have More Information to Share

It is a rare day when I have more information then what I blog about, but there are moments that I wish I could link a post to a previous post, to convey the information that would make a simple post a two page article. If you have more information that you want to convey in the post, but it’s getting a little long, place a link at the end of the post to link it to other posts.

A word of caution: When you do this, be sure that each post is separate. Readers may come in at any point, so allow for non-sequential content. Each post should be separated into contained subjects so they can be read independently or as part of a whole. Linking the posts allow the readers to jump from post to post.

Blogging Tip #9: Appeal to Different Audiences

Tailor your posts to meet the needs and levels of your readers. This doesn’t mean talking down to your readers or speaking over their heads. It helps if the people reading your blog can understand what you’re talking about.

If you’re blogging to advanced readers of astrology, then by all means use the terminology they would understand. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t make it user-friendly to beginners of astrology too. You want your content to appeal to your target audience. If it doesn’t appeal to people then you shouldn’t expect to gain a following.

This also applies to colloquialisms. Think “grass is greener on the other side” and “don’t know jack,” etc. It can confuse readers from other countries that might not be familiar with the saying.