Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tips on How to Build Blog Readership

Tweet It!
Bookmark and Share

A couple of readers asked if I might post an article about how to increase readership of a blog and today’s the day. There are a thousand things you might do to increase readership, but let’s focus on some basic ideas even those new to blogging can initiate.

Determine why you’re doing this. You’ll spend time, energy, forethought and effort. And it helps to know what is it you wish to gain for this endeavor? If you have no goal in mind, why even spend the time? In my case, I want people to recognize my name so when my book is published, I’ll have a market already established.

Determine your target audience. Once you’ve determined your goal, determine your target audience and make that target a restively small group – a niche. Don’t even try to have the world read your blog. They won’t do it. Instead, aim for a realistic number – a niche. A niche market is one interesting in a single subject. More than six billion readers are available to you and even the guy who focuses on the chemical makeup of the pecan shell can find a million followers. There will be plenty of people interested in what you have to say. Identify your market and shoot for it, ignoring everyone else. In my case, I want aspiring authors to read my articles so to gain a bit of notoriety within my industry.

A blog is not about you, it’s about them. After you’ve established your goal and audience, then you must determine what it is they wish to know. Focus your blog on what THEY want to know. A potential reader must immediately understand what is in it for them. Your articles must have some sort of value to the reader or they won’t take their time. Consider this, I write to writers. If my articles were about cooking, how many writers do you think I would attract?  (Here’s a secret - they don’t want to know about you.)

Next, consider the design of your blog. When you look at my blog, it’s quite minimalistic, on purpose. In fact, the one of the most common compliments I receive is the easy to read design. You should design yours based on your audience. If your market is young, say in their teens, it should be flashy, with color and motion. An older crowd would prefer something more staid.

Make people aware of your site. Joining communities is one way to do this. In my case, writers use social networking. So, I followed my audience. I set up accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Scribd and Ping then mention my articles. If they find a title interesting to them, they’ll click through to my site and, with a bit of luck, tell others about it. Learn the social networking end of it first and you’ll be well on your way. Though there are a thousand ways to make people aware of your site, but they are outside the scope of this article. 

Write well. If your writing looks amateurish, you’ll not be able to develop credibility with readers and they’ll move on.  You don’t have to master the skills of Tolstoy, but you should learn how to write with skill. The occasional typo won’t kill your blog, but too many will.

Allow your personality to show through in your blog. Some say you must have something unique to say. Not so. I’ll bet there aren’t a dozen blog with truly exclusive concepts. In lieu of being one-of-a-kind, be you. Your audience numbers in the billions so you’ll find plenty who appreciate how you say what you say. However, you should keep profanity and vulgarity to a minimum. It ain’t as cool as you think.

Okay, my friends, this is your primer on building blog readership. In later postings, I’ll get into some more detailed methodologies.

Until then, I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

Monday, December 14, 2009

To Pay, or Not to Pay?

Tweet It!
Bookmark and Share
There is a controversy I run across quite often as speak to writers of various genres. That is, do you pay someone to edit your books? As with many questions, there are two sides to the answer. Some say, “Under no circumstances!” Others fell there is, “No problem!”

It’s my opinion, and many will disagree with me, the answer is, “No problem - with a caveat.” And that caveat is dependent upon your goals.

The ARA, (The Association of Author’s Representatives, Inc.), is the accepted governing body for those employed in the world of literary agentry. Membership in this association is voluntary and many agents join and accept the association’s ethical guidelines. Others choose not to do so, though this does not indicate an agent is unethical. The policies of the ARA, as it regards reading fees, stipulates,

“…literary agents should not charge clients and potential clients for reading and evaluating literary works in the ordinary course of business.”

Another aspect to this controversy is a good agent will, in one way or another, see that your manuscript is edited, again for no fee. In contrast, a freelance editor will charge for the same work.

As mentioned, your individual answer depends upon your goal in the matter. In the case of an agent, he works on commission and is paid only when he sells your manuscript. They are salespeople who choose which products, (books), they wish to represent and then see them into the hands of publishers. The freelance editor, in contrast, is paid upfront and charges by the word or page.

I think this is where all the confusion about paying people to edit your manuscripts originates.

In my mind, “reading fees” are very different from editing fees. Reading fees means they charge you to study your material and determine if they wish to represent your work. Editing fees is an entirely different concept whereas the editor charges to help prepare your work for submission to an agent or publisher. Therein you find the difference between the two.

In my case, I was new to writing and I hired my editor as an instructor. I understood my lack of skills and sought an effective method to learn them. A freelance editor gave me those lessons. As I read, (and reread and reread), her suggestions, I began to see the realistic application of the craft of writing. It was from her I learned the basics of the craft and, in my case, paying to edit my manuscript substituted for years of formal education. I still had, and have, much to learn, but she got me moving in the right direction.

After sending my original manuscript out to seek representation, all of my many queries were turned down except one to a specific agent. He sounded enthusiastic about my novel and said he’d take on my book if I’d use his in-house editing staff to put it into publishing condition. Of course, this service was offered for a fee. This requested fee was unethical. He didn’t say my work still needed editing and to get back to him when it was complete. He said he’d see it done internally. This requested fee was my red flag.

An agent may appreciate your manuscript, but before they represent it they may feel it needs additional editing. They may even name three or four freelance editors they trust. However, they should never charge for editing “in-house,” nor should they receive a kick-back from any of the editors they recommend without your prior approval.

My answer to this question? If you want to learn the craft of writing or to improve your chances of representation, a freelance editor might be a wise choice. If you don’t wish to go that route, an agent who charges fees is perhaps unethical.

Now, who among you will argue with me?

Best of luck with your writing and know I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze