Why follow other authors on social media?

twtterAn old mate, and fellow author, who’s dipping his toe into Twitter got me thinking this week when he asked my advice on whether it’s worth following fellow writers on social media?

After all, he pointed out, they are not likely to buy your books are they? They are just going to want to promote their own.

Continue reading Why follow other authors on social media?

Which is better – a Facebook page or a Facebook profile?

Writers these days need to care about more than just words on the page, they have to let the world know that their work exists if they don’t want it to disappear into the ether having been read only by their auntie Marge and their best mate Dave. And that means developing a presence on social media, which inevitably includes Facebook.

When my first book Song of the Sea God was published by Skylight Press I had the same level of presence on social media as a member of a remote, undiscovered tribe in the Amazon jungle – so at least I had he luxury of starting from scratch. I also had a reasonable knowledge of social media since part of my day job is creating and managing accounts for the organisation I work for.

Continue reading Which is better – a Facebook page or a Facebook profile?

How to get more views on your blog

A little bit different from my usual posts this one. I usually stick to topics relating to reading or writing fiction, but a Twitter pal requested recently that I do a post offering what advice I can on how to build and grow the numbers of people who view your blog – so here it is.

Song of the Sea God visualIf you are passing by, please take a moment to check out my book Song of the Sea God. You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.

Ok, so I’ve been doing my blog for around 18 months now and I suppose I’ve learned a few things in that time which might be of use to those just starting out, or who want to grow their blog traffic. The advice I offer here is just what I’ve picked up over time through trial and error and through listening to other bloggers – it’s what has worked for me – so I hope you find it useful.

120px-Nuvola_apps_date_svgStay Regular

The first thing I’d suggest is that you adopt a regular pattern of posting on the same day each week. If you have the stamina to post twice a week, or even more often, then great – pick your days and update on each day like clockwork.

What this does is let people learn when you will be posting a new update so they can look out for it. I post on Saturday morning every week and consequently, Saturday is by far my biggest day on the blog for views – double or even triple my other days.

528px-Punishment_sisyphPersevere

If you are interested in building a following for your blog the other very basic tip I would give you is to keep on keeping on. For the first few months I did mine, maybe even the first six, my figures were fairly stable and fairly low – looked at on a monthly basis they were always pretty much the same – disappointing. And I admit I did start to wonder if there would ever be a breakthrough. Then suddenly, around month seven, a lot more people started taking a look at my blog – and this rise continued over the next couple of months. I found I had shot up to three times my viewing figures in a matter of weeks – and maintained this new much improved position.

I will be honest and say I don’t know how I did it. I didn’t change the nature of what I was writing. I don’t think there was one big magic wand I waved. But over time I adopted some of the strategies I outline in this post. I think the main lesson is just to persevere and keep at it. It takes time for people to find you and to cotton on to what you are doing.

flowersBe Inviting

When I first started I didn’t think it mattered what my blog looked like – I kept it all white and basic. I didn‘t think about pictures too much either. A blogging pal asked me why I didn’t make my offering more attractive like hers was? I took a look at hers and at mine, and she was right. I know mine’s not a rainbow of fruit flavours now but I have made an effort to make it at least easy on the eye.

Equally, be inviting in what you write – have an eye to entertaining a little as well as informing. I always think: I’m taking up five minutes of someone’s time which they’ve been kind enough to give to me – I should repay that by giving them something they can use or something to make them smile, preferably both.

TalkEncourage conversation

It’s great when people comment on your blog and I’ve found the posts which encourage people to do that most successfully are the ones which discuss issues and ideas. People will comment if there’s something to comment on – if you have raised issues they feel they have an opinion on. So a ‘think piece’ which raises questions your readers can answer for you, or starts a debate they can take part in, is a good idea.

Personal column

I’m just throwing this out there – and it is very much a ‘do as I say not as I do’ kind of tip. But I’ve noticed some of the most successful blogs are ones in which people discuss their lives very openly in all sorts of ways. People follow people I guess and if you are up for making your life an open book it’s one route to blogging success. It’s not for me though, I do try to put a little of myself into what I write on the blog but you won’t find any ‘dear diary’ entries on there. I always take the view that other people are a lot more interesting than me – and I prefer to write about them, in my fiction and in my blog.

Guest posts

I do like to have visitors on my blog – I find other writers fascinating and like to give them a platform to talk about themselves and their work. This also helps bring their readers to my blog – and perhaps once they’ve found me, they will even come back another time to look at some of my other posts.

News You Can Use

Some of my most successful blog posts in terms of numbers of visitors, are the ones which offer advice and information which people can use. I would predict that this post, for example, will be popular for that reason. Some of my post popular posts so far have included:

Tips on how to get followers on Twitter

Advice on how to find a publisher for your book

An interview with my publisher about what they are looking for in a book they take on.

These are posts which are not only popular in the week they appear, but keep getting regular hits over the weeks and months which follow.

Take requests

I think it pays to learn to give people what they want. If you have had a particularly successful post then look at doing something else in the same vein. Also, if friends on social media suggest a topic you might like to have a go at then do your best to accommodate them. As I said at the top, this particular post was in response to a request and I’m finding that happens more often as my blog has become better established.

Emil_Mayer_067Help them find you

Search Engine Optimisation is something of a specialist area and I’m certainly not claiming any particular expertise but I would offer a few tips.

Firstly – pop into the help and advice section of your blog platform and put in place the optimisation tips you are offered there. I followed the bits and pieces of advice offered by WordPress, it took me about half an hour and didn’t stretch my limited technical ability. Has it made a difference? Hard to tell, but it’s done now and I’m sure it can’t hurt.

While we’re on the subject – it’s also a good idea to include relevant tags when you put up a new post. Again, it’s something I never bothered with to start off with but always do now, it doesn’t take two minutes to add some tags and it can help search engines find you by topic and theme.

Social Media

This is a bigger deal for SEO I think. Google loves Facebook and it loves Twitter. If you have decent followings on these two social media mega-sites then link to your blog on there regularly (without being too spammy obviously).

I get more referrals from Twitter than anywhere else, followed by Facebook.

Not surprisingly Google also loves Google+, even though the rest of us make it feel about as welcome as a red-headed step-child. I’m not suggesting you use it like Facebook but just open an account and stick your blog links on there for the SEO benefit – job done.

And …

Stumble Upon

They have a link shortening tool called su.pr which is worth using in preference to tiny.url or similar because, as well as making your links short it also gives you access to the Stumble Upon community and gets you extra blog traffic that way. Worth doing!

* UPDATE SEPT 2013: su.pr now appears to have been closed down as a service by Stumble Upon as part of an update, which is a shame as it was useful. It is still worth adding your pages to Stumble Upon as this does encourage some extra traffic to your blog – you can still add pages etc, it’s only the link shortener which is no longer in service.

Final tip – Have Fun!

How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?

Fish.

When you are writing a blog it never hurts to chuck in a few jokes.

Any tips you would like to add – or corrections to mine? You know the comment drill!

Content old and new

This week my day job took me to a conference on social media and the future of communication. There were speakers from Facebook, Twitter and myriad free-thinking marketing wonks illuminating what the future holds. They were dizzy with excitement about what lies around the corner for us in the way we communicate with each other.

The manner in which we record and share information, or ‘content’ as people in these circles love to call it, has changed out of all recognition in recent years. And we’re not done yet it seems. There’s new net-based thrills at every turn. Hold on, it’s going to be quite a ride.

davies-ethel-statue-of-newton-by-eduardo-paolozzi-the-british-library-london-england-united-kingdomIt happened that this gathering was held at the British Library in London, at the conference centre there. So at lunchtime I wandered across the courtyard with it’s imposing, if rather baffling, statue of Newton, and entered a dimly lit room in the main body of the great library.

There, in the gloom, are the collected treasures of the British Library. And I was awed to see communications devices from a different age. Ancient manuscripts and huge hand-written tomes, illuminated scrolls and documents of great age.

Never has the word treasures been more aptly used than for these marvellous books. All that was precious, all that was strange and wonderful, all that was worth writing down in an age when writing things down represented the pinnacle of new technology is here.

There are religious books from many faiths across the world, richly decorated in gold and beautifully crafted. Yet, some of the most fascinating artefacts are among the most humble in appearance – the hand-written early gospels unearthed from ancient desert dust, for example, which provide insight into the beliefs of early Christians.

The forging of political belief is represented here too – the Magna Carta, soiled and burnt and torn, it’s words and ideas still resonating down the centuries.

There’s music as well – a case of original hand-written manuscripts from Mozart through Beethoven to Handel’s Water Music, until finally at the end we find Beatles lyrics, the words to Yesterday scrawled on a page torn from an old notebook – the first draft of Ticket to Ride written on the back of a child’s birthday card.

And then we come to literature. Here’s an early Shakespeare folio, there notes from Milton and Jane Austen, Conrad and Angela Carter.

Beowulf_firstpage_jpegIn one corner of a case against the back wall is a small unassuming looking book. It is tatty and burnt at the edges. Its awkward, runic, Anglo-Saxon script is indecipherable to modern eyes. It is Beowulf, the earliest poem we have, the earliest literature of any kind, written in English. It is where our literature began.

I wonder what the British Library will keep from our brave new age of fast paced social media. What ‘content’ will become the treasures of the future? Will they keep our Facebook status updates? Will they preserve our tweets?

The social revolution – and why I love it

When I wrote recently about downloads and the potential problems of piracy I realise I was in danger of appearing something of a curmudgeon.

It’s easy with new technology to grumble about the possible downside – it’s comforting to cling to what you have known. So I want this post to be about the amazing things the social media revolution has brought for authors – and those things are many and various.

Not least the fact that if you want to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God, read the early reviews for it, and taste the first few pages, then you can do so at the click of a mouse here.

So there’s one great thing – and here are some more:

It offers you the world

Ten years ago, a little book like mine would have sold to people within ten miles of where I am currently sitting – in the same way as a little book published a hundred years earlier would have done. The only ways of publicising it would have been articles in the local media, appearances at signings and readings, and word of mouth.

Well I’ve done those things, and continue to do them. But what I also have is social media – and that has opened up a world of readers to me.

Because of this blog, because of Twitter, because of Facebook – I now have readers for Song of the Sea God across the USA, in Canada, in Australia. Ten years ago that would have been an impossible dream.

Access all areas

Social media also connects you to your readers once they have your book – in a way which could never have been imagined before.

Now if people like Song of the Sea God – or even if they don’t like things about it – then they can tell me, simply, directly and pretty much straight away. They can message me on Twitter or get in touch on Facebook and let me know what they are thinking. I get to have a dialogue with my readers that authors simply have not enjoyed in the past, except when they have bumped into them in person at readings and events. Now if a reader in South Carolina wants to ask me a question about something crazy I did in chapter five – they do so.

Community of writers

Meeting other writers and chatting with them – that’s been another huge bonus of social media for me. Mostly, in my everyday life, I don’t mix with other creative writers. I’ve never been a member of a writing group and I tend to meet writers face to face only the odd times I get invited to events such as prize-givings or literary festivals. Now I have a Facebook friends list full of other writers – and a very supportive, friendly bunch they have turned out to be,

So there we go – there’s my reasons as a writer for loving social media – what are yours?