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.

Squidoo

I have been busy writing and updating older material over on my Squidoo page for the past several days.

What is Squidoo, you ask? Squidoo is sort of a cross between blogging, website building, and freelance writing. You create a single page using easy-to-use building blocks (e.g. text modules, link modules, etc.) on any topic you want, then publish it. It’s as easy or easier to use than your standard blogging site.

If you always wanted to build a website on anything, but don’t know how, then Squidoo is probably a viable option for you.

I first heard about Squidoo when I was researching internet marketing for a business I was trying to start. In order to get my business’s name out there, I wrote articles on Squidoo and promoted my business website and Etsy store. The business didn’t go anywhere, but I was hooked on making articles (called “lenses”) on Squidoo. I write short research papers all the time just for fun (I know, I’m weird). I’ve had the intention of publishing them in my re-enactment newsletter, but I’ve belonged to small local groups the last several years and none of them publish a newsletter. So all of this good information was just sitting there.

Along comes Squidoo, and I start putting my medieval research papers online. I teach some classes as part of my re-enacting too, and those go on there. And anything else I think worth writing about. In short, all of my non-fiction work goes on Squidoo.

Squidoo has an interesting thing going on, though, which sets it apart from blogging. They get ad revenue from the ads on all of the articles. They split that revenue between themselves (for running the operation) and the people who make articles. The lowest-ranked articles don’t make any money, but if you get a high-enough rank (through a combination of traffic, “Likes,” and content), you get money. I’ve been getting anywhere from $7.00-$13.00 a month. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but I’ve not been doing anything to earn it. I make an article and there it is. If it’s popular enough, it makes me money every month. Some of my articles are two years old already, and some have generated revenue every month for those two years.

A list of all my articles on Squidoo.

I’ve recently begun putting a bit more effort into my articles in order to boost their rank and earn more money. I’ve also started adding more articles; more articles mean more potential money. And lastly I’ve gotten an account at Commission Junction, so I can do some affiliate marketing. In other words, I pick links/products to advertise on my articles, and if someone buys something, I get a sales commission. That’s where the money is for people who take Squidoo seriously (it’s a part-time or even full-time job for some people).


You can also use affiliate marketing on your blog or personal website (like this product on Amazon). You don’t have to sign up with Commission Junction (which can be a bit of work, because you then have to sign up with each company that you want to promote); if you have an Amazon account, you can be an affiliate with them. Any product you want to recommend, you can get a link or ad for it, and money goes into your Amazon account (I don’t know how payouts work, but I’m content to allow commissions to be applied to my shopping order!).

July 28, 2010 – A Blog is Worth A Thousand Bucks (I Hope)

I had an idea today.  I’ve been thinking about making another blog—one that might actually net income (as opposed to this one, which exists to help me get published and boost sales thereafter).  More than a few people actually make a living blogging.  I doubt I’ll ever get to the point where I do nothing but blog for a living all day, but some extra money certainly doesn’t help (and making money from my blogging—even a small amount—goes a long ways towards making me a “professional writer”).

It seems to me that the blogs that are financially successful and popular are 1) are mostly pictures, 2) appeal to a decent-sized audience, 3) are updated daily, and 4) allow reader contributions.

My thoughts:

1) A picture is worth a thousand words.  Of course, being a writer (and on dial-up internet), I prefer words, but I’m in the minority.  Pictures get people’s attention, and with digital cameras and camera phones, there are more pictures being created than ever before.  Pictures won’t ever replace the written word, but we may very well be heading towards a time when words supplement pictures, not the other way around.

2) If you want to make revenue from ads, and have companies give you samples that you can give away in contests to reward reader loyalty, you have to have a decent-sized audience.  And to get that your blog content has to appeal to quite a few people.  The Cheezburger Network of blogs (LOLCats, FailBlog, PoorlyDressed, etc.) appeals to a very large audience because it’s all humor-based.  They have pictures that will appeal to everyone who likes to laugh.  By contrast, if I had a blog about nothing but medieval history, that would appeal to a very small segment of the internet population and it’s not likely I could get a large enough audience to attract advertisers.

3) Daily updates are what really gathers an audience.  They want to be entertained (or educated or given some form of content free) everyday.  If you don’t have fresh material frequently, and your audience knows this, they won’t come back nearly as often, so you will have lower visitor stats each day.  From a marketing standpoint, it’s better to have a high daily visitor count than to have visitors visit once a week and catch up.  Frequent clicks are what it’s about.

4) Reader contributions are a necessity if you are posting new content every day.  The original creator of LOLCats can’t take picture of his/her cats every single day and upload them and call it an entertaining blog.  The thing about cats is that they frequently sleep and lay around the house; they’re not always entertaining.  And readers don’t want to see the same two cats over and over again anyways.  They want some cat diversity.  So you have to accept outside contributions.  This also has the added benefit of creating a more loyal following, because people enjoying seeing someone else appreciate their work, and they will check back often to 1) see if you used it, and 2) to see what other people think about it.  And when you use reader’s contributions they will be eager to go out and get you some more.  Recognition breeds extra effort. 

So, if I accept those four observations as truth, where does that leave me?  I think Cheezburger Presents pretty well has the market sewn up on funny pictures.  And while I like my comedy (after all, my dad is a professional comedian), I have this hokey idea about making the internet a more educational place. 

While driving back and forth to my new job on a new-to-me highway, I have seen all sorts of interesting graveyards and markers and things.  I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days, and this morning I think the idea finally gelled in my mind: a blog of interesting historical places.  These will include old churches, homes, town squares, battlefields, memorial markers, cemeteries, etc.  There will be at least one picture and a location, but hopefully I will be able to get more information, like why it’s important.  Thankfully, historical markers are pretty common-place in the U.S., so many historical places of note will have some information handy.

I will have to get it started by plotting my section of Middle Tennessee, but I’d like to have other people submit pictures and information on things of historical note where they live or have visited.  I envision eventually having a world map, where you can click on a country (or state) and pull up a roadmap (with interstates and highways), which will be marked with little pins denoting places of interest.  Click any of those pins and it will take you to the blog entry featuring that location’s historical point of interest.  I’ll also have it set up so there are categories, so if you want to just travel to cemeteries or historic homes, you can bring up all of those in a region.  In short, it will allow people with an interest in anything historical to plan trips, or if someone already has a trip planned, they can see what’s of historical interest or note near where they’re going to be.  People needing to do research from a distance (writers, genealogists, etc.) will also be able to use it to learn local history and get a feel for the place.

I’m still thinking about blog names.  One option is “What Happened Here?”