I feel like over the last few months (and even now) I should have yellow and black construction tape wrapped around my head. Just like anything else in life this whole being a writer thing is a learning process. You do the best you can as you go along and do better when you know better.
And the hard part is that no one is really sure what the right way is anyhow. There's a lot of advice out there (including the stuff on this here blog). But for every post you find, you can find one contradicting it. It's both beautiful and terrifying that there is no definitive way to do things.
And this is most evident when looking at advice for building your platform and blogging.
Some things you'll hear out there...
Don't just write about writing because you're only reaching other writers.
Write about writing because readers aren't visiting author blogs anyway, so you should hook into the network of writers.
Don't get a website until you have a book to sell.
Have a website when you start querying because agents will look you up.
Don't do group blogs because no one will know your name.
Do group blogs because it will free up more time for writing.
Social networking is the only way to be a successful authors these days.
Social networking doesn't matter, the only thing that counts is writing a good book.
You must have your blog on _______ (fill in the blank) --wordpress, blogger, your own domain, tumblr
And the people behind each of these views have totally valid points to back up their case. So I can't tell you who is right or wrong. But I will tell you what I've learned in my two years of blogging and along the journey of going from very pre-published to preparing for my debut.
How I'd Do Things Differently If I Did It All Over Again
1. Build your blog where you want to keep it.
This is the one that has caused be much grief these last few months. I built this blog on blogger. And I like blogger. I find it an easy, no-fuss blogging platform. I also like the community on blogger and love the people I've met over here. However, blogger isn't really set up to integrate with a real website once you have one. And moving your followers (and archives and permalinks) to a new place (unless you move to Wordpress) is pretty much impossible from what I can tell.
This doesn't feel like a big deal when you're just starting out and are happy to have fifty followers. But blogs can grow fast. I've pretty much locked myself into blogger now unless I want to start all over again. So that's why I've had to move to maintaining two blogs.
2. Don't limit yourself to one kind of topic like writing.
This is one Kristen Lamb has talked about recently. And I tend to agree. I made this a writing blog. I'm happy I did and I don't think I would have built the following I have if I had started up a blog without a unified focus. However, this approach does box you in a bit. When I wanted to start stretching so that my posts appealed not just to writers but to non-writing readers, I was left in a bit of a quandary. Some of you would be totally fine with me putting both romance-y posts (like my Boyfriends of the Week) mixed in with the writing stuff. And honestly, if I could've figured out a way to merge and move my blogs, I probably would've done that. But I also know many of you aren't really coming here for that type of posts and are only here for the writing stuff. It would've been a bit of a bait and switch. So that's why if I had to do it over again, I'd still blog about writing, but I'd mix in the other stuff as well from the very beginning so that everyone knew what to expect.
3. Only do the social networks you enjoy.
There is so much out there to connect with. I feel like sometimes it's like being in a bed strapped to all those machines and tubes in a hospital. Except all the wires are attached to our brain. It can become too much. So pick which social networks you like the best and focus on those. I like blogging, twitter, and tumblr. So that's where I put my effort. Yes, I'm also on facebook and google+ and goodreads, but anything I post at any of those is really just a feed from my other sites. If I totally dialed into all of them, I'd never get anything else done.
4. Think hard about the kind of books you want to write and what that author brand would look like.
This isn't always possible. I started out writing YA and ended up getting pubbed in erotic romance. o.0 Yeah, I know. Big leap. But this also meant my brand kind of shifted midway through. I'm always me, but I'm talking more about topics I covered and the "look" of my websites. I'm getting pubbed in dark, erotic romance and I had this bright, colorful Fiction Groupie blog. It didn't really jive. So that's why I eventually changed it to match the feel of my website. So if you know you're going to be writing dark horror, don't build your site with sparkles and puppies. You're not going to attract the people that are actually going to want to read your book.
5. Do hook into the community of writers.
I actually got this one right. Writing can be a very solitary act. I don't know if I'd have survived it through writing my books if I hadn't found lovely writer friends and crit partners. This is by far the best thing about blogging and social networking.
6. None of it matters if you're not writing and working on your craft.
Duh. I know. But it's SO easy to get so caught up in the social networking that you start sucking up your writing time. I have fallen into this trap because I love blogging and twitter. But writing has to come first. This is why I've been shifting around my blog schedule so often lately as I try to find the right balance.
7. Put your name on things and reserve your web domain early.
When I started I was just Fiction Groupie. I didn't want to put my name out there and *gasp* have people actually know that I was attempting to write something. What if I failed? But this was a mistake. You are your brand. Kristen Lamb says it best when she says, you can't go into the store and look for a book from Fiction Groupie. People need to know your name. Otherwise, what brand are you building? (And you'll notice I put the Fiction Groupie title back at the top this week. But I have my name on top. Now that I've decided to keep this a writing blog, I figured it needed it's name back to decipher it from my author blog.)
As for web domain, go into this with the expectation that you will one day be published. You don't want to miss out on having yourname.com because you didn't spend the twenty bucks a year it costs to reserve it. So get thee to a service like Go Daddy and spend a few bucks to hold on to that name.
8. If you plan to use a pen name pick one and use it early.
Made this mistake too. I used my real name for the first year that I blogged. Then when I decided to write erotic romance and wanted a pen name, I had to change EVERYTHING. Domains, email addresses, facebook, twitter, yadda yadda yadda. It was a major pain. Luckily, I kept my first name so everyone knew me as Roni and that didn't change. But on the logistic side, it was a bit of a nightmare.
9. Trust your gut and weed through advice.
Sometimes you (and by that I mean I) can get caught up in the "expert" opinions. Like I said at the beginning of this post. There is not RIGHT way to do things. Read the advice that's out there and then use what resonates with you. Different things work for different people. No one thing is going to work for everyone. So take things as guidance not gospel. (There is irony in me giving advice about not taking all advice. Hmm.)
10. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
I'm a control freak. That's not going to change. I tried a group blog on Tumblr and it quickly fell into feeling like I was back in high school working on a group project where I wanted to keep everyone on task. Not good. However, I knew when I decided that I was going to keep this blog on writing while maintaining an author blog as well that I was going to have to ask for help.
So this is where I get to the exciting news part of this post (if you've made it this far in this LONG post, lol). I am implementing a new feature here on Fiction Groupie. Every Monday we are going to have regularly occurring guests who are authors in genres other than mine. They are author friends who I know are great at posting about writing craft and publishing and I am SO excited to be bringing people with fresh and different perspectives to the blog.
So here's what the new schedule is going to look like starting next week:
Monday: Guest post from one of our Monthly Genre Columnists
Wednesday: Writing/Publishing Post from me
Friday: Fill-Me-In Friday -- best links of the week
Tuesday and Thursday, I'll be posting on my author blog.
So join me in welcoming our five new stellar guest contributors!
- YA Debut Author
- Historical Romance Author
- Debut Urban Fantasy Author
-Suspense/Thrillers - Debut Romantic Suspense
- Women's Fiction & Marketing
See all their
I hope that you all are as excited as I am about the new re-re-re-revamping. :) Thanks for sticking with me through all my changing as I continue to figure things out as I go along.
Now, I'd love to hear what you've learned since you started this whole writing thing. What would you do differently? Do any of the points on my list scare you? Oh, and if anyone knows any brilliant way to combine my blogs all onto my squarespace and still keep followers and archives, let me know--I'll love you forever.
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