The Dreaded “New and Improved” Label

As forewarned, I’m remodeling my blog. I’m moving my book-specific pages to a website (I have it mostly built, but I’m still exploring hosting options) and I’m going to make some new pages for some new content.

When I first started this blog two years ago, all I did was talk about my Acceptance Trilogy and trying to get it published. Since that time, my writing has branched out into other genres–including short stories and novellas–and I’ve begun self-publishing.

My blog is also starting to take on a life of its own. It’s no longer a means to an end (promoting a single book), but a work in its own right.

I hope everyone will enjoy the new and improved blog. Feel free to leave comments about things you’d like to see, or if this sucks in a bad way. Everything’s an experiment.

Marketing Myself as a Writer

Having finally accepted the inevitable fact that I’m going to self-publish my first novel in November, I’ve started to think about marketing and have been doing some research into marketing my blog. (I’m working under the assumption that the more readers I have of my blog, the more likely some of them will buy one of my books to read.)

The Bloodsuckers is part of my marketing campaign. I made it a weekly serial story to get people to come to my blog regularly and/or subscribe. Also, it’s a way to show off my talents (such as they are) as a writer. The thought is, if someone knows they like something I’ve written, they’re more likely to pay to read something new. The risk of buying something crappy is diminished when they’re reasonably confident they like what I write.

And lastly, when I started writing The Bloodsuckers, I was struggling to keep my blog updated regularly. By setting a goal of one episode per week, I guaranteed that I had fresh content on my blog at least once a week. (The longer your blog is dormant, the more likely you are to lose your readers.)

But I can’t implement one thing and stop. It’s time to try some new ideas.

You may have noticed that I’ve redone my blog theme. Again. Part of that is because I get bored looking at the same thing all the time, and part of it came from tips from A-List Blogging Bootcamps, which talks about the benefit of light and simple–not to mention an image (or text style) which can become part of your brand. So my new look was born out of that. As usual, I’m not permanently committed to it, so feel free to comment about whether you like it or not.

Something else that Bootcamps talks about is not being too specific. While to a theme (or three) is necessary, too narrow a focus keeps reader numbers low. Kristen Lamb speaks specifically to me when she says that writers should not write about writing exclusively. Which isn’t to say you can’t use your blog to talk about your writing or to help others write, but that should only be one theme out of two or three–not the entire thing.

She said a romance writer she worked with got much better results from her blog when she expanded it to include her interests in cooking and wine; many more people like cooking and wine than writing. She also points out that other writers are the worst audience to market to; we don’t actually buy a lot of other people’s stuff. You need to market yourself to the people who read the sort of things you write.

This makes total sense to me. So now I need to brainstorm. What hobbies and interests do I have outside of writing?

Medieval re-enacting and Judaism

Is that it? Is that how I spend my non-work hours? Writing, re-enacting, and studying Torah?

Yes. (God knows I don’t spend my time cleaning house or cooking.)

This is not going terribly well. You’re supposed to expand your theme into things which have a wider audience. Fewer people do medieval re-enacting than try their hand at writing a novel. And given that Jews are 0.18% of the world’s population, that’s hardly a large audience.

So let’s look at this from a different angle: what sorts of non-fiction things would my fiction readers like to read? Well, that’s a bit of a tricky question as I’m now writing in more than one genre.

  • Vampire readers. I have The Bloodsuckers available, so there’s already something there to keep them coming back for more.
  • Historical romance readers. Here, my medieval research and re-enacting will probably be interesting. Even if they don’t do it themselves, it can add to their knowledge and appreciation of what they’re reading. So more posts on medieval stuff.
  • Fantasy readers. People I know who like to read fantasy seem to spend a lot of their time reading and doing their own writing. And I already have that covered.
  • Contemporary romance readers. Hell, I don’t know. I’ve written exactly one contemporary romance and my protagonist was a writer by hobby and her love interest was a painter–so I’m not exactly going far from shore, there.

My problem is that I’m not a normal person with normal interests. I like to watch documentaries and anime. I like to read about life-hacking and traditional skills. I’m a Deist who believes God is at work in my life. I like a clean house, but hate cleaning it.

How in the hell do you make a theme or two out of such different, often contradictory things?

The posts that get the most traffic on my blog rarely have anything to do with writing in general, or my writing specifically; most of my traffic comes either from my personal challenges (using a standing desk, beating procrastination) or totally random things like Mardi Gras and my idea for a Pandora for Art. And, I must admit, I write those posts when I feel like I don’t have anything better to say.

So how do I harness the power of my own randomness? How do I bottle my renaissance woman persona with my interest in a little bit of everything?

Maybe that needs to be my blog’s tagline: Keri Peardon, The Random, 14th Century Renaissance Woman.

Interview with Scott H Young

I ran across Scott Young’s blog some time ago when I was writing about my battle with procrastination, and I have slowly become a regular reader. Being a rather slow, introverted, laid-back personality type, I find people like Scott terribly interesting, just because they’re such go-getters and they do unconventional things successfully.

I also noticed–after reading a number of Scott’s articles–that he makes his living writing, so I asked him if I could interview him for my blog (and my own curiosity). He graciously obliged, and here is what he has to say about writing for a living:

Q: You’ve been blogging for some time and have produced a butt-load (can I say butt-load?) of articles. You seem to have a rather large audience, gauging by the number of comments I see. Have you done a lot of active promoting of your blog, and if so, what did you do? Any recommendations for building readership?

A: Be patient and be interesting. The two biggest mistakes bloggers make is that they give up too soon (building an audience takes time) or that they’re too generic. The latter point can actually come with practice; few bloggers are amazing out of the gate.

Q: It’s my understanding that you make a living by your blogging and self-published books. Is that the entire source of your income or only a portion of it? What else do you do to supplement your income? Do you plan on living solely on your writing one day?

A: Yes, I’ve been living completely off my blog for the last two years, mostly from sales of my rapid learning course. [I should point out that Scott’s been blogging since Feb 2006, so he spent 4 years building up an audience and product before he became self-sufficient with his writing.] It can take awhile to figure out a revenue model that works for you and your audience. I certainly made a lot of missteps in the beginning, but now I’ve reached a comfortable point where I can earn a living while still keeping the majority of my readers happy.

Q: I noticed that you do not sell ads on your blog. Does your blog make money, or is it strictly a place for your own thoughts and a way to generate interest in your books?

A: I started with ads, but unless you have a particularly high-traffic website, they’re really hard to earn a living from. Since the money is negligible, I’d rather not clutter my blog with trashy ads.

Q: You sell your books on your blog, but do you have them placed anywhere else (Amazon, for instance)? If you don’t have them anywhere else, what made you decide to not list them elsewhere?

A: They’re all sold through me, although other bloggers can affiliate andsell my products for 50% commission, so you might see links to them on other websites. Going through Amazon or iTunes is worth considering, but if the traffic is coming directly from your website, the surcharge and restrictions they place on you usually don’t make it worth it.

Q: I checked out the free chapter of The Little Book of Productivity. Did you do your own design and formatting for it?

A: No I paid an ebook designer. Many people can do a design for fairly cheap if you’re serious about an ebook, but I did my first three ebooks without any design help, so if you’re low on funds it’s not strictly necessary.

Q: I watched a show, “A Day in the Life…” featuring Timothy Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek. The way he thought and approached his work reminded me of you. You and he and many young, successful entrepreneurs seem to have very similar personalities (I’ll call it the “entrepreneur personality type.”) 

From what I have observed, EPT’s seem to have some things in common:

  • EPT’s tackle big goals, but typically do them in a short amount of time (your 4 years of MIT in 1 year is a good example).
  • EPT’s seem to focus on just one or two things for a short period of time (a year or less, typically), do it successfully, then move on to something else.
  • EPT’s are always seeing new possibilities in everything and they tend to ride the front of the new-technology wave.
  • EPT’s take a lot of risks (although they would say they’re calculated risks).
  • EPT’s always seem to do things quickly (mostly thanks to life-hacking) and have a goodly amount of energy that keeps them going throughout the day, week after week.

Do you see anything else that you would add to that list? Furthermore, do you think there is there a way for those of us who aren’t born-EPT’s to develop that ability to not only be successful and do what we love, but to make it look easy?

A: Well I think there’s definitely similarities in the personalities of ambitious people, particularly bloggers. After all, it’s a certain personality type that’s attracted to trying to make a living unconventionally and writing about your pursuits. That said, I wouldn’t worry if you don’t think you fit the mold. After meeting many successful entrepreneurs, I can say there is a huge range in personalities that work. You just need to find what  works for you.

Q: Are there any other tips or suggestions you’d give burgeoning bloggers and would-be authors?

A: Do it because you love it. Nothing is more obvious that reading a blogger who is just in it for the money. Writing, particularly about yourself, is too hard and the chances of success too sporadic to go at it in any other way.

So, there you have it: write because you love it, write on a theme (or three; The Pioneer Woman is a good example of having several specific themes: cooking, photography, and living on a cattle ranch), and do it for years. Eventually, success will be yours.