My first year as a self-published author: Blogging #amwriting #blogging #indie #author

blog-wordleThis is the second in a series of posts about my first year as an indie author publishing and marketing my books… I’ll be analysing different parts of the journey and will let you know the things that worked and the things that proved a waste of time.

This post is all about blogging.

Learning about blogging has been a steep learning curve for me. I started by designing a very pretty Blogger blog in February 2013 and enthusiastically posted some posts about my writing journey. And what happened? Zilch – nada – not a thing. Everything I did just seemed to get lost in the ether – no followers, no likes, no comments… That was very disheartening. It wasn’t until the middle of 2014 that I decided to start again.

It was my teenage daughter who put me onto WordPress, and within a few days of starting the blog I already had a few followers. So that felt much better.

Here is my first blogpost

I knew what I wanted to blog about – my writing journey and all that I was learning along the way. I wanted to take people with me on that journey, to learn with me as I explored the world of writing, self-publishing, staying motivated and productive. I wrote about the things that seemed interesting or important to me in that journey. I also sometimes wrote about my books. I guess I am fairly modest so I have found it hard to promote my own work, it’s something I hope to do more of in 2016.

blogging-is-goodFinding some of the great writing blogs and following them was a great way to learn more about blogging and about my writer’s journey. There are so many inspiring writers out there, and best of all, writers tend to be extremely generous with their advice and information. They’ve all been there – unknown and unpublished. They know how hard it is to get started. That is very reassuring for those of us starting out. I have learnt so much from authors such as Joanna Penn and motivators such as James Clear. So much. Generally I would have to say that blogs are the best source of information about becoming an indie author that I have found. Because there is such a range of perspectives and info out there now – more than you can get from reading a book on the subject.

I decided that I was more attracted to blogposts with a picture than not, so I started to add a picture to every one of my posts. It seemed to help. I also learnt about adding hashtags to the title – that way they’ll come up in twitter searches (given all my blogposts are automatically sent as tweets). My daughter helped me to add feeds to the margin, and I am now pretty happy with how my blog is working.

The stats are still pretty modest, still, at least they are slowly growing. I have over 100 followers now and over 1,000 views. Something to build up more in 2016.

So in summary – what has worked?

  • Changing my blog platform from Blogger to WordPress
  • Be clear on what your blog is about. Who is the audience? What do you want to cover? In my case – it’s all about writing and being an indie author. There is so much to learn, and I want to share the best of what I discover.
  • Finding other inspiring bloggers to follow and learn from
  • Posting more often (where possible)
  • Re-blogging other great blogs and sharing the joy plus creating links with other bloggers
  • Commenting and interacting with bloggers and readers
  • Making sure every blog has a picture
  • Learning what works and what doesn’t from the stats (such as best days and times to publish, and most popular content)
  • Make sure you link your blog to other social media sites such as facebook and twitter so that every post is shared through each platform. A quick way to ensure you are posting regularly to all three places and reaching a wider audience (plus reducing effort – always important for busy authors!)

What hasn’t worked?

  • Using the ‘Blogger’ platform – don’t bother.
  • Blogging less frequently (you tend to fall off the radar if you blog less than once or twice a week)
  • Blog posts without pictures
  • Blogging at the wrong time of day (generally, thinking about US time is more useful than Australian time)
  • Not sure how well the feeds on my blog work? I have added quite a few (facebook, twitter, goodreads, etc) but haven’t seen much traffic between. Something to look into more in 2016…

What will I be concentrating on in 2016?

  • Scheduling regular posts – I’m hoping to aim for two per week, plus re-blogging other posts I find inspiring or helpful.
  • Linking my blog into my website – watch this space
  • Providing more info about my actual books. What is happening in my story at the moment? What motivates the characters? What motivates me? I did a few posts on this in 2015 and they were generally well received. I need to do more of them and stop being so self-effacing about my books!
  • Finding new ways of interacting with followers, such as competitions, feedback loops or inviting guest bloggers onto my blog
  • Running a series of posts exploring an interesting theme.

That’s enough to be going on with! If you have any comments or questions, I’d love to hear from you.

Beta Readers are so important! Some tips for working with them… #Readers #beta-readers #writing #writers #book

6 Tips for Using Beta Readers

Probably one of the hardest things of all is the first time you share your toiled-over manuscript with beta-readers. Will they like it? Won’t they? Will their feedback make you wither inside and wonder whether months of your life have just been wasted? Will they find the story as engrossing as you have? – Find the characters engaging?, etc. etc.

It is hard to take that step but certainly rewarding. If you seek a range of opinions from the perspective of readers (preferably people who enjoy the genre) then you will learn so much more about your work. And once you have processed their advice, then your book will surely benefit. The trick is knowing what to run with and what to leave out. Your book cannot be everything to everyone, and in the end only you can make a final call on what will work. But pay attention to a variety of perspectives, because no one person (ie. you) will have all the answers.

6 Tips for Using Beta Readers.

This article reminded me that I should work harder to give my beta-readers good information about some of the things I want to check about the book. Do the characters make sense, or are they confusing? Is there the right amount of back-story, are motivations clear? Who do they sympathize with? What seems real, and what seems odd? There are so many questions the writer can ask. The important thing is to decide what you would like to know before you hand over that book. And make sure you seek a range of perspectives.

I truly value feedback from my beta-readers – I know it has helped to make my books better. There are some things I can’t change – like the fact that I do not have much humour in my writing. I’m afraid if people prefer funny books, then they should try other authors. Because humour is not my forte, and forced humour is just painful. I know my strengths, so I will try to play to them. I love story-telling – taking people with me on an emotional journey. So things like adding more dialog for certain scenes, clarifying events in others. That is easy. So thanks you to those who have read and provided feedback on my first four books. It helped me to gain confidence and certainly improved each of the stories in different ways. And as for my new series of historical romances, the journey for them is just beginning.

If anyone is interested in historical romance (sexy) and would like to join my small band of valued beta-readers, I would be happy to hear from you. Free copies provided! Thanks

My current series The French Connection follows the lives of a French Comte and his associates as they escape the French Revolution. “Isabel’s Choice is nearly ready for publication, and ‘Temptation’ will shortly be returned by the editor.