Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to Get More Comments

Recently I did a post about Hits, Followers, and Comments. Overwhelmingly, you all said comments mattered most. After all, blogging is different - if you just want hits and pageviews, build a website.

Several asked how to get more comments.Since I do not excel in the area, I asked some experts to offer their advice. These bloggers get 35+, 60+, and 100+ comments respectively.

First up is a cheery young man on a mission to help others perfect their query letters.

Blog comments. The number one way to earn comments on your blog is to leave them on other blogs. I know this is obvious, but it's true. Most bloggers try to visit the blog of every comment they get, to return the favor. Most, but not all. But not all comments are created equal. The best comments show that you read the post, are a mixture of humor (when appropriate) and thoughtful honesty, and answer any questions that are asked in the post. Even better is if you can add new information to the conversation. 

The best part though, is that if you've established a pattern of leaving great comments, you can sometimes leave quick jokes, or even just stop by to say hi. If a blogger knows you, and knows that you actually read their posts, and usually leave thoughtful comments, no one is going to be offended if you leave a shorter one sometimes. In fact, if you've built a rapport with someone, you can even skip their blog from time to time, and not offend them. For example, I spent over a year reading 50-100 blogs a day, and building some great friendships. Lately I haven't had time to read any blogs (for like a week or two), but no one has given up on me, because they trust that I'll be back. 

The only other way to earn comments, besides being some kind of celebrity, really, is through your own content. The best posts are those that get readers involved, by asking questions, or holding votes, or asking them to chime in on something like a critique of some kind. Images are also extremely important. The most popular posts in the history of my blog are those that had universal images that many people would find in Google searches. The caveat to this, of course, is how much you care about having random visitors who may or may not care about the actual purpose of your blog. Personally, I don't have adsense, and I don't care about selling anything to anyone, so for me, connecting with readers and writers is the only thing that matters. 

- Matthew Rush at The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment

Next up is a blonde who simply bubbles with enthusiasm and a positive attitude!

There’s no secret to getting lots of comments: all you need to do is comment consistently on others’ blogs. Of course, keeping your posts short and posing a question at the end always help, but the real key is interaction. If you visit other people’s blogs, they’ll come to yours. Keep that up, and before you know it, you’ll have a steady stream of visitors coming your way. Besides getting comments, you’ll build up great relationships with bloggers from around the world. I’ve also discovered that the more genuine the post, the more you’ll connect – blogging is like real life that way. No one wants to see a mask you’ve put up; people want to be let into your world. While writers still need to be professional, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting personal about challenges you might face. So, to boil it down to three things: comment on other blogs; keep it short; and keep it real!  

- Talli Roland

Now, for those of you who said you’d take 100 comments, here’s someone whose average is just that per post - 100 comments.

How do you get more comments? You don’t - you encourage more comments. 

Encourage more comments by commenting on other blogs. Relationships are two-way streets. You build them by visiting other blogs and getting involved in the lives of other bloggers. And you do this by commenting. 

Encourage more comments by posting interesting stuff. People like information. They like to be entertained. They need to connect with the blogger. If you post about your passions, others will connect. Ask questions to spur discussions. Get involved in blogfests. 

Encourage more comments by making friends. Get to know you fellow bloggers. Let them know you understand. Support and encourage your blogger friends. Feature them on your blog. Shout out their accomplishments to the world. Get involved and give back to this community whenever possible. 

Now, go make some friends!  

- Alex J. Cavanaugh

Any questions for my wonderful guests?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricanes and Tension

I woke up Saturday morning to the sound of rain and wind beating the side of our house. Hurricane Irene had arrived, and she hung around all day.

I've lived in Eastern NC for seventeen years now and experienced many hurricanes.

The first was Hurricane Fran in 1996. Yes, we had to start with a big one! Fran made landfall in Wilmington as a Category 3 and proceeded right across Eastern NC. (The eye passed over our town sometime around 2am.) We had no idea what to expect and were totally unprepared. No bottled water, no batteries - our only flashlight died at about midnight, an hour after the power went out. We spent the whole night in our hallway, listening to 100mph winds and wondering if the roof would still be there in the morning.

We were lucky only to lose a few branches and shingles from the roof. Others were not so lucky - this is the Motel 6 sign on top of three cars. A few days later, Raleigh released flood waters so they wouldn't flood - and flooded every town along the Neuse River. (Thanks, Raleigh!) Fortunately, we don't live in a flood zone.

Irene battered our area with 40-50 mph winds and gusts even stronger. At least it hit during the day, but it was a very long day and the rain didn't stop until 7:30 that night. A few branches down, leaves everywhere, and over five inches of rain. Our power flickered all day long, but we never lost it.

A hurricane can certainly add a lot of tension to a story. The preparation, the waiting, the long hours of listening to the wind roar, the fact that you are trapped in your house for the duration, storm surge for those on the coast, surveying the damage afterwards, possibly going for days without power... If you've never been through one, interview someone who has - because I don't recommend first hand research!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Forgive and Forget

Since I always offer publishing and promoting information, thought I’d share something motivational with you today.

Forgiveness is a topic close to my heart. The fourth book in my series was all about forgiveness.

Most of the hate and anger in the world is a result of an unforgiving heart. Think of the wars, the divorces, the reality shows where people scream… All because someone felt jilted, slighted, neglected, or threatened - and chose to harbor those feelings rather than let them go.

Recently I had someone take advantage of my knowledge as a speaker. In a big way. By nature, I’m naïve and trusting - and someone took advantage of that. I was crushed. (My husband said I probably needed a really good cry anyway.)

Afterwards, I just wanted to let it go. I wanted to forgive, forget, and move on with my life. Letting go of that last bit of anger was tough, though. But I did it. And now, not only do I feel lighter, but something really amazing happened this week, something I’d wanted for so long. And I know it’s only because I forgave this person.

When we refuse to forgive someone, who does it hurt? That’s right - US! The other person doesn’t know we are harboring thoughts of their demise. No matter how much resentment we send in their direction, they don’t feel it. Instead this bitterness turns on us. What was once a small issue grows to epic proportions and we are caught up in the negative wave of emotions.

We also forget that we make mistakes, too.

John 8:7 "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

And I used to tell our one foster daughter - “Life is not fair - get over it!”

Is there someone you have not forgiven? Maybe they meant to cause pain. But, maybe they didn’t. Maybe they didn’t know any better. Maybe they have apologized but it fell on deaf ears.

Forgive them. You are the one it is hurting. And by releasing that bitterness, you will gain far more than that anger and indignation ever brought to your life.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Tour is Closing Down

Last week I received some sad news - Book Tour is closing down September 1st.

Book Tour was a fantastic site for readers to find author events, interviews, and podcasts. Authors, publishers, and publicists could build an author page featuring bios, links, appearances, and books. The feed from Book Tour appeared on numerous sites, including Amazon’s author pages.

Kevin Smokler stated it was just not financially possible to run the site anymore. (And that there were fewer author tours.) He did offer several other sites as viable replacements:

Amazon Author Central
Google Calendar

He even stated that existing dates could be downloaded as an XML file or through a tool at Book Tour and uploaded into several of the sites listed above.

Outside of my own websites and blogs, Book Tour was the main site I used to post my schedule. I’m really going to miss it!

Anyone else use Book Tour, either as a reader or author?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Working Writer's Club

There was such a great response to my post on Monday about Hits, Page Views, and Comments, I am going to do a follow-up post on August 31st. Since ‘comments’ was the overwhelming answer, I am taking Hart Johnson’s suggestion and tapping a couple bloggers with high comment numbers to provide some tips.

Recently I joined an organization of writers - The Working Writer's Club. Not only have I benefited from some great information, but it was through the club that I heard about John Locke’s book - and the founder, Suzanne Lieurance, interviewed me on the advantage of authors who are speakers.

Here’s information on The Working Writer's Club directly from the site:

The Working Writer's Club is a professional organization for freelance writers, authors, coaches, speakers, and other small business professionals.

The club provides training, resources, networking and promotional opportunities for its members for a low monthly membership fee.

Additionally, business professionals and other individuals can come to the Working Writer's Club online if they need the services and/or products of a freelance writer.

Club members who offer freelance services and products are listed in the Writers for Hire page.

• One LIVE teleclass every month. Each monthly teleclass focuses on at least one way to make $100 or more per day as a writer. Each teleclass is recorded and club members can listen to the recordings.
• The Working Writer’s Club Forums. Network with other club members. Have your weekly marketing plan or writing schedue evaluated. Get your query letters reviewed BEFORE you send them off to editors. Get valuable writing and job tips from other writers.
• The Working Writer’s Resource Center. Filled with helpful articles, templates, forms, and other great resources working freelance writers need all the time.
• The Working Writer’s Club Audio Center. Links to dozens of recorded teleclasses for writers.
• The Morning Nudge. Delivered to your email box every weekday morning with writing tips and inspiration and motivation to help you get a little writing done every day.
• Discounts and Special Offers on Products and Services for Writers.When new products and services are offered from the Working Writer’s Coach, club members are often given special discounts and free offers on these products and services not available to anyone else.

Visit The Working Writer's Club’s site for more information! We’re having fun AND learning.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hits, Followers, and Comments

The success of most websites depends on several things: the number of visitors to the site; the amount of people who sign up for a newsletter or more information (acquiring potential customer details); and the number of sales and repeat sales.

Now a blog’s function is a little different than a retail website, even though items can be sold through a blog. Since the purpose of a blog is more networking than anything else, those three items can be translated to hits, followers, and comments. And they seem to fall in line with a similar level of importance.

Think of your site like a restaurant - there is a big difference between someone driving by a restaurant and someone coming inside - and an even bigger difference if that person actually orders food.

As I discovered from the detailed stats on my two websites, there is a big difference between hits, page views, and visitors, and most stat counters are inaccurate when it comes to actual visits to a site.
Here’s some definitions from Wikipedia:
Hit - A request for a file from the web server. The number of hits received by a website is frequently cited to assert its popularity, but this number is extremely misleading and dramatically over-estimates popularity. A single web-page typically consists of multiple (often dozens) of discrete files, each of which is counted as a hit as the page is downloaded, so the number of hits is really an arbitrary number more reflective of the complexity of individual pages on the website than the website's actual popularity..
Page view - A single page view may generate multiple hits as all the resources required to view the page are also requested from the web server.
Visit / Session - A visit is defined as a series of page requests from the same uniquely identified client with a time of no more than 30 minutes between each page request.
Hits, page views, and visits are good, because that means people are looking for us or what we have to offer. But they may or may not add up to much in the end.

On a website, these are the people who leave their contact information. These are the ones that come inside and pick up a menu.
These people are curious enough to leave a contact and may return. They are potential friends and networking opportunities. Unless they interact with us though, that’s as far as it goes.

These are the people who are buying! They are the ones who interact with us. They care enough to leave a comment and build a relationship. In life, we are ultimately selling ourselves, and those who comment buy who we are - they believe, they understand, they can relate. (And if we’ve sold ourselves as a person, then selling ideas and physical items is easy.)

So, which would you rather have?
5000 hits/views/visitors?

Friday, August 12, 2011

I Hate You Blogfest

Today is the I Hate You Blogfest hosted by Tessa’s Blurb

My entry is a short excerpt from my book, The Circle of Friends, Book II…Sarah
(This is from an edited and published piece, so not looking for a critique.) 

Sarah’s father joined them in the dining room. “Are you taking the rest of your things with you today?”

Sarah hesitated and shot him a wary look. “I don’t think there’s enough room in Matt’s car.”

“I’d like to get someone in soon to repaint and cover all the holes you left in the walls,” John said firmly.

She sighed and turned anxiously to Matt. He shrugged.

“Let’s see what we can fit in,” he said. He didn’t want to aggravate her father.
Her mother told them where to find empty boxes in the garage. There weren’t many items in her bedroom, but it was probably more than they could take today. Sarah scanned her room and dropped the boxes on the floor. Pulling out a dresser drawer, she began wrapping clothes around her breakables. Matt followed suit and they quietly filled the boxes.

He sensed Sarah’s agitation with her father for insisting they complete this task today. Thankfully, Matt’s bedroom still sat intact and even Mark’s room still showed signs of his brother’s occupancy. John seemed eager to have all traces of his daughter removed from his house, though. Matt wondered if Sarah moving in with him had influenced her father’s decision. He’d not intended to compounded the problems between father and daughter.

By the time they began filling the last container, three boxes waited in the hallway. Matt wanted to make sure all four would fit in his car before they proceeded any further. He carried the largest box to his car and slid it into the trunk. The second box fit perfectly beside the first, and when he returned, Sarah set the last one in the hallway. She nodded solemnly as he picked up the third box.

When he returned for the final box, Matt heard angry voices drifting out into the hallway. He approached the doorway with caution and paused to catch the conversation.

“Sarah, I want everything out of here so I can hire a painter,” John said in his firmest tone. “I’m tired of this room looking like a damned dungeon!”

“Well, how about if I just cram everything in the closet?” Sarah replied. “Then you can do whatever you want with my room!”

Matt heard his fiancé tossing things into her closet. He quietly picked up the last box, hoping to avoid a confrontation with Sarah’s father.

“I cannot wait until you have children of your own,” her father said in a low voice.

“Well, too bad, ‘cus that’s never gonna happen!” cried Sarah.

Her words echoed coldly and decisively down the hall, leaving no room for consideration. It solidified a recent discussion regarding children. Matt sighed and turned to leave, unable to listen any longer.

“You’re not mature enough to handle the responsibility!” John replied.

A loud crash startled Matt. He hesitated at the end of the hallway, torn between retreating from the unpleasant scene and returning to insure Sarah’s safety. Her hysterical voice reached his ears and his fiancé‘s response scared him even more.

“What do you want from me?” screamed Sarah. “What am I doing wrong? My grades are perfect, I’ve never been in trouble, I’m not pregnant and I’m marrying a really decent guy! What is it you hate about my life? What is it about me that you hate so damned much?”

Visit Tessa’s Blurb for other participants and a list of prizes! I also have a post today at The Gatekeeper on speaking and writer/author tips!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Classes, Conferences, and Festivals

Some outstanding opportunities for writers and authors:

Book Blog Tours is an online class, run by Dani Greer. I took the class 2 and 1/2 years ago, and it really taught me a lot about blogging, Twitter, and preparing for a book tour. If you have a book release coming soon or want to hone your blogging skills, she is hosting a new class next month. Visit Book Blog Tours for details.

The Muse Online Writers Conference is this October 3-9. The largest and longest running online conference of its kind, it features week-long forum discussions, chat room discussions, and pitch sessions with publishers. Run by award-winning author and editor, Lea Schizas, this conference features many authors, editors, and publishers sharing their advice on how to succeed as a writer and author. Sign up today at The Muse Online Writers Conference

Book ‘Em NC is February 25, 2012. The Book ‘Em Foundation’s slogan is “Buy a Book - Stop a Crook” and the proceeds go to fight illiteracy. Of all the book festivals I’ve attended over the years, Book ‘Em is by far my favorite, and I’m thrilled one will finally be held in my home state. Over sixty authors are scheduled to appear so far, including headliners and NY Times bestsellers Carla Neggers and Michael Palmer. Registration is open until October. Visit the Book ‘Em NC website for details. If you’re a reader and live in either NC or SC, put the date on your calendar, because there are talks and panel discussions all day. You can also follow the Book Em NC Blog for more tips on preparing for the conference. Author p.m.terrell has done SO much work to promote this event and it’s gonna be huge!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Are You Delaying Your Writing Career?

Everyone remembers getting a learner’s permit and then driver’s license. If you were smart, it all happened within a year.

In Oregon, you got your permit when you were 15 and then went for your driver’s test at 16. When I turned 15, I immediately went down and got my permit.

My mother took me out a few times, but it always ended in disaster. She did not have the patience and I just couldn’t get the hang of a stick shift. (We had a Honda CVCC and a VW Bus.)

That summer, my high school offered a free driver’s ed class. My best friend took it, but for some reason, I didn’t. Not when I had three months to be lazy! My mom and I kept trying, but we weren’t making much headway.

My 16th birthday came and went. Permit expired.

At the beginning of my junior year, I got another permit and took driver’s ed. This time, it was $50. Oops. But I finished at the top of my class and was among the first to go out for the actual driving. A few more times with my mom, and I thought I had a handle on it.

Cue the beginning of my senior year. Permit expires again. Why should I go get my license when my boyfriend has a car?

Before I graduated, I got my permit for a third time. My boyfriend took me out driving in both that old VW and his automatic transmission Pinto. After graduation, I was ready! I took the driver’s test… and failed! I still could not handle that giant stick shift in the VW.

During the next 30 days, my boyfriend took me out in his Pinto almost daily. I went back, taking his car instead, and finally passed.

What does this have to do with writing? Think of all the missed opportunities! Three permits, two attempts at a license, and a driver’s ed class that should’ve been free.

How many times do we do something similar with our writing? We begin but never finish. We hear about a contest but never enter. We network but never do anything with those contacts. We attempt publication but don’t put forth enough effort or pick the wrong vehicle.

Have you been delaying your writing career?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Facebook Acquires Digital Book Maker

Publishers Weekly announced this week that Facebook has acquired digital book publisher, Push Pop Press:

Facebook has acquired Push Pop Press, a digital book maker with a focus on the iPad and iPhone. According to a statement on Push Pop's website, "Facebook isn't planning to start publishing digital books, [but] the ideas and technology behind Push Pop Press will be integrated with Facebook, giving people even richer ways to share their stories."

Read the full article HERE

Both companies claim Facebook is not moving into ebook publishing, but rather expanding on the site’s interactive platform.

However, since everyone seems to be getting into the ebook craze, we have to wonder.

What do you think Facebook will do with Push Pop Press? And should they pursue ebook publishing?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Selling a Million Books on Amazon

I heard John Locke’s story - the first self-published author to sell a million ebooks on Amazon. (And only the seventh overall.) So when I noticed his book “How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months!” I decided to order it. While I won’t reveal his ‘secret’ here, I did want to draw attention to two points he made in the book.

The first one is something I emphasize at every seminar I teach.

Know your audience before you start writing. He says most people do it backwards - they write a book and then try to figure out the audience. Locke approaches it like a business - if you want to succeed, know your audience and write to them.

The second one you’ll either dismiss or a light bulb will go off in your head.

When someone starts his or her own business, no one thinks twice. Investing in stocks, a business, a project, real estate, one’s financial future - those are acceptable. Then why is it investing in one’s own book and self-publishing is not? Why has the publishing industry deemed this shameful? (And yes, John advocates spending a couple thousand on professional editing, formatting, and the book cover.)

Really think about that one! If no one ever believed in his own talents and abilities, if everyone required validation before they could pursue an idea, where would we? What if Edison or Ford had felt that way? When you really think about it, the idea is ridiculous. Even the music industry has moved past that issue and independent labels are everywhere now.

There are several other points he makes, but I’ll save those for another day.

You can’t deny the facts - he sold over a million self-published ebooks on Amazon in just five months.

What do you think about these points?