The Bloggers Bash Awards ARE HERE!

I’m really looking forward to the second bloggers bash, despite having not blogged as much as I’d like this year. If you want to meet a friendly, introverted (with the odd exception) group of like-minded bloggers, I highly recommend you come along.

Sacha Black

Who Nominate?This is it. These are your Bloggers Bash Awards.  BIG thank you to everyone who made suggestions. The committee spent an entire evening discussing all of them. Lots of them were similar or connected to each other, so rather than take each one specifically we have tried to incorporate as many as possible under the awards we have chosen.

We have a number of new awards this year, and some changes to the old ones.

For those new to these awards, they are part of the Annual Bloggers Bash. A physical get together in London, England, every summer. This year’s is on June 11th, if you’re interesting in attending then drop us a line on:

Annualbloggersbash(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)uk

2016-03-09 13.23.08You can find more information here, information about the venue here. If you can’t make it but want to follow electronically, you can join…

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There are easier ways to sell books than through blogging

Girl Scout Cookies

At the recent Bloggers Bash, one of the questions asked was why people started blogging. Many bloggers came up with the same answer, because they’d been told they needed to have a blog as an author platform in order to sell their books. When asked if blogging had helped, the answer from everybody was ‘not really,’ and while the answer wasn’t a ‘no,’ it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

This isn’t my first blog. I started blogging three years ago with another blog all about my writing journey (because nobody had thought of doing that before, right?). Over time I got bored about writing about writing so decided to start this blog where I could write about about anything, and I often did. However, I always had that piece of advice in the back of my mind, an author needs a platform to help promote and sell their books.

Eventually my blogging came full circle and I now blog about writing, or more accurately life as an indie writer as there are many more qualified bloggers out there that can help you with the nuts and bolts of how to actually write. I’ve met many wonderful bloggers, some of whom are novel writers, and I’m sure I’ve sold a handful of books on the back of them getting to know me through this blog.

During this time I’ve also got to know some writers who are making a real success out of self-publishing. I’m not talking about a Hugh Howey level of success but they are selling enough books to either make a living or heavily supplement their income. One thing links all of these writers.

They rarely blog.

Many have blogs but use them as a means to inform of new book launches or as a landing page for their mailing list. Some are active on other forms of social media but many aren’t. I don’t know whether the advice on the importance of an author platform passed them by, or if they chose to ignore it, but very few of them have an interest in building a social media presence. So how on earth did they become successful?

Blogging takes a lot of time and effort. In the two years this blog has been around (I’m ignoring my other one – as most readers did) I’ve written around two hundred posts. Each post varies between 500 and 1000 words in length. Add it all together and it’s the equivalent of nearly two novels worth of words. Then there is the amount of time I’ve spent creating posts, editing posts, replying to comments, not to mention all the time I’ve spent reading and commenting on the many blogs I follow.

I’ve listed below five things I could have been doing instead to sell more books:

1 Set up a stall in my village high street or a local town and harangue passers-by into buying my books

2 Contact all my local libraries and bookshops in an effort to stock or promote my books

3 Work a part-time job to raise money to pay for advertising through book promotion sites, Facebook and Amazon

4 Give them to the Girl Scouts to sell with their cookies for commission

5 WRITE MORE BOOKS

There’s a reason point five is in capitals. While nothing is guaranteed in the self-publishing world, the more books you have published, the more chance you have of your books gaining visibility. I said there was one thing that links the successful authors together but I lied. There are two. All of these writers have released five or more books over the last two or three years. I’ve released two and have a third on the way, but I could have released more if I hadn’t blogged so much.

When these successful writers aren’t actually writing, they work on their marketing instead, either to develop their mailing lists, creating direct promotions through promotional sites or by contacting book reviewers asking for honest reviews in return for a free book. They treat writing as a job rather than a hobby. They don’t wait for inspiration, they work every day regardless of whether they feel like it to not.

Of course, as I’ve said before, doing all of this doesn’t automatically guarantee success, but it increases the chances.

This isn’t to say there aren’t writers who generate sales through blogging. There are a number who do just this, although the majority I know make more money writing books on writing or self-publishing than through their own fiction. There are, however, other ways to increase sales that are less time consuming and with a higher chance of success.

So why should writers blog?

Because it’s a wonderful opportunity to write something different, to let off steam, to connect with like-minded should, to find comfort and community, to help others much earlier in the process than yourself and be helped by those further down the line. It’s a way of making new friends, for discovering excellent books and for improving your craft. It’s a place to be yourself, to be someone else or to be the person you’ve always wanted to be.

Most of all, you should blog because you want to, not because you feel you should. Blogging is a wonderful medium and I don’t regard my time blogging as being a waste, and nor did any of the bloggers I met at the Bloggers Bash. I just wouldn’t recommend it as a way of selling books.

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

My top 10 blogging tips on building an audience

blogging wordcloud

image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/barnett/ licensed under creative commons

 

It’s been a week of milestones for my little blog. Firstly, I passed the 30,000 views mark. For a blog that’s been going less than two years, where I post on average once a week, I’m both thrilled and humbled by this achievement.

The second milestone is that this is my 200th post. It has been quite a ride since I first posted about a cat that defecates in my garden and I’ve learnt an awful lot along the way. My blog has changed from being a platform for me to play around with writing to a blog about writing, and specifically self-publishing. During my blogging time I’ve published two books, met many wonderful people, been introduced to the wonderfully supportive writing community, as well as discovered some fantastic books by new and exciting authors.

Thank you to all of you who read, comment and share my posts. You are a wonderful group of people and it’s a pleasure knowing you.

In order to celebrate these milestones, I thought I’d pass on my top 10 tips on building a blogging audience. Of course, if your blog is very personal, building an audience may not be your goal, so many of these won’t apply, but if you are looking to increase your readership then these tips are a good place to start.

1. Post regularly

The more regularly you post, the more likely people will find you and follow you. I see a significant drop in my weekly visitor averages if I post less than once a week. If I post more than once a week those averages not only rise, but grow week on week. It’s hard work (which is why I usually write just one post per week) but the response is worth it.

2. Have a purpose

When I first started blogging it was purely as a medium to play around with writing. I wrote about all sorts of things, some of which people found interesting, others that were barely read at all. However, as my blogging became more about one subject – writing and self-publishing – I found an audience – you! That doesn’t mean I post solely about writing and self-publishing, but the majority of my posts are in this area.

3. Keep posts to under 1000 words

This is a great rule of thumb. It doesn’t mean every post should be under this limit, but the shorter the post, the more likely it will be read to the end.

4. Don’t think what you would like to write but what you would like to read

This is based on a lesson I learnt while writing fiction. During the first draft, an author will often include lots of back story and explanation. It’s an important part of the writing process and enjoyable to write, but it’s as dull as hell to read and often gets culled during the editing process. Just because something is fun to write, doesn’t make it interesting to read. Make sure your posts offer your readers something, whether it’s knowledge, insight or a different perspective.

5. Interact with your readership

Except for my Recommended Reads, I always end my posts with a question (there’ll be one at the end of this post too). Sometimes this can be ignored but often it starts a debate which generates further interest in the subject. If somebody is kind enough to comment on your blog, answer them, promptly if possible. I’ve met many of my favourite bloggers and writers this way, as we discuss the topics raised, but even if it’s just a plain ‘thank you,’ it will mean a lot and encourage them to visit again.

6. Be yourself

The best blogs develop a little community of regular readers, based on a shared view, love or experience. The only way you can do this is by being yourself. That doesn’t mean you can’t exaggerate or suppress aspects of your personality as you write, but to be effective there has to be a core part of you within your blogging.

7. Don’t be afraid to be opinionated

I’m not suggesting that every post should be deliberately provocative, but people like a good argument. If you have an opinion on a subject, give it. You will never be able to please everybody with what you write so don’t try to. Rather than avoid subjects or opinions you feel could be controversial, embrace them. Sure, this may turn off some readers but at the same time you will get to find your audience.

8. Be gracious when people disagree with you

If you are going to give your opinion, expect people to disagree with you. When this happens, read what they have to say and see if it makes sense to you. If it does, then don’t be afraid to concede the point. If it doesn’t, be gracious in your reply. Some of my favourite readers disagree with me often. Occasionally they have a point. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

9. Use social media to promote your blog

The WordPress reader is a lovely tool to discover new blogs but it has a limited audience. It was only when I started to actively promote my blog via twitter that my numbers began to grow. WordPress have a great system called Publicize, where you can link your blog to social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) and each time you post it is shared on the social media platform of your choice. Using the right tags and hashtags also helps to promote your blog outside your existing audience.

10. When in doubt, use a list

Can you see what I did there? There’s nothing better than a large block of text to turn readers off. Instead, structure it into a way that’s easy to digest. By far my most popular posts are structured around lists. This is no coincidence. With lists, people are able to quickly discover the gist of the post and decide whether to read further or not.

So, these are my top 10 tips, but what are yours? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

How to set up a mailing list on WordPress.com

Mailing lists are a key tool to help any author build an audience, and for fans of the author’s work to have access to exclusive content and information about new releases before anyone else. These are not to be confused by your blog sign-up, which informs those signed up of new blog posts.

At the end of last week I announced to the world that I’d set up a mailing list to inform people about any future releases. While the mailing list has proved popular (getting a free book may have helped) by far the biggest question I was asked was: how did you set up your mailing list?

Sadly, unlike on wordpress.org self-hosted blogs, there isn’t a specific widget available to link to a mailing list service. However, there is a workaround you can use. I set my mailing list up with MailChimp, an excellent free-to-use service. There are many other services available but this example is specific to MailChimp.

Before you start you will need to:

1. Register on MailChimp and set up a mailing list

2. Upload an image you want to use to promote your mailing list into your media library (I used the MailChimp icon but you may wish to create something more specific).

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 09.49.35Step 1 Login to MailChimp and select Lists from the left hand Menu

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 09.50.28Step 2 Click on the drop down arrow on the left hand side and select sign up forms

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3 Click on General FormsScreen Shot 2014-12-08 at 09.50.57

 

 

 

Step 4 You need to either copy or note down the sign up form URL.Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 09.53.01

This sign up is one of a number of form that come as standard for any MailChimp user (you can click on the down arrow when on site to see them all). They are unique to you and can be amended as you see fit. The pages themselves are hosted by MailChimp and therefore separate from your WordPress blog.

**At this point I would recommend you go through the MailChimp sign up forms and amend them to however you want them to appear. To find out how to do this, click here**

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 09.59.17Step 5 Go to your WordPress.com dashboard and select appearance – widgets

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 10.01.30

Step 6 Select an Image widget and drag it to your sidebar

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 10.02.21Step 7 Complete your widget form.

Widget Title should be the text you wish to see above the image

Image URL: This is the URL for the image you previously uploaded to promote your mailing list. You can find this URL by clicking media and selecting the appropriate image. The URL will be on the right hand side of the page.

Link URL is the URL you either copied or noted down from your MailChimp sign up page.

Then press save.

 

You should now have a working sign up image on your blog!

If you found this blog helpful, you can always sign up to my mailing list by either clicking here or on the image at the top right hand side of my blog. In return, you will receive one of my e-books, of your choice, absolutely free! I promise not to spam you or pass on your details to anyone else.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Unless you have spent the last month on a desert island, there is a good chance you have heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It is a craze that has spread around the world, where people are challenged to pour a bucket of ice water – the icier, the better – over their heads, all on film. The participant then nominates three others to take undertake the challenge. Where this craze differs from other internet memes is that it is designed to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – known as motor neurone disease in the UK – as well as raise money for the charities involved in supporting sufferers and looking for a cure. Each participant donates money to the ALS Association in America, or the Motor Neurone Disease Association in the UK, and if a nominee refuses to take part, they are encouraged to pay a fine.

ALS or motor neurone disease is a terrible, debilitating illness that causes the sufferer’s muscles to weaken and atrophy over time until they are eventually unable to move or look after themselves. There is no known cure.

As with all crazes, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has attracted its share of criticism, from participants being accused of taking part as a means of self-aggrandisement, to other media commentators like William Foxton from the Daily Telegraph describing the challenge as “a middle-class wet-T-shirt contest for armchair clicktivists”. The cynic in me can understand these points of view to a certain extent, but there is one aspect of the craze that cannot be argued.

According to Time Magazine, since it started, the campaign has raised over $50 million in the US for the ALSA. It is estimated over £8 million has been raised in the UK. This is an incredible amount for these previously little-known charities, and will provide a welcome boost in both the support for sufferers and the ongoing search for a cure.

Yesterday, I was nominated to take part in the challenge by my step-brother. I thought long and hard about taking part. There is an element of self-centredness in taking part, especially in the posting videos. There is the risk that those taking part feel they have “done their bit” and sit back while other worthy causes lose out. But it would take a hard-hearted person not to see the benefits from the Ice Bucket Challenge far outweigh these criticisms, both in money raised and in much needed exposure for this horrible disease, so I decided to take part.

Here is the video of my Ice Bucket Challenge:

If you are in the US and would like to donate money to the  ALSA, please click on the line here.

If you are in the UK, you can donate to the Motor Neurone Disease Association by clicking here.

Twitter tip for WordPress users

twitter logo

image source: twitter.com

One of the great things about the WordPress platform for blogging is the sharing facility. These little buttons at the bottom of each post allow people who have liked what you’ve written to share it across many different social media platforms.

Like many other bloggers I use twitter. Twitter is fantastic a platform on which to share you content, but I’ve noticed recently that a a number of bloggers I follow are missing a great way of expanding their online community by not linking their blog to their twitter account.

Why is this important?

Whenever anybody shares one of your posts by twitter using the share button, your blog generates an automated tweet structured like this:

Blog title – blog post url – linked twitter name

Below is the text generated for my last post:

The difference between creativity and inspiration http://wp.me/p3Dds0-fH via @hearndylan

If you notice, I’ve already linked my twitter username, @hearndylan, to my blog. This means whenever anybody shares one of my posts, I get a notification from twitter letting me know what has been shared and by whom.

This is incredibly valuable information.

Think about it for a moment. This person has not only read your post, they liked it so much they wanted to share it with all their twitter followers. And if they enjoyed your post, there is every chance their like-minded followers will also enjoy the post and share it to their followers, and so on. Every time this share is retweeted, your twitter username is tweeted with it, meaning you get to see each and every person who enjoyed your post. How cool is that?

But what should you do with this information? The most effective twitter users know that engagement is key to building a strong following. This is where the true value of linking you username comes in. If the person who retweeted your post likes your writing so much, wouldn’t they be a great person to get to know better? The very least you can do is thank them for sharing your post. You could ask them what they most liked about it, you could follow them (if you don’t already), respond to some of their tweets in return. From these small interactions, friendships blossom. I’ve lost count of the number of great twitter friends I’ve met this way.

But, if you haven’t linked your blog to your twitter account, all this information is sent to @wordpressdotcom, and is lost to you forever.

So how do you change your settings?

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 09.10.08The good news is this setting is very easy to change. Simply go to your Dashboard – Settings – Sharing. Fifth from bottom you will see an option snappily titled “Twitter username to include in tweets when people share using the Twitter button”. Replace ‘wordpressdotcom’ with your own twitter username (without the @), then press save.

 

Gone fishing

beach and kindle

I’ll be away for the next week and a bit having a well-earned break on the south coast of England. By the time you read this I will have finished editing the second part of my sequel to Second Chance (only part 3 to go!) and I have to say, despite a little wobble a few weeks back, the process had gone well and I’m very happy with the results. Of course, this may all change once I receive my beta reader feedback.

My Kindle is loaded with books – some of which I’m hoping to feature as Recommended Reads when I return – and a friend’s manuscript where I get to turn the tables and provide constructive criticism for a change (cue maniacal laugh).

I’m sure I’ll be in contact with some of you on twitter every now and then but if not, I look forward to catching up on my return.

Now where did I put that sun cream?

Milestones

bday

image source: (www.decobike.com)

Being buried in the first edit of my sequel to Second Chance, I’ve missed a couple of important blogging milestones.

Suffolk Scribblings is 1 year old

In fact, Suffolk scribblings is one year and a couple of weeks old (I told you I was a little distracted). In that time the blog has changed from being a creative outlet allowing me to write about things other than my book to being a blog mostly about the writing process with the odd piece about anything else that takes my fancy. It wasn’t planned this way, it just happened. It’s funny how these things creep up on you unnoticed.

12000 Views

Yesterday I had my 12,000th page view. This is 11,997 more than I thought I would ever get (I always knew my mum & dad would have a look, plus maybe some random stranger). Anybody who has written a blog will tell you how nervous they felt pressing publish for the first time. You are nervous on two counts: that you won’t be ridiculed for what you have written, and that this futile act of shouting in the dark will reach the ears of a kindred spirit. Since that first press of a button I’ve had visits from all over the world (97 countries to date) a fact that I find, frankly, mind-blowing. Thank you to everybody who has taken the time to read my blatherings, whether they have been about village life, writing, supporting your fellow indie authors or the ongoing psychological warfare that maintains the flames of love for my wife and soul mate. I appreciate each and every visit.

1000 Comments

By a strange coincidence I also passed the 1000 comments threshold yesterday. Out of all the milestones I’ve achieved, this is the one I find most amazing and satisfying. I never expected to meet people through blogging (I know, I was very naive), let alone that people would have enough interest in what I’d written to interact. The big surprise is that I now think of a number of these people – people I have never met and in some cases have no idea what they look like – as friends. It has further strengthened my faith in humanity.

Sadly, as in life, I’m not the best of people at keeping in touch with those I’ve connected. As the number of blogs I follow has increased (along with writing, twitter and good old-fashioned life commitments) the amount of time I have had to comment and interact has lessened, but it does not mean I don’t read your blogs whenever possible, and feedback when I can. For anybody who has connected to me via this blog, I would like to thank you for your generosity of spirit, your frequent encouragement and the occasional clip around the ear if I take things too far.

The future

All this may sound like I’m building up to a goodbye but it couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m a little behind on my Recommended Reads but I have a number of self-published books waiting to be read on my kindle and I will get back to them as soon as Patrick Rothfuss gets his claws out of my brain. I have a host of blog titles sitting in my drafts folder waiting to be written, plus I will be sharing one or two golden oldies (a year is a long time in digital terms) that some of you may have missed.

So a big thank you once again for all your support over the past year. Long may it continue.

Normal service to be resumed shortly

Time for a rethink

Time for a rethink

My life tends to work like this. I publish my book, get excited, decide to write the follow up (and the follow up to the follow up) and at that point all the other things I agreed to do at various points have now come to fruition. I’m doing some consultancy for a friend’s business, building a website for the local pre-school (with two others lined up), have my normal childcare duties and, of course, I’m on a purple patch with the first draft of book two. Something has to give and sadly that something is this blog.

It won’t be for long.

Just for a bit

Until things calm down.

I may also be less active reading and responding to many of the blogs I follow. It’s nothing personal and I can’t wait until things quieten down so that I can catch up with you all.

So many apologies in advance. I hope it won’t be for too long but I’m sure I’ll find time for the odd tweet before I’m back with a post about how terrible writing is and why the hell did I agree to put myself through this again.

I look forward to catching up with you all shortly. Until then, here’s a lovely song by Stephen Hodd, recorded live at Live at the Cottage last year and which I wrote about here. If you get the chance, look up Stephen on Soundcloud and listen to the whole set. Simply beautiful.

Google, we have a malfunction

Still looking... (picture source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/st3f4n/3951143570/)

Still looking… (picture source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/st3f4n/3951143570/)

Some of you come here because you know me, some because you have signed up to receive an email prompt. Some of you are fellow bloggers who have seen one of my posts on the WordPress reader, others have had links forwarded through either Facebook or Twitter. Then there is a final group, a group of you who arrived via a search engine.

Now I love all of you equally, but I have a particular soft spot for people who stumble upon this blog because you were looking for an answer. And boy are there some strange questions to which you would like answers. I know because I get to see the search terms used to arrive at my blog (don’t worry, I don’t get to see who you are or where you live – although I do get to see which country). Rather than keep these gems to myself, I thought I would share some of my favourites with you. Enjoy!

Having just received a summons, Tinkles looked a little non-plussed (picture source: zonabien.com)

Having just received a summons, Tinkles looked a little nonplussed (picture source: zonabien.com)

Is it against the law for a cat to shit in my garden?

Every week I get many visitors to my The cat that shits in my garden post looking for answers. It is my post that keeps on giving. Most are looking for some form of deterrent, a few are looking at the best ways to kill the feline defecator without getting caught. Some, however, want to go down the legal route. If you can’t stop them, sue the bastards! Can you sue a cat? I’m not sure, but there are one or two people out there who are willing to find out.

Do the British celebrate the 4th July?

No, is the simple answer. We lost. We had our asses handed to us (as our cousins over the pond like to say). Yes, there were a number of mitigating circumstances, which I pointed out in a post I wrote during the summer, but do you really think we would celebrate a defeat? Then again, Texans celebrate the Battle of the Alamo, so maybe we should after all, and not just because it was our idea in the first place.

One night stands in Suffolk

So you’re young and single, or you are old and single, or maybe you are not single and have flexible morals. Whatever the circumstances, you are in Suffolk and looking for a good time. Now Suffolk is a quiet, rural county, not known as a thriving hotbed of libidinous hedonists (at least it never was when I was looking but then again, maybe the issue had more to do with who was searching). So how do you find out the best way to meet somebody for no strings sex?  Ask Google. Sadly Google sent you to my blog. How disappointed must this person have been, looking for a good time but being pointed to a rant by a grumpy man about sexism. And the poor person was clearly desperate as I’m on page 2 of this particular search result. Well I had to check, for research purposes of course…

Who changes Stephen Hawking’s’ diaper?

There are times when I despair at humanity. Unless you are Professor Stephen Hawking, or you are a manufacturer of adult nappies for the disabled looking for celebrity endorsement, why would you care? Yet someone, somewhere, wanted to know and they found my blog (and before you ask; no, I did not make a joke about Professor Hawking, I just happened to mention his name in one of my semi-regular series on Petty Domestic Disputes). I have a message for that person: life is too short for researching this dross. You clearly have an inquisitive mind, why not put it to good use and discover things for the benefit of humanity, just as Professor Stephen Hawking has.

This is so true (picture source: http://weheartit.com/entry/26065795)

This is so true (picture source: http://weheartit.com/entry/26065795)

Why are guys so confusing?

When I first saw this search term come up, I felt a moment of sympathy. I imagined a shy, teenage girl confused at not being unable to understand boys her own age, driven to turn to Google to find  answers on why guys are so confusing and mistakenly looking at my why men are confused post for answers. Then, as with earlier, I googled the question myself to see whereabouts my blog came in the results list. And I looked, and I looked, and by page 25 I gave up and searched via Bing instead. Again I looked and I looked, past blogs about “why do men take so long to have a poo” and “why are their so many men on this site (for lesbian dating)” until I came to the conclusion that this visitor wasn’t so much confused as obsessed to an unhealthy degree. So if you are reading this; please, let it go. We aren’t worth the anxiety.

And finally comes the most bizarre search term of all:

Long hair picking nose

Is this an obscure Bob Dylan song lyric? Maybe it is a secret code that will start the Zombie Apocalypse? Whatever it is, somebody was interested enough to type this into a search engine and arrive at my blog. I wonder if what they read here was as confusing to them as their search term was to me.